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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More 3.0

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2008 at 3:20 PM

I just happened across a post about Vermont 3.0 from Ann Zuccardy of Vermont Shortbread. I invited Ann to the event over Facebook, and I guess she showed up! She writes:

I wasn't expecting much, yet I was blown away. Before me and besideme were folks from the gazillions of little software companies righthere in Vermont, representatives from the universities and collegesright here in Burlington, entrepreneurs, corporate types — all with onemessage. 

The message I got was this. We are in a new age. It's not enoughto be arts and literature-savvy.  It's not enough to be a math ortechnology guru. The most successful people are not the ones with thebright, shiny MBAs, but the ones who know how to figure stuff out...howto ask questions...how to envision new applications to solve oldproblems...those who are not afraid of technology, but also know how tobuild a relationship with a human being.

I agree. The people I want to work with are the ones who experiment, who ask questions, who see problems and start working on solutions. People who get art, who get technology, and aren't afraid to try new things.

I wrote a profile of Physician's Computer Company last week for the Tech Biz Issue. I didn't put this in the article, but at one point, I asked Chip Hart what PCC looks for in candidates for its entry level jobs. He told me the most important thing is that people are smart. That they can pick things up quickly and think on their feet.

I think that's what Ann's getting at, too.

Rocking Out at Vermont 3.0

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2008 at 10:31 AM

I can't believe I haven't mentioned this yet, but the Vermont 3.0 Creative/Tech Career Jam on Saturday really rocked.

Even Governor Jim Douglas got into the act! Here's a picture of my most memorable moment from the day — it's a shot of the guv attempting Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" on Guitar Hero. I'm the brown-haired chick in the tomato colored sweater in the background. Thanks to Patrick Martell of the Vermont Software Developers' Alliance for the picture.

The guy standing next to Governor Douglas is Dave Contois, of Contois Music. Dave teaches kids to play guitar using Guitar Hero. He's one of the only music educators in the country who's harnessing the popularity of the game to get kids to learn instruments. Pretty amazing stuff, actually. Dan Bolles' story on him is the most popular article on our website this week — it's getting a lot of traffic from reddit.com.

Dave Contois was showing the Governor his set-up shortly after Vermont 3.0 opened, around 10 a.m. I happened to be standing there because I was introducing Dave's presentation on his teaching techniques later in the morning, and I was coming over to introduce myself.

I saw the governor talking with Dave and said, "You should try it." He shook his head and said "no, no, not me." But then Dave Contois was like, "No, you HAVE to try it. It's so EASY. I'll set it up for you. Here, you HAVE to try it." The guv couldn't refuse.

He was a good sport. He gave it a try. He hit a few notes. But ultimately, the game interrupted him to say "Song Failed." Ouch! In all fairness, that happened to me the first time I tried it, too. I wish he'd taken another crack at it, because it takes a few minutes to figure out how to work the guitar, but he was done. "That's why I didn't want to try," he said sheepishly. "I guess I'm not a guitar hero."

But you could be, Governor, you could be!

That's when Dave Contois' 7-year-old son Trevor said, "Let me show you how to do it." The kid set the game to expert and — of course — played it flawlessly.

A bunch of Vermont blogs have covered the event in one way or another. Bill Simmon was there. Julie Lerman spoke at the event and put up a few posts about it. Here's a local PR guy who was impressed with our use of social media to promote the thing. Here's a short report from Matthew Davis, the dude who drew the spaceman. Here's a more detailed report from Larry Keyes, of the vtSDA.

And a great summary from someone who wasn't involved in organizing this thing — Cairn Cross of Vermont Tiger. An excerpt:

There was one theme that emerged time and again.  Namely, sheeramazement at the number of interesting companies exhibiting and thefact that most were not well known. My job puts me in touch withoptimistic entrepreneurs and high-growth Vermont companies every day soits not news to me that there are some fascinating things going on inthe state.  Increasingly though, when I read mainstream Vermont media Ifeel like my daily experience is a parallel universe to a Vermont offailing companies and fleeing young people.

I looked in vain for an article about the Career Jam and the exhibitingcompanies in the Free Press online on Sunday morning but did not seeanything.   

That’s unfortunate … and typical.

Yup. Although honestly, I think the Free Press didn't report on it because Seven Days was so heavily involved in organizing it. I didn't see him, but I heard that their new publisher was there talking to people, and they had a table at the event, so they definitely knew about it. They actually wrote a short article about it on Friday that appeared in the back of section A. Not surprisingly, it mentioned that there would be media companies like the Burlington Free Press at the event... but did not mention Seven Days. Ha!

Here's Eva Sollberger's video wrap-up, for those who missed the event and want to see what it was like. And from the traditional media — here's a report from WCAX and a preview from VPR. There will definitely be more of these shindigs. Thanks to everyone who made it possible!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Vegas Vacation Update

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2008 at 10:11 AM

Thanks to everyone who expressed concerns about my parents. Turns out they're fine.

