Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Simplicity Connection's Top Ten Tips for Simplifying the Holidays

1.   Set limits. Be it monetary, culinary or time management, before the season gets into full swing decide how much you’re willing to put up with (and how much is really worth it!)
2.   Stop. Take some time for yourself and just be without worrying about the societal pressures of the season.
3.   Mute the TV. How many times can you hear “Every kiss begins with Kay” before losing your mind? (for me it was 2.) Why not just remove torturous jingles from the equation?
4.   Reconnect with the joy of handmade. It really is the thought that counts in this season but buying something just to cross a name off your list usually ends up with the giver overspending and the givee politely pretending they really don’t hate it. With a little bit of time and research everyone can find a creative gift project. (Start with the list on p. 76 of The Simplicity Connection!)
5.   Be practical (with gift giving). A book of stamps or a gift certificate to the vet may not be the sexiest gifts, but you know they’re more likely to be used (and appreciated) in the long run and not end up in the junk drawer with the 1990s Furby, the pogs and the Tamagotchi pets.
6.   Order online. If you still want to give capitalism a boost, reconsider the trip to the mall and let your fingers do the walking and ordering. Why truck it to a store, just so you can truck it home? If you can, choose ground shipping instead of air shipping: it’s 6 times more fuel-efficient.
7.   Cut calories. How many years in a row is your New Year’s resolution going to be “lose the 15 pounds I put on over the holidays?” This year, before the trays of food go out on the table, consider donating part of your meal to someone who needs the calories more than you do.
8.   Try the $100 holiday. Consider putting a cap on the amount everyone spends. (That’s not $100 a piece, that’s $100 total!) Read Bill McKibben’s Hundred Dollar Holiday for tips and inspiration on how to make it happen.
9.   Cut the waste. A quarter of American trash is generated between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Day. Why not use reusable gift boxes, bags and wrapping instead of 1-time use paper that heads straight to the landfill :30 after unwrapping?
10.   Rent a living tree. Why not try the ultimate in tree-recycling by not even cutting it down in the first place.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Doc Review: Tapped (2009)

The documentary Tapped will make you never want to drink a plastic bottle of water again. You think, a bottle of water is pure, clean and safe, when in reality, that water is barely tested for safety and the plastic bottle it comes in poses its own hazards. Truth is that municipal water supplies are often safer than bottled water (municipal supplies are tested many times A DAY. Bottled water asks the company to voluntarily test for safety, and is only 1 person at the FDA oversees billions of bottles of produced water).

Eighty million bottles of water are consumed in America every day….30 million of those end up in landfills (all of them can and should be recycled).Currently (STILL) only 11 states have deposit laws. It remains true that those states recycle more than all other states (in fact Michigan the state with the 10 cent deposit has a  97% return rate). Why aren't bottle deposit laws mandatory in every state? This is another case of allowing companies to not take responsibility for their products. Think the oil crisis is just $4 a gallon for gas? It takes  714 million gallons of oil to make just the BOTTLES we drink from every year. (that's enough to power 100,000 cars).

From extracting and manufacturing; to safety after ingestion; to the waste and health hazards of disposal, this documentary proves that every step of bottled water is an unnecessary excess.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

And onward...

Nothing makes me happier than the fact that the world’s longest election cycle is over. And while some are trying to downplay it by saying that we’re in for 4 more years of the same (same President, same parties in control of the House and Senate) there are some small but important changes that I hope and believe will make a difference.
1) Elizabeth Warren defeating Scott Brown in Massachusetts. No one should be caught unaware of my girl-crush, but if you’re not on board with her, just watch any one of her Daily Show interviews and you’ll fall in love with her no nonsense, rational approach to fiscal responsibility. Cutting out essential programs is not going to fix the budget, but getting Congress (and ordinary Americans) to live within their means will.
2) Big money doesn’t always buy you an election. With billions spent by Romeny (and specifically the Koch Brothers) and McMahon in Connecticut, it’s nice to know that money can’t buy everything. Oh but it was nice of them to stimulate the economy like that for a while.
3) Another Independent in the Senate. Maybe it’s just me, but I like the idea of people publicly keeping themselves open to other ideas. Maine’s previous Senator (Republican Olympia Snowe) often voted outside of her party line, but her successor (Angus King) is showing up unattached to any party. Here’s hoping he and Bernie Sanders (IND-VT) start a trend.
4) Hate, fear-mongering and slander aren’t cool and women kicked ass. Tammy Duckworth winning in Illinois (after Joe Walsh repeatedly belittled her military service), Claire McCaskill besting Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in Missouri, Joe Donnelly beating Richard “pregnancy from rape is a gift from God” Mourdock.
5) Love is love. Gay marriage was finally approved in Maine and Maryland. Minnesota turned down an initiative to redefine their constitutional definition of marriage (as 1 man, 1 woman) and Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay Senator was elected in Wisconsin, beating a 4-time incumbent!

