Shallow Thoughts : tags : los alamos
Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.
Fri, 03 Jun 2016
I love this place. We just got back from this week's free Friday
concert at Ashley Pond. Not a great band this time (the previous two
were both excellent). But that's okay -- it's still fun to sit on the
grass on a summer evening and watch the swallows wheeling over the
pond and the old folks dancing up near the stage and the little kids and
dogs dashing pell-mell through the crowd, while Dave, dredging up
his rock-star past, explains why this band's sound is so muddy
(too many stacked effects pedals).
And then on the way out, I'm watching appreciatively as the teen group,
who were earlier walking a slack line strung between two trees,
has now switched to juggling clubs.
(I know old people are supposed to complain about "kids today", but
honestly, the kids here seem smart and fit and into all kinds of cool
activities.) One of the jugglers has just thrown three clubs and
a ball, and is mostly keeping them all in the air, when I hear a bleat
to my right -- it's a girl walking by with a goat on a leash.
Just another ordinary Friday evening in Los Alamos.
[ 20:45 Jun 03, 2016
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Thu, 16 Apr 2015
I've always loved small-town newspapers. Now I have one as a local
paper (though more often, I read the online
Los Alamos Daily Post.
The front page of the Los Alamos Monitor yesterday particularly
caught my eye:
I'm not sure how they decide when to include national news along with
the local news; often there are no national stories, but yesterday I
guess this story was important enough to make the cut. And judging by
font sizes, it was considered more important than the high school
debate team's bake sale, but of the same importance as the Youth
Leadership group's day for kids to meet fire and police reps and do
arts and crafts. (Why this is called "Wild Day" is not explained in
Meanwhile, here are a few images from a hike at Bandelier National Monument:
first, a view of the Tyuonyi Pueblo ruins from above (click for a larger
Some petroglyphs on the wall of Alamo Canyon.
We initially called them spirals but they're actually all concentric
circles, plus one handprint.
And finally, a cairn guarding the bottom of Lummis Canyon.
All the cairns along this trail were fairly elaborate and artistic,
but this one was definitely the winner.
[ 14:01 Apr 16, 2015
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Wed, 10 Dec 2014
We're saved! From the embarrassing slogan "Live exponentially", that is.
Last night the Los Alamos city council voted to bow to public opinion
and reconsider the contract to spend $50,000 on a logo and brand
strategy based around the slogan "Live Exponentially." Though nearly
all the councilors (besides Pete Sheehey) said they still liked the
slogan, and made it clear that the slogan isn't for residents but
for people in distant states who might consider visiting as tourists,
they now felt that basing a campaign around a theme nearly
of the residents revile was not the best idea.
There were quite a few public comments (mine included); everyone was
civil and sensible and stuck well under the recommended 3-minute time limit.
Instead, the plan is to go ahead with the contract, but ask the ad
agency (Atlas Services) to choose two of the alternate straplines
from the initial list of eight that North Star Research had originally
Wait -- eight options? How come none of the previous press or the
previous meeting mentioned that there were options? Even in the
page Agenda Packets PDF provided for this meeting, there was no
hint of that report or of any alternate strap lines.
But when they displayed the list of eight on the board, it became a
little clearer why they didn't want to make the report public: they
were embarrassed to have paid for work of this quality. Check out the
- Where Everything is Elevated
- High Intelligence in the High Desert
- Think Bigger. Live Brighter.
- Great. Beyond.
- Live Exponentially
- Absolutely Brilliant
- Get to a Higher Plane
- Never Stop Questioning What's Possible
I mean, really. Great Beyond? Are we're all dead? High Intelligence in
the High Desert? That'll certainly help with people who think this
might be a bunch of snobbish intellectuals.
It was also revealed that at no point during the plan was there ever
any sort of focus group study or other tests to see how anyone reacted
to any of these slogans.
Anyway, after a complex series of motions and amendments and
counter-motions and amendments and amendments to the amendments,
they finally decided to ask Atlas to take the above list, minus
"Live Exponentially"; add the slogan currently displayed on the
rocks as you drive into town, "Where Discoveries are Made" (which
came out of a community contest years ago and is very popular among
residents); and ask Atlas to choose two from the list to make logos,
plus one logo that has no slogan at all attached to it.
If we're lucky, Atlas will pick Discoveries as one of the slogans,
or maybe even come up with something decent of their own.
The chicken ordinance discussion went well, too. They amended the
ordinance to allow ten chickens (instead of six) and to try to allow
people in duplexes and quads to keep chickens if there's enough space
between the chickens and their neighbors. One commenter asked for the
"non-commercial' clause to be struck because his kids sell eggs from
a stand, like lemonade, which sounded like a very reasonable request
(nobody's going to run a large commercial egg ranch with ten chickens);
but it turned out there's a state law requiring permits and
inspections to sell eggs.
So, folks can have chickens, and we won't have to live exponentially.
I'm sure everyone's breathing a little more easily now.
[ 16:27 Dec 10, 2014
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Sun, 07 Dec 2014
More on the Los Alamos "Live Exponentially" slogan saga:
There's been a flurry of letters, all opposed to the proposed slogan,
in the Los Alamos Daily Post
these last few weeks.
And now the issue is back on the council agenda; apparently they're
willing to reconsider
vote to spend another $50,000 on the slogan.
But considering that only two people showed up to that October meeting,
I wrote a letter to the Post urging people to speak before the council:
to the Editor: Attend Tuesday's Council Meeting To Make Your Voice
Heard On 'Live Exponentially'.
I'll be there. I've never actually spoken at a council meeting before,
but hey, confidence in public speaking situations is what Toastmasters
is all about, right?
(Even though it means I'll have to miss an interesting sounding talk
on bats that conflicts with the council meeting. Darn it!)
A few followup details that I had no easy way to put into
the Post letter:
The page with the links to Council meeting agendas and packets is here:
There, you can get the short Agenda
for Tuesday's meeting, or the full
page Agenda Packets PDF.
The branding section covers pages 93 - 287.
But the graphics the council apparently found so compelling, which swayed
several of them from initially not liking the slogan to deciding to
spend a quarter million dollars on it, are in the final presentation
from the marketing company, starting on page p. 221 of the PDF.
In particular, a series of images like this one,
with the snappy slogan:
Breathtaking raised to the power of you
That's right: the advertising graphics that were so compelling they
swayed most of the council are even dumber than the slogan by itself.
Love the superscript on the you that makes it into an exponent.
Get it ... exponentially? Oh, now it all makes sense!
There's also a sadly funny "Written Concept" section just before the graphics
(pages 242- in the PDF) where they bend over backward to work in
scientific-sounding words, in bold each time.
But there you go. Hopefully some of those Post letter writers
will come to the meeting and let the council know what they think.
The council will also be discussing the much debated proposed chicken
ordinance; that discussion runs from page 57 to 92 of the PDF.
It's a non-issue for Dave and me since we're in a rural zone that already
allows chickens, but I hope they vote to allow them everywhere.
[ 18:05 Dec 07, 2014
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Sat, 11 Oct 2014
or: Smart communities can still be stupid
I attended my first Los Alamos County Council meeting yesterday.
What a railroad job!
The controversial issue of the day was the town's "branding".
Currently, as you drive into Los Alamos on highway 502, you pass a
tasteful rock sign proclaiming "LOS ALAMOS: WHERE DISCOVERIES ARE MADE".
But back in May,
the county council announced the unanimous approval of a new slogan, for which
they'd paid an ad agency some $55,000:
As you might expect in a town full of scientists, the announcement
was greeted with much dismay. What is it supposed to mean, anyway? Is it a
reference to exponential population growth? Malignant tumor growth?
Gaining lots of weight as we age?
The local online daily, tired of printing the flood of letters
protesting the stupid new slogan, ran a
about the "Live Exponentially" slogan. The results were that
8.24% liked it, 72.61% didn't, and 19.16% didn't like it and offered
alternatives or comments. My favorites were Dave's suggestion of
"It's Da Bomb!", and a suggestion from another reader, "Discover Our
Secrets"; but many of the alternate suggestions were excellent,
or hilarious, or both -- follow the link to read them all.
For further giggles, try a web search on the term.
If you search without quotes, Ebola tops the list.
With quotes, you get mostly religious tracts and motivational speakers.
The Council Meeting
(The rest of this is probably only of interest to Los Alamos folk.)
Dave read somewhere -- it wasn't widely announced -- that Friday's
council meeting included an agenda item to approve spending $225,000
-- yes, nearly a quarter of a million dollars -- on "brand implementation".
Of course, we had to go.
In the council discussion leading up to the call for public comment,
everyone spoke vaguely of "branding" without mentioning the slogan.
Maybe they hoped no one would realize what they were really voting for.
But in the call for public comment, Dave raised the issue
and urged them to reconsider the slogan.
Kristin Henderson seemed to have quite a speech prepared.
She acknowledged that "people who work with math" universally thought
the slogan was stupid, but she said that people from a
liberal arts background, like herself, use the term to mean hiking,
living close to nature, listening to great music, having smart friends
and all the other things that make this such a great place to live.
(I confess to being skeptical -- I can't say I've ever heard
"exponential" used in that way.)
Henderson also stressed the research and effort that had already gone
into choosing the current slogan, and dismissed the idea that spending
another $50,000 on top of the $55k already spent would be "throwing
money after bad." She added that showing the community some images to
go with the slogan might change people's minds.
David Izraelevitz admitted that being an engineer, he initially didn't
like "Live Exponentially". But he compared it to Apple's "Think
Different": though some might think it ungrammatical, it turned out to
be a highly successful brand because it was coupled with pictures of
Gandhi and Einstein. (Hmm, maybe that slogan should be "Live Exponential".)
Izraelevitz described how he convinced a local business owner by
showing him the ad agency's full presentation, with pictures as well
as the slogan, and said that we wouldn't know how effective the slogan
was until we'd spent the $50k for logo design and an implementation
plan. If the council didn't like the results they could choose not to
go forward with the remaining $175,000 for "brand implementation".
(Councilor Fran Berting had previously gotten clarification that those
two parts of the proposal were separate.)
Rick Reiss said that what really mattered was getting business owners
to approve the new branding -- "the people who would have to use it."
It wasn't so important what people in the community thought, since
they didn't have logos or ads that might incorporate the new branding.
Pete Sheehey spoke up as the sole dissenter. He pointed out that most
of the community input on the slogan has been negative, and that
should be taken into account. The proposed slogan might have a
positive impact on some people but it would have a negative impact on
others, and he couldn't support the proposal.
Fran Berting said she was "not all that taken" with the slogan,
but agreed with Izraelevitz that we wouldn't know if it was any good
without spending the $50k. She echoed the "so much work has
already gone into it" argument.
Reiss also echoed "so much work", and that he
liked the slogan because he saw it in print with a picture.
But further discussion was cut off. It was 1:30, the fixed end
time for the meeting, and chairman Geoff Rodgers (who had pretty much
stayed out of the discussion to this point) called for a vote.
When the roll call got to Sheehey, he objected to the forced vote
while they were still in the middle of a discussion.
But after a brief consultation on Robert's Rules of Order,
chairman Rogers declared the discussion over and said the vote would
continue. The motion was approved 5-1.
The Exponential Railroad
Quite a railroading. One could almost think it had been planned that way.
First, the item was listed as one of two in the "Consent Agenda" --
items which were expected to be approved all together in one vote with
no discussion or public comment. It was moved at the last minute into
"Business"; but that put it last on the agenda.
Normally that wouldn't have mattered. But although the council
more often meets in the evenings and goes as long as it needs to,
Friday's meeting had a fixed time of noon to 1:30. Even I could see
that wasn't much time for all the items on the agenda.
And that mid-day timing meant that working folk weren't likely to be
able to listen or comment. Further, the branding issue didn't come up
until 1 pm, after some of the audience had already left to go back to work.
As a result, there were only two public comments.
I heard three main arguments repeated by every council member who
spoke in favor:
- the slogan makes much more sense when viewed with pictures --
they all voted for it because they'd seen it presented with visuals;
- a lot of time, effort and money has already gone into
this slogan, so it didn't make sense to drop it now; and
- if they didn't like the logo after spending the first $50k,
they didn't have to approve the other $175k.
The first argument doesn't make any sense. If the pictures the council
saw were so convincing, why weren't they showing those images
to the public? Why spend an additional $50,000 for different pictures?
I guess $50k is just pocket change, and anyone who thinks
it's a lot of money is just being silly.
As for the second and third, they contradict each other.
If most of the board thinks now that the initial $50k contract was
so much work that we have to go forward with the next $50k, what
are the chances that they'll decide not to continue after they've
already invested $100k?
Exponentially low, I'd say.
I was glad of one thing, though. As a newcomer to the area faced with
a ballot next month, it was good to see the council members in
action, seeing their attitudes toward spending and how much they
care about community input. That will be helpful come ballot time.
If you're in the same boat but couldn't make the meeting, catch the
October 10, 2014 County Council Meeting video.
[ 12:54 Oct 11, 2014
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