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Taking the LEED AP BD+C Exam

Last weekend I took the LEED AP Building Design + Construction (BD+C) exam, and, mercifully, passed.  (Something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!)  I have two purposes in this post: first, to describe my study process for anyone else who's interested, and second, to reflect on the exam at a higher level, to consider whether it's a worthwhile use of one's time.

Exam Prep I passed the LEED Green Associate exam back in 2013, at the end of graduate school, and have been maintaining my credential since then through continuing ed and actual project experience.  I recently completed the LEED certification process for two projects at my office and am working on a third.  Overall, I felt that I had a solid foundation of understanding coming in to the exam prep.  I gave myself two months to prepare and used two different study guides: Gang Chen's "LEED v4 BD+C Exam Guide," plus his sample test book, and Fulya Kocak Gin's "LEED AP BD+C Exam Preparation Gu…

A Voter's Guide: Local Elections 2016

I spent a long time researching different local races and some of the ballot measures here in Santa Clara County.  In case you're on the fence or want some further information to guide your voting, I've compiled my thoughts here.

Selection Methodology
I have three tiers for selecting  candidates.
1. Alignment on Issues:  I will choose the candidate who is most closely aligned with me on the issues I think are important.
2. Experience and Education:  All other things being equal, I will choose the candidate who has the most knowledge of what is required for the position, either through education, previous experience, or active participation in similar positions.
3. Women and Minorities:  All other things being equal (#1 and #2 above), I will choose candidates who are women or minorities in order to increase the diversity of voices of our elected officials.  It's my own personal form of affirmative action.

The Issues
We're fortunate enough to live in a place where most th…

On the Border: Part V

July 17th - Last Day in Arizona

On Friday the 17th, our final day of the trip, we met with a whole host of people of different views to hear about the immigration crisis from all sides.

We started the day with a presentation by an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  ICE is "the principal investigative arm of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the second largest investigative agency in the federal government.  Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the US Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (the former INS), ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 48 foreign countries" (BorderLinks document).  The agent showed us a slideshow of their work: catching illegal human smugglers, arresting illegal border crossers, targeting drug rings and weapons dealers.  He had photos of drug smugglers using drones, disguised trucks, gliders, even ramps to …

On the Border: Part IV

July 16th - The Sonoran Desert

For the entire trip, we'd heard about the hazards of crossing the border through the desert, and now it was finally our turn to see what it was like for ourselves.  We drove out to the home of Ed Lord, a member of the Green Valley Samaritans, who lives in an affluent retirement community on the edge of the desert.  The Samaritans are an organization dedicated to saving the lives of people in the desert.  They know the landscape and walk the trails looking for people in need.  We followed him to the home of a friend that adjoins land owned by the local mining company.  During our walk, an enormous plateau of tailings was visible in the distance, like an unnatural ridge, with tiny tractors running across it.




We left early in the morning, around 9 am, and it was already 100 degrees and full sun.  Ed showed us his collection of items he'd found in the desert, dropped by migrants, including clothes, shoes, backpacks, and even a notebook with Spanish-t…

On the Border: Part III

July 15th - Agua Prieta, Mexico

After an uncomfortable night on the floor, we crossed into Mexico to visit several organizations working with migrants on the Mexican side of the border.  The trip across the border into Mexico took no time at all.  Immediately on the other side, we stopped at the Migrant Resource Center (Centro de Recursos para Migrantes), which assists people who have been repatriated by Border Patrols; warns against trying to cross the desert and the hazards there; and helps people return to their homes elsewhere in Mexico.  The workers at the Center told us that lately there have been fewer people trying to cross due to the relatively weak economy, but even while we were there, a woman came in to get help.  The Center documents abuses by Border Patrol during deportation proceedings (lack of medical attention, taking of identification or belongings, violence, etc) and liaises with other organizations to provide comprehensive services for migrants.  The tiny center is…

On the Border: Part II

It's been over a year since my last post about my trip to the US-Mexico border, but I'm finally getting around to posting the rest of my thoughts and photos.  If you want to remind yourself why this is an important topic (aside from the election-year immigration hype), check out the following short documentary.  Thousands of unaccompanied minors are still trying to cross into the US from Honduras and Central America.

Between Borders: American Migrant Crisis (New York Times)

July 14th - Douglas, AZ

Our second day at BorderLinks had us up early and on the road to Douglas, Arizona, a border town that neighbors the larger town of Agua Prieta in Mexico.  During the two-hour drive, we stopped at Tombstone, AZ, a laughable tourist trap where there was once a pointless gunfight that for some reason has become famous.  We wandered around for a bit, marveling at the racist stereotypes on display in the shop windows, before finishing our trip to Douglas.




Douglas is a town of about 18,000 …

Houston, We Have a Program - Part 3

My last week at TIP was probably the most enjoyable, since I didn't have nearly as much prep work to do while the class worked on their studio projects.  Clearly, having the class do lots of studio work is best for everyone - the students prefer it, and it's less work for me - but I stand by my decision to start them off with some background information in the form of lectures, exercises, and sketching practice.  I hope that their final projects came out better for it, although without a control group for comparison, it's hard to know.



During this week I got to go on more side trips, including to the NASA Johnson Space Center, about 45 minutes outside of Houston, and to the Natural Science Museum and the Miller Theater in Hermann Park.  Four of us went to NASA and had a great time.  Johnson Space Center has a large visitor's center with exhibits, a replica Space Shuttle that you can go into, and tram tours of the working facilities.  We chose the tour that takes you t…