Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Current Events

I saw my first "Obama 2012" bumper sticker yesterday. I had plenty of time to look at it, too. It was on the car in front of me at the traffic light and the driver didn't pull up far enough to trigger the light at first, so I had to sit through another cycle of traffic lights. Grrr.

Here is something interesting from the November issue of Prevention Magazine.

"In times of trouble, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there's no substitute for the sound of your mom's voice, which can reduce stress hormones and boost production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin."

Definitely. I say it doesn't have to be times of trouble; it works in good times, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How To Watch The Republican Debates

We watch the Republican Debates for pure entertainment. The one on Wednesday night was pretty tame compared to the previous one when Romney put his hand on Perry's shoulder and Perry gave him a look of such anger and hatred, it was scary. Wednesday night's only highlight was a bigger-than-usual gaffe by Perry.

If I were still in my 20s and into drinking games, watching the Republican Debates could be even more fun. I've already thought of a few "rules."

1. Whenever Michele Bachmann says "Obama" take a drink. She spends so much time invoking his name and blaming him for everything, you'll be taking plenty of drinks. And after a few drinks, maybe her voice won't be quite so annoying. (My idea of hell is listening to a conversation between her and Sarah Palin, another person who has an extremely irritating voice.)

2. Whenever Herman Cain says "nine nine nine" take a drink. He does this so often, when he's about to say it, audience members start laughing and he starts laughing, too.

3. Whenever Rick Perry makes a gaffe, take a drink. It happens at least once in every debate. For extra credit, keep drinking as long as he sputters and stutters. That would have been a lot of drinking in this last debate.

4. I hesitate to include this one, because it happens so much you may just pass out before the debate is even over, but here it is. Whenever another candidate is speaking and the camera shows Mitt Romney looking over at that candidate with a condescending smile on his face, take a drink.

5. At the opposite end of that particular spectrum, whenever they actually ask Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman a question, take a drink. Don't worry; it hardly ever happens.

What are some other good ones?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hug the People and Animals You Love

Two heartbreaks in four days is almost too much to take. I hope the next several days are good days.

The two heartbreaks involve two of my interests/passions -- auto racing and wildlife.

On Sunday we watched the last Indy Car race of the season, but 12 miles into the race, there was a horrific crash, the worst crash I've seen in the 25 years I've been watching racing. If you watched the network news on Monday, all three networks led with the story. There were fifteen cars involved in the crash, several of them on fire, a few flying through the air, and many mangled beyond recognition. I'm so used to seeing these car crashes when the end result is the driver or drivers getting out of the car and walking away. But this one was different; I knew right away that serious injuries were involved. But I held out hope that no one had been killed. Two hours later, my hopes were dashed when they announced that one of the drivers, Dan Wheldon, had died of "unsurvivable injuries." He won the Indy 500 in May, but he wasn't just a great driver. He was a great guy, one of the "nice guys" in auto racing. Some of those guys are arrogant jerks and some are nice guys; he was the latter. He was only 33 and was married with two little boys who are much too young to ever remember him (the older one is only two years old). Sunday was a sad day.

Then today I heard about the tragedy in Ohio, the nutcase who let his wild animals loose before he committed suicide. Authorities say they tried to tranquilize one of the tigers, but the 300-pound tiger "freaked out" so they decided the only choice was to kill the animals because they were so dangerous. They killed 18 tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon. They were able to save and transport to the Columbus Zoo one grizzly bear, two monkeys, and three leopards. It's heartbreaking, just heartbreaking to think of all the animals that died. I understand that authorities did what they had to do to protect all the humans nearby. It was getting dark and the animals were aggressive and were panicky at being out of their familiar cages. It wasn't a good situation at all. I'm not mad at authorities. I'm mad that Ohio doesn't have laws restricting the ownership of exotic animals to people/facilities who know how to care for them. I'm mad at the nutcase who acquired all these animals, didn't take care of them when he was alive, and set them free right before he killed himself.

But mostly I'm sad.

Hug the people you love. Hug the animals you love.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saturday, October 8, 2011

First Snow

Q. Where were you when the lights went out?

A. In the dark.

Taos got its first snow last night, only a couple of inches, but it was wet, heavy snow that wreaked havoc.

I worked at the hotel last night, and a few minutes after 11:00 p.m., just after I started, the electricity went out. The building that houses the lobby, offices, and restaurant has soome kind of back-up power source. Some lights worked, but others didn't; the computer at the front desk worked, but the outlet the server is plugged into didn't, so I wasn't able to do any of the computerized Night Audit stuff. I couldn't even check in a guest who arrived around midnight. I told him we had no electricity, but he wanted to stay anyway; it was late (and snowing). The credit card machine was still working (how convenient), so I was able to charge him, and he filled out a paper registration card instead of me putting the information into the system.

Electricity was "spotty" in town, with some places having no power and others having full power. I kept calling the electric company's "Emergency Line" but of course kept getting a busy signal. I finally got through at 1:00 a.m. and told the woman where I was. She said they had a crew working close by, so maybe we would have power back on soon, but she didn't know when. "Keep your fingers crossed," she told me.

The TV still worked, and I was watching an episode of Frasier, when in the middle of the show, at 1:45, we lost all the power. The remaining lights, the TV, everything. (I'll never know what happened with the black market caviar Frasier got involved with.)

So Brian, the security guard, and I sat in total darkness, augmented with a couple of flashlights, and talked about football (one of our favorite topics of discussion) and various other stuff. As the total darkness continued and the snow continued, we stepped outside a few times to listen to the silence.

Finally at 3:25, full power came back on. we were skeptical that it would stay on, but after about 5 minutes, we figured it was on for good. I began the process of getting the server and other computer back up and running. I didn't get very far, because 7 mintes later ... you guessed it, the electricity went off again. It wasn't the total power failure; we had the limited power, but that's how it stayed for the rest of the time I was there. When I left at 7:00 a.m., we still had limited power in the lobby and restaurant and there was no power in the rooms where the guests were staying. I got a few phone calls during the night and in the morning from guests letting me know they had no electricity. I explained that it was a town-wide situation and not limited to just their room.

This afternoon I checked the Taos News website to see if they had anything on the power outage (they don't post much news on the weekends unless it's something really big). Click here for the story.

Of course they haven't updated it since 10:30 this morning, so I don't know what I'll find when I go in to work tonight. I hope I find full power.

We never lost power at home, but it's supposed to get down to 22 tonight, so we have a nice fire going in the fireplace.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ranch Revival

We went out to Scott Valley Ranch yesterday to check on the prairie dogs, but we saw so much more.

When we turned off the highway onto the dirt road that winds around a bit before getting to our ranch, we hadn't gone very far (for those of you who have been out there with us, we hadn't even gotten to the T intersection) when we saw a large animal up ahead. We soon realized it was an elk! Ron stopped the Jeep; the elk was about 30 yards away from us. He had his head down, nibbling on some grass. Then he heard us, raised his head and stared at us for about three seconds before running off into the brush. He was a big elk with antlers. Naturally we didn't have our cameras ready; we'd just gotten off the highway and never expected to see something so camera-worthy so soon.

We proceeded to the T intersection and turned left. We hadn't driven very far when a red-tailed hawk swooped down low and flew right over us, its red tail prominent in the midday sun.

That's when we both turned our cameras on!

We drove around to our little piece of heaven out there, marveling at how green everything was compared to our last (somewhat sad) visit.

We saw prairie dogs! Big, fat, healthy prairie dogs.

