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Columns

  • 'Jingle Bells Ring My Chimes'

    This Christmas, dad is preparing a treat for his grandchildren. He’s going to let them watch while he subjects their parents, aunts and uncles to a couple of hours of mortification.
    He’s going to show the old home videos.
    This is not just the odd clip of mom holding up her homemade pumpkin pie and suddenly noticing the fingermarks in it. This is a feature production. Ever since dad got his senior citizen discount card, he’s been hanging around museums and learning that any movie, once it gets old enough, becomes a film, and the next thing after that, it’s art.
    For several years, a video was made every holiday season and viewed, with appropriate ceremony and great hooting, the following year. Then the family started switching to DVD players and eventually no one had a machine that would play the tapes.
    So this year dad found a local video store that could convert the tapes to DVD. He spent several days at this store lovingly overseeing the conversion, inserting musical interludes and ordering the inclusion of special effects — such as a shot of wrapping paper, in a pattern of fat ducks in snowsuits, being sensuously torn in half to reveal “1977” written on cardboard. The resulting production is a marathon holiday epic titled “Jingle Bells Ring My Chimes.”

  • What does ‘X’ really mean?

    I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, a White Christmas, Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings; but most of all, I wish you a Blessed Christmas.
    Being at our season of life, in those years between teenage children and endearing excitable grandchildren, my wife and I recall our various memories of Christmas past.
    We remember our common extended family traditions, which involved cramming scores of beloved aunts, uncles and cousins into small houses that comfortably held only a handful, in which we enjoyed a fantastic spread of holiday treats (though most of us ate primarily from the food that our own mother had prepared, as familiarity always trumped the risk of change).
    Not every memory is positive, however, as there were moments of boredom, serious sledding accidents, cattle breaking through the fence, sibling-like spats between kissing cousins jammed into such close quarters and the trip to the Emergency Room when grandma fell off her chair. Nevertheless, I always smile when I remember the moments we shared and our common Christian tradition. We celebrated our sacred faith in the mystery of Christ’s provision of redemption.

  • Pet Talk: A time to stuff stockings, not your pet

    The holiday season is one filled with gleeful celebrations among friends and family. Often, these celebrations entail large holiday meals, festive desserts and snacks, and enough leftovers for a month’s worth of sandwiches.
    While we try to be cautious of our own health and nutrition throughout the season, it is just as important that we care for our pet’s nutrition as well — no matter how convincing Fido’s “begging” face is for the chocolate cake in the center of the table.
    While you’re out grocery shopping for the perfect holiday meal is a good time to reevaluate the foods that you’re feeding to your pet. “Foods should be individualized for the pet, not chosen based on what one pet needs and then given to all of the other animals,” said Dr. Debra Zoran, Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “The key is to feed a diet that is complete and balanced.”

  • UNM program benefits students, small businesses

    When the time came for Albuquerque’s Bosque School to write a three- to five-year strategic plan, it was only natural that the progressive private school would choose to work with students from another innovative environment — the Small Business Institute of the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management.
    “We’re an institution that focuses on thinking outside the norm,” said William Handmaker, head of school at Bosque, where students in grades sixth to 12 prepare for higher education. “Instead of going the regular route, here was the chance to work with UNM.”
    The “regular route” for most small businesses is to hire a management consultant at a cost of thousands of dollars. The SBI assigned three students to work with Bosque School for $500.
    Critical feedback
    Handmaker heard about the program from a member of the school’s board of directors who had experience with SBI while studying at the University of New Mexico. After hearing a pitch from an SBI representative, the board signed a letter of engagement — which ensures confidentiality, among other things — and started working with two grad students and one undergrad, Tyler Briggs, in September.

  • Torturing the tip of one's tongue

    I thought a thought. But the thought I thought wasn’t the thought I thought I thought. If the thought I thought I thought had been the thought I thought, I wouldn’t have thought so much.
    Or so I thought.
    Tongue twisters. We learn them as children and love (or hate) them as adults.
    Nov. 9 was International Tongue Twister Day. With all the strife in this world, we hardly need a day set aside to twist tongues, but it’s nice to know that other nations are as inept at speaking their own languages as we are with English.
    Most foreign tongue twisters don’t translate well, but some German Zungenbrechers (meaning ‘tongue breaker’) are as difficult to say in English as they are in German. “Fischers Fritz fischt frische Fische, frische Fische fischt Fischers Fritz” translates as “Fisher’s Fritz fishes fresh fish, fresh fish are fished by fisher’s Fritz.”
    Actually, I never learned German (although some of my friends in graduate school taught me some good curse phrases), I can see (or hear) the attraction. Consider the verbal vortex “The fat roofer roofed the thick roof. Then the fat roofer carried the fat lady through the thick mud.”
    Yeah, not really that much fun to say. But in German, it’s der dicke delightful!

  • Parceling out money for state's attractions demands fairness

    Los Alamos wants a new national park to commemorate the Manhattan Project. State Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel has proposed making a museum in the state penitentiary. And Ruidoso Downs is (still) trying to save the Hubbard Museum.
    Unique properties, interesting proposals. Some have more merit than others.
    Proponents of the Manhattan Project park hope to preserve and interpret such historic structures as Pond Cabin, where early work was done, and a vintage Quonset hut where the atomic bomb Fat Man was assembled.
    Opponents don’t like the idea of glorifying a dark chapter of history.
    History is history, good or bad. The Manhattan Project was a watershed event, and Los Alamos was its womb. Yes, it deserves a site because it’s worth remembering and reflecting on the events leading up to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    Critics should remember that in Germany a few Nazi concentration camps have been preserved and opened to the public because tourists are interested in seeing them and because descendents and survivors want the public never to forget.
    Recognizing an infamous place has a precedent in New Mexico..The Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner is a handsome, culturally sensitive monument to the Navajos and Apaches who died there in an army experiment gone terribly wrong.

  • N.M. economy in search of leadership

    The year 2012 was a tough one for New Mexico’s economy. Without going through the litany of evidence, our state was the only Western state to be found on United Van Lines’ list of “top-outbound” states. And, while the United States as a whole grew by an anemic 2.2 percent during the year, New Mexico grew by a downright pitiful 0.2 percent. Texas grew by 4.8 percent.
    As the end of 2013 nears, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 2013 is not looking to be much better.
    According to the report, the state’s labor force participation rate, a measure of how many working-age residents are employed or looking for work, was the fourth-worst in the nation in October. And, between April and October, the state lost 20,382 jobs, or 2.4 percent, and nearly 24,000 labor force participants.
    To top it all off, according to CoreLogic, New Mexico was the only state to show a decline in home prices from October 2012 through October 2013.
    According to a report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, New Mexico is both the most reliant state on federal employment and has become even more so in recent years having lost more private sector jobs between 2007-2012 than all but eight states.

  • Economy at 'capacity' in 2007, but not anymore

    The economists in the Economic Research and Analysis Bureau at the state Department of Workforce Solutions know a lot about our job situation. Sometimes they get to talk about it. In the October issue of Labor Market Review economists Katie Bass and Tracy Shaleen provide perspective on the economy. (See dws.state.nm.us.)
    Job numbers provide immediate context. Metro Albuquerque added 2,000 wage jobs during the year from October 2012 through October 2013, a poor 0.5 percent gain. Santa Fe added 200 jobs. The entire state added 1,900 jobs, meaning that outside the north central urban area, the state lost 300 jobs.
    Among the sectors, financial activities won big statewide with 3,000 more jobs over the year, a nine percent increase that continues the recent strong growth. The Dec. 3 post at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com has a longer discussion of the October job picture.
    While the nation has gradually added jobs since the recession officially ended in June 2009, New Mexico has not reclaimed the wage job level of December 2007, Bass said. In October 2008 the state’s job total fell below December 2007.

  • Testing Susana's teflon coating

    Half jokingly, this reporter recently observed that the ease with which Gov. Susana Martinez sails through potentially damaging scandals makes one wonder if she had herself dipped in Teflon before taking office.
    Only days later, along comes a lengthy National Journal article by Chicago-based reporter Daniel Libit detailing the substantial and pervasive influence her top political advisor, 39-year-old Republican consultant Jay McCleskey, enjoys over the governor, and Susana’s smooth sailing turned turbulent.
    “The Shadow Governor,” McCleskey has been dubbed.
    McCleskey claims credit for masterminding Martinez’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. It’s a case of claiming credit where credit is due.
    After winning the election, however, McCleskey, stayed on behind the scenes as her political consultant, the eminence grise without any kind of official position in state government. The portrait that emerges is of an inexperienced and pliant governor dependent on her wily and controlling overseer.
    It’s a widely shared view in New Mexico political circles, Republican no less than Democratic, and has been for some time. But Libit’s National Journal account documents that impression and gives it credibility beyond the realm of political gossip and grousing.

  • Afghanistan remains daunting

    Last week a remarkable exchange about the future role of the United States military in Afghanistan took place on the MSNBC program “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” In a discussion of the U.S. government’s uncertain negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the continued presence of U.S. troops beyond 2014, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, pointed out that, between the Karzai talks and the negotiations with Afghanistan’s next-door neighbor Iran, the Obama administration has a daunting task.
    Part of the administration’s objective, Engel said, is to protect the legacy of America’s longest war. For a lot of the soldiers we’ve been speaking to, this is personal. They’ve come here time and time again. They’ve invested so much. They’ve put their family lives on hold. They’ve lost friends here. So the collapse of Afghanistan would be in a certain way a personal affront to what they have done. So you also have to keep the investment, personal and otherwise, that the United States has put into military into this conflict — and that’s also part of this calculation.
    To which the show’s host, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Mitchell, replied, “That’s probably the most important part of the calculation.”