Sunday, November 15, 2009

explore pittsburgh neighborhoods with me

This blog has served me well, but it's time to say good-bye.

In my new blog, I'm exploring Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods one at a time. Please join me!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

ending with halloween

I'm retiring this blog and starting a new one. Details soon! My last post on this blog is for this year's Halloween.

Every year, my family in Monongahela spends months decorating their property with displays for Halloween. It started small, as something to get trick-or-treaters down to the dead-end part of the street where they live. It's evolved over the years, and this year they set up more than 70 displays! At night, with hundreds of lights, fog machines, and creepy music, it's really something to see.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

here kitty kitty

Osaka Castle Park is filled with stray cats, but they run from me when I call them. I wondered if it was because I wasn't speaking their language, so I asked some Japanese people here at the hotel how I say "here kitty kitty" in Japanese. They looked at me like I was crazy. Then they laughed (politely of course--everyone is exceptionally polite here). Then they said that no one does that here.

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I realize I was the only person in the park (and there are many early morning exercisers there) calling to the cats. If I was a crazy cat lady back home, I'm sure people really think I'm crazy here!

Monday, September 14, 2009

osaka castle park

Osaka Castle Park, adjacent to my hotel, is huge and filled with walking paths meandering through pretty gardens. This morning I took a walk through at sunrise. There were a lot of elderly people doing a tai-chi-type dance right in front of the castle, and others praying at shrines and temples. Later in the day I went back and saw more of the park. Here are a few photos; see more on my Flickr page.

i'm in osaka

Despite the flight being long, it was probably the best flight I ever had because I was in first and business class. I'm spoiled for life. I never knew they treat first class passengers like royalty. I was treated to hot washcloths to wipe my hands; unlimited wine with lunch; really good food; frequent snacks; constant drink refills; a goodie bag with lotion, a toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs, and an eye mask; comfy socks and slippers; and seats that recline the whole way. Nice!

I also saw four good movies: Star Trek (I've never seen the TV show, but I enjoyed the movie), Easy Virtue, The Soloist, and the funniest movie I've seen in a long time, The Hangover. I laughed the whole way through--absolutely hilarious!

When I wasn't eating, sippin' on gin and juice, or watching movies, I had a good book to read, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. So, the flight was much better than I expected!

This photo is the view of Osaka Castle from my hotel window. The grounds are adjacent to the hotel. I didn't sleep much on the plane, and with the time difference, I was getting in at about 4 a.m. East Coast time. So I had the strength to only take this photo, and then I crashed into bed immediately.

Of course, I woke up at 1 a.m. wondering when it would be OK to get out of bed and managed to lay there until about 4 a.m. So here I am. I have some things to do for work today, but I hope to see some sights too. The conference starts Wednesday, but our main day of preparation is tomorrow. More later!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

the ghost of my old cat

Last summer when Elsie came to live with us, two very strange things happened in our house over a few weeks. They were definitely caused by a ghost or something supernatural--no doubt! My mom thought maybe it was the ghost of Zephyr, whose ashes sit in an urn on my bedroom dresser. Zephyr was our first cat and was awesome. He was never very happy about other cats that came to live with us. Maybe Zephyr was upset that I brought another cat into the house. Maybe. After those two things happened, nothing happened again...

...Until this morning. I was in the kitchen and heard a crazy loud thud and looked down the hall to see Grubble sailing through the air, over the stair banister, and into the dining room. He hadn't leaped--his body was going sideways. I ran in to see if he was OK. He was, but was very obviously bewildered and slunk around for some time looking up the stairs as if to see what the hell happened. Could the ghost of Zephyr be back, upset now that we have Rasputin? I hope not...I still love Zephyr and think about him often.
Photo, one of my favorites of Zephyr, from Dave.
Blog post title stolen from a new song by Jason Lytle, Ghost of My Old Dog.

Monday, September 7, 2009

trip to vandergrift, ford city, and crooked creek

After watching Rick Sebak's fantastic new show Right Beside the River on WQED (about places and things beside our rivers), we decided to take a trip 40 miles northeast from Pittsburgh to Vandergrift. Situated on the Kiskiminetas (Kiski) River, Vandergrift had the largest sheet steel mill in the world in the early 20th century. In 1895, Apollo Iron and Steel decided that providing their workers with good housing and a good community would make them more loyal and productive, so they hired the same architect who designed New York City's Central Park, Olmsted, to design a new town called Vandergrift. Today there are still a number of businesses in its business district (our favorite was a magic store), but it was nearly deserted when we were there--likely because everyone was at the Labor Day celebration at a nearby park.After Vandergrift, we decided to check out Crooked Creek Lake Park, a dam, lake, and park built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as one of 16 flood control projects in their Pittsburgh district. This is Tunnelville Beach, which was surprisingly empty for a holiday weekend.
Heading back, we stopped briefly in Ford City. It was a cute little town with a shady public park, a biking trail next to a huge abandoned mill, and this mostly intact Mail Pouch ad painted on the side of a building.