Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Bangladesh Dhaka Ukraine Kiev Maine West Bath Bangkok Cambodia Siem Riep Bhutan Paro Nepal Dhulikhel Katmandu Sri Lanka Colombo Kazahkstan Ust-Kaminogorsk Ekibastuz Astana Georgia Tbilisi London France Avignon Arles Aix Trigance Cannes Paris Brussels Bulgaria Sofia Slovakia Bratislava Czech Republic Kosice Prague Budapest Warsaw Polynesia Bora Bora Huahine Germany Munich Oberamergau Pragsattel Australia Jeeralang Yarra Townsville Collie Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney Singapore Peru Lima Brazil Porto Alegre Sao Paulo Argentina San Nicolas Swaziland Mbabane Tokyo China Changzhi Lixian Cili Qingtao Wehhai Wuhan Beijing Hong Kong India Agra Jaisalmer Jaipur Mumbai Jharsuguda Madras Bangalore Varanasi Bhubaneshwar Islamabad Musafaghar Pakistan Delhi
Synopsis Buy the book at Amazon.
Jet lags, boardrooms, and high pressure deals – that’s what doing international business brings to mind. But there’s way more to it than that.
And a lot of it makes us laugh in the process.
Sharing a series of letters sent to his father during his decade of traveling the world building a billion-dollar company, Hemphill illuminates the always practical, sometimes poignant, and often funny ways we must connect if business is to be done.
“If they served you camel hooves for dinner, and you didn’t know it until you asked, what part of the camel did you have for breakfast?”
“In Islamabad hotels, you must sign a form certifying that you are an infidel and will assuredly go to hell, in order to get room service to bring you a drink. Is this form binding if you die outside of Pakistan?”
“Can you really claim to be in the movie industry if you don’t dress all in black, have a small pony tail, wear an earring, have an idea for a screen play, and harbor a desire to meet Meryl Streep?”
“Cinemas in the Czech Republic serve bacon-flavored popcorn. Why can’t we get that in the US? It’s even better than cheese-flavored popcorn. The whole movie theater smells like breakfast.”
Millions of people around the world travel for business. But how many of us take the time to truly appreciate what we observe and experience? Dust tea, dingoes, & dragons is a lesson in the meshing of cultures, the diplomacy of building business relationships, and, ultimately, of living life to the fullest, no matter what they’re feeding you.
And besides, it’s a really funny business book. When was the last time you read one of those?
R.F. Hemphill has worked in the energy business since the 1973 oil embargo, including stints at the Tennessee Valley Authority, thirty-five years as a senior executive at AES, a global electric power corporation, and as CEO of Silver Ridge Power, a leading solar company. He was educated at Yale and UCLA, and in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader. He has survived airborne and Special Forces training, and four million miles on United. He lives in southern California without a dog.
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There is good news about renewable energy, and it matters to all electricity consumers — which means all of us.
So why am I qualified to share these facts with you?
In addition to being a former senior policy official at the Department of Energy and Deputy Manager of Power at the Tennessee Valley Authority, I spent the better part of three decades flying 4 million miles on United as I developed a startup global electric power and distribution company into a company with $18 billion a year in annual revenue and power plants now in 21 countries.
So here are six FACTS about the impending renewable energy revolution:
1. Most of what is called “renewable energy” is hydro, geothermal, wind and solar, with the last two being by far the largest. Big wind and solar plants are now cheaper to build than coal or nuclear plants — the mainstays of utility generation. This is a major change from only a few years ago. In 2008, solar panels cost $3500 per Kw, with installation costs adding another $3500, for a total of about $7000 per Kw. Coal plants cost half that, nuclear projections were about $5000 per kw. Today’s solar and wind plants can be built for about $1600 per Kw, and the nation’s largest manufacturer of thin film panels, FirstSolar, projects reaching a cost level of less than $1000 by 2017.
2. Renewable energy is NOT going to provide lots of jobs. There are some construction jobs, but many are low skilled. After it’s built, all you need is a few technicians monitoring the plant’s output. You don’t need the large group of plant operators and maintenance people, three shifts a day, all day, year-round, that a fossil or nuclear plant needs.
