Saturday, January 31, 2009

Those wacky Vermont separatists (and yak farmers!) in the New Yorker

I just finished an amusing, fascinating and much too short article in the New Yorker's Jan. 26, 2009 issue called "The Dystopians," by Ben McGrath. It's about the doom-sayers and dystopians who are now getting thrills from the apparent breakdown of the economy that they've been predicting. Unfortunately, only the abstract is available on the New Yorker's site; the read the entire article you need to get a digital account or pick up a hard copy.

But toward the end of the piece, the writer travels to Montpelier to witness a rally of Vermont separatists, a bunch of woolly haired yak farmers who want Vermont to break away from the rest of the US, then begin an expansionist movement to annex Maine and some of Canada. There's not much in the article, though, about why -- why are these yak farmers agitating to remove Vermont from the US? There's a hint that it might be because they fear turmoil from the US when the country, in their view, inevitably descends into social and economic chaos, but it's not spelled out.

In the piece, retired Duke economics professor Thomas Naylor, who is the founder of the Second Vermont Republic, says, "Vermont has nothing, O.K.? We have no big cities. We have no big buildings. We have nothing." So then why leave the union? Doesn't really seem like a compelling argument.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Endurance Junkies Take Over Vermont

Originally uploaded by Mariano Kamp
Well, not really.

But the number of triathletes in Vermont has increased quite a bit during the past 8 to 10 years, according to local competitors I interviewed for a story I wrote in today's Seven Days newspaper.

Part of the increase can be attributed to the large number of athletically inclined Vermonters (Burlington was rated the No. 1 healthy city in the U.S. by the CDC) looking for a new challenge, as well as people moving to the state to take advantage of the mountains, lakes and running trails.

So what's not to like about training in Vermont? Winter.

The story asks triathletes how they cope in the winter. Everyone told me the same thing: it's hard.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vermont's sad-happy story of the week

Target Poodle
Originally uploaded by lakewentworth
While everyone is cheering the U.S. Airways flight's amazing crash-landing in the Hudson and survival of all 155 passengers, there's another story of death averted that's captured Vermont's attention.

Apparently, Michou, a poodle, was left in a car by his French Canadian owner for three weeks at the Burlington airport. (Note: Photo is NOT a picture of Michou -- check out the Burlington Free Press story from the link).

The poor pooch was just 9 pounds -- down from his normal weight of 25 pounds -- when he was found this week after someone complained of a bad smell coming from a car with Quebec plates (think: giant doggie litter box).

The owner said he didn't realize the dog was in the car.

Meanwhile, authorities in Vermont have given him a ticket for $100.

The good news is that Vermont authorities took custody of the dog, and hopefully he'll find a good home after his ordeal.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Boston Globe article about Burton's controversial boards

My article about Burton Snowboards' controversial boards was published today in the Boston Globe, on the front of the Metro section. The Globe renamed its City & Region section a while back to Metro, so even though it sounds like it should just be about Boston, the section also covers regional stories from other New England states.

The boards have been out for a few months, and while the firestorm has raged in Vermont since November, the boards might gain wider attention once the ski season starts in earnest this month and people start seeing the boards on the slopes. Just from conversation with friends outside of Vermont, it seems like a relatively unknown issue outside of the state.

But what I found so interesting about the boards is the debate among Vermont liberals about free speech. Vermonters are traditionally supporters of free speech, but these boards touched a nerve that has split the ACLU-ers from the family-focused liberals. Some folks think it's an age issue: that older (i.e. parents of small children and anyone more advanced in years) are against it while younger people, because they are more used to sexual images, don't see the problem.