Friday, March 30, 2012

Pittsburgh and Cleveland: same as it ever was

I went to Pittsburgh. Had a great time at the CMU HCII. Caught up with some friends in Squirrel Hill. CMU is nice, Squirrel Hill is doing well, Shadyside is upscale, Friendship and Bloomfield and Lawrenceville are still hip, Downtown is downtown, and the Strip is still awesome.

Now I'm in Westlake, Ohio, hanging out with family and trying to decide between CMU and UW. Cleveland is still surprisingly cool (went to Tremont for the first time the other day). Westlake is still a suburb. I'm iterating on aloo gobhi, palak paneer, and chana masala; putting my bottle caps and ticket stubs into collections; doing a little bit of planning.

On April 8 I leave for Bulgaria. I'm planning to buy a motorcycle there, ride it up through the Balkans through probably Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, and Slovakia to Poland and Ukraine, then back across through Germany to the Netherlands. That's about all I've planned here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


EDIT: I suppose I should be more clear: the following is a post about how much I like Toronto.

This is a city! This is a city with the tallest building in the world whatever, and parks from which to look scoff at it.

This is a city as griddy as New York. If Bombay's a grid and Delhi swings, well, Toronto doesn't swing. Which is nice. In Toronto's case, it's easy to find anything and easy to get anywhere. You can ride bikes and people do.

There's a nice subway but you don't even need it. The University is right in the center of everything. Fifty thousand students clustered at the heart of the town.

Churches. Old churches!

Neighborhoods where one might live.

Shiny downtowns, if that's your bag:

All of the cultures. (I wandered through at least an Italy, Portugal, China, and Korea.) A guy named Kevin who knows what's up.

Umm... architecture! Museums. Big city niceties. Biggest-city-in-the-country kind of clout.
Occasional weirdnesses.

Art galleries just hanging around. You can get your fancy coffee or your 50 cent donut and coffeepot on the same block. The Second Second City, the world's biggest film festival, and even some sports if you like. All of the wonders of being in the biggest place, and seemingly more affordable even than Seattle.

Toronto! How about this place!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Planning again

Well, if I'm going to ride a motorbike through Eastern Europe, I have to plan some things, and there are a ton of choices.

First: where to go? I'm thinking about starting in Bulgaria (or maybe Turkey) and heading up to Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine (or maybe through Albania, Serbia, and Montenegro) and then across to Poland and the Czech Republic, and then to Holland through Germany (or maybe south through the Alps and Switzerland). Well, at least I know I want to end up in Holland. But knowing where to start, well, that is important, if I'm going to buy a plane ticket.

Second: is it even remotely possible to buy a motor scooter in, say, Bulgaria? I guess it is not very easy in Turkey, because you have to have an address there to register it, and you have to get a permit to take it out of the country.

Third: will I have to get a carnet de passage, to prove to some countries that I won't try to sell the scooter there?

Fourth: wait a minute... then how can I sell the scooter at the end?

Fifth: most motorcycle tourers use big bikes. I think it's because most motorcycle tourers like big bikes, but is it possible that I'm going to get totally schooled trying to ride a little dinky thing around a whole continent?

Frustratingly, I rather need to have answers to all of these before I start, or else the plane ticket I buy will go to different places. Hmm hmm. Let me know if you have any advice!

Friday, March 9, 2012


Man! This city is the most beautiful place! Even the air smells better!

And I have a lot of friends here! This is very pleasant. Daniel and Killian have this cat:

I have not created many great stories this week. I have met up with friends, drank some uppers with some, drank some downers with some, ate some food with others. Board games have been played, a little bouldering and meditation have happened. No camel safaris or Himalayas or visa issues or idlis and vadas. But I would just like to record, as a memo to my future self, that I am thankful for weeks like this one, as well as months like this one and years like this one.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I could have the same alma mater as Mark Price

So I'm doing the grand tour of grad schools, and I thought Georgia Tech would be a bit of a backup. I mean, it doesn't have the brand name of a CMU or an MIT, it's not a known entity like UW, and it's not in an awesome location like Toronto. I mean, it's in (ominous voice) the south. But it turns out I'm hella excited about it.

I'm not sure the research is all that exciting to anyone on this blog, but I met with one lab that's all about wearable computers and one lab that's about all sorts of stuff (somewhat relating to home networks but not necessarily) and that I'd be stoked to work with either. They've got a whole school of Interactive Computing, their building is new and inspiring, they've got tons of connections, and the department feels like a big happy family.

But more about Atlanta: it's nice! Think about Pittsburgh: if you'd never been there, you might think of old factories, but it's actually a great, happening, up-and-coming place to live. I guess there are parts of Atlanta that have problems, but overall, there is a chance that even bike-riding farmers'-marketing coffee-swilling Indian-cooking I could find a place there.

Concrete upsides:
- housing is reasonable (cheaper than Seattle or Boston, pricier than Pittsburgh)
- it's bikeable (I guess car ownership is common, but all the neighborhoods I might live in are within 4 miles/30 minutes)
- it's pretty (mostly houses and green space)
- major airport
- weather is nice (I do like clouds and cold weather, but I could deal with springlike weather for most of the year)

Concrete downsides:
- once you get outside the city, it's (ominous voice) the south. (maybe this would be an upside; a bit of diversity might do me some good.)
- you can throw a stone without hitting an independent coffeeshop
- I guess bugs get in your house sometimes. (again, this might do me some good. I've got a bug phobia and, well, good to confront it sometime.)
- summers are hot. (more incentive to get an internship somewhere else!)