Hockey Talk

I watched a lot of UVM hockey when I lived in Burlington. My first employer had tickets (he still goes to games, I see him there, alone) and introduced me the sport -- prior, I had never seen a live hockey game in my life. The first games I went to were when Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin were freshmen... which was an auspicious time to start going to games, although it probably set some unrealistic expectations as after they graduated, the program fell on relatively hard times and was affected by a hazing scandal.

My main source of tickets was my neighbor in my condominium in Burlington. He was a single guy with a single ticket and a really unfortunate job situation: He worked on a road crew in the summer, and plowed snow in the winter at the IBM plant in Essex Junction. I learned from experience that it didn't take much for his pager to go off... meaning that he was expected to show up and plow. Just a few passing clouds and lonely snowflakes would be enough and a hockey ticket would show up under my door.

Now, of course, I have moved and no longer can easily score free hockey tickets. I did have a ticket to the 2006 holiday tournament, the students are gone so more seats are available to the general public. Even though it was a snowy night my ex-neighbor was there -- turns out he hurt his shoulder working, and is on disability. I was very curious to learn how the new owner of my condo was liking her new place and he filled me in on that situation. It felt like old times to be at a game on a winter night and to ride the shuttle again over to the hospital lot on campus.

I brought my camera (no surprise there) and it worked surprisingly well. It really isn't too good at indoor scenes and is 'noisy' at higher ISO settings, but these images have been only minimally processed -- just brightened. The shots of UVM goalie Joe Fallon are pretty impressive as they were taken at a distance of about 250 feet (cross the rink) and are a testimony to the lens on the camera. I was sitting behind netting and had to use manual focus (which is awkward on this camera) to avoid pictures of fishnets and nothing else.

UVM played St. Cloud St. (ranked in the top ten, nationally) and played well in the 1st period and played desperate in the 3rd but got beat up pretty bad in the 2nd period... and lost 4-2, the last goal was an open-net situation.


It looks cold, and it was cold...

A couple of images from a short hike on the Banforth Ridge trail, which starts along the Winooski River and eventually reaches the summit of Camels Hump, the second highest peak in Vermont, and a peak that is still undeveloped. There was not much snow, but it was a cold clear winter day.

I learned that it was best to just leave the camera in 'P' mode (semi-automatic) rather than putz around with settings: Removing gloves was pretty painful... I think it was about 15 degrees farenheit.

This cold snap is an abberation, however, next week the forecast high temperatures are in the upper 30s... any precipitation will fall as rain. I think that this is fast becoming the new norm here.


12/28, finally looking like winter

I was doing last minute shopping in Montpelier on Saturday December 23, and it was almost 50 degrees and raining. In all the stores all the people were talking about was the weather, how warm it was, climate change, 'new realities', etc. Today (12/28), however, has brought some changes. I have four snow tires sitting in my garage (ie, not on my car) and I am tempted to not put them on... despite the fact that I live on the top of a quite steep hill.

And here are some additional images from this afternoon:


Christmas Trip: Newport, RI

I spent the Christmas holiday on a road trip through Boston to Newport Rhode Island. On the way down I saw "Blue Man Group" in Boston, it was a pretty funny and entertaining show. The show was in a surprisingly small theater so it was not at all like some large scale arena spectacular, and after the show the three 'Blue Man' performers shook hands with departing theater goers... which I thought was unusual (if I had just performed in such a high energy production in full makeup, I would want to hit the showers as soon as possible).

Just some random pictures from the trip:

Newport bridge by night:

and by day:

Modest Newport housing (mansions along the Ciff Walk, which was beautiful, deserted, and balmy on Christmas morning):

Kind of a silly picture:

Floating out to sea:

Wreath, gate, mansion: Merry Christmas!


Word of the day: "Waggish"

"What evidence would you have of my reality, beyond that of your senses?"

"I don't know," said Scrooge.

"Why do you doubt your senses?"

"Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then...
My Aunt Shirley (on my father's side) was an ambitious woman who was ahead of her time; she worked for AAFES (the US military's shopping service -- think Sears Roebuck for military dependents) and rose to be a high level manager in that organization at a time when this was quite an unusual role for a woman. After living all over the world she retired after her husband's death to Maine and acquired an old, rambling 18th century house in Kennebunkport -- the William Lord Mansion. She was very interested in keeping the (very scattered) family together and hosted Christmas gatherings through the years. The house had an old 19th century edition of Dickens' works and I read "A Christmas Carol" there on several occasions. I don't why this one passage, and this one word, stick in my mind, but it does, so there it is.


A Christmas Memory: Tourtière

I grew up in a household without many Christmas traditions, just the usual tree, presents, emphasis on buying things, etc. It was always awkward, especially as I got older, and the frequent moving around meant that there are not a lot of memories associated with particular places, or even the same group of people. When my parents divorced things became the usual management of different households and scheduling etc. but by this time I was an adult so I was like 'whatever' -- though there were always awkward and sad moments.

One fairly recent tradition that does connect me to previous generations of my family is a project of my mother's: Making tourtières (meat pies) that were part of her experience of growing up in Maine, following a old and quite unique recipe; and then FedExing the frozen finished product to her siblings around New England -- which is an expensive proposition. When my mom was younger these pies were eaten after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

There is a Quebec tourtière that is really kind of unappealing as it can be a heavy, greasy concoction of ground pork wrapped in a doughy pastry crust. The recipe my mother uses consists of chicken, pork and beef ground together, mixed with mashed potatoes and onions and seasoned only with salt and savory. The crust is just bisquick which works surprisingly well. I did a quick search online, and didn't find any recipe quite like this, anywhere.

Making these pies is a large scale operation (there is lots meat to grind, and lots of crust to roll out), requiring extra labor -- it would be quite overwhelming for one person. So I have always provided some of the 'muscle' for this operation. This year my sister drove over from her home in Maine as well to take part. I propped my camera up on small tripod in a precarious position on top of the tv in the kitchen, and set it to go off every two minutes.

There I am, sporting the very tasteful "Terrier Motif" apron. I get to run the meat grinder, which actually doesn't take too long, but it is a messy job:

The filling consists of a large boiled chicken, and a pork shoulder and pot roast cooked by simmering, and then all meats are ground up together. Mashed potatoes are added and the reserved cooking fluids moisten the mixture.

This is, obviously, not a meal for those with vegetarian/vegan tendencies.

Seasoning such a large amount of filling is more of an art than a science, it's hard to judge correctly. In the past this has given my mother much anxiety but now it is more of a system. This is the one day of the year when this spice, savory, is used for any purpose.

My niece keeping an eye on things. There are no pictures of the crust making / pie filling operations because I wasn't happy with the camera's location, so I took it down.

Still life with meat pies: The finished product waiting for the oven.

The title of this post, is, of course, a reference to the short story by Truman Capote, about making fruit cakes for the holidays.


Darkness hides the lack of snow

It has been unseasonably warm in Vermont so far this season, the ground isn't really frozen, grass is still surprisingly green, and it is quite mild. This has created something of a buzz in the media and on various blogs and politicians are starting to discuss this openly. Maybe this weather is just a blip or abberation but I don't think so.

Since I've lived in Vermont (moved here in 1985) I can remember -30 degree nights, blizzards, skiing across Lake Champlain to the New York side, snowshoe hikes on very cold winter days, playing pond hockey... and I think that these may end up nothing but distant memories. Winter tourism is big business in Vermont and it's not even cold enough for the Alpine resorts to make snow consistently, and it must be hurting the retailers, because there is a lot less incentive to purchase winter gear when winter is noticeably shorter and milder than in even the quite recent past.


2006 Cyclocross Nationals - Dec. 16 2006

The USCF cyclocross national championships were held today in Rhode Island, I kind of wish I had driven down last night to hang out there today, especially as it was a sunny 50 degree day down south, a marked contrast to the dark gloomy weather here in Vermont. Looking at the results of the Master's (old guys) races, I see the names of several people I know from racing.

In 2001 this event was held in Baltimore and I knew someone who was going down to race & he had a room in the Hilton (!) with a spare bed so I went along just to hang out at the races and see some of Baltimore, a city I had never spent any time in. It was pretty funny to stay at such a posh hotel for a bike race, I remember strolling through the fancy lobby with two muddy cyclocross bikes and nonchalantly taking the elevator up to the room... no one said a word. It was an enjoyable trip, watching 100+ pro/elite guys start a race like that is wild, the ground shakes at the start.

But I distinctly remember the drive home which started at about 3 pm on Sunday afternoon. I drove the first leg, up through NJ to north of NYC, and then we switched drivers. I promptly fell asleep and didn't wake up until we were driving past (but not stopping at) all the 24 hr gas stations in Glens Falls -- even though the car's gas tank was fast heading for "empty".

We got off the highway at the next exit (no open gas stations) and started driving across to Vermont... and boy, at 11 pm on a Sunday night in December, that is one dark desolate area, everything is buttoned up tight. Driving through the little hardscrabble towns on the NY side of Lake Champlain, there were barely any lights on at all. Eventually we made it over the bridge and into Vermont, still no luck with gas stations, and by this time the car was running on fumes... it eventually died right in the middle of Shelburne, about five miles from an open gas station. Anyway we did get rescued (by this time it was midnight) and made it home eventually.

But I remember that I went from being asleep, to being drowsy, to being wide awake and totally stressed out, in a comparatively short amount of time. Lessons learned...


Changing Perspectives

Just more prosaic pictures.

Mt. Mansfield looking slightly more wintry than in this picture, but it's only temporary.

X marks what spot?

View from above:

View from street level (not taken on same day):

Various fluids...


Rider Off: RIP Isaac Gálvez

I had never heard of Isaac Gálvez until he died, racing at the Ghent Six Day race on November 26. He was only 31, had raced successfully on the road as well as on the track (he was a world champion in the Madison); and died as the result of a crash. I found this video tribute on YouTube made by someone in Spain.

A bike race, speaking from experience, is a freak show on wheels. At the low amateur level it is a bunch of misfits with shaved legs, mostly unfulfilled dreams of glory and all sorts of bad habits (public urination, littering, contemptuous flouting of traffic laws, etc. -- rider behavior has led to the cancellation of many events over the years). The pro scene has some of these elements mixed in with a atmosphere of cheating and corruption as it is very mercenary.

But regardless, I have to have some respect for anyone, at any level (from a local Tuesday night practice race, to the World Championships) who pins on a race number. In a bike race, someone wins, everyone else loses (I really had a hard time seeing things this way, which was one [minor] reason for my relative lack of success racing) and sometimes bad things happen. Crashing is part of the sport and a rider is basically naked (physically, except for a thin layer of synthetic fabric and a light styrofoam helmet, and, in a sense, spiritually) on a bike. So RIP Isaac Gálvez, consider this a small and inadequate tribute.


First snow, now cold

The view out my kitchen window, 7 am, December 8 2006. I heat my place with propane which is shockingly expensive and every time I hear the furnace go on I think "that's costing me money" so I keep the place as cold as I can stand, basically. This cold snap isn't going to last too long but is a reminder that January is coming, even with climate change, there will still be some dark cold days. Vermont hasn't quite gone tropical yet.


First Snow, December 2006

Signs of winter in Vermont, finally. I would like it to be a 'good' winter with lots of snow and cold weather but this seems unlikely. I live within walking distance of Waterbury's outdoor ice rink which they do maintain and I hope to be able to get some use out of it in the coming season. I also have backcountry gear which I never used last winter except a couple of times early in the season. So let it snow!


Word for today: Solipsism

Cause, what the world needs now
Are some true words of wisdom
Like la la la la la
Cause, what the world needs now
Is another folk singer
Like i need a hole in my head.
-- Cracker, "Teen Angst"

Solipsism: Etymology: Latin solus alone + ipse self: a theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; also : extreme egocentrism (emphasis added), MW Online

These days, if Cracker was updating "Teen Angst" for this squalid decade's mores and behaviors, I think the lyric would conclude "what the world needs now, is another lonely blogger, or another page on Myspace, like I need a hole in the head...."

Michael Kinsley wrote a rather coy column on today's seemingly ubiquitous impulses to reveal oneself online. While I think he is making a somewhat valid point, some comments on Slate's discussion boards point out that Kinsley does protest too much (the most perceptive and funny comment, was someone suggesting that Kinsely - a paid journalist - had the contemptuous attitude of a prostitute, who does it for money, towards the town slut, who gives it away for free...).

That being said, I am skeptical of the whole idea of social networking, the nature of relationships that exist solely in the online realm, and am very dubious about my own ability to have anything of remote interest to say on an ongoing basis. I write about subjects as trivial as my anxiety about my new mortgage and post pictures of my tiny studio condominium being emptied as I move out.... I would be the last person to suggest that anything of import shows up on this page. So this begs the question, why try and maintain this site?

I post to this blog because it does force me to use my brain in a certain way, the impulse comes from several directions: A long time ago I was a lit major in college, and I have held jobs in the past where being creative was part of the job description (I once wrote press releases about telephone numbers), but not anymore. I think that these skills are 'use it or lose it' and that I am on the edge of 'losing it'.

Also I maintain a flickr site but I am finding that flickr is kind cloying (it's a social networking site, in its own way) and that this is kind of annoying to me. So more of my photos are ending up here -- though again, I don't pretend to be even a 'good' photographer (for much better pictures, check this blog). But the blog is more of a free form environment which I have come to appreciate.

Lastly I do have an interest in search strategies and Internet marketing techniques so I do keep a close eye on the(very small) amount of traffic and how people come to the page and do analyze what content (if any) is 'popular'. For example, someone did a search on google for "Tarrant campaign spending" and did wind up here... and actually read some of my posts besides my rather lame comment comparing Tarrant unfavorably to a can of soup.

I'll conclude this by posting Mark Twain's epigrath to Huckleberry Finn because it is far more apt here than at the start of that novel: Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."


P T C E #2 (more White Rock Mountain)

Just an unimaginative follow up to the previous post. The trail up White Rock Mountain from the Middlesex side of the Worcester Range is quite easy; suitable for the unfit, the relatively unprepared and ill-dressed, very young, old, etc. It really is just a peaceful walk in the woods though it does gain 1500 feet in elevation.

The trailhead, however, is located off of North Bear Swamp Road (not E Bear Swamp Rd, and not S Bear Swamp Rd...) and to call this a 'road' is a gross libel, and an extremely generous and expansive use of the term 'road'. I didn't even drive in all the way in my little Focus because I couldn't tell if it was the road, or a logging road for use by trucks and skidders, or someone's disused driveway that would dead-end in front of a trailer with cars up on blocks in the yard and lots of mean dogs running loose.

McMansions on the hill. Two things are evident in this photo of Mt. Mansfield:

1) The almost total lack of snow (even man made snow -- it's been too warm)

2) The bare November woods show the big houses creeping up the side of the mountain, a pox upon the land. Stowe Mountain Resort is putting in a huge and expensive, very upscale development right at the base of Smugglers Notch; they are trying to position themselves as a four season resort, but still, who wants to come to Vermont to watch cold rain fall all winter... which is pretty much what happened last ski season.


Post Thanksgiving Caloric Expenditure

And now for something completely new (at least on this blog)... I bought a new camera on Labor Day, it is a Canon Powershot s3 is; it is not a dSLR but has many dSLR-like features, most of the time I am just leaving it in manual mode and finding the best settings to use by trial and error. One of the distinguishing features of this camera is that it has excellent video capablities.

After I had to drag myself to work on Friday for a few hours I managed to hike a small local mountain on Saturday. It's the end of November and there is not much snow and ice evident, even on the high peaks of the Presidential Range, more evidence of climate change. It was a great day to be out as it was nice and quiet in the woods and there was plenty of warm hazy sunshine.

Anyway I did find some ice with water running under it that looked either like a) nature's lava lamp or b) sperm (recalling old sex ed film strips of my youth) so I shot some video of this, and then a murky panorama of the summit, and when I got home I hacked around with Windows Movie Maker, and voila! The sound clip is just something that came with the pc as a sample but it sort of works. Eva has nothing to worry about...I'm sure better videos are mashed together every day in elementary schools around the country.


November Churchyard

I like November; the gray stripped down landscape is somehow appealing, and it is also something of an interruption between the traffic and congestion of foliage season and the enforced saccharine bonhomie of a ski resort town in winter.

Just some images from the graveyard in Stowe, the sun is low in the sky and consequently the light is pale, wan and watery. Lines from "Elegy written in a Country Churchyard" seem appropriate, especially as the stone carver made typos (I can empathize) and had spacing issues on many of the tombstones:

Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

The epitath (note spacing issues) reads "Behold my friends as you pass by / As you are now so once was I / As I am now so you must be / So prepare for death & follow me.


Thanksgiving 2006

To the very far-flung (and relatively few) readers of this blog, Happy Thanksgiving. Without delving into the whole sad saga of the fate of the North American Indians, Thanksgiving is a much more wholesome holiday than Christmas, which (as many have noted, it is a very trite observation) has devolved into a grotesque festival of capitalism based on buying things (Nov. 24 is "Buy Nothing Day" -- I want a buy nothing life...).

I mention far-flung readers because I noticed that someone in Mongolia (!) spent some time here. A Peace Corps volunteer in an Internet cafe in Ulan Bator? If so, thanks for being there and I admire what you've done and who knows, perhaps I will join some day. Or perhaps a university student learning English? Who knows? This blog is becoming more pictures and less words but some people have told me that it is at least slightly interesting so thanks.

Visitor from Mongolia:

For the first time in my adult life I went all out and cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal for myself (the fact that I wasn't alone provided some incentive). The turkey soaked in brine overnight in a sap bucket and the roasting pan set up was definitely cobbled together, the bird sat on an inverted tray from an old long-lost toaster oven. Surprisingly it all came out really well and I was happy with the outcome.

Bird skewered together, it looked bizzare but worked quite well!

Out of the oven (bird 'resting' in a different pan, Martha Stewart I am not):

Just a couple of autumnal images: