I got back at midnight from Pittsburgh, where I spent three days visiting Carnegie Mellon University’s excellent Entertainment Technology Center. (CMU ETC)

I talked to the cool faculty there at the ETC and hung out with students. I also gave a speech on player-to-avatar relationships in games.

I had never been to Pittsburgh. Prior to the trip, I visualized it as a huge steel factory or something similarly industrial. Instead, I found the city picturesque. The trees were all bright yellow and red (which my Ethiopian cabbie said would only last 2 weeks), there were lots of interesting bridges, and the city was much hillier than I expected. The houses were quaint (and commonly less than a hundred grand, I’m told). To my eyes, Pittsburgh, PA looked like an idealized vision of the Northeast from countless movies.

I spent some time in Southside, which reminded me of Austin. We went to a good coffee shop called Beehive, and a restaurant that used to be a sidewalk cart called Cambodican. That part of town had a good vibe.

Another highlight included a super fun dinner at Monteray Bay, with faculty members Juleigh, Rebecca and Drew. I learned from the delightful ladies that Italian families up north have an extra oven in the basement (which I can only assume is not some sort of naughty metaphor…). I also attended an advanced screening of Flushed Away, which was pretty funny.

I happened to pass the CMU football team scrimmaging at night, which was really amusing. I cannot believe CMU has a football team. The guys on the field seemed like there were my size. Very different than UT football. (Not that I follow it anyway, but I never would have guessed that CMU would have a football team, in any case.)

I have to say that the ETC program seems excellent. It’s a masters degree aimed at leadership and technology as applied to entertainment media. Very cool, and the facility itself was amazing. The staff were fun and stimulating.

Some pics from the trip:

Football scrimmaging

CMU Football, scrimmaging on a chilly night.

Cab ride!

Me, in yet another cab.

Bargin’ in

A barge moving down one of the rivers, from a CMU conference room window.

Wild Horses

Standing outside in my stairwell tonight, I can hear Mick Jagger’s voice coming from the park. My girlfriend and I carved jack-o’-lanterns tonight and now the seeds are baking in my oven.

Jack o’ Lanterns

Consumer 2.0

Somehow, the wooden stick I was using to keep my living room sliding glass door closed got deeply wedged down into the doorjam while I was away in London. So this morning I tore the stick apart with tools, splintering it completely and getting it out of the way, so I could go out onto the patio with my dog, Star, to drink coffee. (In Austin, it’s finally cool in the mornings.)

Later, I went out to buy a new tension rod for the sliding glass door. I wanted to get one that was identical to the Masterlock rod on the sliding glass door in my bedroom.

I searched three stores: Target, Home Depot and Lowe’s. None of them had it, but all of them recommended the other stores on the list. Halfway through this wild goosechase, I asked myself for the hundredth time why I once again forgot step one, Google.

Back home, a little web searching revealed that these tension rods are called Dual Function Door Security Bars. I ordered one through Amazon, without leaving my couch or dealing with any sassy store personnel, and it’ll get here on Tuesday. Amazing.

Dual Function Door Security Bar