Rivers of Thought

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No, this is not another post about the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, based on the lack of hits THAT post received I don’t think even my mother read it! This is about my favorite new yard tool! I have been searching for years for a way to take care of my yard and not burn gas to do it. Short of ripping out all the turf grass and replacing it with native plants and grasses, which neither my wife nor my HOA will allow, I have been stymied.

Years ago I tried using one of those throwback mowers. You know the kind, the reel mowers, the kind used before gas powered engines. That experiment did not work. Just ask my son, JT, who was just old enough to help dear old dad with the yard work. Our yard was too big, had too many bumps, twigs, rocks and other things that would get stuck in the blades as they spun bringing the mower, and the mow”er” to an abrupt stop. So we gave up on that idea, donated the reel mower to Goodwill and went back to the old Briggs and Stratton. But…my quest continued.

Fast forward about a decade and half. My wife and I were touring the Smart Home at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Read More) when we reached the garage, there it was, in the corner, next to the hydrogen powered car, The Neuton, a battery powered lawn mower (Read More). I swear there was a bright light from the heavens and a celestial chorus. (Ok, maybe it was just the solar powered lights in the garage and the radio, but hey, it’s my story). I knew right then and there, I had to have one.

Since it was autumn and it didn’t make much sense to take advantage of the six month money back guarantee when there wasn’t anything move, I anxiously awaited spring. In March, I placed my order. I was concerned about the size of my yard, so I ordered the larger of the two models and an extra battery, and of course I had to have the accessory pack which includes a weed trimmer/edger that attaches to the mower itself…how cool is THAT? Now before you shake your head at my wanton consumerism let me assure you, my current mower was over 10 years old, need significant repairs, AND I ordered one of the used, refurbished models.

I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived, tore open the box and assembled it right there in the family room. It was a thing of beauty. I don’t know what was used and refurbished about it, it looked brand new!

A few days later it finally stopped raining and I gave it a whirl. It does a tremendous job on the yard. We have about 7,000 square feet of yard and it breezed right through it. I was glad I had ordered the extra battery for trimming, but to mow the yard itself I can do it with one charge. The trimmer attachment does take a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of maneuvering the mower with the trimmer attached it did a great job as well.

One of the amazing things about this mower is how quiet it is. As I am pushing it, I can actually hear the blade cutting through the grass. When my neighbor is mowing at the same time, I can hear the roar of his engine above the sound of the Neuton. I have even startled my wife as she works in the yard because she can’t hear me coming.

As for my old mower, after one time of using the Neuton, I donated the old mower. It’s now almost the end of May, two months into the mowing season here in Indiana, and I have yet to use any gas to mow or trim my yard. The batteries charge in about 24 hours and use just pennies of electricity. If you are looking for a way to reduce your carbon foot print or to stop fooling around with gas cans, I highly recommend the Neuton Mower. They even throw in a stylish ball cap with the lizard logo on it, so now Jim Morrison is not the only Lizard King!

I have a confession to make. I have an annoying habit. Ok, right now, I can hear my wife saying “AN annoying habit? As in singular? One?” So, yes, I may have more than one, but for this post let’s just focus on the one. I have a tendency to listen to the same CD or CD’s over, and over, and over again.

I can remember as a kid, I owned one 45 RPM (ok kids, look it up 45 RPM, it will be listed right under LP). I listened to “I’m not Your Steppin’ Stone” by the Monkees over and over and over and over again…and over. One afternoon, my older brother was driven NUTS by the “I, yi,yi,yim not yer steppin’ stone” that he appeared at the top of the stairs and literally bombarded me with dozens of 45 ‘s from his own collection, in essence giving them to me so I would play something else. I don’t remember how long that lasted, I am sure not long.

Today I still listen to basically the same music I did growing up (except for a brief foray into No Doubt – thanks Tami!). The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zepplin, Rod Stewart, John Mellencamp, Muddy Waters to name a few. What I like to do is to load my car CD changer up with six CD’s from the same band and listen to them for months. Over, and Over and Over again.

In February, my wife gave me the boxed set from The Doors. Six CD’s in fact, the perfect number for my car. So, yes from February until now I have been listening to Jim Morrison and The Doors. What I realize is that for most people, they either love them or hate them. They say there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Morrison walked that line. If you ever want to stare into the face of insanity read the book “Nobody Gets Out of Here Alive”, it’s a chilling biography of James Morrison. If you ever want to see genius read his books of poetry. Yes, poetry. He wrote some amazing stuff and published a couple of collections of them.

However, I digress. So for three months I’ve been listening to these CD’s of songs that I have been listening to for 30 years, I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to “When the Music’s Over” from the Strange Days LP (again, kids, look it up), hundreds probably. This week, while driving back from Chicago, I finally heard it though (Ok JT, Brad, what is the line from White Men Can’t Jump? The one about listening to Jimi but not hearing Jimi?), Jim Morrison was an environmentalist! Yes in 1967 he was lamenting about the damage done to our planet…and warning of the end.

“We’re gettin’ tired of hangin’ around
Waitin’ around, with our heads to the ground
I hear a very gentle sound
Very near, yet very far
Very soft, yeah, very clear
Come today, come today
What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down
I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it…

The words jumped out of the speakers at me. I listened to them (you guessed it) over, and over, and over again. I think the words are even more sobering today than in 1967, we are only now waking up to the facts of global climate change, the devastation to the earth, our fair sister. Listen to the earth. HEAR the earth!

Thanks Jim, RIP!

I am a resident of the great state of Indiana. Honestly, I do love the state, but it can be an extremely frustrating place to live for someone that loves the environment. Our state legislature had over a dozen or so bills authored during this session that were related in some way to the environment. Personally, I was tracking 14 different bills, for the record, I was in favor of 10 of them. Know how many actually passed and were signed into law? One, that’s right one. Ok, to be fair, there was one more that was passed, but has not been signed into law yet, so call it two.

The bill that passed? SB 423 – Substitute Natural Gas (SNG). Yes, the one bill that was passed and signed was for COAL! We are addicted to that stuff. In layman’s terms, substitute natural gas is made by processing coal and turning it into “natural gas” that can be used to generate power. My understanding is that it is cleaner because the CO2 is removed, as are the metals such as mercury. However, as is the case in non-sustainable processes the CO2 is buried (carbon sequestration) and the metals are disposed of with the coal slag. Now, both of those seem like problems to me. Let’s bury it. If we can’t see it, there must not be a problem. Does anyone remember Tennessee?

But, this is not about the merits (or lack thereof) of SNG. This is about dissecting the history of a bill that raises a lot of questions about our legislative process. Even if you aren’t from Indiana, my guess is that games like this are played throughout this country of ours.

Our story begins in 2007, with Leucadia, a multi-national speculative venture corporation that was looking to finance a SNG plant. Indiana passed legislation that would pass on the majority of the costs for the construction and operations of the plant to the Indiana ratepayers. What a deal! Where can I find an investment that provides a great rate of return AND somebody else has to make the original investment? So what did Leucadia give us Hoosiers in exchange for our generosity? They promised to build the plant in Indiana, thereby potentially creating Indiana jobs, and they promised to use Indiana coal.

In 2008, Leucadia was having a hard time nailing down the necessary land contracts for the site. They also failed to locate any Indiana coal contracts. Never fear, our Legislature is here! Legislation was passed to allow the plant to be built outside of Indiana and to remove the Indiana coal requirement. Now this is the good part, the tax abatements were left in place and the Indiana ratepayers still get to pay for it all and assume all the risk.

But our story doesn’t stop there. As 2009 dawned, the three Indiana Natural Gas Utilities had all backed out of negotiations with Leucadia to buy any of their SNG. What’s a company to do? They are getting ready to make a product that NOBODY WANTS TO BUY! But wait…that’s right, there STILL is the Indiana General Assembly. Let’s see what THEY can do. Now get this, what do they do? They create a new entity, the Indiana Finance Authority. They give this entity the authority to enter in a THIRTY year agreement to buy SNG from Leucadia, they require the same natural gas companies that didn’t want the SNG to deliver it, and yes, the ratepayers get to pay for it all.

So here we sit, the only state in the Midwest without a renewable energy standard, and we are putting millions into SNG to promote a product that no one wanted to buy in the first place. Before you know it we will be redefining renewable energy to include “clean” coal…oh wait…

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