Garbage is not dirt. In no way, is it dirt. Why do we treat it like dirt? For most of my life, I’…

Garbage is not dirt. In no way, is it dirt. Why do we treat it like dirt?

For most of my life, I've been somewhat concerned about the "environment". Not really so much in the "big picture" stuff, but rather in the small stuff.

The stuff we throw away. Our garbage.

From my first awareness at all of the garbage we create — when it was common practice to go to "The Dump" — which was literally a dumping ground for garbage, unmanaged (as far as I could tell) and a true NIMBY solution in the middle of Out Back — I was bothered.

I have a hard time throwing things out. I'm not a hoarder — it's not that I keep things strictly for sentimental reasons, or have inexplicable collections of junk. Ok, maybe there's a bit of that, too, but the first and strongest feeling that always comes through my mind when I'm about to throw something out is not desire or possessiveness ("MINE!"), but worry and sadness ("if I throw this out, have I killed the planet?").

I much prefer things to wear out. To be done with them and toss out the small, worn out, miniscule remains. I wear sneakers until the holes no longer keep out the sun. I wear a shirt beyond the point it has acquired holes (although it might become the under-shirt rather than the over-shirt). Socks with holes are worn until.. Well, until there are no soles any more. I took the protectors off my phone and iPod because they will age, get scarred and be worn out; I still have the older 60GB clickfauxwheel iPod as well, which can't be used if it's not plugged in, but the cradles in my car and my speakers work fine.

Some of these things I remember as things my mom would do when I was kid. Why buy plastic bags when milkbags can be washed out and used? (That one fails for me, because I don't buy milk in bags — I don't drink that much milk..) I wash out plastic containers that food comes in, and put them in my pantry. I don't always have use for them, but when I need one, I'm happy to drag it out and use it. Same goes for glass bottles.

I try to recycle cans and plastic bottles, but they are the hardest. I have to wait until I have a reasonable number, hop in my car and.. Well, since the recycling/redemption centre moved away from its very visible, centre-of-town location to someplace in the edge-of-town industrial park, I haven't figured that out yet. Some things, like batteries and burned out lightbulbs, are even harder to figure out how to recycle, but I'm going to try. (I admit to being somewhat cynical as to whether they are actually recycled, or merely "disposed of properly" in a chemical landfill..)

And yet, I still throw out things. Much of it is packaging, which is a one-use, non-recyclable, non-reusable blight. Some of it is food substances, which isn't too bad, although I wish I had the capacity to easily compost them instead. Some of it contains things that are broken, often made up of plastic, and nothing but pure waste.

Some things, I can't really throw away. Much of that is old electonics, such as old computers, old cables and headphones, etc. (I ran across an old portable MP3-CD player recently..). Most of it couldn't be resold to anyone, as technology has moved to quickly, and they aren't worth reclaiming as parts.

We have the capacity to change all this, as people of Earth. We can move away from the wasteful and idiotic use of precious fossil fuels to make plastic out of organic materials. We can change the way we think about stuff to go beyond the point of delivery and use, to what happens to it after use. We can create a culture of reuse, not just of use.

And we might even have to do that! Economies are growing weaker, environments are getting poisoned, resources are getting more scarce. We might have to re-use every old shirt as a rag, every old board as a new stool, every old computer as spare parts.

So, watch the video. Watch where trash goes. Think of how you can lower that input of trash, re-use it before it gets to the trash. Think of how you can contribute to the solution, not the problem.

Because it's not really about the big stuff: it's about the little stuff.

The video, made by Mae Ryan for Los Angeles public radio KPCC, traces trash from a burger lunch to its ultimate fate in a landfill. It reminds me of those great, old Sesame Street videos where you got to see what goes on inside crayon factories and peanut butter processing plants. Which is to say that it is awesome.

The process you see here, though, is L.A.-centric, which started me wondering: How much does the trash system differ from one place to another in the United States?

Over the las…

Eventually, all PhD students, if they take long enough and aren’t unfortunate enough to finish qu…

Eventually, all PhD students, if they take long enough and aren't unfortunate enough to finish quickly, are 'undecided'.

I'm coming closer to achieving that nirvana-like state of realization with regards to higher education, but it may also just be the current inability to sleep combined with an intensive, desperate return to working on my doctorate..

Also: XKCD is some really brilliant, hard-working, clever and observant stuff.

“Shake”, then “fold”: saving the world through paper towels. It’s the little things that add up t…

"Shake", then "fold": saving the world through paper towels.

It's the little things that add up to big changes in the world, really. We'd all love to have a simple swoop of the hand from a higher power — whether it be deity, politician, generous philanthropist or a child's memory of a kind parent — and have a problem taken away, solved.

But in truth, it is the little things that matter the most. There are enough of us on this world doing stupid, evil things every day that add up to a world of pain and of waste. I see it every time I go for a walk and see garbage on the side of the road. I see it when I see something broken and neglected, but which anyone could simply take a moment and fix. And I see it in my own habits, thoughtless and automatic as many of them have become.

Like when I dry my hands.

I was guilty of the excessive paper towel usage. I hated it, sometimes would even catch myself and curse, but felt that I really did need more than one paper towel.

Not anymore.

Watch the video, then remember to "shake", then "fold". It works. It's simple. It's a tiny thing you can do to save the world..

If you use more than one paper towel to dry your hands or the default size of the paper towel that comes out of automatic dispensers, you're using more than you should. Joe Smith demonstrates the perfect paper towel technique: Shake and fold.
After washing your hands properly, shake them 12 times. Then fold the single paper towel and pat dry.
13 billion pounds of paper towels are used by Americans every year. Smith, former chair of the Oregon Democratic Party, says we can conserve over 571 mi…

Sriracha Lollipops? I’m no fan of lollipops — never much cared for sweets — but this is rather …

Sriracha Lollipops?
I'm no fan of lollipops — never much cared for sweets — but this is rather tempting..

Lollyphile! , maker of lavender lollipops to Absinthe lollipops, not only provides those classy and somewhat odd treats, but also provides a Sriracha lollipop . Sriracha, being that bottle of red hot sauce you might find at your local noodle shop or crusted up near the sink in your place of work, makes for an interesting lollipop, in that it is spicy, and lollipops tend to hang out in your mouth for long periods of time. If you want to try them out, lucky day, they’re relatively cheap!

A pac…

And Here Is Where Mark Exercises Quickly-Learned Knowledge… At least, that’s what I’m hoping. I…

And Here Is Where Mark Exercises Quickly-Learned Knowledge…

At least, that's what I'm hoping. If this works properly. the previous sentence will be bolded and placed as the title.

And no: this is not what I should be doing today. It's a total distraction. Actually, it's technically a distraction /from/ a distraction.


(Sorry, that's a bad Inception joke.)