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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Real VT: Gender Identity at the Statehouse

Posted By on Tue, Feb 28, 2006 at 3:19 PM

I know it's not really a novelty anymore, but I can't help feel a little thrill every time I whip out my laptop and blog from the Statehouse in Montpelier. There's just something exhilerating about sneeking my slightly subversive perspective into these hallowed halls. I highly recommend the experience.

Today I'm here for the floor debate on H. 865, the gender identity and expression bill. I'm sitting in the plush Cedar Creek Room. Just got done interviewing Ace McArelton, builder and part owner of Black Sheep Books. Ace was born female, but considers himself "genderqueer." He says, "I don't feel like a man, and I don't feel like a woman. I feel like a transgender butch. That's a great way of describing it for me."

Ace is here to support the bill, along with a whole passel of queer activists. This is a shot of him in the Cedar Creek Room, sitting next to that nekkid slave lamp that caused all that fuss last year.

Also ran into Euan Bear, who recently stepped down as editor of Vermont's GLBT newspaper Out in the Mountains. I asked her what she was doing here, now that she's no longer an official member of the fourth estate. She shot back, "I'm a citizen. I'm allowed." So true, so true!

UPDATE, 6:46 p.m.: I should also mention I had a lengthy conversation with Kevin Blier, from the Center for American Cultural Renewal. He opposes the bill, which passed on a voice vote in the House tonight. I first encountered Blier at last fall's "Freedomfest," a gathering of conservative and libertarian activists looking to galvanize a new right wing in Vermont. At the time, he told a workshop I attended that defeating the gender identity bill was one of his group's top priorities this legislative session. But I guess they lost this round of that fight.

I enjoyed talking with Blier. We'd spoken over the phone briefly after I wrote a story about Freedomfest — he didn't appreciate my characterization of his organization, and let me know in no uncertain terms. But this time we spoke sitting just inches apart on one of those little Victorian-era loveseats they've got positioned throughout the Statehouse. Man, those benches are TINY.

We agreed to disagree about things like two moms raising a baby boy (I'm for it, he's against it). But I walked away really appreciating the fact that I live in a country where two people who disagree so passionately about something like that can have a civil conversation. And what better setting for that than the building in which our little state works out its differences? Man, I love the Statehouse.

UPDATE II: But wait! Burlington Rep. Jason Lorber just called me to say that there will be more debate about this bill tomorrow. Apparently it's not a done deal yet. Stay tuned... Here's a link to today's AP story about the bill.

UPDATE III, Wednesday 2:45 pm: I was listening to the legislative session today and it sounds like the House just passed H. 865, the gender identity bill. Voice vote, no debate. On to the Senate...

Monday, February 27, 2006

More BFP TV!

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2006 at 12:17 PM

I'm finally back from maternity leave. Still sleep deprived and distracted, though, so please have patience with me.

A bunch of interesting stuff happened while I was away, and I hope to get to it all this week, but first allow me to draw your attention to the latest web video offering from the Burlington Free Press. The BFP has been experimenting with video lately. The segments are narrated by their online editor, Allison Lazarz. This one features farmer Art Meade, the subject of today's BFP cover story about niche farming.

I really admire the outside-the-box spirit of incorporating video on a newspaper website (though the video itself is more conventional than I'd like). I'm glad the BFP is making this leap. They're obviously investing some resources in this project, because the production quality is pretty good -- though frankly the stream I'm getting is a little garbled by feedback. When Meade's talking, the goat bleating in the background overwhelms him, as does some electronic beeping. Sounds unfortunately trippy. Anybody else have this feeback issue?

Has anybody else watched this video? What do you think of the BFP branching out this way?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Comic Strip "Survivor"

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2006 at 12:08 PM

Seven Days is holding an online contest to decide which comic strips we should pull from the paper. We currently run more than 10 comics, and are trying to decide which to nix, and whether we should bring back some old faves (e.g., "Troubletown" and "Story Minute.") We may pull just one, or more than one. You can check out the different strips on the contest's intro page.

Not in the running: Tim Newcomb's editorial 'toons, Andy Singer's "No Exit," James Kochalka's "American Elf," and Alison Bechdel's "Dykes to Watch Out For" are all staying.

The contest ballot is set up IRV-style, just like those for Burlington's upcoming mayoral election. One thing's different, though: instead of choosing your favorite first, voters need to rank the comics in order from least funny (1) to the one that most tickles your fancy (10). Remember, you're voting for the one you want to see gone.

Polls are open through Sunday, February 26.
Please tell us what you think!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The casting of the pod

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2006 at 6:01 PM

I know that continuity is the most important thing with blogging, so I want to issue a mea culpa for not upholding 802 Online's regularly scheduled programming. Whereas Cathy usually posts once a day, I've eked out two posts in a week! That said, though, I have a bunch of stuff in the pipeline now, so things should move more smoothly between now and Ms. Resmer's official return.

In the meta-media-saturated blogosphere, I'm a bit behind the eight ball with this story, given that it was first posted on Monday and Slashdotted  later that day. But I think it's worth noting that earlier this week, The Ricky Gervais Show's  British comedy-variety podcast went to a pay-per-month subscription model. The offer is up now, and service starts February 28.

Arguably, this isn't all that new; NPR's been offering downloadable shows on a pay-per-episode basis via Audible.com for years (streaming is usually free). There's also no increased functionality from podcasting's main platform: individual podcasters still don't have a way to sell their own content directly through iTunes. This just seems to be the first time an independent producer has moved away from a donation model. Gervais already has a lot of recognition as a creator of NBC's "The Office," and media support from The Guardian, the UK paper that's consistently won awards for the best online daily newspaper. (The Guardian also publishes a print edition, the only full-color paper in the UK.) He's not exactly your average joe.

It'll be interesting to see how this pans out. Will the majority of podcasts continue to be labors of love, made and distributed for free (albeit with lots of ads in some cases, à la  central-Vermont expat and liberal talk radio host Thom Hartmann's progressive programs), or will subscriptions become more common? Should we care?

Any of the Friday Coffeebloggers care to offer their two cents?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Browsing in the stacks

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2006 at 2:05 PM

For all of you laptop-toting Burlingtonians looking for free Internet access downtown, the Fletcher Free Library has just made its entire building into a wi-fi hotspot.

This is really cool, because there aren't many institutions within easy walking distance of City Hall that offer free wireless. There are, of course, several cafés and eateries downtown that offer it for patrons, and I'm usually happy to support businesses that have it, but being able to surf sans the obligation to buy something certainly has its merits.

Actually, you don't have to live within city limits to use the 12 desktop machines in the Fletcher Free's Computer Center — you just need to apply for a free Computer Center User card, which lets you log on but doesn't include the ability to check out library materials. No word on whether you need one of these dealies to actually get on the wireless network, but the press release seems to indicate that anyone who has a wireless-enabled laptop is welcome. You just need to establish a free account with your e-mail address and a password of your choosing. One thing to be aware of, though, is that unlike the hardwired terminals, which are monitored visually by reference librarians, the wireless network is subject to a filter program. For details, see the Fletcher Free's wi-fi access agreement and its general policy on Internet use.

Adelphia donated the library's internet connection. I wonder how much heat, if any, they're feeling from Burlington Telecom's launch?

UPDATE: Jessamyn noted that the wi-fi network's been up for a while, so I called Systems Librarian Robert Coleburn to get details. He said they've actually had it up and running for about 3 months, but after taking some time to work out bugs, etc. (hopefully including some of the filter issues Jessamyn mentioned in her comment), they're just now getting around to really promoting it. Hence the press release.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Online, off wires

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2006 at 8:03 PM

Many congrats to Cathy and Ann-Elise on Graham's arrival. He's certainly quite the cutie!

I'll do my best to hold down the fort while Cathy's away, though I can't promise quite the same level of scintillating web-savviness. Comments are welcome! If you'd prefer to send e-mail instead, my address is meghan(at)sevendaysvt.com.

While trying to get a sense of how Vermont's various municipal (or not-so-municipal, but community-based) wireless & broadband projects are progressing, I noticed that the Vermont Rural Broadband Project's list of groups working for Internet access doesn't give any info as to when it was last updated. I'm not sure how old this list is, but I wonder whether any of these projects will show up on town meeting agendas on March 7? If anyone from Calais, Glover, Tunbridge, Marshfield or any of the other towns listed happens to know, I'd love to hear about it.

I also recently discovered MuniWireless, a clearinghouse of info on municipal wireless projects worldwide. (Esme Vos, its founder and main author, was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's Technology Report on Monday.) Apparently county-wide wireless hot spots are nothing new; parts of Michigan and New Mexico already have high-speed networks spanning hundreds of square miles. But now the trend is coming East. The most recent locale to join the large-scale wi-fi fold? Suffolk County, New York — i.e., Long Island. Cawfee tawk via Skype? Who'd've thunk it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Stowe Reporter at the Olympics

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2006 at 10:40 AM

Ok, I know I said I was on maternity leave — and I totally am — but the baby's sleeping right now, so I feel ok about recommending that you go check out the Stowe Reporter at the Olympics blog. I'm using a post from there for my post o' the week. Reporter Marina Knight is using her blog to provide a skiing-savvy Vermonter's perspective on the Olympics for the weekly Stowe Reporter. Cool.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Radio Bean is expanding

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2006 at 8:03 AM

It's true — Casey Rea wrote about it in his Soundbites column this week.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

Vermont blog linkdump

Posted By on Thu, Feb 9, 2006 at 2:51 PM

My friend Bill Simmon at Candleblog usually does a Thursday linkdump, so I'm stealing the idea from him. Hope that's ok. Not sure if it'll be a regular thing, but it's something I feel like doing today. From my blogroll:

The Kona Coffee Coup: "There's trouble brewing in paradise," writes Doug of Bloggle: Coffee & Commentary...
• Andrew, our sci-fi friend from A Quick Word from the Far Side of the Galaxy, is studying in England this semester and posting from across the pond.
• My friend Alison Bechdel is also visiting the mother country this week, and has been posting about her exploits at DTWOF: The blog. Her last post has pictures from the WWII-themed book release party for Sarah Waters' new novel.
• Everybody and their brothers are blogging about the Islamic cartoon controversy. Here, here, here.
• Advice on writing a book from Meredith at Information Wants to Be Free.
• This guy's turning 30. Been there. Done that.
• A very close look at Mars, via Tom's Astronomy blog.
• Posts from guest legislative bloggers at Vermonters First.

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

A blogger gets the scoop

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2006 at 8:12 AM

Anybody see this NY Times story on the Bush-appointed NASA guy who just resigned after admitting he fabricated his resume?

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

If you scroll down, you find out blogger Nick Anthis broke the story. Thanks, Gahlord, for the tip.

UPDATE: And thanks, Morgan, for the other tip.

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