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July 30, 2006

Weather Woes

As the temperatures prepare to climb into the 90s for the week, I am reminded of a post to this blog I made last October 19. It may have been the first time the highs dipped below 60 last fall, and I'm looking forward to that happening again this year... only two and a half months to go, now! We had a good rain today, and its associated frontal system sucked some of the humidity out of the air, so we now have a brief respite from the muggy air.

I think I'm going to try to schedule my move to Squirrel Hill for Thursday, since that's when the temperatures are supposed to drop off a little bit. I'm glad there aren't very many stairs to negotiate this time; I think the three flights down from my old condo almost killed one of the movers last time!

Meanwhile, I am researching wireless AC actuation for Metin, and I'm supposed to present a survey of current research at one of our meetings at some point. I am pretty unclear on when that happens, though, so I hope he returns the request for clarification I emailed to him this morning soon. I certainly won't be able to have the research finished by this Friday (if I remember correctly, research meetings are on Fridays), but next Friday might be do-able, and the following Friday would be all but guaranteed.

Tristram the Australian cooked something that smelled like onions and butter about half an hour ago, and since then, I've been getting more and more hungry. It might be time to eat soon!

July 29, 2006

Inspection Days' End

I drove around for a little while today and finally found an auto inspection station that was open. To my surprise, it seems many mechanics are closed for the weekend here in Pittsburgh.

The Meineke at Liberty & 31st took my car, and an employee lambasted me for affixing my temporary registration to my window while Texas plates were still on the car (but, that's what AAA told me to do, I think) and told me to come back in 2-3 hours. I took the 86A bus back home, dawdled for an hour or two, got their phone call, and took the 86B back down to Meineke. The car now has Pennsylvania plates and looks absolutely nothing like it did with Texas plates! Er, well, that's not really true. But, it no longer has a front license plate — how d'ya like them apples?

I joined Angie's List today, at the exhortation of Katy, to check out moving companies. It looks like the James Moving Company (est. 1950) will be moving me some time next week. They received high marks from Angie's List and the Better Business Bureau, so I'll call Monday and set up a date and time. If it weren't so warm and humid here, the move would be much more exciting than its current state of interminable dullness. I've started packing what little I have to pack, but as with everything else this summer, I'm just not very motivated to do it.

In other news, kitties are happy and clawing a sisal post, and it's coming up on the early evening, the hottest time of the day. So, I'm going to sit around and do nothing for a while.

July 28, 2006

Car Inspection? No Thanks!

Wednesday, I titled my car here in Pennsylvania, and I have ten days to get it inspected. So far, I've spent about four hours of my time dealing with Monro Muffler & Brakes in some capacity or another. Yesterday's efforts ended when I needed to leave before they even started the inspection, after sitting there for a couple hours, and today's efforts ended when I called them, inquired about the progress, and got a response of, "I was just going to call you and tell you our emissions machine broke." Lovely.

I guess I'll try again tomorrow, and this time I'll take the car somewhere else.

Meanwhile, I've secured some new digs. The new place is in Squirrel Hill, and it has three storeys, three bedrooms, a reasonably sized and well-equipped kitchen, a decent backyard, a private garage, and so forth. I'll get the keys Monday, after they fix a few problems I found in the bathroom on the second floor. Dorian is going to love this place.

July 25, 2006

Gas Prices

I just ran into a 2001 article from the Houston Chronicle that mentioned a jump in gasoline prices from $1.19 per gallon to over $1.40 per gallon in April of that year. It's difficult to believe gas cost so little only five years ago, and it seems like forever since it was below $2.50. Crikey, something must be done!

Also, Metin Sitti has agreed to be my advisor, and we're going to get the ball rolling with the related paperwork right away. Hooray!


I'm sitting in my office at CMU right now, waiting for my advisor-to-be to finish talking with someone else. It's warm in here, and even sitting down and doing nothing is uncomfortable. I've just turned the air down from 75 to 71, so we'll see what that does.

It seems a lot of the people who inhabited offices around here in the spring have moved to Porter Hall. I wonder if there's something I should know about? Maybe the air conditioning works better there!

