No! New! Roads!

Urban Albuquerque has a well written and clearly explanatory blog up, arguing for no more new roads in Albuquerque, and particularly not the new plan for the Paseo del Volcan project, which, as you can see if you click on the link, is considered REALLY important by the city government, cause it is going to solve lots of transportation issues on the West Side. 

It seems obvious that when you’ve got a lot of traffic congestion, opening up new highways and expanding the lanes on the ones you’ve got will help the situation.  Urban Albuquerque argues that the evidence shows that indeed that obviously good method does not work:

“New and widened roads are subject to an economic rule known as “induced demand.” It works like this:

  • Road is built
  • Road becomes congested with traffic
  • Road is expanded
  • Once expanded, road fills up and becomes congested again
  • The Sisyphean cycle continues

New road space encourages more drivers to drive more often. In the meantime, lanes are expanded by sacrificing bike lane width, sidewalk width and, ultimately, quality of life on or around the road.”

Here’s the Paseo del Volcan project, making the list of the 12 worst highway boondoggles in America

The entire project is all about expanding Albuquerque further out to the west of the city, despite the issues we’ve got with water supply.  Which are fairly serious, on account of being in the desert.

And it’s at the expense of maintaining the roads we’ve got.

And making the bicycle network safe and useable and connected.

And improving the transit network.

And, in general, ceasing to stupidly grown further on out into the desert, necessitating more and more driving around.

Now, I grew up here, and driving around, and then more driving around, are foundational parts of life.  It’s hard for us to give up our cars, in the southwest. 

But just cause we’ve got the space to move out doesn’t mean we have to.  We need to build up.  And be a proper city.

I’m convinced.  Here’s the link to StrongTown: No New Roads.

Posted in Aventure

Geni Hits 100 Million, the genealogy site with the “let’s create a World Tree” goal, has hit 100 million profiles.  Hurrah!


I love Geni, and I’m on the site regularly.  Since they made me a curator, that’s only right, really.  I have a job to do.

Since the goal of Geni is indeed to create a world tree, it is NOT a good site to keep your personal genealogy tree on.  That tree you can keep in genealogy software (I keep mine on a separate drive, cause it takes up so much space), or over at a site like My Heritage — there you can keep a tree with your own information, your own documentation, your own connections, and you don’t have to put up with anybody else changing things.

Geni is a collaborative site, a very different thing indeed.  Though it’s possible to have profiles made into what we call Master Profiles, which can then be locked — or to have profiles kept private, in the case of all living people, and people who are closely connected to you — in general if you’ve got your work up on the site, it can be changed by other users.

Oh, collaboration! 

It can be a headache (sometimes other users have Very Different Ideas about what constitutes a reliable source), but in general I find the site very useful indeed for genealogical work.  That’s because different users can bring in various sources.  And we have discussions about how to interpret the various sources.

So the tree tends towards reliability. 

And I do indeed love working in it.

Currently I am diligently working in the medieval Welsh tree, which is a problematic piece of the tree.

But if you’re on Geni, and you ask the curators to help you with a problem, you might run across me, being helpful.



Posted in Genealogy Tagged with: ,

Things I Know About Alice

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Alice — she of the Wonderland and Looking Glass fame. This is appropriate:  It’s the 150th anniversary of the original text.  Happy Birthday, Alice!  

I first read the books when I was 5, and they’ve been favorites of mine since then.  And I used to teach the two texts together, along with the critical history, in the “how to be an English major class” that I taught back when I was a professor.  So she’s been a part of my life for more than 5 decades now.  Here’s what I’ve learned from living with her:

1)  Alice is all around, but she’s not necessarily Alice as she was first conceived.  This used to confuse me.  I would come across memes on Facebook and Pintrest that attributed quotations to Alice that I knew were not in the books.  This is because Alice is so ubiquitous, and there are so many versions of her, that she lives in many different realities.  Case in point:  “We’re all mad here,” is indeed a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, from her first conversation with the Cheshire Cat.  However, “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are” is NOT from Carroll’s original book; it’s from Tim Burton’s movie.  It’s lovely!  But it hasn’t got anything to do with the 19th century, so stop thinking that Lewis Carroll wrote it.  He didn’t, and he couldn’t.  The word “bonkers” didn’t exist until 1957.

