Friday, August 31, 2007

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You...

The words of JFK uttered back in January 20th, 1961 is the Mantra of the New Environmental/Energy Independence Movement. Thomas Fuller's quote: "Charity begins at home, but should not end there" is often repeated by Russ & I. We believe that it indeed does begin at home and that these changes would emanate outward to facilitate similar changes at work, the vehicles we drive and the way we behave away from home, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Anyhow, here is an excerpt of JFK's Inaugural Speech:

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility - I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

An excerpt of The Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You speech by John F. Kennedy January 20th 1961.

The 2007 Alternative Energy Summit: Powering Florida's Energy Independence

Russ and I attended The 2007 Alternative Energy Summit: Powering Florida's Energy Independence held in Jupiter Monday, August 30th 2007. It was a fast paced flow of information that touched on all of the initiatives underway in the state. Quite frankly, it's remarkable to find that there are a lot of very smart, talented, and hard working Floridians undertaking the hard task of getting us to become Energy Independent.

Anyhow, I'd like to mention some things I heard there - some of which I'd heard before. Treat them as food for thought. Here they are:

About 1,000 people move into Florida everyday.

“There may be no more pressing issue in our state than the impact of our country’s current level of use of fossil fuels on the state and global environment. The relationship between our energy sources and our security, economy and environment demand a bold vision. Of all the states, Florida has the most at stake - and must take a leadership role.” - Century Commission, First Annual Report to the Governor and the Legislature (2007)

Sustainable energy is the efficient use of renewable resources to provide society's need for energy while minimizing the impact on our environment
Efficient Use
Renewable Resource

Reduce Global Warming with ICE. I=Insulation, C=Conservation, E=Efficiency.

Get more info here:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Social Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is the process of creating value by bringing together a unique combination of resources to exploit an opportunity.

My entrepreneurial journey began two years ago when I left active military service and could not find any jobs. I applied for over 200 jobs in 2 1/2 years and only got 3 hits. One was temporary and the other 2 never panned out. As a result, I decided to create opportunities of my own.

Additionally, my upbringing on a 32 foot Pacemaker Cabin Cruiser in St. Thomas, USVI, my military service guarding oil terminals in Iraq, recent up ticks in hurricanes (we lost over $100 worth of food because of Katrina), gas prices, electricity prices and foreclosures in South Florida all helped to motivate this venture.

Part of entrepreneurship is having passion. If you are not passionate about your product or service then no one will buy or use it. However, passion alone will not suffice. Passion must be tempered with mindfulness in order for us to see things how they truly are or truly can be. And it helps to have a story behind everything.

While attending the prestigious Florida International University, I used every class and every research paper/project to better understand every aspect of my business idea. This proved beneficial as my business plan won 1st Runner Up (2nd place) in FIU's New Venture Challenge Business Plan Competition.

Recently, I was 1 of 20 chosen out of hundreds of applicants to attend the inagural Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for OEF/OIF Veterans with Disabilities at Syracuse University (SU). SU is ranked #1 in the nation for Entrepreneurship on the graduate level and #2 on the undergrad level. This experience has increased my knowledge and understanding of entrepreneurship as well as nationalized my network.

The bootcamp began with a 3 week online phase and a 10 day in-class phase. SU spent over $10,000 per veteran to train us from concept/idea selection, to business plan writing, to funding the venture, to operationalize the business plan, to manage the venture and finally grow the venture.

A special thank you to FIU Entrepreneurship Center, SU's Whitman School of Business and FAU's SBDC for helping make Veterans Energy Solutions, LLC a reality!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

So Many Things To Say...

Every time I sit to write, I feel overwhelmed because I get the sense that I have too much to say and so little space, time or the like to get it all out there. But I will strive to continue sharing my ideas.

Anyhow, in the last post I mentioned Conservation is a bad word. And that was because, in the forum one of the presenters stated so in so many words. I sighed heavily when I heard this because I very strongly disagree with that. But interestingly, another panelist picked up at the end of that statement and added a couple of statements in agreement. Yet the very last statement was a complete contradiction of what was stated that essentially nullified that trend of thought. So, to help beat it to death I raised my hand and stated unequivocally that his last statement says that Conservation is feasible. And he agreed adding more statements in support. Yaay!

A bit later, I asked about cisterns since I didn't hear any mention of it. So, one of the presenters stated that it was not used because it isn't a cost effective technology to deploy. And we were back at one. Conservation is economically feasible; it just needs the right dynamics to be in play. Namely, policy incentives, innovation, entrepreneurial risk taking, etc. Besides, we use it today and it is widely used in Third World Countries. We can't afford them but they can? That's absurd.

Anyways, here is why I take issue with the notion of the lack of cost effectiveness in these issues:

We don't currently pay for resource usage what we really should be paying. That is we are not paying its true cost. We tend to have a specific focus on cost in terms of dollars without regard to the broader implications that comes as a cost. There are abstract costs involved that can also be quantified and are usually left out. This would help the dynamics I mentioned above.

Anyhow, saying that cisterns aren't cost effective is an excuse that skirts the issue. If it isn't cost effective today; it means we can't do it right now or today but it doesn't mean it cannot be done in the future. But more importantly, if we skirt any issue by saying it isn't cost effective then we are simply compounding the problem and delaying the inevitable.

Lets look at it another way. If our troops disagree with any war being fought and decide that their bloodshed isn't cost effective then we wouldn't be the great nation we supposedly are. Their sacrifice is the ultimate and sacred. So too are the contributions of our citizens. So to say that it isn't economically feasible is a sacrilege. A specific focus on cost undermines our ability to enhance the greater good of our community.

We can effect change that could cultivate the dynamic that would make this technology cost effective. In my research, I've come to realize that cost effectiveness is tied to a lack of education & awareness. And so educating the public and building awareness helps to drive the cost down. Another interesting concept is that any technology that is point-of-use drives conservation.

When I lived on a boat, we had to carry 5-gallon jugs of water from the parking lot to the dinghy and then lift it out of the dinghy into the boat. These jugs were heave and it was a task that I deplored. So we found ways to make that water last longer. We would use the seawater to get wet in the shower then follow it with a freshwater rinse to get the soap to lather. Then we'd rinse with the same sequence afterwards. Many of my friends who were landlubbers had to pay attention to how much water they used because they would run out of water if they didn't. I could just go on because there are so many things to say. And the full has never been told.

I speak from experience and acquired knowledge. Cisterns as a point-of-use technology are a good conservation driver. Solar is too. So, don't be surprised to hear anyone talking these forms of technology down. Especially large establishments such as the utilities. Take their words with a grain of salt.

Knowledge is power: Wield it.

FIU Green Forum on Water Issues

On Friday, August 10th Russ and I attended a forum called FIU Green Forum on Water Issues. It was a small but well attended event. It was essentially a networking breakfast with a panel discussion featuring speakers from the government, the private sector and academia.

The panel of experts discussed projects and concerns related to the management of water resources, water quality and water quantity in South Florida. Also discussed was active and planned projects dealing with concerns about water that have a direct impact on the quality of life in South Florida.

It was a very enlightening forum with lots of information about ongoing projects. Questions were held for the end and the exchange was pleasant yet interesting. At any rate, it became evident that the issues facing our county and even the state is much bigger than most folks realize. And this issue underscores a few developing concepts:

1) Energy is not the only "major potential" problem we're faced with.

2) The "major potential" problems we face arise due to our consumptive habits that affects the environment.

3) Conservation is a bad word.

4) We need need to educate the public, remain informed & connected, and build more awareness.

5) We underpay for the resources we consume.

All of these concepts seem to apply to any environmentally related issue we face today.

Anyhow, the many projects that are currently being worked on are of great importance to solving this problem. And that was the recurring theme throughout each presentation. Nevertheless, one presenter talked about things a bit differently that I thought was the missing ingredient until his presentation.

He stated that it doesn't take a genius to understand these issues.

1) We have 1000 people moving into Florda everyday.

2) We are borrowing water now for high levels of consumption that is creating long-term deficit issues.

3) We need to educate the public, remain informed & connected, and promote interaction.

Essentially, we are digging ourselves into a hole that would be difficult if not impossible to get out of unless we start taking action now. Every issue seems to have some ominous development that threatens our survivability in the future. Yet we are not fully aware of these issues, nor are we well educated on them and even worse not doing much to address them. Education doesn't exist in a vacuum and so a lack of knowledge on the issues, the disconnectedness I alluded to here and in previous posts (see post on You can't handle the truth) will continue to haunt us.

So then, perhaps my dad's little quip suffices: "If good can't get better, then worse will have to continue".

Knowledge is power: Wield it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What started it all...

Russ and I grew up with our family in a part of paradise known as St. Thomas, USVI. For part of that time we lived on a 1979 32' Pacemaker Cabin Cruiser (see photos below) that was anchored off of Water Island. It was situated near the marker for the East Gregory Channel where shipping traffic brought in much of the imports to the island. Not too far away, about 300 yards, was a reef full of underwater life and activity and just below our anchorage was a seabed full of conch and lobsters. So naturally, we fished for most of our food right in our backyard. Needless to say we engaged in lots of water borne activities including snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving.

During this time, our source of electricity was a 12 Volt battery that powered the lights, bilge pumps and vital onboard instruments. And our only source of electronic entertainment was a car radio that my dad installed to keep us plugged into society. For refrigeration, we had a big insulated icebox that was never full.

Leading such a basic life meant that we didn't have huge stockpiles of food and gave us much flexibility in answering one of our basic economic questions: What do we eat? We kept dry stock and canned foods that were simple in preparation. So, if we wanted to eat a meal that consisted of fish, all we needed was to get the meat. We would simply jump in the dinghy and go around the point just east of us (approx 100 yards away) and drop a line. The whole family can go and within a few minutes of having four lines in the water we'd have the meat for dinner. That was quicker than going to the store. What a simple, hassle-free life?! We didn't have to get aggravated by traffic or long lines at the check-out counter!

Fast forward a few years later to after Hurricane Katrina in Miami where we lost over $100 worth of food due to the power outage. This prompted us to be more mindful of our purchasing habits and over the course of the next few weeks was better prepared for Hurricane Wilma. We essentially took a back to basics approach where we kept a low inventory of refrigerated foods. Here's a thought: have the supermarket store your food and bear the burden of maintaining refrigeration. This minimizes the risk of losing food during the hurricane season - especially during the height of storm activity in late August to mid September. And this action also reduces the need to refrigerate many items and gives you the flexibility to engage in more cost saving tactics. You can essentially lower your electric bill too.

It seems to me that we had the makings of a just-in-time inventory mechanism similar to what Toyota uses. Could we have been onto something? Makes me wonder.

Soldier Surprises His Son

Did you find yourself fighting back tears?

Lets support the troops by marching one step at a time towards Energy Independence. Tell someone that they can do something about this issue.

Saturday, August 4, 2007


Most folks have heard that line uttered a few times whether it was expressed in admiration of the movie line or pawning it off as your own statement of disdain. This line came from one of my favorite movies called “A Few Good Men” that starred Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon among others. The line was uttered in a condescending manner to express contempt for a restricted line officer that didn’t quite understand the predicament of a line officer. A restricted line officer is basically someone that isn’t expected to be found anywhere near the action in a battle field whereas a line officer would be in the thick of things. And so restricted line personnel are typically held in lower regard.

At any rate, I find this fascinating for two reasons:
1. Most of the civilian population cannot fathom nor stomach some of the experiences that the troops face in war – much like the restricted line officer.
2. And this same resentment is sometimes projected towards civilians due to their lack of understanding of the predicament of the troops.

This begets an issue that I discovered leads to a further perpetuation of events. Due to the above reasons many become disconnected. This disconnectedness comes about in a variety of ways. For example, I’ve been told by many lately that they no longer watch the news because it is too depressing. They stop watching the news and get disconnected. So, that comes as no surprise to me when I talk about an improvised explosive device (IED) that was mentioned in the news, they ask: “What is that?” So, what is the point here?

Well, when I spoke to a Middle Eastern businessman recently he stated that no one cares much about the war and anything associated with it – especially with all the dying and the negative things. He goes on to say that they only care about their day-to-day activities and as long as gas prices are in decline – all else is trivial. In his words, as long as it’s a small pinch; never mind the big pinch to come. I understood this to be him referring to a similar experience of the oil crisis a few decades back. Something that is like the Great Depression: far removed from our minds and just a noteworthy occurrence in history. Now, while I think he has a point, I’m not ready to accept this. Not yet, not yet.

Pay attention because this concept about being or becoming disconnected will be a major issue moving forward. I say this in all sincerity and this does not have to do solely with the war and its conduct. The concept of disconnectedness has broader implications that will be revisited time and again – not just here either. But another example that illustrates this would be a few friends of mine getting connection-weariness to where they delete their MySpace profile – it’s a withdrawal of sorts. I liken it unto drinking: after a night of drunken debauchery when that hung over feeling sets in you don’t want to see or hear about alcohol for some time. Well so too does all that communicating, etc set someone in a sentiment of disillusionment.

Anyways, much too often we focus on the negative aspects (and I’m not one to catastrophize) but when we feel disillusioned and disconnect from the world we only compound the problem. It is much easier to get bogged down commiserating about the bad things that are happening. But this perspective or manner of approach is what puts us in a downward spiral. We can all stop focusing so much on talking about the problem and spend more time understanding it and working out a solution.

Disconnectedness revisited. At a recent green function, I heard the mention of a disconnect of some sort that existed in the community. And I instantly thought of a gap that seems to be occurring. I noticed this in our research and found that the way to bridge this gap is through education. That is sharing with the community that there is a solution to the problem. That it is economically feasible and that its time for adoption is nigh at hand. If you are disconnected, you pass up the opportunity of finding out about this and just like some late real estate investors you jump on the bandwagon too late and lose out on the gains. This applies to many evolving trends: most play the wait-and-see game until they feel they can’t hold out any longer. And that could lead to a late entrance. You hold the power to act individually. And that is why I was not yet willing to accept that businessman’s viewpoint. He misses the possibility that more and more people will come back into the fold and take action as they feel more empowered to do so. They will no longer wait and see.

Finally, as the famous General Patton said: “A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.”

Let’s Reconnect. The time for talk and half measures is over. Energy independence will be realized because that was the last wish of a dying man. Imagine it and it shall be so.

Knowledge is power: Wield it.

Energetic and Passionate Veterans...

Read these articles written about us and read the about us section of our website and tell me if you see a pattern building: