Move to Santa Cruz

Well, after five years living in Vermont, and something like thirteen years living in New England, Courtney and I have gone and moved to Santa Cruz, CA. There are a lot of reasons for this; the very hard winters and extremely rainy summers in Vermont were starting to wear on us, but mostly we just wanted to live in a young and vital place that has a larger population. Courtney had some experience with the area during her brief stint working at Land of Medicine Buddha, and I had always enjoyed The Monterey Bay area when my family and I would camp here as a kid, so Santa Cruz seemed the perfect place for us.

I applied for a UNIX Systems Engineer position at the University of California Santa Cruz, and was offered the job back in July. After some serious soul searching, I decided to accept, and we started the process of relocating a full 3,000 miles from home, which I can assure you is no simple task! I’ve been here just under two weeks, but Courtney is still tidying up our affairs in Vermont before she starts the long journey out here in our car. Yep… That’s car, not cars. The public transportation system is so good out here that we can finally be a single car family. For my part, I’ve managed to move clear across this country twice and not driven it a single time. This is fine with me, however, since I have very little interest in seeing middle America.

Casey and I managed to find Paula’s Breakfast Shack while he was out for WordCamp 08. Home of the $1.99 Basic Breakfast, this place is so good, that I simply can’t imagine going anywhere else for eggs and home fries! I’ve tried a number of taquerias, but the jury is still out on which one is best. Once I find it I’ll have to freeze some tacos and burritos and send them out to Matt, who has strongly indicated that he hates me for having such easy access to good Mexican Food.

Brattleboro Selectmen Ban Public Nudity

In a truly astounding display of cowardice and pandering to conservative whining, the Brattleboro selectmen narrowly approved an “emergency ordinance” banning public nudity on city streets today. Vermont, and Brattleboro in particular have a long history of tolerating nudity in public. The state, along with many of its towns have absolutely no law requiring that people wear cloths in public so long as they are minding their own business.

The “emergency” that precipitated the ordinance was an elderly Arizona man who decided to attend the city’s gallery walk in the nude. Apparently the conservative blowhards can handle it when nude people are young and beautiful, but they draw the line and call it an “emergency” when it’s an old saggy guy. Nice going fellas!

I can’t say that I truly understand why these people enjoy being nude in public, but I’m totally sick and tired of this country’s uptight and irrational hangups about the naked body. Many news articles covering this story have quotes from people saying things like “I don’t think children should be seeing this”. I suppose they would rather our children learn to be ashamed of their bodies and perpetuate the misconception in this country that all nudity is sexual? Don’t you think the more casual attitudes towards nudity we see thru-out much of Europe are a lot healthier for our children than America’s ludicrous, Christian imposed complex about it? I don’t have children, but if I did, I would much rather they be exposed to nudity outside the sexual context so they could realize that everyone’s body is different and that it is OK for them not to look exactly like the models in glamour magazines.

A naked body is something that each and every one of us have, but for some reason we are taught to be ashamed of it. Like it or not, most of the body-image issues and eating disorders that prevail in this country can be directly traced back to our villification of the naked body. Wouldn’t it be great to see people from all over the country descend upon the streets of Brattleboro and stage a Spencer Tunick style installation of thousands of naked bodies in protest of this draconian ordinance? I certainly think so.

Springfield Vermont Will Host Simpsons Movie Premiere

I live in Vermont, so of course I was excited yesterday when I learned that Springfield Vermont had won the nation-wide contest to host the premiere of the Simpsons movie. A total of 13 Springfields from around the country entered the contest and made Simpsons-like movies to convince the judges that their respective Springfield would be the ideal place to host the upcoming movie. Springfield Vermont won with a video depicting a Homer-like fellow chasing a giant pink doughnut through the town and wreaking havoc. All the videos can be seen here.

Thru-out the 18 seasons of “The Simpsons”, the location of the fictional town has never been revealed. The creators have often frustrated the audience by cutting the scene just before the state would be named, leaving them to wonder which town Matt Groneing had in mind when he conceived the show. If Springfield Vermont is, indeed the place, is hard to say. There is no Shelbyville nearby, but the town is not too far from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power-plant, and the vermont climate does seem to fit with the show. Perhaps we will never know for sure, but I sure look forward to seeing the movie in my home state.

Charges for Making Faces at Police Dog Don’t Stick

Last July Jayna Hutchinson of Lebanon, N.H was arrested for making faces at a police dog following a heated debate with a Vermont police officer who refused to take down her report of being assaulted. Citing that she smelled of alcohol, Vermont State Police Sgt. Todd Protzman agitated Hutchinson when he told her that he would only take her report after she had sobered up.

This tuesday, only two days before Hutchinson was to go to trial, Orange County State’s Attorney Will Porter decided to drop the charge, after viewing a videotape of the incident. The subsequent charge of “resisting arrest” was also dropped because prosecutors did not think they could get a jury to convict her without the “cruelty to a police animal” charge.

Since she never even touched the dog, I tend to think the charges were more about her having challenged police authority than about hassling the police K9.

802 – Hip Hop Vermont Style

Long story short, I do not like hip hop, but these two guys who wrote this song about living Vermont did an outstanding job of commenting on life in the Green Mountain Sate. The video was made entirely in Montpelier.

From a distance, Vermont seems like an idealic place that is pristine, progressive and filled with artists and craftspeople. While this is somewhat true, there are other, less attractive aspects as well. Being a rural state, you tend to get a lot of back woods types that are in love with the idea of “protecting” their property from imagined threats with ridiculously large arsenals of firearms and so on. Still, despite their vast differences, the most radical Vermont communist tends to get along fairly well with the most fiercely patriotic Vermont redneck in ways that you would never think possible. It’s a cool state, but not entirely without its annoyances.

Political Parties With Awesome Names!

In order to overthrow the tyranical Republican leadership, I’ve been towing the Democratic line pretty hard since the 2000 elections, in which, along with many others, I voted for Ralph Nader and unwittingly helped Bush and his cronies to power.

Despite my year 2000 voting embarrassment however, I remain a proponent of a political landscape that features a broad array of political parties. In practice, we have to unite behind the Democratic party to neutralize Republicans, but in theory I strongly support minor parties, and I remain saddened that they are relegated to obscurity by our two-party system.

Never the less, if America had a state where the effectiveness of a multi-party system could be demonstrated, Vermont would be that state. We have more independents holding elected office than any other state in the union, and the major parties have proven that they can, and do unite behind minor party candidates that have sufficient public support and similar political platform.

My political slant is no secret, so it was with great joy that I opened my ballot this year and discovered two candidates running under very provocative party names: Dennis Morrisseau, running for US House under the “Impeach Bush Now” party, and Peter Moss, running for the Sennate as the “Anti-Bushist” candidate.

My vote went to Peter Welch and Bernie Sanders respectively, but I love that I live in a state where an “Impeach Bush Now” party can exist.

Diving at Lake Willoughby

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of diving in Lake Willoughby. This glacial lake is located near the Canadian Border in Westmore, VT, and makes an outstanding diving location because of its clarity and depth. There are a few places that divers can get access to the water, but the best seems to be the second turnout when coming from the public beach on the North side of the lake. The entry is a little steep and rocky, but steps have been cut out, making it pretty manageable so long as you don’t try to do it with a ton of equipment. It does make me grateful for my relatively light-weight rebreather.

Once you get into the water it drops off pretty quickly to about 80ft, and then gently slopes down from that point on. Exactly how deep the lake is has been a point of some contention. Some divers have told me that it bottoms out at a little over 400Ft, but the one navigational chart I’ve been able to locate has it at only 312ft at its deepest point. Either way, it bottoming it out would make for a nice tech dive. I’ve found two pretty drastic thermoclines – one at about 35ft, and the other at about 75ft. Even in the middle of summer it’s a pretty cold lake, so dive it dry if you can.

The dive is pretty much a boulder / wall dive, and, while there are not many fish, there are plenty of little caves and crack to poke around in. Most of my dives there have been more work than play as I try to get better at my reel work, and emergency procedures on the Meg.

Lake Willoughby 1Lake Willoughby 2