2) It is really easy to dress up like Alice characters.  Really easy.  Look!  Ebay!  Etsy! Various places available on the net!  But again, notice how little most of these costumes have to do with Tenniel’s extraordinary drawings (especially nice, these, since the artist and the writer did NOT get along).  Mostly what you’re seeing is from Disney and Burton.  It’s the movies that are in the deep public imagination.  This is ok.  It’s just something to note.  (And notice what’s easy and what not:  Alice?  check, of course, don’t be silly.  Red Queen? check.  Mad  Hatter? check. White Rabbit? check.  White Queen? check.  Caterpillar? check.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee?  check.  Dormouse?  no.  Duchess? no.  White Knight?  no.  Frog Footman?  nope.  Those you have to work out on your own.)

3) Alice has been around a long time (in early 21st century terms), and she’s very beloved, and we all know characters from the books and the movies, even if we haven’t read the books or seen the movies, and now, even though I wouldn’t say that Alice and her minions are classic archetypes (is the Red Queen really a villain? Are there any villains?  Is the Caterpillar a mentor? Is he as good as it gets in  Alice Land?), they are indeed archetypes for the modern world.  There’s no real moral to the Alice books — there’s nothing in there about how to behave well, or what goodness is.  It’s an amoral sort of universe.  But the books have a lot to say about growing up and surviving, and attempting to keep one’s character intact.  Alice is our hero, certainly.  But the rest of the characters act as the nonsensical forces of society.  This book is not about becoming a useful member of society.  This book is about surviving in spite of what turns out to be “nothing but a pack of cards.”

4)  Alice is good to think on.  The first question I used to ask students was, “what is children’s literature supposed to do?”  To which they told me many things, but they always agreed that children’s literature is supposed to teach children, to help them negotiate life; it needs a moral, students said.  “Excellent,” I would say.  “And this is a Victorian children’s book, and they LOVED morals.  So. What’s the moral of Alice in Wonderland?”  Ha!  That would take up an hour.  (Hint:  there’s not one.   This is especially interesting, since Carroll, when he wasn’t being Carroll, was Charles Dodgson, who was not only a mathematician and mathematics professor at Oxford, but Reverend Dodgson.  Later he felt bad about writing such popular books as the Alice books, and wrote some moralistic dreck.  But it’s Alice we remember.  And rightly so.)

5) Dodgson is good to think on, too.  My students were always appalled by Dodgson’s obsession with little girls, but I would say, “what do you want from him?  We’ve got no evidence that he ever acted out of line; we can judge his actions, but are we really qualified to judge his inner life?”  Young college students want things to be easily categorized, and they like for moral issues to be black and white.  Sorry, kids.  Welcome to life. 

6)  Also!  The photographs!  Besides being the author of the Alice books, Dodgson — who was a fairly mediocre mathematician and a dreadful professor — was one of the best of the early photographers.  The photographs of the girls he loved are brilliant (and their mothers were there in the studio).    My favorite is the photograph of Alice Liddell herself, dressed as a gypsy:

aliceas gypsy

Compare this with Carroll’s last photo of her, taken when she was 18 — despite the Alice books, she grew up into a proper young Victorian lady:


So I say, enjoy Alice! Read the books!  (Especially the Annotated Alice, which explains all the Victorian jokes, the mathematics, and the chess!)  Watch the movies!  (But not just Disney and Burton!  There’s an awesome TV version by Nick WillingThere’s a
Czech version that’s bizarre and dark.    Hell, here’s Wikipedia’s list of all the versions it knows of, including the X-rated!  We need more Alice, not less.  The tormented artist who invented her tapped into a deep well of horror and beauty and joy and grief.  Alice speaks for all the children , small and large, who daily negotiate the streets of the modern world, and the bizarre behavior of the grownups.

Here they are, Alice and Professor Dodgson, doing just that, walking around in Oxford:


Posted in Aventure

The Old Town Skirmish


During the Civil War, New Mexico was not, really, to be truthful, an important field of operations.  At least, not much, and not for long.  We did indeed see some action — the Confederates invaded the territory with the goal of, eventually, controlling the gold in Colorado (sort of a latter-day Seven Cities of Gold action, really). 

They left from Texas, that being a Confederate state, and marched up the Rio Grande.  They waged a successful battle at Valverde, and headed on up towards Santa Fe, near where they again waged a successful battle at Glorieta Pass. Well, a successful battle after they lost the first one.

So that was exciting, but in the meantime their supply train was decimated (by New Mexican Volunteer forces led by Lt. Col. Manuel Chavez, who is my new hero), so they had to go home. End of Confederate attempt to take the Southwest.

Did you notice that I did not, in that little retelling, mention Albuquerque?  If you’re following the Rio Grande from Texas to Santa Fe, you go through Albuquerque — at least you walk through Old Town, which at that time had far fewer tourist attractions, though certainly I suggest it now to all the visitors, as you can buy all the t-shirts and turquoise jewelry you want. So you’d think that really, Albuquerque would rightfully see some action.

No, I did not mention Albuquerque, as nobody ever does, really.

Till now!

We are currently having a Discussion in Albuquerque as to what to do with the Confederate flag hanging in the Old Town Plaza.  All of America is involved in taking down public Confederate flags, or at least arguing about it.  So what the hell are we doing with a Confederate flag on our plaza in Old Town?

Well, what we are doing with it is that it is part of the “Five Flags Over Albuquerque” display, these five flags representing Spain, Mexico, The United States, New Mexico, and the Confederacy.  (Notice, in the picture above, that the Confederate flag being flown is, in actuality, the Confederate flag, not the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which is the one that is being taken down now off government buildings in the South, where it was raised to represent segregation during the Civil Rights Movement.)

So it’s marking an historical event — it’s not honoring the Confederacy so much as acknowledging that for 6 weeks it occupied what’s now New Mexico.  Which it did. 

So I’m not, myself, concerned about taking that particular flag down.

But! Here’s what I’m bothered by!

I want the plaques removed.  The plaques commemorate, and honor, The Skirmish of Albuquerque, which you have never heard of, and I haven’t either, having apparently missed that little bit of history while I was down in Old Town buying pinon incense and ice cream. 

On April 8, 1862, the Confederate forces, which had been hightailing it back from Glorieta Pass without supplies (see above), were holed up in Albuquerque, where there was some water and some farms, though, really, attempting to live off the land as an army in New Mexico is called “dying in the desert” — it’s not like you’re attempting to forage near Gettysburg.  The Union forces bombarded Old Town.  One Confederate officer got wounded.  Then the Confederates trudged, sans food and water, back down to Texas, and on that trip they did indeed lose soldiers, due to the lack of food and water.  The end.

So I say we get rid of the plaques on the plaza that commemorate the Skirmish (which Wikipedia calls a Battle, but I think that’s pushing it).  One says that the Confederates repulsed the Union forces and retained command of the town, which, since they hightailed it out of town right afterwards seems to me to be misleading — sort of how they won at Glorieta Pass but lost all their supplies, so therefore were not rousingly winners.  And the second commemorates the Confederate dead who are buried in the plaza.  Of which there are none, cause nobody died in Albuquerque.   Descendants of Confederate veterans put those plaques up, and I think they romanticized things a little bit.  No, sorry.  A lot.

So, for my money, we keep the flag but lose the plaques.  There you are.


Ok, here’s a little wrinkle.  There’s no record of any deaths in the Skirmish of Albuquerque, though as a I said, there were some Confederates wounded.  but.  No dead, no buried dead, none, nada, nothing.

So, why is the plaza haunted by some ghost in a Confederate uniform?




Posted in Politics Tagged with: ,

The Rail Runner: Yes and No

For the last couple of months Laura has been working at an internship up in Santa Fe, for a law firm that gives her nice lunches and treats her very well.  It’s a lovely job.

But it entails commuting from Albuquerque — that’s an hour drive each way. 

So it’s LOVELY that there’s an express rail service from Albuquerque to Santa Fe!  The Rail Runner goes in between the two cities, and it doesn’t do anything else, except stop places in between, like Sandia Pueblo and Bernalillo.  This is AWESOME!

Well, not so much.  Laura figured it out, that instead of taking two hours of her day on commuting door to door, the Rail Runner would, alas, take 4.  Cause there’s the parking, and the driving to and fro the railway station, and the shuttling around, and whatever.

But this is a sad thing.  Cause for ONLY 9 DOLLARS (round trip or one way; I find this odd), you can get on the more or less express train (except for the stopping at Sandia Pueblo and Bernalillo and the like), and sit comfortably and watch the scenery.

I’m thinking I’ll take the train some day soon, just for the meditation opportunity.

And getting to hear the doors go “beep-beep” like the cartoon Roadrunner does, when they open and close.

Posted in Daily Life Tagged with: ,

Post-Holiday Errands

So there was December, and I was ill and all, and there were holidays, and it was busy, and what with one thing and all a Bunch Of Stuff did not get done.

And now it’s the new year!  Hooray!  So I ran errands.

