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MOLTENI NET WORKSAs a (literally) old basketball player, I have always hated dealing with net-less hoops. Full satisfaction for a shot well made requires a net. But nets do wear out. Schools and cities fail to replace them. So I sometimes take matters into my own hands, and replace nets personally.

This is also what Maria Molteni does, but in a far more artful and fun way.  She explains,

MOLTENi NET WORKS function simply. Participants will hand-crochet basketball nets to be installed on hoops where such are missing or damaged. I’ve created a blog and gmap to keep track of spaces where nets have been installed or have yet to be. Contributors may follow the progress of the project, reporting sightings and requests for nets in their own neighborhoods. Efforts have begun locally, and spread to additional projects such as artist Kevin Clancy’s “Portable Utopia” in Johannesburg. I aim to engage other creative enthusiasts collaborating via workshops and skill shares to fabricate nets and exchange new design ideas.

This good work is what earned MOLTENI NET WORKS an Awesome Foundation award in February from the Boston chapter, of which I am a trustee. We have never had a more deserving recipient. Here’s what Kara Brickman reports in our latest blog post:

The MOLTENi NET WORKS project is well underway with a recent exhibit at Cambridge’sMEME Gallery in Central Square that also included workshops where participants were able to hand-crochet basketball nets to be installed on bare hoops. Efforts have begun locally in Allston, MA and there are several local organizations (Boston include Artists for Humanity, Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, Design Studio for Social Intervention, and Massart’s Fibers Department) interested in putting on more workshops.

If you’d like to get pitch in, there are a few ways you can get involved.

  • Give your time and skills by attending a workshop and putting in some elbow grease making nets.
  • Kick in to the Kickstarter fund so that the MOLTENi NET WORK project can extend it’s reach across the globe…

I’ll make the party. And I can’t wait to drop some three-pointers through one of those colorful new nets.

And enjoy more of Maria’s art here.

Got together with four members of my kid’s 8th grade basketball team and their coach (another dad, much younger and better than me) this afternoon for a shoot-around. I was too wasted to play in the real game (I did sub briefly, and scored one lay-up), but we finished up with a game of P-I-G (a shorter version of H-O-R-S-E), which I joined, since I didn’t think it would take much effort. Amazingly, I won. Not sure why I was hitting a high percentage of shots. Some of the old touch came back, I guess. Felt good.

Branding has jumped the shark. The meme is stale. Worn out. Post-peak. If branding were a show on Fox, it would be cancelled next week.

I can witness this trend by watching links going to three posts I made last month:

The latest to point this direction is People Aren’t Brands, by one of these guys here (I see no byline) in UKSN, the UK Sports Network. After pointing generously to the second of the posts above, they say,

In the current business world, brands aren’t human beings. They should be, and any social media practitioner worth her salt will be working damn hard with their clients to try and make them more so, but as it stands they are companies, corporate vehicles which are not set up to deal with human error…the kind we are all susceptible to, especially some high profile celebs.

Well, all due respect (and UKSN deserve plenty), brands aren’t people. True, it’s good to humanize companies, turn them inside out, tear down the walls of Fort Business, and otherwise cut out the pro forma BS that tends more commonly to bottle up a company’s humanity than to celebrate and leverage it. But doing that isn’t branding. It’s just good sense.

True, branding is a helpful way to align a company’s distinctions with its identity, or to make it more attractive, memorable and stuff like that. But it matters far less than a well-earned reputation. Consider these statements:

  • Nike has a reputation for making good shoes.
  • Apple has a reputation for making artful technology.
  • Toyota has a reputation for making reliable cars.

Now let’s re-phrase those using the word “brand” instead of “reputation.”

  • The Nike brand makes good shoes
  • Apple is the brand for artful technology.
  • Toyota is the reliable car brand.

Two points there. First, it’s hard to re-phrase reputation as brand, no matter how you put it. Second, branding is not positioning. By that I mean it would be easier to make positioning statements about any of those companies than to make a branding statement.

That’s because brands are nothing but statements. At best they are a well-known and trusted badge, name or both. At worst they’re a paint job, a claim, a rationalization or an aspiration. Branding can help a reputation, but it can’t make one. Real work does that. Accomplishment over time does that.

Consider for a moment the value of Toyota’s reputation as a maker of reliable cars. This reputation was earned over at least five decades. Millions of people have had good experiences with reliable Toyota cars and trucks. That reputation has kept Toyota’s head above water through the trials of the last year, when an endless string of bad news stories about sudden acceleration and other faults have been streaming through the news media. In the tug between bad news and good reputation, branding was a no-show.

Judged by the standards of real branding companies (such as Procter & Gamble, which invented and named the practice), Toyota’s branding work has been mediocre at best. It has created cars with confusing names (Corolla, Corona, Carina, Celica, Crown, Cresta, Cressida) and weird hard-to-pronounce names (Camry, Yaris), and has produced relatively little memorable advertising, considering the size of the company and the quality of its cars. Worse, those Toyotathon ads by local dealers, which ran until the Daily Show’s Toyotathon of Death segment buried them for good, were among the most persistent and annoying pitches of all time. In fact, Toyota dealers in general had relatively bad reputations. The one thing Toyota did well was make reliable cars. Toyota’s reputation persists because it was earned, not just claimed.

Branding is jumping the shark now because, on the whole, the Net favors reality over bullshit. Saying stuff may get more attention than doing stuff, at least in the short run. But doing stuff is what makes the world work.

The hard thing for social media folks is that they’re still working the Saying Stuff beat while  Doing Stuff is what matters most. Getting companies to do different stuff, or to do the same stuff differently, is hard. Getting companies to do either of those things for long enough to earn a reputation for it is harder still.

But, good luck with that.

Meanwhile here’s how UKSN (in its People Aren’t Brands post) advises companies aligning with sports figures:

Corporates need to let go of the term ‘brand’ and all the connotations it brings when they are working with celebrities. When they hire the celeb, they think that person is now representative of the brand…something which humans can’t do! They can be themselves and if the company is comfortable with whom they are and what they stand for as a human being…then there is value to be derived by association. Expecting the person to fit into the perceived brand of a company is a recipe for (potential) disaster.

All good advice. What makes branding especially difficult in the sports world is that celebrity itself, and the fashions surrounding it, are part of the game. Sports figures endorse, and are endorsed by, “corporates,” and both benefit from each other. This morning I heard that money offered by teams shouldn’t have that much influence on which team LeBron James signs up with next (so long as they’re all within a few million dollars of each other), because he’ll make far more from his corporate affiliations. This is a set of considerations where UKSN knows far more than I do, and where branding of the old P&G sort still matters a great deal.

Sports is a special case. So are fashion and celebrity, and how all three of those overlap.

In most of society, however — including most of the business world — who you are and what you do matter more than how you look and how famous you become. Because who you are and what you do are what make the world a better place. And not just something to talk about.

[Late addition…] Tom Ford with Tina Brown on marketing and branding. Great clip.

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March Madness for me this year was a double treat. First, my team, the Duke Blue Devils, won the championship. (Though my heart went out to Butler, which came within inches of winning at the buzzer on a half-court shot.) Second, I got to follow the Devils, and North Carolina Basketball in general, on . I did this over on my iPhone. I listened in my pocket as I cooked in the kitchen, rode on my bike, and walked to the bus and the train. I dug and in the mornings, the PackMan in the afternoon, and hyper-local features such as the Duke Basketball show from the Washington Duke Inn, on Duke’s campus).

I loved hearing old familiars like , and Duke play-by-play announcer , who started as a sales guy at WDNC in 1975, not long after I left that same job. In those days WDNC was a struggling Top 40 station, still owned by the Durham Herald-Sun newspapers, still with studios in the paper’s building, and still carrying CBS news (its lone connection to a glorious past). Since then WDNC has bounced through a number of formats, and currently thrives in the overlap of , and empires. Its FM counterpart is WCMC/99.9, which didn’t exist when I left town in 1985. Currently known as “620 The Buzz” (the FM is “The Fan”), it was until recently The Bull. (In fact, if you go to http://wdnc.com, it re-directs to http://www.620thebull.com/, which is a blank page. Somebody needs to get a second re-direct going there.)

A confession. Not long after Bob Harris took over play-by-play for Duke games, he often had Mike Krzyzewski, then Duke’s rookie basketball coach, as a guest. I wasn’t a fan of Coach K. His predecessor, Bill Foster, was gregarious, emotional and easy for fans to love, Krzyzewski seemed cold and a bit nasty. He rarely smiled and had coaching style that appeared to consisted entirely of barking at officials. I once said of him, “There’s nothing about that guy that a blow-dry and a sense of humor wouldn’t cure.” While it wasn’t quite a nickname for Coach K, it stuck, and I heard it repeated often. Today, of course, Krzyzewski is an institution, and much loved by everybody who knows him, especially his players.

Anyway, the most interesting irony to me, as I listen to WDNC here in Cambridge, Mass, is that it has long been the custom in radio to obsess about signals and coverage — since you can’t listen to what you can’t get. Among souls who still do this I know few who are more devoted, even still, than I am. (The very best is Scott Fybush, by the way. I love his site visits.)

As a kid growing up in New Jersey I would ride my bike down to visit the transmitters of New York’s AM stations, whose towers bristled from swamps on the flanks of the Hackensack river: WABC, WINS, WMGM/WHN, WOV/WADO, WMCA, WNEW, WHOM…

I’d talk with the guys who manned the transmitters (they were always guys, and they were often old), logging readings and walking out to the towers to make sure all was well. I became a ham radio operator around that time, and continued to fancy myself something of an engineer, though technically I wasn’t. Still, I jumped at the opportunity to take shifts maintaining WDNC’s transmitter as a side job when I worked there. The whole plant was about the same age as me (at the time, 27), and spread across about ten acres at the end of a dirt road on the northwest side of town. It was 5000 watts by day and 1000 watts by night, with directional patterns produced by its three towers. The shot above is from Bing’s excellent “bird’s eye” view of the site. (Why doesn’t Microsoft make more of this? Google has nothing like it, and it totally rocks.) And it’s much nicer now than it was then. At that time the fields had turned to high brush, and I needed to ride a lawnmower out to the towers on a bumpy path, so I wouldn’t get ticks. (One could pick up — I’m not kidding, hundreds of ticks by walking out there.)

What fascinated me most about the facility was the engineering files, which included details on the transmission patterns and coverage maps showing how waves interacted with conductive ground to produce signal intensities that didn’t look as much like the signal pattern as one might expect. AM coverage depends on ground conductivity. In North Carolina (and the East in general) the ground conductivity is poor; but at the bottom end of the AM dial the waves are longer and travel farther along the ground in any case. WDNC was at 620, so its signal was many times the size of a signal at the top end of the dial with the same wattage.

Now I can go online and see WDNC’s daytime pattern here and its nighttime pattern here — both at . I can see the coverage they produce at . Here’s a mash-up of patterns (left) and coverage (right):

Which is all well and cool. Playing with this stuff is catnip for me. But it’s also meaningless, once radio moves off AM and FM and onto the Net, where in the long run it makes much more sense.

What we’re dealing with, in the images I show here, is exceedingly antique stuff. The basics of AM broadcast engineering were set in the 1920s and 1930s. FM dates from the 1940s and 1950s. Recent improvements to both (through IBOC — In Band On Channel) are largely proprietary, and uptake on the receiving end borders on pathetic. None of the technologies employed are interactive, much less Net-native. They soak billions of watts off the world’s power grids. AM stations occupy large areas of real estate. FM and TV stations use frequencies that require high elevations, provided by tall towers, buildings or mountains, offering hazards to aviation and bird migration. Not to mention that lots of the biggest towers tend to fall down. In 1989 a pair of 2000-foot TV/FM towers near Raleigh (serving the same areas outlined above) collapsed in the same ice storm.

Three problems stand in the way of building out radio on the Net.

First is the mobile phone system that carries it. When I listen to WDNC on my iPhone, I don’t care how much data I use. AT&T has no data limit for the iPhone or the iPad. Other carriers need to have similar deals. To my knowledge they don’t — at least not in the U.S. (Sprint used to, and after my problems with Sprint last year I doubt I’ll use its system much for media again son.) Still, even AT&T regards subordinates mobile data to mobile telephony. This gets more retro every day. In the long run, we’ll have a mobile data system that includes mobile telephony but is not defined by it (and its infuriating billing systems). These also need to be better integrated with wi-fi from all sources (and not just the carriers’ own). These days most wi-fi access points are “secure,” making them useless as part of a larger system. But that can change.

Second is revising the rules restricting music streamed and podcast over the Net. Copyright law, especially as established by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, screwed the hell out of music broadcasting and podcasting. Today we have some of the former and little of the latter (except for “podsafe” music, which includes approximately nothing that’s been popular over the last 80 years). Fixing this won’t be easy, but it needs to be done.

Third is revising the means by which stations make money, and rules about where advertising can be carried. For the former we need a much better system for listeners to pay broadcasters on a voluntary basis, for both commercial and noncommercial stations. (This is why at ProjectVRM we are working on EmanciPay, for example.) For advertising, there are currently restrictions on much national advertising, which is why the majority of ads I hear on WDNC (and other commercial stations that do streaming) are public service announcements from the Ad Council. Listening to these, over and over and over and over, accelerates the listeners own aging process.

Networks and stations also need to realize that more and more online listeners aren’t tuning in to Web pages. They’re tuning directly to streams using applications on mobile devices. The folks on WDNC do a good job of using Twitter, Facebook and other familiar “social media,” but they don’t seem to have a clue that it’s a heck of a lot easier to listen to mobile radio on something that’s actually like a radio — namely a smartphone — than on a computer. Search for “radio” in Apple’s app store and you’ll get hundreds of results. The Public Radio Player, there on the left, has had over 2.5 million downloads so far. Hopefully the iPad will help. Check out Pandora’s latest.

Anyway, a big thanks to the folks at WDNC/TheBuzz for a great season of Duke, Carolina and ACC basketball coverage — especially for a listener stuck here in New England, where pro sports dominate. (Not that I don’t love those too. I just need my college basketball fix.) Props to @TZarzour and @WRALsportsFan too.

I just learned that Jack Jensen died yesterday, at age 71. I knew Jack a bit when I was a student at Guilford College in the late ’60s. (Class of ’69, to be precise.) Jack wasn’t much older than the rest of us then. When I was a freshman, Jack was a 26-year old assistant basketball coach under Jerry Steele. My involvement with athletics then consisted of running the scoreboard for the football team (sitting next to Carl Scheer, who did the play-by-play for the radio) and playing pick-up basketball in the college’s only gym when the team wasn’t practicing. After Jerry left (the year after I graduated), Jack took over as head coach. In 1973 he did what Jerry came close to doing: winning the NAIA national tournament, with a team that included World B. Free (who then went by his given name, Lloyd) and M.L. Carr. I remember what Jack said about the victory to Sports Illustrated at the time. While not verbatim, it was basically this: “We give the ball to Lloyd.” No BS about it.

Jack went on to coach Guilford basketball for 29 years, and was still coaching the golf team — which he led to three national titles — when he died, after returning from a golf tournament

From the email sent out by the college:

The most decorated coach in Guilford’s history, Jack was enshrined in the NAIA, North Carolina, Guilford County, Guilford College and Wake Forest University Sports Halls of Fame, as well as the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame. He was only the second person to coach two different sports to NAIA national titles. In 2009, Guilford‚s main basketball floor in the Ragan-Brown Field House was renamed Jack Jensen Court.

From Allen Johnson of the Greensboro News & Record: “He richly deserves the title legend.”

By all accounts he was an even better guy than the ace I remember. My best to his family, friends, and the thousands of others who knew him better than I did.

[Later…] More about Jack’s death (of a heart attack, on the phone, at the wheel of his car — but with no others hurt), funeral plans and more, here, here, here, here and here.

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Seems like all my favorite college hoops teams are playing in tournaments.

Harvard’s Crimson go up against Appalachian State tonight in the CIT.

UCSB’s Gauchos are the 15th seed in the NCAA Men’s Midwest bracket, a checkbox win for #2 seed Ohio State on Friday night.

The Quakers of my alma mater, , are back in the Final Four of the NCAA’s Division III, after polishing off . They take on Friday afternoon. Have a bunch of friends with Williams connections too.

My long-time fave Division I team, , is the top seed in the NCAA South bracket. They play a team whose jerseys say ARPB, before facing the winner of the game. My daughter and a bunch of neices and nephews are grads, so I’ll be rooting for them, should they survive.

I was Knicks fan growing up, but I didn’t follow basketball much until I went to Guilford in 1965. North Carolina is basketball country in any case, and somehow I got into playing it as well there. Nothing serious, just pick-up intramural ball. My whole game was shooting long-range bombers, and I lacked all the other skills (dribbling, passing) one expects to go with that one. But at least I wasn’t taken last when teams were chosen, which for me was exceptionally positive feedback.

As it happened Guilford also had damn fine basketball teams the whole time I was there. They were often ranked #1 in the NAIA, and in ’68 (a year they lost in the finals to Oshkosh State) they graduated three players into the NBA. The best of those was Bob Kauffman, the #3 pick in the draft that year. Bob went on to become a 3-time All-Star, and then the head coach and general manager of the Detroit Pistons. He completed that career by making the mistake of giving Dick Vitale the head coaching job. In 1975 Guilford won the NAIA tournament with a team that included World B. Free and M.L. Carr.

My Division I sympathies were originally with Wake Forest (also in the NCAAs) since my entire coterie of North Carolina relatives were affiliated in one way or another with the school. When I moved to Chapel Hill after college, however, I became a Carolina fan. I still am. (Wake too.) But my overriding affection for Duke was born at the first pre-season game of the 1977-78 season. That was when freshmen Kenny Dennard and Gene Banks joined Jim Spanarkel, Mike Gminski and Johny Harrell to turn a has-been team into what would become the powerhouse it has been ever since.

But I didn’t know that then. I was working on the Duke campus in the Fall of ’77 at the time, and was invited to that game (against ) by David Hodskins, who would become my business partner for most of the following two decades. David was a Duke grad with season tickets to games at the very intense Cameron Indoor Stadium. I was his date for many of those games over many years, and couldn’t help getting into the team.

While Duke had good years during ‘ tenure as coach back in the 1960s, it had been nowhere for most the decade that followed. In those days, as the UCLA dynasty (the biggest ever, never to be repeated), NC State, Maryland and Carolina were the cream of the ACC. Duke joined that elite with what John Feinstein (another Duke grad) called : the 1977-78 crew I saw play that pre-season game. Now people say, “How can you like an overdog like Duke?” Sorry, can’t help it. My experience as a Duke fan also prepped me for following Tommy Amaker, now the coach here at Harvard. (Tommy also played high school ball at Wilbert Tucker Woodson High School in Virginia, where one of his teammates was my cousin Andy Heck, a multi-sport athlete who went on to co-captain the Notre Dame football team that won the national championship in 1988, before going on to an eleven-year career as an NFL player. He’s now the offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars.)

Speaking of overdogs, I’m also a Boston Celtics fan these days too, for roughly the same reason: I’m local here. And I like the team. Celtics coach Doc Rivers and I have a common friend in , who is a hard-core Duke fan too — as well as a former college hoops player. Buzz got into Duke when he went to law school there. (I still like the Knicks, though. And the Golden State Warriors. David Hodskins and I had season tickets to the Warriors back in the days of Run TMC.)

Wish I could say I expect Duke to win it all. Hope they do, but I just picked Kansas. Or maybe it was Kentucky. (The Kid just went downstairs to check.) Okay, it’s Kentucky. Whatever, it’ll be fun to follow. I see that CBS has the games on-demand over the Net. Count me in for that. We got nothing but Net here. (Hey, it’s the future of what used to be television. I just hope that single purpose — pumping “content” — doesn’t turn the Net into TV 2.0.)

olympicice

Anything look familiar about the ice crystals on NBC’s Vancouver Olympics bumper screens (some of which float behind Bob Costas’ head when he sits talking at his desk)?

You can see the originals here. They were shot at our apartment near Boston one year ago, on a morning when it was way below freezing outside, and moisture from inside the house collected in these snowy patterns, a fractal festival on the insides of our storm windows. (All of which our landlady has since replaced with fresh thermal ones, by the way — meaning I’m not going to get those shots again.)

Anyway, I was approached last Fall by NBC about using the shots for their Olympics coverage. They’d found them in my photo pile on Flickr. I said sure. There’s no money in it, but my name will run in the credits.

Meanwhile, it makes watching the show a lot more fun. And it’s a big win for Creative Commons too.

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Dats love

Sez Dave (now back in Metsland), “As the 1969 Mets undid the betrayal of NY fans by the Dodgers, the Saints give hope to a city that was betrayed in so many ways.” Exactly. And let’s not forget the betrayal of NY fans by the Giants too. Losing both was a double-whammy for me as a kid. For live major league baseball, Dodgers/Giants fans had to go to a Yankees game — and root against them. Did that a few times. It was way cool. And affordable back then too.

I believed the Saints would win. The whole run-up felt like the ’69 Mets AND the ’69 Jets in Superbowl III. Both were supposed to lose to overpowering Baltimore teams. In the case of the Jets it was the same Colts that also lost yesterday to the Saints.

The sports prophets all said that the Colts were too good. Peyton Manning was the greatest quarterback ever, yada yada. Nobody seemed to notice that the Saints had a pretty good season too. Also its own Hall of Fame quarterback. And, while everybody had some sympathy for the city of New Orleans, there was also this half-tragic, “Well, it’s too bad that the Colts will win this thing.” It was like the Colts could phone it in.

Truth is, it could have gone either way. If a Colts player was found with the ball at the bottom of that scrum after the Saints’ onside kick, the tide might have turned the Colts’ way right there. Same with that pass interception on Manning. But games have a psychological side too. The Saints had the edge there. They believed. And they performed. They were the better team and the more deserving city. And I wish I’d been in New Orleans last night.

But then, I’d been there, in that vindicated, affirming place. Twice, in ’69.

Heavy Whether

borgpond

Chris Daly posts a 1995 essay he wrote for the Atlantic, recalling almost exactly the experience I had as a kid growing up and skating on ponds in the winter. An excerpt:

When I was a boy skating on Brooks Pond, there were almost no grown-ups around. Once or twice a year, on a weekend day or a holiday, some parents might come by, with a thermos of hot cocoa. Maybe they would build a fire — which we were forbidden to do — and we would gather round.

But for the most part the pond was the domain of children. In the absence of adults, we made and enforced our own rules. We had hardly any gear – just some borrowed hockey gloves, some hand-me-down skates, maybe an elbow pad or two – so we played a clean form of hockey, with no high-sticking, no punching, and almost no checking. A single fight could ruin the whole afternoon. Indeed, as I remember it 30 years later, it was the purest form of hockey I ever saw – until I got to see the Russian national team play the game.

But before we could play, we had to check the ice. We became serious junior meteorologists, true connoisseurs of cold. We learned that the best weather for pond skating is plain, clear cold, with starry nights and no snow. (Snow not only mucks up the skating surface but also insulates the ice from the colder air above.) And we learned that moving water, even the gently flowing Mystic River, is a lot less likely to freeze than standing water. So we skated only on the pond. We learned all the weird whooping and cracking sounds that ice makes as it expands and contracts, and thus when to leave the ice.

Do kids learn these things today? I don’t know. How would they? We don’t even let them. Instead, we post signs. Ruled by lawyers, cities and towns everywhere try to eliminate their legal liability. But try as they might, they cannot eliminate the underlying risk. Liability is a social construct; risk is a natural fact. When it is cold enough, ponds freeze. No sign or fence or ordinance can change that.

In fact, by focusing on liability and not teaching our kids how to take risks, we are making their world more dangerous. When we were children, we had to learn to evaluate risks and handle them on our own. We had to learn, quite literally, to test the waters. As a result, we grew up to be more savvy about ice and ponds than any kid could be who has skated only under adult supervision on a rink.

While Chris lived in Medford, near Boston, I lived Maywood, New Jersey, which is near New York. Like Medford, Maywood was a mixed blue/white collar town. Still, it wasn’t dangerous.. Nobody worried about a kid being ‘napped. Or abused, except by bullies (which were normal hazards of life). Kids were taught early to be independent. I remember how I learned to walk to kindergarten. Mom came all the way with me on the first day. On the second, she let me walk the last block myself. Then one block less the next day. Then one block less the next day. Finally, I walked all the way myself — about half a mile. I had turned five years old only two months before.

We mostly skated at Borg’s pond, in Borg’s Woods, a private paradise under a canopy of old growth hardwood on the Maywood-Hackensack border, owned by the Borg family, which published the Bergen Record during its heyday as a truly great newspaper. The pond is still there, inside the green patch at the center of this map. Great to see from the Borg’s Woods Page (actually a site with much more) that the woods is now a preserve   Here’s a trail map that shows the pond. And here is a tour of the woods that shows the pond (I hope Eric Martindale, who maintains the site, doesn’t mind my borrowing the pond shot above), the “four oaks” that are still standing (and where we used to have club meetings), the sledding hill behind the Borg house and more. What a treat to find that it hardly looks any different now than it did fifty years ago.

We could skate on larger water bodies too. There were other lakes and reservoirs nearby. I also have fond memories of Greenwood Lake , where I lived a young adult, editing the late West Milford Argus. Ours was a former summer house (made mostly of cast-off parts) only a few feet from the shore. In the winter we skated there and in the summer we canoed up into New York (State), across the border of which the long lake lay on maps like a big stitch.

Anyway, Chris is right. On the whole we were more free. Not of restrictions. Parents were much more stern and disciplinary back then. Spanking, for example, was pro forma. Our freedom was from fear of what might happen as we became more independent and self-reliant.

Thinking more about it, I don’t want to idealize my childhood years. We lived in constant fear of nuclear annihilation, for example. Through much of my childhood I kept a list in my head of all the places I wanted to see before everybody was incinerated by some politician with an itchy finger. There were also racial, sexual and other forms of oppression, repression and worse.

But we were a bit closer to a natural state in some ways, I think. Or at least kids were. Outside of school, anyway.

By the way, I see that the Brooks Estate, home of Brooks Pond, is now also a nature preserve. As it happens I have also shot pictures of that place from the air. Here’s one. And here’s a shot of Spy Pond (subject of my last post).

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spypondhockey

For most of Winter in the Northeast, skating is possible only during the somewhat rare times when the ice is thick and not covered with snow or other unwelcome surface conditions. And bad skating has been the story, typically, for most of this Winter around Boston. After an earlier snow, there were some ad hoc skating rinks cleared by shoveling, but those were ruined by rains, more snow, more rains, and intermittent freezes that made a hash of the surface. But recent rains and hard freezes have formed wide paths between remaining islands of ruined snow. On most ponds there aren’t enough open spaces for real hockey games, but there’s plenty enough for skating, and for hockey practice, anyway. (A note to newbies and outsiders: nearly all lakes here are called ponds. Dunno why yet. Maybe one of ya’ll can tell me. Still a bit of a noob myself.)

Hockey practice is what I saw when I paused to take a sunset shot with my phone at Spy Pond, which I passed it late this afternoon on a long walk along the Minuteman Bikeway, which is one of my favorite walking paths (and thoroughfares — at least when it’s warm and clear enough to bike on). As it happens, Spy Pond ice has some history. There was a period, in the mid- to late-1800s, after railroads got big, but before refrigeration came along, when New England was a source for much of the world’s shipped ice. And Spy Pond itself was one of the most productive sources. This picture here…

spypond_history2

… shows ice being harvested for storage in ice houses beside the railroad which is now the Bikeway. I stood near the left edge of this scene when I took the picture at the top, and the boy and his dad playing hockey were about where at the center left, where a horse is shown pulling what looks like a man with a plow. (That last shot is from this historical display alongside the bikeway.)

The brainfather of Boston’s ice industry was Frederic Tudor, about whom I have learned a great deal from The Ice King: Frederic Tudor and His Circle. Highly recommended, if you’re into half-forgotten New England history. The book came as a bonus with membership in Mystic Seaport, a terrific maritime museum down the road on the Connecticut coast.

[Later…] The industry you see depicted above can also serve as a metaphor. For that a hat tip goes to Robin Lubbock (@RLma), New Media Director of WBUR, who pointed me to this piece by Michael Rosenblum. Nails it. (I also love Rosenblum’s Maybe monetizing is not the answer and Edward III, Crecy and Local TV Newsrooms, also via Robin.)

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