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It may have been extremely long (a bit over 3,700 words), but the publications editor for Marillion liked my review.  I just received the following e-mail from Anne:

Thanks for your review. I think it very well written and interesting throughout. We will probably have to divide it between the Christmas TT and the website, but I intend to use it all.
Thanks again,

Perhaps I should ask for extra copies of the magazine when published to send to friends and family (it's a membership-only publication).  It's always nice to see my byline in print (it's been a few years since I've gotten anything published in a paper/non-online format).  I must be doing something right, after all!


An earthquake registering 2.4 on the Richter scale hit Socorro, south of Albuquerque, on Friday night.  There wasn't any damage and most residents didn't even feel it, but the local media seems intent to make a big deal out of the tremor.  There have been multiple reports on the quake each of the last three nights on the evening news.

Earthquakes are actually fairly common in this part of New Mexico.  A major fault runs south from Albuquerque along the Rio Grande.  In fact, volcanic and seismic activity along this rift was responsible for forming the Sandia and Manzano mountains east of the valley.  I've felt tremors here on several occasions — they've never been strong enough even to move items in my medicine cabinets (my mom used to tell us stories about living in California when sometimes the only indication an earthquake had occurred was when they would hear my grandfather yelling when everything fell out of the medicine cabinet into the sink when opened the next morning).

It seems like there would be more important things going on in the world than to report on a minor moving of the earth that few people felt.  I can imagine how the news would have played it up had a brick fallen off of a building somewhere as a result!



I can't remember the last time I had to write anything on a deadline.  It may have been in college, or it may have been for work-related reports (making weekly schedules doesn't really count).

But I had a writing assignment this week that had an October 31st deadline:  I'd been asked to write a review of the Portland and Seattle Los Trios Marillos shows to accompany some of my photos in the official magazine of Marillion.  My usual modus operandi for any writing I had to do in school was to wait until the last possible moment to begin writing, usually without a formal outline.  (For assignments that required an outline, I'd usually "cheat" by creating it after I'd written the piece.).

At least this time, I composed much of it in the shower (I often do my best writing while standing in the shower thinking) and wrote out notes after toweling off.  I spent Thursday and Friday converting those notes to a long-hand written form and I just finished typing it into a Word document and e-mailing it over to Buckinghamshire.  It's probably too long (I've never been good at editing my own words), but hopefully Anne can prune it down so they can use it.  I'm just happy I met the deadline with a full day to spare.

While I'm on the subject, several of my photos I took at the Seattle concert will also be published in the magazine of Marillion's French fan club.  They'll accompany an article Jason Hart wrote about the tour.

Marillion has been so good to me lately, it's still somewhat amazing to me.



I've just received my hotel voucher for the last several nights of my New Year's trip, so everything is now booked.  I'd found such bargains on the airfare and the accomodations for the first part of the journey that I'd planned to "splurge" on the final hotel.  But where I'm going, it would seem that "expensive" rooms just don't exist (at least for singles, there were a few suites that topped the $100 mark).

What I found was really interesting, but in the interest of keeping it a secret in advance, I will only give a few hints.  I had several ideas of what parts of this city I wanted to stay in, based on nearby tourist attractions and public transportation (preferring trains and subways to taxis or busses).  I kept coming across nice inns and hotels in the $30-$45 per night range (bareboned places such as guesthouses or hostel-style places ran as low as $5-10 per night but I didn't want to stay around the "backpacker" crowd).  But within an hour of beginning my search, I found the "perfect" place for me and was thrilled that it wouldn't come close to "breaking the bank."

Anyway, my "splurge" is in what was (not very long ago) the world's tallest hotel highrise (a title which seems to change quite often).  The least expensive rooms were very large singles in the "Low Zone", meaning somewhere on floors 30 to 50, at just $50 per night.  But, for just $5 more I took a room in the "Sky Zone" which will put me in the upper 20 or 30 floors of the hotel.  If I'm going to stay in such a tall building, I might as well sleep as high as I can!  (And it's still the tallest building in it's particular country.)  Plus, my accomodation includes a free welcome fruit basket and drink, daily breakfast (and that doesn't mean the stale pastry and cold coffee you might receive with your complementary "breakfast" in an American hotel), plus daily passes for the brand-new elevated train which has a station in the building.

Now, I'm not sure which part of the trip I'm most looking forward to — the beginning where I'll be sleeping in a bungalow from which I can step out of and be right on the beach, the middle part where I'll be staying in a floating hotel on a historically-significant river, or the end part in a luxurious high-rise!  One thing that is for certain is that it will definitely be a vacation of contrasts!



Since I got my Blackberry, I rarely check the messages on my landline phone; the answering machine hasn't worked very well ever since DSL was added to my line (yes, I have the proper filters in place) — one has to practically scream into the phone for the machine to even pick up any sounds at all.  Besides, the only calls I usually get on that phone are from politicians wanting my vote.

So, I was very disappointed to find a (very faint) message from Dad on the machine just a little while ago.  I had to play it back four or five times at "full volume" just to make out about half of the call.  He called from Bangkok on Tuesday morning (if the date/time stamp is correct, which I doubt).  Most of the message was difficult to hear but I heard something about he had found a job for me.  Can't wait until he returns (or calls back) to find out what that was all about.

I don't have his itinerary, but he and Lyn were going to be touring Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam until early November.


Since I'll be moving away from Albuquerque in late May or early June, it probably isn't too early to begin thinking of a new title for this blog.  (I was never too happy with 'Burque Blog in the first place, and even found out a few months ago that there was another local blog that also went by the same name).  If I end up living in the hilly sections west of downtown Portland, I suppose I can adjust the subtitle to "The View From The Northwest Heights."

I've never been very good at titles.  It's rare that I come up with anything approaching "clever" (back when I used to write mysteries, I used to labor on the title more than the short story).  This is going to take A LOT of thought, I fear.

I'll probably keep the same URL, however.  I don't know how difficult it would be to migrate the entire blog to a new address.  I could always start a brand new blog under the new name and just link to the archives.  But I'm quite happy with the existing's simple but (I think) elegant.  Much easier to read than the first version of the blog with that "parchment" style.

Yet another task to occupy my mind....


Wow!  Most years, I don't even begin to think about Christmas gifts until sometime after Thanksgiving.  But I'm actually almost finished already!  I have a stack of gifts waiting to be wrapped for Dad and Lyn, a large combo gift for Keith & Marilyn, and even a stocking stuffer for Spencer.  Indeed, the only gifts I still need to purchase are for my nephew.  (I probably won't be sent his wish list for at least another month).

Now comes my least favorite part:  wrapping the presents and packaging them up so I can ship them.  If I'd been thinking, I'd at least had M&K's big box sent to their home rather than mine.  I'm sure if I go over to Wal-Mart or Target tomorrow, I'll find a large selection of wrapping paper already.  It will be nice to have it all done and not worry about shopping, etc. at the last second.

I actually got the inspiration for most of this year's presents while I was in Kansas City at the end of last month for Bryan & Melissa's wedding.  A few things that I saw in Dad's office gave me some ideas for what I would buy for him.  And I actually found the "perfect" gift for Marilyn while purusing the SkyMall catalog on the flight home (although I enjoy flipping through those catalogs, I had never purchased anything from them before because I think most of the stuff is overpriced).  I had to turn this last gift into a "combo" present because of Marilyn's price limit she imposed on holiday spending this year (but I may buy a few more "stocking stuffers" as well).

When I attended the Balloon Fiesta earlier this year, I kept my eyes open for other things I could give various family members.  Overall, I was rather disappointed with what I saw out there; perhaps it was because I went on the next-to-last day and many vendors had depleted stock.  I did find something rather nice (and fun) for Lyn, however.

Since I'm going to be out-of-town on both my birthday and on Christmas (and New Year's) this year, I don't know what I'm going to do about any gifts that are sent to me.  Last year, I tried to explain that I didn't want ANY gifts since it's no fun to open them alone.  Marilyn became very angry with my reasoning so I recanted that request.

I do still think it doesn't mean much to open presents alone (even over the phone it's difficult to share the occasion); it's much more fun to celebrate the holiday when among family where you're able to watch everyone's expressions as they receive their gifts.  And, as I get older, I find that I don't really need or want anything; if there is something I would like to have, I end up buying it myself (I think it's much more satisfying that way as it's a sense of accomplishment or reward for successfully budgeting or saving up for that special item).  All I really want to receive is the caring and support of my family no matter what I decided I would like to do.  And I pretty much have that already anyway.

Since Dad & Lyn are planning to visit Albuquerque sometime in late January or early February, perhaps I could save the wrappped December gifts until then and open them in their presence.  What fun that would be!

My gift to myself this year is my late December/early January journey.  I'm really looking forward to phoning my family sometime on Christmas day from a beach chair under a palm tree and revealing my location!  (I just have to make sure that I get the time difference straight and don't end up calling in the middle of the night!).

I just can't believe that Christmas day is just two months from Tuesday!  How time flies...



Well, I'm not "on the road" yet (I leave on my next journey in 44½ days) so I'll attempt to bring things up-to-date.

Since I returned home at the beginning of this month, I've been been working hard with only one day of "fun" (when I went to the Balloon Fiesta).  I also spent several days with the flu — the first time in a couple of years that I can remember being really ill.

Much of my time lately has been spent putting together Melissa & Bryan's wedding video (in fact, I'd finished authoring a really nice version of it when it was decided to include the photographer's slideshow so I'm awaiting that to arrive in the mail now before completing the project).

I've also spent many hours (off and on over the past two weeks or so) researching and booking itineraries, airfare, and accomodations for my "grand adventure" in late December/early January.  I'm still planning to keep the primary destination a secret from everyone (except for one friend who will be sent a copy of the flight & hotel details in case of emergency) until I make the family phone call on Christmas morning.  I'm REALLY looking forward to this trip and I think I've put together a fantastic journey.  I got some great price deals all around and was amazed that the "high-end" rooms at one of my destinations topped out below $20 U.S. (the one I chose will cost me a whopping $6.75 per night!).  In fact, I'm saving so much money on all aspects of the trip that I'm considering splurging on a really fancy hotel (not my usual style) for the last couple of nights of the trip (the only part I haven't booked yet).

In between the short trip for my birthday, and the longer trip at the end of the month, in mid-December I'll be spending a few days in Portland, Oregon, with the intention of finding a place to live.  I have my heart set on one particular high-rise close to Washington Park (ironically, right across the street from where I stayed in September), but will also check out other locations (I would love to live in one of those cool buildings downtown).

I have also scored a ticket for U2's concert at the Rose Garden on December 19 — their last show of the year.  It's kind of a nose-bleed seat so I'm trying to score a better one closer to the stage.  With prices for GA tickets going to astronomical levels on eBay, I'm considering trying to buy a pair of those and then reselling the extra ticket at (hopefully) a profit along with my upper level seat.  We'll see...

I also got an invitation to the 10th anniversary party of the @u2 website, to be held at an Irish pub the night before the U2 concert.  There will be contests (with some really cool prizes), a huge birthday cake, and Bay area U2 tribute band Zoo Station will perform.  Sounds like a fun evening.

And that's it.

As usual, there are many other projects at home I'd like to work on (and, someday, actually finish).  But there just never seems to be enough time.  I've been feeling really unorganized as there are stacks of stuff on top of my desk and nearby shelves that I need to attend to.  My piles of unwatched DVD's and unlistened-to CD's are also becoming ever taller.  Someday...

Hopefully, things will slow down a bit in the next week or so.  My slate will never be completely clean but I think I'll be able to breathe a little easier when the wedding DVD is finished and the last bit of my reseverations are booked.  Then, perhaps I can clear some stacks off of my desk and get some control over my life again.  What I'd really like to do is spend the next several weekends with music on the stereo — staying away from the computer and television — so I can start cleaning out closets, throwing out (or putting in the "eBay box") unwanted or unneeded detritus, and preparing for next year's big move.  You can never start packing too soon, I think.  I should also start scheduling hour or two-hour blocks of time for various local photo safaris — there's a lot of Albuquerque that I'd like to capture on "film" before I go.

I can't believe I'm finally going to leave New Mexico after years of promising to do just that!  I'm going to miss parts of this place, but I'm really looking forward to starting a new life in the Pacific Northwest.


