Is it time to leave? Again? Yup. The final days of my stay in Pittsburgh have come: My master's thesis is more or less complete (by the way, it has the nice name "Transaction Management Challenges for Cross-Organizational, Workflow-Based SOA Applications" and spans 104 pages total), so it is time for me to take it back to Germany and finally wrap up that "Diplom" of mine.

Pittsburgh Skyline

It was a fun time in the "Steel City", I've learned a lot both professionally as well as personally and I have met great people who I will really miss. Thanks for making my time in Pittsburgh great, you know who you are!

But I am not quite flying home yet: Before diving back into the "frozen tundra" of Germany, I shall visit warmer parts of this country. I promise I'll feel a little bad for you, snowed-in readers, while I sit by the pool sipping margaritas!

(Pittsburgh skyline photo CC by-sa licensed by Ronald C. Yochum, Jr. on Wikimedia Commons.)

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Recently, I got the following fortune cookie. How "nice"!

Fortune Cookie

I find it highly ironic and amusing that a fortune cookie--of all things man-made, yes, the same kind of fortune cookie that has been "sticking its nose" in other people's business ever since its inception--dumps its opinion about talking of things you don't understand on me.

But I guess it's better than this one of unknown origin (which has been floating around on the internet for about a million years and is most likely photoshopped):

Chinese Fortune Cookie

(Yeah, I played with iPhoto there to give the photo up there the look it has now -- a simple pic looked too boring.)

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The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow -- and apparently they have quite an interesting rivalry going on. But don't we all want to see the Steelers play in the Superbowl?

In preparation for the game, my grocery store at the corner sold Steelers stuff today. Incidentally, soon I'll move back home from Pittsburgh, so what better time to buy a little souvenir than now. I wanted to buy a Terrible Towel ever since I first saw it in one of the bars in Oakland. So I got one -- Here it is!

Terrible Towel

They also had Steelers-themed food on sale, such as this cake:

Stillers Fever

I know, I know, this is a very, very hideous cake. I took a photo though because I got a kick out of it saying "Stillers (sic) Fever". The local Pittsburgh accent has indeed a tendency to take long "i"s short. Examples? Well: Steelers/Stillers, of course, but also Bloomfield/Bloomfill'd, feel/fill and others. The first time I stumbled across this was when I watched TV and they mentioned the "Still City". That's not a nice nickname, I thought?... It took me a while to realize they were actually talking about the "Steel City": Pittsburgh.

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[caption id="attachment_1931" align="alignright" width="240" caption="\"Pollution\", CC by-nc-sa licensed by Gilbert R. on flickr"]"Pollution", CC by-nc-sa licensed by Gilbert R. on flickr[/caption]Here's an "award" the city of Pittsburgh would probably prefer not to have "won". According to the 2008 American Lung Association’s State of the Air report, Pittsburgh is the number one U.S. city most polluted by short-term particle pollution.

  1. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  2. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
  3. Fresno/Madera, Calif.
  4. Bakersfield, Calif.
  5. Birmingham, Ala.
  6. Logan, Utah
  7. Salt Lake City, Utah
  8. Sacramento, Calif.
  9. Detroit, Mich.
  10. Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia.

The US Environmental Protection Agency's flyer "Particle Pollution and your Health" says about short-term pollution:

Short-term exposures to particles (hours or days) can aggravate lung disease, causing asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. In people with heart disease, short-term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias. Healthy children and adults have not been reported to suffer serious effects from short-term exposures, although they may experience temporary minor irritation when particle levels are elevated.

On the year-round pollution scale, the city ranks almost equally as bad: Trading spots with the "short term" number 2, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh was the second most polluted city in the country, year-round.

  1. Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
  2. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  3. Bakersfield, Calif.
  4. Birmingham, Ala.
  5. Visalia/Porterville, Calif.
  6. Atlanta, Ga.
  7. Cincinnati, Ohio
  8. Fresno/Madera, Calif.
  9. Hanford/Corcoran, Calif.
  10. Detroit, Mich.

Only in the third discipline, Ozone pollution, Pittsburgh doesn't rank among the top 10.

Link to the condensed lists, or look at the stateoftheair website for nice Google Maps overlays, and to find out how your city is doing.

(Thanks, Tara, for the link!) -- (Photo "Pollution", CC by-nc-sa licensed by Gilbert R. on flickr)

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This week, I went to the exhibition "life on mars" in the Carnegie International Gallery. All in all a fun collection, and one of the most curious exhibits was this:

Cat: I'm dead

David Shrigley, 2007: "I'm dead". The gallery guide writes about this:

With a deliberately naïve style and an intellectually dark sense of humor verging on the absurd, David Shrigley makes drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photographs that collectively illustrate a scathing commentary on the various artistic, social, and political states of humanity. Almost without exception, his works are hilarious, cynical, and sharply intelligent, covering topics that range from music, art, politics, and health care to religion, sexuality, and life and death. Beneath the flamboyant irony and self-deprecating humor lies an undercurrent of vulnerability that lends many of Shrigley's illustrations and objects a bracing poignancy and reveals intimate notions of individual and collective identities. (...) In I'm Dead (2007) a taxidermied kitten stands sentry with a wooden sign indicating his deceased status—an absurdly ironic yet tender work bordering on the grotesque.

I can tell you, I laughed out loud. Quite literally, even, not in the laughing-quietly-on-the-inside-LOL-instant-message sense. Who would've thought museum visits can be so much fun?

("Cat: I'm dead" photo CC attribution licensed by daveynin on flickr)

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Carnegie Mellon's wireless network makes me sad: I get about 20 KB/s of constant noise (all day, every day) from, mostly, Windows computers announcing their presence to the outside world via broadcast packets.

In the "network" window, this looks like that:

If this is a secret ploy with the intention to empty everybody's laptop batteries as fast as possible, it's working! :) Then again, unlike University of Karlsruhe, CMU puts power outlets into every seat when they drop a bucket of money to renovate a lecture hall. At my home university--with the exception of the new library--laptops have to be mostly powered with their owners' love and respect: Places with appropriate power connections are rare.

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This morning, I got a kick out of looking at the origins of the license plates I came across while walking to school. To my surprise, there were quite a few, which is why I share the list with you (in alphabetical order, not by preference ;) ):

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia

And two that don't come from a US state:

Ontario (Canada) and a US federal license plate ("For government use only")

That's a total of 16 different origins. Not bad for a single walk!

Also, if you'd like to see the history of how license plates looked in your state then and now, I found the website that has a pretty comprehensive picture collection that's worth checking out.

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Today I signed the steel beam for the Gates Center, the big, new, not-yet-shiny computer science building on the CMU campus (now called the "Gates-Hillman-Complex", after the Hillman Foundation donated additional funds).

It's a white painted steel beam that will be built into the building later. Very neat idea!

Here are some pics: <!--more-->

If you happen to be affiliated with CMU: The beam is available for all students, faculty and staff to sign on September 25-26 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. It is located behind Cyert Hall on Cyert Drive (access is available from Forbes Avenue).

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Just coming back from a career fair at CMU's University Center, where I went to say hi to the people who manned the Mozilla booth. As I hadn't come to engage in recruiting discussions, I neither carried a resume binder under my arm, nor was I dressed in a black suit like every other person who went there.

Quite amusingly, while the students dressed up in order to show off their seriousness, all of the recruiters were dressed casually in t-shirts or polo shirts and jeans in order to show how relaxed they were. Funny sight.

Lucky as I am, I also got a USB stick from the Cisco booth (thanks Rob for giving me yours, since you got the last one!)... It has 1GB, that'll make for a great new root drive for my Slug (which currently runs on 512M). By the way, why can OS X's Disk format an ext2 partition, but OS X can't mount or read it? Very odd.

Oh, and just in case anyone was wondering how high the percentage of international students at CMU is:

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CMU professor Randy Pausch died last night from pancreatic cancer. Even beyond academia, his inspiring "last lecture" made him famous worldwide.

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