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Traditionally, I make my first milkshakes of the season right around Memorial Day (not really, but it sounded good). I'm a connoisseur of a good malted and have never been able to reproduce the wonderful shakes I've had at such places as the Owl Cafe or the Route 66 Diner.

But at times I do come close. Like tonight.

What follows is the "recipe" for my most recent slapped-together creation:

  • three scoops of English Toffee Temptation ice cream (made by a local dairy from Heath Bar candybars with swirls of peanut butter and caramel)

  • enough 2% milk to cover the ice cream in the blender

  • a good squeeze of Hershey's Whoppers Malted Milk syrup (probably about 1/4 cup)

  • a splash of almond extract
Blend on low until well mixed; pour into two tall glasses and top with a swirl of the Malted Milk Syrup


Albuquerque has some really interesting architecture, especially when you get off the beaten path. Lately, I've found myself fascinated with the endless variety of doorways around town. Below are a few of my favorites:




I usually receive A LOT of e-mails daily; many of these are from Yahoo music trading/vining groups. However, I noticed earlier today that that flood had slowed to hardly a trickle.

When I went to one of my groups to post a message, I got the error "you cannot post to this group because your e-mail is bouncing." This happened to be a group where I'm the owner/moderator. WTF? In the e-mail preferences section of Yahoo (found rather easily), the message was that AT&T was hard bouncing my e-mails because of "abuse" and to contact my ISP. I supposed the abuse was that I usually receive a lot of e-mails.

Anyway, I went to my account on the AT&T website. It took me over two hours (!) of searching through their various FAQ's before I finally found a way to ask them about this problem (you would think that the world's largest telecommunication company would provide a "contact us" page that doesn't just link you back to the FAQ's that didn't answer your question in the first place).

The method of contact was to do an online chat with a customer service representative. I have never liked online chats because my fingers tend to slip off the keyboard keys and I hit send when I don't intend to. Anyway, the answer was that it's a "server problem" (after the chat session, I found a service bulletin that said that the AT&T servers weren't accepting any e-mails from AOL, Yahoo, or BellSouth addresses (which, I suppose constitutes a pretty big share of the non-MSN and Hotmail e-mail market).

The funny thing is that the first e-mail I received in many hours was a log of the AT&T chat session. So, I present that now (I find it slightly amusing, slightly irritating since the the CSR seemed so bored):

05/30/2005 05:49:19AM Message Sent "Please type your message now."
05/30/2005 05:49:27AM Message Sent CSR "Hi, how may I help you?"
05/30/2005 05:49:28AM Message Sent CUS "I don"
05/30/2005 05:49:47AM Message Sent CUS "I don't seem to be receiving any e-mails in my account since yesterday"
05/30/2005 05:50:30AM Message Sent CUS "Yahoo is saying that you are hard bouncing my e-mails from their groups because of "abuse""
05/30/2005 05:50:31AM Message Sent CSR "As of now Mark there is a mail server issue regarding the e-mails ."
05/30/2005 05:50:55AM Message Sent CSR "The technicians are aware of the facts ."
05/30/2005 05:51:09AM Message Sent CUS "when will this be fixed? I rely on those e-mails for home business"
05/30/2005 05:51:28AM Message Sent CSR "We can understand your concern and regret the inconvenience caused . But this is under work."
05/30/2005 05:51:39AM Message Sent CUS "thanks"
05/30/2005 05:51:40AM Message Sent CSR "As soon as the technicians are able to do so it will be posted on the Help Bulletin board ."
05/30/2005 05:51:51AM Leave Session CSR (Shirley.S)
05/30/2005 05:51:51AM Leave Session CUS
05/30/2005 05:51:51AM Session Ended



Several years ago, Kansas City rock band The Rainmakers wrote a song about drought called "Dry Dry Land." The following year, the rains came in force and flooded much of Missouri and eastern Kansas. I remember hearing singer Bob Walkenhorst commenting during a show that summer that it was nice to know God had heard their plea, but enough is enough.

The memories of that year of flooding came back to me this week with the reports of rising water throughout northern New Mexico.

We've been in a serious drought situation down here since before I moved to Albuquerque in July 1994. The most visible result of the dry conditions — at least to other parts of the country — have been our numerous large wildfires (it was five years ago last week when the Cerro Grande Fire wiped out much of the town and government facilities of Los Alamos). Admittedly, the last couple of years have seen less of the huge fires than previous summers but that's mostly due to better/more stringent prevention measures than a lack of dry tinder.

But the last six months or so have seen quite a bit of moisture throughout the state — not enough to end the drought by any means, and causing new problems.

Writing from an Albuquerque perspective it has been an odd weather year so far. We received our first snowfalls in early October — not odd by any means — setting up an alternating pattern of cold and warm weather. One day it would be sunny with temperatures in the 50s or 60s. The very next day would see blizzard-like conditions in the city of Albuquerque. And that snow would stick (a real rarity in the Rio Grande Valley). We definitely saw more accumulated snowfall in the city than in the previous 10 years I've lived here.

The rains came in January and February — so much that we broke precipitation records that had stood since the American Civil War! Also broken (or at least weakened) were numerous acequias (complicated drainage canals dating from the Spanish colonial days), dikes, and levees — not to mention road surfaces with large sinkholes appearing on a number of major thoroughfares. One rainstorm in April earned the city to be declared a Federal disaster area (which probably didn't make the national news but which garnered us Federal funds to conduct repairs with).

March, April, and early May saw several other alternating snow/sun weather patterns — Raton Pass was actually closed to all traffic because of a freak blizzard at the beginning of this month. All this time, the local media warned us that the drought definitely wasn't over (and we've seen numerous small brush fires and a couple of larger forest fires since March).