I can post to my blog using my Blackberry - useful for updates from the road - but HTML formatting won't work so the entries will be rather bare-boned. Also, I'm not very fast (yet) at texting on the tiny keyboard which will serve to keep my writings fairly short.

Ain't technology grand?!

Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless



The first real snow storm of the season has hit northern New Mexico and much of Colorado.  Around here, it means accumulations at elevations greater than 7,500 feet (my apartment is around 6,200) but there were near-blizzard conditions near Denver.  It's a fairly slow-moving system so snow is again in our forecast for tonight.  But, typical of Albuquerque,  we probably won't see any in the city (or it will melt quickly) and temperatures will again be in the mid-60's by tomorrow afternoon.

Last year was quite an anomaly as we saw quite a bit of the white stuff from about mid-October through April, alternating with days in the seventies and plenty of rain in January and February.  It certainly was the oddest year weather-wise since I'd moved to New Mexico in 1994.  We even had a white Christmas!

But I don't plan to be in Albuquerque for the Holidays this year.  December is shaping up to be a very hectic month, beginning with spending my birthday in London and a mid-month home-hunting trip to Portland.  I had planned to spend the week between those two journeys with relatives in the San Francisco area but, alas, I won't be able to do that.  I had originally been scheduled to leave for Nepal at the end of December but that's been postponed because of Maoist activity in the area.  I AM planning a "secret" trip to ease the disappointment of the cancellations but probably won't reveal my destination until I have already arrived.  (I've become weary of talking about future trips that end up getting delayed or not happening at all).

I can guarantee that if I do get to where I want to go, I probably won't be seeing any snow.  Stay tuned...


I don't drive much these days — I live next door to a nice shopping area — so I don't notice the gas prices on a day-to-day basis like so many others.  I do know when I filled my tank in late July it cost a little over $18 and in early September the same gas at the same station was just under $35.  New Mexico doesn't (yet) have an anti-price gouging law so prices rose to astronomical levels shortly after reports of gas shortages in late August.

So, I was pleased to learn today that the closest gas station to my home (about a mile and a half away — I often wish there was one closer) had dropped it's price for a gallon of regular to below $3.00 for the first time in weeks.  And I did notice a couple of days ago that the prices at the Sandia Indian Reservation station was about $2.85 (they tend to have the lowest prices in the area).  It's a definite move in the right direction.  Sure beats the $4.50 per gallon I saw during the week after Hurricane Katrina.  Hopefully, this means that our heating gas prices won't be too high this winter as well.



Today was dreary, cold and rainy from the early morning and into the night.  It was the perfect day to lay on the sofa watching football on the television and trying to catch up on my reading.  I actually enjoy the overcast days more than the sunny ones and it's weather like this that will prepare me for the move to the Pacific Northwest.  More is on the way, but in a different form:  snow is actually in the forecast for tonight with much of northern New Mexico expected to receive several inches of the white stuff by morning.  It seems awfully early, but I'm not complaining!


I (finally) got out to the 34th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta yesterday morning.  It was the first time I'd attended a Mass Ascension in many years; usually, I've just watched the balloons floating around in the sky over the city rather than from the launch field.  Since I'll be moving away from New Mexico next year, I figured it would be my last chance.

It had been cold and rainy for most of last week (Thursday's morning events being cancelled because of the weather — a rarity).  And today — the last day of the Fiesta — also saw all events cancelled (although the Main Street vendors remained open; admission and parking were free as a result).

So, I picked the perfect day to attend.  I did get a rather late start — leaving from my apartment just before 5a.m. (I'd planned a 4:30 departure), hitting stop-and-go traffic just past the northern turnoff for Balloon Fiesta Park.  It took almost 45 minutes to travel the remaining mile-and-a-half to the parking lot.  Still, I arrived just in time for the Dawn Patrol to launch.  It wasn't as cold as previous years when I've been on the field.  Indeed, I was a little too warm in my fleece pullover.  And downright hot whenever I got too close to a basket's burner.  Once the sun rose over the Sandias, a slight breeze picked up making it very pleasant with clear blue skies dotted with hundreds of colorful balloons.

