Tuesday, December 23, 2008

playing catch-up

hello to anyone who still might be reading my blog!  yes, it's been awhile.  we've had internet troubles again at the house, but these are finally fixed and so i'd like to get back into blogging.  as a start... it's been a hectic few weeks and there's a little too much to catch up on, but here are some highlights as to what's been keeping me busy:

- a surprise trip to see spring in gettysburg, and visits from dawn, sarah, and warren.  all of these visits were wonderful and i am so thankful for these (and other) special people in my life. 
- nighttime tour of mount vernon (george washington's estate), sunday runs on the mall, and a trip to the museum of natural history.  (if you go there, be sure to check out the nature photography display, it's quite good)
- movie nights, house dinners (i cook, they eat), and late night dance parties at our place.  i really enjoy our house -  we've been taking advantage of the space and also exploring the neighborhood a little more.  there are some great restaurants right down the street allowing me to recently discover an appreciation for belgian beer and cuban cuisine :) 

in the new year i'm looking forward to:
- a trip home for christmas and NYE in DC
- experiencing the city during the inauguration.  not sure that i will get tickets, but i AM keeping my fingers crossed to go to the renewable energy inaugural ball ;) 
- running a half marathon with Lee-Ann in the spring
- a second trip to San Fran for a geothermal conference - hopefully with more free time
- book club with the girls
- checking out more of what D.C. has to offer.  next on my list is the IMAX theatre, ice skating at the mall before the winter ends, visiting the buildings museum, the newseum, and some photography exhibits. 
- becoming involved with some volunteer activities

and, if i have it my way, i'd also like to:
- travel to northern france to see their geothermal demonstration site (this was promised to me a few months back, but we'll see if it materializes)
- visit my brother during his study abroad in england
- visit shelly in texas
- do a work rotation in colorado?

it's an optimistic list but it fits my mood at the moment. more posts and pictures are coming soon. i hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season! merry christmas!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

the education of a co-ed household - (the LBD)

It's a typical Sunday morning.  Jesse, Lee-Ann, and me are all sitting around in the living room discussing our holiday plans for the week.  Lee-Ann starts talking about a taffeta dress she may wear for New Years Eve. Jesse is clueless about taffeta, but curious.  LA brings in the dress for show, displaying the taffeta fabric.  Then she comments about her little black dress (the LBD).

Jesse: What's a little black dress?
LA: You know, the little black dress.  Every girl has a little black dress.
Jesse: Oh.. Nicole, do you have a little black dress? 
Me: Yes, of course I do. 
*thoughtful pause*
Jesse: So, if a girl wears a little black dress out with me on a date, that's a good sign that she likes me, right?
Me: Hmm, well no, not exactly.  Actually she's probably just wearing it for her, to make her feel good about herself. 
LA: Agreed.  Now, if you've been dating a girl for awhile and she wears her LBD knowing that you like it, that's a very good sign. 
Jesse: Oh... right.... 
Jesse: So... then you wear it for special occasions?
Me: No, that's the point of the little black dress.  You can wear it for any occasion. 
LA:  Like a party, a wedding, a funeral, or even to work.  Yes, it's all in how you accessorize.  
Jesse: Right... got it. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back in Cali

So for work I get to spend a week in my favorite place to visit in the U.S. - northern California.  Every time I go there I get to experience new aspects of the San Francisco bay area, all of which have been fantastic.  This was the fourth time I've been there in the past three years and yet every trip has been so different.  This time being there was interesting because it caused me to think a lot about each of those trips and where I was in my life at that time compared to where I am now.  That usually happens when I travel and that's one of the reasons I like to get out of my usual routine and environment. I can think a lot. 

This time I get to see the world's largest geothermal field, the Geysers, and some of the sites for our field demonstration projects.  We started our trip this afternoon with a trip to Sausalito to visit Altarock, one of the newest and most sophisticated geothermal companies around.  Their office was gorgeous and the dinner we had that night at a local italian place was amazing.  Walking along the sidewalk you can look over the water and see the lights of San Francisco.  It's no surprise that people pay big $$$ to live there!  Unfortunately, the hotel we stayed at was not so posh... an old-fashioned charm, at best :) Fortunately we were only there one night.
Actually, we were at practically every hotel only one night which meant I was unpacking and packing up every morning.  

The field visits to the Geyers was amazing.  We got a tour from Joe, the resident geologist at Calpine.  He first gave us a presentation in the office which almost put himself to sleep.  Clearly this was not his interest.  However, as soon as he took us out into the field you could see his energy rise.  The more questions we asked the more excited and lively he became.  What was supposed to be a two hour tour turned into a seven hour excursion all around the area.  We climbed up hills and dug through rocks learning the local geology.  We saw and old cinnabar (mercury) mine and even found a few rocks to take home.  We also got to see some of the surface manifestations of a geothermal site - the fumaroles.  Fumaroles are basically just hot steam jets coming up to the surface.  I couldn't think of a more beautiful site to put geothermal power plants, and I can't believe how much we learned!  Check out the pictures here if you want to see what we saw out on the mountains.  

You will notice in the pictures that I have changed the color of my hair!  I have been thinking about making this change for awhile and finally just decided to do it.  It's only hair.  I have received mixed emotions about this decision, some love it and some just can't get used to it.  I'm not sure if I will keep it myself, but it has faded even from last week and who knows?  Sometimes I miss being blonde but I might like to settle on something a little more natural.  Any thoughts?

Terminal Ramblings

In light of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I just want to express how thankful I am to be at the Pittsburgh airport. I have been to, from, in, and out of so many airports these past few months.  Although I don't mind flying or even hanging out in terminals reading a book every once in awhile, there are obviously better ways for me to spend my time.  
I am sitting in the airport silly amused over little things.  I am amazed at how easy the signs were to get here, and more in shock with why other airpots don't follow suit.  Despite the fact that it is the Sunday after THanksgiving, I breezed through security and had a lovely woman help me locate my ticket number during check-in.  And can you believe they have FREE wireless internet throughout the airport? And plugs, plenty of accessible plugs to recharge your electronic devices.  I've tried to find these outlets at other airports only to discover that they are strategically placed in locations that charge you several dollars to power up.  And finally, right by my gate is a post office.  I'd been carrying several cards and bills that needed to be taken care of and was able to quickly get these out of the way with the help of an extremely social and pleasant post office woman.  I feel guilty for not knowing her name. 
All of these tiny little pleasantries make me happy to be flying today and I don't even mind not getting a snack on the plane.  I know this charge irritates a lot of travelers, which is why I don't understand why the airlines don't just sneak in an extra dollar or two in the ticket cost to cover a snack?  No one would notice a dollar difference in their 400 dollar plane ticket, but they sure do notice when they have to fork it over on the plane for some stale cookies. 
My silly blog on the positives of an airport (keep in mind I got up at 4:30 AM) is evidence that these nice things add up and can really make people feel good.  In the age of convenience people really do not want to be inconvenienced, and this is probably a lesson that applies way beyond the airline industry. 
In the area of renewable energy, I think this means that people simply do not want to be bothered with the details as to how they are able to run their business or talk on the phone, they just want it to be easy and they'd like it to be green.  And they just want someone to make it happen or tell them how to do it, in plain english.  Just like the airport signs, they know where they want to go and they don't se why it has to be so darn hard to be shown how to get their.  
That's all for now - I think my flight is departing on time!