blk: (cmu)
As much as I am dearly loving the warm weather, I am going to be glad when this season of construction is over. Or at least moves further away from me.

This morning on my ride in I detoured around Frew Street, as it was closed for something. These days I park my bike a building away due to construction on the wean patio for the culmination of the Scott Hall project (prepping the mall extension. At noon on my way to yoga I had to backtrack through Doherty Hall to a different exit as the front doors were closed temporarily. I had to change clothes in a nearby bathroom as the University Center locker rooms are closed during construction of the expansion. On the way out driving tonight I drove slowly over a couple freshly milled spots on Beechwood, pre-repaving. Earlier this week on the way to dinner I waited for Jim to navigate around the construction on Forbes Ave (in prep for the upcoming Tepper Quad, which had turned into a full road closure due to a water main break. Then we rode past the east liberty transit center mess which has been in the works for a couple years now. Last weekend I detoured my run around the north entrance to Frick Park, which is closed for the new Environmental Center.

And this is just the few things I've directly encountered in the last few days, and is not counting the several other construction projects within a few miles that I know about but haven't been as affected by. I realize that all of these things are either necessary or are building new awesome things or both, and I believe the results will be awesome. But I will be glad when some of them actual complete.
blk: (bike)
Today was a beautiful day, so Xuth and I headed over to the Three Rivers Arts Festival again after work to wander around and catch some food trucks.

The best moment came partway through the evening, as we were meandering past a watercolor artist and another couple who had just wandered into his booth, carrying ice cream cones.

Artist: Just so you guys know, I have an ice cream policy in my booth...
[the woman steps back immediately looking guilty]
Artist: ... and the policy is that if you eat ice cream here you should bring me some.
Me (to Jim): Y'know, that just makes me want to get some ice cream...
Jim (to me): ... and bring it back here.
[We share a grin and wander off to pick up two ice cream cups, then go back to the watercolor booth and saunter inside.]
Artist: You guys know my ice cream policy, right?
Jim: We sure do.
[I give him a cup of ice cream, a spoon, and napkin.]
Artist: [starts to protest] Oh, no! I don't really mean it.
Jim: But we do!
Me: Really, this is for you.
[After some back and forth, we convince him that we're serious and he accepts it.]
Artist: You guys might win my "most awesome customers" award for the weekend!

That was fun!

Afterwards we rode back home by way of the Three Rivers Heritage trail that turns into the Steel Valley trail that turns into the just-completed (finally!) GAP trail along the river. Xuth turned off at SouthSide Works to head home early for dancing, but I decided to keep going and see all the newly opened stuff that I hadn't been on yet. I got through the Waterfront, and just past the Rankin Bridge when I decided I was ready to head home... I think if I go out there again I might want to see about wearing a face shield of some sort for the bugs - ick!

On the fun side, I managed to see two ducks, three rabbits, two bald eagles and several robins and finches. On the not fun side I then had to bike up Brown's Hill Rd to get home, the ~1 mile of uphill on a busy road which sucked more than the other ~25 miles of trail I did over the rest of the day. Stupid hills and stupid cars.

I hear there's a bike party at the Pump House tomorrow and the weather continues to look awesome so maybe we'll head back down there sometime. Anybody wanna join?
blk: (cygnus)
My house is going to start a weekly potluck dinner + viewing of B5, starting from the beginning, on Sunday evenings.

We have a small collection of people, ones who have seen all/some of it as well as ones who have seen none of it. There is space for a couple more if interested, so if you'd like to come by for one or both of the evening's parts, let me know and I'll add you to the list.

[Edit: Apologies to all the wistful non-locals. Perhaps I should make my 'pittsburgh' tag more prominent? :) ]
blk: (sudopie)
CMU Spring Carnival: Apr 19-20, 2012
... "God always has another custard pie up his sleeve." — Lynn Redgrave, Georgy Girl

It's almost time for the 12th annual after-Carnival Pie Party!

Come socialize, play games, try out bouncy stilts, run around in nice spring weather (hopefully), and eat pie!

Bringing pie is not a requirement, but if you do bring one, it must be homemade. Pies can be sweet, savory, satirical, silly, or any combination thereof. Other contributions of food, drinks, guests, or games are also welcome.

Supervised children of all ages are welcome. There will be one (1) friendly cat and up to three (3) resident t(w)een boys. In the event of good weather, there is a hammock and a grassy yard available for playing in.

Party attendees are welcome to invite and give out directions to anybody they know (CMU alums particularly encouraged). Directions available upon request.

