Never thought I'd be sad to head to the Bay

Let me just start by saying it: I <3 Portland!  Hopefully, by the end of this sure-to-be long post, you'll know why :)

First, let's start with the hostel and all the great people I've met!  There's just been so many cool people to hang out with over the past few days, I can't wait for Europe!  I promised a few short bios (which I probably won't be able to do in Europe), so here we go:

Nick (New Jersey) - This guy has just hit 10,000 miles on his trip across the country.  He's zig-zagged all the way accross the US, visiting family, couch-surfing, and avoiding all interstates, choosing to take the ultimate "scenic route".  He's planning on working down in the LA area as an IT guy.

Benny (Oregon/California) - A very interesting guy, he used to be homeless before escaping down to Cali for stealing DXM stuff (cough drugs).  Now he's apparently found religion (in a big way, believe me) and has returned to face a judge for his wrongs.

Ian (Rhode Island) - Out on a vacation from his gf I guess, he's just in to see the city.

Mark (Minnesota) - From Minneapolis, he's been biking around the city, checking out everything to see.  He's in town for a while during some sort of conference.  He and I chatted a ton about the midwest.

Brad (Alberta, Canada) - Love ya man!  Brad's been my bud around a lotta Hawthorne.  He's current in college getting a degree in film, and man, his knowledge shows!  Everyday since I've been here, he's gone to at least 1 or 2 small films here in Portland.  He's chilling in Portland to see a few concerts.  Hope all goes well man!

Greg (New York) - After teaching English in Korea, Greg spent 9 months backpacking India, Thailand, Morocco, Europe, and a bunch of other places I can't remember.  Thanks for all the euro-advice, it's been super helpful!  He's taking a break from NY to check out Portland, and (like me) seeing if he could maybe live out here someday.  He'll be heading back out this way on a roadtrip (man, you should've talked to Nick), including a trip up the PCH (hopefully to visit with all of us in SF!)

Carrie (California) - Haha, I guess I should Pennsylvania Carrie, but you seem to be such a Santa Cruz girl now, I find a hard time say that's where you're from.  She's out here volunteering full time in SC, following here passion.  Glad to hear you had a safe flight back and we should hang out soon!

Sarah (Connecticut) - I know you're reading this Sarah, so I'll do my best to describe you :-P  Sarah decided to pick up from her job on the East Coast to work at the hostel, which she says has been an awesome experience.  She's gonna be heading out soon to travel up north, hopefully to Vancouver (which I HIGHLY recommend, along with Seattle) before she hopefully will meet up with us in the Bay.  You better come :)

I think that's a pretty short, quick recap of all my Portland peeps.  For everybody else, I'm sorry, there's just so many stories to tell!

So, what about today?  Well, I woke up later (of course) still feeling tired from the day before.  It was going to rain later, so I thought I could pull off the bike ride, but in the end, the guy at the desk convinced me that the 3-5 hour trip to just reach the start of the Columbia Gorge probably wasn't worth it today, especially in my shape from yesterday haha.  It's alright, I'm going to be doing a road trip up here to see the Gorge and a bunch more of the neighborhoods ASAP, I guarentee it!

I decided to "wing it", very un-Matt-like I must say, but it was great.  Sarah, Greg, and I headed up to Mt. Tabor Park, a park that's the site of an extinct volcano which has great views of the city and Mt. Hood on clear days.  We talked about all the places we'd like to live; I commented on my stressing about trying to move to SF.  

After words, we got some vegan for lunch (Greg and I said we'd try it, and it was really good!) and then split up.  Carrie headed back to CA :( , Sarah headed back to the hostel, and Greg and I ventured up to the NE neighboorhoods to explore based on Sarah's suggestions.  Besides Belmont/Hawthorne, we also checked out the neighboorhoods around Alberta St. and Mississippi St. areas.  We had a great bus driver from England, who gave us a lot of insider info on the neighborhoods, which was great to hear.  He pointed out houses that were around $350/400k, which looked more than nice enough to me.  Man, I forget how big a rip CA is sometimes...

