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Archive for June, 2014

Outhouse by Seth AndersonThe other day, my sister started talking about “those European and Japanese hotels that have the sinks over the toilets to save water.”  I had never heard of such a thing, but it’s an idea that’s been around for a long time.  It makes a lot of sense–there’s no reason the greywater from handwashing can’t be used to help flush a toilet, and the construction of the combination toilet-and-sink also saves a lot of space.

This is the kind of virtually obvious solution to environmental problems that really pleases me.  I have a hard time understanding why these kinds of measures aren’t already simply standard.  Better yet, I started to think, why not just a composting toilet?  (One factor may be the price–they can start at $1,000 and rocket about $10k.)  And thinking about composting toilets made me remember my experiences with one about five years ago in a cabin in the woods of New Hampshire. (more…)

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As I mentioned, when my sister’s boyfriend Kevin pruned the holly, magnolia, and crepe myrtle in the backyard the other day, he found the nest of the mockingbird that attacked me and my cats all last summer.  Here it is:

 

Mockingbird nest

Mockingbird nest

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Student

The view from the podium

I’ve been agonizing over laptops again.  Every year or two, something comes around to make me question whether I should allow (require?) students to have laptops in the classroom.  This year, it’s two articles: Dan Rockmore’s “The Case for Banning Laptops” in the New Yorker and Rebecca Schuman’s response in Slate, “In Defense of Laptops in the College Classroom.”

For a long time, I agreed with Schuman’s position, which is basically that if students are stupid enough to spend their time surfing the internet instead of focusing on class, we should let them.   (more…)

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Lovage

Lovage

This weekend, my boyfriend and I worked on the back yard of my mother’s house. My mother is out of town and as a present to her, I wanted to get the yard prettified at least a little before she came home.

The tale of prettification is complicated. My mother, my sister’s boyfriend, and I all have opinions about what should happen to the back yard to turn it from what it is now—a haphazard weed collection—into a place she might actually use for dining, relaxing, and growing pretty or edible plants. Mom has consulted a couple of landscape gardeners, all of whom have been seemed not to care whether they get a job at all. When it comes to deciding what to do in the mean time, we have a severe case of too many cooks, with my sister Meredith, her boyfriend Kevin, me, my boyfriend David, and my mom all voicing opinions about what should happen, when, in what order, and who should do it.  Despite the differences in strategies, we’re making progress.

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baked and wired

Yesterday my sister came over to my mom’s house to pick up some things, and on the way over bought herself and my boyfriend and me some cupcakes from Georgetown’s Baked and Wired. This morning we got around to having them for breakfast. My boyfriend, who usually eats everything in sight, surprised me by stopping at just half a cupcake.

“The days are gone when I could have a sugar bomb for breakfast,” he said. “I used to go into work”–he’s a computer programmer, and he used to work long, hard hours–“and get a couple of pop tarts from the vending machine. I’d have them with a huge mug of coffee with lots of cream and sugar. Then I’d start to work on a big bottle, I’m talking two liters, of Coke. I’d have one or two of those before lunch.”

“It’s incredible that you don’t have diabetes!” I said.

“I know, right? Sometime in my early 30s, I decided that 2-4 liters of sugar soda a day was too much. I switched to Diet Coke. I dropped ten pounds immediately.”

(Starting blogging again.  For now, some shorter posts  with less context to just get something down.)

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