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October 2008

October 30, 2008

Quidditch World Cup Video

Seven Days' staff videographer, Eva Sollberger, attended the Quidditch World Cup last weekend at Middlebury College and filed this report.

The video is part of her awesome web video series, "Stuck in Vermont." Find more episodes here.

Here's Maeve's blog post previewing the event.

Oh Hot Damn, This is My Jam

Pandorajam So, a week ago my friend introduced me to PandoraJam and since then I have been preaching it like the bible. Most college students are aware of Pandora, the website that allows you to create your own musical stations — based off of a song, artist or genre — and then plays similar songs. Whether you need some classical tunes to work to, emo ballads to cry to, or recent pop hits to jam to, Pandora has it all. The only problem: once the song is over, it's gone. You have to sit there, attempt to outsmart the old man pandora and wait for the music genome to, maybe, play it again. dag.

Well, my friends. The savior has arrived. For a low, one-time, $15 payment, PandoraJam copies all of the songs played in Pandora directly onto your iTunes... hell, they even create a play list of your personal stations. Within one day of purchasing this god-sent application, I effortlessly downloaded 250 glorious songs. My advice: make a "quickmix" of your favorite artists, go to class and return to a plethora of new ditties.

Enjoyed Studying Abroad? Considered Fleeing Student Loan Debt Abroad?

With mounting struggles in the finance industry and the declining confidence of the American consumer, debt has never seemed so fashionable! But for some students it may turn to a rags-to-Ragu story.

CNN ran an article last week profiling the phenomenon of students fleeing the country to avoid paying their student loan debts. According to two students, the terms of the loan payments were not clear and before they knew it, the loans were "insurmountable". One student was forced to pay $2300 a month for a Masters degree in Music! That’s a sad song. So what exactly is going on here?

One of the major gripes with private student loans is how the loans affect student credit scores. Many colleges and universities have “preferred” lenders and of course, students borrow from these institutions an estimated 90% of the time. These young, impressionable adults trust the educators. Cute, right? Sometimes the lenders and the universities are in cahoots — leaving the student with higher debt than if they had shopped around for better rates.

New York State Attorney General Anthony Cuomo filed suit against some such universities and lenders last year, resulting in six schools multi-million dollar settlements.  So why don’t students shop around? Well, they’re essentially penalized for their youth and lack of credit. Since lenders quote higher interest rates to applicants with lower scores, some students could end up paying thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of their loans. This is damaging to students now more so than ever as banks and lenders are less accepting of home equity loans from parents who might co-sign loans. There are also higher minimum scores in some lending houses.

Continue reading "Enjoyed Studying Abroad? Considered Fleeing Student Loan Debt Abroad?" »

October 28, 2008

Polls, Predictions and Pundits, Oh My!

Ericbates Tomorrow, Tuesday October 28, as part of Middlebury’s “Meet the Press” series, Eric Bates, executive editor at Rolling Stone will give a lecture titled “One Week to go Till the 2008 Presidential Election: Obama, McCain, Polls, Predictions, Pundits.” Just off of a cover story interview with Barack Obama, Bates should provide a fascinating look at the campaign from the media's perspective. The event is free to the public and will take place in room 216 of McCardell Bicentennial Hall at 4:30pm.

Also, speaking of pundits — CNN's newest program D.L. Hughley Breaks the News premiered last night... I dare you to laugh. Trust me, easier said than done. But seriously, what does it say about our media when a "trustworthy" network feels the need to stomp on Comedy Central's ground?

The Flaming Lips are Must See TV

Flaminglips_2 So I've got to guess that at least some of the older members of this blog's audience remember The Flaming Lips' concert/rave/euphoric tent revival at UVM in September 2006. If you were there, you probably have an understanding of Wayne Coyne's bizarro brilliance.

Well, The Flaming Lips (among others) were recently approached by NBC to reimagine the network's signature three-note theme. EW.com has the video of The Lips' interpretation of those famous chimes — not to mention the mad scientist Coyne's custom-built, Guitar Hero-inspired double-neck guitar. Take that, Jimmy Page.

Also, the long-in-the-works Flaming Lips movie, Christmas on Mars, is finally hitting DVD on Nov. 11. Perfect holiday season viewing, assuming someone spikes your Christmas party eggnog with hallucinogens.

Press photo by Jay Blakesberg.

October 23, 2008

UVM: Stomach Epidemics and Window Creeps

The past few days have been tumultuous to say the least at the least here at the University of Vermont.  Just look at our inboxes. On Tuesday, we got this from Jon Porter, M.D., Director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing (my Apple Mail labeled it as junk):

In the past 24 hours approximately 24 students have consulted UVM Health Services for gastroenteritis, an illness characterized by symptoms of nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. University of Vermont officials — in close collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health — are in the process of investigating the cause and tending to the immediate needs of our student body.

Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea? Sounds like Friday evening, Friday night, and Saturday morning at college. That happens like, 2400 times in 24 hours at UVM, Doctor Porter.

By Wednesday, we were about to make a run on Brooks (agh, Rite Aid) for all the Pepto-Bismol we could find, but our inboxes had other plans. This time from a Mr. Garry Derr at Police Services:

Since October 17th 2008, during the early morning hours, numerous incidents of a male subject looking into windows and entering into residences have occurred in and around the neighborhood of UVM’s Trinity Campus. Trinity Campus is located off from Colchester Avenue in the city of Burlington. Several screens and/or windows in the area were found to have been tampered with.

Additionally, an incident of unlawful entry also occurred in a residence around the area west of the campus in the city of Burlington on 10/21/08.   

Oh, Great! Now we're really screwed. Not only are we all going to be vomiting our brains out, but our screens and/or windows are going to be tampered with too!

Then, Wednesday evening, another twist in the plot. Something to say, Dr. Porter?

Thus far, approximately fifty students have made contact with us over the last 36 hours.

Fifty?! Maybe the guy who has been tampering with all our screens and/or windows is clandestinely passing along a secret vomit-diarrhea-puking virus. But wait! Can't we get some advice on how to deal with this menace? Mr. Derr of the UVM 5-0?

-Lock your doors and windows at all times
-Draw your window shades at night and when privacy is needed
-Never allow unauthorized persons into the residential halls
-Report suspicious persons or circumstances immediately to UVM Police @ 656-3473 or 911

Yes. Excellent advice. Oh, and I assume you have something to add, Dr. Porter.

In the meantime, we recommend the following precautions:
-Regular hand washing
-Avoid sharing utensils or glasses
-Seek medical advice if you become ill

Thanks guys. And we all thought it was a good idea to sleep in flu-infected sheets with the front door wide open. We appreciate your concern for our health and safety, but give us some credit, okay?

The Genius of Marco Benevento

Marcosull Did you happen to catch the Benevento/Russo Duo last week at Higher Ground?  Hope you did, because it was fantastic, as Duo shows tend to be. I wrote a review of the show here.

If you're like me, and you can't get enough of Marco Benevento and his keyboard wizardry, you're in luck. He'll be returning to Burlington on Nov. 10 with a Marco Benevento Trio show at FlynnSpace, which will include bassist Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Tea Leaf Green) and drummer Jon Fishman (a band called Phish, maybe you've heard of them). They'll be playing material off Marco's solo album, Invisible Baby, which came out earlier this year and has been a recent favorite of mine. Folk singer-songwriter Nathan Moore, who often plays along with members of The Slip in the band Surprise Me Mr. Davis, opens the show.

I haven't seen the show advertised much, but it's in a tiny room and the presence of a Phish member will undoubtedly catch some attention, so I wouldn't procrastinate on buying tickets.

October 21, 2008

Quidditch World Cup, Muggle Style

N4403292_31274426_504 So, you can’t fly. And, you can’t cast a magical spell. Well, here at Middlebury College, a group of students decided that they wouldn’t let such trivial matters squander their ambitions to compete in the fantastical sport of Quidditch. Founded in 2005 by a horde of enthusiastic freshman, “Muggle Quidditch” is now played at over 150 universities and colleges under the management of the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association.

How the hell do you play Quidditch without the Nimbus2000 or flying golden snitch? Instead of confusing you with all the rules and logistics of the game, I recommend you to check out these videos. And, yes, the snitch is a cross-country runner dressed in yellow with a tennis wrapped in a sock attached to his shorts.

If you can’t get enough and need more, then look no further. This weekend is the 2nd annual Quidditch World Cup, where teams from fourteen different schools will battle to stand among the ranks of Harry Potter, Oliver Wood (my favorite) and Viktor Krum. It will take place at Middlebury on Sunday, October 26, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., with a whole assortment of additional festivities — the student fire-juggling club, exploding potions by a chemistry professor, stilt walking, performances by Middlebury bands are just a few of them. Also, it’s free and there will be food… think American Flatbread! So, grab your cape and disapparate over here!

Oh, and make sure to check out Seven Days very own videographer Eva Sollberger’s coverage on the tournament next week!

October 20, 2008

FiveThirtyEight.com: For Political (and Statistical) Junkies

538 Are you hopelessly captivated by the presidential election, but find the cable news channels way too full of shit to be worth watching 24/7? Well then, I suggest FiveThirtyEight.com, a political blog with an emphasis on polling and tracking.

The site's founder is Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus, a website dedicated to an absolutely staggering study of baseball statistics. Silver's brought his incredible statistical knowledge into politics on FiveThirtyEight, using a combination of demographic studies in each state and weighted averages of national polls to create what he claims is a considerably more accurate portrayal of what the presidential race looks like than what any single poll can give. Here's a recent profile on Silver done by New York magazine. This guy's real good.

The blog includes daily updates on polls, as well as some dispatches from swing states, and state-by-state breakdowns of political trends. They haven't gotten to Vermont yet, though, so bookmark it now. Actually, bookmark it anyway — it's possibly the most interesting and intelligent source of information I've found on the election yet.

And by the way, Silver is currently predicting Barack Obama to get about 344 electoral votes, and John McCain to get about 194.

Chittenden 3-4: Competing Circles

Downsized_1020081253 UVMers began the week walking by these flyers side-by-side all over the Davis Center. Big dominating circles seem to be in vogue —looks like Dave and Chris opted for the Progressive-inspired Japanese flag look (post-WWII of course), while Kesha is going for the Vermont color-esque Bangladesh-ish look. 

Content-wise, Dace and Chris sport a prominent endorsement from Senator Bernie Sanders, "Outstanding Representatives in the VT Legislature..." (ammo for my spirited Progressive commenters).  Kesha's circle contains an off-centered Obaman slogan, "we are on the cusp of a new era."

15 days till the election.  Thoughts on the race? 

The Best Careers in the Best State This Saturday at Champlain College!

150x200vt3_2 Fellow students — if finding your dream job after college is important, clear your Saturday schedule! The Vermont 3.0 Career Jam will be at Champlain College on the 25th to dispel the rumor that there are no jobs in Vermont.

No, you won’t find any covered bridge engineers or sugarers here. Fortunately, from real-life CSI’s, to video game designers, to professional facebookers, to robot makers and tons more — there are some extremely cool jobs at the Career Jam. Some of the most dynamic jobs and most innovative professionals, not just in Vermont, but nationally, will be participating in panel discussions throughout the day.

So, who are the players, you may be asking? Take a look:

Definitely check out Steve Benen at 10 a.m. Benen is a blogger and contributor to The Washington Monthly. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08." If you’re interested about making a career as a blogger, or even a journalist, this is your guy! This is not just some college blogger working for a local paper, this guy is big! A must-see!

But if blogging and political reporting doesn’t cream your coffee at that hour, listen to Nate Herzog, Director of Information Services at JDK Design. Before JDK he worked for MIT in the support division of the IS/IT Department where he was a support specialist, system administrator, and technical writer. This bears mention--his college degree was in English literature… and then he worked in technology at MIT. There is absolutely no way this guy will be a bore with a skill set like that.

Continue reading "The Best Careers in the Best State This Saturday at Champlain College!" »

Media: Six Degrees of Separation

Students — ever curious to know where your news is really coming from?

Dr. Rob Williams, a writer, activist, musician, and professor (only some of the many things Williams does) at Champlain College, is trying to raise awareness on social responsibility in the media. Check out his video on the conglomerate media industry in America. Heck, you might learn something.

October 18, 2008

Champlain's Emergent Media Center Acquires +20 Dexterity, +20 Creativity in Game of Life

Img_2002 If you think the biggest social message in video games is to sit around on the couch, eating Doritos and “pwning n00bz,” you need to check out Champlain College’s Emergent Media Lab at the Champlain Mill in Winooski. The staff and students there will eject those notions. There may be no restart button in real life but the Champlain Emergent Media Center is resetting the idea of what video games can be.

The Emergent Media Center, headed by program director Ann Demarle, was founded two years ago and is already a leader in developing games focused on solving some of the most serious medical and social afflictions around the world — with an injection of fun. Students in Champlain’s popular and respected e-gaming major may seem like they’re just doodling on the computer or wasting time on the Wii at the Center’s lab in the Champlain Mill, but they are hard at work.

Img_2010 This past summer, students traveled to South Africa where they spearheaded a project to create a video game designed to help eradicate violence against women. Students are also working with UVM researchers and doctors to create a game to help children afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis with their breathing exercises. But it’s not all educational — the students know these games have to be fun if they're going to achieve the desired results.

The Lab has received high praise for these efforts, but the program still faces challenges. Funding is almost entirely garnered from grants. DeMarle asserts the students, who receive no class credit for the projects, receive most of the money — somewhere between 80-90% — leaving a small budget. The Lab is also located in Winooski, a couple miles from Champlain’s campus in the Hill section of Burlington.

