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January 31, 2006

Bailey's Bath

I have no idea why anyone would ever bathe in Bailey's.

January 30, 2006

ECE Steelers

Remember when I said Pittsburgh would go crazy if the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl? Well, I wasn't kidding. Even CMU ECE is in on it.


Click to enlarge.

You also really need to check out this music video. It's the Steelers dirge, er, fight song tailored for Super Bowl XL.

January 29, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Katy and I caught a 10:20 showing of Brokeback Mountain last night at the Waterfront... what a wonderful film. What a wonderful love story. The movie was simultaneously funny, happy, and quite tragic. I think the world has been due for a movie like this for a long time, and I encourage everyone to watch it.

This afternoon is good student time, so I'm off to finish my linear systems homework.

January 27, 2006

Uneventful

Things have been pretty calm lately. No new developments. Lots of quantum mechanics and linear state-space systems. Yep, uneventful.

January 25, 2006

Another Day

Not much in the way of interesting stuff has happened lately. Aside from the Steelers winning the conference championship and Pittsburgh going completely nuts, that is. Oh, and Katy's birthday was Monday. She's now "a year older" than I am, but that will only last another few weeks.

Classes are moving along as predicted, and Elias Towe finally gave me a spreadsheet that correlates the nanotech institute's projects with the principal investigators, so I can talk to them about research. I'm trying to line something up for this summer and/or fall because if something works out, it will significantly help my application to the M.S./Ph.D. program, to which I am planning to transfer (from the "ordinary" M.S. course program) after this semester.

I'm eating a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel, and I'm drinking a cup of coffee. They're both from Bagel Factory. Yum.

January 21, 2006

PennDOT, Oh Yeah

Katy and I are the proud new owners of driver's licenses from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. We're about five months late, but oh well. I'm working under the assumption that I was not summoned to jury duty in the past five months, so I don't have a contempt of court warrant for failing to respond to a jury duty summons in Dallas, and as long as that assumption holds up, life is good.

The Carnegie Mellon book store had been closed for 17 minutes when I tried to walk into it and buy the book for my Linear Systems class at 4:17 this afternoon, and Katy is presently locked out of her house after forgetting her keys there last night, so without the resources necessary to do school work, we're just hanging out this evening. She's playing SimCity 4, and I'm surfing the web. We're also drinking tea. Dorian is sleeping on a chair with one of his toy balls curled up in his tail. It's a good day for everyone around here.

Last night, Jay, who is one of Katy's tenants, and his friend Bill from work invited us to go out to the South Side for some drinks. Which we did, and it was a lot of fun. The last place we visited was the Z Lounge, a techno bar I experienced the second time I visited Pittsburgh. They make a fantastic mojito, and drinking two of them in good company was the highlight of my night.

Do any of you have any suggestions for keeping large amounts of paper in a portable container? I'm going to have a lot of research papers to carry around town this semester, and I'd like a convenient way of doing that.

Go Steelers! The AFC and NFC championship games are tomorrow, and it will be fun to watch Pittsburgh go crazy if the Steelers end up at the Super Bowl.

Enough rambling. Time to get these papers off my coffee table.

January 19, 2006

Classes

I thought you might be interested in reading about my classes. I'll start from the beginning.

My Distributed Systems class meets for 80 minutes, every Tuesday and Thursday. It is co-taught via multiple video, audio, and SmartBoard links with a professor at AIT in Greece, which makes for a very interesting class. There are multiple flat panel screens around the room, automated video cameras everywhere, and microphones integrated into the tables in the class room. It's amazing that technology can integrate two classes across continents so seamlessly. Very cool stuff. As for the content of the course, it's moving really slowly right now, I don't like the lecturer we've had so far, and we've been promised a four-person group project soon. I hate group projects. Hate.

I am also taking a nanotechnology course this semester, which is, so far, really amazing. It's taught by Elias Towe, who totally rocks the house, and it meets for 110 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday. After lunch. And coffee. The first half of the class is going to be a review of quantum mechanics, and the second half will be an introduction to nanoscale structures like quantum dots, photonic crystals, and so on. It's also a small class, which makes it even more exciting. This will be the best of the three, I'm certain.

The third class is Linear Systems, which meets for 110 minutes every Monday and Wednesday and is taught by, shall I say, a very unique character. The class is offered under the departments of chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering, and the professor does rather an excellent job of teaching the material simultaneously from each perspective. For example, we spent the entire class yesterday solving a particular differential equation to obtain the transfer function for a physical system, and the professor explained it with the discharge of a battery, a beam with weights, and a voltage divider circuit, all at the same time. Which is nice, but Nicole says his homeworks and exams are insane. His syllabus is 21 pages and has footnotes, citations, and a table of contents. Who the hell does that? This should be interesting. If not lethal.

January 17, 2006

Starting School Again

Today marks the dawn of a new semester. In less than one hour, I will board a bus that will take me into Oakland, from whence I will walk along the border between Oakland and Squirrel Hill to meet that which is to be a great part of my life for the next three months. Today, I will begin two classes, and tomorrow, I will begin a third. They say taking three classes is absurd, and it certainly was absurd last autumn, but in order to remain a full-time student and retain my health insurance, this is what I must do. Wish me luck, as I embark on another grand adventure through the rigor of Carnegie Mellon University's graduate program in electrical and computer engineering.

In other news, the vegetarian dinner I cooked Saturday night turned out to be fantastic, and all on hand enjoyed it. It started with warm pita and dips, three of which were bought from the store and one of which I made. Then, it progressed to a plate of white asparagus wrapped in a delicately balanced cream-based mixture of bread crumbs, feta cheese, tomato, crushed red pepper, and Turkish aleppo pepper. The main course followed, which was pasta and a sauce made of a bunch of stuff, a large portion of which I can't remember. The sauce was cream-based and contained yellow and red bell peppers, aleppo pepper, tomato, feta cheese, parmesan cheese, herbs, spices, and some other things. I added boiled shrimp to three of the dishes, but the fourth had to remain vegetarian. As far as I could tell, everyone was impressed with dinner.

Now that I've made myself hungry by writing that, I'm going to head into town and see if I can find a pastry and a cup of coffee before class. I think I'll try Craig Street Coffee first.

Oh, by the way, I have made note of my new classes on my CMU ECE web page, if you're interested in what they are.

January 14, 2006

Urban Outfitters: Part 2

As Andrew said in the comments section of my previous post, yes, the executives of Urban Outfitters Inc. are quite adept at separating fools from their money. I have no problem with that at all. In fact, retail establishments largely serve to separate fools from their money. I know this: I buy Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and the rest, too, but I guess my point was that I am well aware buying a $200 shirt is a bit over the top, but the 15-year-old who pays $35 for flip-flops probably has no idea what she's doing.

Anyway, Katy has two friends in town this weekend, and I spent some time with one of them last night. We got along quite well, I think, but Katy apparently thought we were tearing each other apart. Silly Katy is just not as mean and nasty as we are, I guess, but she's really cute, so that makes up for it. :)

I may be cooking a vegetarian dinner tonight because one of the visiting girls is crazy like that. Weird.

Oh, oh, oh, and I saw the movie Munich last night with Kurt, Niraj, and Laurent. Excellent, fantastic, wonderful, gripping, and three hours long. Go see it.

January 13, 2006

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters Inc. owns Urban Outfitters stores, Anthropologie stores, and Free People stores. I have received Urban Outfitters and Free People catalogs this week, and if I receive an Anthropologie catalog, I'm going to start complaining. I've never shopped at any of those stores, and I don't particularly want to shop at them.

I find it amusing that these stores, which cater largely to the urban youth and the new hippy ideologies, are run by at least four guys who make over half a million bucks a year and have millions of dollars in stock options to exercise at their respective whims. I guess the people who shop there don't care or don't know. No wonder they sell flip-flops for $35. They have to keep food on the CEO's table!

The fifth guy in the "key executives" part of this corporation is the general counsel, who earns a paltry $345 000.

New Look

A slightly new look for a slightly new year. What do you think?

Also, I present to you Carnegie's-Benz, courtesy of my mom.

January 12, 2006

Food, Fried and Frozen

I much prefer the potato chips from the Cape Cod Whole Earth Collection to the normal Cape Cod potato chips.

Also, the following picture is of the inside of my freezer, as of three days ago. If you've ever seen the inside of a freezer I've had, you may have noticed that it was completely bare or that the only thing inside it was a bag of coffee beans. Not so this time.

Click to enlarge.

I will now be a dork and enumerate the items in the photo, clockwise from the bottom left.

  • Whole, headless rabbit.
  • Bombay Sapphire gin.
  • Villa Massa limoncello.
  • Coffee beans: espresso roast from Giant Eagle.
  • Cooked, deveined shrimp.
  • Paella.
  • Italian bread.
  • Ice cube trays.
  • Organic flax (2) and blueberry (1) waffles.
  • Over 10 pounds of ground beef (more under the paella).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it: the contents of my freezer.

January 09, 2006

MySpace.com Censors Users' Journals

Rupert Murdoch, the highly conservative, idiot head of News Corporation (which owns organizations with extremely asinine opinions like Fox News), recently convinced his board they needed to start buying into the Internet. Their first purchase was MySpace.com, an online journal service similar to Xanga and LiveJournal, for some $629m.

As The Independent reports, around the time that happened, any reference or link to rival site YouTube, was censored by way of removing the mention from the communication. MySpace users then created a forum to complain about the censorship, and the forum was subsequently shut down.

Since the censorship, hundreds of users have switched from MySpace to other online journal and blogging sites. Good for them.

January 08, 2006

Snow Gone, Now Warm

It's warm here. In the freakin' 40s. The forecast says it'll stay that way, with highs even reaching 50 a couple times in the next week. What the crap? All the snow that fell yesterday and the day before has melted. AARRRRGGH.

Is there not actually going to be a full month of snow-covered streets and sidewalks this year? December was shaping up to be one, but the complete absence of snow upon return from vacation made me painfully aware that that would not be the case. This almost makes me want to cry. I miss my snow.

Also... if you're not aware, the "j turn" is a driving technique wherein a car starts in reverse and then turns through 180 degrees to end up going forward in the same direction the car was originally reversing. The fine people at Guinness World Records note the narrowest "j turn" was performed in 1999 in Germany, and they have a video to prove it. Very cool stuff.

Several years ago, I read that Secret Service officers are trained to perform these maneuvers while driving limousines. You know, in case the car comes under attack from the front. Also very cool.

January 07, 2006

Mobile Reference Application

I've spent the past couple hours writing a script in Perl that will do some pretty cool stuff. Doing this today is a direct result of having to send a text message to my mother on Friday, asking her to define the word allotrope, which was used in the book I was reading at a coffee shop.

The Perl script is integrated with my email system in such a way that when you send an email to a certain address within the denterprises.org domain, the email system passes it on to the Perl script for processing. The script is capable of figuring out whether you want a weather report or the definition of a word, then works out your answer, and sends a text message back in response. The possibilities for quick reference information are endless, and I imagine any time I'm on the road and need a piece of information that my computer could look up for me, I'll add that feature when I get back home.

I've decided to call the application something very creative: Mobile Reference Application. Actually, I just chose that because it came to me quickly, and I wanted something with a short acronym.

You, too, can have access to this system. To prevent abuse, it works on a whitelist-only authorization scheme, so you'll need to send me an email saying you want to be able to use my service, and I'll add you to the whitelist and tell you how to use it. Be sure to include the email address of your mobile phone in the email.

Also, it feels good to have done something technical after having done nothing related to engineering (aside from reading the first bit of that book Friday) in about three weeks.

January 05, 2006

Oliver Twist: Photos

Two photos of Oliver Twist, Katy's recently adopted two-year-old kitty, taking a break in one of Katy's file boxes, for your viewing pleasure.


Click to enlarge.

CES

The annual Computer Electronics Show (CES) is happening right now in Las Vegas. This means that over the next few days, technology companies from around the world will be announcing their new innovations to the other companies and journalists that are there (it's not a public event, despite being, globally, the largest electronics exposition).

Bill Gates unveiled Microsoft's new Urge music system, which will compete directly with Apple's iTunes but has one distinctly better feature: Urge provides consumers with the opportunity to purchase an "all-you-can-eat" music download subscription with a recurring periodic fee. Evidently, this is something iTunes users have wanted for a long time.

It also seems the next generation DVD format war is really heating up, with Blu-Ray grappling for a hand hold. Incidentally, Microsoft has also confirmed they plan to introduce an external HD-DVD option for the Xbox 360.

Another point of coolness from CES is the flash drive wristband, developed by our good friends at Imation. Now, you can carry your files around on your wrist.

Most of the rest of the stuff that companies have announced so far has been related to USB storage, VoIP, and other big consumer stuff. Hopefully, we'll see some cool new technology before CES is over, though!

January 04, 2006

Curried Louis Braille

It seems today is Louis Braille's birthday. And, Google is still cool.

Image of Google spelled in Braille

Further, having in the past week made a fantastic beef vindaloo and a delicious shrimp coconut curry from recipes pulled directly out of the proverbial (chef's) hat, I would like to announce I am at your service for any relatively small curry making events you host.

Now, I need to figure out how to make naan, paratha, and raita... :)

As the Craig Street Coffee shop in Oakland notes, we're having a heat wave. It's 48F outside, yuck. Tonight, however, it's cold front time, and according to Intellicast, the snow will last for at least three days.

January 03, 2006

Oliver Twist

Katy has a very cute new kitty named Oliver Twist. He is black with white paws, chin, and belly, and he is a bit over two years old. We picked him up from a shelter near here yesterday afternoon, after getting the necessary kitty stuff from Petsmart the previous day. Hooray for cats. We like cats.

In unrelated news, I would like to note it's possible to get a round-trip flight from London to Prague for around $50, including taxes and fees, on easyJet. While they probably make you sit on cinder blocks during the flight and don't have much of a beverage service, you're still only paying $50. What a deal. I wonder why such cheap fares cannot be found in the States?

Also, I have made little progress on the steel composition thing, but I still have some articles to read on knives. I did, however, figure out that my knives are made of surgical steel.