This one was especially "well fed" and has apparently been getting ready for winter dormancy (I wonder if that means it will be an extra harsh winter). Ron named him Pork Chop!

We saw other prairie dogs, but none as large as Pork Chop. We walked all over the property, examining the burrows for evidence of activity, and were happy to see that most of the burrows show signs of recent activity.

The grasses and bushes look green and healthy, too. It was such a big change from last time we were there, during the severe drought. I feel much more optimistic about the survival of "our" prairie dogs.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall At Last, Fall At Last

Friday morning is the official start of fall, and I'm so ready for it.

After a long and brutally cold winter, we had a VERY brief spring before rushing into a hot, dry summer. It was one of the driest summers on record in New Mexico (and elsewhere, especially Texas), and while we didn't have the 100-plus temperatures that Texas did, we got over 90 more than usual. Actually, it's unusual to reach 90 at all and our highest temperature was only 93.8.

But for the past couple of weeks it's mostly been highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s. Perfect! Occasionally it dipped down into the upper 30s, but we haven't turned on the furnace yet. It's that great time of year when we don't need the swamp cooler or the furnace.

Last weekend our wood guy delivered a load of wood (Ron had called him a few days before; we've been getting wood from him every year for a few years now). He said it was a cord, but it was a very generous cord, more like a cord and a half. It's a mixture of cedar and pinon. The cedar is deep red in color, almost too beautiful to burn. Almost. It puts out a sweet cedar scent as it burns; think of cedar closets. The pinon puts out a scent that reminds me of church incense. I think burning all pinon would be too much, so the combination of cedar and pinon is just right. We burned fires on Saturday and Sunday, just to make sure the wood was OK. It was! Then the weather warmed up enough that we didn't need to have a fire.

Before we got the wood, we had several days in a row of cool, rainy weather and the high temps stayed in the 60s. The house felt a little chilly, so I made oven foods for dinner like Salmon Loaf and Baked Potatoes. And we brought out the extra blanket to put on the bed, a super warm fleecy blanket with the image of a wolf head on it (and smaller wolves on the bottom, so we know which way the blanket goes when we make the bed).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Medical Mystery Solved (Maybe)

My dog and I are on the same medication!

Last February, King, our German Shepherd mix, had a seizure. I called the vet and was able to take him in (drop him off) for an exam and bloodwork. The bloodwork didn't show anything wrong, except he was slightly dehydrated. The vet explained it could be a one-time event or it could be the start of epilepsy. He wouldn't need medication unless he started having frequent seizures.

So we started keeping track. He didn't have another one for two months (April) and then he didn't have another one until August 20. Then last Wednesday, he had two seizures within two hours. And it had only been two and a half weeks since his previous one. Clearly this called for another trip to the vet, so we took him in on Thursday morning.

Dr. Kim examined him and said he looked good. We showed her the list of the seizures he'd had. She explained that the anti-seizure medication, phenobarbital, has a lot of side effects, and she doesn't want to prescribe that unless absolutely necessary.

Although German Shepherds are more prone to epilepsy than other breeds, there are other causes of seizures. Such as thyroid problems. When they did the bloodwork last February, they did a basic workup and didn't include thyroid testing. So we asked her to do the bloodwork again, including the thyroid testing; apparently it's a separate test, because this time they took a separate vial of blood to do the thyroid test.

A few hours later, she called us at home with the results. He had VERY low thyroid. The thyroid level for dogs should be between 1 and 4; King's level was less than 0.5. (Also his liver was slightly elevated, but that wasn't a cause for concern as far as the seizures.) So she prescribed thyroid medication and when I went to pick it up, I found out it's the same thyroid medication I take - levothyroxine.

He takes one every 12 hours (I only take one a day) and we'll retest in four to six weeks.

If it's just low thyroid that's causing the seizures, that's easily treatable, with medication that has fewer side effects. That will be such a relief! And Dr. Kim was so reassuring during the exam; when he had two seizures in two hours, we were kind of freaking out, wondering what the future looked like for him. The future looks much brighter now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jury Duty

Last Monday, I visited the anscestral home of our prairie dogs. Yes, I went to the new Taos County Administrative and Judicial Complex to do my civic duty - Jury Duty.

In typical Taos fashion, it was a case of hurry up and wait. And wait. And wait.

In typical Beth fashion, I arrived five or ten minutes early. I hate being late for things. There was a small cluster of people waiting outside the still-locked doors of the courthouse building. The cluster grew as more people arrived. We were told to be there at 8:00 and it was about 8:15 or 8:20 before they finally let us in.

Of course we had to go to the security screening. I had taken forbidden items such as nail scissors and hair spray out of my purse before I left home. One guy wasn't thinking ahead, apparently. Not only did he have a lighter in his pocket, he also had a pocketknife! And he seemed surprised when the screener told him he couldn't take them into the courtroom, he would have to go put them in his car. This is the kind of doofus who will sit on a jury and decide someone's fate?

We trudged up the stairs and into the courtroom. Going to jury duty in previous years in the old courthouse was literally torture. The seats we had to sit in during hours of waiting and jury selection were the most uncomfortable seats I've ever been in. Hard plastic seats that curved in the back in the wrong place. And not just the wrong place for me; everyone I've talked to agreed they were uncomfortable. I finally learned to take some ibuprofen before going to jury duty, just to prevent some of the back pain.

The new courtroom has pews instead of individual seats, and even though they're just bare wood with no cushioning, they were comfortable.

This may have been the first jury duty in the new courtroom, judging by the trouble the clerks and bailiffs had getting the audio visual system to work. There are two flat screen TVs hanging up high to show the jury orientation video, but the clerks and bailiffs couldn't figure out how to get everything connected and working. It took them almost an hour, but they finally got it working so we could watch a ten-minute video explaining the history of jury trials and how the process works. The video also included testimonials from people who "learned a lot" by serving on a jury and who really enjoyed the experience.

More waiting.

At 9:15 the bailiff told us that they were waiting for the defendant to appear and we could take a ten-minute break.

Of course it was half an hour before the judge came into the courtroom, swore us all in as jurors, and then explained that the day's trial had been cancelled, but we didn't need to worry about why. "It happens all the time," she told us.

So we were released for the day, and in fact for the week. We have to call the jury line on Friday after 5:00 p.m. to find out if we need to come in next week.

At least my two-month term of service is half over. It started August 1, but there were no trials in August until the one on the 26th that ended up being cancelled.

We'll see what happens next week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Automatic Pilot

When your brain is on automatic pilot, and you say things you're supposed to say without really thinking about it, funny things can happen.

I wasn't the one on auto pilot; it was the person I dealt with.

A couple of days ago, I was at Smith's (a grocery store). They have one of those shopper's cards to get sale prices (and to accumulate points to get a better price at the gas station that's part of the store). I always give the card to the cashier as she (or he) begins to ring up my groceries, before she can ask, "Do you have a Smith's card?".

But the other day, the cashier's brain was definitely on automatic pilot. I handed her my card and she scanned it. As she handed the card back to me, she asked, "Do you have a Smith's card?" I answered, "Yeah, it's in your hand." We both laughed and so did the guy behind me in line. She said something about being having to say that all the time.

At least I was laughing as I left the store instead of grumbling about the long lines (they weren't long this time) or grumbling about them being out of the sale item I wanted (they weren't out this time).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On

We're living on an unstable planet.

I had that thought last night and it was confirmed first thing this morning. Then it was really confirmed about an hour ago.

In the last 24 hours, there have been several earthquakes in the same small area near the border of Colorado and New Mexico. The largest was about 5:00 this morning (Mountain Daylight Time) , a 5.3 magnitude. We didn't feel it, but our friends in Raton, NM felt the one yesterday evening, which was only 3.5. I'm sure they felt the one this morning.

Click here for a very cool map of the US, showing recent earthquakes.

Then this afternoon about 2:00 (Eastern Daylight Time), there was a 5.9 earthquake in Virginia, near Richmond. Of course it was felt in Washington, DC and New York City. The people in DC, especially in the Capitol, had an initial reaction that it was a bombing or some kind of terrorist attack when the building began shaking. They were relieved to find out it was an earthquake. But a 5.9 is huge for an earthquake, especially in a region not used to earthquakes.

The quake was felt all along the east, and according to some reports, as far away and as far west as Detroit!

To make things more interesting, while CNN is doing their usual non-stop coverage of the quake (stopping only for commercials, of course), their news crawl along the bottom of the screen included this: "Entire east coast should prepare for Hurricane Irene."

See what I mean about an unstable planet?

I'll post updates to both quake regions as I hear them.

In the meantime, did any of you feel the quake? Share your story.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Comments 101

Last week, one of my readers asked me (over the phone) about how to post comments here, so here's a little tutorial.

First, I want to clear up a misconception. You DO NOT have to have a Google account to post a comment. You don't even have to put your real name. A couple of my readers have used the "Anonymous" option and then signed the comment with their pseudonym (screen name).

People who read blogs generally like to read comments, too. But that only works when people leave comments.

And people who write blogs LOVE to read comments.

And leaving a comment is easy.

At the bottom of each blog post there will be a bit of text that says "0 comments" or if I'm lucky "1 comment" and that text is actually a link. Click on it and a box will appear. Above the box it will say "Leave your comment" so type a comment in the box. It doesn't have to be long, just a little something.

Below the box it says, "Choose an identity" and this may be where the confusion is. There are four choices and if you don't have a blog or a website (or a Google Account), just choose Anonymous. You then have the option to preview your comment before choosing to publish it.

Your comment then goes to my email so I can approve it before it's posted to the blog for all to see (that's just a security measure to weed out spammers, although no spammer has found me yet).

That's it; it's easy! And you can comment on previous posts, not just the current one.

Part of what makes blogging fun is feedback and interaction, and you can comment on the comments, too.

So let's get some interaction going.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Animal Stories

After living with our animals for so many years, I know not to leave certain foods unattended on the kitchen counter for very long or they will disappear. It doesn't even have to be left near the edge of the counter; King is so tall he can reach anything in the middle of the counter. Remember the banana bread? Any kind of meat will be gone faster than you can believe. Butter? Forget it; King will gobble it down in three seconds.

But raw macaroni? Seriously? Yup. Thursday evening I cooked some macaroni and forgot to put away the bag containing the rest of the raw macaroni. When I got home from work Friday morning, the empty bag was on the floor in the living room, surrounded by a few stray pieces of raw macaroni. The rest, of course, was gone. I couldn't believe he (all the dogs are male, but I bet it was King; he's usually the culprit) would eat raw macaroni!

Yes, we feed the dogs dog food, probably a little more than they need. None of them are skinny. But when we first got King, he was emaciated with his hip bones sticking out. And that was after he'd been at the shelter for a few weeks, after someone rescued him from being caught in a bear trap, where he'd been for who knows how long. So I think that experience of starving had an impact on him and now, even after all the years he's been with us, he still wants to eat anything and everything whenever he gets the chance.

But raw macaroni?!?


Meanwhile, the hummingbirds are eating us out of house and home. Or at least out of sugar. Plus we've added a fourth feeder. Ron saw it in the clearance bin at WalMart and bought it. We didn't even hang it up for about a week, but when I realized how often I was refilling the three we had, we hung that one up, too. I think it just encouraged more hummingbirds to our house, because I'm still filling the small and medium ones every day and the bigger ones every few days.

They'll only be here for another few weeks and then they'll head south for the winter, flying along the Rio Grande. They'll probably be "stocking up" the energy for their flight, though.


The Hotel Where I Work is once again trying the cat solution to deal with the mice. Thursday night when I got to work and went through the kitchen on the way to clock in, a quick movement of black at my feet startled me. I thought it was a cat (or a very large rat), but I wasn't sure until a few minutes later, when I saw the golden eyes of a cat. At least this cat is skinny, which means it's hungry; maybe it can catch some of the mice running around the kitchen.

Speaking of which...

This past Monday morning, when I was cleaning at home, I discovered the fresh remnants of a mouse that one of our cats (my money is on Satchmo) had killed and partially eaten, leaving only the head, the tail, and a bit of fur connecting the two. It had to have been one of the cats; a dog would have swallowed the mouse whole. The rest of that day, Satchmo walked around the house, looking like he was on the prowl for another mouse. That's why I think he was the culprit. Good kitty.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Night Shift

Sometimes when I'm at my night hotel job, I think about getting a daytime position with a lot less stress.

Like an Air Traffic Controller.

In Chicago or Atlanta.

Photo from

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Swarm

Now that the air is smoke-free, the hummingbirds have arrived in full force. We always put up one hummingbird feeder in late April, then gradually put up the second and then the third as the flock gets bigger. It goes from "a few hummingbirds" to "a swarm" and then finally "an infestation of hummingbirds." We're at the final stage now, with all three feeders up. This year, I think they were a little late getting to stage two, but once I put up the second one, it was only a day or two before I put up the third feeder.

Yesterday evening, around 6:00, I filled up all three with fresh sugar water and by noon today, the little one was completely empty! It's a good thing sugar is so inexpensive. Saturday we went to the grocery store and bought six bags of sugar (4 pounds each). We told the cashier it's for the hummingbirds and we must've distracted her too much; when we got home and looked at the receipt, we discovered that we'd been charged for nine bags instead of six!

We've been getting a small amount of rain at home lately, and maybe a little more out at The Ranch, judging from the radar. We're planning another trek out there this weekend to check on the prairie dogs. We've gone from worrying about the drought to worrying if they can swim. OK, not seriously, just in a joking way.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rain Delay

I promised to post last night, but then the most extraordinary thing happened. It rained. Twice! I wanted to get the final rain count before I posted anything.

But first, the prairie dogs. On Sunday we went out to the ranch to check on the prairie dogs.

(For new readers or longtime readers who have forgotten, two years ago (almost exactly two years), we "took in" a colony of prairie dogs who had to be relocated. Taos County was getting ready to build a new administrative and judicial complex on what was a prairie dog town. Rather than kill them, which would have outraged animal lovers and environmentalists, they hired a company that specializes in such relocations. We have 40 acres of land, fondly referred to as Scott Valley Ranch or just The Ranch, that we knew would be perfect for prairie dogs, so we offered our land. For details about the move, click on The Taos News to read the story.)

But back to Sunday. We've been worried about how the prairie dogs were handling the drought, but we know there's nothing we can do about it. We can't take them water (although Ron thought about taking them water-drenched lettuce). When we went out there Sunday, as soon as we turned off the overgrown road onto our property and drove a very short distance, we saw a tiny prairie dog head peeping out of one of the holes. Then he/she came all the way out, turned around, and went back in. It was a baby prairie dog! That was a good sign.

We drove further, got to the spot where we camp, and parked the car and started walking around, inspecting the burrows. We could tell by the pebbled appearance of the dirt that it had rained lightly in the last 24 hours, but there wasn't much sign of activity near the burrows and that concerned us. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up and saw an adult prairie dog standing up and then running to its hole and diving in. We walked around inspecting various burrows; most of them looked completely inactive and a few looked slightly active. We were pretty depressed about the situation, feeling like we'd brought these poor animals to their doom. As we started to leave, we saw another baby prairie dog.

When we got home, Ron did some research on the Internet and determined that the babies we saw were six weeks old. He also read that often, adult prairie dogs will leave the babies in the old burrows, where the babies are comfortable, and the adults will move to new ones, often several miles away. So that gave us some hope that just because we didn't see evidence of activity meant that they were all dead. But we still worried because of the drought. The grasses out there that they eat are dried up and brown.

Then yesterday the rains came. During the evening news, it started raining so hard it disrupted the satellite signal. The rain was so loud, I wished there were some kind of volume button for the rain so I could turn it down! The back courtyard became a muddy mess, with huge puddles in various places. I kept checking the weather station and reporting the rapidly growing accumulation. When the rain stopped after about half an hour, we had 0.57 inches of rain. That's huge! I looked out back after another half an hour and all the puddles had absorbed into the ground, leaving an almost totally dry yard, just barely damp.

We weren't sure if there had been any rain at The Ranch. We kept looking in the general direction of where it is from here.

A couple of hours later, it began to rain again! This was a slow, steady, soaking rain, the perfect kind. And this time we could tell it was raining at The Ranch. We could tell by looking at the sky and we verified it by looking at the doppler radar on the computer. It was raining more over there than it was here, and we got an additional 0.14 inches of rain for a daily total of 0.71 inches. If we get a few more storms like that, the prairie dogs may survive after all.

With ironic timing, I've just received a summons for jury duty. It will be at the recently-completed judicial complex, built where "our" prairie dogs used to live.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tales From the Monsoons

The monsoons have finally arrived, albeit with a whimper.

Friday night as I was getting ready to go to work (the hotel night job, 11pm to 7 am three nights a week), Ron and I heard the unfamiliar but unmistakable sound of rain. Fairly hard rain. We cheered. Rain!

I left for work, and even though it's only a ten-minute drive, I was only halfway there when the rain stopped. Ron told me later that it didn't even rain enough to measure one one-hundreth of an inch (0.01) on our weather station. Sigh.

Saturday night (or more accurately, Sunday morning, about 3:00), I was at work and again heard the sound of rain and smelled the scent of rain. A few minutes later, Chris (the security guard) and I went outside. It was raining very lightly, hardly more than a mist. We stepped out from under the porch overhang to feel the rain. We joked about singing in the rain, and we both spun around a few times (individually), arms outstretched. We knew we were being silly, but he's a nice kid and we were OK with being silly. We were just enjoying the rain for a few minutes.

When I got home in the morning, I checked the weather station and sure enough, it hadn't rained enough to register anything on the station. I wonder if we could adjust it somehow so it would register one one-thousandth of an inch, but maybe that would be too depressing.

Then yesterday we got real rain. Hard rain that lasted about half an hour! Complete with a few rumbles of thunder. It happened late in the afternoon when I was at my other job (psychologist, 2:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday). I drove home in the pouring rain, reminding myself how to drive in the pouring rain. By the time I got home, the rain had stopped, of course, and I checked the weather station. We'd gotten thirty-six-hundreths of an inch (0.36), which doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually huge. Prior to that rain yesterday, we'd only gotten 2.15 inches of precipitation since January 1, mostly in the form of snow. So to get 0.36 in half an hour or less is a LOT of rain. It puddled up along the shoulders of the roads, causing some cars to almost hydroplane. The ground was so dry, the rain soaked in quickly, too quick for the dirt courtyard to turn into mud (thank you, rain gods).

I'm writing this in the afternoon and the sky is turning dark and cloudy again, and I'm hoping for more rain. I think everyone in Taos is hoping for more rain (except the tourists, I guess).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How I Spent My Fourth of July

We watched the fireworks shows on TV -- all of them. We started out on PBS with "A Capitol Fourth" (the Washington, DC fireworks show, preceded by various musical groups/individuals) and when that was over switched to NBC to see the last half hour of the fireworks show in New York. Then we watched a delayed broadcast of the Boston Pops and the accompanying fireworks in Boston on CBS. All three displays were very impressive.

We thought about grilling steaks outdoors, but even though we grill inside a courtyard, the wall isn't very high and we didn't want to take a chance of a stray spark flying up and out and starting a fire, so we (Ron) cooked them in the oven, under the broiler. He added a bit of Liquid Smoke to the marinade to give it a "grilled outside" flavor. I made Potato Salad from the old family recipe (Thanks, Mom).

Los Alamos Update

Residents of Los Alamos have been allowed back to their homes, although people with respiratory ailments are encouraged to wait until the air is better to come back. The smoke there is still very heavy. The fire is about 130,691 acres and is 30 percent contained.

The air up here in Taos is much better and we can run the swamp cooler whenever we need to, which is pretty much all afternoon and in to the early evening. The high temperature today was 92.7. The sky is looking cloudy and I heard a faint rumble of thunder, so maybe we'll get some rain.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's A Conspiracy

The squirrels are in on it, too.

Squirrel Blamed For Small Fire At LANL

It's Official

The fire at Los Alamos is officially the largest fire in state history. That's a record that really didn't need to be broken. The fire is about 104,000 acres. It's working its way north and has burned 6,000 acres of Santa Clara Pueblo, sacred land, according to the Pueblo people.

The fire that until Friday was the largest in state history burned for five months!

Officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory continue to say the air is not contaminated. They've taken air samples and they say the air is no different than the air around any wildfire. The Environmental Protection Agency is also taking air samples.

The air may not be contaminated with plutonium, but smoke-contaminated air is nothing to sneeze at. Well, actually it is. (Sorry, I couldn't help it.)

This afternoon, the air was free of smoke and very hot, so I turned on the swamp cooler and finally got the house nice and cool. Then around 6:30 this evening, I started to smell the faint smell of smoke, so I turned off the swamp cooler and closed the window. Then I looked outside and saw that the air was turning orangish-brown with smoke. It's hard to explain, but it isn't just that the sky changes color; so does the light and the very air.

Ron had just gotten back from Albuquerque about two hours before the smoke invaded; he's been there during the week for the last three weeks, only coming home for the weekends. He has respiratory "issues" and is very sensitive to smoke and other irritants. He had a long coughing spell that made my coughing spells a few days ago seem mild in comparison. I coughed some, too, and sneezed a couple of times (see, it is something to sneeze at!).

The air quality (or lack of) depends on which way the wind is blowing and Friday evening, it was blowing our way. The smoke got thicker and thicker. I watched as the smoke filled the valley below us. It reminded me of the scene in the movie The Ten Commandments, when the final plague, the Angel of Death in the form of smoke, creeps into Egypt, killing the first born. It was the smoke that killed them, choking the breath, the very life out of them.

In Taos, at least, we're supposed to get some rain every day for the next four or five days. Of course that could mean rain for five minutes, but we're all hoping for more than that. Everyone is hoping for rain in Los Alamos. And Santa Fe. And Hondo. And wherever all the other fires are. There are too many to keep track of the the one in Los Alamos is the main concern. I guess we're just hoping for rain all over the state.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Day, Another 10,000 Acres

As of this morning, the fire in Los Alamos has grown to 92,735 acres; it's the second largest fire in New Mexico history, but only by about 2,000 acres.

The fire is less than a mile from the nuclear lab, so this fire is "the highest priority fire in the country." Yesterday the firefighters did a lot of "backburning," setting fires around the perimeter of the lab to create a bare space with no vegetation, so if the fire got that far, it would stop because of the lack of fuel. Of course setting an intentional fire is risky. If the wind changes direction suddenly (which happens in New Mexico), it could be disastrous.

The real danger is what is on the lab property -- 30,000 drums of plutonium-contaminated waste, stored in fabric tents above ground. The lab director keeps assuring everyone that, "the nuclear materials are safe, accounted for, and protected." But people are skeptical and rightfully so. Experts say that plutonium is the most toxic substance known to humans. Inhaling a single speck of plutonium will lead to lung cancer, with 100% certainty.

For the moment, the problem in Taos is the smoke. Yesterday it was particulary bad and I kept coughing a lot, even staying inside. Today doesn't seem as bad (so far).

The challenge is keeping the house cool. Using the swamp cooler is out of the question. The way those work is they draw in the outside air to water-soaked straw pads, which cools the air, and then the cool air is blown down through a vent to cool the house. It blows with quite a bit of force, so a window has to be open, so the "extra" air has somewhere to go. So the cool air blows the hot air out. The swamp cooler works best in arid climates. But what this means now is that it would draw in smoke-filled air which would be unhealthy and unpleasant. So in the early mornings when it's still cool, I open the windows on the west side of the house (and keep the shades lowered on the eastern windows to keep the sun out) and let cool air in. Also in the mornings the wind is calm, so the smoke isn't blowing in. As the day heats up and the sun moves, I close all the windows and all the shades. In the evenings, I open up the windows again to let some cool air in.

The town of Taos has postponed the 4th of July fireworks display until at least July 21, depending on weather and fire conditions.

The county of Taos tweaked the law a little bit to ban the sale of fireworks anywhere within the county. See The Taos News for the details. The grocery stores had already voluntarily pulled all fireworks from the shelves, but there were still independent fireworks stands selling them. Not anymore.

I'll keep posting updates. Nothing like a national disaster to get me blogging again!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Smoke gets in your eyes, nose, throat, etc.

The fire in Los Alamos (officially called the Las Conchas fire) has grown to approximately 50,000 acres. They can't get an official count because high winds are keeping the aircraft grounded (which also means they can't fight the fire from the air). The entire town of Los Alamos has been evacuated; that's 18,000 people. The fire is very near the Los Alamos National Laboratory and there was a small (1 acre) fire on the property of the lab itself earlier in the day, but that was put out.

The fire is a little more than 50 miles away from us (as the magpie flies), so we're in no danger from the fire, but the smoke is finding its way here. Yesterday evening and even this morning, it was just a stream of smoke southwest of here, but as the fire grew and the wind blew, the smoke just inundated Taos. At 2:30 this afternoon I was out in it, driving to work and I could feel the smoke in my nose and throat. Many of the cars had their headlights on, although the smoke wasn't that thick. In good weather, we can see mountains on three sides of our house, but the smoke completely obscured the view of the mountains.

I keep staring out the window at the thick smoke and saying, "This is so unreal."

And it is.

Fire Update

Now the fire is more than 43,000 acres!

And it has a name. All these fires have names so you can tell which is which.

Las Conchas Fire

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rural Life

Living in the country, I've seen all kinds of animals. In the heat of the summer, the animals are more active in the cool morning hours. Driving home from work at 7:00 in the morning, I'm used to seeing coyotes crossing the road (yes, to get to the other side, where the river is so they can get a desperately needed drink of water). One morning I was startled to see two horses running side by side on the road coming towards me. I had to take evasive action to avoid being hit by them, but they looked like they were having fun, running free (having escaped a nearby horse farm).

But this morning I saw something totally unexpected as I drove home. Turkeys. Yes, turkeys. There was one adult and five or six half grown turkeys walking along the side of the road. They were tall and thin, the way turkeys are meant to be, not the plumped-up, hormonally-injected commercial turkeys. These were either wild turkeys or more escapees from a nearby house or farm. They weren't in any hurry; they just padded peacefully along the side of the road.

In fire news, there's another fire to report. Ron and I went to the grocery store this afternoon and driving back, we noticed big smoke clouds billowing up, but they weren't where the smoke clouds from the Santa Fe fire had been yesterday. So we realized there was another fire (Sigh). Sure enough, I checked the website of our favorite Albuquerque TV station, and they said there's a fire 12 miles south of Los Alamos. At 3:15 pm the fire was 100 acres and of course was 0 percent contained. Click here for the story. It's hot and dry today, and very windy again. The weatherman on that station said it's officially the windiest spring and summer ever as well as the driest.

Update (5:15 p.m.): The fire is now 400 acres in size and the smoke from the fire is showing up on KOAT's weather radar!

The new security guard at work is already wishing for winter. His view is that when you're cold, you can get warmer by putting more clothes on, but when you're hot, you can't do much to get cooler (except turn on ceiling fans and the swamp cooler (which is more efficient the drier the air is, so of course it's working great these days)).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


This blog post will sound familiar to one of my sisters. She sent me an email asking about the wildfires in New Mexico and after sending her a reply, I thought it would make a good blog post, too. I've made a few changes.

There are wildfires all over the state; it's getting ridiculous. It's a combination of high winds, low humidity (single-digit!), and no rain. The "April winds" are finally over as of yesterday, according to the weather guy on TV. Seriously. The sustained high winds are usually only for the entire month of April, but this year they started in mid-March and kept going until mid-June. And single-digit humidity has been the norm for the last several weeks. According to the weather station we have at our house (so we can always know how miserable we are), the humidity a few days ago was 2%! I didn't know it could get that low. I told Mom that when it gets up to 15% it starts to feel muggy! When I go outside I can feel the moisture being sucked out of my skin.

The fire on the border with Arizona blew a lot of smoke into Albuquerque, with all kinds of air quality warnings. It blew a little bit of smoke here for a few days, but it wasn't that bad here, compared with Albuquerque.

There's another fire in Raton, near the border with Colorado that made them shut down Interstate 25 for several days. The fire started on one side of the interstate, but then it managed to jump over to the other side. We have friends who live up there and they had to evacuate. For several days they didn't even know if they still had a house or not. Fortunately, their house survived, but the fire came within 1,000 feet of their house -- flames 200 - 300 feet high. A DC-10 airplane dropped slurry in the area, saving their house and about 15 other houses.

Here are two videos on youtube.

In this one, the noise you hear is the wind hitting the camera's microphone.

And now there's a fire just north of Santa Fe. We could see the smoke the first day, as the wind blew the smoke our way.

And there are more fires in the far southern part of the state.

The first 10 minutes of the local (Albuquerque) TV newscast is devoted to updates on all the fires in the state, which is kind of a welcome change from the usual, the first 10 minutes devoted to shootings, stabbings, horrific drunk driving accidents, etc.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I normally don't toot my own horn, but in this case, I have to. Today I took the final exam for the editing course I took at UNM (online).

I scored 100!

The test was 36 multiple choice questions. Granted, it was open book and there was no time limit, but there were a few tricky questions.

I have a nice certificate, too.

Next (starting May 18) I'll be taking two classes -- Accounting Fundamentals and Successful Construction Business Management. I have experience in Accounting, but I've never had any formal training.

As for the second one, I've maintained a friendship with one of the Project Managers at the construction company I used to work for. He and another guy have formed a partnership and a new construction company and he wants me to run the office. It's still in the early stages, so I'll have time to learn a lot in these classes before things get rolling.

The classes aren't live; they're "posted" to the website twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays.

It's been a long time since I've taken classes; I'm happy and excited that I did so well in the editing class and I'm looking forward to these two courses.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What A Difference A Day Makes

Is it really May?

It's 4:00 in the afternoon as I write this and it's snowing. Not just a few flakes drifting down lazily. No, it's snowing heavily; I can barely see the houses on the other side of the arroyo. I can't see the mountains at all. The weather forecasters predict 1 to 3 inches here and 12 to 18 inches up in the mountains. The temperature is dropping and we have a couple of space heaters on to keep the house comfortable.

This time yesterday, a mere 24 hours ago, we went for the first motorcycle ride of the year. It was a fairly short ride, just out to the Gorge Bridge and back, but the weather was warm and only a little breezy. We were just doing a shakedown ride after Ron did a lot of work on the bike, but it sure felt great to go riding again. It felt like spring, even though we knew about the forecast for today.

I put up one hummingbird feeder last Monday. The hummingbirds generally start showing up in late April and sure enough, a couple of days after I put it up, the first hummingbird appeared (as did a pair of other birds who are able to drink from it, too). It's the same hummingbird that always shows up first; he's black and white, with a black head and a white ring around his neck. We call him the scout, because we figure he goes ahead to find the food and then goes back to tell his friends, "Yeah, they've got the food out for us." I saw a second hummingbird yesterday, but the throngs haven't arrived yet. With this crazy weather I don't know when the poor birds will get here; they might just decide to stay down in Mexico and enjoy the warmth.

I don't blame them.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Case of the Disappearing Banana Bread

Monday when I went to the grocery store, they had a couple of very large produce bags stuffed with perfectly ripe bananas, for the low price of $1.49. I bought one of them; Ron likes to eat bananas for the potassium and they were the perfect ripeness to make banana bread.

I follow the old family recipe except I put in more bananas and less oil. I timed everything so when the chicken was ready to come out of the oven, the banana bread was ready to go in and bake while we were eating the chicken. After a lifetime of waiting for the banana bread to cool completely before eating, a few years ago I discovered the delight of eating it while it's still warm, the butter melting into the bread. Mmmm.

Ron and I ate two pieces each before I packaged it securely in a ziploc bag and placed it on the kitchen counter, far back, away from the edge.

Tuesday morning when we got up, I saw an empty ziploc bag on the floor, but that's not unusual; the dogs have been known to get in the garbage at night. Then I saw the empty space on the kitchen counter where the banana bread had been. "The banana bread is gone!" I said.

We knew the culprit: King. He's the only one tall enough to reach things on the counter like that. He may have shared it with the others once he got it off the counter, but I doubt it. He probably gobbled it down in two or three gulps.

At least I had a lot more bananas to make more bread. You could even say I had bunches more.

Ron had the brilliant idea (and I can't believe neither of us have thought of this sooner) to clear part of a shelf in the pantry closet as a place to put all our bread. That would keep banana bread safe from King and all the regular bread, rolls, etc., safe from Princess.

So that's what I did. And the second loaf of banana bread as well as the whole wheat bread and honey wheat English muffins remain safe from our voracious animals.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

The sad, but not unexpected, news broke Wednesday that Elizabeth Taylor died. She had been in declining health and in and out of hospitals several times recently, but 79 seems too young to die (I must be getting old to feel that way).

We got to see her live and in person in 2000 or 2001, I forget which year it was. She was a featured guest at the Taos Talking Pictures Film Festival. First we saw a screening of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and afterwards she spoke and answered some audience questions. Now, I have to tell you that when we went to see the movie, we had never heard of it and knew nothing about it. We were completely unprepared for the movie; I don't know if that made it better or worse. It certainly made it bizarre.

It's one of the most bizarre movies I've ever seen and it's definitely the most bizarre married couple I've ever seen portrayed in a movie.

After the movie was over, we had to wait quite awhile for "her highness" to arrive. Apparently she wasn't feeling well; the high altitude (7,000 feet) didn't agree with her. She was staying with a friend of hers, a local artist, R.C. Gorman.

It was worth the wait, though. I don't remember much of what she said, but I do remember it was interesting, even fascinating. I do remember one audience member asked her how making the movie affected her marriage (or something like that) since her co-star husband was also her real-life husband and the movie marriage was highly dysfunctional. She said that making the movie allowed them to "work through" some of the stuff in their real-life marriage.

One other memorable thing about her appearance was that she brought her dog on stage with her, a little white fluffy lap dog named Sugar. At one point she asked her assistant Ken to, "Come get Sugar" and he did.

Overall, we had a great time and I think Ms. Taylor did, too. It was exciting to see such a famous movie star so close. One of the TV stations in Albuquerque sent a reporter and cameraman to do a brief interview with her; it was really big news to have her in New Mexico.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Didn't Do It

I went to the Taos News web site this morning, as I do a couple of times a day, and was shocked to see that there had been a huge fire at the construction company where I used to work. Click here for the story.

I immediately texted a friend of mine who worked there when I did (he left a few months ago). He had already heard about it, but didn't know the cause of the fire. We teasingly accused each other of starting it, but I have an alibi. It happened at 1:30 in the morning; I was asleep in my bed.

A little later, I drove past the place to see what was left (pictures of the scene hadn't been posted on the web site yet). As you can see in the story, the warehouse has serious damage, but it's impossible to tell whether the "office" part, the part in front was damaged.

When I worked there, the warehouse held tools, vehicles under repair, various building materials, and the owner's motor boat. It was also the storage place for old, inactive files. Uh oh. And of course the computer router, telephone wiring, and circuit breakers were there, too. Uh oh.

When I drove past this morning, there was a State Police car in the parking lot (with its headlights left on, which I thought was strange), so I didn't stop to take pictures or say hi or anything like that.

If the results of the investigation make the paper, I'll post an update.

Monday, March 7, 2011

That Darn Cat

Or should I say Those Darn Cats?

Both of them!

First there's Satchmo.

He looks so sweet and innocent, doesn't he? No trouble at all. Just a calm kitty. Yeah, I thought so, too. Then on Saturday I was sitting at the dining room table drinking my first mug of coffee. Satchmo was lying on the table about a foot away from the coffee, calm as can be. All of a sudden, with no warning at all, he reached out a paw and knocked over the mug of coffee!!! It wasn't scalding hot, but it was three-quarters full and it went all over my lap and all over the tablecloth, and then on to the floor. We quickly cleared off the table (which was in desperate need of being cleared anyway) and put the tablecloth in the wash and wiped coffee off the floor. Then I poured a fresh mug of coffee and kept Satchmo away from it. I'm going to start discouraging him from lounging on the table like that.

Then there's Princess. Formerly known as "the good one."


Lately she's become obsessed with bread. And buns. And English muffins. And bagels. Any type of bread product.

She'll chew open little holes in the plastic bags the bread (etc.) is in, chew a few little pieces off the bread (sometimes more), and then lose interest. It could be a couple of days before we discover it, by which time the bread has gone stale.

While we search for the perfect breadbox, we're making do with the rectangular plastic storage boxes by Ziploc, Gladware, etc. The first time I put some bread in one of those boxes, Princess watched me. I snapped the lid on and told her, "OK, let's see you get into that!" Sure enough, a little while later, I saw her trying to get into the box. I wish I'd had my camera with me to capture her desperately working with her paws, trying to open the lid. She never did figure out how to do it, so the bread is safe.

Yes, they look like angels, don't they?

Warning: Looks can be deceiving.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Going Postal

I keep hearing that because of email, Skype, Facebook, and blogs (cough), people aren't sending as much mail as they used to.

So why is it that all the post offices in Taos (at least two out of three) are sold out of rolls of first class stamps?

I needed to buy stamps for Page (my boss) so yesterday I went to the Post Office Express that is tucked into a corner of one of the grocery stores. That's the Post Office I use for most of my mailing and the clerk always asks me if I want to buy stamps (they're required to ask that of every customer). Nine times out of ten (more than that, actually) I don't need stamps. So yesterday I went for the sole purpose of buying a roll of stamps, but they were out and she wasn't sure when they would be getting more in. She did have sheets of first class stamps; I had a choice of "Love" stamps, which aren't really appropriate for a business, or "Reagan" stamps, and I couldn't bring myself to buy Reagan stamps; I just couldn't. Besides, they're kind of political (and Page is a democrat) and might not be appropriate for a business to be sending out either. So I declined.

Today I tried the Post Office in Ranchos de Taos; it's smaller than the one in Taos and never crowded. They didn't have rolls of stamps, either, although they expect to get them tomorrow. The only choice there was sheets of Reagan stamps, and when I smiled and politely said, "No, never mind" the clerk chuckled. This is Taos County, after all; it's 84% Democratic, one of the highest percentage of democrats in any county in the U.S. Is it any wonder no one wants to buy Reagan stamps?

Actually, compared to the current Republicans, Reagan doesn't seem that bad. I think he must be rolling in his grave at what the Republican Party has become (and wishing they'd quit invoking his name).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Albuquerque Adventure, Part 2: Food and Lodging

Part 2 of the Albuquerque Adventure actually takes place before Part 1, the Aquarium. It takes place on Friday night (February 11th). We stayed at the MCM Elegante Hotel in Albuquerque. That’s where Ron always stays when he goes down there on Qwest business, because Qwest has an account there. Even though this wasn’t Qwest business, he was able to get the Qwest rate. He’s been raving about the fabulous free breakfast and I was looking forward to it.

But first, dinner.

Actually, first we checked into the hotel. We couldn’t get Ron’s favorite room (he says it’s quiet and has an excellent wifi signal); unfortunately the room was closed for “deep cleaning” a familiar (to me, at least) hotel term. So we got a room slightly down the hall from that one. But when we walked into the room, it smelled strongly of cigarette smoke. It’s supposed to be a non-smoking room. I think all the rooms there are non-smoking. So Ron called the front desk to let them know the room smelled of smoke and emphasized we had not been smoking and do not smoke and we wanted to change rooms. So we got another room a little further down the hall.

By this time it was 8:30 at night and we were ready for dinner. We drove around a little, but the restaurant Ron thought he remembered wasn’t where he remembered it. So we went to a Chinese buffet restaurant. Here’s an important travel tip. If it’s getting close to closing time at restaurants and you’re hungry, go to a Chinese buffet restaurant. You won’t have to wait for your food and there’s still plenty of food left. We got there 15 minutes before closing time and there was plenty of food. We each had two helpings, and the servers asked us if we would be wanting any more before they started putting it away. We were full and didn’t need more, but it was very nice of them to ask.

We went back to the hotel and relaxed. We’d both worked the night shift on Thursday night, so we were tired. We didn’t set an alarm or ask for a wake-up call. We just slept until we woke up. Which turned out to be 10:00 a.m. Which is when the fabulous free breakfast at the hotel ends. So much for that idea. So we got dressed, checked out, and started driving toward the BioPark, looking for a restaurant that didn’t have a packed parking lot.

We found one at The Village Inn, a chain restaurant next to the BioPark. The waitress was friendly and attentive. When she first asked what we'd like to drink, I said, "Lots of coffee for both of us" and she smiled and brought us a carafe of coffee. Ron ordered the Ultimate Skillet - home fries cooked with mushrooms, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheese topped with two eggs and served with sausage and ham. I ordered the Eggs Benedict -- poached eggs and Canadian bacon on an English muffin topped with Hollandaise sauce and served with hash browns. I love Eggs Benedict, but rarely make it at home because there are so many elements and it's hard to get them all done at the same time (although my food blogging sister once wrote an inspirational post on how to do this). Also, it just isn't a very healthy dish, so I only get it on the rare occasions we go out for breakfast. After eating, we agreed that we were "comfortably full" and we were fueled up for a long day of observing sharks, rays, and jellyfish.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Albuquerque Aquarium

Better late than never, right?

Last Saturday, Ron and I went to the Albuquerque Aquarium (official name and link ABQ BioPark Aquarium).

We actually went down to Albuquerque Friday evening; I had arranged with the other Night Auditor to cover my shift at the hotel Friday and I'll cover for him another night. I'll save Friday night's adventures for another post, but this one is about Saturday.

The weather was warm and beautiful. It was in the high 50s but felt warmer than that in the sun. It felt like spring. It was almost a shame to go inside to the aquarium, but it was worth it.

This is a quote from the BioPark's web site, "The ABQ BioPark Aquarium takes visitors on a journey down the Rio Grande from Albuquerque to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico. Fresh water riverine, estuarine, surf zone, shallow waters, coral reefs, open ocean and deep ocean species are represented along the way. Other highlights include an eel tunnel, seahorses, luminous jellies and a 285,000 gallon ocean tank where brown, sandtiger, blacktip and nurse sharks swim alongside brilliantly colored reef fish, eels, sea turtles and open ocean species."

There was a shallow tank with sting rays, Southern sting rays to be specific. They tend to swim in formation, two or three together. Their shape and movement make them seem otherwordly. They're also a little scary (they aren't called sting rays for nothing and once when I was standing in shallow water in Florida three of them charged towards me, swimming in formation). Standing on dry ground next to the tank were two seabirds - a lesser yellowleg and a ruddy turnstone. One of them, I'm not sure which, was a loud, screechy bird, the very definition of raucous.

The next stop was the tall cylindrical tank filled with hundreds of jellyfish of all sizes (with tentacles of all sizes). They're very ghostly, but again, they're scary.

My favorite tank was the 285,000-gallon ocean tank with the sharks, eels, sea turtles, different kinds of fish, and yes, more rays. The sharks are so beautiful and graceful. They probably should seem scary, but they didn't, not in the same way the rays and jellies did. Here's a brief clip of a video Ron took of the blacktip shark.

See what I mean about graceful? Of course I've been fascinated with sharks ever since the movie Jaws came out in 1975. For some reason, I loved that movie; I think the summer it came out, I saw it 12 times, one of those times at the beach. Despite the blood and gore, it was a very funny movie, with funny dialogue.

But I digress.

Another creature I loved to watch in that tank was the sea turtle. Their were two of them - a kemp's ridley turtle and a loggerhead turtle. Here's another video clip Ron took of one of the turtles.

While we were there, two divers went into the tank to feed the rays and turtles. The sharks had been fed earlier; that way, the divers could feed the other creatures without the sharks being all over them. But we were observing behavior for Ron's Harvard class and we noticed that when the divers entered the tank, the blacktip sharks became very excited and swam back and forth near the surface.

We saw more creatures than the ones I've mentioned, but those were the highlights. We had such a great time and we plan to go back again. It's a very impressive aquarium.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Outage Outrage

Natural gas is supposedly back on everywhere in Taos. Taos was the last area in the state to be "relit."

Now comes the aftermath. There's a good story on the Taos News website today about all the entities now looking into this. Here's the link. UPDATE: PRC, agencies to probe outage's cause

My question is why didn't this get any national news coverage? When natural gas is shut off to more than 30,000 homes and businesses in one state during record-breaking cold, why didn't anyone notice? Even CNN, who covers the most trivial situations and calls them news, didn't mention it. I guess people have to die for anyone to notice and thankfully, no one died because of this.

It was minus 10 this morning; good thing everyone has their heat back on.

Of course now all the busted pipes that were frozen will thaw and flood hundreds of gallons into those homes and businesses. Businesses have already filed claims and/or lawsuits against the New Mexico Gas Company for lost revenue -- hotels, restaurants, bars (had to be closed on Super Bowl Sunday as well as the regular days). Claims and/or lawsuits for property damage will follow.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Good Timing

Gas is gradually being turned back on. As of 10 pm last night, 41% of Taos had been turned back on.

Most restaurants are back open, so we were able to go to our favorite restaurant, El Taoseno, last night for my birthday dinner.

And the grocery store's bakery was back in business so Ron was able to get a birthday cake. They didn't have Red Velvet, my first choice (mostly because of the cream cheese frosting), and they didn't have Carrot Cake (see cream cheese frosting, plus you get vegetables and dessert!), so I had to "settle" for Triple Chocolate Indulgence Cake. Chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and chocolate decorations on top. Yes, it was a sacrifice.

We were so full from dinner we had to wait a couple of hours before having any cake.

I'm writing this at noon and it's pouring down snow. We're supposed to get about six inches. The schools finally opened today after being closed yesterday and most of last week because of the gas outage. I wonder if the snow will mean they'll be closed tomorrow. Those poor kids will be in school until 4th of July to make up all the snow days!

Tonight/tomorrow morning it's supposed to be minus 3 and Wednesday night/Thursday morning it's supposed to be minus 8. The highs will be hovering around the freezing point.

I keep telling myself that someday it will be Spring.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Fun Continues

Day 3 of the natural gas “service disruption.” Service has been restored to Albuquerque, naturally, and it’s gradually being restored to parts of northern New Mexico, but it won’t be back on in Taos today, and maybe not tomorrow.

I went to the grocery store yesterday and it was colder inside the store than outside, at least outside in the sunshine. The deli part was closed and so was the seafood counter, but the rest of the store was fully stocked. Some of the produce looked a little “tired” so I bypassed the red bell peppers, but I got the essentials – milk, cat food, chicken, potatoes, etc.

It was strange to drive through town yesterday and see all the empty parking lots at restaurants. From the fast food places to the fancy restaurants and everything in between, they’re all closed because they use gas for cooking. I don’t know what the tourists are doing for food.

Fortunately (I guess), there aren’t that many tourists. The hotel where I work had 5 rooms filled last night (at first). We put a space heater in each of the rooms and those are the only space heaters we have. At 4:00 a.m. a man came in and wanted a room. Brian, the security guard, explained the situation to him (no heat, no hot water, and no more space heaters), but he wanted a room anyway; he’d been driving all day and night. Brian offered to provide an extra blanket from one of the other rooms and he was happy with that. Several people have called to cancel their reservations.

I stayed close to the space heater at the front desk as much as I could last night. It’s small (it sits on the counter), and can’t really put out that much heat. If I got more than two feet away from it, I started getting cold. I need to wear more layers tonight. It was such a relief to get home this morning to a warm house and crawl into a warm bed with two blankets and a comforter.

At least the weather is getting warmer, relatively speaking. The high today was 37; anything above freezing is warm. The low this morning was 5; anything above zero is very warm.

We’re supposed to get snow tonight and as I was writing this, Ron called me into the living room to see the forecast on the Weather Channel. High temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday will be in the single digits. Sigh.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is It Spring Yet?

I sure hope that groundhog knew what he was talking about when he said it would be spring soon. Or is that only in Pennsylvania? I don’t know how he doesn’t see his shadow, with all those TV camera lights there.

I thought that last winter I was more than ready for spring, but that was nothing compared to this year. The last few days have been … indescribable, but I’ll try to describe them anyway.

Wednesday morning the low temperature was predicted to be minus ten, so when it turned out to be minus six instead, it was a pleasant surprise. Of course the high on Wednesday was only six above, so it’s all relative. The predicted low for Thursday morning was minus 20, but I was hoping that once again, the prediction would be wrong. But I knew we were in trouble when it was already zero at 6:00 p.m. One of the joys of our home weather station is that we can always know exactly how miserable we are. And at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday I was plenty miserable. The temperature was minus 26! That’s temperature, folks, not wind chill. I didn’t even look at the wind chill; the temperature was enough.

I did what any sane person would do. I let the dogs out to do their business, which they finished in record time, and I let them back in. Even Wolfie didn’t want to be out there very long. Then I went back to bed for another hour (one of the benefits of not having a full time job at the moment, and one of the benefits of Ron being in Albuquerque for a couple of days).

Around lunchtime, when the temperature was a balmy 19, I attempted to do a few errands, but my Jeep wouldn’t cooperate. It started up fine, but as soon as I took my foot off the gas, the engine shut down completely. It wasn’t the battery; the car started up fine and the radio stayed on even when the engine shut down. I tried it a couple more times later in the afternoon when the temperature soared to the high of 23, but got the same result. Around 4:30 or 5:00, when Ron called to say he was leaving Albuquerque to head back home, I told him about the car problems. He had the solution in the garage, of course (he stocks the garage the way I stock the freezer and the pantry). It’s a wonderful product called Heet; it’s a gas-line antifreeze. Following his instructions, I poured the bottle into the gas tank, then started the car and kept my foot on the gas pedal for 20 minutes, so the product could circulate and dissolve any possible water in the gas-line. Of course I should have put the stuff in before it went below zero those two nights, but I didn’t know. Now I know and I’ll never forget.

It turns out it’s a good thing I didn’t go to the grocery store at noon. It was a madhouse, with people clearing the shelves. There’s more going on than cold temperatures. There’s a serious disruption with the pipeline delivery of natural gas to all of New Mexico, but especially Northern New Mexico. We don’t have natural gas, something we’ve been lamenting all the years we’ve been here, but today we’re extremely grateful. New Mexico gets its natural gas from Texas (insert your favorite derogatory comment about Texas here) and because of rolling blackouts in Texas, the flow of natural gas has come to a near standstill. It could be four days or more before the gas is flowing again, and once it does, technicians will need to go to each home and business to do a relight. How long will that take? According to the Taos News, “Between Taos, Red River and Questa alone, the company estimates some 10,800 customers will be affected, especially in the freezing temperatures.” So people crowded to hardware stores to buy space heaters, and the electric company expressed fears that the electric grid would overload and fail, so people crowded to the grocery stores to buy bottled water because for many (us included on this one), no electricity means no water because pumping water up out of a well requires electricity. People were also stocking up on food. So going to the store would have been a nightmare. We were pretty well stocked up on food; my parents trained me well on that one. I filled up a couple of empty gallon jugs with water in case we did lose electricity. And I started the roast chicken and vegetables earlier than I’d planned to so it would be finished before everyone started cranking up their space heaters, endangering the power grid. Plus having the oven on would help warm up the house (I used the same excuse to bake brownies on Wednesday).

I’m actually writing this at 3:00 in the morning at my hotel job. We never lost power at home (at least it was still on when I left at 10:45). We have power at the hotel, but no heat. Apparently this place uses gas, not electricity or propane. So for the three rooms that are occupied (yes 3, out of 115), the guests have space heaters. And there’s a small, warm space heater on the counter next to me, but I have to turn it off every so often because the blowing noise is driving me nuts.

The low on Friday morning is supposed to be minus 12, which sounds pretty warm after minus 26. There’s something really wrong when minus 12 sounds warm!