Phipps Conservatory

So I went to the Phipps Conservatory today to take some photos. I love my fancy Canon Rebel, but I’m notorious for leaving my camera behind when going on outings, and so I never have any new photos! It seems that if I want to take pictures with it, I have to plan a trip to do so. That’s all the well, I’ll get better at remembering eventually.

The Phipps is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh – both the architecture and the overwhelming pleasantness of the botanical gardens. Plus, it has a whole room devoted entirely to orchids, my favorite flower!

You can see all the photos here, but below are a few of my favorite shots. Enjoy!

Plants and flowers below!


I have a Masters degree! Wooo! This morning when I woke up, I felt free and full of adventure. I felt like a different person, which did not happen at my high school or undergrad college graduations. It was mysterious!

First off, an update about my grandfather. He was able to get his oxygen intake down and return home, where he is apparently doing well considering the circumstances. Hooray!

When my family came in for graduation on Saturday, we went to Claddagh for dinner. On a Saturday night of graduation weekend, it was unsurprisingly packed, and we had a long wait for our table. Later, they informed us that the wait would be longer, because the kitchen was so backlogged on orders that they weren’t taking any new ones until they caught up. They said they could seat us and we could order drinks, but that it’d still be 45 minutes or so until we could order food. We said that was fine.

When the waiter brought us our drinks, he also brought a couple packages of oyster crackers for us, which was very thoughtful. While we were snacking on them, my brother and I theorized that oyster crackers might be tasty with malt vinegar. So we started pouring, very carefully, single drops of malt vinegar on single oyster crackers, then eating them with delight (it was very tasty afterall!)

Well, I think the waiter saw us doing this, and assumed that we were either starving or crazy, because he showed up a few minutes later with the good news that he’d talked to the chef and was going to be able to take our food orders just then. Bwahaha!

The graduation ceremony on Sunday was really nice. Delicious, delicious food! Photos of me looking all masterful here. Afterwards, in true nerd fashion, I took my family to see Star Trek, and everyone enjoyed it. Wins all around!

Speaking of wins, my parents totally surprised me by getting me a PS3 as a graduation gift! I was completely caught offguard! Hooray! Now I can actually play the games that Insomniac gave me! Oh, that too…I know I jabbered about it on facebook and twitter, and most people know about it, but I can’t remember if I blogged about it on LJ. I have a job! I’m going to be returning to Insomniac as an Associate Designer. I’MA MAKE GAMES FOR A LIVING!

WOooooooo! Spring Break!

Mountain Dew Commercial?

Does anyone remember, like, a billion Derbies ago, there was that Mountain Dew commercial with Pat Day in it? It started off just with shadows making you think it was some hard core basketball player drinking the mountain dew, then the gate bells sounded and it revealed that it was actually a jockey standing on a bench. He jumped down and said something snarky.

It was hilaaaaaaaaarious! Unfortunately, my google-fu fails me in attempting to dig it up. Anyone?

Home and Back Again

Whew, what a week! Those of you who read my twitter know that last Monday I dropped everything and drove home to Louisville, as my grandfather was in the hospital. He has pulmonary fibrosis, which is basically irreversible scarring of the lungs, and as such cannot so much as sit up in bed without a critical drop in his oxygen levels.

Thus began a typical week of having a loved one with a terminal condition in the hospital, which means I did a lot of dish-washing, laundry, litter-box-cleaning, and brought lunch to my family at the hospital almost every day. Basically, I tried to do everything I could to keep my parents sane. My mom said that just being there helped loads, which I believed, as my extended family converged on the hospital every day throughout the day to be there in support of my grandparents.

My grandfather was in a very bad way on Monday night when I got in, but stabilized as the week went on. He’s doing a lot better now, as far as being able to talk with people and such, but still has no oxygen reserve. The goal at the end of the week was to work with the respiratory therapists to get his oxygen intake down to 10 liters (he was on 15, which is too high for him to be able to go home, which is what he wants) and Hospice is involved to try and make things as comfortable as possible. The condition is terminal, but that could mean days, weeks, months…no one really knows at this point, but my grandfather seems to have no intention of going anywhere but home right now 🙂

The rest of my family is hanging in there, but very tired, especially since any sort of family crisis seems to squeeze out all reserves of drama or family-craziness into the open. I’ve been a sounding board to the frustrations of family members as much as anything else. It all helps.

So, I want to thank the ballers, especially Scott and Maria, for taking care of me this week while I was taking care of my family. It really meant a lot to me, and really helped me deal with the situation. I love you guys!! <3 <3 <3

Student Loan Stuff

Alright, internet, it’s advice time! After consultation with Tracy on money matters, I have decided to consolidate most of my student loans. But, of course, this is going to be much trickier than it was with my undergraduate loans.

You see, every big bank and its brother has suspended their student loan consolidation plans as of last July, so finding a lender is much more of a pain these days. AES, the service through which I have my federal loans, has a listing of consolidation lenders, but there are all small, local Pennsylvania banks. If I were to go with a small bank lender, I’d rather do it with someplace local to where I’ll be out in California.

Another option I’ve been investigating is the US Department of Education’s Direct Consolidation Loan, which FinAid and Fastweb point to in light of the banks’ suspension of consolidation programs. I am eligible to consolidate all my federal loans in this program, and I would get a decent interest rate, and right now it’s my strongest lead.

But, I wanted to double check with you, internet, to see if anyone has heard more about this program? I’ve searched for reviews or potential horror stories (I don’t want to get myself into something akin to Sallie Mae) but haven’t found any. If anyone has stories or experiences with the Direct Consolidation Loans, I’d love to hear of them!