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Today's Opinions

  • Happy New Year

    Like many men, my father wanted sons, and my mother was kind enough to endure the pain of giving him five.
    And like many women, my mother wanted daughters. One can understand why she was disappointed when I was born and my father was boasting yet another son to his buddies in the waiting room. But Mom was so upset over yet another XY-mouth to feed that she went into a tantrum with the nurses, throwing things and crying out that she wanted a girl.
    I still own the pink baby bracelet the nurses put on me in a chromatic effort to calm her down. I’m lucky Dad didn’t name me Katherine just to make amends for sharing the wrong chromosome.
    As Ma lay in bed huffing and puffing over how unfair life was, the nurses brought in her roommate’s baby boy. The baby had been born with no fingers, and yet the woman never once complained. She held her newborn with the accepting love that only a mother seems able to give in the worst of situations.
    My mother immediately demanded to have me brought back into the room so that she could check my fingers. And of course, she ceased her ridiculous tantrum.
    It was a lesson my mother never forgot, and one that benefited me by her sharing the story with me.

  • Valles Caldera’s experiment finally comes to an end

    If the Valles Caldera National Preserve were a person, its epitaph would be: They tried.
    What a preserve brochure called an “experiment in public land management” will end with the signing of federal legislation.
    In 1997 owners of the Baca Ranch, aboriginal land of Jemez Pueblo and later a Mexican land grant, decided to sell. The 89,000-acre property might have been subdivided and sold but for the movement to keep it whole through a sale to the federal government.
    The Baca wasn’t just any chunk of real estate.
    Within its boundaries is the Valles Caldera, a gargantuan volcanic bowl created in the Jemez Mountains by violent eruptions 1.4 million years ago. The caldera’s green meadows, streams and ponds are home to a variety of wildlife.
    Congress bought the ranch for $101 million in 2000. Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman fashioned legislation that combined public and private, ranching and recreation in a national preserve governed by an appointed board of trustees.
    They were to maintain a working ranch but offer recreation, fishing and hunting while protecting the land and its creatures. And they had 15 years to make the property self-sustaining.
    It offered something for everyone, and that was the problem.

  • Getting St. Nicholas right

    St. Nicholas is, in fact, the greatest saint in the history of Christianity. Forget Peter, Paul, or Mary; St. Nicholas has them all beat. No other saint enjoys his unique relationship to all three branches of Christianity — Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant — nor his persistent presence in secular culture.
    Archbishop Nicholas of Myra and wonder-worker of the late third and early fourth century, has been and continues to be venerated ecumenically by all the various households of the Christian faith. Although rites and customs vary, some begin their remembrance of St. Nicholas as early as Dec. 6 (his feast day on the liturgical calendar) and continue to celebrate him all through the Twelve Days of Christmas until Jan. 5.
    The mode or means of veneration can vary as well. The Orthodox and Catholic churches through hymns and litanies ask him to pray for us and recount the miracles attributed to his intercessions or direct intervention. Outside of church in Orthodox and Catholic cultures, children can usually expect gifts to be given in the name of St. Nicholas. It is in this tradition of giving that St. Nicholas persists in Protestant cultures. And it is unmistakably St. Nicholas even in the most dogmatically Protestant of countries (e.g. “Sinter Claas” in 17th century Holland).

  • Sea change for the New Year

    “This is a sea change as our nation is finally embarking on a 21st century approach with Cuba,” said Tom Udall last week after President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States is abandoning its half-century old policy of pretending the island nation 90 miles off the shores of Florida didn’t exist.
    Only recently, the Democratic senator and Arizona’s Republican Sen. Jeff Flake had traveled to Cuba and met with Cuban officials, proof if proof be needed that Cuba does indeed exist.
    What hasn’t existed for decades now — at least in Washington — has been the common sense and political courage to admit that a policy fashioned in the 1950s when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president had long since demonstrated itself to be an abject failure, punishing to the Cuban people without serving the interests of these United States.
    To their credit, the majority of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, including Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich, appears to favor the president’s decision.
    Democratic Rep. Michelle Luján-Grisham was decidedly mealy-mouthed in expressing her support, but only 2nd Dist. Republican Congressman Steve Pearce actually came unglued upon hearing the news, complaining that it set “an extremely dangerous precedent.”

