The Palace of Malice

On February 7, 2008 the Los Alamos County Council voted to destroy the physical symbol of the Independence of Los Alamos.

On December 21, 2010 5 Members of the Los Alamos County Council, 2 of whom voted in the affirmative in the above cited action, voted to destroy the liberties and rights of the citizens of Los Alamos and to vacate the Charter which was the codification of the Independence of Los Alamos.

The Palace of Malice, akin to Nero's Golden Palace and destined to become home to Ozymandius, will be built upon a foundation of legal chicanery, ruthless manipulation, self-aggrandizement, wanton destruction, and the wholesale abuse of Public Trust and authority --- but at what cost, and borne by whom?

Reality Check -- No community of any size can long survive the destruction of its heritage, the dissolution of its freedoms, and the permanent division of its citizens.

Friday, April 30, 2010

20) The Dealer and The Junkie

It has been said that Los Alamos is a one-horse town. People have no idea how apt that is. "Horse" is street language for heroin.

The Dealer is always happy to supply the Junkie -- until the Junkie no longer has anything to offer in exchange for the Horse. Then The Dealer drops The Junkie, because the Dealer doesn't need The Junkie and can always find a new customer. So The Dealer is always looking for ways to expand The Market and find new potential Junkies. The Junkie, however, needs The Dealer and believing he/she cannot live without The Dealer will do anything to keep The Dealer happy -- anything to stay on the Horse. The Junkie lives in constant fear of losing The Dealer. But to every Junkie there must come a time of Choice -- to either break with The Dealer, get off the Horse -- or Die. Because Dealer Dependency means certain Death.

Reality Check: Los Alamos must get off The Horse. The Lab and Science City are so pervasive as to invade every aspect of our personal, social, cultural, economic, and political lives. We absolutely must declare, and fight for, our economic independence. It will be damn difficult; it will take time; we will see more failures than successes and it will seem so much easier to just give up. But if Los Alamos is to survive there is no other alternative.

19) The Young Guns

My parents moved here in 1952 because Dad had a job offer from the Lab. Not that he expected to. Mom and Dad lived in D.C. and Dad had seen this ad in the local paper for a drafting position somewhere in New Mexico, so he had applied for the job sort of as a lark mostly because he had always wanted to see The West and he figured if the prospective employer wanted to talk to him, they'd pay for the trip. They did, and he got to see The West. But he didn't really figure he'd get the job. See, Dad was 21, Mom was 20, I was 1, and nobody had been to college. Mom and Dad only had high school degrees. But he got the gig as a design draftsman and Mom, an artist, got a job at the Lab as a technical artist.

Think of that: you could actually land a job at The Lab which would estalish a career, pay well, allow you to raise a family here -- with no more than a high school education.

We are beginning to hear the mantra "grow our own". That could be fine, depending on what you are trying to grow. But the question has to be asked, "grow our own what?".

When I was in LAPS, I knew a lot of kids who were un-scientific and certainly not hard-wired for math. Now, the emphasis on academics and Go To College has always been pretty heavy here, but there were several offerings in practical arts. I took woodshop and drafting in junior high. In high school I took metal shop and two years of graphic arts -- with real honest to goodness printing presses and line copy photography. Other kids took electronics, home ec, and auto shop. What I learned in my practical arts classes I still use today. I also took history, civics, Latin, speech, band, chem, bio, along with the requisite 3 years of English (high school back then was 10 - 12). The only thing I learned in my one algebra class that I still use is the pythagorean theorem and that only to help my wife figure out triangle sizes for her quilting projects.

I hear tell its a bit different these days. Few electives, little in practical arts, and 4 years of math including Physics. I would never have graduated. The truth is that if you aren't a science type then the commencement speech you get is, "We've taught you everything we can, now go away."

So let's see - of 316 professional/business activities the mortality plan is to emphasize 16 that we already have plenty of, and ignore the 238 possible professional/business activities from which we could be expanding our economy. We aren't going to recruit non-science/tech types -- we're just going to "grow our own" whiz kids as more fodder for the Lab and Science City. We are going to keep our demographics exactly as they are now -- overpaid, overeducated, overwhite -- shove the non-science kids out the door and keep the non-science types in the wider world from coming in the door and somehow this will solve all our problems.

Reality check: More of the Same, Piled Higher and Deeper will only get you more of the same social - economic problems --- piled higher and deeper.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

18) What Los Alamos Really Needs

Okay, now for something a little tongue in cheek.......Warning! This is a bit risque and your children should not be reading this................ (I have edited out the somewhat more, ahem, descriptive parts :)

There is one business that Los Alamos needs more than any other. It is a business which will totally, radically, alter the social/cultural milieu and character of Los Alamos forever (or until it gets closed, which ever comes first). The following is a bit of "poetry" (blank verse, free verse, no verse, whatever, just get into the flow of the thing) that I wrote several years ago after an evening of poetry reading at a coffee house that was two blocks from where I lived in Palms -- in my bachelor days. I've been meaning to read it at a local poetry reading they have here, but......well......... (I'll do this in paragraph form with a / to indicate the line breaks)
"Polite Society"

I am a bit too old / and a bit too jaded / for this. / An evening of poetry. / Drinking exotic coffees. / Making polite conversation. / Eating French pastries / in a smoke-free environment / with oil stains hung on the wall / which reflect someone's vision / of something (I'm not sure what). / Surrounded by fresh young faces / with bright eyes / and glorious idealism. / On stage a lovely young lady / peaches and cream skin / lithe, nubile form / lilting voice / and sparkling eyes / which reflect a virginity / that is more than sexual. / Such sweet naivete / weaving fancies of utopian bliss / with callow cadence / decrying social failings / with ponderous pentameter. / Polite drawing room clap. / Burgeoning sophistication. / The Polite Society of Tomorrow. / Was I ever that young? / A callow dreamer / looking out from the window of a sheltered life / gushing of Love and Social Perfection / in torrents of verbiage / twisted into clever contrivances / finding "The Meaning of Life" / and calling it Poetry?

I need a damn cigarette / and a good Dive.

A smoke filled / dim lit / Dive. / A place where you can swagger / a place where you can brag / a place where you can forget / a place where you can get your throat cut. / Populated by denizens of shadows. / People who have stories to tell / and the good sense not to tell / who have walked down the back alleys / that polite society knows nothing of / and have moved through fog and dark / with grace, cunning, and daring / haunting the night / with haunted eyes. / Their voices, male and female / have a hard edge / reflecting the edge on which they live. / They do not discuss / "The Meaning of Life" / They live it.

The true netherworld. / With a stage in one corner / a stage with a woman. / A sleek stripper /..[edit]...../ whose sweat glistens / in all the right places. / There is something esoteric / in a stripper's sweat. /......[edit]............../ She gyrates in slow motion / to a raspy sax / the smoke in the room / providing her only veils.

A hidden Dive / with an alley door / and a pool table / in eyeshot of Salome. / A green felt playground / for the hard bitten / who wager their dollars / and souls / on the drop of the eight ball / under a harsh light / and the scent of Salome's sweet sweat. / Bump and grind and the clack of balls / a well turned form and a well turned cue / and eyes of hard steel ponder the possibilities/ .........[edit]...................