For the past two weeks, we have seen lots of sun and very high temperatures. I think it's been in the mid-90's every day of the past ten here in Albuquerque. It's been even hotter down south (Carlsbad reached 110° yesterday). I don't mind the heat (it's a "dry" heat, afterall), but it has caused some severe problems.

Most years, the snowpack in the northern mountains melts gradually over a long period of time — some mountains such as Wheeler Peak have snow all year around. This year, with record snowpack amounts (even Sandia Peak had over 30 inches as recently as two weeks ago) and sooner-than-expected sustained high temperatures, all of that snow has melted practically all at once. All of this runoff is creating havoc for numerous small communities (and a few larger ones) throughout southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The Pecos River near Taos seems to have the worst flooding so far. Other creeks and rivers nearby are also running over capacity. And the Rio Grande has more water than I've ever seen it (in recent years, the great river through Albuquerque has consisted of dry sandbars punctuated with a few small pools of standing water). There was a report on the news last night saying that the water is so high here that even the Open Space Police can't effectively use their fancy high-tech hydrofoil because the clearance under the cross-river bridges isn't high enough!

No one is sure when these rivers and creeks will crest, or at what level.

I'm particularly worried about how this flooding will change the shape of northern New Mexico. There are many old Spanish and Mexican villages (and a few dating back to the American trappers of the 1850s and the hippie communes of the 1960s) that look to receive quite a bit of damage from the flooding. The water is running so fast and so high that a number of the rafting companies that look to tourism during this time of year are having to cancel expeditions out of safety concerns. The economy has already been hit hard by the drought, now to receive too much of a good thing seems a severe slap in the face. One of my favorite eateries in the state — Embudo Station (formerly a waystation on El Camino Real) — is close to being flooded.

I'm sure all of this inundation running through the waterways of New Mexico will destroy already severely eroded banks and other land features. It will cost the state untold millions to repair those that need to be repaied. We may even see the Rio Grande change course once again in several spots.

I do like seeing water rushing through those mountain creeks but this really is too much of a good thing. As Bob once said onstage, enough is enough.


Sorting through e-mails this morning, I found that Dad had sent me a few more photos of his birthday experience at the Kansas Motor Speedway.



I woke up early this morning in a cold sweat, running a fever, and sick to my stomach. I don't know if it's something I ate or if I've breathed in too much plaster dust (every surface of my home has a thin coating of this right now). Probably a combination of the two.

At least I was able to remove the plastic in the bathroom enough to spend some time on the toilet before the workers arrived promptly at 8:00. It wasn't much fun as I stepped on bits of drywall and a nail in the bathroom. I kept hoping that I wouldn't have to vomit as I didn't want to kneel on that dusty floor.

I'm still feeling extremely queasy and I'm worried I'll be getting sick in the bathroom when the workers need to enter (one already went in there and retaped the plastic — I could hear him grumbling the entire time, although I'm not sure if it's because he had to redo a simple job or if it's because I was in the adjacent room).

One more thing: these workers seem unable to knock — I'll be laying on top of my bed or sitting at one of my computer workstations when the store will suddenly bang open, a worker will grunt at me and then rush into the bathroom. Kind of annoying. I'll be glad when they're gone.

I fear it's going to be a very long day.


I was laying in bed (upset stomach this morning) a short while ago when I heard my air conditioner come on. I NEVER run the ac as it never gets that hot in my home — the surrounding buildings and giant cherry tree sheild it from the heat. In fact, the only time I remember turning it on at all last year was when Bryan and Melissa stayed here in September.

Yet, the workers in my apartment today seemingly are too hot at 9:00 in the morning so feel compelled to crank up my air with the sliding glass door to the patio and the front door both wide open.

Not only that, but there are three sets of extension cords running out the front door, powering drills and compressors in neighboring apartments — in addition to the drills and compressors working in mine. There's no supervisor around (and none of the workers here seem to have much of a grasp of the English language, although I'm sure they understand more than I do of Spanish) so I'll have to hold this complaint until someone appears in the office. I can't wait to see the spike in my electric bill for this month, another unexpected expense I'll be stuck with.


Occasionally, my referral tracker yields some rather interesting results. At a time that I should be catching up on other more important things (like trying to see if any of the 800 e-mails in my Inbox are worth reading, let alone answering), I clicked on the link that tells me which Google results steered a few lost souls to my corner of the blogosphere.

One search engine result was the non-word "Burque", which is local slang for "Albuquerque." Curious to see how often this diminutive is actually used on the Web, I checked the list of other results. That led me to discover the domain address of Hmmm, sounds familiar. The address is actually a mirror blog to Quirky (the sidebar of which lists a ton of other local bloggers). Looks like an interesting blog, but the author wrote on April 18 that that was the last post, that they were joining the cast of bloggers at Duke City Fix ("a website about life in Albuquerque from a variety of independent voices").

Cool! I never really thought to seek out what others are blogging about this town. Just a brief glance tonight tells me that I'll be spending some free time looking at these two blogs tomorrow (while keeping an eye on the workers in my home). I may even get some ideas for future posts of my own (inspiration from local media doesn't come that often anymore) — although I have several backlogged topics I'll probably post this weekend (such as the overflowing banks of our rivers from the snowmelt after suffering through a drought the past ten years or so).


I'm back home tonight, but I'm not happy with what I see looking around. Work on the plumbing replacement began last Wednesday (May 18) — almost three weeks behind schedule — and we were assured by the property management that work would be completed within five to seven business days.

