Tuesday, July 31, 2007

TSA's Cheese Shop Sketch

I know it's a few days old now, like a stinky Limburger left on the porch, but I'm intrigued about the TSA fake cheese bomb story because there hasn't been any collective backlash about the evident facts that:

Well actually life in America continued on just like it did when the Saddam/Al Qaeda link was disproven and when no WMDs were found, much of the population ignored the fabrication and continued to worry about cheese and wires. I'm sure if asked, a high percentage of U.S. citizens today would only recall the threat and not the hoax.

Hmmm...what could this all mean? I tend to shy away from conspiracy thinking (I know, a blogger who isn't into conspiracy theory is like a steroid salesman who avoids baseball players), but it appears the only "dry run" here was a test of our government/media fear-hyping capability. And, thanks be to TV ratings, we passed with flying colors. We can have fear up to color "Hatred" in a New York Minute.

George Orwell must be laughing somewhere.

And speaking of dear 'ol George, I have a beef about some Orwellian word usage. Since when did "homeland" start to replace "United States", "America", and "this country" as terms to define this here place? For example, the TSA bulletin "clarifying" its earlier bogus cheese bulletin states:

"There is no intelligence that indicates a specific or credible threat to the homeland."

Maybe it's just me, but that "homeland" thing is scarier than any collection of cheese and wires. When your government is one slippery verbal step from using "fatherland/motherland" in official bulletins it's really time to be fearful.

P.S.: Why San Diego, Milwaukee, Houston and Baltimore? If you ever want to see Internet Conspiracy Theory Dynamics in action, Google some relevant terms about it. The human mind is an amazing thing. Especially when it's covered in a snug tin-foil hat.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Elegy For Incomprehensibility: Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

As a teenager imprisoned outside of Fort Worth, I spent many a lonely Saturday late-night watching local PBS station KERA. Out in the country raising some pigs, plowing, seeding melons, and spending summer days walking alone mile after mile after mile down farm to market roads, I was somehow drawn to public television. I think it was the Monty Python, mostly. Growing up on a North Texas farm I needed all the Monty Python's Flying Circus I could get.

Part of the KERA Saturday night lineup was the showing of really obscure movies, from some outfit called "Janus Films". I can still see that image of the "Janus Films Guy" (some unknown emperor on a coin or some such). My idea of avant-garde cinema was "Young Frankenstein", because it was in black & white. But for some reason, maybe the euphoria of having just seen a "Python" episode or, later, a really good "Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin", maybe just the loneliness of a pseudo-farm prison cell, I stuck around past the Janus Films Guy and watched some wacky movie that kinda changed my life.

As I recall, that first film was "Winter Light" by some guy named Ingmar Bergman. A few Saturdays later it was "Wild Strawberries". I didn't understand these movies, I just remembered being struck by two or three things:
  1. Max von Sydow. There was something beyond powerful and depressing about him, a look and presence just perfect for a depressed kid stuck in a desolate faux cowboy prairie;
  2. The Subject Matter. I didn't know Bergman from hamburger, but I did notice this guy seemed to be perfectly comfortable making movies in which absolutely nothing seemed to happen. It seemed quite the act of defiance to me, and I was all about defiance;
  3. The Look. Before watching these films I'd never even noticed the look of a movie. But these Bergman films were so stark, so ultra black & white, they looked just like a hot Texas prairie in Summer felt.
Of course nobody in my family or at school watched these things, which might have been a big part of their incomprehensible allure. Watching Bergman was like leaving Texas, and that was a very good thing. I began to search out other things that would help me leave Texas. I missed pretty much all the drug stuff, so I turned instead from Bergman to Woody Allen.

I noticed Woody mentioned Bergman alot, especially in the written pieces. Woody took the depressing elements of Bergman, simplified them to a point I could understand a little, and made them funny. Depressing could equal humor. There was funny hidden down there in the bleakness. And without the bleakness there didn't seem to be any funny.

Now it all started to make sense in my defiant, isolated teenage mind. I liked "Python", Woody Allen and the incomprehensible Bergman because: 1. they all seemed as far from Texas as possible; 2. the showed me that the humor is in the rotting guts of the "normal" world; 3. examining these guts for kernels of humor might not only keep me sane, but could also make for a nice little hobby.

This morning I read that Ingmar Bergman has died. I ended up watching a ton of his other movies over the years, but admit none had the impact/importance to me of that first viewing of "Winter Light". But what an impact. So, thank you Mr. Bergman. Thank you for helping explain how to mentally survive a vicious, cruel world, even back when I didn't understand your films at all. Especially when I didn't understand them.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Morning Odds & Sods

A collection of unrelated items, connected only by my inability to meaningfully expand upon them:

