Waterbury, Vermont Independence Day Parade, 2009

A few photos from Waterbury's Independence Day parade, which kicks off Vermont's 4th of July celebrations, one week ahead of the surrounding towns.

The photographer is visible on right, parade watchers reflected in the hub of some fire apparatus.

Red white & blue.

Promoting an upcoming comedy festival & 'Waterbury's got talent' event.

Race cars are an annual feature of the parade. Politicians, however, are more biannual fixtures it seems, and 2009 isn't an election year so only Jim Douglas and Bernie Sanders were present, marching alone and without phalanxes of supporters. I was very curious as to what kind of response Governor Douglas would get and I would characterize it as 'tepid support' -- but not as positive or vocal as the support shown for Senator Sanders (post about the 2008 parade here).

There was a good turnout despite the ominous-looking clouds. The showers held off and it looks like the fireworks this evening will also be held without rain, it has been a wet summer so far.

I may have misunderestimated myself

I'm just a soul who's intentions are good,
Oh lord, please don't let me misunderstood.

This blog, it's a whole lot of nothing. For the last eighteen months or so, mixed in with all the extremely uninteresting (and deservedly ignored) minutiae of my life, there has been the record here of my varied economic anxieties as I try and stay solvent through the present 'Great Recession'. My fears spring from multiple sources but can be largely traced back to the fact that almost every assumption I made when I moved from Burlington to Waterbury and bought a modest condominium unit in 2006 has been proven wrong, and this is despite the fact that I am as far removed, temperamentally, from a property-flipping real estate speculator, as can be imagined. Living with a mortgage and no steady source of income in a time of economic turmoil -- to put it mildly -- is quite unnerving and does give me plenty to think about in the still hours of the early morning.

The stuff bad dreams are made of: Current unemployment statistics.

As my day job recently went 100% on hiatus, I have launched a halting, tentative job search, despite no shortage of news that inspires thoughts like "why even bother". Somewhat to my surprise, the initial responses have been more positive than I would have thought possible in such a tough employment market -- if the job search was baseball, I'd be putting up Ted Williams- or Joe Dimaggio-like numbers. It's not that my problems have been solved (I don't have any offers in hand, I need to close a deal) but I am starting to feel more upbeat about things and believe that there's a chance that I'll come through the current upheaval OK (ie, not living in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere).


I need to find some happy campers

To use some consulting jargon, I have extra 'bandwidth'* these days, though not as much free time as one would think. This is not necessarily a bad thing, idleness is bad for the psyche, these days there's lots of unpleasantness to dwell on, so it is good to have specific tasks to focus on.

One of my summer projects, is that I signed up to be a "photo intern" for the Vermont state parks system, this offers me a chance to use my camera with a purpose and try and expand my 'range' with the camera. The goal of the program is to capture people enjoying the parks system in a wide range of situations, up to and including rainy days...

A badge to provide some level of reassurance to park patrons and a sticker to get into the parks (day use only) free of charge.

Little River State Park on Wednesday afternoon: proof (the blue skies and white puffy clouds were not digitally added) that the sun does shine -- albeit occasionally -- in Vermont, it has been a cool, damp summer so far.

This would be a good potential shot for use by the State Parks in their marketing collateral (online or print) with the following caveat: I need to get signed photo releases for images of people... This will prove to be something of a challenge. On Wednesday there was a family fishing at the reservoir and that is exactly the kind of image the program director is looking for, but I didn't want to interrupt their time together to have them fill out paperwork. Obviously, I am going to have to overcome this reluctance on my part if I am going to succeed in this role.

On a more basic level, the volunteer photographers are assigned to photograph unoccupied campsites at specific state parks; the images are then posted online as part of the reservation system, so that visitors can have a better idea of what the campsites look like prior to arrival.

*Bandwidth: Capacity, time. A consultant would say something like "Due to the economic collapse, I currently have plenty of bandwidth to devote to internal projects at the firm" -- Internal projects don't generate revenue. Defined this way, too much bandwidth is not a good thing.


