Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Too Big To Fail

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2009 at 6:02 am

I didn’t finish college.  There, I said it.  There are plenty of reasons and no excuses as to how I managed to complete all of the requirements for graduation except the big one.  I never completed my senior research project.

It can be awkward having a college degree hanging over one’s head for so many years.  People have all kinds of questions when they find out that I stopped one class short of a four-year liberal arts education, one final paper shy of a degree in History.  The thing is, I have some unanswered questions of my own.  The largest and most fascinating question being, “Why didn’t you just finish it?”

After much thought and the trying on of various theories for size, I have come to understand that although it may have been due to the effect of microscopic organisms in my brain, and it may have been a convenient plot device for my friend Andrew Blissenbach’s college memoir (some kind of metaphor for refusing to grow up most likely), there is a more cogent reason for my failure to launch.  I did not finish college because I was not yet too big to fail.

Eight years later I am a husband, a father, a homeowner, a caregiver, a volunteer, and a juggler.  I have been given a chance to finish what I started, to obtain the degree to go with the education, and I am grateful.

The project is going swimmingly, if you’re into swimming the English Channel that is: choppy, cold, and characterized by a grinding determination to finish the hard way.   Finally so far from land that it is impossible to turn back, the unseen anchors drop away.

The calendar is a clock, the days are ticking, and with the support of my families I am writing the best damned history paper I know how.  Wish me luck.

Smart Grid Kid

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2009 at 12:23 am

When we were kids, one of the most repeated admonitions about conservation had to do with dental hygiene.  Even today, I mentally remind myself to turn the taps off while I brush my teeth so I don’t waste water.  Another golden oldie was, “turn off the lights when you leave the room.”  My kids will no doubt hear these conservation tips many times over the years alongside updated ideas such as putting the computer to sleep when not in use.

One of the newest ways to conserve electricity may have landed in my lap in the form of smart metering technology.  Our local utility sent us a letter outlining a pilot program and inviting us to an informational meeting.  The idea is this: if consumers are given up to the minute data on how their decisions affect their electric bill, they will change their behavior for the better.

There will be several groups in the pilot program, some participants will be able to view the smart meter information; others will be left in the dark.  In addition, some households will be charged a higher rate during times of peak demand and a lower rate on nights and weekends while others will be charged a flat rate.  I am hoping to be in the group that has both access to the smart metering data and a higher daytime rate as I am confident that our household would be able to shave hundreds of dollars off of our annual utility bill simply by doing laundry and running our dehumidifier at night.

Many of the solutions to our large scale problems seem to be related to combining transparency in a system with accountability.  In order to drive down health care costs, we need to know how our lifestyle decisions affect our health and our pocketbook.  Environmental degradation will be curbed if we couple caps on emissions with a financial incentive to comply with regulations.  If knowledge is power, then perhaps knowledge about power is power squared.

Transparency and accountability, what a concept!