Thursday, October 18, 2007

Solar Decathlon: Off the grid

The Solar Decathlon, a collegiate competition in green design, is soon to come to a close as the final judging is schedule to take place today at 2pm. Located on the National Mall, you will find a neighborhood of solar paneled homes completely self sufficient in their energy production. It is a sort of Amish space age. Each home was designed and constructed by university students and they are judged according to 10 criteria (hence decathlon) which include architecture, engineering, market viability, communications, comfort zone, appliances, hot water, lighting, energy balance, and getting around.

Over the past two years students from a variety of educational disciplines have poured countless hours into this competition. During my lunch with the Stoltzfus clan (see story below) we were joined by two ladies from the Penn State crew, Autumn and Nelsa. They were particularly impressed with the camaraderie among the teams and the admiration for each school’s creativity and design. From them I also learned that the competition guidelines suggest the cost of the home not exceed $350,000; however many universities have gone well beyond the recommended ceiling. This is a rather large price tag for a dwelling no larger than 800 square feet. I believe the economics of green living will prove to be the largest hurdle to sustainability. Hopefully this technology will become more affordable with time and increased demand. (UC Boulder's submission pictured above)

Nevertheless, it is an inspiration to see what a can be done with solar power. The green design revolution has made tremendous progress in recent years, inching ever closer to main stream society. Perhaps these homes will become the norm in the not too distant future?!

The Solar Decathlon will be open for observation until this coming Saturday. Try to make it out there if you can!!!

JuJo Farms Comes to Washington

My friends from JuJu farms (Judy, Jonas, and Megan) made the journey from Perry County to D.C. today in order to observe the green ingenuity of the Solar Decathlon displayed on the front lawn of our nation’s capitol. While they were here I had the pleasure of lunching with them at Ella’s Wood-fired Pizza. According to various websites Ella’s is one of the top pizzerias in the country….and we were not disappointed. It is most definitely a fine pizza establishment.

A classic case of the country mouse and the city mouse; it was quite a change of pace for me to be showing them around the city…rather than them showing me around their farm. I think Jonas was particularly impressed with the loud raucous group of protestors marching outside an office building. If it weren’t for the goats and cows waiting back at home to be milked I’m sure Jonas would have also procured a pickle bucket and joined in the fun.

While it was a short visit it was so good to see them all. It was nice to show them the urban jungle where I work and live. I look forward to my next visit to their farm. Its wood chopping season and I have some frustrations to work out.

Conflict Resolution Day!!!

Happy Conflict Resolution Day! It is again that hallowed time of year when we all dig out our deep-seated resentments and resolve those conflicts that eat away at the fabric of our lives. In honor of this very special day our office will be hosting a Sumo Wresting party where rivals are finally given an opportunity to lay their frustrations on the line as the Japanese once did during their Shinto rituals (see photo below). Check out this website to find the Conflict Resolution Day Celebration nearest you:
It should be a good day!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I hate to brag and I try to be humble, but I am extremely proud of my parallel parking skills. In fact, I think I am the most skilled parallel parker I know. It's an important skill. It takes keen eye-hand coordination as well as a certain amount of style and grace. Perhaps I place too much importance on such a simple skill, but I truly believe that one's ability to parallel park is indicative of their depth of character. Ok...maybe that's a little too far. Let me just say that if I were on a first date with someone who demonstrated a deficiency in this would be a major turn off. My ideal mate is someone who can parallel park with charisma and flare, someone who changes their own oil, someone who buys only generic brands from the grocery store. This is the stuff of character! Below I have provided an example of some of the work I do. Notice the precision in this particular piece...

back.... and front

Helpful Guidelines:
(courtesy of Honda) Major style points are lost due to the following common mistakes:

1) hitting the curb
2) excessive inching forward and backward
3) extreme apprehension of hitting the car behind

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

No News from Lake Wobegon?!

Last night my friend and teammate, Lorena, joined me at the Lisner Auditorium where we were to see Garrison Keillor do what he does about life. Over the years I have enjoyed many a lazy Sunday afternoon listening to A Prairie Home Companion on NPR. As a grad student I new it was time to leave for school in the morning when the Writer’s Almanac had come to an end. His voice bellows through the airways smooth and baritone. Not only do his words seem to sooth the tired soul, but they also have the power to awaken intellectual insight on issues we may not heretofore considered. It was through his book Homegrown Democrat (I listened to the audio version) that I came to grow into my own political beliefs and understandings. Listening to Keillor is both an entertaining pastime and an exercise in intellectual stimulation….a rare form of entertainment that has been waning in popularity from one generation to the next.

So it was with great excitement that I entered the Lisner Auditorium last night in anticipation of finally seeing this man in person. Lorena and I were ushered to our seats which happened to be blocked by two elderly couples who shot us dirty looks as they realized not only would they have to stand up in order to let us in, but I also had a rather large backpack and helmet that would also need to make the journey to the very middle of the aisle. Safely clearing the two couples we nestled into our seats and all was well. Just as the lights were beginning to dim and the auditorium fell silent a very important announcement was made….

“Would a Ms. Anna Liege Kelso please come to the entrance in order to claim her wallet?”

