Be It Resolved (2017 edition)

Damn, another year down the tubes. 2016 has been full of dubious accomplishments and tragic losses. I think Dave Barry captured the year in his usual inimitable way so I won’t recap all of that. My own year was filled with both, but it is ending on an upbeat note, thankfully.

Despite all that happened, I managed to keep all my New Year’s Resolutions for 2016, except for perhaps #4. I now have a string of about 6 years of resolutions I’ve kept, so I guess I should go for another round. Thus, without further ado…

In 2017 I resolve to:

  1. Stop dressing as a clown and visiting schools to try to cheer up the sad children of the world.
  2. Not allow myself — via adoption, marriage, or assimilation — to become a Kardashian.
  3. To give up bidding on Ebay for a tailored, one-piece purple bodysuit — unless I find one available in cat leather.
  4. To continue to be an example of etiquette by saying “please” and “thank you” even after Donald Trump and his minions destroy society and we are living in caves and lean-tos.
  5. No longer demand, while sitting in thesis defenses, that my students cut off their pinkie fingers as a sign of fealty. Usually.
  6. Finally find out what that whole “Game of Thrones” gameshow is all about.
  7. Try to adapt to the changes a President Trump will bring to the USA. First up: learning Russian.
  8. Not strongly urge young children to watch the movie “Alien” to really understand what a Hatchimal is.
  9. Stop saying “How could it be worse?” when talking about TV, politics, movies, hacking, or pretty much anything else. Too many people see it as a challenge rather than a rhetorical question.
  10. Not vote to leave the European Union for 3 magic beans.
  11. Not to insist that I am a “superdelegate” during faculty meetings and demand we adjourn.
  12. I will not build a huge wall around my yard and make my neighbors pay for it — although if I go skinny-dipping much they may do it on their own.
  13. Reduce my training regimen because it appears certain that competitive eating of lasagna and doughnuts will not become Olympic sports.
  14. Not be sick with worry in anticipation of what the new President and First Lady have planned for Moose & Squirrel.
  15. Not to make another deal with the Devil for a win in the World Series that results in deaths of dozens of beloved celebrities.

And finally, #16 — after several years of giving Jennifer, Adriana, Alessandra, Candice and the rest their chance, I resolve to be firm and dismissive if they finally call because I’ve been found by someone better. Eat your hearts out, ladies — you had your chance!

I hope your New Year’s is wonderful and you find a good cave before the rush. May 2017 be another year of wonder, but not “I wonder where I am and whose goat that is?”

New beginnings

TL;DR summary: 2016 largely sucked for Spaf, with 2015 providing a downramp into the suck. 2017 is going to start with a sparkle (despite the awful prospects given by the US elections) because Dr. Pattie has entered stage left. Takeaways: be positive because unexpected things can happen, and don’t hesitate to make friends because they can change your life.


Some of my friends may have noticed a slowdown in my social activities over the last year+. I’ve never been a great correspondent, but this has been unusual. Of course, being in the wilds of Indiana also impedes connecting with people!

The last 18 months have not been especially pleasant for me, personally or professionally. For example, I was ousted from my position at CERIAS by a (now-former) dean for questionable reasons. Rather than do the right thing and overturn the decision, the provost was more concerned about stopping complaints and news reports of the decision; He did make me some promises to help lessen the impact — none of which he has followed through on. I’m now officially “Executive Director Emeritus” although it isn’t clear what that means.

As another example, I didn’t get my long-hoped-for sabbatical because of a bureaucratic snafu. As a result of that, I was assigned (with only a few weeks notice!) co-teaching a 400 student freshman intro course, with no text and some new, untested technology. It went about as poorly as could be expected from all that.

There was more, but I won’t belabor it because I’ve consistently tried to stay positive. Nonetheless, my life has built up a lot of stress and disappointment. It has contributed to a feeling of not really being valued or wanted at my university … or anywhere else… but I continue to try to find some positive outcomes. And they exist. I graduated two wonderful PhD students, Mohammed Almeshekah and Kelley Misata, and I have two more nearing completion. I handed off leadership of USACM to a great colleague, Stu Shapiro. And I was renewed as editor-in-chief of the oldest journal in cyber security, Computers & Security.

