Nine Circles of Disposal Hell: Patrick Murphy

My good buddy and former band-mate, PMurph, posted a note on Facebook that I think everyone needs to read. He brings up some good environmental and recycling issues, but skillfully avoids preaching and makes it funny. It's so well written and has some solid information for everyone, especially college students that are moving out of their dorms and apartments. I'll reprint it here for your reading enjoyment, and hopefully he won't mind too much.

Nine Circles of Disposal Hell

At the end of each year NC State plants huge dumpsters outside of all dorms for students to throw away all the stuff they don't need anymore.

I went dumpster diving today from 3-6am, hoping to find discarded items that would be of use to me, primarily to furnish an apartment next semester. My goal is to spend as little money as possible on the new space, yet through a little re-working of some everyday items wind up with a living space of unique and interesting pieces that don't belie my status as a "designer." We'll see how things go.

some items uncovered:
-complete new set of matching ABS coathangers (something i've never had)
-dishrack I wanted in the beginning of the year but couldn't afford.
-3-shelf rolling storage cart
-fully-functional folding papasan lounge
-practically unused backpack used to carry all this stuff. (we're talkin like...rip-stop nylon, laptop support, 7-compartment, everything and the kitchen sink bag)
-2 large mirrors, one black wood frame, one grey-stained victorian ornamental, both unscratched.

And my personal favorite:
In one receptacle I saw a brilliant display of flashing leds and heard catchy 8-bit music. It turned out to be this:



It was pretty cool, and completely unscathed, so i threw it in my bag and rode off only to later discover the probably reason it's previous owner threw it out in the first place: the thing wouldn't shut the hell up. Turns out there's no off button. like an oceanic furby. also, the battery compartment is accessible via the smallest phillips head screw on earth, so no luck there. But, the NES-style tunes (which were actually quite varied) eventually kept me company rather than annoy me to the point of returning it to a trash bin wit ha swift kick to the dorsal. With a USD pricetag of $65, I just couldn't refuse.

So, the trip was amazing, I found some cool stuff, explored campus when nobody was around, and got to watch the sun rise while an alarmingly loud (but overall enjoyable) menagerie of birds signaled the start of the day.


The trip was also incredibly depressing. The amount of trash accumulated in the dumpsters was no surprise, but the quantity, quality, and state of the things discarded that weren't necessarily garbage was astounding. To top things off, approximately 40% of what I saw was cardboard. Cardboard is not trash, it is a fusion of tiny wood strands pressed together to form a structurally rigid sheet. When reused or reprocessed, it creates more cardboard, is used for composting agents, and serves as a highly efficient form of thermal fuel.

Another 10% of receptacle content was pure white paper, also a collection of processed wood product, and also usable after reprocessing, mostly to create more paper. Another 5% was comprised of functional, unbroken furnishings (The stuff I kept were few of many choices).

another 5% was computer parts, the majority of which were CRT's and printers. CRT's are one of the worst things that can be thrown into a landfill, not only serving as solid, un-biodegradable mass, but leeching on average 8 pounds of lead into the environment (per monitor)upon breeching of the cathode tube.

probably 10% of the remainder was solid wood product, which, in an even less-processed state that that of cardboard or paper, is nowhere near the end of its life cycle.

20% of everything was carpet and rugs, most of which were completely fine, all of which could be cleaned, and one of which will go under my feet next year (a large and particularly beautiful light-sand colored tall-fibred specimen) I mean...there was a lot of freaking carpet there.

2% was clothing and shoes, many of which were only slightly used. These could have gone to collection boxes for the poor. (they're all over the fucking campus, find one and give a poor kid some kicks)

the majority of the rest was actual trash, in actual trash bags. BUT maybe 15% of this? were aluminum and plastic drinking vessels.

Now before I launch into a tirade about the issues present in my findings, I will say that I have absolutely no idea whether or not the contents of these bins will be sorted through (like many dumpsters on campus) by a recycling center before heading off to an actual landfill. If that's the case, then a lot of the "problem" here will be averted, and much of the material saved from useless death in an oxygen-starved mountain of trash. I will also say that by writing this, I am quite the hypocrite. I guarantee you that I buy more crap, waste more water and electricity, and am responsible for the discarding of more un-recycled material in any given work week than most people are in a semester.