  • Speaking of "Odds & Sods", which of course is the title of a Who album, is Ken Russell's "Tommy" not the most dated movie, pretty much ever? I saw part of it on TCM this week. I felt so old I immediately went to the AARP site to check on group benefits;
  • And on the subject of film entertainment, I saw two good documentaries this week. I made a rare venture out to the Guild Theatre and saw "Czech Dream", the documentary about two film students who (with a massive amount of professional help) create a fictitious "hypermart", then convince thousands of consumers to walk through a large, open field to enter the fake store at its fake "grand opening". Reality TV has helped to destroy much of the appeal of the dig cam documentary, but the final scenes of "Czech Dream" are compelling and thought-provoking. An even better film, in my view, is "I Like Killing Flies", a look at the famous/infamous Kenny Shopsin and his restaurant/general store "Shopsin's" in NYC. Kenny Shopsin is likable, unlikable, funny, embarrassing and pretty much could have a 24/7 camera on him and stay interesting. The film is more than Mr. Shopsin (gentrification, food, family dynamics, pathos), but Kenny is the star of the piece in a way beyond any Scarlett Johannson or Tom Hanks vehicle;
  • Us folks down here in the South Valley are talking about secession/incorporation again. Evidently, we're gonna spend $45,000 on a study to see if it makes sense. I hope the study takes into account the costs an incorporated South Valley would have in providing kingly robes, crown, scepter and castle for our "mayor". A South Valley "city" could get real medieval, real quick.
  • And speaking of medievalist thinking, Feudal Prince Marty Chavez had a throwaway quote in a little Journal story a few days back, namely: "When 98th Street is completed out to Rio Bravo it will act as a loop system between I-25 and I-40." As a resident living close to Rio Bravo, I wonder if Chavez et. al. are considering the bump in Rio Bravo traffic such a "loop system" would have. As traffic on this road is already becoming swamped during rush hours, it could only get worse with such a plan. And, being the South Valley and all, I'm sure little or no thought/planning will go into improvements to Rio Bravo to handle such an increase.
If only the SV were its own city, with its own King/Queen. Hmmmmm....now that's what I call a lose/lose situation: fatalistic powerlessness or old-school feudal monarchic autocracy. Oh well, have the best weekend possible, folks.

P.S.: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the NASA drunk astronaut, sabotaged computer story. It's stories like this that make waking up in the morning worth it, doncha think? It's also hard to decide what's funnier/more pathetic: is it the drunk astronauts? the sabotaged computer going into space? What about this (from the NYT "Lede" bloggish thing):

At least NASA knew where that computer was: a Congressional report this week said that the some $94 million worth of the agency’s computers, office equipment and supplies had been lost over the last decade because of sloppy administration — and that when NASA was made aware of the problem five years ago, they loosened their rules instead of tightening them.

(Weirdly, the report cites one case of an employee who accounted for a missing laptop computer assigned to him by claiming that it had actually been sent up on the shuttle, broken down and been ejected to burn up in the atmosphere — and his bosses apparently bought the story.)

For added fun, take any of these NASA stories and change NASA to your favorite poorly-run bureaucracy. APS, for instance. It's just as funny, and funny because it's true in a manner of speaking.

P.P.S.: In the great stolen line department, I saw this on Wonkette yesterday....

"Makes Elton John's Rocket man so prophetic.

"Zero. Hour. Nine. A. M."
"And I'm. Gonna-be-high. As. A. Kite. By. Then."

The government that generates the most laughs governs best. United States, 2007 edition, is darn tough to beat.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tour de Dope '07: Strung Out & Tweaking in the Pyrenees

One of the more pleasant aspects of a pleasant summer vacation is the chance to waste morning hours watching the Tour de France, and/or keeping up with the stages via the 'Net. And no, my level of pleasant hasn't relied on the presence of Lance Armstrong in the event. I've just liked the Tour, the idea of bicycling being such a big deal, and the essential Euro-flavor of it all.

But the Pleasant-o-Meter is pretty much down to zero at this point in Tour '07. If you thought Floyd Landis and the '06 doping lunacy was lunatic, Tour '07 makes the Landis situation look perfectly sane. Now that leader Rasmussen has finally been booted (by his own team) from the Tour, I've spent 'Net time this evening trying to find the story we're all waiting for now:

Tour de France '07 Canceled, Syringe To Wear Yellow Jersey

To be honest, I'm rather shocked to find very few calls this evening to cancel the rest of the damn thing. Outside of the Globe and Mail in Toronto, pretty much nothing.

Maybe when Europe wakes up tomorrow morning it will wake up and stop the madness before Paris. Anything less than a cancellation now merely cements the farce. Here's hoping we have no Sunday "celebratory" ride down the Champs-Elysees (multiple accent marks missing). Cancel. Tour. Now.

Going UnGreen: Blogger Talks Himself Off The Ledge

As really dedicated readers know, I have for years been a registered Green Party member. I have opined on the positives/negatives of said membership here and here.

Put into mathematical terms, I'd put my Green Party thing thusly:

Love of Dadaism + Too Lazy To Change Registration = NM Green Party Membership

Or something like that. Plus, it's cool to be in a group of .0000001% of the population and shrinking every day.

So it was with something of a heavy heart and even heavier conformity that I called Bernco yesterday to request a form to get a new registration card.

And on that card, it's going to read.....argh, I can' t bring myself to say it. Double argh....head beginning to spin...will slipping away...must keep hands on keyboard....


Of all the closets to come out of, this might have been the toughest. In fact, somebody needs to talk me off this high ledge, this Golden Gate Bridge of politics. My feelings about the NM Democratic Party fall somewhere between those felt for Barry Bonds and Josef Mengele. For those wondering, that's not good in my book. There is so much not to like.

Example: A few weeks back I call the NM Democratic Party to ask about folks who might be running against Teresa Cordova for County Commissioner District 2 (down here in the South Valley) in '08. I'm just calling out of the blue, having never contacted the party before, ever. A guy who shall remain nameless calls me back and I ask him about Cordova and potential Dem competitors. The very first thing out of this guy's mouth (and remember he's saying this to a person he's: 1. never heard of; 2. never talked to before; 3. talking to over the phone) is "well, to win that District you have to have a Hispanic surname". He then continues to monologue about the other attributes needed for a successful District 2 candidacy, his personal feelings about Cordova, and a bunch of other details that combine to make me: 1. cringe repeatedly; 2. want to take about five showers, one immediately after the other.

And I'm thinking of joining ranks with this cringefest?

Now, you might be saying to yourself: "Well Scot, you do need to have a Hispanic surname to win in District 2". I understand that, and you might very well be right, and right until the end of political time. Still, should one join a group whose assumptions are so glib, cynical and kinda outright discriminatory?

I think the glibness is what bothers me the most. I mean if Dem Dude had thrown the Hispanic surname card after we knew each other a few months I'd understand him, and the context of the position, and probably be only mildly bothered. But here's this guy representing the entire Party and in the first three seconds of communication he casually drops this as an absolute given. As a starting point for discussion.

I'm kinda phobic about groups in general, but it is especially creepy to contemplate joining an outfit with group think like that. Not to mention the many, many positional differences I have had with the Party and individual Democrats over the years. Then there's the whole "baa! baa!" sheep thing, quietly shuffling into the large motley herd as we wait for Nanci Pelosi, Harry Reid or Hillary Clinton to possibly, possibly feed us.

Nope. Can't do it. Sorry to waste your time, but becoming a Democrat just so I can vote in a primary ain't worth it, even with the Worst President Ever hanging around. Forget I ever wrote this thing. Move along, nothing to see here, as they say. Again, sorry to waste your valuable 'Net viewing seconds.

Still, this morning's navel gazing has resulted in something. I know what my new registration card is going to look like. The space under "Party/Partido" is going to be blank. Deliciously, liberatingly blank.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Internet Videos + Bill Richardson = Kinda Must See, Sorta, TV

As a part of my continuing commitment to you, the sole reader of Burque Babble, I took some time out of my busy 11 week summer vacation to watch part (and I mean PART) of the CNN-YouTube Democratic presidential debate last night.

Actually, the only draw was the new-fangled "Internet" aspect of the proceedings, and I figured that as an advocate of the Tubes I needed to sit myself down and watch the 'Net transform Democracy.

It was my first real exposure to these CNN debates (other than an occasional channel surf through CNN, one immediately leading to an involuntary shriek of pain from your humble blogster as he quickly changed the channel), and I gotta say that anyone who has watched every one of them in their entirety deserves either a Congressional Medal of Honor or an immediate psychiatric exam.

You Burque Babble Internet hipsters know where to go for analysis and insight, so I'll provide even less of that than I usually do. All I'll say is:

  • In general, I liked the IDEA of the YouTube video questions. They allowed the nervous John Q. Public several takes to get their question out, unlike those live audience debates where, like myself, the "average American" is so obviously peeing their pants while asking the question that one can't bear to watch;
  • The EXECUTION of the questions was often just as embarrassing to watch as the live, peeing their pants, variant. I found myself wanting to turn the video down, and just have the audio play...but this was TV so I couldn't figure out a way to do that, if you know what I mean;
  • Anderson Cooper just might have usurped the highly competitive "swarmiest TV personality" crown. Tough. To. Watch. And, of course, the idea that he has anything to do with choosing which video questions get played and who gets each question first was infuriating to contemplate;
  • I, grudgingly, thought Richardson did a pretty good job, and since we're supposed to be rooting for him like he's the local professional sports team: rah. rah. Good answers, I agreed with most of those answers, and he could even tell jokes. I think the format really suited him because he's much more comfortable in a diplomat one-on-one, sitting on the porch drinking a post-prandial liquor kinda guy, and these videos allowed him to loosen up from the standard debate format. Not that I have seen him in that traditional format...I'm just regurgitating what I've read from the Tubes about his other performances (i.e., not good);
  • There was obviously no inference to be drawn from the fact that CNN had Mike Gravel on one far side of the hydra-esque podium and Dennis Kucinich on the other far side, with Hillary, Obama and Edwards toward the middle. None at all. Zero;
I could go on, but there are plenty of higher quality places to get "analysis and insight" about last night. Besides, those folks probably watched the whole calamitous shindig, whereas I could only stomach about 19% of the thing between pitches of the Red Sox/Indians game.

Frankly, I can tell you alot more about the Red Sox/Indians game than John Edwards' views on teaching his young children on the subjects of inappropriate touching and sex. Now that I think about it, almost the only thing that really stuck with me was those two Tennessee YouTube stars doing a schtick about Al Gore. That was well done. And that Bill Richardson and I agree on some stuff like Iraq and No Child Left Behind.

Maybe if I get the inclination I'll go to YouTube and watch the entire debate there. Nah, that's not gonna happen...my 11 week summer vacation is far too valuable for that. Meanwhile, only 99 or so more CNN debates to go. I promise, dear sole reader, that I will attempt to avoid them like malaria.

Monday, July 23, 2007

It's Pandamania, Baby! Pandamania! (No, I'm Not a Fan of Puns, Either)

Man, we gotta get a panda. The solution to all of Burque's problems is a cute, cuddly, eucalyptus-chomping panda.

  • Gangs out of control? Get a panda and those g'bangers will be lining up (in an orderly manner) to glimpse the cutest darn thing this side of Shaanxi Province.
  • Downtown revitalization grinding to a halt? Tons of people will park downtown to walk the mile or two to see a beguilingly color-patterned caged animal bored out of its freakin' mind.
  • Transportation problems? No problem. Toss a panda into the Zoo mix, and nobody, I mean NOBODY, will be driving the Interstates or Paseo. They'll all be at the Zoo. And remember, the Zoo has that train! Transportation problems solved, baby!
  • Out-of-control urban sprawl? What are you talking about, "urban sprawl"? There's no "urban sprawl" here! Besides, the Zoo area is infill, and we're gonna infill it to the max with a new cute, cuddly-as-cuddly-can-get panda. So shut up about the "urban sprawl". Now. Just shut up.
  • Unruly City Councilors? Sick a bored, cuddly, but mean-ass giant panda on an eucalyptus-smeared Debbie O'Malley and crew and those veto overrides are over, pronto.

Imagine the Tingley Train hauling thousands upon thousands of
tourists (at speeds of up to three miles an hour)

Heck, I'd go to China just to get a panda. Wouldn't you? All this city needs to become great is a cutetastic panda, and an Arena Football League team. And guess what we'll call the team? You got it! That's right!

Q Pandas

I get chills. I'm telling ya, if we do this cute, cuddly panda thing right next thing you know we'll be able to turn the Rio Grande into a concrete riverwalk from Montano to Bridge, and have subdivisions going beyond the Rio Puerco. Big time, baby! Big time at last.

Bow to the Power of the Panda! Bow people, and pray, just pray Marty comes back someday with a cute-as-crap lovable giant panda cub in his arms. I can't wait to see the photo. It might even replace my current favorite Marty photo...

Albuquerque Journal, 11.13.03

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Back In Town And The Gutter Appears Full

Back from the South San Juans, tanned, rested, only slightly mosquito-bitten, and voyeur of a pleasant and pleasantly distant tableaux of a large black bear sow and her three cubs along a drainage near the Continental Divide. Throw in a large elkherd and about 30 miles of hiking and it was a very good week.

Meanwhile, in these dog days of a summer well prior to Election '08, a dearth of news is somewhat spiced with an attempt to recall ABQ City Councilor Don Harris. Sweet of the "New Mexicans for Democracy" (the uber-controversially named group behind the recall) to liven up these dull and impotent impeachment-free days with a bit of revolution.

Personally, I'm having a hard time picking a dog in this Harris fight, and speaking of Michael Vick (yikes, a week in the woods has done nothing to relieve my snarkiness) I can't wait to see the full weight of PETA crashing down on the beleaguered Falcons QB like the Steel Curtain , Doomsday Defense and Orange Crush simultaneously. And you're right, I pretty much stopped watching NFL football back in the late 70s.

Oh well, better to rejoin the Great Outdoors than muck about with all these snarling bears of celebrity and vice. Time for a bike ride. If you call riding a bike down Isleta Blvd. "Great" or the "Outdoors".

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Only Email I Needed To See

You know, I read Andrea Schoellkopf's Journal story today about emails between APS Superintendent Beth Everitt and Miguel Acosta, Teresa Cordova and Beth Everitt, APS's Nelinda Venegas and Miguel Acosta, and various other permutations involving the aforementioned, and I realize now that I was really just looking for one, specific email.

It would look like this:


From: Teresa Cordova (Cordova@Bernco.gov)
Date: April 7, 2007
To: Beth Everitt (Super@aps.edu)
CC: Miguel Acosta (Macosta@sf.net)
Re: Summer School Information

Hey Beth:

When does summer school start, and when/where can we sign our son up for it?

Thanks in advance for any info you can provide!


T. Cordova
Bernalillo County Commissioner District #2


Funny, I don't see such an email in any of the plethora cited in Schoellkopf's story. Oh well.

Meanwhile, I'm headed out of town for a week of backpacking in southern Colorado. Here's hoping everything from Gradegate to Iraq to whether Harry Potter is dead or not is solved by the time I get back. I'd be ever so disappointed if all of the above are not cleared up by then. Have a good mid-July everyone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

APS And Where We Go From Here: A View From The Sewer

So, now what happens? And what should happen?

As we all know, Beth Everitt's icky summer culminated in her announcing she's leaving next June. Three months ago, I honestly would not have cared one iota about this. As I've mentioned before, healthy teaching in APS means focusing on "the box" (i.e., one's individual classroom) regardless of the ever-swirling madness that is The District.

Then Beth Everitt and crew got rid of my principal. This ticked me off. Ticked me off enough to start wallowing in The District sewers, and my wallowing just happened to coincide with Beth Everitt's icky summer.

So whereas I would normally just be recharging mental batteries and reading books to gear up for another year of teaching "literature", I find myself still wearing my wallowing hip-waders and somewhat mentally stuck in the metaphorical sewers.

So sure, I'm wondering: now what happens? And what should happen?

I have a few ideas, very few, and I admit that my time spent actually caring what goes on at APS Central hasn't enlightened me on much. But here's one or two things I want in a new APS Superintendent:

  • A leader who can corral his/her administrative staff, and not allow underlings to make/enforce policy while hiding behind the Superintendent
  • Someone savvy in public relations to the point that instead of hiring expensive PR people correcting and spinning what comes out of the Super's mouth, that Super can cleanly and forcefully elucidate just what the heck they are trying to say
  • Will seek and not fear input from school communities, teachers and students in making decisions that affect individual schools
  • Someone willing to take on No Child Left Behind (NCLB), both in fighting its reauthorization (obviously before they officially take the position next Summer) and in pursuing legal challenges to unworkable provisions in any reauthorized legislation
Regarding this last point, I read with interest the comments of U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson on NCLB in this morning's Journal. From that story by Debra Dominguez-Lund:

With the controversial No Child Left Behind Act up for re-authorization this fall, Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., says Congress should review the way English language learners and special education students are tested.
"Twenty percent of special education kids— no matter what the teaching technique— will not be able to learn at grade level," Wilson said Monday. "So we need to look at whether we can assess them with individual education plans."
Wilson met with Albuquerque Public Schools officials to discuss her concerns about the law, including some of the student testing requirements and the way annual yearly progress of schools is measured.
"I wanted to connect with local schools and see what we've learned over the first five years of (the act's) implementation," Wilson said. "I wanted to ask school officials what changes they thought needed to be made to the act and what we can do to continue to make improvements."

Now you know we're living in a bizarro world when Heather Wilson and I agree on something. It's pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime event. But here's Rep. Wilson just asking school districts for ammunition to change/obliterate NCLB. I want APS officials to give Wilson enough ammo to blow up every last smidgen of this accursed, ill-funded federal horror show, but have little faith The District will do an adequate job of illustrating to the Representative the many, many flaws.

The next APS Superintendent needs to be able to fully take advantage of offers like that made by Rep. Wilson, and more. Much more.

For those interested enough to jump into their own hip-waders and muck about the sewers, here's a website outlining state/local attempts to alter/smash NCLB. It is my hope that the next APS Superintendent will tackle the next version of NCLB, whatever that is, using legal action if need be. I would much rather see my school district in court arguing against deeply flawed legislation than, say, having a judicial pie fight with Sam Bregman in the Gil Lovato case.

P.S.: And speaking of lame ducks like Beth Everitt, we happen to have a very lame duck in the White House now. Given that lame duck status and overall Presidential popularity, why should NCLB be a slam dunk for reauthorization, exactly?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Well, What Do Ya Know?

Yeah, I heard/read. What a long, strange trip it's been from Brad Allison to The Multi-Headed Beast Starring Joey Vigil to Beth Everitt's Solo Tour. And why do I have the feeling it won't be getting any less strange?

Keep reading below, for more, equally inane, Everitt insights and lowlights...

When Green Means Rotten: The Live Earth Concerts

You're probably going to be surprised when I say this, but Al Gore never asked for my advice on the subject of "Live Earth". Not once did Madonna consult with me, nor did Kelly Clarkson ring me up for set list choices.

Which is probably all good, especially in Clarkson's case because I couldn't tell you the name of one Kelly Clarkson song. Who is Kelly Clarkson, again?

I just spent/wasted some time at the "Live Earth" website. That's seven minutes of my life I'm never getting back. My disdain for this mega-event is not the result of some ostrich head-in-sand attitude about global warming, but more than anything else a disdain for music performed in large venues. Can we just agree than concerts held in arenas suck? Really? Can we just stop pretending that we enjoy seeing/hearing music performed by musical acts hundreds of yards away while surrounded by other humans pretending this is fun?

Can we also formalize our generally held collective view that any music act popular enough to play at an event like "Live Earth" is: A. intrinsically lame (Kelly Clarkson?); B. hopelessly outdated and therefore really lame (Crowded House? Are you serious...Crowded House?); C. popular only with armies of teenagers going through their "well, everybody else likes them, so they must be cool" phase (Kelly Clarkson???)

The old line was: If they play it on commercial radio, it must suck. Well, commercial radio is dead, so that line no longer applies. Let's just replace that aphorism with: If they played at "Live Earth" they must suck. Okay, perhaps that's harsh and overly generalizing, but I invite you to spend/waste seven minutes of your life looking at the website/list o' acts. Brutal.

Based on the insightful, devastating comments above, it must be obvious that Al Gore WILL be consulting me about the next global warming concert extravaganza. Here's a few suggestion for Al, Madonna, and Kelly Clarkson, whoever she is:

  • All concerts around the world will be held in venues limited in size to holding 100 or fewer people, one or two pool tables, and a handful of earth-friendly CFL light bulbs (for use in incredible "laser" shows in which a roadie flips the earth-friendly CFL light bulbs on and off)
  • Actual jazz and classical music will be performed at some of the concerts. State-of-the-art Bose noise-cancelling headphones will be distributed to jazz/classical hating attendees for use during these sets
  • State-of-the-art Bose noise-cancelling headphones will, of course, be distributed whenever Crowded House performs
  • Okay, on second thought, Crowded House will NOT be performing. Only Burque Babble approved old washed-up bands will be allowed
  • The Pixies will be allowed
  • The jury is still out on The Police, and it's gonna take a Gregory Peck in "To Kill A Mockingbird" closing statement for them to have much of a chance
  • The following supposedly cool companies are forbidden from being involved in "Live Earth: 2.0": Apple Computers, any company which makes earth-friendly CFL light bulbs, Bose, Microsoft, any company that manufacturers organic yogurt, Segway, Al Gore
  • Leonardo DiCaprio and any other non-musical "celebrities" taking the stage will be shot on sight using earth-friendly, non-lead containing ammunition
I have some other ideas, but don't want to overly burden Mr. Gore, what with his constant struggle over whether to run for President again. In fact, if the above is too complicated Al, just remember one thing: No Crowded House, Al. No Crowded House.

P.S.: Here's how strong my large venue = sucky concert philosophy is at this point. The ABQ Journal currently has some sort of contest where the winner gets third row tickets to the Bob Dylan show at Journal Pavillon. I am a huge Bob Dylan fan (especially the early, funny albums). I have no interest in winning these tickets. None. If Bob wants to play the Launchpad (maybe with Neil Young and Sonny Rollins as opening acts), I'd be there in a second.

On the other hand, I wouldn't see a Journal Pavillon show, even if it featured Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad, with Shiva on drums and Sonny Rollins playing saxophone. I know I'm increasingly old and decrepit, but I've felt this way going back all the way to my teenage years ,when I would sit amongst the shag-carpet thick marijuana smoke at Tarrant County Convention Center saying to myself, "well, all the other kids think it's cool...so it must be..."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What, No Chevy-On-A-Stick?

Well, the New Seven Wonders of the World (trademark) have been named and neither the Chevy-on-a-stick nor the Big-I made the list. Obviously a rigged contest, although it's true a few million dollars of landscaping improvements would have helped the Big-I's chances, no doubt.

Great Wall of China? Taj Mahal? Whatever....

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Getting Wonky With The APS Police "Department" Situation

Note: Gil Lovato isn't really mentioned in this blogpost. Hope that saves some folks time to go elsewhere for their Gil Lovato fix.

I just spent half of an important Saturday morning (it's Saturday, right? Remember, I'm a seasonally unemployed teacher person and have only a rough idea of the day o' week concept at this point) researching aspects of the whole APS police department/not a department thing. Interesting to me, not so sure it would interest anyone else.

I'm far from an expert after two hours of Googling, but here's what little I've retained and a website or two to look at....

Yesterday I just thought it was funny that APS Board Member Robert Lucero said it was illegal for the District to have a police department, when it has already had what it called a police department for years. Okay, that's still funny, but with a little bit of Orwellian/Clintonian semantics, it almost makes sense. That's because school districts around the country have a bewildering array of relationships with their local law enforcement agencies. Really bewildering. And, just as you might expect, the nature of district/local cop interaction is based on money, accountability and power.

At the same time, an increasingly popular idea in the field is that of the School Resource Officer (SRO). This concept arose in large part because as districts determined (whether rightly or wrongly) that they needed to have cops in schools everyone noticed that being a cop in a school is not the same thing as a cop on a regular beat. SROs have become their own sub-field in law enforcement, with their own (kinda scary) membership organization and job descriptions. I link to the Tucson Police Department's site because: 1. I wanted to see a comparable district/city relationship to the one in Burque; 2. It just so happens Tucson has been at the forefront of this SRO concept, going back to 1962.

The biggest questions with SROs (and school policing in general) have been:

  1. What exactly do these people do?
  2. Who pays for it?
Some districts/cities have come much farther in terms of answering these questions. Not unexpectedly, APS/Albuquerque is not one of these cities. A study done by the Department of Justice makes for interesting wonkaholic reading, and if that describes you perhaps you'd like to see both the recap on problems experienced by SRO programs which includes APS as a "Large New Program" in its assessment, and a more specific breakdown on individual districts and best practices/horrible outcomes in each (look for APS as "Large New Site Four", it I read it correctly...even if they seem to have some figures messed up).

Keep in mind that this DOJ stuff is in .pdf format and has been known to induce immediate narcoleptic reactions in non-wonkish readers. Be advised.

A few things I'm still looking for:

  • How much do SROs get paid around the country? This is made tricky by the funding agreements (here's one from Costa Mesa, California), funding mechanisms (city, county, district, grants) and varied job desciptions, but you'd think one could find this out via salary schedules at either school districts or city/county websites. Not so easy. I looked for a magic table/chart with comparative salaries across the country, but no luck. Those equally geeky are encouraged to look and report back. By the way, it is easy to find APS "patrol officer" and "campus security assistant" salary schedules, and it's embarrassing. (Go to "APS Careers", then "Salary Schedule" then find the proper categories)
  • Information about APS going to the SRO concept. Frankly, outside of these reports linking APS to SROs I'd never seen anything about it. And looking at the APS website is no help, especially as APS Police doesn't even have its own webpage. Searching Google was no help either. I know I'm not terribly smart, but did I miss a memo/series of articles/decree somewhere back?
  • Serious discussion between APS Board Members, APS Police and City o' Burque/Bernalillo County. Frankly, the Gil Lovato thing is a red herring in this regard, but at least the Lovato fiasco has brought up the woeful state of things. Now is time for something none of the aforementioned parties have demonstrated as a strong suit: leadership and coordination. Neither APS or the City/County is going to pay the total bill for school policing. We all know that. So each party involved should stop posturing and get together to form an agreement. Perhaps it would be a good idea to seek out some best practices around the country and mold not only a solid agreement, but a quality framework for departmental success. Heck, maybe the parties involved could seek more federal/state funding for such a renovated department, citing not only general school violence concerns, but Homeland Security precautions as well.
Aw, who am I kidding? How many of us think this APS policing situation will end with any discernible leadership or coordination? Certainly up to this point the smart money says it will only get uglier and uglier, and we've got tons of research history to support the likelihood of such an outcome.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Don't Be Alarmed

Not that you are likely to be alarmed, but I dinked with the blog template for a new look. Blogger is good in a Soviet sort of way...it offers few choices. Freedom from choice: some of us designer-deficient types like that. Enjoy or rant against this current look.

Remember Our Last Police Force? That Was Simply An Illusion...

Taking firm leadership on the issue, esteemed APS Board Member Robert Lucero has come out against the district developing a new, stronger, more coherent, less corrupt, actually effective police department citing his belief that APS "doesn't have the authority to create its own police force" (paraphrase quote from Trib article).

Evidently, those uniformed folks roaming school halls the last few years were paid (lowly) actors. Now that I think about it, that explains alot.

Standardized Testing Meets Common Sense For the First Time, Ever

“When you look at achievement, every single wealthy suburb has high test scores,” noted Theodore Hershberg, a professor of public policy and history at the University of Pennsylvania. “That’s a terrible way to measure the performance of a school or an individual teacher because what you’re really looking at is family background or family income.”--NYT, "Schools Move Toward Following Students' Yearly Progress on Tests", 7.6.07

Good article in today's Times about the move to follow the kids instead of the school in standardized testing evaluation. Known as "growth models", the patently simple idea is to:

"track the progress of students as they move from grade to grade rather than comparing, say, this year’s fourth graders with last year’s, the traditional approach."

Lots of interesting stuff for those interested in such things, including (gasp) mentions of the impact on testing "gifted" kids and the quote above regarding the correlation of wealth and scores. I'd suggest everyone read the article, and yes, this material will be on the exam.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Mid-Summer Morning 's Questions

Prologue: Guess Pete Domenici's: A. running in '08, no doubt; B. a little worried about '08, most probably; C. Not quite as irrelevant as some thought/think; D. Perhaps still ticked off about the immigration bill and the lameness of the duck who was supposedly gonna get it over the hump....

Don't you loathe those lazy columnists who write simple laundry list columns of non-sequitur points & questions instead of anything resembling a coherent point?

Well bring on the loathing people, because we're taking a short break from writing 1500 word incoherent essays here to meekly construct a list of questions for which we'd like to have answers. Burque Babble readers, all X of them (where X = a really small number your humble blogster is embarrassed to even type), are encouraged to respond with answers if you have them, or even if you don't and just want to start ranting about something. In other words, I write little and do almost nothing, then you guys come through with the actual work/answers.

What a plan! And now the questions:

  1. Who is currently planning on running against Teresa Cordova for Bernalillo County Commissioner District 2 in 2008?
  2. How many sportswriters currently have a finished, yet unpublished, story waiting on their computers with the tentative headline "Yanks fire Torre, Girardi Possible Replacement"?
  3. Was the dramatically lower number of gun firings during last night's July 4th Explosofest down here in the South Valley the result of me criticizing and making fun of these idiots? Or did the rain have something to do with it? Or did Rio Grande HS science teachers do a better job of explaining gravity this year? Or did revelers just decide to stop shooting in the air and start firing at people in nearby cars instead?
  4. Which of the following will occur first: George W. Bush will leave the office of President or the Abq Journal will change their "sports guys invade dude's home during breakfast" video ad prior to allowing deadbeat non-payers access to their "premium content"?
  5. Speaking of W leaving office....which number will eventually be higher: the number of impeachment posts on Daily Kos or the number of "the real estate market is really hot in Burque" posts on Duke City Fix?
  6. If Mayor Marty is successful in moving some or all of the Barelas/downtown homeless shelters, to which part of town will/should they move? May I suggest Hoffmantown Shopping Center or the Outpost Ice Arena in the far Northeast Heights?
  7. Anybody want to guess an outcome regarding this year's job performance review for APS Superintendent Beth Everitt? Did you know she's making $183,740 a year? Neither did I.
  8. What are the chances your humble blogger will follow through with his plan to participate in this year's Duke City Half Marathon in October? How about the chances he finishes? Finishes without having a heart attack or other life-ending injury?
  9. Getting back to the Teresa Cordova question above, did anybody attend the Democratic Party July 4th shindig? Did I miss anything? Were Independent or Green saboteurs shot on sight, or still given free hotdogs?
I've got other questions, but they get even stupider than those listed above. Meanwhile, I better get jogging. At my current running pace I would finish this October's Duke City 1/2 marathon right about the time G.W. Bush is scheduled to leave office.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Unpeeling the Beth Everitt Onion, One Excuse At a Time

Have you ever had one of those situations where you thought somebody did something stupid and should be reprimanded, and that person was eventually found out by others far more important than yourself to have done this stupid thing, and the person who did the stupid thing receives all sorts of reprimands, but for reasons that have nothing to do with why you thought it was a stupid thing in the first place?

Okay, that question was overly long and complex, so I'll just sip some coffee for a few moments while you try to figure out what the hell I'm talking about.

Well, have you had one of those situations?

That's where I'm at with regards to Superintendent Beth Everitt and her crew of mysteriously misguided shipmates aboard the sinking raft known as Albuquerque Public Schools. As mentioned previously, Andrea Schoellkopf at the Journal has a story today describing a letter sent from State Department of Education head honcho Veronica Garcia to Skipper Gilligan Everitt. This letter chides, criticizes and somewhat lambastes (and yes, I get paid every time I use that word) Skipper Everitt for the logic used in the recent switch of 27 principals throughout the district.

Evidently, Garcia and other muckety-mucks up in Santa Fe noticed that many of the moves involving "underperforming" schools ended up with those schools having less professionally qualified principals than they had in the first place. The story then branches into one of those "she said, she said" things were the State Department uses evidence and facts to point out the District's failure to follow policies, and Beth Everitt uses lame excuses and loopholes to explain the "logic" of the decisions involved.

Of course the story is extremely funny, almost to the point of "Borat" embarrassment, as Everitt tap-dances her uncoordinated cha-cha of spin, but there is one or two points not mentioned that I, as a public service, will bring up at this time:

  1. The State Department of Education assails the logic of the principal switches, but the truth is THERE ISN'T ANY LOGIC TO THE MOVES;
  2. Skipper Everitt and crew invented the whole "good principals will go to underperforming schools" alibi, when, in fact, these moves are all about things having nothing to do with this concept.
So basically the State Department of Education is catching Everitt and crew on this lie. Which is cool, and pretty darn funny. At the same time, I have to admit I don't really care much for the argument that you need uber professionally qualified principals at underperforming schools. This is because:

  1. Educational training programs are notoriously awful, so anytime you see an argument in which one claims to having had a bunch of educational training they are actually claiming to have sat in some morbidly boring classrooms being ineffectually lectured at;
  2. Partly as a result of #1, there are plenty of good principals with little training and tons of bad principals with lots of training;
  3. The underlying assumption that being a principal at a "highperforming" school magically makes one a change agent when moved to an underperforming school is more full of logical holes than Butch Cassidy and Sundance had at the end that movie put together. We're talking a beyond "Bonnie and Clyde" number of logical holes here.
So I'm merely watching with great bemusement the whole Garcia sends a letter lambasting Everitt thing, enjoying that Skipper Gilligan Everitt is being called on her logical bluff, but disagreeing with the rationale for that lambasting. Not that you're asking, but here's what I would like to see some muckety-muck notice/point out:

  • As I noted earlier this morning, Everitt is quoted in the story as saying "I think if we move a principal who downright doesn't want to do it, I'm not sure that's effective." This faux insight on Everitt's part is an even bigger lie than the whole "good principals/underperforming schools" alibi. MANY of the principals involved in the switch did not want to go to their new schools;
  • Some stories about principals not wishing to move have made the papers (and I swear I would link to them if our beloved dailies had decent search functions on their websites), others haven't;
  • I have been told that the method by which most principals were informed of the moves was the following:
    • These principals were called to a surprise meeting
    • At the meeting, principals had their names on place-setting placards, along with their current school assignment
    • During the meeting, principals were told to flip their placards over
    • The reverse side of the placard had their name AND their new school assignment
    • That's how they found out about the switch....no warning, no discussion, nothing but a Al Capone "Untouchables" whacking via cheesy placards
  • School communities were offered no input whatsoever into the moves;
  • School staffs and communities were offered no recourse, and no explanation beyond the vague (and invented) aforementioned alibi;
  • Somehow the already top-heavy district ended up with yet another assistant superintendent. I'm serious when I say I have no idea what these people do, and more importantly, what impact assistant superintendents have on ANYTHING dealing with actual classrooms.
And, finally, a final point. Reading between the lines of Everitt's quotes, here's a paraphrase of what Skipper Gilligan is saying: alot of APS principals suck. Really. Read the story closely...that's what she's saying. And it's true, the pool of principals and assistant principals is not what it should be. The reasons for this are many, but Everitt and crew have just added another reason for that fetid pool to exist.

Employers who mistreat their employees end up with lousier employees. The good ones leave. Only those without the qualifications to freely go elsewhere stay. APS treats their principals and assistant principals like crap (pay, lack of support, etc.), and now Everitt and crew have come up with another professionally emasculating "plan" sure to drive some more quality principals away.

Sure it's fun to see Everitt and crew squirm, but at some point the squirming needs to lead to something beyond mere reveling in other's misfortune. Something more profound and fundamentally altering needs to happen here, and soon.

P.S.: Sorry, I was out of the country and missed this Beth gem from a gem-filled Tribune story of two weeks ago.

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Beth Everitt is against moving problem teachers from troubled Polk Middle School - or any other school for that matter.

No school should be burdened with another school's problems, she said.

"We would never move bad teachers to another school," she said. That practice is known as the "march of the lemons" and won't be tolerated in APS, she said.

I guess the righteous indignation doesn't extend to bad principals. Principal lemons can be marched with illogical abandon.

P.P.S: This afternoon all APS email users received the following from Beth Everitt:

"As expected, Gil Lovato has filed suit today. We question the merits of this suit and its allegations. If there is any truth to these allegations why they were not brought up prior to Mr. Lovato’s contract with the district ending last week (Burque Babble emphasis). Finally, I must emphasize that the district will not settle. We will not continue to be bullied by Mr. Lovato and his attorney."

Not to get all Language Arts/Literature teacher on Everitt here, but that bolded sentence above needs some work. In fact, that's an underperforming sentence, if I ever saw one.

Beth Everitt Has An Epiphany, Well Sorta

"I think if we move a principal who downright doesn't want to do it, I'm not sure that's effective."
--APS Superintendent Beth Everitt, quoted in Andrea Schoellkopf's Albuquerque Journal story "State Wants More Answers on APS Moves", 7.3.07

Gee Beth, ya think?

I'll mishmash some more half-baked thoughts about the current half-baked response to the half-baked switching principal idea as soon as the coffee has kicked in this morning.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Stuck In Tech Amber And Loving It: One Guy's Response to IPhone

Last night, a friend of mine and I discussed going to Monday's Red Elvises show at the Launchpad. One of us told the other they would call to confirm whether they could go or not. The other, me, said that was fine but, just to let him know, I often don't answer the phone (that's my wife's job, or we just sit there and wait for it to stop ringing) and that email works better. That's okay, my friend said, I don't actually call when I say I am, either.

We then shook hands in anti-phone bonding.

Perhaps this little anecdote helps explain my total lack of fascination with the IPhone. Why would anyone want a phone that costs $600, even if it has internet capability (with a teensy-weensy screen that required 20/15 vision and a finger dexterity on the order of a world-class microsurgeon)?

I don't have a cellphone, and I realize I'm in the minority in that regard. Having just come from a supposedly "3rd World" country, I can report I'm in the minority not only in the U.S., but most likely world-wide.

I am unfazed. I've never understood why I would want a form of technology that allows others to contact me at any time, thus obligating me to somehow respond whenever this other person wants me. And now I'm supposed to be excited about a $600 alternative to this original idea, one that allows me to vainly squint in public at micro-sized webpages?

And don't even get me started on "text messaging".

I'm no Luddite, or maybe I am. I check my email every two minutes or so, and spend far too much time in internet cafes in "3rd World" countries, but maybe I belong to a Luddite sub-group that feels the technologies of circa 1999 were good enough. For instance, I don't really find a need for YouTube. I invariably avoid clicking on video links when sent by emailing friends. Internet video bad, internet audio awesome. Email essential, IPhone worthless piece of junk.

In searching my techno-soul, I guess I do have a philosophical underpinning to my increasingly anachronistic view. I like control. I prefer email because I choose when to read and respond to others. I prefer older, less bandwidth intensive 'net services because I don't like to wait around.

So screw the IPhone. And whatever comes after that, most likely, as I inexorably slide into a museum-like niche of outdated tech preferences. Let's face it..I'm not tech cool anymore. Can I find anyone out there to shake hands in tech-bonding agreement on this point? I promise I won't call you...I'll just wait for you to email me back.

Meanwhile, I'm spending the entire day listening to Elliott Smith records via Rhapsody. The whole day. Life in Net Tech circa 1999 been berry, berry good to me.