Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pictures from Colorado

It seems that I have established a reputation for bringing bad weather to Colorado with only two trips under my belt.  However, I did manage to see some awesome sights and tour a few new spots in the city, so here is a link to some of the pictures.   
One thing I learned is that there are real dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Ridge, right outside of Denver.  Unfortunately the access road was closed, but we'll definitely check it out next time.  

Watch Tom on Wheel of Fortune

A fellow Penn State EMS student and my successor as Student Council Secretary, Tom Sabatelli, made it on as a contestant for Wheel of Fortune!  Tom managed to keep his fate a secret until the show aired last night.  Unfortunately I was driving and had to miss it, but I was able to watch the excitement on YouTube and wanted to share in case anyone else wanted to see how awesome he did on the show.  It's worth watching all three parts... Yay Tom! 

DONT Smile for the Camera

When I got my last government ID, I was shocked that they wouldn't let me smile for the picture.   A recent article on MSNBC reported that Virginia drivers are also restricted from showing their smiles on their licenses.  After looking it up, I learned that this is to make pictures more compatible to face-recognition software that, although it is constantly improving, still requires smile-less expressions to make an identification.  Even without smiling, I just don't know how reliable this software would be for the applications they intend to use it for.  Interesting stuff...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dropped into the Desert, Part II

Well, I survived the speech and the city of Las Vegas, although I'd never recommend anyone travel there alone.  The presentation actually went really well, considering it was my first public talk since joining DOE.  I was nervous at first since this was a group of electric utility co-ops and the only part of geothermal they were interested in was heat pumps, but they were a laid back group and I was able to make some new friends while I was there.  I also learned a lot about heat pumps and the electric utility industry, and was surprised to discover that the two go together really well.  A great deal of government money is currently available to do both large and small projects with geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), and co-ops are ideal for trying out new technology/ideas, innovative financing models, and large scale demonstration projects.  The 30% tax credit makes them essentially on par with other HVAC devices, plus they are more efficient, run at a a more consistent temperature (i.e., more comfort) and save literally tons of greenhouse gases.   With the right policy incentives the efficiency and greenhouse gas aspects are what could finally push GHPs over the edge towards greater market penetration.   There are a lot of barriers to overcome (e.g, high first cost, few qualified installers, lack of knowledge from policy makers and the general public) but I think things could really change this time.   For example, if the Climate/Energy Bill passes and we have a national Renewable Portfolio Standard where saving energy counts, heat pumps will play a major role.  Moreover, GHPs could also be major contributors towards reducing peak electricity and gas loads (meaning lower power prices).   I’ll stop with the work talk, but unfortunately I don’t have much to report in terms of fun in Sin City.  I was feeling an illness coming on and with all the traveling I have to do over the next 2 weeks I really didn’t want to overdo it, so I slept a LOT.  

This week it's back to Nevada to Reno for a conference paper review, with exactly one day of  un-traveling between visits.   The upside is that it looks like we'll finish early tomorrow and I'm thinking this could mean a trip to Lake Tahoe for the day.  Tomorrow's forecast says 83 degrees and partly cloudy and it's only 30 miles away... how can I resist??  

A few weeks ago we celebrated Jennie and Nikki's upcoming weddings in typical fashion with a girls night out in State College.  I think it's safe to say it was great to be back and we all had a blast.  I haven't posted pictures in awhile so I'll post some here of all the pretty girls. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dropped into the Desert

I walk into work on a normal Monday morning and before I can even turn on my computer, my boss signals for me to come into his office.  “Are you able to go to Las Vegas today and give a speech on geothermal heat pumps tomorrow morning?” he asks. “Sure,” is all I reply, with not the slightest idea what I am getting into.  I have enough time to download the slides, send a few quick emails, and check the weather in Nevada (97 degrees and sunny!) and six hours later I’m on a plane.  I’ll be back Thursday with enough time to go to work on Friday to catch up before my next flight out to Nevada on Sunday – Reno this time, and then off to Denver for a few days before heading back to PA for Memorial Day weekend.   Whew!  Getting up early tomorrow to give that speech... not even enough time to be nervous.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunny Sunday

Today was the most relaxing day I have had in a very long time.  On a perfect sunny 70 degree day, I really had nothing that I had to do.  For the past few weeks I've spent my Sundays in the car driving back to DC, so this was a welcome change.  After sleeping in I walked lazily over to Eastern Market for my weekly stop at the vegetable stand.  My inner voice kept telling me to make my lists and start "doing things" until I realized how neurotic this was and cut myself a break.  I found a chair at the coffee shop while a band played music on the corner, I wrote in my journal and started my book club book, "Brother, I'm dying".  The rest of my day consisted of catching up on the phone with my sister and my parents, heading to the park with LA and laying on a blanket in the sun, grilling chicken for a salad outside on the deck, and playing with baby Byrom.  Rested, relaxed, and only slightly sunburned, I am ready for bed.  Not a bad way to get ready for the week :)