Frog's eye

I'm feeling quite uninspired (and damp as well, it's turning out to be a wet, kind of cheerless summer here -- deja vu all over again) so I thought I would post this photo from Wednesday afternoon before moving on to other, more productive and obligatory tasks.


Hummingbird sequence

As I have noted, I try and be thankful for small things -- such as, my tomatoes are coming along, it was a cool damp spring, but now the sun is higher in the sky, and the plants respond -- because when I think about the big picture, it is very easy to fall into a funk, and feel that at the end of the rat race there's a rat trap. I've read a lot about the process of self re-invention and am willing to strike out in different directions if need be, but these are not optimistic times, and leadership is lacking.

So I am glad that there are hummingbirds in the meadow next to my condo unit and that they prefer sugar solution (4:1 water to sugar, boiled) to the native flowers. They are not very shy -- I have been within a couple of feet of the birds as they hover -- but are very fast and tend not to stay in one spot for very long. My camera does not have a fast autofocus system so capturing the birds is something of a challenge (and manual pre-focusing does not seem to help). Oh well, the last thing in my budget at this point in time is more camera gear.

#1: Approach

#2: Gear down, eyes on the prize

#3: Quick sugar high

#4: Back airborne, sometimes in the cool of the early evening the birds will perch in a tree and flit back and forth to the feeders several times -- I think they need to tank up for the night, but during the day they tend to not hang around for very long.

A few more images from yesterday here.

Camera: Pentax K100D Super & Tamron LD Di 70x300mm lens.


Street photography: Church Street, Discover Jazz Festival, 6/11/09

I read on a photo site, something to the effect, that inhibition on the part of the photographer leads to bad photography. And, it's true, I am a lot more comfortable deep in some thicket in the woods, trying to get a clear shot of a moose, than I am wandering through an urban area, trying to capture compelling images of strangers. It's hard for me to imagine working like Weegee, referred to in a NYT article as the "night watchman of our American Babylon".

Anyhow, I was in Burlington today, I brought a camera and tried to capture some images along Church Street on a cloudy, muggy afternoon.

This character wanted $5 for a photo -- I declined to pay, it was a somewhat heated conversation.

The post processing on these is really minor -- just some very slight cropping and sharpening, that is all.

Deliberately trying to capture mundane moments flitting by.

The Discover Jazz Festival is winding down.

Taking a bow after performing 'The Lady is a Tramp" (Sinatra's version here).

All images (a few more here) taken with a Pentax K100D Super & the 18-55mm kit lens.


National Trails Day: The Stowe HS - Trapps connector

Today was "National Trails Day" (I have no idea who decides these things) and I participated in a work session on a new section of trail that is being built between Stowe High School and Trapps Family Lodge. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, not too buggy and consequently there was a good turnout of volunteers. This project is a part of an ambitious plan to make Stowe a central hub of a large mountain bike trail network (story here).

It was very hard work: Moving big rocks over rough terrain, and hacking at thick roots with an assortment of lethal-looking tools. I foolishly neglected to bring gloves and my hands are raw after this experience.

Lots and lots of rocks.

Not a mirage: After about four hours of tough, dirty work the crew was treated to burgers and beer (thanks Trapps), a fine way to end the day, though I promptly fell asleep when I got home, I was thoroughly beat.


Chinatown, Boston, 06/03/09

Ongyel & I, we have climbed mountains (Mt. Washington, Algonquin, Mt. Mansfield, etc.) together, and he was also responsible for putting together my trip to Nepal in 2007. Defying both economic issues both macro (the down economy) and micro (razor thin margins in the food retailing business), he recently opened the Himalayan Market in Burlington.

Ongyel made a trip to Chinatown in Boston to purchase some inventory for the store and to hopefully establish some relationships with wholesalers or even retailers willing to extend a discount on items for resale, and, since I'm now officially 100% between jobs, I tagged along.

