Anger

Been a tough week—–all those tornadoes and the death toll in the South.  The idiocy and racial bigotry of “the donald”.  But the worst is the stupidity of our armed forces.

As I sit at my computer and look out on the beautiful vista posed by the pecan trees blooming and the Organ Mountains, the normal feeling of gratitude is replaced by a bitter gall rising in my stomach.  For there is smoke rising from the Soledad Canyon area in the Organs.  A totally preventable fire reputed to have been caused by a “live fire” exercise at Fort Bliss.  While technically in El Paso, this fort’s boundaries extend north and join with the perimeter of the White Sands Missile Range.  The blaze has been christened “the Abrams fire” after the tank of the same name.

Best I can figure, the army not being the most forth-coming of institutions, a “live fire” exercise was scheduled and, regardless of environmental conditions, carried out in the northern areas of Fort Bliss.  It is believed some spark from either the tank itself or a piece of its ordnance set off a brush fire.  Given the dry conditions here, the blaze quickly became an inferno, coming within two miles of the WSMR headquarters and climbing the east side of the Organs.  About Tuesday this past week it crested the mountain range and became very visible from Las Cruces.  Such an eerie orange light glowing from the canyon near the pipe-organ-like peaks that give the range its name.

So accidents happen, oh well………but not so fast!!!!  We are experiencing one of the worst droughts in history at present.  The Las Cruces area has experienced .04 inches of precipitation in calendar 2011.  That’s no typo–I mean 4/100 of an inch of moisture from the sky.  Farmers are screaming they will lose crops because the irrigation board has cut allotments from the system of “ditches” that are used to distribute the water from the Rio Grande to the local farms and orchards.  The lack of precipitation headlines many of the weather forecasts.  This is a serious and well-publicized problem here in the high desert.  I can only assume that the officer who sanctioned this exercise either just transferred from Pluto or that he is a total fool.  I tend toward the latter description.  Such uncaring and unconscionable disregard for the damage that was caused to the environment deserves nothing less than a dishonorable discharge for whomever the officer is.

Now forest fires are nature’s way of re-invigorating certain environments.  Remember the Yellowstone fires a few years ago.  But the “Abrams fire” is a disaster caused by the foolishness of the people average Americans count on for protection!!!!  With the kind of decision-making that enabled this conflagration, a re-assessment of the military’s processes would be in order.  As for those who might think there’s no great loss to a few thousand acres of desert and mountain burning—go read your biology and animal science texts.  The high desert is home to roadrunners, quail, rabbits, rodents, lizards;  the Organs home to bobcats and mountain lions.  A wonderful diversity of flora and fauna!!

So after cheering yourself up with the reruns of Kate and William’s nuptials, please think about Randy and Romilda Rattler and where they can seek shelter from the inferno destroying their families and homes.  And I’ll keep watch out my window for the day, hopefully very soon, when those Organs are again a vista seemingly untouched by the human despoilers.

Economix

Being retired does make one aware of the budget—–We were used to at least bi-monthly salaries with a monthly commission/bonus check as well.  Since neither of us ever was employed by Goldman-Sachs, these weren’t seven-figure amounts but we did all right.

Now the money comes mostly around the first of the month.  So there is a definite adjustment to be made to spending patterns.  And how one buys—-which brings me to Sam’s Club.  All I heard from friends here was “Ya gotta join Sam’s Club.”  Not being a Wal-mart aficionado, that was about the last thing I wanted to do.  We’d been members of those bulk buy organizations in the past.  There’s only two of us people and a plethora of dogs and cats but we sure don’t need bulk groceries.  Fifty pounds of rice at a time–spare me!!!!!

Then our government and the Arabs got going and gas prices went to hell (bet you never knew hell was in the up direction?).  Sam’s Club is consistently anywhere from five-cents to a dime cheaper per gallon than any other station in the area!  Given how we like to drive around our state, we figured the savings in gas alone would pay for the membership.  So we joined last October.


About the third fill-up we ventured inside the store.  We had entered to join, obviously, but a quick tour pretty much confirmed my impression of gigantic package quantities, albeit very low unit prices.  But if you waste half of it, or it spoils , what have you gained??  On this particular trip, dairy product prices had just gone up so we figured we’d do a little price comparison—-the prices at Sam’s were similar to good sale prices at the other supermarkets.  But, que milagro, our favorite “jug” wine was about three dollars less than anyplace else.  So we started venturing into the store more and more—now we are hooked.


