Coupe des Amériques

The Coupe des Amériques (bike race, held in Sutton, Quebec) is this weekend, I looked at the start lists, I see a few familiar names. I did this race many times, always staying in the same cinder-block ski hotel on the finish climb to the resort, and have fond memories of some excellent meals served by beautiful waitresses at various places in town.

I never had a top finish at this race (story of my racing life) but there was one year where I managed to get over the Glen Sutton climb in the quite small and select race leader's group. I was thinking "wow this is cool" as the small group was rolling into town for the finish climb. As we made the turn on Rue Maple and started toiling upwards I looked back and there was a huge group coming up behind us... Cie la vie. I think I wound up like 28th out of 100 starters, overall.

The image is of Onion River Sports rider Chris Cover racing in the criterium. Shortly after this, Chris, who served in the National Guard, volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan, after a year there he returned safely. Something to think about on the coming Independence Day holiday.


The silliest VPR commentary ever

To successfully maintain a blog, I think that one must have certain attributes:
  1. Excessive self-absorption
  2. Exaggerated belief that what one has to say is important or interesting
  3. A sure-fire ability to conflate the personal and micro-cosmic and some larger 'truth'
Yesterday as I was getting ready for work I heard a commentary on Vermont Public Radio that demonstrates this in spades (even though I know it's not really a blog posting, the commentator maintains a blog).

In a nutshell, guy goes for walk in woods. Guy lets his dogs off leash, dumb and annoying thing to do. One of the dogs is a
chihuahua, which makes me think of Paris Hilton and Tinkerbell, thank you Mr. Commentator for that image. Coyotes are common in Vermont, a chihuahua would make a nice appetizer for a coyote. Dog disappears in the woods. Family is distraught and major search for missing dog ensues in Middlebury. Friends and complete strangers (including the police) are solicited for information and assistance. Eventually dog is found. This saga becomes a metaphor for the sense of community that still allegedly exists in small town Vermont -- the commentator is leaving the state. I hope he keeps his dog on a leash next time.


Western Swing, Waterbury style / Train coming through

I am starting to like living in Waterbury. The town is not a sprawling congested suburb like parts of Chittenden County, nor is it some a resort town overrun with inebriated tourists four seasons of the year. It is also not too prosperous and upscale while not being down on its luck and shabby.

Summer Thursdays the local Rotary Club sponsors free concerts on the green in the center of town. There's a farmers market as well. Turnout is surprisingly good and crosses the generations...young and old show up. Tonight there was a western swing band playing.

The band featured a girl singer, and the band leader made several jokes about the 'big city' of Burlington.

Waterbury ("Crossroads of Vermont") is on the rail line to Canada. This train came through during the concert.

Boys being boys, they found this quite facinating, and were doing quite dangerous things. I didn't want to document one of these kids losing any body parts under the wheels of the train.

Fortunately nothing untoward happened and once the train passed through some responsible adult lectured the kids about the danger involved. Waterbury's calendar of events is posted here and the town's Independence Day celebration is this coming Saturday -- unfortunately I won't be around.


Back from Montreal

I will write more about the trip later, as well as posting some more photos. Here are a couple of images from a very quiet Sunday morning in the Old Port, about 8:30 am, not much going on at that time of day.


Weekend in Montreal

Where we will see Cirque de Soleil, which I've never seen. I wonder if I will find to be enthralling or if it will be some overblown Las Vegas style extravaganza that will leave me unmoved...Cirque is a big business these days. I checked the website and they don't allow cameras, which doesn't surprise me, so I won't be bringing back any images of the show. I imagine that security will be quite tight.

Barre comes alive (?)

On Wednesday we drove over to Barre for a "Taste of Barre" event (ie, free food) but by the time we showed up all the food had been scarfed up except for some very paltry remnants. Still it was a nice night and it was interesting to see what's going on in town. Back in November I drove over to Barre and took some photos of the hard-luck downtown but now two of these formerly vacant buildings have found new tenants. The old Homer Fitts store is now being used by LACE, which has gotten a tremendous amount of press coverage of late, and the Lash building is now home of the appropriately named Granite City Brewpub. Sometimes a brewpub isn't the most attractive dining concept but this place seems quite nice and I can report that the beer was good (thankfully, beer samples could still be had when I showed up).

I hope the new businesses thrive and that Barre comes around a little bit (there's still some vacant storefronts downtown) without becoming too gentrified. I've been driving down the hill into town since I've been living in Vermont and the view hasn't changed too much through the years, it's still an industrial landscape dominated by granite sheds, trucking companies, and other vendors servicing the stoneworking trade.