I also was very pleasantly surprised at the end of the year by being named as recipient of two major awards — the 2017 IFIP Kristian Beckman Award, and as a Sagamore of the Wabash. (Neither was publicly acknowledged by my department at Purdue, of course.)

Although not professional, the awful election results haven’t helped my mood any. I fear for where the world is heading, especially for my daughter, my nieces and nephews, and my current and former students. A world where ignorance and mendacity are rewarded, and where bigotry and hatred are encouraged, is not the world they (or anyone else) deserve.

Personally, well, that has had setbacks, too. I partially separated my shoulder 18 months back, and it then developed “frozen shoulder syndrome.” As Wikipedia notes (see the link) “Pain is usually constant, worse at night, and with cold weather. Certain movements or bumps can provoke episodes of tremendous pain and cramping.” Uh, yeah. Exactly that. By the way, typing is difficult, too. 6 months of physical therapy brought me back to 90% of normal. And I’ve continued to deal with some of the regular wear and tear associated with many years and miles. I’m not as old as my students think I am, but there are mornings getting out of bed (and climbing flights of stairs) where my body agrees with them more than with the calendar.

That might be enough for most people, but of course, not for me! In June, my divorce with Kathy, my wife of 30 years, was final. It was not hugely surprising in the long view — we have grown in different directions over many years. It was surprising in the timing though, and right while I was trying to cope with many of the things above. However, we don’t get to choose when everything happens in our lives and Kathy decided early in the year that it was time for her, so there we were.

The divorce was largely amicable. After all, working together against life’s various challenges over 30 years does bring a lot of connection, as does being co-parents to a wonderful daughter. Kathy is a complex, remarkable person, and we had a good run together. She has now embarked on a new chapter in life, and I wish her nothing but happiness. But, it was still more stress for me….

However, out of change and chaos, sometimes new possibilities arise.

While all the above was crashing down on me, I had several long-time friends corresponding with me, to encourage me. These are people who I’ve met over the years where we’ve had some connection that has developed into friendship online. We don’t see each other often, but we share experiences, stories, jokes, encouragement, and occasionally provide a virtual “hug.” Their support was really helpful. One in particular had wise words and great humor about how to cope with setbacks, the divorce, and more. She was someone I met nearly a dozen years ago when she and her then-husband were grad students at Purdue. I hadn’t seen her in person in a decade, but we kept in touch online. In the intervening years she had gotten divorced, gone back to school for her PhD, moved halfway across the continent, and gotten a faculty job teaching. She had positive advice that resonated with me, and her love of puns and bad jokes was delightful. (I realize not everyone would say that about puns. Your loss.) We corresponded more and more until we decided it was time to meet again in person and see exactly what might be developing. We did, and we liked each other even more in person than online.

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After several more meetings, Pattie spent most of the summer with me in Lafayette, helping me do a top-to-bottom clean-up of the house (I kept it after the divorce). Probably more than a literal ton of items that neither Kathy, Elizabeth nor I wanted was donated to charity, recycled, or simply dumped. I ran across things saved from my parents, my childhood, and family souvenirs from the last few decades. It was an emotionally trying time for me, but Pattie provided advice, humor, and affection. When my shoulder or back complained about the endless boxes, she was there to provide a helping hand and sometimes a wisecrack — a perfect mix of empathy and motivation.

After “Dr. Pattie” went back to teach in Louisiana, we had time apart, and we staged several visits and trips together when we could schedule them. The combination only confirmed for us that our paths should be joined rather than separate. So, Pattie resigned her position at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, and will be moving to West Lafayette, Indiana in late December. (Yes, Lafayette to Lafayette — one of many interesting coincidences.)

Oh, and just to tie up loose ends, we’re going to get married in 2017. We’re both old enough and experienced enough to know that what we have is special, and time is precious.

So, 2017 is going to get off to a really great start for me, and I’m hoping the overall trend stays positive. I hope it will for you, too. Best wishes to you for the holidays, and beyond

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Update: Pattie and I got married January 3rd. We picked the date because it is equidistant between our birthdays. Perhaps a nerdy reason, but there it is, and a great way to start off the new year.

Faculty Qualifications

Tonight, I was reminded of an episode in my past that provided quite a bit of bemusement and amusement early in my career.  I thought I’d recount it to share.

When I was a grad student at Georgia Tech in the early 1980s, the field was growing significantly.  The faculty at Georgia Tech was no exception, and they were casting a wide net for new faculty.  Part of the process was to have a grad student serve as a non-voting member of the hiring committee, to provide a student voice in the process.

I was that voice one year.

I remember seeing a  number of interesting C.V.s and applications.  I found the experience helpful for my own career trajectory, and years later applied a little of what I learned to my own job search.  I also found it amusing — we had quite a varied bunch of folks who fancied themselves as potential university faculty.  Given that there weren’t a huge number of new PhDs at the time of the quality they were looking for at GaTech, this wider group was given some consideration.  After all, electrical engineers, mathematicians, linguists, and even philosophers all had some elements of possible study that meant they could contribute to the academic life of the program.  (One of my favorite professors was James Gough, Jr., whose background was in human languages, semiotics, and logic.)

Some of the applicants lacked any connection with computer science (that I could see), but apparently thought that having experience as a TV repairman or accountant was sufficient for a faculty position in the department.  A few had work experience using computers, but the department was really looking for applicants who had the equivalent of a PhD in a scientific or otherwise related field.

One applicant, who inspires this post, was writing from New Zealand or Australia — I forget which.  He had an advanced degree in mathematical logic, and the equivalent of an MS in computer science.  What really made him stand out was his cover letter.  It appears that there wasn’t a ready market for someone like him “down under” so he wanted to make the move to the USA.  If only we’d pay for a ticket to come interview, we would be sure to find his skills acceptable.  Not only did he know about advanced math and computation, but he was good with people and reckoned he’d make a fine teacher.  He could play the guitar and sing.  He was used to hard work, having been a ranch hand for the last few years.   And, under “special skills” he listed the clincher — right after mentioning his ability to program in Fortran and COBOL, and his ability to read and write Latin, he averred that he could “geld sheep with his teeth.”

Never before or since have I seen a job application in computing brag about one’s castration skills, with teeth or any other implement.  I suspect one or two colleagues who have worked in forensics and law enforcement have considered it, but none have bragged about their experience in this department.  I also know some female colleagues subjected to condescending “mansplaining” who may darkly imagine such drastic action (but are too polite to carry through).

What made all this all the more remarkable to me was that his application was in the folder for “Further Consideration.”   I asked one of the faculty members why that was so.  He replied, in all seriousness (I think): “He knows how to program.  That, and we bet he could keep the students in class well behaved.”

In the end, he wasn’t hired by our faculty, although there was a strong faction that wanted to bring him in for an interview “just because.”  Since then, I have always had a slight concern when meeting colleagues from the Antipodes…but I do notice their undergraduate classes seem better behaved than mine.

Crappy Customer Service

I’ve posted here before about customer service, both good and bad.

Here’s an example of really bad.

On January 8, we purchased a new refrigerator at Best Buy.  It’s a high-end Kitchen Aid model that my wife and daughter had found and really wanted.  It was not the cheapest purchase out there, but had some nice features they wanted.  The unit has 2 doors above, and a freezer drawer below.

The refrigerator was delivered and installed on February 5.  We noticed over the weekend that the light switch on one side was not working correctly — the door would be opened and the light would not come on.  It was almost certainly not working from the moment it was delivered and plugged in, but we didn’t notice right away because of the way we put things in: we didn’t open that side much.  Even so, we opened that door no more than 1o times before we noticed the problem.

Because of travel and other appointments, Kathy was only able to call Best Buy today.  They referred her to Kitchen Aid’s service hotline and said it was Kitchen Aid’s problem.  So Kathy called them to arrange to have someone fix this.