  • Planning a home remodel that actually pays off

    There was a time when contractors building McMansion-style home additions or Michelin-worthy kitchens were a regular sight in many neighborhoods — until around 2006, when the Great Recession began to take hold.
    Here’s the good news: home improvements are starting to add value in a rising housing market. Here’s the bad news: you have to be very careful about the renovation or remodeling projects you select to avoid over-stretching your budget.
    In 2014, completing successful home improvements comes down to two critical questions, will you get most of your money back when you sell your property (the days of 100 percent-plus returns on renovations are over, at least for now) and how will project costs affect your overall financial plan?
    Here are questions to fuel your planning:
    • How long you plan to live in the home after the renovation. The Great Recession proved many homeowners didn’t recoup elaborate — or sometimes modest — improvement costs when selling their homes. Even in a recovering market, it’s good to be wary. For now, renovate for the long haul and your personal enjoyment, not overnight sale.

  • Guidelines on holiday visits for long-term care residents

    Holidays can be a challenging time for residents of long-term care facilities and their families. Two questions are often asked: Can I bring my loved one home, or to a holiday celebration, and what can I do to ensure a successful visit that doesn’t feel awkward?   
    Regarding visits away from a nursing home, residents receiving skilled nursing care may participate in short visits away from a facility without danger of losing their Medicare coverage. The Medicare Benefit Policy manual outlines rights of residents granted a short leave of absence to attend a family or religious occasion without jeopardizing their Medicare status. As long as a resident returns to the nursing home by midnight on the day of the leave, the facility may still bill Medicare for their stay. For families wishing to have a loved one home for an overnight visit, residents can leave a skilled nursing facility for short periods without losing their coverage, however, facilities may bill residents to hold their beds. For more information, visit medicareadvocacy.org/you-can-leave-the-nursing-home/. Residents who utilize Medicaid for long-term care services may also be allowed to leave a nursing home for brief periods. The state Medicaid plan covers three reserve bed days for brief home visits without prior approval. A physician’s order is required for this arrangement.

  • A white noise Christmas

    So, another Christmas is nearly upon us. The streets will soon be littered with drying Yuletide trees, the shipping industry busy with items being returned and neighbors taking bets on how long it will take that jerk across the street to take down his 54,000 watt solar-flare holiday display.
    Perhaps we should take a step back and remember what the true spirit of the holiday season is fear of losing sunlight! Winter Solstice is Sunday, the “shortest day of the year.”
    This is very confusing though. I own a rather nice stopwatch and I’ve carefully measured Solstice for several years running, and I’ve discovered that it is not the shortest day. In fact, it’s the same length, 24 hours. I’m going to have to do more research on this.
    Pagans, Druids, Wiccans and other Sun worshipers will gather at Stonehenge “hoping in earnest” that the Sun will rise again. As daylight hours continue to wane, the ancients would worry that the Sun had finally given up on human civilization and might decide to call it quits. Hence the celebrations upon the “return of sunlight” as the days would again begin to increase after Solstice.

  • A big LALT thank you

    The Los Alamos Little Theatre is very pleased to announce that one day and one very generous patron was all it took to raise the final money for the purchase and installation of an assisted listening system for the Performing Arts Center at 1670 Nectar St.
    All contributions received will go toward improving the listening experience for LALT productions and special performances.
    We want to give a special thanks to the Los Alamos National Bank for jump-starting our fundraising effort through its community reinvestment program.
    We have to have the system installed and operating in time for the opening performance of “Murdered to Death” on Jan. 16.

    John Gustafson
    Vice president
    Los Alamos Little Theatre
    Board of directors