The dumpling shop where we had lunch. It was packed, we were seated at a table with three other people -- a couple and a single guy. I thought the city as a whole seemed rather subdued, however, less hustle and bustle than usual.

A quick covert snap from inside a Chinese grocery, there were definitely some peculiar items to be had, live eels, dried octopus, ducks feet, strange vegetables and more; the oddest item I think was some some "Vermont Curry" sauce made in Japan that featured apple and maple flavors -- it most emphatically did not carry the official Vermont seal of quality. All in all, I think that Chinatown in Montreal is more interesting as there are more shops selling the varied trinkets and gewgaws from the Orient there.

A live poultry shop -- there are at least a couple of these around Chinatown: the customer goes in, eyeballs live poultry in a cage, selects the bird that looks most appealing.... and it gets slaughtered and processed right then and there. I wonder if this concept would work in Burlington, it would appeal to both the local immigrant population (Ongyel told me a story involving a farmer in Morrisville, a goat, and an expert butcher -- a Bhutanese refugee -- it's funny how the world comes together in odd ways) and to certain (non-vegetarian) elements of Vermont's localvore food culture. But the pronounced NIMBY attitudes prevalent (no highrises, disc golf courses, windmills, etc.) would also have to be managed in locating an urban slaughterhouse in Chittenden County.

The lights of Fenway Park -- a place I've never been.


Democracy now: Senator Sanders in Stowe, 05/31/09

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis: Last week I attended a presentation by David Hale, a native Vermonter who has become a consummate economic insider -- in the course of his presentation, he mentioned how he had recently had a working lunch with Fed chairman Ben Bernake, and had also recently met with both the Canadian and British Finance Ministers. Hale gave a very interesting, erudite and wide ranging presentation; it was much more specific than the recent Van Jones 'green jobs salvation show'. It was, however, undoubtedly an insider's perspective -- he did predict that more regulation of the financial system would be one outcome of the present situation, and was also quite dismissive of the threat of hyperinflation in the United States, despite unprecedented deficits (a write up of the presentation here).

Then on Sunday morning, I went over to attend a 'town meeting' in Stowe held by Senator Bernie Sanders.* I have never been a huge fan of the Senator, although I do have grudging respect for his ability to function outside of the two-party system, because I tend to dislike the choices that the two parties put in front of me at election time. Once, however, I did sit through a speech by Sanders at St. Michael's College, the subject was globalization and trade, and all I remember was that the speech was really just a full-on rant, and was amplified, which was unfortunate, because it was almost uncomfortably loud in the auditorium.

Sunday, thankfully, the Senator was rather more subdued, though it was funny, as an audience member, I could tell that certain subjects were inflammatory... and rhetorical flourishes would rise close to the surface. He did rail against Wall Street, the financial sector and criticized the role of people like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as close advisors to President Obama. The recent stimulus bill, health care, veterans issues, and the cost of higher education were also topics discussed.

The venue was full and it was mostly a friendly and attentive crowd. I didn't observe any elected local legislators at the venue.

Not everyone drank the kool aid, however: This questioner asserted that debt levels could not be sustained and would trigger a global financial catastrophe in the near future. Sanders replied that "we respectfully disagree."

Another constituent asks a question; most questions were what I would characterize as 'softballs', due to a high percentage of Sanders supporters in the audience. Even so, I do give Sanders credit for hosting these events around Vermont, a pretty tiring way to spend a weekend I would think.

I also think that it is quite ironic that Bernard Sanders, Pat Leahy, and Jim Douglas are all lifetime professional politicians who have little to no experience working outside of government, and I don't think that this is a good thing.

*All I remember from the 1988 Randolph, Vermont Fourth of July celebration is the image of Sanders and a lone volunteer holding up a hand painted sign "Sanders for US House" walking through the field where the festivities were taking place. It was his first campaign for federal office.