February 27, 2010 - 2:36 PM
When did my life get so hectic?
I thought I was done with the academic insanity after last week when I experienced one the top three most difficult days of my college career. I know it was the most difficult three and half hour span of time because from 10am - 1:30pm I was writing page after page of essays for midterms in Environmental Education or Natural Resource Policy. By then end of the second midterm, my brain was effectively ineffective. Walking out of the classroom my vision was hazy. I was in a scholastic stupor.
So, last week I took it easy and chose to catch up on sleep more so than get ahead in school readings. And now, of course, that has all caught up to me and convened with extracurricular obligations to create a perfect storm of academia. Here's a brief overview of what lies ahead of me in both the near and not so near future.
Today, I have to meet with my ELP team to talk about finalizing lesson plans for next term's trips to local middle schools. We finally received school profiles from our community partner, only two and half weeks late, which gives us a better sense of who we're working with. We also need to plan out a visit either this week or next week to one of these schools, and some of us need to plan our lesson for tomorrow morning's class. Right now I'm a little bit overloaded on pedagogical theories.
I only have a few other minor academic deliverables - a two-page memo critiquing Eugene Springfield Metro Parks and Open Space planning, maintaining a nature journal and another GIS lab assignment. Nothing too overbearing, but it's still something to keep track of, which is becoming especially difficult now that the weather becoming conducive to playing outside - i.e. time I probably should spend studying.
The real anxiety stems from the search for a summer internship, which has consumed a good amount of my time recently. Sadly, however, there's still plenty of work to be done.
I locked down one interview at the beginning of spring break with the San Francisco Planning & Urban Research Association (SPUR). Ideally I would be interning with them starting immediately after spring classes end, but I don't hold too much hope because they aren't offering many positions in the fields that I'd like to work in, like sustainable development or community planning, and they may not be flexible with work dates. That might be the only time the quarter system has been hindrance to my summer plans.
I'm also working on cover letters and resumes to send out to SF Environment, Restore Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park and the Pacific Forest & Watershed Lands Stewardship Council.
That last one is particularly intriguing because the office is in the same building as my father's real estate company, which means that my dad and I could carpool to work every day. How's that for family bonding? Then again, dad has some stiff competition with those other two opportunities. SF Environment could potentially mean carpooling with my mother into the city. And Restore Hetch Hetchy would have me living at Yosemite for two months - not to mention it's the only paid position of the group. Sweet options, right?
I'm also going through a dilemma about whether or not to volunteer at Mt. Pisgah next term. Between classes, ELP and work at Facility Serivces, I probably don't have time to lead a group of kids around the arboretum, but environmental education is contagious. Plus, it would force me to get outside once a week and there's still plenty to learn about Willamette Valley ecology. Then again, an internship with Food for Lane County just opened up, which might be just as fulfilling.
What do you all think? Mt. Pisgah, Food for Lane County, neither, both? Okay, definitely not both. I need some guidance. Who wants to give me a tip?
February 22, 2010 - 11:57 PM
Truth be told, this story actually happening one weekend ago, but considering the recent weather and atmosphere around Eugene I feel like very much so still relevant.
Last weekend, amidst a crazy weekend of studying for midterms and desperately trying to catch up on sleep, I found the time to play the first round of disc golf since the beginning of winter. Saturday morning, noticing a glimmer of sunlight my roommates, Steven, our friend Chris and I drove over to Westmoreland Park around 18th and Chambers to toss 9-holes while we could.
I didn't go so far as to wear sunglasses like my playing partners, but the weather was fair enough to be outside in shorts and a light jacket. Spring was in the air without questions, but rest assured we discovered quickly that the ground still belonged to the winter rains.
As soon as we arrived at the course we were met with sopping wet grasslands and puddles that went on for days. The first tee box had to be two-thirds submerged and while waiting to tee off, we noticed some gnarly oil slicks in the standing water. I couldn't track the pollution to any source (ironic considering that I needed to study for a Water Pollution Policy exam), but then Chris came through, referencing a geography course where he studied a local waste facility that was pegged for not lining their waste pits up to code regulations. Undeclared major beats Environmental Studies, bummer.
