Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Book Smarts Podcast

My first semester as a Texas Tech student wrapped up nicely and I have a slew of new skills for display, both in the classroom and here on my blog. The final project for my Instructional Theory and Design class called for a learning podcast for classroom use. My podcast aims at improving reading comprehension and enjoyment by teaching people how to read better using their hands.

I chose to illustrate a learning strategy because I think teachers spend to much time assigning homework and not enough time teaching students how to improve the skills needed to complete it. A study found that less than 10% of teaching time is spent teaching students how to improve their skills in a given area. With that said, please enjoy my prize-winning podcast dedicated to helping you read better.

This podcast was entered into the Texas Tech podcast tournament open to all students and spearheaded by the Colleges of English and Education. Six winners were chosen from the thirty plus entries to move on to the Digital Sandbox podcasting tournament which is being held this summer. I'm very pleased that my podcast, as monotonous as it is, was chosen for advancement. If you have iTunes you can listen to and watch the other entries on Texas Tech's iTunes University page.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Compost Happens (and smells like $hit)

I've got a wooden box in my backyard that smells like shit. No, I'm not talking about the outhouse, I'm talking about my compost pile. Even though composting is a stinky hobby, it gives me great satisfaction knowing that I'm keeping reusable stuff out of the landfill.

I had the idea of starting a compost pile while working in the kitchen at my part time job. Over the course of a lunch rush a lot of little bits of food fall on the floor which get swept up and thrown in the dumpster. Tired of seeing all this food go to waste, one day after sweeping the line I put all that waste into an empty pickle bucket, closed the air-tight lid on it, and brought it home for composting.

Composting the process of decomposing organic matter in a controlled way. Decomposition happens naturally in forests and other wild places, but in the city it takes a little effort on our part to occur. The goal of composting is to combine left-over organic matter so that it creates bio-matter, a scientific term for good dirt, which can then be reincorporated into the ecosystem to help plants grow harder, better, faster, and stronger. In a way, compost (the finished product of composting) is like a nutrient rich super fertilizer that can be used with almost any planting application.

I left the bucket on the porch for about week while I went around town gathering discarded shipping pallets that most businesses toss by their dumpsters. After gathering enough pallets I set to work breaking them apart, cutting the pieces to size and building the frame and side slats. Using discarded pallets as material for a compost pile is not only free, but it also keeps those pallets out the landfill as well. It's reusing wood to help reuse organic matter.

My compost pile roughly measures 3' x 3' x 3', and has slatted sides and a chicken-wire back which helps with air flow (an extremely important ingredient in composting). It only took an afternoon to complete the build and only required a hammer, nails, and circular saw for construction. Later I'll hinge the side so I can easily access the finished compost.


There is a whole science to composting which can be intimidating if you lose sight of the fact that you're just making dirt, albeit super dirt. Ideally, a compost pile should have a 3:1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Carbon materials (browns) include: dry grass clippings, dry leaves, sawdust, hay, paper, and cornstalks, just to name a few. Some of these materials are difficult to find in the home but should be included in a good batch of compost. To boost the carbon matter in my pile I use sawdust, shredded office paper, and collected dry leaves.

The nitrogen (greens) half of the ratio is much easier to come by in the common home. Most vegetable and fruit wastes work great for composting, but stay away from meats and dairy products. Another great source of nitrogen matter is coffee grinds and tea leaves, as they decompose quickly and are fine in consistency. A general rule in composting is to break the matter down into as small of bits as possible so that beneficial bacteria have plenty of raw surface area to attack. So any matter you use in your compost, whether it is a carbon or a nitrogen, should be chopped into small bits. No one wants clumpy compost.

So far in my compost mix I have grass clippings, sawdust, leaves, and office paper, balanced with waste food from the restaurant which includes plenty of veggies and some bread. I also added dirt to give the mix consistency and some earthworms from the tackle shop, though the worms aren't required. Along with adding food to the pile, I turn it each day with a pitchfork (which adds to the "I'm a farmer, I work the earth" mentality) and add water to the pile.

Although I've only been composting for a week now, there's already a variety of insects like flies, ants, and worms dwelling in my pile that aid the decomposition process. A compost pile is a miniature and controlled ecosystem in itself, and I'm happy to give these beings a free source of food. Composting places me in symbiotic relationship with the material in the pile and the beings it feeds.

If you're tired of filling landfills with food scraps and grass mulch, I highly recommend composting. All these materials we usually throw away can be used to create nutrient rich planting soil which reincorporates waste into the ecosystem in a beneficial manner. Sure the process may be a little stinky, but it definitely smells better than a landfill.

If you're interested in composting check out the compost manual.

Friday, May 1, 2009


後三ヶ月、新しい好きな歌を見つけた。今月の好きな歌は80’sの音楽です。テレビでこのビデオを見た時にすごく元気くなりました。歌の名前はMajor Tom Coming Home、ピター・シリングが歌う.ピター・シリングはドイツ人ですから、最初にドイツ語原文の歌を聞きます。このビデオを楽しんで下さい!