RSVPs are nice (especially if you're bringing pie or someone I don't know) but not a requirement. See the FB event page for people planning.
blk: (running)

pic via alanv

This year's Great Race challenges came about in a few different stages. The first one was last spring, when yet another family dinner conversation went the way of how I wanted the boys to get more exercise. So I said that I was signing them up for the Great Race 5k in the fall, which gave them about 4 months to train up to it. I planned to run with them for encouragement. But then I wanted to do more for myself, so I signed up for the 10k race in addition. 15k was a new daily record for me! So I had something to train for.

Then about a month ago at the Pretty Good Race, [ profile] bubblingbeebles came up to me and proposed running a three-legged race. I agreed on the condition that we could make it work in practice runs. So after a series of practice runs and various attempts to tie our ankles without causing too much discomfort we figured it was possible.

So today was race day! All of the boys ran a fantastic 5k, finishing in 34-37 minutes. And after complaining all summer about it, both [ profile] jboys spoke sentences this evening that started with the words "next year I want to run...." Bwahaha, I've infected them!

After the 5k I met up with my other race half, braided his hair to match mine, tied our legs together, and we were off. We got a lot of encouragement and amazement on the course from other runners, which was incredibly goofy and fun. Practice paid off and we didn't fall down or hurt ourselves. My earlier 5k caught up with me and by about mile 5 of the 10k I was running off of mostly desperation and inertia and not wanting to let my partner down, but we successfully managed to finish running, in 1:08:21, which is just fine.

Now my knees and toes are sore from normal running, and my right thigh feels pretty painfully stretched from the leg tie, but nothing is broken and I think it was overall a pretty successful morning, and hopefully there exist some interesting pictures somewhere.

The afternoon [ profile] xuth and I went to the Pittsburgh RenFaire for a few hours, which was cold and rainy until it turned nice and sunny, and I ate an entire turkey leg because I deserved it. Yum.
blk: (bike)
Yesterday was a day to 1) celebrate the [ profile] jboys finishing up all major schoolwork for the year and giving me much more free time back, 2) get in miles for the National Bike Challenge, and 3) make a super hot day more tolerable by creating our own breeze, which means going out biking! With a lot of help from [ profile] xuth, my bike got reworked with better brakes, rack, light, and other bits, which I was eager to try out.

Normal family errands delayed me a lot, so we didn't actually get out until approaching evening, but we still had several hours of light to play with. We went down the newly paved Greenfield Ave (zooooooom!) to the Eliza Furnace Trail and across the river to REI to return a pair of gloves I'd been lazy about, then south on the trail until it dead-ends ungracefully before the Glenwood Bridge. We took an incredibly rocky railroad "path" across the last 1000 ft over to Baldwin Rd, then normal roads past Sandcastle (where we got whiffs of nice cool air from the water misting up to us) over to Homestead where we made the requisite ice cream stop (salty caramel for me, strawberry banana shake for X) and picked up the current start of the Steel Valley Trail.

crossing the rails

The last time we had tried this trail, the "trail" part petered out shortly after the Waterfront proper, leaving us with not much choice than to take Monongahela Blvd with all the zoomy cars down past Kennywood. Not so this time! Apparently, recent land negotiations have successfully connected all those unfinished bits, making it into a lovely 6-7 mile paved path all the way down to McKeesport. The trail mostly follows the train tracks, weaving over them several times on newly built pedestrian bridges where you can stop and get a great view of any approaching trains, or a few stretches where you race them for a few miles (we chased this one for a while, but I couldn't keep up 17+mph on a slight incline for more than a few minutes and he got away).

The path also runs behind Kennywood, although the path at that point is mostly shrouded by trees, which makes for a nicely slightly-cooler ride during the daylight and a whatever-you-do-don't-open-your-mouth ride during twilight. There is one break where you can see the Phantom's Revenge intertwined with the Thunderbolt.

South of that, we crossed the old converted Riverton Bridge, where I briefly pondered what teeny percentage of the weight limit two bicyclists posed to it ("These bridge supports could probably take just about anything you could throw at it." "Well, it might not like having a train thrown at it."), down past the mostly abandoned Union Railroad railyard and roundhouse, and into McKeesport.

and the barges they go silently

It was nearing sunset at that point, and we decided we really didn't need to keep going further south, so we stopped for a drink and a bite at the local Eat'n'Park (with two huuuuuge salads), then headed back. We left McKeesport after sunset, dodging several completely un-lit cyclists (mostly kids) on the darkening trail, and made it back to the Waterfront just as the last of daylight was fading.

Which left only the last two miles to go, across the High Level Bridge, where we got this lovely view of a barge slowly making its way down the river, regularly scanning around itself with its spotlight, and then up Brown's Hill Road, where I got this amusing stereotypical view (it's not very legible, but that's a Dunkin' Donuts). And now I can say that I've biked up Brown's Hill, and I can do it, although I don't really have any desire to do it again. Home just before 10pm, hot and sticky and sweaty and buggy. Thank goodness for showers.

Total mileage: just over 30 miles, in almost 5 hours out (about 2:45 of actual riding). My shoulders got more tanned, but not burned (thanks to sunscreen and evening sun). My legs are tired today, but mostly in a good way.
blk: (sudopie)
CMU Spring Carnival: Apr 20-21, 2012
... "When someone asks if you'd like cake or pie, why not say you want cake and pie?" — Lisa Loeb

It's almost time for the 11th annual after-Carnival Pie Party! Come socialize, play games, play on bouncy stilts, run around in nice spring weather (hopefully), and/or eat pie!

Bringing pie is not a requirement, but if you do bring one, it must be homemade. Pies can be sweet, savory, satirical, silly, or any combination thereof. Other contributions of food, drinks, guests, bouncy stilts, or games are also welcome.

Well-behaved children of all ages are welcome. There will be one (1) friendly cat and up to three resident boys. In the event of good weather, there is a hammock and a grassy yard available for playing in.

Party attendees are welcome to give out this invite and my address to people they know. Directions available upon request.

RSVPs are nice (especially if you're bringing pie or someone I don't know) but not a requirement. See the FB event page for people planning.

Due to the unavailability of some usual attendees this year, we are currently houseguestless for that weekend. If any Carnival visitors still need crash space, feel free to contact me.
blk: (bike)
I resolved to figure out what to do about my seat being uncomfortable this weekend. So today, after the rain cleared up and I had gotten morning chores done, I rolled on down to BikeTek in Squirrel Hill, which seemed like a decent shop (and I had a coupon). I had a carefully rehearsed speech to describe my problems (sore butt after a couple miles), my attempted fixes (wear bike shorts, bike more), some of my theories (seat wrong position, butt not tough enough, need new seat), and ask for advice. The guy at the front counter took one look and said, "Well, for starters, you should try a woman's seat, instead of a man's."

Because I never even thought about the fact that hey, pelvic bones on men tend to be narrower. They showed me a "basic" padded woman's seat and an "extra" padded one, and both of them looked like soft fluffy clouds in comparison, so I took the less padded one. Switched it out, test rode around for a few minutes, declared it to be awesome, happily paid money for it, and left. Next task, fenders, so I can ride on wet roads.

Then I had a couple hours to kill before I needed to be anywhere, thought about some trails I was interested in exploring, decided to make the most of having a happy butt, and set off on a 21 mile loop around town (after a quick stop to acquire some sunscreen). I may be sore tomorrow, but this time, I -earned- it.

Some things I noticed:

- Man, things are SO much easier when you're not physically uncomfortable. I handled hills much better today. Although the lack of a ~10lb backpack probably also made a difference.

- Even so, there are NO gentle ways to get from the river up to Squirrel Hill. None. Zilch. At least there was a bike lane for most of the route I took uphill. I guess it could have been worse.

- The amount of whinging I did and the tremendous mental planning it took to get me into the shop and ask for help makes me uncomfortably pretty certain that I have Issues around something to do with owning and riding a bicycle. I suspect it has something to do with me constantly dating people who have -all- had significantly more bicycle experience/knowledge than me. I also wonder if my decisions to run/climb/write SQL are related.
blk: (sudopie)
CMU Spring Carnival: Apr 16-17, 2011
... "We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." -- David Mamet

It's almost time for the 10th annual after-Carnival Pie Party! Usual info after the cut )
blk: (bike)

Homestead Labyrinth

After I started physical therapy and my knee started improving again, I decided biking would be a great thing. I wasn't sure how hard I could push, and wanted to try to avoid getting stuck on big hills, so [ profile] xuth and I took the tandem down to explore more of the bike trails along the rivers around here that claimed to be part of the Great Allegheny Passage. For extensive route description (and links), read on.

On Tuesday's trip out, we parked at the Eliza Furnace trailhead to explore trails around the confluence. Read more... )

On Thursday's trip out, I wanted to go down south to a section of the Great Allegheny Passage that I hadn't ridden before, which was hopefully more finished. Read more... )

In future trips, I'm interested in going back down to the trailhead in McKeesport to travel down south for a ways. Or possibly out west to the Montour side of things. I think I'm done with anything other than casual biking or short blading trips around the city trails. As much as the Great Allegheny Passage puts so much effort into bragging about itself as being "135 miles of hiking and biking!", they aren't particularly clear in some ways about exactly how much "under construction" the urban areas are. While there were certainly places where the path was nice and wide and smooth, in all the trail we went on, I don't think there was more than a few miles where there wasn't a detour onto a narrow sidewalk, or onto a street, or onto a rocky dirt path, or around parked cars, or around a boat, or across a busy street, or where the trail just flat out ends, with no alternate path. Construction has been progressing slowly, but very shakily, and at seemingly very low priority.

Most of the detour sections are doable on bike, but make for a very awkward if not impossible detour on inline skates, which I also like to take on trails if they are paved. Some of the paths are poorly kempt, providing annoying and sometimes dangerous debris for the smaller wheels. There's one loop around the main bridges that we always do, because it's the only one we can do, and even that has a stretch of cobblestone road which really sucks and an unfinished limestone bit we have to walk through. The trail system looks promising when it gets finished. I just wish it would happen faster.
blk: (bike)
In our first day of freedom (everybody moved, kids all off to school), I decided to start introducing [ profile] xuth to Pittsburgh by doing a short bicycle tour of the rivers and some trails.

Emboldened by the idea that I wouldn't be doing any of the hills all by myself, we started out directly from my house, and zoomed downhill (Greenfield Ave) to the river to get on the Eliza Furnace Trail. After taking that to downtown, we stopped by PPG Plaza and Market Square to admire the construction and grab some authentic Pittsburgh food (Primanti's) for lunch, before continuing on to the Point, where everything interesting was also closed off for construction. So instead, we headed across the Fort Duquesne Bridge to the North Shore, ate lunch, and rolled up the North Shore Trail a short ways before getting annoyed at it and returning.

We traced back through downtown to the Smithfield St Bridge, waved hi to Station Square, and back onto the trail (Three Rivers Heritage?) to the South Side. Stopped into REI for bike parts and Rita's for gelato, then continued south along the bike trail to see if we could get across the Glenwood Bridge to connect to the Duck Hollow Trail. Well, we did, but it involved bushwacking alongside and across train tracks and up both the bridge approach and Browns Hill Rd, both of which were omgsteep when we're pretty out of shape and having already done 20 miles. Ended up walking the bike for part of it. SO not doing it again.

Total trek: ~24 miles, 4ish hours, a bit of sunburn, aching legs, and a bruised butt (and that's WITH the bike shorts).

I think it's time for a drink and a book.
blk: (sudopie)
CMU Spring Carnival: Apr 16-17, 2010
... "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -- Carl Sagan

whoever dies with the most pies wins )
blk: (Default)
I had a Hobbit visiting me a few weeks ago, and I took him through Schenley Park one afternoon after work. We went on a route that I've taken many times over the years, most recently during Carnival this spring, that starts from from the top of W Circuit Rd and Schenley Dr, and traverses gently down a stream full of destroyed steps and rocks.

Almost immediately, I noticed differences. For starters, the beginning steps that led down from near the road (then crumbled to overgrown boulders shortly thereafter), well, they were nice, well-formed stairs that came in from both sides, and went further down. Then after that, the stream bed had changed significantly from what I remembered it being, mostly with much more debris scattered around. I kept turning around and exclaiming at a new rockfall, or landscape change. I finally decided that the most likely culprit was the large storm that had blown through a few weeks prior.

Of course, this was all odd to me only because I was familiar with previous views, but when I tried to dig up past pictures I had of the area, they weren't really exact enough to be able to tell the aberrancies. So I went back a few days later, armed with camera and pictures to duplicate, and attempted to capture similar scenes. The lighting wasn't optimal for my camera (or its photographer), but I got some fun comparison shots. If nothing else, I thought it was an interesting view between seasons. Maybe I'll go back in the fall and do another.
blk: (sandwich)
I just read about Soup Swap via some non-local friends. Looks like we missed the official annual date, but idea sounds so awesome I want to hold one here in Pittsburgh anyways, as soon as possible!

The basic premise is that
  • soup is yummy and good (particularly in cold weather), and
  • easy to make in large quantities, and
  • usually freezes well, but
  • too much of a good thing can be too much, so
  • sharing good things with friends in return for other good things is great!

cut for details and poll )
blk: (chainmail)
This Sunday, June 1st, between 12p and 5p, there will be a "Sundae Market" in the Schenley Plaza, marked by tables of vendors with homemade craft or flea market items for sale.

I will be there with a table of chainmail jewelry, attempting to peddle my wares. Hopefully I'll get a few more pieces finished by then, so my stock won't be too awful.

I invite any interested locals to stop by and say hi, as I'll be alone at my table for most of the day. The Plaza has a large open field, food stands, an awesome merry-go-round, and free wireless, and the forecast is for some fantastically warm, sunny weather.

Now I just need to figure out some way to display all my stuff. Particularly earrings. Aiee.
blk: (shades)
I'm making moves to turn this into a slightly more energy-efficient house, starting, of course, with the lights. I've tried out a couple different types of CFL bulbs in various places, and have been researching where I can get the lights I need.

I'm planning on putting in an order to, which sells a pretty huge variety of light bulbs for decent prices. More specifically, I'm planning to get a couple dozen of these (or possibly these), which are Litetronics Neolite brand, 13W (60W eq) full spectrum (5000K, or maybe the 4100), compact fluorescent, medium (standard) base, small-sized (3.9in) light bulbs, for approx $3.50/ea, including shipping, plus a small number of a few other types of bulbs.

If anybody in the Pittsburgh area would like to join in on this order, on that bulb or any others you see on that site, let me know here or privately, and we can work out a deal. I expect to be closing this deal at the end of the month.

If anybody knows where I can get the CFL version of these (candelabra base, G16.5, 60W, 2in diam. mini-globe), please comment. The closest I've found are these, but the length is different, so I'd need to measure carefully before ordering to see if they'd fit.

If anybody else has any advice, warnings, comments, or other information for me about CFLs, online light bulb ordering, energy efficiency in older (78 yr old) houses, or whatever else you happen to be contemplating about at the moment, feel free to chime in.
blk: (Default)
[ profile] crs was in Pittsburgh this past week, and was interested in seeing more of what the city had to offer. Having all of Saturday free, with beautiful weather promised (and delivered!), I proposed some walking touring of the city. He'd already fallen prey to someone else's suggestion of Primanti Bros., so thankfully I could pass that one up.

We started out getting huge pieces of yummy fish at the Original Oyster House in Market Square, then wandered over to PPG Plaza, where they were doing prepwork for the winter ice rink. We also saw this cute little dino looking all flashy. 1.5 miles around there, then over to the Duquesne Incline for a... higher appreciation of things.

Read more... )
blk: (braids)
Another Carnival, come and gone.

I decided to kick off the week by braiding my hair. It's been almost three years since I did it last, and I really missed it. Alas, the thinness of my hair makes it really hard to do as many braids as I used to, as the braids dwindle down to near nothing at the bottom, no matter how thick they start up top. So I added in dmc floss to thicken up some of them a bit, and ended up liking it so much I did it to them all. I really like the effect, and will definitely do something similar again.

Anyways. Carnival. )
blk: (pie)
This Sunday, 2pm, pie party!

Got questions? Try this FAQ on for size: Q) Pie? A) Yes. )
blk: (jump)
Answer me these questions three! (in case there is anybody out there who knows)

1. How the heck are you supposed to get from the Eliza Furnace Trail to the Point on wheels?

I keep seeing references to the trail connecting, supposedly through downtown, to the Point and then cross the river to the North Shore trails, including signs on the trail itself promising "2 miles to the Point!" but nowhere obvious to go. I weaved down Blvd of the Allies and through a variety of downtown streets yesterday, looking for somewhere that looked more deliberate, but nothing was there. Fortunately, it was Sunday evening, and so there was almost no traffic to speak of, and I got to (st)roll through PPG Place, which is always fun. (Pittsburgh really has a pretty downtown in good weather. I like it.) Is this one of those "to be constructed" virtual trails?

2. Can you recommend to me blade-able trails or routes near Pittsburgh that are more than, say, 5 miles long?

I know of a few trails I've done so far, and a couple more I want to try out, but it's really hard to figure out from websites what trails are blade-friendly and which ones expect you to have bigger wheels (and thus more tolerance for uneven pavement). Yesterday I went over from the Jail Trail to Station Square, and up and down a short bit of the River Trail (or whatever it's called), which was OK. While I don't totally object to street routes if they have good pavement and low traffic, they generally aren't my first choice.

3. Um, there is no question three (aiiiieeeeee!). Here, look at some other pictures of Pittsburgh downtown.


blk: (Default)

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