Out of all the places we saw, I still liked the funky, bohemian feel of Belmont best.  Mississippi was already pretty built up, and Alberta was definitely up-and-coming (with quite a mix of houses/businesses), but I liked the little Belmont area best.  I'm always saying how much I've wanted to live in a big city and try it out once, but now I want to live in a neighborhood in a decently sized city that has some character.  I like the mixed usage feel of neighborhoods here, with a few shops or little restaurants interspersed with houses.  It reminded me a lot of Bucktown and Chicago.  San Jose to me just feels a lot more sterile; I feel like there's not as much character.

Greg and I talked a lot about what we thought about living here.  Well folks, let's just say, after this trip, my list of cities to live in has been totally changed from:
  1. SF
  2. Chicago
  1. Portland
  2. Chicago
  3. SF
I'm not saying I'm going to move anytime soon, but I definitely see myself living here someday (yes Kristen, I'll wait until you move to Europe :-P).  Like I said, I need one more road trip up to see more neighborhoods and such, but I'm fairly certain I've found my new favorite city.  Why did SF take such a dive?  After seeing Portland, it reminded me how many issues I have with SF really: $$$, no jobs for me, transit issues, the list goes on and on.  I still love the city, don't get me wrong, but Portland's got some great positives (many which I've already said):
  • Great transit
  • Cheaper housing and rent (from what I've looked up)
  • More variation in weather (still no snow thought, but I'll deal with it)
  • Super environmentally-friendly
  • Less of the valley girls, surfer dudes, exercise addicts and health nuts that have inundated Cali.  Don't get me wrong, I've become much healthier since moving to CA, but some of it goes too far.
  • To with this point ^ , more food selection that isn't super-healthy while still having enough of that health stuff too.
  • Super friendly / non-confrontational people, which can be kind of annoying at first, but I'm sure it's not hard to get used to people saying "Thank you" all the time (even when getting off the bus!)
  • Really young crowd wherever I go.  I've spent months hunting in the South Bay with not much luck; this city seems like the Austin on the West Coast with TONS of people in their lower 20s.  Now that's bad-ass!
  • Silicon Forest is right here, plenty of jobs for engineers (I hope)
Overall, I'll just say, Portland reminds me much more of MI, so I feel comfortable.  One thing that has me a little down about the city, which I just noticed is the much lower amount of diversity than Cali.  I'll admit, I feel a little out of place in the Bay Area, but that's part of what makes it great!  People seem to be very understanding and accepting up here, but I still feel like it's fairly homogeneous.  Oh well, I guess everything can't be a plus, but I'd be willing to live with it I think.

As I conclude tonight, getting ready to ship out in the morning, I feel sad about leaving.  Not only am I leaving a city that I now love, but also a great group of people.  I'll miss you guys, but hey, hopefully Facebook/phone #'s will help us out a little bit!  As I finish this up, Sarah and Greg are heading out to the Detention Bar, a grade school-turned-into-bar.  Love it lol!

Oh, and for the first time in a while I feel totally relaxed.  I'm always stressed so much before trips, but once I'm there, it's always such a blast.  I can't even imagine what Europe's going to be like!

I'm dropping down into the SJ by noon tomorrow, until my next post, thanks guys for tuning in, it's been a great adventure, both in traveling and writing :-P  This is Matt Stan, signing off!


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PDX: Day 2

Whew, I'm pretty sure my feet will never forgive me. I've walked about 10-15 mi today in my not-so-good-for-walking shoes. Bad idea, my foot's a little swollen, but whatevers. Today was a blast! My target for the day: d-town Portland.

Just trying to remember what I did today is making my mind spin, so I'm resorting to my pics to be my memory haha. I was digging the list format I did last night, and it looks like I may be going out on a pub crawl here in a bit, so the speedier format will help me out. My day in pictures, converted to words (and eventually back to pictures when I have a chance!) from dawn til dusk:

  • Portland Saturday Market - Awesome place to find all sorts of great art, t-shirts, what-have-you, and for AWESOME prices.  I saw one guy selling original paintings for $10-35.  So tempted.  I also hopped upstairs to the Burnside Bridge and grabbed some photos of the "Welcome to Oregon" sign and all the bridges on the river.  I'm an engineer, so hey, I like bridges okay?
  • Voodoo Donuts - After like 4 people telling me yesterday I had to try out the donuts at this place, I stopped by to take a look.  As expected, there was an hour long line, since they're the best thing ever, but I didn't stay to find out :( because I had so much to do.  Thanks Brad for asking if I wanted one though.
  • Old Town / Chinatown District - Out of everywhere I went, I probably could've skipped this part of town.  Most of it isn't very Chinatown-like to me (at least compared to SF); it's a hodgepodge of random shops and empty buildings.  Also, it seemed like the red light district (if you wanna call it that) bordered on and included parts of Old Town, which was sorta weird.
  • Classical Chinese Garden - really cool and calming, so glad I got a ticket for free from the hostel.  A small patch of serenity on the northern edge of Chinatown.  I've heard the Japanese Gardens are better (at least Sarah says so :-P)
  • Pearl District - an old warehouse district that's been converted to lofts, upscale shops, and art galleries.  It didn't really have the sort of neighborhood feel to me; it seemed kinda sterile and WAY too expensive.
  • Powel's World of Books - WOW!  When I saw the sign listing all the floors of books and all the categories, I was shocked.  I'm not even a huge reader, and I spent about 2 hours in there.  I went through all the green/environmental studies and job/college books doing research on my future sustainability career.  So much good info, but in the end I restrained myself.  They even had a rare books section upstairs that included, among other things, a 1st edition of Luis and Clark's journals from their exhibition (for a meager $25,000).  Dad, if you're reading this, you'd be there for hours!
  • Kenny & Zuke's Deli - Awesome recommendation from the folks at the hostel, good call guys!  A great deli right by Powell's, I grabbed a Catherine, or turkey Reuben, which was awesome.  What was even better were the cooks at the counter yelling Borat jokes at each other.  Awesome Sorry, I should use my new catch-phrase more: it was bad-ass!
  • Cultural District / Portland Art Museum - After lunch, I strolled down Park Ave. to the Art Museum.  I got a ticket and checked out; it was pretty good.  I'm not a big art guy, but I figured I'll be doing a lot of it when in Europe, so what the hell?  There was a wide variety of art, from native american to European to Northwestern.  I'm mainly a modern guy, but I enjoyed the art from the Northwest.  It didn't take me more than a few hours to go through, I'm glad I cheated on the ticket and got a student rate.
  • Portland State University - apparently "Oregon's largest university" was right down the street, so I decided to take a stroll.  It was a very nice, urban campus; it reminded me a lot of Wayne State.  I found the Computer Engineering department (I didn't see the environmental stuff) and walked over there.  It was closed of course, but I figured I'd try.
  • Downtown - I finished of my trip with a stroll through the downtown streets, checking out all the shops.  I must say, Portland's a very nice, clean-cut town for the most part.  I was craving a coffee shop to write, so I ended up way over in the Pearl District again, where I nursed my aching feet while sipping an Italian soda and reading emails. (Probably should've worked on the blog too :-P)
  • Hawthorne - Feeling cheap (and stupid) I walked the 5 miles back to the hostel.  In the end, I'm glad I did, because crossing the Hawthorne bridge and seeing all the shops on the way to the hostel was fun.
Of course, that only covered to dusk :-P, and the night did not end there, oh no.  I walked in the door, and immediately I was out walking back down Hawthorne with Brad to go grab some dinner.  Carrie, Greg, and Sarah were heading out for a mini pup crawl of sorts in an hour, so I headed out with Brad to get food before he headed to a movie.  We decided to try out another microbrewery called Roots, an all-organic brewery that's the newest brew in town.  It was REALLY good; we had a beer and talked for a bit.  As it turned out, the waitress had just moved out to Portland from the UP, so we chatted it up a bit about MI.  Afterwords, Brad headed out to a movie he wanted to see, while I headed back to head out.

Turned out, nobody left yet, so I rushed back to the hostel and we headed out to Belmont, which was just north of Hawthorne.  We checked out a few bars and even a nickel arcade, which was a bunch of fun.  I felt like I was back at a Chuckie Cheese (and I even got to play Time Crisis!)  At the second bar, we got a chance to go downstairs and listen to a funk band, which was great.  Brad met up with us, and we all had a great time hanging out.  Portland's a great music spot, and it's been fun hearing all the different sounds as I've walked around these past few days.

We headed back to the hostel around 2:30 a.m. and I passed out at 3, feeling like I accomplished a lot that day.  I was not feeling the bike ride the next day to the gorge, but I decided to play it by ear.  Oh, and someone apparently stole my towel, which was like the one thing I didn't lock up, but no biggie, I got one from the front desk.  The only downside, I got to listen to all the jokes about why I don't want to find the towel now.  Thanks guys :-P

As for the hostel, it's be so great; I'm really glad I did this trip.  Stay tuned to next time, I feel like doing a few short bios.  There are just sooooooo many interesting stories to tell.  Laterz!


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The City of Roses: First Impressions

Well, I'm just wrapping up my first day here in Portland.  You may be thinking: "Wrapping up?  Matt, it's only 6/7 at night!"  Hey, when you get up at friggin' 4 in the morning, it feels like the day should already be over. :)

My trip to Portland is an experiment in a couple ways.  It's the first time in a while that I've been on my own travelling to a city, staying in Hostel, and navigating a new place without a car.  This makes it good practice for Europe. (I always have a plan you know :-P)  With that, I'm going to try and blog each day while I'm here, since I hope to keep an e-journal while in Europe using my blog.  

This trip's also one of my less planned trips.  Of course I have lots of little things to see, but there aren't any major attractions per se.  Really, I'm just curious what this town's like, since everybody says it's a curious little place.  Who knows, someday I might even live here!  I liked Seattle a lot, so I want to see how Portland suits me.  

I started the day by taking MAX, their train system, to my hostel via a bus to drop off my bags at the hostel.  Then I thought, "Hmm, I bought an all-day ticket, might as well go explore today."  Oh yea, that's one plus: one ticket gets me on all the buses, trains, etc for the whole day for $4.75.  Suck on that BART!  

Intel's Ronler Acres Campus

I remembered Rob saying something about Intel being right off the train sort-of, which is over in Hillsboro, so I took the long trip over there.  Hillsboro is also known as "Silicon Forest", the tech hotspot of the area. (compared to San Jose ["Silicon Valley"] and Austin ["Silicon Hills"])  Besides those three and upstate New York, this area is probably one of the main places I could get a job.  I made the trek in the wet weather (it's been raining off and on) up to one of Intel's 3 big campuses.  It was quite amazing; it had several development buildings and fab plants.  I decided to just sort of stroll up to the front door and see what they could offer me.  No surprise, I couldn't get a tour or a job.  Oh well haha, I didn't really expect to even get that far and I don't really think I'd like to work there anyways.

Next, I ventured over to the actual town of Hillsboro to grab lunch.  Not much to say about that town, other than it's a fairly small downtown with a mix of stuff, mostly older.  The houses in general, however, were very nice (and cheaper than CA I'm sure!)

I trekked back across town and checked into my room at the hostel.  The hostel is really cool; it has an "eco-roof" that provides rain water for the bathroom.  They have all the usual HI amenities: kitchen, common area, a bunch of beds.  I met a few people so far, including a guy who apparently used to be homeless, but then moved to CA and is now back to clear up some legal issues.  Evidently he stole OTC meds, cough syrup, and other stuff to "give out to people" to fight the evil corporations.  I'm guessing it was just to get high, but whatever, everybody's got a story to tell.  He went on a rant about the Iraq war and he's also a major Jesus freak, so that should make for some interesting discussions.  The other guy I met, Brad, is from Alberta, Canada.  He and I ventured into the Hawthorne district to grab a bite to eat.  He's a student up there in Liberal Arts who's down here for some concerts coming up.

Downtown Hawthorne

Afterwords, he headed downtown, while I explored more of Hawthorne in the (now) steady rain.  I forgot my umbrella at the hostel, so I ended up getting soaked, but it was cool to see the neighborhood.  It has a lot of funky little shops; kind of like a miniature Haight-Ashbury district.  I found a indy coffee shop to settle down and plan out tomorrow, and that's where you find me writing now.

So far, here's a few first impressions/things I've noticed:
  • Green!  Both in color and in sustainability.  Definitely my kinda place if that's where my career lies.  Everywhere I go I see the words "recycle", "green", and "organic".  My favorite so far is a light rail plastered with an ad of Peter from Family Guy saying, "Don't pollute, just get on and sit on your butt!".  Awesome.  Oh, and they also require no idling in places.  I didn't even know we had that in the US!
  • Bikes are everywhere, even when it rains!  Again, +1 for Portland.
  • Oh yea, rain, what a concept!  Okay, it's been an El Nino of a year in CA, so we're getting a lotta rain, but not as much as this city.  It feels a LOT like Seattle in terms of weather, although I hear it gets really hot now in the summer.
  • MAX rules and VTA drools.  The mass transit is SO much better (and cheaper) than BART or VTA.  I took it right from the airport (hello SJ, you listening?) to my hostel.
  • Smokers abound.  Well, maybe it's on par with D-town, but in CA I NEVER see anybody smoking, so maybe I just have a polarized view.  It doesn't really bother me, I guess it just caught me off guard.
  • Thai restaurants are in.  Man, I thought it was a coincidence at first, but I've seen multiple Thai restaurants in several cities, from east to west.  Hell, even the small Hillsboro downtown had 3 Thai restaurants.  I can safely say this is not Rob's type of town for food lol!
  • It's true, you can't pump your own gas!  I finally saw it with my own eyes folks.  I would've taken a picture for ya, but I felt like it might be awkward.
  • No sales tax woo!  No wonder people live across the border in WA (low property tax? or maybe to pump their own gas haha) and come here to buy stuff.
  • Lotsa cute girls (well, to me).  None of the fake, SoCal crap.  People that live in actual weather always appear more "real life" to me than those in the dreamland of California.  People in general are not as clean around the edges, which is what I'm more used to from the Midwest I guess.
Well, that about does it.  Based on my first day of travel here, I can safely say I'd be down for living up here someday.  Maybe that or Seattle.  Well okay, the gas thing is weird, but other than that everything I've written is a plus.  After checking out downtown and some more neighborhoods, maybe I'll have a better idea.

So what's on tap?  Tomorrow, I plan on hanging out in the downtown area, checking out the Rose Festival, as well as some shops and markets that are big here.  Sunday's my day to bike the gorge, it's hopefully going to be sunny.  Besides that, who knows, I want to check out one or a few of the many microbreweries here in Portland, which is the microbrew captial of the US.  Then I'm back in SJ Monday afternoon.

Alright guys, I'm off to din-din and then to chill at the hostel, peace!


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I wonder if the U.P. has WiFi...

(psst Facebook can always check these posts out on my blog at, they are easier to read!)

Whew, it's been quite a weekend! I've just gotten back from two days traveling up the North Coast. I must say, there's not a whole lot to do up there, but MAN was it nice to just relax! Sometimes you just need a few days without cell service or internet (more on that later). After today, I think I can safely say I've covered the North Coast (Mendocino, Ft. Bragg, Bodega Bay, what-have-you...) well enough haha, but I did end up finding plenty to do. Check out the route, it was a long one:

One thing I found amazing was how much the North Coast, especially Ft. Bragg, reminded me of parts of northern Michigan. Man, driving into Ft. Bragg felt like I was jumping off of I-75 in Mackinac City or coasting around the shores of Lake Superior. Well almost, I guess you'd have to take a way all the wineries and most of the elevation changes, but it looks pretty damn close I tell ya. "What about the ocean?" you may ask. Well, to me at least, I'd say the ocean looks very familiar growing up around HOMES:


