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Sunday Evening Sunset

Couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the beautiful sunset over Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains last night. The colors were spectacular and the clouds actually added to it nicely. I hope to get a few like this downtown in the coming months as well.

Adirondack Sunset | 6.7.09

Adirondack Sunset | 6.7.09

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Happy New Year!

I spent New Years Eve with my wonderful girlfriend enjoying First Night in Burlington, VT. There were all sorts of things to see and do. It was quite chilly (in the single digits!) but we persevered and enjoyed the day.

We caught the Vermont Youth Orchestra at the Flynn Theater for their yearly First Night concert. They performed slightly more popular music than the typical orchestral repertoire (though this all depends on how familiar you are with such things) as well as some newer works. Works included the theme from the Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the theme from the widely popular video game “The Legend of Zelda.” Violinist Duncan Yandell was a featured soloist in a medley of Cape Breton fiddle tunes with the orchestra that certainly brought down the house.

We wandered around Church St., enjoying the day and looking through the many shops. We met up with my friend Erik for a much needed lunch at Bruegar’s Bagels. Nothing like a couple of bagels to fill you up for the rest of the afternoon!

We took in a quick concert with the Gordon Stone Band at the First Congregational Church. They did not disappoint. If you’re familiar with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, they would be the closest thing I can think of to Gordon Stone and his trio. The musicianship was at it’s peak for this show. I’ll certainly look forward to seeing them again sometime soon.

Afterwards, we wandered a bit more and went to check out the exhibit at the Burlington Firehouse Gallery for the Arts. I love checking out art at this gallery anytime I’m in town. The featured exhibit was quite unique this time. It featured a large group of statues made out of hollowed out logs with faces of clay and wood on top. Viewers were supplied with pieces of wood to tap the statues and hear the different qualities of sound from each part. I thought it was a great way to engage the viewer in the art.

We finished off the evening downtown with some fireworks on the brisk top floor of the Church St. parking garage. We stayed warm in the car but, of course, I hopped out for a few photos.

facecarving

childplayingstatue

gordonstone

Thinking back on 2008…

2008 was a heck of a year. You know the saying, “Good times, bad times.” But I think that there are amazing things that 2008 brought us that will better arm us for the future. Change, hope, it’s gonna be the story of 2009.

I’m certainly looking forward to another year. I was starting to feel, as we often do around this season, that we need to cleanse ourselves and start anew. Well, 2009 is here and we’ve got our chance.

It’s a great point in time to make changes, goals and resolutions. I’ve already started working on my list…

Back again!

It’s been a hard two weeks, not having my MacBook Pro around. I brought it in to Small Dog Electronics (S. Burlington, VT), my local Apple dealer, to have the optical drive and top case replaced. Little did I know, the avalanche was just beginning to form.

Here’s a quick run-down of the events that occurred:

12.13 : Bring laptop to Small Dog Electronic under Apple Care (a $300 purchase I made with my Mac to cover it for 3 years) 

12.15 : I receive a call from Small Dog Electronics telling me that I need to plead my case for coverage by Apple Care to Apple. So I call up Apple and deal with the usual hierarchy of not-so-knowledgeable people. (I wouldn’t expect this from Apple though…) Finally I was told that I would receive a call later in the week telling me if they’d cover it.

12.16 : I receive a call saying that it will be covered by Apple Care. I stop by at Small Dog to pick up my Mac and back up a few things onto my external HD.

12.17 : My Mac is sent to the Apple Depot for repair.

12.22 : I’m told that my Mac is back! But wait, Apple switched Macs and they sent the wrong one. Mine is actually on the West Coast. Great. Now I’m dealing with a bunch of extra junk. Meanwhile I’m wishing that Small Dog could have just down the replacement repairs in-house (as I was told by an Apple Rep that they would be). 

12.23 : I speak with someone from Apple about the situation, explaining what an inconvenience it has been for me. This is the good part; I ended up getting a complimentary copy of OS X 10.5.4 (Leopard) out of the ordeal. 

12.24 : Sadly, the Apple store on the West Coast sent my Mac back to the Apple Depot instead of directly to Small Dog Electronics. Apple sends my Mac out on the 24th.

12.25 : [Merry Christmas!]

12.26 : I stop by at Small Dog Electronics and pick up my Mac. Oh but guess what?!? Apple decided to wipe my HD! Good thing I back a bunch of stuff up. Sadly, my entire music library was not included in that back up (I think I’ll be doing that in the future). I was bummed that nowhere in my packaging documentation did it mention that they had to wipe the HD but oh well. 

So, I’ve been running installations, updates and upgrades since 2:00pm yesterday.

The good news, I have Mac OS X 10.5.6 Leopard now and I’m running Pro Tools 8 (more on that later). I also have a sleek, sexy new top case (including keyboard) and a new superdrive. It’s a good thing.

Moral of the story:
ALWAYS backup as much information as possible onto an external hard drive. If you don’t own one, you should. You can get a 1 terabyte MyBook for around $140 these days, there’s no excuse not to own one.

Also, don’t assume that the authorized Apple dealer/repair shop will actually be able to do anything. The only thing that Small Dog Electronics did was tell me something that I already knew; my optical drive was dead and needed to be replaced. On top of that, they offered to charge me $89 to “speed up the diagnostics process.” Amazingly enough, that was the fastest part of the ordeal (and I’ll save my $89 for something else, thanks).

Don’t just accept what you’re told when dealing with warranties, fight! I managed to get what I wanted (and rightfully so- it was the first time I was using my Apple Care plan and I paid for it to actually cover things when they happen) and get compensated for dealing with some shipping BS. 

[/rant]

Since I was unable to blog during the holidays, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and happy holidays (whatever they may be).

My New DSLR Camera :: Canon Rebel XTi

I’ve been searching for a pro-sumer level camera for about four months now and I finally came across a great deal on the camera that caught my eye a while ago. I purchased it from Green Mountain Camera in Waterbury, VT. Luckily, I was home for a long weekend (off for Columbus Day) and had some amazing photo opportunities to start working with the camera.

Here’s an album of some of the shots I took over the weekend:

Weekend In Vermont

Zappa Plays Zappa | 8.2.08 Higher Ground – South Burlington, VT :: Show Review

Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT was the place to be tonight. If you were there, and closed your eyes, it would have been easy to forget which generation of Zappa you were listening to. Dweezil and the gang put on one heck of a show.

The band took the stage at 9:01, causing a roaring crowd to come alive. The band took off with “Treacherous Cretins.” Song after song they kept pulling out tunes and executing the flawlessly. One of the best parts was the obvious fact that everyone on stage was having the time of their life. I think it’s safe to say that the audience was feeling the same way.

Setlist:

Treacherous Cretins
City of Tiny Lights
Sharleena
Cheepnis
Yellow Snow
St. Alfonzo
Father O’Blivion
Uncle Remus
Pygmy (Q-version)
Peaches
Lucille
Joe’s Garage
Wet-T Shit
Outside Now
Cut The Grass
Flakes
Broken Hearts
Bamboozled
King Kong

ENCORE:
Slime
Willie The Pimp

Musicians:
Dweezil Zappa – Guitar
Aaron Arntz – Keyboards & Trumpet
Scheila Gonzalez – Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards & Vocals
Pete Griffin – Bass
Billy Hulting – Marimba, Mallets & Percussion
Jamkie Kime – Guitar
Joe Travers – Drums & Vocals
Ray White – Guitar & Vocals

I was front row and the sound was great tonight. Dweezil’s amps were blasting away with some serious intensity but I still felt a solid balance among the rest of the band. I was quite impressed with percussionist Bill Hulting’s array of instruments and ability to play them all so smoothly. His station included an 8 ft. rack of auxiliary percussion and gongs, a set of congas, a MalletKAT and a vibraphone. Bill also had several other pieces of percussion off to the side. Scheila Gonzalez’ sax and keyboard playing was also quite impressive. The highlight was when she began playing her tenor and alto saxes simultaneously during her solo spot – definitely a crowd pleaser! Guitarist/Vocalist Ray White was something else! Having been a member of Frank Zappa’s ensemble 1976, Ray was an obvious addition to the group. His vocals couldn’t have fit the part better! His stage presence was always quite energetic, whether he was clapping, dancing or belting out vocals.

The show lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes including the two song encore. At $32 a ticket, I was more than satisfied. I need to go out and get the Zappa Plays Zappa DVD now (and maybe some more original Zappa albums!). Hope to have these guys back in Vermont in the near future.

Happy 30th Birthday Catamount!

Today was the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston, Vermont. Access to the trails was free for the day. There were bike demos, tech work and walks going on all day. I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the free afternoon to get some dirt on the tires.

I hadn’t been out to Catamount in a while so it was a welcome feeling to be back on those trails, shaded from the sun and momentary rain shower (lasted about 2 minutes, kinda strange). I had a map of the trails with me but I decided to take a bit more daring approach and just ride. I started off taking what seemed to be the warmup routes (which I was certainly in need of). After about 20 minutes, I started following the red arrows (advanced routes) and found myself back in familiar territory. Everything I’d learned from those years of mountain biking the Catamount trails came back to me. I was picking my lines, being mindful of shifting my weight, avoiding ruts, etc. On top of it all, I was having the best time ever!

Needless to say, I’ll be trying to fit in as many visits as possible between now and the end of my summer vacation. I’ll have to take a break for a short (3 week) trip to Ghana to study African drumming but somehow I think I’ll manage.

The Skinny Pancake: Veggie Monster

You may have seen their cart on the lower blocks of Church St. before. Maybe you’ve noticed that a local musician is scheduled to play at their restaurant down near the Burlington Waterfront. But if you haven’t walked through those doors and ordered yourself a skinny pancake, you just haven’t lived.

The Skinny Pancake makes crepes of all different varieties. They can make great meals, snacks and even decadent desserts. During the Discover Jazz Festival, Alice and my mom and I decided to partake in the fine foods of the Skinny Pancake. On this jazzy evening I decided to try out the “Veggie Monster.” The funny thing about the crepes served at the Skinny Pancake is that they all look the same on the plate. As I looked at the other meals at my table, I wondered how the waitress was even able to tell them apart.

But sure enough, as I cut into my crepe, I realized that I’d gotten the right one. The “Veggie Monster” contained spinach, roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, and cheddar cheese. At first bite, it reminded me of a tasty omelet. As I continued to enjoy my dinner, I realized it was packed with even more flavor than an omelet. This was something quite unique.

In addition to the unique and tasty food, there is often live music at the Skinny Pancake. Live music dates/times are posted on their calendar.

I conclude that the Skinny Pancake is yet another one of Burlington’s unique food spots, up there with American Flatbread (see blog post) and the Red Onion. This isn’t the kind of food you can find just anywhere.