Holiday lights fiasco even worse than we thought

The El Paso Times did a nice, balanced look at the Shawver Park holiday lights controversy.

Because the Times is fair and balanced, they just laid out the facts without connecting the dots (™ Martin) about just how bad City Rep. Eddie Holguin messed this up in his effort to help his County Judge campaign.

It took all the talent and skill of the El Paso Times' Rudy Gutierrez to make the Shawver Park lights look pretty. Nice work, Rudy.

It took all the talent and skill of the El Paso Times’ Rudy Gutierrez to make the Shawver Park lights look pretty. Nice work, Rudy.

They allow Holguin to say he wants the lights to eventually become like the lights in Odessa, Texas, plus allow City Rep. Lily Limon to claim, “From that display, that is where it’s going to grow,” but then they subtly go through the facts to show what a line of crock that is.

The Times does its research and finds that Odessa spends money buying lights each year, slowly building up the display. But what did El Paso do in this case? They leased the lights from Indiana! Everyone was complaining, wondering how El Paso could spend $11,000 buying such a crappy light display. But it’s even worse than we thought: We somehow spent $11,000 leasing these crappy lights! Throwing in the 24-hour security, the entire $25,000 goes up in smoke, and Indiana laughs all the way to the bank.

El Paso gets nothing but a laughable light display, which will be taken back to Indiana in January, leaving us back at square one. I have to wonder though, how will that Indiana company find any suckers to lease the display next year?

We deserve better. (™ Brutus)

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Breaking up, making up with the NBA

Growing up in Lawrence, Kansas, I didn’t have much use for the NBA.

Two reasons stand out. One, when you live in the past, current and future home of college basketball royalty, professional basketball doesn’t hold as much allure. And though Kansas had some good teams as I was growing up, there weren’t many former Jayhawks in the NBA. Danny Manning was about the only one we could look to, and his professional career was shortened by injuries.

The second reason is that the NBA was under a de facto ban in the Koester house anyway. We watched a lot of college basketball, but if someone, probably by accident, switched to a channel showing an NBA game, you could count on my dad to launch into The Speech: “I hate the NBA. There’s no defense. I’m supposed to enjoy watching people run up and down the court shooting every 5 seconds?”

The Morris twins, Markieff (left) and Marcus, were fun to watch at Kansas, now fun to watch in the NBA. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky, Azcentral Sports)

The Morris twins, Markieff (left) and Marcus, were fun to watch at Kansas, now fun to watch in the NBA. (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky, Azcentral Sports)

(Related rant: Which makes the new rules in college ball this season even more infuriating. They’ve pretty much made it illegal to play defense in college. To get a charge call against your opponent this season, you not only have to have your feet set, you must send a certified letter dictating the GPS coordinates of where you are standing and then don’t lean or raise your hands to attempt to block the shot.)

But when I moved to Oregon and started spending my mornings playing volleyball at the Salem YMCA, I was surrounded by a community of NBA fans. It was fun each day hearing people talking about the previous night’s games. Then I attended a few Portland Trailblazers games and was hooked. So hooked that when I moved to San Diego a few years later, I actually paid for the NBA package for a year to keep watching the Trailblazers.

But there is no NBA team in San Diego, and it eventually fell out of favor. I suddenly had the Chargers to root for, so I jumped headfirst into that. (It didn’t hurt that many of the San Diego Chargers cheerleaders lived at our apartment complex and often worked out there together. My wife could always tell when they were jogging on the path that went past our apartment when I would be standing at the window pretending to bird watch.)

Moving to El Paso did nothing to keep me interested in the NBA, of course. I haven’t found anybody to converse with about it. Now, when I want to talk about the NBA, I actually have to call Lawrence, where many of my friends follow it more closely now that there are so many former Jayhawks playing professionally.

Last year, during a trip to L.A., I attended a Clippers game and got into the scene again, checking highlights each night on But I can feel the magic slipping away again this season. I’ve watched a bit of the Clippers on TV, but have yet to watch a Trailblazers game. I’m back to watching college ball, spending the game yelling about the new rules.

Where is this post heading? A cry for help, I guess. Any NBA fans out there in El Paso?

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Sports talk

Before we get to our regularly scheduled post, let us first give a moment of silence to the political career of Eddie Holguin. 2005-2014. RIP.

Thank you.

UTEP basketball

Now on to the UTEP Miners men’s and women’s basketball teams. First, the Lady Miners are pretty good, if you haven’t been paying attention. They beat a good Kansas State program by 45 points, before taking out Northern Arizona by 49. They are 7-0, and take on NMSU tomorrow night in Las Cruces. The Lady Miners beat NMSU by 25 points in El Paso back on Nov. 12. Time to jump on the bandwagon.

Now, let’s talk about the UTEP men’s basketball team. At 4-4, I think it’s time to jump off that bandwagon, but let’s take a look at some of the debates I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere.

Pro: Yeah, they lost to NMSU twice, but NMSU is pretty good this year.

Con: Really? It’s NMSU. An NMSU team that already has two losses, none to UTEP.

Pro: They lost to #2-ranked Kansas by only 4 points, holding phenom Andrew Wiggins to only 6 points. That has to mean something.

Con: It means they were playing a young Kansas team that still likes to play with its food a little. Kansas was up 15-2 early and led by 14 points late. The Jayhawks then toyed with their food for a bit, but make no mistake, UTEP was still just food.

Pro: Yeah, they got destroyed by Iowa, but that was an off night.

Con: An off-night for a good team means they lose by a bit, maybe lose a game they should have won. An off-night for a bad team means you lose by 36 to Iowa.

Pro: They beat a good Tennessee team.

Con: You win this one, UTEP fans. That was a good win. It showed that UTEP has enough coaching to take out a team that is poorly coached. Tim Floyd should have them winning those battles most of the time.

It also allowed UTEP to play three TV games for a national audience. That ended up being a bad thing against Iowa, but probably more people watched them put up a fight against Kansas.

But one good win up against three bad losses (NMSU twice and Iowa; Kansas was a morale victory) isn’t good enough.

Jay’s stressful week

I’m going to be a little on edge this week. The Missouri Tigers are in the SEC Championship, which is bad enough. But if they win, they might play for the national championship. Missouri in any championship is against everything I stand for.

Luckily, Karma seems to always agree (i.e. Colorado’s extra down, Nebraska’s kicked ball touchdown). If Kansas doesn’t take Missouri out, Karma always does. That’s why they’ve never played in a BCS bowl in football or made the Final Four in basketball. The world stands against Missouri.

And with Auburn getting so many breaks this year, it’s easy to see they will end Missouri’s run.

But I’m still a little worried.

Blog recommendation

And I’ll round off this sports-themed post with a blog recommendation. Some of you may remember the guest post here from Jason Stadel, who wrote about the fun promotions the El Paso Chihuahuas can have when they start playing baseball in April. Well Jason has a blog you can read here: The Stadel Report.

Lately, he’s been focused on the run his son’s team made in youth baseball. But he writes a lot about baseball in general. I really enjoyed his post about why there aren’t any left-handed catchers in the Major Leagues.

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Happy Birthday, Martin!

And Happy Thanksgiving to everybody else!

Sorry, I again haven’t been able to write much lately. Got back from Korea just long enough to get a little work done before taking a Thanksgiving week holiday with the family in Dallas. Be back soon.

But while I was gone, I apparently was very busy. You have to check out the comments thread in this post by Martin Paredes. Martin, as usual, gets owned by a number of commentators. But the fun really starts when he accuses them all of being me!

It appears Martin may be a little obsessed with me. I feel somewhat responsible. Perhaps I led Martin on a bit by writing that I liked the nifty graphics on his site. But, I’m sorry Martin; I am a happily married man. Our relationship can go no further.

I do like the thought of what it means for me and Martin’s blog if all those comments are from me. For me, it means, instead of being a lazy dilettante spending the holiday week with family in Dallas watching “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” 100 times and eating too much turkey and pie, I’ve actually been busy tearing apart Martin’s posts under a bunch of different pseudonyms. I’m a hard-working man!

And for his blog, it means the only ones reading it are him and me. I produce every negative comment, and the few positive comments are obviously posted by him. Hilarious!

Though I’d love to keep up the illusion that I am behind all the great comments burning up Martin, I suppose it wouldn’t be fair to Anson and the others. I shouldn’t take credit for their work, as much as I’d like to.

Anson, for one, finally got tired of me getting all the credit for his posts, so he started his own blog. Check out Anson Mills, El Paso Surveyor, the latest addition to the El Paso blogging scene! Welcome to the fun, Anson!

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Success! My morning is complete again

My home subscription to the El Paso Times restarted this morning. Thanks to all those at the newspaper who made it happen (along with my wife who made the final calls for us).

It was a joy and a revelation this morning. Body found! It might snow! An IMAX theater in El Paso! (OK, I knew about that last one, having already bought my ticket to “The Hunger Games, Catching Fire: The IMAX Experience” a week ago.)

The El Paso Times is so essential. It’s essential even to its critics, who go back to getting their news there a week after claiming they’ll never read it again.

Are there things to criticize? Sure, of course. But they have a great staff, who work hard, doing their best with a bad situation. When I started at the Times almost 20 years ago, the newsroom staff was about twice the size it is now. Here’s hoping that their new pay-wall strategy will help stop at least a little of the bleeding.

Who’s that again?

Meanwhile, you know what has been a complete disappointment? Newspaper Tree.

What, you forgot they were around? Yeah, so did I. It’s such nonessential reading that it’s easy to forget. I was reminded of their existence only recently when Roy Ortega wrote a column to explain that he doesn’t hold a grudge against Marc Schwartz. Not at all. So much so, Roy wrote a whole column about the wrong Schwartz did, but there is no grudge there. No, not at all. It’s water under the bridge.

Newspaper Tree started a couple of years ago with a strong, impressive staff of journalists. But it never published anything with that staff, and eventually devolved into what it is today, writing groundbreaking stories about how El Pasoans sure seem to care about where people went to high school.

The Tree promised hard-hitting investigations. Instead, they are investigating why nobody wants to admit they went to Bowie High School. (In case you think I’m picking on Bowie, here’s one of the quotes from the story: “Once people find out I went to Bowie, the conversation seems to shut down right away.”)

It would be nice if the Tree, or anybody really, could give some competition to the Times. It would make everybody better. But looks like we are going to have to keep waiting.

(And don’t hold your breath waiting for El Diario de El Paso to provide that competition by publishing in English. They’ve been promising to publish in English for about 15 years now, always saying they’ll start next week. It’s not happening.)

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El Paso’s own Jesus Bourne, outlaw hero

UPDATE: I guess we’re back to Billy the Kid. Alejandro Rubio has been arrested.
Congratulations to local law enforcement.

Original Post:

With apologies to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, it appears El Paso may have a new outlaw hero to root for. And out of San Elizario, no less.

Alejandro Rubio, now known as El Paso's Jesus Bourne. He doesn't appear to be armed and dangerous, but you should probably keep an eye out on your vehicle.

Alejandro Rubio, now known as El Paso’s Jesus Bourne. He doesn’t appear to be armed and dangerous, but you should probably keep an eye out on your vehicle.

El Paso has been clinging to the stories of John Wesley Hardin’s gunslinging, and Billy the Kid breaking his friend out of a San Elizario jail back in the 1800s, for far too long.

But those days of nostalgia for the Wild West appear to be over. Now we have Alejandro Rubio, San Elizario’s real-life Jesus Bourne, not only escaping Sheriff’s handcuffs and custody, but then stealing and driving off in a Sheriff’s patrol vehicle! (Click here to read the latest from the El Paso Times.) Jesus Bourne then does like every outlaw hero does in every action movie you’ve ever seen, ditching the Sheriff’s vehicle, stealing yet another vehicle for the getaway. He’s still on the loose. Amazing!

Here’s to you, Rubio, wherever you are. You are single-handedly bringing the wild back to the Wild West.

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Subscribing to the El Paso Times: An exercise in futility

While I was in Korea, my home subscription to the El Paso Times expired. At first I thought, well, I’m a modern-day man, right? I should try to do like a lot of my friends and just get by checking their website and using their app.

But a week showed me what folly that is. It’s not that the Times is doing anything particularly wrong online (though the website is frustratingly slow and unorganized), the main problem is I just read so much less of the paper when I have to count on myself to click through everything.

When I have the newspaper at home, I go through each section, checking things out. Maybe I don’t read every story, but I read way more than I do online. In the newspaper, I’m likely to find something I enjoy in the business section, for instance. But scanning online, I never even think to click on the business link. I never make it that far. And on the El Paso Times app, all you see before clicking is the headline, so I end up skipping stories that in the paper I’d get sucked into by reading a few paragraphs. The Times has some good writers that can interest you once you get going, but when all I see is the headline, I often don’t click, and the writer never gets that chance.

So, I decided I needed the newspaper. I guess that makes me as much of a dinosaur as the newspaper. What can I tell you? I may have a blog, but I still love print.

The effort begins

So, on Wednesday, I called the El Paso Times customer service line, got the recording, and pressed “1” for those moving and new subscribers. For the next 10 minutes I listened to the music and recordings telling me I would hear from the next available agent, or I could leave a message. No one has answered the phone in 10 minutes, but I’m supposed to trust someone will listen to my message? It’s about 1:30 p.m., so I hang up, thinking maybe everybody is still out to lunch.

What the heck is this, Jay? Lol, I know, right? It's a logo that Martin ran over on his blog. I liked it a lot and because nobody reads that blog, I thought I should put it over here. I love how it equates my power to the El Paso Times and ABC-7. To think, I'm just as powerful with my $20 blog budget as the El Paso Times is with their riches. What can I say? I'm bad to the bone. Or Martin's crazy. I'll let you decide which is true.  There is one way, at least, that this blog is similar to the El Paso Times. Neither of us have a circulation department.

“What the heck is this, Jay?” Lol, I know, right? It’s a logo that Martin ran over on his blog. I liked it a lot, and because nobody reads that blog, I thought I should put it over here. I love how it equates my power to the El Paso Times and ABC-7. What can I say? I’m bad to the bone. Or Martin’s crazy. I’ll let you decide which is true.
There is one way, however, that this blog is similar to the El Paso Times. Neither of us has a circulation department.

I then notice on the website that the department closes at 3 p.m. Seems a little early to me, but OK. I call at 2:15 p.m., and the same thing. This time I’m smarter and give up after only 5 minutes. It’s clear there is no agent there to become available.

You can subscribe through the website online, but the offers aren’t very good there, so I wanted to speak to somebody about getting a better deal. But on Thursday, I decided I should check their app. Surely there is a way to subscribe there, and maybe it has better deals.

But, nope. As far as I can tell, the El Paso Times has an app that offers you no way to attempt to subscribe. No way to even find the customer service number that is so useless. So they give you a free app, with free stories on it, and never even attempt to get some cash out of you. Doesn’t seem like a great business model.

Anyway, I thought maybe I’d have better luck in the morning. So, this morning, like a fool, I called El Paso Times customer service again. This time I stayed on hold for about 7 minutes before I gave up. I believe some folks in circulation were laid off in the latest round at the Times. Maybe they laid everybody off?

(It wouldn’t surprise me. The Times newsroom now has laid off every person in the opinion section. Yep, with Joe Muench, Charlie Edgren and even illustrator Nacho Garcia gone, our metro daily now has exactly zero people writing or editing the opinion page. No wonder you come to read this. At least there is one person writing and editing for this blog.)

I miss my El Paso Times. I’ll get home delivery again someday. I’m just not sure how.

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