Friday, August 31, 2012

Larry's Poker Journey Continues

PITTSBURGH -- After returning from the WSOP, it was hard for Larry to go back to Rivers Casino and play just old regular tournaments. But he has played some, and he's done pretty well.

Last Saturday, he decided to go for it, to win the noon tournament no matter what. I dropped him off and didn't find out until later in the afternoon that that particular Saturday noon tournament was a deeper-than-normal deep stack. It was a guaranteed $25,000 prize pool with a $500 buy-in. The usual Saturday chip stack is around 12,000 to start. This one was 30,000. Instead of 20-minute levels, the levels were 40 minutes.  It had the potential to be a long day.

By the dinner break at 8:15, Larry had more than the average chip stack. I met him in the poker room as the break started, and we went upstairs to a lovely buffet dinner.... It's a tough place to eat for vegetarians who no longer eat gluten or wheat flour and who eat very little sugar. (I'm the still-eats-some-sugar person. Half a brownie. It didn't kill me.)

As play started again at 9:15, there were 14 players left out of 60. 

There was one other wife sitting behind her husband. She had been there since noon.

At midnight there were 12 players. The final table came together just after midnight. By 2 a.m., the remaining 5 players had been battling it out for a while. FINALLY, everyone agreed to chop the pot. 

Hey WSOP Main Event, take that. 


Monday, August 20, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

PITTSBURGH AND CAMBRIDGE, Ma. -- I almost ran over a young woman jogger. I was pulling out of a parking lot at Carnegie Mellon when she popped out from behind this sign and dashed right in front of me. 
While I sat in my car attempting to absorb a sudden flood of adrenalin, she jogged merrily down the street, ear bud wires hanging from both ears, oblivious to that fact that she had just been spared a really bad day.
I took a deep breath, pulled out and drove beside her, willing her to look my way. Nothing. She turned right, toward the Carnegie Library. I drove past her and pulled over, waving my arms. She saw me and slowed down, tugging on her ear bud wires. Pop, the first one came out, and then pop the other one.
            I hoped my voice would sound calm and rational, not loud and crazed. No luck. “You ran right in front of my car! I almost hit you!” She looked confused. I pointed to the ear buds in her hands. “Take those out when you run. You need to be more aware!”
            “I’m sorry,” she said, not just to me but, I think, to her potentially flattened self.
            Part of the reason I reacted so strongly is because a few years ago, the minivan I was driving through Squirrel Hill was totaled by a driver wearing headphones. The driver’s brain was so shut off from the fact that she was actually driving that she “didn’t see the stop sign.”
            Plugged-in people cause accidents and nearly get smooshed every day. Those are two pretty good reasons to at least cut back on headphone usage. But another reason is the sounds of the natural world that might never be heard. Like the song stylings of a mockingbird. Have you ever heard a mockingbird? Believe me, you would know it if you have.
            Just after sunrise in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I heard the bird outside my hotel window singing like a star in a Broadway show. Using clear, strong projection that CMU voice majors would envy, he’d repeat a 3-note ditty then maybe a 4-note stanza or a series of runs. Add in a trill, a scale, a frog. A frog? Sure, why not. Mockingbirds repeat what they hear, and since they don’t wear headphones, they hear a lot of critters.
Mockingbirds aren’t just about sound; they’re about a complete performance. 

For this bird’s solo, his opening stage setting was the tippy top of the pine tree in the photo, swaying in the early morning breeze, where he harnessed the acoustics provided by the buildings on all sides. As he came toward the end of his repertoire, he dove from his perch, white wing stripes swooping past as he circled his tree, heading for the tallest building in the complex. 

On the windowsill of an upper floor, he let loose three repetitions of a piece of bird music. Dive. Swoop. The next higher floor. The sounds of crickets, amplified. And then, the pinnacle. The top most extreme corner of the building. Like a figurehead on the bow of a ship, he leaned forward, scanned his world and then let it rip. Like a fireworks finale, he threw everything he had into one long bird-song sequence. I expected him to end with the piccolo solo from Stars and Stripes Forever.
            Who wouldn’t want to hear that? And to think that I was about to plug in my own ear buds to listen to music in my hotel room. I would have missed the performance of a lifetime.
Sometimes it’s okay to lose yourself in headphoneland. Like when you’re sitting on a plane or a bus or a train, or you’re waiting on a park bench for a friend who’s always late.  But jogging anywhere near cars? No. And driving? Are you nuts? Anyone who has ever worn headphones or ear buds while driving, surrender your license right now.
 I’m begging you, please unplug when you and your brain need to be aware. It might save your life. Or mine. And a mockingbird needs his audience.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Basket Case

PITTSBURGH -- Hannah was here for a few days after returning from Australia and before heading back to Atlanta. I helped her pack her car (that I had been car-sitting for the summer). By the way, if you're looking for a great little car, get a Honda Fit. The best. Anyway, Hannah made it to Atlanta and didn't leave anything behind. 

The next day when I was doing laundry, I couldn't find my laundry basket. Where could it have gotten to? Well, duh, it had gotten to Atlanta. I packed it in the car myself filled with freshly folded clothes and a few pantry items. Apparently both of our brains were on vacation at the time. 

The next day, I planned to go to Target to get, among other things, a laundry basket. Every new or returning college student in the area (along with parents and in some cases even with sullen siblings) was in Target. They were buying storage bins (one aisle over from laundry supplies). They had carts full of cleaning supplies and toothpaste and canned goods. I wish them well. Just, please, somebody tell them that Ramen noodles are not real food.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

All Locked Up

PITTSBURGH -- This is on the bridge between the CMU and Pitt campuses.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Singing in the Sun

PITTSBURGH -- This young woman was hoping to subsidize her college tuition by offering up some show tunes.

Her stage name (or sidewalk name) was "Aria Song," and she goes to school in Harrisburg.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bike and the Beanstalk

BEHIND CARNEGIE LIBRARY IN OAKLAND -- Right behind the library wing that houses all of the children's books, I found something right out of a fairy tale:  a giant beanstalk!

I didn't have time to climb it, but I'm sure there was a golden goose somewhere up near the roof line.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What is this?


It's a camera!! A Lytro camera. I can't even explain how it works except that you don't have to focus (in fact you CAN'T focus), and it supposedly takes in all the light it sees and turns it into pixels that you can then fix however you'd like AFTER the picture is taken and downloaded. This is a picture I took with it while at lunch in Shadyside today:

Many staples (and a few nails, for those really heavy flyers) from many past events imbedded into a telephone pole. Apparently if the phone company has to make a repair, they'll just put up a whole new pole.

These are photos of pretty much the same thing taken with my phone's camera:

Both interesting. Or not. It's just a bunch of staples. But it kind of looks like a tree that's been singed.

Here are photos of things I like better than staples. I saw all of these things at lunch, too:

Our kiddo back from Australia, trying to figure out the camera with Larry.
 If mom is "mum" in Australia, is dad "dud?" How about "dude?"

Sunglass models.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Soda Blasting

CMU CAMPUS -- It could mean Watch out! Students are dropping Mentos into bottles of Diet Coke! But in this case, it's just construction.

If you'd like to see what a whole lot of Diet Coke and Mentos can do together, here's a link:


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pedal Pittsburgh (in the rain)

SOUTH SIDE --  My friend Barb and I signed up for Pedal Pittsburgh. We knew it was going to rain. Maybe the weather people would be wrong, again. So we planned to meet at 10:00 a.m. at REI at the SouthSide Works, where Pedal Pittsburgh had set up base.

I left my place at 9:30 and took the Eliza Furnace Trail. It started to spritz on me just as I started riding. It poured on me about 10 minutes down the trail. But then it settled into a steady drizzle.

When I got to REI, soggy in body but not in spirit, Barb was there and dry. I didn't find out until later that she had driven (and thank you, Barb, for that -- more on that later).

We took off and rode down East Carson Street toward the Birmingham Bridge. This is what we saw:

Clear sailing to the bridge. On the bridge, we both took so many pictures that we finally had to say enough! We saw other riders, but I wanted to remember what the bridge looked like completely empty. We caught ourselves riding in the bike lane, so we made ourselves zigzag across the whole roadway. Completely safe but it felt a little bit crazy.

Taking a picture of Barb taking a picture.

Later on the trail:

We got to the Pedal Pittsburgh base camp after 16 miles of roads and trails. We hadn't prepaid for Whole Foods lunch, so there weren't many food options. Only beer. By then, we were soaked through (even though I was wearing a rain jacket) since the rain never stopped. That's when Barb told me she had driven. If not, I would have had a few more miles, steep uphills, to get home, so I was grateful for the ride home.

The only part of me that stayed dry was one tiny patch on my back:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

First Friday at the Frick

PITTSBURGH'S POINT BREEZE NEIGHBORHOOD -- Last night was First Friday at the Frick, one of a series of summer concerts on the grounds of the bucolic Frick mansion, greenhouse and museums. The organized entertainment, starting at 7 p.m., would be The Bobs, an acapella group. The unorganized entertainment was the throngs of people who showed up with their social awkwardness and quirks in full bloom.

By the time we got there, one full hour before the show was to start, patches of empty grass were already hard to find. The potential for turf wars hung in the completely smoke-free air (thank you for that!). The Cafe started selling food at 5:30, so lots of folks were already onto dessert and a second glass of wine.

The cast of characters:

The talks-loudly-on-the-cellphone-about-nothing woman.
The guy with huge unsmoked cigar in his mouth.
The people who came right before showtime and wedged themselves into a space by moving other peoples' stuff when they weren't looking.
The loud-mouthed dad who asked his kid if he wanted to watch a movie.
The fat guy eating boxed pizza who just had to unbutton his shirt.
The family of 5 wearing identical Aussie bush hats.
The woman who I thought was a forest ranger who was instead just wearing ranger green, including her ranger-type hat.
The everything-and-the-kitchen-sink folks, who brought it all -- table, chairs, ice chests, table cloths -- and set up their own buffet, just for their group.
The woman who showed up as the music started and sat so close to Larry that she was leaning against him.

What we didn't see, amazingly enough, was anybody we knew. I'm certain there were lots of people there who knew people we know, but we didn't recognize anyone. Pittsburgh is a small city, but it's obviously big enough.

We were too far back to hear or see much of anything when The Bobs started. We left after about 30 minutes, and as we walked on the blacktop path behind the stage toward our car, the sound was perfect.  Maybe next time turn the speakers toward the crowd...

The Cafe

Thursday, August 2, 2012


PITTSBURGH AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYWHERE -- Anybody else got the flu? For a week I've had some combination of muscle aches, overwhelming tiredness, nasal congestion and sore throat in varying degrees. I used to think of "flu" as a winter thing. Now, it's like pineapples and clementines:  you can get them all year round, but they could be really lousy.

Daughter in Australia had the gunk-from-the-nose version. Sister in South Carolina had the headache version. Folks at the hair salon passed it all the way around.

I slept 3 hours this afternoon, and now I can almost function. And I'm trying raspberry/elderberry zinc lozenges. Hope everyone else affected is on the mend.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pedal Pittsburgh on Sunday, August 5th

PITTSBURGH (DUH) -- They're closing the streets for bikes! If you live near Pittsburgh, check out Pedal Pittsburgh's Sunday bike fest, starting and ending at the SouthSide Works: