Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cyclists Vs. the Motorized World: First We Take Manhattan

Many of you saw the J. Mango post at DCF about turning Silver Ave. into a "bike boulevard". Very interesting stuff, and it's led to some print/vid media coverage of the issue. I like this story all around, including the fact that blogs can serve as news generators, especially if that news doesn't conform to a "if it bleeds, it ledes(leads)" mentality.

On the subject of Silver itself, I decided to check out the road in question myself yesterday. Living in the South Valley and working north of Central, I don't have much call for a bike stroll down Silver. Here are some thoughts from last evening's expedition:

  • Silver has some flavor of a "bike blvd." already, as the percentage of cyclists is high.
  • One thing a "bike blvd." might want to address is the number of parked cars alongside the street. The street is narrow as you head toward Carlisle, and the multitude of parked cars make visibility difficulty. I don't know what the parking situation is for residents along the street (alley parking, e.g.?), but this visibility thing is a problem as it sits now.
  • Yes, the stop sign mishmash has to end. I know I couldn't pass a quiz on which cross streets have four way stops, two way stops, two way stops for Silver v. Street X, etc.
  • I know BikeABQ wants to start small, but something has to be done about getting downtown. To get from downtown to Thai Ginger at Trumbull/San Mateo last night I had the decision to either:
    • sign life's ultimate liability waiver and go up Coal Avenue
    • ride up MLK, go through UNM and then drop back down to Silver
    • in case you're wondering, no going up Gibson wasn't considered. I don't like to even drive up Gibson, much less bike it
  • So I ended up going up MLK. I know it's a hill, but I love the wideness of the street and lack of traffic. In fact, I was dreaming as I rode up about a super pedestrian/bike walkway over I-25 off of MLK, combined with creating a "bike blvd." system between MLK east of I-25, some North/South street from MLK to where Silver starts up, then up Silver to Carlisle.
I'm going to make another run up Silver today, creating dehydration-induced hallucinatory scenarios for cyclist's heaven as I ride. Be sure to look over the many parked cars on Silver to see me if you're driving in the area.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Bits! Four Bits! Bill Richardson, Who Cares!

Does anyone have a fancy psychological term for that condition of tribalism in which I'm supposed to care about Bill Richardson because he happens to be the governor of the state I live in?

Whatever that term is, it's the same thing that forced me to sit through, absolutely required, pep rallies for the Weatherford H.S. (Texas) Kangaroos every Friday afternoon during football season, based on the concept my high school was better simply for the fact that I attended it, and that I should therefore give a rat's ass about my high school football team.

And yes, my high school mascot was the kangaroo. And yes, Weatherford is not in Australia, but North Central Texas.

But getting back to Richardson, I really don't care about his performance on "Meet The Press", how he does at debates held 18 months prior to the election, or pretty much anything about him at this point. In other words, I feel about him the same way I feel about every '08 Presidential candidate at this point (well, except for Giuliani who just creeps me out no end). I'll care about Big Bill when I'm good and ready, and no amount of hometeam pep rallies, in-depth media profiles and blatant tribal appeals is gonna change that.

Rah. Rah. Blah.

P.S.: Many countries have 30-day "official" campaign periods, and elections can be triggered by mid-term elections and resulting "no-confidence" votes. I'm not saying such a system is perfect, but can any election/campaign system be more screwed up than "ours" currently is? Well, outside of Mugabe's Zimbabwe, anyway.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In Which Scot Knocks The Last Vestiges of APS From His Vacationing Brain

Catching up on a few things after three days spent largely sleeping late and having de-processing dreams/nightmares about education. You know the one where you show up unprepared for class, the one where it's a new class in a subject you know nothing about, the one where you show up for class in your underwear, then finally see "Borat" and see that scene where he and the other guy are in the elevator naked and it triggers a lost memory of the nightmare about teaching in your underwear. You know, those dreams/nightmares, the ones that signal the brain is formally switching to "off" teaching mode for eleven weeks, and can focus its neuroses elsewhere.

So, in terms of "catching up", I want to pompously signify to loyal Burque Babble readers (all three of them) that:

  • I pledge to stop blogging about education all the time, especially since I had the official start to summer "underwear" dream
  • I pledge to stop pointing out that I am on vacation for the next eleven weeks. My wife hates it, and I'm guessing my loyal readership of three isn't too keen on witnessing the blog equivalent of an insane "happy dance" with me scream chanting "I'm ON VACATION!!! I'm ON VACATION!!!" over and over.
  • I also pledge to blog from all the places I'm visiting this summer (New Jersey, Los Angeles, Guatemala, the Colorado Trail...okay, that's gonna be a tough one, and Las Vegas, Nevada).
  • I pledge, again, not to rub it in that I'm on vacation visiting these places, while you, loyal Babbleista, are running from your cubicle to the "break room" to get more instant hot chocolate mix to add to your company-mandated Folger's coffee to make a "mocha".
  • I pledge all this starting with the next post because I want to further expurgate the remaining K-12 education from my system with the mindset that: what the dreams/nightmares don't get to, a blogging colonic will.
  • I pledge that my "blogging colonic" will be short and not too messy.
In the last few days, I've seen three news items pertinent to the APS moving a bunch of principals around the district. Two of them are Journal "guest columns" (a column by APS Associate Superintendent Nelinda Venegas here and a reply to Venegas by Journal writer Stephen Mills here), the other a story by the Trib's Susie Gran about the actions by a few schools to protest the moves. I might have missed others (please tell me), but in order to bloviate about the above infobits, please, loyal Babbleista, spend a few minutes reading these three pieces now. I'll wait.

I'm still waiting.

Okay, good you finished. As for the Venegas column, three questions:
  1. Who the Hell is Nelinda Venegas?
  2. Exactly how many "Associate Superintendents" does APS have?
  3. Who the Hell is she kidding?
The formation of question #3 is based in part on the column by the Journal's Mills. I've complained about the lack of coverage regarding "Principal switcheroo-gate" versus Rio Grande HS "Grade-gate" (and yes, at some point, we should start using the term "mission accomplished" for a screwed up conspiracy instead of the suffix "gate"), but Mills starts to get to the real reasons for principals moves. Namely, APS administration would have us believe that taking good principals and moving them to underperforming schools was the rationale, when in fact it was a combination of retirements, shuffling of not-so-good principals, individual vendettas and other factors.

A look at the individual cases illustrates this, and Susie Gran's piece at the Trib starts to do this, but stops far too short. She relates the story of school communities protesting the removal of their beloved principals, then gets the following from APS spokesperson Rigo Chavez:

The largest shuffle of administrators in a decade was done to improve student academic performance, district officials said.

"There are no plans to reconsider the principal moves," said Rigo Chavez, district spokesman.

"They've all accepted their new assignments."

What a steaming pile of nonsense. And, I'm no reporter or anything, but when you get such a transparently obvious steaming pile of nonsense it'd be a good idea to follow the stink of that nonsense. How do these moves "improve student academic performance"? If these principals are so great, what about the negative impact of them leaving their current schools? And so on, and so on...

But I don't see this story going any deeper than it has, unfortunately. That is unless Superintendent Everitt turns Brad Alison on us and buys a leather jacket and a motorcycle, starts downing sleeping pills and vodka and writes Marty Esquivel nasty emails at three in the morning. Because Alison set the low-bar of Superintendent expectations 'round these parts, and Everitt can always point to Alison and say: "you think I'm bad, well have I downed sleeping pills and vodka and written crazy emails to Board members yet?"

Oh well. It's time to eliminate any thinking of K-12 education, to shuffle off this insane coil and sleep, perchance to vacation. Maybe when I get back from my ELEVEN WEEK VACATION HA! HA! HA! (okay, I'll stop doing that) all this will be over, and some sanity may have returned to my workplace.

Well, a guy can dream, can't he?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reaching Day 180: This Year's Model

Some of us like counting things down, and others say that is the wrong thing to do. I'm a countdowner. I can't help myself. I countdown the number of everything. For example, I constantly countdown the minutes left in the running time of a movie by watching the time roll up on the DVD player, then subtracting that from the running time on the Netflix DVD sleeve. Sometimes I end up watching the DVD player more than the movie.

This inescapable countdown syndrome I have is one big reason I'm a schoolteacher. K-12 education as practiced today was almost certainly invented by an inveterate countdowner. You've got a certain number of class periods split into a certain number of minutes that extend for a certain number of weeks before leading to a "nine weeks" grade or eighteen week Semester, all culminating in a 180 (or so) day school year. So not only do you get some definite END to a job cycle (unlike almost every other job where you just go on vacation every once in a while, then come back to the same thing time after time), you can also break the entire overarching job cycle (180 days) into Semesters, Quarters, Weeks (36), Days, class periods, and minutes per class period.

Of course, you can also break it down into seconds, but that's for your true hard-core countdowners.

So, as of this early Thursday morning, we APS types are currently about to start Day 179: Semester Two, Week Thirty-Seven (the week thing gets messed up with holidays, snow days, etc.). Our school year ends tomorrow, and I work at a school with seven class periods per day, so we have 14 remaining class periods. That close enough now that even amateur countdown types can tell you that, but us kickin' it old school original gangsta countdowners have been rattling off the remaining class periods for weeks, if not months, now.

Then there are those non-countdowners among us who look at us like cholera-laden ceviche when we let slip that we happen to know sometime in February that there are thirteen weeks, 64 days, and 448 class periods left in the year. We try to keep it in, but sometimes we can't help ourselves, and for that we are shunned.

I'm not bringing all this up because I think involuntary countdowners need to form a support group or have a 501(c)(3) created to fund our efforts to spread countdownerism throughout the land. I only point out that the school year is almost over, and that some of us build a computational math shrine inside our heads to the magic moment that will arrive tomorrow afternoon.

Even for non-countdowners it's a magical time, one filled with meaning, happiness, sadness, anticipation and dread. Unlike most workplaces where change occurs haphazardly from job switches, retirements and such, the end of a school year is mechanized. The gears that are students move in one year increments up and then out of an institution, ratcheting lockstep together as a class. Individual classes have individualized dynamics, leaving unique fingerprints on schools for a few years, to be flushed out en masse via graduation (or "celebration" as many middle schools call it).

The overall psychological impact of this mechanization is quite bittersweet. It's no different this year. There are many 8th grade students moving on from my school to high school that I and other teachers will miss terribly. And they aren't always the goody-goody kids you would think we would miss. I'm not naming names, but I can think of at least 10 "graduating" students whose leaving bums me out.

At the same time, we have all been stuck together in the rotting garbage barge that is middle school long enough. It's time to flush the system out, let the 8th grader escape middle school hell and become freshman somewhere else. It's also time for some 6th and 7th graders to take new places inside the machine, whether they are ready or not.

And it's also time for a break. A long break. A cleansing, restorative life-reaffirming break.

So as we countdown the remaining 2 days, 14 class periods, 509 minutes (tomorrow is a half-day) and 30,540 seconds left in the school year, we teachers will be of two completely separate minds: one that desperately tries to remind students they are still on the rotting garbage barge, that the year isn't over yet, that lessons are still to be learned; and another that almost makes us teary-eyed thinking that in only a few short hours a third of these kids will be leaving us, forever.

And it is that departing one-third, this year's 8th grade class at Jefferson MS, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, Earth, that has me regretting my own countdownism this early morning. Thanks kids, it's been a blast.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Babble Digs Into the Superficial Issues of Non-Campaign '08

I'm still putting my fingers in my ears and going "la, la, la, la, la, la" regarding the '08 election, so I officially do not care that: A. Bill Richardson "officially" is running for another news cycle, urrrr...Presdient; B. Martin Heinrich is officially running for NM CD #1.

I do note, however, that in watching Heinrich last night during the City Council meeting the following two thoughts crossed my mind:

  1. Heinrich is disturbingly attractive. I know it's silly, but this is a campaign issue. Others have brought it up, so it must be really silly, but the guy is so good-looking it almost makes me uncomfortable to watch him. I know it's terribly unfair, but maybe some of us have this heightened sensitivity to good-looking people running for office after the trauma suffered from experiencing Student Council and Homecoming King/Queen Elections in high school. It's pitiful and I admit that I "own this issue", but the guy needs to invest in a decently sized facial disfigurement or something.
  2. Being an active Albuquerque City Councilor is probably a more important job than being a Representative of the U.S. House. I know the prestige is far less (not to mention the pay), but what does a first term U.S. Rep. do besides vote in tandem with their party, sponsor a few bills pertaining to relatively minor matters and start running for office again the day they are sworn in? Working with fellow Councilors O'Malley and Benton, Heinrich is making meaningful votes, blocking Mayor Marty's growth-love in important ways, and gets to talk for significant stretches during Council meetings. Not to mention the advocacy stuff he gets to do for things like Ojito Mesa.
Of course running for Mayor is another thing, especially if he invests in that facial disfigurement. Meanwhile, getting back to Heinrich's hyper-attractiveness, I read with distress the following quote from his campaign announcing press release (as quoted in Kate Nash's blog post in the Trib):

One of the primary drivers for sending well-paying American jobs to low-wage countries has been our "free trade" policy. NAFTA, CAFTA and SHAFT-YA (ok, I made that up, but at least the name is intellectually honest) have been disasters for New Mexico and the nation. They have intensified our border disputes, concentrated pollution, and hurt American jobs.

I'm all for candidates having a sense of humor. Having lived through the humorlessness of Heather Wilson and the teeth-grating unfunny of Wilson v. Madrid, I'm loving the idea of a free-ranging exchange of candidates jokes, jibes and jests. When it comes to Heinrich making jokes of an even remotely sexual nature (i.e. "SHAFT-YA"), however, my overall discomfort with the guy's good-looking problem, uh, returns.

Maybe this is about more than my simple distaste for those Homecoming King/Queen Elections back in high school, but I think Heinrich needs to stick with funny material ala Mr. Bean or Rich Little. "Family Circus" stuff would be a good choice. That and a poorly reset broken nose or something.

Monday, May 21, 2007

APS Teaches Us The Meaning of W.B. Yeats

To use the overused, yet still great, words of Yeats, we in the educational business are definitely "slouching toward Bethlehem" at this point. And yes, those words from Yeats' poem "The Second Coming" were used, again, in last night's Sopranos episode.

I won't get all Literature teacher with analogies between the poem and how it can be applied to APS in particular and K-12 education Burque style in general. I'll just say the school year is almost over. Thankfully.

That being said, the academic year might be ending, but the litigation and investigations continue. Now APS Board Member Marty Esquivel is calling for an independent look into the grade changing fiasco at Rio Grande HS. As I mentioned last week, "GradeGate" has received more than its share of press coverage, but it's still good to see: 1. An APS Board member doing something about anything; 2. Somebody calling for an investigation into how APS' administration operates ; 3. That newspapers have the same trouble with spelling I have, namely Esquivel's name is spelled "Esquibel" about half the time in the Journal story, at least the online version.

Last week, Johnny Mango over at Duke City Fix went so far as to call for Dr. Beth Everitt's resignation as APS Superintendent. Mango's post is well-written, compelling and almost makes you wonder if something really might happen in this regard. Maybe "GradeGate" + Inanely Implemented Principal Switcheroo (IIPS) = New Superintendent.

I don't know, but on this final week of the 2006-2007 school year it's hard to feel very celebratory. Instead it's easier to feel distrustful, bitter and unclean. Or as Yeats writes:

...and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

You don't want to go into a summer vacation quoting Yeats about the moral end of the world. Not even us Literature teachers want that. But that's where we are at this point. Slouching, definitely slouching.

Friday, May 18, 2007

And I Looked Into The Soul Of The Classmate Sitting Next To Me...

Just when I need a good hearty chuckle about K-12 education to replace the bitter herb taste in my mouth caused by APS being, uh, APS, here comes news that some St. Pius students have been accused of cheating on a theology final exam. And now they can't graduate with their class. And the parents are suing. And this isn't at an APS school! Whoo-hoo, it's not APS!

Of course the best part is that it's a theology class.

Another gem is what the students are supposed to do to make up for cheating on a test about God stuff:

"They could not go through the graduation line, would have to attend a disciplinary program at a cost of $50 and would be required to take a two-week Internet course on theology at their own expense in order to graduate."--Andrea Schoellkopf, ABQ Journal 5.18.07
No news on how many "Our Fathers" and "Hail Marys" a two-week Internet course on theology constitutes.

There's more, and it's all a cathartic, refreshing change of pace from the unending tragedy of reading stories about APS. In fact, it's the best PR The District has had in weeks.

And it was a theology class. Bada-bing!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Let's Swap Some Fishing Stories From APS Lake

Maybe this happens to you in your profession as well. Lots of crazy things go on, so many bizarre events that when a news story comes out about one specific crazy thing, you wonder why the media isolated its energy on that one crazy thing when it couldn't throw a journalistic dead cat without hitting fifteen others just as crazy, illogical and downright bizarre goings-on in your workplace every week.

That's my reaction to the story of grade changing for Seniors at Rio Grande HS.

Yes, the story does have things going for it that your run-of-the-mill "what the Hell is going on at APS?" story doesn't have. You got your former APS Board Member & current Bernalillo County Commissioner involved. You have a school principal being overruled by a "cluster principal" (and yes, the use of the word "cluster" just so perfectly fits here with the more common usages of that term, if you know what I mean, i.e. clusterbombs, etc.). Not only do you have the principal getting overruled, but you have these quotes of almost unprecedented APS honesty from said Rio Grande HS principal Al Sanchez (the closing of a fascinating story by Susie Gran in the Trib):

This is the second time this year Sanchez has not had the backing of his superiors.

In December, he was criticized for violating district policy by taking a student off campus to a barbershop without parent permission. Acosta was among Sanchez's critics at that time.

"I'm already in trouble over this because the district came in," Sanchez said of the grade change. "And my teachers are very upset. Everybody's upset."

Sanchez said he wasn't about to overrule a teacher on a grade, regardless of the consequences.

"At least I'll go down helping teachers," he said.

This could be his last stand, he said.

"I'm dead, man," he said in an interview late Monday. "This sucked the last juice right out of me."

Okay, now not every bizarro event at APS results in quotes like that from a high school principal. I'll grant ya that. Still, if the typical Burquean with no ties to APS was being informed about other equally significant crazy doings in The District to the level of this grade changing story (my count so far: two Journal pieces and the Trib story), both ABQ newspapers would be printing double editions every day and the typical Burquean's head would explode from insanity overload.

And maybe those two potential results are reason enough to just throw all journalistic energy and public outrage into this grade changing story. It's all just too overwhelming otherwise.

I'll jump on the simplification bandwagon, and close with mention of just one of the hundreds of juicy details in the Rio Grande HS story. It seems that the son of former APS Board Member Miguel Acosta and Bernalillo County Commissioner Teresa Cordova had missed 17 days of his English class this year. 17 days. The stories I've read have been quick to point out that the young man had good reason to miss those days, but 17? I could go on and on about the need for students & parents (but most importantly students) to email teachers frequently when they have questions about missed work, but 17 days? And they're bitching about the grade? And the fact the kid could just go to summer school for barely longer than 17 days and make up for the lost time?

Okay, I'll stop head is already starting to explode. But let me tell you about this other bizarro APS thing....ah, why bother, it'd just drive you crazy anyway.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ding Dong! LeftBlogistan's Favorite Son Is Dead!

Or maybe he isn't...anyway, Big Bill Resume Richardson goes from DailyKos favorite son to on par with "No Freakin' Clue" in the latest "straw poll" of DailyKos blogonistas. Good news: he's still ahead of Hillary. Bad news, he just eked out "Other". Yes, it's only May, 2007. Yes, even New Hampshire & Iowa are months away. Yes, we shouldn't care about the May 2007 DailyKos "straw poll". In fact we don't care about it..but still.

Monday, May 14, 2007

When NetSurfing Wasn't Even Boogie-Boarding: Slow Internet Memories

You know, if everyone in ABQ waiting for their DukeCityFix page to load were to spend that waiting time working for OXFAM, the problem of world hunger might have already been solved.

Not definitely, but it might.

The DCF wait is kinda quaint though, reminiscent of my 14.4 dial-up service via APS circa 1996. I promise I won't talk any more about APS, but I did come to find out the other day that The District still has its own dial-up service (I found out because the IT Help Desk emailed everyone that the dial-up was down). Not to get all "Net snobby...but who is still using dial-up? Yeah, I know..that sounds pretty "Net snobby in that gear-head mountain climber or cyclist sort of way. But really, who still uses dial-up?

And speaking of 'Net circa 1996, here is a short list of sites I regularly went to way back when in the distant Netocratic past and never go to anymore:

  • Cafe Utne (it's now call the "New Cafe", and I know that only because I just looked)
  • Altavista and Dogpile
  • Travelocity (that might have been closer to 1998 or so)
  • Webmuseum (remember this was great! It had like paintings and stuff...and it still does)
  • Mirsky's Worst of the Web (I've already mentioned this one before some time back)
  • Live365 (my classes at school set up their own radio stations...but we could never hear them because of throughput issues
  • Those aggravating email programs at UNM like PINE, MULBERRY and some other trees that I wanted to eliminate from the entire planet simply by their association to these irritating email programs
I could use some help on this, am I drawing a blank and don't want to wiki my way back to historical coherence. Any other sites of yore that bring back happy memories of 1996, a 14.4 modem and a healthy wait to get any pictures to load, whatsoever?

P.S.: Animated gifs. Just saying that term make me smile uncontrollably. Oh the world before Flash.

P.P.S.: Thanks DCF for slowing down and bringing back the memories. Anybody else got any? I'm still largely drawing a blank...don't tell me those thousands of 'Net hours circa 1996 were all wasted. No way.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Let's Change the Subject: An Upbeat Story About Death

It might sound strange that a fatal mountaineering accident would be a nice upbeat change of pace from one about APS principals changing jobs, but, despite the death involved, the mountain story is about the goodness of the human spirit, while the APS story certainly seems to be about the darker angels of our bureaucratic natures.

Much of the internet consists of a whole bunch of small virtual towns whose citizens are passionate about a single-issue. The tubes, to use the snarky post-Senator Stevens vernacular, are places for people to come together to discuss and obsess about highly specific things, things that 99% of the world doesn't give a damn about. I belong to two such communities: a weird form of fantasy baseball called "Strat-o-Matic", and a Colorado mountain climbing site called

I've "belonged" to the community for about three years now, listening/lurking more often than actively participating. The site has been great in providing information for my infrequent excursions up places like Mt. Shavano, and has given me the chance to vicariously experience hundreds and hundreds of "trip reports" from far more accomplished members who regularly climb, ice axe and scramble their way to more demanding peaks. Perhaps more than anything, the site provides moral support for the contention that mountains and the outdoors provide the only sanctuary away from an urban/human world that is fundamentally untenable psychologically.

And that gets us to the fatal mountaineering accident. On Monday of last week I came home from a day working the mines of the human/urban world, went to and ran across a message board thread entitled "Climber Injured and Stranded on Humboldt Peak". The site gets quite a bit of traffic, but this thread already had an amazing 175 messages in it. I went in and quickly found out why. The stranded climber was none other than "Talus Monkey", a ubiquitous member of the community whose wacky gentleness on the boards included photos of him celebrating peak conquests with a 16 oz. can of Colt .45 Malt Liquor, wearing a purple "pimp" costume (hat included) and a willingness to help and co-climb every 14er with every member of imaginable. A true rock star of the message boards, but not one to rub it in and with a kind word to say to all, even us ultra-wimps who only get to one 14er a year.

I spent the next few hours scrolling through the rapidly increasing number of posts, and the following unfolded. David "Talus Monkey" was stranded high up the mountain overnight after dislocating his hip and arm as the result of an ill-advised glissade going awry. His climbing partner went for help, but assistance was slowed by an incoming snowstorm at altitude. Many, many posts of concerns and prayers followed as the wait for rescuers to reach David lengthened. Doubts about David being alive began.

Pages later, the report came in....David was found and was alive! News was sketchy, but he was conscious and was being taken to hospital as soon as he could be taken off the mountain. More delay as that proved more and more difficult. These reports were coming from Search-and-Rescue workers who are also members at Finally, now some 15 pages of board messages later, news came that he was headed to the hospital. Members, now a bit more upbeat, suggested some Colt .45 and other Talus Monkey-oriented remedies for his condition.

Then, at 9:29 P.M on Monday, May 7, 2007 (and because it's an internet message board that timestamp is still on the message), a friend relayed news that David had died.

Another 16 pages of thread messages followed sharing grief, shock and condolences to Talus Monkey's family. New threads sprung up with ideas of a tribute ascent of Humboldt, members who had never actually met the guy planning to go to the funeral service in Denver, and a special forum section on the boards dedicated to David and all the threads, trip reports, etc. devoted to/written by him.

The word "unbelievable" gets thrown around far too often, but in this case is not excessive. An unbelievable outpouring of every kind of emotion flooded out from this small internet town.

And that's the reason this story of death seems so much more upbeat to me than any ill-conceived shenanigans by APS yahoos to move some principals around. In the days since, David's death and the community has been the subject of several TV news stories and now this longer piece in this morning's Denver Post. It is a bit of a strange feeling to have ones internet small town invaded by the outside hard-copy world, but I don't mind sharing what is to me about the best "feel good" human interest story I've ever been even tangentially involved in.

That doesn't mean I won't miss Talus Monkey, his postings or his pimp hat and Colt .45 astride a high mountain peak. And I never even met the guy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lost In the Reshuffle: An APS Story In Progress

P.S. (in advance) 7:53 P.M.: For those wondering...I found out, and yes my principal is leaving. It was a relatively brutal day, one in which the tears started around 7:35 A.M. and were mingled with anger, confusion and more anger for the remainder of the day. At this point in a 14 year APS career nothing shocks me, but the inanity of this situation just leaves me empty. I'm hoping tomorrow doesn't suck quite so bad.

In the next hour or so I will find out if I am indirectly involved in the decision by Albuquerque Public Schools to move a bunch of school principals around.

The press release and the subsequent release-regurgitive newspaper/TV stories include a list of around 20 principals/asst. principals affected, a list that doesn't include my own school and principal. The rumor mill, and K-12 schools are infamous for the high, nefarious quality of its rumor mills, puts my school/principal on the list.

I don't know if I am more nervous or pissed off this morning as I get ready to go to an early, early staff meeting this morning to find out what's really going on. Okay, I've thought about it a second...I'm more pissed off. I don't want to get too much into the specifics of my school and its current principal other than to say she is a fantastic administrator and has helped my school immensely. I'll just rant about how stupid this District decision is in general, at least until I have to go to this meeting.

Superintendent Everitt is quoted in the District's press release as saying:

“We are making decisive moves in school leadership to assure that we have the best people in place for the most challenging positions at our schools. These reassignments will provide the opportunity for fresh ideas and new approaches to educational leadership in the Albuquerque Public Schools,” Everitt added.--APS Press Release, 5.9.007

It's hard to believe any organization struggling for stability and reputation as a whole would destabilize well-performing schools by ripping their administrators away in an attempt to supposedly stabilize under-performing ones. This is especially true when the organization is having a hell of a time finding good administrators to begin with. A few months back I wrote a little piece about how overworked and underpaid school administrators are. It's a supremely thankless job that has principals leaving in droves to return to the classroom, retire, or just get out of the profession.

Now, the District rewards the supposedly "best people" by throwing them into "challenging positions" (i.e., lousiest/hardest jobs)? It's so stupid it's unbelievable. And I don't believe it. This action has the markings of the professional version of a mafia hit. Superintendent Everitt has, as Al Pacino says in "The Godfather" series, "taken care of all family business". I have no idea what that "business" could actually be.

That's pretty much the way TV news portrayed it last night in the 20 second piece I saw on Channel 7. It's just a "reshuffle", the same sort of moves a last-place ballclub makes when the season has gone in the toilet, again. Well, I'm about to find out if in the toilet.

News at Eleven...A.M., actually 7:30 or so.

P.S.: Of course, I can't blog from work (that would be unprofessional), so I can't claim I will have a "scoop" or anything shortly. I'll just be the guy moping around the halls all day, plotting revenge strategy against the Everitt mob, or whistling past the APS graveyard if the news comes out in my schools' favor.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Brainless Pause That Refreshes

When things get to be too much, life is overwhelming and the wolves are at the mental door, nothing quite relaxes the mind like Curt Schilling calling Barry Bonds a steroid-pumping cheater. I love's so mindless. And Shilling and Bonds exemplify the mindlessness of professional sports in such a divergent, yet equally insipid way. If the names Schilling and Bonds aren't familiar to you because you avoid sports like six-day old unrefrigerated hamburger meat, think Paris Hilton v. Jessica Simpson, but with protective cups, fighting in the back of a limousine while chewing tobacco.

Add to that Schilling has a blog. Which I actually admit to reading. Oh, the relaxing mindless waters...wash o'er me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

My Plans For World Domination Are Almost Complete

Just two more dollars to go. The news cycle is asquawk with dire warnings of $4 a gallon gasoline here in the U.S., and I'm wringing my hands with sinister, Dr. Evil, glee. $6 gas....getting closer, plans for world domination coming to fruition. Must serenely start petting hairless cat while chuckling somewhat psychotically. Ba-whaa-haa-haa! Or however you correctly spell the evil version of the exclamatory expression "Aha!".

Yes, I know that more expensive gasoline puts the biggest strain on families who can afford it least. Yes, I know that more expensive gasoline has negative impacts on our carbon-based fuel economy. Yes, I know that even $6 gas won't immediately lead to the necessary lifestyle changes to address global warming concerns.

Yeah, I know all that, but I don't care. I want $6 a gallon gasoline, at the Diamond-Shamrock right down the street. I want to see SUVs and overly large pickup truck drivers paying more for a fill-up than for their car payment. I want frenzied Americans knocking each other through plate glass windows at Prius dealerships like they were buying tickets to a Led Zeppelin concert instead of a dorky little car that just happens to get 60mpg, city.

I want ABQ Ride buses filled to overflowing. I want buses with people hanging off the busroof, Guatemala-style, because they can't all fit inside the bus. Then I want more bus routes, running more often, so often that they same route buses butt up against each other during rush hour. I want rush hour to end. I want Central Avenue to become a pedestrian mall, with pansies planted where the lane markers used to be. Then I want Paseo del Norte to become a pedestrian mall, if for no other reason than I will be able to stop hearing all the news stories in which rich Northern Burqueans bitch and moan about how bad the traffic is on Paseo del Norte.

I want Rail Runner tickets to become as desirable as Led Zeppelin tickets, circa 1973. I want Rail Runner lines to expand East & West, the tracks constructed by a workforce of teachers and students on summer vacation. I want to be one of these workers, wearing Mao-influenced socialist work clothing. Okay, I don't want either to be on the workforce or wear the socialist garb. The workforce is gonna have to come from prisoners, or unemployed and soon-to-be-imprisoned sub-prime mortgage lenders. I'm okay with the student workforce, by the way. In fact, I have a number of current students I would like to see inducted in the program as soon as possible.

Whoever is building it, I want a ABQ subway. I want a big contest to design the logo for the subway, and a uber-modern design team to choose the graphical representation of the subway lines, and the color of those lines. I want to personally dig up Rio Bravo Boulevard with an 19th century pick-axe down to a depth of 40 feet for a new subway line. I want the Diamond Shamrock at Rio Bravo and Isleta to become a subway station, with long escalators running 40 feet down from its gas pumps to a pleasantly cool, somewhat funky-smelling subway platform below.

Don't even ask my what I want to happen to 18-wheelers (aka semis). It involves explosions, truck cabs impaled on pikes and paraded around the city, and other violence. At the same time, I am looking forward to a post-violence period in which 18-wheeler truck bodies (whatever they are really called) are turned into fantastically large garden planters, growing CO2 sucking plants where soon-to-be-killed methane emitting cattle once temporarily habitated.

Then there's the continuous row of giant electric-generated wind turbines along the West Mesa running from Rio Rancho to Los Lunas, the possible nuclear power plant in downtown Grants and other details, but those can be argued down the road.

First, we gotta have $6 a gallon gasoline. Then after the advertised economic apocalypse, the cataclysmic lifestyle changes resulting in people being reduced to getting their "car fix" by sitting in their garage, hands on the steering wheel making "vroom, vroom" noises to simulate actual driving, and the nationalization of all energy companies in the U.S, only then can we start really kicking this carbon monkey on our backs, switching from the heroin of gas to the methadone of public transit, alternative energy and pansies planted along crumbling asphalt.

Two dollars to go. Ba-whaa-haa-haa!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Weekend Odds and Sods

A few things to clean up a muddy week:

  • Yes, that is me on the KNME show "The Line". I've avoided bringing it up here mainly because the topic's surfacing immediately overwhelms my typing fingers with all the disclaimers, apologies, ambivalence and horror my brain wants my fingers to express on the subject. Let's just say I'm a somewhat "accidental panelist" on the show, and leave my typing fingers largely unused beyond that simple statement on this particular subject. Oh, and to mention that it's only fun to do because the other panelists are just so darn nice. Very good people and extremely convivial, even when I say things like Marty Chavez will stab Pete Domenici in the political back. Which is what I think I said on this past week's show...I don't know, I never watch it (and never will). By the way, I really do think Chavez will end up running against Domenici, as I stated here earlier in the week. But enough of that. I'm supposed to be on the show the next two weeks as well, unless the KNME people wise up in the meantime.
  • And yeah, while we on the "faux king of all media" front, that's me appearing every other Wednesday or so in the Albuquerque Tribune as an "opinion columnist". It's kinda cool, because it's basically just me saying the same stupid things I put in Burque Babble, but with a totally different readership. As in, there is a readership. A readership exists, and this readership seems to consists almost entirely of APS schoolteachers, at least based on the number of colleagues I barely know coming up to me and saying they read the column. By the way, these colleague interactions are invariably awkward and end up with me pretending to look for imaginary rocks on the floor/ground. I have always agreed with Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye when he said "If I were a piano player, I'd play it in the goddamn closet." In fact, merely mentioning this TV and newspaper stuff makes me feel slightly nauseous. Let's move on, and never bring this up again here.
  • I rode the Rail Runner again, but I've already promised I won't write about it every single time I ride. So I'll wait until I've ridden a few more times. Let's just say for now that I have devised the greatest transportation schema in the history of public transit history. Speaking humbly, of course.
  • I promise to have less stuff in here about me, and more about how Marty Chavez is going to stab Pete Domenici in the political back.
  • I would have more stuff like that right now, but we seem to be going through a bit of a news lull here in Burque. It certainly doesn't help that the Metropolitan Courthouse corruption case might be delayed. My eager anticipation at 24/7 Manny Aragon coverage in this matter has been far from satiated. We want daily "Entertainment Tonight news coverage" of Manny, Marc Shiff and the rest of the alleged corruptogang. I especially want to hear more about Sandra Mata Martinez, the wife of former Metro court administrator Toby Martinez, who was (allegedly) writing some big 'ol ass checks to herself. Mondo $400k kinda checks. Sometimes Burque just needs a NY Post in the worst way, if you get my meaning.
  • Lastly, a short note to the ABQJournal web site. It's time to replace the required ad announcing that the Rio Rancho Journal is starting October 22nd, of 2006. You know, the ad with the Journal sports staff going after some guy's Fruit Loops? The one that you just can't reach for the mute button fast enough for by this point? The one that makes you wonder why the Fruit Loop eating homeowner just didn't open fire on the incoming, rather scary looking, sports staffers? That one? Well, it's time for a new one, Journal. Maybe you can make a new one announcing ABQ's 300th Anniversary or something. That would be just about as topical as this Rio Rancho Journal starts 10.22.06 thing.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rail Runner Story, Part Deux: Running and Raining

Honestly, I won't be posting every single time I ride Rail Runner. Unless, that is, yesterday's trip was the last one I ever take. Despite some chronological and meteorological hiccups, I actually had fun in that tiring adventure you don't want to do again anytime soon sort of way.

Northbound (7:25 train)

  • Today's story is all about shuttles. I find out about the South Valley/Airport shuttle and discover the thing goes not only to the airport but also to the Walmart at Rio Bravo and Coors. Yes it's interesting that a Walmart gets equal terminus billing to the airport (and yes, I am refusing to call the Airport "Sunport" here).
  • Rio Bravo is one large alfalfa field from my house, so I ingeniously decide to catch the shuttle bus by crossing the alfalfa field (it has a well-public traveled path along the ditches). The only problems with this ingenious idea are:
    • It rains the night before and it's a wee-bit muddy on the way to Rio Bravo
    • The shuttle doesn't stop right where I hit Rio Bravo, but about 2/3rds of a mile in either direction.
  • 6:45: I start a trek north from my house, crossing the clay mud ditch path in a clogging, sliding manner. My hiking boots are covered almost immediately, covered with cement-like mud. I smile in the early morning coolness.
  • 7:00: I hit Rio Bravo, turn to face my shuttle bus stop: a red light some 2/3rds of a mile away. I calculate how fast I and my mud-covered boots can cover 2/3rds of a mile. I'm gonna have to hurry.
  • 7:11: I start looking back to see if the shuttle bus is coming. Still hundreds of yards from the bus stop. Maybe it was more like a mile from where I start. I start jogging a bit.
  • 7:12: There's the shuttle! And it's gaining fast. With still a good 1/4 mile to go, I and the muddy boots kick into full running mode, which in my out-of-shape condition is just past brisk walk speed. I start flailing my arms, turning to face the oncoming bus and waving to illustrate my intention to ride the zooming bus.
  • 7:13: The bus driver is a good one, and patiently waits as I cover the last hundred or so yards to the waiting bus. I sweatily enter and discover that one reason he waited is that the shuttle bus is all mine. Nobody but me and the driver. I thank him and sweat on my chosen bus seat.
  • 7:18: We arrive at the South Valley train stop. Note that I refuse to call the stop by its "real" name "Bernalillo County/International Sunport". I hate that name. I hate the marketing strategy that would have us forget the stop is in the South Valley and instead focus on the Airport that is stupidly called the "Sunport" because of yet another marketing strategy.
  • The remainder of the ride is uneventful. Rail Runner is on time, the train is again filled with people perhaps a bit too happy they took the train instead of driving. I decide to take the 11 bus up Lomas, as the muddy running has killed my inclination to walk from Alvarado to Lomas/Girard. By the time I hit the workplace, most of the sweat has dried. Most of it.
Southbound (5:23 train)

  • Babble reader Michelle Meaders pointed out the other day that UNM Hospital has a "Rail Runner Shuttle" at 5:00. Hot damn! (thanks Michelle). I'm working later at work (remember, we teachers have banker's hours most days), so the 5:00 works wonderfully. I casually stroll down Lomas for a few minutes and enter the shuttle bus with time to spare. The bus is full of hospital workers, giving the ride a totally non-ABQ Ride vibe. It's friendly, friendly down to the point where some folks ask me if I'm on the right shuttle.
  • 5:10: The shuttle pulls up at Alvarado. The friendly folks and I jauntily disembark. We feel special, or at least I do as a rider of the near-secret shuttle (oh, did I mention this shuttle is free?). I do notice in the southern distance some storm clouds. They look somewhat threatening, but no real signs of rain that I can see.
  • 5:23: The train pulls out of Alvarado. It is packed, swarmed, engorged with passengers. Crazy full. So full that one wants to start taking pictures and posting them any and everywhere in order that the public knows how popular Rail Runner is and that more frequent trains are direly needed. Being full also means that the train is hot, and somewhat uncomfortable. Passengers have discovered the "New York Subway Distant Stare", a bored, aimless look into nowhere that signifies "Don't screw with me or I'll kill you". It's so heartening to the experienced public transport maven that Burque folks can pick up these important commuting attributes.
  • 5:35: It's pouring rain at the South Valley stop. Pouring to the point one might prefer to just ride the train to Belen, then ride it back to South Valley to see if it's let up. I venture forth, however, skittering toward the waiting shuttle buses: one to the airport, one to the Walmart at Coors/Rio Bravo. A few other folks get on the Walmart bus with me, including a talkative man who is damnably giddy about all the new transportation choices, as he works somewhere in Rio Rancho. I get tired calculating how long his commute must be, but mainly I look to the skies to see if the rain might let up. I still have to cross that muddy alfalfa field.
  • 5:40: The rain hasn't really let up, and a major squall is approaching from the West. I consider just riding to Walmart and holing up in that Hell-hole until it clears up. But I can't do it...loitering at Walmart is just too depressing to consider. I get off at my ill-placed stop, and venture forth, my New Yorker engaged as a primitive umbrella.
  • 5:40: Instead of running for a mile along Rio Bravo, I choose to trek across a housing subdivision featuring roads that all angles in directions I don't want to go. I am trying to find an opening to the far eastern side of the large alfalfa field.
  • 5:45: I am unsuccessful for some time. Enough time that my double-issue New Yorker is already soaked. The major squall has settled down upon my New Yorker. I plow forth, seeking an opening and the sight of lovely green alfalfa.
  • 5:50: I don't really find an opening, just a barbed-wire fence next to a house with shrilly barking little dogs. I scoot between barbed-wire strands and trudge through deeper mud in the general direction of my house along a part of the alfalfa field.
  • 5:51: I cross, trespass really, across the alfalfa field owners front yard. Sorry alfalfa field owners!
  • 5:54: I finally hit a ditch train running in the right direction to my house. Muddier than ever, the rain still coming down. Mud cakes up to 2 inches all around my boots. The New Yorker is now converted back to paper pulp. I move on.
  • 6:05: I finally get back onto pavement 1/4 mile from my house. It takes every bit of that stretch to scrape off the caked mud from the boots. I have to jump up and down on the pavement a few hundred times to help the process. Passing drivers, seeing a soaked man jumping up and down onto the street in the rain, swerve just a bit farther out of the way for fear of having anything to do with someone who is quite obviously psychotic.
  • 6:12: Home.

Really, it was fun. I'm not kidding.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Whither Marty? A Sopranos Family Solution

Johnny Mango over at Duke City Fix has a post today about the possibility of a Martin Chavez v. Heather Wilson CD#1 race in '08. He makes some good points about the viability of a Chavez candidacy, ignoring the irrelevant fact that I'm not a huge fan of the guy. Chavez that is.

In my gut, a large, foreboding place becoming unsettlingly larger by the week, I just don't see Marty going for Heather's seat. Instead, I'm thinking Chavez v. Domenici. Yes, I read that most folks think even a Domenici in a pajama-wearing, amnesiac-Uncle Junior-on-the-Sopranos condition would win another term against anyone in a cakewalk. But what political seat really matches Marty in his current state of high-popularity Feudal Princedom?

I'm not so sure even Governor is enough for Marty now.

Think of it as a litmus test....if Marty does run against Pete D. it shows just how far the Republican party has imploded both in NM and nationally. And who can refute the statement that Repubs are in the middle of a Vegas Strip hotel-level, full-scale implosion? Anyone?

So call it a hunch, a gut feeling, and probably a wildly off-base guess.

Senate '08: Chavez v. Domenici "This Time It's Strictly Business, Uncle Junior"

Magic Carpet Made of Steel Report: RailRunner 4.30.07

As previously indicated, your humble blogger took the Rail Runner as part of his delicious commuting breakfast yesterday morning. Here's what I found:

Heading North (7:25 A.M. train)
  • A morning train pretty much full of both travelers and bicycles. I chose to stand for the duration of my 11 minute trip from the ill-named "Bernalillo County/International Sunport" stop to downtown ABQ. Many more than the announced limit of two bikes lined the back interior of the train. I'd say eight bikes minimum.
  • Conversation for morning train patrons largely centered around the train and not driving cars. There was a pleasant aura amongst passengers, the feeling we were all doing something morally right. The same feeling you get attending a non-profit to help defenseless animals or something. It was a pleasant feeling, tinged with a faint creepiness.
  • No ticket-taker came by to take my money in the 11 minutes between my stop and Alvarado.
  • Given the short distance and a number of crossings, the train never broke 30 miles an hour. This was less than satisfying in that "City of New Orleans" Steve Goodman sense. No blurring of objects outside the window, no gentle rocking, rhythm of the rails feel.

Heading South (4:25 P.M. train)
  • Again, plenty of commuters, now scuffed and sprinkled with the physical/mental coating of a day spent at work. Enough room to find a seat, but still the train was at least half-full.
  • Conversation is not about the train, folks crack open cell has more of a city bus vibe now.
  • A friendly ticket-taker cracking jokes as he moved along swiping bar codes from monthly pass customers (I guess, I never went inside Alvarado to actually buy a ticket). Said ticket-taker amiably sidles up to me, and I give him $2 to pay for both this and the unpaid for morning trip. He asks where I'm going and I tell him "the next stop". He asks which county the next stop is in. Several passengers chime in along with me to say "Bernalillo". Friendly ticket-taker doesn't really know about the new South Valley stop. Not surprising as it still only gets about ten passengers a day, I guess.
  • 11 minutes later I'm back to the nearly deserted train parking lot at Rio Bravo and 2nd. A passenger-empty city bus waits to pick up passengers for its new route from this station. A woman and child take their bicycles from the train, I walk to my car, and the bus remains empty. Nevertheless, the driver dutifully takes off before me out of the parking lot. I drive along side the empty bus for a mile or so down an almost bumper-to-bumper Rio Bravo, heading west.
All in all, an enjoyable journey. The train was well-populated, comfortable and on-time. It feels like you're no longer in Burque as you enter a world without cars. One almost feels like a vacationer, but perhaps that novelty wears quickly.

Two things that might prevent a ton of future visits from me: one holistic, one personal. Personally, riding Rail Runner from the SV stop to downtown is a bit of a waste. It's slower than driving the straight shot down 2nd street, and you never get that "commuter" feel. More importantly, the biggest drawback to Rail Runner now is simply frequency of trains. To make this a real alternative to driving, the system has to go beyond three trains a commuting period and become a faster, more frequent service. The novelty of newness make one forget the time passing now, but sufficient ridership to make any sort of dent in traffic density obviously requires much, much more.