6.29.2008

Red lily time lapse

A time lapse clip of a lily opening along with a beetle (which eats the lilies, they have been ravaged) taking its morning constitutional, after all the rain -- which keeps falling -- things are very lush.


Red lily, red bug from JG on Vimeo.

6.28.2008

Waterbury celebrates July 4th... on June 28

This was my first time attending Waterbury's Independence Day celebrations which were held on June 28. The lack of conflicts with other town's celebrations helps guarantee a good turnout.

It has been a very damp summer so far but fortunately there was only one patch of inconsequential drizzle that moved through and the parade was a mostly dry event despite the threatening skies. As I post this, however (5:45pm) it's raining very hard which does not bode well for the fireworks display scheduled for 9:30 tonight.

Main Street, Waterbury, all decked out for the celebration. I noted that a good percentage of the vehicles parked along the parade route were full size pickups and SUVs: An expensive choice these days.

American Legion color guard.

Little leaguers: This event still has a very small town feel to it.

Governor Jim Douglas leads a horde of blue-shirted Republicans.

The governor's slightly pained expression suggests that perhaps he has been reading some of my recent posts about Vermont bridges (doubtful, but you never know, IP addresses are still mostly anonymous). Third party candidate for governor Anthony Pollina also marched in the parade -- he seemed to draw a rather puzzled response from the crowd -- but there was no sign of Democratic candidate Gaye Symington or any of her supporters.

There were lots of fire trucks and other rescue apparatus: The volunteer firefighters didn't run the whole parade route.

The whole parade was a pretty fossil-fuel intensive event: Next year I wonder what gas prices will be -- over $5/gallon perhaps? I rode down on my bike...

Trying to snag some free Ben & Jerry's ice cream -- a local product. It also rained coffee at this event -- Waterbury is home to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters as well.

The skies darkened as the day went along but the rain held off. I have posted some additional images of this event in my photoblog account.

6.27.2008

Peppers and tomatoes

Most mornings before work, I channel Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano. I'm not engaging in criminality or violence, I enact a real life mashup of the death scene of Vito Coleone from the original Godfather (the Don dies while puttering in his tomato patch on a Sunday morning) combined with Tony Soprano's waddling down his driveway in his bathrobe to fetch his morning copy of the Newark Star-Ledger, though by the end of the series, Tony was so wary -- or paranoid -- that he stopped doing this.

My front yard: The worn sidewalk is not nearly as imposing as the driveway to Soprano hacienda in northern Jersey, but at least I am in much better shape. If it's not raining, I'm usually out inspecting the plants in a ratty bathrobe and flip flops, cup of coffee in hand, at the start of the day.

Last year I had a couple of small pepper plants, and to be honest, the peppers they produced were pretty tasteless. This year I have more peppers and also added tomatoes to the mix. I'm trying to keep things well fertilized so maybe this crop will be more than a colorful but bland salad accent this year.

The tomatoes out front look kind of scraggly but there are some plants on the back patio that are thriving, they are in a larger container which I think makes a difference. Live and learn...

Some basil and parsley as well.
It is kind of relaxing to putter around with the plants because to read the morning papers is to subject oneself to a barrage of endless bad news. It's scary and depressing, and I don't think that 'regime change' in Washington is going to make a significant difference in my life. Unfortunately these plants won't keep me fed during the looming hard times but at least they are a pleasant and relatively low cost distraction as various large scale problems continue to fester.

6.22.2008

Even as the apocalypse approaches, I still like riding my bike

My Redline Monocog 1x9 29er, caked with mud after a mucky ride: This is just about the simplest bike with gears out there, no suspension, no front derailleur, just a rear 9 speed cassette to give the rider a few choices while grunting uphill. There are times when I wish for a fancy 'squishy' mountain bike (with suspension) but the simplicity of this bike does appeal to me.

These days, it's easy to read the news and get depressed: Peak oil seems to have arrived; the cost of everything is going up remarkably rapidly; strange weather may be a portent of catastrophic events yet to come; wars drag on, etc. Close to home, Vermont's economy keeps taking hits, and rumors swirl that significant cuts may be coming to IBM's workforce in the state.

But it's summertime -- a short season, and there are plenty of long dark cold winter days ahead (not too far off, even on the summer solstice) to putz around online and worry about the future, now is the time to log off and experience the tactile world of dirt, bugs and possibly deeper than anticipated mud bogs on the trail. Tonight I went for short ride on a VAST trail near the reservoir, it was very cool to ride through the humid misty woods, scaring up deer and trying to pick good lines through the mucky sections -- it's been very wet lately.

