Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

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…

It was Sunday morning. So, I did what I do on almost every other Sunday morning, I plodded downstairs, fired up the coffee maker, fed the cats, got the newspaper and flipped on the TV to watch CBS Sunday Morning. My wife soon joined me, and as she did, she handed me a card. CRAP! It was Easter and I hadn’t gotten her a card; in fact, it was a few minutes before I even realized WHY she was handing me a card in the first place. How had this happened? How had I forgotten Easter? How had I forgotten a major holiday, when, normally the whole famn damily descends upon us (just kidding, I LOVE doing dishes and cleaning the house! Really!)?

Let me tell you how…it seemed that I, in my infinite wisdom, had scheduled to sit for a major exam on Monday, the day following Easter. I scheduled to take the LEED Accredited Professional Exam on April 13 the day after Easter, AND almost as important, the day after The Masters. This exam is hard to describe, it is brutal (all those who are still planning on taking the test, you should probably turn your eyes from your computer monitors). This test covers the material found in a resource guide that is about 27 inches thick in about 4 point type and covers such exciting information as the pressure differential required between a designated smoking room and the rest of the building in order to control the containments in the air. So, instead of watching Tiger and celebrating the Easter holiday, I was studying.

Leading up to the final weekend, I read the resource guide cover to cover three times. I had read three other study guides and worked through the sample exercises and assignments. I had underlined, highlighted and agonized over every detail. Then I started getting the emails…the emails advertising the review classes. “Take our class and double your chances of passing the exam. Our students have a 30% success rate on the exam.” WHAT? Do you mean to tell me that typically 85% of the people that sit for the exam FAIL IT?!!? I better study harder!!

At the urging of my wife, I decided to take a practice exam on Friday night, in that way I would know what to study on over the weekend. So I sat down with the exam, checked the time (you only have two hours to complete the test) and read the first question. “){(ikfj;djm,k dl;ksfadjdlsa8973kk. Dfhsdofudkjdsfn nfd;jkldj lsdjfdlaf”. No, that is not a typo. That is EXACTLY what the first question looked like to me…and the second…and the third. When completed, I scored a whopping 51%. I guess I knew what to study now…EVERYTHING. (Passing on the exam is 170 out of 200 or roughly an 85%).

Saturday came and I tore into the books…Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality…

Saturday afternoon, I took another practice exam…78%….CRAP!!!! I reviewed the questions I missed to see if I could identify a pattern so I could focus on something…nope, all over the board. Early evening I tried again…81%…ok progress. Study, study, study, study. About 10 pm, I took another test….73% WHAT!??! Why on earth is an IT guy trying to learn this stuff? Exhausted, I dropped into bed for sleep. Yeah, right, sleep…The next morning, AFTER, not giving my wife a card, I went back at it. I took break to have lunch with the family at a local restaurant and bored them by reciting endless factoids from my studies. Probably reminded my sons of their childhood, when I would read them from computer text books (yes I AM a fun guy!).

After lunch, I studied a bit more then took another exam…83%. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening studying all the materials again. I took one last practice exam and got an 81%. Monday dawned and I was back at it. Reviewing and re-reviewing the material. I walked into the testing center a bag of nerves. When the young lady behind the counter checked me in, she looked at the exam I was registered take and said, “Oh, you’re taking the hard one.” Oh great! Give me some confidence!

If you have gotten this far you are either a) related to me, b) getting ready to take this monster exam yourself, or c) like to watch train wrecks…but I have to say I passed! I have never been so relieved! I passed! (and yes Ryan, I over studied!) By the way…can anyone tell me who WON The Masters?

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