Sunday, December 5, 2010

Going Viral

Since I don't live anywhere near Madison County, Indiana, I figure there's not much point in my calling any county officials about the plight of 72 year-old Dick Thompson being evicted from his own 38-acre rural property just because he lives in a trailer with no running water or septic system. I'm thinking the only thing I could do that has even a slim chance of helping is to encourage the news people to stay on top of the story. To that end, here's my second e-mail to the TV reporter that did a piece on the story:

Keith Olbermann Should See Your Dick Thompson Piece

Dear Mr. Edwards:

Your Dick Thompson story is going viral!

This is just the sort of thing that Kieth Olbermann loves to pick up as a cause to fight on his show. (Remember the one about the fire department that let a guy's house burn down because he didn't pay a $75 fee?) Such coverage would highlight your good work to millions of viewers nationwide and do a lot of good for one old man. I encourage you to ask your people to contact MSNBC and let them know about your fine reporting.


Alfred Mollitor

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Bastards of Madison County

I've been reading the Tiny House Blog a lot lately. I am interested in the idea of building small, efficient homes as an alternative to the monsters most people seem to lust after these days.

A recent post on that blog tells of the plight of an old man in Madison County, Indiana being evicted from his own 36-acre property for code and safety violations. A TV news report about the situation can be viewed here. It just seems to me that there could be more to the story and I was moved to write the TV reporter who covered it, encouraging him to stay on top of it. I figured I would save the letter here.

Dear Mr. Edwards:

I just watched your moving report (online) about 72 year-old Dick Thompson who is being evicted from his own 36-acre property by Madison County officials. One wonders, in this age of homelessness and high unemployment, why the County would expend so much time and energy harassing a poor old man living peacefully on his own 36 acres. Surly, one old guy living alone on that much land can't pose a threat to the health or well-being of anyone else. Unless, of course, there is more to this story than is evident in your initial excellent report.

I encourage you to heed the journalist's maxim: "Follow the money!" Who prompted Madison County to go after this poor fellow? Who stands to gain if he is gone? What developers have an eye on the property? What affluent former city-dwellers have recently moved to the area and are now disappointed that the area doesn't fit their image of a rich suburb? Which big-box store would love to bulldoze the property?

Please follow up on this story. Your viewers will be eager to hear more about this battle between traditional American liberty and the power of big government and greedy corporations.


Alfred Mollitor

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Haven't been blogging much at all lately. Facebook seems to absorb most of my limited output. I'm thinking about copying a few of my Facebook comments and saving them here. I'm sensing an interesting evolution in my own thinking these days. It started a few years ago as I read stuff by James Howard Kunstler, and I've written quite a bit about that. More recently, I've discovered Chris Hedges and Derrick Jensen and they are having a strong impact on the way I see the world around me.

Kunstler thinks we're screwed because the oil will run out, we've squandered all our wealth building stupid and unsustainable suburbs and the financial industry has been royally screwing us without Vaseline.

Hedges thinks the liberal left has disappeared and we're left with a pampered, comfortable, soft liberal elite who likes to talk a good game but will never rock the boat enough to to put themselves in any kind of jeopardy. We think we have freedom, but in reality we only have as much freedom as the corporations and government want us to have.

Jensen thinks that civilization itself is a disaster and human society will inevitably destroy the world. Our constant push for growth, productivity and progress can only convert the living into the dead: dead people, dead rivers, dead soil, dead oceans, dead forests, and so on. The powerful at the top are only concerned about their own wealth and comfort and will stop at nothing to get what they want.

I am coming to believe that we are steadily sliding down a very slippery slope but no one with any power to change anything will dare step up to make real change. In response to a comment by a FB friend that yesterday's elections - when the house changed hands yet again - will only bring more of the same, I wrote this:

"I fear we can never hope to see any meaningful change from Washington, our current political process or anybody in the so-called 'liberal' media that is said to control everything. The liberal left (I imagine just about anyone reading this considers themselves liberal or progressive) is too comfortable and is too much part of the system and has too much to lose to make a real difference. It's all talk and entertainment. Do you think you'll ever see Keith Olbermann (who I enjoy watching) throw himself in front of a bulldozer? Will Jon Stewart ever chain himself to a redwood? Will Rachel Maddow ever storm a NY police station demanding justice for another black kid shot by cops? Not likely. No, we still have a long way to slide before TSHTF."

I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for the few real heroes among us; those who are willing to truly lay it on the line for justice and a better world. Let me know if you find any.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Survival of the Fittest

I saw a garbage picker this morning. When I went out to throw some last-minute stuff into our spiffy new single-stream recycling bin, I saw a guy with his old station wagon, rubber gloves and little poking stick going through the neighbors' trash picking out anything he thought might have value. I'm all for it - better to have something reused than to have it dumped, burned or even recycled.

Seeing this made me think of genetic variation and evolution. OK, maybe I'll burn in Hell, but I believe in evolution and that the world is quite a bit older than 5770 years. I can't help it. I was forced to take 10th grade biology by those godless secularists that ran the public schools back in the Sixties. A little education is a horrible thing. But I digress. I understand it, any population has a little genetic variation. The vast majority of individuals are adapted perfectly well to life under the current conditions. But every now and then an individual is born that's a little different, either through some genetic mutation or some statistically rare combination of genes from its parents. If this individual is too different, they simply die. If they are a little different, they may survive but not thrive. But, if conditions in the environment suddenly shift, maybe - just maybe - that rare individual will be better suited to survival under the new set of conditions and everyone will struggle or die. That lucky oddball will go on to pass along his/her genes and the population will being to evolve into something new and better suited to their new world.

I saw the garbage picker as that oddball. Today, most of us here in the U.S. have adapted to a life of comfort where we don't have to think much about things like where our next meal will come from and how we will clothe the kids next winter. Everything we really need - things like food, water, clothing, basic shelter - are widely available and cheap. But what if conditions were to change? Let's say the climate really was warming, the oil was really running out and political turmoil was right around the corner. Who would be the fittest then - the pampered pretty boy who spent the last two generations in an air-conditioned cocoon, or the guy who new something about picking through garbage?

I put this here on the Moose Hill Notebook rather than Facebook because I get too much static over there about how boring and gloomy I am. I maintain that while I might be boring, I'm not gloomy. I observe our current state of affairs with much interest and take great pleasure in dreaming about those valleys on the other side of the mountains.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is Facebook Killing Blogging?

I recently, after a long period of neglect, procrastination and denial, opened a Facebook account. I did it with some trepidation, because those that know me warned that I would fritter away even more of what remains of my puny little life. While that was pretty true for the first week or two, I think I'm getting it under control. Having been blogging for four years may have helped. I've alredy got a lot of stuff off my chest and I don't need to start all over again now on Facebook. I can just rant about new stuff as it comes along.

I joined in large part to help connect with long lost friends. I'm registered on, but as a super cheapskate, I resisted paying to join there. I've since heard that bad things can happen once the get a hold of your credit card number, so I'm glad I didn't succumb. So far, I've reconnected with a few friends from high school and earlier. I'm having a little trouble with college friends because my school isn't listed in Facebook's classmate search engine. I guess "State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry" just wouldn't fit. They could have tried SUNY ESF. That would work for us.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of the friends I've made strictly through blogging are on Facebook. That does, however, raise the question: Does Facebook kill blogging? Now the kind of post I might put on the Moose Hill Journal would never fit on FB. Admittedly, my posting frequency there is sporadic, but I get so few hits there anymore anyway, I wonder if everyone isn't so busy on FB that they don't bother to read blogs anymore. They certainly aren't posting comments. Most of the shorter posts I might put on this Moose Hill Notebook would fit on FB nicely, so I figure this blog is more or less pointless. Although, for what it's worth, if I have anything to say that I'd like to be around for a little while, a blog might be better than FB. I have no idea how long FB posts stick around, but I'm guessing it's not very long.

So, dear reader, check me out on Facebook. Say 'hello.' It's easy. Maybe too easy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

First Tick

Remember when getting naked with your partner and checking each other out used to be fun?

My wife and I were out on one of our Moose Hill natural movement adventures this morning. We even sprayed some insect repellent before we left home. But as we were doing a bear crawl up Pettee's Hill, I looked down between my arms to see a deer tick crawling up my shin.

I found my last tick of last year buried in my bicep in mid-November. My best guess is that it started crawling up my arm when I was pulling firewood from the woodshed. I discovered it about a day and a half later and a small bullseye was already starting. Three weeks of Doxycycline followed. We like to blame deer for spreading Lyme disease, but mice are also a vector.

So, it looks like deer tick season in eastern Massachusetts is at least seven months long.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Beyond Barefoot

OK, Boomers out there (Heck, the way things are going, I could ask a 16 year-old the same questions!): When's the last time you climbed a tree? When's the last time you hopped over a fence? How about a forward roll? While hiking, when's the last time you got down on your belly and crawled under a log blocking the trail rather than looking for a way around? If you found yourself on the tenth floor of a burning building with no elevator and no shoes, could you save yourself? Could you save your companion?

When's the last time a book changed your life, even a little bit? I won't try to review Christopher McDougall's Born to Run here. It's been all over the news, and by now just about anyone who has an interest in running has read it or as heard all about it. What I want to do is reflect on how some of the revelations in the book have influenced my thinking about a lot of things.

I'm a cynic. I know it, and everyone close to me is sick of it. But, as I like to say, I come by my cynicism honestly. One of the main threads through this book deals with the myth and the scam of the modern running shoe. Humans evolved for millions of years and survived by running barefoot, yet in a few short decades the running shoe industry has everyone convinced that they can't jog a step without the the latest high-tech - and high-profit - footwear. OK, I am predisposed to the argument that running shoes can wreck your body because I'm suffering with a nagging and persistent case of plantar fasciitis, but the basic argument makes sense to me: Because of their form, support and cushioning, running shoes encourage runners to land heel-first, putting tremendous unnatural strain on the body. Furthermore, by supporting feet so thoroughly, these shoes actually weaken them.

Born to Run is mostly about running barefoot, but it is helping me to braid together several threads of thought that have be twisting around in my brain for some time now. What it is boiling down to is that we American adults - in typical Boomer over-achiever fashion - are going about exercise all wrong. How many of us spend hours on a treadmill bored out of our minds, going nowhere? How many millions of miles have we pounded out on asphalt running in straight lines preparing for 10K's and marathons? How many millions of dollars have we spent because we are convinced we need gyms, trainers and fancy equipment? I say, rather than behaving like machines or drones, we need to behave more like cavemen, or - dare I say it - children.

We need to make exercise more interesting, varied, fun, simple, and maybe even a little risky. Lately, instead of a typical slog on the road for an hour, I like to go for trail runs. I'm lucky in that from home I can quickly run to Moose Hill or nearby Town conservation land. I'm not ready for barefooting yet (Plus it's February in New England.) and I don't have any of the new minimalist footwear yet (I'm still a little skeptical about that, too.), so I focus on landing more on my mid-foot and less on my heel.

As I move across soft and variable trail surfaces, I notice that my foot doesn't hurt nearly as much as it does on pavement. Moving through the woods, I watch the terrain in front of me and try to let my body flow with the landscape; moving left and right, up and down. I start to feel like a wild animal moving gracefully through the forest. (OK, I'm an overweight mid-50's guy with a bad foot and a bad shoulder, but endorphines are powerful drugs that help me hallucinate.) As I run, I scan my surroundings for playthings: A log on the ground makes a good balance beam. A granite bolder lets me become king of the hill. A low-hanging tree branch is a good pull-up bar. I look for different ways to move my body: I bend to clear sticks from the path. If a log is in my way, I don't hesitate to hop over or crawl under. I look for stones to lift and throw. If I see a soft spot on the ground, I might do a somersault. The idea is to vary the movement and use many different muscles to stretch and strengthen the whole body, not to become over-trained in just one way. With all that running, bending, rolling, climbing, throwing and crawling, one should be ready for any physical challenge that comes up in everyday life.

There is also another component to my new thinking about exercise: Useful work. Let's be honest: Most of us have to exercise because we live cushy lifestyles and work at jobs where the biggest physical danger is the risk of a paper cut or maybe carpal tunnel syndrome. For most of us, exercise is actually something of a leisure time luxury. I don't think migrant farm workers go home at night and yell: "Let's go to the gym!" How about this: Next time it snows, don't call the plow guy. Get the kids off the couch and go out and shovel for an hour. Rather than agonize over the price of heating oil for next winter, go out and chop some firewood. Rather than drive to the Piggly Wiggly for your Pringles, hop on the bicycle and pedal over there for some whole wheat flower. Rather than hire a lawn service, push a mower for an hour a week. Better yet: Get out a spade and turn that lawn into a garden. We can find lots of way to get some exercise while doing something useful.

I like to find new ways of looking at our everyday world. I like to think about simple ways to make our lives and the world a little better. Born to Run is helping me to do that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Read Your Labels!

I bought a bottle of ketchup last week at my local Big Y supermarket. Ketchup is one of those things that just always seems to be in the house. I don't think about it much, and since I don't use much of it, I don't buy it very often. I like a little with eggs or on a salmon patty or veggie burger.

Since it didn't seem like a big deal at the time, I didn't spend a lot of time in front of the ketchup shelf at the store studying all the labels. The house brand was a little cheaper and in big letters on the front label it said: "ALL NATURAL!" Hey, good enuf for me!

Back at home, my dear wife said, "You know, that stuff is loaded with corn syrup." Me: "No way! It clearly says ALL NATURAL!" Sure enough, on the back, right after water and tomatoes (Or was it before tomatoes?), it said one of the major ingredients was "High Fructose Corn Syrup."

Do we really live in a world where a company can proudly proclaim that high fructose corn syrup is "all natural"? I went on the Big Y website and sent them a comment that I thought their label was misleading if not downright dishonest.

I haven't heard back.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Moldy Bread

My bread was moldy this morning, and that's a good thing. These days, about the only bread I eat is home-made in the bread machine. Nothing fancy, just basic 100 percent whole wheat bread. This time of the year, when it's cool in the house, I just keep it in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter. This morning, when I took out the last bit of a loaf I made nearly a week ago I noticed spots of mold growing on it. On the one hand, I didn't like wasting food, but other other, it was good to see that mold would eat my bread.

As Michael Pollan says, if food is so devoid of nutrients and so full of preservatives that it won't rot, it's not good for people, either. So, I'm happy to share a little bread with my fungal friends. But then again, maybe I'll just eat my next loaf a little faster.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We're on the Way Up!

It's bleak at the bottom, but my annual watch of daily minimum temperatures is over. After a few depressing days at 21 degrees, the temperature chart on the Boston Globe weather page ticked up to 22 degrees yesterday. These are just average temperatures, of course, but I now have a reason to hope, at least, that tomorrow will be a little warmer than yesterday. Spring is on the way!