Just another blog (one of the 'most hated words' of today's Internet -- my nominees would include 'profile', 'comments', 'contacts' or 'friends' -- all the trappings of this anonymously connected environment) posting from the wilds of my backyard. On one hand, by putting material out there, I suppose that I am hoping that someone takes the trouble to look at it, and possibly even respond. But I am a very self-contained person and I make my own way in the world, thank you very much. Every time I sign into Flickr I am greeted (apparently without irony) with "Flickr Loves You" -- which leaves a bad taste my mouth, to say the least.

Enjoy the photos, they came out OK, despite being taken in the twilight. Pound for pound and certainly dollar for dollar I have a pretty capable little camera -- the camera costs less than most SLR lenses, something to think about when I consider splurging for such a setup (need a macro lens, need a midrange 'walkabout' lens, need a telephoto lens...), it would add up rather quickly I think. Plus SLRs are big and heavy and many of the places I take a camera involve a lot of schlepping around.


A positively electric evening, or, my coffin-shaped tent

So on Saturday afternoon I decided to head off to the Twin Brooks tent platforms off of the Long Trail on the southern slopes of Mt. Mansfield. I was alone, and decided to hike in with a bare minimum of stuff -- no stove, minimal food, and just the necessities to get through the night in the woods. The forecast mentioned a 'chance' of thundershowers but I didn't let this dissuade me.

I haven't spent a night in the woods since some time last summer and my purpose in going out for this short little trip to was to reacclimatize myself with spending the night outdoors -- the woods are not quiet at night and to get used to hiking with a full pack again. It's something of an acquired taste. I'm thinking I may spend part of the 4th of July holiday in the Adirondacks so I wanted the practice.

It was actually very cool to hike up through Nebraska Notch in the late afternoon. It was a wet winter and spring so now things are extremely lush and verdant, parts of the notch are quite narrow and it's almost like hiking through a green tunnel. Also the birds were out in force, it wasn't a quiet walk through the woods, there was a cacophony of natural sounds.

Eventually I did get to the campsite which I had entirely to myself. I quickly set up my small tent on a platform because by now it was deep twilight. I figured that it was only going to be for one night so I did a pretty half-assed job with the tent. It's designed to be staked out on the ground, so setting up on a platform is something of a challenge.

I then spent a couple of hours in front a campfire drinking a beer, listening to the rumble of distant thunder, and generally enjoying the small circle of light in the dark woods. Twin Brooks looks out over the Champlain Valley and the western sky was frequently illuminated by lightning, though it was hard to tell which direction that the storms were moving, I thought they would pass to the north. Just as I was preparing to turn in for the night it began to rain lightly.

I've used my tent in the rain before BUT this was the first time I have been out in a thunderstorm. It was NOT a pleasant experience. The rain started lightly but soon became a heavy downpour accompanied by lots of lightning and thunder that echoed very impressively off of the surrounding mountains. The campsite is not high on a ridgeline and is surrounded by high trees, but still, it was not enjoyable to be sheltering under a thin piece of nylon held up by the only significant pieces of metal in the area, a set of two slender aluminum hoops.

Narrow at the foot end, and think barefoot Paul on the cover of Abbey Road, would someone find my lifeless remains in the morning, should lightning strike?

The storm lasted a long time. The lightning and thunder was constant -- I'm sure the exposed summit of Mt. Mansfield was getting blasted repeatedly. I kept nervously running my fingers through my hair because I have read that if your hair starts to stand on end it is a sign that lightning will soon strike nearby -- ie, you will most likely be dead.

Eventually the storm did pass and lightning did not strike though some water did get into the tent due to my laziness setting up camp. I was mentally exhausted from the experience and slept fine for the rest of the night. I have always believed that you have to accept a certain amount of risk in one's life -- when I was racing my bike, I witnessed some appalling crashes, from a quite close perspective -- but this really put this idea to the test. And I also think that it is good to experience the raw power of nature because in this day and age we are so wrapped up in technology and stuff that we forget that there are limits on what we can do.

The morning after: my damp and bedraggled campsite.


No Internet access

...at the Twin Brook tent platforms, near Mt. Mansfield. I'll hike in this afternoon through Nebraska Notch and spend the night. I have found that this blogging habit was surprisingly easy to break in the past week, hmm, maybe I will put the whole thing on hiatus until Labor Day. But then I'm going to Nepal for most of October, not much Internet access there either, hmm... maybe I will start it up again around Thanksgiving. Or New Years. (Seriously, I may take some time away from the blog, summers in Vermont are short, too short to spend twittering away in front of a computer.)

Also, in my ongoing efforts to use up as much free server space and Internet bandwidth as possible, I have started a new account at "photoblog" that I will run in conjunction with this blogger account. Photoblog, I don't know if the service is long for this world, another sketchy Internet business model, but they do offer UNLIMITED free photo hosting (the catch is, 1 post per day, of up to 20 images). It is a like a crude version of Flickr but Flickr is annoying and I have thousands of images on my hard drive so I will start posting there. My account is publicly viewable and can be viewed here.


Postcards from Vermont

I drove Vermont Rts 125 & 100 today after spending the night at Lake Dunmore; it was a spectacular early summer day. After a cold damp spring the warmth of early summer is having an almost magical effect; things are suddenly very green.

Rt. 100, Granville from the south.

Irises by the Middlebury College Bread Loaf Campus


Looking for new 'content'?

This blog hasn't been abandoned, I'm just taking a short break from it, I'll resume posting in about a week or so. In the meantime here's another 'clouds' video, shot on Memorial Day in Stowe, an earlier version is posted here. The new clip is 100% copyright infringement free.


"No other story I can tell": Blogaversary #1

Visualizing the great unread: 12 months of blogging

The title of this post is a vague allusion to The Secret History, a trashy novel set at "Hamden College" (a thinly disguised Bennington College in southern Vermont) about an outsider who witnesses and participates in all sorts of depravity while attending a strange liberal arts college in New England. The quote is apropos for a couple of reasons: My 20th college reunion is this coming weekend, and after much debate I'm not going. And while I never witnessed any murders at Vassar it is very true that I don't think that I ever really fit in there and that my relationship with my alma mater is very ambivalent today.

Now that digression is out of the way, this post marks the one year anniversary of my blog. It is a document that revels in the trivial and inconsequential -- I've made it almost a contest, to come up with inconsequential posts, like shadows moving across my backyard. But, returning to the college theme, one of the reasons I started this project, was to reawaken some of my atrophying English major's sensibility, given that I don't have to write much in my current job (I've had positions in the past, where this hasn't been the case). I'm not sure that the blog has served this purpose, but occasionally I still sit down and try and bang out a few hundred semi-cogent words on some subject that interests me. I recently 'helped' write a term paper on a subject that I have no background in (medieval history) and I was able to string together something passable in a couple of intense hours of fast research and writing; it felt very much like blogging the black death.

When I started this project, I knew from the beginning that the quote "between the thought and the action falls the shadow" speaks pretty directly to me: I am more than a little prone to having ideas, and then sometimes the follow through isn't the greatest. So I wanted to see if I would keep it going or if I would procrastinate and find other (better?) things to do. With 200 posts in the past year the procrastination problem hasn't really come up too much.

The blog evolves over time, when I started I was like "Oh I'll write about books and movies and other big timely subjects." Instead what has happened is that I am taking lots of photographs (usually of the outdoors) and so there are thousands of images on my hard drive. I have a free Flickr account, but I have decided that I really don't like Flickr (or YouTube), or any of the the other proliferating websites where a user creates a profile and sets out collecting 'friends' and leaving usually inane comments about other user's material.

As a blogger account is really just some server space that one can use at will, I have started using this space as a free form photo hosting space. People seem to respond more favorably to the images than to the words so I will keep posting photos here. I am actively experimenting with my camera (trying different subjects, and using it in different environments) so I'm sure I will continue to post images here; in one year I have used less than 20% of the account's allocated space for image hosting.

The other thing that interests me about this document is it does allow me to peer into how search engines, particularly Google, work. I am very curious about how readers find their way into the site, and while no content here is truly 'popular', some subjects do seem to attract more attention than others. Because I have tried different web analytics packages I don't have a complete record from the beginning, but I think that the most popular pages on the site have been the cabaret pictures, the Valentine's day blizzard coverage, and surprisingly, a post about a painting I was given as a gift.

I guess I'll keep this blog going in some form or fashion, not that I expect that it will be ever widely viewed or 'popular', and I know that if it disappeared tomorrow it wouldn't cause the slightest wrinkle in the fabric of the Internet. Going forward, I want to make some changes to the look of the site and am thinking about trying to come up with a better methodology for labeling posts -- I once was accepted into a graduate study program in "Information Science" but then, fatefully, decided not to go -- so perhaps such obtuse topics interest me. I do know that I will be taking a short break from posting just to try and recharge and spend some time away from the computer outside in the 'real' world.

I guess that the impulse to mark one's territory is a universal male tendency:


A Roomful of Blues

Some images from seeing the band "A Room Full of Blues". It was a very fun show on a nice early summer evening. These are just experiments with my camera, it is far from perfect in these kinds of conditions, but I am pretty happy with how these came out. The show was sparsely attended but it didn't affect the energy of the band and made it easy to move around and take photos.
Hipster or poseur?

Dancers silhouetted in the lights.

A very high energy band, despite kind of a sparse crowd at the Champlain Valley Exposition.

Lots of horns!