Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Just as I write that, I am guessing that quite a few people are putting that for the title of something today... Happy Halloween anyway!

I am going to do this thing in reverse chronological order, with this comment to start: I am a little bummed that I did not partake in festivities this year for Halloween. I could blame this on the lack of interested friends (may be just a lack of friends ;) ),  or that I did not have the space or the time or the money for a costume... I don't really know why I did not do anything, but I was a little bummed that I didn't do anything. Especially after hearing about a particular IRA Soldier and a Cupcake in Colorado (props to Alana and Jamie).

That being said, Mother, Chelsea, Holly and I guess Caleb you are getting grouped in here, I just got back from YadGrad where one of the girls showed up in a remarkable representation of Abby from NCIS. Complete with a spider web neck tattoo and lab coat... You guys would have appreciated it.

Today (Sunday) was mostly spent working on Machine Learning Homework. Lots of fun. However this morning before church, something may or may not have slipped when I was shaving:

 Draw Strength from the Beard!

This weekend I have also been taking care of Theo! Mitch (they guy who I have been working with in Machine Learning) and his wife were on a retreat, so they asked if I could watch their dog. It was lots of fun. We watched a lot of Lost. He is such a goofy dog, but very well behaved, and is very friendly.

Hanging out with Theo was a significant part of my day, mainly because they were doing construction on the only path I knew to their house. And Saturday morning was the first time I went thinking "oh, I have been there like 5 times, I don't need my GPS..." Ha! God, you have a funny sense of humor. Don't worry, I made it there after some exploration of the south side. Good thing I have mastered my car on hills, there are a few crazy ones over there. Other events of Saturday include working on my computational Photography project, which is coming along... 

I just realized that I need to preface this next part with a little story:

About 3 weeks ago, I was standing in the atrium of Shadyside after the service, just minding my business and enjoying a cookie. As I was there holding the wall up, a couple came and stood in my general area. After some time had past, the girl of the two, asked me if I knew where the coffee was. At this point the conversation went as followed:
Me: "Ummm... I don't really know. I am a bad person to ask, I have only been here for a few months."
Girl: "Oh! Ok...    well were are you originally from?"
Me: "Washington State. What about you guys?"
Girl: "We come from Juno, but we both grew up in Washington, what area?"
Me: "Spokane? You?"
Guy: "No way! What High School did you go to?"
Girl: "I went to Mead, he went to Ferris"
Me: "Oh... well I cant talk to you anymore... Haha, I went to Mt. Spokane."
Girl: "Man... small world. What church did you attend there?"
Me: "Colbert Press. up north on Highway 2"
Girl: "No way! I am one of the charter members of that church!"
Me: "Wait a sec! I am too... "
Girl: "Who are you?!?!?"

Well it turns out I was talking to none other than Kendra Dye. Someone who I had not scene for, I figure, a good 10 years. I had spent a lot of time with her Brother Issac when they lived in Spokane. Their family was very integral in the formation of Colbert, and it was very sad to have them leave shortly after. So Kendra is going to the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Dang small world. So we were sure to exchange contact info.

Ok, so on Friday I joined Kendra and a group (9 or so) of her seminary friends for a little bon fire and fall celebration. I was picked up after class and we headed out to a country house about 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. It was awesome. They had horses, they had trees, they had space. There were no cars, there was not very much concrete, there was a lot of green (well... fall ish). It was wonderful. I didn't realize how much I had been surrounded by the urban environment until I got out there. One of the girls' mothers had a whole spread of food ranging from Apple cider to bratwursts and hot dogs to s'mores to trail mix and fresh caramel corn. It was wonderful to just sit around a fire talking with like minded individuals. The whole evening reminded me of Colbert Youth leaders, the more rural parts of Spokane, the Tri Cities and French town. Over all a great evening.

Well for this to be a great evening I need to finish up this homework...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grove City College

Today, just after class, I hurried home so that I could drive up to Grove City College. I was contacted by a professor up there to give a little talk to some students about my experiance going from school to work to school again.

Traffic in this town is crazy. It took me one hour to get outside of the city. Now, this may have been because I missed 2 turns, but still! I spent about 75% of that time just sitting. The pinnacle was where a lady, a passenger, in the car ahead of me, got out of the car, walked in to the bar on the side of the road. She returned with a 12 pack of Budweiser, only to find the car a few car lengths down the road. I almost got on my PA, to convey my joy over what I had just seen, but I decided against using my PA in the middle of a traffic block. On a side note, yes, here in Pittsburgh, they are even more strict with Alcohol sales than in Washington. Not only do they have liqueur stores, you cannot buy beer or wine in grocery stores. Because of this, most bars become the neighborhood alcohol distribution centers. Also, you cannot buy any alcohol on Sundays, holidays, or election days.

Anyway.... so a 1 hour trip turned in to a 2 hour fiasco. Once I got out of the city, it was a pleasant drive, quite the colors on the trees. For those of you in Washington, remember: over here the ratio of coniferous to deciduous trees is inverted. For every one coniferous, there is like 50 or so deciduous trees. This makes for quite a different fall color scheme. The trees also seem to change at different times, so you will have a clump of trees that have lost all of their leaves intermixed with trees that are just turning. It certainly felt like fall.  I eventually made it to Grove City, it reminded me of a classy, newer Mead... with a college in the middle of it. The main drag of the town had quite a few quaint shops and restaurants. I walked down the side walk for about half a block (I know... I was adventurous!) before finding Four Star Pizza. I enjoyed a very reasonably priced and very tasty, Chicken Parmesan Sub Sandwich, with fries and a drink. The town was also having their 'safe trick-or-treating.' So there were a ton of little kids running around from shop to shop getting candy, and in the shop I was in, balloon animals. It was a refreshingly enjoyable lunch.

I found my way to the college, and was amazed at how new everything looked (well it might have been new for all I knew). The building I walked in to very much reminded me of Hogwarts. Very stone and timber looking, but new and shiny. I was rather impressed for it being a smaller school. I found the room, and some of the students. The talk went very well. It was really more of a discussion, which I think the students got a lot out of. There was a lot of the Professor and I talking back and forth, sharing stories about Grad life and about corporate life. I was glad that I could make it up there.

