The Bridge Gallery

The Falls Bridge crosses the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

A newspaper we read online occasionally puts out a call for photos on a particular theme.

One such “assignment” was for “The World’s Best Bridges”, and it was enough to motivate me to dig thru our bridge pictures. The assignment description said that they weren’t looking for “iconic” bridges (though we have some of them, too), but for those that “make the business of crossing … an experience unlike any other.” I take that to mean “quirky”, and quirky is what we do. Read on

Twenty Years Ago Today

RoZ and I on our first “date”, October 1, 1993…

Obbie and RoZ take a little boat ride on a lake outside Kansas City, MO on October 1, 1993.

Obbie and RoZ take a little boat ride on a lake outside Kansas City, MO on October 1, 1993.

While living in Philadelphia, I used some vacation time to visit some friends in Kansas City. I stayed with a couple who took me to an event the night before, which was where I met RoZ for the first time.

On our first full day together, the four of us (five actually, as they had a toddler that came along) took a drive into the country, where we found a couple of boats available for paddling around.

We’re still as happy as we were that day, even though we’ve never been in a rowboat since.

Class Reunions – Who Got Fat, Bald and Divorced

About the time I started high school, my father was planning to attend his twenty-year class reunion, and my mother had two things to say about these affairs. First was that people go to them “to find out who got fat, who got bald, and who got divorced.” A rather cynical outlook, I thought. But as I’ve grown older, it makes more sense, and says a lot in a small number of words.

The other thing was that “everybody just breaks off into the same little cliques that they were in during high school.” That seems natural to me, as we would want to first connect with those we spent the most time with. Regardless, I’ve been told that each reunion gets a bit less cliquey.

At any rate, early this summer I received an invitation to the latest decennial gathering. I can recite a lot of really good reasons that I never go, most having something to do with cost and logistics of getting there and back. But in reality, I have to admit that a class reunion is not something that I get excited about.

Read on

Turtle Gallery – Western Wisconsin

We live in an area with a lot of turtle habitat, much of which is criss-crossed by our favorite hiking and biking trails. On top of that, RoZ regards herself as a turtle person.

So we seem to get a lot of turtles jumping in front of our lenses, ranging from the size of a half-dollar to the size of a substantial foot-stool.

See an awesome 9-image gallery of turtles after the jump… Read on

If Data is Collected, It Will Be Mined

Subversives, fugitives and drug dealers have operated under the assumption that all phones are tapped for as long as there have been phones. This is even more the case with today’s digital communication. The safe assumption is that every line is tapped, so when engaging in any form of electronic communication, it’s good to heed the advice given in The Anarchist Cookbook way back in the 1970′s: “If you can’t say it in front of a cop, keep it to yourself.”

So now we learn that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and analyzing all the data they can grab. This should come as no surprise. If the data is there, they will mine it. They always have, and they always will. I’m not saying that it’s right. It’s actually contrary to every sacred principle this nation was built upon. But it is what it is.

Most of us knew all along that the emperor was walking around naked. Now that the official media has finally noticed, they’re going bat-crap crazy talking about it. Let me throw a few random thoughts into this cacophony. Read on

When is a “Scandal” a Scandal?

When a government acts in a way that some consider scandalous, it’s interesting to compare the reactions of opposing parties.

Ten years ago, the Bush regime engaged in a long litany of violations of civil liberties and international law. Their opponents were alarmed with this blatantly illegal behavior, while their defenders shrugged their shoulders and said, “No big deal.”

So now the IRS has admitted to selectively targeting organizations for scrutiny based on a political agenda, and the Justice Department has admitted to seizing the phone records of AP reporters. As a progressive, I am disturbed by this news.

After all, if these acts had been committed by the Bush/Cheney regime, they would be disturbing (although they would be lost in the long litany of alarming acts). So to have these acts committed by “our side” is no less disturbing.

And that’s the difference between authoritarians and progressives. For the right-whinge conservatives, selective enforcement or spying on reporters was OK when their side did it, but when the other side does it their heads explode. Progressives get upset no matter who does it.

So when you’re arguing with a conservative and he brings up the latest “Obama scandal,” ask him where his outrage was when Bush was conducting selective politically-motivated audits, or spying on every phone call and reading every email in the country.

The Wayback Machine – A How-to

One of our discussion participants recently lamented that when a certain web domain went dark, he lost years worth of blog posts that were hosted on that site. My first thought was to check the Wayback Machine, an online archive of content from the past. With the Wayback Machine, you can see the content and styling of a site as it was at the time it was archived by the Wayback system.

Using the Wayback Machine, I was able to point this guy to four pages of complete posts with images and everything… easily 10,000 words of writing he had thought were lost forever. If you want to check the Internet of the past, the simple instructions are after the jump. Read on

Random Cerebral Flatulence

Most newspapers have a 250-word limit for letters to the editor, and for a long time I considered that the ultimate in concise writing. Kind of the way a graphic artist sees a postage stamp.

After many years I have finally given in to the temptation of throwing out an occasional brain fart that fits into 140 characters. So those of you who are on Twitter can follow me at @Obbie_Z. Expect an occasional snarky remark, calling out of bullslop or hypocrisy, and maybe even some heckling from the back of the room.

RoZ intends to follow with an account of her own some time soon, so her voice will rise up again. It’ll be interesting to see what it does to one’s writing when the constraints go from 250 words to 140 characters. This feels like cyber-graffiti, but maybe I’ll feel differently about it in a year.

NCAA – The Farm System for the NBA and NFL

While we’re in the season of watching college students play basketball, it’s time to consider how much of this multi-billion-dollar business is shared with the players themselves.

Major universities each collect millions of dollars from their football and men’s basketball teams (at some schools, hockey and/or women’s basketball are also big money-makers). The cash comes not only from ticket sales, but from lucrative TV broadcast deals and merchandising. Jerseys are sold with players’ names on them, promotional materials with players’ likenesses are published, yet these players aren’t paid a cent.

The NCAA gets rich off the myth of the “student athlete.” But a serious student who happens to be on The Team is likely to graduate with lower grades than a similar student who’s not on The Team. Many other “students” are shepherded thru a program of easy courses designed to keep star athletes “eligible.” Some drop out of school early to grab lucrative contracts in the NBA or the NFL. It’s all a charade.

I have a better idea: Let the college conferences function like the minor leagues in baseball. Let the players put their full concentration into being elite players by not forcing them to go to school at the same time. Pay the players a modest salary and let them make money from merchandising their names and likenesses. Set up a system to keep the pay rates fair and equitable, and have it subsidized by the professional leagues who benefit from this player development system.

Then, for each year a player participates in this manner, he or she is guaranteed a year of full scholarship at the host university, to be redeemed at the time of the athlete’s choosing. So after the athletic career is over, an athlete can focus on getting the education needed to set up the next phase of his/her life.

The recruiter’s big promise to a star high-school athlete: play for our school and you’ll get a world-class education. It doesn’t work that way when the kid is asked to do both at once. Let them make a modest living focussing on their athletics, so they can concentrate on being the best students they can be when their lives in sports wind down.

Marketing the Revolution – My 13 Years at Zendik Farm

“How do you put thirteen years at a commune on a resume?”

I started asking myself that question shortly after leaving Zendik Farm in 1991. Since early 1978, I had been a prominent member of that community and at times a highly visible public spokesman. But after hitching my identity to Zendik for over thirteen years, I suddenly became just another long-haired thirty-something with no money, no job, and a very long gap in my employment history.

During the early 90′s, a friend pointed out that what I had experienced was equivalent to a divorce. I had severed my social and emotional connections with an extended family I had lived with for many years, including a handful of children I’d helped raise who I would never see again. Just as in the end of a marriage, that it worked so well for so long is hard to reconcile with how it went so wrong for me in the end.

Read on