A dusky Dive. / A dark world / wherein hover the shades of poets / Milton, Dante, Poe, and Wilde. / But the only readings done here / are the backs of playing cards by sharps / or the fronts of tarot cards by gypsies / and the careful sizing up / of one's current company.
You get the drift. There's a bit more imagery "ivory on felt..... Salome on satin sheets..the pungency of alchohol, tobacco, and sweat......lonely walks, dark alleys, rising fog, heavy silence broken by a passing train or a cat in a trash can..... slipping into the night listening to the steady rhythm of souls echoing off pavement and the ebb and flow of traffic......." with a contrast to "Polite society, genteel sophistries cloyingly correct".

Maybe someday I will read it to the local poetry society -- without the edits. But for now,

Los Alamos needs a damn cigarette and a good Dive.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

17) I Have A Little List

If you check the instruction booklet for the Federal Taxes 1040 you will find a little list on page C9-11 of "principal business or professional activity codes" drawn from the North American Industry Classification System (NACIS). It is a listing of 20 sectors and professional/business codes by type within each sector. 316 codes. 316 principal businesses or professional activities by which people earn their living. If you are in business, you file a Sched C with your tax form and on that Sched you write in the code which best fits your principal business/professional activity. Some of these we have here in Los Alamos, many we do not -- some are well represented here (good), others are under-represented (fair) or not represented at all (poor). Let’s go through The List and see what’s missing..................oh, and a little imagination here will go a long way. Too bad imagination is the one thing in which Los Alamos really seems to be short supply. It ain't called the Myopia Statement for nothin'.

Of the 20 sectors we are good in 5, fair in 8, and poor in 6 with 1 non-applicable. Of the 316 professional/business activities we are good in 80, fair in 85, and poor in 153 with 18 non-applicable. Combined, we have growth potential in 238 professional/business activity codes and 14 industry categories.

The Economic Mortality Plan lists 15 professional/business activities in 4 sectors that it is believed we should be recruiting -- these 4 being what we already do well. Of those, 0 come from non-represented activities. Go figure........

Remember: each professional/business activity listing which is either under-represented or not represented in Los Alamos is opportunity for economic expansion. I have highlighted the activities in which we do well in green, those where we do something but could do more in blue, and the activities where we have nothing or next to nothing in red (sector headings are in bold and appropriately colored). This is a long list, but if we really want to do something to expand the Los Alamos economy we need to know this.

I) Accommodation, Food Services, and Drinking Places -- Accommodations: There are three codes, 1 of which, "Traveler accommodations" we have to some degree. What we don’t have is "RV Parks and recreation camps" and "Rooming and boarding houses". My step-daughter came for a visit a while back and had thought we would have a resort of some sort with little cabins and cottages. We don’t. We could, but we don’t. There are all manner of forms of accommodations we don’t have. A little imagination.
--- Food Services and Drinking Places: there are 4 listed which we have to some degree. But think of all the different types of establishments you’ve ever visited – go through your own list and think what’s missing (mine includes a decent deli).
II) Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services -- 18 codes. We are good in every activity, with the exception of "convention and trade show organizers". As we establish/develop other activities in which we are lacking, this category will grow.
III) Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting, and Fishing – 7 codes. "Animal Production - including breeding cats and dogs". We don’t do that – husbandry is not our thing. But it could be -- we have an apiary, what else could be done? "Fishing" – nope, Reservoirs are too silted up for that. "Forestry and logging (including forest nurseries and timber tracts)" Okay, Logging and Timber is not really all that likely in the County, but a tree nursery is something that could be done. "Hunting and trapping" – nope, other than catching tadpoles and mudpuppies. "Support Activities for animal production (including farriers)" We have a bit of that, we could do more. "Support activities for crop production" Well we don’t produce crops. "Support activities for forestry". Why not?
IV) Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation -- 9 codes. "Amusement Parks and Arcades". "Gambling industries". "Other amusement & recreation services (including golf, skiing, marinas, fitness centers, bowling, skating, miniature golf). "Agents and managers for artists, athletes, entertainers, and other public figures". "Museums, historical sites, & similar institutions". "Independent artists, writers & performers" -- we're good on this, we just don't have anything that would help them make a living at it. "Performing arts companies". "Promoters of performing arts, sports and similar events". "Spectator sports (including professional sports clubs & racetrack operations)"
V) Construction of Buildings -- 25 codes. "Non-residential building construction". "Residential building construction". "Highway, street, & bridge construction". "Land subdivision". "Utility system construction". "Other heavy & civil engineering construction". "Drywall & insulation contractors". "Electrical contractors". "Finish carpentry contractors". "Glass and glazing contractors". "Masonry contractors". "Painting & wall covering contractors". "Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors". "Poured concrete foundation & foundation contractors". "Roofing contractors". "Siding contractors". "Site preparation contractors". "Structural steel & precast concrete construction contractors". "Tile & terrazo contractors". "Other building equipment contractors". "Other building finishing contractors". "Other foundation, structure & building exterior contractors". "All other specialty trade contractors". I have highlighted the entirety in blue -- to the best of my knowledge we have some of everything. We could do better in some areas. We could certainly do better in helping these folks find business beyond the County Line.
VI) Education Services (including schools, colleges, and universities). 1 code. We do okay on this, but there are possibilities for private schools which we have not explored -- for instance a conservatory for music and the arts.
VII) Finance & Insurance -- 11 codes. Oddly enough, we are good on this in each activity. As we establish/develop other activities this category will grow.
VIII) Health Care and Social Assistance -- 19 codes. We are good in each activity.
IX) Information -- 7 codes. "Publishing industries (except internet)". "Broadcasting (except internet)". Telecommunications & Internet service providers". "Data processing, hosting, and related services". "Other information services (including news syndicates & libraries, Internet publishing & broadcasting)". "Motion picture & video industries (except video rental)". "Sound recording industries".
X) Manufacturing -- 42 codes. Before anyone gets crazy here, there are certainly some things we simply can't do because of the requirements for large plant facilities or resources. But much of this we could be doing in smaller proportion thereby adding to the over-all diversity of our economic base. And there is nothing that says that the company headquarters can't be located here with the actual production facilities elsewhere. The goal here is to at least do some portion of the activities as opposed to absolutely none. "Apparel mfg". "Beverage & tobacco mfg". "Computer & electronic mfg". "Electrical equipment, appliance, and component mfg". "Fabricated metal product mfg". "Furniture and related mfg". "Machinery mfg". "Medical equipment & supplies mfg". "Paper mfg". "Primary metal mfg". ""Petroleum & coal products mfg". "Plastics & rubber products mfg". "Printing & related support activities". "Textile mills" (never gonna happen). "Textile product mills" (never gonna happen). "Transportation equipment mfg". "Wood products mfg". "Other misc mfg". "Basic chemical mfg". "Paint, coating & adhesive mfg". "Pesticide, fertilizer, & other ag chem mfg". "Pharmaceutical & medicine mfg" (Caldera). "Resin, synth rubber & artificial fibers & filaments mfg". "Soap, cleaning compound & toilet prep mfg". "Animal food mfg". "Bakeries and tortilla mfg". "Dairy product mfg". "Fruit and vegetable preserving & specialty food mfg". "Grain & oilseed milling". "Animal slaughtering and processing". "Seafood product preparation & pkg" (never gonna happen). "Sugar & confectionary product mfg". "Other food mfg (including coffee, tea, flavorings, and seasonings)". "Footwear mfg (including leather, rubber, and plastics)". "Leather & hide tanning & finishing". "Other leather & allied product mfg". "Cement and concrete product mfg". "Clay product & refractory mfg". "Glass & glass product mfg". "Lime & gypsum product mfg". "Other nonmetallic mineral product mfg".
XI) Mining -- 5 codes. We don't have the resources, but here's the list. "Coal mining". "Metal ore mining". "Nonmetallic mineral mining & quarrying". "Oil & gas extraction". "Support activities for mining".
XII) Other Services -- 22 codes. "Barber shops". "Beauty salons". "Cemetaries & crematoriums". "Coin-operated laundries & dry cleaners". "Drycleaning and laundry services". "Funeral homes & funeral services". "Linen & uniform supply". "Nail salons". "Parking lots and garages". "Pet care (except vet)". "Photofinishing". "Other personal care". "All other personal services". "Automotive body, paint, interior & glass repair". "Automotive mechanical & electrical repair & mtc". "Other automotive repair & mtce". "Commercial & industrial machinery and equip repair & mtce". "Electronic & precision equip repair and mtce". "Footwear & leathergoods repair". "Home & garden equip & appliance repair & mtce". "Reupholstery & furniture repair". "Other personal & household goods repair & mtce."

XIII) Professional, Scientific, & Technical Services -- 23 codes. "Legal services". "Certified Public Accountants". "Payroll services". "Tax prep services". "Other accounting services". "Architectural services". "Building inspection services". "Drafting services". "Engineering services". "Geophysical surveying and mapping services". "Landscape architecture services". "Surveying and mapping (except geophysical) services". "Testing laboratories". "Computer systems design & related services". "Specialized design services (including interior, industrial, graphic, & fashion design)". "Advertising & related services". "Management, scientific, & technical consulting services". "Market research & public opinion polling". "Photographic services". "Scientific research & development services". "Translation & interpretation services". "Veterinary services". "All other professional, scientific, & technical services".
XIV) Real Estate & Rental & Leasing -- 12 codes. "Lessors of real estate". "Real estate agents and brokers". "Real estate appraisers". "Real estate property managers". "Other activities related to real estate". "Automotive equipment rental & leasing". "Commercial & industrial machinery & equipment rental and leasing". "Consumer electronics & appliance rental". "Formal wear & costume rental". "General rental centers". "Video tape & disc rental". "Other consumer goods rental".
XV) Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional & Similar Organizations -- 1 code.
XVI) Transportation & Warehousing -- 17 codes. "Air Transportation". "Charter bus industry". "General freight trucking, local". "General freight trucking, long haul". "Interurban & rural bus transportation". "Pipeline transportation" (n/a). "Rail transportation". "Scenic and sightseeing transportation". "School & employee bus transportation" (n/a -- remember, this is a list of private companies). "Specialized freight trucking (including household moving vans)". "Taxi and limo service". "Urban transit systems" (n/a). "Water transportation" (n/a). "Other transit & ground passenger transportation". "Support activities for transportation (including towing)". "Couriers and messengers". "Warehousing and storage (except leases of miniwarehouses & self-storage)".
XVII) Utilities - 1 code. This is tricky -- DUP is semi-public.
XVIII) Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents & Brokers -- 2 codes. "Business to business electronics markets". "Wholesale trade agents & brokers".
XIX) Wholesale Trade -- 27. Remember: we are talking wholesale here, not retail. "Electrical & electronic goods". "Furniture & home furnishing". "Hardware & plumbing & heating equipment & supplies". "Jewelry, watch, precious stone & precious metals". "Lumber & other construction materials". "Machinery, equipment & supplies". "Metal & mineral (except petroleum)". "Motor vehicle & motor vehicle parts & supplies". "Professional & commercial equip and supplies". "Recyclable materials". "Sporting & recreational goods & supplies". "Toy & hobby goods & supplies". "Other misc durable goods". "Apparel, piece goods, & notions". "Beer, wine & distilled alcholic beverages". "Books, periodicals, and newspapers". "Chemical & allied products". "Drugs & druggists sundries". "Farm product raw materials" (n/a). "Farm supplies" (n/a). "Flower, nursery stock & florists supplies". "Grocery & related products". "Paint, varnish & supplies". "Paper & paper products". "Petroleum & petroleum products" (n/a). "Tobacco & tobacco products" (n/a). "Other misc non-durable goods".
XX) Retail Trade -- 60 codes. "Hardware stores". "Home centers". "Lawn & garden equip & supplies". "Paint & wallpaper stores". "Other building material dealers". "Children's & infants clothing stores". "Clothing accessories stores". "Family clothing stores". "Jewelry stores". "Luggage & leather goods stores". "Men's clothing stores". "Shoe stores". "Women's clothing stores". "Other clothing stores". "Camera & photographic supply stores". "Computer & software stores". "Household appliance stores". "Radio, television, & other electronics stores". "Beer, wine & liquor stores". "Fish & seafood markets". "Fruit & vegetable markets". "Grocery (including supermarkets, & convenience without gas)". "Meat markets". "Other specialty food stores". "Furniture stores". "Home furnishings stores". "Gas stations (including convenience)". "General merchandise stores". "Cosmetics, beauty supplies & perfume stores". "Optical goods stores". "Pharmacies & drug stores". "Other health & personal care stores". "Automotive parts, accessories, and tire stores". "Boat dealers". "Motorcycle dealers". "New car dealers". "RV dealers". "Used car dealers". "All other motor vehicle dealers". "Book stores". "Hobby, toy & game stores". "Musical instrument & supply stores". "News dealers & news stands". "Pre-recorded tape, cd & record stores". "Sewing, needlework, and piece good stores". "Sporting goods stores". "Art dealers". "Florists". "Gift, novelty, & souvenier stores". "Mobile home dealers". "Office supply & stationary stores". "Pet & pet supplies stores". "Used merchandise stores". "All other misc stores (including tobacco, candle, and trophy shops)". "Electronic auctions". "Electronic shopping". "Fuel dealers". "Mail order houses". "Vending machine operators". "Other direct sales establishments)".

Heck of a list, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

16) The Tourists Guide to Los Alamos

When you go on vacation is it the highlight of your travel to see someone else's new Big Box, Shopping Center, Bank, Government Office Building (GOB) or Jail? When you go to a town that has some significance to the Nation's History do want to see the old town or the new? "Gee, honey, let's go to Williamsburg and see their new Wal-Mart -- Oh I don't know, I'd rather go to San Antonio, I hear they'be got a great new shopping center -- Well that sounds fine, we could actually see both and we could stop off in-between at Hannibal, Missouri where I hear they have a lovely new Jail commemorating some writer".

