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Every spring, I leave town to attend the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. I always return a little smarter, with some new experience, a bit of news, or a different way of seeing the world.

One of this year�s highlights came soon after I staked out my spot in the newsroom. I fired up my laptop computer and immediately started using the high-speed, wireless Internet connection. I suspect some of the e-mailers I corresponded with never even knew I was out of town.

I especially noticed the wireless hookup because I had just edited the feature story on home offices in this issue. That story recommends a laptop computer with a wireless Internet connection to make the most of your time and space.

The May issue each year focuses on home improvement. Home ownership is among the unique traits of Kentucky Living readers, with 93 percent of you owning your home. Changes in lifestyles and technology are leading more and more people to do office work within earshot of their kitchens. This story offers tips on making that home office pleasant, efficient, and yours.

Another notable annual meeting experience came from a presentation on electric rates.

You�ve probably noticed energy prices going up lately, gasoline and electricity included. I listened to a panel of experts describe how wholesale electricity rates in the U.S. have increased more than 30 percent in the past year.

The reasons for those high prices aren�t going away soon, unfortunately.

One contributor to the cost hikes is strong worldwide demand for natural gas.

Another cause is the mess left after the past decade of experiments in electricity deregulation. State by state, and on the federal level, a crazy quilt of evolving rules makes electric utility planning extremely difficult these days.

One plan for easing that regulatory uncertainty calls for creating regional transmission organizations. You can read a report on RTOs in the Future of Electricity column.

A better understanding of electricity prices is the sort of unexpected knowledge I�ve come to expect from my visits to this national co-op meeting. I hope you make similar discoveries in Kentucky Living.

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