Hummingbird sequence, June 2010

These days, the world seems to be uneasily perched on the edge of some great catastrophe, one can read speculation, that the Deepwater Horizon situation, will not be resolved, and will only escalate with time. (Basically, the leaking well won't be capped, it's too shattered, and the endless stream of oil will kill the plankton -- bottom of the food chain -- and everything else will follow, like dominoes.)

But, as usual, I digress. I am very fortunate to live in a place that is still lush and green and where the environment is still pretty clean. There's plenty of bird life around and the aptly named ruby-throated hummingbirds still appreciate the feeder hung under the walkway to our condo unit.

Through the years (and possibly succeeding generations), the male perches on this same branch in a pine tree.

The mighty hunter surveys his domain. Considering their diminutive size these birds are not that shy and can be aggressively territorial.

Even when it feels like we are collectively inducing the end of nature (if something catastrophic does happen, it will be well deserved) I'm glad that a little 4:1 boiled sugar solution keeps these small (1/8 oz weight) creatures going.

Earlier, less refined humming bird sequences can be viewed here (2009) and here (2007).


A moment in time

I got married last Sunday, at Seyon Lodge, Groton, Vermont. But Facebook was the main 'social media platform' I used to share impressions and images of the occasion with friends and family, and I really have no interest in sharing photos of the event or thoughts on my newly acquired state of step-grandparenthood here.


Enjoy the small things

...because you never know when you will be turned into bacon -- this hog will be slaughtered in a month or so. Applecheek Farm, Morrisville, Vermont.


The weight: The Levon Helm Band at the Flynn, 2010 Discover Jazz Festival

Standing next to me in this lonely crowd
Is a man who swears he’s not to blame
All day long I hear him shout so loud
Crying out that he was framed
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released...

The Flynn Theater marquee as the 2010 Discover Jazz Festival wound down, the Levon Helm Band was the final show of the week-long event.

Levon Helm -- of The Band, and who played behind Bob Dylan on the 1966 'electric' tour of the UK documented in the film Don't Look Back) might seem an incongruous choice for a jazz fest. The Levon Helm Band, however, is really an American roots music big band of made up of 12 very good musicians, including a full horn section and organ, so it actually wasn't too far removed for a jazz festival.

I have been to shows, where I think, "this is nice, but enough, I'm ready for it to be over" but this was not one of those events. The Flynn was sold out and the crowd was very enthusiastic (multiple standing ovations during the show). The large band was tight and played a very eclectic set that included some classics -- always well received by the crowd -- but contemporary numbers as well.

Levon Helm is no longer young and has battled cancer and the vicissitudes of a life lived on the road but he is still a consummate showman and a fierce drummer. It was a very enjoyable show with lots of good energy and we were fortunate to have seen it.

*I Shall Be Released was the one encore the band played on Sunday.


Vermont is wet

Some quick images from the garden. After a short, happy burst of warm, dry summer-like weather in late May, (trails in the woods were unnaturally dry and dusty) the weather has reverted back to the gray and soggy summer norm.

Bleeding heart


Day lilly


Big circles: KSR 2010 in my mirrors

Out of the smoky mists of time: The Pro1/2 field rolls up Route 4 on Memorial Day.

I did not start racing a bicycle until after I had graduated college and was living on my own. I remember watching Greg Lemond and the first American successes in the Tour de France in the late 1980s...but that's another story.

As I hesitatingly and haltingly started racing I was too intimidated to participate in the Killington Stage Race (KSR), one of the biggest races in New England. So for a couple of years I volunteered as a pace car driver for the race, this was back in 1991 and 1992. Vehicles were provided -- brand new Saab convertibles -- I recall taking the plastic covering off of the leather seats and sliding the car through turns on descents.

The those heady early days, the KSR was five days long (time trial - three road races - and a criterium) and held on Labor Day Weekend -- an ambitious schedule and a considerable logistical and public relations challenge. Bike racers' penchant for relieving themselves in public, tendency to litter, and the extensive traffic tieups caused by the race, meant that the event was far from universally loved in the Rutland area.

Eventually putting on a five day event proved to be too much of a hassle and the KSR shrank to just three days and then disappeared altogether. In 2010 the same team that puts on the Green Mountain Stage Race launched a reconstituted KSR and over 500 riders participated -- a very good turnout.

I volunteered to drive a pace car in the 2010. This was a real trip into the past for me as the only association I have with the Killington area is from bike racing. I was assigned to drive for the Women's 3/4 race -- a small and not very aggressive field, and the last race on the course.

The women 3/4 field staging at the start.

The field all together on Route 100.

A cemetery all decked out for Memorial Day.

The small lead group approaching the mid race QOM point.

Another cemetery, more American flags.

The very tough finishing climb.

The last kilometer: I remember this view all too well from my days participating in the KSR.

A short video (55 seconds) showing a little of what it's like to drive a pace car. Most of the time I was driving at less than 20 mph... It takes patience.


An American tragedy

Happier, cleaner times: Pelicans, Cedar Key, Florida, March 2009.

The birds lived a carefree, Jimmy Buffet kind of life, hanging out on the town fishing pier and living off of the bounty of the Gulf of Mexico. It was probably an easier environment for the birds than humans -- there were not a lot of job opportunities at Cedar Key.

Now, of course, everything has changed: Horrifying pictures of birds in oil here (Big Picture).

BP CEO Tony Hayward infamously and impolitically said that he "wants his life back" -- yes: Don't we all? (And what about the 11 workers who died when the Deepwater Horizon exploded?)

From media reports, it sounds like the usual capitalistic impulse to maximize short term profit potential was a contributing factor in the accident. The well was behind schedule, it was costing a lot of money, the job needed to get done, consquences be damned. Also, the oil industry has deep influence at the agencies that supposedly regulate it -- the fox watches the henhouse.

So on one hand BP is a deserved target of the public's scorn and contempt: There would be a certain poetic justice, if the company's board and key decision makers were publicly tarred and feathered (the fate of the Duke and the King in Huckleberry Finn -- Huck describes the rascals as looking like a couple of "monstrous big soldier-plumes") on some fouled Gulf Coast beach.

But the larger fault is in ourselves: It's easy to tweet about, or post on Facebook, about boycotting BP. It's even pretty easy to follow through and not purchase their products.

But would take real commitment to radically rethink energy consumption and reduce miles driven by car. How many Americans are prepared to do this? Will there be any follow through?


Blog years: Twilight of the golden age of online oversharing

Bereft of new ideas, and hitting the content creation wall in 2010.

Every Memorial Day marks something besides the sacrifices of America's servicemen and women: It marks the start of another year of this inconsequential, unimportant and largely unread blog.

This anniversary always sparks thoughts like "this would be a good time to pull the plug" and "don't I have better things to do with my time?", but for some unfathomable reason I keep this blog going, though I have noticed a steady decline in my posting frequency.

When I launched this site in May 2006, Facebook was still a 'students only' network and twitter had not been created yet. Smartphones (Blackberries, not Iphones) were still a 1.0 technology and the 'mobile web' was in its infancy.

Now 'social media' is ubiquitous, and as contrarian technology blogger Nick Carr suggests, being surrounded by all this networking technology and bits of content without context has rewired our brains in new and flighty ways.

In this context, long-form blogging on the distinctly uncool blogger platform now seems quaint and old fashioned. On one hand, I know what shows up here is trivial, self-absorbed and unimportant. On the other hand, however, this blog is a veritable work of genius, insight and wit when compared to some of the dreck flitting by:

This blog may be trivial and self absorbed, but not this trivial and self-absorbed.

So I guess I will keep "Midnight Modern Conversation" going, I know that it is by definition inconsequential and unimportant, but I take it for what it is -- which isn't much.