I think after I finish talking with Metin, I'll go check out some houses... my eye is on a townhouse in Squirrel Hill, even though it doesn't have central air conditioning, so I'll probably call that guy first. I have a stack of other advertisements in my car, as well, in case that one doesn't work out. I will, of course, keep you lovely readers updated.

July 22, 2006

Travel Misery

Flying isn't what it used to be. The glamour of hopping on the Concorde to arrive in New York before you left Paris, the jovial types on the Pan Am to Sydney, the Eastern Airlines 747 that took you to London at an hour's notice... these things just don't exist anymore, and neither does the surrounding culture that made air travel the bastion of a thriving society.

I'll bet you know what's coming now, don't you? If you guessed another airline mess, possibly involving Washington, D.C., you'd be quite correct. But, at least it wasn't United this time.

My US Airways flight was supposed to leave Pittsburgh at 3:30, but when I glanced for the first time at a "departures" monitor, I noticed my flight was cancelled. That's right... not delayed, but cancelled. Maybe it was the weather in Boston; my dad's flight was delayed in Houston because of that, but even now, I have no idea why my flight was cancelled.

So, they transferred everyone on the flight to the next flight to New York Laguardia, which was due to leave at 3:55, a scant 25 minutes after the Boston flight. OK, that's cool, I said, and I waited.

We were eventually told the crew on the Laguardia flight was en route from Philadelphia, but there was weather there, so they would be late. So, I waited some more. Then, we were told the connecting flight to Boston would be held for our arrival in New York. That's lovely for us but not so much for the people already in New York. And, I waited.

A while later, around 5:15, a distressed employee engaged the public announcement system and told us Boston passengers to hop on over to another gate and board a flight to Washington Reagan National Airport. So, we did that, and we went to Washington.

Upon landing at Reagan and arriving at gate 40, we Boston passengers hurried about 50 feet across the hall to gate 45, where our flight to Boston was waiting. I arrived at the gate first and boarded the plane, having spent a grand total of about 55 seconds in the terminal — the shortest lay-over ever.

I landed in Boston, safe and sound, and my dad and I followed Route 1 up toward Newbury, grabbed some very garlicky Greek food on the way, and arrived here on the island around 10:30, about four hours later than I originally anticipated.

It's breezy and cool but a bit humid here. The breeze and temperature are a nice change from Pittsburgh, where it has been mostly warm and stale. I'll get back to that on Monday. Meanwhile, I must attend to family and drink lots of coffee.

I'm not really bitter about the flight thing this time, as the wait was comfortable and air conditioned, and I still got to Boston with some time left over to have dinner and chat with my dad and my aunt. I just hope the return flight is somewhat less terrible and somewhat more non-stop.

July 21, 2006

Boston Bereavement

I have a flight to Boston tomorrow afternoon, where I will meet my dad at the airport and spend a couple days with the usual suspects on our lovely island (where the highs will be in the 70s, by the way). Alas, it will not be entirely the joyous, fun-filled adventure it usually is, as my aunt Kathy died this morning after a prolonged battle with cancer.
Kathy on Plum Island
It is said that, yesterday afternoon, Kathy was pale gray and not drinking anything. I understand she passed away around 1:00 this morning. The funeral takes place next Saturday, but because my dad will be required in Buenos Aires, we have elected to visit this weekend, instead.

I wasn't particularly close to Kathy, but she was, without a doubt, a wonderful woman.

I'll be back in Pittsburgh on Monday, and next week should be a whirlwind of house-hunting and nanotech. I've emailed and called a number of people about their properties, and there are some definite winners in the bunch. I'm also going to print out some more advertisements so I can bleed on them on the plane tomorrow. I imagine I will move house the following week, which will give me almost a full month to get settled before the fall semester begins.

Also, Taylor turned 18 today, and I suspect she's having a wonderful time of it. I tried to call her earlier to wish her a happy birthday, but I was only able to leave a message.

July 19, 2006


The frumious bandersnatch
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

— Lewis Carroll.

July 18, 2006

I Got the Dealership Blues

I took my car to the dealership today to have some work done on the interiors of the passenger-side doors. I also told them to give it an oil change and a new air filter. The impetus for this work is that I'm finally getting around to titling my car here in Pennsylvania, and I don't think it will pass inspection without the door repair.

The oil change part of this is interesting: my oil change was due April 6, but the car still has about 1,800 miles to go until it hits the mileage threshold, since I rarely drive anywhere. I figured the mileage part is probably more important than the date part, but why not have the oil changed while it's in the shop, anyway? And, the air filter... well, cars need new air filters once in a while.

The dealership has to order a part, so the car will be in the South Hills for another few days. I'm stuck at home (or on a bus) until that happens, but that isn't much of an inconvenience these days.

Tristram, the Australian house-mate/tenant, came back from his summer in Melbourne last night, and he's already left dirty dishes (sans rinse) in the kitchen sink and left the toilet seat up at least once. Oh, well; he is moving out August 1.

Speaking of moving, I'm also in the process of finding somewhere new to live, since Katy and I decided it would be best to part ways. We're still on quite good terms, despite a number of irreconcilable differences, and I hope that continues.

Katy's mom and sister are turning up tonight, and they'll stay for a few days to help Katy paint some of the walls here. Katy's sister is tentatively interested in the engineering department at Carnegie Mellon, too, so I guess she'll check that out while she's here.

July 16, 2006

Nothin' Doin'

It's hot here. Really hot. Mid-90s hot. With two 10,000 BTU/hr. air conditioners in the house, the temperature doesn't get much below 80. In fact, the thermometer right here on my desk says the current temperature is 81.9. Yuck!

Katy and I hosted Debra for the past couple days, and she's now off to Georgia, where she will apparently spend some time with family. She has already driven north from Houston, and she arrived here by way of Dallas, Topeka, Omaha, and Chicago. May the wind be at her back.

Two of Debra's siblings are also on a road trip, but they're in California, having recently left Hollywood for San Francisco. Note one of these siblings in John, who has left his two-year-old son in the hands of the (working) mother for no particularly good reason. I stopped caring much about what goes on in their broken, dysfunctional relationship, but hearing about him going on an indefinitely long road trip (he's already been gone at least two weeks) instead of staying in Houston and working really bothers me. That's John, though: no responsibility, no care for his own child, and future to the wind.

Meanwhile, I'm still doing kidney stuff, magnetic inductive power transfer stuff, and World of Warcraft stuff. Inside. In the dark. Where the temperature is now 82.1 degrees.

July 11, 2006

Mumbai bombings

A year and four days after idiot terrorists set off bombs in the London Underground and on a London bus, more idiot terrorists have set off bombs on trains and at train stations in Mumbai during the evening commute. This has killed at least 160 people, injured far more than that, and left hundreds of thousands of people without a way to get home. The bombs were nearly simultaneous, just like those in London last year.

Katy and I had left-over lamb vindaloo for lunch today... hmph.

I'm going to work on my kidney research this afternoon, and I'll keep an eye on what's happening in Mumbai.

July 10, 2006

Another Lamb Vindaloo Success

As the title says, tonight was another lamb vindaloo success. I just can't get this stuff wrong! I also used a rough facsimile of my algebraic raita recipe to keep the curry company on the plate. For those of you keeping track, tonight's value for N was about 1.7. It also had a bit more chili powder and a bit less salt and sugar than previously, and it worked out nicely. You know, I really don't like cooking the exact same thing twice.

Katy and I spent a sizeable chunk of time at the main (Oakland) branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh this afternoon. In one of the opulent rooms upstairs, Katy scribbled some odd modal logic symbols on sheets of coffee-stained paper, and I drank coffee (without staining any paper) and read articles about, among other things, the kidney's glomerular filtration membrane. All the Carnegie libraries boast free wireless Internet access, which, despite the fact that it's really just free web access and not free Internet access, is pretty cool. After all, the motto is "free to the people".

Aside from lamb vindaloo and lascivious Carnegie Library exploits, the days since our dinner at Isabela have been relatively low-key. Although, Katy and I did host a Trivial Pursuit evening, and we also put a lot of time into waging war against Mao Zedong, Otto von Bismarck, and Peter the Great. But, that's another story.

Oh, and I think neither France nor Italy should have won the World Cup. Boo to both teams.

July 05, 2006

Independence Day

In the past few days, I've seen more people than ever write the word independance instead of independence. Are our public schools really that poor?

Yesterday, Katy tried to get me to go to Point State Park, the end of the peninsula where the Allegheny River, the Monongahela River, and the Ohio River meet. The big fireworks show in Pittsburgh is apparently held there every year, and she wanted to do a picnic thing. My counter to her suggestion was that we eat dinner at a nice restaurant on Mt. Washington, instead.
Fireworks as seen from the upper Isabela dining room. Click to enlarge
The side of Mt. Washington facing downtown Pittsburgh (and Point State Park) is basically a cliff face, and there are a number of houses and restaurants built at the very top of it, along Grandview Avenue. I made reservations for 8:30 at Isabela on Grandview, and that afforded us a wonderful view of the fireworks: they exploded at eye-level and were choreographed to a radio broadcast. From the martini to the shrimp, the lobster, the duck, the pork, and the goat cheese cheesecake and all the paired wines and fireworks in-between, it was an exceptionally pleasant dining experience. We must have been really lucky to get those reservations, too, since one of the waiters told us they already have reservations for next year's fireworks.

In other news, I started into my pound of Kopi Luwak coffee (Dallasites: lemur shit coffee) today, and after about a cup and a half so far, I can report that it is the most fantastic coffee I've ever tasted. It is incredibly smooth, yet it has a robust and well-developed palate of berries and old smoky wood. Great stuff, this.

July 04, 2006

San Telmo Comic

I was playing around in Photoshop and turned one of my photos from the San Telmo antiques fair in Buenos Aires into something that looks like it came out of a comic strip. Now, I wonder how other photos would look if I used this technique to modify them?
San Telmo street scene, modified to look like a comic. Click to enlarge
Perhaps I'll try it and see what happens. Any suggestions? It seems people turn out pretty well.

In other news, Katy and I ate dinner tonight at one of our favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh, the Harris Grill, but we first had to wait an hour at the bar for a table on their back patio. Ah well, we talked with Scott the bartender, who is one of our favorite waiters ever, and that was good. He even told us the two places in the city where we can get some Magic Hat No. 9 on tap. The Harris Grill stopped serving Magic Hat on tap when their distributor went dry, and they don't feel like driving eight hours to go get a few kegs of it.

We're about to have a lovely line of storms pass through here; the appearance of which was somewhat predictable because Katy ran the drip hose in the garden all evening. It should help me sleep soundly, at any rate. I love a good thunderstorm, even if it's not Texas-sized or visible 100 miles away.

Well, anyway, good night!

July 03, 2006

Magnetic Mentality

I met with the graduate student with whom I will be working on Ph.D. research today. His interests currently lay in the realm of magnetic power transfer, which seems like a good first step toward the remote powering of nano- and micro-scale devices. I guess you have to start somewhere, right?

People have been trying to make wireless power transfer work in significant quantities since about the turn of the 20th century. Perhaps you've heard of Heinrich Hertz, Nikola Tesla, or Hidetsugu Yagi? These three visionaries spent a lot of time working on moving electricity from one place to another, and they never really succeeded on any sort of large scale.

However, it is entirely possible to move reasonable amounts of power from one place to another on a small scale. Sometimes, people "plant" fluorescent tube lights under power lines for artistic purposes, and they light up brilliantly. Nikola Tesla even powered a similar light from 25 miles away.

We're talking about doing it on an even smaller scale. For medical technology, this would work by having a device external to the body that generates a magnetic field. Then, by means of magnetic induction, the power is transferred to the device inside the body. This sounds lovely and wonderful, but there are some problems. For example, Steve (the other graduate student) says this method has about a 0.1% efficiency. That is, for every 1 tesla (of magnetic flux density) transmitted, only 0.001 tesla is received, and the rest dissipates. This is only one of the problems currently facing the research, but what good is research if there are no problems to overcome?

Anyway, I'm looking forward to working on this project, and it will be nice to actually do some experimental stuff, instead of having my head in books all day.