Monday, August 30, 2010

My little Run

So I may or may not be involved in a weight accountability pact with a party that will remain anonymous. I have gotten off to a good start watching what I eat, portion control, lots of fruit and veggies. And I walk quite a bit when I go to school. But today, I kicked it up a notch.

For the majority of the weekend ( I am counting today as and extension of the weekend, because I did not have class) I have been sitting in my room working on my computer. So I thought I would go get some excercise. I set off in the only direction from the house that is not directly a hill. Needless to say the street turned in to a hill 100 yards later. This entire silly area is a series of hills on top of one another, as soon as you get to the top of one, you go down a little and go up another... I did make it back to the house. It was rough... Spokane people: think Doomsday on crack the whole way.

When I got back to my desk I mapped out where I ran on Google Earth. HA! Turns out I only ran 1.53 miles laterally, but my elevation change: 317 feet!

Brian and Natalie, you should be proud. I will try to tackle the same run later this week.

Chicken and Biscuit Pie

I made this for Larry this evening. He claims that he is a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy; he said that he enjoyed it. It is basically a lazy pot pie.

Chicken and Biscuit Pie

Aprox. Prep Time: 30-40 mins
Cooking Time: 12 mins
Mmmm... semi-raw Chicken...

1 pound of chicken
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Tsp Onion Powder (to add flavor)
1 Tsp Garlic Powder (to add flavor)
8 oz Peas (half or so bag of frozen peas)
8 oz Mushrooms (about half of a 'blue carton')
6 oz Carrots (small hand full)
1 can Refrigerated Biscuits

This will be about 5-7 servings

Slice chicken in to bite sized pieces, cook in skillet. If you are using frozen vegtables, heat up so they are at least room temperature. Slice Carrots, slice mushrooms, if you really wanted to try, slice the peas.

Add can of Cream of Chicken and spices to skillet, mix well and heat. Add vegetables to skillet, mix well.

Pour the mixture in to a greased 2 quart pyrex dish. Arrange halved biscuits on top (as in after the halving process you should have two round, but thinner biscuits). Make sure to cover all of the lower mix with the biscuits, you can cut them to make it fit. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes at 400.

Larry does not have any pot holders! I need my Ove-Glove!
I normally have left over biscuits, so I put them on a cookie sheet and bake them with the Pie.

You can add and subtract to the veggies. I think Chelsea only uses Zucchini. I don't normally use carrots, but I did this time, they were a little crunchy still... possibly cook them down a little first?

Bill, Does this look familiar?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Attic of **insert awesome noun***

Ok Auntie Donna, this one is for you.
The Front of the house.

I have now been here for 2 weeks, and it is time to give a virtual tour of my living space. I believe this house is around 80 to 90 years old, it lies in to sweet borough of Edgewood. For those of you who were as unfamiliar with boroughs as I was, this area is its own municipality. They have their own police force, their own waste management, their own zip code, their own mayor. But is is less than one square mile, and really close to "Pittsburgh Proper," close enough that on mail, we are still "Pittsburgh, PA." It is about a 12 miniute walk to the bus stop, and really close to the parkway that leads to downtown. The neighborhood is awesome, a lot of families, a lot of people that have been there for a long time. The houses are all very different than Spokane, but very cool.
That little room on top, is my bathroom!
The house is three stories with a large, unfinished basement. The first floor has a very newly finished kitchen, a large living room area and a dining room. Up stairs is Larry's room, a bathroom, Larry's office, and a guest bedroom. Then the very top is my space! I have a fairly large room with a built in closet and my own private bathroom.
The door on the left opens to a very small landing to the stairs down.
My wall of awesome people. The closet is the door on the right.
My bed, and an uncompleted picture from from Kirsten.
My desk area, you can see it in the picture above.
My quote wall lives on!
My very own bathroom, to the right of the closet. There is a shower hiding behind the door.
The Stairs leading down and away from my paradise
The Mini Spaceship next to Larry's car.
Then more if you want to see!

Movie Corner: Gattaca and Waking Life

Ok Alan, after an entire year of you saying: 'What? Scott! You have not seen Gattaca?!?" I finally watched it on Friday. Needless to say, just like your suggestion to watch Firefly, I should have watched this the first time you said something.

So to the rest of you: Gattaca is a futuristic exploration in to genetic prejudging. It takes place in a society where people born under natural events and circumstances are labeled "in-valid" and are place in the lower class under the supreme genetically modified "Valids." I would highly suggest this movie to anyone who liked The Island, or any other not-so-distant future Sci-Fi. Certainly a movie that makes you think, and appreciate what makes us unique and special. Also a decent action/suspense film.

