Archive for the ‘New Mexican Quirks’ Category

Flying Dinosaurs!

October 9, 2012 - 4:08 pm 3 Comments

Ok, slightly bait-and-switchy, but it got your attention didn’t it? Our friend Stephen Bodio seems to have gone and gotten a new book out.

I have not read this tome yet myself, but I do intend a copy to go in the ever-expanding pile of matter I intend to read, despite said pile rapidly approaching a volume sufficient to collapse in on itself and begin a self-sustaining fusion reaction. The man knows of whence he speaks, and while raptors are not a niche most, if not all, of the readership here will never have more than passing contact with, how can you argue against the inherent coolness of working with an animal that is essentially a vector calculus engine attached to a propulsion unit and a bag of knives? They can be funny, too.

If you’re so inclined, you may find An Eternity of Eagles through a handy Amazon referral that will benefit two people a once with no additional cost to you. I’m looking forward to when ever I can mow through enough of the to-read backlog to get on this one.

Signs of the Season

April 10, 2012 - 8:05 pm Comments Off

It is definitely springtime in Los Alamos. Flowers are blooming, pollen is flying, mosquitoes are breeding, the roller girls have moved outdoors, the Easter snowstorm has come and gone and been replaced by afternoon showers.

Also, the mystery object that sounds like a flying saucer is launching or a death ray is warming up has returned to randomly making voooooooooooorn noises somewhere in the distance. At this point it goes right next to the hummingbirds and flowers as signs the season has truly changed.

How To Drive In New Mexico

February 23, 2012 - 4:39 pm Comments Off

…Or, things I start writing in my head when I have to spend a lot of the time on the road in my home state. Some of these are less local and more universal than others.

1. The driver who seems like they might be drunk, is drunk.

Seriously. It’s damn near the official state participant sport. If a driver is weaving, constantly varies speeds for no apparent reason, and generally seems… off… treat them like they have a twenty-foot force field all around them. Even if that means you get home slower.

2. The beater car has the right of way, at all times.

If you see a car that looks like it has been assembled from the corpses of other cars, you immediately know two things: the driver has no fear, and the driver does not give a shit about his or her car. If you break this unwritten law, the next time the beater car is seen it may be wearing your car’s fender as a trophy.

3. Stringently obey all traffic laws on Indian reservations, and in pleasant-looking little small towns.

In the former case, speeders and reckless drivers are major revenue generators. In the latter, the answer to the petulant driver’s bleat to the ticketing police officers of “Don’t you have anything better to do?!” is an entirely honest “No, I do not.” In either case both communities have more reasons to care about outsiders rocketing through their turf than the state bears or the police forces of bigger cities do. In general, New Mexico is a very bad place to be an impatient driver.

4. The pickup truck with all the tools in the back probably knows more about the road you’re on than you do.

Odds are, the dude in the very well-used looking pickup with the heavy-duty modifications and enough hardware in the back for an Army Corps of Engineers unit has been all over the state and back again, possibly within the last week. If he slows down for no readily apparent reason, he might know more than you do about good reasons to in that particular area, time of day, or weather condition.

5. Washes and arroyos are not merely picturesque local color.

If it’s raining heavily, do not EVER challenge the wash, even if the running water looks shallow. Be aware of the contours of the land around you and retain awareness that, in a rocky, dry area, the lowest points where any liquid will end up. In summer, they are flash flood zones. In winter, they are where the black ice will be. The black ice is not just a good name for a metal band, it’s a good way to send your vehicle skating merrily across several lanes of traffic or into the side of a mountain.

6. If traffic is slow and you are feeling cranky and impatient, so is everyone else.

This isn’t really local and more sound advice for driving in general, but the locals aren’t always the most cautious. When driving in downtown Albuquerque and Santa Fe in particular, be aware that stop signs are treated by some as suggestions and sometimes the only way to get into a major artery at rush hour from a side street is the suicidal dive. Be sure your brakes are good and your attention isn’t wandering.

7. The more bumper stickers on the vehicle, of any sentiment, the more impulsive and dangerous the driver.

The scariest vehicle I have ever seen anywhere was the one in Albuquerque that was completely papered over with bumper stickers from the front doors back. Including the entire back window. The driver acted exactly as you’d expect someone who felt more need to display their opinions than to see out their back window would.

8. The locals are fine with it, and whether you are or not is not relevant.

Crawling speeds and inexplicable chicanes and roundabouts in Los Alamos? Adjust. Thirteen people in a barely roadworthy sedan on the highway north? Normal traffic and minor road hazard. Motorists in Santa Fe who are obeying traffic laws from other dimensions? Standard. Roads in small towns that are treated as universal mixed traffic for pedestrians, cars, bicycles, horses, dogs, and wild animals? Also normal. If you do not attempt to adapt, you will come to a bad end sooner than they will.

9. There is a nowhere, and it is possible to reach the middle.

There are places, lots of them, where there is no such thing as cell service or GPS signal*, and there are no good roads or outposts of civilization. Unless you know the area very, very well, do not fuck around with them. The concept of “here there be dragons” in mapmaking could stand to make a comeback.

10. Just because the manufacturer asserts a vehicle is “off-road” capable, does not mean it is.

It’s entirely possible they mean the vehicle can traverse a grassy plain without bursting into flames or breaking an axle, not that the vehicle can do anything else without the assistance of pavement. Your rear wheel drive only, automatic transmission conveyance that happens to be pickup shaped is not going anywhere once snow, ice, mud, and gravity join forces.

*Or places where you can get signal, but it won’t do you any actual benefit aside from affirming that you are, in fact, fucked.

Get your head out of the clouds!

December 13, 2011 - 5:27 pm Comments Off

Easy. We’re above all that.

(click for big)

Ultimate Personal WARRIOR Fight Tech Combat System

February 2, 2011 - 4:31 pm Comments Off

Atomic Nerds, in conjunction with Querencia are proud to bring you what we feel will be a step forward in the realm of personal combat and defense not seen in use since the longbow.

As modern dangers have evolved in response to changing conditions, much as deer have become tougher and harder to kill over the years, gunnies in the know are advocating increasing the amounts of training the average man or woman on the street should have under their Wilderness Instructor belts. Clearly a good thing; knowing your tools better and having some idea how to use them is an excellent goal in any situation, moreso when dealing with your own personal safety. Discrete armor is on the rise, and across the land, people are duct taping their ceramic trauma plates together to better deal with multiple rounds of .338 lapua to the back. Holsters are becoming technical masterpieces of engineering and moving parts to assure rapid success under stressful conditions, and our clothing is changing to match the high-stress demands we put on the very things we wear.

Technology has even come to improve our ammunition, and certainly our firearms. We have lights galore, frickin’ lasers, holograms, computerized optics, more things to put on rails than you can shake a carbon-fiber tactical stick at, and even a way to get crits in combat.

For the truly dedicated, there are of course helmets, but that’s valuable real estate. Your head contains your primary weapon, but what if it could contain your secondary as well? What if, and just go with me on this for a minute, but what if your head could contain a directed autonomous tactical weapons suite to augment your outgoing fire, distract and harry your enemy, be it the Kevlar-skinned SumDood himself, Twitchy the Meth Monkey, or even that rascally rabbit. With a simple whistle or word, the battlefield will tilt in your favor as this eagle-eyed smart weapon homes in like a hawk on your adversary.

Below the jump, behold as Atomic Nerds and Querencia present: The Cranial Raptor Autonomous Personal Hazard Engagement Assistance Defense System
(more…)

Easter Weekend Redux

April 2, 2010 - 8:53 pm Comments Off

Things are rather busy around here with preparations for a visit from friends (there will be a surprise bonus Cooking Noob with a guest star), and finally putting in that hotwire so half my day isn’t spent outside watching the dogs sniff the breeze and eat rabbit crap.

In honor of the weekend, an old post regarding one of this region of the state’s more interesting regional quirks. Hint: at this time of year, what a driver on the highway has to worry about most suddenly switches from drunks to the pious.

LabRat's Opinions Are Lies And Fail

November 16, 2008 - 6:28 pm Comments Off

As with all marriages, there are points of disagreement in our house. Perhaps the single most divisive for us, is the small matter of spice.

The first thing to consider is that we reside, as oft mentioned, in New Mexico. Just as you can get beer anywhere in Germany, so too can you get green chile added to your cheeseburger with near ubiquity here. Including McDonald’s. I was born here, raised here, and generally fit the stereotype of having a Hatch green chile for a pacifier. LabRat, on the other hand, is an import from Phoenix by way of New Orleans – the former the source of the absolute blandest, worst Mexican food I have ever sampled (and don’t get me started on their take on “chili burgers”), the latter notorious for culinary excess of all stripes, including spice. I will grant I have a bit of a lead in development for spice tolerance and preference.

That said, I grow weary of the damn filthy lies spread by my supposedly beloved spouse in the realm of heat affinity. Were she to be believed, my recipe for chili would consist of four parts napalm, two parts magnesium flares. My mouth would be constructed of weapons grade asbestos, and fire would spring from my footprints in even the deepest snow. Clearly, these things are not so. While I do like things a tad hotter than average, I am simply a bit off center from the bell curve, not out on an extreme end of a tail.