Up until this point I was not even aware that it was missing! Everyone in the theater turned to see who this lucky girl was to have the good fortune of being reunited with her wallet. It was as though I had just been beckoned by Bob Barker himself to “Come on Down!” Unfortunately the elderly couples who had finally gotten comfortable in their seats were not nearly as excited to receive this news as it meant they would once again have to rise from their seats in order to let me through. Despite their dirty looks and gnashing of teeth a few minutes later I was back in my seat, clutching my wallet, and Garrison Keillor walked onto the stage.

It is such an exciting feeling to see someone such as Keillor for the first time. There he was! This man who I have listened to for so many years! This man whose voice I have come to know almost as well as an old friend and now he was in front of me in real life! He immediately began with a story about a poetry reading he attended there at the Lisner many years ago…and this story bled into another story which turned into another story and finally came back around again. He weaves stories together so well that it is almost impossible to identify where one begins and another ends…a seamless amalgam of life’s experiences and observations that twist and turn until eventually returning to the place where he began.

As he continued with his stories on life, family, aging, etc. I was awaiting the moment when a character from Lake Wobegon would arrive on stage. But this was not to be. Apparently I misunderstood. I thought this was going to be part of the traveling show from A Prairie Home Companion! As time went on it seemed that this was purely a one man show. Within about an hour the lights came up, some folks asked him some questions and that was it! It was over! At first I thought it was intermission….but sadly, the show was over. I felt a little gypped. I guess I didn’t read the fine print. Oh well, maybe I’ll have to venture into the hinterlands of Minnesota if I want to see the real thing.

Although I felt a little disappointed in the brevity of the production, it was a wonderful experience to see such an important performer of our time in person. And indeed, he has a face made for radio.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch
Garrison Keillor

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bike Lust

Another gorgeous bike...that I don't really need

Old Friends. Old Bikes.

This past weekend I ventured north up to New York City where I visited my very best friend in the whole wide world, Maggie Shirley (That's Maggie and I in the upper right hand corner of my blog collage.) It was Maggie who really got me into racing and together we took the world by storm as the best two woman time trialing team ever to grace the collegiate cycling scene. Over the years we have managed to stay in touch and now we are just four short hours worth of driving from one another…unless of course they have narrowed the Delaware Memorial Bridge down to two lanes….then it’s more like six hours....but whether it’s four hours or fourteen hours it’s always good to see Maggie.

Saturday morning we headed over to Trexlertown with the Columbia University kids where we attended the Velo Swap (photo courtesy of Going into the Velo Swap I couldn’t think of anything I really needed outside of a new pair of booties….but once I got there I was reminded of all kinds of things that were missing from my collection of bike stuff….such as a vintage Peugeot frame and fork for $45. Who can say “no” to that? As it turns out, the front fork on old Peugeot is about 4mm shy of fitting today’s standard hub…so it looks like I’m gonna have to get creative. It may involve some bending and scraping….I just can’t bring myself to have to buy an old ass hub just to get a wheel to fit into the drop-outs. Oh well, that’s what you get for letting yourself get carried away at a Velo Swap…I just never thought it would happen to me…I thought I was too smart for that. I think my best purchase of the day was a power-tap I bought from a friend of mine at a price I couldn’t pass up. So now I can train with the precision of the pros….look out MABRA, I’m planning on a breakthrough season next year! Speaking of the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, that reminds me of an old Youtube clip ( . It's some crazy shit! Women never behave like this on a bike...or do they?

Any way...where was I ?....oh, so Maggie and I raced back to the city just in time to squeeze in a short ride before the day ran out of light.

That evening we dined with my cousin Amanda who is absolutely awesome, awesome, awesome and I am very proud to say that we share some similar genetic material. Hi Amanda! You’re awesome! Can’t wait for you to visit D.C.!

The following day Maggie and I headed out for a long-ish road ride. I have not been feeling on top of my game so much of the day was spent sitting on her wheel. I must say, the road riding outside of New York is actually pretty nice. From Maggie’s place we can hop on the G.W. Bridge in under 5 minutes and it doesn’t take too long before you’re actually on some pretty nice roads. Oh, and then we got tangled up in some kind of charity ride…but it didn’t take us long to drop the hammer and work our team time trail magic before we were able to create some distance between us and the charity ride…which was good, ‘cause our rides are usually the time for symbiotic psychological counseling.

Upon our return Maggie prepared herself for a little modeling assignment she had over at some bike shop called Tenafly. I had originally planned to join her, but I had a number of responsibilities I had been neglecting and felt the need to attend to these things. She did come home with some cute arm warmers, matching socks and new tires but all in all I’m proud of my responsible decision to stay behind and put my nose to the grind stone.

So, it was a good weekend. I got so see my best friend and now I have this old bike that I’m not sure what to do with. Anybody looking to build up a vintage fixie commuter? Only $45!!! I’ve even got a seat tube for it!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Apologies

Dear Valued Readers,

I apologize for my brief blog hiatus. It has been a rough couple weeks and I have found it difficult to maintain my focus long enough to churn out any kind of quality material worthy of my blog. Again, sorry for the updated material will be soon to follow.

In the mean time, I have found the following resources to be of help during times of trouble:

Let Strawberry Shortcake chase away the blues.....
(click on photo for full's sparkly)

Not sure what the future holds? Ask the Magic Eight Ball!

Fretting over the future of our nation?

Looking for bike shit you don't really need?