Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chilies in Las Cruces, Large and Small

The small chiles, all on one plant, I believe, are at the Chile Pepper Institute Teaching and Demonstration Garden in Las Cruces. (See sign photo.)
It appears to be a large red beached whale to drivers passing America's Best Value Inn on Picacho Avenue in Las Cruces. It is, however, proclaimed by a sign to be the world's largest chile. GIven that chiles are edible, more likely it is the world's largest sculpture of a chile. We had this same confusion in Durant, Oklahoma, when viewing what claimed to be the world's largest peanut. We suspected it was the world's largest sculpture of a peanut.
Does anyone know the size listing for chile and peanut sculpture?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gallup Job index Survey Questions Are Here

My current newspaper talks about New Mexico being in the bottom ten on the “job creation index’ produced by the Gallup polling firm. The column is in release to the ten subscribing newspapers around the state. In the column I promised to explain how Gallup came up with the numbers.
Here is what Gallup said about the survey:
“These results are based on aggregated data from nearly 100,000 interviews with employed adults during the first half of 2011, conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking. Gallup asks those who are employed whether their companies are hiring workers and expanding the size of their labor forces, not changing the size of their workforces, or laying off workers and reducing their workforces. The figures reported here represent the net difference between the percentage reporting an expansion and the percentage reporting a reduction in their workforces.”
Find Gallup’
S release at:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Prices Increasing at Abq Journal

The Albuquerque Journal is increasing the price of the base seven-day subscription by $24 per year starting October 1. The 14% increase will take the base seven-day subscription to $195 per year.
The letter from Albuquerque Publishing (Dear Valued Subscriber) only says the subscription is going up two dollars per month. The rest of the math is mine. In June I paid $171 to renew for a year.
The $171 price seems to apply to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There is a $207 rate for "daily Sunday" that includes, eJournal, the Journal's new website offering of the print edition. I deduce that the increase also applies to the eJournal package, though that isn't clear. The Albuquerque Publishing letter mentions that "our electronic products were not included with you original subscription package."
The letter says my subscription "will include seven-day access to the eJournal." I think the idea is that my subscription may include the eJournal, but again I'm unsure.
The letter offers a test-drive of the eJournal. I'll look at it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

State Drops 5,500 Jobs During July

New Mexico lost 5,500 wage jobs during July but still managed to add 3,500 jobs (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis) in the year since July 2010. That’s an increase of less than one half of one percent, a figure known to lay people as “hardly any at all.” On a seasonally adjusted basis, the increase was 2,200.
Today’s report from the Department of Workforce Services could only tout the continuing drop in the unemployment rate. But then DWS fessed up and said, “The recent declines resulted from workers leaving the labor force, not an increase in employment.” The seasonally adjusted report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out August 19, shows a 20,800 drop over the year. People did join the labor force during the year and start seeking employment. But 20,800 more people than joined decided they would no longer be with the force.
An even 800,000 people have wage jobs in the state, DWS estimates.
Among the metro areas, Albuquerque remains the black hole with 3,200 wage jobs gone during July and 2,200 for the year. Government was the big loser in Albuquerque, down 6,600, with nearly all the losses coming in education and reflecting summer, I suppose.
Still, down is down in the real world and not the Orwellian “growth” that must be jargon for a lower rate of decline.
Las Cruces lost 300 jobs over the July-to-July year, as did Santa Fe. Farmington added 1,000 jobs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Road Notes: Ranchos de Taos, Questa and Carson

There is a Carson, New Mexico. It is about halfway between the Rio Grande and Taos Junction which is on U.S. 285 ten miles or so east of Ojo Caliente. Advertising brought us to Carson. It was the billboards in Taos erected by the Ojo Caliente folks (full name: Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa). The boards reported that a newly paved road along the west rim of the Gorge would get one to Ojo. The “west rim” part was a stretch. The road was far enough west of the rim that one could not see into the gorge. Still, a nice drive.
But whether paving the road was justifiable in light of the transportation department being hundreds of millions of dollars short of doing what it says it really needs to do, well, that’s another question entirely.
Things have changed, big time, at Ojo since 1979 when “Hot Springs and Pools of the Southwest” described it as an “older commercial resort and bath house.” The older buildings are still there, but facilities such the new (to us) “Cliffside Suites” go for $349/night on weekends. Check it out at
In Questa we found, after some searching, Shakey’s Bar and Grill. It is two large rooms behind a liquor store. We didn’t ask the origins of the K-Bob’s mirror over the bar. The burrito was good.
Other than the San Francisco de Asis mission church, for me the gem of Ranchos de Taos remains the Trading Post CafĂ© with elegant Italian food, fine and expensive art on the walls (even in the restroom), and an overall environment that can only be called “intensely local.” My lunch was a Torta Cubano, hardly Italian, but who cares.
Red River, our destination on this jaunt, was full of No Vacancy signs and Texas license plates with the occasional Oklahoma. That’s good.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pres' Cancer Program Gets National Story

