I first met Jeffrey when I started working at the Gold Goast Railroad Museum in about 1981. Developmentally disabled, he was, on the surface, the worst embodiment of what railfans and railroaders call a ‘foamer’, an allusion to someone who ‘foams at the mouth’ when exposed to a train. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Jeffrey rode to the museum every Sunday morning with his mother for our operating sessions. He’d willingly offer to help with any job with no complaints, just his usual lopsided grin. At first, he seemed unable to even tie his own shoes, but being treated like an adult, and being given tasks that closely matched his abilities helped his self-esteem and allowed him a measure of dignity and satisfaction in small jobs, well done.

As time progressed, Jeffrey made friends among the staff, and was taken under many of our wings, helping him to learn more complicated jobs and operations. He eventually qualified as a conductor on the museum train, and I taught him some of the niceties of firing and maintaining a steam locomotive. We all learned that Jeffrey’s word was gold- if he said something was done, it was, and was correct.

As time went on, Jeffrey and I moved apart and lost contact- I back up to Chicago and eventually Indianapolis, and he to New York with his mother, who now required care for Alzheimer’s. In New York, he got a job on the subway, and became his mother’s sole support.

Jeffery was murdered this weekend in a senseless and violent attack.

I post this so that there might be a record of this gentle and kind man, who never had a harsh word for anyone, and that he might be known by a few more people.

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Don’t spy on me!

This was originally posted on Metafilter

In Hitler’s Germany, the ratio of State Security Personnel (Gestapo, SS-SD, et. al) to citizens was 1 to roughly 2600.

In Stalin’s Soviet Union, that ratio (KGB, NKVD, et .al). was 1 to about 5300.

In Erich Honecker’s East Germany (DDR), that ratio (STASI, et. al.) reached a peak of 1 in 63 in the early 1980′s.

The USA has perfected the techniques, and the ratio is now 1:1. We all inform on ourselves and each other at all times. We live in the perfect tyranny.

Note that the NSA, per se, does not hold the data: it’s all subcontracted out to private companies that don’t have those onerous Constitutional laws to bother them.

Oh, and what happens when you, Citizen, do something that annoys one of these companies? Can you say “the perfect blacklist?” I knew you could. For you. And all your friends, and relatives and their contacts as well. Because you never know, do you?

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We apologize for the Inconvenience

Sorry about the downtime there folks. WordPress and 1and1 webhosting don’t play well together sometimes, and I just simply haven’t had the time or inclination to troubleshoot the problems.

In other news, I’ve put all my iphone photos (the ones that are worth a darn, anyway, on mlkshk. Feel free to browse.

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Pure Greed

I was contacted recently by someone claiming to be a sales manager for “WRSP Events” asking to use this photo:
White River State Park at Dawn

On 12 Feb 13, 3.53PM EST WRSP Events said:

*Please do note, I did mention you are more than welcome to watermark this image. That would be free publicity for you.

Otherwise, do send me information on how much you would charge for a download of this image (un-watermarked)

My reply:

Watermarks do not pay my mortgage.
Watermarks do not pay for my groceries.
Watermarks do not pay my medical bills.
Watermarks do not pay for my van payments.
Watermarks do not pay for Christmas presents for my grandchildren.
Watermarks do not pay for my 40 years of experience.
Watermarks do not pay for my camera gear.

Exposure? I have over 1 million views on my Flickr account. I’ve sold many photos to reputable businesses. I don’t need free publicity.

For a business as big as yours, asking for free photography is simply stupid and greedy. Don’t think I or anyone else with access to Google doesn’t know Live Nation is Ticketmaster? I can download your 10K and see over a billion dollars in revenues for over 3 years running!

And yet you seem to think you are entitled to poach on working photographer’s output for free. Do you have any idea how insulting that is? How greedy? How tone-deaf?

I’ll be posting this letter and my response on my blog and on Facebook. I’d prefer any further interactions be in public.

-End Quote-

WRSP Events is part of Live Nation. Which owns Ticketmaster. Which has revenues of over a billion dollars a year. Greedy? It’s absolutely astounding!

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Christians (and others, too) are delusional.

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Funny, if true. Oh wait, it is?

A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it.
The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, ‘Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.’

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Pure greed.

I wrote the following email to HarperCollins today:

Let me start out by saying that I am one of those unusual people who actually PURCHASES books for my, my children’s, and grandchildren’s pleasure and education.

I will no longer be purchasing any HarperCollins imprints until such time that you publicly renounce your odious and greedy policy of ‘expiring’ e-books. This is an obvious and blatant money-grab, and our libraries are strained enough as it is. I see it as unbelievably arrogant and self-serving at the expense of those with lesser power.


Philip Jern

I read, and influence others to do so. I encourage you to write or otherwise contact HarperCollins and express your disdain for their policy of causing e-books to ‘expire’ after 26 checkouts.

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Small things amuse me.

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How to boot a Steam Locomotive

or, How to Hostle without really tiring.

NOTE: I originally wrote this in 1990, and posted it on USENET in rec.railroads shortly thereafter. Fast-forward 20 years and it appeared on the MAKE magazine blog, proving that the Internet is forever, it seems. The San Diego Railroad Museum has hosted a version for many years, as well.

It’s 3:30 in the morning, as my alarm goes off. Ouch. Today, it’s my turn to get old 153 up to speed for Sunday operations. I drag myself out of bed, bleary-eyed, and shower quickly. An hour later, the gravel in the parking lot crunches beneath my tires as I drive up to the gate of the museum.
ex-FEC 153

I take my coffee and rolls with me as I open the trainshed, and flick on the lights. There, three feet away, are the cylinders of the 153, a 1922 product of the American Locomotive Company. The sight never fails to astonish me. One hundred and eighty-four tons of people-magnet, as my friend Al is fond of describing her. I walk down the left side of the locomotive, admiring her Brobdingnagian proportions inside the building, and climb up the gangway into the cab. Time to get to work. Continue reading

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Just how much more evidence do you need?

I urge everyone to read this post over at Boing Boing. This person’s ignorant attacks and racist panderings are a cancer on the body politic.

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