The towns of New England were founded during the Whaling Era and their architecture reflects that period. The towns of the Deep South were Slave Era and their buildings are of the period. The towns of the Southwest were the Spanish Colonial Era and their architecture retains that history.

Of course, whaling and slavery are both extremely politically incorrect these days, and the Indians certainly didn’t do well under Spanish colonialism. Maybe all the buildings that were built during those heinous times should be flattened in an effort to erase the foul history from the face of the planet. They can be replaced with modern buildings as if to say, "We once were pretty not nice people and did some pretty not nice things, but now we are new and different and good".

That isn’t going to happen for a simple reason: Tourists. Tourists go to historic places so they can step back into the pages of history and vicariously Live The Life Of The Day – without giving up small things like potties and MacDonald’s.

Los Alamos is a town of the Cold War Era, and era which is fading fast and whose population is aging and dying off at an increasing rate. Tourists come to Los Alamos to see what life was like in not just any Cold War Era town, but the town that was at the center of it all. They want to step back in the pages of history........................

Only Los Alamos keeps ripping out the pages.

Rather than be embarrassed by our Cold War Era roots, we should celebrate them. Someone said to me, "I don’t see how anyone could love an old barracks" (meaning the Concrete Caves). Well, tourists revel in that sort of stuff. We should be designing in up-graded versions of the Era, not flattening it. And wouldn’t the tourists get a kick seeing cars from the late 40's and early 50's running around town? If the old quonset is falling to pieces, why not replace it with a new one that has the modern amenities and old style design? You could turn it, and others, into a tourist trap par excellence. Statues are nice, but wouldn't it be cool to think that maybe...."hey, was that Oppenheimer that just went in the post office?" Markers in front of the building they mark are helpful, but markers in front of a building no longer there are simply gravestones leaving the tourists to scratch their head and say, "Gee, nice building, but if it was of such historic significance, why'd they get rid of it?"

Reality Check: We think we are getting a national historical park here. This would probably work better if there was something historical remaining................rather than something hysterical -- like touring the three most important places in town: The Lab where we make our money, The Bank where we stash our money, and The Jail where we put people who would take our money.

Monday, April 26, 2010

15) Of Rowboats

There’s a story of a fellow in his house and the flood waters are rising. He’s not worried because he knows God will save him. Along comes someone in a rowboat and offers a lift. Fellow says, no that’s okay, God will save me. Water gets up to the second story window. Along comes someone in a motor boat and offers a lift. Fellow says, no that’s okay, God will save me. Water just up to the eaves and our hero is standing on the roof. Along comes someone in a helicopter and offers a lift. No, that’s okay, God will save me. Next thing, the fellow is at St. Pete’s Gates asking how come God didn’t save him. The answer was, Well We sent you a rowboat, We sent you a motorboat, We sent you a helicopter, after that We figured you knew better than Us.

The policy for Los Alamos of an Urbanized Central Downtown Core with a Shopping Center at Trinity Place which has a Big Box is rather like that fellow in the flood who would accept nothing less than something miraculous and ignored the simpler solutions to the problem.

On June 24, 1967 at the dedication of the Municipal Building Los Alamos achieved its full independence – and the responsibility which attaches to independence. We had everything we needed to go forward. The town was fairly established with housing, roadways, utilities, and a variety of shopping. Following the historically normal developmental curve of any town, the next logical step would have been establishing small manufactures, trade and commerce beyond the county line, some level of tourism, and the beginning of population diversification. Many of these attempts would probably have failed since 80% of all start-ups fail in the first 5 years. But the ones that succeeded would have put down the roots necessary for future growth and expansion.

Of course, this didn’t happen, nor were any policies launched which would have encouraged this to happen. The capital formation of the 50's and 60's which should have been the basis for further growth and development was allowed to decline and now has been fully exhausted. Los Alamos, eschewing rowboats, looked for, and continues to look for, The Big Miracle.

It ain’t gonna happen.

What I am proposing is a simple rowboat policy. Go back to what actually worked and then go from there with small start-ups in all sectors of the economy which, over time, will put down roots for future growth and expansion.

Of course, folks in Los Alamos will have to actually get on board in the rowboat – and help pull the oars. Unless folks think themselves to be above climbing in a rowboat and, believing themselves to be The Chosen insist on waiting for The Big Miracle. For that, Los Alamos could drown – in a sea of red ink.

The flood is rising. Whatcha gonna do?

Monday, April 19, 2010

14) Whistlin' Past the Graveyard

Take a walk with me. Let's start at Central and 20th headed towards 4th. On the right the first business we come to that principally sells product is Bella Costa Flowers. Next to them is CB Fox. Across the street is Bennet's Jewelers. If we were to turn aside briefly an walk down the main drive way into the Central Park Square parking lot we would find one business that is product oriented, Pet Pangea. Oh well. Continuing down Central on the right we find Metzger's and Cookin in Style. As we cross 15th Otowi Station is on our left. Nothing else. Continuing on down on our right at Knecht and Central is Fidel's. After that we have to go all the way to MariMac where we find Smith's, Auto Zone, Beall's, Brownell's and Casa Mesita Thrift Shop -- oh and there is a small clothier. 16 blocks east-west, 4 blocks north-south and the total number of product based businesses is 14. In the area from 20th to 4th, Nectar to the north side of Trinity, there are 7 eateries, 5 banks, 1 hotel, 1 gas station, 2 bars, several engineering/tech firms, and a variety of service oriented businesses. But only 14 product oriented businesses. Think that through. And think this through as well -- how does a Big Box solve this? It would be store number 15. Only like as not Beall's or Fox would close as well as the little clothier, so we're no better off than before and possibly worse off.

In the very early war years all the Lab needed was a px, a commissary, and a motor pool. Well that's really all they need today. Lunch counters (commissary), a grocery (px), and auto repair/supply/gas (motor pool). Didn't we just describe the heathiest businesses of our rather moribund Consumer Goods and Services sector?

Reality Check: The Lab doesn't need Los Alamos. Without the security gates, it certainly doesn't need a resident labor pool -- as attested to by the fact of the commuters including the Lab Director. Nor is there anything Los Alamos can do to support the Lab that the Lab cannot provide for itself -- including Fire, Security, and Utils. Heck, all of Los Alamos could be flattened and the Plateau turned into one big Research Park. As far ast the Lab is concerned Los Alamos is irrelevent to the Lab.

Its about time Los Alamos take care of Los Alamos and find a reason to exist that has nothing to do with The Lab.

Friday, April 16, 2010

13) O Pioneers

In 1620 a small ship set out across The Atlantic with passengers intent on building new lives in an unknown land. In the late 1700's and early 1800's people moved inland from the settlements and towns of the Eastern seaboard intent on building new lives and establishing new settlements in untamed lands of the Louisiana Purchase. In the 1820's, responding to a recruiting effort by the Mexican government, people moved to the province of Texas to establish new lives and settlements. In the 1840's responding to the recruiting effort that was Manifest Destiny, people walked across a continent to build new lives and new settlements in unknown lands.

Would you have been one of these people? Would you have been willing to give up the comforts and conveniences of an established lifestyle to head out to parts unknown and risks unmeasured?

In 1947 a decision was made to turn a temporary military research base into a permanent facility and to build a town where none had previously existed. Advertisements were placed in newpapers across the country recruiting people from all walks of life to come to an unheard of place in a state that most people thought not to be part of the United States to help build and populate a town that did not actually exist. To do so, they gave up established lives of comfort and convenience for a very uncertain future.

Would you have been one of those people?

Just as the scientists at the Lab push the boundaries of knowledge and pioneer new areas of research, so, too, the people of Los Alamos have been those in whom prevail the pioneering spirit of courage, determination, and willingness to accept risk.

Los Alamos is not, nor has it ever been, a place suitable to everyone. Today, it still requires the same pioneering spirit that created the town in the first instance. To come to Los Alamos for the purpose of establishing a life and a business is a high risk venture. But such ventures can be successful.

14 years ago a young couple on their honeymoon happened to drive through Los Alamos. They fell in love with the place and when they returned to the big city they were from they decided they would move to Los Alamos. With their life savings, all their possesions, and an idea for a business they returned. Neither ever worked for The Lab, The County, The Hospital, or The School. There was no Job waiting for them. With little more than raw courage, determination, hard work, and a deep love of Los Alamos they have managed to build a successful business here. Today, this is a successful local business with 20% of its sales income generated from beyond the county line.

There are others -- the travel agency that does 90% of its business beyond the county line; the architectural firm which does a similar amount. Both of these were started by LAHS grads several years ago. And there are those who are just starting out -- Caldera Pharmaceuticals comes to mind -- whose efforts, commitment, determination, and resilience will pay off in time over time as they grow and expand to become a fixture of the Los Alamos economy.

These are the kind of people Los Alamos still needs. Los Alamos has sat on it fat assets for 40 years and those assets have dwindled. As in 1947, we will have to recruit like crazy. We need new store owners providing a variety of goods and services. We will need young entrepreneurs who will start enterprises in all sectors of the economy -- manufacture, trade, tourism, retail. We will need the professional, the tradesman, the craftsman, the artist, the shop-keeper; the independent, self-reliant spirits. We need to push outwards the limits of our own production possibilities frontier. In so doing, Los Alamos can become more self-reliant and self-contained sending the results of our own imagination and industry into the Wider World rather than just sucking in what the Wider World has to offer for the convenience of our sweet little selves.

Los Alamos will need patience and commitment to the long haul. From small nuts mighty ponderosas grow, but it takes time. Nor will Los Alamos ever be an urban/burban center of retail activity. There will always be a certain degree of "inconvenience" to living here just as there is in any small town. The general population will have to be cut from the same burlap.

Do you fit the profile? Or is Los Alamos simply a pit stop on your career path? Are you a builder and pioneer at heart willing to put more into Los Alamos than you get, or are you more interested in what you can get out of Los Alamos while you are stuck here?

The truth of Los Alamos is this: You really gotta love Los Alamos to live in Los Alamos and truly be happy in doing so.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

12) Down in The Valley

People will say, "how come dinky little Espanola has a big box and Los Alamos doesn't" -- in fact, Councilor Chiravalle asked this very question a couple of weeks ago. Well, let's see:

Espanola has a population of about 9,000. But Espanola is the largest town in Rio Arriba County which means it has a market population of over 35,000.

Espanola has a healthy and diversified Agriculture sector, Manufacture sector, Trade and Commerce sector, and Tourist sector. Espanola also has a more diversified demographic profile in all measures. These combine to give Espanola a healthy Retail sector.

Espanola has a major north south highway and is the Gateway to Northern New Mexico's wildlands and resorts.

Here's what Los Alamos has:

We have a market size of 18,000, no Agriculture, no Manufacture, no Trade, Tourism is a trickle, moribund Retail, no main highway to anywhere, and a demographic profile which is 70% or more High Education, High Income (relatively), and White.

Go from there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

11) ....and when the dust settles..........

Let's see........thus far we have 1) lopped the top off a mesa in order to build a complex in order to flatten another complex in order to build a shopping complex which may or may not get built and won't survive in any event; 2) flattened a historic landmark in order to put up an office building elsewhere which won't generate a dime on its own in order to create a "synergy" which is an illusion in order to "revitalize" a central downtown core which never existed in order to fullfill a Myopia Statement; 3) flattened affordable housing in order to accomplish (2) above in order to bring more workers closer to the non-existant downtown central core in order to support the shopping center in (1) above in order to build more affordable housing for the non-existant employees of same; 4) have plans to flatten the high school and replace it with something that looks very different in order to have something very different that doesn't look like it was built during the hated 50's and 60's in order to attract people who won't care and alienate people who do care; 5) ditto one of the last 2 remaining elementary schools.

Oh, and we have a new Economic Mortality Plan.

What results can we expect?

1) It is believed that Trinity will be successful because if not no developer would risk the investment. Reality Check: the developer won't be paying the rents and trying to sell goods and services. In the first 5 years, the center will do reasonably well simply because of the novelty -- this is the period in which the developer will see the highest return to investment and probably make back the intial expenditure. Over the next few years the novelty will wear off as people begin to figure out that the problem of functional demand - which is the minimum amount of demand required to have anything in supply at all - is still unresolved. They will still find that what they want is not available and they will still continue to shop off The Hill. As a result, the businesses paying the rents to the developer will begin to see sales decline and some will go out of business. These latter may be replaced by other businesses but over time businesses looking at the track record will be less likely to invest in a business in Los Alamos creating a increasing vacancy rate in the center which will further deter new businesses. During this period the profits to the developer will begin to slow, then level off, then decline into net loss. For a time the net loss will be made up for by the tax write off on the net loss until such time as the net loss is greater than the write off. That's when the developer will bail. Estimated time of total failure: 15 years.

2) It is believed that a Big Box will bring to Los Alamos many of the goods and services that are currently not available. Reality Check: Most Big Boxes will avoid Los Alamos like the plague; several have already said they will not be locating here. IF we can sucker a Big Box into coming to Los Alamos, the dynamics described in (1) above will take sway. The store will carry only what it can reasonably sell in a reasonable period of time (for perishables this is a quick turn-around) and people will still find they can't get what they wanted and expected. The continued consumer flight will reduce the size of the Big Box to a Small Box with marginal profits. The next time the national economy goes south, the under-producing Small Box will close. Estimated time of total failure: 10 years (the national economy seems to hit a serious recession every 10 years -- perhaps this has to do with solar flares).

3) It has been suggested that we can put a hotel/convention center on Central next to the Bank. Reality Check: the tourist sector of our economy is a trickle. Turning Los Alamos into a National Park won't boost this significantly enough to support the suggested development plus the new hotel at Entrada plus the hotel on Trinity. Well, maybe we can convert the thing into that affordable housing. Estimated time of failure: 5 years after opening.

4) It has been suggested that putting a Municipal Office Building on Central will increase economic activity. Reality Check: A Municipal Office Building doesn't earn a dime. A Municipal Office Building does not attract customers to surrounding businesses who otherwise wouldn't patronize those businesses -- this is particularly true in a small town. A Municipal Office Building retires otherwise potentially economically productive land resources from economic activity resulting in a net long-term (life of the building) loss in real and opportunity cost. Estimated time of failure: 30 seconds -- Estimated time for anyone to notice: 2 years or Never.

5) It has been suggested that by changing the "look" of Los Alamos to something "modern" and "not 50's and 60's" more people will move to Los Alamos thereby increasing local shopping and increasing local property and GRT revenues. Reality Check: You can't live in Los Alamos if you can't make a living here. Doesn't matter how pretty it is. Estimated time of policy failure: DOA.

6) It has been said that the Lab will essentially pay for all of the above. Reality Check: (and you ain't gonna like this one): The primary reason the Lab is located here is the level of security that geographic isolation provides to a nuclear weapons Lab. As nuclear weapons stocks continue to be negotiated downward and other really effective ways of killing people make nuclear weapons increasingly obsolete, the weapons component of Lab work will diminish. Non-weapons work can be done anywhere, and this will not escape the notice of Congressional types who would like to get a science plum for their district. Though the Lab is unlikely to close it will downsize. Estimated time: 10 - 15 years, depending entirely on Congress and The White House.

Note that the estimated time of failure for the entire Mortality Plan is just long enough for the people who most support the Mortality Plan to empty the nest, retire, and go elsewhere leaving those who are stupid enough to stay to clean up the mess. And the mess will be enormous with a staggering debt load in the 10 digit range. Revenues to County may spike in the short-term but over the 20 year period of the debt those revenues are likely to decrease. The County may well default at which time the State will have to take over (I've seen this happen elsewhere). In a somewhat extreme scenario, as part of a debt re-structuring, Los Alamos County may well be folded into Santa Fe County which has the economic where-withall to begin to pay some portion of that debt. Alternatively, the Federal Government might well be forced to take over the recievership and Los Alamos could once again become the Federal Preserve it once was.

Ultimate Reality Check: After all the Change what will have fundamentally changed will be Nothing.

Happily, there is an Alternative...........................

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

10) Ain't Modern Grand?

Los Alamos loves modern technology. Hey -- its what we do. The Economic Mortality Plan calls for More Science And Tech and high paying jobs. Loftiness abounds. I'm reminded of an episode of Star Trek with a city floating in the clouds. And, of course, this is Los Alamos -- a Shining City On The Hill casting its beacon out Illuminating Northern New Mexico and bringing Light where once there was Darkness.

Reality Check: Next time you flick your bic to light a smoke or the barbie remember this -- you are using flint and steel -- striking two rocks togther to make Fire. Now don't you feel a bit Neanderthal?

9) How To Kill A Town

As I've been meeting folks I've been hearing some interesting comments. One was, "I was thinking about this the other day........this just isn't the town I moved to. Almost everything is gone."

The Municipal Building, the Los Alamos version of Independence Hall since it was on the steps of that building during its dedication ceremony when the documents giving Los Alamos full independence from the AEC were signed -- is gone.

The County has been renting spaces for employees now for three years --- there was no plan to re-build before the bulldozers struck

More County employees have been made essentially homeless as the Annex has been emptied for demolition -- and still no plan nor civic consent and agreement.

Dollars in the 8 and 9 digit range have been spent thus far for a shopping center -- which failed once and still may never exist.

Even it is built, which is doubtful, it has no reliable future -- The Community Center, MariMac, and White Rock Village leap to mind.

The much vaunted "open space" created by the demolition of the Muni and which has been the reason, if reason it may be called, for abandoning the historic site of the Seat of Government is now one of many as the bulldozers roll on -- we are about to have plenty of open space -- and no town.

Trinity Place which passed by a narrow margin and only then because of being part of an omni-bus bill is likely to become -- Trinity Park.

The fire took out many of the older homes and many of those residents left --- permanently.

That itself was a blow to many local businesses who lost a loyal customer base, which takes years to build and which is the foundation of many a business -- and those businesses have closed.

The early store owners, and even their offspring, are now retiring or retired and no plan was ever in place to find new owners for these businesses -- they, too, have closed.

The policy of trying to build a central core downtown, which Los Alamos never had, has failed and more of the same piled higher and deeper won't change the fact -- Main Street is a driveway into a parking lot.

There are now fewer businesses in Los Alamos then ever before -- yet attempts at new start-ups are met with scorn.

People demand a Big Box, totally ignoring the fact that many such have already said no to Los Alamos, yet they will have nothing else -- which is precisely what they have: Nothing.

Politicians and The Powers That Be, refusing to admit that their policies have failed miserably, slog on -- headed for the cliff.

Against the above backdrop we still hear "Give us more shopping", "We want a Big Box", "The town is an eyesore", "it was only a temporary town", "it wasn't meant to be a real town", "The town is too military", "The town is something out of the 50's and 60's" (as if that is a bad thing and why should the town be made to pay the price for someone's angst about the 50's and 60's), "We want Modern" (which is always Antique 5 minutes after it exists - does it occur to anyone that with a little new wiring and plumbing even a 200 year old adobe can be modernized without flattening it; that indeed such is the case with the White House and the US Capitol and many other structures built long before what is Modern was even invented?) It all adds up to "We want it and we want it now".

If ever anyone wanted to kill a town from the inside, one need only look to Los Alamos for the recipe.

Reality Check: there came a time when the people of the city of Rome became enamoured of consumer goods and luxurient lifestyles and entertainments and cared more about what they got out of Rome than what they gave to her. As to her past, well that was passe -- it wasn't modern. It was once believed devoutly that as long as the Flame in the Temple of Vesta burned, Rome would endure. But the flame went out -- and was re-lit and no one blinked. The people of Rome abandoned Rome long before they actually moved out. So, in 422 a.d. when Alaric stood at the gates of Rome, she had but one legion to defend her. Betrayed by the people she had long protected and sheltered she turned and faced Alaric alone -- and alone she died. Her temples were looted and destroyed; her arts and knowledge were lost for generations.

Still other towns have suffered similar, though less stunning, fates. Walk through Tsankowi and ask yourself if this isn't a very real future for Los Alamos. Then ask yourself if you even care.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8) Some little known realities

In Los Alamos if you don't carry what is wanted then people go to SF or Abq to get what you don't have. Keep this in mind.

I have a music store, Hannemann Music, which retails musical instruments and supplies. Think of what you "expect" from a music store.

