purplearth_s – Our New Theme

Our previous theme (The “theme” determines the “look” of a WordPress site such as this one) was beginning to get a bit stale. So I built a new one.

Over the past few years, I’ve tweaked, fixed, and slapped together themes for dozens of WordPress sites. With a bit of extra time over the past week or two, I endeavored to build a purplearth theme that presents our content aesthetically and usably while introducing features that define a modern web site.

I also wanted to make a theme that didn’t look like a WordPress theme.

After the jump, I’ll talk about the highlights of this new theme, and the thought process that went into it.

Read on

A Second Line for Red (aka Christoper Vogts)

Red (aka Christopher Vogts) 2006Red was a guy whose life overlapped with ours for a period in the late 2000′s. In the gang of activists we hung out with at the time, he was the energetic bike freak with the fiery red beard.

As a student at UW-La Crosse, he helped start a program that reclaimed and rebuilt discarded and abandoned bicycles. While helping us with the last Spokes’n'folks parade in 2006, he connected us with the eight-foot trailer that eventually became ours.

He delivered the trailer with a double-decker bike he had recently built, and took a little time to ride it around in the alley behind purplearth world headquarters.

In March 2010 he hosted us at Nottingham Co-op during one of our visits to Madison. He was happily working at a local bike shop, and the last time we saw him was when he walked with us to the bus stop, carrying our bikes in a cart he built from recycled bike parts.

Since then, Red continued to work in that same bike shop, and embarked on frequent cross-country bike tours. It was on one of these tours that his life ended. On his way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Red was hit by a van on a highway in Mississippi and he died at the scene.

Being 150 miles from Madison, we couldn’t get there for the memorial (like Red, we don’t have a car), but we thought we’d share the video above, the images below, and links to his obit and a story done by a Madison TV station.

A Lie By Any Other Name

Last night, Paul Ryan gave a speech to the Republican National Convention. We didn’t watch the speech, but we heard that he did a lot of lying, even though very few writers used the L-word to describe it.

This observation is not about the lies themselves (follow the links below for the rundown), but it’s about how major media outlets go out of their way to avoid using the word “lie.”

From The Guardian: “… speech includes glaring inaccuracies…”
Another headline in the same paper: “A round-up of Ryan’s most audacious untruths.”

Steve Benen on The Maddow Blog used the term “demonstrable lies” before going on with his own round-up of alternate wording.

The Huffington Post headline originally was ”Paul Tales: Ryan Misleads Again & Again,” and was later changed to “Paul Ryan Address: Convention Speech Built On Demonstrably Misleading Assertions.”

The Boston Globe said the speech “strained credibility,” AP’s headline talked of “factual shortcuts,” the Washington Post‘s James Downie called it “breathtakingly dishonest,” and Brian Beutler on Talking Points Memo wrote of “misleading claims.”

Among the most euphemistic was Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

…although I marked at least seven or eight points I’m sure the fact checkers will have some opportunities to dispute if they want to go forward, I’m sure they will.

In other words, “… a lot of that sounded like bullslop, but I’ll wait for someone else to point that out.”

John Nichols was not afraid to say “Lies” in The Nation.

The biggest surprise came from Sally Kohn writing for the official media outlet of the Republican Party. Her “3 words” (actually, 3 D-words) to describe Ryan’s speech were “dazzling”, “deceiving”, and “distracting”. It’s remarkable enough for a Faux Neus piece to call one of their heroes “deceiving,” but Kohn’s elaboration includes stuff like “the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech,” and “the mountain of cow dung that flowed from Ryan’s mouth.”

It’s reassuring to see the journalistic community calling “Bullslop!” on all of this bullslop. I just wish they could use the same language the rest of us use. A lie by any other name is still a lie.

New Jewelry for Peregrine Falcons

I work one day a week at the US Bank Building in La Crosse, which has a nesting box for peregrine falcons. There is now a camera in the box, and the image from that camera is on a screen in the building’s lobby…

Two newly hatched peregrine falcons in a nesting box mounted to the top of the US Bank Building in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin, are visible on a live display in the bank lobby.

Seeing the new baby falcons reminded us that we had some video of the banding of an earlier hatching of falcons that took place a few years back. This motivated us to edit the video we shot that day, and it’s finally “in the can”…

A Bite Out of the Sun

cropped-eclipseBanner.jpg

It’s rare enough to see a partial solar eclipse, but to have it happening during sunset is a photo-opportunity that can’t be passed up…

A partially eclipsed sun peeks below the cloud layer before setting over the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin on May 20, 2012

It was cloudy all day today. I made a special trip to Riverside Park in La Crosse not knowing whether I’d ever see the setting sun. It appeared from behind the cloud bank just as I arrived, then sank below the horizon five minutes later, but not before I managed to capture this image.

Scott Walker Must be Fired for Fraud

One week before he was elected governor, Scott Walker told the editorial board of the Oshkosh Northwestern that he was willing to work with unions and to listen to any ideas they had to save money. In general, Walker presented himself as a reasonable and collegial manager.

After the election, he told a billionaire donor of his plans to bust public employee unions as part of a “divide and conquer” strategy. This governor turned out to be the polar opposite of what he advertised himself to be. We all have friends, neighbors and family members who were directly hurt by Walker’s divisive and mean-spirited agenda.

For those who say that recalls should be reserved for cases of criminal behavior, I answer with one word: Fraud. Just as a worker would be fired for lying on a resume, the people of Wisconsin must fire Scott Walker for the frauds he committed to get elected.

Walker’s rich out-of-state cronies are dumping planeloads of money into our airwaves, mailboxes, and telephones to deliver their next round of lies. Voters must not be fooled by these expensive packages of deception, but I trust we are smart enough to recognize that gold-plated bullslop is still bullslop.

The people of Wisconsin made a major collective mistake in November 2010. Those who regret voting for Walker (or not voting at all) in that election can redeem themselves on June 5 by electing Tom Barrett as governor and Mahlon Mitchell as lieutenant governor.

Praise the Hoodie!

I’ve worn a “hoodie” as long as I can remember… I can remember my mother dressing me in a little hoodie (we called it a “sweatshirt”) back in the days when Eisenhower was president.

Obbie wears his favorite blue hoodie in 1995.

A hoodie is a great article of clothing for spring and fall… a heavy layer of cotton to keep warm, but not too heavy to carry when the weather warms up. If the sun goes away or the wind picks up, the hood pulls up over the head and draw strings tighten it up for extra warmth. There’s a big “kangaroo” pouch on the front, perfect for inserting cold hands (which rarely happened in my case, as my hands were usually busy with stuff like baseballs or basketballs).

Somewhere along the line, the hooded sweatshirt quit being a utilitarian piece of cool-weather clothing and became a fashion statement. We have friends that have been in the tie-dye business for many years, and they tell us that hoodies are now among their most popular items. Function has become fashion.

But now right-whinge blowhards are demonizing hoodies, saying that a 17-year-old kid walking home from the convenience store got shot and killed because he was wearing a hoodie. If these gutter-dwellers are to be believed, the hoodie is so threatening that if you wear one, a crazy yahoo with a gun can be forgiven for shooting you dead.

Obbie makes a fashion statement with a “threatening” backwards baseball cap in 1994.

That’s the same “blame the victim” BS that forgives the rapist for attacking a woman with a short skirt. In reality, this “logic” is a way of obfuscating racism, since the hoodie is only “threatening” if a black person is wearing it, just as a backwards baseball cap was deemed “threatening” a few years back.

If we’re going to criminalize a clothing style, lets start with suits. After all, it was (mostly) white guys in suits who ripped off our country to the tune of trillions of dollars over the past few years.

In the meantime, it’s a nice sunny day, so I should do something outside. But it’s kinda cool, so I’m gonna wear my blue hoodie.

“Creating Jobs” is the Wrong Reason

There’s an illogical argument consistently used to support big projects. I hear it in support of projects I’m against, but I’m equally uncomfortable with its use in favor of projects I support. It’s the argument that a project will “create jobs.”

Any endeavor must be evaluated based on whether the result will enhance our lives and improve our world. Once we decide to do something, then we find the workers to complete the project. I’m not denying that many people need more work (I’m one of those people). But at times like these we must ask, “What is the best way to deploy this idle workforce?”

Let’s look at an extreme example of the “create jobs” argument: War creates jobs. There are jobs building tanks, planes, guns, bullets and bombs; and jobs operating the machinery and firing the guns. But the end result is that a lot of the stuff we built gets blown up, and a large part of our population comes home emotionally and physically crippled (if  at all). “Creating jobs” is not a reason to start a war.

Before we blindly “create jobs”, we should make sure the product of those jobs will make our world a better place. Then we can offer our citizens work that is worthy of their efforts, and that produces results they can point to with pride and accomplishment and say, “I helped build that.”

Can We Say “Twenty” Now?

It made sense  to pronounce the year 2000 as “two thousand”. 2009 made sense as “two thousand nine”. But I think starting in 2010, it was time to start saying “twenty-ten”, even though the media has been saying “two thousand eleven” for 2011.

Apparently, just as the print media has style books to dictate the “rules” of word usage, capitalization and so forth (AP and New York Times style books come to mind); the broadcast industry has a style book that dictates 2011 be read as “two thousand eleven”.

Well, we think it’s time to end this “two thousand” nonsense. Too much time is being wasted pronouncing and hearing all these unnecessary syllables. 2012 is a fine time to start saying “twenty-twelve”.

So Happy New Year everybody. Let’s hope that twenty-twelve is much better than twenty-eleven.