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137 posts categorized "Web/Tech" Feed

June 17, 2011

Digital Media Festival Tomorrow... in Woodstock?

Woodstock Woodstock, VT: A lovely town, but not exactly a hub of cutting-edge tech trends. Except for tomorrow, when it hosts the Woodstock Digital Media Festival, a celebration of new media, digital art and innovation.

The morning session starts things off with a pair of panel discussions. Christine Paul, the curator of new media at the Whitney, will lead a panel with digital artists on current issues in new media art. Simultaneously, Seven Days online editor Cathy Resmer will lead a Vermont-centric panel on the challenges and opportunities of creating digital media in the Green Mountain state. Panelists include founder and editor Anne Galloway, Green Mountain Digital founder Charlie Rattigan, and eVermont director Helen Labun Jordan. 

A pair of interactive workshops follows. Participants can take part in a "mapping party" with, or go on a digital nature walk with the National Park Service and the founder of the Project Noah app. In the afternoon, digital artists set up shop in a number of venues in downtown Woodstock, showing off and discussing their work.

The festival ends, ironically, with presentations at the historic Billings Farm and Museum. The evening event features a performance by "post-cyberpunk electronic musician" Nullsleep, whose music the festival's website describes as "a combination of distorted synthpop, electro, and industrial produced with repurposed low-bit electronics." Not what you usually expect to find at the Billings Farm... So there you go.

Continue reading "Digital Media Festival Tomorrow... in Woodstock?" »

June 14, 2011

7 Questions For ... Greenpeace Activist Hannah McHardy

GP02E3F Sterling College graduate Hannah McHardy is back home after her high-stakes hijacking of a deep-water oil rig off the coast of Greenland — and she's got a story to tell.

McHardy, 25, and another Greenpeace activist spent four days inside an "Arctic survival pod" underneath the oil rig earlier this month, protesting the planned drilling by Scottish company Cairn Energy. Using a spotty Internet signal from a nearby support vessel, she tweeted, blogged and v-logged the action live and gave media interviews using a satellite phone.

The stand-off ended on June 2 when the Danish navy arrested McHardy  and her cohort (pictured) for trespassing inside an "exclusion zone" around the rig.

Now back in the U.S.A., Seven Days caught up with McHardy by phone from her home in New York, where she's recuperating from an Arctic cold.

SEVEN DAYS: Last we knew you were in Vermont researching bioremediation at an old asbestos mine in Lowell. How in the world did you end up in an Arctic survival pod on an oil rig near Greenland?

Continue reading "7 Questions For ... Greenpeace Activist Hannah McHardy" »

June 09, 2011

Federal Case Against Spy Agency Whistleblower May Be Weakening

Drake * Update below: Plea deal has been struck *

A former Vermonter charged under the Espionage Act for mishandling classified information may have just caught a huge break, days before he's scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that the feds are tossing aside several key documents in a long-awaited trial of Thomas Drake, a former senior official within the National Security Agency.

In 2001 Drake was assigned to a secret surveillance detail that collected and reviewed millions of pieces of data — some of them personal — in search of suspected domestic terrorist activity.

Over time, Drake came to believe the program was a “budget sponge” used to pad the agency’s expenditures. He also believed some of the personal data collected likely violated protections against illegal search and seizure, court records indicate.

He and others in the NSA complained to the internal inspector general, and also began talking to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun.

Continue reading "Federal Case Against Spy Agency Whistleblower May Be Weakening" »

May 26, 2011

Need Help? Ask Some Drag Queens

Appiniphone4 As further proof that everyone and their mother is hopping on the digital caboose, our good friends over at the Hot Damn Trailer Park in Beaver Pond now have their own app.

Vermont's favorite drag queens, the Sisters Lemay, recently released "Ask Some Drag Queens," a mobile app for iProducts and Droids made by the dubiously named KrappApp. According to the app, which we purchased for a whopping $1.49, the program was created by a "young adult cancer survivor," and 10 percent of the profits will go to the I'm Too Young for This! Cancer Foundation. The app can be purchased from iTunes or the Android Market. 

