May 31, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 14-15 (May 30&31)

We are in Vacationland RV park at Brackley Beach on Prince Edward Island. This will be our second night of a planned three, perhaps four. We decided to travel the whole way from our last overnight stop at Sunset West Campground (where it rained all night) on Brule Point near Tatamagouche along Nova Scotia's Sunrise Trail. We stopped for a delicious bowl of fish chowder at a neat, eclectic appetizing place called Sunrise Mercantile. We were treated to friendly folks and hummingbirds at a window feeder.

Then on to Jost Winery (which is advertised all over Nova Scotia) at Malagash where we tasted a few wines, including an award winning ice wine...very excellent. A couple of bottles of that and a few more of other Jost wines are now stowed safely away under Carol's bed.

Intrigued by the sign at Jost that a Dandelion Festival was underway in Wallace, a bit further along the Sunrise Trail, we stopped. Carol checked out the Festival while I went to the dock to buy some lobsters [$4.50/lb.] for supper. Chatting with my lobsterman, we learned the misery of being in that business pushed around by the vagaries of the market and the costs of being on the water. We had talked with a lobsterman earlier in Main-a-Dieu N.S. and they were $3.50/lb. So the price fluctuates daily as does the catch from port to port. This wiry lobsterman even blames the construction of the Confederation Bridge, some 30 miles away, for some of the poor catch in recent years.

Carol's report on the Wallace Dandelion Festival:

"The Dandelion Festival consisted of a photo contest with a few dozen entries of photographs of dandelions section for adult photographers, one for juveniles.... displayed on the side wall of Wallace's Town Hall. Outside the white worn wooden building and down a set of equally worn and weathered wooden stairs was a little corner of tables and grills for the purpose of selling hot dogs and sausages in a roll (I bought one, of course, just to give some kind of credence to their efforts!). The fish pier across the street where David got the lobsters was mostly deserted. Yellow balloons, a few garage sales along the street, and a few local folks gathering around to talk was the extent of the Festival. What I really wanted was to buy some dandelion wine, but alas, none was even remotely available. I don't know why it's not a favored product of the area...I've never seen so many fields and lawns literally yellowed over with the flowers of the dandelion from which the wine is made. At least they give a nod to the proliferation of them with a Festival, however, no matter how small."

We stopped again in Pugwash where Carol shopped for some pewter. Crossing into New Brunswick, we headed over flat farming country to the Confederation Bridge for our crossing into Prince Edward Island.

Last night in the RV we cooked the two Wallace lobsters (3.5# total) . Can't get 'em any fresher than that and they were super delicious. So we are certainly having our fill of fine seafood

Today's weather was perfect, clear and low 70's, so we spent the day in Charlottetown, about 12 miles from here on the waterfront. We ate lunch at a place called Flex Mussels which serves mussels cooked with a choice of 23 different recipes. They were really out-of-this-world goodI enjoyed mine Thai style and Carol relished her Pesto. Given this is the potato capital of Canada, we had fantastic thin cut Russet French fries...better than Al's... to go with the mussels. This restaurant, seasonal in PEI, also has a location in New York City. For seafood lovers these mussels can't be beat!

Tomorrow, after a few errands, we'll probably head for the northwestern part of the island beginning with 'Anne of Green Gables' in Cavendish.

May 29, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 12-13 (May 28 & 29)

Yesterday we lazed around the KOA campground in West Halifax waiting for the weather to clear. About 1:00 pm we decided to stay with our original plan and head to Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. Shortly after arriving in Mahone Bay, the sun broke through and the remainer of the day was bright and clear.

Mahone Bay is a definite tourist magnet with upscale gift shops, great scenery and the famous 'three churches' side by side on the waterfront. Browsing a few gift shops and taking waterfront photos we visited Amos Pewter, a maker of a host of objects of all types form household decorations to jewelry in seashore motifs and other genres. It' similar to Danforth Pewter in Vermont, but with a much larger variety of pieces. Prices are high, but many people, even in this early season, were in the seaside shop.

On to Lunenburg, home of the famous Bluenose II sailing schooner. The waterfront is shipshape and the town is another tourist mecca not unlike Marblehead or Rockport MA. I took quite a few photos in that perfect late afternoon light. I hope they do some justice to the beautiful waterfront. We ate at the Old Fish Factory on the waterfront and finally had a decent lobster dinner accompanied by gloriously sweet fat local mussels. This was by far the best meal to date in wonderful ambiance! Then back to Halifax West KOA just before dark.

Today, we headed north to the Northumberland Coast and arrived early in the afternoon. We are now at Sunset Watch Ocean Front Family Campground at Brule Point near Tatamagouche. This campground is right on the ocean and is flat as a table and 100% lawn, very large with many tenting and RV sites. We stayed didn't sight-see today. Instead we walked the dogs on their long lines and spent time online (Verizon WiFi at this location because this area does not yet have generally available broadband access to the Internet. It's been overcast all day and quite warm here, but also very windy.

Tomorrow we'll tour the coast and meander toward Prince Edward Island.

