Archive Page 3

DSCF7072.JPGDespite living far above the Mason-Dixon line for almost a decade I have not adapted to winter weather. So after an unusually¬†frigid month of December, I was fearing what torture January would bring. Last week gave the answer: a cold snap swept across the Midwest, lowering temperatures far below zero. At worst the wind chill was a staggering -33 degrees¬†(Fahrenheit) with an actual temperature of -14 degrees. How cold is this?¬†So cold that soda cans¬†we stored in our garage actually froze solid and burst open, something that more often happens when you leave them in a freezer.¬†¬†I went to sleep expecting an inch of snow and woke up to at least four or five inches, which I shoveled out of the driveway myself before going to work. And my car barely starts–it does not appreciate the cold air,¬†¬†nor the icicles on its rear end.

DSCF7067.JPGWhen we returned home on Thursday, a steady stream of water was flowing from our next-door-neighbor’s front yard. The source was a water main that froze and burst. This left¬†the street in front of our house a solid sheet of ice.¬†The main¬†was repaired that night, and our neighbor’s yard was destroyed in the process. Considering that our neighbor took pride in his lawn and maintained it with great care,¬†I imagine this must be very painful. I feel pretty bad, and in a strange way, wish it happened in our yard instead of his. We don’t care much for landscaping and would have just shrugged it off, repeating our usual mantra of “Eh, whatever. It’s¬†a rental.”


Expect server outages this week. PitelSPOT is getting a major upgrade that will be described in a later post.



envelope_sm1.jpgI don’t remember how long it has been since Grant lost his car and house keys, and to be honest, it’s been so long that we totally forgot about it. Until yesterday, that is, when a mysterious package arrived in the mail from Iowa. The return address was¬†ScoreCard Customer Care, and it contained the long-lost keys!

Between retail and grocery stores we have accumulated quite a number of store benefit cards in our wallets or on our keychains.¬†Did you ever notice ¬†there is a line that says something like, “If found, drop in a mailbox…” or “If found, take to your nearest [insert store name here]“¬†on the back of store keychain cards? I hadn’t really thought anything of it. Now I know at least one store is actually serious about this service. I made sure to put my own¬†Dick’s Score Card¬†keychain back on my keys, plus a few more that offer key return, just in case. Applause to Dick’s, and to whoever brought them the keys! Thank you wherever you are.


Grant Solar PanelsI decided to post my University of Illinois doctorate dissertation. If you have questions, please leave a comment below so we can have open discussions. This dissertation applies large-signal and time-domain models along with digital control to achieve fast control performance and to quickly test/design multi-block power controllers.
Fast controls are needed for motherboard level power supplies, called voltage-regulator modules (VRM), where CPU power specifications grow more stringent. Multi-block controls help interconnected power systems track numerous control objectives, such as those found in grid-interactive power electronics. The models used in the dissertation were derived using MathCAD, simulations in Simulink, and hardware experiments on a TI TMS320F2812 DSP. The main chapters are summarized below.

  • Chapter 2: Piecewise linear, bilinear, and steady-state power converter models.
  • Chapter 3.4: Minimum-time control / nonlinear-model predictive control.
  • Chapter 3.5: Parameter system identification using recursive-least squares algorithm.
  • Chapter 4: Programmable dc-dc converter system performance using active low/high-side damper resistors.
  • Chapter 5: In depth study of ¬†model-based techniques using a grid-interactive inverter.
I would like to thank National Science Foundation (NSF ECS 06-21643) and the Grainger Center for supporting the work. Also I would like to thank my adviser Prof. Krein and the members on my committee whose guidance was greatly appreciated.¬†If you decide to reference this work, please use the official reference, G. Pitel, ‚ÄúFast power converters and rapid digital design,‚ÄĚ UILU-ENG-2008-2509, CEME-TR-2008-02, December 2008.
Download Link–The full document is coming January/February.


Update 12/20/08: The Truth Behind This Article

When Tim Ferriss came to our class to speak the day his TV show premiered he challenged us to compete in this promotion, except we were playing for a different prize. He offered us a $4000 ticket to The Entertainment Gathering, a 3-day conference of people from all facets¬†in the entertainment industry, held¬†in Monterey California. I sort of zoned out after I heard $4000 ticket, so I didn’t really know what I was competing for at the time, but I did know I only had 8 hours to promote what others had already¬†been promoting for 36 hours. I realized I’d have to think outside of the box.