Upon taking advice from my dear small group guys, I am thinking primarily from Danny, I watched Waking Life. This is a uniquely original and perception shattering exploration in to human existence. I know that sounds a little too big for one movie to contain, but it is amazing the amount of ideas that they seamlessly stitched together. The movie follows a guy who is stuck in a lucid dream, who is going around an having seemingly random conversations with intellectuals. They turn in to intense monologues ranging from free will, to the meaning of life, to conforming to society, to the connection of dreams to reality and what reality even is. They even discuss what Alan and I refer to as "the singularity." Not a movie that I would suggest to someone who is looking for a light comedy. Be ready to hear some intense and insightful ideas, some that are absurd, and some that pull on the heart strings. I can think of plenty of people who would see this and think nothing of it, who would be put off by the radical presentation along with the extreme view points. Yet, I think there are a lot of people who would love this movie. Great to watch if your mind is ready to exercise, and if you are fully committed to the show, don't be distracted, you will miss too much.

Here is one of the many fabulous ramblings:

If the world that we are forced to accept is false and nothing is true, then everything is possible.
On the way to discovering what we love, we will find everything we hate, everything that blocks our path of what we desire.
The comfort will never be comfortable for those who seek what is not on the market.
A systematic questioning of the idea of happiness.
We'll cut the vocal chords of every empowered speaker. We'll yank the social symbols through the looking glass We'll devalue society's currency.
To confront the familiar.
Society is a fraud so complete and venal that it demands to be destroyed beyond the power of memory to recall its existence.
Where there is fire, we will carry gasoline.
To interrupt the continuum of everyday experience and all the normal expectations that go with it.
To live as if something actually depended on one's actions.
To rupture the spell of the ideology of the commodified consumer society so that our repressed desires of a more authentic nature can come forward.
To demonstrate the contrast between what life presently is and what it could be.
To immerse ourselves in the oblivion of actions and know we're making it happen.
There will be an intensity never before known in everyday life to exchange love and hate, life and death, terror and redemption, repulsions and attractions.
An affirmation of freedom so reckless and unqualified, that it amounts to a total denial of every kind of restraint and limitation.


Really Simple Chili with Potato

This one is just for you Jordan. This really is not a recipe, it is more of an idea.

Simple Chili on top of a Potato

Aprox. Prep Time: 1 min
Cooking time: 15 mins

1 Potato
1 Can of Chili (if you are in the northwest you have more of an option than here in PA
Cheese if you can find it in your fridge

You can really easily add more for more people. Most people will only eat 1/2 of the can of chili.

Scrub the potato under running water. If you do not do this, Gramps may hunt you down and lecture you about how potatoes are grows, then you will be in trouble. Take a fork and stab the potato all over, if you are unsure as to if you have poked it enough, keep going, make sure to get all sides. Microwave for 5 mins. Turn the potato over. Microwave for 5 more mins.

While the potato is going, in a bowl or tuperware, pour chili in. When the potato is done, cook the chili in the microwave. Be sure to cover this, as it will bubble and pop, making a mess if left open.

Now split the potato open with a knife, spreading it wide open. Depending on how much cheese you have, place cheese on potato. Then pour chili over potato. Then place more cheese on chili.


Sunday Mixups

Last night I did my research, I was set that I was going to go see what was up at the church just down the street from here. I got on google maps, looked it up, got the time, and was set: 10:45 service. This morning I woke up on the earlier side, continued to work on my photography assignment (which is getting awesome! I will do a whole write up when I get it working), talked with Larry a bit before confidently heading out the door. As I approached the church, around 10:40 ish, I was surprised to see that there were no people outside, no one gathering, no one greeting. Hmmm... something is wrong, my spidey sense is tingling. (if only Ackbar was there...). I walked in to a sparsely populated congregation that was right in the middle of a batism. I was able to get a buliten, and slip in to the back pew. I inspected this new information source to find that the service started at 10. Dang.

First Presbyterian of EDGEWOOD. Not to be confused with Pittsburgh

Turns out I looked up First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh. They started at 10:45. However I was not there, I was in the First Presbyterian Church of Edgewood. Oh well. I had a nice little talk with the pastor, seems like a nice church if I don't want to go far, however it is no Colbert.

So when I walked in 45 mins later, Larry and I had a good laugh at my mix-up.

I then ventured off to the Giant Eagle for some groceries. I was looking for some Chili to have with a baked potato for dinner. They had the potato, however; their Chili selection was rather pathetic. In Spokane, and the Tri-Cities I was used to an entire 3 to 5 foot, 4 to 5 shelf, CHILI section, complete with its own sign. With options like "Chili with Beans," "Chili without Beans" (is that really chili then?), "Vegetarian Chili," "Chili with Corn," my favorite: "Chili with Walla Walla Sweet Onions," etc.... Here at a rather large, and packed grocery store they had 3 options, none of which looked over appealing, and one was just a hot-dog sauce in disguise. I was appalled and a little offended. There is no way these poor school kids have maple bars and chili for lunch, neither exist over here.

