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January 2009

January 30, 2009

Economic Symposium Monday

6a00d834519c3c69e2010536beb626970b-800wi I suspect that I'm not the only one who's developed a new habit lately — worrying about the economy. Honestly, I never delved too deeply into financial matters. I was an English major. But that was before the sub-prime mortgage crisis started in earnest, and I began to realize that I didn't really understand what was going on, and I needed to.

Consequently, over the past couple months, I've been paying close attention to economic news, and trying to learn as much as I can about how our economy works. To that end, I'll be attending Monday's "Compete or Retreat" symposium, hosted by Vermont Tiger.

The day-long conference includes two panel discussions titled "Getting it Done: From the Inside, Out" and "Getting it Done: From the Outside, In." St. Albans Messenger Publisher and Editor Emerson Lynn moderates the first one, which includes Lt. Guv Brian Dubie, Treasurer Jeb Spaulding, Jeff Lewis, the Exec. Director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., and Mary Evslin, Chari of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (and wife of blogger Tom Evslin).

WDEV host Mark Johnson moderates the second panel, which includes Emily Kaminsky, CEO of Comunity Capital of Vermont, Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, Matt Jacobson, president of Maine & Co., and Brian Knight, president of Country Businesses, Inc.

The real draw, for me, though, is econo-blogger Megan McArdle. I started following her blog at the Atlantic during the run-up to the election. I've been reading Andrew Sullivan religiously for a couple years now, and it's usually all I can do to keep up with him and his prolific posting. But this fall, I was so eager for news that I got through his entries and went looking for more blogs on the Atlantic site, which is how I found McArdle. I don't always agree with her, and frankly, some of what she writes is over my head, but I've found her perspective helpful in my quest to learn more about finances, and the state of our economy.

That's why I'm excited to hear her speak on Monday. Her talk is entitled: "(Blogo)Spheres of Influence." Fitting, since she's speaking at a conference sponsored by a blog. Incidentally, there's a rumor out there that McArdle is under consideration to replace Bill Kristol at the New York Times...

The other two outside presenters sound interesting, too. Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, is talking about "How Silicon Valley Competes … And Wins." And Alain E. Kaloyeros of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, The University at Albany-SUNY, is talking about "Thinking Big About Thinking Small."

Sounds like fun, right? It's Monday, February 2, at the Sheraton in South Burlington, 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. It costs $75. I'm attaching the PDF here (see link below) if you want more info or want to register. I'm going to try to blog about it if I can get wi-fi. Download Xxcompete

New Yorker Reports on Vermont 'Doomers'

Passport On Monday, January 26, The New Yorker magazine published an ultra-cheeky article on "doomers" — aka, intellectuals who think the world is, socially and ecologically speaking, irreparably f-ed.

(Back in 2006, McGrath interviewed the Vermont filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, whom I profiled last month.)

In his recent story, "The Dystopians" — a nod to Henry James' 1903 novel The Ambassadors? — McGrath focuses on the social critics Dimitry Orlov and James Howard Kunstler. Orlov, who maintains the (doomish?) blog ClubOrlov, lives on a houseboat outside Boston and wrote Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects in 1998. Kunstler, whose 2005 book The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century sold more than 100,000 copies, recently wrote an apocalyptic novel titled World Made by Hand.

Kunstler, as it turns out, was the subject of a 2005 Seven Days cover story, "Global Warning." He was also the keynote speaker at a November conference of the area secession organization Second Vermont Republic.

McGrath's ironical story oozes with Vermonty stuff. He reports, for example, that Orlov is thinking of ferrying maple syrup and apples from Vermont to New York City. Then he attends the November secession conference and grabs lunch in Montpelier with Rob Williams a Champlain College prof-cum-yak-farmer who publishes the secession-oriented monthly newspaper Vermont Commons.

Speaking with Seven Days by phone yesterday, Williams said he was mostly pleased with "The Dystopians," but that he wised he hadn't been painted, well, so doomily. "It didn't do a great job of providing some of the deeper context," Williams said of McGrath's piece. "Dystopians are typically people who see the worst in everything. I sort of feel like, at least I get excited about the work that we're doing..."

Williams — no relation to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant spokesperson — added that he tried to get McGrath to visit his yak farm, but that a visit wasn't in the cards.

Tuns out Williams isn't the only Vermonter who has mixed feelings about the New Yorker story. In a posting titled "DYSTOPIANS ON ESTROGEN," Carolyn Baker, a member of Vermont Commons' editorial board who was mentioned briefly in "The Dystopians," points out on her blog that McGrath didn't quote any women.

"Although I greatly admire Dmitry Orlov and James Howard Kunstler, and while I feel camaraderie in particular with my friends in the Vermont Independence movement, Rob Williams and Thomas Naylor, I found 'The Dystopians' to be an appallingly white male extravaganza," Baker writes, noting that the only other so-called "dystopian" female in the story besides her is the New Mexico-based psychologist Chellis Glendinning.

"My complaint is not about some notion of 'equal time' but rather the consequences of omitting a uniquely female perspective from the discourse about collapse and the construction of a new paradigm of life on the planet," she adds. "Despite my caveat, I know I will be accused of proclaiming the superiority of the female gender, but that is absolutely not my intent. In fact, quite the opposite. The conversation requires the distinct characteristics of both genders, and without it, only half the landscape of collapse can be viewed..."

January 29, 2009

Peter Freyne Memorial Video

I barely knew Peter Freyne, but that man was so condensed that just a drop of him left me with memories I will treasure. 

Peter would insult me one moment ("Well no one ever watches your videos, do they?!") and charm me the next, pepper me with questions while deftly sidestepping mine, impress me with his knowledge and then morph into a playful kid. 

Like the best cab drivers, bartenders, and journalists before him, this man knew how to get a story and beguile you while doing it.  There will never be another one like him and I'll surely miss running into him randomly and being greeted by his wide smile and relentless enthusiasm for life. 

I made this video for Peter's memorial today to send him off in style. Most of these childhood photos were found in a Pepperidge Farms cookie tin along with some personal cards from prominent VT big wigs.

The music was very generously provided by La Strada who recently visited our fair city from Brooklyn.  Thanks to Pamela Polston and everyone at Seven Days who helped plan this final goodbye for Peter. Hope to see you there.

Snow-Grooming Gear Breaks at Intervale

Intervale-ski Yesterday afternoon, we reported that volunteers from the Burlington nonprofit Local Motion were about to groom ski trails at the Intervale Center.

But earlier today, when this reporter tried to skate ski on the advertised trails, he discovered that they didn't exist.

Here's a breaking update from Local Motion: "Our snowmachine broke down while grooming Wednesday night. We'll repair it as soon as we are able. Our apologies for not having a groomed trail today."

For updates, call 652-2453, visit Local Motion's website or consult

January 28, 2009

Groomed trails at the WHO?

Intervale-ski Skiers, start your engines. Er, feet. Sorry.

Anyway: Two miles of groomed ski trails are opening at Burlington's Intervale Center tonight. That is almost certainly good news for local skate (and classic) skiers, who typically travel out of town to find well-manicured tracts of outdoor corduroy.

The grooming comes courtesy of volunteers from Local Motion, a bike-and-skier-friendly downtown nonprofit that purchased grooming equipment for $3,100. Local ski shop Skirack, Intervale farmers, the Burlington Department of Parks and Recreation and the Winooski Valley Park District donated cash.

More info, call 652-2453, visit Local Motion's website or consult Happy trails!

Peter Freyne Memorial

Freyne2 Just a reminder — a memorial service for former "Inside Track" columnist Peter Freyne will be held tonight, Thursday, January 29, at Union Station in Burlington. The service starts at 6 p.m.

Parking will be available in the lot at the north end of the building. Attendees will have a chance to share their memories of Peter at the event.

If you plan to attend, we advise that you arrive a few minutes before the scheduled starting time. See you there...

January 27, 2009

Best Bites: Hoagie Hut

Hoagie Hut
Bellwood Shopping Center, Colchester 863-6655

Open 7 Days

by Alice Levitt

Grazing on small plates can be a deeply satisfying, sensually fulfilling experience. But my boyfriend, James, and I would rather sample a bunch of inexpensive large plates. That's why sometimes only Hoagie Hut will do.

The owner is a former A-Ball player, and sports memorabilia takes its place on the walls alongside a mural depicting toque'd scamps running with a giant hoagie.

The genuine item is almost as big as its picture. On first glance, $8.50 might seem pricy, until a loaf of bread filled with a cow's-worth of lean and moist, yet surprisingly grease-free steak is plopped onto the counter. I like mine with cheese and fresh sautéed green peppers, but it costs no more to add mushrooms and onions for "The Works", just beware breakage with the precariously soft bun. A normal person can make three meals out of the thing.

The Hoagie Burger ($6.95) has to be seen to be believed. Imagine a Whopper made with fresh ingredients, including a 1/3 pound patty. Now picture two of them, side-by-side, on one humongous bun. A match between the Whopper and the Hoagie Burger is like Screech and Danny Bonaduce all over again.

My favorite dish at the Hoagie Hut is the shatteringly crisp fried chicken ($6.95). KFC — with its 11 herbs and spices — is always the control in any battered-poultry experiment, but Hoagie Hut’s sweeter version wins out. The honey-stung, ultra-thin, malt-y coating tastes a bit like a Belgian waffle. But I might just like my chicken and waffles sans waffles even better. The meal comes with wrist-thick steak fries, mayonnaise-drenched coleslaw and a roll.

If you want to be like me, get a Welch's grape soda on the side. And if you order more than one entrée (believe it or not, there's filet mignon and surf and turf, too!), tell them Alice sent you.

Watchdog Group: Welch Should Recuse Himself

According a report in The Hill, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has voluntarily given back $19,000 in campaign contributions from a fellow lawmaker who is under investigation for possible ethics violations.

Last week, Welch was named to the House Ethics Committee (officially dubbed the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct).

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has donated the money to Welch from his reelection committee and leadership political action committee over the last four years, The Hill reports.

Welch's return of the money isn't good enough for one Washington watchdog group — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“If you have taken money from the guy, you shouldn’t be judging him. Even if you are objective, there’s a real appearance problem,” Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, told The Hill.

In a written statement to The Hill, Welch's Chief of Staff Bob Rogan defended his boss' move: “Since Chairman Rangel requested that the committee investigate matters related to him, Congressman Welch has, in an abundance of caution, returned all prior campaign contributions from Mr. Rangel."

The committee is looking into a variety alleged misdeeds including Rangel’s failure to report rental income on a Dominican Republic villa, alleged misuse of his congressional stationery for fundraising for the education center and his use of three rent-controlled New York apartments, the DC paper reports.

The committee, comprised of five members of the majority party and five members of the minority party, is charged with establishing and enforcing codes of ethical conduct, investigating breaches of applicable rules and laws, recommending enforcement actions, and providing advice and guidance to Members of Congress and their staff, according to Welch's office.

And, oddly enough, CREW played a minor supporting role during Welch's congressional bid against Republican Martha Rainville.

Rainville had accepted donations from key Republicans —  Tom DeLay of Texas, Roy Blunt of Mississipi to be exact — whom CREW labeled as two of the most unethical pols in DC. They argued, as did Democrats, that she should give back the money because it was "tainted."

Welch's campaign was quick to pounce on her taking the donations, too.

"Taking money from Delay’s closest associates raises real questions about how independent Martha Rainville is from the Republican leadership," Carolyn Dwyer, Welch’s campaign manager, told reporters at the time.

Don't ya just hate it when history has a way of catching up to you?


Welch's Chief of Staff Rogan just sent a note to Blurt about whether the congressman should step down as CREW has suggested.

"Congressman Welch accepts his new responsibilities as a member of the House Ethics Committee," said Rogan."He takes this assignment very seriously and, in the Vermont tradition, will call them as he sees them. In an abundance of caution, he has returned all campaign contributions from Mr. Rangel."

January 26, 2009

Half Pipes and Pizza Rolls

Once again, when it comes to conjuring up new sick shit to try on a snow-covered hillside (or park bench or picnic table or rooftop...) Vermonters have their competitors on their knees, literally. This morning I got word from Whitney Phillips at Mad River Rockets in Warren. He reports that 19-year-old Tom Mull of Manchester, Vermont just won a nationwide video contest sponsored by Totino's Pizza Rolls. Tom's homemade video, which features himself, his brother Steve, Josh Gauthier and a few other Vermont "free sledders" who ride Mad River Rockets, took home Totino's Grand Prize for their aerial acrobatics.

Aside from airing Tom's video in a Totino's Pizza Roll commercial during this year's Winter X Games, Tom and three of his friends will get an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2010 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado and, presumably, a healthy supply of pizza rolls to keep them, uh, rolling for weeks to come. (Don't get it? Just check out the video.)

According to Phillips, what makes this story even cooler (besides the free national exposure for a Vermont-grown sport and company) is that Mull took up freesledding due to a degenerative hip disorder that's made skiing and snowboarding impossible for him. (In the last two years, he's had both hips replaced.) It's amazing to see what these guys can do on a small piece of molded plastic. Sweet!

January 24, 2009

Cafe Scientifique Critique

I didn't make it to ECHO's Café Scientifique last night. I went home after a long day, had a beer, put the kids to bed, watched a couple episodes of "The Office" with my partner and fell asleep by 9 p.m.

But blogger Bill Simmon was there, and he's got an informative post up about the event over on Candleblog. Here's what he has to say about it:

Last night’s Café Scientifique was fun. It was surprisingly well-attended too. Seats were hard to find as the presentation began. It’s great that a pure science topic can bring out so many folks on a cold January weeknight.

Dr. Dennis Clougherty gave a fascinating 30 minute talk on the history and current state of nanotechnology, invoking cool ideas like nanotube-constructed space elevators and cloaks of invisibility. Following the talk, the audience was invited to jot down some questions for the professor while everyone visited the bar and had a stretch.

Here’s where things got a little frustrating. Now, readers of this blog will know that A: I am a bleeding heart liberal, and B: I love Vermont a lot. Despite my left-leaning Vermont pride however, I am often annoyed by the fact that I cannot go to any sort of public gathering focused on science, technology or culture in this state without the discussion getting sidetracked or overtly hijacked by armchair activists with an agenda.

Indeed. For more about the armchair activists, click here.

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