A Three-year Review for V. F. Thomas Co.
On 13 February 2011, I retired and began to use my time to work on a variety of projects that I hoped would be of benefit. After the completion of each year since retirement, I have taken time to evaluate the progress of each project and what I have perceived to be its importance. Below is a list of projects, with notes on the status of each one.

Because some of the projects tend to be somewhat seasonal in nature (e.g., observing and photographing wildflowers of Mount Desert Island), their web pages may not show much change for several months at a time. Therefore, I post the date of the most recent addition of material near the top of each page, with the exception of the relatively unchanging home pages of some of the projects.

All of the material posted on this website is for the free use of anyone who wishes to use it, with the requirement that no one using this material will ever charge anyone for access to it, either online or in print or in any other form.


A Few of My Thoughts
As I have been thinking about not just the 4 November 2014 election, but U.S. elections in general, I have concluded that although the concept of voting for representatives makes sense, the way it is done is all wrong. When someone is elected to represent, say, the second district of Maine (where I live), that person should be elected based on their ability to represent the second district, people and the environment alike. That is, they should be elected based on their education, their background/experience, their ability to understand the issues facing the people and the environment of the second district, their ability to communicate the second district's needs to the other representatives from around the country, their ability to think critically, etc., etc. However, that's not what is done. A person is elected to represent a particular point of view, that of the political party they belong to, and if you don't hold that view, you will not be represented. If the inhabitants and the environment of districts were truly represented, most Congressional votes would not fall along party lines. But there is more unity among Republicans (or Democrats) in very different states than among representatives who belong to different parties within the same state. Because voting usually breaks no more than 60-40, at least 40% of the voters have to wait until the next election for a chance to be represented.

The more I hear politicians almost always oppose whatever "the other party" is trying to do and almost always defend anything supported by "their party", the less confidence I have that the future holds much promise, especially for the environment. All I hear is the need for "jobs, jobs, jobs", never mind whether those jobs entail dumping dioxin into rivers, building yet more housing developments (that are given names like "Deer Run" or "Fox Hollow" as a reminder of what the houses have replaced), or manufacturing more products for people to buy. How much more "stuff" do we need?! I cringe every time that I hear people on HGTV looking at potential homes and saying something like, "This bathroom is so dated. We'll have to redo it." (My idea of a "dated" bathroom is one that is outdoors and has a crescent moon cut out of the door for ventilation.) Think about it. How much time do you spend in a bathroom admiring the decor, and how much space do you really need between the tub and the sink?

I have apparently made an impression on some of the clerks at Hannaford, a large supermarket where I frequently shop. They know now that I do not want my fish wrapped in plastic and then put into a plastic bag. They know now that any items that do not fit into one of the two reusable bags that I bring with me can simply go into the shopping cart, and I will put them into my car one item at a time. However, I have my doubts if they ask other customers if they need to put their plastic container of milk into a plastic bag or their plastic bag of apples into a plastic bag. I sometimes chuckle when I see the word "organic" next to some food item, as if we eat inorganic food. (Well, I guess you can buy lemon juice in plastic lemons.)

Arthur Haines in his web postings and YouTube videos has written and spoken much more knowledgeably and eloquently than I can about nutrition, but let me make just a few comments of my own here. I become quite agitated when I see a television commercial for Nutella, which describes the product as containing skim milk, hazelnuts, and a hint of cocoa. What they neglect to say is that the ingredient in Nutella that is more abundant than any other is sugar. In fact, the percentage of sugars in a serving of Nutella is higher than the percentage of sugars in a serving of one of the Ben and Jerry's ice creams that I checked. No wonder the advertisement is careful to say, "Breakfast never tasted this good." (emphasis mine; Note: I like Ben and Jerry's ice cream from time to time, but I do not recommend it as a part of your breakfast.)

I have been retired only three years, so I expect to be around for a while before I become compost. My goals during these years include the following. (1) I intend to purchase as little "stuff" as possible; (2) What I do buy will be of sufficiently high quality that I will not have to replace it every year or so; and (3) Any "extra" money I have will be used to support educational causes and assist with buying and preserving land.


STAMP COLLECTING
The emphasis of this project is to develop and post identification tools for U.S. stamps and postal stationery. You may click on the link above for an overview of the whole project or on one of the links below to explore a specific topic. I plan to continue adding to the tools below, but I have become aware that I cannot afford to continue being a stamp dealer. The cost for travel to/from shows and especially my need to stay in a motel because of the distance between where I live and where almost all shows are held make it unfeasible for me to continue. I am, therefore, hoping to find someone who will purchase my stock.
online keys to front-of-the-book postage stamps | downloadable Excel file for U.S. front-of-the-book stamps | online keys to design types of U.S. stamped envelopes and wrappers | Maine postal history



MAINE CEMETERIES
I would like to transfer this project to a nonprofit organization that will make it freely available online. I offered the data to Billion Graves, but they were not interested. I e-mailed the Maine Old Cemetery Association over a year ago, but they did not reply. I have tried again, and this time they responded, but no action (positive or negative) has been taken.


CHAMPLAIN PROJECT
This project is a record of the natural history of Mount Desert Island and the immediately adjacent ocean. I would like to see this project adopted just as the MDI Cultural History Project (above) has been. I envision the creation of a nonprofit organization, perhaps called the Mount Desert Island Natural History Society, that will be the natural history equivalent of the island's historical societies. The new society would, among other things, (1) have its own website, (2) maintain/update the Champlain Project data, (3) develop a newsletter, (4) provide scholarships to help students and adults attend various natural history camps and programs, (5) create displays for libraries, schools, and other interested groups, and (6) create and/or support natural history collections. Until such an organization is created, I will continue to host and update the Champlain Project.
   You may click on the link above for an overview of the whole project or on one of the links below to explore a specific topic.
checklists | mysteries | organizations and other resources



GENEALOGY
This project includes three brief articles (Redundant Research | Not Another Book! | Where Did You Get That Information?) and an online surname-based genealogy. I will continue to add to the surname-based genealogy when I receive material, hopefully including documentation, but I would like to see the creation of a nonprofit national family association that would take over this work. Otherwise, when I die, this online genealogy will be deleted.


SLOW(?) DESTRUCTION OF MOUNT DESERT ISLAND
The page linked to by clicking here will give you a less than rosy picture of what can unfortunately be found on Mount Desert Island without looking very far.


MOUNT DESERT ISLAND CULTURAL HISTORY PROJECT
For information about Mount Desert Island's people and their interaction with the island, visit http://research.mdihistory.org, a project of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.


RECOMMENDED LINKS
Here are some websites that I think are worthy of your attention.
   Anaskimin - a nonprofit whose mission is "to reawaken people's awareness of the landscape they live in, enabling them to reconnect with, appreciate, and value natural places". As treasurer of Anaskimin, I am aware of its financial needs, not only in terms of the dollars needed to carry out its goals but also the need, as a nonprofit public charity, to show (to the IRS) that it has broad public support. Although gifts of $100,000 or more would obviously be welcomed, donations of smaller amounts (every $1 is important) from many people will help demonstrate public support. You may send a check, payable to Anaskimin, to P. O. Box 400, Southwest Harbor, Maine 04679, or you may call 207-266-5748 to make a donation via credit card. All charges incurred when processing credit card donations and payments are being covered by a donor, so 100% of your contribution will be available for Anaskimin. Thanks.
   Delta Institute of Natural History - a school for small group instruction on a diversity of natural history topics, with focus on plant taxonomy and primitive technologies.
   The Naturalist's Notebook - a unique shop and exploratorium for anyone who is "even a little curious about the last 13.7 billion years". I particularly recommend their blog.