Anyways where was I? Oh yes, parallels. Seeing lighthouses again made me feel at home. I even mentioned I was from Michigan to the guy at the lighthouse gift shop; he merely replied that we sure as hell needed them. "Yes, we do have our fair share of shipwrecks," I replied. Then we have the motel. The Colombi came highly recommended on Trip Advisor, and they were definitely right. The place was CRAZY clean; it's run by a local family along with the laundromat and market across the street. It's funny to read all the rules, including a paragraph on how to not lock yourself out (good advice if you're Nikki :-P). Any who, I checked in at the market (kinda quirky, but hey I'm "roughing" it I guess) and the guy is like "Ah room 'IA'...that's a tricky one." Tricky, why what ever do you mean good sir? "Well, people have a hard time finding's the little one between I and J." Never would've guessed that haha. Well check it out:

If you cannot guess, it's door #2 lol. I loved the place; it was cleaner than I could probably make it. Oh, and it came with (really weak) WiFi! Oh course, I couldn't get a signal, but I figured that was the universe telling me I'm on break. The shower was hilarious; I had to duck under the door frame to get in, which made me feel very tall :-) The place reminded me a lot like the good 'ole Anchor Inn, remember that place dad? It was our main pit-stop in Mackinac City for the Big Mac bikeride. Too bad it burned down...I wonder if they ever rebuilt it? That was an awesome bike 25-100 miles one day and cross the bridge the next. We only got to bike the 5 mile span once, and Carmine was there joking the whole way about falling off. Thanks man.

Whoops, another tangent. Mendocino (or "Mendo" since that's what everything was labeled) was very pretty, the houses make it like a little piece of the East in Cali. I gotta admit, it was a little artsy-fartsy for me, but hey, I was on a relaxing getaway, and well, staring at random stuff is pretty relaxing for someone who doesn't get it like me. I will say though, there are a TON of hitchhikers up there. Also, everything is marked "ORGANIC", which I think is awesome. I'm hoping if this is what it's like up north in Cali, Portland's going to be totally green :-).

Any who, after checking in up north in Ft. Bragg, I chilled out at the coast in Mendo, reading my book and taking lots of photos. Speaking photos, notice in my album I'm actually IN some of my pics now? People (even if it is just myself) definitely make the picture. I've been wanting to get one of those mini bendable tripods (or Gorillapods) for Europe, but they always seemed to big and expensive. Well, the shop in Mendo had an awesome little one that I immediately put to use, especially for all my self-timer ones. I am DEFINTELY taking that thing to Europe, it's flippin sweet! Here's a photo:

Okay, after chilling at the water, I saw a play in town, which was about the only thing left to do. It might surprise you, but there actually are places that close earlier than SLO, and the North Coast is one of em, by like a whole hour! Everything up and down the coast was closed by 5 p.m., no exceptions. The play was pretty good, I'm not going to get into the details, all I'll say is I would've liked a murder-mystery (man, I haven't seen one of those in forever), but a 2-person touching light comedy was not so bad. After getting out of the performance, I was enveloped in darkness; even with the (scarce) lights in town, I could barely find my car. I also noticed something that even by day reminded me so much of the U.P. or South Haven: silence. Mendocino was always so deathly quiet, even when going through town. I imagined the time our family drop up and down Michigan one summer, man that was a fun trip...

Moving on. The next day, I set out on a goal I made up on Saturday: reach the end of CA-1, which up there I guess is the Shoreline Highway, not the PCH, but I like PCH better :-P. I had seen a sign that said it was only 40 miles north, so I said what the hell, I'm done with Mendo and Ft. Bragg, so I ventured north in the morning. Man, if you want the windiest piece of road possible, do some of CA-1 north of Westport. It's not on the water, but I even made myself sick driving that route! At last, I reached the sign (note the smattering of fb pics) and decided to head back down for the day. I ALMOST fell for the driving-through-a-redwood-tree tourist trap, but sorry Leggett, I don't think it's worth 5 bucks.

The rest of the day consisted of me driving down CA-1 and taking a few pics. I feel so spoiled saying this, but after a while, they all start to look the same. After today, I can proudly say I've driven Highway 1 (or "The 1" for you SoCal types) all the way from its start down through SF and then from Santa Cruz to Santa Maria plus a bunch of starts and stops down south. I would've done the 75 mile stretch from SF to SC today, but I just didn't have it in me, and might as well save it for another trip. So, what's my verdict on the road so far? Well, here's a quick guide:

Leggett --> Westport: VERY windy and inland; take a barf bag if you're in the back seat

Westport --> Fort Bragg: Little bit of shore, little inland; deserted

Fort Bragg --> SF: big chunk of CA-1, lot of it is inland, so not very picturesque but at least you can go 60 mph :-P The other have though, GREAT pictures!

SF: Golden Gate and 19th street, an awesome bridge followed by a few miles of traffic...

SC --> Monterey: Farmland and inland, skip it unless you want some cool views of Monterey Bay driving in from the N.

Monterey --> SLO: THE BEST by far still...traffic can be a downer at times and it's windy, but hey, that's why you go right? Oh, caution to those carsick people too...

SLO --> Grover Beach: Cool little drive through all the little surfing towns with awesome views, especially at sunset.

Grover --> Santa Maria: Skip it PUH-lease...I only did it to say I went that far :-)

I'm sure I've done large pieces of the southern part, but it starts, stops and merges everywhere, so I'll save that for another time.

Doing this blog makes me think of Europe. I've told myself I'll blog every day I get while on my trip, putting up pics and such. It might get a little bit exhausting, I mean who has the time lol? I think I'm gonna go the journal + blog route, that way I can write stuff down one night and then summarize a few days online every once and a while. We'll see how it goes...

Alrighty, I've kept you distracted long enough, adios bloggerinos!


P.S. If you didn't already know what it is, have you figured out 'U.P.' yet?

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Farväl till Sverige

(Hint: Use a Swedish > English translator ;-)

Okay, so to everybody I left in the dark over the past few weeks, I'm sorry about that. A lot has come up, and it's just taken a while to sort through it. Now that I've gotten it all figured out (and posted on FB about it :-P), I figure I should give an explanation, so here it goes.

Back in the fall, I applied to the Electrical Engineering international master's program at The Royal Institute in Sweden (KTH for short) on the advice of a prof who works with Cal Poly's CPE department. Now, my rough 2-year plan currently was to work for two years, then go back to grad school in the fall of 2011, wherever that may be. Well, Dr. Smith persuaded me to apply, since A) tuition is free, at least for 2010-2011 (yay socialism!) B) you can always reapply if you reject and probably get in again and C) come on, it's Sweden, that's awesome! I did all the paper work and then mailed (yea, not too advanced) the forms to Sweden and waited for-EVER (like 6 months) for a response.

Well two weeks ago, I checked my iPod one morning before I went to the dentist. To my amazement (it wasn't May yet, which was when I was expecting a response), I had a note from the head of the admissions department for one of the two programs I applied to at KTH. It went as follows:

Dear Matthew,
You are one of the top candidates for our Masters programme System on Chip Design and I have just forwarded the result of 52 (the highest score) into the database.
I hope you will be able to attend the programme in the coming fall. The admission e-mail will be sent out in the beginning of May.

As I sat there eating my cereal and watching CNN, in my mind all I could think of was two words: "Holy shit!" TOP of the group? Man, I'd be an idiot NOT to go. Of course I gabbed all about it to the dentist (kinda hard with a tube stuck in your mouth) and she of course thought it was awesome. But then I stopped myself, and I thought, "Better take it easy Matt, gotta think this through logically..."

Around the same time, I got a great response to my Craigslist ad about a place for rent. I threw up an ad waaaay early (my lease isn't up til July) just to see what people were looking for. I've determined based on my results that 90% of people don't read the ad at ALL, which was very specific, but whatever, it was an experience. I was just about to pull it and redo the description so that I could post it later in June, when Tara sent me an email about a great house she had that was in need of a 5th roomie. After visiting on Friday, a day after my KTH letter, I was convinced that it was the place for me.