May 27, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 10-11 (May 26-27)

During the night of May 25, ("it was a dark and stormy night" as Snoopy would write) a strong wind arose at the SeaBreeze Campground (aptly named) accompanied by rain. Morning dawned bright and clear but the wind was ~30 kts and the temperature 45 degrees. Walking Jesse and Scuffer was a cold affair, but they didn't mind it a bit on the beach.

We decided to follow the Eastern Shore route to Halifax. We had the road to ourselves and 10-15 minutes would pass between cars. This is certainly a less popular part of Nova Scotia, but the scenery on this bright crisp day was beautiful as we wound around dozens of coves and through tiny villages with names like Mooshead, Ecum Secum and Tangier.

The economy in this part of the province is glum. The only bright spot is Goldboro which is the terminus of a 160 mile pipeline south to Sable Island where natural gas was discovered in the 1970s but only recently with increased gas prices has the find become commercially viable. Plans are underway for construction of a gas liquification facility for shipping gas via ship to other places. However, heavy equipment in the harbor was idle on a work day. Perhaps the recession prices and a temporary gas glut have delayed the plans.

Traffic slowly increased as we approached the greater Halifax area and was downright mean in Halifax proper at rush hour. We managed with the help of my two navigators, Carol and 'Jill' (our Garmin GPS), to find our way through downtown Halifax and to Peggy's Cove. Very few people, mostly photographers taking advantage of the late day sun for pictures of the lighthouse and the snug harbor where a few lobster and fishing boats and paraphernalia were in the harbor. I have to wonder whether these are mostly props for the cameras!? Took several pictures while the sun was perfect and the day clear with no wind.

We decided to eat at the Sou'wester, the large restaurant and gift shop dominating the highest point on Peegy's Cove bluff. Food was typical tourist food, although Carol's lobster was quite good, better than most we've had.

A campground 5 miles from Peggy's Cove was our home for the night and the proprietor was fond of the "Sound of Music" and had visited Stowe and the Von Trapp lodge twice. He showed me the brochure, which was right at hand and he had clipped the story in his local paper when Werner Von Trapp, a friend of ours, recently died at 91. As it happened another couple from Bethel, VT was at the park and we introduced ourselves in the morning.

Traffic was light into Halifax on Rte 333 and we had decided to go directly to the waterfront to take the Harbour Hopper which had been recommended by someone we had met earlier on the trip. These vehicles are refurbished Viet Nam era amphibious landing craft which are used in Boston and other harbor cities for land and harbor sightseeing cruises. It was a fun experience but cold as a stiff breeze on the water chilled us through. Ashley, the young tour guide was a non-stop talking machine about all the sights and history of Halifax Harbor. We were delayed about 15 minutes entering the water because clearance for each vessel is required from the Coast Guard and a Canadian naval frigate was entering the harbor passing in front of us. They maintain tight control and no craft can approach within 200 meters of a naval vessel. The trip was worthwhile and I would recommend it if your a Halifax tourist. (Coincidentally, the Vermont couple was also on our Harbour Hopper.) We found a great parking spot right on the dock for the RV with 200' of the Harbour Hopper boarding place. That was a concern for me, but because we are so early in the season, things are mush less stressful.

Our loquacious tour guide told us the story of the Great Halifax Explosion of 1917, which I was unaware of until now. It was the worst accidental explosion in the history of the world, on the order of 1/4 the power of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A terrible tragedy in Halifax harbor as a munitions ship collided with another vessel. Cause: human error.

We ate lunch on the waterfront and had a good meal with some delicious sweet potato fries, fish chowder, smoked salmon and rib eye steak (ordered medium rare, arrived medium well, sent back and a new one was delivered as ordered.) [Now that I have been to the Harbour Hopper website, I see that Murphy seems to have a large part of the waterfront and tour/restaurant business well controlled. At least a half dozen tours, restaurants and other tourist amenities are under 'Murphy' control.]

Tonight we're at a KOA campground, Halifax West and a nice shower (for Carol and I) settles us in for the evening. Tomorrow, we may take in Mahone Bay and Lunenburg, returning to this KOA park for another night, then head toward the Northumberland coast for a day or two before crossing into New Brunswick and taking the Confederation Bridge to PEI.

A slight change in plans this morning...we decided to stay here for the day and do laundry because it rained last night and today is overcast and threatening. This may be a 'break' dayrather than a sightseeing day.

May 24, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 8-9 (May 24 & 25)
On Cape Breton Island we see lots of property for sale, but it's a long way from anywhere and this economy only seems to survive via tourism and lobstering. Because of the steep climbs and twisty roads we hemmed and hawed about whether to go fully around the famous Cabot Trail in the RV on Sunday. We decided to go clockwise as far as Cheticamp and, if conditions warranted, we could backtrack to Baddeck.

The roads were better than expected with a few rough sections, but overall OK. The weather was clear and warm. For lunch we stopped at a 'genuine' Acadien restaurant in Cheticamp where all the customers (~8) were speaking French or the Acadien dialect of French. We guessed they were having a meal after Sunday Mass. The waitresses were all dressed in traditional Acadien costume. Where else does this happen these days? The place was spotless and neat as a pin.

I had a bowl of delicious haddock 'soup' made w/o milk but with lots of potatoes and a side of poutine! Carol had a tasty meat pie made with pork and beef. Cheticamp is a wonderfully neat seaside town as are all the villages in the island.

After stopping at the National Park entrance just beyond Cheticamp and talking with the officials there, we decided to go all the way around because the weather was excellent and very few cars were on the road. It was a great trip, very scenic with impressive vistas on an excellent road.
I stop short of calling it outstanding, because some of the vistas in Norway, along the Mediterranean, and in Northern Italy around Lake Como are truly spectacular. We are satisfied we did the round trip and upon returning to Baddeck, rain set in while we ate dinner (halibut for me and scallops St. Jacques for Carol) at the Bell Buoy restaurant.

On Monday we set out late from our campsite and decided to head west along the coast through a farming valley, then along the NW coast to the Canso Strait which separates Cape Breton Island from the rest of Nova Scotia. Wecrossed the causeway and followed the westerly side of the strait meandering on secondary roads around the numerous coves eventually arriving at the town of Canso (settled in 1605; incorporated in 1901!).

We locked in our site at Sea Breeze Campground right on the ocean, then went exploring in town. While driving slowly around, a fellow came up to us in his car and asked if he could help us find something. The town is in the process of dying, very dilapidated with little commerce other than lobstering and a small fishing fleet. A very dismal place. He said lobsters were fetching only $3.50/lb at the dock (They were $4.50/lb. at Main-a-Dieu three days ago.), but none were available because it was too late in the day.

We finally found a restaurant with spic and span interior and a large menus with the lest costly food we've found. I had a bowl of the absolute best fish chowder ever! Carol's meal was nothing to write home about, but the bill, including a glass of very nice white wine and Snapple tea was only CDN$25!

To top it off, we have no WiFi in this campground, but the cell signal is very strong so I have a very solid data connection to publish this.

The New York Times --Wrong Again

Vermont's legislative leadership and most of its liberal big spenders will line up behind this NY Times editorial. Expect to see it quoted. In fact, they could have written it. This notion of bailing out the states is a recipe for long term disaster requiring the U.S. to print ever more money with no hope of any sound financial future. We will be eternally mired in debt that will eventually swamp this nation.

There's a reason that most states require balanced budgets. The creators of those provisions in state constitutions understood the need for fiscal discipline. The NY Times and Vermont's legislative leadership obviously do not.

Don't the California referenda matter? The Times essentially trashes the voters' concerns in favor of their left-wing ideology.

What the Obama administration should make clear is that a bias for spending cuts — and against tax increases — is the wrong approach for California and other states. Both spending cuts and tax increases are harmful in a downturn, because they reduce already weak consumer demand. But most states are required by law to balance their budgets, so when deficits emerge, they are forced to do one or the other, or both.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, raising taxes may be better than spending cuts because tax increases, especially if they are focused on wealthy taxpayers, have less of a negative impact on consumption. Spending cuts hit consumption hard, depriving the economy of money that would otherwise be spent quickly. They also have the disadvantage — so evident in the cuts proposed by Mr. Schwarzenegger — of falling heavily on the needy.

May 23, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 6-7 (May 22-23, 2009)

We departed Antigonish heading for Cape Breton Island and traveled, well, meandered actually, along the south shore of Bras d'Or to Louisbourg on the southeastern tip of Cape Breton Island. Weather was warm and sunny, so we stopped to picnic at a high overlook of this vast inland sea, all alone, as usual. This is definitely not tourist season. No traffic, no muss nor fuss.

By chance we happened upon Mr. Peck, the owner of a store, the RV park and several cottages in the complex who informed us the water was turned on just yesterday. I think we may have been the first occupants of the season. We immediately headed out of town to Fortress Louisbourg. We are told this is the largest fortress in North America that has been about 25-30% restored to its original condition of the 1740s, including furniture.

The place is quite magnificent with dozens of buildings of stone and wood with ramparts and walls, gatehouses and living quarters for all manner of soldiers, craftsmen, their families. We were among a dozen or so visitors in this massive place. If you're in this part of the world, don't miss it!

Without the Fortress attracting tourists, the town of Louisbourg would be nothing. The fishing industry is marginal, with a large packing plant now closed. Many places are not yet open for the season and the Recession cannot be helping .

We had a lobster dinner at one of the two restaurants open in tow. The lobster really wasn't very good, probably undercooked. I've had better. In fact, the three lobster dinners this week were sub-par, IMHO.

Today we followed the shore toward Sydney weaving through various lobstering harbors, mostly alone on the highway. We stopped at Main-a- Dieu where they were unloading lobsters from several boats that were arriving. We tried to buy a few, but they were unwilling to sell becuase , apparently, the wholesaler was there and/or they have legal restrictions about selling direct-to-retail ( Would that stop them...? <grin>). The wholesale price is CDN$4.50/#.

We talked with and old-timer who lobstered when he was young, but hated fishing because it paid so poorly. He said that 60 years ago when he was in the business he remembers the price as low as 3 to 5 cents per lb!

On the other hand, today's lobster boats were all in good repair and the parking lot was filled with 30-40 late model pickups.

LEaving that port we continued along the shore and eventually arrived via the Marconi trail and the Colliery Trail at Sydney stopping on the beach to run the dogs and have a sandwich in the RV with ocean views all around! A really beautiful place, stony with very little sand and no seashells.

At Sydney we hopped on the Rte. 125 bypass and headed to Baddeck where we find ourselves an the Baddeck Cape Breton Campground high on a hill overlooking Bras d'Or with quite a few other RVers for the first time. But the WiFi service is spotty as is the cell service.

I may get this posted tonight, or from a different place where service is better. Every place we stayed this week had solid WiFi Service, but not here.

May 21, 2009

Flip-Flops and Governance -

Flip-Flops and Governance -

TeamObama may well become far less popular in his second and third 100 days. Rove's quote below from a recent opinion piece in the WSJ sums up TeamObama's plight...and that of those who elected him.

"Mr. Obama either had very little grasp of what governing would involve or, if he did, he used words meant to mislead the public. Neither option is particularly encouraging. America now has a president quite different from the person who advertised himself for the job last year. Over time, those things can catch up to a politician."

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 5 (May 21, 2009)

N.S. Map

Today we are at a very nice RV Park in Antigonish after arriving from Pictou. The previous night we stayed just west of Truro after driving from Hopewell Cape. On Wednesday we ate supper at a truck stop with Advertised 'home-cookin.' Big servings of trucker food at very reasonable prices and, as expected, good coffee. The washrooms of Elm River Campground were superb, although the general look of the place left something to be desired. Only two or three RVs besides ourselves.

Pictou is a town that ten years ago decided to renovate their waterfront in the hopes of establishing a tourist trade. The centerpiece is a full scale reproduction of the sailing ship Hector, a 85' Dutch-built vessel which brought~200 Scots to Nova Scotia in 1773 on a 12 week voyage, the horrors of which can only be imagined standing below deck where bunks had been constructed that were reminiscent of the films we see of the barracks of the Holocaust. A frightful voyage it must have been as the Scots were escaping the tight-fisted rule of the British who had conquered Scotland in the 1740s.

Ten years were required to build the Hector which is alongside a marvelous three-story post and beam building which serves as a museum. Also on the quay is a blacksmith shop, a carpenter shop and a rigging loft whee the work was done to build the Hector.

This was a multi-million $ project which I sensed had languished as the recession and high price of fuel conspired to keep tourists away last year. Here's hoping to a better year. Including Carol and I, there were 1/2 dozen visitors in the afternoon. We were able to park the RV nearly in front of the building.

We finished the day with a short walk to a very nice bistro in Antigonish and enjoyed delicious mussels, lobster linguine and a Greek penne dish with plenty of leftovers. We brought home a piece of pecan pie that Carol say is the best she's ever eaten. Nice!

Tomorrow we're off to Louisburg on Cape Breton Island with fine weather predicted. Today was 84 degrees and sunny with a stiff northwesterly breeze.

May 19, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 3 (May 19, 2009) Visited the Reversing Falls in St. Johns, then downtown on a vast enclosed walkway that connects many of the buildings and the waterfront market. This is similar to the Skwalk in Cincinnati, but more extensive.

We are near Hopewell Rocks tonight at Ponderosa Pines campground about 1/2 mile away. We are the only RV here!!!! Dogs had a long walk this evening down to the ocean after we returned from a lobster dinner a short distance away. . This RV park is also right on the marshes of the Bay of Fundy. Will go to the Hopewell Rocks tomorrow at low tide in the PM and walk along the sea bottom.Hopewell Rocks, Cape Hopewell, N.B.

We were at Cape Enrage earlier in the afternoon. It's reputed to be one of the 10 best views in Canada. What a wild place with a light house on the end of a 150' cliff! Wind blowing hard, but bright sunshine.

Cape Enrage, N.B.

May 18, 2009

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 2 - (Bangor, ME to St. Andrews, NB via US Rte 1 and Eastport)
We're in St. Andrews, NB in an RV park owned by the town right on the Bay of Fundy. Stopped in Eastport. Town trying to make a comeback, but off season and in the rain, it was virtually deserted.

We are in St. Andrews, New Brunswick on day 2-3 of the 30 day trek around NB, NS, PEI and the Gaspe in PQ. Yesterday was rainy, but the next few days are promised to be sunny. Will travel along Bay of Fundy looking for those high tides. Sun has already broken through this morning.

Crossing the border at Calais, ME to St. Stephen, NB was an hour ordeal because this was Vicroria day weekend and apparently many Canadians were in the U.S.We met several in the Bangor RV park PumpkinPatch.

The RV parks are relatively empty. This one is town-owned and right on the ocean and with wiFi. Nights are cool in the low 40s, but we all sleep like rocks. Had lobster and clams yesterday for lunch. Looking for lots more as we go.

Will poke around St. Andrews tomorrow then meander along the coast to St. John's.

The Fairmont Algonquin Hotel

Built in 1889, this castle-style resort sits perched on a hill, overlooking the town. This full-service resort offers 250 rooms, 5 restaurants, and numerous activities for all to enjoy. Within walking distance of all St. Andrews attractions, The Fairmont Algonquin is fondly referred to as the "CASTLE BY-THE-SEA."

Canadian Maritimes Vacation

Day 1 (May 17, 2009) - Travel nearly 400 miles to a very nice little RV park, PumkinPatch, in Hermon, ME just outside Bangor. Cold last night and this morning with forecast of a hard freeze warning in northern ME. Headed for the coast , then 'downeast' toward Eastport crossing into New Brunswick. Many Canadians here apparently celebrating the Victoria Day weekend.

WiFi with strong signal here in PumkinPatch, $1 extra per day. They even have a tiny plastic high speed Internet hut, really a garden shed equipped with a LAN connection for those who may not have WiFi built into their laptops. Kinda cool.

All in all, a wonderful RV park with friendly management, clean facilities and reasonable rates. Will be leaving at 9:00 am.

May 16, 2009

In Detainee Furor, a Rare Dent in Pelosi Armor -

In Detainee Furor, a Rare Dent in Pelosi Armor -

Pelosi is not only incompetent, she is now shown to be a blatant liar. She should be replaced as Speaker.

Obama to Retain Parts of Military Commission System -

Obama to Retain Parts of Military Commission System -

TeamObama replaces more campaign rhetoric with reality. Does it appear to others besides me that Obama's promises to the left wing fringe of his supporters have turned out to be nothing more than pandering for votes?

His anti-war, human rights for terrorists and a host of other 'promises' that he obviously will not and should not keep reveal his inexperience and politics at any cost approach. How long will the fringe stand for his backtracking? On the other hand what can they do about it except whine?

Is someone tracking his backtracking record...a little transparency on that would be useful.

"Administration officials said they were making changes in the system to grant detainees expanded legal rights, but critics said the move was a sharp departure from the direction President Obama had suggested during the campaign, when he characterized the commissions as an unnecessary compromise of American values."

"...During the campaign, Mr. Obama criticized the military commission system as a failure. “It’s time to better protect the American people and our values,” he said, “by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice,” which is used to prosecute members of the armed services.

"...Some liberals and human rights groups said they were stunned by the announcement on Friday, with several calling it a betrayal. They said the image of the new administration holding military trials at Guantánamo would hurt Mr. Obama’s efforts to improve relationships around the world and would embroil the administration in years of legal battles.
Here's yet another take in the NY Times:

"...But as he showed this week in the way he dealt with those two hard cases, Mr. Obama has begun to scale back. Faced with the choice of signaling an unambiguous break with the policies of the Bush era, or maintaining some continuity with its practices, the president has begun to come down on the side of taking fewer risks with security, even though he is clearly angering the liberal elements of his political base..."

While he is wising up and doing the right thing, his flip-flops reveal that he deceived voters during the campaign by promising foolish policies to get votes. Why should we trust a man like this?
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May 15, 2009

Thomas Kostigen's Ethics Monitor: The happiest places on Earth are heavily taxed - MarketWatch

Thomas Kostigen's Ethics Monitor: The happiest places on Earth are heavily taxed - MarketWatch

I was thinking that our Vermont Legislature must be trying to emulate these northern European countries in providing everything for everybody. I can't imagine paying 2/3 of my income in taxes as do Danish taxpayers. (I wonder what % of Danes actually pay income taxes?)

" welfare programs include health insurance, health and hospital services, insurance for occupational injuries, unemployment insurance and employment exchange services. There's also old age and disability pensions, rehabilitation and nursing homes, family welfare subsidies, general public welfare and payments for military accidents. Moreover, maternity benefits are payable up to 52 weeks..."

America, for all its schisms, contentions, and problems would still be my country of choice. I'd rather be responsible for my own happiness instead of turning that over to a social network run by a government.

Unfortunately, I think TeamObama and our left-leaning Legislature has other ideas, all the better to retain power. We must resist the loss of liberty that follows if we take that path.

There's a lot not to like about Denmark's system. Have a look at the suicide rates in these Nordic countries? Is that happiness?
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May 14, 2009

The news industry's uncertain future | The rebirth of news | The Economist

The news industry's uncertain future | The rebirth of news | The Economist:

The Economist story on the future of news and news sources ends with this:
"But the only certainty about the future of news is that it will be different from the past. It will no longer be dominated by a few big titles whose front pages determine the story of the day. Public opinion will, rather, be shaped by thousands of different voices, with as many different focuses and points of view. As a result, people will have less in common to chat about around the water-cooler. Those who are not interested in political or economic news will be less likely to come across it; but those who are will be better equipped to hold their rulers to account. Which is, after all, what society needs news for."

I agree that the oligopoly of news sources, particularly the newspapers, in the U.S will give way to a multitude of sources. Democracy requires professional news gathering and reporting, but the delivery will change as will the payment/business model. Those who find the right answer online who are able to retain their solid news gathering will always have the TV news sources to compete with.

However, I should think that companies like AP, Reuters, The Economist, and others should be able to do well. At the local level particularly in a small market like Vermont, I believe newspapers will find it increasingly difficult to compete. Yet we need them for coverage of state and local government and the associated politics.

Daughter-inLaw Caroline on the Ticonderoga Ferry

Here's a video clip of the Ticonderoga Ferry in Shoreham

Caroline works part-time as a deck hand/jill-of-all-trades.

May 13, 2009

Verizon | Investor Relations | Investor News | News at-a-glance

Verizon to Sell Wireline Operations in 14 States

Verizon once again chose a strategic sale of wireline assets, this time to Frontier Communications. Clearly, this is a recognition that the future of local facilities is wireless and fiber optics. Verizon will keep some wireline assets in the more densely populated areas of the U.S., at least for a while.

On balance this is a good move for Verizon, although losing 100,000 plus FiOs served premises is a bit of a downer.

Now the fun will begin as the companies seek regulatory approval in all the affected states.

"Details of the Acquired Operations"

"The operations Frontier will acquire include all of Verizon’s local wireline operating territories in Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In addition, the transaction will include a small number of Verizon’s exchanges in California, including those bordering Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.

As of year-end 2008, these operations served approximately 4.8 million local access lines; 2.2 million long-distance customers; 1.0 million high-speed data customers, including approximately 110,000 FiOS Internet customers; and 69,000 FiOS TV customers.

Approximately 11,000 Verizon company employees -- those who primarily support the local phone business that is being acquired -- will continue employment with Frontier after the merger."
The NY Times has this to say, quoting Ivan Seidenberg, CEO and John Killian, CFO.

“Capital is finite,” he said. “We felt the appropriate place to put our capital was into our FiOS footprint and our wireless footprint.”

Mr. Killian added that the company had not decided what to do about the 30 percent of its remaining home customers that are outside of areas where the company plans to offer FiOS. For now, it offers bundles that include satellite television provided by DirecTV. But if costs come down, it might install fiber to those homes, or perhaps new technology that can deliver higher Internet speeds and video over copper wires.

Verizon has been selling off many of its local phone operations outside of the population centers in the Northeast. But in a conference call with investors, Ivan G. Seidenberg, Verizon’s chief executive, said it did not expect further deals.

“This completes the picture of where we take the local business,” he said.

Recession Drains Social Security and Medicare -

Recession Drains Social Security and Medicare -

When will this pending train wreck classify as a crisis? The bad news isn't new, but the problem has been put off for years because no federal politician, George Bush excluded, would even touch this third rail of politics. Years of warnings by the former Comptroller General of the U.S., David Walker, went unheeded.

Many Congresses have fiddled while Rome is burning. The siren's call of universal coverage, much more appealing to the voters they were courting has masked the real problem...the run up in costs. Medicare and health care costs have long been out of control. No wonder yesterday's announcement by the health care industry of their 'intent' to reduce the growth in costs by 1.5% annually.

I have here said previously that the only real way to control costs is to ration care. No one wants to hear it, but that's the truth of the matter. Health care, like the State of Vermont's Legislature has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

In Vermont for example, health care is now the third largest contributor to the gross state product, exceeded only by government (#1) and manufacturing (#2)

"...As a result, the administration said, the Medicare fund that pays hospital bills for older Americans is expected to run out of money in 2017, two years sooner than projected last year. The Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2037, four years earlier than predicted, it said.

Spending on Social Security and Medicare totaled more than $1 trillion last year, accounting for more than one-third of the federal budget...."

May 12, 2009

Estimate of Budget Deficit Now Tops $1.84 Trillion -

Estimate of Budget Deficit Now Tops $1.84 Trillion -

This is insane. I have read that TeamObama's budget projections, I assume over 4 years, adds more to the national debt than all 43 presidents before him. Why isn't the NYTimes reporting this, if true?

May 11, 2009

What Have We Wrought?

Mark Steyn, whom I have never heard of, writing in the April 2009 Imprimis, published by Hillsdale College says this:

"...When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher - and you make it very difficult ever to change back.

Americans face a choice. They can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea - of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest - or you can join most of the rest of the Western world in terminal decline. To rekindle the spark of liberty once it dies is very difficult. The inertia, the ennui, the fatalism is more pathetic than the demographic decline and fiscal profligacy of the social democratic state, because it's subtle and less tangible..."

Is America at this place?

Venture Capital Shifts to Efficiency From Alternative Fuel -

Venture Capital Shifts to Efficiency From Alternative Fuel:

Mining the most efficient use from every BTU and electron generated from fuels or renewable sources makes far more sense in the short term by reducing demand and thus the cost of energy usage. Venture capitalists stand to find quicker returns on their investments. too.

"...Venture capital is starting to move away from its infatuation with alternative energy and returning to one of its traditional strengths: applying information technology to improve the efficiency of energy consumption.

Many investors say developing new forms of energy can consume hundreds of millions of dollars over many years before showing any return. Mr. Grosser’s firm, however, is looking for technologies that reduce demand for energy. “We need to move markets with small amounts of money,” he said..."

May 10, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - The Harlem Miracle -

The Harlem Miracle -

It's refreshing to see success in education, particularly with traditionally under-performing students in inner city schools, often taught by too many under-achieving teachers.

These successes show what can be done, but are these results achievable across a broad cross-section of students, teachers and leadership? Brooks does not tell us what it costs, but the fact that the teacher turnover rate is so high suggests that many teachers aren't willing or able to do this hard, hard work.

Nevertheless it can be done when the spotlight is on! But can it be achieved on a large scale in the face of the myriad pressures for conformity rather than excellence? We need to make it happen because far too many young people who leave school with or without a diploma are unprepared for life and they cost society a bundle downstream.

Shift From Spending to Saving May Be Slump’s Lasting Impact -

Shift From Spending to Saving May Be Slump’s Lasting Impact -

Is the difference of opinion about whether higher personal savings has a long term benefit to the country's economic well-being a matter of liberal vs. conservative thinking? It seems to me that profligate spending, unwise use of credit and shoddy decision making at all levels is what got us into this Great Recession. Therefore a more reasoned, disciplined approach to living seems to just what the doctor should order.

Isn't it more sensible to believe that higher personal and household savings increases the real personal wealth of the nation? I suppose this is only so if our government also acts rationally and reduces its spending, too.

I find nonsensical TeamObama's arguments that this bloated spending spree and the huge run-up in the national debt can somehow be reversed in the short term. (He said he intends to cut the deficit in half in 4 years.) Too many people will become dependent on this spending for it to be suddenly reduced.

It's unlikely that we will ever return to the bubble days of steadily increasing asset values. The new post-recession economy will reset itself to a generally lower base of true value, whether via inflation and devaluation of assets or by government fiat that we have to cut back, e.g., reduce carbon usage in favor of much higher cost sources to save the planet.

The following assessment included in the story makes the most sense to me.

"...Despite the immediate jolt to the economy, more personal saving would be a positive step in the long run, analysts say. More saving leads to more investment, which promotes economic growth, which leads to better living standards.

At the family level, social critics, economists and even many consumers seem to agree that a forced financial conservatism may be for the better..."

May 9, 2009

Mixed Emotions: Our First Hands-On Test Of Wolfram|Alpha - ReadWriteWeb

Mixed Emotions: Our First Hands-On Test Of Wolfram|Alpha - ReadWriteWeb

Update 5/11/09: The New York Times reports on WolframAlpha here and quotes several experts in the field who believe that Wolfram has done an amazing job on his project which will be launched this week.

Wolfram makes no claim that his system is a 'Google-killer." Nevertheless, he is is in discussions with all the "regular players."

I think this is a realistic review and assessment of WolframAlpha. As the media, even the technical media, is wont to do, they hyped the words 'Google-killer." In this review, Frederic Lardinois, describes clearly what WA is and is not. I recently watched the video of Wolfram's demonstration of this new system at Harvard's Berkman Center. In it Wolfram never claimed more for WA than what is delivered. Given his success in the academic field with Mathematica, he'll have a following with this search tool.

"Let's get this out of the way quickly: Wolfram Alpha is not (yet?) geared towards mainstream Internet users, who, for the most part, are still better served by Google. Of course, comparing Alpha to Google isn't even fair, but most users will treat it like Google, and will most likely come away sorely disappointed. Instead, Alpha, for now, is going to be a great tool for students, engineers, and academics - and anybody who needs data quickly and knows how to interpret it. It takes some time to learn how to best use Alpha, and it still has its rough patches, but, overall, we have come away quite impressed, though, at times we were also frustrated..."
I will be anxious to kick the tires when it's released on May 18.

May 7, 2009

State of the Art - With a Private MiFi Hot Spot, Be Online Wherever You Like -

With a Private MiFi Hot Spot, Be Online Wherever You Like -

David Pogue describes Verizon's soon-to-be-announced offering of a Novatel device.
"It’s the Novatel MiFi 2200, available from Verizon starting in mid-May ($100 with two-year contract, after rebate). It’s a little wisp of a thing, like a triple-thick credit card. It has one power button, one status light and a swappable battery that looks like the one in a cellphone. When you turn on your MiFi and wait 30 seconds, it provides a personal, portable, powerful, password-protected wireless hot spot."
This will be a big seller in many markets and the other wireless providers probably won't be far behind in offering similar devices. I envision many uses for it and it also has a bit of a wow factor, in that the device does not require a hard connection to your computer. You can keep it in your pocket or purse, or plug it into a wall outlet in a conference room 9don't forget it when you leave!), or other small space. With a range of 30 feet, it could even be the wireless network in an apartment, condo or RV. Seems perfect for use with all sorts of devices, including Netbooks.

If Pogue is correct, it seems dead simple to use and up to five people can share the WiFi hotspot. Various pricing plans are available, too.
"If you just want to do e-mail and the Web, you pay $40 a month for the service (250 megabytes of data transfer, 10 cents a megabyte above that). If you watch videos and shuttle a lot of big files, opt for the $60 plan (5 gigabytes). And if you don’t travel incessantly, the best deal may be the one-day pass: $15 for 24 hours, only when you need it. In that case, the MiFi itself costs $270."
The $60 plan is what I have now with a 5 gigabyte cap. So the new device has the same pricing with a BIG value added with the portable hotspot. Very nice, indeed!

May 4, 2009

Publishers Nurture Rivals to Kindle -

Publishers Nurture Rivals to Kindle -

This story about emerging competitors to Amazon's Kindle, including Sony and PlasticLogic, suggests that several trials by newspapers and periodicals will be underway soon. Yet, no matter how good a device may be, it does not have the familiar appeal of paper. This means the adoption period will be longer that many expect unless a newspaper takes the radical step to stop the presses.

Nevertheless, in this early phase, when the market for these devices is immature, standards have not yet appeared. The story has no discussion of standards. From a consumer perspective, what makes sense is different hardware choices that will enable various content, whether books, newspapers or magazines. That suggests a software platform(s) equally friendly to consumers and publishers.

I have no doubt that these devices are the future of newspapers. They simply cannot continue supporting the costs of hard copy printing and distribution in a digital world serving a generation raised on a digital diet.
"...Van Baker, consumer electronics analyst for research firm Gartner Inc., said e-readers likely will appeal to only small numbers of people because of their cost, and he wonders whether a slew of devices will confuse consumers. 'If the newspaper has one reader, and the book store has another reader and the magazine publisher has another reader, it just doesn't make any sense,' he said."

Coincidentally, the NY Times has a story on e-readers in today's paper.

May 3, 2009

Encyclopedic Knowledge

A new knowledge search and analytics engine, Wolfram Alpha, will formally launch in a few days. This revolutionary search tool is remarkably different than Google, Yahoo Search or Mocrosoft Live search. Instead of presenting sites in a prioritized list according to built-in algorithms, WA will respond on-the-fly with encyclopedic type answers to direct questions. A UK newspaper has the story.

Dr. Wolfram's demonstration of his powerful system, based on artificial intelligence concepts and curated data, at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society last week was a hit with Internet experts.

Coincidentally, The New York Times chronicled the rise and demise of Encarta, Microsoft's 1980s-90s CD and Internet based encyclopedia. The world of knowledge continues to morph and reshape itself into much more than one could ever have predicted even 20 years ago.

The interesting commonality between Encarta and all other first-rate encyclopedias, whether books or electronic, including Wolfram Alpha, is they are curated by experts. Wolfram predicts that 1,000 people will be needed to acquire and maintain the numerous databases that underlie WA, which will use information that is not always available to spiders used by search engines to crawl the Internet gathering updates to websites for their indexes. Even Wikipedia the 'crowd-based' online gem has hundreds of volunteers who scour the millions of entries doing their best to prevent flagrant falsehoods.

We'll be anxious to take Wolfram Alpha for a spin when it's launched. Should Google or Microsoft or Yahoo be worried about this impressive start-up? I don't think so, because if the technology is as good as the hype, one of the major players will buy WA. This will be a fascinating game to watch.

May 2, 2009

U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts -

U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts -

It seems TeamObama has rethought the campaign rhetoric used to persuade many voters that he was breaking with the Bush administration policies concerning trying terrorists via military tribunal.

TeamObama takes an ivory tower view of reality. Some of it we can chalk up to inexperience. We have always believed that these RITS and RATS who are not U.S. citizens do not deserve, nor are they entitled to, the protections of America's legal system. Military tribunals make the most sense.

"...Officials who work on the Guantánamo issue say administration lawyers have become concerned that they would face significant obstacles to trying some terrorism suspects in federal courts. Judges might make it difficult to prosecute detainees who were subjected to brutal treatment or for prosecutors to use hearsay evidence gathered by intelligence agencies.

Obama administration officials — and Mr. Obama himself — have said in the past that they were not ruling out prosecutions in the military commission system. But senior officials have emphasized that they prefer to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts. When President Obama suspended Guantánamo cases after his inauguration on Jan. 20, many participants said the military commission system appeared dead.

But in recent days a variety of officials involved in the deliberations say that after administration lawyers examined many of the cases, the mood shifted toward using military commissions to prosecute some detainees, perhaps including those charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.” ..."

May 1, 2009

Broadband communication | Down the tubes | The Economist

TV over the internet is set to slam broadside against cable's business model which sells packages or tiers of channels carefully crafted to extract maximum revenue even though most of us watch only 15-20 out of the 100+ we 'pay' for. With a host of new inexpensive or free services and some enabling devices, TV over the the internet will slowly erode cable's revenues, particularly as the recession eats into consumers' pocketbooks.

I must try Hulu to see if it's as good as its hype.

This Economist story below is well worth reading.


Broadband communication | Down the tubes | The Economist