The Joy of Composting

By: Niki Fritz

Spring is in the air and nothing says spring time to me like a good ole fashion heap of decaying vegetables, coffee grounds and leaves. Or at least that is what spring time means to me now after talking to Glenna about the beautiful process of recycling old food waste into fertilizer for gardening.

The fantastic homemade compost bin ala Glenna and Ben

The fantastic homemade compost bin ala Glenna and Ben

I had heard about composting before but never really seen it in action until Glenna invited me over to her perfectly charming house in Prospect Hill, where she and her partner Ben have not one but TWO compost bins.

“We lived in an apartment in Indy last year so we couldn’t compost,” Glenna explains. “When we moved here we had the perfect space for it. There was no excuse not to do it here.”

Their place is perfect for composting. At the back of their little two-bedroom bungalow, they have an old un-used garage, where they store leaves collected in fall. Behind the garage they store their two large compost bins, out of street view and away from interested dogs. Next to the garage there is a small gardening plot, which stands to benefit from the fertilizer they create.  A compost bin could not ask for a better home than at Ben and Glenna’s.

Ben dumping scraps of "green" into the compost bin

Ben dumping scraps of “green” into the compost bin

The whole process is easier than you might think.

“I assumed it was going to be stinky and that it would be a lot of work. I read a lot about it and it seemed intimidating. There were a lot of instructions and a whole list of things not to do,” Glenna says. “But really it is easier than you think. It seems daunting but you really can’t mess it up.”

Ben and Glenna took the simplest approach to composting. They bought a big round cheap plastic garbage can. Then they drilled a bunch of holes all around it. They put some old leaves in the new compost bin and then started adding their table scraps. The bin is raccoon-proofed with a simple bungee cord over the top. They propped it up on two concrete slabs to allow air flow through the bottom of the bin.

Ben "turning' the compost bin which basically means rolling it around on the ground.

Ben “turning’ the compost bin which basically means rolling it around on the ground.

The most “difficult” part of the whole process is turning the compost bin every few weeks or so. This basically entails Ben hoisting the bin off the concrete blocks and then rolling it around the yard a few times. This mixes up all the old leaves and food and encourages the particles to break down.

Besides being really hippy-chic and giving them free fertilizer, Glenna and Ben point out it is extra good for the environment.

“The foods that get thrown into landfills make methane gas which is really bad for the environment. If you compost, it’s not as bad because all the methane gas is not contained within the plastic-lined sealed landfill. You get to put waste back to the earth instead of just letting it sit in a landfill,” Glenna explains. “Plus it reduces the CO2 released by garbage trucks because we are making less waste.”

“It has really reduced our waste that goes to the landfill,” Ben agrees. “And the garbage never really stinks that much because all the food is in the compost.”

If you are still on the fence about whether or not this composting thing is a good idea, Ben has these final words for you:

“Take the plunge and just do it,” Ben says. “Really, it’s not that hard.”

Five tips to start your composting adventure

Although it is relatively easy to start a compost, now that Ben and Glenna are the official resident experts, they do have a few tips to help you along the way.

The kitchen bin with notes on what you can and cannot put in the compost bin

The kitchen bin with notes on what you can and cannot put in the compost bin

  1. Remember the 3:1 ratio; three “brown items” (aka leaves, old newspapers, dryer lint, coffee grounds) to every one “green item” (aka vegetables scraps, fruit peels).
  2. Don’t put any meat, fats, dairy items or oils in your heap, even if they are vegetables that were fried in oil.
  3. Don’t put onions in your compost because they can make the heap stinky.
  4. Get a kitchen bin! It’s just a little bin that sits in your kitchen to collect scraps. Then when it is full, take the little bin and dump it into your big bin. It’s also helpful to put lists of what can and can’t go into the compost heap on your kitchen bin in case you forget.
  5. Use a cheap garbage can; no need to be fancy for composting people!

Another Awesome Telecom Halloween Party

 

For the past few years, Halloween in the Telecom Department has been synonymous with one big ole epic party. This year, thankfully, was no exception. After back-to-back awesome parties first at Travis’s and then at Rachel’s house last year, Glenna Read graciously offered up her Prospect Hill home for the annual celebration.

“Some folks had mentioned that they were worried that no one would have the space to host the Halloween party,” Glenna explained. “It seems like an important tradition in the department and a great opportunity to hang out and get to know people outside of the school setting. I didn’t want that tradition to go away.”

The tradition of teamwork continued as well. Nic, Teresa and Ashely came over early to help “spookify” the house, Issac brought speakers for the dance party and Glenna’s boyfriend Ben did the cleaning. The group effort paid off, and the Telecom party was a raging success despite the snow (seriously there was snow!) and generally miserable weather. Telecomer’s mixed and mingled inside, eating food and discussing gaming ethics while outside in the garage, a perfectly crafted playlist and some glow sticks kept the dance party going all night long.

 

From the swarms of people gathered in Glenna’s beautiful straight-out-of-Pinterest home, it is hard to imagine that just last year, Glenna and Ben were commuting and not official Bloomingtonians. According to Glenna, the move to Bloomington has been amazing for both of them.

“We have so many more friends!” Glenna told me. “It’s nice to have a (semi) social life again.  We love Bloomington.”

And Bloomington (and the Telecom Department) loves Glenna and Ben. Another massive thank you for hosting Glenna and Ben! You guys rock!

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Lean, Mean, Kick-balling Machine

By Mona Malacane

Some graduate students fill their Thursday nights with grading, writing papers, reading articles, catching up on their DVR, or gathering at Crazy Horse. But Ashley Kraus, Glenna Read, and Teresa Lynch, have been spending their Thursday evenings a little differently lately … As the lean, mean, kick-balling machine of Telecom.

Formidable kickball athletes

Formidable kickball athletes.

This semester, Ashley (a kickball veteran), Glenna, and Teresa are playing for Team Swift Kick in the Grass, one of 12 kickball teams in a league organized by the Bloomington Adult Sports Club. The rest of their team is made up of other kickball enthusiasts from the Bloomington/Bedford area (including some SPEA students). So far, the crew has played four games, with a record of 2-2 – their most recent W is from last week’s game against the Alcohballics.

They all play different roles on the team and appreciate different aspects of the sport. Teresa plays infield at second base and switches with another team member as first base coach. If you know Teresa Lynch at all, you won’t be surprised to learn that her favorite aspect of the game is the competitiveness and kicking butt and calling names; she currently leads the team in “RKIs” (runs kicked in). Ashley covers the outfield and says that her strength is “avoiding getting on base.” Glenna handles the left center of the infield and her highlight of the season so far was catching the game-ending fly ball when they played against last year’s league champions, Derby Sanchez.

Team Swift Kick in the Grass after beating the Alcohballics 8-2

Team Swift Kick in the Grass after beating the Alcohballics 8-2.

But competition and winning aside, Teresa summed up their favorite part of playing kickball together quite nicely, “It’s fun getting together with people and doing something that isn’t school related and is not drinking … so often we just get together and go to bars. It’s nice doing something active.” I’m sure the Telecommandos, FC Telecom, and the Telecom running group would all echo this statement.

Although I’m not part of any Telecom intramural teams and therefore can’t speak from that experience, I still think it’s great to feel camaraderie with your colleagues both on a field and in the building – a feeling that I think we foster pretty well in our department. Because in the end (yes, I’m going to use the trite saying), it’s all about having fun.

Their team motto: “Sometimes we win … sometimes we lose … but we always have fun … unless we don’t …”

So if you want to go and support Ashley, Glenna, and Teresa, and the rest of Team Swift Kick in the Grass at Olcott Field, they would love cheerleaders! They only have two games left in the regular season (schedule available here) so go out and cheer them on into the playoffs!

Go to a game, you know you want to.

Go to a game, you know you want to.

A Georgian Commuting in the Snow

By Edo Steinberg

A traffic jam in snowy Woodstock, GA (Photo by William Brawley).

A traffic jam in snowy Woodstock, GA (Photo by William Brawley).

You may have heard of the havoc one inch of snow wreaked in Atlanta this winter. Drivers who were unaccustomed to driving through the white powder slid into each other and abandoned their cars on highways. Many have mocked Atlantans for this, as well as the city’s lack of preparedness, but in a place where snow is rare, it is understandable that this would happen.

Glenna Read is from Atlanta. Before coming to Indiana, she didn’t have much experience of driving in the snow. This winter, she had to do just that quite a bit, because she has been commuting from Indianapolis every day.

“My boyfriend Ben got an internship in Kokomo, which is an hour and a half north of Indianapolis,” Glenna explains her decision to commute. “Bloomington is an hour south of Indianapolis. We decided to split the difference.”

The winter has not been kind to her. “It has been really bad. I missed three classes. One session of each of my three classes I’ve had to miss because of things like a truck that had wrecked and looked really scary in the snow.”

“I had to leave very early to prepare for the ice,” Glenna says. “I’m not used to it. I think I actually have a phobia about it. I was really surprised the first time I drove in the snow and I didn’t get into an accident or die. That has been a challenge.”

She has also had mechanical difficulties. “Because it’s so cold, the cars don’t work as well. My Honda’s battery has died. I borrowed a car from my dad. It has four-wheel drive, but has been overheating. It’s crazy to have two cars I can use but both have these issues.”

“I can’t be as social as I’d like to be,” Glenna describes one of the other downsides of commuting.

At least March is around the corner (photo by LadyDragonflyCC - >;<)

At least March is around the corner (photo by LadyDragonflyCC – >;<)

Glenna wanted to make sure the time she spent commuting didn’t end up being wasted. “I expected that I would record lectures and listen to them in the car, but I didn’t do that,” she says. “I listened to Game of Thrones audiobooks. It makes it so much easier. Time goes by so much faster when I listen to an interesting part.”

“Eight to ten hours a week in the car aren’t so bad,” Glenna says. “It’s time for my brain to zone out and think about nothing, or I talk to my family and friends in Atlanta.”

“I’m very glad my commute is going to be over next fall,” she says. Ben has gotten a job in Martinsville, and they will move to Bloomington.

New Lab Rats, New Lab Equipment

By Edo Steinberg

Last Spring the College of Arts and Sciences gave the Institute for Communication Research money to buy new lab equipment. The two main purchases were the BIOPAC physiology system and the Tobii Eye Tracker.

The fearless reporter and his fearless eyeballs, as seen by the Tobii Eye Tracker.

The fearless reporter and his fearless eyeballs, as seen by the Tobii Eye Tracker.

“They arrived at the same time,” says Rob Potter, director of the ICR. “I had familiarity with physiology, I had familiarity with the BIOPAC system and I knew I had to teach using that system in an Intensive Freshman Seminar (IFS) in August. When they both arrived at the same time, I hooked the eye tracker up and made sure that no parts were broken and essentially we could pay the bill. Then I turned it on and it looked terrible. The fidelity of the screen wasn’t right.”

Because time was pressing, Rob decided to focus on the BIOPAC first. He put the eye tracker in the corner. Vacation, the IFS course and a conference led to the eye tracker being left alone until late August.

Then incoming graduate student Anthony Almond asked Rob if he could spend some time in the lab. “I said to myself, ‘I better grab Anthony while I can, before another faculty member does,’” Rob recalls. “I said, how about Tuesdays and Thursdays. I shot for the moon. He said yes. Then, I was lucky enough to get Niki as my AI. Later, Glenna came up to me and said ‘I hear you have this meeting.’”

During these new students’ first meeting with Rob at the ICR, Anthony took a look at the eye tracking system, which he had some experience with previously. After about an hour, he figured out the problem and fixed it by installing updated video drivers.

Rob says that the ICR is the place for students who wish to get experience with lab equipment to come, if they ask Rob or lab manager Sharon Mayell to come. “Anthony was able to come in and try to troubleshoot stuff. That’s exactly the type of environment we want to have. All the way back when Annie Lang was the director, that was the environment she tried to instill. Bring your ideas to the ICR and work on investigating questions that interest you.”

Now, Anthony, Glenna and Niki spend time at the ICR, getting to know the equipment and preparing for future participation in research projects.

“I’m continuing to figure out what acronyms stand for,” Niki jokes.

Niki sees where she looked when she watched a video.

Niki sees where she looked when she watched a video.

“The eye tracker can do more than just see where you look,” Anthony says. “It can also measure the size of your pupil, and when your eyes are moving rapidly across the screen. You can also use it in combination with other physiological measures. For example, if someone is looking at a website and their heart rate decelerates, is it because they were looking at the ad on the side, because they were reading the text or because of something else entirely?”

Other applications include whether or not people notice certain things on the screen, as well as implications for design. For instance, website developers can see if the audience is looking at what they want to show or something else is distracting people.

“I’m here for a crash course in both physiology and eye tracking research,” says Niki. “I want to see what others are doing and throw myself into the world of research, to see what’s possible.”

Glenna has used the BIOPAC system before. “But I haven’t done a lot with it,” she emphasizes.

“I used the BIOPAC before, as well,” Anthony says. “And this morning Rob showed me something about it I didn’t know. Now I have to show him how to do fancy software stuff.”

“It’s been really cool to see how everyone comes together and collaborates with what they know from the past,” Niki says. “Anthony, Glenna and Rob all have these interesting areas of expertise.”

If you also want to be a lab rat, as people conducting research in the ICR are affectionately called, get in touch with Rob!

Glenna and Joomi’s Adventures in Asia

By Edo Steinberg

Incoming graduate students Glenna Read and Joomi Lee each travelled to the Far East this summer. Glenna was in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and Joomi travelled in India for a month. Glenna took the trip with her boyfriend, Ben. Joomi, on the other hand, went to India on her own, travelling with tourists she met there. “It was fun to get to know different people from different backgrounds,” Joomi said of her fellow backpackers.

Buddhist temple in the Himalayas (Photo courtesy of Joomi Lee).

Buddhist temple in the Himalayas (Photo courtesy of Joomi Lee).

One of Joomi’s favorite places in India was Turtuk, a village in the Himalayas near the Pakistan border. It wasn’t easy getting there, requiring two different buses. “It took about twelve hours. Usually, foreigners take more expensive transportation. We took the local bus. It was very dirty, very crowded. I had very little space to stand. My friend was hanging outside, on top of the bus, trying to avoid rocks, branches and electric lines.”

The dangerous voyage was worth it. The scenery was beautiful and the locals were very friendly.

One of Glenna’s favorite parts of her trip was a hill tribe trek in Chiang Rai, Thailand, where she got to ride an elephant. She also went on the Gibbon Adventure, which entailed ziplining through the jungle and staying in tree houses.

Joomi’s interactions with locals were very positive. She stayed at one elderly woman’s house and was invited to a traditional wedding. However, it was important to be cautious. “You have to be careful, because it isn’t a safe place to travel,” Joomi said. “In urban areas there were always people trying to cheat. Also, men are always looking for women. Their culture is more rigid and strict about relationships. I heard I shouldn’t wear short pants or miniskirts.”

Glenna observed that people in Thailand and Laos seemed very gentle and avoidant of conflict. “It was less so in Vietnam, but it could be because I was American,” she said. “Nobody was rude, though.” She was also cognizant of respecting local traditions and covering her shoulders when visiting temples.

Joomi on a camel (Photo courtesy of Joomi Lee).

Joomi on a camel (Photo courtesy of Joomi Lee).

Many of the locals wanted to take pictures with Glenna and Joomi, since they enjoyed being photographed with tourists. The two would also like to stay in touch with many of the people they met during their trips, both fellow tourists and locals.

Glenna and Joomi say that tourists should try to learn about the cultures they visit. Residents of these countries like to talk about their societies. Joomi believes visitors should try their food and visit their homes to fully experience life in that place.

“And don’t complain,” Glenna implores. “Even if something sucks, you’re still on vacation. You have this amazing opportunity. Why get upset or angry over anything? Keep a positive attitude.”

Glenna and Joomi learned a lot about historical and political issues during their travels. Glenna learned that in the countries she visited, American landmines from the Vietnam War were never removed and still kill people every year. “There are so many landmines that you can’t walk off the path,” she says. “We did not do anything to get rid of these landmines, so it is left up to these countries to deal with this problem that we created.” She also learned about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Joomi discovered that the caste system in India is still very strong, despite the fact that it is no longer enshrined in law. This is especially true among older people and in rural areas. For instance, there are still people who are beggars and street sweepers solely because that is what they were born to do, according to tradition. Also, those whose job it is to burn dead bodies and throw their remains into the Ganges River in Varanasi – a tradition Joomi witnessed – are members of a low caste.

“As a traveler, there is nothing to do,” Joomi says. “All you can do is recognize reality and tell other people about it.”