Wednesday, November 03, 2004

What a surprising election!

Wow! What can I say? This electionwas surprising in several ways. First the voter turnout was incredible. There were a record number of voters. Also, a higher percentage of those eligible to vote actually voted, the highest percentage since 1968. It really goes against the conventional wisdom that if voter turnout is high then the Democrats will win...

In addition to winning the electoral college, Bush won the popular vote by over 3 million votes. Maybe Democrats will finally put to rest all of their complaining after the 2000 election that Bush was not the legitimate president.

Kerry will be conceding the vote later on today... I'll have to watch and see what he says.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Steelers beat the Patriots

Yesterday, Heather's father and I went to go see the Steelers take on the the Patriots at Heinz Field here in Pittsburgh. What an incredible game! New England had had a 21 game winning streak going into the game and were the defending Super Bowl champions. The Steelers dominated almost every aspect of the game and were victorious.

The game has been widely cited as one of the best Steelers games in years. I'm glad that Hunter and I were able to go!

Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Bar Exam Results

I'm pleased to announce that the Pennsylvania Bar Exam results were released this morning. I passed the bar! I was actually pretty worried about whether or not I would pass and was dreading the possibility of having to retake the bar again in February. You can see the officials lists at
http://www.pabarexam.org/Bar_Examination/Results/Result_Information.htm

I was amused that my neighbors congratulated me this afternoon... They had looked me up at work!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Ivan Part II

Hurricane Ivan has finally come ashore in the United States with a direct hit on Gulf Shores, Alabama. I know that area very well as my family vacations there frequently and my sister owns a condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, a few miles away. They have "storm shutters" installed on their condo unit and it is well above the storm surge line, but judging from some of the damage on other buildings, it's possible they suffered severe damage. They won't know for some time how their unit fared as the roads into Gulf Shores are closed for at least 48 hours.

Nearby Pensacola appears to have suffered extensive damage as well. Probably the most impressive is a section of the interstate over the water way which has collapsed from the storm damage. That's some pretty powerful stuff!

There's been some discussion in the media as to whether or not these people deserve to receive federal disaster relief; they keep building in the same locations after each storm. My argument in response is whether or not we should offer relief to California after earthquakes or Oklahoma after tornados. Each region of the country has its own inherant natural risks involved with living there. It's up to those people to decide whether or not they want to put up with the risks. The deciding factor for most is whether or not they can get insurance for their property. If they can, they'll live there. If not, they probably won't. I realize that this is probably over simplified, but I guess people should just be allowed to live where they want to. Can you imagine visiting Florida without any residences or hotels near the coasts?

I'm glad that New Orleans was spared though... There was a worry that if it had been hit directly by the storm, the resulting flooding of the city would have taken three to six months to drain out...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Maglev and the expansion of the T-line

Pittsburgh is faced with two different projects. One, the Maglev project, is supposed to run from the airport, through downtown, out to Monroeville and Greensburg using a maglev train. A different project is an extension of the T line under the Allegheny River to connect with the two stadiums.

Which one to do? Probably neither. There is definitely not the demand for a high speed Maglev here in Pittsburgh, especially considering that USAir may be gone by the time groundbreaking occurs. A better option there would probably be to build a Las Vegas/Los Angeles line. You'd actually have demand on both ends of the line; ultimately it'd probably end up paying for itself.

Digging a tunnel under the Allegheny River? Not really necessary either. Who's going to take it? It's pretty easy to walk to the stadiums from downtown on game days, so it's not going to service downtown traffic. People who park at station square are probably going to continue to take the ferry boats across the river on game days. That leaves everyone south of town with access to the T who is willing to take the T to the game, not very many people.

If the money's going to be spent to dig something, a better use would definitely be to run a line out to Oakland, allowing commuters who ride the T to be able to take it all the way to Oakland without having to get out and take the bus. Students would also be able to take the T to Station Square, a popular destination. In essence, build a line that will be used daily, not a line that will only be used during game days in the summer and fall and not at all in the winter and spring.

Ideally, the money should be used to support the above ground services of the Port Authority (the bus system) which continually raises prices and cuts back on services. When will the government learn that the more people take the bus, the less problems they have with traffic congestion and pollution?

This really should be a moot point. Does the city government not realize that Pittsburgh is almost bankrupt as it is? Do we really need to be spending any more money expanding the T or building a maglev when we can barely cover police and fire services?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Hurricane Ivan

It was with a heavy heart that I searched the internet for news on the devistation that Hurricane Ivan wrought on Grenada in recent days. As you may know from our website, Heather and I went to Grenada last March to sail on the Yankee Clipper, a Windjammer boat. We spent our first day and a half in Grenada, touring around and becoming familiar with St. George's, the capital of Grenada.

This from the CDERA news report was particularly disturbing:
"Nine of every ten buildings are damaged or destroyed. Virtually every school and church in the Capital St Georges as well as the police headquarters has been destroyed. The only two buildings in reasonable condition are the Grenada General Hospital and Government Headquarters."
We visited the Anglican church while in St. George's and took several pictures. Now, the roof is missing and the church is gutted. Also, the soccer stadium outside of the capital was heavily damaged (see http://stormcarib.com/reports/2004/jpg00469.jpg for a picture.)

The ship that we were on took refuge in Trinidad. The crew appears to be ok, but at least one crew member's house is completely destroyed, although his family is safe. With 90% of the buildings destroyed, well over 80% of the islands 100,000 population are assumed to be homeless. Electricity isn't expected to be restored for three to six months. The prison was destroyed and all of the prisoners escaped. There was looting in the streets. There no food and no fresh water, not to mention no shelter. The islands two largest industries, tourism and nutmeg production are gone. These people are in desparate need of help and the situation is likely to be bad for quite some time.

Although I feel bad for the Floridians who lost property during their recent hurricanes, at least most of them had insurance. They have food to eat and a place to sleep, even if it is in a temporary shelter. I think the worst thing I saw was a lady the day after Hurricane Frances struck standing outside some store. She was pointing at the store complaining that it wasn't open for business. I wanted to yell "They evacuated, you idiot! You should have too! Why are you still here?" Even though Florida is a mess, it's nothing compared to the devistation that Ivan inflicted on Grenada.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Thoughts on the election

Wow! It's been a long time sense I've posted anything. I guess It's not exactly the first thing to cross my mind every day. I'm sure that you, the faithful reader, would prefer I post more often. We'll see how things go.

So my wife and I have been having an ongoing discussion on who we think will win the election. She's already made up her mind and I'm considered one of those rare undecided votes that they keep trying to persuade. Anyway, I've found that your location reflects a lot on who you think will win. For example, when I was in Mississippi for the 1996 election, it seemed like Dole would simply overwhelm Clinton. Reality was far from it. In 2000 in Pennsylvania, it felt like Gore was going to win. This year, here in Pennsylvania it seems like Kerry will win also, but all of the national polls appear to be going the other direction. I'm sure some of this is a function of one state leaning the opposite direction then the rest of the nation. Pennsylvania is definitely more of a swing state then Mississippi was. However, to me, it just makes it more difficult for me to objectively predict the outcome of the election.

Some people have said that it would be poetic justice for Kerry to lose the popular election and win the electoral college. I'd have to agree. I'd also argue, however, that if this happens, then it's obvious that the electoral college system should be scrapped. I'm not exactly sure why it wasn't last time, but I think a second "special" election would do the trick.

While I'm on it, there has been some commentary about the unfairness of the candidate selection process. A good article on the subject is from BusinessWeek's June 14, 2004 article titled "No Way to Pick a Nominee". Each state's primaries are getting earlier and earlier in an attempt to out-do each other and actually have an input in who the candidate is. However, in this years election, Kerry was selected in 29 days by states with just 22% of the total population. Kerry effectively won with the February 17th Wisconsin primary, after only 16 states had held their primary elections. The four most populated states, California, New York, Texas, and Florida has no say at all, even though they had pushed their primaries up to March 2nd (for CA and NY) and March 9th (for TX and FL). To see the dates for various states, here is a list.

To this end, I've never had a vote which mattered in the nomination process. In Alabama in 1996 and 2000, we didn't hold the primary until June, one of the last of the states. In Pennsylvania this year, the primary was in late April, after everything was said and done. I imagine that there is a large percentage of the voting population who have never had a vote that mattered in regards to the presidential nomination process.

I see three possible solutions to this. The first two were suggested by the BusinessWeek article. The first proposed that the calendar start with the 13 smallest states in March, the next 12 largest in April and the 12 largest in June. With 60% of the delegates available in the final round, a candidate couldn't get a lock on the election until Memorial Day.

The next, also suggested by BusinessWeek is to use a lottery to assign dates. The 25 smallest states would be allowed to draw for 10 slots in March. All other states would draw for a primary date in April, May, and June. The goal of this would be to return to the pattern of 1960 through 1976, when states accounting for half of the population held their contests in mid-May or later.

My idea is to have ten dates set, two a month for five months. States in groups of five, in contiguous areas would vote on the same day. Then, another region of the country would vote on the next primary date. The nation would proceed though the ten different days giving the candidates two weeks to visit five states. States in each region would be close together to allow the candidates to travel easily among the states. Thus, the first group could be ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, the next group could be CT, NY, PA, NJ, DE, the next group could be MD, VA, NC, SC, GA and so on... There are two keys to this plan... The first is that the state grouping should be relatively stable and not change this is important because the second key is to rotate the dates among all of the states. Thus, in 2004, the first set of states would vote on the first primary date. In 2008, the first set has to vote last in June and everyone else gets bumped up a slot so that the previous second set would get to vote first. This system allows that no state continually dominates the nomination process. New Hampshire? You have to vote last the next time. Virginia? Michigan? Pennsylvania? Your day will come. Every 40 years or so, a state would get a chance to vote first. That translates to an average person will get to have a vote which counts to the nomination process at least once in their life (unless they move at the wrong time). Considering that it's quite possible that some people have never had a counting vote in the nomination process, I think once in a lifetime is a definite improvement.