Dealing with the healthcare system is a chore in the best of times. When one has something ugly and dangerous, the hassle goes way up.
Presbyterian Healthcare System’s nurse navigator program offers patients’ guidance and advocacy (Squeeky wheels and all that) for dealing with the system. Pres’ nurse navigator Colleen Sullivan-Moore and Metro Court Judge Judith Nakamura, in her cancer patient mode, made page one of the Wall Street Journal’s Personal Journal section this morning.
Over seven months of breast cancer treatment including two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Sullivan-Moore helped Nakamura, the story says, “understand the diagnosis and overcome her fears.”
Of Sullivan-Moore, Nakamura was quoted as saying, “She was the one who answered all the questions I was trying to figure out and coordinated every step for me.”
Great story. Great program.
I wonder if local media will follow up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

NM Leads in Federal Dollars

The United States is one country, so it's easy to spend more money in some states than the given state pays in taxes to the federal government.
New Mexico leads in this status, reports The Economist in the July 30 issue. Take federal taxes paid minus federal spending as a percentage of state GDP for the years 1990 to 2009. New Mexico has received more money from the feds than sent to the feds to the tune of 260% of GDP.
The reason is that our modest population of two million, ranking about 37th nationally, and ample space have made New Mexico an ideal place for critical activities paid for with federal money—national laboratories, testing at White Sands and two Air Force bases requiring large, preferably empty spaces for practice.
Virginia and Maryland (including Washington, D.C.) roughly tie for second in this financial sweepstakes with federal financing coming in around 150% of GDP. One difference, though is that those two states, while having much national defense work, do The Government, everything else but national defense. Also, the two states have more people, 6.3 million in Maryland and eight million in Virginia. So there's much more money sloshing around.
The Economist's point is that since Europe consists of independent states, the European Union can't move the money around with the ease of the U.S.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Truth About the EPA, Wind Turbines Break, and Solar Subsidies

Innovation magazine is a bimonthly ( paid for by DOE and produced by Technology Ventures Corp. Given the source of the money, every issue has a certain amount of full blown policy flackery all in a full color package.
The June-July issue, which I only looked at today, has an interview with Heather Zichal, President Obama's "deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change." Zichal "explained the administration's energy strategy.” What I wonder about such articles and a solar piece in the same issue is, Do people really read this stuff? And still do nothing?
The solar article said solar was getting competitive with conventional energy sources. And why, you wonder, “...government incentive and rebate programs.”
Piety about technology transfer occupied pages and pages. But two little words explained much of the problem with tech transfer, “lab culture.”
Finally a news flash. Wind turbines break. “…although modern wind turbines have a design lifespan of 20 years, they typically fail two to three times per year during the first ten years and average four unplanned maintenance incidents annually.” The wind turbine industry doesn’t know why their turbines break.
Here is what Zichal said about the EPA & utilities:
"Zichal said the Obama administration plans to push back hard at Republican attempts in Congress to scuttle an Environmental Protection Administration effort to set new standards for utilities and other major industrial polluters. The EPA dispute has been brewing since 2007, when the Supreme Court agreed that greenhouse gases could harm human health and well-being. As part of its ruling, the court found that greenhouse gas emissions—including carbon dioxide—are within the Clean Air Act’s definition of air pollutants. Late last year, the agency issued a finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public’s health and welfare and announced plans to set new standards for utilities and other large industrial polluters.
"Then, in December 2010, the agency announced plans to set new greeenhouse gas emissions standards for utilities and petroleum refineries. In January, the new greenhouse gas permitting requirements kicked in for large emitters that are already obtaining permits from the EPA for other pollutants. New and existing facilities making major modifications would be required to include greenhouse gases in their permit requests if they increase greenhouse gas emissions by at least 75,000 tons per year. The permits must demonstrate the use of “best available control technologies” to minimize emissions if the facility is expanded."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Home Sales Down from June

The good news is that metro Albuquerque home sales during July were up over July 2010, according to figures just released by the Greater Albuquerque Association of realtors. Sales closed during July on 625 single family detached homes, a 53 unit, 12.2% increase from July 2010. Pending sales, 815 during July, were up 63 units or 8.4% from July 2010.
But there’s a catch. Isn’t there always?
Those 2010 sales were artificially depressed by the Obama administration’s first time buyer tax credit, which sucked sales into the months before the tax credit ended April 30, 2010.
The 2011 reality is that July sales, under “normal” seasonal market behavior, should have been a bit more than June.
Didn’t happen. July sales closed were down 33 units or 5% from June. Pending sales, the leading indicator for sales the following month, dropped 119 units or 13% from June.
Further, 67% of June’s 934 pending sales turned into July closed sales. For June, 73% of May’s 899 pending sales turned into June closed sales.
In other words, not only were there fewer sales during June, fewer of May’s pending sales became closed sales. (Statistically, this doesn’t quite work because some of July’s closed sales were pending in May. I figure these laggard pending sales average out over time.) From this highly informed (yeah, right) perspective August looks a tad ugly.
Prices were up from July 2010 but down from June 2011.
With 99 homes sold, the most popular price category was for homes between $200,000 and $249,000.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Government Checks Drive Income Growth

Regular readers, those few whom I may frustrate with irregular postings, know I get crabby about images of New Mexico as a lapdog existing because of The Government, a huge single entity. Just the latest annoying mindlessness came yesterday from blogger Joe Monahan who used the phrase “the all important government sector…”
However, in one area—money—a part of The Government, the Barack Obama failed Keynesian stimulus part, has provided the action the past couple of years.
Metro area personal income figures for 2010, released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, show that transfer payments, meaning checks from the government, provided the income growth for our four cities the last two years.
The BEA said, “Personal income in the metropolitan portion of the United States rose 2.9 percent in 2010 after falling 1.9 percent in 2009.” The worst performer, Grand Junction, Colorado, down 0.9% in 2010, in very much in our neighborhood. “Private-sector earnings grew in 2010 in each of the 15 largest MSAs (accounting for 48 percent of this sector’s earnings in the metropolitan portion of the United States),” the BEA said.
We’re not in the game.
Personal income in Albuquerque was $30,984 million in 2010, a 2.2% increase from 2009 which, in turn, increased 0.5% in 2009. Albuquerque beat the nation’s 2.9% 2010 income increase but was behind the nation in 2009. Net earnings in Albuquerque dropped 1.4% in 2009 and 0.1% in 2010. Net earnings is what people get from working. Here is the BEA’s definition, “Net earnings is earnings by place of work (the sum of wage and salary disbursements, supplements to wages and salaries, and proprietors’ income) less contributions for government social insurance, plus an adjustment to convert earnings by place of work to a place-of-residence basis.”
Transfer receipts—checks from the government to Albuquerqueans—were up 13.5% in 2009 and 10.6% in 2010.
Bad as it was in 2009, Albuquerque’s percentage earnings growth rank 87th nationally. As the national economy began to improve a little in 2010, Albuquerque earnings growth improved, but the growth rank dropped to 286. In other words, 285 metro areas beat Albuquerque.
After an ugly 2009 (net earnings down 6%) Farmington’s national rank for income growth bounced to 173 in 2010 from 306 in 2009. Still, Transfer payments were up 11.9% in 2009 and 12.1% in 2010.
By the measure of national rank of income growth, Las Cruces had good years in 2009 and 2010, ranking fourth and eighth in growth. Again, transfer payments drove the growth.
Personal income to Santa Feans dropped 2.6% in 2009, overcoming a 15.9% increase in transfer payments that year. Income grew 2.2% in 2010 on a 0.7% increase in net earnings, 1.4% growth in dividends interest and rent, and, once again a 10% hike in those government transfer check amounts.