LabRat points to those around me to shore up her flimsy position that I’m an outlier. She says my chili, prepared the way I like it, is too hot for my father, who she brands as having a tin palate. I say that for as much as he smokes, his opinion on matters of flavor are suspect. When discussing local purveyors of gastronomical heat, she once blurted words to the effect “It’s New Mexico! The local restaurants gauge their chile to local palates! NONE OF THEM serve anything you consider hot!” I counter that this is because the local cooks are good enough to know how much heat is required to make the dish into a good balance of flavor and heat, rather than just punishing the diner with an excess of scoville units, and that after all, this is Los Alamos, the whitest of the white-bread portions of this whole state, and generally not of an adventurous palate.

I will happily grant that I often start my day with a dose of red chile and chorizzo sausage in the form of a breakfast burrito (the ne plus ultra of breakfast foods, I might add) from a local hole-in-the-wall outfit, but given the size of the line usually to be found there, I’m not sure how that makes me unusual. A good many of the other patrons get their breakfast with red and green chile (a combination appropriately dubbed “Christmas”), so obviously I could be worse about what I like in the way of spicy food.

To play devil’s advocate, however, I must point out that even though I’m not that fond of Tabasco (though it is frequently tasty), I’m strangely drawn to this.

So remember, all you spice-weenies of the internet: Just because the sight of a pepper mill makes you reach for a big cold drink, the rest of us still probably dig a little heat.

C…n't S…tp The S..gn..l

April 25, 2008 - 3:16 pm Comments Off

Not content with having spent about half a BILLION (and counting) on the pointless and severely misguided “eco-friendly” RailRunner light passenger train between Santa Fe and Albuquerque in order to move a few hundred people over the last 8 months or so, the construction crews involved in this corrupt kickback-athon decided to make things more directly abysmal by cutting a fiber optic trunk. As it so happens, it was the trunk carrying the data to and from our little nerd ranch.

To say we are unamused would be like saying a man struck by lightning is feeling a bit under the weather. It may be accurate, but it doesn’t quite do the situation justice. Ranting to follow once we finish clearing the bit & byte backlog generated during the downtime.

Easter in Northern NM

March 23, 2008 - 12:56 pm Comments Off

“Now if you apply the same principles to Catholicism, an interesting thing occurs…” – Dr. Thaddeus Venture

Each year around Easter, the highways in Northern New Mexico get a little more dangerous. The stretch of U.S. 285 between Santa Fe and Pojoque is not the safest road in the best of times, being a frequent course in the state’s DWI Championships, with the 502 between Los Alamos and Pojoque not much safer after you pass the Espanola turn-off. When Good Friday and Easter roll around, however, things get a little more interesting. Thanks to the Santuario de Chimayo, drivers must contend with pilgrims.

First, a little background. El Santuario de Chimayo is a small chapel in the small town of Chimayo, near Espanola and Pojoque, built in 1816 under some rather interesting circumstances. In 1816, the primary residents of Chimayo were members of a Catholic sect known as Los Hermanos de la Fraternidad Piadosa de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, or “The Penitentes.” This sect was the Grade-A hardcore all-star squad of Catholic guilt and penitence. Believing it better to suffer during life than after death, these guys were huge into penitence. Based off the practices of the flagellants of Black Plague era Europe (only without the eventual semi rock-star status and ensuing “Don’t trash our hotel!” attitudes) these cats would lash themselves with cactus-studded ropes, and each Easter would perform an actual honest-to-protocol crucifixion. Yes, nails, crown of thorns and all. And it was the honor of the year to be selected as the nailee. If you survived, you would gain enormous clout in the community. If you died, you guaranteed passage into heaven not only for yourself, but for your entire family. During the marching portion of the recreation, people would stuff their shoes with cactus for that extra dose of ouch forgiveness.

So one day, according to legend, while merrily engaging in behaviors that would call for institutionalization today, one Bernardo Abeyta saw a bright light shining from the ground down by the river. Los Alamos not having been invented yet, his first thought was not of suing us for contaminating the water, but instead to dig it up and figure out if there was anything useful for masochistic purposes in that light. Upon excavation, Mr. Abeyta discovered a large cross bearing the image of Christ of Esquipulas – and the image was carved too, not one those hokey Virgin Cheese Sandwich things. Upon showing the discovery to the local Father, they quickly organized a procession to carry the cross to a more convenient location and installed it in their church.

The next morning, the cross was gone. In the ensuing chaos, Mr. Abeyta (rather conveniently) found the cross right back in the same spot he found it the first time. They dragged it back, plugged it back into the church, and called it a day. The next morning, the same thing happened – the cross vanished in the night, and reappeared in its original location. Being rather tired of walking with angry gila monsters in their pants and rattlesnakes in their mouths, they decided to just leave it there and build a chapel around it. Shortly after the chapel was completed, Mr. Abeyta fell ill. After a few days of glorious suffering with high fever and waning strength, he summoned his last efforts and staggered off to the new chapel.

