Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Opiate of the Wackier Masses

In a vain attempt to not only not watch the "State of the Union" Address but to put its existence out of my mind, I'm trying to track down more information regarding some of the most interestingly wacky television I've seen in quite some time. About ten days ago (yeah, I know, very timely) I'm watching a repeat of a ABQ City Council meeting from the previous week (the 18th of January). Yes, it's an exciting life around here.

Anyway, I'm just bouncing around channels, half paying attention, when I recognize the speaker addressing the council as the star of one of those interestingly wacky shows on the home of ABQ wacky TV, Channel 27. In fact, it's a Channel 27 star that I consider an acquaintance, and my acquaintance is saying the most interesting things about the leadership at Channel 27. Things like "he (Channel 27 Head Honcho Guy) is a pathological liar".

I'm definitely hooked after that line, and for the next 20 minutes or so I watch as some sort of dysfunctional non-profit Shakespearean tragedy plays out, but with microphones instead of swords. I learn that Acquaintance Star is no longer with the station, that he used to be on the board, but the board is corrupt and he's gone. I hear the phrase "Attorney General's Office" alot from him and others who feel the same way.

Then I see Marvin Gladstone, another person I know very indirectly, and he's pretty steamed. He's on the board of "Quote, Unquote" (who runs the station) and, in an increasingly florid face, tells the Council that acquaintance star and all the others board dissers are stating nothing but fabrications. One definitely gets the feeling that Marvin wishes he could cuss more while he's publicly reaming out the board haters.

Then some skinny guy who evidently is Head Honcho Guy gets up and explains that those opposing him were all doing a lousy job and were gonna get fired anyway. He says the "Attorney General's Office" is not investigating the station and implicitly seems to indicate that everyone who disagrees with him is a whack job.

Man, it was better than anything Channel 27 has run in years, and I'm a pretty faithful viewer. I regularly bother the living Bejesus out of my wife as I force her to share the joy of watching the washed out pastel colors of videotape gone bad on shows like "Naked Man" starring Don Schrader, and "Free Speech Television". My personal favorite (now that I never see "Otto the Mechanic" anymore) is the show where the slightly beyond middle-aged couple wear headphones and play oldies records. That's it. The camera just stays on the slightly beyond middle-aged couple. And they play records. God I love that. It makes you wish you were there for the idea brainstorming meeting:

Slightly Beyond Middle-Aged Person (SBMAP) #1:"Channel 27 needs a music show."
SBMAP #2: "Yeah, a music show. How about an oldies show? Elvis and stuff?"
SBMAP #1: "Oldies, yeah. I like oldies."
SBMAP #2: "Oldies, definitely oldies, but how best to visually convey the greatness of those tunes?"
SBMAP #2: "What?"
SBMAP #1: "We get a camera to just show us playing the songs. The songs are so great people will want to watch us listening to them, just listening to them one after another in a seamless one-shot of us humming the songs while we look for the next one!"
SBMAP #2: "I'm liking it, I'm liking it! We could even take requests."
SBMAP #1: "Perfect! Requests, oldies, camera showing us listening. Let's get Channel 27 on the phone pronto!"

Another reason I loved the whole City Council dysfunction-fest was probably because I worked Public Access in the 1980s back in Texas. After a few years in grad school working nights running taped shows (a job already replaced by a computer in most places), I elevated to a massive annual salary of $12,000 "directing" a bizarre mix of programming, including a weekly gospel show called "Hope For Troubled Times". Oh, the things we holders of Poly Sci Master's Degrees have to do for real employment.

And the last reason I loved watching the festivities (besides the human behavior car-crash porn aspect of watching people call each other liars in public) was that I continue to marvel at the high percentage of politically Lefty non-profits who are every bit as screwed up as the "evil" profit corporations they endlessly eschew. Can I get a head nod from those of us who have worked in these environments? Are they not some of the most dysfunctional, mind-warpingly unbalanced places in which to spend daylight hours possible? I've worked both sides of the almighty dollar fence, and it's been my experience that the most egocentric, abusive, and generally batty people have been my bosses on the non-profit side.

So the whole scene was just a big carthartic fruit medley for me with car crash fixation icing. And the problem is that I've looked and looked, and besides a quickie mention in the Alibi from two weeks ago I see nothing about the story. Nothing.

And tonight I'm guessing most of the local TV and newspapers outlets are probably gonna have some report about this "State of the Union" thing. Like we should care about that when there was far more riveting TV in our own town just a few days back. If the people only knew. Oh well, at least I can count on one station in town to show something more substantial than the President mentioning 9/11 3,657 times. I'm going to see if those slightly beyond middle-aged people are on Channel 27 spinning records.

Monday, January 30, 2006

New Mantras For the Old Ceremony

The bodies you see falling from the skyscraper windows across the street are my Left and far Left friends offing themselves in response to the Alito vote. To them I say, sorry, but you should have jumped back in early November 2004. Just think of all the bad things you would have missed, and we all knew an Alito was coming the minute Bush supposedly won Ohio on that truly dark day 15 months ago.

