Gettin Hekktik

Thursday, May 29, 2008

High Cotton, Krankies and revisiting old places

I'm excited to get some time to revisit my blog posts and think critically about the road ahead. It has been more than three years since my tour of the southwest. My path has taken a few twists and turns but for the most part my time has been absorbed in the quarterly grind of filing SEC documents and applying new accounting policies (not very exciting). I have continued to invest and develop a network of sustainable business minded individuals and groups. My recent contacts include: Northern California Netherlands-America Foundation (sustainable and green business network), Business for Social Responsibility (global sustainability consulting firm) and Full Circle Farms (Sunnyvale - local sustainable agriculture).

It was great to see my traveling companion, Russ get married in North Carolina last weekend but it also sparked the sustainability debate once again. I was reminded of the many discussions and dialogues during the journey and while I was at Regent College. We were blessed to experience a bit of the "high cotton" life on Figure Eight Island where we enjoyed a bottle of Ridge's Lyton Springs Reserve and left overs from the wedding cake of fine French fromage. Follow on discussion from the Regent experience of course led me seek material to update these posts. The topic of the day? God's care for creation and revisiting the life committed to accountability and making a positive change through my vocation in finance.

Traveling through the Winston-Salem area the largest need seemed to be bringing the economy back to life after the fallout of most of the tobacco farmers. There were few signs of hope including the thriving art district, old Salem and a few new wineries popping up. However, it seems that "Jesus is lurking in the trees" as my friend Zach mentioned. There is a haunting feeling that there is more to be done for earth and people in this region as there seemed to be substantial economic disparity and continued inequality in opportunity. How will it regenerate from the legacy of tobacco and extraction industries?

My favorite stop along the way: getting a coffee at Krankies...a drive through espresso bar where I was able to help a young lady with her bicycle (always happy to help in this area) and get a free latte out of the deal.

more to come on this and other topics...I think I will stick to this blog!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Southwest Sustainability Notes Day 3

Durango Beyond the City Limits

Every man's way is right in his own eyes
But the Lord weighs the hearts of man. Proverbs 21:2

To do Righteousness and Justice
Is desired by the Lord rather than sacrifice Proverbs 21:3

He who pursues righteousness and loyalty
Finds life, righteousness and honor. Proverbs 21:21

We spend the night at a friend's house in DurangoThe sunshine over the San Jauns shined into my eyes from the futon in the children's play room. The fresh breeze and light singing of the local birds began a fun, full day in Durango. The verses above struck me because I was lacking wisdom for the path between saving souls and holistic redemption. These verses were comforting because I realize that all men do what is right in their own eyes yet it is the lord who determines the motives of one's heart.

This passages are both convicting and convincing. I realize that I should continue to pursue a relational approach to holistic redemption. It is not enough just to want to save the world or change one thing at a time. The problems are pervasive and systemic in the society in which we live. The proverbs above remind me of the path of righteousness and justice are desired by the Lord. They are not just slogans of an academic social justice movement. It is the desire of the Lord to see righteousness pursued.

On my ride through the town of Durango, I took a few laps through town on my way to the best coffee shop I could find. There were a few spots on the main strip. A Starbucks, The Fresh Bean and the Durango Coffee Roasting company were all within eyesight but I chose the Newstand because of its patio and open direction to the morning sun.

I ripped out a page of the real estate guide to help me find a few roads to ride. The campus of Fort Lewis College was the first destination. It sits on the plateau above town and provides a panoramic view of the San Juan mountains and the little hamlet below. Moving past the golf course and through the neighborhood below, I noticed another guy on a bike so I decided to chase him down and ask for a decent loop to ride. He mentioned the valley loop, which we were already riding.

Chris was formerly an Oracle employee living in the east bay. He did not mention what he did for Oracle but he did mention that he had just completed construction on a group of townhomes in Durango. His wife is a professional cyclist. He mentioned her third place visit in the IronHorse Classic last year.

The IronHorse is a road race and public ride from Durango to Silverton and back again. Silverton is approximately 50 miles away but the route include three mountain passes and over 5,000 feet of climbing. This is not my type of race but they do have a crit on the following day.

While riding with Chris and talking about the bay area, we ran into Mark, another California transplant. Chris supports the Durango lifestyle by selling deluxe B-B-Qs and sweeping chimneys in the area. He recently purchased one of the town homes that Chris built.

Chris pulled off when we came to his home. Mark and I continued on for the rest of the loop. He pointed out the hot springs and the waterfall along mill creek. It was a gorgeous spring day with plenty of wildflowers and greenery lining the highways and byways. Chris and I rode along 2nd street to find our way back to Hwy 160. I noticed the character of the houses and the well cared for gardens as we came closer to downtown. The home prices are roughly half the price of similar homes in the bay area. This provides much greater incentive to make the move from frantic Silicon Valley. After parting ways I finished off the ride with the seven mile climb back to Durango West.

After some left over pizza for lunch and a stroll through downtown, we made our way back to the newsstand. Our afternoon discussion focused on the efficiency of Wal Mart, the cadence of the climbers in the Giro d' Italia and the pace of life in the small town. Stan joined us for dinner at Margaritas. Over fatequila tequilla and my Corona, we discussed the transition from PBCC to other communities as well as life after college.

I'm left with a sense of disappointment after our discussion. It leaves me with a bad taste because I feel that I'm continually on the loosing end of any discussion that involves calling, vocation and relationships. I'm continually made to feel that the way I approach life is overly self-centered and illusory. Every word from my mouth strikes me as a contradiction between the desires of my heart and what I should be doing if I was really a Christian. If I say one thing, I find that others take it as judgment. I want to communicate some of my ideas, however unrefined they may be, but my ideas seem to be stuck down as the idealistic.

We talk at length about the calling into the accounting profession. Stan stated that he would not go back into the practice for a million dollars a year. I mention that I'm going back to redeem my time in the profession and not let the work break me down as it has in the past. It's difficult to know what the right direction is for those desiring to make a positive change in the world. Stan chose to leave the profession to build designer guns. I am choosing to return to the profession because I believe it provides inherent value to our society. The nature of auditing plays an essential role in calling businesses to accountability. I'm not so naive to believe that this is a precise science. The loss of integrity in the profession has led to Stan's cynicism and desire for a career change. He now builds custom guns and claims to be one of the best gun specialists in the country.

I struggle with determining the degrees of justice and righteousness in the paths Stan and I have chosen. We both believe what we do is more right than the other. I continue to see the value to put cynicism behind and press on toward making incremental improvement in accountability within the profession. Stan was blessed to follow a path that provided a beautiful house on top of a hill with views of the snow capped peaks. He has a beautiful wife and two darling girls. He also developed a skill that has allowed him to use his gifts and his passion.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Southwest Sustainability Notes Day 2

Eureka to Moab

The morning began with a walk down the main street in Eureka, Nevada. It shares its name with Hwy 50. There are a few historic buildings that I learned about with the help of the walking tour pamphlet I picked up at the local gas station. Russ found a small diner/deli that serves espresso drinks and huge breakfast burritos. The man behind the counter joined us at our table for a friendly conversation. He mentioned that he is a recent transplant from Pennsylvania. He is in Eureka because his daughters are involved in church work. It become clear to us, because of the free King James Bible and the head dress from his dutiful wife, that they are Pennsylvania Dutch. What we notice about the deli was the fair prices (3 sweet rolls and a coffee for $4) and their desire to make a decent living in a frontier town.

Our gracious host described the local economy. He states that it is mainly gold mining and alfalfa farming that keeps the town alive. The state of Nevada has a vested interest in preserving the town because of the vein of gold that stretches from Elko to Eureka. The town was originally formed by silver prospectors and it became a major producer charcoal. Our host described how all the trees within a 50 mile radius were cut down for the production of the coal. When the trees were gone and the price of gold dropped, the town fell into decline. There is new life in Eureka as there are reports that 150 people may move here to work the new mines.

The gold mining will be performed using cyanide leeching. The mines are pumped into an open bed dug into the ground. The gold is extracted from the soil using the cyanide which dissolves the rock from the minerals. The environmentalist and the farmers are in conflict over this method because the mining will require drilling down into the underground aquifer. The water must be pumped and the cyanide dumped but there is no agreement on where the waste will go. The farmers rely on the water in order to maintain the irrigation for the alfalfa farms. The irrigation systems use up to 1000 gallons of water a minute. Although this seems high, our host mentioned that the aquifer was receding at the rate of 40 feet per year. I’m not sure of the precision in these amounts but what was clear is that farming, as well as gold mining, are a battle between extraction economies. The farmer and the miner have not learned a lesson from the charcoal production days. There is a complete lack of sustainability in these practices. It might be one generation until this place will dissolve into a ghost town.

I looked at the table next to ours and noticed an old farmer with deep set eyes. Fragments of dried alfalfa dusted his sweat lined cap. He looked to be greatly overweigt from the many rich meals at our host's establishment. We could see his ears perk a bit at our conversation. After finishing his biscuits and gravy, the farmer hobbled his way out the door and into his air-conditioned pickup truck.

As I got on my bike for my 80 mile ride to Ely, I had time to think about the barrenness of Nevada and what hope remains in the towns like Eureka. Our host stated, “If you think it is bad here, it’s always worse in Austin.” Austin was the town 70 miles up the road. It’s higher in the range and has less access to gold and irrigable land. The stretch between Eureka and Ely was just as barren as the stretch from Austin. Austin has a bike shop and an espresso bar but there is little hope for a tourism boom. The same fate holds for Eureka.

Is there hope for sustainable economies in this dry and weary land? One thought is to build prisons in the area to “outsource” inmates from other states. Another plan might be to build large waste management sights. Prisons are sustainable and realistic but they do not provide healing or redemptive business practices to small towns like Eureka. Prisons would provide stable government jobs. Waste management provides initial income but there is little hope of sustainability through garbage retention.

Back in the car for another long stretch, I continued through Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. The premise of the book is finding a niche in an increasingly global economy. I read about housewives in Salt Lake City who book reservations for JetBlue from their home office. There are signs of hope for rural economies. However, the people must me energetic and educated. They must want to participate in sustainable activity.

The conclusion that I reached on this day is that their is a need to free people internally to make a moral contribution. Moral contributions are necessary for redemptive efforts within local communities. Many people are talking this way but finding it increasingly difficult to mount the courage and stamina necessary to live differently.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Day One of Southwest Sustainability Notes

Thoughts from the Road: San Jose to Eureka - Day 1

This is the first entry from my 10 day trip around the southwest. Yes, it was a quick trip but it did provide some time to think and write about the topics that have set me on this course. I wrote a little each day.

The day began with a visit to FedEx who forgot to hold our package containing Russ’ credit card. His card was cut off because his local bank in North Carolina merged with a multi-national bank. FedEx would try again to send the card to my parents. Meanwhile, Russ would be without a card for the entire trip.

Our second visit was a stop to Fry’s to by an adaptor to enable us to use our lap tops in the car. We also joked that we could use the juicer in the car if we had brought it. Anyway, Fry’s has got to be the symbol of Silicon Valley consumerism. I was trapped. Although I found my component quickly, I was lured by the rows of cd’s, videos and gadgetry. Our quick visit ended up taking much longer than expected and I ended up with a CD from Interpol.

Along Hwy 5, I was amazed by the endless rows of semis rolling down the interstate. I can’t imagine the amount of goods that are transported on this road day-after-day. Is there a way to reduce this tremendous cost of resources and fuel-burning consumption? Would a trucking tax increase the local business and reduce the amount of interstate shipping? How would we replace the lost jobs from truck drivers?

Roseville, California – The great land rush. It is the new manifest destiny. This time it is chain stores and strip mall that are in a race to gobble up every new piece of land next to mass housing developments. We wanted to find something local, something unique, something edible but we ended up at Pick up Sticks. It is a clean, new, sterilized provider of healthy Asian foods.

Back on the road we passed over the Sierras stopping at The Coffee House on Highway 89 in South Lake Tahoe. It is a beautiful example of the independent coffee shops that provide internet access and a great brew. Despite the snow, we were back on the road and headed for Nevada.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Where I'm coming from

In April, I completed my master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Colombia. Regent is a small graduate school on the University of British Colombia campus. The program at Regent provided a broad foundation in the areas of history, philosophy, sociology and the theological roots of these topics. My coursework included seminar discussions on ecology, economics, postmodernism and technology. The integrated approach helped me to see the complexity of global ethics and the need for accounting and auditing for sustainability.

I went to Regent because I was dismayed by the lack of ethics training in MBA programs in the US. I already have a business degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with an accounting emphasis. I’ve worked as a CPA for Ernst & Young, Hewlett-Packard, Agilent, and KPMG. I also feel a moral responsibility to give to the accounting profession after the scandals that we’ve experienced over the last five years. Canada is at the forefront of ethics, human rights and environmental initiatives. Living in Vancouver gave me an outsider’s perspective on the culture of the US and more specifically the Silicon Valley where I grew up and worked in the accounting profession. Regent did not disappoint me. I found a passion for scholarly work in developing new approaches to the systemic problems that continue to plague the accounting industry and global markets.

KPMG was gracious enough to grant me an educational leave of absence in order to finish the master’s degree. After working as a manager on the implementation team for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act at the Silicon Valley’s largest technology clients, I learned first hand the intricacies of the new legislation. I also learned the shortcomings of the Act. The focus on legal compliance and specific financial controls, though important in preventing fraud, failed to identify the core issues of corporate citizenship. The modern corporation is overly focused on financial reporting and not broader issues of accountability and sustainability.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Sleepless in San Jose

I'm up at 4:30 am. It is my first sleepless night in San Jose since my return. What is keeping me up? It's been a long time since I've been excited about something and wanted it with all my energy. I found a doctorate program that specializes in 'system science'. This is an interdisciplinary approach to accountability and sustainability. It's great to find intelligent people who desire to take a system based approach to the issues of transperency and corporate social responsibility. With much excitement, I pray this intuition would come to fruition!

How did I find this program? It may appear to be a random set of circumstances but I don't believe thing of this nature happen by chance. I was scheduled to be on a road trip to Moab, UT today. Because my friends from Vancouver delayed the trip, I had an extra day to use for emailing.

My friend Tim emailed me pictures of his kid. He also provided five suggested graduate accounting programs. These schools didn't look appealing from their websites. I finally came to the conclusion that an Accouting Ph.D. was not for me. I realized that I had to take a system based approach to the ethical issues of accounting.

In February of 2005, I attended a conference on Corporate Social Responsibility at Santa Clara University. There I met a professor who I had emailed the year before. This professor is now heading up an interdisciplinary program at Portland State.

The Hekktik Life continues! Something to work towards, something worth doing, something that integrates my passions with my desire for practical solutions!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Transperency, Sustainability, Accountability

Just starting out on these topics. I've read of few books (Paul Hawken Ecology of Commerce, Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connections and Wendell Berry, A Continuous Harmony). What to do about this hectic life, I don't know? I want to do something about the only place I really know...Sunnyvale, Ca. It seems like it has been taken over by strip malls, expressways and SUV's. Does anyone in the US, California, the bay area realize what is going on??? Have we already lost our downtown? Have we lost everything organic? What about our fertile soil that provided some of the best orchards in the world? I just moved back to the bay area from Vancouver, Canada. I'm shocked to see the lack of anything unique in this place. It seems like suburbia has become a clean little make-believe world blind to the issues that are created in communities around the world. I could say so much more and I will...please comment on these things and continue the commentary. I'd like to get this off the ground...a thoughful and realistic approach to transperency, sustainability and accountability. How can we bring spirituality back into a community of character? Please comment on the Hekktik life before I can't take it any more.