Img_2011 And these projects are also large undertakings, requiring many hours of time from Demarle, the students and others who work on the project. It’s hard work, and students have to prove their worth. Students had only three days to produce a video game from scratch at a conference. They need to process complex psychological and medical knowledge and incorporate that into a game so it's clear to people in difficult, sometimes dangerous situations. These are not just kids who can draw unicorns and program a virus — these students share a real commitment to civil service.

It's not just e-gamers either. Professional Writing students, marketing students and business majors are all involved in the initiative. Not surprinsingly, balancing the work with their classes and lives remains one of their largest daily struggles.

Even with a Img_2015small operating budget and the aforementioned time constraints — not to mention competing against similar programs at tech behemoths like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and USC — the students at the Emergent Media Center are tech savvy, well-traveled, and above all, creative.

DeMarle gives them all the credit. “The Center is created by students," she says. "They know this industry better than I do, and they are really on top of their game. It’s a privilege to work with them, making a difference.”

October 16, 2008

Burlington Zombie Walk This Saturday

An army of the undead will descend once again on our fair hamlet on Saturday, October 18.

What is the Burlington Zombie Walk, you ask? Watch the video. You can also read about it in What's Good: The Main Events.

Wanna join the fun? Meet at the top of Church Street at 5 p.m. dressed in your zombie best. There's an after-party at Red Square from 5-9 — it's a reception for the new zombie art show, featuring music by Me and You (Brett Hughes and Marie Clare) and the Starline Rhythm Boys.

Go Away, Frank Caliendo

01frankcaliendoheadshot_2 The Major League Baseball playoffs have been an especially painful viewing experience this year, and not just because my beloved Red Sox are getting thoroughly outplayed by a team that's resurrected the "Mohawks for team unity" trend from Little League. No, it's all made worse by the fact that seemingly every commercial break (and there are a lot of those in baseball), the folks at TBS immediately throw a promo for "FrankTV" at us.

I suppose TBS has no choice but to do this, given that "FrankTV" is about their only piece of original programming during the baseball off-season. It's just that the commercials are so damn annoying. Naturally, the network's chief marketing officer, Jeff Gregor, disagrees.

"This is just a hypothesis on my side: You think there are a lot of (FrankTV) spots, but there's actually not as many as you think," Gregor said. "They're just so good at entertaining and engaging that when they come on you feel like you just saw one not too long ago."

If only that were true, Mr. Gregor. Unfortunately your ads are not entertaining, nor are they engaging. Maybe they would be if you didn't play so damn many of them. Or maybe they would be if Frank Caliendo was actually funny.

See, the thing with impression comedy is that it's hopelessly one-dimensional. Frank Caliendo is great at imitating speech patterns. But where is there to go from there? Yes, George W. Bush talks like an idiot and has a sketchy laugh. John Madden is old and crazy and often gets too worked up to speak clearly. Donald Trump does that smug, pouty thing with his lips. These are all things I already knew and found amusing. Frank Caliendo's imitations don't make them any more funny.

Also, who is the character with the dark purple shirt that Caliendo portrays in a few of the commercials? No one I've asked can figure it out. That can't be a good sign for an impression comedian.

Here's to hoping that Caliendo next chooses to do an imitation of a character from "Arrested Development" — by getting promptly canceled.

Shelburne Leaf People

So, as I sit here, attempting to study for my Chinese Philosophy midterm, all I can think about are those roadside scarecrow people along route 7 in Shelburne. Yeah, I know, it’s pretty weird.

This past weekend— Middlebury’s fall break — I spent some time in Vermont’s very own Northeast Kingdom, a place that for many reasons is beyond words (examples: foliage and epic thrift stores). So I was driving back to Middlebury via Burlington when all of a sudden my eyes, which were glossed over by the myriad colors, experienced a major double take. Who are these roadside, eerily-realistic scarecrow people? Honestly, it’s more like “scare-people” people.

Well, this is why I love the internet. A simple Google search of “Shelburne scarecrow people” led me to a WCAX report, where the “leaf-people” are explained. Now, it’s just a matter of driving through Shelburne, particularly at night, and not constantly replaying “Children of the Corn” in my head…oh yeah, and this midterm tomorrow. Damn.

Sweet Granny Mesquite

Not convinced that there are crazy people still out there? I found a story that might change your mind.

If God forbid your Grandmother dies, how would you handle the situation? You might call 911, plan a funeral, handle the estate and finances and see to it that she was given a proper ceremony. But wait! What if you really like BBQ’s and just happened to find Grandma dead on the floor? Would it be wrong to cremate your Grandmother in a backyard barbeque, cash her retirement checks for a while, and then fashion a part of her skull a necklace to be worn at social functions?

Kathleen Allmond, 50, and her son Ray, 30, were arrested Sunday on suspicion of embezzlement, elder abuse and conspiracy in northern California. According to the story, the cause of 84 year-old Ramona Allmond’s death is not yet known, but the two suspects allegedly left her body to rot on her bedroom floor for a week before moving it for the BBQ of the year. They used olive wood to start the fire, allowing it to heat for 17 hours before cremating the body because olive wood “burns exceptionally,” Ray Almond said. 

October 14, 2008

Chittenden 3-4 Election Update

Kesha_headshot Chris_2 Zuckerman As election day approaches, Vermont's hottest statehouse race is reaching a hearty boil. Both tickets are stepping up their efforts to court the lucrative UVM on- and off-campus votes.

On the donkey side, Kesha Ram supporters continue to keep a vigilant presence on-campus, tabling at campus chill spots, distributing materials. I was even invited to a "Kesha for Vermont House Party" last week. Invitations via Facebook, of course.

On the moose side, Chris Pearson and David Zuckerman are holding a press conference today (Tuesday) outside UVM's Bailey-Howe Library to talk about their environmental creds. (And oh, how we UVM-ers love all things green...) Plus, they've been flexing some money muscle, buying ad space in some of UVM's weekly student publications.

The Cynic has already published some rather tame profiles of Dave, Chris and Kesha but expect both sides to continue to regularly appear in on-campus media up through election day. Some more in-depth interviews with The Water Tower, UVM's alternative newsmag — yes, I'm one of the editors — are planned to take place in the upcoming weeks.

This election, like its national counterpart, is stirring up a great deal of emotion as B-Town grapples with its own battle of change versus experience. I'll be speaking again with all three candidates before Catamounts hit the polls on November 4th, so check back for more updates.

October 13, 2008

Founder of Magic Hat Speaking at Champlain College on Tuesday

7_days_art_hop14alan Alan Newman will be speaking in the Alumni Auditorium at Champlain College on Tuesday night as part of the college’s BYOBIZ "Speaking From Experience" series.

Newman, a serial entrepreneur, helped found Gardener’s Supply, a gardening catalog business, Seventh Generation, which capitalized on the wave of interest in environmentally friendly products, and Magic Hat, the popular South Burlington-based brewery.

BYOBIZ (Bring Your Own Business) is Champlain College’s innovative program that provides close consultation and advice to aid student entrepreneurs’ emerging businesses. Successes include Mophie, an ipod accessory company that won a "Best of Show" award at the 2006 Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Third Shift Clothing, whose products are sold in Burlington and online, and GoTradingPost.com, an eBay consignment business in Burlington. Upcoming speakers at the program include Michael Lane, founder of Dealer.com, Jerry and Rich Tarrant Jr. of mywebgrocer.com, and Roy Heffernan of Life is Good. All events are free and open to the public.

Newman speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 14 at the Alumni Auditorium, Champlain College in Burlington.

Wasted

Champlaincompost Curious to find out how much food students waste in dining halls every day? One day last month, a friend of mine and I tried to find out. We hung out at the Champlain College cafeteria from 4:45 to 7:00 p.m. Though much of Sodexo’s excess food is composted, this only occurs on the kitchen’s side. The student extras simply spill into a drain and are not composted. So we collected a scale, some latex gloves and some bins and grabbed the finished plates of the students. The first bin collected weighed 15 lbs.

After 13 bins had been captured, we found the total waste over a two-hour period was 125 ½ lbs. I weigh less than that! One would think my high-fat, low-exercise diet would lead to different results. At any rate, based on our projections, Champlain College, a relatively small school, most likely generates around 300 lbs. of waste a day. Close to 2100 lbs. a week!

Many students were simply thankful that they didn’t have to spend those countless seconds separating plates, napkins and silverware by the conveyor belt. Others wondered what we were doing. Our answers ranged from “Collecting the waste, bagging it and sending it to China on a red-eye-flight so they have enough sustenance to make you a sweatshirt,” and “Making a mean omelet in the morning for cheap.” After startling them for a second with those infeasible and disgusting plans, we would inform them that we were doing data projections as part of an environmental club, and planned on sending the waste as compost to the Intervale.

We noticed that students often felt guilty for not eating the entire plate and came up with excuses as to why this had occurred. The aim is not to guilt trip people into changing their ways. Rather, it’s to simply provide awareness about a problem that potentially could be turned into a benefit to the community. So next time at the caf, think about how you eat.

Photo: The Champlain Beaver, Albert Martini and a Sodexo employee.

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