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Columns

  • Benefit of the doubt

    Like many people, I seem all too willing to criticize people I’ve never met simply because they do something that irritates me. It’s hard not to want to lash out when you interpret someone’s behavior solely from internal feelings rather than considering unknown external factors that may be in play.
    Social psychology theory refers to this tendency as the “fundamental attribution error.”
    For example, when I see someone pushing a baby carriage down the side of the street instead of using the sidewalk, my first inclination is to ask them if they chewed paint chips as a hobby when they were young. I find myself getting mad that someone would risk the safety of a child like that.
    But maybe the parent knows something I don’t know. Maybe the kid is the spawn of Satan and they’re just trying to save us from an apocalypse.
    Of course, some days I think we could really use an apocalypse or two. It would definitely ease congestion on the roads in the morning.

  • Identity thieves target kids as well as adults

    I’m sorry to report that child identity fraud is alive and well in 2014. If anything, the problem may be worsening as identity thieves devise new methods to steal — and use — children’s personal information. Most commonly, they’ll harvest kids’ dormant Social Security numbers and use them to illegally obtain jobs or open fraudulent bank and credit accounts, mortgages, or car loans.
    Many victims don’t realize there’s a problem until they later apply for a student loan, bank account, job or apartment and are turned down because of the poor credit history someone else racked up. Some families are even hounded by collection agencies or arrested because the debts or criminal activities were so extreme.
    There are no completely foolproof methods to protect your children’s identities, but here are some precautions you can take:
    While it’s tempting to simply not register your kids for SSNs until they turn 18, that’s not practical in today’s world. For one thing, they’ll need one to be claimed as dependents on your taxes. You may also need SSNs for your kids to obtain medical coverage or government services or to open bank accounts in their names.

  • N.M. businesses join national Manufacturing Day initiative

    Manufacturing Day is catching on in New Mexico, with more and more manufacturers lining up to represent the state in a national day of recognition for businesses that make products in America.
    Events are planned at more than a dozen facilities in nine New Mexico communities. Last year, the first time New Mexico participated, seven producers hosted events in three cities.
    New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership — the primary sponsor of statewide events — is scheduling tours in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, Hobbs, Silver City, Deming, Farmington, Las Cruces and from Santa Fe to Taos. Each region has a designated day to participate between Oct. 1 and Oct. 3, with kickoffs set for Oct. 1 in Hobbs and the Albuquerque metro area.
    Who’s on board?
    Nineteen businesses have committed to public or private tours, but many more are considering participation in this important event.

  • Cost of keeping LA a green community

    Fourth of a series
    One of the major issues in this town is water: do we have enough to keep this a green community, at an affordable cost? Since I was elected to County Council two years ago, I have been gathering facts about water in Los Alamos. Much of this information is in the “2006 Long Range Water Supply Plan for Los Alamos County”, on the county website at losalamosnm.us/utilities/Documents/Reports/Long-RangePln_8-06_for%20Web%20posting.pdf.
    If we can agree on the facts and the uncertainties, I think the citizens of Los Alamos are likely to agree on good plans and policy regarding water. Here, I will discuss our water supply and demand, threats to our water supply, possible future water needs, and some ideas on responsible water policy for Los Alamos. I welcome any additional facts and thoughts on the subject.
    Responsible Water Plans and Policy

  • American intervention will only heighten already-present violence

    Nearly a century ago, after four bloody years of World War I, British colonialists created the state of Iraq, complete with their hand-picked monarch. Britain and France were authorized — or, more precisely, authorized themselves — to create states in the Arab world, despite the prior British promise of independence in return for the Arabs’ revolt against the Ottoman Turks, which helped the Allied powers defeat the Central powers. And so European countries drew lines in the sand without much regard for the societies they were constructing from disparate sectarian, tribal, and ethnic populations.
    Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations declared that former colonies of the defeated powers “are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” These included the Arabs (and others) in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Levant (today’s Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine/Israel). Because they were not ready for independence and self-government, the covenant stated, their “well-being and development” should be “entrusted to advanced nations who … can best undertake this responsibility.”

  • Business owners can learn to get their groove back

    Life for a business owner is exhilarating and dynamic, especially in the beginning, as the plan is set in motion and a product or service begins its path to market. The unpredictability of this journey is part of the reason it’s so stimulating to start and build a business, but maintaining that level of excitement and drive can be challenging when the business’s evolution doesn’t unfold according to plan.
    When initial funding from family or an investor runs out before benchmarks are met, a startup owner can worry about her ability to repay investors and stay on track. Even businesses that reach the second stage of maturity can stumble — say, when a large account goes to a competitor, or a product doesn’t find traction.
    No matter where the business is in its life cycle, the owner has a lot at stake, as do his investors and employees. To keep his head clear, the business owner has to be motivated by something other than fear of failure.
    Dangerous doldrums
    A business owner who loses her passion for what she does will have trouble putting in the time and energy to start or sustain a company — especially when it’s just getting off the ground and 16-hour days are typical.

  • Counting down to infinity

    As a teacher of mathematics, it always bothers me how little comprehension there seems to be with big numbers. Perhaps the blame lies in evolution’s decision to accommodate us with only 10 fingers.
    The worst victim of math is our National Debt, which now stands at more than $17.6 trillion. Now, the problem here is the use of the word “trillion.” It makes it sounds so well understood and sensible.
    Maybe we should change the word. Would saying that the National Debt is 17.6 wowza-hollaring-gazillion dollars make it sound more intimidating?
    But really, how big is the debt?
    One figure used to scare people (rightfully so) is $56,300, the amount of debt owned by every man, woman and child in our nation. But this still doesn’t seem to convey the actual size here. We need a more geometric perspective.
    Consider the border fencing being built along the U.S.-Mexico border. The average cost per mile of fencing is $3,900,000 (someone out there is getting very rich). Even at that ridiculously high cost, with more than 17 trillion dollars to spend, we could build fencing to circumscribe the entire perimeter of the Continental United States, not just once by 415 times.

  • Pet Talk: Minutes in a hot car can do Fido harm

    If we find the scorching summer temperatures unbearable outside of our cars, imagine how our furry friends feel when trapped inside. Dog fatalities from extreme heat in cars are avoidable and all-too common.
    Although leaving your pet in the car while you run a few errands may seem harmless, dogs can suffer from heatstroke in a matter of minutes, even if parked in the shade with the windows cracked.
    “One study in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that cars parked in the sun showed an average of 40 degrees increase in internal temperature,” said Dr. James Barr, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “This means, in 100 degree temperature, the car could reach 140 degrees.”
    Although rolling the car windows down may seem like a workable solution, this is not the case, even if you only plan to leave Fido in the car for a short period of time. Exposure to extreme heat for less than 20 minutes can still cause internal damage and be extremely harmful in the long run.
    “That same study in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that the rate of temperature rise was slower if the car window was rolled down, but still remarkably dangerous and reached the same levels after 60 minutes,” Barr said. “So just rolling the window down is not sufficient.”

  • Startup accelerator welcomes applicants

    New Mexico is home to the first United States startup accelerator aimed at entrepreneurs in creative industries. That Albuquerque-based business, Creative-Startups, is accepting applications through the end of the month for its inaugural class of startup candidates.
    The new accelerator aims to bring business sensibilities and savvy into fields dominated by “creatives,” including the fields of advertising, architecture, crafts, design, film, music, the performing arts, photography, publishing, game and app creation, television and radio.
    Taken as a whole, these sectors of the economy are among the most vibrant, judging by a 2013 United Nations report, which found that global trade in creative fields grew at an average rate of 8.8 percent each year between 2002 and 2011 and that the annual growth rate of creative exports from developing countries in that period was12.1 percent.
    Until now, few resources existed for startups in these professions to get the mentorship they need to start and sustain commercial enterprises based on creative products or services.

  • Medical marijuana program should come before legalized recreational use

    Returning from a long drive through Marijuanaland, also known as Colorado, I can report that there is no massive transformation. No potheads loitering in the streets. And citizens are still earnestly debating the subject.
    Proponents of legalized cannabis in New Mexico weave tales of vast riches from tax revenues, but it’s not entirely working out that way.
    Colorado’s law has a local option provision, so each county gets to decide whether it wants marijuana dispensaries. Some counties have voted it down, and others have yet to vote.
    As for tax revenues, a youthful source told me the taxes are so high it’s cheaper to buy it on the street. Recreational users pay a 2.9 percent state sales tax, a 10 percent special marijuana sales tax and a 15 percent retail excise tax.
    Because it’s legal to grow six plants, 40 percent goes untaxed, according to the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division. The projected $48 million in marijuana taxes for the fiscal year ending in June withered to $12 million.
    One of my friends complains that Mary Jane’s tax revenues can only be used to build schools — the excise tax’s first $40 million is earmarked for school construction — but some communities don’t need to build a school. They need to improve the schools they have.