I really feel uninspired right now, but I think I know why ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/20/2008 04:07:00 PM

It's the wrong time of day to be doing this - it's been scientifically proven.

I'll try again in about 6 hours.

But I won't blog from my shower or bathroom.


Not understood - local Houston utility prices

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/19/2008 11:51:00 PM

I'm the biggest advocate of de-regulation, and yes, energy prices have gone up (although not extremely lately), but even I can't understand why the prices are so high.

This article from the Houston Business Journal in August tells us that we had the highest home utility bills in the nation. It compares Houston to Portland, which isn't a fair comparison at all in July. What it doesn't say is what the average price per kilowatt-hour is ... which is the real valid comparison.

What is true is that customer service can really suffer, as one of my co-workers now knows.

Even more amazing is that Texas electric provider deregulation doesn't seem to be uniform across the state. My in-laws in Austin and Huntsville didn't realize that they have to choose their electric providers ... do they not have a choice?

If you live in the Houston area, or in Texas (or for that matter, anywhere), what's been your experience? Let us know in the comments.

Hurricane Ike ... Thanks for the memories

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/16/2008 09:33:00 AM

It's been about a month since Hurricane Ike hit us. And while everyone in the Houston area certainly has not gotten completely back into their pre-Ike routine, there's still some funny memories from the MSM buildup for Ike.

In closing, I'm left (and am leaving you) with three images for Ike. Then, I won't blog about Ike anymore. Really.

1. Some dude in a bear outfit playing on the Galveston Seawall while the storm surge was coming in ... (Hat tip: Mike McGuff)

2. A streaker over in Beaumont (Hat tip: Lou Minatti)

3. Last, but not least ... Geraldo Rivera biting it on the Seawall.

Welcome back to the ISS, Mike Fincke!

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/14/2008 09:34:00 PM

Work was great yesterday. I got to see the 17 Soyuz crew dock to the International Space Station, which they managed to do about 5 minutes ahead of schedule (and since I happen to manage and monitor that schedule, I should know ...).

The 17 Soyuz crew consists of the new Expedition 18 Commander, Michael Fincke, as well as the Expedition 18 Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov (who is also a veteran on the ISS, albeit with a visiting Shuttle). It also includes the 17 Soyuz Visiting Crewmember Richard Garriott (who is the son of the Apollo and Skylab Astronaut Owen Garriott).

Soon after the docking and ingress, the crew had a public relations event with visitors at Mission Control in Moscow (where, naturally, the docking was also being closely monitored). There, Mike's wife Renita and his children (Chandra, Tarali - who was born on Mike's first tour to the ISS, and Surya) were able to speak and see Mike again on orbit.

After my last experiences with Mike on orbit, the whole thing brought me a sense of deja vu. I'm definitely looking forward to his latest upcoming expedition.

Related links:
Space.com, New Crew, Space Tourist Arrive at Space Station

The experiment is over, and the results are in ...

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/11/2008 04:15:00 PM

... Blogger is a better place to blog than the free version of wordpress (wordpress.com).

I didn't realize this until I started blogging there. Blogger seems to have quite a bit more flexibility in what I can add to the site than the free version of wordpress.

Any other bloggers out there agree with me ... or have a different opinion? LEt me know in the comments.

BTW - I've decided to repost all the postings I had at wordpress over on this site.

Alt.energy roundup: Wind power

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/05/2008 03:44:00 PM

As I’d mentioned earlier, Texas is actually an early adopter of wind power (and my school’s positioning itself well). Now comes news out of Norway that they are looking to build a floating wind turbine there. Also, CNN says that T. Boone Pickens is looking to get into wind energy as well.

However, look before you leap in investing in wind energy. FuturePundit reports that wind turbine costs are up for both offshore and onshore sites, with offshore sites being much more expensive.

As just an average guy, here’s some questions I have:

1. What would happen in a hurricane to all those offshore sites? (Granted, the situation is no different than for offshore oil rigs. And of course, onshore sites are not immune to weather problems.)

2. How is the energy generated by the windmills transmitted to the power grid? (I’m assuming some sort of AC power conversion, much like existing high-tension lines.)

3. Is there a larger issue of grid support costs? That is, the wind energy is collected out on the Great Plains but the electrical load is on the coasts – how much investment in the electrical grid is required to get the wind energy to play a significant role in offsetting the overall electrical national electrical load?

Let me know if you have any thoughts in the comments.


Related links:

Slashdot (5/27/08) Giant Floating Windmills To Launch Next Year

Slashdot (5/23/08) Oil Billionaire Building World’s Largest Wind Farm

The best space news last week

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/02/2008 03:43:00 PM

I personally think we had great news from the “space biz” last week.

It wasn’t the Chinese mission (although that was good).

It wasn’t the ATV reentry (although that was good, too)

It’s not even the funding that Congress & the President will provide for more Soyuz vehicles (which was needed - but they probably held their noses while they signed, given the political tension with Russia lately) …

No - the best news was the first launch of a private rocket. Assuming they can repeat the task, it is a paradigm shift for how low Earth orbit access can be done.

Way to go, Spacex! Definitely better results than the last time I mentioned Spacex!


Related links:

Digg.com: The Chinese Space Walk

SPACE.com: European Spaceship’s Death Plunge Caught on Film

Chair Force Engineer: For SpaceX, a Golden Opportunity

Commercial Space Watch: National Space Society Statement on SpaceX Falcon 1 launch

Digg: Space X Did It — A Private Rocket is in Space!

Space.com: Countdown Coverage: SpaceX’s Fourth Falcon 1 Launch


Slashdot: On Fourth Launch Attempt, SpaceX Falcon 1 Reaches Orbit

Spaceports: Orbital Science Corporation’s Taurus-2 May Seek Human Launch Rating!

Catching up: My Mom and Dad’s 50th

Written by Bob McCormick on 10/01/2008 03:43:00 PM

August 30, 2008 - what a day!

It was a day my parents probably thought never would happen. And it was a day we were looking forward to with a little bit of fear, due to my Dad’s Alzheimers. But … we had it! And it was fun - even my Dad agreed.

We had a mass for my parents. (Well, OK, I’m stretching the truth a little bit. It was the standard 5:00 Saturday mass.) But it was also the exact date of my parents anniversary … who could have planned it better?!? We were concerned that the priest would ask Mom & Dad to renew their vows - which in Dad’s condition would have been awkward. But instead, the priest and deacon gave them a blessing.

After the mass, we headed over to the Villa Capri restaurant. The food was delicious. My only regret there was that I was busy helping with the entertainment. I was in charge of the music, which I was able to pull off with a laptop and an i-pod (maybe I have a second career as a DJ?).

We played a lot of Sinatra music for my parents - which was OK since there wasn’t a lot of dancing. However, I did manage to play my Mom & Dad’s song, “All the Way”, by old blue eyes, and everyone joined in the dancing.

It was great seeing friends and relatives (even ones from Chicago who had NEVER been to Texas!). And we all braved the Gustav predictions.

Mom had suggested we make some toasts, so I came up with an impromptu toast, reminding everyone of what had happened in history in 1958 via “that font of knowledge, wikipedia”. NASA had graciously provided 50th anniversary banners all up and down NASA Road 1 … although I’m told that had something to do with the fact that it’s NASA’s 50th anniversary this year. ;*)

My only regret was that I was not able to make it to the UH football game … but they spanked Southern 55-3, so I think everything worked out fine anyway.

August 30, 2008. What a day!