On my walk home from class, I came up with the plan: rather than promoting his show, I would promote his promotion. Therefore, everyone who subsequently promoted his show and their conversions were an indirect referral by me–a snowball effect. I created a little figure to help explain:

So how would I get the word out and be able to supply proof?
I wrote the article below on PitelSPOT and hit all the social networking sites, using my website statistics to supply conversions. Then, I took out a $20 ad on Facebook to maximize the number of impressions (over 100,000 in a couple hours) and track the results:
I supplied all this information along with links on Tim Ferriss’ blog. The Monday after the premiere I got the following email from Tim:
Outstanding work from all who competed.  I evaluated your actions based on all of the information you provided via blog comments, e-mail, screenshots, etc.; and I also used the following metrics and more for measurement:
-Known conversion ratios of different sites used
-Alexa/Compete/Quantcast traffic rankings for sites and pages used
-Supplied numbers and hard data, in addition to screenshots
-Signal:noise ratio.  In other words, if a site gets 1,000,000 comments and has 1,000,000 members, there is a 1:1 signal-to-noise ratio.  Fewer comments would increase the measurable or expected ROI for each posting.
-Click-through and one-to-one communication numbers vs. impressions or pageviews whenever possible.
I got second place (and no, there was never originally a second place). Second place was a $4000 ticket to the event, but I’d be responsible for my own airfare and hotel–and I’d have to leave the next day. Due to some prior engagements I already scheduled for that week, I had to pass on the event.
Original Article:
Tim Ferriss guest-lectured in my class, ELE 491/591 (High-Tech Entrepeneurship) students at Princeton University today–the day his new TV show premieres on History Channel (11PM ET). Trailer Here:¬† Eight years ago, Tim was in the same position I was: taking ELE 491 at Princeton, getting ready to write his term paper involving an interview with a high-tech company’s CEO. He talked about several key experiences, like how he worked his way up from sleeping under a desk to gain the following credentials:


  • First American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango
  • Advisor to more than 30 world record holders in professional and Olympic sports
  • National Chinese kickboxing champion
  • Glycemic Index (GI) researcher Political asylum researcher and activist
  • MTV breakdancer in Taiwan
  • Hurling competitor in Ireland
  • Actor on hit TV series in mainland China and Hong Kong

Then, he wrote his book last year: The 4-Hour Workweek, which ever since has been a best seller on the New York Times, BusinessWeek, and Wall Street Journal lists. In the tail-end of his lecture, he talked about how he farmed out his menial tasks to India for $2 / task using

The History Channel deemed his “life-hacks” worthy enough for their own TV show. So in his true life-hack nature, he is running a contest to see who can draw the most viewers. The biggest promoter gets:

my favorite travel bag in the world, the $500 retail Victorinox Swiss Army 25″ Trek Pack Plus. I used an older version during my 15-country world trip in 2004, and the latest model is even better.

Best of luck promoting!


Our neighborhood has been home to a small colony of feral cats for as long as we have lived here. This is due primarily to our neighbors providing food and shelter to the adult cats. We have never really been “cat people,” and Bode’s habit of finding cat feces in our yard and proceeding to smear it all over himself did not help to endear these felines to us. But our hearts softened a few years ago when the cats did what comes naturally–created a litter of cute, playful kittens that would romp around in our back yard.DSCF2371.JPGI felt sorry for these kittens, destined to a life of strayhood, if they even managed to make it beyond kittenhood. And the odds are stacked against them. The local humane society does not take stray animals. If I tried to pass them off as pets to surrender them, I would probably end up on some blacklist and never be able to adopt again–a risk I am not willing to take. Animal control does not have the time or resources to socialize them into adoptable pets, meaning they will probably be euthanized even if they are healthy. I imagine there is a special place in hell reserved for persons who kill kittens, even indirectly, making animal control out of the question.¬† So what to do?DSCF1946.JPG

I was fortunate to find out that Champaign-Urbana has a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program for feral cats, and they also have a network of volunteers that socializes young kittens in foster homes so that they can be adopted. The organization CATsNAP (Champaign Area Trap Spay/Neuter and Adoption Program) provided traps, and I set them in the yard. Over a short span of time I managed to trap seven kittens, three adult cats, and, unfortunately, two opossums and one racoon. The kittens were socialized and subsequently showed up on and our local Petsmart.¬† I actually managed to see one of “my kittens” at Petsmart and did my best to convince a couple in the adoption area to take her home. The adult cats, including the mother of the kittens, were fixed, vaccinated, and released. And the opossums and racoon were immediately, and carefully, re-released. DSCF2001.JPGLet me just say: opossums smell awful. Combined with the fact that they froth at the mouth when stressed, appearing rabid, I can say with certainty that they are some of the nastiest creatures on earth. Eventually the only thing I would find in the trap was the kittens’ mother. I imagine that once she had been spayed, a day in the trap was a small sacrifice for a can of scrumptious wet food. At that point, Kitty Entrapment Campaign #1 came to a halt. And next year there were no kittens, which I think means it was a success.

Now, two years later, I noticed a new litter of kittens. Thankfully CATsNAP is here to help, and I am hoping we can catch the little guys in time to socialize them. Due to the desperate need for foster homes, we may have to become tamers of wild kittens ourselves to see that happen. And they are wild, which is actually kind of comical. One can’t help but smirk at half-pound kittens furiously hissing and spitting. Stay tuned to see what falls into my trap: Campaign #2 has begun.

Operation Kitty Catch Journal

  • Days: 22
  • TNR ferals: 4
  • Feral kittens: 11
  • Opossums: 2

Day 1 September 25th

DSCF6612An older kitten. Wasn’t too happy about being in the trap, so first kitten #1 sat in the foam water bowl, and then shredded it into a million pieces, along with the paper plates the food was on. Sadly this guy is past the age of socializing, so he/she was fixed, vaccinated, and released.

Day 2 September 26thThere was a malfunction.  The wet food was eaten, but the trap was empty.  As an aside, today we went to Farm & Fleet today and bought our own smaller trap.

Night 2 September 26th/27th

DSCF6614Opossum. I broke my own rule: don’t set the trap at night, even if Grant tells me to! Luckily it was the small trap, so a small opossum. But even the small ones smell and truthfully they are all dangerous–have you seen those 50 teeth? They have more than any other terrestrial mammal. At this point I have a set of “steps” to releasing opossums as I have done it enough times: (1) Set the trap on its side to move the opossum away from the door. Fear makes them freeze, so they generally stay put. (2) Throw a sheet over the trap so that you can crouch down to open the door without scaring it further. This also lets one avoid being scratched or bitten through the wires. (3) Carefully open the door. And this is the hard part. Due to the triggering mechanism it won’t stay open by itself. Either hold the door open by hand, while wearing gloves, or use rope or zip ties to hold it so you can step back while the animal walks out. This is a judgment call one has to make based on how aggressive the animal appears.

Day 3 September 27thDSCF6621

Today I met and discussed my activities with our neighbor, who was very nice and agreed to allow me access to his yard. I set the small trap next door, where I expect things to move along quickly. However the large trap remains problematic–either it is still malfunctioning, or some cat(s) is wise to it. Someone keeps eating the food and slipping away. UPDATE: We have kitten #2, a cute and fuzzy orange tabby, and he/she looks small enough to socialize. This guy also knocked over and shredded his water bowl. Seems to be a common theme.

Day 4 September 28thDSCF6626

I put the small trap out this morning and within half an hour we have kitten #3, a tortoiseshell female. Estimated age for both kittens is around 6 weeks. Pictures tonight. UPDATE: Kittens #2 and #3 were set up in our bathroom with the help of CATsNAP. I reset the traps and caught two more kittens, as well as one of the mothers, a tortoiseshell. We now have a total of four kittens in our bathroom, and Mom went for her spay surgery. I didn’t get a picture of Mom but you can see the kittens . Everybody had a “therapy session” (pick up kitten, set on lap, and pet on the back) and neither Grant nor I was scratched/bitten. Though they did hiss and spit. Black and orange are males and tortoiseshells are both female. Today they also were given their first vaccines, de-worming, and flea treatment.

Day 5 September 29th

The day started with a chorus of pitiful meows at around 5:30AM and I never got back to sleep. Kittens are still a huddled mass in the corner (translation: they are not tame yet) but I managed to get a towel beneath them. Put the small trap out this morning and within an hour a second adult cat was inside. He was dropped off at the Champaign County Humane Society this morning to be neutered.

Day 6 September 30th

DSCF6641After only 24 hours the kittens¬† still tend to hide, but are gradually becoming more comfortable with us around. They remain skeptical of us and will hiss if they feel scared, but sit nicely on our laps during brushing and petting. The orange kitten is the most adventurous and even purred. The large trap is back, and after setting it this morning I found kitten #1 inside and the spayed¬†mother cat hanging around for moral support. I released him and they both ran off. The trap is re-set and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we catch another orange kitten today.

Day 7 October 1st

DSCF6662.JPGThe kittens are improving, and the big orange guy and smallest, dark tortoiseshell are taming the fastest. Today the traps were set and we got two more kittens: one small black kitten, and a small¬†orange tabby. These two were happy to see their siblings, but didn’t want anything to do with us! All six piled up in the corner and slept soundly that way. While it is great having half a dozen kittens in our bathroom, it would be difficult to give everyone the attention they need, and there are still more kittens out there. So CATsNAP arranged for the five small kittens to go to the Champaign County Humane Society where they will finish their medical care and socialization before being adopted.

Day 8 October 2ndDSCF6667.JPG

Grant and I¬†said¬†our goodbyes to the small kittens and ¬†dropped them off today. The big orange kitten stays with us but is also out of the house for now–he was picked up by CATsNAP for his neuter surgery and will be back with us tomorrow night. He still does not have a name; I’m taking suggestions (see his picture above for inspiration). Unfortunately today we did not catch anyone new. At the end of the day one trap was empty, and the other was filled with an opossum so large it could barely turn around. Grant helped me to zip tie the trap open so it could walk out. I plan to wake up extra early tomorrow to get the traps out.

Day 9 October 3rd

I woke up early and had the traps hosed out and set by 7:00AM. It’s getting more difficult, so I decided to up the ante and bait the traps with a combination of wet cat food and tuna fish. Sadly¬†they were still empty¬†before¬†we left, so I’ll have to wait until tonight to see if we catch any more cats or kittens. It seems like they may have relocated temporarily to avoid me. It’s also gotten very cold, so I’m really hoping to catch the remaining little guys as soon as possible. I know there is at least one more orange kitten, and an orange “Mom” cat to spay. UPDATE: Kitten is back, and he’s almost tame. He still seems startled when we walk in, but he will jump onto my lap and purrs and kneads. When you are in the room, he wants constant attention. He’s also getting more playful. When I checked the traps in the evening, one was empty, and the other had the spayed tortoiseshell “Mom.”

Day 10 October 4th

I got the small trap out at about 8:00AM, once again baited with tuna and cat food.¬† While I was over there I saw three cats, but I think they are the three that were already fixed–not totally sure. UPDATE: Today there was a new orange tabby kitten in the small trap. He was a bit larger, possibly¬†big brother¬†to the kitten we still have.¬†New kitten¬†was taken by CATsNAP to jump-start the taming process in a more experienced foster home, and I did not get a picture, but he may be back. While I was outside in the evening I saw tortoiseshell Mom with yet another orange kitten, but a smaller and¬†fluffier version.

Day 11 October 5thDSCF6685

The traps are both back out today and baited with tuna fish and wet food. Grant said he saw the orange Mom in our back yard, but with a tree being taken down today there is too much commotion to catch her. The orange kitten in our bathroom is proving to be a real sweetheart, purring and kneading all the time, and he is starting to play more. I added a few new pictures of him. UPDATE: Eventually the workmen left and I put the large trap in back, but when I got home both were empty.