I suppose now that the Alito is here, it is tempting to smash the safety window out with a paperweight and feel the wind in one's hair for a few last fleeting seconds, but that seems a bit counter-productive to me. What really needs to happen instead of some sort of mass political suicide is to remember & recite a simple mantra:


How many times over the years have we told ourselves and others that the most important thing about the Presidency is the Supreme Court? How many times did we hold our nose as we ambivalently voted for milquetoast "Democrats" as we mumbled, "Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court" under our stale, organically toothbrushed, soy milk breath?

Now we receive final sentencing on the matter of the 2004 Election and many of us are outraged. But could we really have expected it to come out any different?

Sure we're mad, but our anger has been like the feeling one has writing a terribly big check that someone takes forever to cash. Well, it's been cashed. But it was the writing, not the cashing that caused the problem.

So, to all those wallowing in the lake of fire that is the news on the Alito vote I say:


Win it by trumpeting change within the Milquetoast Party and making it the party of the workers again. Make saying things like "Party of the Workers" seem relevant again instead of some line from an old documentary film in Social Studies. Make sure to hunt down and kill anybody who says "there aren't any choices so why bother". Once more, with feeling...


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Now You Can Profit From Current Events!

So much fun stuff going on, so little time to ridicule it.

Scot's Internet Gambling Site is now up and running (www.moneyingutter.com) through an off-shore partnership with Richard Branson, the makers of the La Llarona movie "The Cry" (paid) and ex-State Treasurer Robert Vigil. Wagers (aka "action") are being accepted for the following "Over/Under" bets (note: for the gambling unaddicted, an "over/under" is where you bet whether the posted date/number is too high/late or low/early):

  • Rail Runner's First Day of Regular Service: January 2, 2007
  • Rail Runner's Length of Service if a proposed $393 million cap on spending becomes reality: 90 Days
  • Number of barrels actually lifted by Feudal Prince Marty and Councillor Michael Cadigan at the "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" Montano (where the hell is the tilde in Blogger?) Bridge Four Lane Freedom Festival : 1.01
  • Number of emails I will get from John Kerry asking for my help on the Alito Filibuster: 1,085
  • Number that I will read: 1.01
  • Date of first airing of new James Frey, Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass ensemble reality show, "The UnReal World": September 1, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

Declaration of Blog (Jenga!) Principles

The craziness of the week (and my indirect involvement in a certain time-wasting blogs-as-news- gathering-organizations case study) has led to a degradation of the typical high, high quality of this blog over the last few days. Dirty mental laundry has piled up, intellectual dishes fill the messy sink, general disorder has ruled.

Be assured that mandatory meetings have taken place, parties responsible threatened with termination, and a strong recommittment to getting our blogging house in order (utilizing, implementing and even using TQM, Baldridge Standards and ISO 9000 throughout the "continuous improvement" process) pledged. Finally, let it be known that we are so committed and recommitted to our high standards that we are considering a full day retreat to revise both our vision and mission statements.

Mission work will begin after a muffin breakfast and run until our team building activities/lunch around 11:30 (remembering of course to bring a change of clothes for the ropes course & "fall back into your teammates' arms from a dizzy height with your eyes closed" activity) . Vision statement brainstorming and group wordsmithing will take up the afternoon until we start yawning excessively and laughing at absolutely, absolutely anything in the nervous attempt to acknowledge that the whole day has probably been wasted (not that we didn't know that all along).

The hopeful result of these strategies will be a 'Burque Babble on which you can mouse click in confidence, comfortable in the knowledge that 'BB is, uh, doing whatever the heck would lead you here after the other 22 blogs you scanned this morning, AND pledging to "continuously improve" to do it better today than yesterday, or the day before, and especially a few days ago.

Consider it a declaration of principles, just like in "Citizen Kane", but without gas lights and with more computer RAM. Keep in mind that unlike Charles Foster Kane, Joseph Cotten and all that bunch, we at 'Burque Babble have state-of-the-art human development strategies that will prevent us from becoming wildly out of control tyrants verbally abusing at will those around us who we brazenly manipulate. Do you ever see Charlie Kane participating in team building activities like "fall back into your teammates' arms from a dizzy height with your eyes closed"? Exactly.

To reiterate, consider the above a declaration of principles, a delayed New Year's Resolution, and possibly a cheap excuse for a blog entry topic. But just because it's cheap doesn't mean it isn't true. We're gonna try harder. Really.

Starting tomorrow.

We're not kidding this time.

Faithfully submitted,

'Burque Babble Submitter Person
Sergeant at Arms

(P.S.: yes that is a cheesy Animal House reference)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bloggin' Cat Nap

Folks here at the 'Burque Babble are taking the evening off to listen to the new Cat Power record "The Greatest" 10, 12, 14 times straight. So far it sounds pretty darn Memphis upbeat for a Chan Marshall record. But we still have 13.7 listens to go.

By the way, I see she doing shows in LA, SF (the bigger one), Seattle, Chicago, and other such gigantor cities, but... Uh, anybody up for a roady to the SF Palace of Fine Arts in late February?

P.S.: Yeah, I hate the cover art, too. 13.5 listens to go tonight.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Meth People Suck

Earlier today a regular reader of the Babble (and running partner) came home to find that someone had tried to pry and kick in his front door. Evidently the strength of meth addicts isn't what it used to be, and the very nice $400 front door easily withstood the attack. A few pry marks and some dirty shoeprints along with a slight crack near the bolt was the extent of the damage. Still, just about nothing in the daily battle called "life" deflates us like attempted home invasions. After a few disgusted looks at the damaged door, regular reader and I ran our little, extremely short, jog a bit heavier in spirit as well as winter weight.

The incident reminded me of several depressing meth related articles I've read in recent days. You might have seen a story in the NY Times over the weekend about how Mexican crystal meth, or "Ice", is replacing homemade meth in the Midwestern U.S. as states such as Iowa outlaw OTC sale of cold medicines used to make the bathtub version of the drug. So instead of really helping to solve the addiction problem, the Iowa law has shifted users toward the higher potency Mexican variant.

One result of the meth addiction evolution noted in the story:

"Our burglaries have just skyrocketed," said Jerry Furness, who represents Buchanan County, 150 miles northeast of Des Moines, on the Iowa drug task force. "The state asks how the decrease in meth labs has reduced danger to citizens, and it has, as far as potential explosions. But we've had a lot of burglaries where the occupants are home at the time, and that's probably more of a risk. So it's kind of evening out."

Uh oh. I hate those kind of tough choices...house exploding next door or home invasion by drug-addled meth heads. Personally, I'd take the house exploding, but then I have a bit of space between houses out here in the Valley.

There are other stories out there, and they are just as depressing. Something needs to be done, and Gov. Big Bill does have a measure on the Legislative call to strengthen meth penalities in the state. Still, just as with any addiction problem, stricter sentencing isn't enough. We need expanded rehab programs, education, counseling, etc...you know...all that boring stuff Republicans just can't stand. We know simply increasing sentencing isn't going to seriously decrease the rising property crime rate caused by meth addiction, but what can we do?

Actually I just spent about an hour typing up this "plan" to solve the meth/burglary problem that included elements stolen from ideas in David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" and involved having all the meth users offing themselves and such, but even my most Libertarian tendencies couldn't pull the trigger in publishing it. I'll just say it started with making crystal meth a free governmental subsidized drug and ended up with some sort of "Infinite Jest" meets "Soylent Green" government indirect death sentencing program.

Trust me, you're better off not being exposed to it, a statement which is, in its own way, a veiled "Infinite Jest" reference. Check out the "IJ" link in blue above if you want to see how obsessed some people are with that novel. And while I'm suffering from a Wallaceian level digression I might as well also add that "Infinite Jest" gets the most intense eye rolls and sickened looks from my friends and acquaintances of any book that I have ever read or even mentioned. It basically serves as a conversational "whoopie cushion" whenever I bring it up, an intellectual neutron bomb. I'd be better off trying to convince my friends to have registered sex offenders move next door to them than have them try to read this book again.

But, as I said above, I digress. The meth problem is bad. Maybe my running partner's front door was pried and kicked by someone not addicted to meth. If so, I apologize to the growing meth addict community. Meanwhile, I wish my running partner and regular reader friend well as he shops for a new front door and all the other hassles brought to bear by these frustrating dips in the tide of daily life.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Think Sn....uh, Precipitation of Any Kind

Remember this, i.e. the white, uh, stuff in the photo above?

How about this?

Nah, me neither. Still I have these old photos in which my yard is covered with this mysterious whitish substance. Heck, it even seems to be surrounding Oly, my Golden Retriever, in this shot below...

Maybe it's just a Photoshop effect I can't remember putting on these photos some time back. But I've always sucked at Photoshop and these effects are pretty realistic. In a way, at least.

More news later on this blog (Jenga!) channel while I ponder the white substance. And the Wednesday forecast.

P.S.: Yes, I'm still waiting for the Legislature to do anything...ANYTHING. Until then, it's pixs of the animals and constant staring to see if the chance of precip rises from 20% to 30% on Wednesday. It's a 30 day session, right? This political languor can't last forever, right? How about if I show another goat picture?

The goat never fails to attract. Bring on the sn....uh, precipitation and legislative action fast, furious and haphazardly thought out. Bring it on now.

Update: It's up to 40%! 40% I tell ya!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Talladega in the Desert

(courtesy ABQ Journal who got it courtesy the "Rocket Racing League"..it's "the NASCAR in the sky" you know)

I'm searching the web but I can't find a link to a really good ABC Wide World of Sports tribute site. I hazily remember, however, that in between Jim McKay announcing ice skating barrel jumps, car demolition derbies, Evel Kneivel, and that guy who supposedly caught bullets in his teeth while wearing some sort of Liberace cape outfit that the show used to also have airplane races. Remember? Help me out here, but I recall these little planes flew a large course marked with some sort of pylons like a huge high-altitude giant slalom course. Combined with 1970s TV technology, the event made for some of the worst visual impact sports ever. You could never tell what the hell was going on, but the announcers treated it as every bit as important as the Acapulco Cliff Diving Championships.

And now "Rocket Racing". I'm speechless about it at present, but can't stop grinning at the sheer gall involved. And yes, this sport might be the first video game in reverse in history. Instead of sport first, video game and video game screen shot second, "rocket racing" will have 15 years of video games & screen shots, then become an actual sport. But is there really a difference?

Oh, I can think of a few, such as the outcome when these "sky NASCAR" folks "trade paint" as they say at Talladega and Martinsville. But overall, I'm just admiring the gall at this point.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Don't Just Follow the Pork, Build Your Own Pig

Did I miss this in previous years? The State's Legislative Web Site not only already has a spiffy .pdf (and I don't usually like anything in .pdf) detailing 2006 Capital Outlay Requests so far, (in this case by County) but they even have a form for new requests! That's right, just go here, fill out a few blanks in the web form (my favorite is "Insert the amount you are requesting for the project")and I guess you're on the way to having your legislative pork dream fulfilled.

It's fun just to have the rare opportunity to write dollars figures with commas in them. Let's see, I need $150,000 for "Teacher lounge massage therapy improvements at Jefferson Middle School, Albuquerque". And maybe $500,000 for "Creation and implementation of a 'Death to Those Who Don't Use Turn Signals' secret police organization in Bernalillo County". Hell, I already see a $100,000,000 request from Senator Tim Jennings in Roswell for the "Salt Basin Water Project". $500K to eradicate with extreme prejudice people not using turn signals seems cheap and money very well spent.

I kid of course. $500K would be a drop in the bucket. Better bump that one up nearer to the $2.12 million requested by Senator Harden for "Tucumcari Landfill". And try not to say "Tucumcari Landfill" without smiling. I dare you. See, you thought you could, but you can't.

The Closing That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Today's Journal has a recap of last night's City Council meeting in which the Council heard comments from Air Force officials about Mesa del Sol. The Air Force loves the idea of the new development, but just wanted Councilors to know that the new residents will have some aircraft noise to deal with...oh, and some explosions from the nearby base...and the possibility of "unexploded bombs at the site" itself.

Of course nowhere in the discussion/story is the obvious, large elephant, question of: when is Kirtland AFB going to be closed? Having an aged AFB stuck in the middle of a city of a few million people in 20 years is gonna be even more stupid than having the noisy, explosively noisy, economically draining base now.

Talk needs to start on a life after Kirtland, even if the base probably has enough Superfund sites and unexploded ordnance to last a lifetime. We'll just replace military jobs with Department of Energy clean up jobs for the next 50 years, while we convert the base into something the city can actually use instead of the semi-permanent barrier to development the large white elephant has become.

I hope to live long enough to see the above discussion play out at a ABQ City Council meeting. As for now, just ignore the elephant...nothing to see, ignore the explosions, move along.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Crunching Numbers, Exploding Minds: Us, Us, Them and Us

Coming home from work today I listened to XM Public Radio's daily replay of old "This American Life" episodes. Yes, XM Radio is one economic splurge I suggest everyone take, especially when it's possible to hear "TAL" every weekday at 4:00. Anyway, today it was a 1999 episode entitled "The Kids Are Alright". Act One was an interview with Wen Huang, student protestor during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest. Here's the episode from the TAL site (Real Audio).

In a remarkable Ira Glass interview (and any Ira Glass interview tends to be remarkable), what struck me most from Mr. Huang was his observation that growing up in China citizens always felt they were the privileged of the world and that kids were always told by parents that they better clean their plate at dinner because "there are people starving in America". Just like here. In reverse.

Huang's point brought me right back to a couple of things I've been obsessing about recently to the point I can't remember who's heard the rant and who hasn't. Pardon me if you been subjected to it already, throatily roared across tables at Chama River Brewing Company.

First, I noticed a story at the BBC regarding the growing drought/famine in Kenya. It noted that with "corpses of cattle and donkeys...lying everywhere", the Kenyan government was putting aside $14 million for emergency purchase of maize to feed "the 2.5 million people at immediate risk, almost 10% of the population". $14 million. The story goes on to mention that neighboring countries, particularly Somalia are also at high risk for drought-borne famine.

$14 million. Now go to Democracy for New Mexico or other site with that National Priorities Project "The War in Iraq Costs" running toteboard. Stare at it long enough to count up $14 million. By the way, at present the Iraq count is pushing $235 billion. Kenya needs $14 million. 2.5 million people. $14 million. Oh, also by the way, the Kenyan government says the maize is desparately needed to avoid widespread famine by the end of February.

Yes, I realize that the point is as naive as it is childishly obvious. Still, I just gotta think most people would rather the $14 million go to Kenya than the occupation of Iraq. I gotta think that, or my head will explode. Fissures are already forming like that Alaskan volcano.

Second is this killing al-Zawahiri, Pakistan bombing thing. Yeah, you've already heard tons about it, and no, I have no new news, gossip or information to provide regarding the story. None.

Still, I wonder what the U.S. response would be if, say, the country of, say, Belgium was flying drone planes over U.S. airspace and felt compelled to take out some most wanted mass murderer ex-Belgian guy who had holed up outside, say, Cody, Wyoming. I wonder what folks in the U.S. would think. I wonder what folks in this country would say if the Belgians bombed the compound in Cody, and along the way killed a few children. Would our initial reaction be "well, that's too bad about the kids, but did you get the mass murderer....is he dead?", or "those kids were probably gonna grow up to be mass murderers anyway", or "feel free to fly Belgian spy planes and drones containing bombs over our cities, villages and compounds whenever you like, as long as it keeps Belgium from having any more mass murderers".

What's this got to do with Wen Huang and "people starving in America"? Well, it goes along with my little theory that if every single "American" was forced to travel to every country in the world we might be just a smidge less politically egocentric. In fact, maybe instead of spending $235 billion and counting in Iraq we could go to Orbitz and buy every U.S. citizen a five city multi-destination ticket. I'd go for the Budapest, Recife, Accra, Colombo, Ho Chi Minh City combo, myself. I'd bet we'd open some eyes, and save some bankrupt U.S. airlines to boot.

Or maybe we could just let Belgium fly some drone planes over the country one weekend. Kind of a trial, "getting to understand others" kinda thing.

By the way, I stuck it out and counted a million or two on the Iraq occupation costs. By my calculation we're burning through $14 million about every 90 minutes in Iraq. A long lunch. A decent sized "Happy Hour".

Monday, January 16, 2006

Buying a Vowel, And Anything Else We Can Think Of

The 30-day NM Legislative session starting tomorrow will be one of those "Wheel of Fortune" moments, where the entire NM government has just correctly identified the phrase "Huge Mofo Gas and Oil Windfall" after hitting $10 million several spins in a row. Now they get to go shopping, baby, for the political equivalent of dinette sets, vacations in Curacao, and a brand new Mercury! A political consumerist bloodbath. A bacchanal of pipedreams and pork. An epic, gory explosion of pent-up spending repression the likes of which hasn't been seen around these parts...well, maybe ever, especially when combined with a high-energy popular governor who seemingly has never seen a high-profile initiative he didn't like.

This is gonna be worse than that scene last Summer in Richmond, VA when the school district tried to unload old IBooks for $50. Now in the picture above, just imagine the guy in light blue as Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, and the fallen folks all around as various Legislature members literally overcome with the scent of pork fumes.

Oh, the political humanity.

The list of possible shiny new objects to be purchased in the session is lengthy to the point of being impossible to track. The Governor has pushed for tax cuts, a Spaceport, follow-through spending on the oft-discussed Rail Runner, a boost to the minimum wage, a standardized voting system revamp, raises for all state employees, a Western States primary, new schools in Westside ABQ, expanded pre-K and teacher pay raises, and a crime package focusing on meth. Yesterday's Journal has a more complete run-down (of course you gotta pay for it). And that's just the Governor's ideas. Who knows what limits of crackpottery your run-of-the-mill legislator is capable of?

The bottom line is that it's gonna be a month-long blast for all us political junkies, as we watch the windfall money get spent five times over. My personal favorite: checking out the cool NM Legislative website for capital outlay requests by individual legislators. It's fun every session, but the sheer breadth and scope of unalloyed pristine pork ground out in this one is gonna make for an online laugh riot. Those with similar nerdy festishes are urged to send along any candidates for this year's "Wackiest Pork Award", or for the NM "Bridge to Nowhere Useless Expenditure Prize" . No doubt about it, the competition should be fierce. Now spin that wheel, New Mexico...there's not a "bankrupt" anywhere in sight and Vanna is looking great tonight! Hey, maybe we can buy Vanna. Vanna and a bunch of vowels.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Orange Barrels, Mormons and Timely Election Results

"Daily Briefing", Wonkette style (i.e., I'm too lazy for anything close to real prose at this point)

  • Just when you're ready to make your loathing of Big Bill Richardson permanent he does something worthwhile like committing $11 million to standardizing all NM county voting systems, including a paper trail for verification.
  • I remember living in the North Valley when the "two lane" Montano bridge opened. As a bicyclist I tried to pretend I was living in some glorious bike-friendly Nirvana where bike lanes were as big as car lanes. I was pretending...we were all pretending.
  • Speaking of Montano, as I write today's fate for the orange barrel crew along that street is being decided. Will the outraged mob of Westsiders be larger than the number of folks attending the MLK march this Sunday?
  • Single-passenger cars - Basic Civil Rights. Westside living - Integrated water fountains. The issues just blur together, don't they?
  • I might be able to move to beautiful Utah after all. A study by the Canadian Justice Department recommends the country legalize polygamy. Now if Ottawa were to also pass some legislation making all Sprite and 7-Up free across the country, I think I'll start picking up some Park City real estate brochures.
  • Oh, I've forgotten to ask for a few days now....when are those official Iraqi elections results coming out?
  • CNN reports: "Final results from the December 15 parliamentary election are expected in the coming weeks."
  • I also wish to personally report that I am expected to lose 30 pounds "in the coming weeks". I can also report that I fully expect to achieve total Buddhist enlightenment "in the coming weeks" as well.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Trains and Urban Planning: An Open Call for Ideas

The Journal has a big story this morning on questions regarding Rail Runner. It begins with a tasty bit of knowledge:

"But no business plan has been released outlining expected yearly operating revenues, costs, ridership estimates or fares."

Unfortunately, the story then spends an inordinate amount of words on environmental issues and the track itself, but doesn't get back to "yearly operating revenues, costs, ridership estimates or fares". Yeah, the environmental stuff is important, but that teaser sentence makes me think I'm gonna hear all about the projected functionality/popularity of the thing. Besides, if you're running three trains a day to start with, there ain't gonna be alot of environmental degradation. Not a hell of alot of riders, either, and that's what I want to hear more about. And how the train platform/station construction is going. And fare structure. And crossing improvements. And....

Meanwhile, I'm not a terribly bright person and I need some help on something I'm interested in but not very swuft when it comes down to it (I'm continuing to use hokey Texas expressions in continued celebration of Vince Young, et. al.).

An open call for anybody who knows what they're talking about to explain two bits of urban planning news, and whether they are the planning equivalent of Satan or not. State Fairgrounds, sorry Expo Whatever, and Mesa Del Sol. There is something about the topical intersection of these stories that seems kinda serendipitous for some reason...there's a connection, but I don't have a clue what it means. Kinda like an urban planning version of "The X-Files". I need some Scully's and Mulder's to tell me what it all means, to break it down, to whittle away all the Marty-speak and tell it straight. I'd really, seriously appreciate it.

Oh, and by the way, here are my uninformed biases going in:

1. Despite my vague libertarian tendencies, I can dig the idea of a huge intentional community like Mesa del Sol, if done right. I have some doubts about the idea of governments and developers doing it right. Strong doubts, but understand that good best practices exist elsewhere. In this regard I'm like a Socialist, but one who wants to have a gun held to goverment's head the entire time, to make sure things go right.

2. Looking out my South Valley window, it pains me to see the unplanned garbage growth running up the Mesa, and I pine for something like a Mesa del Sol here for us little SV people.

3. The Fairgrounds are a dump.

4. When I moved here I could not believe the Fairgrounds were where they are, that anybody could give a rat's ass about them, and that it was visually apparent nobody gave a rat's ass about them.

5. I have sinced learned that many people, native Albuquerqueans primarily, give a rat's ass about the Fairgrounds.

6. As someone who used to live three blocks away from the Fairgrounds, it makes absolutely no sense to me to have them there, especially as that neighborhood is "Fringecresting", not in some Yuppies-with-Mercedes SUVs sort of way, but just folks priced out of the U area who like to living in established neighborhood settings with small, funky 1950s houses instead of modern shotgun shack single family apartment looking houses.

7. Personal note: If I hadn't married a horse fanatic, I'd still be living three blocks from the Fairgrounds.

8. Using the State Fair lingo, isn't putting $150 million into "renovating" the existing Fairgrounds like pinning a pretty corsage around a Duroc pig's neck? Btw, Duroc's are the red pigs. I know that because I raised pigs as a boy in Texas. I raised Chester Whites, which are the white ones. We white pig raisers didn't care much for the red ones, and vice-versa. It's interesting how much of life boils down to that episode in the original Star Trek where Frank Gorshon has the split black/white face thing.

9. Ummm...seem to have gotten off-track there. Which reminds me...why the hell do we have a horsetrack in the middle of town? As a sports/gambling person, I can tell you that horseracing is so, so, so, so very dead. To wit: Go to Las Vegas and hit a sportsbook. You'll still see all these huge screens showing horse races throughout the day, looking impressive. But notice....all the young and middle age people are going to the betting windows for football, basketball and such. The only horse wagerers are the old and extremely old. I'm all for old and extremely old people. I plan to be one someday. But any eyeballed demographic will tell you that horseracing is beyond old, it's, to use a rather unfortunate analogy, Ariel Sharon-esque at this point.

10. Oh, I still seem to have not gotten to the question. In short, why spend $150 million to upgrade our existing Fairgrounds, when we can get the Fair out of its anachronistic current site, lose the horse track and build a new facility elsewhere for $300 million?

11. It seems worth it to me when considering the redevelopment possibilities, not to mention little things like horse people, like my wife, trying to drive a loaded horse trailer down Lomas. Still, I'm reading with interest posts like Coco's (who I respect immensely from afar) about how redevelopment is harder than development. I get that, but still want to hear more on the subject.

12. Which gets me, finally for Goddess' sake, to the final bias. I see Denver's LoDo and wonder why we can't have something like that here. I see ABQ having about the same population in 20 years that Denver has now. Are we really ready for that? And what are we going to end up with....a Denver or a Phoenix? I want to live in Denver, not Phoenix. What's it going to be, ABQ?

When I, admittedly with great ignorance, read about things like Mesa del Sol and the Fairgrounds I think about that Denver v. Phoenix question. Yeah, I know, ABQ will be its own place, with it's own development style, but let's face it, if we're going to be 2.5 million people by 2025 about 3/4 of the 2025 population will be people who aren't here now. I wonder what those 1.75 million people will think driving past that Lomas and Louisiana horsetrack on way to their new home.

But those are just my biases. I'm keenly interested in hearing more on the subject. Serious keenness. High keeniosity. Lay it on me, keensters, either here or elsewhere in the blog(jenga!)osphere. I really would appreciate it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It's All in the Plot & Numbers

I am in no way saying that the recent mining deaths aren't horrible and all, but I'm always struck with how transfixed the public gets when the story is some variant on little Baby Jessica stuck in a well. For instance, about nine months ago almost the same exact number (14) of oil refinery workers were killed in South Texas.

Those unfortunate folks of course had the additional fortune/misfortune to die quickly in a fireball explosion. As such, no real plot to the story. Things are fine, giant fireball of instant death, people are dead. These mining disasters (and I think the real disaster is that we still mine coal at all) have the magic media/public fascination ingredient of time & plot. In this regard trapped miner stories are just like hurricanes, Ariel Sharon's strokes, Pat Robertson's repeatedly opening his mouth, and ScarGraceKingborough's non-stop coverage of the Natalie Holloway disappearance.

Then there is the whole numbers of dead people thing. I am growing increasingly irritable whenever I hear the word "miracle", and if you think about it, the use of this word is really no different than the crap coming out of Pat Robertson's mouth. To these people, "God's" idea of being God is sitting around like some 5th grader with a magnifying glass, idly deciding whether to burn ants or not. What's that got to do with numbers? Well, in the latest mining disaster, the word "miracle" was thrown around like it came from a scientific journal when it was thought 12 of the 13 miners survived, but that changed when it became clear only one had survived. Now we have a lone "miracle miner". Frankly, that's not enough "miracle" for some folks, and I remember one distraught relative at the scene say on TV something to the effect that "we had a miracle and the mining company took it away from us".

I'm not going down the twisted road of logic to unravel that statement. But on the whole numbers of dead people at a disaster thing, it's a public fixation every bit as strong as the Baby Jessica story itself. Last weekend, for instance, Germany had its own version of the Sago Mine story when heavy snow forced the roof of an busy ice rink to collapse. A real shame and our hearts go out to everybody affected. At the same time, I noticed in my periodic online news reading last weekend that sites like CNN.com and the New York Times kept updating the story with some sort of slow Chinese Water Torture death count. First time I looked it was four dead, a few hours later, no it was five. Next morning, six. A few hours later it was eight. Evidently the whole total appears to have been 15.

Yes, I realize that news organizations were updating the tally as bodies were pulled from the scene, but my question is what's with the fixation on numbers to start with? I'm not blaming the media exactly, it's all of us. It's like we're studying for a math test in which we must remember exact numbers of dead so we can be correct when we tell others around the water cooler. And yes, people do bust us if we're wrong. Try going to the most public area at your workplace on Monday and loudly announcing "I really feel for those 10 dead miners in West Virginia". Pure fingernails on the chalkboard action.

Not to mention the overarching concept that the degree of tragedy is invariably and directly correlational to the number of dead people. Don't get me started on that. Really, I won't, and I've already violated my self-imposed word count limit. I'd love to, but another time. Oh, temptation...pulling me to type...must stop typing about numbers of dead.....fingers prying off keyboard...

Okay, I can't completely stop, but I'll make this short. Have you noticed how some folks (especially the more weak-kneed "liberals" among us) will say "11 U.S. troops killed in one day? That's proof the Invasion of Iraq is a bad idea." Like it wasn't a bad idea before the 11 troops died? Like if only two or three die in one day it's still an okay idea, but 11? What about six? Is it kind of a bad idea then? There is evidently some sort of unspoken Daily Death Number Continuum on this topic on which I didn't get the Democratic Leadership Conference "liberal" memo. I'll go check my email again to see if I just overlooked it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Patsy Stands Me Up

Planned to spend tonight listening to Patricia Madrid at the Democracy for New Mexico January monthly meeting, but she cancelled at the last minute. Now I know we wacky type liberals don't matter much, but we do tend to be the Democrats who protest voting for Ds on the slightest of slights. Madrid's gonna need every vote she can get, and I can't help thinking this no-show constitutes getting off on just a bit of the wrong foot with the Far Left. But, then again, it is all about me, having voted for the losing side about 90% of the time over the last two decades.

All I gotta say is that if Madrid shows up at any wildly sucessful pre-election Michael Moore rallies looking like a poser-Left total dweeb, ala Richard Romero 2004, I'm gonna tell everybody in shouted hearing range that I knew she was a loser back in January when she didn't show up for a meeting. Then I'm throwing up on the stairs at the Pit while I escape in horror.

I told you it's all about me.

Meanwhile, I've now worked THREE STRAIGHT DAYS IN A ROW and having a big of a tough time adjusting. Reading the well done and lengthy story/comments to Marston Moore's APS teaching thread at Duke City Fix isn't helping, either. When I come home from a tough day teaching middle school the last thing I want is 5,000 words on Brad Allison, APS bond elections and how screwed up education is. I read it all, anyway, feeling like I was the character in a TV reality show reading reviews of the show and whether I should get voted off the island. By the way, there were plenty of comments about those little mobile home classrooms we call "portables" in the business, and yes teaching in those is the equivalent of drawing night duty in Ramadi, Iraq.

And speaking of Iraq...I'll ask, too. When are the official election results being announced?

And speaking of little unconnected points, let's bullet a few:

  • I wrote the other day about my perception that the media could do more these days (e.g., finding out the truth on mining deaths in W.Va.)...maybe today's media needs a little more H.L. Mencken and a little less Anderson Cooper. A bit more Ring Lardner wouldn't hurt, either. And a lot less corporate media ownership.
  • A Las Vegas, NV acquaintance tells me that a concern there is imploding the old Stardust Hotel and putting up a 5300 room casino/resort costing $4 Billion.
  • I notice that the last (2005) BushCo $18 billion budget for Iraqi reconstruction included $99 million for education throughout Iraq. That's what...roughly 1/2 of 1%?
  • Juxtaposition is important when making these bulleted lists.
  • Oh yeah, BushCo's proposed 2005 budget stops funding the reconstruction of Iraq altogether.
  • I recited the opening lines of the Texas State Song today on our school announcements, and given that Vince Young was kind enough to decide to go to UT, this ex-pat Texan with a strong love/hate relationship with the Lone Star State will leave you with this:
"Texas, our Texas, all hail the mighty State.
Texas, our Texas, so wonderful so great!"

Okay, time to go to bed. Did you know I have to work FOUR STRAIGHT DAYS IN A ROW THIS WEEK!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fact-Checking The Morning News

My only question is: Did the media get the Ryan Seacrest story right? Was the dollar figure for his entertainment deal on whatever the heck network it was accurate?

That we might be able to trust the media about....anything else, say death counts of miners, not so trustworthy.

Note to media: Stick with the entertainment "news". It's what you're all about anyway.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

But She's From Albuquerque!

Today the ABQ Trib has this incredibly stupid commentary by Albuquerque native (currently a resident of Planet Wingnut) Linda Chavez about the NSA snooping and why the Democrats are hypocritical traitors because, unlike in the Plame case, they aren't calling for hearings on the leaks involved.

I try to stay somewhat objective and loathe equally both sides of the very thin coin we call a two-party political system, but Chavez' commentary is so egregiously imbecilic in its argumentation and so misses the point of the NSA story that one wonders why the Tribune would print the thing.

Be honest, now Trib...is it because she's an Albuquerque native? Is it because she's Hispanic and an Albuquerque native? Well, if that has anything to do with it, trust me, I've met and talked over the years with a great number of Hispanic Albuquerque natives and I've yet to meet one that has said anything approaching the level of stupidity in the Chavez commentary. I'm also strongly guessing the rest of my life will go by with the record intact. Linda Chavez' January 3, 2006 commentary will go down as the single stupidest sentiment I've ever heard from a Hispanic native of Albuquerque.

So Ms. Chavez has that going for her. Meanwhile, I have two small suggestions:
  1. The Tribune try to find a Hispanic native of Albuquerque other than Ms. Chavez to write their commentaries.
  2. The city considers some sort of legal action to place a restraining order between the words "Linda Chavez" and the word "Albuquerque". Maybe a 15,000 word count barrier, for starters.
In re-reading (man, I AM a glutton for punishment!) the Chavez piece, the more I get the impression she is one of those Bush funded "analysts" Iraq Sunni Leadership/Armstrong Williams style. It might make a good journalistic scavenger hunt to unearth all the undisclosed BushCo (i.e., taxpayer funded) "analysis" here and abroad. I'm sure in 10 years or so enough will have been found to formulate the backbone of several college classes on "Propaganda in the Digital Age". I think I'll start my little clippings collection on the subject with this Chavez piece. Good to have a native Albuquerquean in the collection.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Proof It's Time To Get Back To Teaching

Courtesy NewMexiKen via the Albuquerque Journal

Okay I just saw the float. Trust me, I'm not a parade guy but while surfing between the "Chain Fake Australian Restaurant Bowl" and the "Outdated Formerly Powerful Plantation Owners Bowl" I stopped at one of the 16 channels of Rose Bowl Parade coverage (proving once again that I don't get popularity). Sure enough, as I'm comfortably laughing my ass off at the folks standing in the pouring rain to look at "floats" here comes Big Bill in some sort of Roseariffic uncovered "wagon" under an "Adobe" house while some mechanical "horse" raises and lowers its "head" like those ultra-lame rides at an amusement park.

Now as someone who doesn't understand popularity, I certainly can't claim any expertise on whether it was a wise marketing decision to spend $165,000 for a Rose Bowl float. Seriously, it could be the best, cheapest advertisement for the State possible. What I do know is that Big Bill was sitting in some Sears plastic poncho gear alongside a woman in identical plastic rain gear. Hard to see clearly, but I immediately wondered if if was Diane Denish sitting next to him, which led to other instantaneous questions: Are they touching? Is she wearing the plastic rain thing not because of the rain, but because of the possibility of touching? Did she make Big Bill wear the plastic for the same reason?

Then my wife pointed out that it was actually Big Bill's wife, and not Diane Denish. Hard to tell in the ultra-sexy rain gear. Still, if it was Barbara Richardson the same exact questions above apply.

A minute or so of coverage included the float hitting a bump and shuddering in a manner that immediately evoked all kinds of hilarious possibilities. It then slunk its 2 m.p.h. way out of the camera frame to be replaced with a live promotion for the "Corporatively Mass Produced Tortilla Chips Are Fun Bowl".

Definitely time to get back into the classroom at this point. This marketing excitment is too much for me, even if I do get to wear slippers.