So the connection here is Agnes, the lady across the street. She knew I was going to CMU, and so she asked me for my contact info and some of the classes that I was taking so that she could give it to her son-in-law, who also went to CMU. He ended up contacting me a little bit later, and put me in contact with the president of their Engineering group (I think ACM). So talking with him, I decided that I was not nearly qualified to give an actuall 'talk,' but I felt as though I had some good knowledge to pass on, both about moving from school to the corporate life, and also moving in to the Grad school life.

The drive home took significantly less time, at only 1 hour 10 minutes. I did take some pictures, Ill post them soon. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Worry, I survived.

I think I may have just lived through my very first tornado storm warning!

Apparently it was in affect from 2 is to 6 ish... I didn't know about it until I went down stairs to make some Peirogies and saw on the news that it had passed over our area.

Don't worry, I made it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

It starts out Easy, Something Simple....

Here it goes again.

I hope at least someone gets the reference of the above...

The more important part is that I am about to start a job search again. This time for an internship for this summer. If any of you have suggestions, please let me know! I need all of the ideas I can get! I am open to just about anywhere seeing as I am on the east coast, and I would love to head towards home. That gives me just about all of the US! Really, If you have any suggestions, from what company I should talk to, to where should I be looking, anything would motivate me. If you know some, you should just skip Internet communication, and just call me (unless you are going to use Skype to call, then you can use the Internet...)

In other news:
I was walking around Wean Hall, and found this interesting, and amusing non-approved art:

  Complete with the camera, could only be improved with a Sentry Gun

For those of you who do not play video games, this is a well done reference to Portal. A game where the player can 'shoot' portals on to most surfaces. A link is made up between the two portals, and the player can 'jump' through. So these two portals appeared on different floors in the same staircase, showing what is seen out of the other one. I was rather impressed, seeing as it was made using sidewalk chalk.

This form of art is really common in Wean, the whole building is concrete or brick. In the stairwells people commonly write things in chalk (which is removed very once in a while...). Other things I have seen: A giant space invader (each brick was a pixel), a very long pascals triangle, random math equations, a series of 'Love me Tender' cartoons (one was a dinosaur, one was a bear, and one was a dragon). It has been cool to see the evolution of such things.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Underground Street Art to High Class Pop Art

My Friday and Saturday were experiences in to the fringes of the art world. And interestingly they were rather related.
I snagged this from It is not mine.
 So Friday, I stuck around school for a showing of "Exit Through the Gift Shop." A very interesting documentary by Banksy, about the revolution of street art (or to some, graffiti). For those of you who do not know this guy, he is a rather revolutionary artist (to some), who expresses himself through street art and other "counter-culture" actions. Yes you may be against graffiti, but look at some of these. You might change your mind. I find his style and satire rather inspiring and insightful. The documentary itself was very interesting, there was some really impressive footage of all sorts of art "installations." Very inspiring. If engineering fails me, and my stint on Jeopardy falls out, and my restaurant goes under I may just turn to roaming the streets to express my feelings. I would highly recommend "Exit Through the Gift Show" to anyone who is even remotely interested in to the movement. Also to anyone that need to get me a Christmas gift, I have had this on my unofficial list for about 3 years now, but there is an awesome collection of his work called "Wall and Piece" that would make a good gift.

I grabbed this one from
On the other side of the spectrum (well not really... but I will get to that in a bit) I went to "The Warhol" last night with some people from Church. The museum, which is a tribute to Mr. Andy Warhol, was having some sort of promotion where they were open for 24 hours, and had free admission. So last night I got a text at 8 ish, asking if I wanted to meet at 9 for this adventure. It was a lot of fun! There were 6 of us that went. We ended up parking behind the Fort Pitt museum, one of the guys is a curator (I don't really know what his position is... he is sort of in charge of the place) there. It was basically Pittsburgh's bat cave. At one point you are driving on a park way, and all of a sudden you jump over a curb and tuck under an overpass in to a rather well lit and spacious back lot for the museum. We got a mini tour of the main part of the Fort Pitt museum before we headed over to the bridge towards The Warhol.

For those of you who did not know this, Andy Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, and actually graduated from Carnegie Tech (what is now Carnegie Mellon). Previous to last night I did not really know all that much about Mr. Warhol, other than the soup cans and the Marilyn portraits. I feel as though if he were to have been born in our generation, with Photoshop and the internet (specifically YouTube) he would have been a different beast. The galleries and the museum itself were amazing. I am not a huge fan of all of his work. Some of it I really like, but a lot of it I find pointless and a little lame. (possibly because I am an Engineer) Which is funny, on of the girls who was in our group is an artist, it was interesting to hear her perspective on things. After visiting all of the floors, and seeing way more pictures of naked Marilyn Monroe that I thought existed, we ended up leaving around 12:30 in the morning. Yeah for late night culture.

So the interesting thing about the two areas of art is that they are surprisingly the same. The pieces of Warhol that I really like are his screen prints (like the Monroe portraits) where he plays around with different colors with a similar design. Another example is his "Skull" series. These images are very very similar to those done by Banksy, Mr. Brainwash and Shepard Fairey as outlined in the above film. The simple derivations of a common images repeated over and over again seems to hit a nerve. I would even suggest that the modern street artist pulled a lot of ideas from greats like Warhol, some of their work is indistinguishable from his.

All in all my culture meter went up. I think in my future place of residence I will have reproductions from both ends of the spectrum.

As for Sunday, my culture meter went unchanged. I had class today! In exchange for class this Tuesday, and class the Tuesday of Thanksgiving, my Computational Photography professor traded us for a 3 hour class today. So from 5-8 we sat around and talked about homogenous transforms. He also may or may not have bribed us with pizza. It was not so bad, and now I can check that off of my list of things to pull up in conversation... "What? 8 AM classes? Yeah, well once had class on Sunday!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Donut Dash. I came. I ran. I ate Donuts. I ran again.

Today was it! The Donut Dash at CMU.

The premise, for those of you who did not catch my previous post, is a joyful event put on by a frat here to help support the local children's hospital. There were 3 groups of participants. There were casual runners, people who were there to support the cause and have fun. They ran/walked the course and ate as many donuts as they wanted, or none if they wished. Then there were the teams, groups of 3 that worked together to win. They had to split a dozen krispy kreams, each person had to eat at least 2 donuts. Their time was based on the slowest person in the group. Then there were the few and proud, and the crazy. The competitive group. These were individuals who wanted to conquer this by themselves. They ran to the donuts, pounded down 12 of them, and then ran back. I was in this last group. I really should have found a team to be on...