Well, tomorrow will be the seventh full day of work and there's a lot that needs to be done. And what work that have "finished" still needs a great deal of clean-up done before I'll be happy.

They've only replaced the drywall in my office bathroom and the living room; there are still cut holes in the hallway between the kitchen and washer/dryer area, in the master bedroom, and the master bathroom. The drywall in the entryway ceiling seems warped — the cut pieces were kept outside since the 18th and it rained at least once during that time (not to mention the sprinklers hit it, I'm sure). There's a great deal of plaster patching the mis-matched edges of most of the other replaced drywall — and more than a few dried globs of plaster on my carpet, black sofa, footstool, etc. (not to mention a layer of plaster dust covering most of the remaining surfaces). The plumbers I saw on day one were putting down nice big drop-cloths; apparently, all the workers who followed decided to rely on thin, clear, plastic sheeting — and they didn't bother to cover much of anything. Well, they did tape that plastic all over both bathrooms — so much so that I won't be able to take a shower or use the toilet until they remove it.

It doesn't appear they even attempted to put down any kind of plastic leading from the door to my office (formerly the front bedroom) to the bathroom in that room. Afterall, this was one of the "safe areas" marked on the floorplan given to me — an area that workers weren't allowed to enter. However, based on the soiled carpet, they definitely walked back and forth through my office numerous times rather than going in through the kitchen like I was led to believe they would. Believe me, I am documenting all of this via digital camera and camcorder.

I arrived home in time this afternoon for a foreman to tell me that they should be ready for the painters to come in by next Monday or Tuesday. Quite the optimist he is!

Unfortunately, I didn't notice the plaster on the carpet and sofa until after they left tonight (after 7 — the "what to expect" sheet said the workers were supposed to be gone by 5 every day); and I just noticed another casualty of the workers' disregard for personal property: a male Homo Sapiens skull I've dragged all over the country on moves ever since my college Anthropology days was laying on my dining room floor (he'd been resting on a high-quality stand on a shelf between my living room and dining room), the mandible cracked in half. It's a heavy object — around 15 pounds — so I'm amazed the skull itself didn't shatter. But I'm surprised that none of the workers heard (or felt) it fall to the floor and roll several feet, or bothered to set it on the table or counter or leave me a note about it.

I'm also a bit on edge from what a neighbor told me tonight: she overheard several of the complex's maintenance men saying how everyday since these workers started there has been things missing out of their supply room and several residents have complained about items missing from their apartments.

I don't see anything missing right now (other than my wooden bird from last week) but I think I'll stick around here tomorrow as something of a deterrent. The workers today did leave several things in my apartment — a compressor, a couple of ladders, a stool, and some other miscellaneous junk. How do they expect people to live in these conditions? (From what I've been able to gather, I'm one of the few residents who elected to spend at least some of the time staying elsewhere.

I'll reserve a final verdict on much of this until I see how well these workers clean up after themselves. At the very least, they will need to do some heavy-duty carpet cleaning and scubbing of spots on my sofa. I'm going to point out the warped drywall to a foreman tomorrow. Hopefully, my renter's insurance will cover the broken mandible (although I'm a bit reluctant to file that claim!) and anything else that might turn up broken or missing. I'll complain long and loud if the cleanup isn't done to my satisfaction (I'm not about to lose part of my security deposit due to damanged carpet and I shouldn't have to pay to get my sofa cleaned either).

That reminds me: one more thing to complain about is that the open holes in the ceilings/walls plus the fact they probably had the front door (which used to be a forest green but now is covered in dusty white fingerprints) open during their working hours has allowed numerous bugs to enter my home. As I type this, one of those scary New Mexican-sized moths keeps bashing itself into my flatscreen (I certainly don't want to squish him on the screen!) and I've seen four Daddy Longleg spiders in the last few hours (which I've been setting outside — it's bad luck to kill those). I just had my apartment sprayed for pests at the beginning of this month so I certainly don't want to deal with creepy-crawlies in here now. (At least mosquitoes are virtually non-existent in central New Mexico or I'd be REALLY unhappy!) There have been other small bugs as well but at least I haven't (yet) seen any of those giant ants inside. I've never been a big fan of insects, and I especially worry about them getting inside of electronic or computer equipment.


Glad I got all of this off of my chest. Obviously, I'll be relieved when all of this work is done and I can get back to my normal routine (I am SO far behind on so many projects now). We're in the "home stretch" now and I hope the remainder goes smoothly. Heads will roll if it doesn't!



Since I knew I wouldn't have to deal with a constant parade of workers during the weekend, I decided to come home last night.

Apparently, all of the plumbing work was completed by 3:00PM on Wednesday — but there are still numerous holes cut in various walls and ceilings throughout the apartment:

The worse part is the bathrooms where these holes are essentially open to the two apartments on the second floor (both directly above and against the back wall:

You can hear everything going on in these other apartments (just as they can hear my activities). I've tried to be quiet as a mouse — particularly when using the facilities or taking a shower this morning. I wish the upstairs neighbors were as considerate; it seems like the lady in the back upstairs apartment delights in constantly screaming at her (at least three) young children and they are constantly crying or screaming in return.  Last night, she was using extreme profanity with them (including a number of "F" bombs) and I came close to calling the police.

As I am in general rather shy in certain respects, I tried at first to use the restroom as quietly as I could but soon realized they probably would never hear me doing my business over the screaming.  Still, I don't like the feeling that I could be watched — all the back apartment people would have to do would be to open the cabinet door below their sink and look down; all the directly above people would have to do would look through the hole in their master bedroom wall (I noticed this as I sat on the toilet in my master bathroom last night and noticed I could see their ceiling fan; I started using my office bathroom after that!).

Also, this morning, I contemplated what would happen if the upstairs toilet happened to overflow as I was sitting below:


I certainly hope they replace my drywall very SOON!

But worse than all that is that I discovered that one personal item was missing from my home: a wood-carved, brightly-painted toucan bird that my parents bought on one of the islands during a Caribbean sailing trip a few years before Mom passed away. This upset me a great deal as I held great sentimental value in that small object (as indeed I do with anything that connects me to Mom). The bird was kept on a shelf near my front door; I doubt if it was stolen, however — it probably was toppled by vibrations as the workers cut the holes in my drywall or banged on pipes. If it fell onto their dropcloth (to protect the carpets), I imagine it got rolled up inside when they packed up to leave. Perhaps someone will find it and know where to return it, but I highly doubt it. Yes, I was upset initially — but I can accept that such things can happen from time to time.

I'm planning to check with the office tomorrow for a progress report. If the drywall replacement and repainting isn't scheduled until later in the week, I think I'll check back into my hotel so I can "relax" while in the restroom and not listen to a bunch of screaming.



Much delayed, the remodeling on my home is finally getting underway early tomorrow morning. Most of the work involves the replacement of all the PVC piping in my walls, floors, and ceiling (along with new showers, toilets, dishwasher, and washer/drier). Not only will several walls cease to exist during this construction, but there will also be gaping holes in my bathroom and ceiling ceilings.

The work was actually supposed to begin at the start of this month but was delayed by several factors. The latest past start-date was this Monday but that was postponed until tomorrow. Now it's do-or-die and I talked with one of the contractors today who assured me they would begin work promptly at 8:00 tomorrow morning.

I had originally planned to stay at home during the construction but I realized that just wouldn't be possible. Almost everything in rooms not affected by the piping, etc. will have to be covered to protect my personal property from dust and damage. It's kind of difficult to work at the computer or do audio/video editing under a plastic sheet! Also, I wouldn't have been able to use any running water during the entire time.

So, I've decided to move into a motel for the 5-7 days work is estimated to take. This means I will be completely offline during this period (unless I sneak a few minutes on a friend's computer to check e-mail). For someone who actually conducts most of his work online, that will be difficult.

But at least it's an opportunity to get caught up on some reading (I have three or four books I'm working on right now and have only been able to manage a couple of pages per night, if at all). Maybe I'll do a bit of in-city sightseeing as well -- I tend not to visit many of the local sites unless I have visitors to show around and then I don't always get to spend as much time as I'd like at certain places. It's actually been almost ten years since I drove over to the Petroglyph National Monument (on the west side of Albuquerque) and it's been a couple of years since I rode the tram (the world's longest) to the top of Sandia Peak.

Or I could take a day-trip: When I first moved to New Mexico I spent all of my free time exploring the mountains and forests of northern New Mexico but virtually ignored the southern part of the state. Although I have gone to Carlsbad Caverns a few times (in the extreme southeast corner of the state and a regular family destination when we lived in west Texas in the early 1970s), the farthest south I've driven to a "new" destination has been the Socorro area. There's a lot to explore south of Albuquerque such as the NASA facilities and museums in Alamogordo or the historic and scenic areas around Cloudcroft. Silver City is probably too far for a day-trip, however (it's very scenic around there), as is Las Cruces (a very historic little city -- my only journey there was a flight on a tiny plane, one that shook like crazy causing me to think we were doomed, to testify in the Hollywood Video murder trial six years ago).

We'll see what, if anything, I end up doing. The one thing that is certain is that I'll be very happy to move back into my own home (and be able to use the plumbing without worrying that it'll burst!).


Dad's 70th birthday was last Friday. My sister's gift to him was the "Richard Petty Driving Experience" in which he was instructed and then drove eight laps around the Kansas Motor Speedway in a 358-cubic inch V-8 Nascar racecar. What an excellent gift! (And one I've been working hard to top -- or at least come close to; he's receiving his gift from me when the entire family comes to New Mexico in August.)

Dad did pretty good, reaching a peak speed of 129 miles per hour and an average of 108mph during the eight laps. My sister said the slowest person that day never got above 85mph or so.

Marilyn just sent me several photos they took that day. I think Dad looks pretty cool as a race car driver (click on the photos to see a larger version):

By a nice coincidence, my Uncle Ron (Mom's younger brother), was in town from the Washington, D.C. area for a brief visit so he was able to partake in the birthday celebrations as well:

And of course, my brother-in-law Keith and nephew Spencer (our own "Speed Racer") had a ball as well:

I think for Dad's 75th, he should be given the fighter pilot flight and for his 80th, perhaps skydiving is in order. As healthy as he is, he'll be doing this kind of stuff for a very long time.

Happy birthday, Dad! (Marilyn, too -- her's was last Saturday.)



On the occasion of Bryan's 40th birthday this past Saturday, the happy couple became engaged. They are due to be married around the end of September or beginning of October.

I've known Bryan since the autumn of 1989 -- we started out as co-workers but soon discovered similar tastes in music. We've been good friends ever since.

He met Melissa about a little over a year ago at his church and they soon became inseparable. She, too, shares very similar tastes in Bryan's music. I was introduced last July when I visited Kansas City for my dad's wedding. They made the long drive down to Albuquerque for a brief stay last September.

I'm very happy for Bryan -- Melissa really does "complete" him and they make a great couple. I know they will have a long and happy life together.

Happy Birthday, Bryan, and congratulations to both of you on your impending wedding.



Today -- May 7 -- marks the 90th anniversary of the single most dramatic incidents in World War I submarine warfare: the sinking of the Cunard liner Lusitania by a German U-boat, with the loss of 1,201 lives.

The Lusitania had begun her North Atlantic career less than ten years before on the Liverpool to New York run. She became very popular with her passengers due to her speed and her luxurious accomodations, often called a "floating palace." By 1915, the seas became a precarious place for passenger liners because of the dominance of the German submarines. The Lusitania's owners felt the ship was "safe" because her reserve speeds would enable her to outrun any attack.

On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York headed for England despite threats of sinking published in the press by German authorities. Six days later, on May 7, the Lusitania -- off the coast of Ireland -- was too slow in noticing both the periscope and the torpedo of a German submarine to escape her fate. She took a solid hit whose sound was described by passengers as a "peal of thunder," a "dull thud-like sound," or "like a million-ton hammer hitting a steel boiler a hundred feet high and a hundred feet long." Although they did not explode, water rushed into the first and second boiler rooms and caused the ship to shake from side to side. She then rose a little before a second massive explosion took her down into the sea.

The exact cause of the second explosion is a point of contention. The wreckage of the Lusitania shows evidence that she may have been torpedoed a second or even a third time -- but the second, most destructive, explosion may not have been caused by a German torpedo, but rather have come from inside the ship. The reason behind this speculation is that the Lusitania's cargo can be called into question. She had originally said she would take, along with her passengers, platinum, bullion, diamonds and various other precious stones, but these things were never found and port records do not list them either. She is believed to have instead carried, under the guise of bales of fur and cheese boxes, 3-inch shells and millions of rounds of rifle ammunition. If true, these materials comprised "a contraband and explosive cargo which was forbidden by American law and... should never have been placed on a passenger liner."

Whether the torpedoes completed the destruction of the ship by their own power or they were aided by internal ammunition explosions, the German submarine attack devastated the Lusitania. The ship sank within twenty minutes of when she was hit and took with her 1,201 lives -- and left only 764 to be saved by those who responded to her SOS. Many American lives were lost as a result of the sinking, and because the Lusitania was never officially in government service, the United States believed the attack on her "was contrary to international law and the conventions of all civilized nations". The sinking of the Lusitania caused serious tension between the United States and Germany and was one of the contributing factors for America's entry into World War I.

Jim Kalifus and Mike Poirier have just published an interesting article, "Lest We Forget" detailing some of the lesser-known human interest stories of the disaster, on the Encyclopedia Titanica website. If you're interested in learning more about the ship, I recommend Diana Preston's Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy (2002).



Cinco de Mayo is a pretty big holiday in this part of the country. In some communities near here, the celebrations rival those of American Independence Day (the 4th of July). But many people I know in other parts of the country mistakingly think May 5th is the anniversary of Mexican independence from Spain -- THAT date is actually September 15, 1810 (although the Spanish would stay another eleven years).

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the Mexican army over French troops (and Mexican traitors) at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. The French occupation of the country had come about in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 (which led to New Mexico becoming a part of the United States). A costly civil war followed, leaving Mexico devastated and bankrupt.

In 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume. The creditors in Europe (England, Spain and France) decided intervention was needed to collect the debts.

Unbeknownst to the other two, France had its own agenda. France wanted to dispose of the Mexican Constitutional Government and set up a monarchy favorable to France. Napoleon III, Emperor of the Second French Empire had grandiose plans to impose a monarchical government upon the nations of Central and South America. This was to provide raw materials and trade for the European nations as well as check the growing power of the U.S. Republic following the annexation of California, Arizona and New Mexico.

France's designs were formented and abetted by the plutocratic and conservative land owners of Mexico who feared loss of land and political power to the newly elected constitutional government of Benito Juárez. On December 8th, 1861 the European powers landed and occupied Veracruz with Spain arriving first. By April 11, 1862 after realizing France's intent, England and Spain withdrew their support.

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, President Juárez (a full blooded Zapotec Indian, and a lawyer who had studied to become a priest), was taking countermeasures: "There is no help but in defense but I can assure you... the Imperial Government will not succeed in subduing the Mexicans, and its armies will not have a single day of peace... we must stop them, not only for our country but for the respect of the sovereignty of the nations". Juárez declared martial law and declared all areas occupied by the French in a state of siege.

After reinforcements arrived, a French force of (7,000) seven thousand set out on the (225) two hundred twenty five mile route to Mexico City in early April under the illusion that the Mexican people would welcome them. This illusion was fostered by Juan N. Almonte, a Mexican reactionary, and by Count Dubois du Saligny appointed French Ambassador to Mexico by Napoleon. Presidente Juárez commanded General Ignacio Zaragoza to block the advance of the French Army with 2,000 soldiers at the fortified hills of Loreto and Guadalupe by the city of Puebla.

On May 5, 1862, cannons boomed and rifle shots rang out as the French soldiers attacked the two forts. Before the day was over, one fort was in ruins and more than a thousand French soldiers were dead. The Mexicans had won the battle, but not the war. Yet, this date was established as symbolic of the Mexicans' courage against a formidable army.

In June 1864, Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife Charlotte arrived in Mexico City as the crowned Emperor of the newly formed Mexican Empire. Although Maximilian organized the administration, liberated the Indians from servitude, and developed the natural resources of the country, he was unable to avoid the opposition of the Mexican patriots. The republicans, led by Benito Juárez, did not accept the foreign intervention. They went north and requested assistance from the Californians and other Mexican-American societies to help them with volunteers and financial support.

