Friday, September 30, 2011

I *heart* The Office

I am not one for critics, and I am not one for overwhelming public opinion, but I just watched the second episode of this seasons of 'The Office'... It was great. It was amazing. It had all of the things I love about that show, funny dialogue, inspiring monologues, tender moments (The Nard Dog!), Kevin being ridiculous. The only thing it was missing was a Jim and Dwight prank.

So for those of you who wrote it off because of Steve Carell leaving, check it out again, it is still good.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Day of Sport (Baseball and Jousting)

Two weeks ago I got an email from Jessica to the effect of:

      "Do you want to go to the Pittsburgh Renaissance Fair?"

My response was:

      "HECK YES I DO!"

So this past Saturday was the day. I was stoked. There was a little problem getting there (Gwyn's car broke down on the way to the meeting point) but eventually all of us got there.

I have never been to an event like this, I didn't really know what to expect. Part of me was worried that it was going to be hokey, that there would be minimum wage paid teenagers standing in plywood huts, trying to not be bored. Upon walking in to the gates, I was amazed. This place was magical. There was not a single plywood anything, all of the buildings were solidly made to look like period pieces. Every single person who appeared to be working was dressed in full gear, and sporting an accent to match their character. It was amazing! There were random musicians walking around playing tunes, there were vendors walking around, there were people heckling passer buys to buy something or play a game (there were a number of mid-evil games, like axe throwing, and archery...).

One of the things that I rapidly realized was that only 1/4 of the people dressed up were working. Most of the people who were in non-normal clothes were guests. And there were some great looking people! Yes, the time period did shift a lot, there were pirates (both realistic looking ones, and women wearing 'mature' Halloween costumes), Kings and Queens, scots in kilts, guys in leaseholder, ladies in dirndl, and lots and lots of corsets (lets just say that is both a great thing and a horrible thing). I had no idea it would be such an event! I don't really know why I had that misconception, but it was great to watch everyone, and look at the detail in some people's clothes.

So events for the day:
I killed a dragon!
She (and by she, I mean Gwyn) was so happy!
All I needed was some Mead to wash it down with.
New favorite picture of Gwyn.
The Royal Processional
A Joust!
Fire Breathing!
Other things included looking through all of the shops (Gwyn had to try on a corset, she looked great) (I wanted a sword... but I resisted), watching a few performers, glass blowing demonstration and ended the day with a little 'Cast In Bronze':
Crazy Awesome.
This guy was playing a carillon, a rather large piano type instrument, but with bells instead of strings. It was amazing to watch, and hear. This guy is really good at what he does. If you want to check out more, Cast in Bronze.
On our way out... Great Day!
But wait! There is more!

Here is Pittsburgh, there is a change of feeling when the Steelers start playing (which they have for those of you who don't follow the NFL). Unfortunately, part of this change is that the Buccos end their season. But the ECE-Grad organization was able to secure $10 Pirates tickets  for one of the last home games of the season. So after packing up at the Ren Faire, Gwyn and I headed to PNC park for a relaxing night of baseball. I really do love baseball, and I really do enjoy the Pirates (sorry Mariners!). I now own 4 Pirates shirts, so I guess that makes me a fan (or it just means they give out a lot of shirts (EDIT 9/29/2011, as pointed out by my mother, shirts is spelled with a 'r')).

I am sooooo excited! LETS GO BUCS!
I have learned. At a Steelers even you bring your terrible towel, but at a Pirates game you bring your Pirate Flag. Good thing I already had one of those... But in games past, I just had the flag, and no pole to wave it on. So this time I brought a pole with me. With the help of a borrowed swiffer handle, I had my flag. And I used it as much as I could with out pissing off the people behind me.
Raise The Jolly Roger!
It was a great evening, the Pirates beat the Reds.

Sunday was relaxing, and enjoyable. SPYS (the youthgroup at Shadyside) went to Highland park after church to hang out. It was very fun to play around with the students. We eventually started a giant game of tag on the play structure (it is like the one in CDA, the giant wooden castle looking thing). All fun and games until one of the students broke his fall with his face. But he did pop back up and kept running around.

Later in the day, I helped Gwyn take out her AC unit in her room (this required a lot of moving stuff around) and enjoyed a lovely outside meal with her family and some family friends.

Monday and yesterday were full of robot business. Lots and lots of it. The labs are always due on Tuesday, which means Monday and Tuesday morning are full of testing. But we got it in, and it worked great! Now just on to MEMS work:
This one is going up on the fridge when I am done.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Job fair Stuff

Eck. Eck. Eck.

I don't like it one bit, this whole job finding thing.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow are job fair days for technical students at CMU. The whole process is just gross. The entire space is jam packed with, Skanda agrees with me, smelly non-American students wearing ill-fit suits trying to push their way to the front of any line. It is just a sea black suits. Don't worry. I was not wearing a suit as I don't own a suit (a status something that don't want to have). Tomorrow is even going to be a Red tie day, it is going to be great.

Here are some highlights and low lights:

I gave out 25 resumes.

I have 3 interviews tomorrow. One with Union Pacific (yep the railroad company!), MIT Lincoln Labs and Northrop Grumman.

I picked up 4 bags, a USB hub, a fancy engineer ruler, 2 water bottles, hand sanitizer, 2 buttons, one sticker, one shirt, 3 flashlights, a stress ball in the shape of the world, breath mints and an assortment of pens.

Me: Hello, I'm Scott.
Recruiter: Hello, I'm so-and-so.
*slight awkward pause*
Me: Well, what do you guys do?
Recruiter: *in a very condecending voice* You are the one who is supposed to know that.
Me: Ok...
My inner dialogue: I want to punch you in the face.

I am really glad that I am a US citizen. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Recruiter: that is what we do. Anything sound interesting?
Me: Nope, not really. I am more of an embedded, hardware/software guy.
Recruiter: Oh, you would be a perfect fit!
My inner dialogue: Why won't this guy let me walk away!

My feet hurt.

The line: "Well, you need to apply online" should be banned. Never spoken again.

I get to do more of this tomorrow! Yay!!! what joy!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Asian Orange Chicken Spectacular

Gwyn challenged me to make Asian inspired food. As may of you know, I am not particularly versed in such food as for the majority of my life I have steered away from it. But in the past two years, with the help of a few people, I have become rather accepting of such a different culinary school. I have mastered (well figured out really, I don't think I can ever master a dish) Phad Thai. This is my second major attempt at Asian inspired food:

Asian Orange Chicken Spectacular

Approx Prep: 10 minutes
Approx Cook: 45-60 minutes
Approx Marinade time: 2 hours

Feeds 3-4 people

1 1/2 cup Water
2 tablespoons Orange Juice
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoon Soy Sauce

1 tablespoon Orange Zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced Ginger Root
1/2 teaspoon minced Garlic
2 tablespoon Chopped Green Onion
1/4 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes

3 tablespoons Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Water

2 Chicken breasts, cut in to 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 Egg + a little water

Oil (olive oil, if you have it add a little sesame oil) (you can get away with vegetable oil)

5-6 White Mushrooms
Handfull of Snow Peas
1 stalk worth of Broccoli Florets
A bit more garlic


In a pot, mix 1 1/2 cup water, OJ, Lemon Juice, Rice Vinegar and Soy sauce. Put over medium heat. Stir in Orange Zest, brown sugar, Ginger, Garlic, Green Onions and Red Pepper. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. At this point all of the goodies should stop floating on the top of the liquid. Set aside to cool. Wait 10-15 minutes.

While you are waiting you can prepare chicken. After it is all cut, place in large zip-lock bag. When marinade is cool, add 1 cup of marinade to the bag. Put bag in fridge, set aside remaining marinade (it will be used for sauce later.

Let chicken marinade for at least 2 hours.

After chicken is done, there will be mass chaos. Well there will be mass chaos for those of us who are not moms or who have not gone to culinary school. You are going to have to do 3 things culminating in one final step:
1) Make the rice. Use the package directions, and plan accordingly. 
2) Stir-Fry the vegitables
3) Cook the Chicken

Then  culminate in making the sauce and mixing in the chicken and vegetables.

I would suggest staring with the chicken.  In a dish prepare an egg wash. Crack the egg, add a little water, whisk with a for until all mixed up. In another container (big one, like a cassorole dish, or big plate) mix flour, salt and pepper. In a fry pan/skillet add a generous amount of oil, heat to medium to medium high heat. Once everything is ready, take a piece of chicken out of the bag, dip it in the egg wash, dredge in flour mixture, then place in oil. Repeat until the pan has one layer of chicken. Let brown (depending on heat, 2-3 minutes) flip and brown other side. When all done, put on paper toweled plate to drain. Do this until you have cooked all of the chicken. If you are going to let it sit, cover in foil. (there is another way to do this, see alternate method below)

StirFry: When the chicken is getting near the end of the process start this up. Put some oil and garlic in a wok. Put on medium heat. Trow in vegetables. Continuously stir until veggies are just turning limp, remove from heat, drain oil.

In a pot (if it is already in a pot, good for you!) heat the former marinade to a boil. While this is getting heated up, mix cornstarch and water together. Once boiling, remove from heat, add cornstarch and water, mix thoroughly. This should form in to a nice thick sauce. 

In the wok, add the chicken on top of the vegetables. Pour sauce over everything. Turn heat to medium/medium-low. Let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Hopefully by this point your rice is done.

Put a nice ball of rice on a plate, add a scoop of Chicken and Veggies. Serve. Enjoy.

Something about a bunny in there...
This got mad reviews. Both from my roommates who were smelling it cook all afternoon. And from Gwyn who got to eat it! I am really impressed with how it turned out. But next time I would do things a little different.

Like: Alternate Method: Don't bother with fry coating the chicken. Just put all of the marinaded chicken in to a big fry pan with the sauce if you want. Cook until chicken is done and remove. This seems far easier and far healthier too. In the end, a lot of the breading on the chicken came off in the final steps anyway, and I don't really think it added any flavor or texture once it was in the sauce.

I think this may turn in to a cook-day type recipe for me. I think I am going to mass-produce the sauce so I can make this whenever I want. It was great!

Happy Birthday Skanda...

Oh, yeah. Also some time in the past few weeks it was Skanda's birthday. So in proper form I made him a cake. The process was as follows:

*Me coming in from the store with cake mix*
Skanda: Store? What are you making?
Me: Your Birthday Cake! Sorry it is late... (it was the day after)
Skanda: You don't have to do that....
Me: Yes, Yes I do.


*Me pulling first of two cakes out of the oven*
Skanda: Oh!!! That smells great!
*Skanda pulling out his plate and fork*
Me: Oh, Skanda. I am not done yet. Give me another hour or so
Skanda: Why?!?

*Me pulling the second of two cakes out of the oven*
Skanda: ANOTHER ONE!??!
*Me getting the second cake out of the pan, and placing on the frosting covering the first cake*
Me: Hey Skanda. Do you know how they make layered cake? You know the kind with frosting inbetween?
Skanda: No....
*Me pointing at the box of cake mix, with a picture of a two layer chocolate cake on it*
Me: Like this....
Skanda: I never knew... So now do I get to eat it?
Me: Hahaha, no not yet. Why don't you go sit down in the living room.
*Me latching the doors of the kitchen*


 I eventually finish cutting the sides, and frosting:

Another successful cake.

Me: Hey Skanda. Close your eyes.
Skanda: Ok....
*Me placing the cake on his lap*
Me: Ok, Open them.
Skanda: No F***ing way! You have got to be joking me!

One happy Skanda.

Friday, September 16, 2011

First Few Weeks

I know that I have been absent from this blog over the past few weeks. I would attribute this to a shift in lifestyle away from my computer. I am just not sitting in front of it all that often. But you all need to be kept up to date! So here is a highlights list of the past few weeks:

Movies Watched:
The Help - Good, not nearly worth the hype, but worth seeing
crazy, stupid, love - Great movie. Not your sappy Romantic Comedy, great story great acting.
Cube - French version of Saw. Interesting at best
(500) Days of Summer - more for that later
Watchmen - Gwyn had never seen this! My mother has seen this... I love this movie.

YadGrad has started up in full swing again. Labor Day was the annual BBQ  celebrating the start of the 'season.' Lots of new people, lots of fun things planned.

Like my Movie nights! Which started off great with (500) Days of Summer for the theme of  'quarter life crisis.' I found this to be a very entertaining movie, but among other things I felt as though I have been dating Summer (well at least her in the first half of the movie). For those of you who have not met Gwyn, you should rent this movie and watch it. Gwyn is Summer. You will feel like you know her by the end of the movie. To her defense, ignore Summer at the end of the movie, the part that the audience is persuaded to not like.

On that note, last Saturday Gwyn and I celebrated our 6 month dating anniversary. Both of us being highly susceptible to over stating the classiness of a given establishment we got all dressed up and went to The Olive Garden. Don't worry, I put on my suspenders and my bow tie (and also don't worry, I have more than one pair of both, so I am not just wearing around my black with black, this time it was orange stripes bow with green and black suspenders). It was a great evening of laughing and talking. And of course, never ending pasta.  

On the topic of Gwyn, she and I have frequented two very different musical groups in the past few.

First up: Pearl and The Beard. They were passing through town and decided to play at Wednesday Bluegrass night at the Park Place bar. It was great. They were in the back of this really narrow bar, playing without any audio equipment. As always they tore down the place, everyone in there was amazed and enthralled. I was wearing my shirt. They noticed it. They really liked the fact that there was a guy at one of their shows who they did not really know wearing a shirt. They then recognized us from the Garfield show a few months ago. So we had to get a picture. Ill try to get it from Gwyn and post it.

More recently, on Monday, Gwyn, Matt (a guy who is new to PGH from the Seminary) and I went to the Sham-Rock-n-Roll festival. Featuring The Parkington Sisters, The Mahones, Chuck Ragan, The Street Dogs, Stiff Little Fingers, and DROPKICK MURPHYS! Basically it was a Dropkick show, but they are touring with a bunch a great bands so they are making a (well deserved) big deal out of it. The show was down at the Trib Total Media Amphitheater, I was thinking the Gorge when I heard this. The only two thing this place had that were similar to the Gorge was 1) it was outside and 2) it had a great view. This was not an 'amphitheater' in the sense of a ramped seating area facing a lower concentric stage, it was just out side. I think what happened was that they build way too much parking lot, and they needed something useful to put on it. But, it is right across the river from Downtown, so the whole time you have a great view of the city. I am enjoying more and more outdoor shows, I don't know why you would ever do something like that inside... oh wait... Spokane winters. Ok nvmd. But the festival was great. Chris got me hooked on the Street Dogs about a year ago, and it was wonderful to finally see them, they are amazing. Like a lot of the music I enjoy much better live. And as always Dropkick put on a stellar show. In the middle there was a little acoustic set that was very nice. Lots of stuff from their new album, but they also threw in some old stuff too. I feel like the only person who would care about the details would be Chris, and I have already informed him. Oh, and for shirts: walked away with two. One Dropkick and One Street Dogs.

I did find it amusing as I was running in to the pit. I realized: "Oh my goodness! My parents dog is named after this band! Yeah Murphy!"

Other things in life: I have been doing a lot of Biking. I have only been 'almost hit' a hand full of times. I am getting used to clothespin laundry. And I am really enjoying being this close to school. I can go get ready for school right now (9:24) and get there for my 10:00 meeting! Yay!

3 Classes to End them All

Classes have been going now for 3 weeks, and I can say with a high degree of certainty that I am going to enjoy all of my courses. And I can also say to a high degree that I am going to have a far less stress semester.

This round of class getting I knew what I was doing. I knew the system. And I knew how to get what I wanted. I also only needed two classes: One Grad level course (in any department) and One General Course (somehow I have made it to the end with the easy courses).

So here is the list:

Leadership for Engineers. (MW 3:30 - 5)
I know this sounds kind of silly (and it is) but it fills a requirement and it is going to be an easy A. For once in my college life, I get to take a class that fits that description. For my Dad it was Astronomy. For all I can tell it is a class about the non technical things an engineer needs to know about corporate citizenship in America. So far we have covered basic accounting, what is wrong with Management Goal Oriented corporate cultures, and.... well that is about it. Moving on....

Microelectromechanical Systems (MW 12:30-2:20)
If you have never heard of Microelectromechanical Systems (also known as MEMS) you most likely have used one. These are devices that are made on the micrometer and smaller scale, that consist of both electronic components and physical mechanical components. Examples: Inertial Sensors (ie what makes iPhones and Wii-motes so fun to wave around), DLP (digital light projection) Cells (ie what makes modern projectors work (fascinating really, there are thousands of little mirrors on little motors that flick back and forth, some times reflecting light, sometimes deflecting light, hence giving you the appearance of pixels)), Really Small Antenna, Ink Jet Printer Heads, and just about any type of sensor imaginable. This class is a Grad Level intro to such devices and manufacturing techniques. So far it has been really interesting. This micro machining stuff it fascinating.

Intro To Mobile Robot Programing (TR 12:00 - 1:30)
Thursdays are lecture days and Tuesdays are turn in days. This class is an undergrad course that covers the basics in mobile robot programing. I feel like I should have taken this before working on R2GU (my senior design project for Gonzaga). We have already programed more advanced obstacle avoidance in two weeks then we ever got for our robot. We are using Nomad Scouts:

Miniature R2D2s
These robots are about the size of a small, office garbage can. They are really fun to work with. This is a team class, but unlike last year with my crappy team for Distributed Embedded Design, my team for this class has so far been great to work with. Everyone shows up for team meetings, people are doing more than they need to. Our hand ins are working... you know good stuff. I am really looking forward to the rest of this class. I am sure come the end of the semester I will post some video of the robot in action.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Open House

So I had an open house yesterday to christen my new apartment (and for an excuse to try out the kitchen). Andrew, Sam, Tracey, Denise and Gwyn all showed up to have a good time, along with appearances from Skanda, Anna and Andrew (The former two being my roommates, and later being a temporary roommate). It was a lot of fun and very relaxing.

I did end up spending most of the day before 7:00 preparing for the event. Starting with a Costco trip around One-ish with Gwyn for supplies and lunch (yeah $1.50 Hot Dogs!). The I spent the rest of the time preparing the following:

Pita Chips and Hummos (ok, I didn't prepare, I just laid out)
A Vegetable Plate (ok, I am 0 for 2, Gwyn basically did all of this for me)
Stuffed Mushrooms (half point for me! Gwyn filled them...)
Gummi Bears (we have a HUGE bag of them... we need to get rid of them)

Second Course:
Garlic Asparagus
Bacon Cups
Fried Chicken Specks (also a new adventure for me, basically Chicken Nugget, but not so corny...)

The Good stuff keeping warm in the oven.

Apple Pie

A note on the Apple Pie, Gwyn and I were going to make pie the night before, but I decided that the infrastructure for pie is really expensive, I didn't have any pie pans, I don't have a food processor, I don't have a pastry knife, I don't have an apple peeler.... the list goes on. So we got a Costco Pie. It was amazing.

I also got to experiment with my newly formed media center. Don't worry everyone who has a 'Scott's Box' (as Cassie is calling theirs): the one I have is sub par, and set up from a old salvaged computer. It barely runs.... but plays music and youtube videos wonderfully!

Gwyn trying it out the night before.

Well I am off to go work on a mobile robot lab. I am super excited! In other news: it is really hot in Pittsburgh this weekend. Already 81 degrees at 11 in the morning! Again, for those of you not used to humidity, that is like stepping out of a really hot shower.... all day long... even when you are already warm.

Happy Long Weekend Everyone!

Bacon Cups!

I had a little shin-dig open house type party yesterday. Ill post more pictures after this, but one of the creations I made for this was a first in what I hope will be a long experimentation with bacon and muffin pans.

Bacon Cups

Approx Prep: 15 Minutes
Approx Cook: 25-45 Minutes (depending on how much bacon you can cook at a time)

This will make 12 cups

1 Package of Bacon (at least 12 slices)
2 Boxes of Cornbread Muffin Mix (I used Jiffy)
2/3 cup Milk
2 Eggs
2 Italian Sausages  

Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with Pam or other baking spray. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
One of the few pictures of me cooking... Gwyn was helping me out.

In a fry pan, cook bacon. I really like crispy bacon. For this you do not want crispy bacon. You want limp, possibly undercooked bacon (you will get the hang of the consistency you want after a few tries at the later steps).
Mmmmm... Bacon!
When bacon is just starting to hold shape, remove from pan, pat dry, and immediately line the edges of a cup with a strip of bacon. The bacon will continue to cook a little after you take it out, if you leave it out too long it will harden in to strips. This is a little hard as the bacon will still be very hot. And covered in grease. This mean you may burn yourself. Try not to.
The Start of Bacon Cups!
 While bacon is cooking (or in between sets of bacon) prepare the Cornbread muffin mix according to directions. (Mix eggs, milk and mixture together. It should be lumpy). Once you get the bacon in a cup, using a small spoon, fill the center of the bacon ring with Cornbread mix. Don't over fill, as we will be adding more stuff to it in a bit, and the Cornbread will rise a little in the oven. At this point if any of your bacon strips broke, or look funny, use the cornbread mix to push the rebellious bacon against the sides of the pan.

Once the bacon is done cooking, cook the Italian Sausage in the bacon grease. This is where you can have a little fun. If you have never cooked large sausages before, and more importantly if you have never cut a sausage, and then cooked it... you can make some funky looking pieces of meat. It you slice the sausage in half (length wise) and then start to cook it, the inside will puff up, and the casing will not, so you get weird looking crescent sausage pieces. Once these are browned, you can take them out of the pan and cut them up some more to get weirder shapes. Basically cook the sausage. If you want you can cook it normally and then cut it in to strips... but this way was more fun.
Silly Sausage
Once the sausage is done, pat dry it to remove the grease. Then insert sausage pieces in to the center of the Cornbread.
You don't have to use tooth picks. I was worried that the sausage would fall, it did not.
 Once everything is full and complete, stick pan in the oven for 13-15 minutes, or until the tops of the cornbread start to brown. 
OVEGLOVE!! Yeah Grandma!
Remove from oven, let cool a little, remove from pan. Enjoy.
Surprisingly Good.
 Yes they were good. But work still needs to be done here. In this case, you ended up getting two bites of bacon/cornbread and then a bite of spicy sausage. I eventually added sausage bits to the batter, but then the batter fell apart... This is only the first test in what I am sure is going to be a bacony-goodness trail.