I'm over forty now, I have a mortgage, job, 401k, blah blah blah, but in a small way I'm glad that I still look forward to getting out and playing on my bike, especially when so many dark things loom large in our collective imagination.

6.21.2008

I am not the only 'bridge blogger' in Vermont: Taylor St. Bridge, Montpelier, video

My morning routine before going to work consists of reading the papers (NYT, Slate, WSJ, Burlington Free Press, etc.) plus some other sites. The local Barre-Montpelier paper has a good web presence, Friday they had a little article about this video that some 'blogger' made about extensively corroded steel bridges in Montpelier, it makes some of the same points -- but more elegantly -- that I did in my Middlesex bridge post.

I know that soon after I posted "I blame (Gov.) Jim Douglas..." someone from the lunderville.com domain spent a couple of minutes on this site, apparently reading what I had written.

Hmmm, Neil Lunderville was formerly Transportation Secretary in Vermont... and is currently Governor Douglas's Chief of Staff. Perhaps he has a Google alert set up on "Jim Douglas" (or "collapsing Vermont bridges") or something, if it was him, I hope he liked my site (it's far from liberal, it's more of an equal opportunity detractor, taking shots at both left and right), and, to quote the X-Files, "the truth is out there."

And, the Times-Argus ran an article quoting state and city officials saying that the Taylor Street bridge was A-OK... leave it to the experts, not amateur bridge inspectors. Myself, I have my doubts.

6.17.2008

I blame (Gov.) Jim Douglas... and Ronald Reagan

The flood of 1927 was one the defining moments in Vermont's modern history; one of the consequences of the event that is many of the state's bridges were built in the flood's aftermath, replacing structures that were swept away in the deluge. These 'new' post-flood bridges have mostly not been replaced and have far exceeded their original projected lifespans.... especially as the structures were built in an era of much fewer, and lighter, vehicles.

A bridge on state Route 2 between Waterbury and Middlesex was inspected this spring, deemed unsafe and immediately closed to all traffic. The steel structure is badly corroded and cannot be repaired, VTrans was inspecting the structure on an ongoing basis because it was known to be in poor condition.

It would have been nice if they had left the structure open for pedestrians and cyclists, but this sign is not just for show, there is no way to get across. Sunday morning we rode down to the bridge, we were trying to get to a new cafe (the bridge closure is having a quite significant impact on businesses) that opened in Middlesex but there was no way to get through.

Eighty years of Vermont winters and exposure to salt have taken a toll.



A hard rain's gonna fall: Vermont's version of the big muddy, heavy thunderstorms had rolled through the night before.

I blame Jim Douglas (and generations of preceding lawmakers) because in a previous legislative session (2006-07 I think) an increase in the gas tax was proposed to pay for transportation infrastructure and Gov. Douglas opposed the increase, citing frivolous reasons like not wanting to oppress parents driving children to soccer practice or some such nonsense, so nothing was done -- though this was much too late for this bridge anyway. This year the legislature finally agreed to pass a $10M transportation bond... a figure that amounts to spit in a bucket, statewide. I blame Ronald Reagan because he seems to be a father figure of modern Republicanism, and pursued fiscally bankrupt policies in an attempt to constrain the 'welfare' state... but collapsing infrastructure seems to be a consequence as well.

It may also be that part of the problem is that Vermont lawmakers tend to have a very expansive view of the role of state government and have used funding mechanisms intended to pay for infrastructure for other things. So it's been an equal opportunity failure all around, it's hard for me to have much respect for 'leaders' who don't lead and seem unable to tell it like it is.

6.15.2008

Swallowtail butterfly

An image from today, I would like to acquire a real macro lens for my camera because I am quite capable of amusing myself for hours wandering through the meadow behind my condo complex looking for scenes like this. More pictures from today are posted here in my photoblog account.

I have some 'content' that could show up here (more on Burlington Telecom, I recently finished watching the Sopranos, collapsing bridges in Vermont, etc.) but it takes time and energy to put this stuff together and summers in Vermont tend to be rather fleeting: So my attention has waned as the days have gotten longer. Also this site is drawing more traffic but unfortunately it seems to be mostly driven by people looking for either:
  1. Information about 1x9 bicycle drive trains, my initial impressions of my Redline Monocog 1x9er live on.
  2. Information on how to get some sort of rub down in the Thamel district of Kathmandu.

6.11.2008

'Fidelity' : The Bush clan's boat

...taken at Drake Island beach on Saturday 6/07/08. I read somewhere that the present President Bush gave up golf for the duration of the current (and apparently endless) war in Iraq because he didn't want military families to see him on a golf course during the conflict -- I actually think that this is a commendable thing for him to do, because outside of military families, most Americans have given up absolutely nothing -- except, perhaps, rights, liberties, and expectations of privacy -- during the course of the conflict.

