Vermont Steampunk Expo is coming to South Burlington

The people behind Vermont Comic Con, the Green Mountain Comic Expo and the Vermont Renaissance Faire are teaming up to bring a new geeky show to Vermont: the Vermont Steampunk Expo.

The event will be held on November 4th and 5th in South Burlington’s Sheraton. According to its Facebook page, the event will “showcase artisans, crafters and performers from across Vermont and New England.”

There’s no details about pricing or vendors just yet; the site promises that that information will come soon.

This isn’t the first Steampunk-styled event to hit Vermont. The Springfield Steampunk Festival has been held for the past two years in Springfield, with a third iteration scheduled to be held on September 15th and 16th.

However, the Springfield event ran into financial troubles last year due to low attendance: it had to make up for lost revenue with a GoFundMe campaign that allowed them to cover their bills. Part of that might be due to location (Springfield is a bit out there), but it does beg the question: is there space for two similar events?


Peter Biello Moving on from Burlington Writer’s Workshop


Peter Biello has been the face of the Burlington Writer’s Workshop for years now, and in a post to the website, he announced that he’s stepping down as the head of the group to take a job in New Hampshire:

This decision was one of the toughest I’ve ever had to make. I’ve accepted a position as All Things Considered host at New Hampshire Public Radio. This is an exciting opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to pushing the “ON AIR” button in the Granite State. NHPR is a leader in the industry and its staff is incredibly talented and creative. I’m sad to be leaving the talented, creative folks at VPR, but opportunity knocked loudly.

Even though I’ll be leaving Burlington for Concord, New Hampshire, one thing is certain: I will always be a member of the Burlington Writers Workshop. Since I moved here in 2009, my fellow BWW members have been my friends, careful readers, and sources of comfort during tough times. When I moved here, building something like this was not in the plan, but once it became clear that there was a force greater than me pushing this group onward and upward, I couldn’t step away.

We wish him well: the Burlington Writer’s Workshop has been a major powerhouse in the region for writing, and it’s good to see that it’ll remain in capable hands.

Read the full farewell here.

Radio Shack Announces Vermont Closures

In recent days, Radio Shack has filed for bankruptcy, and announced that they would be closing at over 1,700 stores across the country by March 31st. Two Vermont branches are on that list:

Radio Shack number 1533 in South Burlington’s University Mall will be in the second round of closings, and will close by February 28th, while Radio Shack number 1539 in St. Johnsbury’s Green Mountain Mall is in the 3rd round of closures: it will be closed by March 31st.

Vermont is home to fifteen stores in all, and at this point, it’s unclear as to what will happen with the remainder of the chain. It’s possible that those stores will be converted into Sprint outlets.

It’s really too bad: I’ve had friends who’ve worked at these stores, and I’ve found them to be an outstanding place to pick up random supplies and cables.

Vermont Students Design Mars Missions As Part of NASA Program

VPR is reporting this morning that a pair of Vermont college students have been selected to join a NASA program which will help design a mission to Mars:

Community college students across the nation are getting an opportunity to study Mars exploration through a special NASA program. That includes two Vermont students who are designing their own missions to Mars.

Audio from this story will be posted from approximately 11 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 9.

As a pre-med student at CCV, Liz Taylor never thought of herself as someone who would be working on a Mars mission.

But she says she realized NASA isn’t just for astronauts.

“There are doctors that work at NASA. Engineers. So it’s really a broad field,” said Taylor. “Much broader than I ever expected.”

That’s the message NASA is hoping to get across with their Community College Aerospace Scholars Program.

Read the full article here.

Burlington’s Second Barcade is Coming: The Archives

Last night, the Burlington Free Press wrote that a second barcade is coming to the downtown Burlington area: The Archives. Owned by Nathan Beaman, Matthew Walters, Adam Lukens and Matthew Strauss, the bar will mix craft beers and vintage arcade games in the former Burlington Free Press Building on College Street.

The former home to the Burlington Free Press is about to get a new tenant as Burlington’s Department of Planning and Zoning recently approved a zoning permit for an arcade and bar to take part of the space.

The establishment, fittingly dubbed “The Archives,” is targeted to open on May 1, said Matthew Walters, one of the four owners. It has been approved to occupy 2,020 square feet of the first floor at 191 College Street.

Read the entire Burlington Free Press article here.

The owners released their own statement:

The Archives, an arcade and craft beer bar, will be opening in downtown Burlington. It’s home will be the building previously occupied by the Burlington Free Press at 191 College St. The Archives will serve craft beers, wine and unique cocktails alongside a wide selection of classic video games from the 1970s-1990s. After you work up an appetite battling Donkey Kong you can satisfy your hunger on anyone of the half dozen artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu. Each one being crafted with Vermont made breads and farm to table ingredients.

The Archives will embody all the best parts people love about bar-arcade hybrids, but with Burlington flair.

The concept of a Barcade isn’t new, and it isn’t new to Burlington: the announcement comes just months after Tilt Classic Arcade and Ale House opened up in South Burlington in July, prompting speculation that Burlington might not be big enough for two such establishments. Tilt has proven to be wildly popular over the last six months, with an excellent menu and selection of games, and would have a considerable head start and established clientele. As one commenter pointed out, Tilt doesn’t have to contend with parking in downtown Burlington.

Still, the Archives doesn’t appear to be an act of opportunism: the owners have been working on the concept for the last couple of years after being inspired by the original Barcade in Brooklyn, New York. According to one of the owners: “The Archives is a reference to everything being vintage, the place itself will be an archive of all things cool from those prime gaming decades. We have some plans to work that in other ways as well. Plus with the decor.”

To start, they’ve got a wish list going for games, and anticipate opening with 25+ arcade machines and 5-8 pinball machines.

We’re excited about this, and we don’t think that the presence of one such bar will seriously harm the other. For one, The Archives appears to be aiming towards an adult market, while Tilt is frequently home to adults bringing in their children to share in the games they once grew up with. Having two similar places in the Burlington area will yield a bit more diversity in the games and will hopefully keep both places interesting and worth returning to over and over.

The Archives plans to open on May 1st, 2015, but the owners noted that they still have quite a bit of work in front of them as the renovate the building and get moving on buying a small library of games. A website for the bar has just launched.

Geek Mountain State on VPR

We’ve just gotten confirmation to release this: Geek Mountain State will be featured on an upcoming broadcast of VPR’s Vermont Edition! Join Andrew Liptak and authors Kristin Dearborn and Brian Staveley to talk about all things geek in Vermont next Monday (December 22nd) at noon. Mitch Wertleib will host the show.

We’re pretty excited about this: Vermont Edition is a great program, and it’ll be exciting to talk about what we do on the radio.

Penny Press Goes to Press with Tabletop Deathmatch Victory

Penny Press logo.We’ve been following the story of Penny Press, a board game designed by Upper Valleyians Matt Golec and Robert Dijkman Dulkes, since the designer’s diary series began posting on The designers submitted their work to the Tabletop Deathmatch competition, sponsored by Cards Against Humanity, in which judges whittle away contestants until one title remains. You can watch the web series chronicling the finalists on Youtube.

The final episode posted today, revealing that Penny Press, along with Discount Salmon, won Tabletop Deathmatch! Matt and Robert’s prize, beyond kudos, is the first print run is paid for! Timed to launch as the final episode went live, Penny Press‘s crowdfunding campaign has a modest goal, thanks to the prize money. After that, it’s all gravy and add-ons to make the product even better.

The funding campaign runs through July 10th. You can get a copy of the game at a discount, and contribute to making a better overall product that two local designers have put their hearts and minds into.

Aimee Picchi: ​Amazon says Hachette dispute won’t end quickly

Aimee Picchi is a writer for CBS Moneywatch, and yesterday, she covered the ongoing problems:

The publishing world has been in an uproar over a dispute between (AMZN) and publisher Hachette, with writers and readers caught in the middle. The standoff escalated last week, with Amazon pulling pre-order buttons from well-known writers such as J.K. Rowling and Michael Connelly.

As rumblings about the dispute circulated through the publishing world, alarming writers and their readers, Amazon remained largely silent. On Tuesday, however, the retailer said in a statement that it is “not optimistic this will be resolved soon,” and added that the company was negotiating “on behalf of customers.” In the meantime, authors whose books are published by Hachette are caught in the middle, and some readers are urging a boycott of Amazon.

Read the entire article here.

This impacts a number of science fiction authors, such as Will McIntosh (who’s book Defenders you should go run out and buy) and James S.A. Corey (who’s book Leviathan Wakes we’re reading next week!) through Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette . It’s really too bad to see authors getting caught in the middle of these negotiations, because they really have nothing to do with it.

Something I’m a little annoyed to not see here is our local bookstore community standing up and really shouting from the rooftops that they’re really a better alternative to Amazon. Phoenix Books in Burlington and Essex made a major splash with the opening of their Burlington branch with their anti-Amazon stance, and I know that bookstores such as Bear Pond Books and others have issues with a retailer that makes their lives harder. What we’d like to see from them (as an industry) is a big push to get the word out that they often have these books on their shelves, and that they can often order the books for you quickly, without shipping costs. We buy a lot of books from local stores, and from here on out, we’ll be making it a priority to get more books through them.

UVM Wins Grant to Establish Vermont Natural History Museum

This is pretty awesome. UVM announced today that they’ve won a $470,000 grant to establish a Vermont Natural History Museum from the National Science Foundation. According to their release, it’ll allow the university to consolidate three major collections which they currently house: plants in the Pringle Herbarium and invertebrate / vertebrate collections from the Thompson Zoological Collections.

The award will be used to improve specimen storage conditions for each of the collections, reducing the chance of damage from fire, water and pests. It will also enable the university to significantly expand digital imaging efforts currently under way of both the animal and plant collections and of data retrieved from the specimen labels and collection archives.

The museum, a joint project of the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Biology, will be located in Torrey Hall, where the collections currently reside.

Read the full release here.

Vermont isn’t hurting for scientific museums: the Fairbanks Museum of St. Johnsbury is a fine Natural History museum, although it isn’t state-specific, and the Montshire Museum of Science of Norwich is a great introductory location. It’ll be cool to see what comes of this, and hopefully, it’ll be open to the public.

Vermont Edition: Power And The People: Citizen’s Role In Energy Projects

Today’s Vermont Edition will look at the role of individuals and energy production:

When an energy project like wind turbines or large-scale solar arrays are proposed to be built, affected landowners find they need to get a deep education on regulatory processes, and fast. On the next Vermont Edition, we look at the quasi-judicial process for reviewing and approving those projects from the citizen’s perspective. Our guest is Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who says there ought to be a less complicated, less litigious and less expensive way for people to play a role in deciding where energy projects are located.

Post comments here, and listen at noon and 7pm today on VPR.