The beauty contest is over, now it’s time to do something with the prizes. I’m praying that no longer having the fear of losing a second term will allow this administration to truly move forward on the environment and financial recovery. I really have hope that progress and bold changes can happen, but only if the Republicans can drop the "I'm taking my ball and going home" mentality. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

If everyone grabbed a bucket...

 I’ve been reading a book about World War II lately (“December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World by Craig Shirley) and it’s interesting to compare the 1940s mentality of disaster with today’s. In the 40s, Americans were told to ration items (gas, sugar, steel, panty hose…) in order to support the war effort. They were told to participate in black out drills so the enemy couldn’t discern targets (like, what? The Johnson’s lawn jockey? But I digress…). They were told to carpool, plant victory gardens, to ‘use it up, make it do or do without’. They raced to get to recruitment centers and were upset when they were deemed unfit for service because they were too old or too married. These were the hardships of the 40s, but the thing is, Americans did them all. And willingly. Its an interesting comparison to today, where we have all these luxuries that we take for granted and no one asks us to cut back or go without (Could you imagine George W. Bush asking Americans to cut back on sugar after 9/11? LOLOLOLROFLROFLROFL…sorry, I lost the plot there for a minute…I’m back). I just wonder how many Americans will take a moment this week and say ‘no latte for me today, I’m making a donation to the Red Cross instead.’ If everyone grabbed a bucket, the water would be gone from the flood zone. (pick any flood zone you want, it doesn’t have to be the one Sandy caused, because there will be another flood next year. In Iowa, in Nashville, in New Orleans, in Manila…somewhere.) And I can guarantee you that pick 2 flood victims and the one with the more simplified life is coping a lot better than the one who can’t charge their iPhone to play Angry Birds or order take out or watch Netflix.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cabin Dispatch: Who doesn't love the dump?

Oh the dump! How I love the dump. It’s the mark of a true Mainer is how much you love the dump. And well, we don’t really call it the “dump” anymore; it has a nice euphemistic name called “Transfer Station”. How lovely. As in “I am transferring my crap to the dump.” But it’s so much more than a hole in the ground where everyone drops their dirty diapers and cat litter. Turn to the right, and that’s where you can drop off everything that is recyclable: glass, plastic, paper. Give the nice man a few dollars and they’ll let you drop off 3 cubic yards of lawn clipping and leaves. Head west-ish and there’s the wood pile (“No pressure treated wood in the wood pile” the marquee exclaims.) Head around the building and there’s old windows, toilets, and a “take or leave” pile all for free! We’re nothing but resourceful up here. And all for the low price of $5 a year. What? $5??? (In California, my sewer and trash bill is at least $26… per MONTH.) Politics aside, all Mainers can agree on one thing, we love the dump. (though some of us haven’t grasped the concept of bottle deposit yet! Nickels! Everywhere beside the road!)
Yard waste goes here...

Old windows go here...
Paper recycling all packed up and ready to go.
Stop pressuring the wood!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Welcome to the New Normal

 While I’m certainly glad everyone is taking Hurricane Sandy seriously, it poses a bigger question… how prepared are we? There’s little doubt that this storm will cause billions in damages, but if we’re already in a pit of budget despair, how will we be able to make up for new crises? The coffers are empty. We have no cautious plan of recovery. On an individual level, simplicity is the only way we can prepare for disasters. How ready are you to live without electricity? Or running water? or have to go without Twitter/Facebook/Instagram for a day or two? Training yourself to manage these tests in times of sunshine makes dealing with them in times of crisis less of an inconvenience. Yes, extreme weather events suck; they never seem to get our memos, but we are the ones to blame for the climate crisis. We are the ones who haven’t erred on the side of caution with our coal and oil consumption. We have no one to blame but ourselves, so now we just have to sit back and wait to see the outcome.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pinterest Roundup

Time for another edition of Pinterest Roundup, let's see what those crazy designers on the interwebs have come up with this week!

