Thursday, December 31, 2015

[used to be] Pittsburgh Gage & Supply Co

The 1902 Pittsburgh Gage & Supply Co is now a U-Haul self-storage building.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

[used to be] Phoenix Brewing Company

True to its name, the Phoenix Brewing Company building from 1892 as risen from the ashes to become an office building.  It is also across the street from the Wigle distillery.

This building and the ones after this are from Pittsburgh.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Try, try again

I love the turning of the year.

I love that we look back and that we earnestly hope and plan for the future.

No matter how often we try and fail, we get up and do it again.

After Christmas is past, we'll start thinking about New Year's resolutions.  And there will always be people who mock the desire to change, who have statistics about gym memberships, and some who give good tips on making real change in your life.

It heartens me that we try again.  That after failing so many times, in our heart, we know change is possible, we know what's better for us, we know what to do, even if we don't make the best choices in actually doing it.

But first, let's take a few weeks off.  Let's think about the past.  Think about the good, the bad, the everyday.  Let go of goals and have-tos and should-haves.  Let's be at one with the year gone by and the year to come without judgement, remorse, or plans for the future.  Let's take a break from all that.

Take a breath.

Be at peace.

When we start again, know that you're not alone.  Everyone gets a second -- or twenty-second -- chance to make a change.

I'll be there with you.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

[used to be] Provident

The "Provident" building is now a Rite Aid.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

[used to be] Insurance company

"The Pennsylvania Company" which provided "For insurances on lives and granting annuities" is now a steak restaurant.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

[used to be] Lots of things

This isn't really an engraving, but there were enough previous tenants to make this interesting.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

[Poem] Next to the tissues

I have a book of poems beside my bed.

It’s new.
I thought, “I should read more poetry."

The internet and an invisible chain of
people brought it to me.

The poems are perfect in length
and depth for my regimented morning.

They are my zen view. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

[used to be] Hussmann

The "Hussmann" building now has roll-up security doors.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

[used to be] Quaker bank

"The Quaker City National Bank" is now a real estate office, if I remember correctly.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

[used to be] Daniel's building

This may still be the "Daniel Bldg", but it's now also "N3RD ST".

Thursday, November 5, 2015

[used to be] Corn market

For sale, the "Corn Exchange National Bank & Trust Co" is available for a new tenant.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

[used to be] Hat shop

This used to be Lits hat shop, advertising its trimming for free.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The most useless pockets

I could rant for days on the clothing industry as experienced by women.  In particular, too many pants come with no pockets or useless pockets.  In some kind of cruel twist, clothing makers take away pants pockets then give us pockets in a most useless place: the front of shirts.

Boob pockets
I call these "boob pockets" because they're almost always awkwardly placed where there are too many curves to be useful.
What, exactly, can I put in these pockets?
They're annoying and useless.  My plea to clothing makers: please stop with the boob pockets.
The one-sided boob pocket  Flaps and buttons on the boob pockets  Almost subtle boob pockets

Thursday, October 22, 2015

[used to be] Railroad Markets

While technically still the Reading Terminal Markets, the engraving is "Philadelphia And Reading".  The giant guitar is for the Hard Rock Cafe in the building.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The way things used to be

I am fascinated by buildings that are engraved with the name or logo of something that used to be there and that are now used for something else.  There are a lot of such buildings in Pittsburgh and cities its age.

I'm starting a series of posts on these buildings.  While it would be far more epic to have the stories behind the buildings and how they progressed through the years, I'll start with the rather easier approach of just posting their pictures.

To get things rolling, here is a picture of "Strawbridge & Clothier" in Philadelphia.  While the main sign is just a shadow, there is an engraved stone emblem with their logo.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

When all you have is a hammer...

I have been reading more about the art of writing.  In one article, they talked about the need for beta readers, who review in addition to your first draft readers.  Another article talked about getting a plot idea vetted by editors or publishers before you embark on writing a novel.  A third talked about how you revise and revise and revise until it's the best work you can do.

Then it hit me: writing a story is like writing software.

Getting a plot idea vetted: that's a design review.  It's the high-level structure without too much detail except in a few troublesome areas.  It lays out the idea and goal of the work with a little bit of how it will be accomplished.

First draft reviewers: that's the initial code review.  A complete work exists, but it may not look right or it may not be as clean as it could be.  You will probably go back and make substantial changes to the structure of the work, but the basic idea usually doesn't change.  There are often multiple rounds of this as you refine the work.

Beta reviewer: that's the "approvals" code review.  The work exists in a polished form that you believe to be ready for the world.  The review is often done by someone not as familiar with the creation of the work who knows what they're looking for.  They view the work overall and know where it fits into the world.

Thinking of writing in this form makes me much more willing to revise a story.  Previously, I thought of the first draft as something fairly set in stone.  After all, I took a lot of time to create it!

When I think of a story as software, I realize that telling the story is important, but how you tell the story is where the art is.  I wouldn't reject a code review comment just because I really liked a function.  Likewise, changing large parts of a work is a reasonable thing to do in the service of a better told story.

Of course, when all I have experience with is software, on some level, everything looks like software.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The future of smoking guns

I love a good turn of phrase.  I also love the age they imply.  If you say "I'll be there in a jiffy" you give a different impression than if you say "OMW" or "I'll be there in two shakes of a lamb's tail".

I'm fascinated by where phrases like that come from, how they age, and how they die.  Recently, I was describing a problem and a potential solution and said, "it looks promising, but it's no smoking gun".  Then I wondered if guns even smoke any more.  Was that a phrase that came into being when black powder was measured by hand?  Or did guns just smoke more in the early 20th century?

What were the phrases in the middle ages that have been completely lost to history?  Something involving horses or tools that we don't use any more?  I think of the phrase "changed horses in the middle of the stream", which isn't that old, but just isn't as commonly useful as it might have once been.

What about the future?  Just as OMW and other text-isms became common, advances in technology will certainly change language, too.  If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, maybe you'll say, "let's JohnnyCab" for taking a self-driving car, just like we've turned other technology into verbs ("Google it", "let's Uber there").  At a crime scene in the future, maybe cops will say, "it's a good lead, but it's no super-heated fusion coil".

Saturday, September 12, 2015

We don't have a Geiger counter, do we?

I recently came back from a trip to my mom's house.  While I was there, she gave me a mixing bowl that had been my grandmother's.  It's a pale milky green.

When I showed it to my husband, he said, "we don't have a Geiger counter, do we?"

Back in the 1920s, it was popular to mix Uranium oxide with glass to give it a slight green color.  At the time, this was called vaseline glass.  Now we call it Uranium glass.

The color of the glass could have been Uranium glass, so I got my hands on a small, fairly sensitive Geiger counter.  (My coworkers have an amazing array of weird stuff.)

The levels reported were the same as background radiation in the apartment.  I also tested it with a black light, just in case the Geiger counter wasn't sufficiently sensitive.

The bowl turns out not to be Uranium glass but FireKing Jadeite.  That's not as rare as Uranium glass, but it's also not radioactive.  I consider that to be a fair trade off.