As he approached, he hallucinated had a vision of the Christ of Esquipulas. When the figure beckoned to him, he shed his blankets and staggered forward. The figure vanished before he could get there, however. Abeyta collapsed to his knees where the figure had stood, and was instantly healed. That spot has since been held responsible for many other miraculous cures, with an estimated 300,000 pilgrims visiting the sanctuary per year rubbing the dirt on themselves, or pictures of sick loved ones too ill to travel, or even eating it. Most take some dirt home with them for a quick pick-me-up later. No comment is provided by church or locals as to which local contractor has the cushiest fill-dirt dumpsite in the area, though they acknowledge replacing up to 30 tons of dirt per year.

The Penitentes have since faded mostly into obscurity. Most folks around here know of the miracle fill dirt, but not of the bloody practices of the group that first found the G(od)-spot, and each year approximately 30,000 people walk to the Sanctuary, aiming to arrive during Easter weekend. Some are reported as walking from as far away as Las Cruces (over 300 miles), but most folks these days engage in the reverent and faithful practice of having a friend drop them off at some point deemed far enough away to count. The highway department helpfully puts up signs warning drivers to watch out for large numbers of people on the side of the road (locally recognized simply as “walkers”), and since the highways they walk along actually have shoulders, it’s usually not too dangerous, although the drunks do claim a few every so often (the record was a family of nine set while I was in high school). In recent years, they’ve also started passing out glo-sticks, which makes the procession look like everybody is on their way to the biggest rave in the state.

Welcome to Easter in Northern New Mexico. Please try not to run anyone over in the quest for dirt, and if you’re expecting boom-tisk music, you may be disappointed.

I've been called out.

March 17, 2008 - 8:44 pm Comments Off

Mr. Chas S. Clifton of Southern Rockies Nature Blog recently posted a highly accurate listing of the types and styles of New Mexican Barbie Dolls. Strangely missing from this list however, was Los Alamos Barbie. Given that we are unquestionably considered the weirdest city in the whole damn weird state, this of course would not do. Stephen Bodio calling LabRat and I specifically to fill this niche in the comments only added fuel to the flame. Thus, I submitted the following over in the comments:

“Los Alamos Barbie’s hair appears to have been styled and maintained by the dog groomer. She comes with an assortment of textbooks, and one Esoteric Hobby Kit ranging from stargazing to shark diving. Los Alamos Barbie has three choices of car, either a Subaru, Volvo or Saab. None of these choices will go as fast as any other Barbie’s car, as Los Alamos Barbie cannot find the gas pedal with both feet, a map, a team of sherpas, and a “Best of Riverdance” video. Unique among Barbies, Los Alamos Barbie often comes with the optional child accessory, availible in either the Nervous Wreck Overachiever, or the Chronically Unenthused Slacker variants. Los Alamos Ken looks suspiciously like Taos Ken with his birkenstocks, hiking shorts, and extremely silly hat, but is distinguishable by the addition of socks to the sandals and by wearing a dress shirt in some state of dishevelment rather than a tie-dye tshirt. Those mistaking Los Alamos Ken for Taos Ken frequently find themselves on the receiveing end of a three hour “discussion” on the non-linear equations governing meteorology, string theory, self-balancing binary tree algorithms, and of course nuclear energy no matter what his actual field is.”

This seems to have done the trick. Only problem is that Mr. Clifton managed to poke my oddball streak with his approval.
“OK, you got it.
*exit singing*
Quantum foam,
Take me home ….”

If you don’t recognize, the tune is John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” (not to be confused with his smash hit, “OH GOD A TREE!”)

Almost nowhere,
Pajarito,
Jemez Mountains,
Rio Grande River,

Town’s still new here,
among the burned down trees,
Used to be a Ranch School
The kids all had skinned knees.

Quantum foam,
Take me home
To the place
Where qbits roam,

Los Alamos,
Weirdo central,
Take me home,
Quantum foam.

All my projects,
Q-cleared secrets,
But I can’t find them,
Check behind the xerox

Wet and muddy,
when the snow melt’s nigh,
Spicy taste of chile
Making tourists cry

Quantum foam,
Take me home
To the place
Where qbits roam,

Los Alamos,
Weirdo central,
Take me home,
Quantum foam.

I hear a voice in the morning oh it calls me,
FBI man warns me not to talk of what we see,
And when I leave The Hill I get the feeling that I’m gonna end up dead just like Marie Curie…
Marie Curieeeeeeeeeeeee

Quantum foam,
Take me home
To the place
Where qbits roam,

Los Alamos,
Weirdo central,
Take me home,
Quantum foam

Take me home,
Quantum foam.