Day 12 October 6thDSCF6714

Today I put the small trap out, and baited it with tuna fish and some wet food. We were away at work all day and when we finally got back I knew I was successful when I saw a cat hanging around the trap. Many times when one cat is in the trap, another is close by-maybe for moral support?¬†There was a fluffy orange kitten in the trap. New kitten is growling, hissing, climbing the walls¬†and generally letting us know she’s not happy. Based on size she belongs to the same litter as the five that went to the humane society. But this one is not going to be as easy. In better news, the kitten caught two days ago tamed in a day and is doing very well in a foster home.

Day 13 October 7th

Today it was raining, so I did not put the traps out. Lucky for us the new kitten has calmed down somewhat. She tolerated petting and ate food off of my hand. But she remains wary of us.  It did not help that I tried to shove a syringe full of dewormer into her mouth. She ended up wearing some of it.

Day 14 October 8thDSCF6725

One of the kittens started meowing at 4:00AM, keeping me awake, and I ended up moving to the couch. The weather looked dreary this morning so the traps stayed inside. Overall things are about the same today. Male kitten continues to do very well, and female kitten tolerates some contact but still hissed at me this morning. Here’s a picture of the two of them together. UPDATE: In the evening I was able to get both to play with a toy, which is an improvement for the new female kitten. For the few minutes she was playing, she no longer appeared angry and actually¬†had the wide-eyed happy look you expect from a kitten.

Day 15 October 9th

Today the weather was nice, so both traps went out in the morning. When I set the trap by the neighbor’s house, I saw two kittens–so I was expecting success today. Grant checked the trap mid-day and there was a buff-colored kitten in the trap, plus three more outside! So there is still more work to do. New kitten is an older female. Our assignment is to get her as tame as possible over the weekend. She may be spayed on Monday. She is really beautiful, so it should not take long for her to be adopted assuming she can be socialized. No pictures yet, the camera batteries died.

Day 16 October 10thDSCF6735

Got both traps out this morning. All the kittens are doing well. New buff kitten survived her first brushing/petting therapy session. She continues to hiss, but luckily for her she’s a beautiful cat so I don’t hold it against her. Managed to get a picture this morning. UPDATE: Both traps were empty so I brought them in for the night.¬†Today the two girls had their picture taken, so I expect them to show up on Petfinder soon.

Day 17 October 11th

DSCF6763.JPGI decided to give the ferals a rest and not put the traps out today. Hopefully¬†after one day¬†they will forget about the fact that these metal cages make their friends disappear. The kittens are fine. They caused a lot of trouble last night-I came in this morning and the toilet paper was off the roll, in a heap on the floor. Plus someone made it on the shelf, as a book was on the floor too. The buff kitten is starting to tame, she will still hiss but actually purred for me today briefly. And I signed on to Petfinder and found their page, which I saved an image of here. Buff kitten is named Sunny (I now refer to her as “Sunny D”) and the small kitten was named Macy. I had actually been calling¬†her Mei, so this seemed almost to be an amusing coincidence.

Day 18 October 12th

Today I put the small trap out by the neighbor’s house in the early afternoon before going to work. Came home to find an enormous cat (presumably tomcat) in the trap. It was an orange tabby that I have not seen before. This guy had succeeded in knocking the trap on its side and was decidedly unhappy to be in there. I had to carry it home as far as possible from my body to avoid being clawed/swatted. His thrashing about in the cage left him with a bloodied lower lip, but he calmed down once I put him in the garage and turned the lights out. I decided not to take a picture to avoid aggravating him further. He will be fasting tonight in preparation for a neuter surgery tomorrow. In other news, I decided to start using a baby gate to close off the bathroom so that the kittens would have more exposure to the sounds of househould life. Once Bode saw them-he is on the other side of a second baby gate, several feet away-he was barking and¬†jamming his arms through the gate. It seems that our nightly dog and kitten sessions have not done much. I don’t think Bode can be trusted around kittens, so we won’t be keeping any of them.

Day 19 October 13th

DSCF6806.JPGBeefy orange cat was picked up today at 7:15AM for surgery. I was already awake at that point, without an alarm-the kittens’ meowing woke me up around 6:30AM. The weather looked iffy so I decided not to put out the large trap. Nowadays Sunny still hisses at times, but enjoys attention. They all enjoy attention, and will meow to ask for it if need be. It’s hard to pamper three kittens with only two hands. At this point I just put all of them on my lap, and Grant did the same this morning. I snapped a few pictures which I’ll put online later. UPDATE: I added a picture. He was whistling to get their attention.

Day 21 October 15thDSCF6794.JPG

The trap did not go out today or yesterday due to rain.¬† It was a sad day today: Mei and Sunny were dropped off at the humane society. Poor kittens got a little damp because the crate we transported them in had been cleaned out and was still wet. Their unhappy mugs showed up on the Champaign County Humane society here. They should be adopted out, so I should not really be too depressed about it, but I was fond of Mei, especially her silly grin and Fu Manchu whiskers.¬† Unlike last time, and suprising myself and probably Grant, I managed not to tear up. It was deemed necessary DSCF6807.JPGbecause male kitten seems to be having some health issues, and we need to focus our energy on him. Today he was bathed–which he did NOT enjoy at all–and he also had some anti-fungal applied to his nose, where he is losing hair, and he is on a course of antibiotics for a possible urinary tract infection. I used bleach to disinfect the bathroom surfaces and removed all the bedding¬† on the assumption that he may have ringworm on his nose, though that is uncertain. Once he was dry he was happy again, and appears to be feeling well. Regardless any new kittens will not be fostered at our house.

Day 22 October 16th DSCF6821

Weather was cold but clear, so the small trap went out today. While I was setting it at the neighbor’s house, I saw an orange kitten. I’m hoping I can trap him or her today, but not too optimistic because I ran out of tuna and only had wet food for bait.¬† Male kitten was happy and playful this morning, and he was not very cooperative this morning for his antibiotics–I have a few scratches to prove it. Tomorrow I plan to wear gloves. UPDATE: Today I came home to find two (!) orange kittens in the small trap. They are about the same size as Sunny. I suspect that they, Sunny, and the male were all from the same litter, making our fuzzy male kitten the runt. The two kittens were picked up and will spend a few days in a home, and then I will bring them to the humane society later this week. That brings us to a total of 11 kittens so far. There is still one black kitten, and I’m not convinced that was the last of the orange kittens; plus, orange Mom cat still has not been caught. Weather permitting the trap will be back out tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.

Epilogue January 4th 

DSCF6910.JPGThe tally for this fall’s crazy kitten experience was 11 feral kittens trapped. Of those, eight spent some time in our home, while two went directly to the humane society, and one, directly to another foster home. And of the eight that spent time in our home, seven ultimately also went to the humane society. Our long-term foster, “Scottie,” was very hard to give up. I still miss coming home to the dog and kitten waiting for us on the couch. He was a great kitten, and I think he will mature into a very beautiful and sweet cat. This adventure has even opened Grant’s mind to the possibility of future cat ownership–for the right cat. And now a brief overview of the outcome.

Kitten #2, Scottie, stayed with us until he was adopted by a nice family. Now known as “Sammy,” he’s growing up and remains a playful and affectionate little guy. We have been very fortunate to receive occasional updates, with photos, from his¬†owners, and he looks very content in his home.

Kittens #3- 7, the small kittens, were taken to the humane society. One died in foster care. One was euthanized due to an upper respiratory infection, a common illness for kittens in shelters. Three were euthanized for ringworm. Yes, all five kittens, dead; three for a treatable skin disease.

Kitten #8, Leo, went to a foster home. After about a month in foster care he became very ill. I don’t yet know whether he will recover.

Kitten #9, Mei, went to the humane society. After foster care, she was adopted out.

Kitten #10,  Sunny, went to the humane soceity. After foster care she went back to the shelter.  While waiting for adoption she developed an upper respiratory infection. I knew about this and did contact the rescue to see if there was any way we could intervene before the inevitable happened. It was not to be, and she was euthanized.

Kittens #11 and 12, went directly to the humane soceity. Both of these kittens have since been adopted out. 

Given the death of the majority of the kittens, I debated removing this post and keeping it off. In my mind the blithe voice reporting various events in¬†September and October¬†belies the grim truth of the kittens’¬†fate.¬†With an adoption rate of only 36%, this is what we academics would call a “failing grade.” So¬†what have I learned from this experience? It’s tough being a kitten.¬†People should spay and neuter their pets. And let’s just say that the road to that special place is paved with good intentions.

I’d like to think that what we did achieve is at least better than the alternative, which is the kittens still being outside as ferals, with a similar or worse chance for survival. But ultimately¬†this experience has left me¬†profoundly disappointed.¬†


1914 Detroit ElectricSomehow, my wife and I managed to share a car for the past five years. This arrangment worked because we live in a small town, both work at the University, and are attached at the hip. However, I am about to graduate and will need a car to commute. My wife still has about a year before she finishes. It is hard to justfiy getting a second car for her short trip to work. I was ecstatic when she agreed to ride a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) into work, provided it met certain cosmetic criteria. My wife is a really good sport when it comes to my unusual habits. She has no shame tailing behind on my Go-Ped electric scooter while I bicycle into work. Her response to this new brainstorm should come at no surpise. The NEV fits her transportation needs perfectly, is inexpensive, low maintenance, and fuel-free. The rules on NEVs are governed by the city you live in. I was extremely disappointed to find the Cities of Champaign and Urbana do not allow them outside of the University of Illinois district.

I have contacted some city council members in hopes of bringing these enviroment- and energy-friendly vehicles to public streets. Below I am documenting the steps we have gone through so far, and will update it as new events occur. I encourage you contact your city council members to support NEVs in your town. This gesture is just a small step in ending our dependence on foreign oil. Thank you and I hope you find the items below useful.


  • (08-12-08) Sheryl called our insurance agent to see if they would insure an NEV. They confirmed that they insure NEVs but at a higher rate than cars due to their lack of safty features and limited availability of replacement parts.
  • (08-15-08) I contacted Champaign City Council, whose ordinances define where NEVs are allowed. The e-mail addresses and photos listed on the city council website suggested the members were very appoachable, and I found this to be true. Champaign also has an extensive database that lets users search previous minutes and agendas–an excellent resource for finding existing NEV ordinances.
  • (08-18-08) I recieved a reply from a member of the city council saying he was adding NEVs to the agenda. He stated that he personally supports allowing NEVs on public streets but expects opposition for their use outside the University District, and recommends that I e-mail the other council members.
  • (08-22-08) City council study session schedule approved for next week.
  • (09-08-08) City council is discussing expansion on 09-09-08.
  • (09-09-08) City council passed in favor of Neighborhood Electric vehicles eight to one. Stay tuned. Read the meeting summary (taken from the City of Champaign website).



Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant opened its first location in Newark, Pennsylvania in 1996 with a team of two award-winning homebrewers and an experienced restaurant professional. Since 1996, they added six more locations in Pennsylvania and Delaware with plans for more. They are among the top 100 brewers in the United States according to with numerous awards at the Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup, and more. Since opening, they have continuously been recognized for both their business practices and quality beer. I went there on August 8th with Maggie, who had heard very good things about the brew-pub.


During the summer, Iron Hill offers a “salute to wheat beers.” They have anywhere from 6 to 8 seasonal Weisse beers on tap! These beers are in additional to the 6 house beers that are usually on tap.

I was a bit overwhelmed with the selection, but lucky for me, their cask-conditioned scotch ale called Braveheart (pictured above, right) was just put back on tap–a no brainer. The Braveheart is described as a “Strong Scotch ale, big malty-sweet and complex beer brewed with a Belgian yeast strain to give it a distinct fruity characer,” with OG: 1095, Color: 15, IBU: 30, Alc by Vol: 9.5%. The Braveheart had an extremely full mouthfeel, extremely creamy, and very different from any scotch ale I had tried before, likely attributed to the cask-conditioning–I liked it a lot.

Maggie’s first beer was their rendition of the Belgian Wit (pictured above, left), described as “an Unfiltered Belgian-style wheat beer. Pale in color and light-bodied yet very complex. A distinct yeast and the use of spices give it a fruity citrus flavor that is very refreshing,” with 4.4% Alc by Vol. It had a very floral lemony taste that was very light an refreshing. She really liked it and I imagine it would taste great with seafood, but it didn’t quite last till then.

I wanted to get a taste for their standard house beers (though that decision was tough given all the great Weisse beers), so I tried their Vienna Red Lager. This lager is described as “an amber Austrian lager has a distinct bready malt aroma and flavor, followed by a crisp, clean finish typical of lager styles. The nose also shows plenty of the spicy hop aroma contributed by the use of Saaz hops,” with OG: 1.054, Color: 13, IBU: 25, Alc by Vol: 5.0%. It poured a copper color and has a very slight hoppy aftertaste. It was a little better than your average lager, but I wasn’t blown away by it.

Maggie’s second beer was another seasonal Weisse, the Munich Helles described as “German-style pale lager, AKA “Lodestone Lager”, is a malt-accented beer with a touch of spicy hop aroma, and a crisp, clean finish,” with OG: 1046, Color: 4.5, IBU: 25, Alc by Vol: 5.0%. Maggie said it had a nice full pleasant taste, but probably preferred the first beer more.

Given the relatively numerous Iron Hill Brewery locations, it was clearly evident they have not lost focus on producing quality beer, even at their newest location in Lancaster.


Iron Hill Brewery is the first brewpub I’ve been to where I’ve seen people order just food and not beer; the food was excellent. The menu was very extensive, ranging from $10 burgers to very nice seafood dinners. I was originally going to get pizza, but Maggie talked me into the pan-seared shrimp and scallops, which came in crabmeat, asparagus, leek and tomato fricassee in napa valley chardonnay cream. I’m glad she talked me into it. It was so good that I’d be tempted to order it again if I went back, but my opinion might have been tainted by the Braveheart I’d had earlier.

Maggie had the Summer Traditional New England Lobster Bake special, which came with 1 and 1/4 pound steamed lobster, littleneck clams, Prince Edward Island mussels, corn on the cob, fingerling potatoes, and drawn butter and lobster broth. While she enjoyed it, she didn’t think it was particularly spectacular.

Atmosphere / Service:

Iron Hill Brewery in Lancaster is located across the street from Franklin and Marshall College. Inside, the brewery is very large with lots of tables, fairly close together. I called for a reservation around 4:00 PM on a Friday and no reservations were available. I was told to call back a half hour before I got there for call-ahead seating. I called around 6:00 PM for a 6:30 PM arrival and was seated within 10 minutes from arriving–not bad. They also offer walk-in seating, but I imagine that’d be a significant longer wait time. Inside, it was a very comfortable well-lit restaurant.


We were both kind of taken by surprise when the manager offered us another round of drinks on the house after he brought out our food. He apologized for our food taking so long to come out, however, we barely even noticed the half hour wait time. Regardless, we opted to have our previously round credited, as we were already on our second round and had to drive home. It was a nice treat. As a new location across from a college, I’m sure they were trying to “spread the word” to the college community.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed our trip to Iron Hill Brewery; it’s definitely a brewery worth visiting. I would’ve given anything for a brewery like Iron Hill across the street when I was getting my undergrad. Both their beer and their food are excellent. I look forward to going to back to the brewery any (and every) time I visit the area.

Rating Р4/5  rating


I just finished working on my final Engineering Week video at Bucknell. Just like last year, each major must create a video that embodies engineering in their specific discipline. The video is the highest rated event, culminating a week of intense competitions between engineering majors. All the points prior to the video are tallied and announced at the Engineering Dinner; a fancy dinner with all the engineers, faculty, and some alumni. Then, at the dinner the videos are screened and winner announced.

This year, our major’s video remade and tailored classic TV Show themes songs to Electrical Engineering. The songs included: Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, Cheers, and Knight Rider. There was a lot of creative talent involved, as reflected in the film’s quality. As a result, the Electrical Engineers not only won 1st place for the video, but also brought home the golden hammer by winning 1st place in the whole competition. Most of the entries from this year are available here. Below is the Electrical Engineers’ submission for Engineering Week 2008.


For Brett!


Making Bode a miniature omelet proved to be too much fun.¬†Ever since then he’s had a few very merry “un-birthday” breakfasts composed of miniature versions of whatever we eat on Sunday mornings, usually pancakes.

I’m posting the proof to¬†follow-up¬†on Brett’s request.¬†You can’t really tell, but it’s a banana pancake with peanut butter chips, and it’s still warm! Is he spoiled? Maybe.


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