But there are other things that people can do (even fall into the habit of doing) that require minimally more effort than just simply placing everything in sight in a trash bin or dumpster.


The nine circles of disposal hell:

1) duds, kicks, and lids-
If you've got clothing or shoes or fanny-packs you don't wan't anymore, don't toss 'em. Try selling them to places like Plato's closet first (if in good condition and still in style)- you'll actually get paid for them. If they reject your camo gear, parachute pants, and wasssuuup! shirt-- fear not, you can donate them to a second hand store where financially-strained people (or kids looking for halloween costumes) can buy it for little mula. Thirdly, and most honorably, find a "clothing drive" or whatever bin and donate the clothes to starving kids in africa or homeless people here.

2) carpet-
If you're a college student living in a shitty dorm with a floor that has a color scheme that a partially blind person obviously concocted, I feel your pain and have been there before. you'll probably want to buy a carpet to cover up your tiffany lamp of a bare floor- understandable. But think about the end of that year: will you be able to carry it home or ever use it again? will it adapt to your ever-changing style needs? (maybe black is a better choice than your seasonal need for some hot pink in your life) do you need a carpet that big or will a smaller one do just fine? I saw too many carpets today that won't be making the journey home with their owners.

3) furniture and furnishings-
So you got some cool stuff for your room for the year, a fold-up chair to snuggle up in to watch a movie or cry for 3 hours because dammit, Noah really did still love her...., a mirror so you can getcha hair did, maybe even a TV stand or a storage rack for your nike collection if you really pimping out the place. But ask yourself the same questions as above^...are you ever gonna use this thing outside of the room you first put it in? Is it worth spending a little more on something you might want to keep for more than a year? can you make something out of stuff thats lying around that will serve just as well as what you're about to drop 50 bucks on? can you take something just like it from home that your family already owns instead of buying it brand new? nobody cares about you intricately color-matched room courtesy of target or pier1(and trust me, I'm talking about guys JUST as much as ladies), so relax--you're still gonna get laid even if your file folders and bedsheets "clash".

4) that secondary xylem you call "table"-
WOOD. I have a soft spot in my heart for it. completely renewable, strength-to weight ratio rivaling that of carbon fiber, lowest energy to process of virtually any material, and the list of awesomeness goes on...But just because it's ridiculously easy to just make more wood products doesn't mean you should toss out that table or shelf when it breaks or you need to get rid of it, wood is entirely recyclable and for the most part, biodegradable (but not in an microbe-deprived landfill, where a lot of it winds up going). I'm actually hung-up on HOW to recycle wood though...there's a few select dumpsters around campus that will accept it, but most of them are pretty inconvenient for a lot of students. Please discuss ideas below:

5) plastics make it possible-
so you recycle your vault bottles like a good lad, and thats great, good for you. BUT, it might surprise people to know that bottles aren't the only thing made of plastic that you can recycle. It all depends on the numbers 1-7 (1-6 in some cases). before you toss anything made of plastic, check on the bottom or side for the triangle recycle symbol, and find the number inside of it. The number corresponds to a certain thermo-plastic polymer, each of which is compositionally pure and capable of being remelted with nearly zero-material loss and formed into another plastic thing. So if it has a number on it and will fit, toss it into a recycling container marked for plastic bottles. Check out this site for info on what numbers mean what and common products that are made from them:

6) electronic wasteland-
Computers and electronics and things of that technological nature are great, probably some of the most amazing achievements mankind has ever created, next to the lay-Z-boy and pb&j in the same jar. However, a potential downside is that technology changes VERY fast. meaning the laptop you buy your freshman year might be in the smithsonian when you graduate. It's scary fast- it's estimated that by 2013 there will be a computer that can exceed the processing capabilities of human brain. Get ready for the robot war. But as fast as computers and technology are evolving and their peripherals being updated and replaced, these items are potentially hazardous if disposed of using traditional methods. Check with best buy, officemax, circuit city, or any computer supply place or junk service and they'll tell you how to properly dispose of things that can really do a number on the environment. Also, if you're doing a lot of computer graphics and art stuff, don't be too quick to toss that CRT- they have color display capabilities that are far more accurate than modern LCD's, so if you're having issues with display-print inconsistencies, give your old monitor another go at it, it might save you some hassle.

