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Columns

  • You aren't going to believe this

    SANTA FE — The world is going crazy folks. I don’t know how else to explain some recent occurrences.
    The most unbelievable event was basketball star Dennis Rodman’s two-day visit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Rodman was the bad boy of basketball while he played in the NBA.
    The United States has had no contact with North Korea, the bad boys of the world, for 15 years or so except for a few ill-fated secret talks.
    That is why the U,.S. State Department was so upset when Bill Richardson accompanied the head of Google to North Korea a few weeks ago. Richardson and Co. never got close to Kim Jong Un.
    But Rodman and a basketball team arrived in town and had Un hugging and kissing Rodman during two days of basketball games.
    Evidently Rodman has been a favorite of Un’s for many years. Un likes basketball and especially likes Rodman’s style. Could the reason be that they both are bad boys?
    Back during the “ping pong diplomacy” with China in the early 1970s, it was frequently said that only Richard Nixon could go to China.
    It is highly unlikely that anyone is going to venture that only Rodman could go to North Korea.

  • More Pi in the sky

     If I yelled out a three.  Then a one and a four.  Would you ask me to go on and shout out some more?
     OK, math lovers!  Next Thursday (March 14) is once again our chance to sing out the digits of harmonic irrationality to the world, to repeat our favorite non-repeating number.
     Pi.
     3.141592653 something uh something something.  Yeah, you know, it goes on and on, kind of like our irrational leaders filibustering in Congress.  But there’s a big difference.  Pi never repeats itself.
     So why the fascination with pi?  What is it about a number that motivates people to memorize it out dozens of places.  Or hundreds?  Some people have memorized and recited pi out over 10,000 digits.  The current record holder is Chao Lu who managed to recite pi out 67,890 places.
     Of course, computers are much better as spitting out the digits.  As computational capabilities continued to increase, it became traditional to demonstrate a computer’s power by having it calculate pi out to the umpteenth digit.  A couple years ago, they broke the ten trillion-digit mark.
    Ten-trillion digits.  If you recited one digit every second, it would take you more than 300,000 years to read it.

  • Freshman legislators with fresh ideas

    Legislative sessions that follow on the heels of an election can be quite refreshing, if for no other reason than freshmen legislators often arrive at the Roundhouse pumped with the energy of fresh ideas.
    That is particularly true when an election produces a large turnover in the composition of a Legislature, as is the case here in New Mexico this year, where fully one-third of all state senators and roughly 30 percent of all state House members are freshmen.
    It was perhaps to be expected, therefore, that new ideas seem to be popping up with some degree of regularity at this year.
    Recently in this column, we checked in on freshman Las Cruces Rep. Bill McCamley’s ill-fated effort to pass a measure through a House committee that would have limited the lengths of those interminable political campaigns to which we are subjected every election year.
    Just last week another legislative freshman had the experience of seeing his novel and perfectly sensible idea bite the dust in the state Senate.
    It breaks no news to note that Legislatures are intensely political by their very nature.

  • WR businesses

    A comment about last Friday’s story, “WR retailers inspire creativity.”
     I was surprised to learn from this article that after being in “Los Alamos” for 37 years and a resident of “White Rock” for 26 years, that White Rock is a “suburb” of Los Alamos!!
    Per Wikipedia; A suburb is a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city, having some degree of administrative autonomy.
     I do believe that White Rock shares the same police force, fire protection, utilities, government, “newspaper,” zip Code, as does the “town” of Los Alamos, or did something change recently??
    Some of us in White Rock do sometimes feel that we are the “other” part of the community, but that’s a political thing, which I hope your story doesn’t perpetuate.
    By the way, for the uninitiated, there is another White Rock, about 25 miles due south of Farmington, N.M. in San Juan County. All of the above is with tongue-in-cheek, so don’t take it personal.
    On the positive side (the real reason for this letter), it’s nice to see stories of White Rock in the Los Alamos Monitor, positive stories that hopefully will be noticed and more of Los Alamos County will realize that White Rock is not too shabby.

  • Tweety Bird and the Legislature

    In December, Keith Gardner, the governor’s chief of staff, told a legislative forum, “It’s important to put differences aside and collaborate.”
    He went on to talk about how important it was to “compromise and work together” and to “come together and do what’s best for New Mexico.”
    After Republicans bankrolled an election like a coyote hunt that failed to alter the political makeup of the Legislature, Gardner sounded like a cornered Tweety Bird saying, “Nice puddy tat.”
    In January, the governor sprinkled her state of the state speech with “compromise” and “bipartisan” and extended her hand instead of her foot to Sylvester the Cat.
    So for this and other reasons (the sequester kicked in as I was writing this), this has been a session of compromise.
    More or less.
    Right off the bat, the governor took a couple of major steps. First she committed to Medicaid expansion and decided against pushing right-to-work. That was a respectable olive branch.

