May 26, 2010 - 7:54 PM
Today, my classmates and I went on a good old-fashioned field trip to Oregon Iron Works, Inc., a privately owned heavy metal manufacturing corporation in Clackamas, OR. I'd never been to an actual heavy-duty labor yard so I was really excited to go. To be quite honest, I couldn't help but think about one of my favorite movies of all time, Tommy Boy. I had visions of walking through the Callahan Auto Parts warehouse with Chris Farley. Don't worry. I did learn a thing or two while I was there.
The trip was part of Prof. Dan Carol's policy seminar on America's Clean Energy Economy. If you're wondering where you've heard that name, Dan Carol, before then you'd have to think way back to my previous post entitled, Celebrity Look-a-like Professors. Dan was the one that reminded me of Dustin Hoffman from Rainman (and he still does), but I don't mean to digress. The main reason Dan wanted our class to visit the Oregon Iron Works factory is because he strongly believes that OIW is a real-world success story of American innovation in clean energy works, and I'm not one to disagree.
Progressive-minded politicians these days are all about renewable energy - wind, solar, solar thermal, geothermal, biomass, blah, blah, blah. The list goes on for days, yet it all means absolutely nothing if we can't manufacture the parts for these energy generating systems. Right now, America has very little capacity for manufacturing sound-quality wind turbines, solar arrays or high-speed railcars, at least not compared to nations like Germany, Denmark and Japan. They're all kicking our butts, actually. But that's where Oregon Iron Works jumps on the scene.
The biggest project that they're working on right now is the United Streetcar project. United Streetcar, a subsidiary of OIW, was formed in 2005 with a mission to provide "modern, efficient, safe and reliable American-produced streetcars and to be a pioneering force in increasing urban transit options throughout the United States." The United Streetcar, pictured above with "Made in USA" painted on the sides, is made from over 70% American material with fabrication and assembly done right here in Clackamas. Our class was able to see that prototype in the factory's storage facility. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.
What surprised me the most, however, was the sheer diversity of the Oregon Iron Works product line. They make everything! We saw part of the new gate their making for the John Day Dam on the Columbia River. They also make bridge structures, nuclear waste cask liners, submarine sonar domes, unmanned air vehicle (UAV), cascading marine vehicles, tidal energy buoys and, just to round out the resume, ground missile defense systems. How can one factory make that many products!?!
Joycelyn Chavez, Head of Marketing & Business Development, responded to that question saying, "Our diversity came in very handy during the economic recession. We make a lot of different products, and we make very unique, individualized products which is what has kept us in business for so long. When you think about it, we either have thousands of competitors or zero competitors." Sounds like something the Head of Marketing & Business Development would say. I liked it.
We also heard a few words from OIW President and Prof. Carol's main contact, Chandra Brown who had the most interesting fact of the day. She told us that they are in serious need of Skilled Mechanics. "It's a sign of the times," she said, "fewer students are learning these trade skills and, on top of that, the majority of our current mechanics are retiring in the next decade or so." Makes you want to switch your major, huh?
Overall, cool trip. I was very pleased with out hardhat tour of the facilities. Well worth skipping out on my other classes for the day.... oops did I say that? Don't worry, I told both my professors. They were actually more jealous than anything else.
I wasn't able to take photographs on site due to privacy restrictions; all photos are courtesy of Oregon Iron Works. For more information, check out the Oregon Iron Work Inc website and the United Streetcar website.
May 24, 2010 - 10:24 PM
Tonight - Monday May 24, 2010 - marks a historic moment in our nation's television history. After eight long seasons/days, we say goodbye to Jack Bauer and "24" forever. Jack Bauer has selflessly protected this nation by diffusing nuclear bombs in Los Angeles, taking down Mexican Drug cartels, fighting off warlords in Sengala and escaping Chinese prison camps. We owe him our absolute gratitude and in order to honor his service, my roommates and I ordered (and successfully polished off) a Colossus pizza from Pizza Pipeline.
In short, the Colossus pizza is one thing everyone that lives in Eugene should put on his or her to-do list. It's Pizza Pipeline's signature 26-inch, absurdly large pizza, and it never fails to disappoint. Let's do some math - 26 inches in diameter is a little more than 2 feet, which comes out to approximate 531 square inches or 4.3 square feet of delicious marinara, mozzarella and pepperoni.
WARNING: Do not attempt to finish the Colossus without a minimum of five eaters. Four is doable for self-proclaimed gluttons. I've heard of three people finishing a Colossus, but that is the stuff of legends. They were experienced professionals and I assure you that they regretted it for the rest of the night.
We had about six and a half hungry college students feasting around the table as we eagerly watched Jack Bauer expose Russian plots to assassinate Islamic leaders.
As most family style meals work in college houses, everyone bolted out of the gates. With so many people I was a little bit worried as a third of the pizza disappeared almost instantly. When I stared down my first thirteen-inch slice, however, I felt reassured. The first one slid down with no problem. The second one was slightly troublesome. Ten-minute break. The third slice got the best of me. I finished the first half took a bite of the crust (the best part) and gladly passed it off to Winston. It was exhausting. Looking at the empty box, I wasn't sure if I'd eaten a pizza or taken a mild sedative. I did stop short of my roommates, though, who looked like they'd been hit by tranquilizer darts.
We finished just minutes before the end of the two-hour series finale. The last shot on the screen showed Jack looking wistfully into a faraway satellite camera. We figured it was symbolic of him looking up to the heavens before having to flee the country, but from our perspective it looked as if he were staring at our empty pizza box and wishing he'd gotten a slice. After all, the man hasn't eaten in twenty-four hours!
May 21, 2010 - 1:27 PM
Before I begin, I should probably brief you all on the endlessly insurmountable load of course work I have to complete before the end of the quarter. I just calculated it all out and between my four classes I have four or five presentations to various professors, principals and board members and somewhere between forty and fifty pages of research papers, action plans and final reports to finalize over the next two and a half weeks. Long story short, there's no time for the "Week 8 Blues" this time around.
In the midst of all the insanity, I just heard tied of two other loose ends for the life after Spring Term 2010 - finding a summer internship and a new house for next fall.
For the internship, I signed on to teach another round of summer school courses in the Bay Area with Aim High. I've probably alluded to teaching at Aim High in previous blogs, but I forget if I've ever formally introduced the organization. Aim High is a non-profit, summer enrichment program with campuses located throughout San Francisco, Oakland and the South Peninsula. It's primarily an outreach program to serve underprivileged students and after 25 years in the business, they definitely know what their doing! The coolest part is that tuition is completely free and every single student has a tangible desire for being there and learning.
I'll be teaching 9th Grade Environmental Science classes, plus helping out with afternoon activities like drama, board games and field sports. Obviously my experience with the Climate Equity Team and ELP will come in handy this summer.
At first I was hesitant to return and I was legitimately searching for alternatives. Aim High was initially my fallback, but now I'm ready to get back in the classroom. Actually, I just received an email from one of my former advisees. She gave me a full report on her semester grades. "Straight A's and I think I worked really hard so I deserve it!" How can I not smile at that?
The other loose end is my roommates and I finally signed a lease on a new house for next year. Steven, Ross and I are trading out two of our roommates, Brian and Cam, for our friends Winston and Kevin. It's been a fun two years on 15th Alley, but it's time for a change of scenery. We're ready to move out of the West University neighborhood. It's a great place for a first home, but it's definitely meant for underclassmen. Now we're moving to 22nd & Willamette on College Hill. It's farther away from campus, but nothing too crazy. We'll just have to get used to riding the bus.
We're really excited, too, because the landlords at this new place really like us. Upon viewing the house, they actually lowered the rent because they wanted us to live there so badly. How awesome is that? ‘You like me, you really like me!'
We figure they liked us so much because our favorite parts of the house were the dishwasher and the laundry room - not the appliances themselves, but just the fact that they're there. Our current place has neither. Let's just say that hand washing dishes every day and making trips to the Laundromat for two years gets old....fast. Also, I was really excited about the backyard because it has serious potential to be turned into a garden. Later I found out that the owners both graduated with degrees in Landscape Architecture from the UO School of Architecture & the Allied Arts. I guess they agree.
If they want to have us, then we're more than happy to oblige - cheaper rent and one less thing to worry about. Plus, there's an extra room for a six person to move in. We're still deciding if we want to have even cheaper rent or pay a little extra to have a sweet lounge in the basement. Anyone need a place to stay next year?
May 20, 2010 - 12:50 PM
This week the Climate Equity Team was back at the coolest school in town, the Eugene Waldorf School. If you're not familiar with the Waldorf teaching method, I'll give you a quick run down. More or less, each grade has only about seven or eight students and they have the same teacher from 1st to 8th Grade. It's a really interesting model, and it's much different from the other three schools we're teaching at.
Our lesson today centered around finding alternative routes to school by analyzing a map of the area. Just like last time, I sat back and let two of my teammates, Ashly and Claire do the teaching. I swear it just worked out that way. I don't have any aversion to teaching at Waldorf; it's simple coincidence.
At the end, I talked about bicycle safety procedures and protocols - minimum amount of lights needed when biking at night, how old do you have to be in order to legally ride without a helmet. Then we made sure to say that it doesn't mean that you shouldn't wear it all the time.
One girl asked if we wore our helmets when we rode our bicycles, obviously we responded with a unified, "Yes!" And I said, "You may think it looks dorky wearing a helmet all the time. To be honest, I do too, especially when I have to carry it around on my bag all day. But I guarantee you that you look a lot less cool with a busted noggin." My father gave me that piece of wisdom. The class chuckled in agreement, and I noticed a smile of approval coming from the teacher in the back of the room.