Better than fine, actually. They were staying on the 7th floor, so none of their stuff was damaged. They got it all back. And they got to spend a free night in the nearby Bellagio, which, they tell me, is very posh.

So apart from the initial terror of seeing flames leaping from the top of their hotel, they had an ok time of it. Not sure how much money they lost gambling, though. I think I'm glad they don't tell me...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fire at Vegas Monte Carlo!

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 2:45 PM

The Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is on fire. There are flames leaping out of the top of it. Looks pretty bad. I'm watching it on my laptop in my office.

I'm posting about this because I just got a phone call from my mom, who wanted to let me know that she's ok. She and my dad, and some of my aunts and uncles are in Vegas this week, and are all staying at the Monte Carlo. They're fine, apparently. They've been evacuated from the casino, are standing nearby.

The pictures on CNN.com are pretty scary. I'm glad they're all outside. Their stuff might be toast, though.

Not surprisingly, the CNN is asking people to email and send photos or anecdotes. Citizen journalists are always useful in disasters...

Monday, January 21, 2008

AAN video presentation

Posted By on Mon, Jan 21, 2008 at 2:11 PM

Next week, I'm headed to San Francisco with three of my co-workers for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies' web publishing conference. Eva Sollberger and I are giving a presentation on how altweeklies can integrate video into their editorial operations.

I bring this up for two reasons:

1) To excuse the fact that I've been neglecting my blog.

2) To ask for input, should you have any. What do you like or dislike about the way Seven Days does video? We're going to be citing examples of great newspaper videos that we like. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Virtual Cooking

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2008 at 12:45 PM

Our food editor, Suzanne Podhaizer, is working on a story about virtual cooking, and she needs your help, gamers! Here's her plea:

Are you a whiz at whipping up fried gyoza and meat pies for Cooking Mama, or preparing gooey spider cake and curiously tasty omelettes in WOW? Do you spend hours plucking pumpkins and grapes for your potions in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion? Do you do something fun with food in Second Life?

If you do, I need your help. I'm working on an article about virtual cooking, and would love to chat with a few Vermonters who like to stir things up in cyberspace.

If you're willing, send me an e-mail that includes your name, contact info (phone numbers are very helpful) and the type of virtual cooking you do.


Email Suzanne at suzanne@sevendaysvt.com. Spread the word.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Family Blog Post You Should Read

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2008 at 5:51 PM

There are several blogs I read on a daily basis. Most of them are about news, politics, technology or journalism. But there's one personal diary-type blog that I read religiously. It's about my partner's cousin (Heather), her husband (Braydon), and the two twin boys they adopted from Haiti (Kyle and Owen).

I haven't linked to it because the Johnson-McCormick family lives in Pennsylvania, and the content isn't necessarily relevant to what I do here. But it would be a shame not to share today's priceless post  about Heather's trip with the boys to the grocery store. It's both unsettling and hilarious.

It begins:

It seems that ever since I started going to the grocery store with K& O (which was, basically, very soon after they came home fromHaiti), there is always a story to tell about each and every trip wemake. For some reason it is in the grocery store that we have our most interesting(read between the lines) experiences. Today was no exception. Today, inaddition to all the normal mundane stuff that occurs when you bring twothree year old boys to the grocery store with you, not just one but twointeresting things happened!

Setting the scene — Hugegrocery store. The boys were in the kind of cart where in between theactual food bin part of the cart and the part that you push, there is asmall bench that fits two kids. K & O are sitting squeezed togetherand with me pushing the cart their heads were just below my head. Thesestories are true stories...

From the Archives

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2008 at 3:08 PM

I just spent another couple hours posting stories from our archives. I wanted to take note of three of them, all from the April 11, 2001 issue:

• I saw a story not long ago about Jamiel Terry, son of prominent anti-abortion activist Randall Terry. Jamiel came out — yep, he's gay — in 2004. It reminded me that Peter Freyne had once written about a spat between the Terrys and former Republican State Rep. Nancy Sheltra. During the civil unions debate, the Terrys came to Vermont to lobby against gay marriage. After the Terrys took off, Freyne reported this weird episode, in which Jamiel accuses Sheltra of having had a crush on his dad. Very strange. Whatever happened with this? I guess I have to keep reading in the Freyne archive to find out.

• Remember those clocks that were on display years ago at Burlington International Airport, the ones that hung above the down escalator on the second floor that you'd see after you got off your flight? Here's a profile of the artist responsible. I always loved those clocks.

• Here's a story about Burlington's Poets Mimeo Cooperative. I remember when this one came out. I was one of the organizers who started the Burlington Poetry Slam, and I used to run readings at the Rhombus Gallery. The Poets Mimeo writers were essentially our predecessors. I still have a bunch of their books, including a copy of Robert Caswell's Exiled from North Street. I haven't forgotten you, Michael Breiner, Anna Blackmer, Bud Lawrence and Bill Davis. Even if I have stopped writing poetry.

Bernie Sanders
Vermont Lawmakers Win Web Awards

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Just got a call from Will Wiquist, Sen. Bernie Sanders' press secretary, about the Congressional Management Foundation's 2007 Golden Mouse Awards. The CMF analyzes Congressional websites, and has produced a lengthy report detailing the woeful way in which our legislators are failing to grasp the usefulness and importance of the web.

The CMF evaluates websites based on design and layout, constituent services, legislativecontent, press resources, communication tools and state and districtinformation.

According to the report, the most common letter grade earned byCongressional websites was a D. More than half of the sites that got aD last year repeated that dismal performance, or slipped to an F rating. Shame!

Here's one of my favorite findings:

While 98.3% of of Member sites have content about national issues, just63.1% of them included information from the 110th Congress.

The 110th Congress meets from January 2007-January 2009. How hard is it in this day and age to update your website once every few months?

Will Wiquist called me because Bernie won a "Silver Mouse Award," the equivalent of an "A." Both Rep. Peter Welch and Sen. Patrick Leahy won Bronze mice (an "A-"). Leahy slipped from his Gold finish in 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Here's the press release from Bernie's site.

“Senator Sanders’ Web site shows that he understands the value ofcreating a virtual office to reach specific audiences who have come toexpect having their needs met online,” [CMF executive director Beverly Bell] added.  “We congratulateSenator Sanders for having a Web site that is among thebest-of-the-best on Capitol Hill.”

Bernie's "Web site" is pretty nice. There's an audio/video archive, a photo gallery and a flash spotlights slideshow. Cool. The Sanders web staff might, however, want to include a link to the report announcement on the CMF site. Just a suggestion.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

From the Archives

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2008 at 1:36 PM

I've written before about how Seven Days is working to put all of our archives online. It's a long-term project. This week I posted a bunch of articles from 2001, and we're working forward from there, since those records already exist in digital form.

We skipped back a few years this week, though, and put up a story from 1997. It's a profile of former Republican State Rep. Ted Riehle, author of Vermont's anti-billboard law. Riehle died on New Year's Eve. He was 83.

Seven Days co-founder Paula Routly wrote the 1997 piece, and actually typed it into our database herself on Monday night, after spending the day editing this week's stories. It's a more three-dimensional account of Riehle than others I've seen since he died. In it, Paula wrote:

Riehle is out there — physically and politically. Although he jokinglydescribes himself as "an insensitive Republican bastard," he comesacross as a charming eccentric — a Rush Limbaugh listener who went toboth Grateful Dead shows in Vermont and loved them. His eldest son,Ted, sums up his individualistic father as "Jimmy Stewart meets JohnWayne."

Paula visited Riehle and his wife, Ayn, on their island in Lake Champlain. His house there is off the grid. And that wasn't the only thing that was off. Near the beginning of the story, Riehle explains his skinny dipping policy:

"Oh, and by the way, we don't wear bathing suits. I hope that doesn'tmake you uncomfortable. The policy used to be 'no bathing suitsallowed' on the island," he says. "But I've mellowed."

Paula wrote a few comments about typing up this story, which appear in my Web Page column in the newspaper:

There’s only one thing worse than reading the obituary of a fascinating person you’ll never meet: reading one about someone you knew well — and, in my case, wrote about. There was nothing wrong with the final write-up for Ted Riehle, which appeared in last Friday’s Burlington Free Press, five days after he died in the U.S Virgin Islands. But there was none of the irrepressible, skinny-dipping, billboard-bashing Republican I met 10 years ago, when I interviewed him for a profile in Seven Days. The meeting was no “Charlie Rose” affair; I kayaked out to his home on Savage Island  — where he and his wife, Ayn Baldwin, were living year-round — and got a full dose of “Big Ted” for the weekend. He was utterly and totally out there. I can still hear his devilish giggle.

The sad news of Ted’s death moved me to recall the details of my initial visit— which turned into a friendship — by digging up the old story. There was no electronic version of the decade-old article; our encounter predated the digital revolution. But a search through the paper’s morgue turned up a yellowing copy, lost to all but those who happened to remember the issue date. Instead of reading through the story, I felt compelled to type it into my computer, savoring each anecdote as I preserved it in our new online archive. It was my way of honoring Ted’s memory. Thanks to the web, stories don’t die anymore. And old ones can be resurrected. If only the same could be said for the remarkable people we have known, and lost.

Read the article here. The photo is from this summer, and it was taken by Matthew Thorsen.

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