Stuff from 2013 about Which I Never Posted

2013 wasn’t much of a blogging year. Trying to make up for it I guess. Or, just, I’m going through my all-day allergy shot desensitization process and what else am I going to do? Besides research, I mean. Always research.

Posted a bunch of stuff about the ski trip to Tahoe in March already. Don’t think this one made it in, though.

As good a through-the-windshield photo as I took last year.

As good a through-the-windshield photo as I took last year.

In May, my brother and his wife came and visited with their daughter. I always feel weird about posting photos of other people on the blog (without their permission or their having done something stupid to deserve it), but I guess that doesn’t apply to people under three.

My niece, not impressed by Heinz Chapel.

My niece, not impressed by Heinz Chapel.

Or by the Monongahela.

Or by the Monongahela.

It was cool. More people should visit Pittsburgh. It’s underappreciated.

Some time in July I went to a symposium in Boston where I was the discussant for a hardcore economics modeling paper written by people of whom I’d heard. It rained most of the time and I didn’t take a lot of photos.

A photo of Boston that I took.

A photo of Boston that I took.

On the way back, I stopped off at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and took a short tourist hike to see a waterfall.

Dingman's Falls in the Delaware Water Gap NRA.

Dingman’s Falls in the Delaware Water Gap NRA.

So when you go there, there’s a main viewing platform at the base of the falls. On that platform, there is one prime corner that is the closest corner to the falls itself and the only place that affords a full view of the falls without full view of a bunch of other co-tourists.

So, of course, this delusional amateur has set up permanent residence in The One Corner.

So, of course, this obviously very important guy has set up permanent residence in The One Corner.

I’m sure his stunning photo of this walk-up waterfall is going to motivate gallery audiences to tears. Totally worth preventing anyone else from experiencing The Corner. Plus he’s got a vest on, so you know he must be a professional high amateur guy who wears vests. (He was camped out there for the entire half hour or so I was at and around the site.)

On the rest of the way home, I went to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Here’s evidence:

It's unprepossessing.

It’s unprepossessing.

Not sure what I expected. More than this, obviously. That said, I’m not sure what else they can do with the scene of an air catastrophe. Flaming wreckage? Would have been nice. They actually do a good job of keeping things factual in their displays, rather than appealing to baser emotions. Still, there’s just not a lot to experience here that you can’t get from reading the Wikipedia article or watching the movie.

I also went down to Beckley, W.V. in September. I used my other camera for these. I still think I might write a whole post about the experience, but in case I don’t:

New River Gorge Bridge, with Clouds

New River Gorge Bridge, with Clouds

It used to be the highest bridge of some sort, but it isn’t any more. I was not there for Bridge Day either.

Then in November, after two months of appointments and waiting for appointments, I got tested for allergies.

Allergy TestTurns out I’m allergic to dust. I’d been trying to tell them I was allergic to dust, but thanks to this test, they agreed. The two dust mite pricks were itching after about 30 seconds, but it took the medical staff another 20 minutes to accept this particular reality.

Finally, one more picture from Milan that didn’t make it into the other article (and the story that goes with it!):

Always set to 25.

Always set to 25.

Every day, I’d come back to my hotel room in the evening and find that housekeeping had re-set the thermostat to 25 (about 77° Fahrenheit) at which point, every day, I’d turn it back down to 20 (68°). They never got the hint. Or, I guess, *I* never got the hint.

And then it became 2014.

bkd

Down and Out in Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

Some months ago I received visitors from California. During their visit, some photos were taken. I now offer up those photos to this repository. Long may they remain available. Long!

Pgh skyline from the Allegheny shoreline.

A tourist-photographer tests the light before taking a picture of a drain affixed to a wall in an otherwise empty room. There’s probably art here, I’m just not sure where its boundaries are.

Manassas Battlefield in Virginia.

As it turned out, I didn’t really take photos in DC. I did, however, discover that I really resent that place. It’s probably good I didn’t go to UMCP for grad school. Although they have better restaurants there than here.

Also: DLDF’s photos of the same trip are art, e.g., http://denatothepena.blogspot.com/2012/05/may-5-2012.html, http://denatothepena.blogspot.com/2012/05/abe.html, and http://denatothepena.blogspot.com/2012/05/antietam-manassas.html.

bkd

Tourist Day in Pittsburgh

For Thanksgiving, my brother, his wife, his two kids, and two caged dogs came to visit. The day after Thanksgiving, we did tourist activities. This is the story of those activities.

