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Yesterday I successfully defended my PhD thesis, "Oxide Inclusion Behavior at the Steel/Slag Interface."

You must now refer to me as


Goddamn squirrels!

I have an extra big plastic potting... uh... pot that we kept a succulent-type thing in, until it got infested with mealy bugs.  Since I wanted to do something with it, after trashing the grossness that was the dead, sticky, bug-encrusted succulent-whatever, I got a bunch of soil and planted sunflowers!  They were doing really well on our ancient picnic table in the backyard (needed more water than I expected, but they perked right up after a gallon or two), and the tallest one was just getting ready to open up a flower.

This morning I find three central stalks knocked over and the big flower heads ripped off!  Our upstairs neighbor said a squirrel knocked them over, chewed off the pod, and devoured it.  There's gore all over the picnic table, like some B-grade vegan horror flick.

Feh!  I'll have to buy some kind of repellent, I guess (there are five or so left), but I don't even know if you can do that with potted plants.

Phantom Kidneys

A few weeks ago Nee and I are hiking home, taking the very steep hill out of CMU, rush hour traffic... rushing by, when my mom calls. My grandma probably has cancer. It's limited to her kidney, the doctor insists, so they should remove it right away. He wants to use a new technique (GROSSNESS ON) that makes a little hole, allowing them to reach in with a knife and section up the kidney so they can remove it with a minimum of effort and incisions(GROSSNESS OFF).

The evidence, my mom says, is a little slim. The scan they did isn't that great and the kind of cancer the doctor insists it is almost always only happens in younger men. We talk a little more, me standing terrified on the sidewalk of a 25 degree slope and traffic roaring by.

So everyone debates for a few days and tries to get some clearer answers. My grandma is tired of it and goes ahead with the (admittedly safe) operation. The combination of illnesses (grandpa had heart trouble recently) leave them bedridden, which they hate. They do a lot. Way more than me. It's hard to imagine them like this. A few days later (which would be a few days ago) they are told that oh, hey, it wasn't cancerous after all, just some small cysts, better safe than sorry, we'll all look back and laugh someday! So my grandma now has one less kidney.

I realize a person can function fine on one kidney. I realize I should be thankful she's still healthy. Or even simply that I still have both grandmothers. But mostly I'm pissed off. Were they really convinced it was cancer and needed to save my grandmother's life? Did they just want to practice a new operation? Did they just want the money for doing it? Were they bored? I'll never know. More importantly, my grandma won't ever know. I feel like I've been fucked with. I wish I didn't. Perhaps I'll feel different someday, when something similar happens to me.

Housing, etc.

The current discussion about where Nee and I should move to is between renting an apartment with character, no washer/dryer, more expensive, and no garage, and a rather boring and tight house with a fairly new washer/dryer, is cheaper, and has a garage (there are other places, but they do not assist the example). The latter also has the oldest electric oven I have ever seen. I thought it would be an easy decision between those two places, but I want to live somewhere *nice*. I'm tired of bad paint jobs and not having a porch. I know it's silly.

The search has been frustrating. Places seem to go really fast or stick around until you're suspicious of them. Some places are completely disgusting, their landlords equally so. I had no idea there were so many vile renters in one of the nicest areas of Pittsburgh. Most places have windows that have been painted around so many times you'd need a chisel to open them. And even then, they're so warped it probably wouldn't work anyway. Some places are obvious squeezing space out of places that have no right to. One place we looked at a while ago had the kitchen in the *hallway*.

Strange experience this morning - Nee accidently put her credit card in the ATM instead of her ATM card, which worked (all credit cards I know of can be used that way) but the machine accepted the PIN number she uses for her ATM card. She cancelled when the fee notice came up and we realized what had happened.

I turn 30 in exactly four months.

Driver's License

So my PA driver's license expires at the end of this month.

I have not been sent a renewal form.

I cannot renew my license online until the information is current.

My address is not.

I cannot update my address online without a PIN number.

I cannot have a PIN number unless my information is current.



I'm hopefully getting a bike for my birthday, and am looking into aluminum bikes (I like the lightness, also it's a little high tech... I'd shoot for carbon laminate purely for that reason, but that's really expensive). There are several nice bike shops in my part of Pittsburgh, and I'd like to get one from them. But the girlfriend, who is helping, provides a lot of brand names that I can't tell apart. Does anyone have any preferences re: bike brands? Or even just some other suggestions?

Supposedly there are a few *city* bike trails that lead to cool places. Pittsburgh is a fun place to explore.