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Columns

  • Our daily bread in 2050

    These are the good times.
    I was driving through the country last Saturday, looking at deer happily chowing down in wheat fields.
    Everyplace is a drive-through if you’re a herbivore at this time of year.
    It’s a simple historical fact that wheat farming has been central to American agriculture since the country was young.
    And today wheat grown in the U.S. supplies American consumers and millions of other people around the world with large quantities of economical nutrition.
    Even a geologist like myself knows that much about the king of grains.
    But I was recently startled to learn that the temperatures experienced by American wheat farms back in 1839 were 6.6 degrees warmer than they are today.

  • Child Health Watch: Communicating is key to infant development

    The 100 billion brain cells we are born with have a lot to get right in the first few months of life.
    Imagine each individual in a population 15 times that of the planet earth all migrating to a specific location to make proper connections and communicate with others in a way that makes sense for the population as a whole.
    About once a day a baby is born in Los Alamos and although his brain has these amazing 100 billion neurons formed and in place, the way they connect and develop is influenced by their experience with adults and their environment.
    Most babies learn language from hearing it, so talking to your newborn is the key. Even before birth, a baby hears and knows the rhythms and tones of his mother’s voice.

  • Will teach pupils for pulp

    Being a teacher can be frustrating.  
    Meetings with parents after school, tutoring sessions, late nights and weekends spent preparing lessons, constructing tests, grading tests, getting really depressed over test grades – it’s all part of the job and as masochistic as it sounds, I love it.
    But there are things that do get you down. For instance, paper.  Yeah, those 8 1/2 by 11 inch flexible flash drives we use for kinesthetic education.  
    Maybe you remember these from before the computer age?
    You hold a stylus (called a pencil) in your hand and enter data (called writing) onto the information pad (called a piece of paper).

  • New Mexicans less educated, work less

    The interim Economic and Rural Development Committee held its July meeting in Santa Rosa.
    My concern here is the presentation by two esteemed observer-analysts of New Mexico, Adelamar Alcantara, who directs Geospatial and Population Studies at the University of New Mexico, and Jim Peach, economics professor at New Mexico State University.
    We couldn’t find the meeting. Alcantara and Peach provided their presentation materials.
    New Mexico’s population, as reported in the 2010 census, was Alcantara’s topic. Peach followed with a discussion of demographic trends and labor markets. Trust me, this stuff really is more interesting than watching paint dry.

  • Fix fireworks issue

    Were you outraged, around July 4, that there was no statewide ban on the sale of fireworks?
    You’re not alone.  
    So was almost everybody else, including several newspaper editorial writers.  
    Some legislators have tried to change the New Mexico law; while several bills in favor of public safety died in committee, the law has been amended more than once in favor of the fireworks industry.
    The dangerous conditions are not the fault of the fireworks industry, and nobody is alleging otherwise.
    In matters of this nature, special interests tend to turn the argument upside down, implying that they are being scapegoated for conditions they did not cause.
    So let’s be clear that the public is not confused about this.

  • Secure our borders now

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that we’ve got a problem with our borders, and it isn’t going away anytime soon — it’s only going to get worse unless we do something about it.
    Fortunately, some of the politicians from non-border states are beginning to get it.
    Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, recently had a tour of the border and concluded that we must provide more resources to secure our border.
    As someone who lives in a border state, has immersed myself in this issue, and has had a first-hand tour of the border in the El Paso sector, I couldn’t agree more with Sen. Landrieu.
    The federal government is clearly not doing enough to secure our borders, and, yes, we do need more resources.

  • Hope where there is none

    For us in the County of Los Alamos, the view of smoke on the horizon gives us the sense of “not again.”  
    As a resident, I have experienced the La Mesa Fire, the Dome Fire, the Oso Fire, the Cerro Grande Fire and now the Las Conchas Fire.  
    But in addition, as an ecologist for 33 years, I have studied and measured the recovery of several of these fires, especially the La Mesa Fire.
    Out of the sense of hopelessness and grief of losing trees, I have found that watching the area recover from each of these fires has given me a sense of hope and awe at nature’s intricate balance and healing.  
    We sometimes see only the loss and not the miracle of rebirth.

  • Leakage is top problem

    “Our downtown is disappearing; local businesses are struggling; local residents are shopping elsewhere; non-residents are earning incomes here and taking that money out of town; there is too much ‘leakage.’”
    Sound familiar?  Welcome to Whittier, Calif., where the leakage problem was the central issue in the 2006 city council election campaigns.
    For the past years we have heard a constant drum-beat about “leakage,” the money earned in Los Alamos, which leaves Los Alamos.  Supposedly this is problem number one.  

  • Move over, Harry

    Lord Voldemort was a threat to all that is good in the world.
    As his forces expanded and his strength grew, there seemed little hope left for the magical kingdom he sought to claim.
    But all stories have a hero and Harry Potter came to the rescue.
    We all knew that Voldemort would eventually meet his end at Harry’s hand.  After all, Harry is a true hero!
    For some others, it’s Batman. Or Iron Man. The Lone Ranger. Matt Dillon. Davy Crockett. The Shadow (and who else knows).
    We go to work, put in our nine to five (if you’re lucky), pick up a frozen pizza on the way home, and sit back to watch heroes entertain us.

  • New Mexico aviation infrastructure graded C-

    New Mexico has a seaplane base. It’s one of 61 airports open to the public, according to the 2005 Report Card on New Mexico Infrastructure from the New Mexico Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
    The report said our aviation infrastructure, graded C-, is ahead of the national average of D+.
    This is as it should be; with the least amount of surface water of any state, we have a seaplane base.
    Wikipedia places the base on Conchas Lake, near Tucumcari, and says it’s owned by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. This figures; the Corps messed up the New Orleans levees, but managed a seaplane base in the desert. The base brings new meaning to puddle jumping.