Here’s the rotten punchline — the refrigerator we paid a premium for, that we have had for less than a week — is out of warranty!  They have a 30 day warranty against defects, but they claim it starts from the date of purchase!  Thus, we are going to be charged to fix a problem that was present in the refrigerator when it was delivered.

Needless to say, this is the last appliance we buy from either Best Buy or Kitchen Aid.   I recommend you seriously consider avoiding both for any of your purchases, too.  It is clear they only care about the sale and nothing at all about customer satisfaction.

 

Update 2/12

The service guy came out today and found a faulty circuit board.  He admitted it was faulty and told us that whoever we talked to on the phone from Kitchen Aid was wrong.  He replaced the board, reset the controller, and there was no charge.

I am a bit less upset now with Kitchen Aid, although their phone service center people need some training.  The Best Buy 30 day warranty, however, is still a pile.

Be It Resolved (2016 edition)

Once again, a new year is about to present itself. 2015 sort of flew by, and also similar to a pigeon, it dumped on me as it passed. But 2016 is nearly upon us, and that is an opportunity to make some resolutions for the new year.

I have managed to keep all of my 2015 resolutions (and my 2014 and 2013 resolutions, too0.

So, without further ado, here is my list for 2016. I will:

  1. Continue to not give in to the Dark Side…of toast.
  2. I will not undergo gender reassignment treatments, largely because that would require testing to determine “from” and “to” for my species, and no one is ready for that.
  3. Cut waaaay back on describing myself as “on fleek” in my memos to the deans.
  4. Try to not taunt people with severe moral and mental impairments, i.e.. Donald Trump supporters. Well, not constantly.
  5. Consume more of the 4 basic food groups: Bacon, Scotch, Chocolate, and Coffee. But this year, discontinue attempts at an all-inclusive smoothie.
  6. Strive to be less of a curmudgeon — maybe just dial it back to “crotchety.”
  7. Attempt in get in shape this year. (NB. oblate spheroid is a shape, so I have a head start.)
  8. Overcome peer pressure to take a controversial public stand: Damnit, I’m for the Oxford comma!
  9. Experiment to see if my cat allergy has abated; meatloaf?
  10. Do at least one thing outrageous enough to require an update to my pending obituary.
  11. Not build and claim any islands in the South China Sea.
  12. Try to make some of my hobbies self-supporting. Any idea where I’d market earwax candles?
  13. Continue to avow that it is white and gold, not blue and black.
  14. Not reattempt an “eggnog & gingerbread” cleanse.
  15. Not donate $40 billion to charity instead of leaving it to my daughter (you’re welcome, Elizabeth).
  16. Continue to exercise understanding that Jennifer, Adriana, Alessandra, Kate, Kim, Amber, Miranda, Candice and the rest are still really, really busy and simply have not yet been able to whisk me away. (That must be the reason, right?)

I hope your New Year’s is enjoyable and safe (avoid the meatloaf and smoothies), and 2016 is a year of wonder, but not frequently as in “I wonder who I am and where my pants are?”

P.S. Jennifer, Candice, et al. — I’m free this New Year’s Eve, too. I’ll wait for your call.

A special anniversary and offer

2016 will be a special anniversary for me, and I am making a special offer to help celebrate.

if you act quickly, it might even fit in your holiday plans!

Rather than repeat the text, see the full story over in my CERIAS blog post  

 

New Mexico — Land of Enchantment, UFOs, and More

Intro

I travel a lot, both for work, and some with family. One of the areas I most enjoy visiting is New Mexico. There is something about the combination of scenery, food, and general atmosphere that appeals to me; I find the geology of NM particularly interesting. I haven’t lived there, although I hope to spend my upcoming sabbatical in the Albuquerque area, so it will be interesting to see how my impressions hold up over an extended visit.

In recent weeks I have spoken with 3 different couples who are headed to NM for something or other. I provided some recommendations based on my experiences. Now, in the spirit of “If you need to do something 3 times, find a way to automate it” I have decided to jot down some notes here for others.

I have broken this out by general areas of the state. I have not been everywhere in NM yet, and in some places I’ve only spent a few hours. So, if I missed something important, let me know in the comments.

FYI, my favorite place to get away for a few days is Old Town Santa Fe, so that has a section all its own, below.

A few things that I especially recommend have a ♥ symbol next to them.

Northern NM

Taos, etc.

I have yet to make it to NW New Mexico, to the Four Corners area. That is on my list.

In North Central NM is the Carson National Forest, which I have yet to explore.

Taos is in this part of the state. If you like to ski, I’m told the skiing is nice. I found it to be a pleasant town, but I was not overly impressed. I also didn’t hear the infamous “Taos Hum” that 2% of the population hears.

If you are in the area, head NW on US 64 out of Taos. a bit out of town is one of the Overland Outfitters stores. It is one of the older ones, and has quite a nice selection of items of leather, sheepskin, and more. Continue NW on US 64 to the ♥ High Bridge, the 7th highest bridge in the US. It, and the Rio Grande gorge, sort of “appear” as you drive towards them. It is an amazing view into the gorge, but you may want to avoid it if you have a problem with heights (or depths!).

If you have time, or it is on your route, get on US 285 S to NM 567, then to NM 570 to NM 68 S. I doubt this is a good route in the winter, but in the summer it is scenic and quite pleasant. This eventually connects up to US 84 if you are headed to points south.

Along US 285, south of where it enters the Carson National Forest, is the town of Ojo Caliente. On route NM 414 to the west is a well known mineral hot springs & spa resort that I’m told is quite good. They also have private pools for starry night soaking outdoors.

Los Alamos, White Rock

There are a few ways to get to Los Alamos. The “back way” on NM 4 through Jemez Springs is a lovely drive, and passes some interesting geological formations; it may be a difficult drive in the winter. A bit north of Jemez Springs is “Soda Dam” — an area of fascinating mineral deposits caused by hot springs with minerals dissolved in them. The springs still bubble up there.

South of Los Alamos on NM 4 is Bandelier National Monument. This is an archaeological preserve where native Americans carved homes out of the tuff (soft stone formed from volcanic ash) hundreds of years ago. If the area isn’t closed because of weather or wildfire, it makes for an interesting walk around the main path; there are some 70 miles of trail in the overall park.

Los Alamos the town, and Los Alamos the National Lab, are skirted to the south by NM 4, and somewhat to the north by NM 501/NM 502. The lab doesn’t have anything for the public to see unless you count driving past a few ominous low buildings surrounded by multiple rings of barbed-wire fences and walls — don’t stop to take pictures unless you want to meet armed guards who ask you lots of pointed questions!

Los Alamos and White Rock have a number of interesting things to see and do:

  • ♥ The Bradbury Science Museum is operated by the lab and has a changing set of exhibits. The permanent exhibits give a history of the lab, the development of the atomic bomb, and a fair amount on nuclear physics, including some hands-on exhibits for kids.
  • ♥ The White Rock Overlook in the town of White Rock provides a spectacular view of the Rio Grande Gorge.
  • ♥ The [Anderson Overlook] is just outside of Los Alamos to the west on NM 502, and gives an incredible view of the mountains and valley to the west.
  • The Don Quixote Distillery & Winery has some interesting local versions of gin, and even a blue corn vodka, although I’ve heard some of the wine is not so great.
  • I’ve heard some good things about the Los Alamos Nature Center but have not been able to visit yet.
  • One of my favorite bookstores, Otawi Station in Los Alamos, closed permanently several years ago; if you’ve heard me mention it before, well….

One of the features in the area you don’t immediately notice because of its size is the Valles Caldera. Actually, everything in this area is on the flanks and residue of that ancient (but believed only dormant) super volcano that has a rim 22km in diameter! This whole north western part of New Mexico is volcanic in origin, and there is still considerable geothermal activity, including hot springs, with some seismic activity.

Santa Fe

There are so many things in the area that I find interesting, I’m not sure I can list it all.

Santa Fe is a sprawling small city. I am not familiar with much of it, but the area I have spent a lot of time in is the Old Town area, and vicinity. You can easily fill several days wandering the shops and restaurants. If you are after art expressed in some physical format — in wood, stone, oil, metal, or some combination — you can find it in the area, in price ranges from $50 to hundreds of thousands (at least). Antiques abound, as does hand-crafted jewelry.

Hotels

Your best bet if you want to see the area is stay at one of the hotels in town. That also covers your parking, which can be difficult to find in town.

I have stayed at a half-dozen of the hotels in the area. Here are a few I can recommend based on my stays and the recommendations of others.

There are lots more, in every price range. Some of the hotels also offer “casitas” — detached, small cottages in town.

Dining

Nearly every place you can eat offers something interesting. I can’t begin to list them all. I do suggest you get a reservation for any place you really have your heart set on visiting.

To the north of Santa Fe on US 64 is one of my favorite restaurants: ♥ Gabriel’s. If you are in the area, you really should have lunch or dinner there.

We also liked the restaurants at the Inn at Loretto (the Luminaria) and La Fonda (La Plazuela). I would suggest dinner at the first, and lunch at the second. The restaurant at Inn of the Anasazi is also quite good.

Having lunch or breakfast at the Plaza Café diner is recommended. It may not look like much from outside, but the food I’ve had there is good, as is the pinyon coffee.

La Boca features Spanish cuisine and some really nicely prepared dishes, and is near the plaza. So is the related Taberna, although I have not eaten there; it features “nuevo latino” cuisine.

We have a certain affinity for the Blue Corn Café — it is not overly special, but it I’ve been stopping there for years because of its convenient location. Get the chile “Christmas” — both red and green.

There are all sorts of food guides to the area, and lots of people will share recommendations. Your best bet is to wander around and identify some candidates. Before you ask for recommendations, get some idea if you want cozy romantic dinner, or a family-style meal to help narrow the list.

North of Santa Fe about 20 miles is the ♥ Rancho de Chimayo. It is a restaurant in an old hacienda, nestled in a small valley near a creek. The food is good but not outstanding, but combined with the setting makes it well worth adding to your list if you are in the area for a few days.

Shopping

Art galleries abound in the area. If that is what you want to buy, get one of the maps or guides. You will also find some in the general area around the plaza.

If you spend a day or two wandering the shops within 2-3 blocks of the plaza, you will find all kinds of amazing things. Some of these buildings are historic, so don’t make a presumption of what is inside by what the outside looks like. Besides, half the fun is in the exploration! You will find everything from high-end shops to quirky artist boutiques.

The market, held on the patio of the old palace on the square, features handmade items (mostly jewelry) by local, native artisans. That occurs nearly daily, depending on weather. There are many unique and beautiful pieces, although not always the best prices.

When I’ve been there, the plaza has lights at night, and sometimes a band performing. It is quite nice, although there are a lot of panhandlers that seem to come out at night.

♥ Shops where I usually stage a visit include the Overland Outfitters (I’ve gotten several coats there), the Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Co (taste scores of exotic flavors), the Chile Shop (everything chile related), the Earthfire Gems Gallery for all sorts of fossils and minerals, O’Farrell Hat Shop (I’ve gotten two custom-made hats), Keshi Zuni (lots of hand carved fetish animals), and Boots & Boogie (the owner makes custom western boots and is a real character). Those are simply the ones I remember off the top, but there are scores more worth seeing. Every time I visit, I find more.

You will find shops selling all kinds of native pottery, weavings, clothes, jewelry, wall hangings, lights, woodworking, exotic foods, cookware, and more. If you like to window shop, this is the place.

One warning — if you see something you love but the price makes you hesitate, keep in mind that many store owners will discount items if it isn’t the height of tourist season (and sometimes even then). Many things are marked up specifically to let them appear to give a discount. So, unless it is absolutely one-of-a-kind that you’ve always wanted, make a note and keep shopping: you may find something like it at another store, and less expensive.

Other Attractions

10,000 Waves is the best Japanese baths outside Japan, according to some of my friends. Get a tub outside at night and see the stars without urban light pollution! Or, get a massage and spa treatment.

To the north of Santa Fe, on US 64 is the opera house. You might not immediately think of opera and NM, but it has a world-class reputation, and a high-profile set of performances every year. (Arts, in general, are quite good in the area.)

To the east of the plaza is the historic Loretto Chapel, completed in 1878. For a fee, you can tour the inside, including seeing the “miraculous” spiral staircase. (Loretto is no longer a consecrated chapel, but is a dedicated museum.)

I’ve already mentioned the art galleries, especially along Canyon Road. There are also several museums. I’ll add to this account as I go along.

Central NM

Albuquerque

This is the biggest city in NM. This is likely where you’ll fly in, if you are coming from out of state. I haven’t explored too much of the city yet, but there are a few things I can recommend so far.

Old Town is a set of shops and restaurants. There are some interesting things to see here, but I prefer Santa Fe.

Sandia Peak is an uplift that towers over Albuquerque. You can get to the top by taking a cable car tram from Albuquerque, or by taking the ♥ scenic drive around from the other side and up NM 536 from NM 14. The view is incredible, with an elevation of 6850 ft above Albuquerque (10,678 ft above sea level). The temperature can be 20-30 degrees below what you are experiencing in the city, so bring a jacket!

If you take the drive, you can continue up NM 14, the Turquoise Trail, and see all sorts of old mining towns and artist colonies. It’s a pleasant drive compared to the Interstate, but it does take longer.

NRAO

If you are in Socorro (south of Albuquerque on I-25) with a few hours to spare and you have an element of geek, then you should detour to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Very Large Array. Take US 60 W through Magdalena to NM 52 S. Then watch for the signs. There is a small charge for the tour, but it is interesting, as is the small gift shop.

Southern NM

Truth or Consequences

I’ve been through here once, and stayed at a wonderful small spa hotel with geothermal hot springs, the Sierra Grande, which I can recommend. There are several others in the area.

Outside of town is Spaceport America. I have not been there, and it is supposed to be pricey, but it is home to several commercial spaceflight organizations including SpaceX and Virgin Galactic.

Las Cruces

I stopped here briefly, for dinner, on my way north. My memory was of trying a local pecan flavored beer with my dinner. I was not impressed.

If you are driving north on the roads here and look vaguely Hispanic, be sure you have ID with you. This is close enough to the border with Mexico (and El Paso) that Immigration has some checkpoints to be sure they catch illegal immigrants.

White Sands

If you take US 70 NW out of Las Cruces, you will encounter ♥ White Sands National Monument before you reach Alamogordo. This is well worth a visit. It is a desert, but not of regular sand, but of gypsum crystals. It is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.

Cloudcroft

The drive on US 82 through the Lincoln National Forest has a 4300ft vertical change between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft. This is one of the highest elevations in the US. It is a very scenic area, with wonderful forest and the smell of pine. I would like to visit there again and maybe stay longer.

Artesia

The name of this town is based on the fact that it originally had many artesian wells. It was a major agriculture center until the aquifer was drawn down in the 1920s. Now, the area has a boom in oil and gas production from a variety of wells, going below the strata where all the water was. There are a few things of interest to see in the town, but the main reason I stayed here was I was spending a few days in the area and they had a good selection of hotels.

Carlsbad Caverns

This is a national park that is a ♥ “must see” if you are in the area. Spend the day on some of the main paths, or get on one of the guided tours. At the end of the day, from May to October, sit in the amphitheater and watch the exit of hundreds of thousands of bats on their nightly hunt. It is an amazing place to explore. (Nearby is Lechuguilla Cave, which is not open to the public, but is the deepest cave system in the US.)

I recommend taking the natural entrance into the cave, as the walk from there is mostly downhill into the main part.

Roswell

Last, but not least, is the home of UFO lore. UFOs and extraterrestrials are the theme of many things in towns, including a museum, several gift shops, and even restaurants. I found some wonderfully fun gifts, including my UFO driver’s license. I managed to see most of the interesting things in about 6 hours, but that may be because it all started to run together after a while.

To the east, is the Bitter Lake Wildlife refuge, and the Bottomless Lakes State Park. The former is interesting because of the rare species and diversity, and the later because of the line of water-filled cenotes. Follow NM 380 southwest from Roswell.

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