7) what can brown do for you?-
Cardboard. There's just too damn much of it getting thrown away. It's not a hard fix, either- although not as abundant as traditional recycling containers are, cardboard dumpsters are pretty frequent, especially on college campuses. If you're a good person you'll break down the boxes like the dumpster asks you to. If you're an even better person you'll remove any tape, staples, and labels before chucking it. If you're a super-cool person, you'll save it all, buy some ducttape, and be a transformer for halloween.

8) it's white, flat, and reeeally flexible-
No, it's not your mom. It's paper. also no excuse for throwing this stuff away. While humanity makes the steady transition to portable electronic "e-paper" you can do your part to put the current means of textual communication to good use by not dooming it to a garbage bin. If you're trying to score extra brownie points with the poor guy who has to empty and sort the recycling containers, you'll be sure to remove any tape and staples, and separate the pure white office paper from the "mixed paper products" and place each in their respective bin. a lot of packaging materials, newspapers, magazines, etc. can be placed in the "mixed paper" bin, along with thinner forms of cardboard like 6 or 12-pack containers, shampoo boxes, general smaller box packages, etc.

9) the unholy trinity-
Aight, now for my wrath: trashbags filled with 67 cans of PBR from your party last night in the dumpster?
Seriously, just fucking kill yourself, cause that's ridiculous. there are recycling containers that take glass, plastic, and aluminum that line the entrance to nearly every building on campus. Your building not have one? here's a splendid idea: walk to the next building over. Or make a homemade bong, I don't care. and LOOK AT THIS: http://www.chrisjordan.com/

As a consumer, the moment you purchase something you've made a choice and a commitment. You've made the choice to consume something that was taken from this earth, and ultimately made the choice to one day return it to the earth in a different and possibly harmful state than it was originally. You've also made the commitment to be the owner, sole guardian, and exploiter of said object. It's lifespan and the efficiency and usefulness with which it lives it's life will be determined by you.

Once said by a man who was wiser than you (therefore you should listen silently and attentively):
"we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from out children."

I think our children have a bleak future.

-- Patrick Murphy

In other quick news, despite my recent tirade about politics in North Carolina, Obama had an amazing showing Tuesday night and won NC decisively and kept Indiana close, all but locking up the nomination for himself. Now if we can just get Hill-dog to step down and concede. It's the best thing for all involved, especially for the unity of the Democratic party heading to November.

As of Tuesday at 10 a.m., I am a senior. I finished my last exam and now have just one year left before I don the Carolina Blue cap and gown and sit, terrified, in Kenan Stadium. It's a scary time, but I plan to make the best of it. You're only in college once.

That's all for now. Go recycle something.



When I talked for a bit about the Obama campaign and the Rev. Wright issue in my last post, I genuinely thought people wouldn't let that crap influence their vote. I gave the American people enough credit that I thought they would make the issues the important part of the vote: not race, not gender, and especially not Rev. Wright.

But I guess I was wrong.

I was excited that North Carolina was getting so behind a black candidate for president. It would be a landmark election if the Old North State voted for a black man to represent the Democratic party. I thought that it was a sign that racism, while not totally gone, was starting to fade and that people weren't as concerned with skin color. The optimist part of me still wants to believe that, but I'm troubled by an article I woke up to this morning from the News & Observer.

It makes me feel like everything I said in the last post and every positive thing I thought about the progressiveness of NC is wrong. Why aren't people willing to support Obama?

Obama "doesn't have the experience and gravitas for this day and time," Gilliam said.
"I don't know where he will fall on issues," she said. With Sen. John McCain, the certain Republican nominee, "at least I know."

OK, at least this is a legitimate argument, even though I don't agree with it. But Gilliam is worried about the issues. I'm really not sure how you don't know where Obama will fall with the issues. Sure, he may not have as deep of a political record to look back at, but just listen to one of his speeches. He says exactly where he stands on the major issues, and exactly what he wants to do about them when he gets into office. Pay a little bit more attention and see if you can't find it.

So what else is troubling NC democratic voters about Obama?

Greg Gallagher, 52, a construction worker who lives in Pamlico County, was so uncomfortable hearing about Obama's pastor that he worries about the candidate himself.

"The more I know, the less I like him," said Gallagher, who is white. "You listen to this guy -- it's not going to pull people together. It'll break them apart."

"I once thought he could change the country," said Adams.

But he has lost some faith in Obama now, wondering how the man could sit for 20 years in Wright's pews. Adams will vote for Clinton in the primary.

Oh no, here we go with the infamous Rev. Wright. Let's just say that the reverend is a little crazy and is making too much of his 15 minutes of fame. I doubt that he screamed that stuff out from the pulpit when Obama was sitting attentively in Wright's pews. If you know anything about Obama, I don't see how you can assume that he might have the same beliefs as the crazy reverend. I think we can blame Wright's comments on one of two things: 1) he has always had these crazy ideas, and now that he gets national press coverage, he's going to use this time to throw out these ideas and let America hear what he has to say, or 2) he is angry about Obama distancing himself from the reverend after the first comments came out, so he is intentionally trying to hurt Obama's campaign by saying more outrageous stuff.

Either way, is this really what we want to base our presidency on? It especially bothers me that Adams was an Obama suppporter and the only thing that has moved him to Clinton is Rev. Wright. There's so much more to Obama than his skin color and his pastor. As an educated people we have to be able to look past that and look at what the issues really are. Stop listening to the pundits on CNN about how much this means to the campaign and how important it is. The only reason it is important is because people make it important, and they make it a much bigger issue than it needs to be. The big issue should be what the candidate believes in, what he says and what he plans to do in office. Please don't make me completely lose faith in the political process and the people of this country.

Oh, I almost forgot. Obama won't pull people together? OK, there is an issue with a racial divide, and I guess you could make that a bigger issue than it is, but I think Obama has pulled more people together than any other candidate in the race. At the Obama rally in Chapel Hill, there were so many different types of people there to support him. I'm pretty sure I could find someone from every demographic in those powder-blue seats. His message of hope and change has united people and made people care about politics. Volunteers come out in droves to make phone calls, donations and knock on every door they can find. Not a day goes by that I don't get a phone call about voting for Obama. Seeing the way citizens have come out for this man, I simply can't believe that he will divide people on a large scale.

So if it's not race, experience or a loud-mouthed reverend that's keeping North Carolinians from filling in the little black circle beside Obama's name, what else could it possibly be?
Like Gallagher, she would vote for McCain or not at all before casting a ballot for Obama. She said he has too little experience, and she doesn't think he's willing to pledge allegiance to the flag.
"That is huge to me," she said.
The flag pin thing again? Seriously? Do you really think a man that didn't love America would run for president, work his ass off for 15 months traveling all around the country and talking to thousands and thousands of people? It's absurd. So he doesn't wear an American flag on the lapel of his jacket. Big deal. Before the Obama rally, the whole Dean Dome was led in the Pledge of Allegiance. As noted in the article, Obama himself has led the Senate in the reciting of the pledge. He is willing to pledge allegiance to the flag, and -- not to sound too gimmicky -- he is willing to pledge allegiance to the American people. That should not be the decisive issue when it comes time to vote.

This article obviously disheartened me, and I'm really hoping that the people that were quoted in it are the minority in NC. I would hate to see these little issues turn the state to Clinton. Like I said in the last post, we can't miss this opportunity to do something big for American politics. It scares me that people, Democrats, that is, will vote for John McCain if Obama wins the primary. That makes no sense. Democrats have to realize that a change is needed, and that either candidate would be better than McCain. I would vote for Clinton before the Republican Party. The last thing we need after these eight frustrating years is to put an old Bush crony into the White House for another four years.

Please, America and North Carolina, restore my faith in you and make this election about the issues that matter. If you're not going to vote for Obama, give me a legitimate reason. That's all I ask. Be smart when you go to the polls.



The Fires that Have Burned

I'm sitting in a dark, smoke-filled room with just one candle and the screen of my laptop for lighting. It's one of those nights that I force introspection. I knew it was going to be one of those nights when I got out of my drunk class. I stopped by the store to get the necessary accessories, sat down at the computer and fired up the Led Zeppelin. It was a good night. It was only topped by an amazing afternoon.

I think that you know you've found something special when things as simple as sitting outside, eating grilled bologna and cheese sandwiches and Thin Wheats and hummus, listening to music, and just talking with a person can create an extraordinarily enjoyable experience. I can't think of anything I would have rather done with my four hours earlier today.

I have mixed feelings about the upcoming end to this semester: it was by far my hardest and most stressful school-wise, but it really made me work hard and do things that took me out of my comfort zone -- something I need to work on doing a lot more often. At the same time, I couldn't have asked for a better semester away from classes. I've already talked about this before, so I won't go too deep into it, except to say that there is certain special lady that has made me so ridiculously happy and has helped me to get through these crazy few months.

After classes ended, things started to look up. Monday night I listened to Barack Obama speak at the Dean Dome. He's a great speaker and I believe everything he says. It's not just that I want to believe him, it's that I actually do. He has such great ideas for the country and government, from universal health-care to reforming education and tuition grants. I'd like to believe that he could just step into office and change these things with a snap of his fingers, but that's obviously impossible. What excites me about his campaign and possible presidency is not that he will change all these things, but that he will begin the process of change.

We can only expect so much out of Obama if he wins the presidency. Even if he were in office for eight years, many of his goals and plans would not be finished. But what is important is that he is taking a step toward change. It's the possibility that he may change how Washington works. It's that fact that he is making people care about politics and want to get involved. Obama has inspired thousands of young people (such a generic term, but I mostly mean college-age people) to not only register and vote, but to volunteer for his campaign. His message of hope and change is something that America has been waiting for, and we can't miss this opportunity to accept it.

Sure, when he gets into office he will face problems and will probably make decisions that his supporters don't agree with. That's just part of the deal. But I have to believe that having a president that is so intent on changing the way things are done in government and really trying to right this ship is a positive thing. I just hope that we don't miss this opportunity. And I truly hope that, if elected, Obama will follow through with his promises.

I can't stand political news coverage. I already have problems with the media in the first place, but political journalists are the scum of the scum of the earth. They spend hours filling up time on 24-hour news networks talking about things that don't matter, just so they can get their name out there with hopes of a book deal or regular TV spot. They don't talk about the issues or ideas: they talk about Reverend Wright, Muslim-sounding names, TV commercials and mysterious polls about who 30-45 year-old black women name Maxine like in the upcoming primary. It's a waste of time. The people that are watching these shows know enough about politics and the campaigns that they have already made their decision on who to vote for, and the general public for the most part doesn't care about these things. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part, but I think it's true. It should be the media's job to inform the public of the issues so that they can make the best decision on who to vote for. All other coverage is irrelevant and unnecessary.

On a lighter note, this month will be very solid musically. Tomorrow I'm going to try to make it over to the Obama rally in Carrboro to see Superchunk and Arcade Fire play a free show. Yes, Arcade Fire playing a free show. I'm pretty excited. Saturday night I will be going to see the reunion show of the Pressure Boys, an old Chapel Hill band, and Sneakers, a band from Chapel Hill via Winston Salem, whose bassist is my friend's dad. It should be a fun show and I'm looking forward to seeing Mr. K jumping across the stage and rocking out. If it wasn't for the aforementioned drunk class that takes up my next two Thursdays, I would be heading down to Charlotte next Thursday to see longtime-favorites Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers for the first time in a long time. Oh well, I'll catch them next time around. Finally, today I got my ticket for the Ben Folds show in Cary at the end of the month. I saw him for the first time last year and had an amazing time. I can't wait to see him outside at the amphitheater.

I guess that's about all that's going on right now, or at least everything I can think of. I will once again leave you with some bands that I've gotten into recently. Enjoy.

Junior Senior
Hot Chip
The Weepies
The Apples in Stereo
White Stripes (I know...I'm really late on this one)
And this isn't one that I've recently discovered, but one that I've surprisingly forgotten about and have become re-obsessed with. If you haven't listened to them in a while, it's time to pull the albums out again: Led Zeppelin