August 12, 2012

So Long...For Now.

"Sunrise, Sunset" as it is sung. 

With the Dimmick House well cleared of my whimsical collection of doo-dads and whats-its, the sturdy, yellow GPS unit placed firmly in the hands of another individual eager to serve the Farragut community, and my physical body well placed on the other side of the American continent, it seems like an appropriate time to wrap up this blog. 

My first day in Farragut after having just flown in from my NCCC service in California two days prior.

Frankly I have been putting it off.  While normally my blog are neglected from the distraction of day to day life, or even a lack of inspiration and creativity, I let this one sit this past month simply because I wasn't ready to move on.  To say that my year in Farragut was full of wonderful memories is a vast understatement.  In fact, without hyperbole, I might even venture to say that this AmeriCorps experience has been the brightest chronological highlight of my young life. 

Goodness knows I certainly didn't expect to fall head over heels for the Knox area, stormwater management, or even AmeriCorps state/national - but I did.  Hard.   Maybe it was the people, the work, the location, or just the way the stars seemed to align there concerning my life at the time, but whenever I think back to this past service year, I cannot help but feel a warm wave of nostalgia pass over me as if I were reliving the good ol' days...though those good ol' days have only just recently been let out of my grasp.

Or perhaps I'm just overly sentimental and a bit off of my rocker - but hey - it's my blog and I'll say what I feel.  It is important for me to acknowledge that my service there got me where I am now, and it is through the memories I had there, and the knowledge that I gained, that I will rely on when the road gets bumpy on my current adventure.

A sincere thank you to everyone who made my time in Knoxville/Farragut so special whimsical.  I will hold it close to my heart.

To stop my own rambling I will leave you with the River Unicorn and my final presentation to the Town.  What I fail to find the words to say, I know this whimsical creature can with just one photo.


June 27, 2012


As of Friday of this week I will be taking the recycling posters off of my desk, putting in my final data for Farragut's Adopt-A-Stream program, and saying my goodbyes to all of the wonderful people I have met on this leg of my AmeriCorps adventure.  To, as of next week, no longer speak of my AmeriCorps service in the present tense is strange to say the least.  After two years of adventures, friendships, traveling, and daily doses of elbow grease I have few stories to share that don't involve me being in a gray t-shirt with an AmeriCorps logo on the sleeve.

My NCCC experience framed my State/National year here in Farragut so well.  Not only was my supervisor also a NCCC Fire Management Team alum, but from a personal development perspective, my time working in team based national service really prepared me for the challenges and opportunities that living and working alone in this job would provide.  It also provided me with the self-confidence and assuredness that I lacked coming immediatly out of college.  AmeriCorps has been good to me - but I suppose I don't need to tell you that if you have ever frequented my blogs before.

I cannot think of anything I would have rather done with my life this year aside from this job.  I know that may sound like exaggeration to some but it is nonetheless true.  Not only was Farragut an amazingly supportive and enjoyable site, the work that entailed always proved to feel important and of value to the community.  Never did I feel that I was squandering my or my sites time with the work I was doing.  I have been proud to be an important cog in the maching that is this municipality.

As a sentimental person, goodbyes are hard for me, so I think I'll just leave this blogpost as it is for now and try to come up with a little more closure later :)

Now it is time to delete about a kajillion emails off of this work computer to set it up for next year's AmeriCorps!

June 22, 2012

A License to Serve

I am featured on the national AmeriCorps Alums blog!  Check it out!

Final Report

I had to submit my final report to my AmeriCorps heads this morning.  I wonder if this is what they were looking for...


The Day that Unicorns Saved Turkey Creek

And other Tales of Environmental Stewardship in Farragut, Tennessee

AmeriCorps does things differently a few miles west of Knoxville Proper.  Sure, we participate in things like recycling measures just like the rest of the corps.  However instead of a gray clad AmeriCorps member coming to your car to collect your electronic waste you encounter a large dinosaur named Recyclosaurus.  We too throw our name into the hat concerning water quality education and outreach, but instead of putting together a PowerPoint presentation, we create a rap battle video starring benthic macroinvertebrates.  And yes we too coordinate an Adopt-A-Steam program but most of the promotional images you’ll find surrounding it involve a unicorn in waders.

That single horned beast has come to embody what my AmeriCorps year with the Town of Farragut Stormwater Matters program means to me. Though Mr. Unicorn and his roster of whimsical friends were fantastical and at times off-putting to those with limited imaginations, they were nonetheless purposeful and acted at the tip of the spear for getting positive results in water quality and all of the other environmental issues that AmeriCorps CAC tackles.  Simply put, I believe my cartoonish way of thinking got results in the way that I hoped it would. 

Contrary to what one might expect in hearing about the whimsical frolicking of unicorns, much of my AmeriCorps year has been about the dirty fingernail, sweaty t-shirt kind of work you’d expect.  There wasn’t a moment of it however when I didn’t try to embrace a sense of whimsy in it all. Afterall, whimsy was my outreach tool that got people on board with my projects.  When I needed to up the amount of committed recyclers at special events and at Town Hall, I created a series of posters and recycling bin wraps that featured pop culture icons such as Super Mario, LOLcat, and Lady Gaga.  Though I physical carried the sum of 2,820lbs of refuse to be recycled, I believe Gaga herself carried a good 50% of that on her back.

 Stormwater inlet GPS mapping was the kind of work I really fell in love with.  It had everything – a chance to spend all day outdoors, and emphasis on technology, a quantifiable workload, and a chance to commune with a most misunderstood character – the storm drain.  Getting to be an important cog of a system that allowed a comprehensive view of the stormwater system in place within the town was an awesome experience.  In was so awesome in fact that I tore through it.  By the end of my AmeriCorps stint I was supposed to have the first quadrant of the town’s stormwater inlets mapped and assessed for health.  The 2012-2013 AmeriCorps would then map quadrant two and so on until AmeriCorps member number four mapped the last section of town in 2015.  Much to the displeasure of  the future Town of Farragut AmeriCorps members, I loved mapping so much that I mapped not only my goal, quadrant one, but mapped the entirety of the Town of Farragut.  3,387 stormwater inlets later I am a bit more tan and possess a robust sense of accomplishment.

Field work didn’t just mean working around Turkey Creek however.  I certainly spent my fair share of time walking, and often falling, in Turkey Creek itself.  In coordinating the Adopt-A-Stream program for the town I have worked with several groups including a local Boy Scout Troop, a JROTC program, and students from the University of Tennessee.  Together we removed 1,470lbs of refuse from the Turkey Creek watershed.  It wasn’t all just trash bags and waders though.   Through my winning of a grant for the town, 350 trees have become citizens of Farragut whos primary job includes strengthening the riparian zones of Turkey Creek.

Another aspect of my AmeriCorps position that placed me in thigh-high water was dry weather screening.  An important stormwater management housekeeping practice, this screening had me collecting GPS points of manmade discharges into Turkey Creek and using testing kits to test all active discharges into the main body of water.  One hundred percent of the target areas of the creek was mapped and tested for levels of chlorine, phenols, sediment, detergent, ammonia, copper, and chlorine.

When I wasn’t hanging out with storm drains, mapping outlets, or keeping trash out of Turkey Creek, I was helping to run the special event circuit with the rest of my AmeriFriends.  Special events were the time for my love of whimsy to really shine.  The best example of this being my participation in the Southeast’s largest environmental festival, EarthFest.  When charged with coming up with a creative education and outreach tool for the festival’s scavenger hunt I pulled out my roster of whimsical characters without hesitation.  With help from my fellow AmeriCorps CAC members I enrolled a variety of environmental characters into the festival.  I wrote scripts, developed costumes, did photo shoots, and created blog entries for characters such as Latch the Green Garden Tick, Kelly the Water Quality Crayfish, and a new dinosaur character, Franklin Fossil Fuels.

The EarthFest cast weren’t the only ones to make online appearances.  A YouTube rap battle was created from the ground up – lyrics, music, costumes, and videography – to teach middle schoolers about benthic macroinvertebrates as part of the Adopt-A-Watershed program.  Another video followed a spork on his adventure through being recycled as part of the America Recycles Day video competition.  And to name just one more, Mr. Unicorn found his way to the AmeriCorps photo contest promoting Farragut’s Adopt-A-Stream program.

Needless to say I got a lot of attention for my antics.  I often felt like a one man show for the local newspapers.  If you do a few Google searches you can find more than a few newspaper articles covering my AmeriCorps year, videos of me in costume talking about local water quality, and general pieces speaking about the importance of AmeriCorps in general.  I have also been featured more than once on  Knoxville community television and have even been featured on the National AmeriCorps Alums blog.

It was personally very important for me to chronicle the major points of my year via my blogspot page, Storm Drain Superhero.  I did my best to chronicle every major accomplishment, every education and outreach character created, and every 500th storm drain mapped.  It is my hope that future Farragut AmeriCorps will be able to look back on my blog for ideas and maybe even inspiration.

I can’t begin to say how much I enjoyed my time as the Town of Farragut’s premier AmeriCorps member.  I have worked with so many wonderful people and have gotten to participate in so many compelling environmental projects.  In short, this often felt less like a short-term national service experience and more like a chance to live out a dream job for ten months.  I will leave this position with happy memories, a feeling of accomplishment, and a bolstered sense of the most important thing in the world…whimsy.

June 21, 2012

Rap Battle!!!

The Benthic Rap Battle is here!!!

Produced from scratch - music, lyrics, costumes, videography, etc - we created this project as an education and outreach tool for the topic of water quality. Follow Caddisfly and Dobsonfly on their whimsical adventure through the conveyance of hip-hop.

YouTube thumbs and comments appreciated!

Based on Nice Peter's Epic Rap Battles of History, SWRHHCoWQ pairs together two water quality related characters in a battle of wits. This episode focuses on two water quality indicator species of benthic macroinvertebrates - the Caddisfly (a Jewel-esque earth warrior) and the Dob$onfly (the devil may care Ke$ha party girl).

This project was put together as a water quality education and outreach project helmed by the AmeriCorps member of the Town of Farragut, TN Stormwater Matters program in conjuction with AmeriCorps members from Knox County Air Quality and Tennessee Yards & Neighborhoods.

June 20, 2012

Loose Ends

In less than two weeks I will be taking down the spork and unicorn decorations that adorn my desk and this blog will come to a close.

I can't even begin to write a comprehensive post on this year and how much I have enjoyed it.  So until then, enjoy these articles from the Farragut Shopper and Farragut Press.

June 7, 2012


Just for the record, I have never lived in San Fran and my Costa Rican adventures were not part of my AmeriCorps experience.  Nonetheless, here was my last appearance in the news :)

June 5, 2012


As I am writing this I am converting about sixty AVCHD into MPEG2 files to ensure a smooth playback mode when I edit these files down, am uploading an SD card full of raw footage into a shared server that will probably take overnight to complete, and have enough programs running between two computers to make toast in between the very busy hard drives.  And this is just day two of my video editing.  You weren't even here for the debacle that was the very first day of uploading.  My physical and PC desktop alike were dumping grounds of music, still shots, storyboards, and scripts.

"Somewhat Remarkable Hip-Hop Conflicts of Water Quality" was a project that was brainstormed about two weeks into starting my time here at the Town of Farragut.  With my supervisor Jason and myself both interested in completing compelling, hip, and at best, weird, education and outreach projects paired with a shared fandom of Nice Peter's "Epic Rap Battles of History," a project so strange and creativity based was bound to happen. 

At the beginning of the year it all seemed so simple.  Write lyrics, compose music for the rap, cast rappers, shoot the video, and paste all of the pieces together.  I was so confident at the beginning of this that I was pretty sure that at the very least come time for me to leave in June that we would be on episode three of SWRHHCoWQ.  Alas here I am on June 5th still in the middle of a somewhat intensive editing process of the very first (and last should the torch not be passed forward) episode of our rap battle shenanigans. 

Looking back on the entire process I can't help but be proud of myself and my Hip-Hop cohorts for what we have put together so far.  We designed the background stories and characters all on our own, wrote lyrics from scratch, learned how to use video/music/green screen equipment with very little prior experience, composed and edited down a unique musical track for the production, made superstar rappers out of two friends, created whimsical costumes from whatever we could find....and the list goes on.

A year that has been full of unicorns, sporks, and dinosaurs should end with one last big project about two rapping benthic macroinvertebrates don't you think?  Even if it doesn't turn out quite as well as something Nice Peter might produce, I am proud of what I have been able to paste together with the resources I have been given.  This project has been my baby right from the start so it will be a relief to show it to the stormwater world here in a few weeks when editing is complete.

But for now...back to file conversion.

Dob$onFly gets some wig help.

Caddisfly is all shelled out and ready to rap.

The editing process begins.

Green screen editing for Dob$onFly.

May 31, 2012

About to Blowfly

After about nine months of planning we are finally ready to begin recording the marcroinvertebrate rap battle.  I can't wait!  I hope to have the final product up by the middle of next month!

More Unicorns?

The reception for the Rainy Day Brush-Off Artistic Rain Barrel Campaign was last week.  This lucky guy got to meet the artist behind this wonderful barrel.  Did I mention she is also a Hard Knox Rollergirl? +10 points.

May 22, 2012

Unicorn Jar

Thanks to the Rainy Day Brush-Off I am now the proud owner of these two rain barrels :)
So whimsical!

May 21, 2012


Somewhat Remarkable Hip-Hop Conflicts of Water Quality!

The rap battle is really coming together! With the music being done, our rappers Katie and Erin stop by to practice their lip-syncing in front of the green screen. Hilarity ensues.

Stay tuned as we count down to the rap battle release!

International Biscuit Festival

In what other city can I find out about a festival and within a few hours be Mr. International Biscuit Festival 2012?  I don't think there is any place like Knoxville.

This weekend my musical outlet, Mystery Mammal, collaborated with my water quality AmeriCorps partner in crime Kelsey Hensley to bring the citizens of Knoxville Yoko Carbo and the Biscuit Submarine.  We were proud to accept the Golden Biscuit Award considering it took us the same amount of time to write and produce a song as it does to make a batch of biscuits.

I love this city.
The Mr. and Mrs. Biscuit Pageant. 
Photo from Knoxville Urban Guy

Yoko Carbo and the Biscuit Submarine.

Best trophy ever.
Biscuit tweeted!

May 18, 2012


The first meeting of Knoxville AmeriCorps Alums is tonight!  I am excited! 

May 15, 2012

SRHHCoWQ - Lyrics!

The water quality rap battles are coming together! Stay tuned for the live action video of Somewhat Remarkable Hip-Hop Conflicts of Water Quality!

 Until then...let me drop some dope enviro-rhymes on you with this vid.


The first 500 flew by.
I reached 1,500 by Halloween.
By the time November came I was halfway through at around 2,000.
The start of the fourth quadrant was marked by number 2,500.
By 3000 I was certain I was nearing the end.

And now here I am.  #3,387 marks the very end of my stormwater inlet mapping.

Originally charged with having the first quadrant of Farragut mapped by the end of my corps year, I have officially finished mapping the entirety of the Town.  That's right.  All four quadrants.  Frankly I think I blew through it so quickly mostly because of how much I enjoy the experience of GIS Mapping.  There's something kind of zen and adventurous about visiting my little storm drain friends be them on Kingston Pike or in secret hidey-holes around town. 

#3,387 turned out not to be a storm drain at all but a different kind of stormwater inlet.  A curb-cut.  I found this guy to be a particularly good fit to end on.  This drainage enters directly into Turkey Creek - which is where all these drainages end up eventually.  Often less directly than this however.

It has been an adventure my dear inlets.  I am sure we will have time together again before I leave, but if we don't, know that I enjoyed what time we had!

May 14, 2012

Ready, Set, Auction!

The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived.  This year's Rainy Day Brush-Off artistic rain barrels have been painted, clear coated, voted on, and being put up for auction.  It is exciting stuff folks!  Personally, I am gunning for the unicorn barrel.  Here's to hoping it'll be under a downspout of my own sometime soon.

In order to get a little hype going I've been seen on CTV Knoxville talking a bit about the RDBO.  I also made these videos just in case someone doesn't really get the whole rainwater harvesting thing.

May 9, 2012




WaterFest is a annual event held at Ijams Nature Center focused on water quality and conservation education to area schoolchildren.  The 1,500+ kids go from station to station learning about the power and importance of water while having some fun along the way.  My station?  A water magic show.  I played the part of Will Freeze - a bumbling intern with butterfingers and only a couple of cool tricks up his sleeve.

Chessa, Dr. Vapor, sets up our water magic show.

Dr. Vapor and Will Freeze.


The water-balloon slingshot game.

Setting up our next trick.

Dr. Vapor talks science but keeps her tricks a secret in the end.

Catch Rain and Catch Eyes

The annual Rainy Day Brush-Off is in full swing and I have been doing my part to help market and add a little whimsy to the shebang. For one, I am pretty proud of the business cards I put together for the event.

The reveal of the barrels at Ironwood studio was a blast.  We have so many great entries this year. This was probably one of my favorite events to attend in this AmeriCorps year.  Friends, fun, food, art.  Love it.

Stick this guy in the back of an X-Wing Fighter and he'll increase your thermal clip capacity by 40% while also reducing run-off.

A 'Through the Looking Glass' themed barrel.

Whimsy?  If I didn't know better I might think I had painted this one.

I see what you did there....

The food was yum.

An artist describes his work - Photo by Jason Scott.

We had an excellent turnout - Photo by Jason Scott.

EarthFest - The Creature Feature

It feels like I have been waiting forever to post about EarthFest!  Unfortunately my work computer hasn't felt up to letting me use blogger these last couple of weeks so I have had to delay it until now.

The summary of EarthFest 2012?  It was awesome.

Whimsical characters abounded, hundreds participated in the educational scavenger hunt, and a lot of people left that day knowing a little more about being good stewards of the environment.  What more could one ask for?  All in all it was a blast to participate.  It was very fulfilling to see the whimsical characters come to life just as though they hopped off of the EarthFest Blog and into real life.

The Trash Bag Monster- a huge hit with the kids.

Franklin Fossil talks to some scavenger hunters - Photo by Jason Scott.

Franklin Fossil, Grace (as herself), Big K, and Mother Earth.

Latch <3's Kelly Crayfish.

Big K the water quality kangaroo draws whimsical images for the scavenger players.

I'll take a unicorn please.

Alice Aster stamps a EF scavenger passport.

The Trash Monster and his Wrangler talk to a group of participants.

Kelly Crayfish helps a scavenger player complete her passport.

Lath the Tick shares a scavenger clue.
AmeriCorps - Get Things Done.  Make Whimsy Happen.