Friday, February 25, 2011

Baltimore County Master Gardeners classes

Mondays in March, come learn from the Master Gardeners about edible gardens, food preservation, native trees, and other landscaping tips!  Classes are $15 each of $50 for the series. 

Registration info at this link:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Celebrate National Engineers Week

"Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was."  -Theodore Von Karman, Aerospace Engineer

This week we celebrate engineers, engineering, and engineers-in-training during National Engineers Week

Here are some engineering links for kids (of all ages)...

Discover Engineering! by the National Engineers Week Foundation

The Future City competition was held in Washington DC this week :

Here's an interview with Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley about the Future City competition:

The American Society of Civil Engineers ( ) also gets into the act...
Engineering education for kids/parents/teachers
Visit ASCEville

And in higher education...

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) dedicates more than $1 million annually to recognize leaders in engineering for their lifetime dedication to their field and their commitment to advancing the human condition and to bring better understanding of the importance of engineering and engineering education to society.

The following prizes were awarded at this week's event in DC:
The 2011 Charles Stark Draper Prize is awarded to Frances H. Arnold and Willem P. C. Stemmer "for directed evolution, a method used worldwide for engineering novel enzymes and biocatalytic processes for pharmaceutical and chemical products".

The 2011 Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize is awarded to Leroy E. Hood "for automating DNA sequencing that revolutionized biomedicine and forensic science."

The 2011 Bernard M. Gordon Prize Recipient is awarded to Edward F. Crawley "for leadership, creativity, and energy in defining and guiding the CDIO (Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate) Initiative, which has been widely adopted internationally for engineering education."

Read more about these research projects here:

To the optimist, the glass is half full. To the pessimist, the glass is half empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.  -anon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time to shine: new location for 2011 Solar Decathlon in September

Energy, Interior Departments Announce New Location for Solar Decathlon 2011

February 23, 2011

The Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 will be held at the National Mall's West Potomac Park, on the banks of the Potomac River along the path between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Specifically, the event will be held on the peninsula just south of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial—scheduled to open in August of this year—between the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Potomac River. The Decathlon will begin in late September as originally scheduled.

The event is being moved from its previous location on the Mall between the Washington Monument and the Capitol to balance the many uses and demands on the Mall.

"We look forward to holding another world-class Solar Decathlon in a world-class location—the National Mall's West Potomac Park," said Secretary Chu. "Keeping the competition on the National Mall property allows the students to proceed with their existing home designs, specifically tailored for Washington's latitude, temperature, and humidity conditions. The West Potomac site is in close proximity to a number of attractions and will provide an ideal stage to highlight clean energy solutions for thousands of public visitors."

"Solar energy is a key component of President Obama's vision for a new energy future and the solar decathlon is part of that future," said Secretary Salazar. "The National Mall is America's front yard and we have a responsibility to do what is best for the long term health of the Mall. I am pleased that we have been able to find a strong alternate location for the Solar Decathlon and I am looking forward to a successful event."

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a competition that challenges collegiate students from across the globe to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are affordable, highly energy-efficient, attractive, and easy to live in. During the competition, 20 homes from 16 domestic and four international collegiate teams will undergo extensive testing and expert judging in ten different contest categories. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. This will be DOE's fifth Solar Decathlon; previous events were held in 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009.

The Solar Decathlon provides participating students with unique training to enter our nation's clean-energy workforce. It is also a popular public event, open to visitors who come to see the designs and learn about money-saving clean-energy solutions for their own homes. The public will be encouraged to meet the students and visit their highly efficient, innovative solar homes during the event. Specific public viewing hours for this year's competition will be published at a later date.

See a preliminary layout of the National Mall's West Potomac Park site here:

The Solar Decathlon supports the Obama Administration's goal of creating an economy based on clean-energy technologies while saving families and businesses money and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

For more information, please visit

Monday, February 21, 2011

Almost vegetarian

Stop me if you've heard this one before:  I made a New Years resolution to eat healthier.  But unlike previous draconian efforts (like the tofu incident of '07), this time I'm adding healthy foods instead of totally omitting the "bad" ones, and it's going pretty well.  I'd compare this to the French Women Don't Get Fat approach:  eat what you want in reasonable portions, drink plenty of water (plus some wine), and walk a lot.

My pregnant friend's midwife put her on the Eat to Live diet, which is a bit too vegan for my lifestyle, but it did inspire me to incorporate more legumes and greens into my diet.  I've waxed poetic about the joys of kale and other CSA veg discoveries here before, and I'll do it again:  below is my latest favorite legume-based pot luck dish.  It's veg-friendly and easy to make.  Enjoy!

Apple lentil salad, from Simply In Season cookbook.

1 cup lentils:  soak 15min in hot water

2 potatoes
1 onion
Dice and boil these until soft, then drain and cool to add at end.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
Heat oil in large saucepan.  Add salt and curry power and heat until bubbly.  Drain lentils and add to saucepan, fry briefly.

2 cups water
Add and cook until absorbed, about 20min.  Drain any excess water and cool.

2 tart apples, cored and diced
1/4 cup lemon juice or cider vinegar
Combine to prevent browning.  Mix with cooled lentils and potato/onion mix.

Add chopped parsley to garnish.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Where to rent and refuel electric cars

I don't often read the printed-on-paper newspaper, but occasionally I luck out and a friend passes along a gem worth sharing (thanks Kate!).  Here are some links to electric car resources from the travel section of a recent Washington Post…

Electric vehicle (EV) rentals: 877-654-4400

Offers the Smart EV for hourly rental in New York starting at $6; membership is $50 plus a $25 sign-up fee. Expanding to Washington and San Francisco in March, plans to add Nissan Leaf in February and Mitsubishi ‘I’ in March. 800-261-7331

Expects to start renting Nissan Leafs in the next few weeks in select markets with charging stations: Phoenix and Tucson, Nashville and Knoxville TN, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland OR.

Charging stations:

There is no single comprehensive listing of charging stations, and much online information is outdated or not relevant to the new EVs. (The latest models require a J 1772 plug.) For now, the stations are free, though you may have to pay to enter the parking garage or lot.

Coulumb Technologies For access to the stations, sign up for the $9.95 card online.

ECOtality This company won’t start building its stations until next month

Department of Energy Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center

EV charger news

And an article by Gene Weingarten in the WP magazine about his adventures testing a Chevy Volt:

(photo credit