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Columns

  • Drill and kill

    Yeah yeah yeah, I can hear the energy baggers whining already.  Well back off, you oil addict freaks.  I’m not writing about drill baby drill.  We’ll fight that battle some other time (like maybe when you’re fighting over the last drop).
     No, my topic today is about drilling students.
      Years ago, I shared an article with my colleagues discussing the value of having students memorize mathematical basics (like the times table, common square roots, conversion between percentages and fractions) so that the students would have more “brain processing power” dedicated to working more complex concepts.  I was quickly “scolded” by an administrator who simply said “Drill drill drill! Kill kill kill!”
      This is a buzz-phrase one learns while getting a professional lobotomy.  It means, “If you force a student to memorize material, it kills their motivation to acquire knowledge through discovery and contextual relevance.”

  • College cultivates human beings

    Scott Buchanan and Stringfellow Barr did not cause the revolution in college education they desired when, 75 years ago, they brought what is called “The New Program” to St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md.
    Overall, though, they did well. Their efforts saved the nearly bankrupt Annapolis St. John’s, led to a second St. John’s – the one in Santa Fe, now nearly 50 years old – and their “New Program” is the gold standard for those favoring reading books, sometimes difficult books. The full disclosure is that I attended the Santa Fe St. John’s the first three semesters it was open, did far too little of the work and decamped for the University of New Mexico.
    While the Santa Fe St. John’s status as a significant New Mexico business is beside the point here, it should be mentioned. The numbers are about 175 employees, 450 students, an operating budget of around $30 million, plus being a draw for visitors from around the country, especially during summer.
    Saying what St. John’s really does isn’t easy.

  • Recognizing World Rabies Day

    World Rabies Day is Friday.It is a day to raise awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies. More than 55,000 people die from rabies worldwide every year, a rate of one person every 10 minutes. This is an astonishing number, especially because rabies in humans in 100 per cent preventable. Most of these cases are transmitted to humans by dogs.
    World Rabies Day events have been held in 150 countries, and have vaccinated 7.7 million dogs to date. World Rabies Day was created in 2006 by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control. The Alliance consisted of researchers and professionals involved with human and animal healthcare, including Dr. Leon Russell, professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
    Russell explained that the goal of World Rabies Day is to reduce the amount of rabies cases throughout the world by ensuring adequate animal vaccination and control, educating people who may be at risk, and increasing access to appropriate medical care for those bitten by rabies infected animals. For more information about getting animals vaccinated on World Rabies Day in your area, please contact your local veterinarian.

  • Gov's popularity continues to soar

    SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez’s popularity among New Mexico voters recently shot up from 60 percent to 69 percent in a recent Albuquerque Journal poll. That puts her in third place nationally according to the latest figures I find.
    Such high popularity is quite unusual for a governor in a state dominated by the opposite party. It also is unusual for a member of the freshman class of new Republican governors around the nation elected in 2010.
    Most of those governors have had a terrible time overcoming their initial efforts to change the direction of state government. Gov. Martinez, instead picked her battles and didn’t try to take big chunks from schools or Medicaid, which are more popular with voters.
    Martinez’s sudden nine-point jump in popularity likely was caused by the timing of the poll which came just after Martinezís Republican National Convention speech. The speech didn’t have much of an effect on the nationwide television audience but it did in New Mexico.
    Since the three network channels cut away for commercials and analysis of Condoleezza Rice’s speech, many missed out on Martinez. But New Mexicans apparently did some channel switching to find Martinez on PBS, C-Span or a 24-hour news channels.

  • The call from a pollster

    The phone call is from a pollster – another one.
    This year I decided that if they sound even halfway legitimate, I’m going to take the time and answer their questions. I want my opinion to count. In past years I have been more wary, suspecting that no matter how they masquerade, their mission is more nefarious than what they say.
    (I don’t respond to calls that promise that in return for answering a few questions I will qualify for a free two-day cruise.)
    The season’s first polling call took about 15 minutes, and the questions were fascinating. Minutes later, I remembered I’m a newspaper columnist and kicked myself for not taking notes. This time, I was sitting at my computer when the pollster called.
    The pollster asks what I think are the most important issues facing New Mexico.  I say, economic development and education. Later I wished I had said something more original, like general ineptitude, New Mexico’s 49th rank in almost everything, or perhaps the issue that logically should stop growth in its tracks, water. But realistically, politicians can’t make it rain.
    Today’s poll is about my district’s candidates for state Senate. I didn’t tell the pollster I am acquainted with both candidates, but she didn’t ask.