3. Traditional power plants take forever to site and build. They have big footprints, they are difficult to put near customers, and they generally require extensive local, state and national permitting. Solar can fit in just about anywhere — all you need is roof space or a reasonable piece of more or less flat and unshaded ground. These installations can be put into densely populated areas just fine. The Europeans have limited space, but have put wind and solar in small installations in many places, some of them ingenious, including rooftop solar for car parks and wind machines on waste dumps. Solar panels are fast and easy to install. Once the frame is set up, all that’s needed is to put the panel down, tighten four screws, and make a simple plug-in electrical connection. That’s far easier than replacing the water heater in your home.
4. These things last. Solar panels really don’t break — they are just thin layers of silicon organized within an aluminum frame. If you take a sledge hammer to one or blast it with a shot gun, you will do some damage, but otherwise they just sit there and make electricity. Panels at test sites like the Argonne National Lab have been sitting outside and functioning for more than thirty years. The electrical conversion hardware, something called an inverter, may need occasional servicing, but it is simple and easy to replace. On rare occasions wind turbines lose a blade (two or three instances over the last twenty years) and wind turbine gear boxes and generators need routine lubrication and servicing, but they too have lasted longer than anticipated.
Had a great time hosting three book launches this weekend at Barnes & Noble stores around San Diego. Thank you to everyone who turned out to listen and talk with me! It was lovely outside and I was grateful for the chance to speak with the audiences who gathered inside to hear my stories.
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By Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz11:51 a.m.March 30, 2015
Imagine logging over 4 million miles during a decade of turning an idea into a multibillion-dollar company. And along the way, imagine eating everything from camel hooves to silkworms and signing a form labeling you an infidel — all in order to do business in foreign lands.
Jet lag, boardrooms, and high-pressure deals are what international business usually brings to mind, but for San Diego author R.F. Hemphill, it all meant so much more.
And he has catalogued much of it in his sometimes poignant, often funny book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive.”
Travel the world with Hemphill — without ever leaving San Diego — at 11 a.m. April 11 at Barnes & Noble Encinitas, or at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Grossmont, and at 2 p.m. April 12 at Barnes & Noble Mira Mesa.
• You worked in the energy business for two decades before you began writing the pieces that eventually became your book. What prompted you to write them? What was the catalyst?
We started our fledgling business in the U.S. but soon decided to become “international,” and I drew the black dot to lead the charge. Subsequently, I went to many odd places, and it all seemed so interesting and strange to me that I wanted to capture the experience and share it with my family, especially my father.
• When you began writing the letters to your dad, did you think of them as a potential book, or were they just letters?
I thought they were worth saving, because I enjoyed writing them, but I knew little about books or publishing. It was more about just collecting the experiences.
• What did you particularly wish to convey in those letters?
Several things: first, how the business parts worked, since my dad and my whole family were not business people. In fact, my dad would have much preferred me to be an Air Force officer, as he was. So, I wanted to educate him about what I was doing. Second, the exotic nature of the places and the characters charmed me, and I wanted to pass that on as well. Few in my family traveled, so this was my attempt to let them do so vicariously.
• How would you categorize your book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive”? For whom is it written?
It’s a mix of memoir, travel book, business book, but it’s not a “how to make a million dollars” book. Most of all it’s interesting and humorous. I haven’t seen many funny business books — at least not intentionally funny — so there’s not a good model. Maybe David Sedaris if he had gone to the Harvard Business School.
• You have been enormously successful in the energy business. At what point did you realize that success would, in part, depend on your ability to immerse yourself in various cultures?
Oh, goodness, from the first day on the job! We were a small startup, undercapitalized, with no experience in the industry, and no one had ever heard of us. So we had to convince people in large organizations to deal with us. And that meant understanding their culture and their processes and values and goals so we could tailor what we were doing to their needs. Every business must do this to some extent. That requirement all doubles or triples when you add in the variable of doing all this in a country that is not your own, in a language that has to be translated for you.
• What was most disappointing about your travels?
Despite all the fun I was having and the interesting things I was experiencing, I missed the ability to simultaneously share it with my wife — to share it in real time and in person.
• The funniest?
The food was always a challenge in the places where we were. Even English food is pretty awful, and unfortunately we weren’t doing business in Italy. And far more than in the U.S., the business people in the other countries had a much stronger tradition of socializing with their business partners. In Japan it meant going to drinking clubs where “hostesses” came to serve you. Understanding that these hostesses were completely asexual and untouchable was a neat trick. The Japanese were perfectly comfortable with this. The Americans found it hard to get their minds around. Eating silkworms in China was funny, especially if you had had enough to drink.
• What was the most surprising commonality?
At the end of the day, you had to have a business case that made sense for everyone, you had to meet a need of a customer, or the whole thing was a long airplane ride and a lot of strange food for nothing.
• What do you enjoy most about travel? Least?
It was fun to go to places I had not only never been to, but had never heard of and couldn’t even spell — Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan and Bhubaneshwar in India. And then I had to master all the elementary stuff — where to stay, how to call a cab, what was the money worth, and so forth. It was modern exploring. The least fun was the long plane rides, inevitably in a middle seat in tourist class. But I got a lot of reading done.
• At this point, do you think of yourself more as a businessman or a writer?
I hope that I am more of a writer, but I have a large amount of “businessman’s thinking” that’s useful, and that applies to the business of writing and publishing.
• What, to you, is the most difficult part of being a writer? The easiest?
The writing itself is really the easiest. If writing doesn’t come naturally for you, then you might not want to be in the writing business. Personally, I’d like to be point guard for the Celtics, but they don’t really need a short, slow guy who can’t shoot to fill that position.
The hardest part is getting your message out, trying to get what you have written into wider distribution and acknowledged by others. Just about everyone who has read this book, including people who are not my relatives, has liked it a lot. And I am still waiting for the New York Times book review editor to call.
• What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The best advice I have ever seen came from Nora Roberts, although it is also attributed to others: “ass in the chair.” If you want to be a writer, you have to write.
• What do you hope readers take away from “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons”?
I hope that they laugh out loud at least once in every chapter, and then show their companion what they’re reading, and then have a fight about who gets to read the book first.
• What are you working on now?
A definitive biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, set to hip-hop music. No, just kidding, it’s set to ecclesiastical music.
Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz are the team behind both Strategies Public Relations and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (www.lajollawritersconference.com).
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Apple blew the design of the Apple Watch, but here’s how to fix it.
(The edited version of this article featured in HuffPost Tech this Monday is available here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rf-hemphill/apple-watch-what-went-wro_b_6858572.html)
RH // 27 February
Apple is said to have ordered six million watches to be manufactured for the next quarter, and is likely to make the official release on 9 March. So, what’s the deal? Here are the things you can do with an Apple watch, assuming that you have $350, or more, or much more if you want a solid gold one.
And assuming you can understand how to make the various functions work, which will really be challenging since the screen is so small and there are only two buttons on the side. Of course you can visit the Genius Bar at your local Apple store but the curse of grade inflation is found even here. The last two times I tried this, with a simple request for Apple cell phone and Outlook synching, either I caught them on a bad day or the availability of geniuses has declined dramatically. The Apple geniuses were modestly incompetent but nice persons wearing red Apple t-shirts.
The watch has seventeen very small circles on it, arranged in a repeating three/four pattern on its rectangular face. One of them appears to be an actual watch face but it is really tiny so maybe you have to carry a magnifying glass to tell the time. I have a magnifier app on my phone, so I could use that. Or I could just look at my phone which tells me the time in a readable font.
What any of the rest of these circles do isn’t clear; they have different colors and even smaller even images inside of them: concentric circles, a running stick figure, a music note, an envelope, a triangle, a gear and so forth. Maybe some of these are obvious, like the running figure, but if you aren’t already in the Apple fraternity, if you don’t know the secret handshake, then you won’t know that the colored circles within circles is the photo album.
The available descriptive material is scanty. It is said that you can:
–tell what time it is, altho you will have to precisely tap the little clock face to expand it.
–talk to the assistant Siri and have her do things. What things no one yet knows. I have this on my Apple 4s iPhone, and it’s pretty close to worthless. But perhaps squeezing her down into a watch will make her more compliant and helpful. I don’t know which circle she is, one with an Aladdin’s lamp would be nice but it’s not there.
–Monitor your fitness metrics. The watch will record and display for you information about whether you are sitting, standing or walking. Most people do not need to look at a watch to determine this. There is also a way to monitor your heart beat — why? To determine that you are currently alive? The capabilities do not include listing your weight, which is the metric most people need monitored. I don’t think you can stand on the watch without damage, and I don’t see a “scale” sort of symbol among the little circles. It is not likely to monitor your blood sugar, which all diabetics need, since no one has yet cracked the code on doing this without either physical contact with your blood, or use of a very strong light source. Doing this useful thing, we are told, would have required FDA approval of the Apple Watch as a medical device, so they didn’t bother.
–Use Apple Pay, which is to be a substitute for using credit cards. You will hold the watch up to a machine and something will happen between watch and payment terminal. If this works, it would be useful, I am really tired of carrying around a bunch of credit cards. You can also do this with your iPhone.
–The watch can distinguish between a “tap” and a “press” on the little screen icons. What this does we are not told. And it will tap you on the wrist when you have a message. Initially this will startle the bejesus out of you. It will be the first function disabled, since how will you sleep if your watch is forever poking you any time you have an email from Go Daddy?
The watch integrates with iPhone models 5 and above, but not with 4 and below, so my only two year old iPhone is crap out of luck.
That’s it. There is nothing on the apple web site which spells out what all the 17 icons are for. Nor in the 12 page spread in the current Vogue.
But that’s really not the problem. The problem is that you cannot make, with today’s best technology, a useful appliance the size of a watch, with a battery that fits inside the thing the size of a watch, which does lots of things worth doing. What are those things?
Telling time is a start. At least the watch does that, bragging that it keeps time down to plus or minus 50 milliseconds. I cannot count the number of instances when I have needed to know that it was now one-thirty seven and 30 seconds and 268 milliseconds.
It looks like you can make a phone call using your watch, but only so long as it is hooked up to your iPhone. But if you have your iPhone you can already make a phone call without pushing a watch button and speaking into your wrist.
Listening to music? Only via your IPhone.
Doing email? Screen’s way too small. Note that on the I-6 phones the screen has gone bigger, not smaller. Could there be a message here? One that’s big enough to read?
There is much chatter about the two buttons on the side of the phone. The big round one does one thing, and that is magnify the screen images, like the plus/minus buttons on Google maps. Which is necessary since everything is otherwise too small to read. The flat button does one thing, which is call up pictures of your friends, we assume from your contacts, but it’s not clear. Then you touch one and it calls that person—using your phone. And these two mechanical buttons are not innovations but instead steps backward. And they account for another surprising thing—the version called Sport Watch is not waterproof. Really. The new Pebble watch at least claims to be water resistant.
The constraints of screen size and battery size and thus life are truly significant. And the cool things, like the Apple pay system, can certainly be done just as easily on a cell phone. That’s already where we put our airline boarding passes and our coupons for 10% off from Home Depot. Thus much of the watch’s “functions” are things that the watch can facilitate, but only if you have the correct app and only if your synched phone is with you to do the heavy lifting. It’s a watch with a changeable face, several things that are phone extensions, and the ability to poke you. A cute and expensive toy.
The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke famously remarked, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And that’s what we have gotten from Apple in the past.
If the Apple Watch really were magic, there are several things it should do:
–translate all languages perfectly and instantaneously. We already have Google translate which is pretty good, and I would settle for French, Chinese, Spanish, and German. Further iterations could add other languages—Arabic if you plan to be captured by terrorists, although they’d probably take your watch so what good would that do you?
–let you fly like Superman. You’d put your hands up and give a little jump and away you would go. No more long commutes! When you were close to running out of battery power you’d get tapped on the wrist so you could land safely. And you should be careful not to fly over large bodies of water without being clear on range limitations. The FAA would no doubt wish to regulate this.
–Be invisible, at least for a brief period of time. We already have stealth jets that are invisible to radar, so how hard can this be? You would have to build in some record of your location while you were invisible, to be made available to the police under the right circumstances. Every cheating spouse and lots of teenagers with curiosity about the girls dressing rooms would buy this immediately.
–Have X-ray vision, altho depth of focus will be a problem. We never could solve the classic Superman problem of how do you ever see anything if you have x-ray vision. Doesn’t it have to stop somewhere so you can then see the things beyond the x-rayed portion?
–Lose 15 pounds in two weeks. Don’t tell me how many steps to take or calories to avoid, just do it. I’d buy the watch tomorrow, and so would everyone else in America.
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Internationally relocating for a business assignment can be tough, but with the right attitude, can be the adventure of a lifetime! Check out these business relocation tips from yours truly in Investor’s Business Daily last week:
BY SONJA CARBERRY, FOR INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY
02/20/2015 01:21 PM ET
Hopping continents to do business requires finesse. Tips from pros who are at home in foreign lands:
Live and learn. “No reptiles or insects please.” That’s what R.F. Hemphill learned to say in Mandarin to avoid some Chinese delicacies.
He spent decades on the road for AES (NYSE:AES), a global electric power corporation, and as CEO of solar company Silver Ridge Power.
In Australia, he found “mate” an icebreaker, but only if pronounced correctly as “might.”
Hemphill’s book of letters, “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” details his global business adventures.
Stick around. A stopover won’t leave a lasting impression with locals. “Building relationships is essential to successful business in every country, and you just don’t do that by flying in and out,” Hemphill told IBD.
Staffing those outposts shows commitment. “Finding people willing to move to some of these places was not easy, but once we saw how important it was, we made sure that when people came back from Chengdu or Yaounde, they got good jobs and promotions,” he said.
Maintain standards. Accepting cultural differences doesn’t mean overlooking business blunders.
“Don’t be satisfied with answers that make no sense, with practices that are counter to what you know to be world class, or with schedules and staffing levels that are not as good as what you would find in a similar location or business unit in the U.S.,” Hemphill said.
Pressing for better helped him maintain high safety standards at power plants everywhere from Cameroon to Bulgaria.
Take leaps. Frenchman Bertrand Quesada became a New York City transplant two years ago to expand Teads.tv, the video advertising platform he co-founded.
“We felt to have a chance to succeed, one of us has to go there,” said CEO Quesada. “It’s too much of a big opportunity to not be there.”
The firm now has offices spread to South Korea, with 400 employees worldwide. His advice: “Find a regional director to drive the business locally. That’s really the key to attracting the right people.”
Feel the shift. International relocation was once reserved for big-money executives.
That’s changed, according to Brian Loud, senior vice president with Suddath, which helps firms with relocation and the workplace.
“The younger generation tends to be a lot more mobile,” he said.
Invest effort.A big move requires more than boxing up personal belongings.
“People underestimate the amount of involvement they need in the move process,” Loud said.
A first step: “Read the material your relocation counselor sends you to prepare,” he said.
Lacking that service, look online for information about expatriates living in your destination country.
Mind details. “As soon as you find out you’re moving, invest the time,” Loud said.
It can take three to four weeks to tie up loose ends.
Loud has seen hasty movers take shortcuts in such areas as valuing and insuring their property.
“You end up shortchanging yourself,” he said.
Pace yourself. Don’t overschedule the days before departure. Friends and loved ones, understandably, want to get together.
“It creates a bit of a frenzy,” Loud said. “Try to spread those out over a period of time.”
Check out my article posted yesterday in The Huffington Post – 6 Mistakes to Avoid During an International Business Trip!
You can also find my previous article posted last September, titled Seven Hidden Gems for International Travelers.
As an author and former CEO of a 2.5 billion international solar energy company with plants in over 30 countries, I have lived overseas for long periods of time and put more than 4 million miles on United while traveling for business and pleasure.
During that time I experienced plenty of travel blunders, both self-imposed and those courtesy of Mother Nature, and learned plenty of tricks and tips. Here are six of them:
Don’t travel light. Yes, I know, this is completely counter to what all the travel books tell you, but those books are written mostly for tourists seeing the sights, or kids backpacking through Transylvania. If you’re on a business trip, it’s not for pleasure. So bring along whatever you know you’ll need, and a fair helping of what you might need. Your job is to get the sale or the deal, or establish the relationship or find a partner or any one of the many things that people travel abroad for. None of these things require having a light suitcase. You don’t want to stop and have to find a drugstore for tissue packs or tampax, or a department store for fresh socks. And don’t worry, you’ll always be able to find people to help you if you’ve got too much to carry. In our business we used to say, “If you can carry your luggage, you haven’t packed enough.”
Don’t come home with a bag of dirty laundry. Boy, is it ever expensive to send out your shirts and shorts to get laundered during the day. This is true even at hotels in countries that are otherwise not at all expensive. Do it anyway. Business is unpredictable, and what if you, Mr. Economy, are wearing your last shirt, and have a critical final meeting the next day, to which you plan on wearing said shirt, but with your other tie. And that evening red wine gets spilled all over you. Nope, can’t wash it in the sink and have it dry overnight. Hard to be credible wearing the Knicks sweatshirt that you sleep in to the meeting. Losing the deal because you haven’t spent ten bucks to have a backup clean shirt and underwear is the definition of “false economy.”
Don’t load up on the local currency. Credit cards have been invented for some time now, and anywhere that you want to do business, they will be accepted. In fact, if you go to a place where the hotels and the restaurants don’t accept credit cards, it’s probably not a good place to do business. This is an easy test.
Don’t forget to tip reasonably. But wait, I don’t have any currency. Ah, part of not traveling light means carrying a lot of ones and fives, good old American greenbacks. Have you ever stood in a dark hotel hallway after getting into town on a late flight, fumbling for the right number of zlotskys to tip the bellman? Darn, what was the exchange rate — 10,000 zlotskys per dollar or 100,000? And what’s the denomination of this damn bill they gave me, am I about to give this guy ten cents or a hundred dollars? Solution — you know what to give him in dollars, so give him what you’d give anyone for performing the same service. I have done this all over the world, and you know what — NO ONE has ever demanded zlotskys instead of dollars. No one.
Don’t fly in comfortable clothes. What? Today the entire first class section of the plane seems to be filled with executives wearing jeans and running shoes and the suit coat to their suits. It’s an odd outfit. It’s meant to let one travel light by not having to pack the suit coat or the running shoes. But it’s stupid. You’ve checked your luggage — see point one above — and there is a measurable chance it will be lost or delayed at some point. So, then you go to your first meeting in jeans and running shoes? No, you wear grey slacks, loafers, a button down shirt, a blue blazer, and carry a tie in your hand luggage — along with a day’s worth of any necessary medicines. And the equivalent if you’re a woman. You can show up in that outfit at any business function short of a funeral for the Queen, and she seems unlikely to die any time soon. Yes, it would have been nice to shower and shave, but you’re still respectable.
Don’t eat or drink things that could make you sick. You don’t have to. You’re not auditioning for replacing Anthony Bourdain, you’re trying to establish business relationships or carry out business. You probably can’t demand a hamburger but you can very politely push what they serve you around your plate and say something about how lovely the sheep’s eyeballs look set so naturally in the nest of fried worms. And you can probably find something to eat, like rice or potatoes. If you get sick, your business effectiveness vanishes and besides then you’re sick in a country where you’d probably prefer not to go to the hospital. And this includes at times not drinking the water, or the ice, unless you take the former from a plastic sealed bottle. And for gods’ sake don’t overdue the alcohol, no matter how drunk your hosts get, or how much they encourage you to drink. You wouldn’t do this at home, and it’s an even worse idea overseas.
In general, you need to tread that fine line between cultural respect and sensitivity vs. naïve, eager to please stupidity. Your hosts want to pursue business with a professional, not recruit a best friend. Make it easy for them.
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Solar plant developer discusses the future of American energy
By Paul Gonzalez News-Press Correspondent
Author Robert Hemphill, co-founder of energy company AES Corporation, speaks about his new book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” during a lunch and book signing hosted by the Channel City Club on Monday.
CARMEN SMYTH / NEWS-PRESS
February 3, 2015 6:02 AM
Former CEO and solar plant developer Robert Hemphill discussed the future of American energy at a luncheon and book signing hosted by the Channel City Club on Monday.
Mr. Hemphill was a co-founder of AES Corporation, a Fortune 150 energy company that creates power plants and solar farms all over the world. He initially served as the Executive Vice President of AES and eventually took the lead of the company’s solar power program, AES Solar Power.
He opened his lecture by discussing the economic benefits of dropping oil prices. According to Mr. Hemphill, low gas prices act the “same as a tax cut” for low income and middle class families. The prices also benefit several areas of the American economy including manufacturing and shipping services such as Amazon.
He argues that while low gas prices may cause oil companies to lay off some of their employees, the economic benefits far outweigh the costs and says that the oil industry makes up “less than three percent of employment” in the United States.
“I’m deeply sorry for Exxon” quipped Mr. Hemphill, who maintains that the oil industry will be able to sustain itself through a period of reduced profits.
Domestic oil production was lauded by Mr. Hemphill for exceeding the level of production during the 1970s. The United States has “managed to turn its oil (production) game completely around” in the last ten years notes Mr. Hemphill, who asserts that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would not dramatically benefit oil production.
Despite his positive outlook on domestic oil, Mr. Hemphill was far more critical of nuclear power efforts both domestically and abroad.
According to Mr. Hemphill, coal-powered plants produce steam that is roughly “four times as good” as nuclear-produced steam in terms of temperature and pressure.
Additionally, he says that nuclear energy is significantly more expensive to produce than methods using coal or renewable energy sources, due to the amount of resources and engineering required to construct and maintain a nuclear plant. Mr. Hemphill went so far as to claim that the United States will “never (build) a new nuclear power plant … in the next 100 years.”
Mr. Hemphill expressed excitement about the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar technology. He says renewables are finally maturing to the point where they can be relied upon to sustain power grids, with the assistance of traditional energy sources during peak electricity usage hours.
At the conclusion of the lecture, Mr. Hemphill took an opportunity promote his newly released book “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,” a collection of letters to his father written during his travels abroad while building AES into a multibillion dollar company.
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Thanks to the Advocate for running this article on my book, Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons.
Leucadia man’s globe-trekking letters become book
By Samantha Tatro 12:14 P.M. JAN. 22, 2015
Bob Hemphill’s book, ‘Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons,’ began as letters home to his dad about his adventures abroad.
For one Leucadia author, the path to writing a book began years ago with a conscious decision.
When former businessman Bob Hemphill moved abroad, he began to write letters to his father. The letters were a means for his father to understand his life abroad.
“He would have strongly preferred if I would have been a junior pilot just as he started out,” Hemphill said. “But I didn’t do that, and the things that I did do were so novel that I thought he would be amused and entertained by the things I was doing.”
Hemphill was one of three who founded AES, a global electric power-generating and distribution company, and spent most of his career working to grow it from a small startup to a $17 billion company.
Throughout his time abroad, he continued to write letters to his father, telling him about his life. Eventually, they became the book “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine and Commerce From a Globe-Trekking Executive,” published under the name R.F. Hemphill.
“I was having such an interesting time, and I just thought, you know, other people will be interested in this as well,” Hemphill said. “It’s not a didactic book, it’s not a ‘how to make a million dollars in business,’ it’s much more a humorous book about business, of which I would argue there are very few.
“Business isn’t always all that serious, so this is another take on it.”
He started writing the first letters in 1990 and continued for the next 11 years, gathering the letters as he wrote them.
“It didn’t occur to me at first that these could turn into a book, but subsequently I began to think it was a possibility, and I began to save them all,” Hemphill said.
He started compiling the letters last year once he left the company and moved to Encinitas.
“I thought, you know, perhaps it’s time to do something else. Sometimes you just sort of know. You see changes in your friends, you see people come and go, and you decide nobody’s got an infinite amount of time allocated to them and you think about what you want to get done in the rest of the time that is still yours,” Hemphill said.
“I really decided that it was time to get serious about writing books, and I couldn’t do that if I was still working full time.”
The entire process took nine months once he decided he wanted to compile the letters. That process included spending time sorting the letters, editing them, giving them titles and arranging them for the book.
“You have to sit down, and every day you have to do it,” Hemphill said of his process. “There’s no magic; it doesn’t do itself. I would sit down at my desk, I would put them in order, I would edit them, clean them up, add titles, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you have to do. It’s just work, but it does take a while.”
Once the process was completed, however, Hemphill said holding the finished product in his hands felt satisfying — a wonderful end to his months of hard work.
“Finally, you have something you thought you’d like and you’ve worked on for a long time — to actually see it in concrete … to be a real thing and to look to all the world like a real book, was really a great feeling,” Hemphill said. “And then to have other people read it, people who are not related to me, and have them say it was pretty funny and they liked it a lot — that was wonderfully pleasant. All of us do our professional work, certainly to earn money, but to also earn the respect and appreciation of other people.”
Hemphill’s father passed away four years ago, and though he never got the opportunity to read the finished book, Hemphill said his dad read the letters and liked them.
“He was not a barrel of effusion and emotion, however, but I think he thought it was nice,” Hemphill said. “I was doing something productive, and he was pleased with that.”
Now that he has conquered his first book, Hemphill plans to compile a second book of letters to his father, or possibly write a mystery series.
You can buy “Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine and Commerce From a Globe-Trekking Executive” onAmazon.com.
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