October 30, 2010 - 1:49 PM
I can't remember if I've ever formally mentioned this, but during my Sophomore year - long before my days of blogging and Facilities Services and being the guy on the homepage - I worked for UO Student Orientation as a campus tour guide. Student Ambassador was our technical title and we were in charge of leading tours for prospective students and hosting open houses and admissions events. One of those big admissions events, Duck Preview, was earlier this weekend.
It's been precisely one year since the last time I gave a tour and I know that because it was for Duck Preview 2009. I had to shake out a few cobwebs on my old Ambassador jacket and polo and search my brain for all the stories and fun facts that I used to have memorized during the prime of my tour guiding days. I was rusty, I'll admit it, but after giving three back-to-back-to-back tours I had it down.
One parent asked me a question at the end of a tour that I hadn't heard or thought about in a long time. He asked, "So why'd you choose Oregon over all those California schools?"
Like any good Ambassador knows, you have to have something ready for the "Why Oregon?" question because it comes up on just about every tour; personal stories are always worthy bonus points. Hearing that questions again made me smile.
"Well, the first reason is that it's really difficult to get into the UC (University of California) schools. The second reason is that the Bay Area and Eugene are incredibly similar. I felt like I was at home when I first set foot on campus here, and I'd venture to guess that the amount of students from the Bay Area rivals the amount of students from the Portland area. I've actually seen shirts around campus that say ‘UC-Eugene.'"
It usually garners a chuckle or two from the crowd. I doubt I'm right about the Portland vs. Bay Area part, but the more I think about it the more I think the more I believe it, especially nowadays with the Giants colors popping up everywhere on campus.
Ever since San Francisco made the playoffs the true Giants fans are emerging from the shadows. It's tricky being a Giants fan on the UO campus though considering that the Giants' colors are black and orange, same as Oregon State. Nonetheless I've been wearing my Tim Lincecum shirt non-stop and throwing high fives to complete strangers wearing Giants' gear for the past two weeks. And just wait until you see what I'm dressing up for Halloween as tonight. I'll give you a hint...if I already have orange hair, what color to I need to add to turn my face into living Giants poster?
It's a great time to be an Oregon student from the Bay Area. Giants are two games away from winning the 2010 World Series. The Ducks' Football team is on the fast track to the BCS National Championship game. We hopped up to the #1 spot in the BCS rankings this afternoon after thrashing USC 53-32 on Saturday. Even the San Francisco 49ers won today, and those are rare occasions for the Niners these days.
There you have it. If California high school Seniors are trying to find an out-of-state school with an in-state feel, then look no further. Come on up to UC-Eugene. A place where sunglasses and Rainbow sandals get are just as normal as raincoats and Birkenstocks.
October 24, 2010 - 10:24 AM
Seeing a mob of students and Eugene community members dressed in everything from workout clothes to cutoff jean-shorts and wigs might seem out of the ordinary to most people, but it was just another typical Friday on the University of Oregon campus. And I had the privilege of volunteering at the 5K Fun Run (or 1-mile Walk) with UO President Richard Lariviere.
At first I really didn't know much about the event. My billiards teacher, Dave, was in charge of the run/walk and he asked our class for volunteers to stand along the raceway and direct traffic. I'm the kind of person that likes being involved in campus activities (and volunteering for free t-shirts) so I offered to lend a helping hand. I showed up at the EMU at 3:00 PM and was assigned to my post right outside the Duck Store on 13th & Kincaid Street.
About fifteen minutes after I reached my corner, still not knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, I looked down 13th at the center of campus and noticed a mass of people creeping towards me. According to Dave my job was to make sure the street was relatively clear for ‘the runners.' I had no idea there would be a thousand people storming past me all at once.
A first wave of fleet footed students zipped past me trailed by a second group of less ambitious yet equally enthusiastic walkers. President Larivere (pictured above in the yellow shirt and brown hat) was spotted somewhere in the middle of the pack of walkers. He was particularly noticeable thanks to his entourage of security escorts. I'm impressed that he took the time to join in for the event, and I was excited to see that he was wearing the same t-shirt that I was.
Like I said before though, I really didn't know too much about this event. When I walked back to the EMU Amphitheater to pick up my bike I was shocked to see that this was more than just a 5K run. The University a cappella groups, "On the Rocks" and "Divisi," were just beginning a Friday afternoon concert. There were pottery wheels representing the Craft Center and I think I even saw bicycle-powered blenders making smoothies.
I couldn't stay for long because I had to meet my friend, Lydia, on the tennis courts at Washington Park, but I felt the urge to delve a little deeper to find out exactly what I'd just volunteered at. Turns out I was at the kickoff event for the University's Healthy Campus Initiative.
From what I've read the Healthy Campus Initiative is a collaborative effort across several campus departments to "create a culture in which the pursuit of a balanced lifestyle is valued, physical and mental health is fostered, and all members of the university community are encouraged to take responsibility for choosing to be well." I'll let you check out the link above for more specifics.
I know I say it a lot, but it's these times that I love being a Duck. The University of Oregon never ceases to amaze me with new programs and fun campus events. Now that I'm a Senior I'm becoming more aware of these sorts of events and trying as hard as I can to not take them for granted. Eugene is a pretty special place. I'll be sad to move away at the end of spring, but I know I'll always be able to come back and call this town home.
October 22, 2010 - 2:16 PM
Early last November a photo of my friend Lizzy and I smiling joyfully and walking down 13th Street was posted on the University of Oregon homepage. Over night we became the poster children of the university.
I wrote a post about it last winter. It was fun for a while. I enjoyed being a recognizable red head on campus. My friends liked being able to say that they know "the guy on the website." After a while, though, the novelty wore off.
I couldn't walk around campus without someone looking at me quizzically, wondering why I look familiar. I couldn't introduce myself to somewhere without having them say "I feel like we've met before. Do I know you from somewhere?" I could barely order a pizza without having the delivery guy say, "You probably get this a lot, but are you-" "YES! I'm on the homepage, and no, this doesn't mean you're getting a bigger tip."
Well, my friends, it's all over. Nearly a whole year after the fact - 348 days to be exact - our photograph has finally been replaced. As of Tuesday morning, I'm no longer "that guy on the homepage." No more puzzled glances. No more inquiring strangers. No more nothing. I can finally walk the streets of Eugene in peace!
You may not think this a very big deal, and to be completely honest neither do I. My friends are the ones struggling to cope with this sudden change. Just yesterday my roommate's friend (someone I'd never met in my whole life) came up to me and said, "Oh my god, they changed the picture. You're not on the webpage anymore. I pretty much applied to Oregon because you looked so happy in that photo. I'm not even kidding you." It was the first time I've been both flattered and annoyed at the same time.
My old roommate, Cam, started a Facebook group called "Put Trafton and Lizzy Back on the UO homepage!" And apparently there's a new feature on Facebook that allows people to be added to a group without their permission. Facebook has trapped me in hypocrisy!
I will say, however, that despite my joy in not being the homepage guy anymore I'm not impressed with my replacements. Before we had rotating pictures of smiling students and people repelling down mountainsides. Now there are photos of a grad student creepily smirking next to a tree, a mother and daughter awkwardly laughing and some confused-looking kid walking in front of two blurry figures in the background. The only one I actually like is the one with two people fixing a bicycle, and that's really only because I like bicycles.
Oh well, I guess I have no control over it any more. I never really had any control over it in the first place actually. They never asked my permission before they put it up there in the first place. I wonder if these new people are feeling the same way I did last November. I wish them the best of luck on their journey of local stardom and I hope they are up to the challenge.
October 17, 2010 - 11:44 AM
It's been a while since the last EcoLogical Tip and I know you were all wondering what the next step is in living sustainably. Well, I'll warn you that it isn't for the faint at heart. It has to do with closing the loop in our personal food cycle.
I'm sure we are all aware that composting is the process of turning food scraps and other organic material into natural fertilizer, but you might be wondering about the "vermi" part. Vermicomposting is the same exact process with the added effort of a few pounds of Red Wiggler earthworms. It's essentially the same process except instead of letting microbes decompose our house's food scraps and yard debris we are being more proactive with the matter. (No pun intended.)
According to the guy who made my new worm bin, more on him in a bit, these worms eat anywhere between one-half and their full body weight twenty-four hours. That means the pound of worms I have at the bottom of the bin will be plowing through up to a pound of our scraps every day! What's even more ridiculous is that those worms can also double their population every two to three months. At first I had the thought about whether or not we'd be able to provide the enough food for them, but then I remembered I live in a house of six guys. We go through a lot of food. I'm not worried.
Dan "The Worm Man" is the name of the fellow that made the worm bin, and half the fun in my vermicompost adventure was meeting Dan. He's was great! A truly classic Eugener that makes it a point to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, and he's a wealth of knowledge about worm composting.
He set me up with his standard three tray Dan "The Worm Man" bin, which he claims is a step above the rest in the world of vermicomposting. It's handcrafted from reclaimed wood rather than plastic, which means that I don't have to worry about any trace presence of production chemicals like benzene seeping into the worms' ecosystem. Also, I don't have to worry about any HCFCs and other ozone depleting gasses that are emitted when manufacturing plastic compost bins.
His stackable three-tray design is also makes Dan's worm bins unique. The photograph above shows the three bins leaning on each other rather than stacked (just for the same of the photo). Each tray fits one on top of the other so that it stacks just about two feet high when fully assembled. The theory is that you start placing your waste materials in the bottom tray with the worms. As you continue adding organic materials to the bottom tray, the worms will work their way upwards to stay on top of the compost mound. When the first bin is full, we'll start adding to the second tray and the worms will move upwards through the layer of chicken wire between the two trays. Soon enough all of the worms will move out of bottom tray leaving a full load of worm castings behind.
Worm castings are generally recognized as some of the best organic fertilizer you can find. It won't pollute the local watershed like chemical fertilizers, it's easy to manage, and most importantly it doesn't smell, which my roommates particularly appreciate considering that my last attempt at a compost bin failed miserably. You could smell it from a block away.
There you have it. Vermicomposting is one way to completely eliminate your household food waste. Keep recycling and utilizing active transportation and you're well on your way to living a very ecological lifestyle.
If you have any questions then leave me a comment or check out Dan "The Worm Man's" website, if you're feeling ambitious go ahead and order one of his worm bins to try it out yourself.
October 15, 2010 - 6:46 PM
In my eco-conscious attempts to support local agriculture I try to make regular trips to the Lane County Farmer's Market for produce. Just last Saturday I purchased my very first plant since arriving in Eugene over four years ago. It's was a small serano pepper plant that I keep in my room next to my expanse of east-facing windows...and, yes, I've already made a fantastic plate of nachos with them.
About two weeks ago, though, my roommates and I stepped up our endeavors to eat local to the next level. Drinking local. We've joined an elite group of ale enthusiasts known as home brewers. Who needs to buy beer when you can just brew it yourself at home? Plus, it helps when you have a local homebrew shop a few blocks away.
The Valley Vintner & Brewer on the corner of 13th & Oak hooked us up with a basic starter kit and the ingredients for our first batch, a Honey Orange Hefewiezen. Why did we choose a wheat beer for our first brew, you ask. Autumn seems likes a good time for a hefe (pronounced ‘heff'), and more importantly Scott at the Vintner told us that hefeweizens are the simplest beers; perfect for first timers.
I've been vigorously reading "How to Brew," the aptly named brewing book that came with the kit; don't worry, I'm still reading my text books too. It's all very interesting learning the science behind the entire process. The first stage of fermentation occurs in a big glass jug, called the carboy, where all the carbon dioxide is sucked out by airlock. The picture above shows my roommate, Steven, holding our carboy full of reshly brewed hefeweizen. Then after two weeks in the carboy we add some priming sugar and bottle the brew. Two more weeks of fermentation to carbonate the liquid and presto! Fresh homebrew.
The actual brewing/cooking of the beer is also really interestin. First you have to steep the grains in an oversized tea bag for thirty minutes. Then you "sparge" the bag - brewing terms for "ring out" - and add the barley malt extract along with the first round of hops to the remaining liquid. After an hour of that you add another quick round of Mt. Hood hops and specialty grains. In our case we added an ounce of orange peels and two ounces of chamomile flowers for the last ten minutes of the boil. This step is what adds the hints of flavor that we'll taste in the beer.
At the end of the day our house wafted with sweet, malty and fruity aromas. We poured the brew into the carboy and added the yeast before capping it and placing it in the basement.
Over the past ten days we've been hearing steady sounds of our bubbles floating to the top of our five gallon carboy. A foamy layer called the krausen formed nicely on the surface of the brew and leftover proteins and yeast sediment have settled to the bottom of the barrel where they form a brownish sludge called the trub (pronounced "troob"), all good signs of healthy fermentation.
The primary phase of fermentation is over and it's time to bottle the hefeweizen. After spending so much time and effort on brew day, it's difficult for first time home brewers to keep their mind off that first batch for two whole weeks. Not to mention having to wait another two weeks before you can drink it and see if you actually did it right. Rather than risk melting under the pressure of anticipation, the guys and I decided to find something else we to preoccupy our minds. We simply started brewing another batch last Sunday. Now we have 5-gallons of Northwest Mocha Porter conditioning right next to our hefeweizen, keeping it company.
This Sunday the brew crew will be back in the kitchen bottling the hefeweizen and racking - siphoning from one carboy to another - the porter, which is a recommended step for darker ales like porters, stout and IPAs. I'll let you know how everything goes after Sunday. Barring any major catastrophes expect to hear more when we crack open the first bottles of the hefe in two weeks.