Anyways, wintery conditions made disc golf a different experience compared to the summer time games I recalled from too many months ago. We would drive to Dexter Lake to play a full 18-holes in t-shirts, flip flops and Arizona ice-teas. No, today was more of a battle to stay upright against slippery wetlands and wishing that I'd worn books instead of white sneakers. Steven didn't even last through the first hole before he ate it. As a group it took us until walking through the third fairway to just keep our feet dry. I think I started playing better once I stopped laughing about the playing conditions.
It was still a fun round of course. I think Steven said it best when he compared winter disc golfing to indoor track. "No one is a professional indoor track athlete, they just doing it to get in shape for spring." This weekend was even more reminiscent of springtime, too.
The cherry tree outside of our kitchen window began blossoming light pink flowers. The sun snuck through the clouds long enough to bring back the hammock on our porch in the afternoon. It didn't last as long as I would have preferred, but it did recharge my batteries after a long, long week of classes. It gave me something new to anticipate; something to look forward to.
Spring term is a time when students' days often entail more time outside than inside. Sun bathing, riding bicycles and intramural softball on the weekends. It's a time when everyone finally has an excuse for procrastinating, because who can do homework before the sun goes down, really?
There just isn't enough time spent outside in a students' lifetime, and it is nothing short of unjust. Consider this:
Life isn't about working and only playing when you have a free moment. Life is about finding the balance between the two, so that both are optimally enjoyable.
February 20, 2010 - 12:50 PM
Time for another installment of the (newly renamed) "Ecological Tips" for making little changes in your lives that have big impacts on the environment. Today's tip is in honor of the brand new Goodwill store that opened near campus on Franklin & Ferry Street.
Today, I'd like to talk to you about shopping. Everyone does it and I'm not trying to change that; our economy relies on it, so why bother? But our consumer culture does have a profound impact on the environment because everything we buy - clothing, groceries, electronics et cetera - came from some place in the natural world. And by and large, most of the impacts from consumption are hidden away from plain view - in rural hinterlands, fenced off industrial sites and foreign nations. In the grand scheme of things, American's consume nearly 120 pounds of stuff every day in natural resources extracted from farms, forests, rangelands and mines although we see only a fraction of it.
Specifically for clothes, the things we know about are the polyester, cotton and dyes in our t-shirts or pants. We don't consider the crude oil & petroleum it took to synthesize the polyester, the cotton fields sprayed with pesticides in the South or the bleach and industrial chemicals used in the dying process. Also, it's likely that all three of those materials came from a different geographic region of the world and were sent to yet another location for manufacturing before finally reaching our nearby department store for purchase. Don't even get me started on shoes, with leather, rubber and synthetics.
Over the past few decades a quiet revolution has been gaining momentum to raise awareness of this conundrum of ecology versus consumption. For more info, check out some of the references listed below.
I'm not so much focused on the root issues right now, although they are no less important. Instead, I want to provide a simple solution.
Shop at thrift stores. Let me break it down before your mind wanders and you get antsy. There are lots of different kinds of thrift stores out there, so let's clarify because each store has its place.
First, you have your national non-profit second hand stores - Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army and Value Village. This group of thrift stores is not exactly known for its quality of products.
Personally, I have no problem shopping for plaid flannel shirts and the occasional glassware or decorative accessory if I see something fun that catches my eye. More often if I'm shopping at Goodwill, I'm looking for a themed party. For example, I found a big, puffy, neon jacket and pants for our friends' 90s Party yesterday. I don't expect everyone to feel comfortable buying second hand clothing on a regular basis, but you can find some true gems if you look hard enough. Plus, they're super cheap. That entire outfit plus an old Ducks football hat and two clunky cell-phone walkie-talkies cost about $15.
Next, for the more sophisticated thrift shoppers, we have more local options (depending on where you are.) In Eugene, we have Buffalo Exchange, Eugene Jeans, Nobody's Baby, or Oak Street Vintage. Seriously, the list goes on for days. Just type "Thift Shop" into Google maps and see what comes up near you.