For the rest of the class I took notes on Claire and Ashly's performance. I really didn't have too much to say. Their presentation was great, but a little low on energy. It was 8:30am and we've been working like crazy this week, so I felt super hypocritical saying it as I feverishly sipped my coffee.
Also, being able to sit back allowed me some time to speak with Waldorf's principal. I'm still very curious about the Waldorf method and mantra and I wanted to know how often they have either students or teachers switching schools on them. She said, "It's probably 50/50 chance for both teachers and students making it through 8th grade, and probably a higher percentage of students turning over." She explained further:
"For teachers, some are just more suited for older students and some more for younger students. We have some teachers that just struggle with their classes the first four years, but know they will do better after their students turn eight or so, so they stick with it. Others just have to drop out when their students reach the middle school and go back to kindergarteners. For the students, drop outs usually happen because they don't get along with a teacher, parents' priorities change or students want a change of scenery after being in the same building for their entire academic life."
I was surprised to hear the number about teachers the most, but it really makes sense. She said, "The teacher's find it difficult because it feels like your first year teaching every year for eight years." Having lead classes for the first last summer in the Bay Area, I can imagine how difficult that is.
Thinking back when we taught at Spencer Butte that first time, even though it was my first time teaching at that particular school, I fell back into a familiar teaching rhythm. Having to expand the information level and teaching vocabulary for every year has to be challenging. It made me have a lot of respect for Waldorf teachers, especially the ones that make it through the 8th grade with the same class.
May 16, 2010 - 10:53 AM
If I told you I spent yesterday driving from Eugene to Cannon Beach, visiting Oswald West State Park, hanging out with some local surfers and playing a late night game of Frisbee around a bonfire on the beach, you might think I'm just spending a regular lazy Saturday on the coast. I may have been hiking and canoeing, but technically, I am working this weekend.
The final project and presentation for one of my classes this term, Conservation & Community (PPP 407), requires an extensive case study on any park or conservation area of our choosing. While most of our classmates chose to go global with their projects, finding remote and exotic reserves in Panama or Madagascar, my team and I decided it would be much more interesting to look at some place we actually know about. So, we're looking at the Oregon Coastal parks as a bioregion and assessing their suitability for conserving wilderness.
Like I said, we're here in Cannon Beach to have a good time, but we are working very hard to gather as much information as possible about conservation strategies, land use policy and tourism. Our most valuable asset is that one of our group members, Andrew, has lived in Cannon Beach for a few years so he has family and friends here, and he knows a lot of good people to talk to.
Yesterday, we got in town a little after noon and immediately headed to Oswald West's Short Sands cove to interview surfers. It was a gorgeous day, so every one was outside and, thankfully for us, they were happy to chat with us. We asked them some basic questions: Where are you from? Why are they here? How long are you staying?
We really wanted to find out how knowledgeable these people are about local ecological issues and the state park system. Our main question was, "Are you aware of the local environmental issues? Clear-cutting? Coastal dead zones that make the waters uninhabitable?" We want to get a sense for how well these average outdoor enthusiasts actually know what they're seeing. Do any tourists come to Cannon Beach for the outdoor education? Do they want to learn? Do they care?
We also asked if they would still come to the beach if the parks service instituted a parking fee or a day pass (currently, Shorty's is free for the general public) Also, how much would they be willing to pay? In essence, we need to determine what type of tourist the Oregon Coast attracts. Adventure tourists who want to experience the outdoors? Regular tourists interested in shopping and enjoying the solitude of a coastal town? Or Ecotourists?
For those of you wondering what ecotourism is.... I'll spare you the Wikipedia search. 'Ecotourism' (also known as ecological tourism) is responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strive to be low impact and (often) small scale. It purports to educate the traveler; provide funds for conservation; directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities; and foster respect for different cultures and for human rights.
For the most part our surfers were fairly local. Portland area was the farthest we found. And most of them said they would agree to a day use fee. We heard everything from "No more than $4" to "Maybe $10 per car" and the occasional "They can't tax my $%&@ beach!" It was interesting hearing the different perspectives. Also, it made me not want to hold any job that requires canvassing or door-to-door sales.
After Shorty's, we headed to the Cannon Beach Information Center and talked with a nice lady that gave us some great contact information. We spent the evening at the house of the Public Works Director for the City of Seaside, where we got the inside scoop about tourism, land use policy and whatnot. Better yet, we scored a home cooked meal. Fresh Chinook salmon on the grill! It was delicious.
Today, we have a few more interviews to take care of and a few more pamphlets to get a hold of. We're just about to head out the door to Ecola State Park to learn more about the inland parks and the forested areas. We also saw a sign for the Nehalem Fish Hatchery off the highway, so hopefully we can stop there on our way out.
I think the amount of work we've put into this project (or at least the amount of information we've successfully uncovered) came as a surprise, and if work has me interviewing surfers on the beach for the rest of my life then sign me up. I could get used to this.