  • Religion creeps back in

    As a kid, I remember my parents discussing whether they could vote for a Roman Catholic, John F. Kennedy. It was a hot topic at the time. They liked Kennedy and did vote for him. After that the issue of a candidate’s religion seemed to wane, at our dinner table and nationally.
    In this campaign, some have had to think about whether they could vote for a Mormon, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It appeared to be a lesser issue, compared to the front-page issues.
    Then a friend forwarded the photograph of a crusader demanding that a large number of groups “repent and believe in Jesus.” Here’s a portion of the list: “homos, druggies, gangsters, feminists, Mormons, Buddhists, Catholics, wife beaters, New Agers, Democrats, environmentalists, racists, government recipients, Jehovah’s Witnesses, perverts, loud mouth women, liberals and sports nuts.”
    My, my. So, in some circles it’s still a hot topic.
    Rob Nikolewski, of Capitol Report New Mexico, recently pilloried a couple of national magazines for religious bigotry in their coverage of Romney, and rightly so. To my knowledge, we haven’t seen anything similar in New Mexico. We’re pretty tolerant here, but part of the story is our history.

  • Water is life: Protect Rio Grande del Norte

    There is a well-known saying in the southwest: “Agua es vida,” or “water is life.” This isn’t just a reference to our limited supplies, but also to the cultural, spiritual and economic significance of water to our way of life.
    As the owner of a rafting company in Northern New Mexico, water is indeed my life. I take tourists and residents whitewater rafting, camping and fishing while exposing them to the culture, natural beauty and majesty that makes Northern Mexico so special. That’s why I support efforts underway to protect the Rio Grande Gorge as part of a potential Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area. But it is also why I was pleased to hear President Obama had designated a new national monument in Colorado recently.
    Chimney Rock west of Pagosa Springs isn’t a vital water resource. Instead, its ancient pueblos are held sacred by Native Americans. I’m hoping that if the President is willing to act to recognize and protect the important cultural significance of Chimney Rock, he’ll also act to protect the Rio Grande del Norte, which is sacred to us.
    Here in Northern New Mexico, families have irrigated from acequias for hundreds of years. We grow chiles, corn and apples.
     We rely on water from the Rio Grande to feed our families, but also to feed our souls.

  • The time to plan is now

    If you’re like most people, your plans for retirement include spending more time with your family, traveling, or catching up on hobbies and activities that have been put on hold during your working years. And, like most people, you’ve probably put money aside to fund your retirement. But what if your retirement suddenly includes an unexpected long-term care need?
    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in their 2011 Medicare & You booklet, about 70 percent of people over age 65 will require long-term care services at some point. And, with advances in medical technology and healthier lifestyles, people are living longer than ever before.
    The government has made it clear; it cannot afford to fund the nation’s long-term care costs. In fact, Congress tightened the financial requirements to qualify for Medicaid, the federally and state-funded program for those who live at or below the poverty level. And, recently rolled out a nationwide long-term care awareness program called “Own Your Future” which encourages people to better understand and plan for long-term care.
    All of this can certainly present a significant challenge, but there is something you can do. Plan now.

  • Trickle-down tragedy hits all

    On Aug. 31, the National Debt hit the $16 trillion mark.  I’ve often remarked that if people really understood numbers, they would never allow the government to amass such a debt.  But hey, it’s just a number, right?
    Yeah, 16 trillion is a number.  It happens to be a big number.  Big.  Really big.  Really really big.
    But I really really don’t have enough space in this column to insert enough reallys to make my point.  Let’s just say it really really is really really darn big.
    The problem with big numbers is that our brains simply aren’t wired to comprehend them.  Really.
    For example, in the night sky you’ll see lots of stars (in New Mexico that is — don’t try this in New Jersey).  There’s something like 8,000 stars visible to the naked eye.
     But there are 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone.  That number dwarfs the 8,000 we see at night.
     And 16 trillion?  Well, you would need 90 Milky Way galaxies to have 16 trillion stars.
    No, this doesn’t do it.  Our brains can’t easily visualize galaxies.  How about something smaller, like an eyelash?  Sixteen trillion eyelashes would weigh about 3,500 tons!

  • Communication and competency

    Janice Arnold-Jones and Michelle Lujan Grisham, candidates for Congress from New Mexico’s 1st District, shared a stage recently to debate the issues. Before taking their places at separate podiums, they hugged each other.
    Both have a record of working on a bipartisan basis.  
    Republican Arnold-Jones worked across the aisle for eight years as a state legislator.  She developed a reputation for mastering the details of issues and insisting on open practices.  At this forum, she said that before she votes on a bill, she will read it – a practice unfortunately not done by all members of Congress.  
    She talks about the advantages of seeing issues from multiple perspectives and building relationships as a way to work on the issues.
    In response to a recent query from me about signing pledges related to taxes or other topics, Arnold-Jones wrote, “I do not sign any pledges because my only obligation is to the people of the First Congressional District …  I will not submit the people of New Mexico to extreme views that have left government in a stalemate.”