First there was the last of the Christmas gifts to mail off — late, yes.  Yes.  But now they are in the mail.  And then I had to buy stamps.  And some were all celebratory.  That was lovely.

Then there was the drugstore, because the medicine that makes me well had to be bought.  The doctor had given me samples, to see if it works, which it does — hence me typing right now, as well as breathing and all — and so she’d prescribed it, and we needed to see if the insurance would cover it.  Which it won’t, until cheaper meds have failed.  Which they had — witness the being ill all December.

And yay!  The insurance was indeed covering it!  So I only had a copayment!  Which was $85!  But!  If I’d had to pay the whole thing it would have been $900!  Because we live in Stupid Land.

Well, so that was great, the saving more than $800 part.

Then I went on over to the JoAnn Fabric store, so that I could buy some fleece to make a winter scarf, cause I have one and I like it, but it’s printed with teddy bears, and I really don’t feel like wearing it anymore.  So I found fleece, and I found excellent remnants such as can be used for doll clothes, and so that was some more money.

And then I went on over to the Lush store cause I had run out of bath bombs, and I couldn’t go in December because even though it’s easy to get to the Lush, it’s impossible to park most of the time, and December is Very Bad.  Lush is over is some ritzy part of town, along with Williams Sonoma and Anthropologie and stuff like that.  They pipe in alternative rock.  There is no parking.

But!  There was today! Which was great!

Except for the part wherein Lush had run out of bath bombs and the next shipment wasn’t in yet.

But!  It’s ok!  It’s possible to buy collections of bath bombs, wrapped as gifts! 

So.  That was more money.  I was going to maybe stop by the Cost Plus to get candy and treats to send to The Son Away At College, but I didn’t feel like pulling my wallet out any more.

So he won’t be getting a box for a few weeks.

Unless I send him some of the bath bombs…..


Posted in Daily Life Tagged with: , ,

Heavenly Creatures

Laura and I have been, over the years, reading detective novel series at about the same time — we’re not reading the same book at the same time, we pass them on to each other, but we’re reading in the same series.  We went through all of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee series, and we went through ALL of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Linley series (now, that was a serious time commitment), and now we’re going through Anne Perry’s  Inspector Monk series.

And we were talking about how much we are enjoying them, and I said, you know, she actually murdered somebody, back when she was a teenager.  And Laura said, no, she’d never heard of that.  And I said, yeah, I think it was the parent of a friend. And there’s some movie. 

Well, we should watch that, we thought.

So we did — Heavenly Creatures came in on the Netflix queue, and we watched it.

And here is what we thought:

What. The. Hell.

About 30 minutes in, we discussed whether or not we wanted to take out the DVD and watch our Buffy collection instead.  We stuck with it, and I suppose we’re not sorry, but I don’t think we are recommending it.

I mean, we understand that the girls had had difficult childhoods and were all alienated and stuff, and I TOTALLY get living in a fantasy world (there are strong reasons I’m so deeply committed to Sanity and Living in Reality), and we also understand the strong influence that movies and books had on them.  We get all that.

But the filming of the girl’s fantasy life was highly — not disconcerting, no, that would be interesting — annoying.  Also.  The soundtrack, which was all about 50’s romantic movies, yes, I see what you were trying to do, but don’t. Just don’t.

So what we do not understand is why that film got such good reviews.

On the other hand, it was lovely seeing Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynksey make their debuts — you can see, in both cases, the actresses they will become.  Good, very good work.

That was it.  It shouldn’t be such a relief when unsuspecting persons get hit on the head with bricks.  Finally!  we were thinking. Thank God!

Not good at all.


Posted in Aventure Tagged with:

Let’s All Ask Ourselves: Does This Actually Fit In My Truck?

One of the things we’ve noticed, now that we live in Albuquerque, is that it’s apparently the custom here to stack all sorts of items in the back of your pickup truck, neglect to tie them down — or, conversely, tie them down but only just a little bit, on one corner — and then drive off.  On the freeway.

I’m sure that people all over the world do this occasionally, but we’ve never seen so many of them do it, so often.

The first week we were here, Laura narrowly escaped Sure Death from a kitchen countertop which was merrily travelling down the road, in the back of a pick up truck, untied, which sailed off the truck and shattered on the freeway one lane over.

That was exciting.

And it was just the first week, so we thought it an anomaly.  Not so!  We see this all the time.  Sometimes things are sailing through the air, sometimes they just look like they about to sail through the air.

Either way, I’ve steering clear of loaded up pick up trucks.  The other day I was stuck behind a refrigerator sliding around in the back of the pick up truck in front of me.  I went away from there.

But I have figured out the rules for transporting important crap, like refrigerators and kitchen counter tops and loads of wood:

1) Are you able, in reality, to pile this stuff up in the back of your truck?  If anything falls off the pile, you may keep it, provided you can get it to stay still someplace else. Otherwise, no!  It doesn’t fit! Wait, who am I kidding.  Of course it fits. Try again.

2) Excellent!  Get in the truck and start your engine!

3) Here’s the freeway entrance!  Let’s go!

4) If anything falls off the truck and shatters, keep driving.  It no longer exists. 

This is one of the ways we know we are in the Wild West.

Posted in Daily Life Tagged with: ,

Somebody Out There Is Making Prickly Pear Candy (But Not Me)

monk court

We’ve got a pretty big prickly pear cactus out in the front of the house — you can see it there on the right hand side, in front of the gate — and in my enthusiastic appreciation for the lovely house and getting to live in Albuquerque again, and in my desire to really appreciate all the aspects of this new piece of my life, I decided that when the cactus fruit got ripe, I would harvest it and make prickly pear candy for my son, who is off in college living in the dorms.  I think that if you are living in the dorms in Pittsburgh and your mom sends you homemade prickly pear candy, you can make quite a name for yourself, sharing it out on your floor.

So I waited patiently all summer for the fruit to get so ripe that it was practically falling off the cactus, and then I took tongs and a big paper bag and went and harvested, being VERY careful not to touch anything.  Having learned already that prickly pear cactuses have many many more stickers than you can actually see, and really the tiny ones are the problem.

I had a big bag of fruit, and I shared some with the people next door, who had told me they love the stuff, and I gave some to my brother, who never did get around to using it, too bad, and I saved the rest for myself, for the Candy Project.

Which started with peeling the fruit.

And!  I knew not to touch the stuff till the invisible prickers were off, so I was very careful.  I found someone online saying to put the stuff in the sink and rinse off the stickers so I did that, but as it turns out that is a Bad Plan.  Really.  If water got the prickers off, the rain would do it.  No. 

So, after spending some time getting as many prickers out of my fingers as I could — this project took up several days — I blanched the fruit, and then used the tongs to cut the skins off.  I lost a lot of the fruit that way.  I did not care.

And then I had the fruit, which is chock full of hard black seeds.  Got those out by mashing the fruit through a strainer.

Had juice.

Took a break of a couple of weeks, with the juice in the refrigerator.

Found candy recipe on the net.

Spent an afternoon making the candy; this involved boiling part of the juice with sugar to soft ball stage, and then cooking up the rest of it with cornstarch till it got thick, and then cooking both pieces together for an hour, and pouring it all out into an oiled pan.  It wasn’t a candy recipe I’d ever seen before — the cornstarch pudding part was especially weird — but I thought, hey, let’s see how this goes.

Let it sit over night.

Cut the candy up and rolled it in powdered sugar.

And watched it fall all to hell and gone.

Really, there’s no candy I know of that’s supposed to sit around and sweat.  This is Just Wrong.

prickly pear candy

It has a nice flavor, but the consistency is weird, very weird.  Also, as I mentioned, it is sweating juice all over the pan.

I threw it out.

I think I’ll try again next year.  With a different recipe.

Oh, and I think I’ll buy a candy thermometer.

Posted in Daily Life Tagged with: , , ,

Update on Some Dolls

Here’s what I’ve been doing in my spare time lately: getting the small but well loved doll collection into shape.

Some examples follow, for those of you interested.

 First, the oldest (and most magical) of the dolls, Emily, a china head doll from 1860, needed new clothes (none of her original clothes exist):

doll emily

And a real find — a boy Mary Hoyer — came without clothes.  A nice, rare find anyway; few collectors know that Mary Hoyer made boy dolls, so sometimes they come up on ebay at a low price, because everybody assumes they’re regular dolls with the hair cut off.  Nope.  They aren’t.  (I like to think of mine as “Butch Mary Hoyer.”)

doll mary hoyer

And some I made.  Here’s the Baba Yaga side of the topsy-turvy Baba Yaga and Vasilissa doll:

doll baba yaga

And her counterpart:

doll vasilissa

and last, a French fashion reproduction that I made in 1984 — as I can tell from the date I incised on the back of her head — finally got some clothes:

doll french fashion

I haven’t messed around with the dolls for decades.  But I’m glad to be putting the little collection in order.

Posted in Daily Life Tagged with: