• Mudslide clarifies government mentality

    News of this spring’s deadly mudslide in Oso, Wash., fades slowly from the public mind.
    Oso is barely a mini-dot on the map. Yet the microcosm of events that met there reflects the curious array of forces that governs the whole nation.
    The Oso story has two most intriguing parts: the persistent powers of nature and the stubborn traits of humans.
    The persistency of nature set the stage in Oso. The hillside that swept away homes and lives had slid on eight or nine occasions going back to 1949, including a huge slide in 2006.
    The site of the repeated slides had its own colorful name — Steelhead Haven Landslide — and a local nickname — “Slide Hill.”
    A consultant’s report to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1999 concluded that the site had “the potential for a large catastrophic failure.” Nature leaves signs for the wary eye. Still, new houses were built on the plain below Slide Hill.
    A $1 million retaining wall was built in 2006 to reinforce the riverbank below the hill.
    Slide Hill waited to slide again ... while the risk grew worse. Trees near the uphill edge of the slide area were clear-cut to supply low-cost building materials. First the trees, then slowly their roots, were lost as anchors against soil erosion, both above ground and below.

  • New radiation therapy system delivers

    TomoTherapy, a state-of-the-art radiation therapy system that delivers precise image-guided radiation therapy, allows veterinarians to pinpoint a tumor’s size, shape, and location seconds before radiation therapy begins. Though fairly expensive and meticulous, the benefit and accuracy of this treatment certainly exceeds the costs when your best friend’s life is at stake.
    “TomoTherapy literally means slice therapy,” said Dr. Michael Deveau, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “While standard radiation therapy is currently delivered using a few static fields, helical TomoTherapy delivers treatment with a rotating beam.”
    Performing a 360 degrees rotation around the patient, this allows for accurately directing radiation dose at the tumor itself while minimizing dose to the neighboring normal tissues. As the location or shape of the tumor evolves over time, the angles and intensity of the beams are also adapted to enhance the accuracy of the treatment.

  • 28.3 grams of prevention

    I give up! A 9/16ths nut is too tight for this bolt, and 5/8ths nut seems just a bit loose. Maybe I need a 19/32nds nut? And is this a UNC or machine style bolt? My shop book isn’t helping. The flat is one eighth of the pitch? I’m beginning to understand why they keep referring to the shaft!
    Standard measurements (as they are euphemistically called) are anything but that. We have 20 grains to a scruple, 3 scruples to a drachm, and 8 drachms to an ounce. There’s 5280 feet per mile, 12 inches per foot, 16-1/2 feet to a rod, 43,560 square feet per acre, 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, and ... darn, I can never remember how many furlongs to a fortnight! There’s 12 drams to an ounce, 16 ounces to a pound, 14 pounds to a stone and two stones to a quarter.
    A quarter is just a tad less than a slug (does anyone really care how accurate a slug is?). I can imagine a farmer trying to sell his truckload of 200 stones of melons, but how many buyers would there be for a 100 slugs of fruit?
    A fathom is 6 feet, a braza is 5.48 feet, and a league is a hair over 3 miles. Oh wait, is that survey miles, nautical miles, or Irish miles?

  • Importance of quiet branch of government to democracy

    May 1 marks the 56th anniversary of Law Day, a day established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to “cultivate a respect for the law that is so vital to [our] democratic way of life.”
    Appropriately, this year’s theme is “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.” In honor of Law Day, and in appreciation of the judiciary, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the vital role the third branch of government plays in protecting the votes and voices of the citizens of New Mexico.
    For more than two centuries, the right to vote has been the very foundation of our democracy.
    Voting is arguably the most important way that we as citizens make our voices heard and effect change. But voting does not only happen at the ballot box. We vote with our wallets when we choose one merchant over another or donate to our favorite cause. We vote with our feet when we walk away from situations or circumstances that we find objectionable. And of course we vote with our voices when we gather at meetings or participate in protests on issues and policies we are passionate about.
    Naturally, we do not always agree. Such is the nature of a democratic society; all citizens are entitled to express their voices.

  • Businesses can learn from crisis and communications mishaps

    Good policy fosters good public relations, just as flawed policy fosters bad public relations.
    New Mexico residents have only to look at recent crises at the Albuquerque Police Department, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and state Human Services Department for proof of how an organization can exacerbate its situation with poor communication and vague, inconsistent messaging.
    Business owners can learn from these examples how — and how not — to handle crisis communications. First they need to understand why high-profile accidents or events develop into stories with “legs” that carry them forward for weeks or longer.
    The “News Bottle”
    The life span of a crisis depends on how quickly the afflicted organization shares facts with core audiences. This dissemination of information can be seen as a “news bottle.”
    When a crisis erupts and facts are few, the bottle fills with accusation as people assign blame for what happened. Absent experts, anyone can claim expertise, especially on unfiltered social media sites.

  • Help mom get organized this year

    Mother’s Day is May 11. If you’re wracking your brain for ways to show your mom appreciation for all the sacrifices she made while raising you, here’s a thought: Why not offer to spend some time helping to sort through her financial, legal and medical paperwork to make sure everything is in order?
    While flowers and candy offer immediate gratification, I’ll bet your mom will truly appreciate the long-term value of getting her records in order now so that she — and you — will be able to take appropriate actions later on, should the need arise.
    Some of the areas you might want to organize include:
    Retirement income sources. Gather these documents so your mom will have a better idea how much income she’ll have available throughout retirement:
    Register your mom at mySocialSecurity (socialsecurity.gov/myaccount) to gain access to personalized estimates of retirement, disability and survivors benefits, lifetime earnings records and estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes paid.
    You’ll also need your dad’s statement to determine any potential spousal or survivor benefits for which she might be eligible, so sign him up as well.

  • Entrepreneurs to connect with experts

    Entrepreneurs who seek a “temporary, mutually beneficial relationship” with a scientist or engineer might get lucky at a new and innovative style of event that aims to stimulate potentially productive hookups. The May 14 event, “The Eureka Effect,” is sponsored by the New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program, the Santa Fe Business Incubator (SFBI) and Los Alamos Connect, the principal economic development investment by Los Alamos National Security, LLC and Los Alamos National Laboratory, administered by the Regional Development Corporation.
    The sponsors liken the event to “speed dating, only smarter.” They hope to match LANL scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs who need free technical or scientific assistance to solve their technical challenges.
    Each entrepreneur gets about five minutes of individual face time with a diverse group of scientists and engineers from Los Alamos National Laboratory. “If there’s a spark, there will be plenty of time to kindle it” during the open networking section that follows, said Sean O’Shea, program director at SFBI.

  • Why disability insurance is critical

    Most people understand why having life insurance is a good idea: Nobody wants to leave their survivors in a financial lurch if they were to die suddenly. But what if you suffer an accident or illness and don’t die, but rather, become severely disabled? Could you or your family make ends meet without your paycheck, possibly for decades?
    Although most people are entitled to Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits if they’ve paid sufficient FICA payroll taxes over the years, the eligibility rules are extremely strict, applying can take many months, and the average monthly benefit is only about $1,150.
    So what are your other disability coverage options? Many companies provide sick leave and short-term disability coverage to reimburse employees during brief periods of illness or injury. Some also provide long-term disability (LTD) insurance that replaces a percentage of pay for an extended period of time.
    But employer-provided LTD plans usually replace only about 60 percent of pay and the money you receive is considered taxable income, further lowering your benefit’s worth. Plus, such plans often have a waiting period before benefits kick in, will carve out any SSDI benefits you receive, and cap the monthly benefit amount and maximum payout period (often as little as two years).

  • State Supreme Court finds lost tribe

     The Fort Sill Apaches are now, by order of the state Supreme Court, a New Mexico Indian tribe. But what impact that decision might have on the tribe’s tiny reservation near Deming and on economic development in southwestern New Mexico remains an open question.
    Luna County, where the tribe’s smokeshop and restaurant just off I-10 at Akela employs 11 people, could certainly use a boost. Its jobless rate was a whopping 18.8 percent in February, nearly three times the state’s 6.7 percent.
    The court’s decision requires Gov. Susana Martinez to invite the Fort Sill Apaches to the annual meeting where tribes and state discuss how to divvy up the pool of severance tax bonds set aside annually for tribal infrastructure.
    Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous said he didn’t know what his people might hope to get out of this year’s summit, scheduled for July 17-18. “It’s like going to a new restaurant,” Haozous said. “When you first sit down at the table, you want to look at the menu and see what’s available.”

  • Exit rate up four-fold, income is stagnant

     The number of people moving from New Mexico increased almost four-fold during the 2012-2013 year. Rats leaving the ship? Maybe. Even the silvery minnow, that ever-endangered consumer of money in the mid-Rio Grande, is in more trouble than usual.
    The silence from our so-called leaders is deafening.
    The numbers are from the Census Bureau and are the most recent available. The rate calculation is mine. Births, deaths and moving provide the numbers adding to total population change. The sum of births and deaths are what the jargon calls “natural increase.”
    The deaths part of natural increase has gotten closer the past few months. In addition to my mom leaving us last August, four friends lost parents in the past few months. A group worth passing mention and honor are the people who as young scientists and support people staffed the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos during World War II and, after the war, stayed and made New Mexico the world-class center of research for national security.
    Six counties had too few births to offset the number of deaths during the 2010-to-2013 time. Sierra County led with a “negative natural increase” of 406. The others were Catron, Grant, Guadalupe, Quay and Union.