Monday, February 28, 2005

Standardized Testing: Briefly Revisited

NOB HILL--Here are just a few facts to help you decide whether the No Child Left Behind Act knows what it is doing when it comes to testing our students.

  • 0 ----------The number of hours of state mandated testing that private school students are required to take.
  • 0-----------The number of hours of state mandated testing that home-schooled students are required to take.
  • 4.75--------The number of hours allotted for either the ACT or the SAT (including the new writing segment). These are the tests which generally decide whether you have what it takes to enroll in college.
  • 6------------The number of hours allotted for the National Teachers Exam. This test, with the appropriate coursework enables you to receive teacher certification at any primary or secondary level.
  • 11-----------The number of hours estimated for a third grader (8 year-old) to take the state mandated New Mexico Standards Based Assessment. This test is designed to see what the child has learned in the last 9 months.

Report From The Jemez: It Was One Jeck Of A Wet Winter

SAN YSIDRO--Some of us get spring fever whenever the sun shines on us with its warmth and radiance. To check out the snowfall in the Jemez MaryAnn and I went up there. Here is our report. There is still time to repair the tent, find the leak in your sleeping pad, and get the mold cleaned out of your cooler. There is a LOT of snow still left in the high country. And is it beautiful!

GILMAN TUNNELS--If you haven't been here you haven't seen the Jemez Mtns. Turn left just north of Canon. Originally built for the railroad that used to haul timber out of the Jemez down to Bernalillo, they enlarged the tunnels so that logging trucks would fit. Railroading artifacts are to be found all through here...even up towards Cuba on what was known as "The High Line." To take that route (after the road opens in the spring) turn left up the hill just before the bridge at Porter's Landing.

GILMAN TUNNELS--Here is Yours Truly Johnny_Mango wearing his new $14 hat (bought used from the second floor of the antique mall on Central Ave.

GILMAN AREA--The end of the road through the tunnels is blocked off during the winter months. MaryAnn and I hiked a little bit up there and that road definitely needs a little work before it can open. All this wet weather has unleashed tons of rocks along the steeper parts of the canyon. I bet there is plenty of deep, deep mud out there too.

LOS OJOS BAR, JEMEZ SPRINGS--We ran into a couple at the bar we had met out past the tunnels, John and Louise. They were from Pittsburgh, out enjoying the afternoon. If you see them say, "Hi!" They are very nice people...and he owns a bar in Latrobe, PA....home of Rolling Rock Beer.

REDONDO PEAK--Lots of snow up there this year. You can see it from the top of Nob Hill. We drove up past Fenton Lake to Seven Springs. There seemed to still be about a foot of snow on the ground.

SEVEN SPRINGS--The road between Seven Springs and Fenton was passable. It got worse past the village. We did not attempt to get to the fish hatchery. (Probably could have made it). :)

FENTON LAKE--The sun was sinking low in the west. Time to head for home. By the way there was no sign of ice fisherman or campers at the lake. It was totally peaceful. Signs of a forest fire (was it last year?) are visible on the hillsides even with all the snow.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mike Moye Buys Ticket For California...Enters Amazing Race

NOB HILL--At our usual Friday night eating adventure, Mike dropped the following piece of information: he is trying out for Amazing Race with 3 of his relatives. This is a month-long around the world race. The odds are that he won't be picked for the series, but I would pick him. Mike and I have toured for over 2000 miles together on bicycles with all our gear through New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. This man knows how to get it done.

Lobo Women Beat UNLV With Heroic Effort In The Pit

THE PIT--The Lobo women won a thriller on "senior day" at the Pit. There were six lead changes in the final 2:17. The official UNM sports website GoLobos has the summary of the ending:

Thomas answered again with a jumper as the Rebels went back up 65-64 with 49.6 seconds left in the game. Junior Abbie Letz was fouled on a drive to basket with 34.3 ticks to go.

Shooting two, Letz's first toss hit the rim, the top of the backboard, then dropped in to tie the game. She swished the second, returning the lead to the Lobos.

Moore made a huge defensive play the next time down the floor, tying up Nikki Hitchens and giving the ball back to the Lobos with 20.1 seconds left.

Moore was fouled with 18.3 seconds left and had a chance to give New Mexico a three-point lead. An 80% free throw shooter on the year, Moore missed both attempts. Lindsey Arndt grabbed the rebound on the second miss, but was tied up as possession went back to the Rebels with only 16.4 seconds to go.

UNLV point guard Sheena Moore drove the lane and put up a contested jumper that fell off. A mad scramble for the rebound resulted in the ball going off a Rebels player and out of bounds with a mere 1.5 ticks remaining. Marsh was fouled and canned both charities.

0.9 seconds were left on the clock. The Lobos were up by one point. Dionne Marsh stood by herself at the line. 19 years old and all alone in front of 16,048 hushed fans. I am sure UNLV would have called a timeout if they could to make her think about the situation, but they were out of timeouts. The basket just didn't have time to shrink.

It might have been senior day, but a freshman sealed the victory. Dionne Marsh makes the first of her two free throws, putting the Lobos up by 2. A few seconds later she canned the second one as well.

Most of the crowd of 16,000 stayed after the game to celebrate with the seniors their last game in the Pit. They spoke individually at the end of the ceremony. Lindsey Arndt, speaking of her 4 years of Lobo basketball, said it best, "It just goes so fast." Yeah. That little tidbit of knowledge is worth the price of a college education right there. It just goes so fast.

A time for hugs...nobody was crying. We have two road games left in the regular season. Then the MWC tournament in Denver. Then...maybe...the NCAA's. By the way, rumor has it that UNLV is in our half of the bracket in Denver. If we survive that...Utah. The tournament could very well be murder.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Hey Fellas! You're Not That Big and Bad...

NORTH VALLEY--My daughter Simone asked me to do her a favor: work as an aide in my grandson Robby's pre-school class. "Sure," I said...not knowing if I had the energy for a roomful of 4-year-olds. This is Tony, head teacher in the 4-year-old program. And this post is for all you big and bad guys who think the care and feeding of small children is part of the feminine domain.

Let's read Little Toot. Let's find out about his adventures on the River Thames.

Snack time! Pretzels, grapes, and apple juice provide some nourishment plus gives some opportunities for a quieter kind of conversation.

Tony "puts the left foot in" while his little charges do their best to follow his lead. And now it's time for lunch and then good-bye until next week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Knight And The Seismo-Dragon

NOB HILL--Last weekend MaryAnn and I went to the Blue Dragon for a quiet game of chess. I tried to post something about it earlier but that fire last Sunday got in the way. Anyway, I was about to go up a knight in a pretty even game when this motorcycle started revving its engine right outside the window. MaryAnn started acting a little agitated. About that time the espresso machine started snorting and spitting out burps and blasts of steam. You could hear pressure building in those thin pipes. "It's gonna blow!" MaryAnn said in an urgent whisper. Just then 15 people came galloping from the front room and out the door. They stood outside screaming at each other and covering their ears.

I took her knight.

The pulsating screech of steel locknuts blowing apart one by one reached a crescendo. Something was blasting my ears into my eyeballs. And it wasn't the espresso machine. I went to take a look in the front room...

It was Ken Cornell. He goes by the name of All-Chemical Burn. His music: seismo-rapsodic electrons with acetylene overtones. A helluva lotta noise for one guy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The De Anza Motor Lodge: An Idea To Help Central Ave...And Fill Up Those Rolling Accordians At The Same Time

NOB HILL--It has been some time since the city bought the DE ANZA Motor Lodge. Nothing has happened and it doesn't look like they even have a plan for what to do with the property. Anytime the city tries to do something that private enterprise could do (like offer the motel space as small gallery rooms for artists) there are complaints of unfair competition from other property owners. So I have an idea.
Turn the DE ANZA into a Route 66 museum. Put signs up on edges of town telling people to get off the interstate and take a cruise down 66 on our new RapidRide Buses. There are plenty of vintage lodging opportunities. Plenty of local, non-franchise eating establishments. A not-to-be-matched collection of vintage neon. And now a Route 66 museum!
Well...that's my idea. If you look at the above postcard you can see that back in 1944 the De Anza was a pueblo style motor lodge. Also noticable are the carports tucked in between each unit. How it would be restored would be up to the city, but why not make a museum out of it? I think it would help out all the merchants and vintage motels along Central Ave. Maybe we would start getting a better, more affluent kind of customer. Maybe we could save a few more of these historical sites from being torn down by that city task force.

Call the Cops! Test Security Breached!...(on an obsolete version)

NOB HILL--I happened upon this actual question from a 4th grade standardized test given here a few years ago. This was from the "NEW MEXICO" section of the test...which, of course, was written somewhere else. There are a few points here worth mentioning:
  • The answer they want is wrong! That prickly pear cactus is more common in New Mexico forests than ferns, mushrooms, or ivy. I can't think of a forest without prickly pears.
  • It rewards "stereotypical, book-oriented" learning above hands-on learning. In this case, the more you know, the less likely you are to answer correctly. There is a case to be made for most tests being prejudicial in one sense or another. This question favors eastern "educated" students over western kids who know their biology, even if this is supposed to be a "New Mexico" test. There are lots more examples of many questions about wharves, ships, ponds, etc. that also favor students living somewhere other than the desert southwest.
  • Test question secrecy gives testing companies a way of avoiding scrutiny about questions. APS has stated that there are severe penalties for you as an individual if any of the test questions are revealed in any manner whatsoever. So it goes with "high-stakes" testing. Security is paramount. It wasn't until last week that they decided that 7-year-olds could even go to the bathroom during a 2-hour test session...and then only if accompanied by a proctor.
This is just one aspect of the whole testing situation. I hope to deal with more of it later.

Monday, February 21, 2005


LIVE FROM NOB HILL--The owner of last night's fire spent the night with a neighbor up the street. Her son came by this morning and wanted to look at the damage. When they entered the house they spotted something glowing in the ceiling and called 911. Two engines responded.

First a guy walked in with a pike pole, then another firefighter walked into the house wearing what used to be called an "Indian pack" (basically a can of water strapped to your back with a small hose). Then this fireman walked in there with an attic ladder. That tells the whole story: fire still in the ceiling.

The owner's son Jerrod holds up one of his burned tee shirts...ironic but not particularly funny.

Fire In Nob Hill Early This Morning...No One Injured

LIVE FROM NOB HILL--The phone rang at 3:30 this morning. I woke up with a start and thought about our kids. But it was The Artist Ken Saville. "Look out your window!" The whole intersection was filled with firetrucks. I threw on my clothes, grabbed my camera, and went out to survey the action.

The house on the southwest corner of Lead and Tulane was on fire. There were 8 or 9 fire and rescue vehicles lined up from the top of the hill down to Tulane and around the corner. Firefighters were everywhere. You could hear radios, pumps, compressors, water. There was the pulsing of warning lights...the darkness beyond.

Two young ladies, Stephanie and Thea, were huddled on the curb about 30 yards up from the corner. They were holding two puppies under their jackets. They lived in the separate apartment behind the house. The fireman awoke them with a knock on the door and warned them to get out. I do not know who reported the blaze. Ken said that when he first came outside there were flames coming from the top of the building.

The fire was apparently caused by the cleaning woman leaving materials on top of the grate of the floor furnace earlier in the day.

The relective stripes on their bunker coats glow in the night as the personnel from Engine 3 gather near the truck. Night fires always have a surreal quality to them.

After all the burning and smoking material has been pulled out of the house, a firefighter finishes it off with a little water from his hose.

The engineer on a pumper, a full panel of lighted gauges in front of him, looks on as two firefighters replace equipment on the truck.

Firefighters compare notes after the attack. There were probably about 50 firemen on the scene, most had duties that did not take them inside the structure itself.

The owner, accompanied by two neighbors and a dog, goes into the house to survey the damage. A 2-inch hose is still charged and lying across the lawn. This is the reality of a fire: the damage from fire and water, the stink that won't go away. Fortunately no one was injured.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

ABQ Firm With Sweet Iraqi Deal Has Republican Connection

NOB HILL--Reading the ABQ Journal this morning in the Flying Star, I came across the following article in the business section: "N.M. company transports Iraqi police cadets." Now the company, CSI, does not actually own any sort of acts as a middleman. Down in the 12th paragraph, in fact the very last sentence in the article, one finds out that the company president and founder is Allen Weh, state Republican Party chairman.

I would agree that there may not be a connection...even if the company did contribute at least $20,500.00 (accordng to to the NM Republican Party last year. That does not mean that they weren't qualified for the job. In fact, they are on the GSA "schedules." This means, to quote from CSI's own website,
Schedules are long-term government-wide contracts established by the GSA with commercial firms. The purpose is to offer federal agencies the ability to purchase services and products conveniently, efficiently, and at discount pricing. All orders placed through GSA Schedules are considered full and open competition, which saves contracting officers valuable time in finding reliable and experienced contractors.
In other words, it would seem to be basically a "no-bid" situation once you are on the list. What a sweet deal. Once you get on the schedule it seems you are sort of trusted to come up with a "discount" price. I sure hope our NM Republican Party chairman does not go broke trying to give too big a discount!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Around The Table At Joe And Marcia's

NOB HILL--As so often happens when the host relaxes a little too much after the meal is eaten, the conversation turns to animal fluids.

Oh the seafood stew was excellently prepared by host Joe The Gumball King. And MaryAnn had made a chocolate log from a Vincent Price recipe book that was rich and satisfying. Two bottles of wine were drunk. The Artist Ken Saville was finishing off the last of a six-pack of Molson. Marcia was bringing out the coffee. Everyone was leaning back deep in thought...thinking perhaps of the clams in the stew. Whatever the inspiration, this is what was said.

"I was standing in Pisa, Italy once," said Joe, "and I felt something on my shoulder. I thought Marcia had slapped me. But then I saw it was bird poop."

"That's nothing," offered Mary Donato, folding her napkin. "I was walking across the UNM campus when I felt something wet on my head. I reached up and came away with a big blob of pigeon droppings!"

"I can top that," said Ken. His eyes shifted a little and he glanced downward. "Have you ever been sneezed on by a Belgian draft horse?"

Friday, February 18, 2005

Ivan @ 26!

YANNI'S, NOB HILL--My Ivan. Ivan Diego Knudsen turned 26 this week. Last night we went to Yanni's for dinner. I would tell you what we had but most of the entree's were unspellable. What a great time.

Ivan's girlfriend Melanie and MaryAnn share good times at Ivan's birthday dinner. We got Ivan tickets to the U.S. Soccer match against Honduras which is next month at the UNM football field. This is the only birthday present I have ever given him that he loved. Chalk one up for Yours Truly, Johnny_Mango.

Hess Yntema Says No

NOB HILL--Hess Yntema, former City Councilor from SE Albuquerque including Nob Hill, dropped by the Flying Star this morning for breakfast with his sons. They were on their way to a swimming tournament (One of his sons swims for Highland High School). I asked him about the mayor's race, which seems to be heating up already.

What with 3 Democrats (Eric Griego, Judith Espinosa, and Mayor Chavez) already running it seems like a perfect time for a Republican to enter the race and consolidate supporters in the Rep party while the Dems split their votes. Yntema agreed. And now the big question: Is Hess Yntema going to toss his hat into the ring? No. That is his answer. No. .

Everybody knows that the mayor has to cut every ceremonial ribbon and get on TV for it. Readers might remember how I posted that Chavez delayed the opening of the Rapid Ride buses for 6 hours so he could ride on the first one. But will this generate enough goodwill to get him re-elected? According to the Southwest Organizing Project blog,
...It seems to be working. As has been reported, polls are showing the Mayor with some pretty good approval ratings with a majority of respondents feeling the city is headed in the right direction. A competent political consultant would advise the Mayor's opponents to go after Marty's record (code words for go negative) like yesterday.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

This Old Horse Still Reporting For Duty On Taos Plaza

The Artist Ken Saville, after seeing the picture I posted of the mechanical horse on Taos Plaza, brought over this photo of him riding that what he swears is the same horse in 1989. MaryAnn asked him about his dour face. He replied, "I didn't have a quarter."

Well, if it is the same horse, time has worn down our little steed. His equine head is now fixed in the shape of a permanent squeal. Too many big guys, I presume.

That New Sign On The Horse...Is Ken Saville The Reason?

To quote from the sign: Please observe the 100 pound weight limit!

Free Coffee...Three Writers

NOB HILL--Tomorrow, Friday, the English Grad Student Association is sponsoring a reading of works-in-progress at Winning's Coffee House, 111 Harvard SE. Reading will be
  • Emily Esterson, Creative Non-Fiction (?)
  • Chris Jones, Poetry
  • Jack Trujillo, Fiction
The EGSA says the coffee is on them. For those of you who think this would cut the heart out of an otherwise perfectly good Friday night, I'll try to be there and come back with a report.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Remember This Guy? Remember His Tattoos?

Recognize this face? Well, Guy Pierce was unforgettable in the movie Memento. Guess what...he's in town to film First Snow.

Movie Filming Starts On Central Avenue

NOB HILL--Early Central Ave. travelers had a little bit of excitement this morning. Traffic lanes were blocked off as the movie crew for "First Snow" began production in Nob Hill. The picture stars Guy Pierce (Memento, LA Confidential) and is produced by independent moviemakers El Camino Pictures. The filming will take place totally in Albuquerque, which is the setting for the story. It will last one month. First Snow tells the story of a man who falls into a psychological tailspin when a psychic predicts his death.

Bill Swartwood lives just over on Aliso NE, but his extensive movie production experience got him a job on the movie. He stated that the crew hails from Hollywood, Texas, and Albuquerque. Behind him, under the blue canopy, is "the farm," where production vip's look at screens for a real-time view through the lens.

Squinting through the dolly camera, a crew member focuses on a stand-in who is visible in the display. They had more specialized equipment than an REI employee with a discount card.

NOB HILL--Director Mark Fergus (wearing ballcap) explains what he wants done as the crew readies a shot in the Flying Star Satellite. As someone said, looks are deceiving...Fergus looks pretty unremarkable but is regarded as a genius of a director.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Let's Talk About Real School Reform

NOB HILL--There is a lot of talk about school "reform" by people who have spent very little time in the classroom. No wonder then that their ideas about reform have little to do with the classroom as well. They don't seem to know enough about actual learning situations to try to "reform" them. Well, I spent 31 years teaching in Albuquerque's elementary classrooms. Let me give this my own spin. More standardized tests are not reform. These tests are for administrators sitting in soft chairs behind big desks. But more about tests some other time...

Let's Look At The Starting Place: Your Child's Classroom

This is the cheapest student desk available anywhere. It is standard APS equipment. You can order this desk on-line for $38.55 retail (shipping included). APS probably gets a better deal. The body of the desk is plastic, the top is particle board with a thin vinyl topping which resembles woodgrained shelf-paper. They are tippy, too small to hold all one's materials, and in a word, cheap.

What does it matter? A good education often depends on things that have to do with what is called the affective's feelings. Take the uncomfortable feeling an adult gets standing in line at the MVD, much of a child's day is as regimented and without escape. "Sit down and be quiet!" is not easy in an uncomfortable environment. And the decision (by someone without any real classroom experience) to buy the cheapest and most durable desks and chairs undoubtedly helps push some kids out of school who can't figure out why they feel like they would rather be moving around digging a ditch than sitting in these tortuously cold, hard chairs writing on a tipping piece of particle board.

Adults wouldn't stand for it. We sentence kids to 12 years of this. 12 years.

This is the chair used in all the APS elementary classrooms I have ever seen. Made by Virco, it is the hardest, most uncomfortable, most dangerous seat on the market. Cost: less than $40 shipping included. It is guaranteed by the manufacturer to last at least 10 years. I dare any adult to sit in one of these for 182 days each year for the 6 years of elementary school without going crazy. They actually do make your butt ache.

Also, the splayed legs (built that way to discourage students from leaning back in their seats) are really dangerous to others considering most kids are asked to turn the chairs upside down at the end of the day and put them up on their desks. Those legs do poke other kids in the face.

I would consider some sort of softer, safer chair made out of resin: it may not last 10 years, but would do a lot to improve the concentration skills of many children.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

More Pictures From Taos And The Enchanted Circle

EAGLE NEST--There is only one good reason to take your rottweiler with you in the back of your empty pickup truck: traction. This guy awaits his owner who is in the bar spending the dogfood money.

RED RIVER--We drove the "Enchanted Circle." There is a lot of snow in the mountains. And it looks like it isn't over yet. The ski resorts, like Red River, seem to have plenty of business.

TAOS PLAZA--Upstairs in the old Taos courthouse is a large meeting room empty except for a dozen or so frescoes done by Emil Bistram. The horizontal fresco in back of MaryAnn was done by Victor Higgins. So beautiful.

TAOS--Even a short walk through the downtown historical area yields such wonderful surprises...this is the studio of E.Irving Couse. First president of the Taos Society of Artists, Couse is most famous for his depictions of Native American artisans working at their craft by firelight...making beads, arrows, etc.

KIT CARSON PARK, TAOS--Tucked into a corner of the cemetery at the Park is absolutely the smallest headstone in the whole graveyard. It reads, "Mabel Dodge Luhan." More famous than most, more important than most, certainly richer than most...her modest marker echoes how she spurned eastern society and made a life for herself in the "wilderness" of Taos, New Mexico. She went her own way.

TESUQUE--On the home we stopped at the Tesuque Village Market for a bite to eat and some coffee. This a great place to stop, especially if you want to take Bishop's Lodge Road further south to Santa Fe. I lived in Tesuque for a couple of months at one time...rented a room in a house rented by a couple of friends. That was the only time I ever got my mail General Delivery.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Breakaway To Taos: Our Favorite Hideout.

THE TAOS INN--Finally it's Friday and here we are in our cute little room at the Taos Inn. The bargain price of $59 including breakfast gave us the idea, but Taos draws us into its enchanting embrace every time. I would have to say it is our favorite getaway.