Sunday, August 31, 2008


My first day of adventures in Seattle is now complete.

First, I went to the mattress store --- Cloud 9 Mattresses, to get a mattress. It was the only result for googling "mattresses near seattle" which didn't have "these people are awful" reviews. The woman who worked there was pretty odd, very new-agey, and she talked a lot about what's hot in "mattress research" which, if real, freaks me out. Eventually I settled on something which pleased me, and fortunately wasn't very expensive for a mattress. I'll have it in about two weeks.

Second, I went to my apartment, and got my parking space. I'm fortunate that I got there early and got to snag a spot of maximal convenience.

Third, I went to Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot is a huge musical festival in Seattle, and happens to be about 1 block from my apartment. Making it even better, I possibly have one of the best parking spaces to go to Bumbershoot. Bumbershoot was quite nice. I saw the Asylum Street Spankers and a few other awesome musicians. The ASS were quite entertaining, moreso than I thought they'd be.

One of the primary things I focused on at Bumbershoot were the people around me in love. I managed to be enough of a stalker to covertly get photos of a number of couples in tender moments. It gave me hope that Seattle, or at least Bumbershoot, was a good place to find love to which the pictures bear witness. Until then, at least I have these photos:

I also took numerous kid photos. Kids tend to often provide a glimpse of that innocent love of life and existence that I tend to enjoy finding. Each of the pictures, I think, is cute in their own little ways.

Finally, I took a bunch of cute people photos. I am particularly intrigued by the cubes of french fries that they served at the concession stands. I had thought Pittsburgh was crazy over fried foods. Now, I learn that Seattle is just as bad. I find it somewhat surprising.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The move is done

Well. The move is done. From Spokane to Seattle, the drive is pretty uneventful. Like Montana, the Western side is far more interesting than the Eastern side. The east was largely flat --- not just a little flat --- but totally you-can-see-the-curvature-of-the-earth sort of flat. Cool, and eerie, but a little boring. The west, in contrast, was all full of excitement.

One of the most interesting things of the drive were swarms of insects. Along the side of the road, every 30 feet or so, I kept seeing little tufts of smoke. The thing is that it wasn't smoke. Each tuft of smoke was a cloud of insects, buzzing in tight cylindical formation above the ground. It was the spookiest thing I've ever seen insects do. I wish I knew what they were, but I was too spooked to even stop to take a closer look at them.

The coolest part of Washington is the rolling hills/mountains of Snoqualmie Pass. With low-hanging clouds and trees, and rock, it's truly quite beautiful. Just East of Snoqualmie, there are all sorts lakes, surrounded by remnants of petrified wood forests, which is also pretty fascinating.

So now, I'm checked into my Seattle hotel. I've caught up on some of my email. I've unpacked some of my car, which is getting pretty nasty by this point. Now I have to figure out what to do with my first evening in town.

Goog-411 and me

As I've been apartment hunting, and driving cross country, without an iPhone or any other cool gadgetry (like a GPS), I've been generally lost. I don't know where anything is, or the nature of any of these cities that I drive through.

When I see the signs for cities (Missoula 97 miles!), and I want to decide where to stop, I've found Goog-411 to be pretty helpful. Issuing queries for Starbucks in those cities tells you if the city is a member of Civilization, or if it is Not. The only problem is that sometimes, Google cannot figure out the name of a city. When I asked for "Forsyth, Montana" Google managed an incredible misparse.

Besides the occasional misparses, I have found one other tragic failure of the Goog-411 system. When I was in Seattle, looking for apartments, I needed the address of Google's Seattle office. I figured that I could just call the office, and ask for that information. But I didn't know their phone number off hand. Enter Goog-411. "Seattle, Washington" I said. "Seattle, Washington" Goog-411 said. Check. "Google." "Top Listing: Google on 6th Ave." Check. However, the entry was actually for a modem or a fax machine, and completely unhelpful for me (or anybody else calling Goog-411, I suspect). It seems that Google should better know its own phone numbers :) Apparently, part of my problem was not remembering Google Seattle was not located on 6th Ave.

The final stretch

Yesterday, I finished driving through North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho, and into Spokane Washington.

The Western side of Montana was way cooler than the Eastern side. There were more varied and interesting things to look at, and civilization was a bit denser. Particularly, driving over the Rockies is particularly interesting from a visual perspective.

Also particularly interesting is the Wheat Mountain Bakery & Deli. This is basically a farm, which apparently grows lots of wheat, which decided to capitalize and market this fact. They made this bakery, which extols the benefits of wheat in the form of cookies, pastries, and even sandwiches. After driving for countless hours, finding this foodie stop in the middle of nowhere, with super-friendly clientele and a slightly hipster feel really freaked me out, but made me feel comfortable at the same time. They were so hipster, in fact, that they were selling 10$ bouquets of wheat, which is probably the highest profit margin on wheat possible. I bought a half a sandwich for dinner and a cookie as big as my head. The sandwich was OK, while the cookie was super. I recommend that everybody make at least one trip to this place in their life. It's located at the intersection of I-90 and Hwy 287.

Yes. Western Montana is not just punctuated with beautiful views, it is chock full of them. I found a little stream in a rest stop on the highway. The bathroom was somewhat disgusting, and the water fountains didn't work, but the view was particularly gorgeous. The view was also behind a fence, and hidden from view from the rest stop. I had to go for a bit of a jog and trample around through the weeds before I could get a close look at the stream.

Missoula, Montana was particularly beautiful. It's a hipster college town, with some fancy architecture, and neat bridges, some neat coffee shops, and some really trendy people. I spent a good bit of time driving around there, finding a grocery store, and getting some mint tea.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Movin movin movin

Yesterday: I drove through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and half of North Dakota. Today, so far (at noon), I have finished North Dakota, and half of Montana.

I was eerily intrigued by St. Paul, which seemed to have really neat shopping centers, at the very least.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are a bit quirky and amusing, in that they have these cheese stores, with huge CHEESE signs. These cheese stores, as best as I could tell, were not the meccas of stinky fromage you would find in Paris, but rather, temples at which one could buy vivid orange and white gels with low-melting points. I could not bring myself to stop at one.

North Dakota wasn't very exciting. No flax, and very few sunflowers, both of which I had been promised lots and lots of. Perhaps it was too dark when I was driving through, and I missed some of the more amazing vistas. What it is filled with, however, is John Deere stores --- almost at every exit. I tried to grab a picture, but mostly got blur.

Montana is amazingly empty. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Even Texas had little wineries and pecan factories to watch. Despite the vast nothingness, however, there is an occasional punctuation of beauty and intrigue. Trains, the lengths of which you have never seen (I saw one with 8 locomotives attached). Scenic bluffs, with views of Yellowstone River, and occasional flowers on the side of the road.

I am finding that I chose the absolutely worst time to drive cross country. All the hotels are all filled up! Every city! Some are overflowing with Harley Davidsons, and others are overflowing with Labor Day vacationers. I'm a bit concerned I'll get to Seattle, and have no place to sleep.

Meanwhile, I am holding in. My ears are constantly ringing, due to the loud driving noise (the car-top carrier reduces the effectiveness of the door seals). My lower back is getting sorer and sorer. My diet is increasingly comprised of peanut butter and jelly and mochas. Speaking of mochas, I have to call out North Dakota and Montana for having almost no Starbucks. I had to use Goog-411 to remotely scout-ahead for potential caffeination sources --- Thank god for Billings, Montana and their coffee-loving population.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moving to Seattle

I've begun my move to Seattle. I had a house-hunting trip last week, and found what looks like an awesome apartment in Belltown. It's right next to the science center, and nicely located, and has a fantastic kitchen and a spectacular view. I'm quite content.

I flew back Delta on Monday and both missed my connection and spent the night in Atlanta. I had to get up at 5am to catch my new flight back to Pittsburgh. When I got back, I ran around like a madman, packing, and getting my car an oil change, and going to the bank. Around 5pm, I started leaving Pittsburgh (I had intended to leave before noon).

The drive was full of all sorts of headaches, as the car-carrier that I mounted to the roof was moving around, and tearing. Every rest stop or two, I had to stop and adjust the straps. Finally, around 10pm, I found a packing and strapping arrangement that made the boxes secure, and my worries were over...mostly...

Around 1am, I hit Chicago, and kept on through. Eventually, low on gas, low on wakeness, but full of urine, I struggled to find a gas station or a hotel. By 2am, all my needs were met, and I collapsed into bed.

One of the best things about the trip so far is the sky. There are more stars, brighter than you can imagine, when you're driving through Indiana and Illinois between Cleveland and Chicago. Now I'm also looking forward to the skies of South Dakota, and not just the sunflower and flax fields.

One of the worst things about the trip was the loneliness --- it inspires a strange feeling and collection of thoughts to be driving across the heartland, with all your possessions in your car, leaving everything behind you, moving to a strange new home. Since I'm an innate complainer, I should also mention that my car's seats are definitely not meant for long trips, thus the second worst thing is the lower back pain.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Man v Thesis: the underdog is victorious

Well, I defended my thesis last Friday. I baked cookies. I bought cupcakes. I brought milk.

When the committee brought me back into the room, they greeted me as Doctor David, which I took in complete shock. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. There had to be more to this process. I don't feel like a different person than I did before I defended, but now I'm a Doctor. I suppose I knew this, but I never really internalized it until it actually happened to me.

About 1 hour after my defense, my girlfriend and friends whisked me away to a West Coast Swing festival in DC (Swing Fling), where I stayed up dancing till the break of dawn. Finally, on Monday, I recovered and did laundry and all that jazz. The rest of the week so far has been dealing with all the "service" jobs that I've accumulated, for which I've let work build up while thesisizing.

Now, I focus on the thesis again, to incorporate the comments and changes the committee suggested. It shouldn't be too bad. Hoorah!

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