“Story” is a strong word.

First we drove out to Fort Necessity, the place where George Washington inadvertently started the French and Indian War.

Things I learned there, the veracity of which having not been verified: the French and Indian War precipitated the American Revolution, George Washington accidentally signed a document accepting sole responsibility for assassinating a French officer, his time in the area made Washington a big proponent of the US’s eventual expansion into the Ohio Valley, and most 18th century North American forts aren’t very impressive.

We then stopped at the only restaurant on Highway 40, a Pizza Hut, where there was considerable confusion about what specials were or were not offered. Then we went to Ohiopyle to see the falls:

This is Mr. and Mrs. Telkontar, btw. And the Telkitos. I talked about the falls in a much earlier post in case you feel cheated by lack of additional photos or description.

Then we went to some guy’s house:

I’d never heard of it before moving to Pittsburgh, but it’s apparently the most famous-for-architecture house in the US (Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright). We didn’t have reservations, so we were not allowed inside and were treated like dogs. The waterfalls were nice and the use of stone was kind of cool, but the preponderance of pink concrete was perplexing. Definitely better than the Biltmore Estate, though.

Then we drove back through Ohiopyle and came upon the following waterfall:

It’s named Cucumber Falls due to the prevalence of wild cucumber in the area.

It was starting to get dark, then, so we did what comes naturally to tourists in the Pittsburgh area: ride the Duquesne Incline up to Mt. Washington.

There was probably a good photo there if I could have found something to which to attach my gorilla pod.

And then we went home and debated the relative utility of creche committees.

bkd

 

 

 

Pittsburgh Doesn’t Label Well

In case you were wondering. Sometimes I get the impression that this place is the capital of good enough is more than good enough. As evidence:

They also misspelled "vitamin". And I'm not sure I want to know what "Dairyplus 600" is.

 

If they don't want to say where they made it, they could probably just leave that line off.

 

Not a great place for math, either.

 

Or maybe I just shop in the wrong stores.

Other than that, everything here remains steady. Always steady.

bkd

PNC Park: Pirates Win!

Went to PNC for a couple of Pirates games on their last homestand (they lost the second game — stupid Padres). Great park, great atmosphere, seems really well run and their aren’t any potholes in the concourses, which makes it feel like you’re not in Pittsburgh.

pnc park allegheny river

Coming in from the east (or south), the recommended parking is all downtown. Works out pretty well — $5 parking and a 10-15 minute walk, depending on what garage you ended up in. The walk is also cool as the closer you get to the park, the more fans you’re walking with and then crossing the (pedestrian-only on gameday) Roberto Clemente Bridge makes for a pretty dramatic final leg of the journey.

The views from the park side of the Allegheny River are also pretty good.

Roberto Clemente Bridge, Downtown Pittsburgh

PNC Park, View from Home Plate

Otherwise:

  • They really play up the pirate theme on the big screen; it’s kind of cool.
  • They have this big animation sequence before every game wherein a Pirates-themed galleon is taking on a galleon flying the colors of the day’s opponent. You’d think that should be no contest — pirates should be better seamen than, for instance, Franciscan friars — but it’s still pretty satisfying when the statue of Roberto Clemente hits a flaming cannonball out of the park and drops it right on the bad guys’ deck, sending them and their crew to the bottom of the Allegheny.
  • It’s as nice a ballpark as I’ve been to. Destroys the Big A and Dodgers easily, more interesting than Petco or Camden Yards, probably on par with Safeco.
  • Most of the fans there seem to think that “Willie Stargell” is the answer to every Pirates trivia question.
  • As losing teams go, the Pirates are easy to pull for — they’re bad because management is cheap, not because it’s incompetent.
  • And it’s fun watching some of their young guys just starting to get established (Alvarez, Walker, Tabata), not to mention guys who weren’t going to get a chance elsewhere seizing the opportunity (Jones). If they sign Cliff Lee in the off-season, they could win as many as 70 games next year!
  • It’s surprising how many fans the Pirates have given that they’ve been “re-building” since 1992. They probably deserve better.

bkd

Some More Pittsburgh Photos

The less preamble the better.

Downtown Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington and the top of the Duquesne Incline

The One View. Downtown Pittsburgh and the "golden triangle" taken from the top of the Duquesne Incline on Mt. ("Mt.") Washington.

And with that out of the way, here are some photos of driving on 376 from the airport into the Oakland part of town where Pitt’s campus is. It’s not a great photo essay, but whatever.

There are a lot of railroad overpasses there. I get the impression that if Pittsburgh ever needed to get its steel economy rolling again, the infrastructure would be ready for business again within about a half-hour.

Getting close to the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Even closer.

The inside looks like a tunnel!

Exit tunnel onto bridge.

It’s hard to capture the drama of exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel heading into downtown while trying to simultaneously operate a motor vehicle at 60 miles an hour. That said, the sudden view you get when you exit the tunnel is about as dramatic a moment as a person can have while driving. Especially if you do it at night. Highly recommended, especially for a first time entering the city.

Another infrastructure photo.

Therewith,

bkd

Houses I’m Not Trying to Buy in Pittsburgh

There’s not an immediate Plan B if I don’t get the house I posted about yesterday. I mean, Plan B is to wait around and see if any similar REOs come up in the next several weeks probably. And if not, then punt and just buy best-available whatever.

This isn’t about Plan B, though. This is about my having looked at, like, seven houses today and most of them being variations on awful that I hadn’t necessarily considered possible. The sloped rooms and all. I mean, really. Here are the seven:

  1. Horrifying salt box in West View that needed, at a minimum, a new everything. Most particularly a new smell.
  2. Kind of interesting big, old three-story house in West View that had a cool yard, a slight slant to the floor in the living room, a two-car garage, and probably required more time and money than I was gonna give it.
  3. Frightening three-bedroom in Morningside where you couldn’t really walk around for all the cobwebs and stuff piled on the floor (and on all other flat spaces). There were ruddy crosses finger-painted above every bedroom door. Non-positive vibe. My agent had hand sanitizer in the car.
  4. Interesting-enough, small two-bedroom in Greenfield. Very narrow house, obviously had spent most of its recent years as a student rental, awesome kitchen flooring.
  5. Unfortunate three-bedroom in Greenfield. In kind of a weird part of the neighborhood and walking from its front to back made me seasick with all the variations in, like, flatness. OTOH, the toilet worked.
  6. The house in Lincoln Place on which I’m making an offer.
  7. Another slant-floored house in Lincoln Place. The “kitchen” and “bathroom” were both located in the basement for some reason.

Here are some photos. Everyone likes photos. (All but one of these are from nos. 1 and 4 above; really should have photographed the lamb’s blood in no. 3.)

The shame of it is that the artist didn't sign his (her?) work.

You can't *really* tell, but the wallpaper in this one is reflective silver. Would have worked great in East Germany.

(Which is not to say that it doesn’t work great in Pittsburgh.)

A boiler.

A boiler! My agent said it needed to be replaced (by a NEW boiler!). And unfortunately we didn’t not come into contact with any of what he called “octopus furnaces”.

Needs a new garage door.

Pittsburgh toilet

A Pittsburgh toilet.

This is a real, functioning toilet that’s in the middle of the basement floor (or off to the side, I guess). Apparently this is a thing here in the Burgh — it’s actually called a “Pittsburgh toilet”. According to legend, the steel mill worker would come home covered in soot and slag, enter through the side door, then head to the basement to… well, take a crap I guess. There was probably once a shower head down here next to the toilet, which may have helped with the soot.

And no walls. Basement toilet stall walls are gauche. Or they were 100 years ago.

bkd

The House I’m Trying to Buy in Pittsburgh

Spent today looking at houses in the Pitt. It’s different here. For one thing, any house that seems too inexpensive for its specs is usually that way because the floors all slant different directions. I was in three houses today where — yeah. Felt like standing on a ship’s deck.

The one I’m trying to buy is in the Lincoln Place neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I’m taking the offer paperwork over to the office in the morning. Here’s what it looks like:

Front Elevation. I suppose I'd have to put shutters on the left window.

The kitchen; I like the floor-to-ceiling tile. Makes it look like an operating room where they perform unnecessary surgeries.

A bedroom. They all looked about like this. And I didn't take a picture of the living room for some reason.

Which is a shame, because someone had painted a fireplace on one of the living room walls. It almost fools you in the listing photo.

Rec Room. The bar is wet.

The downstairs bathroom. I kind of like the retro -- which is good, b/c my real estate agent told me not to mess with the tile in this one.

OTOH, he told me I *did* need to mess with the one upstairs. The one upstairs looks pretty much the same as this one, only it’s pink for some reason.

The workshop. Seriously, the house has a workshop in it. Rocks.

The OVERSIZED (one-car) garage.

Anyway. It’s a cool house. It’s also bank-owned. If I get it, it needs the following (at least):

  • New roof.
  • New kitchen (floors, walls, cabinets, appliances).
  • New upstairs bathroom.
  • New paint (everywhere).
  • Wood floors re-finished (sanded, re-stained).
  • New ceiling in basement.
  • Jury-rigged basement A/C unit replaced.
  • New carpet in basement and on stairs.
  • Shutters on front-left window.
  • Paint on outside railing and stairs.
  • Yard care.

Otherwise, good to go. With the price I’m hoping to get it for and what it should be worth fixed up, this should be a really good deal.

Mal sehen was wird.

Also, my real estate agent does not displease me. He gets what I’m trying to do here and has enough experience with house flipping that I trust his advice. Or, if it’s all just an act on his part, *really* well played.

bkd

And Hopefully the Slavers Aren’t Active During the School Year

It’s final, then: I’m going to Pittsburgh! The program is unquestionably top-tier and the faculty are outstanding — both in terms of their quality of research and, like, personality. And I think it’ll provide more than 3-4 hours of gameplay, especially since I’m not Level 20 in real life. I like to pretend like I am, but I’m really not.

I *hope* I enjoy my stay.

The decision feels a little anti-climactic or something though. I dunno. It sort of seems like an arbitrary place, probably in part due to it not being on the short list of schools I was looking at last summer (when I was still looking primarily at strategic management programs). But FWIW, I didn’t end up applying to any of those early short-list schools. I guess it’s also not really a part of the country anyone’s heard much about since 1980, so maybe for that reason.

And the school has its own organizational behavior lab!

It should be cool, though. I’ll probably buy a house and hopefully it’s a little bit of a fixer so I can do some projects on it. Maybe that’ll be the blog for this summer. So there’s that to look forward to! (For you.) (Well — and for me.) Plus I’ll be able to make cryptic references to Fallout 3 DLC at will and, while no one will know what I’m talking about, the references will, technically, be appropriate.

Weapon in hand, a newly minted PhD looks forward to her bright future.

Will probably fly out there again in maybe May and look for a place to live, then move out for real once it closes escrow or whatever. You can get a pretty decent place for not much money out there — the trick is not taking a bath when you’re trying to sell it four to five years later.

So I got that going for me.

Excelsior,

bkd

Pittsburgh International Airport: There Will Come Soft Rains

Pittsburgh has a fantastically nice airport that no one uses. It used to be US Airways’ primary east-coast hub, but US Air has gone from 500 flights a day through there to, like, ten. So now it’s mostly empty. But it’s a great layout, it’s easy to get from one gate to another, it doesn’t require a train to get from the A gates to the D gates, there’s plenty of room to sit, there’s a mall with upscale stores in the terminal, decent food options… Just that there’s no one there.

I like ghost towns and ruins. Except that sometimes the places that are called “ghost towns” are kind of disappointing. All those “buildings” in Death Valley, for instance — I mean, there’s no romance there. You can’t see anything of what used to actually go on since it’s all so dilapidated now. But at some point during the big road trip last year it occurred to me that I didn’t need to seek out “ghost towns”, because they were right in front of me. Every boarded up house in the world is a “ghost house” — there were some impressive examples in Natchez, for instance, and I remember a lot of disappearing Americana in rural Southern Oregon as well. And there was some town I drove through in Texas that looked like it had been abandoned within the last ten years. It wasn’t a wild west ghost town, but it was awesome anyway.

It’s also interesting to me that they keep these parts of the terminal open to the public. The international gates, for instance, have a door on them so they could be shut off, but the door is wide open. The moving sidewalks still move, the announcement tells you to please stand to the right and pass on the left and caution, because the moving walkway is nearing its end. But there’s no one there to hear it.

Two thirty-five.

Bridge tables sprouted from patio walls. Playing cards fluttered onto pads in a shower ofpips. Martinis manifested on an oaken bench with egg-salad sandwiches.

Music played.

But the tables were silent and the cards untouched.

Y’know part of me hopes there’s a big nuclear war some time just so I can see if any of the post-apocalyptic prognostications ended up having any validity. What’s the point of guessing at it if you never even get to see it?!

bkd