Trump’s Gold

I am not a prognosticator of world events or political outcomings, in fact, I have shied away from political controversy altogether. What happens in Washington, D.C. has very little effect on me as an individual except for my taxes and health insurance. However, on a global scale, both the president and Congress have a great impact on our environment.

As Donald J. Trump takes office as the 45th President of the United States, he also inherits the power to change the destinies of many corporations. One such company is Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

Northern Dynasty, for those of you unfamiliar, is a company that owns the rights to the Pebble Mine, the largest, untouched, gold and copper deposit in the world. However, one problem exists, the deposit is located in Alaska and next to Bristol Bay, a watershed estuary and the most valuable salmon fishery in the northwest.

bristol-bay

Over the last several years, Northern Dynasty has applied for and been refused the rights to develop the Pebble Mine due to its proximity to this pristine ecological sanctuary. Mining, as we all know, is a dirty business and runoff from the tailings and the cyanide used to leach gold, mobilizes arsenic and other metals that in concentration could quickly pollute and kill the salmon that return to Bristol Bay each year to spawn.

The Obama administration through the EPA has essentially barred Northern Dynasty from permitting the construction of its Pebble Mine. However, as president-elect, Trump and his transition team have met with corporate officers of Northern Dynasty. Trump, during his campaign, has stated that the EPA has overstepped its authority in many areas and has pledged to roll back regulations.

And now, as Donald Trump takes office, Northern Dynasty has been sending out advertisements promoting “Trump’s Gold.” Northern Dynasty, which had been trading at around fifty cents per share has suddenly risen to close to one dollar a share. Estimates are, that if Northern Dynasty receives preliminary approval to start the permitting process to open their mine, that their stock will skyrocket.

However, the permitting process is just the beginning. And, even if the mine is permitted under the Trump administration, it takes millions of dollars and nearly four years to build the infrastructure needed to start a mining operation.

So here is the question for all of you “business experts.” If you had, for many years, been fighting environmental regulations and activists, only to get a reprieve from someone that quite possibly would only be in office for just four years, would you risk those millions to actually build your mine? Or, would you build your kitty, hold it in reserve and run with the profits when the next administration shuts you down.

In fact, why would power companies, coal mining companies, or any other EPA regulated company revert to previous non-ecological operations on the whim of a single president? The public backlash alone could be detrimental.

Please note, at the beginning of this article; I said that “I am not a prognosticator.” However, I am a pragmatist and had lived in Las Vegas long enough to know that when a table grows cold for one person, it grows hot for another. But eventually, the table will flip again, and those that were losers and who are still in the game will again become winners.

Despite Donald Trump’s denial of climate change, the majority of scientist, world leaders, and the general public agrees that we need to band together to save our planet.

I predict that Trump’s legacy will only be four short years and then sanity will once again take over. The next president, just as Trump will lessen environmental regulations, has the power to reinforce stricter environmental regulations and therefore bring companies back to today’s compliance standards, if not to an even stricter standard.

A few companies may see the inauguration of Trump as an opportunity to relax their environmental protection systems and reap the benefits of not having those overhead expenses. Of course, they will not pass along those savings to their customers or even divulge that they have relaxed their commitment to the environment. They simply, will take their money, thank Trump, and prepare for the time when they, once again, must toe the environmental line.

As for the Pebble Mine, if you invest, take your profits early and get out before the Bristol Bay tide begins to change. Trump’s Gold, is certainly a fool’s gold.

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Supermoon

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Super-size—no I’m not talking about a large order of fries at McDonald’s. For those of you who are enamored by the moon and the stars, November 13 and 14 will provide a real treat with what is referred to as a Supermoon.

A Supermoon is when the moon’s elliptical orbit around the earth brings it to its closest point. There are three full moons in 2016 that meet the definition of a Supermoon – October, November, and December. But this November 14 full moon is the most super of the Supermoons! A super-duper moon!

At its furthest, the moon is 406,662 km (252,687 mi) away from the earth. This year’s orbit will bring the moon to within 356,509 km (221,523 mi) of the Earth. A difference of 31,164 miles.

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The last time that the moon was this close to Earth was on January 26, 1948, when it came within 356,461 km or 221,495 miles of the earth.

Even to the naked eye, the Supermoon will appear quite a bit larger than a regular full moon, but it is difficult to judge just how much larger. The two photos below were taken during a regular full moon and a Supermoon from the same vantage points and using the same camera settings. You can see from the overlay how much visually larger the Supermoon is to the naked eye.

While beautiful to see, Supermoons also have a dramatic effect on the earth. For those of you living along the coast, the Supermoon will bring dramatically super high and low tides. Each month, on the day of the full moon, the moon, Earth, and sun are aligned, with Earth in between. This line up creates wide-ranging tides, known as spring tides. High spring tides climb especially high, and on the same day, low tides plunge especially low. Anyone up for digging clams?

Whether coincidence or not, a number of catastrophic events have also been linked to the timing of a Supermoon, within a few days before and after the actual event.

  • Christchurch, NZ earthquake of February 22, 2011 (Supermoon Feb. 18)
  • Hawke’s Bay, NZ earthquake of February 3, 1931 (Supermoon Feb. 3)
  • Japan 9.0 mega-quake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 (on Feb. 18, 2011, there was a Supermoon and on March 19, 2011, an extreme Supermoon)
  • Hurricane Katrina, August 23, 2005 (Supermoon Aug. 19)
  • Haiti 7.0 earthquake January 12, 2010 (On Dec. 31, 2009, there was a Supermoon and on Jan. 30, 2010, there was an extreme Supermoon)

It is also said that full moons have an effect on people and animals. It is said that a full moon brings out the crazy in people. Again, it may be coincidence, but on November 8, 2016, a new President of the United States was elected—just six days before the biggest Supermoon in 68 years.

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Grandfathering Solar Customers

Since the December 2015 decision of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to lower the amount paid to net metering customers from nearly 12 cents per kilowatt hour down to 2.6 cents for residential rooftop customers over the next 15 years, there have been pleas to grandfather the existing customers under the old rate. On February 12, 2016, made the following statement to the PUCN against grandfathering.

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My name is Craig Ruark, and I have been a resident of Las Vegas since 1975. I am not an architect or an engineer; I am a journalist. But, I am also one of the few NON-technical LEED Accredited Professionals by the U.S. Green Building Council. I have been writing about environmental issues since 2008 and have been following this political folly on solar energy since the introduction of SB374 in the legislature.

A few months back I spoke before this commission to urge you to make your decision on the new guidelines for the purchase of residential rooftop solar generated energy by NV Energy, based on what is called the “Value of Solar” (VOS) tariff.

For NV Energy to pay nearly 12 cents per kilowatt hour for residential rooftop solar is probably too much. But decreasing the amount down to 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour is a huge underestimate of the true value of rooftop solar. I would say that the true valuation is closer to 10 cents than it is to six cents per hour.

Currently, there are over 17,000 families that have installed rooftop solar on their homes. Those families represent less than 1% of the total number of families served by NV Energy and its subsidiary’s.

For the past few months, we have seen hundreds of these everyday people, just like the people in attendance today, as they stepped up to this microphone and pleaded their hearts out, many with tears in their eyes, for justice. These passionate people told stories about how their passion for the environment and assessment that going solar was the right thing to do in the fight against global warming. And they are right! We need to set up a system that makes good economic sense for more people to join these environmental pioneers and start covering more roofs throughout the valley.

That is why I am speaking again today. To ask you NOT to grandfather these people in for the next twenty years.

NV Energy has it figured out. They grandfather these current customers for the next 20 years, and these 17,000 families go home satisfied and vindicated. They got their solar system and their money; they are fat and happy, and you never hear from them again for fear of upsetting the apple cart.

Meanwhile, we still have a problem with global warming and NV Energy still wants to build more infrastructure in order to continue to line their pockets.

I don’t want to see these people grandfathered because I want them to be lean and hungry. I want to see them continuing to fight for the rights of the rest of Nevada’s population to be able to install solar on their roofs. I want to see them continue to fight for a fair compensation that will allow for a reasonable payback on the return of their investment and continue to lower their energy costs. I want to see them with tears in their eyes and passion in their hearts as they talk about the environment.

Without the continued voices of the current solar customers, NV Energy will be able to quietly let this small 1% ride out their solar contracts for the next 20 years. And without opposition, NV Energy will be able to effectively make it financially impossible for other families to afford rooftop solar and water down their utility base.

We need to look for a fair compensation—not a payoff for silence.

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Value of Solar Tariff

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission has been holding public hearings on the value of residential rooftop solar and this morning I stepped forward with the following statement to the commission.

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My name is Craig Ruark, and I have been a resident of Las Vegas since 1975. Currently, I work as a freelance writer and have written several articles that have appeared in the Las Vegas Business Press, on the topic of Net Metering and rooftop solar. The following represents my views and not necessarily those of the Business Press.

I am here to discuss the basic issues.

First of all, NV Energy from 2006 to 2011 has spent $4.3 billion to build, expand or buy eight power plants, more than doubling its generating capacity to 5,862 megawatts. That is a huge investment to bring reliable energy to the citizens of Nevada. And even today, NV Energy continues to invest the funds necessary to maintain the transmission lines and infrastructure that makes up the local grid.

The complaint that NV Energy has about rooftop solar customers not paying their fair share for the grid is legitimate. One of the problems that NV Energy faces is that they must plan the amount of power that they generate based on the needs of all customers in the valley regardless of whether they have solar or not. The reason for this is they never know how much solar energy they will be receiving from the residents at any given time. One home with a seven kW system might contribute four kW of that energy to the grid, and another may contribute one kW back to the grid. The variables are dependent upon the time of day, the number of resident’s home during those times, and the amount of electronics in use, in addition to air conditioning comfort preferences.

The electronic components that make up the power grid do not like power spikes and surges. So when NV Energy generates power based upon the number of connections, and solar starts throwing a few thousand extra kilowatts back into the system there is a problem.

That said, the other side of the coin is that distributive generation is far more efficient than building more centralize power plants. And when calculating the contribution made by residential and commercial rooftop solar the PUCN needs to take a number of things into consideration.

  • It reduces the need for expensive new power plants and transmission lines;
  • less energy is lost in transmission because much of the power is used right where it’s generated;
  • it requires no fuel and so provides a hedge against future fossil fuel price increases;
  • the kilowatt hours produced by solar does not require water
  • and it could allow utilities to meet state renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals without paying for utility-scale solar and wind farms.

The recent passage of SB374 shifted responsibility from the Nevada Legislature to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to evaluate what is called the “Value of Solar” (VOS) tariff and establish new guidelines for connecting rooftop solar to the grid.

This may be a logical solution assuming that the PUCN attaches a proper value to the energy generated by residential and commercial solar.

To make this work, all solar customers would purchase all of their energy from the utility company at the utility’s retail rate which includes all of the costs of power production and/or the purchasing of power, as well as, the transmission and distribution of the power.

Second, the solar customer feeds 100% of its generated power into the grid and is compensated by the Utility, based on an established VOS rate in dollars per kilowatt hour. The VOS calculation generates a long-term leveled value rate that is looked at annually, based on factors that may include:

  • Utility variable costs (fuel and purchased power)
  • Utility fixed costs (generation capacity, transmission, and distribution)
  • Distribution system and transmission line losses
  • Ancillary services (to maintain grid reliability)
  • Environmental impacts (the reduction of carbon and other pollutant emissions)

With those factors in consideration, the value may not be the current 11.6 cents that are being paid under net metering, but it is far more than the 3.1 or 5.5 cent numbers proposed.

By instituting these two items, the utility company now has a constant base of power that is provided by solar and can then plan appropriately the amount of power that is needed from their central plants and purchased from the grid.

The goal of the calculation process is to estimate the total value of a unit of solar energy generated in the distribution grid, at or very near the point of consumption thus eliminating long distribution charges and limiting transmission line losses for a more efficient method of energy production. The result is a conservative estimate of the cost that the utility would face for a unit for energy with the same character as that generated from a local commercial solar facility.

In other words, the residential solar customer also becomes a source of power generation for the utility, and as such, the total amount of power generated can be more accurately calculated and relied upon for servicing all of the utility’s customer needs. This is greatly different from the current Net Metering system where the solar customer bleeds off power for their own needs and then pushes any excess power (in unknown and inconsistent quantities), into the grid causing spikes and fluctuation that wreaks havoc with the utility’s transmission and distribution equipment.

Under the VOS tariff system, the solar customer is billed for their energy use exactly as all other customers within the utility. They, however, will have an amount deducted from their monthly bill based on the amount of energy they produced and sold to the utility. One advantage that the VOS tariff system might give to the homeowner is the ability to secure better financing for the installation of their system based on the long-term projection of income.

One variable on the investment side is that each year, a new VOS tariff would be calculated using current data, and the new resulting VOS rate would apply to all customers entering the tariff during the year. Changes such as increased or decreased fuel prices and modified hourly utility load profiles due to higher solar penetration could be incorporated into each new annual calculation.

And finally, I would like to point out that the PUCN has published a document titled Choosing Wind or Solar. In that document, there is an analysis to “Determine how much energy the system could potentially produce, in kilowatt-hours in a year.” The mathematics assumes a 6-kilowatt system x 8,760 hours in a year x 24% efficiency based on inclement weather, cloudy skies and of course darkness at night for a total of 12,614 kWh per year multiplied by $.13 equals an annual savings of $1,640 off your energy bill.

This is a straight calculation without net metering.

The flaw in that calculation is that 80% of that energy is generated while children are in school, parents are at work, and the household is fairly quiet. Most residents have their air conditioners turned to a higher temperature so as not to waste energy; the television is off as are most of the lights, etc. So in reality, depending on the time of year, and the outside temperature, the home is generating an abundance of energy that is not being used. Without some sort of compensation such as net metering or Value Of Solar Tariff, the homeowner is not receiving near the value in the PUCN example and therefore the payback of the system is far greater than the 11 years used in the example.

Without fair compensation for rooftop solar, the proposition becomes a 30 to 40-year payback and for residents in particular that is not a doable situation.

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Gun Control

HandgunsI have developed this forum as a means to convey information on the subject of sustainability and being green.  Most view this subject matter to pertain to things that affect the environment, either with positive or negative results.  But sustainability is also about people and what affects them.  Thus, the pertinence of this topic in this forum.

There is, and has been for many years, a lot of talk about gun control.  To me, gun control was what my father taught me when I was a young boy of around the age of ten.

Grip the pistol lightly with my right hand and just the tip of my index finger on the trigger.  Place the palm of my left hand on the pistol grip with those fingers wrapped around the top of the right-hand fingers.  Stand with my feet shoulder width, left leg slightly forward and extend both hands forward.  Pull back slowly and evenly on the trigger.  And practice.

Today, all the rhetoric is not about how you control your gun, but instead about identifying and controlling the violence enacted by criminals and mentally disturbed people with their guns. Something that I think might be a losing battle until the time we are able to master the art of the Vulcan mind meld.

However, short of being able to control the minds of other people, we can control and allow the acquisition of guns by law abiding citizens (e.g. those who do not have a history of social violence, mental illness, or criminal activity).  Now obviously, there will be those that will slip through the system. Just as the saying goes, ‘there are two types of sailboat operators –those who have run aground and –those who about to run aground,’ there are and will be those gun owners who might fit the category of exclusion but have yet to flip the mental switch.

The solution that I speak of is the mandatory registration of all handguns.  (Notice that I said “handguns”). I say handguns because of the fact that those small weapons can be easily concealed and are used in many more crimes than rifles.

So what is the concern here?  Most of what I have been hearing is fear from U.S. citizens that if their gun is registered then the Federal Government will have the ability to come to your home and seize your guns.  Quite frankly, I find that whole concept paranoid and crazy.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

This Amendment provides that all citizens (those who have not lost their Constitutional Rights through the Court System) the right to keep and bear arms and that that right cannot be taken away without an Amendment to the Constitution. And if you know anything about the process for amending the Constitution (see below for details), you would know that repealing the Second Amendment would be impossible.  The only other thing that the Federal Government could do would be to declare war on its citizens which I also do not see happening.

Therefore, if you a legal, law abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with stricter laws for the acquisition of a gun.  If you are a law abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with the stricter tracking of guns.  And, if you are a law abiding citizen –you should have nothing to hide.

Now, let me state that I am not naive enough to think that just because a handgun is registered to someone that it will prevent them from doing bad thing with that weapon.  Not at all!  However, if we start now, by registering all handguns at the point of sale, it will significantly slow the proliferation of illegal (unregistered), handguns from getting onto the streets.  This process will not happen overnight and may, in fact, be a ten-year process, but as more and more handguns are registered it will leave less and less unregistered handguns on the street until the supply is dwindled down to a more manageable number.  And, through this process, at the very least handguns will be traceable back to a person that legally purchased that gun and then either gave it or sold it to someone who in turn does bad things –like go on a shooting spree.  So in turn, the person that gave or sold that weapon to the “bad guy”, could be severely penalized for contributing to a crime or the death of another person.  With this penalty clause in effect, a registered (and legal), gun-owner will think twice about selling his gun on the black market.

Is this some sort of euphoric dream?  I don’t think so.

The other day I was listening to an NPR interview with a young man that grew up in the Watts neighborhood of L.A.  He like most of his friends was involved in gang activity even as a very young boy.  He told the interviewer that during times of heightened gang activity he would be given a gun by one of the older members of his gang and told to use it against rival members.  If the gun were used, he would “ditch” that gun by literally throwing it away, because it is better not to be caught by the police with a gun and because unregistered guns were plentiful.

Again I say that if we start an aggressive registration program today, ten years from now we may have eliminated 90% of the illegal handguns that are on the street and used by gangs.

The trick is, how do we make it both convenient and affordable for conscientious, law-abiding citizens to buy and register handguns.  The simple way would be to authorize licensed gun dealers to process the “legal” registration when they sell a handgun.  Things are so automated these days, with computers and such, that the $25.00 background check fee should include the issuing of a registration card as well.  Once you have one handgun registered, an additional $10.00 registration fee for additional handguns would be a reasonable price to pay to the retailer as a processing fee.  With this system in place, if I wanted to sell one of my registered gun(s) to a friend or stranger, I could go to my local gun dealer, have him be the middle man in the transaction to assure that a proper background check was made and that the registration of that handgun was transferred from me to the new buyer, relieving me of all responsibility of that handgun.  Of course, this can still be done for free at the local police sub-station but for convenience sake, there are many more authorized gun dealers than police sub-stations.

Once we overcome the hurdle of limiting the amount of illegal guns that are on the streets and have a handle on who owns handguns; we can then address the issue of mental stability/illness and how to record and report persons that appear to have, but not yet openly displayed, violent tendencies, without violating their personal rights.  This will be a much more tedious process and I am sure will include enough lawyers, politicians, and doctors to fill each and every hotel room in Las Vegas.

Craig A. Ruark

Conscientious Handgun Owner

Constitutional Amendments

There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution for how to propose an amendment. One has never been used.

The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. This is the route taken by all current amendments. Because of some long outstanding amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment (for example, see the 21st and 22nd).

The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.

Regardless of which of the two proposal routes is taken, the amendment must be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of states. There are two ways to do this, too. The text of the amendment may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention. See the Ratification Convention Page for a discussion of the makeup of a convention. Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default. Only one amendment, the 21st, specified a convention. In any case, passage by the legislature or convention is by a simple majority.

The Constitution, then, spells out four paths for an amendment:

  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)

It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal or ratification. This point is clear in Article 5 and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 US 378 [1798]):

Posted in Constitution Rights, Gun Control | Tagged , | 6 Comments

A Very Sustainable Birthday Present

On May 28, 2015 I celebrated my 60th Birthday. It passed without much fan fair, a simple dinner with a friend at the Tommy Bahama restaurant along with two tickets to the Smith Center to see James Tormé in the Cabaret Theater on Saturday the 30th.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and coolest gifts that I have ever received in my 60 years of having birthdays came from my sister, Pam, in Austin, Texas.

Here we must take a short pause in my story for a brief history lesson; it helps if you read this with an Irish accent or perhaps imagining Sean Connery reading aloud:

Several years ago, Pam and I had discovered that we had both been researching the family history. I had been documenting my findings in a Word document, but she was more advanced plotting her findings on Ancestry.com.

The Ruark name has roots and history dating back to the 12th century and is mostly Irish and English and can be found throughout history in various transformations, O’Roark, O’Rourke and Rook being the most dominant. In early days, our land was in Leitrim County, Ireland

The family was at its height in the 12th century, when Tigernán Ua Ruairc was king of Ireland900Bréifne. In 1256, a great battle was fought between the O’Rourkes and the O’Reillys near Ballinamore. This led to the division of Breifne between the O’Rourkes and O’Reillys. The Bréifne region was split into East Bréifne and West Bréifne. The Ó Ruairc kings (O’Rourke) maintained lordship over West Bréifne (mainly Co. Leitrim). The Kingdom of Bréifne region was part of the kingdom of Connacht up until the time of Queen Elizabeth I. In that time, it was shired into the modern counties Cavan which became part of Ulster and Leitrim remaining a part of the province of Connacht The ÓRuaircs were effectively lords of Breifne O’Rourke through the turbulent 16th century.

By the way, Breifne is said to derive from an obsolete Irish word meaning ‘hilly’, a description that describes the topography of this part of Ireland

Now back to my 60th birthday present from my sister.

So after returning from a breakfast meeting with my editor, I find a box at my door. It is rather light and sort of flat with the Amazon.com logo. Inside were birthday cards from my mother and sister. Pam had also written a letter; that was sealed in her card.

When I opened the letter, I immediately noticed the stylish letterhead. It was from Lady Pamela J. Ruark, Lady of Glencoe and addressed:

Dear Lord Craig,

 Happy Birthday? You’re probably wondering why such an unusual gift and how in the world I even thought of it; well, I’m going to tell you.

 A little more than a year ago I checked out a website that intrigued me.  I could own land in Scotland for a small amount of money and legally be called a lady. Ha! I thought that’s the only way Mom would ever get one out of me, so I investigated it further. Suffice to say I bought an “estate” and can now be legally known as Lady Pamela. However, I didn’t tell Mom because I knew she’s laugh at me – now that I have told her, I can say I was right.

 What really drew me to buying the land is the conservation aspect – the fact that hundreds of people own the land so that it’s impractical for a company to come in and try to develop it. That, and to say I own land in Scotland. Come on, let’s be real, that’s just way too cool! So I bought a plot of land for you too. With your LEED certification and your writing skills, I thought that this might make an interesting subject to write about.  Perhaps a story by Lord Craig Ruark could be perceived as gimmicky but it would certainly catch the eye.

 I told Mom that I thought you would enjoy this gift, even if it wasn’t something you’d buy, because of your interest in genealogy. Actually, you have two plots as they were running a special with I bought yours, probably to complete the last of the Glencoe plots.  You have a 3’x3’ plot in a new section called Lochaber and a 1’x1’ plot in Glencoe. I have a 3’x3’ in Glencoe – which when you really think about it is only about enough space for two people to stand side by side! The website is http://highlandtitles.com.

 I know this is probably the most unusual gift you’ve ever received, but at least it’s yours in perpetuity or until you sell or bequeath it away! I really hope you like it.

 Love,

 Lady Pamela

In the box was a black folder with a Tartan plaid stripe from Highland Titles.

Highland Titles 02

Inside the folder, a separate deed to each property, identification cards, and a document showing that a tree had also been planted in my name…a donation to Mother Earth and Father Time.

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Along with the deeds and other paperwork, is a Scottish Landowner’s Handbook, that HT Handbookamong other things, talks about the titles of Laird, Lord & Lady.

The owner of a Scottish estate is styled “Laird.” The dictionary definition is simply “one who owns land in Scotland.” A Laird is said to hold a lairdship. A woman who holds a lairdship in here own right is styled with the honorific “lady.”

 Laird is not a noble title, but a ‘corporeal hereditament’ (and inheritable property that has explicit tie to the physical land) and cannot be bought and sold without selling the land. It does not entitle the owner to sit in the House of Lords and is in this sense the Scottish equivalent to an English lord of the manor.

The Glencoe property is located on a bluff overlooking Loch Linnhe. The road below is tree lined which makes for a beautiful drive but does not allow for a view of either the bluff above or Loch Linnhe below.

Glencoe Property

Glencoe View

The Lochaber property is much more open and is located on the east bank of Loch Loyne.

Lochaber Property

My property is just inside the first row of trees.

Lochaber view 2

According to the letter from Highland Titles, thousands of landowners visit their properties each year. In fact, I read about an annual convention of landowners. To make each landowner’s stay more enjoyable, Highland Titles has partnered with a variety of local service providers “who will be glad to offer you preferment when you visit.” VIP privileges can be found at http://experience.ht.

One of the places on the list is this wonderful old world hotel called The Ballachulish (I would give you a phonetic pronunciation but I haven’t a clue).

Ballachulish-Hotel-Exterior-728x300

So what can I do with this extraordinary gift? According to my landowner’s handbook, I am entitled to visit anytime I please. I can take a walk in Glencoe Wood, take photographs of my “estate” and picnic by the river. I will be able to enjoy bird watching, fungi spotting, and country pursuits in a tranquil setting. I am also welcome to plant a tree or scatter ashes. I can also display the Arms of Glencoe and wear the Glencoe Tartan (perhaps I will learn firsthand, what they wear beneath those Scottish Kilts).

Regardless of what I do, I am now…with gratitude to my sister…a conservator of a small piece of nature.

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Green Tips for Existing Buildings

By Craig A. Ruark

You don’t need to build a new office building to become green. In fact, building a new building is quite counter-intuitive to the basic premises and mantra of being green, “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.” The following are suggestions that require a time investment and perhaps a modest upfront cost but will help your company become more environmentally friendly and in some cases, put money back in your pocket. You can start with the simple things at the top of the list and work your way down. However, no matter how simple the task it can quickly fall apart if you don’t engage every member of the office staff, from the top all the way down, and make them part of the environmental plan. By sponsoring “green” activities outside the office and encouraging employees to develop their own green ideas, you can also build teamwork and communication that will translate into other aspects of your business.

Recycling is perhaps one of the simplest ways you can contribute to a cleaner environment. However, in order for this program to be successful, it must be convenient for all employees by issuing desk side paper recycle bins, as well as centralized recycle containers. Make sure that items that can be recycled are actually recycled – office paper and cardboard, plastic, glass and many other items are recyclable in addition to batteries and computer equipment. Items that are wet, such as paper towels in the restroom or your lunch waste, is not recyclable and should be thrown away. According to Tracy Skenandore of Republic Services Las Vegas, “We can provide a free waste stream audit of your business and provide educational handouts and signage for employees or tenants that will help with implementing a recycling program. In most business cases, recycling can be a cost effective and affordable option.”

Printer Ink cartridges are expensive, but you can save money by recycling your old printer ink and toner cartridges and not contribute to landfill waste. Local office supply stores offer discount credits when you turn in your used printer cartridges for recycling and if the cartridge can be refilled they will do it for nearly half the price of a new one.

Go Paperless, recycling is great but in reality the mass of paper and waste that many companies accumulate on a daily basis is unnecessary. Make a stand and use your company as an example of how green business can be done. Take advantage of the small opportunities to go green – use email rather than the Post Office and save files electronically rather than printing them, and if you must, then print double sided.

Office Cleaning operations have a huge impact on the environment. In the United States alone, 6 billion pounds of cleaning chemicals are consumed annually along with 4 ½ billion pounds of paper, 35 billion plastic trash can liners and millions of pounds of discarded janitorial supplies and equipment. Consider using green chemicals that contain fewer toxins and lower Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), as well as cleaning techniques that save money and waste for janitorial products. The next time you are buying cleaning products or equipment, consider how long the product can be used and the type of container it comes in, and consider using recyclable microfiber clothes instead of paper towels. In addition, by using entryway mats you can keep 80 to 90 percent of dirt out of the building, increase the lifespan of flooring and can also save on cleaning costs.

Indoor Air Quality can affect employee productivity and your energy bill as well. Have maintenance personnel keep a log and regularly check air vents to clear them of debris such as papers and dust buildup at the same time they replace the air filters to ensure good indoor air quality. According to ENERGY STAR, it takes as much as 25% more energy to pump air into spaces if vents are blocked. Whether you have adopted a Green Cleaning system or not, you will also want to restrict the use of air purifiers, chemical air fresheners, and candles, as they add chemical pollutants and ozone into the air. Some offices also ask employees to minimize the personal use of colognes and perfumes as they may be irritating to some individuals

Conserving Electricity is another way to lighten your environmental footprint, as well as save money. “Lighting,” according to Jennifer Turchin, of Coda Group, a Las Vegas-based architecture firm; ”accounts for over 40 percent of a typical office buildings’ electricity use in our Southern Nevada climate zone, and addressing lighting efficiency can have a huge impact on energy efficiency and a business’s bottom line. LED lighting can typically save 30 percent or better compared to fluorescent lighting and lasts years longer – saving additional money on maintenance costs.“ In addition to changing out bulbs, easy to install room sensor switches are available at your local hardware store. These sensors automatically turn lights on when you enter a room and then off when a room is not in use.

“In addition,” said Turchin, “a typical desktop computer with monitor uses 200 watts per day and, while this might not seem like a lot, if computers are left on overnight, even in sleep mode which uses half the power, this could add approximately $30.00 per computer to your power bill annually. If you have lots of computers, this can really add up and is just one example of a plug load that can be reduced through education of your employees.”

Solar Heat Gain is a huge issue in our solar heavy climate,” said Turchin. “One of the best ways to deal with this in buildings is with a white or light colored roof. This will ensure that solar heat is reflected away from the building instead of being absorbed into it. White roofs can reduce summer energy use anywhere from 10% to 40% depending on the surface you are replacing.”

Energy Loss through Office Windows can account for 10 to 20 percent of a building’s heating and cooling costs. Check the caulking around windows to make sure there is a good seal and consider window treatments such as shades with good R-Value and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient factors that can reduce your heating and cooling costs.

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