Sunday, February 26, 2012

That Covey guy was right, I guess...

As I write this, I am honestly not sure if what I'm about to write about is actually in Stephen R. Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  At the same time, every guide to how to be an efficient person ever written includes setting goals, and breaking them up into bite sized chunks.

I guess I've pretty much always done this.  I mean, you have to start every project with baby steps.  But the idea of figuring out all the minutiae of the steps of how to reach your goals and then writing them all down in your handy planner always seemed a little silly.  But then I realized something...

I've always loved to-do lists.  Even more than to-do lists, I've always loved crossing things off to-do lists.  It's so satisfying!  You just accomplished something, now you get to cross it off the list!  Remove it from your mind!  Woohoo!

Sometimes, I'll do something I've been needing to do (or meaning to do) and then realized it's not in my planner (my perpetual to-do list, as it were).  Usually, if this happens, I will write the thing down on my to-do list just for the joy of crossing it off.  Sometimes I'll write menial tasks on my to-do list, just so I can cross something off once I do it.  ("Eat some fruit" or "Take a shower").

Unfortunately, neither of these strategies really helps me get anything done.  It just leaves me doing the easiest things on my to-do list first, so I can cross more things off, while I don't actually accomplish anything important.

What does help?  Breaking my big tasks down into smaller tasks and writing all those things down, so that they are the easiest things on my to do list.  Then, for every large thing I have to do, I can cross off four or five things from my to do list.

Awesome, right?

I sound totally lame right now.  I guess I'll just post this, so I can cross "blog post about writing to do lists" off my to do list.  Sigh.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The future...?

If I'd known when signing up that my "Designing Zero Net Energy and High Performing Buildings" class was actually "intro to HVAC systems" class, I probably wouldn't have signed up.  If I've learned anything useful from what our professor has taught us in the last five weeks of 3 hour, Tuesday night classes, it's that I shouldn't go into a career in HVAC systems.  I'm not nearly as interested in them as he is.

However, part of class has been exciting: the days when we had student presentations.  Because it was a special class that people signed up for last minute (and changed their schedules to take), everyone taking the class is extremely interested in the broad range of technology involved in making efficient buildings.  This means that, when asked to present case studies about zero net energy or high performing buildings that we find interesting, the presentations were very interesting.

The building which stuck out to me most in the group was the Omega Center for Sustainable Living.  This building is an environmental education center which strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible in every way - from the building itself, to the food they serve, to how they get rid of their trash.

Even more exciting, however, is what they do with their liquid waste.  The facility treats all of their own wastewater (up to 52,000 gallons a day) on site, using no chemicals and only solar power and gravity to keep the machine running.  After 36 hours, the water is clean enough to drink again!  (Though, due to water quality laws, they cannot actually provide it as drinking water and instead let it make its way down to replenish the local aquifer).

This, in my mind, has to be the future of sustainable living.  Celebrity chef Alton Brown swears by cooking tools that have multiple functions - he despises the single tasked tools that never get used.  In the same way, perhaps its time we focus on multipurpose buildings.  We could waste a lot less land (and a lot less energy on transportation) if we spent more time making water treatment facilities on the same sites as other facilities, and the like.  It's something to think about.

That said, I have class again tonight.  Hopefully we'll learn more this week than the design of another type of HVAC system.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How (not) to make extra cash

A week or two ago, I found myself on a blog post, something like 101 ideas for making extra cash.  Money is nice, I thought.  I'll check it out.

Most of the ideas amounted to spare jobs that people could pick up, and I was disappointed to see that many of these jobs were traditional teenager jobs - babysitting, pet care, shoveling walks, etc.  Also, I don't have time for an extra job, I already have one and five classes to manage.

The idea that interested me, something I've been wondering about for a while, was taking surveys for cash.  It even linked to a good website to do this on.  Easy, right?

Right!  It was easy!  Just sign up, take some surveys, and start making money!  One hitch, the surveys only pay a dollar each.  But that wasn't a problem, I'd just take a bunch - maybe one a day, get an extra 30 bucks a month.  Not bad.

So I tried a survey.  Answered some demographic questions.  Lied on most of them, honestly, I didn't really care that much.  After 15 minutes or so, I was told that I hadn't qualified for any surveys.  No survey means no pay.  So I tried another survey and again, no luck.

Luckily only an hour of my weekend was lost when I decided that it wasn't worth it.  I wasn't going to qualify for any surveys.  And, I quickly realized, if I really wanted to make extra money, I should just spend some extra time with my real job.  I'm lucky enough to have an hourly paid job that lets me work and take on hours whenever I want.  And if you're a student or have a job at all... well, taking surveys really won't be worth your time.  There are much, much better things to do with your life.

Just a warning, in case anyone else thinks they might be interested.

For me?  I'll stick to working, and blogging, and hoping for the occasional person to be interested in my ads.  Maybe sell some angry bird crochets, maybe write some crochet patterns of my own to sell.  We'll see what happens in my free time.  :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

I'm a bad Washingtonian. Please don't disown me!

So, its been a bit rainy this week.

Wait, let me rephrase that... it's been a lot rainy this week.

And, don't get me wrong, I love it.  I love rain, and it soothes my homesickness for Washington while I'm here.  But in Southern California, when it rains, it pours.  And in Southern California, since it rarely rains, they don't design the infrastructure to remove rain from surfaces.  Streets and sidewalks don't drain.  Big puddles rule the land.

This is why I bothered to buy rainboots.  That, and I needed some good footwear for snow at home (rainboots are amazing for a good Seattle slush).  I bought rainboots and I wear them.  This, as someone from Seattle and a lover of rain, is something I never thought I'd do.  And I swear I'll still never be caught wearing rainboots for a Washington rain, but when you can't get from your room to the dining hall without stepping in a puddle, rainboots are nice.

What I'm really ashamed of though?  Using an umbrella.  I mean, more people use umbrellas than rainboots in the Northwest, as far as I can tell.  And it makes sense too - no matter how well the streets drain, you can still get wet from above when its raining.

It's not the umbrella usage that bothers me, it's the fact that I've gone from someone who will run outside (barefoot, even) in the rain because I'm that excited and I love it that much to someone who hides from it.  Whenever anyone suggests I came to California for the beautiful weather, I have to tell them that no, I much prefer the rain.  But just a couple days ago, I grumbled that I was sick of the rain and didn't want to get wet and would rather just use an umbrella... and then I continued to use it when the heavy rain stopped and it was hardly a light drizzle.

I thought I loved the rain.  Apparently I only love it when I don't have to go outside to get through my day and to eat.  I love rain when I can spend the day lying on my bed reading and staring at the droplets on my window.  I love rain when I can laugh about how I had to use all 10 wiper settings in my Ford explorer during an hour long drive.

I don't love rain when it gets my bike seat wet, when I have a plethora of classes, meetings and meals to go to.  I don't love rain when it makes me remember how far I am from home.  I especially don't love rain when its heavy enough to make me want to use an umbrella.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Changing the smoking policy, Part 1

I've decided to put a stop to my persistent writers block by just using this blog to chronicle things I'm doing for a while.  Talking about my thoughts got old.

For those of you who don't know me, I have pretty bad asthma which is primarily triggered by tobacco smoke.  Because of this, I'm unusually annoyed by people smoking on campus - instead of just lamenting the health problems which come with secondhand smoke, I actually need to avoid them.  And there are a lot of them.

At some point, it came to my attention that some schools have a policy of designated smoking areas... so I'm now trying to get this instated at my school.  It looks like its going to be a bit of a process.

Last night, I went and talked to our student government about it.  They are willing to support me if a majority of our students are in support of the idea.  So... the first step is to create a survey of the student body to ask who would be in support of having designated smoking areas on campus, and send it out.

I also need to find a list of schools that have designated smoking areas or are completely smoke free campuses... apparently my school's administration doesn't like being progressive about things like this.  That said, does anyone know of any schools with a smoking policy that's even more rigorous than "don't smoke in or too close to buildings"?