The rest of the evening has been very relaxing, I enjoyed talking to Chelsea, and my mother! But now I have to work on 3 more posts before I go to bed. It was a good Sunday, all that one could ask for.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

End of Week One

"The Fence" on Tuesday
So I sit here in closer-to-perfect hindsight, and this week did not turn out as bad as I thought it was going to on Monday. I am all registered for what I think are courses that fill the requirements for my program, I am fairly moved in to my room, I am just putting up the super sweet custom picture presenting apparatus that Kirsten gave to me (pictures will follow when it gets all up...). Not that I was very worried, but Larry is turning out to be an awesome roommate. I have the bus system of this town figured out, I should not say that, I have the bus system to school figured out. Things are looking fairly good for a first week. Oh! And I am in the middle of laundry, and despite the plethora of options, I think I got that figured out too.
"The Fence" on Thursday
Highlights from Friday: The TA for my Computational Photography course held a recitation for those of us who were not that used to using MatLab. Previously I had only used it once or twice at GU, so I gladly went to the tutorial. When the TA sent out the info for where the class was going to be I thought she was joking about the name of the room... I was wrong:

Yes, we met in "The Luis von Ahn Awesome Classroom." I was expecting some thing, you know, awesome; but it was just a normal classroom (which at CMU range from sweet to depressing, depending on the age of the building you are in). James and Jamie, I don't know what you two were complaining about, MatLab is cake :-). At noon, I had my first Ethnography class, I found out that the class was joint with PITT, I also found out PITT does not start until next week. Then I found out that class was more, or less canceled. But not before I was called out for wearing my Stanford shirt.

Friday red day and Supporting James!
Later that afternoon there was a graduate peer mentoring meeting that I was interested in, so I tried to find a quiet lab to work on my newly honed MatLab skills. I walked in to a computer science "cluster," as they are called, in hopes that it was different than the ECE suite. It was a very nice area, every single vertical space was whiteboard, all of it covered in writing, some of it serious, some of it amusing. Alas, it was really noisy there too. This is just a guess, and a pre-judging, which we all know will end up being false, but I get the feeling that the majority of people at CMU are sort of full of themselves, and because of this, they think that everyone cares about what they have to say. When you get two or more of them together (which happens all of the time) they have to overpower each other. There were 4 or 5 guys in the lab that were just short of yelling for no apparent reason....

Oh well. I made some good progress on an assignment for Computational Photography, when I get a little more done, ill post some of the results. Unlike more computer science projects, someone who does not know anything about programming can appreciate the results.

I eventually made it to the Peer Mentoring meeting, for some reason expecting there to be a slight American presence. I was wrong. I can in and sat down and one of the older grad students came, singled me out, more or less for being white, and made sure I was ok. It was a little amusing. But don't worry by the end a guy named Tim, who I had met at orientation showed up. It was an interesting meeting, I didn't really get much out of it, but it was interesting none-the-less. I came home on a very crowded bus and had a very relaxing evening to myself.

Today has primarily been spent working on this Photography project, it has been going very well, and I am super happy with how I am doing, it just takes a lot of time.

You all should expect a post this weekend finaly detailing what my dear Aunt has been asking for, the house! and my room! So get ready for some pictures!
Hammerschlag Hall with the Cathedral of Learning in the background

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mail #1

I came home today to find my very first piece of mail. (actually my second, mom did send me a card earlier...)

I stepped inside the door to see a box addressed to me, with a little Battle Droid picture strapped to it. Inside I found the following:

One Reversible Belt (black on one side, brown on the other)
One Pair of Black Suspenders (way better then the belt)
One Medical Insurance Card (way better than both the belt or suspenders... lol)
One Bottle of Lizano (if for some reason you have not met my father, you should get some, it is amazing!)
Two AA batteries (I assume for my camera)
One card from James' Parents
One card from my Parents
One Popular Science
Various Comic clippings from the Spokesman (I didn't get one of them)
One very robust looking dog toy for Benny
Four rawhide bones for Benny
One bag of very melted chocolate candy things...
One bag of Quake Oat squares
One bag (at least 2 dozen) of my mother's world famous snicker doodles.

Others take note... my mother sets a high bar, however I challenge anyone to beat it. :) Contact me if you want an address, I don't think it would be a wise choice to post it here.

Thanks Mom! Thanks Dad!

Oh, as for the day, it was good! When I was walking to the bus, at about the 2 block away point, I saw it drive past.... ugh... they are about 30 mins apart. Oh well, I was not in any hurry. I had class at noon, which was a very interesting and informative look in to how we perceive the world around us in terms of the visible spectrum and the actual mechanics of the human eye. We also got our first assignment, just before the advent of color photography a guy took a whole bunch of pictures in Russia, but he would take 3 consecutive photos, the first with a blue filter, the next with a green filter, and then one with a red filter. He knew that at some point there would be a way to combine all of them. That is what we get to do, but a little more sophisticated. We are going to be using Matlab (yep James and Jamie, I will also be using Matlab) to write a program to automate the process of lining up the photos and cleaning them up a bit.

After class I had a bunch of time to kill, so I took a research integrity online course. They require this of all grad students, basically it is outlining how research works, and some very important dos and don'ts in the research world. Around 4 I went over for the first of a series of Thursday talks that the ECE department puts on. Today a guy from Berkley lectured on Ultra low logic devices, it was very impressive, a little over my head and outside my interest, but interesting. After this the Lunar X team had an open house, they are competing for Google's Lunar X prize, basically the first team to get to the moon with a rover to take high-rez photos gets an exorbitant amount of money. CMU is one of the leading teams, it was very interesting, and I might contact some of the people to see if I could help out.

After coming home, Larry made a very good dinner, with BBQed chicken with Corn, green beans and fresh potatoes. All around a great day. Tomorrow should be great too! Welcome Friday!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Phipps Conservatory

I don't really feel like school has started. Which is a good feeling comared to yesterday and Monday.

The "Palm Court" in the Phipps Conservatory

Look! I found a friend!
So after meeting with the last professor I needed to, I headed over to the Phipps Conservatory. It is in Schenly Park, which is literally right next to CMU. And it was free! (to CMU students) It is quite an impressive conservatory. I don't really know a ton about it, I will direct you here for more info. I had a very relaxing stroll through the complex of green houses. So this summer they were doing a "Gargoyles in the Garden" thing, so there were random gargoyles all over the place, I thought that it would be appropriate if they were always there.

The main "hub" was the Palm court, not overly notable... but still impressive. A very cool room was the "Stove room" that was a very cool butterfly green house, lots of butterfly's roaming around. Definitely thought of Gram. There was a Orchid room, full of all different types of.. you guessed it, Orchids. One connecting green house was the "Train Garden," you would greatly enjoy it Gramps. One of their more notable plants was an "Agave Americana" a huge plant that had a single stalk that grew outside of the green house it was in!

Then Outside!
It was quite the collection of very well manicured plants. I am sure a number of you would enjoy spending some time in there (mother and father, I am thinking of you). With the price and the locating in mind, I may stop by again for some secluded studying. We will see.

Oh! Here are some more pictures!

Mom, Dad, How come your garden does not look like this?

Third Day: A little more restfull

I am currently sitting in to ECE Masters Study area and Lounge, a space set aside for the professional masters students because we don't get offices. Down here there are lockers for us to store stuff over the day, a large "lab type" area for computer work and studying, a side room for group studying complete with a whiteboard, and a little kitchen. I am sipping on some hot tea in honor of James (I didn't have to use my body to get it, unlike some people).

So after a lot of walking and talking, and a little worrying, I am now enrolled in 3 courses, and am considered a full time student. My courses are as follows:

15-781 (10-781) Machine Learning
Monday and Wednesday from 10:30AM to 11:50AM
In a nutshell, how can we get a system to take in stimulus or data, process the data, and then figure out what the next move is. The overall goal are systems that improve their performance over multiple iterations. Think of a GPS unit that would learn your driving habits, and your preferences and know how to direct you based on that. So if you are in an area that you know, it might take you a more complicated, but efficient way, and if you are in a completely new area it would take you on a very easy to follow path (not like mine in downtown Pittsburgh).

15-861 Computational Photography
Tuesday and Thursday 12:00PM to 1:20PM
Going to the first lecture, this has the potential to be an amazing course. We are going to be looking at how to take a picture and enhance it. The professor is currently doing work in working on an algorithm to take a 2D picture of an object, like a building or a train, and reconstruct it in a 3D model. The little demo he had was amazing! Some of our projects are going to be along the lines of panoramic stitching, Colorizing old negatives and Photographic morphing. G'pa Bob, hopefully, I will be sending you some awesome pictures.

16-764 Ethnography: Analyzing how context affects Technology Use
Friday 12:00 PM to 2:50 PM
 I don't really know a ton about this course, seeing as I have not been to lecture yet. It is a course in their robotics  program, looking at how technology gets used in society and how to better apply technology to a given problem. Ill let you know more on Friday after class.

Because of how the computer science department works (they have a two week orientation that started on Monday) I don't have any class today. I am not sure how I am going to fill my time... I might go check out the Phipps conservatory, it is right next to campus, and I get in for free!

Monday, August 23, 2010

First day.