Yes I know, it's strange how it parallels my college housing situ, but that's just how it turns out. I'd be living with three girls (one of whom is Nickie, just like my old roomie Nikki, who is surely reading this right now) and one guy. I'd be in a huge master bedroom, which is good, since I've allotted a ton of stuff since moving into my own place. I wanted to move in with people because I found living on my own was just not as great as it used to be. I guess I've become quite a bit more social since my Freshman year at Poly ;-) Everyone seemed real down-to-earth, and none of them were engineers, which is how I like it. I don't want to about tech stuff 24-7, although I'm sure some people think I'm like that. It's also nice to have a larger group of people to live with, since you can guarantee someone usually will want to go out or just chill on the weekends, so you always have either option.


Well, armed with all this great news in two days, I had to make a decision. Luckily, I'm pretty good at that, although this one was going to be a little tougher. Tara wanted to know in about two weeks whether I was in, and unfortunately I still hadn't gotten my official letters from KTH. Even so, I was already leaning towards staying here in the Bay, but before I said anything aloud, I spent the whole weekend drawing up Pro/Con charts trying to figure it all out (yea I know, I'm a J, deal with it) And the result? Not doing Sweden.

The main things going for KTH were that it was free (for one year) and it's a chance for me to finally have that lifetime adventure that I feel everyone always needs to have. Then again, I'm going to Europe this fall anyways for a month-long adventure, plus I felt like getting lots of new roomies could be like a "mini adventure" right here. That and of course all the logistics, selling and moving my life there, saving up enough money to go, yada yada, although none of these were the real reason that swayed me.

See, ever since I've graduated, I haven't been sure what I've wanted to do for grad school. Being smart, I'm good at a lot of things within my major, so it's been hard picking one thing I like. However, I'm determined to find something I'm passionate about, something that I obsessive over in my field, and research that. Up until my trip to SLO, I still wasn't quite sure what that was. All my grad school essays were kind of vague and I never really knew of any professors at colleges who had "research interests" that matched mine.

Well, after talking to my buddy Ryan down in SLO (thanks again man), I got my idea: sustainability. Of course, I've been into the green movement ever since Braun introduced it to me in my ICs class junior year. But I've realized that since then, I've made "being green" a real integral part of my life, recycling all the time, turning off my AC in the car, biking to/from work whenever I can, reusing bags, etc etc... Seems like a passion right? That, and I could see myself studying green-related topics and actually having fun in class. Now, I've written stuff about this in my essays, but again it's mainly been a hodgepodge of buzzwords with no real direction. For Ryan, who's an EE going into power, he has the whole renewable energy field to work with. I want to get my master's in EE, but even so, I like my CPE background too much to go into power, so I'm hoping to find something sustainability-oriented dealing with computer hardware. (Hopefully chips since I really liked Braun's class too)

That's my new goal: research colleges and professors who are doing sustainable research and find one that interests me and apply. I feel much better now knowing I have a goal that I can strive for. I don't want to do college apps for a third time, but I'll deal with it.

Back to the question of Sweden, my decision mainly hung on what the research the program had available. I mean, this isn't just a semester abroad, this is my whole graduate career! I checked the ratings of the school and, sure, it's middle-of-the-road as far as engineering schools, but there are a lot more US schools (many I've gotten into before) that are way above. And if they weren't doing research in an area that I wanted to move my career towards, then I wasn't going to have any of that.

In the end, I couldn't find any good info on their site about sustainability research, so I assumed that it wasn't a major topic there. Eventually, I emailed the director of the program over at KTH and got a response quite a bit later (I was so sure of the answer, I went ahead and signed a lease with Tara and the gang) and sure enough, she just pointed me to some vague sites about other degrees they have. Too bad. It sounded pretty cool, but in the end I let it go.

In the meantime, like I said above, I signed up to live in the house, and I'm excited for July! I think it will be fun having roomies again. Then who knows, in a year, I may be going to school in the Bay or somewhere else in the US. We'll just have to wait and see how it goes. Oh yea, and it's the beginning of May and I still don't have any "official" admissions letters yet from Sweden. What's up guys?

That's my marathon two weeks. Feel free to tell me "You're crazy!" for not going to Sweden, but my mind is made up. Plan on having me around Cali for another year.

Alright, laters guys, I'll try and post a little more often...gotta bunch of other random news to share, but that's for another time.



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