While we eschew purchase of fourteen pound beef brisket and some of the other bulk grocery items, we do buy ground beef—only place we’ve seen around town where 90/10 extra lean is less than $5.00 a pound; actually, only place we’ve seen 10% or less fat ground beef!!!!  And stocking up on non-perishables we use almost daily isn’t wasting money—especially when it’s so much less expensive.  Brand name tomato sauce is cheaper than the generic brand from the local supermarket (about .80/can vs. .97/can).  Eggs are consistently cheaper and so is milk.  Combined with the harvest boxes we get locally, our food costs are greatly reduced and we eat much more healthy food!!!  Plus, given the packaging sizes, we make less trips, saving on those “impulse buys” and one large trip a month keeps us more than supplied with staples like dog and cat food.


Sorry for those of you who don’t have a club nearby.  Others of you might want to check it out.  I was always a cynic about these places but I’m converted…………Must have been the wine!?!?!?! 

Desperately Seeking Water

Road Trip——–that’s the answer to everything in New Mexico.  Since our area has had .04″ of precipitation so far in 2011 (not a typo–I mean  4/100ths of an inch of moisture falling from the sky) and that was all from the February snowfall:

we decided to go in search of big water.  Last Saturday we walked along the Rio Grande but that didn’t quench our thirst.  So Thursday we filled the car with gasoline (OUCH!!!!)  and headed North on I-25.
The first stop was Percha Dam State Park.  The brochure looked so nice but the reality was not the pictures—-good marketing job by the state.  It’s a nice oasis after 50 miles of the desert scenery of the Jornada del Muerto .  But it wasn’t the water view we craved.  We left Percha and headed north to Caballo Lake.  Now this was more like it:

boat ramp

looking east to the Caballo Mountains

view to the South

We walked around the picnic area by the lake—-our thirst had been slaked.  It was approaching the noon hour and since we were already more than halfway there we proceeded north for a feast:

the sign says it all

The waitress was attentive and the cook brought out the order promptly.  The burger overflowed from the bun, the chile was hot, the onion fresh, the lettuce and tomato a perfect balance to the green chile:

ahhhhhhhhhhh  a masterpiece

Lest the reader think we are craven carnivores, we also had veggies—the chile, lettuce, onions, tomatoes on the burger.  And the side order:

green chile cheese fries

Other than the cheese, a vegetarian plate—potatoes, green chile peppers.  Admittedly not the same as what we get from Emily and Charley in the Friday afternoon harvest boxes:

contents of a harvest box

local lettuce

But, whatever……………..And at which purveyor of gastronomical delights did we partake of this feast??
 
I’ll leave that to the reader to puzzle out from the picture above.  (Hint: what kind of bird?)

Perhaps of Interest……….

One thing about retiring is all the time you find yourself burdened with—-and the old Puritanical guilt of feeling the need to do something “constructive” with this bonanza.  Problem is I doubt my orthopedic surgeon would approve my training for a marathon on my replacement knee…….

So I’ve been reading about a book a week on average.  And this past week I read two that I consider well worth any reader’s time——-Animal Spirits by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller and All the Devils Are Here by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera.


Animal Spirits is a discussion of human psychology’s effects on markets and economic modeling.  Even if you aren’t interested in economics, the book will still fascinate.  The authors, one an economist at UC Berkeley and the other at Yale (Shiller as in Case-Shiller housing index), define the “animal spirits” and then discuss their effect on economic problems.  Written at the height of the latest financial melt-down, it leaves a few issues unresolved.  But the discussions are so timely, e.g.,

“There is then a fundamental reason why we differ from those who think the economy should just be a free-for-all, that the least government is the best government, and that the government play only the most minimal role in setting the rules….Indeed if we thought that people were truly rational, and that they acted almost entirely out of economic motives, we too would believe that government should play little role in the regulation of financial markets, and perhaps even in determining the level of aggregate demand.”(pg.173)


Remind you of any recent political debates?????????


The other book is a fascinating history of the latest financial crisis.  Nocera is a business columnist for the N Y Times. McLean is the co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room, a best-seller about the Enron implosion.  The authors establish the characters and personalities of the business leaders whose companies’ foibles precipitated the financial melt-down at the close of the first decade of the 21st century.  They also explain the CDOs and CDOsquared and the other alphabet soup of financial “products” that bamboozled so many of the “Masters of the Universe”, from the CEO of Countrywide to the decision makers at AIG to the Secretary of the Treasury who tried to contain the explosion.  A very readable book that does not require an MBA in Finance to understand:


“Financial innovation? Collateralized debt obligations? Synthetic securities? What had been the point of that?…As Paul Volcker [former Fed chair] said…’I have found very little evidence that vast amounts of innovation in financial markets in recent years have had a visible effect on the productivity of the economy.'”(pg 362-3)


 When you finish it, you’ll understand the phrase “I’m short your house.”







Signs of the Times????

Just a few images to get a flavor for the lifestyles and peoples of Southern New Mexico:
My cousins called their Grandfather “Bebop”.  Wonder what he’d have made of a Smart car??  I remember him as a pick-up truck kinda guy myself.
This is the pick-up owned by the proprietor of my favorite restaurant.  That one phrase captures the “flavor” of the establishment.

There is a cart serving food at the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. I’m a little disappointed there’s no espanol for “hot dog” but there is for “hamburger.”  Or is it just a blatant case of spanglish??
I definitely would not want to married to a woman with the condition expressed on this license plate!!

And of course her hair was frosted…………

Chile is the state’s dish so of course it would be added to the state’s favorite beverage!!!

This picture has been circulated on the ‘Net but I had to include it here.  Our petro prices aren’t as bad as, say, California but I am researching cars and my next one will be a hybrid or electric.

Now who else would inhabit this kind of terrain?????  This is a picture from the old Las Cruces landfill, now a site for recycling and for the disposal of yard waste.  The picture below is a close up of the actual sign:

Why, there’s so many they had to make two words out of “rattlesnakes”…………
But be happy this is New Mexico—-after all, you could be living in Arizona………… 

Budge-it???????

So Congress has done it’s constitutional duty and proposed a budget.  And, as politicians will do, they’ve totally slammed the people that brought them to the dance.

Remember the Tea Party rallies before the 2010 mid-term elections????  Signs like these were very much in evidence:

So what’s one of the biggest cost controls in the new Republican budget—–you guessed it:  Medicare vouchers and limits. But don’t take my word for this—read the proposal yourself at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/04/06/us/politics/06budget-doc.html  Even the Economist, hardly a pawn of the left-wing media, believes the games over the budget and shutdown should stop: http://www.economist.com/node/18485975?story_id=18485975.
Now, people like Rand Paul may have a point when they say government should shrink.  But if Mr. Paul has toilet issues, it shouldn’t surprise anyone because he spews enough b.s. to jam the New York City sewage treatment plant.  Time for some real cost cutting—–if Congress forces a shut-down, then all of its members should get their pink slips on the way out of town.  No work, no pay—just like in real life.  And what if we cut 10% from the military budget—-wouldn’t hurt our troops but would save a lot more in this fiscal year than the cuts enacted so far as well as cutting the size of government………….Just throwing out the ideas.  They make no less sense than what our elected representatives have come up with……….. 

5 Months

Five months into retirement.  One might think there’d be a hundred blog posts by now.  Not like there aren’t all kinds of political peccadilloes and human tragedies for inspiration.

But this is only post three!!!!  Such a lazy writer………..but not really.  The calendar actually gets very crowded without one’s realizing it.  Take the wife to knitting (and pick her up therefrom) two days a week–an essential chore if I want the car; drive her to her position at the Institute one day a week;  pick up the harvest box from the local CSA outfit Friday afternoon….Hardly leaves time for butchering a bucket of golf balls at the driving range or riding about on the ditches.  And now baseball season has started——GO RED SOX!!!!!!!  Hope I can still fit in lectures at the Academy for Learning in Retirement.………and those Sunday get-togethers with friends sharing the time constraint dilemmas…….How did we ever get anything done when we were gainfully employed?????????

The author in his man-cave
Moose Drool on the left