So the course is around CMU's campus, the run itself was not too bad. I was able to make it to the donut station in 9 minutes. HA! Take that Mr. Hare (my middle school PE teacher. We had to run "miles." I was always last. It was a little sad.). I was not in fact last this time, I was not in the front, but I was not last. This is where the hard part started. When you get there you are handed a box full of donuts. I made it through the first 6 with no problem. But then it was a brick wall. Getting the last one down was rough. So after about 25 ish minutes of trying to eat pure sugar and fat, I headed off for the finish line. The last bit was remarkably easy. I was expecting running after eating the dozen was going to kill me, but it turned out fine. I would not want to have gone further, but it was fine.

My final time was somewhere between 39:30 and 40:00. The official times will be posted some time soon on the website. I was happy with how I did! I think I may have been one of the last people to finish, but then again I think only a handful of people did the full challenge. I think the majority of the 150 or so runners were on a team. For the record: I would have rocked the team run.

The final times were absurd. The Team winners were something like 11 minutes. and the individual guy won in something like 17 minutes. I was blown away buy those times.

Anyway. I can feel the diabetes coursing in to my veins. I don't think I am going to eat a donut for a long time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If Quizes are Quizzical, then what are Tests?

It is a really good thing I do not drink. Being in this class would get really expensive, and I would be wasted by now. The test was rough. Out of the 16 pages, I left 2 entirely blank, and 3 were just filled with "stuff" I don't expect a ton of points, but it was better than nothing. From talking to others in the class, I don't think anyone did very well. But it is still not a very good feeling. Oh well. We will see how it goes.

In other news: Auntie Donna, I laughed quite a bit at the verse. For those of you not up to date on Hogle lore, My mother and Aunt went a little creative on Halloween, and made paper-mache costumes. My mother made an impressive Snow Man. My Aunt made a Tree costume, complete with leaves that had fallen in their yard (yes for those who are really paying attention, they were in New York at the time not California). When I first saw this picture, I thought there was something a little sad about a little girl dressing up as a tree. Anyways... it has been a point of continual bonding between my Aunt and I, mostly in the form of her reminding me of how cool trees are ;). "Every Tree Has Character" So the verse she sent me was Mark 8:24:

     He looked up and said, "I see people: they look like trees walking around."

So an update on the little tree that could: It is still chugging away.

Don't worry! I picked up the trash that was trying to suffocate it.

Its leaves are turning colors sort of like this one:

And another tree that caught my eye...

Apparently here in PA, their Evergreens also drop leaves.

Also Today is Larry's Birthday! So I made him a cake!

Not nearly as cool as the fabled "K" cake.

Yep, Funfetti on top of chocolate.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Eve of the Fight

So tomorrow is my first test of my graduate career. I am slightly looking forward to it, only because I generally enjoy taking tests. That being said, it is going to be rough. It is in Machine Learning, the class that I am still struggling in, and it is open note/open book. I am looking forward to tomorrow at noon (that is when I will be done!).

In other news, I need to come up with a final Computational Photography project. I went in to talk to the professor about it today. The only requirments that I was given was that for Grad students, it needed to be more "research" oriented. I don't really know what that really means... But I presented 5 ideas to the professor. 5 ideas got a "oh... I like it, but that is not enough." or "The base of that project is too easy, but the extension is almost impossible." He then gave me a little lecture that eluded to ask for forgiveness later. He said that you can either follow the rules and meet them to get a good grade or you can go against the rules and make something amazing (that may be against the rules) to get a good grade. When he was finished going through this, I just sat there looking at him. He gave me one of his little quirky smiles and asked if there was anything else I needed.

AH! Undefined open ended problems! I love them and I hate them!

As I think more about what he said, I will update you as to what I am doing. However if you have any good Computational Photography projects, let me know!

Pumpkins and Rubens

Apparently inspired by my failed attempt at a "young adult group date," Gwyn organized a trip out to Trax Farms for a little fall fun. There was a good group of about 11 of us that headed out to the far.

I was hoping it was going to be like an Amish Green Bluff... I was wrong.

1) It took about 75 minutes to get there. It was not a matter of distance, it was silly traffic. I was amazing at how many people were out on the road at 2:30 on a Saturday!

2) There was only 1 farm, and 600-700 people. Not what I am used to at Green Bluff. I may be romanticizing it, but for some reason I remember it ration being more around 4 or 5 farms to 500-600 people at any one time. Because of this it reminded me more of a California 'farm' (not that there are farms in California (I know... I know... there is a lovely place called Bakersfield)).

3) There was no 'pick-your-own' pumpkin patch. I later found that you could pay $8 to take a tractor out to the field to then pick a pumpkin that you then had to pay for... Anyway, it was just a few piles of rather decent looking pumpkins. I felt as though this sort of kills the fun. You can find a giant pile of pumpkins at the grocery store (or here at Church, they really like to use this as a fund raiser).

4) General lack of "farm made" products. There was a lot you could buy; however, they were generally commercialized products. I want a McGlades pie!

Despite my silent bickering, it was a fun trip. And it was nice to see quasi-country for once in a long wile. After collecting an apt amount of pumpkins, hay and other fall decoratives we headed back to church. Seeing as we got back around 7 ish, we headed over to a bar/restaurant in Shadyside for dinner. I was told that this place was renown for their pizza, and upon looking at the menu, I spotted "The Ruben."

Yes, a pizza with sauerkraut, corned beef, Swiss cheese all on top of a 1000 island based sauce. The only thing that could have made it better was being on rye pizza crust. Yes, father, I thought of you. I quickly found 2 other people who shared my interest in such an odd pizza. It turned out the be rather tasty. In an odd way it reminded me of the legendary Brickhouse Gyro Pizza that Kirsten and I discovered. And all of my pizza mates didn't want the 3 left over pieces! Leftovers! However they went straight to the freezer seeing as I still have a pan and a half of enchiladas!   

It was a great time to get to know some more of the Shadyside "young adults." They are rather interesting people, and fun to be around.

Mid-Semester Break

So last Friday was my "Mid Semester Break." Basically I did not have Ethnography.

So I started off my day with a trip down to the Strip District. For those of you who are not aware of Pittsburgh land marks, let me fill you in. The Strip is a commercial district just north of downtown Pittsburgh, along the Allegheny river. This area had become known of a rather diverse array of shops that cater to any and every type of ethnicity that resides in Pittsburgh. This is where the famous Primanti Brothers opened their first shop that targeted the workers of the food distribution centers. This is also where the famous "Altar Bar" is located, yep, it is a church that has been made in to a bar. I have yet to go, but the next person who visits me will expect to go there.

So I wondered around the area for a while, enjoying the scene and watching the fair amount of people for early in the day on a Friday. I made it in to Wholey's (pronounced Holies... they are weird here....) a rather interesting grocer that seemed to focus on sea food and everything that went with it. However I did find some Spetzle, I got some to try later on. I checked out Salmon, I could only find one type of "Pacific" salmon, it was $25 a pound, good thing that is not something I miss from home. Gramps you would have enjoyed the fact that they had a little train that ran around the entire meat section.

There was a large spattering of Steelers and "Yinzers" shops, I didn't really go in at all, they were all rather intimidating. I did make it to Reyna's, which is a Mexican Grocer, with a Taco stand outside. They were an excellent reminder of the find food the the Tri.
Notice the Black and Gold, Steelers Chips.
They also had all of the things I needed to make Enchiladas later that evening, even Lizanos!

With fresh tortillas, enchilada sauce, rice, and beans, I headed down to "The Leaf and Bean" a locally owned Tobacco and Coffee shop. The only reason I know about this place is because of Jeff (the young adult minister at Shadyside). The leaf and bean has a rather unique decor ("We wanted it to be like the living representation of a Jimmy Buffet song"), and amusing staff. Turns out Jeff was there, and Jeff was planning on heading over to Oakland to meet up with a new Young Adult. That means that I could get a ride!

From Oakland I made it home via bus and some walking. I then started the process of making my famous enchiladas!

So for dinner I invited over: Jeff (the Young Adult pastor at Shadyside), Matt (a fellow student from church, he is in prosthesis at Pitt), Bart (a PH.D student at Pitt) and some others who could not end up making it. Larry also joined us; I was a little worried that Larry was not going to like the Enchiladas, and I told him that he was 'invited' but that I would not be offended if he did not join us. But to both of our surprises he really did enjoy them! Yay! I can make Enchiladas whenever I want to! Everyone else also enjoyed them, but I knew they would...

Holly, you came up in conversation at dinner. Bart made a reference to work with RNA, I mentioned that you were recently working in a lab that focused on RNA (don't worry, I didn't try to remember more than that, I didn't want to get it wrong). Bart got really excited. Apparently RNA is his favorite thing in the world. Seeing him get all excited about it was rather funny. In addition, if you ever get really desperate, you could come out here and he would be willing to take you out on a date (based solely on your educational background, the fact that you are a friend of mine, and I may or may not have been asked if you were attractive (I couldn't lie...)).

I lost track of the subtle point that Pittsburgh is not Richland, and therefore the culture surrounding nuclear weapons is not quite the same. There is a long standing tension between Bart and Jeff over the virtues of their respective fields. Jeff has a masters degree in literature and is (I am fairly sure) ordained. Bart is working in Bio-Chemistry. So they go back and forth about how the liberal arts is better because of this, and science will always be better because of this... I side with Bart, science is way cooler and far more practical than the liberal arts. (I am not trying to offend anyone, I am just picking a side on the issue). Anyway, Jeff said (pointing to Bart): "You make A-bombs, I write poetry." Without thinking about it at all, I shot back: "Yeah, but poetry did not win the war."

There was all of a sudden a very uncomfortable silence. Bart was smiling, I don't know if Larry was paying attention, Matt was just observing (he did not really care either way) and Jeff may have had his mouth open... About the time Jeff started to talk, Bart was chuckling... Jeff asked me if I really did just say that. I went on to explain to all of them the culture of the Tri Cities, including "The Bombers."

All in all it was a very enjoyable Friday! Good Food, good company, and a nice break.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kennedy 511 Enchiladas

This is my trade mark. If I were to make one and only one thing for the rest of my life, it would be these Enchiladas. A little known fact is that Jessie and myself more-or-less taught ourselves how to make this during a Colbert Youth summer dinner.

Aprox Prep: 1 - 2 Hours (depending on how may you make)
Cooking Time: 1 Hour

2-3 chicken Breasts, cooked or shredded
10-12  corn or flour tortillas (you want the 8 ish inch ones)
1 chopped onion
2 cans of enchilada sauce (or one big can)
About 3/4 pound of cheddar cheese (or 'mexican mix' or whatever)

This is for about one 9 -13 pyrex pan, this will feed about 5-8 people.

Collect the goods.
 Cook the chicken (either in fry pan or crock pot) and cut in to bite size bits (you can reverse this order, cut, then cook). Cook Onion in fry pan with a little oil, until translucent. Set both aside.

Cooking Chicken and Onions
Spray a pyrex dish with pam.
The assembly line.
In pyrex, place one tortilla. Put some chicken (not too much, you will get the hang of it, like 5-6 pieces), cheese and onion, cover in sauce. Then roll up the tortilla, and press towards oneside of the pan. Continue process until pan is full. At this point cover the top with a generous amount of cheese, and then pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the pan. Then move on to the next pan.

I personally plan to make 2 pans, one with hot enchilada sauce and one with mild. I also normally only put onions in half of the pan for those who are anti-onion. Once assembled, you can freeze the dish, or you can refridgerate until you want to cook it. This meas you can make it when you have time, then pull it out when you need it.

Final Product.
Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350. The big variation in time has to do with how much cheese you put in there. Wait until the sauce is bubbly, or the tops start to dry out.

I normally serve them with beans and rice. If you want to get really fancy, you can serve them on top of a bed of lettuce with some tomato and avocado garnish. And don't forget the Lizano!

If you are like me and Bill, you cannot skimp on the cheese. And we know. We made monster Enchiladas once, with 4 or 5 types of cheese. It was awesome.

I went a little overboard....
So when I made them this past Friday I didn't exactly know how may people were going to show up, so I made extra... and then seeing as I was going to be going to the effort of making that many, I decided to just make a fourth pan and freeze it. Don't worry, I am going to have plenty of enchiladas for a while.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I miss my Friends!

Tonight I had the great pleasure of talking to two awesome people via Skype, at the same time! Alana has not been feeling good, so Jamie has been, rather matronly, taking care of her. So I got to "Virtually" hang out with them when I got home from Church.

However because of this, it is 11:45, and I don't want to stay up and fill you all in on the going ons of this past weekend. So I will give out free rain checks, come back later this week. I will also give a preview!

A new recipe will be posted!
Pumpkin Patch Fun
Strip District
A Ruben made in to a different, and delicious, form.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another moment of rest

This past week I have been furiously trying to get everything done for school. I have looked up at the clock a few time and realized that it was far to late for me to be staying up. And I wake up just in time to get to school to start working again. I did find some time in there to have a good time helping Cory with a paper, and to catch up briefly with my dear Aunt. Yesterday I was able to turn in another Machine Learning Assignment, and post my computational photography project. And Friday there is no school! Yay!

This means that yet again, I have a nice "Calm in the storm." Last night I was able to go to the Vespers service at Shadyside, and then hang out with people afterwards. It was a very nice evening, lots of philisophical and theological discussion, mixed in with bashing on Bart for his ex-girlfriend experinces. After 6:00 PM, I did no school work, it was awesome.

As you can tell, this morning has been dedicated to updating you all with the events of my life. It has not been overly noteworthy, but fear not I am still greatly enjoying it here! I certainly miss home, and I miss all of you, but things are going well (except for Machine Learning, that is not going well... but I cannot really do much about that).

Pittsburgh Pierogies

I shouldn't say "Pittsburgh" Pierogies, I just did a search for "Pierogie recipe" and found one on, I did modify it a little bit. I made them on Sunday evening, and have enjoyed them twice this past week. Larry gave them the thumbs up! But he did say that he is not really an expert source on the subject, so I think I may still need to modify the recipe.

For those of you who, like me before moving here, do not know what a Pierogie is: it is a traditional Polish (and really eastern European) dumpling. Basically they are a cousin of the ravioli but with different fillings, and a little bit larger.

Aprox. Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Cooking Time: 15 mins

3 eggs
8oz Sour Cream
3 cups of Flour + extra for surface
1/4 tsp. Salt
1tbs Baking Powder

4 Potatoes
Some milk
A bundle of Chives (or Green Onions)
1 onion

Depending on how large you make them, this should make 35-45 pierogies.

There are two main components to the Pierogie, the dough and the filling, you can make them separately or you can do them at the same time if you can juggle a kitchen well (like my mother).

Dough: Beat the eggs into the sour cream until you get a consistent liquid. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl (some people would say that you need to "sift them together," but I don't have a sifter, and that just seems silly) Pour the egg-sour cream mix on to the dry mix, first stirring, then as the consistency changes in to more of a dough, kneading the mixture together. Flour will most likely need to be added to make the proper dough. I think this here it the most crucial step. It takes an experienced pasta maker (someone who I am not) to know when to stop adding flour. Once a nice dough forms, kneed the dough for a while. Separate it, and let it "relax" for a little bit, inside of plastic wrap. You want it to keep the moisture, but it ends up being really elastic.

Filling: This is where you can have the most fun. At some point I will make mexican pierogies. I also want to experiment with Thanksgiving pierogies. Anyways, the "traditional" filling is either potatoes or sauerkraut. I went with the potato route. Boil a pot of water, put peeled and cubed potatoes in the boiling water. After a 4-8 minutes, check to see if they are tender yet. Once potatoes have cooked enough, drain water, add some milk, and mash. For those of you who are experienced cooks you will recognize this as simply mashed potatoes, yep that is it.

While this is going on, chop your onion up in to relatively small bits, then saute them with some oil in a fry pan. Once onions and potatoes are done, throw everything into the potato pot, including the chives, salt and pepper.

With out powers combined: Flour a work surface and roll out a portion of dough. You are aiming for a very thin dough, but make sure that you can still handle it. You are aiming for between 1/6th to 1/10th of an inch. Once the dough is rolled out, cut 3 inch circles (i used one of those little small glass bowls... they have a proper name, but I cannot for the life of me think of it). If you make bigger circles, you will make bigger pierogies, it is a personal preference.

Once you have a whole bunch of dough circles, place a spoon full of filling in each one. Wrap the dough around it (like a taco) and press the (hopefully) touching edges of dough together, press down using the tines of a fork to make a good seal. Keep doing this process until you have used up all of your dough.

Apparently they freeze really well, place them on a cookie sheet, separated from one another. Let them freeze over a night or two, then remove them from the sheet and put in plastic wrap or ziplock bags (at this point they can be crammed in as efficiently as possible).

To cook one of these peirogies, you can either boil them, or fry them. I choose the later. I cut up some onion and pepper, and cook everything in the fry pan with some oil.

When I made them, it was a Sunday evening, right before Bible study I miss-judged my time, so I ended up cutting the process so I could make it to the church. I ended up making 30 or so, but I had more dough that I could have made more.

UPDATE! I have some pictures for you:

Frozen Perogies
Here would be the final outcome!

Computational Photography Assignment #3

The long awaited Project 3 is up and running.

So far, I have had the most fun with this one. As you can see the results are quite "animated" (ok that was a poor joke...)

Thank you to everyone who helped me! And to those of you who are in the pictures! Specifically: Chelsea, Alana, Dannica and Jamie!

Here is is: Mighty Morphs!

Adventures in Facebook

Yesterday, I checked my email (my yahoo one) at somepoint, and noticed a message that said "Welcome to Facebook!" I found this odd, seeing as my facebook account is linked to my GU e-mail. So I figured that it was just a phishing scam trying to get people's facebook passwords. I just deleted it, and went about my buisness.

This morning, I was rather amused to find 15 e-mails notifying me that "So-and-so Has accepted your friend request." At this point I did a little investigative work and found that someone had actually opened an account using my e-mail.

I could not pass up this oprotunity. Instead of just deleting the account, I had to see what would happen if I contacted the "friends" of this guy. So here is the message that I sent to all of his friends, and posted on his wall: 

Hello Family and Friends of Mr. XXXX,

This is not XXXXX writing this. You may be thinking, "What?? Did his account get hacked??" The answer is no. I did not do anything subversive to gain access to this account. However I will explain why I am writing this, and XXXXX is not.

Yesterday, upon checking my e-mail, I received a message saying "Welcome to Facebook!" I found this rather interesting seeing as I have been on facebook since 2004, but associated with another e-mail account (you know, a University Account, back when facebook was just College students, back in the good 'ole days). I thought it was odd, but figured that it was a phishing scam to get people's facebook accounts. So I simply dismissed it.

This morning when I woke up and checked my e-mail, I was rather surprised to see that quite a few people had "Accepted me as a Friend." I enjoy meeting new people as much as the next guy; however, I was not in fact aware that I knew any of these people. So I decided to do some investigative work. I was not sure who had used my e-mail address, but I did know all of you who had accepted his friend request. So I just did a little facebook snooping work, and was able to back track to "XXXX XXXX."

Now you may still be wondering how I got on to this account. That was rather easy, seeing as when you do a password reset, facebook sends the confirmation to the e-mail linked to the account. So even though I did not know the password that XXXXX used, I was able to reset the password to a new one. Most importantly, I am the only person who knows this password now, not XXXXX.

So this is where I make my request: If you really are one of XXXXX's friends, please ask him to reconsider using other people's e-mail addresses the next time he tries to make an account. It is not very polite take advantage of someone's "virtual space." It is not like I just walk in to your house, and start inviting people over for a party.

To XXXX: I would strongly suggest going over to, and creating a g-mail account, this will give you your own personal e-mail address that you can use to sign up for any number of internet services and communities.

If you have any questions, I will leave this account open for the next few days; but I will eventually delete it.

I hope everyone is having a great Thursday, or as I like to call it Thor Day.

God bless, and hold fast,
- Not Mr. Lewis

I will let you know if I get any responses.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Best Friday Ever (well... at least here in Pittsburgh)

There are a number of interwoven tales here. So bear with me, I feel as though most of it is interesting.

So Carnegie Mellon's theater was putting on a production of "He Who Gets Slapped." I am a fan of culture. But I didn't really have anyone in particular to enjoy such a play with, so I sent out an e-mail to the Shadyside (church) Young Adults group. This e-mail was also inviting people to join me for dinner, I made some joke about the face that I was asking the whole group out on a date. I sent this out Thursday morning, this timing comes in to play later. The message was a little awkward; however, a few people responded. So Jessica and Lexi responded and said that they would be up for a evening of high society. I had never met Jessica, but I had previously met Lexi (I think she is a quasi leader of the ministry).

Well, turns out this weekend is Fall family weekend at CMU (family... where were you?) and the show had been sold out for a while. I was not expecting this, and I did not know this until 3:45 on Friday afternoon. Well this sort of destroyed my plans. I made sure that everyone knew that the show was full, and I just kept working on my Computer Photography project. At the time I think I was transposing beards on to people's faces. I decided that I would work on stuff for a while, then head in to Oakland and get some dinner, and head home.

As I was sitting down at Chipole, with my glorious burrito, I get a text from Lexi saying that if I was hungry, she had a friend who was having a BBQ, and that I was invited to come if I wanted. Seriously. My phone went off as I was in the process from going to standing to sitting. I thought about it. I ate my burrito. I thought about it some more, and realized I didn't have anything better to do. After confirming that I was invited, and establishing that I was within walking distance, I had some time to kill. Lexi was not going to get off work for a while, but I knew the intersection that the apartments were near, so I thought I would try to find them.

I ended up walking the wrong way. But I re-found MadMex, a restaurant that Dad and I went to when he was here! Dad, if we would have gone down the street for another 2 blocks there is a Mexican place that looks like I need to try it. So in aimlessly wondering around, I walked past two guys sitting on a bench. Seeing as I am properly trained by Holly, to make eye contact with people, I looked at them and smiled. One of them said "Hi" which is not all that normal, but a nice surprise. I walked past them for about a half block and realized that I had zero clue as the where I was headed. I thought that I would try to ask the two guys I just pasted if they could point me in the right direction. The conversation went a little like this:
Me : "Hey, sorry to interrupt, but could I ask you a question?"
Guy 1 :"Not a problem, what is up?"
Me: "I am looking for Center Ave. where abouts is that?"
Guy 1 : "Oh, it is about a mile north, <through some shady neighbor hoods> , take Craig St, up until you get to a big green building, that is right next to the intersection of Center and Craig. Are you not from around here?"
Me : "Oh, ok, thanks! Nope, I just started at CMU."
Guy 2 : "Where did you come from?"
Me : "Washington state..."
Both guys : "Oh! Wow, that is quite the trek."
conversations continues for quite a wihile. They started to tell me that they were about to start a book group in the Oakland area, and hinted that if I wanted to take part in I could. I think the guy may have seen my bad religion patch on my bag, he mentioned that they were going to start with a book that looked in to why mainstream religions don't encourage questioning of faith. And how it normally makes Christians really angry. I mentioned that as a Christian, I think it is really important to question everything. Only after you have wrestled with something, can you truly know what you believe. I think both of them were expecting a different response, and their eyes sort of lit up. At that point I realized that Guy 1 was wearing a shirt with a gigantic cross on it, so I asked him if he was a Christian, he replied with "Yeah, I am a pastor."

So Lance is the pastor of a fairly new church (5 years) that has a very unique and powerful mission. They intentionally rent out space from another church for Sunday worship, with the idea that he does not want the church to become financially tied to the building. He wants the money to go straight back in to ministry. He believes very much that ministry is to be carried out away from the church, and encourages groups to meet in public spaces so that they can pull others around them in to the church. They are a very missional church, and they focus a lot on looking to the comunity. Guy 2, Richard, has been a member of the church for quite sometime, and really really enjoys it. I got to talk to them for a while about the book group that they are starting, about punk music, about mission, about life in general. In the middle of the conversation, Lexi called back with more detailed instructions, as well as numbers for people who were going to be there. So I was wrapping up the conversation, when Lance, looked at Richard and asked if he was ready to go, he said yes; then asked me "Would you like a ride to where you are going?"

Ah! So cool! I got to ride around with these two guys for a little bit, They both impressed me as good men. Very welcoming, and very sociable, they had a certain genuine quality. I made sure to exchange information with them, so that they could contact me for the next event that would happen. And the let me off right next to the apartment building I was heading towards. Awesome. That made my day.

I do not really know Lexi all that well. I have met her 4 or 5 time before, and in large group settings, I would classify her as an "acquaintance." But I got the same feeling from her as Lance and Richard, she is a very charismatic and genuine person, very centered on how others are doing. Needless to say, I was a little intrigued as to what I was about to walk in to. Lexi was running late as well, so she was not even there yet. However she told me that Jessica (yep, other girl who was going to go see the play) was going to be there. So I called Hedi (the resident of the apartment I was going to), she was expecting me and gave me directions on how to get in. I walked in to the apartment and was very energetically greeted by a room full of guys, one of which was Hedi's husband (I cannot for the life of me remember his name) who welcomed me in and introduced me to everyone in the room.

A note about the apartment. It is the pent house of the building. It is on the 11th floor of the highest building for about 20 or so blocks. It has an amazing view of the east side of Pittsburgh. It was not all that big, a living/dining room area, a very small kitchen, a bedroom, and a very funky (yet big) bathroom. With a giant deck! Ah! Amazing. So I made it out on to the deck and met Hedi, and Jessica! Yay so at least I know of one person there. Jessica and I talked for a while out on the deck, enjoying the awesome evening (it had been a beautiful day, and the evening was perfect). Eventually Lexi got there, her Brother Luke also came, I had met him before. And Matt came. I got to know Matt at the Never ending pasta bowl night. All of those people right there, turns out are also awesome people. I talked with Matt and Lexi for a long time, just sharing stories and laughing. They are good, funny, righteous, people. People were filtering in and out of the "party" all night. Total there were most likely 15 to 20 people there over the course of the evening.

It was very enjoyable to just relax and be social with people who are not from India, and with people who are not taking courses at CMU. It was really nice to just sit back and watch everyone interact, try to figure out who people were. I imposed upon Matt for a ride, and we left around 12:30ish. Matt and I had a great talk about life in Pittsburgh, and something that he called a "christian family." This is something that he has been looking for, and is excited about seeing it come together. More or less it is the grouping of like minded people together, for support, growth and fellowship. I really liked what he had to say about it, and was amazed at how much his ideas resonated with me.

I have a strong feeling that I will be hanging out with them some more in the future.

So today. Before I go to bed:

Larry is gone. He is at some Ligonieere Days thing.... he invited me to go, but I have too much stuff to get done. This morning I met up with Mitch to work on Machine Learning, we made really good progress, and I feel a lot better than I did about this time two weeks ago. After that I headed over to the ECE graduate Fall  picnic at an amazing pavilion in Schenly park. On one side of the pavilion, there were burgers and hot dogs, on the other side, trays and trays of Indian food, typical.

If you look, you can see that the two smallest girls are playing T.o.W.

Two things: Playing volleyball with Indian kids is not all that enjoyable (and interesting that my ability, which is poor, was better than anyone else). And I dominated the power of suggestion. There was a air-brush tattoo guy there. He sat there for an hour doing nothing. No one was going up to him. So I sat down and started talking to him. As soon as I sat down, a line formed behind me and he was busy for the next 2 hours. I ended up with this:
Nope, that is not a Poisson Blend...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

CMU likes whiteboards

Ok, dry erase boards, grease boards, windows (for Chelsea)... whatever you want to call them, there are a ton of them here at CMU. I think the thing that motivated me to comment on this was walking around the Gates building, where I noticed two people in a heated discussion while sitting at a table. They had all of their food pushed to the side, and in the middle was a ton of red scribbles on the shiny white surface. Awesome. I want one. I may have to start giving things like this out at christmas gifts.

So the Gates center (yes, named after Bill Gates, who gave an exorbitant amount of money, $20 million, to CMU) is fairly new, like only a few years old. Yep, according to Wikipedia it was completed August of '09. The outside is rather interesting, and the inside is even more of an architectural work of art. On the main floors (3-5) there is a giant spiral ramp that slowly works its way around a rather large open area that spans all 3 floors. I cannot really do it justice...

Anyway, this is about whiteboards. In the main computer cluster (aka Lab), is in a ovular room, that is completely covered in whiteboards, there is only a 7 foot section that is not whiteboard. Now when I say whiteboard, I am not talking about the 3 or 4 foot, framed, replacement for a chalk board, I am talking instead of using drywall, they used whiteboard wood. So there is writing space from floor to about 12 feet up (and yes there is writing 12 feet up). Everywhere else in Gates, where there is an opportunity of a "collaborative space" there is at least a 5 to 7 foot whiteboard wall. Chelsea, you would love it. All of the classrooms have the same thing. This does lead to some interesting situations, at one point my Computational photography professor was getting really excited, and decided to move over to what he thought was a continuation of the 40 or so fool long whiteboard. Alas, he was wrong, he moved on to one of the only dry wall panels in the room and left a rather long dry erase mark, that is now smeared after he tried to rub it off...

In other areas of campus they are not as whiteboard savvy. However in all of the lecture halls with the really intimidating 3 layered rolling chalk boards (Ha, Mom, just like you remember), they have installed whiteboards behind the chalk boards so professors can use whatever they prefer. As certain areas of campus are being renovated, they are upgrading to this "Whole wall" whiteboard idea... it is rather interesting.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Moment of rest

So you may have seen that I finished my Computer Photography project, so my done list for this past week is as follows:
Machine Learning: Homework 1 turned in on monday (I talked about this earlier) Homework 2 is due in 2 weeks, I have already started on it)
Computational Photography: Project 2 turned in. I felt good about this project, but again, I could have worked on this one for a while. It was an ammusing project to work on! Giving Mom tattoo's is always fun! Project 3 assigned and I think it may be due the same day as the ML hw... that would not be good.

Ethnography. This one gets its very own paragraph. So the assignment for this class was to do two hours of passive observations of a transportation situation or technology, then write up what we saw. One thing that has struck me as odd here is the amount of jay walking, and the lack of "push to walk" button in some areas (like the heart of downtown). So on monday I wandered around downtown in the rain for about an hour looking for a coffee shop that overlooked a signal (all I need was to see two of the four crosswalks). I ended up back at a coffee shop that Dad and I stopped at when he was here. So I hung out there for an hour watching Pittsburghers in the rain crossing the street. On Tuesday I headed in to Oakland (the area around PITT) looking for a similar situation. I was able to find basically the same set up at the intersection of Forbes and Atwood (look it up... there is a Starbucks on the corner ;) ). So my results:
Downtown: Crossing with Signal: 88 Crossing without Signal: 170
Oakland: Crossing with Signal: 579 Crossing without Signal: 183
Downtown was the only intersection with a crossing button, it was only used once! Well, if anyone wants to know more, I can send you the paper I wrote about it ;)

So with all of that done by Friday, I had the weekend more or less to relax. Saturday morning I went out on a run (got to get ready for the Donuts Dash!). Around Noon, I headed over to Mitch's house for some Machine Learning fun. We were able to get through one of the five questions, so we felt fairly good about ourselves. The evening I went back to Olive Garden for one last round of Never Ending Pasta Bowl with some people from Church. It was a lot of fun to get to know them a little more, they are all good people.

Today was spent at church or preparing dinner (Chicken Parmesan). Today was Communion Sunday, as you may know, and Shadyside is where it originated! It was sort of cool to be part of that. This evening I went back for some young adult bible study, which was also good.

So I had to renew my Auto insurance. Because I knew I should get a discount for being a student, I went online and filled out a new quote to get an idea of what I should be paying. So then I called the rather nice people at progressive to get all of that set up. The first guy (who was just continuing on my old insurance policy) said that there was going to be a rate increase, I told him that I was currently a student, and he said that didn't really mater in this case, that it did not give me any more of a discount. So I mentioned that I had been quoted significantly less online (like $200 less online), he did not know why, so he transferred me to a quote agent. Long story short, turns out my credit score went from a "mediocre" to an excellent score in the past 6 months (possibly from renting for the first time ever, and Bellevista not having any problems with me). So I ended up getting set up with a new policy that is about half of what I paid before! Yay! Finally I am not paying for being stereotyped as a teenage male driver!

On a completely separate note, last Thursday Larry made Chicken Divan (funny story, I bought all of the stuff and was going to make it, but he informed me that he wanted to make Lasagna for friends on Thursday, and asked to hold off on the Divan. Turns out he changed his mind, and when I got home he had made it!). So this spurred something that surprisingly got under my skin. Like a few people in my life Larry does not like onions and peppers. Ok that is fine. But he asks me all of the time what I know how to make (and some can attest that I have a decent repertoire for a twenty three year old guy). I can list off 20 ish great recipes that I love to make. He has some sort of issue with just about all of them. No Mexican, his digestive track is to weak to handle it, apparently it does bad things every time (his old roommate was sympathetic to this). No beans, "they are just ruffage!" No mushrooms, on the basis of lack of flavor and how they are grown (ok, valid point, mushrooms are a little gross if you think about them as fungus growing in poo, Gramps you would be happy) Also a note for Gramps, No Asparagus, he looked at me funny when I asked if he ever smelled his pee... I don't think he got it. NO SAUSAGE, "It is all the left overs thrown together!" I really want to tell him how pepperoni (his one and only pizza topping) is made... If you don't know I would direct you here. Oh, he also makes fun of me for putting pepper on everything (which I don't, we have just had a lot of corn on the cob, and I put salt and pepper on the corn). So I asked him what he did like, he said "meat and potatoes. You know, American food. Good home cooking." He listed off a number of recipes that he liked, they were all derivations of beef or chicken with a heavy cream cream sauce served with a starch. He said no spices. A meal is not a meal if there is not beef or chicken as the main ingredient. Soups are only starters, you can never have a meal out of a soup. "Chicken and Dumplings" to him are dumplings covered in a chicken cream sauce, not soup. Heaven forbid you by sliced meat. Oh, and on top of all of this, he argues like a first grader; not structuring cogent and logical arguments, just talking loudly over the other person, and refusing to accept that other people could possibly have different views of the world.

He proceeds to continually bash on Mexican food for some reason. Continuously bringing up a bad experience with a Chipolte burrito. I think if he makes fun of Mexican food one more time, I will snap. "Snapping" will include an immediate verbal backlash and a continued diet of consisting only of Mexican food.

So, to those of you I am visiting this Christmas, I am asking for a trade off, ill make you Perogies if you make me a decent Mexican meal.

Chicken Parmesan

 Seeing as Larry has been belly aching about his sensitive digestive system, I decided I would try to make him something that was easy for his ethnically lame pallet.

2-4 Chicken Breasts
1.5 Cups of Italian Bread Seasoning
.5 Cup Parmesan Cheese (you can use the cheese/cardboard stuff that is commonly known as Kraft Grated Parmesan)
1 teaspoon of salt
.5 teaspoon of pepper
Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Pre-heat oven to 350. Spray one or two Pyrex dishes with Olive Oil.
Combine all of the dry stuff.
I personally cut the chicken in to smaller pieces, "cutlets" if you will.
Spray all sides of the Chicken with Oil Spray
 Liberally coat the now dripping chicken with the dry mix.
Place in Pyrex dish, they can be touching if need be.
Bake for 45-50 mins.

Serve on top of pasta, covered in sauce. Aprox. one breast for each person. Unless you are cooking for a bunch of girls... then it is one breast for every two people.

You can very easily expand this for more people, and the mix can be made ahead of time. In the Tricities, my mother gave me a huge bag of it, I threw it in the freezer, and it lasted the whole time I was there. I made this 5 or so times.

This is a really easy recipe... really easy! And it can be pulled off to be really fancy too! Just throw a salad and some bread, maybe some candles, maybe some mood music, slip on a kilt... Chris, this is a easy one to impress Cassie with (a little classier than Quesadillas)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Computational Photography - Project 2

Yeah! The moment you have all been waiting for... I am sure.

I submitted my Computational Photography project 2 last night! This project, being very different from the last one, goes in to the weird and mysterious "Gradient Domain." For all you math nerds... it is like taking a derivative of a picture. For all of you non-math nerds, it is like the flow of the pixels across the image.

Here is it.

I hope you enjoy!