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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

VT Blogs: Aiken Lecture Series

This is cool. UVM has launched a blog to promote its 2005-2006 George D. Aiken Lecture Series. The organizers of the series have this to say about the Aiken Lecture Series blog, dedicated to this year's theme, "Visioning the Future and Vermont":

Please feel free to use this site to actively participate in the conversation. We, the organizers of the George D. Aiken Lecture Series, want you to own the content of this site and have an active dialog with your fellow community members. We are not attempting to direct the conversation or push out an agenda, just offer you a forum for exchange.

It doesn't look like it'll be updated very regularly — the last and only day on which posts were made is Sept. 23 — but it does provide an innovative forum.

The kick-off event for the series is a Sept. 29th lecture by Futurist Atul Dighe, who will address "The 5 Big Questions About the Future." The UVMers have posted the 5 questions on their blog, and they're asking folks to answer them however they see fit. I think it's an exciting and creative approach. I wonder if anyone will do it.

Thanks, Zephyr T., for the tip.

September 28, 2005 at 10:40 AM in VT Blogs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Real VT: I almost hit a cow

I can't believe this wasn't the first thing I posted this morning. So last night a little after 8, Ann-Elise and I were driving past the dairy farm down Mallett's Bay Ave, about a mile from our house on North Street in Winooski. Suddenly, a dark shape darted out in front of the car. I thought it was a deer, or a moose, but no — it was an enormous black and white dairy cow.

I slammed on the breaks and barely missed her. The car coming towards us in the other direction wasn't so lucky — they smacked into the cow doing I guess about 35 mph, though they were slowing down as it happened, I think. Knocked the cow over. I could see its legs in the air when it rolled. But it got up and walked over to the barn! I couldn't believe it.

The driver of the car got out, shook the broken glass off her sweatshirt. Her passenger was hurt. Another driver pulled up — he had just missed the cow and had turned around to come back and tell the farmer. He corralled the hurt cow, and kept her off the road, shouting, "hey Bossy, hey Bossy, c'mon." He seemed to know what to do with her, and also seemed to know the people who owned the farm, and their neighbors, which was comforting. Other drivers stopped, and somebody went up to the house to get help with the cows. Ann-Elise and I clapped our hands and yelled at a couple other cows that had also jumped the fence, to keep them from running into the road.

It took Colchester Rescue a few minutes to get there, but they responded with ambulances, and the cops came. When we left the scene, the cows were all back in the pens, including the one that had been hit, and the EMTs were getting out the stretcher. There was nothing more we could do. I hope everybody's ok.

It's a little surreal to think that this kind of agricultural scene could play out so near our house in Winooski, the most urban, densely populated city in the state. It's definitely a different world, and it's disappearing. Treacherous cow crossing or no, I find that sad.

September 28, 2005 at 08:38 AM in Real VT | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


There's a media panel tonight that folks who live in the Burlington area might want to check out. 6:30 pm, CCTV studios. Join Bill Simmon of Candleblog, Lauren-Glenn Davitian of CCTV, Tim Nulty of Burlington Telecom, and low-power FM guy Andy Crawford to talk about the future. Of media. Tonight.

They'll be broadcasting it on CCTV, so if you miss it, you can call and find out when they'll replay it, 'cause they probably will. Gotta have cable to see it, though. I doubt they'll put it online. UPDATE: I was wrong! Jess Wilson, program director, says they'll have it up, but it won't be streamed. They'll put it here.

Also, next Friday morning, October 7, there's a series of panels on journalism at SUNY Plattsburgh. David Heller, staff attorney at the Media Law Resource Center in NYC, will be speaking about liability and confidential source issues as they relate to both journalists and bloggers. The event is free. More info in the comments thread when I have it (I left my press release for it at the office).

UPDATE: I almost forgot, there's yet another panel happening, this one about the sale of Adelphia to Comcast. It's on Monday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. at Burlington's City Hall. Read more in my write-up in this week's Seven Days. I'll post a link when it appears online.

September 28, 2005 at 08:06 AM in Media/Keeping an eye on the competition | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Alt. Media Day at JSC

Sorry for the light posting. Had a busy weekend repainting the 2nd floor of my house and putting in wood floors. Oh, and I had to write a couple stories, too.

So...Here are my thoughts on Alternative Media Day, which I'm posting because Morgan couldn't make it, and said he was interested in hearing about it:

There weren't very many people there. Maybe a dozen or so audience members — total — throughout the day. Johnson's Community Media Day last March, which featured editors from the state's biggest papers, and some of its robust weeklies, drew only slightly more. This is a shame, because these inter-media conversations are rare. It's not often you have a chance to sit down with some of the most influential media-makers in the state to talk about how they do what they do, and how they shape public opinion and the public discourse. These JSC events have so much potential to help us understand the shifting media landscape in our state.