If you're looking for less worn down clothing, or at least stylishly worn down clothing, then these upper-tier thrift shops are the best places in town. Plus, you can trade in clothing at these places too. I'm not a frequent shopper at the Buffalo Exchange, but I know that you can sell any clothes back to them for either store credit or cash - given that the clothes are still in good condition, and whatever they won't take, just walk about block and a half down the road to drop them off at St. Vincent de Paul.
See how simple it is? Buy second-hand clothing is a misnomer. Second-hand gives off this wretched connotation that makes people wonder where it's been and who's been wearing it. Maybe I've been brain washed from living in a college world where people down expect you to wear the most professional clothing every day, but thrift store shopping is underappreciated in my opinion.
Next time you need a new pair of jeans, a plaid flannel t-shirt or a neon stretchy pants. Why not try your local thrift shop? Quick, fun, economical and, of course, environmental. One less t-shirt made means tons less water, cotton and oil used to make the shirt in the first place.
For more info check out:
Stuff: The Secret Life of Everyday Things by John C. Ryan & Alan Thein During
Ryan and During analyze the manufacturing processes behind every day things we know and love like coffee, newspapers, shirts, shoes, computers and more, detailing the inputs behind the outputs in a concise eighty pages. It's the accessible handbook version of extensive scientific research projects.
February 11, 2010 - 7:02 PM
Happy Bicycle Appreciation Day, everyone! Today is a day devoted to appreciating a simpler time and a more primitive yet more active form of transportation.
Think back to the beginning of the 20th century - hypothetically that is - before the automotive industry boom, before Henry Ford and the Model T. It was a time when we rode a train, a horse & carriage, a bicycle, or (heaven forbid) we would actually walk to get from place to place. No one denies that the invention of the automobile revolutionized our way of life and standard of living, but it has had a few very negative externalities. We can move around faster, but as a nation we have also become less active, more obese and we have (arguably) been given enough power to alter our natural environment. All because American culture has become completely dependant on the automobile.
Don't believe me? Let's put it to the test. When was the last time you drove in your car? Was it just you, the driver, or were there any passengers? How far was the drive? And, the million-dollar question, could you have made the trip without driving? Consider the distance of the trip. Consider what you needed to transport. Consider safety, meaning would it be safe to travel where you traveled on a bicycle, or were there safe pedestrian sidewalks. Could you have arrived by public transit, the forgotten stepchild of the auto industry?
I'll stop preaching soon, I promise, but these are all legitimate questions to ask. Not only because we need to cure ourselves from this addition to autos, but also because we need to figure out how to do so and if it's even possible. Sadly, not all of our cities and streets have the capacity for people to safely walk and bike. Sometimes it's poor planning, sometimes it's just bad weather and sometimes it's too costly not to drive. Other times, however, the utter convenience of driving trumps everything else.
What we have is a classic chicken and egg situation. What will come first - equitable transportation planning or environmentally conscious transportation behaviors? If anyone has a guess, please share your thoughts. I'd love to hear them. Back to today's festivities, though.
The UO Outdoors Program runs all sorts of events and programs for students and community members, like shuttles to Mt. Bachelor or Mt. Hood during the wintertime or camping, kayaking and canoeing trips in the warmer seasons. They're also home to the UO Bike Loan Program, whose mission is to increase access to reliable and sustainable transportation. Check out their website for more detailed information, but I can tell you now that their main project is providing access to bicycle rentals to university students. They also focus some effort on providing education and recreation opportunities to celebrate alternative transportation.
Henceforth, the University of Oregon celebrates Bicycle Appreciation Day (BAD) a few times every quarter.
The Bike Loan Coordinators set up a tent outside of Lillis, and from 10AM-2PM any student can stop to by for free basic bike maintenance or, like me, just stop by to hang out and grab a cup of organic coffee courtesy of the Holy Cow Café.
I've become acquainted with the Bike Loan program coordinators, Brianna and Price, through another transportation planning oriented student group, LiveMove. Not to mention most fans of BAD are also PPPM majors, so it's an opportunity to hang out outside of classes.
The highlight of my day was getting permission from Brianna to chauffeur some friends around in one of the Outdoors Program pedi-cabs, which are essentially bicycle taxis. So, I rode my friends, Keith and Ashlynn, around campus for a little while. Just about everyone we rode past started laughing at us, most likely because I was liberal with my use of the bell on my handle bars. I also have a newfound respect for anyone whose job it is to shuttle people around on those things; it's ridiculously tiring. I swear that my back left tire was flat. Either that or I'm not in nearly as good of shape as I thought I was.
We rode through the quad, up behind the library and back down the hill on University Street. I took my hands of the handlebars and threw up the "O" like I was back at a football game, but quickly realized these pedi-cabs don't do very well with fast speeds and hills. The near out of control rattling of the bicycle and carriage was a dead giveaway. So, I grabbed controlled again and made it back to Lillis safe and sound although I was fairly lightheaded when I arrived at my next class.
Long story short, my University celebrates alternative transportation. How about yours? Not a bad Thursday afternoon if you ask me.
February 10, 2010 - 11:19 PM
Wednesday. Hump day. The middle of the week, signifying that we've made it halfway and the weekend finish line is in clear sight. For me it's seemed too long already, what with two papers successfully completed (at 2AM last night) and turned in this morning and a tad bit of studying left to prepare myself for a quiz on ArcGIS tomorrow afternoon.
As I've mentioned before, I firmly believe that everyone needs to come up for air every once in a way. All work and no play makes Trafton a dull boy. So tonight, instead of piling my nose back into the books, I treated myself to what is soon to become a tradition within our group of friends - Wednesday Game Night.
My academic day ended when I left the McKenzie computer lab around 5:30 after a bief attempt to work on a GIS lab that was rudely interrupted by an Econ class. Econometrics, who needs it? But it did give me time to warm up some leftover pasta at home and catch up on this week's episode of 24 with my friend, Leslie.
After agreeing that Jack Bauer is probably the manly man alive, Leslie brought my attention to dollar waffle cones at TCBY. We called some friends, rustled up some spare change and hopped in the car. Fun fact - we weren't the only students aware of waffle cone Wednesday, but we did make it in before the post dinner rush. Grinning with delight from a belly full of chocolate vanilla swirl, we all headed to our friends', Winston and Kevin, apartment in time to commence the night's activities.
Tonight's game choice: Catch Phrase.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this Hasbro classic, I send my condolences. But I'll try to bring you up to speed. It's a perfect blend between Taboo and hot potato. Players sit in a circle and teams are determined by alternating sitting position, ie no two players on the same team are sitting next to each other. Then an electronic game piece spits out different names, places, phrase etc and a player will get his or her teammates to guess the correct phrase without saying any word within the phrase itself; the team with the game in hand when the buzzer sounds loses the round.
Long story short, if I had enough time and I didn't have to wake up for work in the morning, I probably would have played all night. We played countless rounds, which led to an unlimited number of laughs and a noise complaint from the neighbors below. It's amazing to think about how your mind acts under pressure, and some of the things you hear are ridiculous.
Winston got the name of an actor one round, so he gave clues like, "He's in a wheel chair and talks with an electronic voice. He's ridiculously smart." His teammates yelled, "Stephen Hawking!" Then Winston looked back at the game to see the name Ethan Hawke. "Oh wait, wrong guy." It was even funnier because he went as far as to imitate the computer voice. That joke lasted all night.
Lizzy gave clues in another round. "It's where you go when someone is mad at you. Like if you're in trouble with your girlfriend or........" The first guess was "Planned Parenthood." The correct answer was "the doghouse." Sometimes it doesn't benefit to give specific examples.
In the midst of laughing we managed to watch this week's episode of A Modern Family and agree on hosting game night elsewhere next week, preferably not in an apartment for fear of having the guys evicted.
It's times like these when I reflect back on the friends that I've found over the past couple of years here. For those of you who have been following the blog, these are the same friends that celebrated with a turkey burger Thanksgiving. And the same friends that get together for impromptu games of whiffle ball when the weather turns surprisingly nice during the winter.
Not to mention, these are friends that get me through each and every midterm and finals week. School is tough; no one denies that, but it's an easier pill to swallow in the presence of good company.