Rivers of Thought

Life, Leadership, Business & Technology

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?

Since I wrote about receiving a Kill-A-Watt for Christmas last year (see blog post “Kill-A-What?”) I have been bombarded with a slew of inquiries about our progress. (OK, really, one guy asked! But I didn’t even know he was a reader, so it was still cool. Thanks Mark!)

You may recall that I was driving my wife crazy by plugging in the Kill-A-Watt, seeing how much power the device was “stealing”, and then shutting it off. We now have power strips all over the house. In that way we can shut off things like the TV, but leave the cable box with the DVR powered up so we don’t miss Lost; or I can power down my home office but leave the printer and the print server active (yes I AM a geek and we have a home network with more computers than people!). We learned (uh, I learned) don’t shut the power off to the cable box in the bedroom, it takes 10 minutes to reboot and by the time its ready, Letterman is done with his monologue.

So how are we doing? Over the last three months we have reduced our monthly kilowatt usage by almost 17% when compared against the average of the last four years (weather corrected, of course). That’s pretty good, I think. It equates to about a 12% reduction in our bills. Rates have gone up. Oh, wait, let me correct that. Rates have not gone up (they are quite proud of that) but a bunch of extra fees have been added on top of the rates.

My goal was to reach 20% so that we would offset the 20% surcharge we pay to have 100% Green Energy. While I haven’t quite made it to that level yet, it is in reach. I think wrapping the main heat duct in the basement (it’s the warmest room in the house) and wrapping the hot water pipes might push us over the top.

Meanwhile, its spring and my mind has turned to our yard and yard work. I recently purchased a (used) Neuton Lawnmower. The Neuton is a battery powered mower…no gas and MUCH quieter. It even comes with a trimmer attachment, so theoretically I will be able to do my entire yard without burning any gas and for pennies in electricity. I can’t wait to get out and do the first mow. (However, as I write this it is 40 degrees and yesterday it snowed! Maybe by the weekend!

Other yard projects include a small wildlife habitat, complete with native grasses, plants and shrubs and my wife’s favorite…ground cover for some little critters (maybe those chipmunks will move out from under the deck)! In the meantime, it’s more topsoil and mulch than I care to think about at the moment.

Final touches for this year, includes a couple of rain barrels (if approved by the HOA) and perhaps a couple bald cypress trees.

I will let you know how it goes…but you know, if you aren’t doing anything a couple Saturdays from now…beer and burgers at my place…did I mention that top soil and mulch?

Another Earth Hour has come and gone. Did you observe it? I have to admit, this was the first year that I participated.  What? You aren’t familiar with Earth Hour? Shame on you! That must mean you are not a reader of my Rivers of Change Action Alerts J. What? You don’t receive Rivers of Change Action Alerts? If you would like to be included in the email list either post a comment here or shoot me an email.

Ok, enough of the shameless promotion of Rivers of Change, back to Earth Hour. If you observed Earth Hour, please add a comment to the post describing how you passed the hour. If you did not observe it, I would love to hear from you as well…was it because you didn’t know about it, were you at work, or was the NCAA game on TV just too mesmerizing to remember to shut off your lights?

As for us, as I said, this was our first year. The first task for the day, was to identify which circuit breaker would shut off our outside carriage lights (shhh, don’t tell the HOA police). While doing this, I made a couple of interesting discoveries. First, electricians have pretty crappy handwriting. (At least the one that installed our breaker box and identified the breakers did) Second, I really DO need my glasses to read anything. Third, even with my glasses on the print was too small read. So I did what any helpless male would do. I asked my wife to read it for me. Excellent , breaker 25.

That evening, as it neared time for the appointed hour, I turned off the Pitt/Villanova game, started a fire in the fireplace and uncorked a bottom of wine (sorry Laurent, it was California wine) while my wife lit several candles around the house. At about 8:25 a huge thunderstorm hit. (Wouldn’t be ironic to have a power outage right about now?). I dashed out to unplug our garden lights and to trip breaker 25. Oops, not the right one. I don’t know what I turned off, but it was NOT the carriage lights. Frantic now to get the lights off (after all, I had to go dark, I had sent out the Rivers of Change alert to hundreds of people, I couldn’t leave my lights on!) I dashed back in the house and yelled for my wife. Thinking the only thing that would cause me to get so agitated was an impending tornado, a serious injury or a Dolphins loss she came running. Throwing caution to the wind, she calmly flipped breaker 27 and the carriage lights went out. (Damn, now why didn’t I think of that!)

So now, it was dark and just in time, too! The lights were off, the candles were lit, we had a roaring fire in the fireplace and a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and we cozied down in the family room to…

Play The Lewis and Clark Board Game, of course! What were YOU thinking? Yes, there really IS a Lewis and Clark Board Game and YES, we really played it! In fact, at the end of the hour, we were not finished with our game, so we continued until my wife won AGAIN (she happens to be undefeated in that particular game). So for us, our Earth Hour was actually two.

You’ve now heard about my Earth Hour, now tell me about yours. I’m willing to bet you did not play The Lewis and Clark Board Game!

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