Armed with my digital camera (7.2 megapixels), I took many more photos than I thought I would.  The last time I'd taken any balloon photos was pre-digital (and I have yet to scan any of those old pictures).  I also shot about 40 minutes of video.  (I uploaded the photos to my Webshots albums last night; you can view the specific album by clicking here.

Oddly enough, I didn't eat or drink anything out there (half the fun of going) other than a free sample (tiny) slice of Freshetta pizza.  I bypassed the piñon nut coffee and hot chocolate booths, I resisted the smell of breakfast burritos and jumbo cinammon rolls, and I avoided the New Mexican and Native American food stands (although I almost succumbed to a Navajo taco).

After all the waves of balloons had launched (lasting from 5:45 to 9:30 or so), I wandered down to Main Street and began checking out the merchandise booths.  My principal goal was to find some nice Christmas gifts.  I did succeed in purchasing something nice for my step-mom as well as a stocking stuffer for my nephew.  I did purchase a couple of CD's for myself (from the Incan musicians who always seem to be present at New Mexico events; I'd wanted to buy some of this music for quite some time).  In years past, I would have loaded up on the various balloon pins (particularly the official ones).  But I wasn't really in the mood this time —I did buy the official event pin and a Dawn Patrol patch just before leaving (they were sold out of most of the other pins and patches by that time).  I also looked at the official clothing and almost bought something for my brother-in-law; I also entertained the thought of buying the official jacket (made by Columbia Sportsware of Portland), but didn't want to spend $130 for it.

Two things I was disappointed in:  I was certain that the Albuquerque Tricentennial Store would have a booth at the Balloon Fiesta.  I've been wanting to buy some of the cool Tricentennial shirts, etc. but haven't ordered online because I'd like to compare the various designs in person.  I guess I'll have to make a trip over to New Mexico Look sometime (I think they're the only retailer selling the Tricentennial gear).

Also, I was surprised that none of the local wineries weren't represented among the many merchandise booths.  There was a Wine Of The Month Club stand, but that's not what I was interested.  I've wanted to buy Casa Rondeña's Tricentennial Serenade (can we see a theme?) but haven't driven out to the vineyards themselves.  At the information booth, I was told there had been a New Mexico wines event at the Balloon Fiesta last weekend where they were all in attendance.

After leaving the Balloon Fiesta grounds around noontime, I decided I didn't want to go straight home since it was such a beautiful day out.  So, I headed over to Rio Grande Boulevard (my favorite street in Albuquerque, it's always a joy to drive down with farms and old haciendas lining the tree-covered road).  I ended up at Casa Rondeña Vineyards which gets my vote as the most scenic of all the New Mexico wineries with buildings that look like Italian villas (except for the chile ristras flanking the main building's entrance).  It reminds me of Tuscany, actually.

I wandered around, snapping a few photos, before asking about the Tricentennial Serenade.  By terrible coincidence, they sold out just the evening before!  I did, however, get on the waiting list so they can call me as soon as they bottle more (sometime before Christmas).  It has proved their most popular wine in years.

Back home, I uploaded the over 100 photos I'd taken over the course of the day.  I even called Dad to wish him a safe trip (he and Lyn leave tomorrow for a tour of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand).

All in all, it was a very fulfilling day — didn't find the wine I was looking for but who can complain when you've got a clear blue New Mexico sky full of colorful balloons?



Many things have been occupying my "free time" over the course of the past few weeks and I haven't been able to write as much as I'd like.  I still have much to blog about last month's Pacific Northwest trip and now there's a (brief) trip to Kansas City in there I'd like to detail.

Time seems to pass much more quickly as I become older.  It seems like just yesterday the sun was shining and the temperatures were in the 80's (actually, it WAS yesterday — that's Albuquerque weather for you).  Today is cold, rainy, and generally dreary (a good prelude to my big move next year; Portland IS the winner!!).  In fact, I decided it was a perfect day to make my first batch of crockpot chile of the season.  I just hope it stops raining long enough in the next couple of days for me to get out to the Balloon Fiesta (this morning's events were cancelled; tonight's Glowdeo is still a "go").