• Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

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SCUP-44: Wrap-up ramblings

Based on the expertise inherent in my observation of Portland over a 3-day period (and most of that confined to a convention center), I can confidently state that there are three broad groups (NB - not "classes", lmao) of people in Portland.

First, there are tourists. Not just SCUPers, and not just conference attendees in general. Lots of folks, all over town (or at least the portions readily accessible via public transit), all consulting fan-fold maps and looking just a tad confused.

July 22, 2009
 

Based on the expertise inherent in my observation of Portland over a 3-day period (and most of that confined to a convention center), I can confidently state that there are three broad groups (NB - not "classes", lmao) of people in Portland.

First, there are tourists. Not just SCUPers, and not just conference attendees in general. Lots of folks, all over town (or at least the portions readily accessible via public transit), all consulting fan-fold maps and looking just a tad confused.

Second, there are youngish (or would-be youngish) folks in caps, flannel, shorts and either sandals or work boots (not much in between). And ink -- lots of ink. Slightly grungy, like much of the city itself. Seemingly friendly, or at very least totally non-aggressive by East Coast standards.

And third are the homeless. Relatively many homeless. Quite a few of them pan-handling (again, non-aggressively). Lots of them just hanging out on streetcorners or in neighborhood centers or near bars/pool-halls. I'm thinking that public support must be pretty generous in Portland. Or maybe it's just the mild weather. (If you're going to be sleeping in doorways, a relative absence of snow is a real advantage.) Anyways, Portland must be a town which feeds its poor. It might (possibly) even be a town where one can ask why the poor have no food.

These three groups cover probably 99% of the people I encountered in my ramblings around town. And Portland is a pretty easy town to ramble around in. Relatively flat, wide sidewalks, short blocks, pretty much laid out on a grid, free transit within the urban core. The son of a family in Backboro came out to Portland State and has stayed on very happily. Like many folks here he doesn't drive, he bikes. And he loves the place.

All in all, then, my impression of Portland reminds me of a phrase from de Tocqueville. He described American society as enjoying "a happy mediocrity", in that no one was (by the standards of the French nobility) really rich, but few were (by the standards of the French urban peasantry) particularly poor, either, I'm sure there are exceptions but, on the whole, the phrase would seem to apply.

But enough of trivialities. Now for the meat of the conversation. Towels.

I've traveled a lot. I've stayed in a lot of hotels. One of the ways I decide whether I like a hotel or not is based on their towels. If the towels are 100% cotton, I like the place. If they're as little as 95% cotton (5% nylon or some such for durability), I like it notably less. If they're over 5% synthetic (I've seen up to 15%, which really decreases absorbency), I make a note never to stay there again.

So I checked into my hotel in Portland, got up the next morning and took a shower. Grabbed a towel. And was confused. It felt good -- very good, but it didn't feel quite like any towel I'd ever used before. Better. In many cases, far better. No hint of a synthetic feel, but not entirely cotton, either. Thicker, and more substantially woven, and at least as absorbent as 100% cotton. Maybe more so.

The things are made out of 85% cotton, and 15% bamboo. I've always thought of bamboo as a wood substitute (technically, it's a grass). I remember seeing construction scaffolding in Asia with its framework made entirely from bamboo held together (at least apparently) by thick black rubber bands. I never thought of it as something you'd weave into a soft, absorbent fabric.

I'm hoping (haven't looked into it yet) that bamboo for fabric is (or at least can be) grown sustainably, and that I'm not drying myself with the last vestiges of what used to be some rain forest. But if that's the case, I'm going to start looking for cotton/bamboo towels in Backboro or on the web. And shirts. And maybe pants.

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