11.30.2010

Burlington Telecom: The repo man comes calling

In headier, more optimistic times, Burlington Telecom handed out tshirts as tchotchkes, packaged neatly in little single-serving cereal boxes, the conceit being, that Burlington Telecom was "Fiber-iffic!"

As recently as October 2010, you could still pick up useless items like euro stickers and pens at a Burlington Telecom booth at the Vermont 3.0 event... perhaps they should have been soliciting donations in a tin cup.

It's all over but the lawyering. Burlington Telecom's largest creditor, Citi Capital, has decided to repossess any and all physical assets (BFP) in an attempt to recover some of the funds borrowed to keep the doomed municipal enterprise alive.

I don't intend to write a long post analyzing this situation -- I have done this already -- previous posts of this topic can be read here. I always thought that this scheme was a bad idea, and suspected that the city of Burlington did not have the managerial acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to pull it off successfully.

And, while the economy remains very weak and the current administration in Burlington is inept and possibly criminal, it's my belief that Burlington Telecom was a bad idea right from the start.

Neither better economic times nor a more competent administration could have made it work: It cost too much, and has a small service area with relatively few potential customers, and operates in a very competitive marketplace.

But, on a more personal note, I am pessimistic by nature: torpor, gloom, and vivid imaginings of bad things come naturally to me. This can be a curse and a big limiting factor in all aspects of my life, and contributes to my long personal litany of, if not outright failure, missed opportunities.

Sometimes, however, a gloomy and suspicious disposition is a wonderful thing. When Burlington Telecom was originally proposed in the 1990s, I was living in Burlington and working in the Internet business. The concept seemed far-fetched and pie-in-the-sky then, so I voted against the initiative... my doubts have been proven by events over time.

And, for similar reasons, I view projects like the proposed redevelopment of the Moran Plant in Burlington, or the governor-elect's promise of single-payer heath insurance, with quite a bit of suspicion.

11.23.2010

Irony via Nissan: Lance Armstrong -- "Discover the science behind legendary performance"

Reading cycling news sites these days is like reading a lurid tabloid newspaper blended with science fiction.

Stories of tainted steaks and the ongoing investigation of Lance Armstrong -- the FDA, WADA, Interpol, and various European agencies are involved -- fill up the online equivalent of many column inches.

Perhaps the proceedings will reach a definite conclusion, or perhaps things will just peter out and nothing conclusive will be proved. But I don't think that Nissan's banner ad from this past summer conveys quite the message that the copywriter intended.

11.17.2010

Hop to it: Beer tourism north and south

There's no place like home! There's no place like home! -- The Wizard of Oz

So, some beer magazine named Burlington a "Beertown U.S.A", and local Vermont users on twitter exploded in a frenzy of mutual self-congratulation -- there's a lot of that kind of thinking here, and 'social media' is just an echo chamber, where like associates with like, and herd-like behavior is to be expected. It's quite annoying -- but still I persist.

Anyhow it turns out that this magazine runs a regular feature and that Burlington is just one of several "Beertowns U.S.A.", and that other locales so designated include such hipster-friendly areas as Asheville, NC and Brooklyn, NY.

So let's not get too excited about some facile little article, shall we?

My recent trip to Florida, however, gave me a chance to expand my beer-drinking horizons, although one does not usually associate South Florida as a hotbed for good food and drink.

Close to home: October 2, 2010, the view from Hill Farmstead Brewery, Greensboro Bend, Vermont. (For an earlier version, see here.)

A chilly harvest celebration -- I was glad I had a hat and jacket at this event -- and a bonfire would have been nice as well. The last beer I sampled at here, was some sort of real Belgian quad, with an ABV of over 12%, it wasn't a full pour, thankfully, but I remember that it almost knocked me on my rear, it was strong stuff.

Ahh, Florida: Denny's, Wendy's, and the Mons Venus strip club -- making the turn into Cigar City Brewing.

By happy chance we arrived as the local Whole Foods store was sponsoring a beer and cheese tasting event... so we got to sample beer and nibble on fancy artisan cheese for free.

What every up and coming craft brewery needs: A minivan outfitted with built-in taps: Just throw some kegs in the back and drive to some hospitable venue.

Another brewery we visited -- the beer list at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City.

Not shown: Our stop in a crowded, cheerless airport bar at the Atlanta airport. College football was on TV, Georgia-Florida on one screen, and Auburn was thumping some opponent on the other, and the various partisans of these schools, gathered round, and they were really into the spectacle -- watching with a passionate intensity not usually shown for pro sports.

But, as usual, I digress.

There are many times when I am fed up with Vermont and some of the tendencies of my erstwhile neighbors, and the shocking tax bill for my small, old and decidedly unluxurious condominium. But then I ride my bike on the Perry Hill trail network and then go out to the Alchemist (now too popular for its own good) or the Blackback bar, and then all's well in my world, for at least a little while.

11.12.2010

Lazy days along the Withlacoochee River

Way down upon the Suwannee River,
Far, far away,
There’s where my heart is turning ever,
There’s where the old folks stay.
All up and down the whole creation,
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for my childhood station,
And for the old folks at home.
Swanee River (with cleaned up and more contemporary lyrics)

The Winooski River runs through Waterbury, but it looks nothing like the Withlacoochee River as it runs through Nobleton Florida. Vermont lacks trees draped in Spanish Moss, cypress trees, buzzards, cranes, egrets and 'water turkeys'...

I didn't bother bringing the DSLR to Florida -- so these images were made with a little Canon point and shoot, and the quality isn't great.

The river was full of hundreds of turtles, they were everywhere. There were also lots of birds and the occasional glimpse of an alligator.

Deep in the still shadows of the cypress swamp.

Lost highways, Florida style. Many country crossroads would have a small rough cinder-block bar. Typically these establishments would open early in morning... and draw a crowd of locals. Despite some curiosity about the ambiance we did not stop to sample their wares (Bud, Bud light, Busch, etc.).

11.08.2010

Postcard from the edge

Tampa, Florida, November 2010.

It was depressing to drive through the Florida Gulf Coast region, the economy was based pretty much solely on real estate and retail, when the real estate bubble popped, it took down the retail with it: A shabby and desolate place.