This may be really borring, just skip to the end for the highlights.
First day of School! Not like 1st grade (because I am supporting James Bronder)
Left the house at 7:40 ish. It is about a 10 min. walk to the nearest bus stop. I ended up getting on the wrong bus. It got me to CMU, it was just the long way, and took some extra time. Once I got on campus I was supposed to meet my academic advisor at 9:30. Turns out he was working at home and forgot about the time, so he missed our meeting. I proceeded to wonder around campus, trying to find where all of the buildings are, and what is the best way to get around. At 10:30 my first ever class at CMU started, there were about 100 people in a room made for 75. 45 people were registered for the class, and there were 55 people on the wait list; I was part of the later group. The professor came up with a rather clever, and if I do say so, fair way to determine who would get to stay and who would leave. He gave everyone a pop quiz on material that would have been covered in the pre-requisite classes. If you were registered for the class and you did poorly, it was suggested that you drop the course (it was not mandatory, just strongly suggested). He would then determine who would be able to stay in the class as determined by the scores of the test. It was a Embedded real-time operating systems course, and with my knowledge from Dr. T's Embedded Course I did soso, not great, not too bad, but I don't think it will be good enough to get in to the class. So the labs in this class were going to be hacking in to a Smartphone kernel and writing your own code, it sounded super interesting.
"The Fence" - On my first day
Right after class I tried to find a spot to eat my sandwich, but it was raining, so I had to retreat to inside of the Gates Center. I greatly enjoyed just sitting and not thinking about anything other than the tasty morsel I was eating. After this I headed back to my advisor's office to try to catch him, which I did. We had a long conversation about both of us and what direction I should go. He currently has a game plan for getting me a position as a research fellow this summer, I will tell you all if anything happens with this potential opportunity. He was sympathetic as to my course conundrum, but he cannot really do much for me other than guidance. Over all the meeting was awesome, very informative, and I like the guy.
Art in the Gates Center - It's Me!
Now I had a bunch of time to kill, I think I got done talking to my advisor 2 ish. I tried to talk to the professor of the first class, just to get a feeling for where I stood in the class, I still don't think I am getting in. After Hunting down the right person I gained access to the Graduate Study area. It is in the basement of the Civil Engineering building, it is a little hard to find, but a great space. This is the first time that I saw a computer that I could use, only to find out that I needed a different password than the one I thought I had. Turns out they e-mailed it to us. Well without being able to log on, how should I find this password? Some kind guy let me borrow his laptop for a sec and I was able to get the password I needed. I was able to register for one more class (one that I am not sure if it counts for my degree) and get on the wait list for another. I killed enough time here so that I could leisurely try to find all of the professors that I am wait listed for. Let me tell you CMU is ridiculous to get around. The part of campus that the engineering part is on is really hilly, so you walk in to one part and go up a floor that connects to a sky walkway that leads you in to another building, then you go down a set of stairs and walk in to another building then go up 4 levels just to find something. It is crazy! and of course the engineering and computer science departments are spread across 6 or so buildings. Needless to say I got my allotment of walking in today. I made it to my second class, this was 35 or so people trying to fit in to a room with 15 seats. Eventually people took seats from the adjacent room. I was on a wait list for that, but it looks like I will be able to enroll soon.

Not so surprisingly after this class, at 5:20 I was ready to get out of there. I made it on to a bus and got home with no problems. Debriefed with my mother on the long walk home (lol, it is up hill, I was out of breath the whole way). Then enjoyed a nice piece of left over pizza with Larry. After dinner I went up to my man-loft and watched some LOST while enjoying some chocolate that Jamie gave me. It has been a very relaxing evening, but a very stressful day.

Got to meet my advisor, he seems like an awesome guy
Mapping out CMU, I am getting the hang of how to get around
Great Sandwich
Making it home

Super frustrating bureaucracy, with little help from the administrative staff
Not getting in to any classes
Getting on the wrong bus
Wrestling with the obscure CMU campus (at least it was good exercise)
Thinking that I should have just stayed in the Tri

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Famous Chicken Fajitas

Well here they are. The very first thing that I make in Pittsburgh is my favorite meal (well... that I can make). Chicken Fajitas! This recipe has been handed to me from my wonderful mother.

Aprox. Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
2 Chicken Breasts
1 onion
1 pepper
1 packet of Fajita Seasoning (I like McCormick, but I can't find any here in Pittsburgh)
1 can of refried beans (I like the reduced fat variety)
4-6 Tortillas
Guacamole if you want (or afford)
Lizano! and other sauces.
Rice (Jake would always make us rice at GU)

Depending on how much you put in this will be enough for 2 - 3 people.

Cook thinly sliced onions and bell peppers in a small amount of oil until slightly brown. Set aside. Cook thinly sliced chicken until cooked. Add fajita seasoning mix and water as directed. (I add the onions into the chicken at this point, but they can be left separate for people like Larry and Chelsea)

Serve on tortillas with lettuce, cheese, and salsa or taco sauce. Serve with refried beans and rice. There is a lot that you can vary with this, my mother serves tater tots which can be really good inside the fajitas! Enjoy!

EDIT (9/9/10)

I made these again! This time I took some pictures!

Mmmm... Onions and Peppers....
Mmmm... Onions and Peppers with Chicken!
Done. With a fine beverage.

Sunday: Church with a little spice!

Larry and his mother.
Today Larry took me, and his mother, to his "home church." Here in Pittsburgh there are a ton of Presbyterian churches. The joke about how there is always a First Pres, but never a Second Pres does not apply in Pittsburgh. I have driven past Seventh Presbyterian of Pittsburgh. It is a little crazy. And that does not take in to account all of the other Presbyterian churches. We went to Shadyside Pres, apparently it is super historic, read the wiki. It was very different from what I am used to at Colbert. The inside was very impressive, and very large. Larry is a organ music connoisseur, and was telling me a wealth of information about the church's extensive organ. Apparently there was a phenomenal organist a few years ago, reminded me of Lisa. It was a lot more liturgical, and much more formal. I walked downstairs this morning wearing a nice button up shirt with my dickies, Larry told me to go put on pants. I told him that I did not wear pants. He told me to go put on pants. It was a good idea. The users we all wearing suits with corsages. The pastor there was very good, he was just coming back from a summer tour of other churches in America. He mentioned going to a few churches where they wanted him to wear a Hawaiian shirt and that they had huge screens with graphics and text, I thought of Saddleback.
Look mom! I am wearing pants!
After church I headed out in to the wild unknown to go grocery shopping. I made it to a Costco, and a Giant Eagle. Costco was fairly normal, however they did not have any refried beans! And when I asked someone they looked at me funny... I found a limited selection at Giant Eagle, not the best, but they worked. Their Mexican food section was lacking and they only had 4 selections of tortillas, not like the whole end cap at most stores in the Northwest. I did get what I needed, and made it back, all without using my GPS! The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging pictures (if you are reading this today or tomorrow it most likely means there is a picture of you up on my wall...), talking to Grandma and Gramps, and just relaxing before the storm that will occur at 7:30 tomorrow. I made Larry Fajitas (recipe to follow). He does not like to eat onions or peppers, so I had to make it like mom always made for Chelsea. He said he liked it, and would have it again. Yay! my first cooking experience in Pittsburgh was successful. The rest of the evening will be spent preparing for tomorrow... speaking of which I need to go make myself a sandwich!

The Goods are on the Stove.

Dad and Me

After driving over with me, my father was able to stay for 5 days. And because it was both of our first times in Pittsburgh, we did a lot of exploring! We used my very thoughtful gift from Holly, a tourist book of Pittsburgh!
Dad, Admiring the CMU campus

Day one (Tuesday): Mostly spent unpacking my stuff and getting supplies for the room. At some point we made it over to CMU for the first time. Of course we had no idea where we were going... so we just wondered. We were able to find a campus map, and we were able to find the many engineering buildings, not that it was very helpful, because there was not much to see in them. But it was a very fun self guided tour of the campus. That evening we decided to go find some Mexican food in a city that was very far away from Mexico (or the Tri Cities). We ended up going to a place called Mad Mex, a place that labeled themselves as "West Cost Mexican." It was interesting. Fairly far from La Fama. It was a good place, but not very Mexican. My enchiladas had zucchini in them, tasty, but not what I was looking for. After a nice meal we decided to give a self guided driving tour of the town. We had no destination, and we had no real direction. It was very pleasant, until I had to cut the drive short because of a full bladder.

Inside the bathroom at MadMex
Dad and I outside my new home away from home.

He should be more worried...
Day Two (Wednesday): Father and I got up at a very reasonable hour and headed over to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which is located right next to CMU. It was quite the place, highlights included a wonderful and huge exhibit on Gems, the famous Carnegie Dinosaurs, and vivid and dramatic dioramas of wildlife. I would highly suggest it to any person visiting Pittsburgh. This is a side story, but it is important: As we were driving on Monday, my academic advisor e-mailed me and asked if we could meet on Tuesday. Well I did not get my computer set up in time to see it, so I missed the meeting, he then sent another request to meet on Wednesday. (I will go more in to this fiasco later) Because of awkward communication mix-up, I was not sure if he was going to still want to meet at that time, but I wanted to err on the side of him being there. So I left Dad in the museum to go find this professor's office on campus. I was able to find the office, however he was not there (which was fine, I actually expected this). So I wandered around the building for a bit (the Gates Center, it is HUGE!). An older PhD student in the computer science department approached me and pointed me in the direction of their (I say "their" because I am in ECE not Computer Science) graduate coordinator. She was able to give me a lot of information that I was wondering about, and sent me off to get my student ID card. After getting a horrible picture taken (it was hot out side... I am all sweaty) I decided I was done dealing with school and headed back to the car. We had parked in Schenley Park where there was a farmers market assembling themselves. Now from what I remember in the Northwest all of the Farmers Markets started fairly early in the morning. Apparently here they all start in the middle of the afternoon, weird... I was able to get some corn and a cucumber for dinner that evening, and I met back up with dad, who apparently had a wonderful time continuing to explore without me. We headed back home for a great meal prepared by Larry. He made his Kabobs, with corn and green beans. It was wonderful. After dinner, Dad and I played an intense game of Carcassonne, which he won by 2 points!

 Day Three (Thursday): This was a great day for exploring Pittsburgh. After I dealt with school drama, we headed to the famous Primanti Bro's Sandwich shop. I enjoyed a Pitts burgher Cheese steak (their 2nd most popular item, after beer) and dad had a Pastrami sandwich. The unique feature of these sandwiches is their size and unusual inclusion of coleslaw and French fries inside of the sandwich. To my discomfort they use peperoncinis somewhere in the sandwich, something that my body decided it did not like, and I suffered through a little allergic reaction, with itchy
spots popping up all over my upper half. After I recovered we headed over to the famous Duquesne Incline (yes, just for Chelsea, a funicular). Amusingly we drove up the mountain to the top of it, instead of to the bottom and riding it to the top, we were a little confused as to the directions. At the top station there is a great museum of Pittsburgh and how it has grown over the years. Outside there is an amazing over look of the city, this is also certainly a must see for visitors. We took lots of pictures. From here we headed to the area known, I think, as the north shore. That evening at 7 ish we were going to be attending a Pirates game, but we got there around 3, so we wondered the downtown area where we happened to be. We admired some architecture, and some bridges (because of the numerous rivers this city has a bunch of bridges). We made it to the confluence of the Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers, and took a plethora of pictures just for Gramps. This moseying was all very fun and enjoyable, we took in a lot of that area. This whole time we had been walking around PNC Park (where the Pirates play) which made it easy to get to the game. First, it is a great, new, modern ball park. It is very well laid out, and very comfortable. Second, Dad got us great seats. We were about 15 rows up from the field, and almost directly behind home plate. The right field of the park opens up to a view of the downtown area just over the river, great sights! The Pirates however are not the best team, and ended up losing, but it was still a great evening.
Look! The Confluence!

Day Four (Friday): I had orientation (I will post about that later). Dad however had a great time. I am not 100% sure where he went, but I know that he made it to what is called the Strip District (don't worry mom it is not the risqué type of area). I was told stories of a great History museum and really interesting foreign shops. 5:45 ish he made it back to CMU to pick me up. We went back home and found Larry and took him to Friday night pizza at Vincent's Pizza Park. It reminded me of a shadier 5 mile heights pizza, with great pizza! It was a very good last night, very relaxing, good company.
Look at the Pizza!
Day Five (Saturday): Sadly at 4:45 in the morning I had to drive Dad to the airport, bringing a close to our awesome trip.

Hey! Look! More Pictures!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Larry's Chicken Kabobs

This one is just for you Jordan. Larry made these twice in the past week, once for my dad and myself, and once for the previously mentioned block party. Fairly easy and tasty.

Aprox. Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins

2 chicken breasts
1 bell pepper (some will argue that there is a difference in taste between color. use your favorite)
1 onion
12-16 cherry tomatoes
1 bottle of Italian Salad Dressing (you could use any marinating sauce, Yoshidas, BBQ sauce, your pick)
6-8 (pre-soaked if wooden) Kabob skewers

The portions are for about 6 kabobs, feeding about 3 people. I could be wrong, it is sort of guess work, it depends on how you want them to turn out.

Cut up the chicken in to bite sized pieces. Cut the pepper and onion in to fairly large cubes (Aprox. inch by inch). Take a skewer, put on a tomato, put on a piece of onion, put on a piece of chicken, put on a piece of pepper, put on a piece of onion, put on a piece of chicken... so on and so forth. Until there are 3 or 4 pieces of chicken "sets." Top it off with a tomato.

[tomato][onion][chicken]pepper] [onion][chicken]pepper] [onion][chicken]pepper] [onion][chicken]pepper][tomato]

After skewering, place the kabob in a Pyrex dish (or similar pan) and spread your desired sauce over the kabob. Keep making kabobs until you run out of materials. If you have time, it would behoove you to let the kabobs soak in the marinade for a wile... like a few hours or overnight (be sure to place in fridge).

When you are ready, fire up the BBQ. Spray the grill with some PAM. Cook the kabobs until chicken looks done. Enjoy.
You can easily modify this recipe. Add potatoes, mushrooms, pearl onions... be creative! You can also use steak instead of chicken, and you can easily go for the vegetarian option.

Dewey Street Block Party

Today was the 15th - or - so Dewey Street block party. Apparently it was started by a couple who enjoyed friends and dogs, so they organized this event to bring those two things together. It has now just evolved in to the whole street bringing out food and drinks (one house hosted the kegs) and just enjoy the evening. The local Edgewood police come and block off the street. It was quite the event and a lot of fun Over the evening there were around 15 or so houses that were represented. Larry (my roommate) was sure to get me going meeting everyone.

Dewey Street: with people.

People who I met:
- An English man who is the principal at a local school
- A very nice older lady who knew where and what Gonzaga is. (I am going over to her house during basketball season to watch the games)
- A Indian (country, not Native) Anesthesiologist
- Larry's Mother, who is awesome
- A German fellow who is apparently the Assistant Dean of the Computer Science department at Carnegie
- Some girl who talked to me about my shirt (Flogging Molly)
- A Podiatrist who only talked to me about Seattle Grunge after I mentioned I was from Washington
- And other various mothers and their children.

Monday, August 16, 2010

And so it begins...

Departure: Spokane, WA Saturday, August 14th 7:15 AM
Arrival: Pittsburgh, PA Monday, August 16th 8:30 PM
Total Distance: ~2300 miles.
The Mini Spaceship with TumbleWeed holding on tight
After packing up my car (many thanks to Chelsea!) Dad and I got in to my car for a journey that neither of us had ever experienced. Father had chosen to play poker until the wee hours of the night (well morning) so I got the honor of first driving shift. With the GPS plugged in and a bag of cookies (thanks Kirsten!) we got on to I-90 headed out east. We very quickly passed in to Idaho and then in to Montana. The First of many notable places we passed was Frenchtown Montana, hometown of Jamie! Shortly after F-town, we got to pass through to lovely town of Butte, the home stomping grounds of Caleb. After passing such historical landmarks, it was a long trek across the "Big Sky Country." Beautiful, but long. After Billings we took "the scenic route" through the Crow and Cheyenne reservations; passing such cities as Broadus, Ashland and Dad's favorite Lame Deer. After nightfall, and dipping in to Wyoming, we made it back on to I-90 and entered the exciting state of South Dakota, where we reached Spearfish. Here we found a hotel and passed out.

Total Mileage so far: 814
We were bright rays of sunshine.
After awaking, we realized that Spearfish is fairly close to Sturgis. So for all of you who are not bikers (which is most likely all of you), there is a yearly bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. This has pulled as many as 600,000 people in past years. When we set out the next day, we happened to roll past Sturgis the day after this ridiculous rally. So for about 300 miles we had to deal with bikers on bikes, bikers in tucks towing bikes, and bikers in RV's towing trucks towing bikes. It was a little stressful. Again I got to pull the first shift in driving. Fun. So we headed down I-90 towards Minnesota. South Dakota is not the most interesting state, really flat, and eventually lots and lots of corn and soybeans. The high light was driving pass the South Dakota Tractor Museum. I had the pleasure of visiting there with Bill driving from Kansas City. We made it to Minnesota, to find lots of wind farms and still more corn and soy. An interesting note is that they do not have the fancy irrigation that Dad and I were used to in the Northwest, they just let it grow. After a long day of driving, and crossing the Mississippi, we made it to Wisconsin, and the quaint town of La Crosse. The main attraction of La Crosse was... wait for it... ROCKY RACOCO'S! AH! It was awesome! Dad and I felt rather special for getting to visit Rocky's outside of Spokane, in its home state. They have two of them in La Crosse! It was crazy! They have them on the blue "FOOD" signs on the side of the freeway! After a great meal, that was surprisingly similar to the Rocky's in Spokane, we headed out to New Lisbon, found a hotel and passed out for the second night.

Total Mileage so far: 1,557
We entered our last day of driving rather happy. Possibly because we had leftover pizza for breakfast. From our hotel we headed south in to the great state of Illinois. Did any of you know that you have to pay for I-90 there? Yes from Illinois all the way to Pennsylvania, I-90 is a giant toll road. We quickly made it to Indiana, and passed South Bend (I took a picture of the exit to Notre Dame for Jason). We then stumbled in to Ohio, were the toll roads have "Travel Plazas" to aid weary travelers. They are these huge pull outs off to the side that you can only access via the toll road that house restaurants, bathrooms, and gift shops... weird. Another interesting note: from east South Dakota to Pittsburgh, they have awesome rest stops. Not just clean, but impressive. One we pulled in to was two stories! It was a huge difference to the one we stopped at in Montana that was a hole in the ground. At this point in our drive, Dad and myself just wanted to get there... so I don't really remember much else until Pennsylvania. The drive in to Pittsburgh was great! Sort of like in Spokane, the interstate we were on crested a hill and in between a frame of trees you could see downtown. We were able to follow the GPS directions to Larry's house where we were greeted by our first Pittsburghian. After a quick dinner at "The Map Room," we retired to bed for a very long and restful sleep.
My new city.
Total Mileage so far: 2,300 (we drove through 11 states)

Look and me having fun!
- Father-Son Bonding time
- A deLorean and a Millennium Falcon guiding our way on the GPS
- Rocky Racoco's in Wisconsin!
- Corn (the first time we saw it)
- Getting to see a rather large swath of our country.

Low Lights:
- A Fully Loaded Mini Spaceship does not handle very well
- Tumble Weed (my bike) on the back trunk
- Having to use the bathroom
- Tolls
- Any driving past the 6 hour mark
-Corn (After the 4 millionth stalk we saw)

Ohh... look! Pictures!