This plan would also work with one date per month and ten states on each election date. This would allow the rotation to come around every 20 years or so and an average citizen would get to vote first three or four times in his lifetime. However, the point remains the same; every state should get a chance to have its citizens' votes count.

What do you think? Should the system be changed? Are there obvious flaws in any of these three methods? Are any of these methods workable? Do you prefer one over the other, or do you prefer that things remain the way they are? Post a comment and let everyone know!

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Another Gmail giveaway

I have another Gmail account I'm willing to give away... First email to clarkbhm@gmail.com gets it...

Back from Las Vegas

Heather and I just returned (three hours ago!) from a last minute trip to Las Vegas. We wanted to use up some of our accumulated USAir miles, and have been intending to go to Las Vegas for awhile so we decided last Tuesday to leave Thursday.

Overall, we had a great time! We stayed at the Monte Carlo casino on the strip. It was nice, but not very flashy. One of the things we enjoyed doing is walking around in the other hotels to see their various free attractions and determine where we would like to stay the next time. We visited New York, New York, the Luxor, Excalibur, Monteray Bay, the Mirage, the Venesian, MGM Grand, Circus Circus, and the Las Vegas Hilton. We also got to see the different shows in front of Treasure Island, the Mirage, and the Bellagio, walking down the west side of the strip. Next time, we'll have to walk down the east side of the strip!

We had the chance to see the Star Trek exhibit at the Las Vegas Hilton, ride the roller coaster at New York, New York, see the aquarium at Monteray Bay, see the trapeze at Circus Circus, see the white tiger at the Mirage, see the lions at the MGM grand, and take the new Las Vegas Monorail.

Of course, you can't really go to Las Vegas without gambling. Heather and I had a good time, once we figured out what we did and didn't like to play. Heather tried out the slots, but ended up burning up money pretty quickly. She had more luck on the video poker, but still wasn't that successful overall. Nothing against Heather's skill of course; I think that the machines are pretty tight when it comes to money. I had a bit of better luck playing craps. I've never played craps before and just picked up the game last Tuesday when we figured we were going to Vegas. Heather and I really enjoyed the game and the comradarie around the tables so we ended up spending a good deal of time there, about 11 hours total over the four days. In 11 hours, we only lost $100 dollars. Considering that this translates to about $4.54 per hour for each of us, a bit more than the house commission, I thought it was worth it. Heck, we drank more than $4.54 an hour!

Although we were busy, we had a good deal of time to relax. We enjoyed seeing the other hotels and figuring out where we would stay if we visited again (probably the Venetian, the Mirage, MGM Grand, or Monteray Bay). Overall, Las Vegas was great, and we're looking forward to returning in the future.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Where have I been?

Well, now that the bar is finished, I haven't really been anywhere. I'm trying to avoid the computer for long periods of time so that my neck and back can heal up. They both get really bad when I'm sitting at my desk all day. Instead, I've been running errands and doing work around the house. This week, I installed a shelf in our kitchen (which desparately needed it), and a set of bookshelves in my "office". There's some touch-up work I'd like to get done in the kitchen before I handle anything else. Heather's considering having me repaint the entire bathroom which I wouldn't mind doing, it would just take a while.
I am still looking for jobs, sending out my resumes to firms as postings become available and trying to network with people in the legal industry. A lot of employers won't look at you until they are assured that you've passed the bar though. I won't find that out until October so, until then, it's a big waiting game.
There are two other things I've been keeping busy with. The first is cooking dinner. Since Heather is working and I'm at home, there's no reason for her to have to cook when she comes home. So we've been going through some of our cookbooks specifically looking for recipes which take a long time to make. Since I have several hours to prepare food (without it being served at 9 or 10 PM) I've really enjoyed it.
The other big thing I've been keeping busy with is my new position with Theta Tau. I've already helped in several ways, and I'm planning on visiting some chapters this fall, probably both in New York.
Finally, the Olympics takes up a decent amount of my time. I've been watching these games much more than I watched the games in Sydney. The time differences are annoying, as well as NBC's coverage of the games, but since I'm usually up until the wee hours of the morning anyway, I frequently get to see events "live" at 2 AM.
So, that's what's been keeping me busy as of late. I'm still here!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Phil Collins in Pittsburgh? Ha!

So, Phil Collins has decided to cancel his visit to Pittsburgh. Heather and I have had tickets for awhile and were somewhat disappointed. I received this email from Ticketmaster:
From: MW Events (Charleston) [mailto:MWE@Ticketmaster.com]
Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 5:39 PM
Subject: Phil Collins at the Mellon Arena Cancellation Notification

THIS IS AN INFORMATION ONLY EMAIL - PLEASE DO NOT REPLY!

Reference: Cancelled Show

Hello, this is TicketMaster Customer Service with an important alert regarding your upcoming event. Phil Collins, scheduled at The Mellon Arena on Sunday, September 26th, 2004 at 8:00pm has been cancelled. Your account has been issued a credit in the full amount of the ticket price and service charges. The $3.50 per order processing fee and any UPS or TicketFast delivery charges are non-refundable.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us via our website at www.ticketmaster.com.

Thank you for using TicketMaster!

Then, two days later, they have the audacity to send me this email:

From: Clear Channel Entertainment [mailto:newsletters@velocity.clearchannel.com]
Sent: Friday, August 06, 2004 2:53 PM
To: CLARKBHM@ZEBRA.NET
Subject: ROAD TRIP TO CLEVELAND, See PHIL COLLINS @ Gund Arena Sept 11



Take a road trip to Cleveland!
Catch Phil Collins Saturday, September 11th at the Gund Arena! Stay at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown across the street and walk to the show. Call 216-658-6400 to reserve your room and mention the discount code PC11 for a special rate!

Click Here To Buy Tickets!
Terms and Conditions of Use © 2004 Clear Channel Entertainment, All rights reserved.

How disappointing! We'll cancel the show in town for no reason at all (none was announced) yet we'll invite you to drive two hours away to Cleveland to see the show. This is a rather poor business practice and Heather and I will definitely NOT be going to Cleveland to see the show.

Visit to Minneapolis

Heather and I just returned from the Theta Tau National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Theta Tau is a professional engineering fraternity of which I am an alumnus. The purpose of Theta Tau is to develop and maintain a high standard of professional interest among its members, and to unite them in a strong bond of fraternal fellowship.

While we were in Minneapolis, Heather got the chance to spend time with one of her friends from undergraduate school while I was attending meetings all day. The highlight of the trip was my election to the fraternity's executive council on Saturday. My new position is "Grand Outer Guard".

Anyway, along with my new position, I will have the opportunity to visit several of our chapters. I'm already planning on a visit to the University of Buffalo and Binghampton University in New York. I'd also like to visit my home chapter in Mississippi for homecoming. Heather and I are already planning a visit!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Here we go Steelers, here we go!

Our 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers tickets have finally arrived, and we got some pretty good games. Game tickets are made available to non-season ticket holders who are on the season ticket waiting list (estimated to be about 10 years long). Heather and I put our names on the list in 2002.

Each year, you are given an opportunity to go to two games through a lottery type system. You rank the games you want to go to and hope for the best. Last year, we ranked Steelers v. Browns as our top pick. We got the game, but to go with it, we also got some pre-season tickets. Nobody wants pre-season tickets! I wanted to go to the game, but Heather was going out of town for work. We tried selling them. No takers. We tried finding someone to go with me for free. No takers! Finally, Heather sent an email out to her office and finally found someone whose brother loves the Steelers, but can never afford the tickets. We gave him the tickets and he had a great time. However, we were out $100 for the two tickets, and were determined to not lost our money again.

I am of the opinion that if you get a "top game" like the Browns or the Ravens then you get a stinker of a game to go along with it, so this year I wasn't hoping for much. We avoided all of the pre-season games in our lottery choices, as well as the game after Thanksgiving, the game after Christmas, and an additional game in December, mainly because we didn't know if we would be in town for those games. That left five other games. We got our top pick again this year though, Pittsburgh v. Patriots on October 31, as well as our third pick, Pittsburgh v. Raiders on September 12. Both should be good games, and hopefully, Pittsburgh will be much better this year than last year!

I'm especially excited about the games this year as Heather's dad may be able to go to one of the games. He is a big Steelers fan, having grown up in Steubenville, Ohio, just 45 minutes away. However, he lives in North Carolina and has never had the chance to go to a game. We're going to let him pick which game he'd like to go to and I'll accompany him to the game. I'm looking forward to it!
Talk to you later!

Friday, July 30, 2004

this is an audio post - click to play

Is Saudi Arabia running out of oil?

Is Saudi Arabia running out of oil? - An interesting read!

Chelsea defeats Roma at Heinz Field

Heather and I were able to attend the big Chelsea-Roma soccer match at Heinz Field here in Pittsburgh last night as they continued their tour through the US. Chelsea won 3-0. See also Top-caliber soccer a kick for 25,000 at Heinz Field.

Heather and I enjoyed going to see soccer games in Columbus, where the Columbus Crew have a nice soccer stadium and tickets for MLS games are only 20-22$ each. The ticket prices for the Chelsea-Roma game were much more expensive, at 60$ each. Although we enjoyed the matchup, we kindof felt that it wasn't worth the $60 price to watch the game. The cheapest tickets to this game were $37.50, still almost twice what it would cost to see a Columbus Crew game!

Nevertheless, we DID enjoy watching the game and would be interested in attending other soccer games here in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh does have a soccer team called the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. We've yet to see them play because it's really inconvenient for us to go to the games. They moved their games to Moon Area High School's stadium which is out near the airport, a good 30 minute drive away. In the meantime, Heinz Field is mostly empty for the entire summer. I realize that additional costs come with running an event at Heinz Field, but I would rather have the Riverhounds play there and generate SOME income for the city, no matter how minute, then let the thing not be used at all...

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Bar Exam is over!

It's done! I just finished the Pennsylvania bar exam. If you're not familiar with the bar exam, in Pennsylvania it's a two day exam, half multiple choice and half essays. The first day is six essays and a "performance test" over six hours. The second day is a 200-question multiple choice exam concentrating on Contracts, Criminal, Constitutional, Property, Torts, and Evidence. On the essay exams you have to learn to spot issues and argue both sides to a particular topic. The multiple choice is the opposite, where you have to spot minutiae and apply it conclusively to determine the outcome. It's kindof a "both sides of the brain" affair if you ask me, and it is extremely tiring. My classmates and I have been studying for the last two months for the exam. However, I think waiting is the worst part as we won't find out the results until mid-October!

Anyway, I feel like sleeping for a week...

Gmail account taken

Congtratulations to Jay Knight, the winner of my gmail "contest". He narrowly beat out another entrant by mere hours! Even though Jay attends Ole Miss (at least he has an olemiss.edu address), this MSU bulldog fan sent him his free gmail invitation.

If/When I get another gmail invite to give away, I'll post it on here. Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Email filters and spam

Ok, I don't understand spammers. I really don't! If I go through the trouble of setting up an email filter which blocks the word mortgage or loan or viagra, etc. then I think it's obvious that I don't want to see the email. But spammers come up with m0rtgage and L0an and V1GRA, or m.or.tga.ge or other stupid stuff which convey's their message quite clearly. BUT I DON'T WANT IT! If I went though the trouble of setting up a filter, then I'm not going to buy the spam's products (or even read it) when it comes in the mailbox. I'm going to delete it immediately.

I understand that the spammers are trying to sell their products. I don't see why they don't get the clue that I shouldn't have to deal with their emails. Besides... Selling something like vîåg®ä just makes you look stupid to the point of me not possibly wanting to do business with you...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Free Google gmail account

I have no idea who's reading my blog, so I'm going to try a test. I have a google "gmail" invitation which I'm ready to give away to the first person who writes me and asks for it. I'm serious here! If you're not familiar with google gmail, it's the new email service which boasts 1 GB of email storage space. Essentially, your mailbox should never fill up again! You can find out more about gmail at http://gmail.google.com.

Anyway, the first person to write me at clarkbhm@gmail.com and request the gmail account will get it. Good luck!


Matthew's Quote for the Day

We come into this world crying while all around us are smiling. May we so live that we go out of this world smiling while everybody around us is weeping.
- - Persian proverb

Monday, July 19, 2004

'06 All-Star Game to be at PNC Park

'06 All-Star Game to be at PNC Park

I'm not a big baseball fan, but surely this will be a boon to the Pittsburgh economy. I might even try to buy tickets for the game!

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Is America winning the war on terrorism?

Slate.com regularly breaks down the important points of notable books of the day. This particular one prevents a rather disturbing view on how America is not winning the war on terrorism, and we don't even realize it. Check out
The Misunderstood Osama - How to read Imperial Hubris. By Bryan Curtis

Pitt tuition jump lowest in 4 years

Pitt tuition jump lowest in 4 years

My favorite quote is "At a news conference following yesterday's vote, Pitt officials, including Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, said they had done everything they could to control spending."

This from the man who received a 3% raise last year to $401,500.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Pittsburgh's "Belt" System

Pittsburgh has a set of concentric "belts" which surround the city to provide easy access from one area of the city to another without having to travel downtown. I'm not quite sure how well this works, but it sounds like it would be a good way to sight-see in the Pittsburgh area. Maybe Heather and I will take a Sunday drive one day after the bar.
Incidentely, the blue belt passes down Shady Avenue, a mere half-mile from our home in Squirrel Hill. Check out Rainbow Connections

Friday, July 09, 2004

Cassini Images Density Waves in Saturn's Rings

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Cassini Images Density Waves in Saturn's Rings
Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

Explanation: What causes the patterns in Saturn's rings? The Cassini spacecraft just entering orbit around Saturn has started sending back spectacular images of Saturn's immense ring system in unprecedented detail. The physical cause for many of newly resolved ring structures is not always understood. The cause for the beautifully geometric type of ring structure shown above in Saturn's A ring, however, is hypothesized to be a spiral density wave. A small moon systematically perturbing the orbits of ring particles orbiting at slightly different distances causes such a density wave bunching. Also visible on the image right is a bending wave, a vertical wave in ring particles also caused by the gravity of a nearby moon. This close-up spans about 220 kilometers. Cassini is scheduled to take and send back images of the distant ringed Saturn and its unusual moons for the next four years.

 

New Abay restaurant review

Here's another review of the Abay restaurant that Heather and I went to last week.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04191/343532.stm

Solar flare images

Perhaps the most extreme flare ever seen erupted on Nov. 4 ...




... and then this coronal mass ejection was hurled into space.



IMAGES: SOHO/NASA/ESA

If you want to see what the sun looks like during a "normal" period, check out http://www.space.com/spacewatch/sun_cam_animated.html for images of the sun over the last several days.

Fastest Space Storm on Record Reaches Edge of Solar System

Fastest Space Storm on Record Reaches Edge of Solar System

Do you remember the big solar storms last year? They didn't impact Earth TOO much, but people were afraid that it might. We're talking about solar activity which was off the scale. Never before had such intensity been measured. Anyway, the solar particles are still out there, and moving. Quite fast it seems... They've almost caught up with Voyager 1 (launched from Earch in 1977) and will be at the "edge" of the solar system by the end of the year. Read the article for more info!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

After the bar

After the bar, I think I'll write a book while looking for a job. I've never written a book before. Heck, I've never written much of anything serious before. However, I have this feeling that I need to write something down, at least for posterity sake. Because of this, the idea that I have for a book will be written from that perspective.

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live back in the 1700s? The 800s? Earlier? That's exactly what I want to convey to an audience that could be our children, grandchildren, or further down the line. Tell those people what life was like way back in 2004. Tell them about my memories and takes of the past; reflect on events as they happen and what I do in my day to day lives. Let them see, through my words, what life was like "back then".

I just hope I get a chance to write it!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Abay Ethiopian Restaurant

Abay Ethiopian Restaurant
A new Ethiopian restaurant opened here in Pittsburgh, and Heather and I decided to give it a go. Abay is located on S. Highland Avenue in East Liberty over near the Whole Foods Market. We had heard that there were sometimes large crowds at dinner, so we tried to make it early, arriving at 5:15.

The service was good and not nearly as slow as we had heard. Heather and I ordered Sambussa as an appetizer and a bowl of Shorba. For our meal, we had the two person combination platter with Kay Wat, Doro Tibs, Doro Minchet Abish, and Shiro Wat. For an explanation of what these things are, check out their menu at http://www.abayrestaurant.com/Menu/menu.html To drink, I had a delicious Yekemem Shai tea which tasted a lot like cinnamon tea.

The food was, well, different. The order comes out on a very large piece of thin flat bread, kind of like a crepe. Our four selections were placed on the bread with a spicy paste in the middle. The idea is to eat with your hands... You tear off a piece of bread, "pinch" up a piece of food with the bread, and eat it. Although forks are available, this style is the preferred Ethiopian style, so of course we tried it.

The food was good, but not exactly excellent. There was nothing that stood out on my plate, but nothing was really bad either. We had ordered some of the spicier dishes, but they weren't really spicy at all. The spice paste in the middle helped in this regard, but there really wasn't enough of it to use for the entire meal. We probably could have gotten more if we had wanted it though.

There was also enough food that you probably didn't need the soup or appetizer. The soup was a rather tasteless bean soup which tasted much better after I added a lot of pepper. The appetizer was kindof eggroll-ish. Neither were bad, but both can be skipped in the future. The meal for two could probably feed three people if they weren't huge eaters. I made a Herculean effort to finish off the chicken and meat dishes, but was quite full at the end of the meal. The price was very good too. Our appetizer, soup, tea, and platter of four entrees was about $30 before tip. It's even cheaper if you go at lunch.

Considering the horror stories we had heard about long wait times for simple things (like the check) we were prepared for a long trip to the restaurant, but we were in and out in 50 minutes. Not bad at all. All in all, I'd recommend this place to people who are adventuresome in their food tastes and are looking for some place new.

You can also read a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette or a Pittsburgh City Paper review of Abay.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Cassini at Saturn

By the way, I haven't forgotten about the wonderful Cassini probe's arrival at Saturn last evening. The pictures of the ring systems are quite amazing. I'm waiting for them all to be released before showing one on the blog.

The Terminal

'The Terminal'

Tonight's entertainment was "The Terminal" starring Tom Hanks. Heather and I thought this movie was very good. It had a nice since of humor about the whole situation, and was an interesting view on the whole American airport security situation. The movie is based loosely on the story of Merhan Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian man who has been "trapped" in the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France since 26 August 1988.

Overall, Heather and I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to others. We were actually somewhat surprised that the movie hasn't received the publicity it should be getting; the problem with having a non-action movie being released in June.

Spirit Rover Reaches the Columbia Hills on Mars

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.

Spirit Rover Reaches the Columbia Hills on Mars
Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, JPL, NASA

Explanation: The Spirit robotic rover on Mars has now reached the Columbia Hills on Mars. Two of the hills are shown on approach near the beginning of June. The above true-color picture shows very nearly what a human would see from Spirit's vantage point. The red color of the rocks, hills, and even the sky is caused by pervasive rusting sand. Spirit has now traveled over 3 kilometers since it bounced down onto the red planet in January. The robotic explorer, controlled and programmed remotely from Earth, is now investigating a rock called Pot of Gold. On the other side of Mars, Spirit's twin Opportunity is now inspecting unusual rocks inside a pit dubbed Endurance crater.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Review: '1776' just right for the season

Review: '1776' just right for the season

Heather and I went to 1776 this evening and, for the most part, had a good experience. Our one complaint was the family behind us. 1776 is a pretty long musical and their three kids just didn't have the patience to sit through it. Actually, they weren't too bad. But they did proceed to eat several packages of candy during the first 10-15 minutes of the show, and talk out loudly to each other, asking questions and the like.

Heather and I agree that it's great to expose your children to fine arts at a young age. However, parents should at least try to teach their kids appropriate behavior before you arrive at the show, and insure the kids are acting appropriately during the show. Also, maybe the parents should have waited for "The Music Man" which arrives next week, a much more family friendly show (there are plenty of kids in the show).

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Did Verizon scam Pennsylvania?
Check out this article from dslreports.com and decide for yourself... This is absolutely ridiculous! I want my $785 back!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

The Pirates at PNC Park

Heather and I went to a Pirates game last night with her firm. It's the first time I've been to PNC Park and the first baseball game I've been to in seven years (the last? Mississippi State v. South Carolina at the SEC Tournament). We had a good time, although I'm not sure if it's something I'd make a habit of... I've never been a big baseball fan anyway, if you couldn't tell. Anyway, the pirates lost. Here's a Post Gazette Article on the game: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04172/334941.stm

States I've visited



Friday, June 18, 2004

Venus and the Chromosphere

Check out this image from the Astronomy Picture of the Day Blog!

See Explanation. Clicking on the picture will download the highest resolution version available.
Venus and the Chromosphere
Credit & Copyright: Stefan Seip

Explanation: Enjoying the 2004 Transit of Venus from Stuttgart, Germany, astronomer Stefan Seip recorded this fascinating, detailed image of the Sun. Revealing a network of cells and dark filaments against a bright solar disk with spicules and prominences along the Sun's limb, his telescopic picture was taken through an H-alpha filter. The filter narrowly transmits only the red light from hydrogen atoms and emphasizes the solar chromosphere -- the region of the Sun's atmosphere immediately above its photosphere or normally visible surface. Here, the dark disk of Venus seems to be imitating a giant sunspot that looks perhaps a little too round. But in H-alpha pictures like this one, sunspot regions are usually dominated by bright splotches (called plages) on the solar chromosphere.


[Astronomy Picture of the Day]

Dining at Lucca in Oakland

Since my blog is new and still somewhat experimental I thought I would write some thoughts about the different things that happened to me for the day. An online diary in a way, but I'll try to make it more interesting. Today's big event, other than BarBRI, was a nice dinner out...

So, Heather and I went to Lucca this evening for dinner. The atmosphere was really nice and we chose to sit on the outside patio. We've heard the food was quite good (see the below article), and were eager to try it for ourselves.

The result? I can't help feeling like we were a bit ripped off. The food was cooked in that "ultra-gourmet" fashion which I don't really care for, consisting of small portions of highly decorated, but not very tasty food. Heather ordered some giant scallops which she liked. However, the accompanying mango sauce was no bigger than a half-dollar size spot on her dinner plate. She said she didn't mind, but I felt kind of bad for her as she had to really ration the stuff to make it through her meal. I was going to order the lamb chops, but was told there was no substitute for their pureed mashed potatoes (I don't really like mashed potatoes of any type). Instead, I chose the pork chops with couscous and zucchini. They were ok, but somewhat bland. I was going to add some pepper, but the restaurant doesn't have pepper shakers at the tables! Only salt! I guess they don't want anyone to spoil the way the meal is supposed to taste. Well, I gave it a taste and determined it needed some pepper, so deal! ;-)

We both ordered dessert, although they were out of the one I wanted. The two that arrived were tasty but petite. I guess I'm just so used to having tons of food on my plate when I go out to eat... I'm not used to being hungry when I'm ready to go.

I guess the ripped off part came along with the bill. Our two meals were about $28 each and the deserts were $7 each for a total of $70 before the tip. Now Heather and I have eaten out several times where the bill has been this high. But those other times all featured very high quality and filling food, some appetizers, some drinks, etc. In this case, I felt like the food was merely ok and definitely didn't warrant the high price. Maybe I'm not refined enough, but I prefer my food to taste good rather then look good.

It's a shame actually, because I really liked the atmosphere and ambiance of the place. However, I really can't justify spending that much money for a meal which is merely ok. I'd recommend going elsewhere.

Anyway, the Post-Gazette had this article on the same restaurant. They apparently loved it...
Choices at Oakland spot delight food and wine connoisseurs

Thursday, June 17, 2004

New Horizons

New Horizons
Another one of NASA's ambitious projects, New Horizons is set to launch to Pluto in 2006. As Pluto is the only planet we have never visited, I think this would be an awesome project...

Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter

Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter
One of my hobbies is astronomy... Armchair astronomy might be a more appropriate description. I don't own a telescope, and the light pollution from Pittsburgh makes it difficult to see much in the night time sky. However, I was really excited to see this proposed mission to Jupiter, which includes an intensive study of Europa. Scientists believe that if there is life in the solar system somewhere besides Earth, it's in oceans underneath the glacier that is Europa's surface.

As long as they don't find a black monolith with a 1x4x9 ratio...
--"My God it's full of stars!"

NPR : Simon and Garfunkel, The Interview

NPR : Simon and Garfunkel, The Interview
Speaking of Simon & Garfunkel, Here's a good audio interview from NPR...

Simon & Garfunkel still fresh after all these years

Simon & Garfunkel still fresh after all these years

Heather and I went to the Simon & Garfunkel concert in Cleveland last October, although we passed up the chance to see them here in Pittsburgh. The ticket prices were almost double what we paid and we had already seen the concert.

However, it was a GOOD concert and something that we both enjoyed. If you get a chance to see them, I'd recommend it...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Things every person should know - #1

You know, I think one day I'll create a list of things every person should know... One of the first things on my list involves getting arrested by the police. Now, you may never be arrested. I've never been arrested myself. But the one thing that every American should know if they get arrested is this: SHUT YOUR MOUTH!

There's a reason that the police have to give you a Miranda warning. You have the right to remain silent. Anything that you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Don't say anything except to ask to speak to a lawyer. In fact, that's the only thing you should say. Once you speak to a lawyer, the police and everyone else MUST LEAVE YOU ALONE. They can't talk to you without a lawyer present at all. Once you ask for a lawyer, keep your mouth shut. You can answer the basic questions like your name and address when you're being booked, but otherwise don't talk about the case, regardless of whether you are innocent or guilty. If you're being arrested, something went wrong somewhere and you want to have all your ducks in a row.

See, according to the Supreme Court, the right to remain silent is really only good for a few hours. If you remain silent, or say "I'm remaining silent," the police have to lay off of you for awhile. BUT, if you have not asked for an attorney, the police can come back to you later and start questioning you again. The only way to stop this is to ask for an attorney. Once you ask for an attorney, the attorney must be present for your questioning. However, when you ask for an attorney, STOP TALKING! Don't ask about the case. Don't ask what's going to happen to you. Don't say gesundheit if someone sneezes. Don't ask about ANYTHING else.

The interesting thing about Miranda is that even know most people know about it from tv and know that it's one of your supposed "rights", your Miranda rights are very easily waivable. All you have to do is start talking to the police without your attorney present and you waive it, even after you've requested an attorney or asserted your right to silence.

This may be harsh, but hey, so is the law...

Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online

Eamon Adventurer's Guild Online

I am the webmaster of the this website in my spare time. Eamon is a text based RPG originally designed for the Apple II computer back in the early 1980s. The unique thing about Eamon is that the common person could sit down and design their own adventure for others to play. This allowed the system to expand to over 250 individual adventures; greater than number of Infocoms. However, since these are amateur efforts, most of the individual dungeons do not match the same quality as an Infocom adventure.

Eamon is pretty much a complete project and I doubt that anyone else will develop much for it. I wrote one of the last Eamon games, "The Sword of Inari". You can play it online using JAVA at http://www.eamonag.org/java/Java-246.htm. The rest of the Eamon world has pretty much ground to a halt. However, I'm quite proud of the website and the way it looks and would invite everyone to take a visit!

Random thoughts about life and the world in general...

Welcome to my blog! A bit about me is probably in order... I grew up in Alabama, but I currently live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I just graduated from law school at the University of Pittsburgh and will be taking the Pennsylvania bar exam in August.

Because of this, there is no guarantee that I'll be posting very often, but I will certainly try!