I'm not sure why the turnout was so low. Johnson appeared to have had a smaller budget for this event than for the one last March. I saw fewer ads, and we didn't get a fancy catered lunch like last Spring. But I don't think that explains it. If the panel had been held at Middlebury College, or even at UVM, I think there probably would have been a few more audience members. Johnson is too far, really, to attract a big or influential audience from the state's "big cities." JSC Journalism Professor Tyrone Shaw says he's considering moving the forums to other locations in the state — maybe have one in Montpelier, one in Burlington, one in Brattleboro. I think that's a good idea.

I hope they continue hosting these discussions. If nothing else, I find it useful to meet and connect with the people who own and run the media infrastructure in this state. I'm sure that other people would welcome this opportunity as well, if it were more accessible to them. I'm not sure how much the organizers promoted it, but I would suggest extending personal invites to other media and political types in the state, to think seriously about the composition of the audience as well as the make-up of the panel.

And the discussions themselves...well... I thought the blogger panel was really fun, but I feel like those of us on the panel were just having a good conversation amongst ourselves. I enjoyed meeting Paul Levasseur, of iPutney, and getting to see Brian, Jessamyn, and Bill, but did the audience get anything out of it? I'm not sure. We probably could have had a much livelier discussion if we'd had more audience members, and particularly more audience members who knew about or were interested in blogging and how it works. These people do exist in Vermont; it's just that not many of them were at JSC Friday morning.

Incidentally, I hope that we can continue that conversation at a blogger meet-up. Talking with these folks energizes me, and spurs innovation, which, I think, is the goal.

As for the afternoon panel on the state of alternative media, I think it was probably too diverse. I would have liked to have listened to Chris and Lise from iBrattleboro talk about their site — what works, what doesn't, how and why it's been so successful. It was too confusing to have Sarah from Radio Free Brattleboro on there, and Lauren-Glenn from CCTV, and Shay from the Vermont Guardian, and Perry Cooper, anti-sprawl activist, and me, and the iBrat folks. Too much ground to cover. I mean, in the course of a couple hours, we bounced around from the role of alternative newspapers, to the FCC crackdown on RFB, to how alt. newsweeklies are "urban, leftist" papers, to how activists can use the media to advance their causes, to how media consolidation (i.e. Comcast taking over Adelphia) affects democracy, to how frustrating it can be to explain the internet to people who don't get it. Am I the only one who got whiplash?

I wish we'd just talked about the alt. media scene in Brattleboro, and how they've cultivated it and gotten so much community support. The people on this panel really had some great stories, but I felt like there wasn't enough time and space to get into them as much as I would have liked. I kinda wish I'd been in the audience instead of on the panel.

That's my 2c. It's fairly critical, but I am grateful to have been invited to participate. And like I said, I think these conversations are vitally important. I hope they continue. And I hope they attract more interested folks. I'm sure Tyrone and Michael Schaefer at JSC would appreciate whatever feedback anyone has for them. Thanks, guys, for hosting us. I really appreciate what you're trying to do.

What'd everybody else think? So far, I think I'm the only one to post a detailed post-mortem. Everybody else just says it was fun. 

September 27, 2005 at 09:32 AM in House Rules | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Friday, September 23, 2005

Vermont Blogger Meet Up II

So I got a request from Jeff at Alphecca that I organize another Vermont blogger meet up. I'm into it. And I don't mind being "the hub" of the organizational effort, despite the dismal turnout at last year's event. Of course, the gathering last year happened before I had found most of the bloggers on my blogroll.

I'm thinking of having it the Saturday of the first weekend in November. Any later than that, and we risk cutting into holiday time, or being cancelled due to weather. Anybody have any suggestions for location? I've heard that we might have a wi-fi enabled van to use. More on that later.

I'm putting this up to gauge interest, and to say, "save the date." If you have any objections, or suggestions, now's the time to bring them up.

September 23, 2005 at 06:03 PM in House Rules | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Citizen Media in the VT Guardian

I'm too tired to write anything about Alternative Media Day at Johnson State College — which was fun, if sparsely attended — but I wanted to point out Morgan Brown's article about the Vermont blogosphere in this week's Vermont Guardian. Morgan, we all know, is the state's most vigilant blogger. Nice to see your work in print, MWB. Thanks for the mention of 802 Online.

There's also an article by Kate Casa about Vermont's citizen journalism sites. The Winooski Eagle site's not in it, because I didn't call her back in time. But it covers a bunch of other folks. Give it a read.

September 23, 2005 at 05:46 PM in Media/Keeping an eye on the competition | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hi Mom! I'm on PBS!

It's been a slow blogging day here at 802 because I spent the afternoon in 518. The producers of a Mountain Lake PBS show called "Business Affairs" invited me to take part in a roundtable discussion today about broadband internet. I'm told it's on tonight at 8. Not sure when else, or if they'll even replay it.

I was on with three very cordial men, all older than me — the host, Bill Owens, a reporter from Montreal, and a reporter from Plattsburgh. I had fun talking with them, and was interested in the report they prepared to air before our chat. The Plattsburgh area is apparently considering setting up a network like Burlington Telecom's. In the pre-roundtable report, they interviewed Tim Nulty, who talked about what he's doing here. He actually said a lot of the same things to them that he did to me, in the article I wrote last May.

I'm not sure how informative the resulting program will be — I suspect that my fellow conversation partners are not exactly early adopters — but like I said, it was fun. And I hadn't heard about the Plattsburgh project before. I'll have to look into it more carefully.

September 22, 2005 at 06:29 PM in House Rules | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Incomplete Surivor's Story

If you picked up a copy of this week's Seven Days, you may have noticed that there was a printing error. The press screwed up and omitted a page that included the first part of Peter Freyne's column, and the first page of Local Matters, our news column, this week written entirely by me.

Ordinarily, this would piss me off, but this week it's a particularly egregious error, because the page that got dropped contained the first part of a story about Fred Johnston and his family, who escaped from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Fred and his wife and daughter are living in Burlington now. Fred is working at the Body Art studio on Main Street — he's a tattoo artist.

I urge you to read this story online here. Fred and I spoke for nearly two hours in the Body Art stairwell. I have never been so moved by a story, and scrambled to include his whole account in this week's paper.

Here's a couple pieces of it, describing what Johnston did after he and his wife and daughter paddled half a mile in a boat to his mother's house, in New Orleans:

They had heard that they should go to the Superdome, 4 miles away, but decided to put it off as long as possible. Johnston paddled home to get a few things, including his three guns. "I don't like guns," he confides, "I just own them. That's what you need to survive in this world."

On the way back, he passed groups of people on porches who asked him to bring his boat their way. "But you might see 10 people on the porch," Johnston says. When he didn't stop, they swore at him. At one point, two young men asked for a ride. He ignored them. "Then they start talking about what they going to do to me to get my boat," he says, staring off into the distance.

Johnston says he picked up his rifle. "I made them see me load it," he says. "Made sure they heard me load it. Then they stopped talking."


Johnston started taking cigarettes, alcohol, food and medicine from nearby stores -- his mother had had invasive heart surgery just days earlier. What he didn't use, he bartered. "I hear on television, they were calling it
looting," he says, "How are you going to say that these people who have nothing, they hardly have their lives, are looting . . . If I would have waited on the government, on any infrastructure in America, I would be dead on the roof somewhere."

Read more.

There's a benefit for Johnston's family and the other 16 evacuees associated with the folks at the tattoo partlor on Sunday, from 2 pm - 2 am at 1/2 lounge in Burlington.

September 21, 2005 at 11:26 AM in House Rules | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

JSC newspaper article about Alt. Media Day

The Johnson State College student newspaper, Basement Medicine, printed an article this week about Friday's Alternative Media Day. I'll be on both of the event's media panels — one in the morning, one in the afternoon. The morning one talks about blogging, the afternoon one about the state of the alternative media (print, tv, radio, online) in Vermont.Bill0916_1_1

Though there are plenty of other panelists, the JSC article prints only a picture of me. Why?  Not sure. They probably lifted off a Google image search. Here are two pictures I found online of two of my other blogger panelists, Bill Simmon of Candleblog, and Jessamyn West, of librarian.net.  The photo of Bill is courtesy of NTodd's excellent Friday Coffeeblogging photo gallery. The photo of Jessamyn I snagged from this boston.com special item on the 2004 DNC bloggers.

Sadly, the JSC article mistakenly lists Bill as the publisher of a blog about candles, and doesn't cite Jessamyn's librarian blog. Darn journalism students. Will they ever learn? It's a search engine. Called Google. Check it out.

UPDATE: Basement Medicine Editor Elizabeth Bingham responded in the comment thread...


September 20, 2005 at 12:06 PM in House Rules | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

James Martin Speaking at Middlebury College

"Information-age guru" James Martin is speaking today at Middlebury College, about "The Meaning of the 21st Century." Says the press release from Midd, "Martin is widely recognized as an authority on the social and commercial ramifications of computers and technology. He is also well known for the accuracy of his predictions about technology's impact on modern society."

He's speaking at 4:30, in the Robert A. Jones House conference room. The lecture is free and open to the public.I can't go. Alas, this press release came after I'd already made plans for this afternoon. If anybody makes it there, please report back.

His Wikipedia entry says this about Monseiur Martin: "Dr. James Martin is a consultant and author of over a hundred books, some of which are considered to be self-promoting in character." It also says: "Martin helped establish The James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford, whose stated goal is to "formulate new concepts, policies and technologies that will make the future a better place to be".

September 20, 2005 at 10:37 AM in House Rules | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack