The Pixel is Mightier and Mightier ...

For the last 10 days, I've had AngryJournalist.com on my RSS feed. Yesterday, I finally took it off. It was simply too depressing.

Newsrooms are a tough place to be in any era, especially right now. Change is constant. Your boss is wound up. Your coworkers are agitated. The place reeks of sour brussel-sprouty newsprint, you're sick of hearing about anybody named Craig or Ariana, and your Sharpie just blew up in your pocket.

But while some are accepting their fate, those that are adapting appear to be thriving.

One example is Wend, one of the new super-regionals (see also the Mountain Gazette, N'East, and Kootenay Mtn. Culture) and the proud owner of a shiny new baby called a digital edition. LINK

It doesn't start a woodstove or wrap a fish very well, but it's slick and clean, easy to read, and full of jeevesy little links.


The arrival of those who get it

"I am here to announce," said the greybearded plaid-wearing man, "the death of the bifurcated conservationist."

His voice rose as he spoke into the microphone, he paused for effect, and then he continued. "I AM HERE TO ANNOUNCE," another pause, "THE ARRIVAL OF THOSE WHO GET IT."

The slight drawl was tinged with emotion, full of reason, and echoed through the chamber. Steve Wright, a former Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department commissioner and current regional rep for the National Wildlife Federation, sat across from six Vermont legislators. Behind him were more than 100 people, crammed into a meeting room in the state capitol last night.

They sat on the floor, they stood in the back, and they spoke. Below the gold dome, just around the corner from that gigantic (and sorta creepy) portrait painting of HoDean, the gathering was the single public hearing for a proposed state resolution to reallocate 1/48th of the current sales tax toward the Fish & Wildlife Department.

It's a big deal. With the vote, the department would raise more than $6 million a year and be eligible for close to $2 million in federal matching funds.

Without it ... the department will run a deficit, and be bailed out by a $2 million check from Vermont's general fund, as it has for the last several years.

The group that's backing the proposal (aka, the Vermont Wildlife Partnership) is a big tent coalition, including everybody from DU, TU, and the National Trappers Association to the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, and Isis. They represent a new sort of conservation group ... one that doesn't care whether you're a caster, a blaster, a trapper, or a treehugger.

They acknowledge that fish and wildlife is a resource that benefits all Vermonters, whether they wear orange or not. And they also acknowledge that paying for their custody through permits only is like charging only those in red trucks for the cost of highway upkeep.

The reasons for the funding ... as expressed in the room last night ... were countless: plummeting permit sales, century-old fish hatcheries, the arrival of aquatic invasive species, struggling deer populations, the closure of private lands to fishing and hunting, climate change, lack of enforcement, lack of education, and sheer lack of resources to do what's already on the table (aka, the Vermont Wildlife Action Plan.)

The reasons against it ... on the other hand ... were solely political.

The big question in the room wasn't whether more funding for Vermont's fish and wildlife was a good idea (no one can argue that point), but rather what is the priority of the natural world in this current era?

Is it one of the top 48 reasons that you live in Vermont? Or is it something that you feel should be at the mercy of politics, year after year?


Lawn of the Dead

A week ago, a line-up of wild turkeys strolled past the front porch, not unlike the ladies that make a regular habit of walking the Loop Road. Around that same time, I heard the raucous yipping of a coyote band ... at around 3 am ... clearly celebrating something nasty.

I hoped in my heart that it wasn't the chickens. It turned out to be a deer. Whether it collapsed in our back pasture or was drug there, I'm not sure.

The good wife spotted it the next day. We could see it from the house: the tufts of fur sprayed out across the snow, and the darkened mass of a carcass lying limp. Eager to make sure the appetizer wouldn't lead the coyotes closer to the house, I strapped on the snowshoes last night and hauled the thing deep into the woods.

The snow is still deep here. And firm. There's no vegetation showing, other than the hardwoods. Digging down would be near impossible with a shovel, let alone with your claws or hooves or beak.

The wild things are in a hungry place right now. They're moving and looking and eating what they can find. Unfortunately for them, there's not much on the menu except eachother.


Park Avenue

When Vail announced new season pass rates last week, locals groaned. Not because it was too high (day passes are $95 ... you do the math).

But because it was too low.

Vail's "Epic Pass" will go for $569 and will get you on the hill at five different resorts. Breck, Keystone, Heavenly, Beaver Creek and Vail. No blackouts, no conditions, and no restrictions.

"I don't get it," said one full time Vail resident, who currently pays more than $100,000 for a reserved parking spot near the mountain.

Other parking spots are allegedly going for $250k, and include a ski locker and a changing room.

If you live in a ski town, you know what I mean. Nothing gets people more fired up than the annual debut of next year's season pass rates.

But you also know that nothing is more frustrating than finding a parking spot, even at a tiny little mountain in Vermont.

Lost & Found ...

Has the legend of D.B. Cooper been solved?

LINK: Seattle P-I
LIN: Wikipedia/DB Cooper background


One more for the road

There's a petition going around the leg shaving community these days. The call is for a Vermont state law that would guarantee a 3-foot buffer for bicyclists.

While I totally understand where this is coming from, I don't agree with it. Bikes shouldn't have a pad. They shouldn't be a special exception to the rule of the road.

Instead, they should get the full right lane. They do in California.

LINK: KQED 'bikes vs. cars'

(Thanks to the Thought Kitchen for the video link)

Cars vs. cookies

Which is more likely to change behavior: a $4 gallon of gasoline, or a $4 chocolate chip cookie?

Sure, that cookie looks damn good. Sitting there next to the cash register in that glass jar. Oooozing chocolate and eggy goodness. Smelling like grandma's kitchen. But $4? No thanks. Definitely not baked enough to fall for that one. That's a ridiculous price for a cookie. A damn cookie. I could make that thing at home for ... I don't know ... a lot less. Definitely a lot less. Probably 24 cents, when you add it all up. Four bucks for a cookie. Right. Who needs it?

But $4 for gas is different, right? You need that gas. You need to be able to drive to the post office. You have to ride in that car alone to the ski area. You don't have an alternative. You have to buy it. Right? You need it. Right.



It’s almost spring, but he ain’t feelin’ it. The snowpack, even around his Cabot home, is three feet thick. The on-trail skiing pretty much sucks, but the backdoor outings – the latest just this morning, a hour of slipping through three-inches of pre-dawn fluff atop a crust that would make a baguette jealous – still beckon.

Twice he’s tried to get the tractor into the woods, and twice he’s nearly gotten stuck. The firewood is nearly gone; perhaps another half-cord, maybe enough, maybe not. It’s felt like a real winter, like winter the way winter should be, long and snowy and cold.

Yesterday, he heard a fellow on VPR talking about a book he wrote: The Geography of Happiness. The fellow had been surprised to find that the happiest people lived in the coldest, most foreboding places. The writer had decided it was because it forced a collective effort against the elements, a coming together to forge ahead, a common purpose.

Maybe so, he thinks, maybe so. Or perhaps it’s this: Maybe the happy people know something the dissatisfied don’t: It’s not the battle against the elements that breeds satisfaction. It’s the elements themselves.


As comfortable as wearing nothing at all

The Ahnu Redding ... the latest from my favorite Bay Area shoe innovators ... is a concert sandal for guys that don't wear concert sandals.

Lightweight leather uppers, rugged enough soles for keeping your footing in the rain, charred bamboo lining to kill that 'on the road' again odor, and a hemp single-pull strap to firm things up.

Yes ... that's right ... a single-pull of hemp is what it takes to firm things up.

LINK: Ahnu Redding

Google "Bike There" feature will instantly remind us how crappy local bike lanes are

A petition is growing to ask Google to include a "Bike There" feature on Google Maps.

(Dear Dad ... Google Maps is a really, really big map that you can access through your America Online account. You can type in your address and the address of Russ' house, then get directions. Yes, I know you don't need directions, I was just using his house as an example. No, I haven't paid my taxes yet. No, I'm not going to vote for Ron Paul.)

LINK: Google "Bike There" Petition

Via the Goat

Crashing with the stars

Just a few days after finding the doorbell in Grindewald, Casey Puckett will bring his mild concussion to Sun Valley, where he'll be grand prize in a "Ski with Casey" contest.

Our advice to the winner? Wear your helmet.



Crazytown, VT

Less than a year after replacing an antiquated, slow-moving, single chair with a brand new slow-moving single chair, Mad River Glen is facing their newest headscratcher.

To help with the sluggish uphill capacity of the mountain, some are proposing that MRG replace the double chair with a triple.

How do you stop a fishing guide from smelling?

"You can take away our bacon, but you can't take our freedom ..."

Fishing guides live outdoors. All day, every day. In rain and sun and snow. They're pounding warm beers, cold steak sandwiches, and gumming stale smokes. They're rowing, poling, spotting. And, most of the time, they're hoping for a tip.

Guides ... and those of us who wish we were ... need gear that can pass the smell test for 14 days straight (maybe more), that can bead up and roll off everything from good coffee to Two Buck Chuck, and that can bring the sunscreen even when they forget.

From West to East, for everywhere in between, and even on that once-in-a-lifetime bonefishing trip.

They need some of this.

LINK: Simms 3XDRY Big Sky Shirt

Massachusetts cries wolf

Less than 15 miles from Vermont's southern border, wildlife biologists have confirmed that the recent predator of a dozen sheep was indeed a wild gray wolf.



Headhunter? We don't need no stinking headhunter

Pale Morning Media snags veteran outdoor writer Matt Crawford from the Burlington Free Press.