Reality Check: The popular brands of guitar are Gibson, Yamaha, Martin, and Taylor. In order to carry these brands each manufacturer has certain minimum requirements. You have to purchase between 50 - 100 units as a minimimum "buy-in" and then you have to continually purchase at least half as many per year in order to continue to carry the brand. You cannot return unsold items to the manufacturer simply because you didn't sell them. In order to meet the expectational demand of some Los Alamos consumers -- you know, the squeaky wheels mentioned in the previous -- I would have to purchase approximately 350 guitars up-front and then continue to purchase another 150 ish per year. Does anyone in their right mind actually believe I could sell that many?

It was suggested that over time I eventually begin to sell Yamaha instruments as well as Selmer. This will never happen. There is already a Yamaha dealer in Santa Fe. Yamaha doesn't care about the distance between Los Alamos and Santa Fe -- they care about market size. As far as Yamaha is concerned, a dealer in Los Alamos would be no different than a competing dealer across the street from the current dealer in SF. They would be competing for the same consumers in the same market with the same product and the total market -- which is pretty much all of Northern New Mexico, can't support 2 dealers. One would have to close.

Bottom Line: Manufacturers and distributors want dealers and outlets to succeed and so they are careful not to over saturate the market. Starbuck's is learning this lesson the hard way. They aren't closing stores because of the economy -- they started closing stores before the economy went south because they over-extended and over-saturated the market.

Los Alamos is not, nor can it ever be, Urban. The wannbe urbanization of Los Alamos will only result in Los Alamos as an Urban Wannabe Failure.

7) The Los Angelization of Los Alamos

I lived in Palms, Ca, a section of Los Angeles on the west side, for 20 ish years. Within a half-mile radius the following was available: -- 2 Ralph's (Kroger), 2 Albertson's, 1 Von's, 2 Traders, 3 Thrifty Drugs, 1 Long's Drugs, 4 Starbuck's, 1 Noah's Bagels, 1 Coldstone Creamery, 1 Baskin Robbins, 4 hardware stores, 1 Ross, 1 Office Max, 1 Kinko's, 1 PIP, 1 Staples............that is just a sampling. Cuisine choices included -- German, Thai, Vietnamese, various Chinese, Japanese, various Italian, various deli, various bakery/donut, Brazilian (and when they win the World Cup they do know how to party), Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Ethiopian, various vegetarian (there was a large Krisna Temple), Indian, and one really great pastrami stand run by a Chinese guy. There was a luthier, a store of musical instruments from India (and another with records and movies).

Sure wasn't Los Alamos.

Of course, within a half-mile radius there were over 150,000 people to support all that shopping. The cuisine available relected the people -- oh add Venezuela and Argentina to the mix.

Sure wasn't Los Alamos.

I lived 2 blocks from the major employer in the area -- Sony/Columbia/MGM studio complex, each of which brings in more money than the Lab could ever dream of.

Sure wasn't Los Alamos. And in what Nightmare Fantasy could Los Alamos ever begin to even approach a neighborhood of that amount of diversity and size?

Yet this is precisely the lifestyle that many people in Los Alamos are complaing they want and can't get and either don't understand why they can't it, or are in such desperately deep denial that they simply refuse to get it. To them, Los Alamos is a podunk nothing -- conveniently ignoring the fact that they couldn't get a job in Podunck if their lives depended on it. But they are the squeaky wheel and expect a lot of grease. Unfortunately, County seems determined to grease a wheel that no amount grease will satisfy.

The Plan is simple -- centralize Downtown Los Alamos into an Office Park surrounded by a Shopping Plaza. This requires eliminating any competition from neighborhood shopping of almost any kind. It requires giving people no option other than to Shop Downtown -- or go elsewhere.

Reality Check: Target has already said No to Los Alamos. We don't fit the market profile. Ditto K-Mart, Traders, Whole Foods. Walgreens is an iffy maybe. Los Alamos is geographically, economically, and socially isolated. Though the population within a 40 mile radius is said to be 215,000, there are no out-lying smaller markets that can be captured. The actual market size of Los Alamos is the population of Los Alamos. Commuters don't count since most people do thier principal shopping close to home. Commuters from SF certainly don't count since they have more available to them where they live than is available where the work.

Los Alamos is not, nor can it ever be, Urban. The wannbe urbanization of Los Alamos will only result in Los Alamos as an Urban Wannabe Failure.

Monday, April 5, 2010

6) The Neighborhood

Oncemponcem time Los Alamos was a congenial little town of neighborhoods -- Eastern Community/Downtown, Western Community, and Northern Community. Each had its own shopping "center" with a market, pharmacy/general merchandise, and full auto service -- food, drugs, miscellaneous, and transportation, all the neccessities of Life. Each also had its own elementary school - Canyon (Eastern/Downtown) and Mesa (Western). Northern Community was the largest so it had 3 : Aspen served the section south of Diamond, Mountain served the section west and north of Diamond from Sycamore to 38th, and Pajarito served the north side of Diamond from 38th to Club Rd.

This worked out pretty well -- it created a cohesion of social community within the neighborhoods, strengthening bonds of friendship and familiarty. Your social life revolved around where you lived, not where you worked.

The community cohesion was a layered hierarchy from the ground up:
First, and the primary foundational layer, was the street on which you lived. These were the folks you knew best and the kids your kids played with most often.
Second came the elementary school neighborhood. These were the folks your kids went to school with -- you knew them through PTA, and various school events. When your kids were old enough for The Bike, their circle of friends grew and your circle of social network grew.
Third came the shopping neighborhood. These were the folks you were most likely to see on at least a weekly basis.
Fourth, was the Town. You couldn't get everything you wanted in your local center. Downtown was principally those businesses which carried Everything Else.
Fifth was Entertainment/Recreation. This was scattered all over town. The Movie Theater was in Downtown, the Civic Auditorium was in Western Community, the Golf Course was
in Northern Community. Restaurants and diners could be found in every Community.
Sixth was the broadest layer: The Fairgrounds on North Mesa, the Reservoir, Sawyers Hill, Pajarito Mountain, and Camp May.

This layered approach, each layer being the foundation for the next, building a cohesive community, was mirrored in the lives of the children.

Kids transported themselves to school - a habit begun at an early age which continued on thereby creating increasing levels of independence and responsibility as they got older. At the youngest age, when Mommy and Daddy pretty much provided your every need, you walked to school until you were old enough for The Bike -- for which you actually needed a license proving that you knew the basic rules of the road and safety and without which you were confined to the sidewalk. Obtaining that license was a rite of passage -- you were old enough, and responsible enough, to ride in the street Then you rode your bike to school, to the store, to everywhere. You were also now old enough to start earning the money for some of your interests - money for Bike maintenance and accessories (a major component of your young budget), for Mother's Day gifts (from the local drugstore), for fishing accessories when you rode your bike to the Reservoir, for the special matinee at the movie, for snacks and other miscellaneous. You started finding a variety of ways to earn that money -- lemonade stands, home grown circuses, helping out the old folks in the neighborhood with gardening needs -- until you were old enough for The Car. Now you really could go every where and you also had to pay for it -- which usually took some kind of part-time job. Yes, kids actually had jobs and actually worked for their spending money -- imagine that.

These layers of social interaction and responsibility created a cohesive community which had absolutely nothing to do with, and was totally separate from, The Lab. The Lab was merely where you worked. Los Alamos was where you Lived, Played, Socialized. But as mentioned before, the point of The Independence of Los Alamos was to create an independent Los Alamos.

Reality Check: The best way to totally and radically alter a society is to undermine the society as it is by un-doing its foundations. This is akin to flattening buildings for the purpose of "re-development" only on a much more fundamental and socially insidious level.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

5) A Word About Earthquakes

There seems to be some concern about really BIG earthquakes. Let's see, last time we had one it opened the Rift through which runneth the Rio. That was a few years ago...........

I spect this has something to do with California escapees, mostly the Hollywood crowd, who, leaving it all behind them and taking it all with them, most particularly imported The Fear Of Tara Jello.

I've been through a quake or two -- Northridge leaps to mind. One of the things that is most noticeable about quakes in recent memory in the US is that most of the casualties are Heart-attacks "MY GOD ITS AN EARTH QUAKE! I'M GONNA DIE!!!!". This is a self-fullfilling prophecy. The thing is if you keep your head, and don't hang heavy stuff on the walls over your head, then it is simply a matter of riding it out. You, can, of course, be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but you have a better chance of being there for a normal car "accident" (most of which are not accidents, they are just plain stupidity).

But, there is our Friend To The West. The "thinking" (for lack of a better word) is that if Our Friend To The West wakes up its gonna be one big earthquake.

Reality Check: Folks, if Our Friend To The West wakes up, the quake won't matter because we are sitting on the lava flow.

People do stupid things for stupid reasons -- like flattening historic landmarks for fear of an earthquake.

Friday, April 2, 2010

4) Adults are crazy

There is a Beatles tune, "In My Life", with the following lyric, "There are places I remember in my life, and some have changed/ Some forever, not for better..............." Los Alamos has changed, and not neccesarily for the better.

Take the matter of housing. Before Los Alamos Independence, everyone lived in government housing -- my family was in a Group 11 duplex on the Aspen side of 35th (I'm now in a G-11 on the Aspen side of 36th -- weird how that works out). My parents had high school degrees. Others had a range of education from h.s. to phd. But you couldn't tell by the housing. Nor could you tell what someone did or how much money they made. You couldn't use your house to "make a statement". What I learned from this was a job was a job no matter what that job was -- no one is more important than anyone else; no one is less important than anyone else. A house was a house, a neighborhood was a neighborhood and what was important about people was who they were, not who they thought they were.

Now -- well its a bit different. Its an adult thing.

Los Alamos was decidedly planned for children, childhood, and families. The yards were large. You could put in a swing set, sand box, picnic table and still have room for all manner of activities. Families would have backyard picnics with friends and neighbors. The play possibilities were endless. Summer evening games of hide and seek encompassed pretty much the entire street and every hiding place in every yard was fair game, while the grown-ups sat on the front porch late into the evening and quietly chatted. Croquet, badminton, and other such games were regular because there was enough space. Then there was The Sled Run. It started at the top of the hill in my backyard -- down the hill, across the flat, through the gate into the front yard, across the flat, down the front hill, across the street, down the front hill in Kenny's front yard, across the flat, through the gate, across the flat in the backyard, down the hill, through the back gate into the woodland area twixt 35th and 34th/Walnut. Of course, during the summer The Sled Run was The Wagon Run.

I've always felt sorry for kids in urban/burban areas, growing up in apartments or those zero-limit lot neighborhoods with lots the size of a postage stamp overwhelmed by houses that engulf the entire lot. You know, like Broadview and Quemazon. Areas that were developed by developers with the goal of stashing as many people into a square inch as possible so as to make as much money as possible. Recently a local developer suggested that Northern Community be re-zoned to allow purchasing the government housing, flattening it, and building more of the same kind of stuff. The case presented was that the yards represent wasted space. Only an adult would think of this -- adult thinking for adult interests and to heck with the kids. After all, they can play in the play lots or at the schools. And of course there are the canyons, woodlands and, mountains. They don't need yards. Well, its tough to be a developer here. The only way you can develop anything is to flatten something.

Please to note: one of the reasons given to not re-build the historic Municipal Building on its historic site at the Pond is "open space". The adults want open space. They don't want their kids to have it, but they do want it for themselves. So they can be "social". They can't be social in their neighborhoods, on their streets with their neighbors so they need a NYC style "central park". Go figure.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

3) Growing Up Los Alamos

In the 50's, 60's, and 70's growing up in Los Alamos was a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn childhood adventure which stiumlated curiosity, imagination, and learning. It would certainly seem that Los Alamos was intended to be for children.

There were caves of all manner and size to be explored. Often these explorations turned up artifacts of earlier cultures and one could easily imagine living in those ancient times. Holding a pot, or an arrow point gave you an odd sense of being somehow close to the people who made them; you could almost hear their voices still speaking, telling you of their ways and lives. History, and its off-shoots of anthropology and archaeology, became interesting and you would be in the school library or Mesa library reading everything you could get your hands on about these people of long ago.

There were cliffs and mountains to be climbed and the intrepid young adventurer found it easy to imagine climbing the great mountains of the world. Back to the library to read everything you could find about mountaineering.

Wildlife abounded. I recall one day sitting in a shady nook of a cliff side in the upper reaches of Walnut Canyon, and suddenly four deer leaped down, passing over my head and then sauntering off through the brush further into the canyon. Pools in canyon streams teemed with tadpoles (who never lived to become frogs -- like the mudpuppies of Ashley Pond they went home with the young wildlife biologist). If you sat really still, all manner of birds and small creatures would decide you were harmless and go about their business within just a few feet of you. Off to the library to read everything you could find on wildlife biology.

There were trees to be climbed and if you climbed enough of them you started to notice they way in which they grew and the birds and bugs they supported. Back to the library to read everything you could find on forestry, ecology, and the life of trees.

And you always had snacks. Berries, wild onions, fruits and other edible plants abounded. The hungry young herbologist was off to the library to read everything to be found on Natures' Larder. This explains why a lot of kids weren't hungry come supper time -- it wasn't from raiding the cookie jar. At least we were eating all-natural healthy snacks, long before that became an adult fad, and sometimes doing so to the chagrin of local gardeners who added a variety of vegetables to the snack diet. And it could all be washed down with a drink from a cold mountain stream which was chock full of the kinds of minerals that are usually pretty good for you and are usually banned from public drinking supplies.

Of course, the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn lifestyle is Dangerous, caves are Dirty and have Mouse Droppings which carry Disease, finding artifacts is Politically Incorrect as is bringing home tadpoles and mudpuppies as pets. Food is supposed to come from a store which is 100% bacteria-free. And as for the water -- did you know, that the water of Los Alamos had a natural flouride content that was 10% higher than almost anywhere else? Yet adults have banned flouride from drinking water for fear that it is a carcinogen (in enough quantity, what isn't).

Actually, come to think of it adults are pretty much fearful and disapproving of all the stuff that makes childhood so wonderous. Adults are crazy.