Moose and porcupine on video: Little River State Park

This past week I was wandering around my condo complex one night after dinner and, in a patch of muddy earth, I saw the large hoof prints of a moose. I did see a moose in the parking lot of the complex one night last year, but, it's not like I live in a log cabin at the end of a dirt road: It's a manicured, suburban condominium that is a very short walk from the busiest tourist attraction in the state of Vermont. Also the local media have covered the recent incursions of moose into the more urban areas of the state (downtown Burlington, the airport, etc.) quite gleefully; most days count as 'slow news days' in Vermont so I guess that these recurring events do constitute some sort of 'news'.

So, knowing the animals are out and about at this time of year, and also having a pretty good idea of where the moose like to hang out, I got up very early this morning (on the road a 5:30 am), and was hiking in through a cold drizzle in the morning twilight, trying to find some moose, and equipped with both my cameras.

When I arrived at the swampy moose meadow there were plenty of moose sign around... but no moose. As I worked my way up an old logging cut, however, I heard something, and then noticed at impressive set of claws shuffling up a birch tree: A large and very sloth-like porcupine, a rather comical creature. I actually tried to wait this animal out of its tree but the rodent was having none of that: It was quite comfortable up in the canopy and I soon got cold standing around watching the somnolent quilly mass from a distance.

After criss-crossing the moose meadow and not finding what I was looking for (ie, something more exciting than hoof prints, browsed saplings and moose droppings) I started heading back via a circuitous route. The area is a drainage with many streams to cross; I managed to fill one of my boots with water (ie, melted snow) at one steam crossing, which only heightened my sense that I should have stayed home in bed.

As I scrambled out of a gully, however, I came up on a young bull moose quietly browsing in the forest. I was quite surprised because I wouldn't have thought this patch of woods (open, mature hardwoods) to be particularly appealing for moose, but I did manage to get out my cameras and take some photos & video.

The more richly saturated colors that come out of my Canon Powershot s3is, the camera's portability and versatility makes it a handy tool to have.

The flatter tones that come out of the Pentax K100d, and the lens may also affect color. These were taken at about 9 am and it was still cloudy and quite dark in the woods, and at a distance of maybe 75 or 100 yards.

(I reprocessed this image to make it more saturated & colorful.) I have come up on moose three times while hiking alone and if one is quiet and moves slowly they don't seem to take too much notice of people. This animal watched me watch him for several minutes and wasn't agitated at all.

Moose and Porcupine from JG on Vimeo.

In another week or so the spring wildflowers will be out, the trilliums have made a good start on the season. Of course, there is mention of a chance of snow in the weather forecast for the coming week, so time will tell.


Raw video: The descent of Loomis Hill

My "Gravel Grinder" video was linked to by the host shop's blog and is proving to be quite popular in this small part of the world. People seem impressed that I could ride a bike and hold a camera at the same time.... as a former road racer, I logged a lot of miles on a road bike and could take off and put on various pieces of clothing (arm warmers, knee warmers, vest, jackets, etc.) as well eat on a bike, so riding with one hand (or even no hands) is not that big a deal. Also, I did not bomb this descent by any means, I rode very gingerly -- the bike is rigid, so any bumps are absorbed by the rider.

This clip does illustrate something of the 'creative process' because by itself, it is pretty boring...whereas I actually did like the edited version that I posted. It's not exactly Citizen Kane or even Breaking Away... but it is kind of amusing, and does give some sense of the event.


2008 Gravel Grinder ride, Waterbury

Today I participated in an organized dirt-road ride sponsored by a local bike shop; the proceeds went to fund improvements for the local trail network. It featured climbs up some of the local hills which, while not hugely long, do boast of some impressively steep sections, and the total climbing came to something like 3,000 vertical feet -- this last tidbit from the shop's website.

The start: Great weather & lots of local interest made for a good turnout.

Off the back as usual. I don't know what it is but my mtb with its 1x9 drivetrain setup feels very portly on the road: It takes a lot of ommph to get this rig up to speed. This was the last I saw of most of the people in this picture... I think I am in OK shape and I finished the ride without being unduly sore or tired, I just didn't go very fast. Que sera sera, it wasn't a race. And I did stop to fiddle with the camera more than once.

