Archive for August, 2010

Awesome Earl Photograph

August 31, 2010

Satellite pictures of hurricanes are some of the prettiest things I’ve seen. They look like pinwheels out in the ocean, at once delicate and mighty.  You just don’t want these hurricanes  to come ashore to spread death and destruction.

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock snapped this photo of Hurricane Earl from the International Space Station.

I came across a fascinating photo of Hurricane Earl in the London Daily Telegraph, and other media outlets, which I have posted here.

It is a view of the hurricane as seen by astronaut Douglas Wheelock who is in the International Space Station.

Cool pic, no?

Hurricane Earl, a dangerous Category 4 storm, is swirling east of the Bahamas. Forecasters said it will skirt the U.S. East Coast, and might become a real problem for Cape Hatteras, Cape Cod, or eastern Maine sometime between Thursday night and Saturday.  These places probably won’t get the full force of Earl’s 135 mph winds,  but even a close miss would be messy for them.

Here in Vermont, we probably won’t see much of an effect from Earl. But hurricanes are unpredictable, nasty creatures, so you just never know.

Burlington Beer Blast

August 31, 2010

Burlington, Vermont is often on those lists of best places to retire, vacation, be outdoors, etc.

Today, I found the best honor Burlington could get. The city made it in an article on the Huffington Post as among the world’s best cities to have great beer. Burlington is number three, and is in there among cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Mexico City and Dublin.

And I’m not referring to Amsterdam, New York, Berlin, New Hampshire or Dublin,  Ohio. 

Seems brewers like Magic Hat, Otter Creek and Long Trail make Burlington a good place, plus a lot of bars in town serve good local beer, and a couple make their own great brews. (I’m thinking places like Vermont Pub and Brewery and Three Needs)

So I’m walking around proud today because Burlington is a world renowned beer capital. Granted, I live in St. Albans, which isn’t exactly a beer capital. But I work in Burlington, so close enough. And St. Albans is practically a suburb of Montreal, another city that made the list of Great Beer Places.

Let’s all drink to that. And….URRPP!!!

Tornado of Fire

August 30, 2010

The weather geek in me is fascinated by tornadoes. And other disasters, like wildfires.

Which means I was fascinated by this video, taken in a dry area of Hawaii’s Big Island. A brush fire is burning there, and the other day, a fire tornado formed there. It’s a breathtaking video, Watch:

Scenes from a Vermont Weekend

August 30, 2010

Vermont had a classic late summer weekend, with clear skies, warm days and pretty low humidity. Just perfect.

My friend Craig introduces his new pal Saint as both enjoy warm summer sun Saturday in Wells River, Vermont.

So I got outside.

Visiting friends in Wells River, Vermont, I met up Craig and Todd, who have a new addition to their family: A golden retreiver, nine weeks old, named Saint. There’s a picture or two in this post if you like cute dogs, like I do.

Even the end of the weekend, tonight was glorious, as I watched the sun cast long shadows on the hills near Enosburgh, Vermont.

Shadows grow as the sun nears the horizon on a warm, hazy evening near Enosburgh, Vermont Sunday.

Saint finds some cool grass to explore on a warm summer day in Wells River, Vermont Saturday.

Panhandling Tips in Vermont.

August 28, 2010

I know it’s a bit presumptious of me to give advice to homeless people asking passersby for money, but I’m going to give it a go.

I might give this guy a quarter, but beer? Not sure.

I sympathize, as anyone can fall on hard times.

I might end up in a bad place someday, asking for change on a street, so I shouldn’t be cruel.

But even when you’re asking people for spare change, you need to do your marketing right.

I found some examples of how not to do it in Burlington, Vermont  in recent weeks. My first example is the guy in the picture I took yesterday on Burlington’s Church Street marketplace. He gets points for honesty and humor. As you can see from the sign, he wants Chinese food and beer. (Though he doesn’t quiet manage to spell “Chinese” right, I’ll give him a pass.)

But I still think this guy has the wrong approach. When people want to help, they want to make it easy. Unfair, I know, but there you go. Really, just ask for money. Also, I don’t know, people might think of beer as a bit of a frivolous luxury for someone who needs food and shelter.

Another guy asking for money last week was also a bit too specific. “Do you have $1.34,?’ he asked me. Yes, I did, but I declined. Who wants to count out change all day?

Yet another tip for the homeless: Consider how you dress. I know that’s an elitist thing to say. If you’re poor, you don’t have a lot of fashion choices. So whatever you’ve got on your back is fine.

I just wondered if the overweight guy asking for change on Burlington’s Main Street the other day while wearing pink pajama bottoms would have done better if he somehow found something else to wear.

Of course, the more basic question is, should anyone give money to people on the street, no matter how needy they seem?  And how should you treat the guy who asks you for money? Ignore him? Say something? I always struggle with these.

The consensus among advocates seems to be don’t give them money. If they’re hungry, go ahead and buy them a sandwich. If they’re thirsty, get them some juice. He looks cold? Give him something to wear. Just don’t give money, we’re told.

Many, but not advocates say that if you give them change, chances are you’re feeding an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or just cigarettes. But still.

Advocates say it is rude to ignore the panhandler. I guess that’s right. They probably feel bad enough panhandling without everybody pretending they don’t exist. I admit I sometimes ignore them because I feel uncomfortable not giving them change. I guess the right approach is “Sorry, not today,” then move on.

Luckily, Burlington has an excellent organization, Committee on Temporary Shelter, which does great work for the homeless. COTS really seems to know what it’s doing, so if you want to help the homeless, maybe throw them a few bucks.

Bad Vermont Places

August 27, 2010

The gum wall in Seattle. One of the places to not go to in Catherine Price's book, "The Don't Bother Travel Guide." Are there places as bad in Vermont?

I heard a fun little report on NPR this morning about a book, “101 Places Not To See Before You Die. ”  Author Catherine Price chronicles tourist attractions of dubious interest, like a prison in Latvia that doubles as a prison, the Beijing tap water museum, and a wall in Seattle that’s covered by zillions of wads of pre-chewed chewing gum.

That got me thinking of writing my own, more modest guide. Places not to go in Vermont.

A bazillion tourists come to Vermont for good reason. Great landscapes, historic villages, pretty architecture, history, cultural events, etc.

But it’s not all beautiful quaint New England. I’m going to get myself in BIG trouble for this, but I’ll give a sneak peak of my guidebook with some examples, in no particular order of gruesomeness:

Stop Lite Lounge, West Street, Rutland.  I’ll explain this place with a little story. Several years ago, I went to Rutland to cover a murder for the Burlington Free Press. The alleged murderer used to hang out at the Stop Lite, so at 9 a.m. on a bright, cheerful, pre-Christmas Saturday morning, I went in to talk to people.

Inside, a man was passed out on a bar stool, head slumped on the bar, an upended bottle of Bud Light flowing along the bar and dripping onto the floor. A fat bartender in a stained, tight t-shirt sat sound asleep, snoring enough to make the windows rattle. And the smell!  The Sunday morning after a frat party at the municipal landfill next to a manure pit would smell better.

Monday mornings, Vermont District Court, Lake Street, St. Albans. All criminal courts are grim places, with petty criminals being paraded in and out for their weekend misdeeds.

For some reason, the court in St. Albans is much worse, with skinny tattoed young men waiting their turn in the courtroom as their overweight, scowling girlfriends watch. This happens in most courtrooms, but it seems busier in St. Albans.

Williston Road, South Burlington. Looks like the road outside New Jersey’s Paramus Mall, but without the charm. Convenience stores, shopping centers, el cheap motels, restaurants and gas stations line the perennially congested roadway. Everybody wants to turn left into drive-throughs, against traffic, so people either sit and stew or collide with each other. Lane changes are confusing, there’s too many traffic lights and driving through Williston Road would make the Dalai Lama turn homicidal.

Route 4A, Center Rutland. Such wonderful architecture: An old diner with its front collapsing. A cheap, abandoned motel with all its doors open, its windows broken, with moldering mattresses visible. A listing cinderblock industrial building. Ragweed growing from holes in parking lots strewn with rusty, broken equipment. . Filthy houses. The western gateway to Rutland says it all: Go away!

Rest area, northbound Interstate 89, Waterbury: No rest going on there. It lacks bathroom facilities, so people crap in the woods nearby. In those woods, people, men mostly, meet for furtive sexual trysts. (You can tell by the, uh, evidence left behind) Need to go to the bathroom? Hold it and keep driving a couple dozen miles north until you reach a better rest area in Williston. Your bladder will hurt, but you’ll still be glad you waited.

Speaking of Williston….

Wal-Mart, Taft Corners, Williston: It’s no worse or better than any other Wal-Mart. Just try getting to the place. Drive past acres and acres of parking lots, untold number of traffic signals, and the millions of cars inexplicably drawn to this vast shopping destination. Seems like it takes nine hours to arrive at Wal-Mart to complete a ten minute shopping excursion. Can’t these roads and parking be designed better?

One of the houses on Route 118, East Berkshire:  Some of the graceful old Victorians in this village have been beautifully restored and are painted, primped and landscaped to the standards of Martha Stewart, without the bad attitude. They’re definitely worth seeing.

But one house stands out. Part of the roof has collapsed. Clapboards are falling off. The yard is a maze of car parts, whole, abandoned cars, a giant, graffiti-scared tractor trailer, and more junk that would fit in New York’s notorious Fresh Kills landfill. Seems the junk is added to daily. I’m taking bets on when the junk finally overwhelms the house, or is piled high enough to become Vermont’s new, highest peak.

 OK, I’ll open up to you, dear readers? What other Vermont places should end up on this Do-Not-Go list?

More Vermont Photos

August 27, 2010

As readers here well know, I like to snap photos, especially those involving nature. Here’s a couple more that I took in the past couple of days.

Moss covers exposed roots in a Charlotte, Vermont forest

The first one is some moss coverning exposed roots in a Charlotte, Vermont forest. I like the photo because the mossy roots look like some weird land-based octopus slithering along the forest floor.

Second is a cloud that briefly lit up in the setting sun in St. Albans, Vermont this evening.

A bright orange cloud lights up an otherwise darkening sky as the sun sets over St. Albans, Vermont Thursday evening.

The cloud continues a Vermont summer trend of really nice sunsets. The sunset in this picture has a chilly, fall-ish feel to me. A cold front had gone through a couple hours earlier, and a gusty west wind made it feel chilly, and made me think of frost.

No worries, though. No frost is predicted, and forecasters say one last summer hot spell is coming in the next few days.

Hurricane Matthew?

August 26, 2010

I’m not sure what to think about the idea that I might share a name with a hurricane later this fall.

Hurricanes are named in alphabetical order, and there’s a different list of names this year. If we get to the “M” tropical storm or hurricane, it will be named Matthew.

Satellite view of Hurricane Danielle, spinning through the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday.

Earlier this year, I thought for sure we’d get to the “M” storm because they were forecasting a really busy hurricane year. But so far it’s slower than expected. We are only up to “E” as Hurricane Danielle and Tropical Storm Earl are swirling out in the Atlantic Ocean. Neither storm is expected to hit the United States East Coast.

A Tropical Storm or Hurricane Matthew raises so many question for me. How big do I want it to be? Do I want it to strike land? Where? How much destruction should it cause?

As if I have any control on how big storms get, or where they go.

Matthew, if we get to the “Ms” will range in strength to a tropical storm that causes a 40 mph wind gust for five minutes in a remote part of the ocean, then dissipates; to a howling, 200 mph monster that makes Hurricane Katrina look like a gentle sea breeze and kills a zillion people.

I know somebody named Katrina, and the 2005 storm that wrecked New Orleans and killed over 1,000 people was hard for her. Obviously not as hard for her as it was for the people who had to live through the actual hurricane. But still.  My friend Katrina had to endure lame jokes about her destructive power for months. And she’s a sweet person.

It seems the worst hurricanes, the ones that kill the most people and cause the most destruction, have the mildest, happy names. Charley Mitch. Camille. Fifi.

Satellite view of Tropical Storm Earl gaining strength Thursday far out in the Atlantic Ocean.

I think they should name hurricanes after they’re through, and the names should reflect their personalities. Earl, now a tropical storm way out in the  middle of nowhere, should do some work and be gone, like a dependable gardener. Earl should dump torrential rain on a drought-stricken area then quickly  move on.

Next up is Fiona. Kind of an Irish name. Lots of Irish people in Boston, so that’s where it should hit.  Later this season, the list of names includes Igor. That one should be the worst hurricane of the season, causing death, destruction and especially fear, kind of like the victims in a Bela Lugosi movie. For the proper effect, Hurricane Igor should make landfall at night, and have a lot of lightning with it.

So what should a Tropical Storm or Hurricane Matthew do? I don’t want it to be wimpy. Doesn’t fit my personality. Tropical Depression Matthew doesn’t have a great ring to it. Then again, I wouldn’t want a Hurricane Matthew to kill a lot of people.

I think Hurricane Matthew should come ashore on Long Island, then move north into Vermont.  Once it gets into Vermont, it should be loud and windy, but not so windy as to knock down all the trees.  It should also rain really, really hard during Hurricane Matthew, but ultimately not cause a super bad flood, just high water. 

Because that’s me: Loud, messy and obnoxious, but ultimately kind of harmless.

Morning Hasn’t Broken

August 25, 2010

Sometimes, I can’t sleep much early in the morning so I get up and get things done.

I was up at 4:30 this morning. By 4:50 I’d strapped on a headlamp and headed outside to do yard work. The neighbors surely think I’m a nutcase when I do that, but at least I felt productive.

It’s peaceful out there as the first hints of light begin to appear in the east. The quiet, combined with the I-don’t-have-to-think quality of weeding the garden and turning the compost piles, as I did this morning, gives me some quality alone time. amd lets all the junk in my brain drain away.

It sprinkled a bit while I was out there this morning. Raindrops spattering on tree leaves sounded like polite applause, as if an unsure audience couldn’t make up its mind if I was crazy to be out there, or they should admire me for getting things done.

It slowly got lighter as I worked, and eventually I shed the head lamp. Traffic stirred on the road, more and more. The neighbor cranked up his motorcycle. A siren pulsated by on Interstate 89, some distance away. Lights inside houses clicked on while street lights outside blinked off.

The day had started. The world caught up with me. With the new light, I, and the rest of Vermont had fallen into sync. We all have a busy day ahead. So let’s get crackin’

The Cat and the B***h

August 25, 2010

Animal lovers are ready to pounce like a group of lions on what is now Britain’s most hated woman.

A security video caught the middle-aged matron picking up a cat on a street, as if to pet it, then grabbing it by the scruff of the neck, throwing it in a trash bin and calmly walking away.

I’m not a cat lover. But really. This woman needs to spend time in a trash bin.

Here’s the video:

Luckily, Lola’s owners who were looking for her heard her frightened meows in the bin and rescued Lola  after she was there for 15 hours. Lola is fine now, according to British press reports.

I would have imagined the woman regrets doing this, not because she has suddenly found it in her heart to love animals. People are so angry with her that police are guarding her home as people have vowed retribution.

According the Sun UK, the woman, Mary Bale, says that everybody is making too big a deal out of this. After all, Bale says, Lola is “just a cat.”

Bale said the cat dumping was just a joke.

I don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly thought it would be funny to put it in the wheelie bin which was right beside me.

“I did it as a joke because I thought it would be funny,” Bale is quoted as saying.

Ha. Ha.

Bale continues, in The Sun account:

OK, I shouldn’t have done it – but it’s just a cat at the end of the day. I don’t think I deserve to be hated by people all over the world, it was just a split second of madness.

“Cats are good climbers and I assumed it would just scramble out through the lid and go on its way.”

Yeah, right.

Her boss at the Royal Bank of Scotland appears unamused at the “joke” and appears poised to fire her. Prosecutors are thinking about pressing charges against Bale.

Lola’s owners say they dislike the woman, no surprise there, but have told people gathered in anger in front  of the woman’s home not to seek retribution and let the authorities handle it.

Here’s the thing I really don’t get, though. We are all rightly outraged at this woman for harming Lola.

But why are we not equally outraged, and there’s not an equally large media splash, when somebody murders somebody. Or starts a war. Or beats the hell out of someone because they are black, gay, Muslim, homeless………

UPDATE: I got this really thoughtful reaction to this post that I should share, because it is so good:

You have a valid point at the end, but I think people get more worked up about animal abuse because animals don’t have a voice to tell us they’ve been harmed and by who. In most cases, humans are bigger than the pick on someone your own size!  Humans have domesticated animals over the years to the point that pets must rely on us humans for their care. Our animal friends are more of a friend than most humans.  Pets are loving, trusting, and love us stupid humans unconditionally.  They don’t lie, backstab, or abuse us (unless we’ve taught them to attack)  Pets seem to sense our emotions and are there to share the joy, or comfort us when we are down.  You can’t always depend on humans for that!  Luckily most people are take good care of their pets, but those that don’t deserve the same abusive treatment done to them.