Finally, Maximilian was overthrown and captured on May 15, 1867, tried by court martial, and executed by firing squad on June 19 at the Cerro de las Campanas along with his generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican national holiday. The battlefield is now a park in Puebla with a statue of General Zaragoza riding horseback. One of the forts is a war museum with a display of hundreds of toy soldiers set up to show what had happened that day.

Oddly enough, the 5 de Mayo has become more of a Chicano holiday than a Mexican one. In Mexico, for the most part, the day is more of a regional holiday in Mexico, celebrated most vigorously in the state of Puebla. There is some limited recognition of the holiday throughout the country with different levels of enthusiasm, but it's nothing like that found in Puebla.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo has become increasingly popular along the U.S.-Mexico border and in parts of the U.S. that have a high population of people with a Mexican heritage. The festive celebrations -- consisting of parades, music, folklore, dances and food -- are often fund raising events and for solidarity among the Mexican-Americans.

Commercial interests in the United States and Mexico have also been successful in promoting the holiday, with products and services focused on Mexican food, beverages and festivities, with music playing a more visible role as well. Several cities throughout the U.S. (including Albuquerque) hold parades and concerts during the week following up to May 5th, so that Cinco de Mayo has become a bigger holiday north of the border than to the south, and adopted into the holiday calendar of more and more people every year.



It was only a matter of time, and the New Mexico Scorpions, Albuquerque's pro hockey team, is leading the pack in exiting the deteriorating Tingley Coliseum. Hopefully, somebody will get the message.

The Scorpions announced today that they are terminating their contract to play home games in the aging coliseum on the dusty New Mexico State Fairgrounds. They will not play at all next season, but will begin the 2007 season in a state-of-the-art arena currently being built for them in Rio Rancho. This is a source of some embarrassment for the city of Albuquerque; you see, Rio Rancho was formerly a quiet suburb on the west side of the Rio Grande but -- as the home of the Intel processor plant -- has recently become one of the fastest-growing cities in the entire Southwest. And a source of numerous problems for it's parent city.

Numerous businesses have been defecting to the west side -- followed by many Albuquerque residents. When Albuquerque's mayor unsuccessfully tried to spearhead the construction of a new downtown arena last year, Rio Rancho was quick to announce plans for their own arena.

Since I'm a big fan of live music and other events that a decent large venue would bring to this city, I've followed all the developments with great interest. Apart from Tingley, the only other large indoor arena in town is the University Of New Mexico Arena (also known as "The Pit"). It's a very nice venue, but concerts are rarely held there -- in 1994, a scheduled Eric Clapton concert was moved to Arizona at the last minute because the head basketball coach demanded extra practice time for his team (and it's widely rumored that U2 concerts were planned here in both 1986 -- a multi-artist Amnesty International benefit show -- and 1987 -- supposedly, The Joshua Tree tour was to begin here -- were cancelled for similar reasons).

In the cold- and rainy-weather seasons, the only indoor alternative for major touring groups is Tingley Coliseum. (During the summers, we have the unpopular Journal Pavilion -- formerly the more-scenically-named Mesa del Sol -- way south of the airport -- and a growing number of small amphitheatres at various casinos as well as smaller theatres.)

Tingley just isn't a suitable venue for any event -- including the horse shows and rodeos held every year as part of Expo New Mexico. Built in 1957 (the first performers there were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans), the place looks -- and smells much older. It's basically a huge horse barn, with decades of manure permeating the air. The "seats" are long bleachers (beware of splinters!) that run the length of the sides (although a few seat-backs were added a few years ago). The floor is dirt (which is covered with the fake ice during hockey games). There are a few ancient concession stands with the standard fare you would find ten and more years ago; even little league baseball games have better grub! But worst of all, for a lover of live music like myself, is the terrible acoustics. I have yet to hear a band perform there that could make themselves sound good through the PA. I don't think it's possible.

The Scorpions cited the poor facilities at Tingley Coliseum as the main reason they are leaving. (The secondary reason is the refusal of the venue's management to make the team a priority in scheduling events there.)

If more promoters, etc. would refuse to use Tingley -- and join the exodus over to Rio Rancho -- perhaps the rest of our city planners will sit up and take notice. In these times, NOT having a state-of-the-art modern arena available in a city of our size is a major mistake. We are losing a lot of revenue that bringing in more touring events would contribute to our economy. The mayor was even going to donate his OWN land, but the councilmen shot down the idea. A new coliseum downtown would totally revitalize the area. But I won't hold my breath -- that was the same argument used when they wanted to bring professional baseball back to Albuquerque (but using the foundation of the old Sports Stadium south of UNM was a pretty sound idea financially).

Way to go, Scorpions. I hope something comes of it!


When I added my referral trackers to my website and this blog, I doubted that I'd have much use for most of the statistics they generate. I was just interested in the time-zone and international trackers. The other things such as knowing types of browers and operating system down to the actual IP addresses of all visitors held no interest for me.

But I have, from time to time, checked out the incoming referrals -- those websites and search engines which steered visitors towards my endeavors. For example, when I wrote about the (short-lived) death of EzTree and about my newfound fascination with BitTorrent downloads, my blog received a lot of hits from people searching for those topics. My comments about the recent U2 and Bruce Springsteen concerts also generated some traffic.

This morning, I discovered a "new" (to me, anyway) message board because of links from a Fiona Apple site. Adagio Breezes looks to be a very active forum of her fans. I had no idea it existed when I wrote my post about her unreleased album a few days ago but happily discovered it by clicking one of my referral links. I duly joined and hope to participate in some of the discussions. It really is gratifying when you find others who enjoy the same interests as you do -- particularly when it's a performer who may not have as many dedicated sites as a Bruce Springsteen or a U2.

