Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cost of Living in Santa Fe, Part 1

Part of the published estimates for "income needed in retirement" include the assumption that you won't need as much money in retirement as you did before then--and one of the ways folks accomplish this is by paying off their mortgage and/or moving to a less expensive part of the country.

While Santa Fe is undoubtedly more expensive than any other part of New Mexico, I would say that housing is cheaper in Santa Fe than in Boston for comparable property. However, my mortgage is actually about the same as it was in Boston, partly because I bought a bigger house, and partly because I used some of the equity in my house to fund my transition here.

But here are some of the ways one CAN save money here:

• Taxes are lower. According to the US Census Bureau, the per capita state/local tax bill in 2004 in New Mexico was $2,861--only 68% of the comparable number for Massachusetts ($4,217).

• Parking is cheaper. When you live in a major metro area like Boston, you get used to shelling out $15-$20 for a parking space downtown (to see a show, for example). Parking here is either free or only costs a couple of dollars. And airport parking is $22 a day at Logan Airport in Boston--in Albuquerque, it's less than $4 a day.

• Utilities are cheaper. Because the winter is milder, the sun is stronger, and summer nights are cool--the relative demand for heat and cooling is lower. My gas/electric bills since I moved here are just about half of what they were for the comparable period in Boston.

Stay tuned for more updates on this topic!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech: I Grieve for the Teachers

Photo courtesy of AFP/Mannie Garcia

In the last couple of days I've been thinking about the responsibility of teachers for students. Even in college, when students are (mostly) adults, the teacher has an awesome responsibility in so many ways. Responsibility for giving them the best possible opportunity to learn ( students must, in the end, take responsibility for their own learning), responsibility for helping them to prepare for the workplace or for further education, responsibility for paying attention to problems that may manifest themselves and calling in extra help when needed, and responsibility for the physical care of students when they are under your direct charge in the classroom.

My Dad taught at the college level for 50 years, I taught for 10 years, and one of my sons is working on a doctorate and planning a teaching career. I think I can say safely that we all got to teaching through love of our discipline, and a desire to help others to understand it. But unlike the training and licensure of teachers that occurs in the elementary and high school systems, there is very little training of college professors to teach. You are thrown into the classroom at some point and you may or may not be very good at it. If you care to improve, you can seek out the opinions of your colleagues. But in most cases, no one is going to sit in on your classes more often than once or twice a year, or coach you, and in an academic setting it often seems to be poor form to admit that you need help. Student teaching evaluations are often pooh-poohed as "beauty contests" by the faculty who need to improve their teaching the most. And somewhere the faculty policy manual, or the fire alarm evaucation procedures, or other dusty and unread documents, define your role in various situations. But learning to be a good teacher seems to be mostly a matter of trial and error.

And yet, during the terrible tragedy in Virginia earlier this week, five of the dead were faculty members. That's a ratio of 1:5--which means that teachers were killed at at least twice the rate of students. In reading some of the stories, I saw that several faculty members stayed behind in the classroom, holding the door and waiting for their students to jump out the windows, before being gunned down in the end. To give your life for your students--that is an extension of that enormous responsibility for students to an extraordinary level.

I grieve and pray for everyone involved in this tragedy, but in particular I grieve and pray for the teachers--those who died, those who tried to get help for an obviously troubled student, and those who will go on caring for students. You are all heroes.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Babel: Lost in Translation

The "Lost in Translation" site (see link below) is good for a few minutes of fun on the web. (Like those of you who are reading this really need more reasons to hang out here!) You type in a quote or a phrase in English, and it translates it into another language, back into English, to another language, back into English, etc.


One of the examples they give is from one my favorite childhood poems: "I'm a little teapot, short and stout." This translated into: "They are a small POTENTIOMETER, short circuits and a beer of malzes of the tea."

Given the dates on the site I thought that this might be using old translation algorithms, and that a more current "free translation" site might do better. Here is the multi-language translation I received from one: "Several tea-trifling strong attribute of 1 cup of my vacuum bottle."

These are the most interesting of the ones I tried on the multibabel site:

" I will wear my heart upon my sleeve" translated to: "I have fixed my organization of the nucleus in the lodging of mine."

"You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" translated to: "Probably the silk of the small bag is not formed by the ear of the tap ditch."


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Garden Report, Part 1

For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, the first of the month climate report is morphing into the Garden Report. One of the goals I had for my semi-retirement was to garden again, and to focus mostly on beauty rather than usefulness.

I have not gardened in any focused way in more than 30 years (no time), so this is a major new initiative. Last week, a landscape designer from Santa Fe Greenhouses came for two hours and worked with me to develop a plan. Now all I need to do is execute!

Like the before pictures in a makeover I am showing you my unvarnished garden at the start of the season--good bones (thanks to a hired landscaper last summer) but mostly weeds. The size of the weeds is embarrassing, but full disclosure is important here! I have four flower beds; the first two are shown in these photos. The third bed (just behind me in the bottom photo) looks just like the first two (weeds). The fourth bed (a narrow strip between the house and the driveway) has a few rosebushes in it and more weeds.

Here is my vision: I am sitting on my patio with a book--the garden (which is all around me) is beautiful and fragrant. Hummingbirds and butterflies are frequent visitors. Guests arrive at the front (which is stark and zenlike--rocks and trees only), come into the house and through to the back, and are stunned by the garden's beauty!

Right now, part one, I am weeding. You can see from the photo below that I have cleared half of the second bed (which is the weediest). I know how to pull weeds--otherwise I have very little idea what I'm doing--but I do have a plan, a book, a source for plants (10% discount all year at the SF Greenhouses), and a lot of enthusiasm. So stay tuned! Over the course of the next 6 months or so, I'll show you my progress with the garden.