  • More on Trinity Drive, roundabouts

    Opinions we all have them and we are very attached to them. But a person’s opinion does not a fact make.
    Hopefully, the opinions that we have are supported by fact. I recently read a couple of letters in the Los Alamos Monitor that were filled with very strong opinions regarding Trinity Drive and roundabouts.
    People have opinions and that’s fine. But let’s look at the facts regarding roundabouts as published by reputable and mainstream engineering organizations.
    To study the effectiveness and safety of roundabouts, the Federal Highway Administration sponsored a study that was carried out by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) of the National Academy of Engineering.
    The NCHRP-672 Report found that a well-designed roundabout provides better operational performance than a traffic signal in terms of
    1. better level-of-service (shorter delays and fewer stops),
    2. better motor vehicle safety , and
    3. lower pollution emissions.
    In addition, a roundabout has the following pros:
    4. the long-term maintenance costs of the roundabout are likely to be less than the expense for a signal, because there are no signal maintenance and signal operation costs;
    5. the roundabout would provide an opportunity for community beautification;

  • Pesticides and your pets

    While spring is a time to plant beautiful flowers in your yard, it also brings pesky insects out in numbers. Because of this, a potential hazard this time of year for pets is pesticides.
    “Before choosing a pesticide read the label to ensure it is safe for your pet,” said Michael Golding, assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    “Avoid products with bone-meal as these can be tasty to your pet, and pesticides with organophosphates and carbamates as these can be extremely deadly.”
    The most common ways pets come into contact with pesticides is licking the toxic substances from their feet or coat, or by directly consuming the product from a container that has been left out.
     If your pet begins showing symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, trouble walking, drooling, nausea, and/or tremors contact your veterinarian immediately as these are signs that your pet is suffering from pesticide related toxicity.
     “A common way pesticides cause problems in our pets is through organophosphates and carbamates,” Golding said. “They act as competitive inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase, a key component of the central nervous system that allows the brain to regulate the body.”

  • They died happily ever after

    OK children, bedtime!  I’m going to help you go to sleep by telling you a wonderful love story.
     Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young princess who lived in a beautiful castle.  Her parents were captured by an evil witch who gutted them like fish and then ate their livers and hearts.
     Oh, and her brothers were all killed too.  Horribly.  Yeah, lots of pain.  Um, you sleepy yet?
     What is it with children’s stories?  The families are always dysfunctional or dead.  I can still remember how I felt when Bambi’s mother died.  As luck would happen, my uncle had just returned from a hunting trip the week before with his quota of deer.
     There seems to be an endless choice of tragedies and miseries for children to enjoy.  Let’s start with some classics.
     Cinderella is a charming story of love and acceptance.  Her parents are dead at the beginning of the movie.  She’s mentally and physically abused by her step sisters and step mother.  Cinderella is beloved by all animals except for the family cat, Lucifer, who delights in tormenting her.

  • Finishing the job of PRC reform

    The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) touches the lives of every New Mexican who pays a gas, electric, or landline telephone bill, or buys home, auto, or health insurance, among many other things. Unfortunately, the PRC has had a troubled history ever since it was created about 16 years ago.
    In late 2011, Think New Mexico published a policy report entitled “Rethinking the PRC,” which proposed a strategy for reforming the agency. Our report concluded that the PRC’s poor performance was due, in part, to a fundamental structural problem: it was the most powerful state regulatory agency in the nation, yet it had very few qualifications for commissioners (they are only required to be at least 18 years old, residents of New Mexico for at least a year, and not convicted felons).
    During the 2012 legislative session, with the help of good government, consumer, and business groups, Think New Mexico successfully won legislative passage of three bipartisan constitutional amendments to restructure the PRC.

  • Slight growth seen in 2013, maybe

    Not much happening for a while. That’s the outlook for the New Mexico economy from the annual economic outlook conference presented last week by New Mexico State University and Wells Fargo Bank.
    Eugenio Aleman, Wells Fargo senior economist, offered the national outlook, beginning with a tautology.
    “We’re closer to a recovery today than we were yesterday,” he said. Aleman sees gross domestic product growth at 1.7 percent this year, about in the middle of projections from other groups.
    Not so much for New Mexico.
    Jim Peach, NMSU Regents Professor of Economics, estimates the state’s 2013 job growth at between zero and one percent.
    That is, if the federal sequestration problem — the across the board spending cuts — gets fixed. Then number of wage jobs in the state might — just might — return to pre-recession levels by 2018. 
    At the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Peach found support for his view.
    The bank tracks the business cycle in each state and also groups statistics with behavior, suggesting state economic performance six months in the future.
    For New Mexico these leading indictors show no improvement in the economy and perhaps a decline. Since dropping in 2008, the state’s business cycle has flat lined.