Now, to find a use for the IP addresses and domains...


Albuquerque became part of the United States without the firing of a single musket shot. It later briefly fell into Confederate hands— again without spilled blood -— and slipped back into Union control after only a brief cannon duel.

Years later, its destiny to become New Mexico's biggest city was sealed in the course of just several hours. And with the driving of one final railroad spike, it grew from one Albuquerque to two -— Old Town and New Town.

All of this unfolded during the span of only a few decades during Albuquerque's territorial period, which began in 1846 with the U.S. invasion of what then was Mexico and ended in 1912 when New Mexico attained statehood. The period was spiced with business boom and bustle, a flood, Indian raids and frontier vice.

"A lot was going on. A whole wave of change swept over the territory," said Marc Simmons, a Cerrillos-area historian and author of Albuquerque: A Narrative History.

New Mexico was officially designated as a U.S. territory in 1850, four years after U.S. troops swept in from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to claim it from Mexico during the U.S.-Mexico War.

The U.S. troops were expecting a fight in 1846, but it never materialized, according to New Mexico military historian and author Don Alberts.

The Mexican governor, who had only a small, poorly trained and ill-equipped army at his command, headed for Mexico instead of putting up a defense, Alberts said. And in September 1846, Gen. Stephen Watts Kearny hoisted the U.S. flag in the Albuquerque plaza.

The Albuquerque area in the years following continued to suffer repeated raids from Navajo Indians, who were apparently experts at it. One estimate cited in Simmons' book said the Indians from 1846 to 1850 relieved Rio Grande Valley residents of more than 450,000 sheep and 31,000 cattle.

"The Navajos really stepped it up when the sheep were available," Simmons said. "Somebody quoted the Navajos ... as saying they were very careful never to steal all the sheep— because they wanted them to keep breeding sheep so there would be something to steal the next time."

Battles For Albuquerque
The military presence in Albuquerque today is vital to the economic health of the city. It also provided a boost 150 years ago.

Alberts said the U.S. military supply post based in Albuquerque at that time supplied other posts in southern New Mexico and what would later become Arizona.

The Civil War broke out in 1861, and it boiled into the Rio Grande Valley early the following year when Confederate regiments approached from Texas.

Leading the way was Brig. Gen. Henry Sibley, who apparently was a raging drunk.

"He was a dedicated tippler. His men knew him as a walking whiskey keg," Alberts said.

The Confederate forces won a battle near Fort Craig, south of Socorro, but did not take the fort itself, Alberts said. When the Confederate troops reached Albuquerque in early March of 1862, the Union troops had skedaddled— but they torched their supply warehouses on their way out of town.

The so-called Battle of Albuquerque took place the following month, when U.S. troops from Fort Craig came north and traded a few hours of cannon blasts with a contingent of Confederate troops.

The Confederacy at that point was reeling from the burning of its supply wagons during the pivotal battle at Glorieta Pass east of Santa Fe. Alberts said the brief Albuquerque cannon duel— which apparently hurt only one person, a Union officer— convinced the Confederate survivors of Glorieta to head south from Santa Fe to bolster the Albuquerque contingent and secure their last remaining supplies there.

"It was really a feint" from the Union Army, Alberts said. After the cannon fire, the Union troops "simply left their campfires burning and withdrew to Tijeras Canyon ... and to the east side of the Sandias."

The Confederacy not long after decided to give up Albuquerque altogether and retreated south, leaving the city once again in Union hands.

Rails, Floods, And Bernalillo
Although Albuquerque in recent years has been suffering from drought, that wasn't always the case. Simmons in his book writes of an 1874 Rio Grande flood that broke out of the river channel and raged down the east side of the valley, leaving Albuquerque on an island and causing "staggering" damages.

The town that same decade also temporarily lost its status as county seat to Bernalillo, its northern neighbor. At that time, the county's boundaries were much larger than they are now: Bernalillo is now the county seat of Sandoval County.

But Albuquerque, not long after losing its status as county seat, got more than even with Bernalillo.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, which was moving westward in the 1870s, initially considered Bernalillo as a site for a massive rail office and yard complex. But Simmons writes that after being rebuffed during a brief meeting there, railroad representatives took a coach to Albuquerque, where the rail complex ultimately located.

At Albuquerque, "the business sector welcomed them with open arms," said Jan Dodson Barnhart, president of the Albuquerque Historical Society.

Without that turn of events that brought the first train huffing to town in 1880, Simmons wrote, "We can plausibly assume that Albuquerque would have been relegated to the status of a whistle-stop on the mighty AT&SF and that in its place Bernalillo would have soared onward, through mushroom growth, to become New Mexico's stellar city."

'New Town' Boomtown
The rail works vital to Albuquerque's explosive growth were located more than a mile from Old Town plaza, leading to the creation of a "New Town."

The coming of the railroad brought a rush of eastern Anglo passengers to the new Albuquerque, Dodson Barnhart said. But she pointed out that an 1885 special census found that more than 20 different ethnic groups were located here.

According to one historical background, greater Albuquerque in 1880 had a population of about 1,300 people, with fewer than 60 Anglo residents. By about 1900, the city had a population of nearly 8,000.

"Albuquerque has a line of horse cars in operation and an electric street railway in the course of construction," trumpeted an 1892 booster publication from the Albuquerque Commercial Club, the forerunner of the chamber of commerce. "It has water works, gas works, electric light works, 10 miles of graded streets, seven miles of sidewalks, and the only complete underground sewer system in the Southwest."

Wild Albuquerque
Albuquerque, however, also had a wild side, according to Dodson Barnhart and other historical accounts. Brothels, saloons, gambling, gunfights, vigilante hangings and opium houses were all part of the city's history before the turn of the century.