Anyway neither the wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) nor the skyrocketing cost of fuel have prevented the Bush family from enjoying their speedboat "Fidelity". They are entitled to do so I guess but I am (still -- though I wonder if I'll get an scary email from the Secret Service for posting this) entitled to write that I think that George HW Bush (#41) is a war profiteer for his highly compensated role with the shadowy Carlyle Group.

There's a lot of unseemly concentration of wealth and power in America today: Near the Bush estate in Kennebunkport -- not a street of modest homes by any means -- someone has built an enormous new oceanfront home, it is the very definition of 'gauche'; it must for some young hedge fund manager with very bad taste, or perhaps for some Texas oilman who wants to tool around the Kennebunks in a big Cadillac with cow horns on the hood.

It also strikes me that the name of the boat ('Fidelity') is very appropo for the Bush family, they tend to operate with the mores of a mafia clan, and have a history of valuing 'fidelity' and 'loyalty' above virtues such as 'integrity', 'common sense', 'respect for the truth', 'competence' etc. I'm sure that there's a longer blog post in there somewhere, but I won't go there now.

6.08.2008

Chasing tail (whales and more)

I spent the past weekend in Maine, didn't do anything special but did spend a lot of time with my camera.

Sunday I went on a whale watch cruise and saw many whales (the day before, they had gone out, but it was foggy, and so those onboard saw no marine life at all). It was also very pleasant c. 12 miles from shore as the ocean water was only 52 degrees which meant it was comfortably cool on the boat. On land it was a muggy and uncomfortable 90 degree day.

A small crab in a tidal pool.

Work boats in the morning fog at Cape Porpoise.

Lots of birdlife along the shoreline despite ever encroaching development.

I took lots of photos over the course of the weekend but it will take me a while to get organized and sort through them.

6.03.2008

Horrifying image from a bike race

The story is on MSNBC.com here, a drunk driver. I wonder if they would have run this item without the image of bodies flying through the air, capturing someone's death on camera... fatal car-bike interactions happen all too frequently (for another horrible example, see this story on Velonews). News or sensationalism? ('If it bleeds it leads') My multi-faceted antipathy to automobiles is, and will remain, one of the minor themes running through this site.

6.01.2008

Dog years ('Hundejahre'): Marking the beginning of the third year of this feeble document

Dog years (it sounds better in German: 'Hundejahre', title of a novel by Gunter Grass): The misbegotten idea that a one year of a dog's life corresponds to seven 'human' years.

This weekend marked the beginning of another year in the existence of my small site (I dislike the words 'blog' and 'blogger'), it was originally launched -- with little fanfare and few readers -- on May 26, 2006. I won't recount my motivations for dipping my toes into the world of social networking and online community building, and in retrospect, they were all highly suspect anyhow.

To tie this anniversary to the above image, lately keeping it going has seemed to be more of a burden than anything else. Stretching a metaphor, I feel like a stand in for the knight and the figure of Death represents the need to create content -- good content, original content, any content -- on a semi-regular and ongoing basis, until such a point as I've finally had enough, or I die. (I saw the Seventh Seal for the first time over the winter, thanks Stowe Library). Even if I have the time, energy and imagination to come up with something even slightly interesting, two or three days go by, and then it's my move again. Another more obvious comparison would be Sisyphus and his rock.

At work, I spend an awful lot of time on LinkedIn, and maybe 10% of the profiles will have links to personal pages of one sort or another. I always check these pages (blogs, flickr streams, pages about extra-curricular activities, etc.) out. I speak to people from India very frequently and I've learned a lot both about life in India and also about the experience of the Indian diaspora by doing this, but I digress: Many of these sites have been abandoned, projects (professional or personal) started but not kept up. I've run into some examples of blogs that never made to five posts, total (and yet the author hasn't bothered to delete it). Unless one is 'blogging' about a specific, time-bounded event (a bike race, jazz festival, election, whatever) it is pretty much like getting on an endless treadmill and requires some persistence and imagination -- and a high degree of self-absorption -- to keep it going.

Going forward, I guess I will keep 'Midnight Modern Conversation' (I'm not even sure I approve of the conceit behind the name at this point in time) alive, Google is such a force in the world today -- and not necessarily a force for good -- and I have learned quite a bit about how how content is found and other workings of the Internet by writing posts on diverse topics. I know that nothing that shows up here matters too much and that this site is fundamentally of no importance whatsoever. With this sentiment in mind, I thought I would repost this clip from April 2007 -- shadows moving across my patio on a spring morning, it doesn't get much less dramatic or meaningful than this: