• Federal programs can help beekeepers build habitats, create products

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lots of resources for New Mexicans who keep bees for profit, as well as those who have lost hives to colony collapse.
    The federal programs aren’t designed for hobbyists who want to help a critical species, but even small-scale beekeeping operations can qualify for assistance building and protecting their businesses. Terry Brunner, state director of USDA Rural Development, urged beekeepers to research the following programs:
    Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Because bees play an essential role in crop production, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping large- and small-scale farmers restore and maintain croplands to support native bee populations. Landowners who plant crops that provide diverse food sources for native pollinators might be eligible for financial and technical assistance through EQIP, including site visits by NRCS technicians to ensure a proper mix of plants for optimal bee forage and habitat.

  • Agriculture's role in state economy, culture and water cycle

    National Farmers Market Week got me thinking about the economic and cultural importance of not just the state’s 75 farmers markets, but of New Mexico agriculture more broadly.
    On the economics side, New Mexico agriculture is a $4 billion per year sector. But the true financial impact of agriculture in the state is much bigger.
    That number is a measure of the value of agricultural commodities at the farm or ranch: things like live cattle, raw milk and unprocessed wheat. Turning those commodities into the products that most people no longer make for themselves — such as when milk gets turned into cheese, and when wheat gets turned into flour — adds several billion dollars more to the system.
    In fact, researchers at New Mexico State University recently estimated that agriculture and food processing, combined “accounted for $10.6 billion (roughly 12.3 percent) of New Mexico’s $86.5 billion gross state product (GSP) in 2012. In addition, the two industries directly created 32,578 jobs and 18,308 jobs in related support activities for a total of 50,886 jobs statewide.”
    Interested readers can learn more by reading NMSU Cooperative Extension Service Circular 675, entitled “Agriculture’s Contribution to New Mexico’s Economy.”

  • To tell you the truth, I’m lying

    The saying goes that ignorance is bliss. Looking at the world today, there must be a lot of happy people out there.
    I must admit though that I’ve been very bliss at times. It’s far more comfortable being bliss than spending all those calories trying to know what’s what.
    But what’s what is what I’d like to discuss today. Not what is what per se, but more of why anyone wants to know what it is.
    What what is, that is.
    What I’m asking is, what is truth? How do we know what’s true and what’s not true?
    When studying mathematics, I found myself enjoying an atmosphere devoid of any desire to debate the meaning of truth. Math sets the rules very crisply and truth is simply validity of logic.
    Math is not constrained by the limits of reality, which bestows an enormous advantage in mathematics when making truthful claims. For example, I can assert that one plus one equals two on the surface of Neptune.
    This is true, mathematically speaking, because we say so! (You have to love axiomatic logic).
    But a scientist is constrained to observable and reproducible results and hence cannot prove the same statement without actually going to Neptune and checking it out. Maybe rocks don’t know how to add on Neptune and one rock added to another would result in seven rocks.

  • Government expands with autocycle regulations

    Part 2 of 2

  • Helping disadvantaged children catch up

    While New Mexico’s children were out of school for summer vacation, some of them were forgetting what they learned last year.
    When they return to school, they will be further behind their peers.
    Children who lose ground, the studies say, are those who can least afford to slip behind.
    They are the children who are already disadvantaged — identified by poverty and affected by the social ills poverty so often creates.
    They may lose as much as three months’ worth of learning over the summer.
    Think of it this way: middle class children with educated parents get twice as much education as disadvantaged children. They are exposed to learning at home, from their families and their environment. They see books, magazines and computers. Their parents talk to them, expanding their vocabulary.
    One in-depth study recorded thousands of hours of conversation between parents and their children and counted words.
    The study found upper income families used 2,153 words every hour; middle-income families used 1,251 words; and welfare-recipient families used just 616.
    An upper income child at age 4 has been exposed to 30 million more words than a disadvantaged child.

  • Story of 7 brothers in WWII is remarkable

    This time last year, I did a commentary on five brothers who served in World War II. Very impressive.
    Imagine my surprise when someone who caught the commentary sent me a package with this note:   
    “Dear Professor Kengor: Your [commentary] about the family whose five sons served in WW II was interesting. You might be interested to know about families who had more than five sons who served in WW II.”
    Well, Ted Walters of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, certainly had my attention.
    He continued: “My mother, Stella Pietkiewicz, had seven sons serve in WW II. She had the honor to christen the plane, Spirit of Poles, because she had the most sons who served in WW II.”
    Yes, seven sons.
    Along with Ted Walters’ letter was an old newspaper clipping that showed six Pittsburgh-area mothers, all of Polish descent, who had 33 sons in service. Anna Lozowska, Maryanna Sawinska, Katarzyna Antosz, and Mrs. Joseph Wojtaszek each offered five boys to the cause.
    Honorta Lachowicz provided six sons. Stella Pietkiewicz took the prize with seven.
    Bless their souls. These moms gave their boys to the cause of freedom.

  • Record keeping is a financial must

    If your financial life is confined to boxes, file cabinets and various piles of statements and receipts that only you can navigate, it might be time for a little de-cluttering.
    Software- and Internet-driven advancements in money management not only provide paperless alternatives to planning and tracking savings, spending and investments, they make finances easier to handle in an emergency.
    If you’re thinking about resetting your record keeping, here are some steps to get started:
    First, think about financial goals. Before tackling the job of reorganizing your financial record keeping, think through your current financial objectives and what changes might give you better data and efficiency to achieve them.
    You might want a system that tracks spending, saving, budgeting and on-time debt payments. If you already have that system in place, you might want more detailed information on retirement or your child’s college fund.
    Consider involving your financial and tax advisors in the discussion and see what suggestions they have.
    Also, create a system that makes it easy for loved ones and financial professionals to help in an emergency. If something were to happen to you, could a loved one easily navigate your finances? When organizing, always keep your spouse, children and/or executor in mind.

  • Call Me Ishmael...

    As a young boy, I remember being frustrated at how many people had the same name as me.
    My classes were filled with Jimmys, Johns, Bobbys, Williams and Mikes. It seemed as if our parents had absolutely no imagination when choosing names for their children.
    It’s difficult growing up with a very common name. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be named John!
    Today, Liam and Noah top the list of popular boy baby names. “John” doesn’t even make the top 40!  (I feel much better now.)
    Each year, the list of popular baby names changes, with the top 10 usually populated by movie star and rock group celebrities.
    Are we going to see a surge of Lady Gaga’s in our future?
    We don’t seem to care all that much what someone is named. We’ve got a Barack in the White House, which isn’t anything strange if you’re a history buff. Among Presidents and Vice-Presidents, we’ve had Grover, Milhous, Millard, Simpson, Gamaliel, Delano, Birchard, Hannibal, Horatio, Mifflin, Rufus, Cabell, Agard, and Schoolcraft.
    And I used to think Spiro was an odd name.

  • Veterans like Loyce Deen made U.S. great

    I’ve written in the past about how my Pop carried with him a haunting memory from his time aboard the aircraft carrier Essex in World War II.
    Anti-aircraft fire had killed a turret gunner during a sortie. Pop, whose job it was to repair and prepare planes for the next mission, went up to inspect the plane as soon as it landed and saw the gunner’s body. At Pop’s recommendation, the captain of the Essex gave the order to bury the man in the plane in which he had given his life for his country.
    This burial at sea was unique. It was the only time during World War II that a valuable plane was ordered to be used as a coffin.
    The burial itself was filmed and included in the 1950s series, “Victory at Sea.” Pop saw it for the first time when it was rebroadcast 20-25 years ago.
    Seeing that on the Essex dredged up disturbing memories of what Pop had seen on that long-ago day and for years afterward he would retell that vivid story many nights after consuming copious quantities of Jim Beam.
    The story didn’t end for me with Pop’s passing in 1999, because several years later, I stumbled onto a website about the airman who was buried in his plane.

  • A staffer's view of the Legislative session

    I served many of my eight years on County Council as a member of its state legislative committee. In that role, I frequently visited with elected legislators in both House and Senate, lobbyists, and staff.
    It was a close-up view of the legislature from the “outside.” This year, I had the opportunity to view the legislature from the “inside” as a staff member, an analyst for the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee (HRPAC).
    It was illuminating, although there were few surprises.
    The basic job of legislative analysts is to study bills and provide a synopsis, the “CliffsNotes” version, to legislators.
    We look at intent and actual effects, issues raised, costs (in the broad sense, not just dollars), conflicts with existing statutes, technical issues, etc.
    HRPAC was a great assignment.
    The wide range of legislation referred to it included major bills on minimum wage, state lottery, taxes and abortion issues to not-so-major ones (all important to someone) on, for example, barber licensing and special license plates.
    Many were in between, updating laws on lobbyists, various types of medical professionals, telephone service charges, alcohol sales, sex offenders, hunting and fishing licenses, etc., etc.