Day Tripping

Acoma Pueblo sits atop a 367 foot sandstone bluff in high desert of New Mexico. Magical doesn’t really begin to describe what it is like to walk on land that people have been walking on since the 1100s.
Our guide (who you see in this photo– he kept backing into my viewfinder) was a charming young man who usually coordinates the tours but they were shorthanded so he pitched in. He kept having to look at his notes and seemed a little embarrassed, but he was very nice.

I can’t imagine people looking at this desert land and thinking it was a good place to build. It’s a harsh land. Heat in the summer, snow in winter, limited water. And yet, these pueblos are a testament to man’s ingenuity, and strength to not only live, but thrive in such a landscape.

Rather than take the bus down, Cassie and I opted to walk down. Yes, we could have taken the road… but didn’t realize until we were half way down the “path” that it was closer to rock climbing (down) than walking.
Here’s Cassie, leading the way. Me, I’m taking my time. Scooting on my butt when I have to, and I have a death grip on the handholds in the sandstone bluffs.
I stopped to look up and took this picture. It really doesn’t look as scary as it was.
The dark part in the center of the cliff is the “path” we took down.

I kept teasing Cassie, “Who’s idea was this anyway?” (it was Cassie’s but truth be told, I said, “Sure, let’s walk down.” I wanted to take pictures. Oh the sacrifices I make for my art!

You can see all my photos here:

Academic Conference Crashing 101

Today I did something very bold, though for many of you the tale I am about to tell will seem rather tame. (I just love alliteration) 

I’m taking a course, Contemporary Literature and Film of the Southwest.  It’s a great class. The teacher is so enthusiastic about the works we read and the films we see that even though they are not the genre I would generally be attracted to, I find myself wanting to explore them.  (Westerns being one example).  And while viewing what I generally consider  “entertainment” (films) through a socio-political lens, and trying to ascribe deeper layers of meaning is intellectually challenging for me, I’m finding it rather stimulating.  (Example, Gary Cooper’s High Noon was really about /was a statement against McCarthyism).  This kind of thinking is really putting my brain through some serious aerobic exercise.  And I like it.  I may not be good at it yet, but I like.  

The class has both graduate and undergraduate students, and as a graduate, our requirements for the class are different.  In fact, being a graduate student is different (more on that later).  In this class a large portion of our grade will be determined by a conference paper that we will write.  The topic, entirely our own choosing.  We are required to submit an abstract to a conference, and of course write the actual paper…  and if the abstract is accepted, potentially present the paper at an academic conference.  (eeek!)

I had no idea what a conference paper was, making the assignment very intimidating.  Once I wrapped my head around the concept, I had an idea to write about Blogs as the New Regionalism.  To make a long story short, the more I looked a blogs, the less foundation I felt I had to make such a case.  

With some guidance from the professor, I’m going in a new direction, and he suggested I check out this conference session at the American Studies Association:

Histories of the Dust Heap: Waste, Material Cultures, Social Justice, which included a presentation by Stephanie Foote, “Enviroblogging: Green Spaces in the Virtual World.”

While the topic is not exactly relevant to my paper, I decided to check it out.  

Fact:  I am not a member of the American Studies Association

Fact:  I am not really sure what “American Studies” is

Fact:  I’ve never been to an academic conference

Fact:  I was not registered for the conference

Fact:  I have never crashed a party in my life.

The conference was taking place a mere 2 miles from my house, I decided to go for it.  First I had a fashion crisis–  I wanted to look like I belonged.  The first two pairs of pants I tried on were too tight (damn, I thought with all the walking I’ve been doing I’d lost some weight).  The third pair fit just right.  Basic black dress pants.  I added a black and white striped button-down blouse for a business casual but not too chic look.  These are academics, afterall.  (no slam against academics, but they are not known fashionistas–  too busy thinking about bigger issues I think).

And off I went.  The conference center is where the David Byrne concert was held (he’s a musical genius, you know) so I knew where I was going.  I even parked at the Double Tree Hotel right next door.  I arrived at the conference center with seconds to spare….  actually by the time I found the room, they had already started. A quick check of the map and determined stride and I must have looked like I belonged.  No one questioned me except to ask where the West side rooms were. 

And so now I know what a conference paper is, I took some notes of some big words I can use in my paper, and I have a pretty good idea of what is expected as far as “presenting” the paper should mine be accepted.  

And I have crashed my first party.  (does it count that it was an academic conference?)

Bonus:  the parking attendant at the Double Tree must have been on break, I got to park for free ($5 savings, good for one burrito at The Fronteir)

Note:  The David Byrne Concert was awesome. His new music rocks. His dancers were phenomenal.  The lighting sublime.  The old music with a slightly updated remix was fun.  If he tours in your direction I encourage you to go.  Well worth the time and money.

How Low Can You Go?

No, this is not a post about McCain’s “that one” remark, or his refusal to shake hands….

It’s about gas prices in Albuquerque.

Not sure what prices are like at the gas stations in my old stomping grounds of San Diego— when I left in July they were nearing $4 per gallon. At Costco!

Things are sure different here:

Drivers line up for cheap gas

People in New Mexico and around the country are getting a break at the pump as oil prices plummet.

The average price of gas in Albuquerque hasn’t been at $2.85 for about a year. That’s why the Phillip’s 66 at Lowes in northwest Albuquerque is jam packed with people trying to save a few bucks.

People haven’t been this happy around a gas station for a long time.


Of course the median income in New Mexico is something like $34,000/year

Hot Time in the City: The post about Chiles

Red Ristra RowThere’s a certain smell in the air. It’s Fall in New Mexico and everyone is in a big hurry to roast up all the chile peppers… they freeze them to use year ’round.

Today I stopped by a chile stand in Albuquerque that I had seen earlier in the week, and picked up a couple of ristras (photos, left) to hang on the front of my house. I’ll need to install some brackets to hang them, so it will be a while before I get those pictures posted. Although the chiles are in fact edible, chile ristras are very often used decoratively, especially hanging at the entrance of your home to welcome visitors. I posted a few more pictures from my Saturday chile excursion outing online, check ’em out if you like.

New Mexico leads the nation in production of chiles, and New Mexicans take their chiles seriously. It’s even the state question: Red or Green? if your ask for Christmas you’ll get half and half– a nice way to try both.

New Mexicans also have fun with their chiles… check out this video report from the State Fair:{articleID:”8326″,bannerAdWidth:”300″,bannerAdHeight:”60″,autoPlay:”false”,slideShow:”false”,playerInstanceID:”6E68EC0F-99BA-7874-34DF-5F11200832D1″,domain:””});

I did a bad bad thing

Starting in January 2006 I started blogging for It was a community blog run by my dear friend Joe Crawford (one of the smartest guys I know). I blogged off and on for almost 2 years. The ads he had running on the site pretty much paid for hosting– his hope was that if it ever started to make money he would construct some sort of profit sharing, but it hadn’t come to that yet. No forms were signed, just kind of a internet hand-shake.

Joe, being the smart guy that he is, sold the blog. It was the wise thing to do. He had moved to Simi Valley with his lovely Leah Peah (another dear friend) and wanted to focus his energies on his new life up north.

Unfortunately he sold it to a guy that (1) has cluttered up the site with ads; (2) never ever emailed me (or any of the other regular or occasional bloggers that I am aware of) to introduce himself or to ask me (or any of us) to continue writing -or not and (3) there’s no info about him or about the site on the site– a personal pet peeve of mine especially if this is a business, which clearly it is.

And so my words are making him money (keyword based ad revenue). It ticks me off every time I get a notification of a comment– usually a SPAM comment– on one of my old posts. (Note I have not contributed to the blog since October 2007).

SO, since I can’t delete even my own posts, I edited them all…. they are now blank. Nothing more than empty (keyword free) space under some pretty catchy titles (if I do say so myself). Note my personal favorite title was “Oooo eeee” (for you Justin Wilson Cajun’ Cook Fans) to announce a Cajun Music and Food Fest taking place in San Diego.

My most commented post ever (47, baby) was “Wake Up San Diego”

Your city planners are trying to enact an Oversize Vehicle Ordinance (OVO) that will affect ALL citizens of San Diego. ALL vehicles over 7 feet high and or over 22 feet long, ALL utility trailers, and ALL recreational vehicles would be prohibited from overnight parking on city streets. Recreational vehicles, as defined, could park overnight up to 72 times per year only with a valid permit issued by the city. The San Diego business community will be drastically affected as the OVO includes street parking in industrial areas.

Note to any potential commenters on this issue, it is dead, decided, and I no longer live in or near San Diego so it’s not my issue anymore.

My personal favorite post was “Is San Diego a Literary / Artistic Wasteland”

Maybe I’m just naive. Maybe I just like Rich Baiocco. And maybe, just maybe, San Diego does have an arts community… and maybe, just maybe you have to open your eyes and look around. It’s there. Like Winter in San Diego its subtle, but it’s there.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out the interview with UCSD’s Lit professor / poet Eileen Myles (she’s ready to move to LA because San Diego isn’t gritty hip enough for her):

Alone in San Diego: Gritty New York poet Eileen Myles struggles with life and work in a shiny, happy city by Emma Silvers

and local writer Rich Baiocco’s response via BlogSanDiego, I, Necrophiliac

So, SanDiegoBlog readers…. you know where I stand, so I put it to you. Is there art in San Diego? Can you be an on the edge, over the edge, standing on the ledge artist in San Diego?

That one didn’t draw as many comments –only 8– but it did get picked up by The Reader. And I got paid for it!

So all in all I don’t regret the time and words I spent at San Diego Blog, but it really would have been nice if the new owner had made some sort of effort to either keep the community going, or let us know what his plans were for the blog….

So, instead of taking Joe’s advice, “You might even offer up constructive criticism of the site to him, rather than go in with guns blazing,” I just deleted all my words, killed my darlings as it were…..
I am now free to be ABQ aging beauty bloggeras noted on the tags (see right column) of this very blog…. or participate more on Duke City Fix — a true community blog / social network site for people that dig life in Albuquerque… or, hey, do my homework! write my book! (grad school update coming up next)

or do another bad bad thing….

Life in the Duke City

I don’t know how it got to be so long between posts.

Hmm. that’s a lie. I spent the latter part of June and the beginning of July packing. Then I moved. And I am still unpacking, or rather trying to figure out where things belong in their new home.

The furniture that was in my large bedroom is now split between three rooms (bed and nightstands in bedroom, two large bookshelves in living room, desk in office). My dresser was left in the closet in Solana Beach, so now I have no dresser. I thought it would be easier to find one, but alas I am waiting for the perfect dresser. Or at least waiting for one I really really like and don’t mind spending some money on.

My office is set up and I am back at work. I’m finding telecommuting difficult. A challenge, really. It’s funny because I don’t consider myself to be the most SOCIAL person at work, however I totally miss my peeps at the office. You know, hanging at the water cooler. Well, maybe not the water cooler, but certainly the coffee pot.

Now I talk to my cats. And the nice people at Lowe’s where I go a couple of times a week. I’ve bought a garden hose, trash cans, and cleaning supplies. Then I bought paint, which of course is never just paint, it’s drop cloths and rollers and then sandpaper, and of course a power sander because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to buy a power tool…..

Anyway, I painted the one ugly faux finished wall in the kitchen a nice turquoise blue (left wall), to complement the basic blue of the other walls (right wall). Now of course I want to paint the cabinets…. I may have to call in a professional….

I still don’t have a stove but it will allegedly arrive tomorrow. Well let me say, I DO have a stove but I am afraid of it. Vintage is a kind word. The home inspection guy says its safe. That the funny smell is the pilot light. But I have to use a lighter to light a burner. And it is HUGE and has a rotisserie that I will never use. So I bought not only a new fridge but also a washer dryer (high efficiency stackables) and now the stove is on its way.

Some day soon I’ll take more pictures. Maybe when I get everything put away. OR at least hidden in a closet or thrown in the basement….

I did go out to a web geeks happy hour at what was my favorite restaurant, Nob Hill Bar and Grill (you can read about the scene I caused -> ) Met some great web geek folks. Actually some I had met last month when I went to the monthly gathering for the first time.

Tomorrow I meet some incoming grad students at a local pizza joint, and orientation happens next Wednesday. Classes begin on August 25, so I’ll have lots more work to do, and people to talk to! yeah!

Community Blogging in San Diego

As you may or may not know, I used to contribute to SanDiego Blog. In fact, I almost bought the domain from Joe Crawford after he moved to Simi Valley, but I decided if I was going to pay $1500 or more for the website, to really make if pay off, I would have to treat the venture like a business. After some careful consideration– taking into account that I already had a job and I’m writing a book– I passed. Some other guy bought it, and in my opinion has run it into the ground. It is now cluttered with ads, and spam comments are allowed to pass through. The saddest part of all is that no one posts on the blog anymore.

There are other community blogs, like the KPBS Cititzen Voices project— but that is strictly political, and of course limited to the six authors selected. Blog San Diego is another community blog, but the focus there is arts and culture. Both have great content, but are hierarchically focused rather than being true Web 2.0 network / social media sites allowing the community itself to determine the content.

So, with the demise of SanDiegoBlog, I was kind of excited to see that the Union Tribune is finally embracing social media. They just launched SD Backyard which appears to be a media rich social networking site.

I admit, I ridiculed one of their early attempts at Web 2.0– “America’s Finest Blog” and still think it is too stiff and boring, but this new site looks promising. Users can participate in online discussions, write their own blogs, flog events, and even upload video.

It will be interesting to see what the community wants the site to be, to see how the Union Tribune handles this site, or whether the publishers will step in. (remember the L.A. Times Wikitorial?)

If I weren’t moving to The Duke City in July I might just jump in and start community blogging there….

Do you community blog? if so, where?