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April 2009

April 26, 2009

Swine Flu News

Twitter_logo_header No, I don't have any original reporting to offer. Just wanted to share a tip — if you're looking for the latest breaking news on the flu, check twitter.com. Twitter users are aggregating info on the outbreak using the hashtag #swineflu. Tons of activity there tonight. Not surprisingly, it's one of the top trending topics on the site.

If you've ever wondered how people use Twitter to spread breaking news, click the links above. This is a great case study.

I'm trying to think of a joke about how Twitter itself is an epidemic, but it's not happening. Sorry to disappoint. It's past my bedtime.

UPDATE, 4/27: Several people I know have posted this link — "Swine Flu: Twitter's power to misinform". Definitely an interesting read.

The question of whether we need to somehow alter our global information flows during global pandemics is not a trivial one. A recent New York Times piece highlighted how a growing number of corporations like Starbucks, Dell, and Whole Foods are turning to Twitter to monitor and partially shape conversation about particular brands or products. What the piece failed to mention was that conversations about more serious topics (like pandemics- and their tragic consequences) could be shaped as well. 

I think it's only a matter of time before that the next generation of cyber-terrorists – those who are smart about social media, are familiar with modern information flows, and are knowledgeable about human networks – take advantage of the escalating fears over the next epidemic and pollute the networked public sphere with scares that would essentially paralyze the global economy. Often, such tactics would bring much more destruction than the much-feared cyberwar and attacks on physical – rather than human – networks.

Ok, sure, the Twitter #swineflu tag delivers a lot of useless and unnecessarily alarming information, but if you can sort the signal from the noise, you'll find some things you can use. Two I found yesterday:

A guide to some other online flu-tracking tools, from Mashable.

And a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's emergency Twitter feed. And yes, it's the official CDC Twitter feed. They link to it from their site It'll be interesting to see how they use it.

Incidentally, blogger/homeless activist Morgan Brown is already calling on the Vermont Department of Health, urging them to set up a Twitter account — he sent his request in an email last night to a list of health dept. officials and media types (myself included).

From Morgan's email:

"...if the Vermont Lottery and the Vermont Department of Tourism can have Twitter accounts for what they use them for in order to inform the members of public they are attempting to reach, why not an agency and some of its key departments who handle matters of even graver concern and of a higher priority to all of its citizens, particularly among those who may be most vulnerable to whatever may be the particular case or circumstances at a given time?"

You can follow Morgan's prolific Twitterings here.

UPDATE 4/28:

Ben Truman, the health dept.'s Health Policy and Web Program Coordinator, chimed in with a comment:

Thanks Morgan and Cathy for the attention to the Swine Flu outbreak!

The Health Department does now have a Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/healthvermont

While no cases have been identified yet in Vermont, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to date reported 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States, including in New York City. In the U.S., illness has been relatively mild so far compared to the severe illness reported in Mexico.

In addition to our tweets, you can keep up on the latest news, fact sheets, and health advisories by visiting the Vermont Department of Health web site, and with the CDC at its web site.

April 25, 2009

Review: "This American Life, Live! "

TALLive09_banner2 On Thursday, I attended a screening of "This American Life, Live!" at the Palace 9 in South Burlington.

The theater was packed full of young and old alike — veteran public radio listeners and the hipsters who are in love with Ira Glass:  together they make the tote bag crowd.  And the show did not disappoint — the crowd laughed, clapped, and there were some tears. The production made use of the visual medium by using cartoons, animations, and live music, and Ira Glass played with live aspect of the show by going off script at some points.

The theme of the night was "Return to the Scene of the Crime."  Comedian Mike Birbiglia told the oddly romantic story of car accident and his ensuing obsession over the police report.  Writer Starlee Kine related how she tried an odd but useful self-help retreat to rid herself of the neuroses caused by her erratic parents.  Dan Savage told a simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking story of being haunted by Catholicism after his mother's death.  And filmmaker Joss Whedon performed a song about the pitfalls of DVD commentaries, ironically from "Commentary, The Musical!" on the DVD of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog.

I could gush about the whole show, but I'll leave some mystery for those who didn't catch it.  The animations can be seen on the This American Life website, and parts of the show will air on the May 1 broadcast of the radio program.  But if possible, check out the encore performance May 7.  Tickets are $18 at the Palace 9 in South Burlington.

April 24, 2009

More Than a Shed

P1030926 Art auctions are nearly epidemic these days, but here's a unique twist: Norwich University's Design Build Program, led by prof/architect Danny Sagan, constructed a T-Box--that's short for Thoreau Box--this semester and is now auctioning it off. Trust me, you want this. But only some of you can afford it. The starting bid, on April 20, was $3750. According to Sagan today, that price is holding steady. He suggests that if it goes for around four grand, the nifty addition to your home, or freestanding unit in the backyard, will cost a modest $40 per SF.

So, what the heck is it?

The T-Box (name inspired by the godfather of DIY, H.D. Thoreau) is a 128 SF mini bldg made primarily of local materials and distinguished by lots of windows and walls that cant out away from the 8x12 footprint. Most of it is insulated and there's a 32 SF covered porch (I envision cocktails in 'Dack chairs). It is "mobile," Sagan notes, meaning the whole thing can be taken apart and put together again in a different location. So, if you get it, "some assembly required"?

Nope. The design-build students will do that for you; you just pay for the price of the van that delivers it to you.
Wanna start bidding? Two options: Call Sagan and leave your bid on his voicemail at 802-485-2882, or visit the design build website (where you can also see other proejcts created by the School of Architecture and Art). Oh, and the proceeds from the T-Box will fund the design-build programs efforts to create projects in the community. Previous partners include Habitat for Humanity and the Roxbury Library.

P.S. Sagan says people can come on Monday and view the T-Box--it's in the hockey rink (pic shows it under construction). Bidding closes Monday end of day.

Fun with Ira Glass Glasses

TALLive09_banner2 Sadly, I did not get to attend last night's "This American Life, Live!" show at the Palace 9.

Look what I missed! Fun with Ira Glass glasses.

Click here to make your own IG glasses.

Kara, our intern, did go to the show, and said it was great. I think she's planning a blog post for later. She said I should get tickets to the May 7 show.

I once interviewed Ira Glass and got him to sing the 1st verse of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical song "Going Through the Motions." It was good times. I still have it on mini-disc somewhere...

UPDATE: Cathy Resmer says: I stupidly posted this as Seven Days rather than as myself. Can't believe I missed the opportunity to take credit for my interview with Ira.

April 23, 2009

Breaking News: NECI Closing Essex Campus

For a while, there have been rumors and discussions about how NECI has been doing financially. On April 23, the Times-Argus addressed some of those whispers with an article entitled "Changes in the Works at NECI."

According to two anonymous sources connected with the culinary school, students and faculty learned yesterday that NECI plans to close its Essex campus and consolidate operations in Montpelier.

More details to come.

Attention, Public Radio Nerds

TALLive09_banner2 Tonight at the Palace 9 in South Burlington there is a special nationwide broadcast of This American Life Live!  For those in the know, This American Life is a radio program (they also have a television program on Showtime) on Sunday nights where host Ira Glass and other writers, reporters and producers explore aspects of, you guessed it, this American life through interviews, investigative reporting, and storytelling.  Episodes usually have a theme and can range from hilarious to profound to heartbreaking; they explore fantastic events or simply the mundane happenings of everyday life.

Ira Glass will host, as per usual, and the show promises to be a visual two-hour production of the radio show. There will be several special guests, including Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog) and sex columnist and author Dan Savage.

Unfortunately, tickets sold out for the initial run tonight (but not before I got one). Luckily, a special encore performance was added for May 7. If you don't want to miss it a second time, purchase your tickets ahead of time from the website.

April 22, 2009

April 25 "Invisible Children" Rally at Battery Park

More than 100 people have signed up for an "invisible children" rally on Saturday, April 25, at Burlington's Battery Park. That's the word from Brittany Gendron, a Middlebury College freshman who is co-organizing the event.

Titled "The Rescue," the event will be one of 100 mock rallies happening around the world, according to a press release from the California-based sponsoring organization Invisible Children Inc. Protesters will voluntarily kidnap themselves to raise awareness about "child soldier" kidnappings that are actually taking place in Uganda. (For  information about who the child soldiers are and who is kidnapping them, see Invisible Children's website, this 2006 Time magazine article or this United Nations report.)

Gendron, 18, says Saturday's demonstration starts at 3 p.m. with a mock "abduction" outside the Waterman Building at the University of Vermont. Protesters will then march to Battery Park for an open-mic gathering and politicized sleepover. Gendron asserts that protesters won't leave Battery Park until they are symbolically "rescued" by politicians or reporters.

There are human rights violations happening all over the globe, Gendron adds, but Uganda's child-soldier problem "is something that should have been brought to a stop a long time ago."

Ed. Note: This is Mike Ives' last blog post as a Seven Days staff writer. He's leaving in a few weeks to spend the summer in China and Vietnam. We'll miss you, Mike!

April 21, 2009

Best Bites: Café Window

Editor's Note:

This is a review of the Vietnamese restaurant Café Window. A new restaurant, called the Café Window opened in the same space in 2011. It serves American comfort food.

97 Blakely Road, Suite 5, Colchester 598-5348

Café Window’s location, right on the edge of Malletts Bay, has housed several different coffee shop/creemee stands, serving frozen treats from the lake-facing window out back. Tom Nguyen, also owner of M-Saigon, expands on the concept with American bagel sandwiches, Vietnamese favorites and unique ice cream treats.

I started with a Vietnamese Lemonade Soda ($2.95) – freshly squeezed, carbonated lemonade with a touch of salt to temper the blinding sweetness. There are also Vietnamese coffee drinks and bubble teas ($3.95) in flavors such as taro and litchi. Tapioca balls aren’t the only mix-in choice – tiny cubes of rainbow jelly are an even more exciting bet.

All the food came to the table blisteringly hot. The basil, sprouts and lime that came with my pho bo vien (meatball soup, $6.95) were out-of-the-garden fresh, as were the cucumbers and lettuce in my noodle dish. The vermicelli with pork meatballs and egg roll was every bit as good, if not better than my M-Saigon favorite. A counter with utensils and a range of sauces sits next to a couple of comfy couches and a coffee table stocked with magazines.

There are homemade cinnamon rolls, coconut jello and sticky rice for dessert, but I recommend screaming for ice cream. I got a Snowman ($4.95), three scoops of a choice of ice creams (mine was green tea) dressed to look like the name suggests with chocolate chips, whipped cream and a cherry. The Love Taste, three scoops in the shape of a heart — drenched in chocolate sauce — was swell, too.

My favorite Vietnamese sandwiches, banh mi – baguettes with marinated meat, pickled carrots and daikons – will be available in the next few weeks, with bread from M-Saigon’s new bakery. I can hardly wait to indulge. Not that I won’t return before that.

Pillow Fight Update

Pillow fight organizer Darin Cassler is officially off the hook.

The Burlington Police Department does not plan to press disorderly conduct charges against Cassler, the 21-year-old who Facebook-organized last Friday's Church Street pillow fight. That's according to a department press release sent a few minutes ago. Department chief Michael Schirling confirms in a phone interview that BPD will not request a search warrant for Cassler's cell phone, which an officer confiscated after Friday's fluff fest.

According to the Burlington Free Press, Cassler was arrested on Friday after the pillow fight attracted a crowd of about 50 people. (To see the fight, check out Eva Sollberger's 7DTV dispatch.) The Free Press reports that such charges could fetch up to 60 days in jail and fines of $500.

When I spoke with Cassler this afternoon (after his phone was returned), he told me not having a cell phone all weekend was a pain. Fortunately, the social-networking site Facebook is his "communicative snorkel to the universe," so he was able to keep friends apprised of his legal hassles. What happened to his pillow? Cassler said a friend picked up his "A" pillow at Friday's protest and is holding it for safekeeping. He reports that a temporary substitute -— a white number with a green border, stuffed with "Egyptian" cotton — is working out well enough.

Cassler said he has received several calls from area residents who are disappointed by the BPD's handling of Friday's pillow fight. Some of them, he notes, have discussed showing up to a City Council meeting at Contois Auditorium and "filling up the room with pillows." It remains to be seen whether the action would prompt the municipal officials to nod off.

Tuesday Link Dump: All Video Edition

Without further ado...

  • In today's moment of "I Can't Believe the 90s Were Almost 20 Years Ago," Burlington Music Journal shares this video of Billy Corgan continuing to shred any affection and admiration he had built up with Gen-Xers.
  • Small Dog's 2009 Free eWaste Collection Event was a success.
  • Blazing Indiscretions comments on last Friday's pillow fight and Eva Sollberger's video of the event.
  • Blogger Bill Simmon tried to help his wife Emily get a job with this fantastic video resume.

Also, we've recently updated our Vermont Blog Directory and added several new blogs. Check out the list for more reading material on this rainy afternoon. And if you have a blog that's not on there and you would like to be, let us know in the comment section.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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