Energy policy FAIL

Facebook is building a $1.5 Billion (with a B) data center in Altoona, Iowa, and yesterday, I saw a blog post explaining why.

Although there are several reasons why this location makes sense for a modern data center, Facebook’s own blog post notes “an abundance of wind-generated power” among the key draws for Altoona.  I’ve driven up I-65 from Indianapolis to Chicago a couple times a year for the last dozen and a half years, give or take, and I’ve seen vast areas of the adjacent farmland turn into colossal wind farms.  Apparently, Iowa was smart enough to get on this bandwagon, too.  Good for them.

Not in Ohio, though.  Here in Ohio, we’ve got gas.  Governor John Kasich is a famous fracking fan, though I’m sure this doesn’t have anything to do with the $200K+ he’s received in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry (followed closely by $186K to Rep. John Boehner).

Right.

So, thanks to Kasich’s leadership in fracking Ohio over, here are some of the things we get to look forward to (instead of $1.5B data centers):

A deformed fish found downstream of Alberta’s oil sands – ctvnews.ca

  • Hundreds of tons of chemicals, millions of gallons of water, and thousands of tons of sand used per well to make these things productive.
  • Earthquakes, which in a tragically ironic twist, are one of the things Facebook was trying to avoid by locating in Iowa.
  • Mutant fish.  Personally, I’d love to see a few of these tumorous little morsels show up on Kasich’s plate at a State dinner.

Follow the money, folks, and weep.  You’re getting fracked, Ohio.

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We, the People

The dome of the US Capitol building.

The dome of the US Capitol building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right now, the only thing in Washington that’s truly bipartisan is the cancer that’s eating our Republic from within.  Like so many cancers, the damage has been difficult to spot as it’s grown, but it’s reached a point where it’s visible — at least to some.  Like cancer, when we focus on symptoms, we may very well miss the underlying disease — but it’s there, eating and growing and killing.

Last year, I read a book called “Republic, Lost” by Lawrence Lessig.  It’s a book I wish I could make every American citizen read, but I’ll settle for asking you to read it.  This book explains why Washington has devolved into the gridlocked parking lot we see today.  It’s not a problem caused by either the Democrats or the Republicans in isolation, and it won’t be fixed by one or the other, either.

Our government has well and truly become the living embodiment of Mad Magazine’s famous “Spy vs. Spy” cartoons, and like those cartoons, the only thing that ever gets accomplished any more is for each party to beat the snot out of the other — over and over and over.  “Rebublic, Lost” explains why this is not only not a fluke, it’s an absolutely necessary and obvious extension of the root-cause issues underlying American politics for the last thirty years or so.

While Lessig’s book was an absolute revelation to me, it’s not an especially light read, and it’ll take a small investment of your time to get through its 341 pages.  It’s a worthwhile investment, but I understand that not everyone is going to run out and do that — not during American Idol season, anyway.  So, in the meantime, here’s some appetizer-sized food for thought.  In February, Lessig  gave a TED talk entitled, “We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim”.  It’s just over 18 minutes in length, and if you’ve never read any of Lessig’s work, you need to watch it.  It’ll be the single most valuable contribution you can make to the United States of America in 18 minutes — I promise.

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Lightning in a bottle

The Replacement

The Replacement (Photo credit: dglambert)

Mark Suster is a tech entrepeneur turned VC, and he’s got a blog that’s worth reading if you’re connected to tech at all.  Although this is geared toward tech entrepreneurs, his most recent article talks about how the pursuit of perfection can paralyze us.  Instead of waiting until your product is perfect, he says, launch early and learn from your mistakes.

Makes sense, but sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what that first step is.  When you’re actually building a product, there are some schools of thought that will help you figure out at what point your stuff might actually be worth calling a “product” (see minimum viable product), but in the general sense, I think Mark’s message is that it’s important to get moving as soon as you understand your general direction.

I’ve always been a fan of “vision” when it comes to products, goals, companies, and so on.  But visions so often wind up being couched in general terms, and they’re too far away, too complex, and too vague to help us with any specific plans.  I do believe it’s worth thinking about those visions — probably even writing them down and sharing them — but then, start moving and use the vision to check your progress rather than waiting for the vision to turn into a bill of materials or a road map.

When I was a kid, my Dad used to get frustrated with me sometimes when I was stuck trying to figure something out.  “Do something — even if it’s wrong,” he’d say.  I think Suster would agree.

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Why do we care about housing numbers?

It’s pretty typical when I see a news story to see it in relation to a whole host of similar stories I’d seen recently.  This isn’t always a case of multiple news organizations covering the same story — sometimes, it seems like once a big story breaks, a bunch of copycat stories trickle out, but sometimes, I see connections in stories that aren’t obviously connected at all.  This morning, for instance, I read an article from Zillow about home affordability — the gist is that our current low rates are masking an underlying trend toward higher home costs for most buyers, relative to income.

So what’s this connected to?

Good Ol' White Picket Fence

Good Ol’ White Picket Fence (Photo credit: porziuncola)

I think this is just another example of our middle class getting squeezed from all directions.  I recently shared some of my thoughts about the inequality I saw the first time I visited Silicon Valley.  Housing is a great indicator for the overall health of the economy — we’ve seen over the last ten years or so just how powerfully this can manifest in our overall economy, so I absolutely believe that when we see home affordability trending in one direction or the other, it’s worth paying attention to.

Housing, I believe, is also one of the issues that’s got the potential to reach across our political aisles to unite us as Americans.  After all, liberals want to see everyone have access to decent housing, and I’ve never met a conservative that wasn’t a proponent of the family values we know to be associated with all those white picket fences.  People are better citizens when they’ve got some skin in their communities, and home ownership is the single most tangible way for that to happen — period.

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