Energy Mixer

I just returned from an “Energy Mixer” hosted by Duke University at some venture capital company in Durham.

I should confess at the outset that I hate networking events. I’m bad at them, and they bore me. And I also should say that I am a Duke fan. Over the years I have given talks at a bunch of local universities—and we are lucky to have so many here.

Sometimes it is to a chemistry class at NC State, or to an environmental science class at NC A+T, or to a business class at UNC. Sometimes I get tapped to talk about the “new economy,” and sometimes I get tapped to talk to urban planners. It doesn’t matter to me, really, I like doing the work. One of the things I have noticed is that when it comes to students, the lights are on at Duke. Better questions. More engaged students. That’s what makes me a fan.

I don’t really follow sports, although I suppose I would be a Duke fan if I knew what game was in season.

Anyway, I go to these events regularly. One of the reasons I go is because it gives me a chance to play racquetball. I typically show up in mid afternoon, pound out a couple of games, then head to the “energy mixer.”

Tonight was interesting. A whole bunch of people from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina were there—for the first time as far as I could tell. I helped write the “Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership” which brought the Center into existence, and I have served on its board since its founding. The ideologues that control our State Capital nowadays have zeroed out its budget—so it looks like the Biofuels Center will be going away.

That’s tragic. Killing it is foolish. But these days the angry tea party folks who control this state are cutting things willy nilly. They seem to be anti-women, anti-science, anti-hispanics, anti-public transportation, anti-biofuels, anti-bike lanes, anti-poor people, anti-protesters—the list is actually too long to enumerate here.

Suffice it to say that when people are about to need jobs, they show up at Energy Mixers. It was great seeing them. I suppose it is a cruel irony that I am the guy left behind at Piedmont, which means I drive trucks and shovel goo, and clean soot—and I am the one with job security.

We had to listen to the VCs prattle about themselves. Apparently they are different. They only put money on deals that will be disruptive. Yawn. And they only do billion dollar stuff so they can tap institutional investors. Wow. Perhaps if they weren’t so boring, and such agents of the status quo, they could take an interest in renewable energy.

I went around the place turning off lamps. Their building was west facing—beautifully daylit at that time of day, and every light in the place was on—even though you couldn’t tell.

I tried to walk up the three flights of stairs to get to the event, (taking stairs is now fashionable in obese America) but their door was locked. Had to walk back down and catch an elevator to get to the party.

I always wear my uniform to these types of events. Before the plant fire, it was more of a “costume,” but now that I am on fire cleanup I go through a couple of uniforms a day. The children have me strip on the porch when I get home, and Tami would prefer it if I didn’t touch anything in our house.

I hit the showers after racquetball, and climbed into a clean uniform for the energy mixer. Short sleeves, short pants, the usual—only with Birkenstocks instead of steel toed boots.
One fellow in a coat and tie bumped into me and said, “That’s what I wish I was wearing.”

“My work ruins clothes,” was my reply. He chortled and ran off to exchange more business cards in the crowd.

I was impressed by their local beer selection, and I had a great conversation with a wastewater guy. It was also nice seeing old friends and members, which I suppose is the reason to go to energy mixers in the first place…

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