I descended Loomis Hill holding my Canon Powershot s3is in one hand while steering the bike and feathering the front brake with the other: Kids, don't try this at home, it wasn't a very stable ride. Here's a short video I put together when I got home:

2008 Gravel Grinder ride, Waterbury VT from JG on Vimeo.


Found drama: Daffodils rising

Found Drama: Daffodils Rising from JG on Vimeo.

Last Sunday it was cold and blustery with passing flurries of sleet and snow: Today, happily, it was 80 degrees and sunny, a day to hang out in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops and recover a bit from riding my very porky and high-rolling resistance mountain bike to work this week. I can feel the fatigue accumulating in my legs which is just a sad testimony to how out of shape I really am. (As an aside, I wrote a review of of my Monocog 1x9 last year, thinking that maybe a few people would search for information about the bike & the gearing setup, but no, at least 1/3rd of the traffic to this blog is from people searching for information on 1x9 bike setups.) Regarding bike commuting, I must say that gasoline prices of $3.50 per gallon and rising are a very strong incentive for me to not drive to work... which is a good thing.


Want web traffic?: Write about sex tourism

Sad but true (and also predictable): It didn't take long after I wrote a glib and perhaps too innocent post about some late night goings-on in the Thamel district for search terms like "erotic massage pokhara" to start showing up in the traffic logs of my site. At least these visitors will be almost certainly not find the lurid and specific information they are looking for: There's nothing innocent about the sex trade.


Found drama continues: All things must pass

All things must pass (Melting Snow) from JG on Vimeo

I had speculated that the snow in my front yard would last until May 1 but the weather warmed up nicely, and more critically, I was so displeased with the mass of dirty snow and ice under my kitchen window that I would attack it with a snow shovel daily when I came home from work, throwing shovelfuls of snow on a bank that does get more sun.

Yesterday, despite being cold and blustery, marked the final end of the snow. Now I get to look out on a dirty soggy mess but it's still more appealing than what was there before. I know -- like everything else here -- it's hardly momentous (the ice out at Joe's Pond was once covered in the NYT, for example) but it still does mark a welcome changing of the seasons for me.


A LEAP forward for Waterbury?

On Saturday I went down to a local "Energy Fair" held at a Green Mountain Coffee Roasters facility in downtown Waterbury. Even though it was a nice (better than forecast) spring morning the event was quite well attended. With the skyrocketing cost of heating fuel, fuel for transportation, and many large questions looming about the future of Vermont's current sources of electricity, market forces are bringing these issues to the forefront of many people's minds.

The event kind of had the feel of a town meeting as local political leaders were in attendance and fielded questions from the floor.

I did learn some things at this event. I noticed when doing my taxes that there is a credit available for energy efficiency investments, I will certainly take advantage of this next year, there's plenty of opportunity for me to improve the efficiency of my 20+ year old condo. Also there is a local organization, Carbon Shredders, based in the Mad River Valley that looks to be an interesting clearinghouse of information on energy efficiency and sustainability issues. Also, it was announced that the local landfill (just down the road from here) will start a methane-generation project by the end of this year. It was claimed that this will generate enough power for 2500 homes but that seems quite exaggerated to me.

I do think, however, that are many issues that are still waiting to be addressed. The model of development favored in the United States is very sprawling and spread out. It was mentioned in the Waterbury annual report this year, how Waterbury's network of dirt roads carries much more traffic now than in the past because of development in formerly rural areas. People still aspire to live in a big house on a big lot far from their neighbors and a good distance from their job, schools, shopping, etc.: Consequently the automobile is still an essential daily part of most people's lives. I like living in Waterbury but I do kind of miss living and working in metro Burlington where a car was much less essential.

On the way home (on my bike) I stopped to take some photos of crocuses in town -- there's not much color where I live yet -- more images are here.


Thamel a go-go

Love, love me do.
You know I love you,

I'll always be true,
So please, love me do.
Whoa, love me do.
As sung by a Nepalese cover band in the KTM bar, Thamel, Kathmandu.

What I remember of this band was that they were ok musicians but there was absolutely no improvisation in their playing at all -- all members of the band were completely 100% in synch -- it was odd. I was in this bar, drinking beer (which I didn't need) and watching the Indian version of ESPN -- cricket & soccer coverage -- with Ongyel and one of his cousins on my next-to-last night in Nepal, October 2007.

I post this bit of digital ephemera here because keeping this feeble blog alive does let me peer into the
information-seeking subconcious collective mind of the Internet, which is just a fancy and pretentious way of saying I do peruse the keywords and search terms used by the occasional readers of this site. Some users have landed -- to their disappointment, I'm sure -- on a post I wrote about getting a haircut in Kathmandu, which included references to a brain-rattling scalp massage: 'Massage' being the operative word. "Kathmandu red light massage" was one search term someone from the Netherlands punched in once and there have been a few other variants on this theme as well.

Anyway, the band at the KTM bar broke off early, so we headed out to further explore the nightlife of Thamel (Kathmandu tourist district), somehow we wound up in a 'dance club', the strangeness of the atmosphere of this place is hard to describe. It wasn't a topless club, there were dancers on the stage, but they were fully clothed in skimpy costumes, and the moves were quite amateur -- it reminded my of watching "Star search" or something. The music was mostly pulsing Indian pop and the crowd was mostly Nepalese, I may have been the only westerner in the place.

To make a long story short, we were in this joint, and a 19 year old Nepalese go go dancer was hanging all over me, she did not want to be alone when her shift was done -- she told me this quite explicitly, her tongue was in my ear. I assume that this girl had three possible motives: 1) Just looking for a hedonistic good time 2) Sex for cash, Nepal is a very poor country or 3) She had visions of a green card via coupling with me. Or maybe it was a setup to have me mugged and robbed...? Anyway for a complex array of motivations I did not succumb to the opportunity, I just tipped her handsomely and sent her on her way when we finally left the place at around 1 am.

One funny aspect of this night was that Ongyel's cousin was someone still kind of new to city life and also didn't really get out too much so the whole scene was definitely an eye-popping experience for him -- I'm sure it's still pretty fresh in his mind. So for all those who land here searching for "Erotic massage Kathmandu" and other variants, I'm sure that you can find what your looking for in the tourist district at night.


Found drama part 2: More signs of spring

Signs of Spring from JG on Vimeo

Bulbs pushing through the damp earth, the snow has retreated from the backyard. I was in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (Lake Groton) yesterday in the afternoon and it was amazing to drive on a road in the deep woods still bounded by snowbanks that were still many feet (higher than the car) high. Thankfully that isn't true where I live...


Yellow, not green, is a sign of spring

Where I live in central Vermont winter is finally loosening its grip and the strengthening sun is erasing the snow on exposed south facing slopes. In shady spots, however, the snow cover lingers -- there's still at least three feet of ice and snow in my front yard.

Birds are returning and bulbs that were planted last fall in my (south-facing) backyard are starting to push up through the cold damp earth. Given the drabness of the environment the finches stand really stand out against the muddy earth tones of the surrounding landscape.

A couple of more bird photos here. Of all the content hosting platforms I use (flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Blogger) the photoblog account is where I am posting most frequently.


The Boxcutter Cabaret @ On the Rise Bakery

Images from the "Boxcutter Cabaret" show at On the Rise Bakery in Richmond 03/31/08. We had a great time and as it really is the cabin fever time of year (gray skies, melting snow, mud, fog, etc.) it was good to get out of the house for the evening. This group is made up of Bread and Puppet Theater alumni and it was a very entertaining show (more 'funny' than 'political' -- a good thing). I would definitely see this group again.

The prelude to the show.

Punch and Judy have at it.

Incandescent light bulbs take over the world...

"Leo the Human Xylophone"

These images were taken with a cheap plastic 5omm Vivitar lens (manual focus -- see previous post) set at f/1.9 (widest setting) which meant that the depth of field was razor-thin. The ratio of 'keepers' to 'rejects' was about 1 in 8 or so but I am somewhat satisfied with images that did come out. I posted a few more images here in my photoblog account.