Replenish is a cleaning product company that is rethinking how they sell their products. Instead of shipping cleansers that are 90% water to retailers, they sell a reusable spray top and an active ingredient bottom that clicks on, that includes 3 refills. When your 3 environmentally safe refills are empty, unclick the bottom and attach a full new one.

There’s some backlash for this one (“What if the barista sneezes and doesn’t wash his hands!!!”), well if you’re thinking like that, maybe you shouldn’t  leave the house. Here, this is just a more sustainable and creative solution to one-use plastic knives.

Another concept design winner (but sadly not available yet) is the Off Door Handle—going out? As you get to your door, built into the door handle is a switch that either turns out all your lights, shuts your gas off, or shuts down all plugs and the gas. No need to go running around unplugging or shutting off power strips, one switch and it’s a full power down.

I never could figure out how people could hold themselves up on a bike with a toddler strapped to the back (I have enough trouble remaining upright with my backpack on), but the Bike-Stroller is like a reverse tricycle—mom/dad gets a workout, baby gets a ride (yes, they both should be wearing helmets.) Probably not a good street ride, but around the track or on suburban sidewalks, this seems genius.

The key to my decorating secret (because I know you were wondering) is dual function and modularity. If one product has 2 useful functions and is able to be easily moved, it goes on the list immediately. The Fold-Out Ottoman bed is just that. Closed up, it hides a single guest bed under the cover of a foot rest. What will they think of next!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's your footprint?

Every so often I like to visit one of those online carbon footprint calculators to check in to see how good I’m doing. There’s a lot of calculators online but I like this one the best (it allows you to fine tune your answers and paint a better picture of your true usages). So even with my recycling, my minimal meat consumption, my 45+ mpg car and my limiting my air travel to bare minimum, I’m still at 10.48 metric tons of CO2 created by my lifestyle; 50% less than the US average, but still way above where we all need to be. My biggest culprits? The 2.29 metric tons created by my use of heating oil (necessary to keep my house/pipes from freezing in winter) and my car, my sweet little car at 3.20 metric tons for 15,000 miles of driving. Another great thing about this calculator is that you can instantly see how small changes affect your CO2 footprint: like switching from eating only white meat to becoming a vegetarian saves a half ton of CO2 or driving 5,000 miles less a year saves a full ton of CO2.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On the soapbox again...banging my head against the wall...

Look, deny it or call it whatever you want, politicians, but this climate change “thing” isn’t going away on it’s own. It always astounds me why even if you think climate change is a bunch of hooey, why you wouldn’t just err on the side of caution for some issues. Yes, I get that money is a huge factor on why politicians support petroleum, natural gas and coal subsidies, and yes I know that “that money” is actually a shit-ton of money, but sooner or later all of these politicians who deny will be directly affected by climate change. Maybe their summer home will wash away during flooding from the next hurricane. Maybe their nephew will contract West Nile Virus on a camping trip. Maybe their daughter’s wedding day will be ruined by thick smoke from wildfires. Like it or not, our dependence on fossil fuels is what is not-so slowly destroying our environment. How can people not see the connection between these extreme weather events (record breaking heat and drought, catastrophic wild fires and tornadoes, bigger and wetter hurricanes, etc…) and our actions?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pinterest Roundup

 I’ve been a Pinterest junkie since the early days—its ability to let users organize what they like sends my anal retentiveness into fits of joy. I’m always looking for new design inspiration and a scroll through a few boards will always net me some great ideas. It’s like flipping through 1,000 magazines without the advertisements and the noxious perfume samples. A favorite now is to discover cool and creative products that are not only genius in their simplicity, but contribute to energy savings (both personal and electrical!). Here’s my top 5 from recent posts:

1. The sewing machine with built in ink that tints white thread to match the color you need! No more running out of the color you want, or having a stash of 4,000 spools you’ll never use again.
2. Two “no-drip” dispensers that make cooking clean and easy. There’s the syrup/honey dispenser for $15.99 ( and the pancake batter dispenser for $15.95 (

3. The pizza scissor spatula $11.99 ( Sure you have 2 products that do the same thing, but I’m thinking this single product does it better.

4. Belkin has a bunch of great energy saving products ( including this $9.99 socket that automatically shuts off when your device is charged.

5. Another energy saver: The Live Socket (looks like it’s only a foreign prototype right now: but this seems like an idea that is so quick and easy to use that hopefully it becomes a reality.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reading List: Oceana (2011)

 Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them

Most people know Ted Danson as the loveable Sam Malone from Cheers, but what isn’t as public is his support for environmental conservancy, specifically the sea. This is hands down one of the best environmental books of the last few years…not only is it aesthetically beautiful, what’s written inside is both awesome and thoroughly frightening. It was a shock to learn that probably because of their vast size, oceans don’t have the same protections that other bodies of water do. Many think that the oceans are the environmental equivalent of “too big to fail”, when reality shows they are just as vulnerable as everything else. I’ll let the quotes speak for themselves:

p. 69 “The current rate of destruction and death among the world’s coral reefs due to a multitude of threats including trawling and bleaching is—there’s no better word for it—horrifying. Close to 30% of the world’s tropical reefs have vanished since 1980, including half of the reefs in the Caribbean.”

p. 89 “Experts say we’re within a century—possibly even less—of inhabiting a world where the only viable seafood left in the oceans will be jellyfish.”

p. 130 “Calculations show that the total area of seabed trawled by the worlds fishing fleet each year is 150 times the area of the forests cut.”

p. 182 “You show me a polluter, and I’ll show you a subsidy.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

p. 186 “Factor in the destruction caused by that deep-sea fishing and you’ve got a triple whammy: The public is paying to help catch those fish, we’re paying to eat them, and we’re paying to help destroy our oceans in the process. I don’t think many of us would support fishing subsidies if we were fully aware of these facts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

“Do you ever wish you could make some things disappear?”

I’m not usually one to sit through commercials, (I’ve been watching most of my TV online these days and that usually means watching the same 4 commercials over and over again—seriously how big a problem is toilet paper for Daily Show viewers?!) but this latest one from Tampax for their Tampax Radiant product caught my attention and sparked some outrage. Let’s overlook the overtones of “if you have your period you should hide in a shack for 7 days” and focus on that tagline: “Do you ever wish you could make some things disappear?” for a product that is mostly plastic and will not biodegrade in any reasonable amount of time. (can I tell you how many plastic applicators I saw bobbing in the Hudson River this summer while living in NJ?) Look, it sometimes sucks a lot to have your period but the alternative is not very much fun either. Do I wish I could make things disappear? Yes, unnecessary one-time use plastic products like Tampax Radiant.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Doc Review: Vanishing of the Bees (2009)

Most people don’t connect the flying furry insect to its pivotal role in food production. No bees, no honey, no beeswax, but no fruits and vegetables. “Vanishing of the Bees” (2009) is an in depth look at the phenomena of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a baffling condition that has been affecting bees worldwide for decades. Beekeepers have been noticing that their bee stocks have been literally disappearing without a trace: from a hive of thousands, they find only a few scattered corpses and even fewer remaining living bees. Two important points: first, scientists actually have discredited the notion that cell phones cause CCD (a notion that the media still seems to believe is true). Secondly, and most importantly, scientists now suspect (but cannot definitively prove) that systemic pesticides are a more likely cause of CCD. Have you heard of systemic pesticides?…Because in all my travels of environmental issues, this is the first instance where I learned of them… Unlike the “traditional” pesticides that are sprayed or otherwise applied directly to the grown plant (think crop dusters), systemic pesticides are applied to the seed and thus the plant repels pests from the inside out. The pesticide becomes part of the plant. With cutesy names like “Gaucho” and “Poncho” (manufactured by Bayer) these pesticides, while regulated by the EPA, are not tested by the EPA, which only requires the manufacturer to prove safety on their own. Currently there are no long-term studies on what the cumulative effects of these systemic pesticides.

Let that sink in. Most likely, every single day we are ingesting food that has been grown through these pesticides, with no warning labels or legal responsibility of the manufacturer to disclose what has been applied. Even if systemic pesticides do not cause instant death or symptoms, why do we blindly accept that there are no long term effects? If bee deaths continue, what will the future hold for food production?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Spreading a little Sunshine

PictureDaily Dose of Simplicity has received the Sunshine Blog award! It’s awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogosphere and a great way to meet new like-minded individuals. Thank you, Kelly at The Savvy Suburban for picking
The Simplicity Connection. (sorry I couldn't find the 2012 graphic!)
There are a few rules to follow in accepting the award: Thank this person who gave the award, and write a post about it, answer the questions that are posted below, pass the award along to 10 other bloggers, share their links, and leave them a comment to let them know that they received the award.

The Questions:
Favorite Color? Green definitely!
Favorite Animal? I have a fun cat who makes every day interesting
Favorite Number? right now 350 (let's hit that target people!
Favorite Drink? Water... is that lame? I drink gallons a day, but when I'm not drinking water, then it's usually Red Stripe Beer
Facebook or Twitter? Facebook... I'm still have trouble really "getting" twitter...
Your Passion? Keeping it simple and helping others organize and make their lives more sustainable.
Giving or Getting Presents?  I have more fun giving, but if someone has taken the time to create something beautiful with me in mind, that is wonderful.
Favorite Day? any day I can get outside and enjoy nature.
Favorite Flowers? Gerbera daisies

These are some fabulous blogs that I find inspiring and creative: (THE best place for news and info about climate change activism)
Simple Living America (my old stomping grounds, great for keeping current about simplicity)
No Impact Man (Colin Beaven's site about his travels through life living with as small a carbon footprint as possible)
Psycho Mike's Domestic Journey (local LA radio personality's quest to spend a year only buying American)
On Hand Modern (cute blog about creative family projects)
Frugal Ecologist (A scientist in her late 20s chronicles her adventures in cooking, homemaking, and travel while staying green.)
Green Divas (site for the Green Divas podcast)
Grist (my favorite site for all eco-newsworthy things)
Off the Grid Home Energy (ways to get your home off the grid)
Rudy Amid's Blog (thankful for Rudy's blog for helping me find the community of Civic Hybrid owners!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The History of Falling Trees

2012 note: thought I lost this old post but finally found it on Myspace. What follows is the story of how global warming LITERALLY hit me on the head and tried to kill me. Every so often I like to read it to remind myself how thankful I am to be alive.

Current mood:bouncy (2012 Note: oh Myspace, you're so cute.)
So I figure this is as good a place as any to post the story of how I got hit by a tree and lived to tell the tale. Picture this...Estes Park, 2005...

Just sittin' around the river, having a chat. That's me in the middle ironically chatting with the young girl next to me, who had just graduated from college and was worried because she had no health insurance. I was (once again, literally) telling her that she needed something—just basic 'hit by a bus' insurance—so that if something catastrophic happened, her parents wouldn't lose their home saving her life. Irony's funny like that.
AUGUST 26th, 2005 (the first email out to my friends and family after the accident)
Hi everyone,
sorry for the mass email, but wanted to let you know what's going on. As many of you know I was in colorado this week for a conference on living simply. Ironically, as a group of us were outside sitting by a river relaxing and talking, a strong wind picked up and blew over a dead 40 ft pine tree, whose path i was sitting in. (the EMT told me they have a name for these trees: "Widowmakers") After a trip to the Estes Park emergency room i came away with a varied selection of injuries: a scalp laceration (but no head or neck injury thank god) fixed with staples, an avulsion on my hand (if you don't know what that is, it;s for the best.) fixed with stitches, several broken fingers on my dominant hand splinted, and a puncture wound in my leg the size of a gunshot wound left open just to make sure there isn't still a piece of pine tree in there. All in all, my spirits are really good, I'm able to laugh about it because it truly is incredulous, I'm more shocked that this true "freak of nature" actually happened and grateful that my injuries were not more severe. Now my biggest problem is how to get me and my manual transmission automobile back to LA...
- Casey
Immediately after a tree falls in the woods.
AUGUST 27th-29th
Spent a few days in a Motel 6 down by the Denver Airport, watching the levees break in New Orleans. Hard to feel sorry for yourself when an entire city is in ruins.

Annemarie flies to Denver to help me drive back to LA. Thank god for friends like that. Despite my skittishness of letting someone else drive, we make it to Vegas in less than a day to pick up Adventure Kitty, and then back to LA by midday.
Annemarie takes a picture of me in Vail, and I pretend to be the laughing monkey.

No rest for the wicked, back to work on Don Cornelius' Lady of Soul Awards immediately. If I can survive this show, under these conditions, I'm pretty sure I can do absolutely anything.

Sept passes pretty uneventfully, my leg holes and my palm start to close up, I become less concerned that there's still a piece of tree in there. I continue to believe that my finger is just a bone chip and keep it immobilized.

OCT 5th
Finally think it's time to see a doctor about my finger. My primary doc takes one look at it and says "See an orthopedic surgeon NOW." Ut oh. First ortho surgeon takes X-Rays and says, "Hmmm, I'm going to refer you to a specialist." Second surgeon, (to be forever known from now on as "Doc Cranky Pants") says, "Surgery, NOW." So, apparantly I waited 5 weeks too long to see him. Apparantly it is not just a bone chip, but a volar plate fracture & dislocation. (That's essentially a broken bone in your knuckle and one of the worst possible ways to break a finger) Surgery is scheduled.

OCT 19th
Surgery day. While they did not actually have to cut my finger open, they did insert 2 two inch stainless steel pins into my finger to keep it in place. There are what appear to be 2 baby blue thumb tacks sticking out. I am introduced to the wonders of vicodin.

Physical therapy. Two, sometimes 3 times a week. Pick the handful of rice out of one bowl, put it in the other. Scrunch the paper. Somedays therapy is akin to torture. Others not so bad.

OCT 31st
Halloween: I wanted to do something to encorporate the thumbtacks sticking out of my finger, so I eventually came up with "Lil Miss Staples Catalogue" (see my pic right there) The idea was basically one of those old time sponsored beauty queens (like Marilyn Monroe was something like Miss Calif Artichoke Queen) but this time I would be sponsored by an office supply company, hence, Lil Miss Staples Catalogue...The dress was made by sewing While You Were Out Message squares to an old pillow case, the crown was binder clips in varying sizes clipped to a headband, the scepter was highlighters topped with a rubber band ball (not pictured), the earrings were mini Sharpies. Painted my fingernails with white-out and called it a day!
Halloween, 2005

More therapy. and then some more therapy.

After spending months trying to get a lawyer to listen to my case, I finally gave up and called the Y as a last ditch effort. Shock of all shocks, they forwarded me immediately to the safety director, who forwarded me to the insurance company. After only 2 conversations with my new best friend Mike Eberst, they agreed to pay out up to $10,000
of my medical bills. Here's hoping we stay under that limit.

MAR '06
My knuckle finally bends to 90º after A LOT stretching. A mini party breaks out in therapy room.

APR '06
So it's been 8 months since the tree fell and broke my finger and I still feel like I'm no where near being done with therapy. Had a visit to Doc Cranky Pants yesterday and he was equally unimpressed as to my progress as well. His suggestion, more surgery that may or may not work, will hurt more than the first one, and will probably blow through the remainder of the amount the YMCA's insurance company is giving me. Not to mention that now that this summer show is starting up (2012 note: that show was AGT!), I wouldn't have time to do it anyway. So I made a pact with myself, kick my therapy into high gear. I admit I've been babying the finger for a few months now, but now I know that I can't get away with that anymore. I've spent the last 8 months working around the fact that I can't (or probably will never) be able to make a fist again and I believe it is only because of my adaptable and simplified nature that I have been able to do so. So now I'm on the campaign to wear my splint 5 or 6 hours a day instead of just 1.
Me turning over a new leaf to wear my hand splint more often, and David Hasselhoff signing that splint, days after he acquired his own hand splint in a less climate-related accident.

And a few more pix that tell the story:
Tree from another angle.

base of the tree.

Close up of the base of the tree, where you can really see the damage pine beetles have caused

only one slightly gross pic, I promise. If you have to get hit on the head with a tree in a ravine, it helps to have a wilderness survival guide amongst your companions. EMTs weren't too happy they moved me, but I still feel confident my group made the right decision. I'm also really glad someone took pictures for me.

Ow! Pointy!

 I was seated on the rock in the foreground. Everyone around me managed to dive out of the way, but when I heard the crack, I literally thought: "that's not going to hit me, I'm the star of my own movie." Look, no one ever said I suffered from low self-esteem. I'm blaming the high altitude.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Doc Review: If A Tree Falls (2011)

It’s no secret I’m a doc junkie (I think I’m up to 4 viewings this week alone) and ‘tis awards season, so it’s time to review the candidates for Best Documentary Feature for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. First up “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.” I think this is the first film to take an inside look of the ELF. They interviewed members and victims, showed plans and manifestos, included a lot of never before seen footage and followed one member (Daniel McGowan) as he dealt the repercussions of his actions, awaiting his trial. It’s a bold concept (and a perfect title for the film): if corporate polluters can get away with no jail time for destroying our planet, why are people who try to stop those polluters (mostly with arson) labeled terrorists and threatened with hundreds of years of jail time? We’ve all been there (and no, I will never burn down a ranger station to get attention): believing in something so strongly and feeling like no one is listening. ELF took bold action by targeting (but confirming first) empty structures with spectacular “top-of-the-six-o’clock news” fires. When 2 fires they coordinated for the same night both turned out to be based on incorrect information, McGowan decided to get out of the game. The film follows the investigators as they build a case to bring the perpetrators to justice.

It was an interesting look behind the curtain of the ELF but it felt a little uneven. We only really got McGowan’s story: the epilogue gave little information about “where they are now” only listing McGowan, his ex-girlfriend and the purported ring leader of ELF, nothing about the other 10 involved in the crimes or the victims. (That’s always one of my favorite parts of the documentary: what’s everybody up to after the camera stops rolling) The narrative was a little too non-linear for my tastes and I wish they were able to get a little more emotion and reaction from those on the other side of the issue. I wanted to be sympathetic to the lumber company owner, but he came off as too milquetoast for me to care about him.

I feel great sympathy that they shouldn’t be labeled eco-terrorists (Timothy McVeigh=terrorist, someone who burns down an SUV dealership?=arsonist.) But what we as environmentalists are doing is not enough. Bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, changing your light bulbs, driving a hybrid. It’s not enough. Civil disobedience is not enough. It’s a very sad state of the world where burning a building to the ground is the only way to get any attention.
Narrative: 7/10
Topic: 9/10
Visual Style: 8/10
Overall: 8

Monday, January 23, 2012


Join me at http://www.350.orgI’ve had a few days to think over the Bill McKibben lecture last week. I wondered what I was going to say that hasn’t been said before, what was I going to take away from this experience that I didn’t already know. McKibben preached to the choir for about 2 hours on Friday night (it’s fair to assume James Inhofe wasn’t in the audience…[sidebar: why does “McKibben show up as being spelled incorrectly in Microsoft Word, but “Inhofe” does not?]) I mean I’m egotistical enough to think if everyone in America lived as I do, we wouldn’t have a problem with climate change. What else can I possibly do to make a difference? As someone who literally got hit over the head by global warming (and yes, I mean literally) I nodded appreciatively when McKibben talked about how Vermont, one of the greenest states (it’s right there in the name, people!) was devastated by rains and flooding from last year’s Hurricane Irene, and how there should be a whole lot more believers out there now. Is that what it’s going to take? A personalized hurricane for every James Inhofe out there? Frustrated at dire statistics and feeling like all I do is just to offset someone else’s emissions, I tried to dig deeper into this lecture and find the kernel that was going to move me from my own apathy into a new level of activism.

And then it dawned on me: McKibben, (who has been a hero of mine since seeing a Dateline interview with him in the 90s about Curitiba Brazil and his book Hope, Human and Wild—a catalyst that made me want to be a writer and an activist) is not by nature an outgoing person. He’s a writer, a college professor, he lives in a small town in Vermont, but by his passion for getting people to believe and act on climate change, he has become a powerful advocate and activist. And that’s what I need to do, what we all need to do. We need to set aside our apathy and move from our comfort zones. We need to stop saying it’s not going to get better—because it WILL NOT get better unless we do something about it and do it now. I see a glimmer of hope with the small but major activism victories of the last year: Occupy Wallstreeters braving winter, stopping SOPA, the President not caving to pressure to green light the Keystone XL pipeline. These are small victories, but they should be celebrated. They should be seen as momentum.

So McKibben’s next action with his grassroots organization, is to blow the whistle on Congress and the amount of money they receive from the petroleum industry. A good percentage of Americans do believe in climate change but feel powerless to do something about it because the people in charge of legislation are caught in a cycle of too much money. So January 24, is heading to Washington DC to call out the Senators and Representatives and how much each of them are receiving from Big Oil. And from here on out, I am going to make it my personal mission to get 500 people to join And maybe those 500 won’t march in Washington the first week or call their Congressman but maybe they’ll sign an online petition and maybe they’ll think twice about driving somewhere they could easily walk to. And maybe they’ll look closer at their elected official and maybe, just maybe we can keep the momentum of change going. If you've made it to the end of this blog post and it led you to, let me know and I'll add you to my tally. Even better, pass it on and let's go viral. We're going to start slow, but I'm not going to rest until I hit 500 converts.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Why I Didn't Buy A New Car Yesterday

(also known as "Why I Paid $4000 for a New Battery Instead".)

I’ve had my hybrid for almost 8 years now, driven it almost 150,000 miles and most of that was long range cross country driving (at least 10-15 trips). But when the good ole check engine light went on accompanied by the IMA battery light, I knew I was in for the day every hybrid owner dreads from the day you are first handed your keys. For those of you who don’t know there are 2 batteries in a hybrid, 1 is the usual car battery that all cars have, (that turns the car on, powers your radio, and can be easily restarted by flagging down a neighbor with a pair of jumper cables). The IMA (or Integrated Motor Assist) battery is what helps make a hybrid a hybrid. It’s what transfers the energy caused by braking to recharge the battery and adds additional power from the electric motor to increase fuel efficiency. But when the IMA battery is set to crap out, that’s when the tree-huggin’, reusable bag totin’, organic market-shoppin’ hybrid owner threatens a fatwa on Honda Motor Corp.

I previously had one of my IMA batteries replaced, but a dealer thought I could still be eligible for the 10 year/150,000 warranty that California had extended. No dice. After some fine begging by Gail of Lundgren Honda of Auburn, MA, we were told even though the car was bought and operated in California for most of ownership, since it was now registered in Maine, warranty: null. I could however pay to have the car shipped back to California, have it re-registered there and then they’d honor it… but doing the math, it seemed this would just end up costing me just as much (and the ecological impact of that seemed ludicrous).

So out came the credit card (actually several, since I had to pay for the battery and shipping in full before it was ordered) and now we wait for it to arrive from somewhere far off magical land (most likely Japan).

Some might think it’s crazy to shell out $4000 for a car that’s already 8 years old, but there is method to my madness. New car manufacturing is an unbelievable resource hog. And I have made a promise that my next car will get better gas mileage than the one I have now. When my 8 year old car still regularly gets 45-50 mpg, I think it’s safe to say, I’m not going to find a used car with that kind of mileage for around $4K. And the battery replacement fits into my ethos of “use it up, make it do, or do without”. Another teaching lesson here, is discovering a forum of fellow 2003 HCH owners, ( which may or may not turn me into one of those “My Car is Better Than Your Car” aficionados. This community shows me that HCH owners are getting upwards of 200K miles and still going… my goal drive my little ‘brid till they take it out of my cold dead hands!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Water, Water, (redux)

I often get a lot of flak for not having a toilet tank at my house in Maine. Last year the water in it froze and it cracked the porcelain. The bowl remained intact, but the tank was unsalvageable. So thinking I was lucky that I had a toilet that was 2 pieces and it was a popular and prolific brand (American Standard), I figured finding a replacement for the tank wouldn’t be too difficult to do. But alas, despite web searches and even calling American Standard, they were unable to match up the model numbers on my toilet to anything in their system. So it’s been a year of me having to manually flush my toilet (for those of you squeamish out there: it’s called fill up a bucket, dump it into the bowl quickly, gravity does the rest. I think this is a skill that everyone should have in their back pocket, it will make losing power for those with electric water pumps slightly less obnoxious).

But it seems like the more crap (no pun intended) I get from friends and family, the less I want to actually have this issue fixed. It’s not a hassle for me personally, and well it is my house, right? But there are other reasons: it’s a silent protest against products created to have interchangeable parts, but when one of those parts is impossible to find, it defeats the purpose of having interchangeable parts.

And what I feel is most important, that filling that bucket of water every time is a conscious reminder of the fact that 3 BILLION people on this planet don’t have clean or safe drinking water. I pause and say a little thank you for what I have. I take a moment and remind myself to not take for granted the water that comes out of the tap….that I don’t have to walk 3 miles to get that gallon of water….that wars are not fought so I can drink it…that I don’t have to boil it to make it clean.