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Columns

  • Memories from Nagasaki

    NAGASAKI  1945 — Decision time had come. Do we invade the main islands of Japan or do we drop atomic bombs? There were strong feelings on both sides.
    But most of our political and military leaders came down on the side of the bomb. America was heavily committed to the Manhattan Project.
    It had cost $2 billion and had been run on a breakneck, two year schedule to be ready prior to the Japanese invasion.
    We’d done it. The bombs were ready. As Robert Oppenheimer, the project’s scientific director, put it “The decision (to use the bombs) was implicit in the project.”

  • Clubbing kids is fun

    Parents — do you want your child to learn more than what is usually taught in school?  
    Well then, my advice is that you should club your kid. Yeah, at least once a week — a good clubbing makes all the difference in the world.   
    Over the past few years, I’ve clubbed dozens of students every week.  Usually, I employ geometric logic or a good algebraic conundrum to get their attention.  
    Of course, I’m talking about the Math Club.  You don’t have to be a geek to have fun with math, and students find that they can answer some very tricky questions with ease.  
    Like, how many seconds are in a year?  Well, there’s January 2nd.  February 2nd.  March 2nd.

  • Following the sewage

    Out of sight, out of mind. (At my age, alas, I no longer live within the confines of that dictum. I can forget, misplace and overlook things that are smack in front of my face. But I digress.)
    What many folks can’t see they can indeed overlook. And all too many Americans have never seen what happens to the water that flows down the kitchen sink and out of the house.
    But with each load of laundry or flush of the toilet, we create wastewater that’s mingled together and heads toward treatment plants.
    The average American makes 100 gallons of wastewater per day.
    While it’s natural to think that sewage water is icky, it’s also a fact that sewage is natural – and it’s even interesting from a biological point of view.

  • Secrecy obsession is no longer part of the equation

    Should the Manhattan Project that produced the world’s first atomic bomb be made part of the U.S. national park system?
    The answer in most of the country is disbelief that our proud nation has taken over 60 years to get anywhere close to recognizing its role in the birth of the Atomic Age.
    But the answer in much of Santa Fe and its surroundings is how dare they honor an instrument of mass murder and universal destruction.
    Opposition of the moralistic handwringers has not been much of an impediment to establishing a historical park, however.

  • Smooze financiers now

    Tight credit markets of the past few years have made it difficult for business owners to obtain loans to expand their businesses.
    Getting a loan is still as hard as ever, even though most financial institutions have plenty of capital to lend.
    With the interest rate charged banks by the Federal Reserve Bank at almost zero, it’s surprising so little capital is moving around.  
    Loans, as a percentage of deposits, are very low.
    Credit will loosen eventually because banks can’t survive long-term without making loans.
    Stung by losses when loans defaulted, banks are understandably more conservative; but they need interest revenue from loans to grow.

  • Critics of education consultants need to get a life

    First impressions of Hanna Skandera, public education secretary designate: smart, articulate, poised, confident and supportive of her staff.
    “The Public Education Department and the employees who have been (through six months of big change) have been remarkable,” Skandera told the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC) July 25.
    My time at the meeting was brief, only an hour, because family business intruded. I went because of the opportunity to see Skandera in action and the chance to learn. Education jargon always impedes learning about education.
    I think it’s some kind of cultural conspiracy against parents and citizens. More exposure, I figure, might bring more understanding.

  • Give reforms a chance

    Should we be more concerned that 87 percent of our public schools didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress or that Democrats are still nitpicking Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera?
    I’d say the AYP scores are the least of our worries. It’s apparent by now that this yardstick of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is inherently unfair and unhelpful.
    We also know that half our kids can’t read and 60 percent struggle with math. That’s why Gov. Susana Martinez plucked a veteran of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s education team to replicate Florida’s success here.

  • Paying for cheaters

    The Social Security expert was among friends and in a mood to be candid.
    People who are disabled and unable to work, or who believe they are, can apply for Social Security disability benefits of lifetime income and medical coverage through Medicare.
    Typically, applicants are turned down on their first try, so they hire a lawyer and go to a hearing.
    That’s why you see so many ads on TV for Social Security lawyers.
    Social Security judges hear those cases. The claimant, says this expert, usually has an attorney, but there is no opposing counsel for the government.
    There is — no lawyer to advance any argument for why this person is not entitled to disability benefits.

  • Twin troubles awaken new politics

    Should we worry about the national debt? Is it wise not to cut down a mountainside full of trees to meet current needs?
    The questions together are a curious pair. Or more to the point, how curious that we never hear the questions asked together.       
    They are but two forms of the same question: How do we husband assets so as to maintain capabilities for those who come later?              
    Mull on it. The fields of economics and ecology are more the same than different. They are chapters in the same book.

  • Grant expands state’s education success

     When Taos-based Imagine Education received a Next Generation Learning Challenge Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates and William and Flora Hewlett foundations this summer, the award was not just a triumph for middle-school students struggling to learn math.
    It also marked an achievement for the New Mexico programs that grow the state’s economy by helping small New Mexico businesses.
    Imagine Education’s founders credit economic development initiatives with helping them win the grant, one of 19 awarded nationwide for innovations in teaching literacy and mathematics. The grant will allow Imagine Education to pilot its educational math game, Ko’s Journey, in 10 middle schools nationwide.
    A business built on needs