The app works a little bit like a magic 8-ball. Only instead of shaking the device and getting some crap answer to your most burning life questions (You: "Will I get laid off?" Magic 8-ball: "Outlook good."), you need only touch one of the ladies' photos to hear one of 100 snappy replies to your queries. 

The app doesn't do much beyond provide the user with various kitschy Lemayisms. But it could be entertaining at a wine cooler party. Below are some examples of the app in action.

Ask Some Drag Queens intro

Boyfriend question for Amber

Career question for Margaurite

Fashion question for Margaurite

Makeup question for Lucy Belle


If you still can't figure out how the app works, consult this handy video below.

May 23, 2011

Leopold, City Officials Defend Burlington Telecom Expense Payments

Leopold In a Burlington courtroom today, Burlington Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold defended his decision to charge city taxpayers — rather than Burlington Telecom subscribers — for some of the costs associated with restructuring the embattled municipal telecom.

"To preserve this asset [BT] and ensure recovery of taxpayer funds, it is in my opinion that the money was appropriately charged to the general fund," Leopold said during his 20-plus minutes on the witness stand in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington.

Two Burlington residents — former city councilors Gene Shaver and Fred Osier — have sued the city in an effort to force Burlington Telecom to repay the $16.9 million BT was loaned from the city cash pool, in violation of its state license agreement.

Monday's hearing was called to determine whether city officials violated a court order last February barring them from spending money on Burlington Telecom-related expenses and not charging the costs to BT within 60 days.

At issue in today's hearing was roughly $354,000 paid to a variety of consultants out of the city's general fund. In all, the city and BT has racked up close to $1 million in legal and consulting fees since July 1, 2009. Of that, more than $620,000 has been paid for out of Burlington Telecom revenues. In December, the costs hovered around $625,000.

Continue reading "Leopold, City Officials Defend Burlington Telecom Expense Payments" »

May 19, 2011

James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka

TheBusThePlayPromo A few weeks ago I wrote a "State of the Arts" story about Burlington playwright James Lantz being invited to take his play, The Bus, to an off-Broadway venue called 59E59 Theaters. In the piece, I mentioned that Lantz would be fundraising to make that happen. He was a little vague at the time about how that was going to work; he was still brainstorming on it, Lantz told me.

This week, he announced his plan, and it has a surprising twist. More on that in a sec.

The unsurprising part is that Lantz decided to use Kickstarter, a web funding platform that helps people who have a creative idea, but no money, to raise some. Actually, the site helps people help themselves by describing their project/need and inviting other people to send them pledges. And despite all the scams and evil in the world, loads of generous folks are indeed sending in bucks to support ideas they like.

Of course, now that CNN's Anderson Cooper (among others) has done a piece on New York City-based Kickstarter, every person in the entire world who believes he or she has an idea worth funding will be using it. But good for Kickstarter; it's a great idea that saves the unmonied from the humiliation of begging bankers (or mom and dad) for loans, not to mention the huge bummer of being rejected. Those who don't present good ideas on Kickstarter, though, may be surprised to find that altruism only goes so far.

Anyway, Lantz has a good enough reason to solicit money: getting his small indie play from Vermont to a NYC stage would be pretty cool. But he's not relying on good will alone. Lantz's twist relies on rousing the power of hatred. Let me explain.

Continue reading "James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka" »

May 06, 2011

Judge Denies Burlington Telecom's Request to Delay Court Case

BT Vermont Superior Court Judge Helen Toor has denied Burlington Telecom's motion to delay a hearing on whether the utility is in violation of a court order issued last year barring it from using city general funds for BT expenses.

The ruling means that a contempt of court hearing will be held on May 23 in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington.

In 2009, two disgruntled taxpayers — former city councilors Gene Shaver and Fred Osier — sued Burlington Telecom and Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold to repay the city's cash pool the $16.9 million that had been borrowed and not repaid. The failure to repay the money within 60 days is a violation of BT's certificate of public good issued by the state and also potentially a violation of the city charter.

Leopold tried to plead immunity from being named in the suit, but to no avail. That means he could be on the hook financially for some of the money repaid to taxpayers if the court finds in the taxpayers' favor.

As part of the civil litigation, BT agreed to not use city funds for ongoing expenses unless it repaid the money within 60 days. Last year it was learned that the city spent several hundred thousand dollars on consultants for BT-related items, but BT didn't fully repay taxpayers. Shortly thereafter, Osier and Shaver's attorney filed a contempt of court charge.

Continue reading "Judge Denies Burlington Telecom's Request to Delay Court Case" »

April 28, 2011

Burlington Telecom Seeks Delay in Civil Case (Again)

Gavel If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And again. And again. And …

For the sixth time, Burlington Telecom is asking Superior Court Judge Helen Toor to delay a civil court case filed by two disgruntled Burlington taxpayers.

Instead of Toor, BT wants the Vermont Public Service Board to weigh in on proposed fixes to its financial and regulatory problems first — fixes the city has yet to propose to the PSB.

The city is expected to update the PSB later this week on its efforts to restructure its finances and potentially find a new business partner.

The civil suit — filed last year — seeks immediate repayment of the $16.9 million BT borrowed from the city’s “cash pool” to prop up the struggling muni telecom. It also names Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold as a defendant, and he is potentially on the hook to repay some of the money. Leopold sought, and was denied, immunity from the lawsuit.

Leopold offered a tempered, and brief, apology to city taxpayers two weeks ago when he announced his resignation, which is effective June 30.

According to its original certificate of public good, BT was required to repay the money within 60 days and it failed to do so. Last year, the city agreed to a court order barring BT from incurring additional debt to the city.

The two taxpayers, Fred Osier and Gene Shaver, argue that the city is currently in contempt of that order.

How so? In December, the city revealed that it paid $227,795 to consultants Dorman & Fawcett to renegotiate BT’s lease with CitiCapital, along with roughly $9000 in other BT-related expenses — all out of the city’s general fund. The city defended those payments, claiming the consultants’ work benefited the city, not just BT.

The taxpayers’ attorney, Norman Williams, disagrees.

Continue reading "Burlington Telecom Seeks Delay in Civil Case (Again)" »

April 14, 2011

Burlington CAO Jonathan Leopold To Resign, "Regrets" BT-Related "Difficulties"

Leopold Jonathan Leopold, Burlington's chief administrative officer — and a powerful force in City Hall since Bernie Sanders was mayor — announced today that he will resign in June.

In a letter to Mayor Bob Kiss, Leopold (pictured) cites "serious health problems" resulting from a 2007 car accident as the main reason for his departure. He also acknowledges his highly criticized role in the Burlington Telecom scandal, saying he doesn't want his presence to "polarize" Burlington any further.

"I regret the difficulties the city has faced as a result of the BT controversy and I hope the city is able to resolve these issues," he wrote.

(Full text of Leopold's resignation letter below).

In a press release, Kiss stated that he has accepted Leopold's resignation "with regret" and thanked him for his "hard work and personal commitment to the City throughout his career."

Kiss credits Leopold with management of the budget that resulted in "5 straight fiscal years of a level general services tax rate and an increase in the City’s undesignated reserve fund from $75,000 to over $5 million. Jonathan has also built a strong management team in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office which will ensure a successful transition,” Kiss said in the statement.

Leopold came under serious pressure after revealing in 2009 that the city had loaned $17 million to prop up struggling Burlington Telecom — a violation of the utility's "certificate of public good" issued by the state.

Photo by Jordan Silverman

Continue reading "Burlington CAO Jonathan Leopold To Resign, "Regrets" BT-Related "Difficulties"" »

April 12, 2011

Foursquare Day in BTV? Bust Out the Ticker Tape!

Hear ye, hear ye! Be it proclaimed that April 16, in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Eleven, is officially Foursquare Day in Burlington, as decreed by our great and good City Council. Huzzah! In honor of this great occasion, all citizens of Burlington are asked — nay, required — to sign up for this revolutionary social media network and start checking in posthaste to collect useless badges and meaningless municipal titles. 

Thanks to city councilors Ed Adrian, Joan Shannon, Karen Paul and Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, who proposed the Foursquare Day resolution, April 16 will live in our collective memory as the day Burlington sold out to the location-based social networking hype.

Continue reading "Foursquare Day in BTV? Bust Out the Ticker Tape! " »

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