9 Sep 2005

Went to England!

Submitted by Paul Brown

I spent last week visiting the Siert family in England where my uncle Ward is stationed. We took advantage of the time and unusually nice weather to get out and see some things near the Lakenheath AF base. There are already pictures to look at!

I'll probably forget a bunch of stuff if I try to put it all here, so I'll leave the photos to tell the story. Some highlights:
- We ran into a concert by a choir from Auckland, New Zealand while we were in Cambridge. They were really good and sang a variety of classical music as well as arrangements based on music from New Zealand. Many of the pieces were performed in 6 and 8 part harmonies. Kara got tired of it and wished the one-hour-long performance were shorter, but for me they could have kept going!

- There are no pictures of the interior of Oxburgh Hall (since they didn't allow photography), but it was really quite impressive. The furniture is all made of dark wood, decorated with ornate carvings, so the place has a nice "woodsy" feel (I guess). One of Linda's highlights was me going down the "priest's hole" where the family that lived there would have let their priest hide during the persecution from protestants. It was just a hole in the floor that led to a small closet where he could have hidden. Most of the folks visiting were too old to give that hole a go!

Something you can't tell from the pictures is that England is an expensive place! If you make the conversions from Pounds to either Dollars or Euros, you'll find prices just too high to swallow (especially if you're Ward!). I think we ate out once: at McDonald's! If I had to live there I think I would have to stop making the conversions and just pay up. Otherwise you couldn't eat. The AF base has a grocery store and gas station and some other services that have goods from the U.S. and prices that are only a little more than what we would pay "at home", so the servicemen can get along all right.

The weather was strangely good. During the six days I was there we had only one morning where it rained and a day where it was cloudy (making many of the pictures from Cambridge not come out very well). This is apparently very unusual, but for me it came at a very convenient time!

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6 Jul 2005

Classes are OVER!

Submitted by Paul Brown

Last week I finished up my last exam of the M.S. program, completing the first year and clearing the way for me to start on the project that will be my thesis.

My grades in this second semester are not going to equal my grades from the first semester. As my collegues in INESC said, I "let my foot off the gas pedal". They're still quite good, so don't worry! Think of it as driving for better gas mileage.... :)

My thesis topic is defined. Here's what my work plan says:
The study will focus on the optimization of pumping storage as a means for allowing increased penetration of renewable energy (wind power) in the system. It will consider the following aspects:
- dimensioning of storage units: considering the load profile and possible wind power integration, select the optimal pumping capacity
- operation: consider the effect of storage units on dynamic behavior, protection requirements, control strategies, etc.
- valuation: present possible means of valuing or remunerating the service provided by storage, considering it as reserve and transfer of energy in time
- comparison: compare the economics of pumping storage to other alternatives such as open-cycle gas turbines

This will build off of work that we do for the island of Madeira, where they are seeking to lower electricity costs and increase use of renewable energy sources. In particular, I will be considering the usefulness of using pumped-water storage. They have a significant amount of energy that comes from hydro-electric stations. A pumped-water storage plan would pump water from below the station back up during the night when energy is cheap so that it can be used for generation during the day when energy is more expensive. This could also help allow more wind generation capacity to be introduced since the limiting factor is often the minimum output limits of the fossil-fuel generators that are needed to maintain frequency and adjust to load variations.

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28 Apr 2005

It's SPRINGTIME!

Submitted by Paul Brown

Sorry it's been so long since I posted an update here! I'm way behind.... I'll try to cover most of the important things since coming back to Portugal from Iowa: exams, my new project in INESC, church news, and whatever else I think of. :)

When I got back to Porto in January, it was just in time to start my first round of exams in the Master's program. I didn't know what to expect, since I'd never taken an exam in a Master's program, and I'd never taken an exam in Portugal. Since most of my grades come from the exams, I was a little concerned. :) But it all went well. I studied the notes from class and worked some example problems, like I usually do, and generally tried to relax and take it easy. Fortunately I was in lull in my INESC work so I could spend all day studying and not have to worry about it at night. I'm pretty sure I took the top grade in all of my classes....

My current project in INESC is part of a study for the electric system of the island of Madeira. They want to know the maximum renewable energy penetration that they can have, specifically looking at increasing the energy coming from wind turbines. My part is to run simulations to see what the frequency variations will be as a result of variations in wind speed. The work is very similar to what I did in my previous project for the Azores, but the system is a little more complex, but with fewer scenarios. I spent a lot of time waiting for data to get started, and now it is a little bit of a crunch to get results so we can write the report. Fortunately I improved on my scheme from the Azores and have things running pretty efficiently (I think--we'll see!).

When I was in Iowa in January, I stopped by Cornerstone and picked up a transfer letter so I could become an official member of my church here in Porto. Sadly, I left it in the car at the airport, so Mom and Dad had to mail it to me, delaying my membership a little bit. But now I am a member of the Primeira Igreja Baptista do Porto (First Baptist Church of Porto). In that very meeting that I joined the church, I was added to the music commission and the sound system team. It hasn't made much difference, since I was already helping in these roles, but it does give a little authority, so I can plan services now and then. So far I just did one, but it could come to be more now that....

...we have a new pastor! Having been without one since I guess November of last year, after a much shorter search than I think anyone expected, we made contact with a Brazilian missionary who was also thinking of moving into a more pastoral role. He is still part-time, finishing up other responsibilities and making the transition, but I am very glad to have him with us. He has a passion for young people and for missions--things that match well with our church. He is dreaming big, something that I think is really important. I look forward to working with him and learning!

At the beginning of April I took a week of vacation with Humberto, Evodia, and Lemuel, and we went to Galiza, Spain, just north of Portugal. It is a beach vacation kind of area, but this early in the year, it's not full of people and seems kind of empty. Which was nice! The weather wasn't perfect, but it gave some good days for walking on the beach and relaxing, and I even added a little tan. :) There are lots of pictures in the photo gallery.

The next big thing I'm looking forward to is a week-long visit by Mom and Dad in mid-May. It will be great to see them and show them around! I think my friends here are eager to meet them, too, and likewise my parents are ready to meet them.

There are lots more things that I could write, but I can't put everything. Plus there are some things that one just doesn't put out on the 'net for everyone to know! ;)

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4 Jan 2005

Home for the Holidays

Submitted by Paul Brown

During the school break for Christmas and New Years (and a little extra), I've been able to come "home" to Iowa for three weeks. The biggest part is yet to come: my younger sister Sarah gets married on Saturday!

I left Porto on the morning of Monday Dec. 20 with a great group of friends to see me off. As I was waiting for the airplane there in Porto, after saying goodbye and passing security, I couldn't help but spend some time just thanking God for his faithfulness and goodness during the nearly six months that I had spent abroad. Instead of being "all alone in the world", the Lord provided great friends and a loving church to be part of, in a way that I had never imagined.

The trip back was nothing extraordinary, Portugal really isn't that from from the U.S., and the total trip time of 17 or so hours isn't very bad, on a world scale. My route went Porto - London - Chicago - Des Moines and then into the arms of my waiting family!

Since I've been here in Manning, it's been nice to have time to relax and just be with family. I've been digging into books, ones that I didn't have space to take with me when I left in the summer. Also I spent a couple days to upgrade the operating system on my server (the box that's feeding you this very article)--now running Fedora Core 3-- and add space for Mom/Dad --mostly Mom-- and Sarah to put pictures in a web gallery. Have a look!

Besides that, I got to see a couple of old high school friends again. My friend Matt has been stationed in Afghanistan with the Iowa National Guard and was home for 2 weeks of leave. I was surprised, he actually seems to enjoy being there since it's "not that bad" and they are doing a lot of good things for the people. Together we went over to Ames and saw another friend, Adam, with whom I'd lost contact for a couple of years. He's married now and doing pretty well, or so it seems.

One thing I HAVEN'T done, that I probably should, is study for my exams, which will start in mid January. Somehow it seems there is always something more interesting to do, and, as I tell myself, there's still time. Well, now with less than one week left, I don't think that "there's still time" line is going to work any more. But Sarah's wedding is coming up, so things could get more busy. We'll see what happens, I guess! :)

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