Dodson Barnhart said she didn't know that Albuquerque was any wilder than other frontier towns during the era but added, "we certainly had our share of gunfights."

A Vermont newspaper editor visiting Albuquerque in 1881 would later write that, "It is conceded by all that as a railroad point Albuquerque will be among the important towns in the territory."

But the editor also added, "A standard of morals has not yet been erected. ... Set down in Vermont any of the business streets of Albuquerque for just one evening, and the Governor, with all his staff and all the Sheriffs, would take to the woods, under the impression that hell had broke loose, and that any attempt at legal restraint would be suicidal."



Another weekend, another concert in the Arizona desert. This time, it was to see Bruce Springsteen's acoustic show at the new Glendale Arena (see my previous U2 review for my comments on this wonderful new venue). My "entourage" for this concert had somewhat of an international flair as I came out with Simon -- who usually lives in Buckinghamshire, England, but is in the States following the Bruce and U2 tours -- and Hans from Frankfurt, Germany -- a fan I met way back on the 1992 tour in Ames, Iowa. (While I'm heading back to New Mexico this afternoon, the two of them are going to Vegas for a night of gambling before catching up with Springsteen once again in L.A.).

With this being the first arena show of the tour (two-thirds of the venue were blocked off by a huge curtain behind the stage), a set of "rules" were distributed to people standing in line before the concert:

  • This show is a solo acoustic performance, set up in a theater-style arrangement.
  • There will be no intermission.
  • All guests must be seated by the start of the first song. Guests arriving to their seating section after the start of the show will be seated following the third song.
  • All concession stands will close 10 minutes prior to the start of the show and will remain closed for the duration of the show.
  • No cameras, video or audio recording devices will be permitted into the show.
I thought this was a good idea since it gave ticket-holders some notice that this wouldn't be your typical Bruce rock show (I'm sure a few people in that line had no idea this was an acoustic tour).

The doors opened shortly after 6:00 and we streamed in; after loading up with nachos, burgers, and sodas at the concession stand (deciding to buy our shirts and programs after the show), we headed down to our seats -- fifth row, center stage. Not quite as close as my last acoustic Bruce show -- in 1996 in Albuquerque -- but plenty close enough. With the burger wrappers shielding the view of anyone looking, Simon fiddled with his Nomad Jukebox 3 and tiny microphones which he intended to record the show with (I listened to part of his tape from the Dallas show on the plane ride over -- it's amazing how good some of these recordings turn out).

Bruce took the stage a little before 8:00 to a rearranged version of "Reason To Believe" from 1982's Nebraska, followed by a great version of the title track of the new Devils & Dust album. This song is one of my favorites of the new tracks, with some really powerful lyrics -- I just wish he would annunciate the words more clearly when singing it live. What followed was over two hours of tunes performed on acoustic and electric guitars as well as several done at the piano -- often punctuated with harmonica solos. While Bruce did introduce several songs with some of his famous storytelling, I was a bit surprised he didn't do it as much as what I'd heard on The Ghost Of Tom Joad tour of 1995-97 or tapes of his February 2003 solo benefit shows in the Boston area. Still, it's early in the tour and I'm sure Bruce will loosen up much more as it continues.

Probably the biggest highlight for me was hearing a solo piano version of "Racing In The Street" from my favorite Springsteen album, 1978's Darkness On The Edge Of Town. It literally sent chills down my spine. The show also featured the tour debut of "Book Of Dreams", one of the better songs released on Lucky Town in 1992.

A nice surprise came during the first song of the encores when fellow-E Street Band member (and a former member of Grin and Neil Young's Crazy Horse as well as being a great solo artist in his own right) Nils Lofgren came out to play dobro on an excellent version of "This Hard Land." First recorded in 1982, this song about two brothers riding the range "looking for lost cattle down south of the Rio Grande" is my favorite of all of the Born In The U.S.A.-era songs (I first heard it as an outtake on a tape I traded for around 1986; it wasn't officially-released until 1995 in a re-recorded version on Greatest Hits -- the original 1982 version was finally released on the Tracks box set in 1998).

The show wrapped up with the buoyant "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" from 2002's The Rising (a fun song that sounded great in an overcast London Crystal Palace Stadium with 60,000 people singing along but which didn't quite work in the acoustic setting of last night's show), a quick run-through of "My Best Was Never Good Enough Good Enough" (my least favorite track from Tom Joad) and a version of 1978's "The Promised Land", performed closely to how it was during the Tom Joad tour with a lot of percussion from Bruce banging on the back of the guitar.

All in all, it was a very satisfying show -- I would say more so than the Albuquerque acoustic show (although I missed meeting Bruce afterwards and racing down the street on his Harley as he did in my hometown in 1996).

With setlists being fairly similar on this tour (so far), I don't really have much of a desire to travel far and wide to any more Bruce shows -- I'll be content to download and listen to the tapes. Of course, if the rumored fall leg with the full band comes to pass...

Reason To Believe - Devils & Dust - Youngstown - Lonesome Day - Long Time Comin' - Silver Palomino - For You [on piano] - Book Of Dreams [on piano] - Part Man, Part Monkey - Maria's Bed - Highway Patrolman - Reno - All I'm Thinking About - Racing In The Street [on piano] - The Rising - Further On (Up The Road) - Jesus Was An Only Son [on piano] - Leah - The Hitter - Matamoras Banks

This Hard Land [with Nils Lofgren] - Waitin' On A Sunny Day - My Best Was Never Good Enough - The Promised Land

Listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Racing In The Street" live: