Posted by: Erin | March 3, 2008

I’m back…for now

So I’ve missed a week right?  So here is the rundown of events: 

Blue Skies –   Wednesday the 21st was the first day we saw a blue sky in weeks…   Blue Sky

PubQuiz – Last Friday (23rd) night a few of us went to the local bar for PubQuiz which was being sponsored by the Student Union at the Unviersity of Akureyri.  The theme was “The Oscars” and naturally I was little help to my fellow American teammate, Pete.  However, with his movie knowledge we finished in 3rd place… and the names announced were “Brian & Pete”.  Apparently, Erin looks like Brian when written in bubble letters.  And so begins a new nickname for me… 


Weekend cooking – We are responsible for our meals on the weekends and a couple of use decided to plan a meal.  We wanted to go the budget route which meant no meat, so we went with a Quiche, a couple of salads, and home-made whole wheat lemon cookies.  We bought whole wheat flour for the crust and while it is different and good, it’s not as good a typical crust.  We had a lot of fun making it and everything was delicious.   RES Quiche  Team 4

Desk – We had the option of getting a desk for our rooms.  I don’t think I’ve shown you photos our my room, but it’s cozy (ie. Small).  RoomSince I had no place to put the desk, I decided to make my own from extra wood that was hanging around in the kitchen from cupboard shelves.  I think it does the job and the best part is that I can disassembly it when I don’t need it.   Homemade Desk

Paper – This paper took a long time.  In the end it was 50 pages of graphs, charts, and a whole lot of information on Brazil and their current energy policies and the renewable energy potentials that the country could harness.  Our classroom is about a 10 minute drive from the dorm and with two 9 person vans for 31 people, we have to be flexible on trips and when and where we work.  Well, I had worked every waking second (when I wasn’t in class) on my paper.  When Thursday night came, I still had a lot of ground to cover to complete it by Friday in addition to designing a PowerPoint presentation for Saturday (yes, we had school on Saturday).  So I decided I had no choice but to spend the night in the classroom.  It was just me, so I was productive and they have a coffee machine that helped keep me full of caffeine.  At about 6:30 a.m. I could barely see the computer screen and I finished everything except the discussion at the end.  I didn’t have any brain power left and decided to take a quick nap on the coach.  I woke up and went over to the gym to take a shower and when I got back most of students were already in the classroom.  

Dean’s Dinner – After our presentations on Saturday, we had our professor over to the dorm for dinner.  It was initially planned during a less hectic time, but he has planned on coming over, so some of us left the presentations early to get dinner started.  The menu was:Roasted Leg of LambPotatoes and herbsSaffron rice and cornVegetable QuicheAnd 5 different salads.  Everyone helped out with cooking, chopping, cleaning, and setting the table…we were like a well oiled machine and the food was delicious.  The mastermind was our resident Chef, Tomek, followed by our salad expert, Pawel.  After the great dinner, the professor gave us our take-home exam.  Just what you want to get after a great dinner right? Dean’s Dinner  Food Crew  Chef  Dinner  Prof

RES Golf – So I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but everyone has gotten a kick out of the fact that I brought golf clubs.  Well, after dinner we finally got to put them to some use.  For about two hours we had a putting tournament. Golf  Golf 2  Watching the Ball  The Fans

  Sunday – A few of us went for hike in the woods.  It was nice to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  I saw my first all black wild rabbit…mark this date March 2, down on your calendars, it is big news.    Winter Walk  Black Rabbit

Posted by: Erin | February 25, 2008

No New Blogs This WEEK :(

Hello All! 

As you can see from my halt in blog submissions I’ve been a little busy with school.  I have a huge paper and presentation due at the end of the week and I have been and will be putting in every free second into completing the work.   

I’ll promise to be back in blog writing by this weekend.  Stay tuned!

Posted by: Erin | February 18, 2008

Realist vs. Optimist

I went to get my hair cut today and in order to get the most for my money, I told the hairdresser to cut it all off.  I now have short, spiky, blonde hair.  No just kidding, can you image that.  I did however get my haircut and for the bargain price of 4000 krona or $60 it did NOT even include washing my hair…or even wet for that matter.  The lady did the old school spray bottle approach to lightly mist your hair like when you were a kid.  I’m here for a year, so I guess I have to suck it up. 

You are probably wondering the name of this blog right?  Well, if not I’ll enlighten you.  

There used to be a big debate over global warming.  It is the result of human activity or is it just a cycle in the history of the planet earth?  Unless you are living under a rock or like many of the people who just don’t want to believe that we are on the brink of destruction, the debate is over and resulting increase in CO2 emissions through the use of fossil fuel for energy production and transportation is our fault and our problem that we must face if we want to preserve the environment.  This fact, is fact, and has been thoroughly documented by scientists and engineers throughout the world.  The more I read about this and our projected grim future if we continue with “Business as Usual” the more I see my optimism going to the way of a realist.  I don’t like to be negative but being negative and unaware is not the same as being educated and realizing the obstacles that lie before us as a global society.   

Here are some facts and calculations that have been plastered in every publication over the last few years:  

  • Naturally occurring greenhouse effect makes the earth’s climate 33°C water than it would be otherwise
  • However, during the past 200 yrs, human have caused in increase in the concentration of CO2 by over 36% (rising from 280 parts per million by volume to 380 ppmv by 2005)
  • Methane has increased by a factor of 2.5
  • Nitrous oxide N2O, increased by 15%
  • These increases have strengthened the natural greenhouse effect by trapping infrared radiation thereby upsetting the prior balance between absorbed solar radiation and emitted infrared radiation.
  • Warming for a typical “Business as Usual” scenario of increasing GHG emissions but falling aerosol emissions is around 2°- 4°C (fossil fuel CO2 emission grow from 7.9 Gt C/yr in 2004 to 20.4 Gt C/yr by 2100)
  • Even the optimistic case produced a warming by the end of the THIS century comparable to the difference between the last ice age and the ensuing interglacial climate ****However, the warming that occurred at the end of the last ice age occurred over a period of 10,000 Years, WHEREAS comparable greenhouse gas induced warming could occur over the next 100 YEARS -100 TIMES FASTER
  • A warming of 1-2°C risks: Killing most or all of the coral reefs in the world due to “bleaching” – expulsion of symbiotic algae from the coral  and A doubling of CO2 concentrations show decreases in agriculture yields in specific regions of 10-20%
  • A 4°C warming risks: Provoking the complete and irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, leading to a sea level rise of 10m over a period of a few thousand years
  • Based on one simulation the ENTIRE Amazon rainforest is replaced by desert by the 2080s due to an increase of 3.3°C
  • To stabilize 450 ppmv requires EITHER 19 TW of carbon-free power by 2050 and NO change in the rate of energy intensity improvement OR TRIPLING the rate of improvement of energy intensity (ie. Energy efficiency) beginning in 2005 with essential the same carbon-free power supply as at present (3.4 vs 2.7 TW)

So why are you tell me this Erin?!?!  Well, several times before I left I was told “Go save the world” and while I’m here in Iceland to try, I can’t do it alone.  We ALL HAVE TO CHANGE THE WAY WE LIVE!  You can start be buying energy efficient products…if we reduce the demand for electricity we decrease the overall amount of CO2 in the longrun.   

I’ll get off my soap box now, but I feel that we all need to be more educated on this.  With the upcoming US elections , everyone is concerned about healthcare, taxes, and the money that they will be able to keep in their pockets.  Well, all these are insignificant if we don’t have food to eat, cars to drive, or air to breath.  Please do something positive for the environment today! 

Posted by: Erin | February 17, 2008

Weekend Exploring

I sat down to eat dinner on Friday and realized that I have not captured for you what our typical dinners are like here in Iceland.  Our Typical Dinner Yes, our little meals are nice organized on these trays and if you don’t like it, you don’t eat.  For the most part, the meals have been good…either that or I am too hungry to care what it tastes like.   

Friday night we were invited to our Academic Directors house after dinner.  It was a great time and nice to be out of the dorm for a night.   The rest of the weekend was spent reading, studying, and exploring the town, Skjaldarvik. Skjaldarvik from the Waterfront   Skjaldarvik from the Hill Yes, this is our small little town.  On Saturday a couple of us tried to find the pool that was half an hour walk from the dorm…an hour and 15 minutes later and we still hadn’t come across the pool. Our Yard It was a nice adventure in any event.  On Sunday a small group of us went to check out the beach in front of the dorm.  It is going to be nice to read here when it gets warmer and greet the passing cruise ships as they motor bye. Waterfront 1 Waterfront 2  Waterfront 3   Sunday Adventure

That’s it.  There really isn’t any news to share and I have to get to studying.  I realized this weekend that 2 week class means that my big paper is due this Friday… time flys.       

Posted by: Erin | February 14, 2008

Valentine’s Day

Good Morning World!! Good Morning  Good Morning #2  This was the beautiful view from my window this morning.  It has to be a good day when it starts like that right?  Well, let’s see.  By the way, I didn’t know, but Valentine’s day is an international holiday and is very big and commercialized in Europe as well.   

First I you have time to kill you can check out some TV coverage from the RES opening ceremony by clicking the links at the bottom of this website: Ok, back to the day.  We do a lot of walking here, back and forth from the classroom building to the main University Campus and Cafeteria.  The walk is nice and we get to cross over a dam that spans a fissure  Bridge  Bridge Again …NO mom, don’t worry I won’t try to test my flying abilities again and jump into the freezing water.  Anyway, the walk is pleasant but it’s a constant challenge.  The city doesn’t shovel, plow, or salt any road, sidewalk, or path and it is literally a sheet of ice.  Here is a picture of a typical parking lot Icy Parking Lot …that is not asphalt, but rather a sheet of ice.  If you don’t have studded snow tires like this poor car you usually can’t make it up any of the hills.  Actually studded snow tires are so common that you can see the marks left behind from the studs in the ice.  Ice with Studded Tire Marks  Ice is hard to walk on, but when you add a little water to it, say for instance when you have a warm 40 degree day, you can’t get anywhere.  You want to go right, you slide left.  Well, today was especially frustrating because I had to go to the shopping mall in town at the bottom of the hill twice.  Why twice you ask?  Well apparently Europe and specifically Iceland in this case don’t have the necessary ‘women’ products.  I’ll not elaborate on this subject, but needless to say what I thought I bought the first time did not turn out to be what I needed.  So two walks down and up the hill and a couple of falls later I can say that I officially have bought Iceland’s total supply of products.  Note to travelers: bring what you need! 

Also, although I haven’t yet tried the rotten shark, I did eat fish for dinner tonight.  For those of you that know me, I’m not much of fish fan.  Tonight’s dinner was kind of like Van De Kamps fish sticks, so I don’t know if you can call it fish but it was the first ‘fish’ meal I’ve eaten.  I’ll try to get to the deli that sells the shark this weekend and I’ll be sure to video it with my camera

Also, I finally worked out the phone situation.  I can get incoming call for free on my cell phone, but you (in the US) have to pay an international rate.  You can call my new SkypeIn number the same a long distance call, but I have to be at my computer.  But I can call you all on SkypeOut for 0.039 cents a minute whereas my cell phone would be $2.27/minute.  It’s not very easy but I’ll get the hang of Skype in a few weeks. 

Posted by: Erin | February 12, 2008

Improvements Every Day

The second day of school has come and gone we haven’t left a solider behind.  So far everyone is keeping up with the class and it’s a good overview of energy policy on a global basis.  I’ve also got my first assignment, a paper and presentation (OH my Achilles heel) on Brazil and it current and future energy use, policies, governmental control, sustainable developments, etc.  I’ll not bore you with any more details.  Bottom line is I will be fully versed in the nation of Brazil from top to bottom.   The Prof

Here are a couple more pictures of the classroom.  Each day they add more stuff for use…late last night they brought in several couches and chairs…today at lunch we got pillows, rugs, hot chocolate maker and hot water for tea and whatnot.  Classroom Couches  Classroom

So here is the only funny thing I can add to today blog and while it’s not a knee slapping story, it’s the best I got.  I showed you pictures of the gym yesterday…empty right.  After my personal gym experience, I had gone to dinner in my gym cloths and kept getting inquires from the other students into why I were in different cloths and where I had been during our break.  Well, apparently I inspired a bunch from the group to check it out.  I should have gotten pictures because it was priceless, but there were about 15 people in there and I had to show a couple of them how to use some of the machines.  While my description isn’t doing it justice, just picture it as a Saturday night live skit. 

Ohhh, well I have a big update!!  I just saw the northern lights!!  I have a list of things that I want to do in my life and this Icelandic adventure presented the opportunity for 3 things on that list:

  1. See the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
  2. Live in Europe for one Year
  3. Rent a fast car and drive on the Autobahn.   

So that makes 1 of 3.  While it wasn’t the best Northern Lights display, it was the northern lights none the less.  Yes see those two whitish lines in the middle of the picture, like big arcs?  Well those are the Northern Lights! Norhtern Lights  I’ve tried to hightlight were the two lights acutally are in this picture:  Labeled Picture  .  The I’ll try to get better pictures next time.  That makes one of three today!     

Posted by: Erin | February 11, 2008

First Day of Classes

So all you Minnesotan folk should be proud of the fact that our first professor was born and breed in good old Minnesota and is a Professor Emeritus from the University of Minnesota.  He also has relaxed the schedule for our first two week class to start at 10 am…we are easing into the course work.  So far so good.  Our classroom is nice, they are still working on parts of it each day.  For instance was we were leaving they were bringing in big black leather couches.  The toilets will be installed tonight and we should be knocking out a wall and replacing it with windows over one of the weekends.  RES and the directors are very accommodating. Classroom   I’ll take some more pictures for you tomorrow.   

Today was also my first day I was able to get the heart pumping!  I tried to take a walk yesterday, but the wind was so bad that I literally was blown off the icy road a few times.  I gave up and retreated, but apparently it was entertaining for all the students eating breakfast.  Also, I believe all the research showed that Icelanders were very much into the gym and exercising.  Well that might be the case but the University gym falls short of the stature that was built up in my mind. Huge Gym  As you can see, it is very crowded and I had trouble getting a machine to use.  Actually, if it remains this empty I will have my own personal gym for free.  I’m sure the other local gyms are nicer…they have to be when you pay $136 a month.   Everything else there very expensive as well.  A book that you can get in the US for $15 costs $28.  A Cosmo at a bar is a 1000 krona or roughly $15 and a beer is about $8. 

Posted by: Erin | February 10, 2008

RES is official

 I am already slacking on my blog and I fear it will get hard to be witty in my entries since I will be rushing to fill you all in on the events.  

Since I arrived in Akureyri and settled into the dorms, I’ve either been at a school event or hanging out with the other students.  It is kind of like an International Real World, but there are a lot more than 7 of us. Students and the Stick Game  Some of the Crew

Today was the official ceremony of the opening of RES and the induction of it’s first academic class.  While we were late for our own event (it was the buses fault) it was a day I will never forget.  The Ministry of Education officially declared the school open.  There were dignitaries from Parliament present along with City Officials, University Deans and the like.  It was inspiring and only reiterated that as the first class of RES we are the beginning of a new future and these next 12 months will not only expand our mind but also our global relationships and we will be building a family of Renewable Energy Science members.  Ceremony  RES First Class of Graduate Candidates     RES First Group of Graduate Candidates  RES Crew and Masami  RES

The students come from all over Europe.  There are over 15 students from Poland and I think I’ll be speaking Polish before I pick up the Icelandic language.  The rest of the group comes from Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal, Hungry, Czech Republic, Russia, and Germany.  For the most part, everyone communicates in English and I’ve become the “go to” person for correct English…yes scary I know.  It is very entertaining for me and I get a kick out of it… “We’ll met tomorrow” or “Let’s went”.  


Dorm  Lutheran Church  Harbor  Picture 1 from the Dorm  Picture from the Dorm 2  Picture from the Dorm 3

Posted by: Erin | February 9, 2008

RES is official

I am already slacking on my blog and I fear it will get hard to be witty in my entries since I will be rushing to fill you all in on the events. 

More later…

Posted by: Erin | February 8, 2008

Let the Introductions Begin

I departed Reykjavik and arrive in Akureyri at 8:30 am and get delivered to the dorm at 9:30.

Some notes about the dorm:It used to be an old persons home that was converted into a dorm.  It is sweet!  We all have our sinks in our rooms and the beds are great…best dorm room beds ever.  Here is the layout of the building… I have room H-1 and the views from my window are stupendous.   Also, I thought Skjaldarvik was the dorm name,  but rather it is the name of the town.  The town that had 3 people in it before RES took up residence.  Since our arrival we have increased the population by 933%.  That must be some Guinness Book of World records for largest population growth.  In any event it is rather secluded, 8 km from Akureyri, and right next to the water.  The summer time is going to be amazing here! Here are some views: Room View  Dorm  Dorm Picture 2  Dorm Picture 3  Dorm Picture 4

I met half of the students and went with them to lunch in town at the University.  I walked around with two students from Slovenia, getting a cell phone, and seeing the city, and my first impression of them was that I just met Pete and Rachel!  No, seriously, they couldn’t have reminded me more of you two and I knew that if there were people similar to you two in the program that it was going to be a great year!  Iceland’s Pete and Rachel

The town, Akureyri, is tiny and you can tour it all by bus in 5 minutes Main Street  Fjord.  But it’s cute and will be ‘home’ for the next year.  The other half of the students finally arrived in the afternoon and were on the tour with us.  When we got back to dorm we took the rest of the night to meet everyone.  We have a big TV room that has been dubbed the “party room” by many of the Polish students.  Everyone is really fun, nice, and sociable.  It’s going to be a really great year and every day that I am here  I realize how lucky I am to have this opportunity.     Drivers

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