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

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.

Steve Jobs – A Pioneer in User-Friendly Design

iSadThe news of Steve Jobs’ passing was delivered to me on the screen of my Apple computer. It’s kind of fitting, given the many ways that he has affected our day-to-day lives whether we use his products or not.

My first exposure to Steve Jobs was on an episode of Nightline in the late ’70s or early ’80s. He was a talking head guest discussing the advent of the personal computer. The line that sticks in my head to this day (paraphrasing from memory): “Just as a tool is an extension of our hands, the computer is an extension of our brains.”

(Here’s a youtube video of a young Steve describing computers as “bicycles for our minds.”)

He went on to discuss how these tools – once exclusively owned and operated by rich corporations and governments – were now accessible to ordinary people, and that this would cause the innovation and transformation that we’ve all witnessed since then.

Steve didn’t invent computers, portable music players or smartphones. What he did was to refine these products down to the most minute detail to make them not only easy to use, but a joy to use. Read on

Decennial Anniversaries

I put up a new banner image tonight. RoZ is sitting next to the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park in an image captured exactly ten years ago (give or take a day). At this time in 2001, we were finishing a road trip of a lifetime through the western United States, and we would soon be preparing to spend two months in Europe.

In the coming weeks and months, we will release a new project that will tell a much more complete story of this life-changing experience. Until then, the web site we published while we were in Europe is still online, but that will also be incorporated into this new project. Stay tuned.

Twenty years ago this summer, in 1991, I was living in my step-van in Austin, Texas, slowly getting back onto my feet after leaving a commune I had been with for the previous thirteen years (yet another story that’ll be told in full, someday).

Thirty years ago, in the summer of 1981, I was living in Isla Vista, California (the student ghetto of UC-Santa Barbara). I was essentially in exile from the commune, but I had my own bike, a PO box, food stamps, a place to keep my stuff, a cozy place to sleep in a secluded piece of an overgrown park, but no roof.

Even though I was essentially homeless for about six months, I have fond memories of that summer. It helps that it never rained. But I also became part of a whole community of young hippies that populated the low-rent houses of the neighborhood, and together we participated in the Diablo Canyon blockade, one of the biggest anti-nuclear actions ever conducted.

The summers of ’91 and ’81 could be considered traumatic life-changing events, but in retrospect they were memorable and enriching experiences. The summer of 1971 was spent recovering from physical trauma: a serious bicycle accident that had me in the hospital for a few days in June and licking my wounds for the rest of the summer.

I don’t know what kind of life-changing event – if any – 2011 will bring. I’m willing for this year to be the one that breaks this decennial pattern, but if something big happens this summer, I hope it’s something good.

We Don’t Need a Head on a Pike

Back in the dark days of semi-ancient history, victorious armies would kill the leader of an opposing nation or notorious band of villains, cut off his head and parade it around town at the end of a pike. It was a way to gloat and to taunt.

Today, to put a “head on a pike” is a mostly a metaphorical term, but it can still be literal if only in a sanitized form. Such was the behavior of the Bush regime when it killed the Husseins of Iraq. Uday and Qusay (sp?) had their morbid mug shots published in newspapers around the world, and Saddam Hussein had video of his hanging leaked to the Internet.

So when word came Sunday night that Osama bin Laden had been killed, we asked each other how long it would be before we saw pictures of dead Osama on the Internet, and the answer was, “tomorrow morning.” A very large segment of the American population is glad to know bin Laden’s dead, but they wouldn’t believe it until they saw his head on a pike, and the Internet picture of the bloodied skull is the head on the pike of the twenty-first century.

Word came out that such pictures exist, and that they are “gruesome”. But today it was announced that these pictures will NOT be made public.

We applaud this decision. The head on the pike is so tenth century. It’s a barbaric act of gloating and taunting, and such blood sport would be offensive to our enemies and our friends. There is nothing to be gained by doing this. To those who claim it would offer “proof” to the doubters, I say that there will be doubters anyway who will see the “head on the pike” picture and scream, “That’s Photoshopped!”

We have enough gruesome images polluting our collective mind, we don’t need a bloodied skull of Osama bin Laden to become an iconic image for a generation. I want to believe we’re classier people than that.

Into the Woods

We went for a walk in Hixon Forest yesterday. It seemed like a good way to spend a hot day in July. So we were hiking on the Hickory Trail and almost at the junction to Lookout Point. We’d just come around a corner and I was walking in front.

As we neared a tree in the trail Obbie yelled “STOP”. I looked down, saw a snake and heard it’s rattle all at the same time. I tried not to panic, although I wanted to run back down the trail as fast as I could. Instead, we stepped back and let the snake continue across the path and into the woods.

Obbie had the small camera along and recorded what we saw. Kinda shaky, but considering the circumstances…

A large rattlesnake crosses a trail in Hixon Forest, La Crosse WI

A large rattlesnake crosses a trail in Hixon Forest.

The head of a rattlesnake crossing a trail in Hixon Forest, La Crosse WI

Close-up detail of the above picture.

After recovering our senses we continued on up the trail to Lookout Point, with a lot more awareness of what’s around us. And respect too. Thanks snake, and Obbie, for the warning.

This encounter reminded us of this silly but fun little Flash video. Watch for the snake.

BP = Boycott Petroleum


There’s a movement to boycott BP because of the way they f’d up the Gulf of Mexico… just as Exxon f’d up the shore of Alaska in 1989, and Pemex f’d up the Gulf in 1979, and Unocal f’d up the Santa Barbara coast in 1969, and on and on.

They’re ALL evil. If we keep driving, they’ll keep drilling, making it inevitable that this’ll happen again. We must strive to boycott ALL petroleum. (For the record, so far this year we’ve spent about $20 on gasoline… one small tank of gas.)

Oil on the Water

This song was stuck in my head, and I couldn’t rest until it came out, even though it may be a bit crude. And nowadays, it seems the best way to get wide release of a new song is to make it into a youtube video:

The lyrics are after the jump.

Read on

The Snowplow Haiku

Crashing, rumbling, scraper of blacktop
Spreader of sand, sprinkler of salt

I didn’t really put much thought into it, it just came out as the snowplow went by. RoZ said,  “Crashing, rumbling,” and I added the rest. She counted the syllables: 17, which – along with referencing the season – makes it a haiku by definition.

So for people who are much more “into” this kind of thing than we are, here you go.