Tomorrow is the anniversary of Rudyard Kipling’s birth (1865), the establishment of the USSR (1922) and the anniversary of the sinking of the Iron Clad Monitor (1862).

Automobiles have changed drastically over the years.  What was once cast iron pistons are now an alloy.  Oils & lubricants are much more effective these days.  The oil used to need to be changed every 3,000 miles, but not so anymore.  That you need to replace your oil every 3,000 miles is a very successful campaign by the oil change industry.  Depending on the make, year and model, oil changes are suggested every 3,000 up to 10,000 miles!  In it’s continued effort to reduce oil consumption, the state of California has created a web site where you put your make, model and year of your vehicle in and the site gives you the new recommended mileage for an oil change.  Visit Check Your Number.

I had guests two weeks ago that called as they were leaving Canada for Florida and Pittsburgh was a convenient location to spend the night.  So they booked and when they arrived Nicky’s kitchen was closing in about an hour, so I gave them a quick tour, registration and showed them their room.  While in the room, she said she looked forward to taking a bath.  They went to dinner and I saw them when they came back and they said they really enjoyed Nicky’s.  I got a phone call from them later saying there wasn’t any hot water for the tub.  This was odd, because in five years, I’ve never had that complaint on that room.  But it’s an old house and quirks happen.  So I recommended leaving the water run for a bit.  She called again and said there still wasn’t hot water.  She said we have two options, one is I discount their room 50% and they’ll take a shower at the YMCA the next morning or they could leave.  I thought if the bath was important to her, why not just go elsewhere and told her I would meet them downstairs and give them a full refund.  When I met them and gave them a full refund, they seemed OK.  (Not particularly happy, but not mad).  A couple of days later, she trashes me on Trip Advisor.  She said “The Inn keeper was very unwelcoming”-they got the same tour any of you that have visited got.  She said there was no hot water, I’ve never had that complain for that room in the past and when I checked it the next morning, there was plenty of steaming water.  I her review, she failed to mention she gave me two options, in her complain she said “he told us to leave”.  A blatant lie.  What did I do to make her so angry?  And having done this forever, I’m pretty good about knowing when people are upset.  I bugged me and bugged me how I missed this.  What I decided was she pulls this on Innkeepers all the time and get’s half off.  Most Innkeepers are overly nice and she preys on this.  She stewed over this the entire drive to Florida and that’s why the nasty review.  It reminds me of the two sisters I had two years ago.  They also complained about the hot water, but this time in Lady Palm (Lady Palm is on the third floor and if you are the first one up in the morning, it does take awhile to reach there).  I don’t remember what the other complaint they had, but when we were discussing how long it takes the hot water to reach the third floor, the one sister said “When we stay at a Marriott, they always give us a free night when we complain”.

The famous “They” are always putting cookies in our computers to track our movement.  By far, most are benign.  Some cookies remember you so when you are a repeat customer to an on-line retailer, they remember you and you don’t have to fill in all the forms again.  That’s how those forms get pre-filled and you have the option of just clicking Enter, instead of retyping all that info.  Some cookies are design to follow where you go on the Internet for marketing purposes.  If someone had the decency to ask ahead of time, I probably would let let them.  I really don’t have anything to hide.  But being nefarious, it bugs me. The Network Advertising Initiative has an Opt-Out option on their web site.  Visit their web site and click on the “Consumer Opt Out” button and it will evaluate your computer.  It will identify which organizations have cookies on your computer and gives you the option to disable them.  The cookies this identifies are not ones you normally use receiving e-mails and visiting on-line sites you frequent.  These are cookies implanted by third party programs and other sneaky tricks.  This Opt Out through NAI is a voluntary program, there’s no law or requirement to honor this.  There’s a way to keep these third party cookies from being re-implanted in your computer.  If you use Internet Explorer 9, click on the Tools Icon, on the bottom, click on the Internet Options button, next click on the Privacy tab on the top and then click on the Advanced button (not the tab on the top, but in the middle of the box between Import and Default).  Check the Override Automatic Cookie Handling Box and then click on the Block for Third Party Cookies.  This should keep those sneaky Petes out of your computer, at least for awhile.e

There’s a great service opportunity for any of you that would love to help disadvantaged children but can’t commit to either adopting or fostering.  CASA (Child Advocates Society of America, I think the acronym stands for) is a national organization and need volunteer right here in Allegheny County.  They also have chapters in Beaver, Washington and West Moreland Counties.  The objective is to pair a sane adult with challenged kids (up to age 21) that are in the court system some way.  Pittsburgh CASA is hosting open houses and training for anyone interested helping these kids that don’t have a stable home or anyone there to represent them in the court system.  This isn’t so much about being there when a truant goes to court for shop lifting or worse.  It’s more about getting to know the child and being involved in parent-teacher meetings (their actual parents usually don’t attend), a contact person for schools and others for praise and concerns about the student’s performance.  Did you know that children in foster homes are 2.7 – 4.5 times higher percentage of being on psychotropic drugs than those not in foster?  Sometimes a child is placed on a “maintenance” drug for certain behavior that really isn’t needed, and then something else happens and another doctor recommends another drug.  Much of these behavior problems can be traced back to the home environment and do not need drugs to remedy them.  As the child’s advocate, you are also in a position (to be taken seriously) to request a re-evaluation of the medications the child receives.  This is kind of like Big Brothers and Bid Sisters, but with this you’re not just a buddy (not disrespecting the wonderful job those dedicated people do).

In addition to Brother’s Brother, the other non profit I am a huge fan of is the Central Asia Institute.  Founded by Greg Mortenson, it’s goal is to educate children in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.  Although they do take on “side jobs” like building a bridge so an area is accessible to the school and creating systems to bring fresh drinking water to these impoverished villages.  Greg does this work on a shoestring and Sixty Minutes trashed him last year.  They claimed many of the schools CAI claimed to have built did not exist, that Greg used CAI money for his benefit and he used the CAI events to promote his books, which he profits from.  As I said in a past blog after viewing the Sixty Minute segment, even if the worst of what they were portraying were true, the work Greg is accomplishing makes it worth it.  There was a part of the segment were they attempted to interview Greg and he declined and they made a big deal about him leaving the fund raiser by the back door.  Well, they are the professionals.  Their job is exposing scum like Bernie Madoff, what’s his first name Schilling from Enron and other despicable people that are only lining their own pockets.  Greg was way out of his element when they pursued him.  Obviously I have supported CAI in the past and continue to do so.  As a sponsor I get a yearly calendar and a quarterly magazine championing their accomplishments.  Finally, CAI is defending themselves in the latest magazine I received.  They have a whole slew of pictures with names and addresses of some of the many schools they’ve built or continue to aid.  In addition to highlighting pictures and names of schools in their latest magazine, CAI took Sixty Minutes directly on pointing out that a cameraman claiming to be doing an audit was actually paid by Sixty Minutes to clandestinely film a school’s principal.  Come on Marley Safer, use those tactics on MF Global.


Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the premier of Verdi’s opera Aida (1871), frontiersman “Kit” Carson’s birth anniversary (1868), Libya’s independence from Italy (1951), Howard Hugh’s birth anniversary (1905) and diabolically enough, on Christmas Eve, the first surface to surface guided missile was fired by the Germans in 1942.

There are a lot a bad cops out there.  Hugely, there’s a lot more of very good and dedicated police officers.  They go through extensive training and have their lives on the line all the time.  I have always thought it peculiar that the uniforms of theTSA agents at airports mimic police uniforms and badges mimicking police badges.  I’m not saying TSA agents are not trained and do not have an important job.  What I’m saying is they are not police officers, so quit the masquerade.  They are  always working in an air conditioned (heat and cool) location, not out on some icy road, they are trained to detect suspicious behavior, not if the perp has a gun hidden under the seat.  Instead of dressing them like our police officers and if they want an official law enforcement type uniform, why not dress them as Bobby’s in London?  🙂

The Fayette County Food Bank, that was flooded the day before Thanksgiving has reopened.  They lost 30 tons ($35,000) when the Redstone Creek flooded their first floor.  Thanx to their workers dedicating 10 hour days to get the area cleaned up and sanitized, they are reopened and ready for business.  They serve 49 food pantries, 3,000 households and 936 senior citizens.  Because they are in recovery mode, their shipments only contained ten items, instead of the 24 they normal include per household.  It’s amazing what help these small organizations can accomplish on such a limited budget and limited staff.

Which reminds me of the Guatemalan community that was in my little town where my first Bed and Breakfast was.  They lived in Lake Worth, but the fields where the jobs were was west out past Wellington.  The public transportation system stayed coasted, most people out around Wellington didn’t need public transportation (just a hint, Wellington has the highest concentration of Polo in the country).  So what did the Guatemalans do, complain the public transportation didn’t service the farms?  No, they bought a bunch of old school buses and started their own bus lines.  🙂

All six Steeler Super Bowl trophies are on display next week at the Carnegie Science Center.  Viewing the trophies is included in the Science Center’s price of admission of $17.95.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.237.3400.

Currently at the Steel Plaza T Station (under the One Mellon Center) has a display by Ann Coddington Rast, and Illinois artist that used 20,000 year old basket weaving techniques using twine, linen and hair.  Ann combined various techniques and materials to create different pieces of art.  Some look familiar, but when you look closely, you realize it’s not what you first thought it was.  Kind of interesting, and free.  🙂  This was put together by the Society for Contemporary Crafts.  It will remain on display through February 12.  More info at Ann’s or Contemporary Craft’s web sites or by calling 412.261.7003.

The Christian Assembly of Beaver Fall’s 18th annual Christmas Day Meal for the City is moving location from The Berkshire Banquat Hall to the Big Beaver Falls Area High School Cafeteria so they can serve more people.  They expect to feed more than 1,200 people this year.  No only does this move give them more space, it also is better handicapped accessible and all on one floor.  They will be serving from 11:30 until 3 p.m. this Sunday, if you have some spare time before you sit down with your family for dinner.  The high school is at 1701 Eighth Avenue, Beaver Falls.  More info at the church 724.846.3751.  It’s a little late for this year, but they are always looking for donations of new clothing, toys, cosmetics and toiletries for gifts for the less fortunate.  Monetary donations for next year can be mailed to the church at Eighth Avenue and Ninth Street, Beaver Falls, PA 15010.

You guys all have a great Christmas. friends, family and strangers,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the patenting of the Cathode-Ray Tube (1938), President Cr4linton’s impeachment (1998), It’s a Wonderful Life premier (1946), Macau reverted back to Chinese control (1999), the Montgomery Bus Boycott ends (1956) and the death anniversary of Sacagawea (1812), she the interpreter that followed Lewis and Clark expedition, many accredit the success of the expeidition to her assistance.

The nicest holiday trend seems to be happening, and it’s with a big box store.  K-mart has seen a rash of anonymous people paying off lay-aways for the lower income.  They are targeting lay-aways that have toys and children’s clothing.  These people pay off all but a few dollars or cents so the items remain on lay-away until the family is ready to finally pay the balance off.  What a great surprise during this holiday season.  This is happening all over the country and there seems to be no organized campaign to target K-mart in particular, but they seem to be the major recipient.  A young father in Omaha, Nebraska was standing in line to pay off his lay-away when a woman approached and paid his balance.  She then passed out fifty dollar bills to people standing in line.  When asked why, she said “Just remember Ben”, an apparent reference to her recently deceased husband.  But this is happening all over.

There is an art exhibit at the Concept Art Gallery, 1031 S Braddock Avenue in Regent Square through January 15.  Free admission and hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. until 5, Thursdays open until 8.  Sunday hours are noon until 4.  Felix de la Concha, born and educated in Spain was residing in New Hampshire when Fallingwater’s Director, Lynda Waggoner approached him about doing a project for Fallingwater’s 75 anniversary.  Many artist can paint from photographs, which makes their job much easier that waiting there for the right light at the right time of day to work.  The show covers both floors of the gallery.  When you enter, it’s like entering Fallingwater over the foot bridge crossing Bear Run.  There’s seven huge panels giving that initial view of the Kaufmann house as if you are actually at the Laural Highlands landmark.  Upstairs, there’s a 34 foot interior view of the Great Room in eight panels.  In  additon to de la Concha’s artwork, there’s also a collection of photographs of his endeavors over the year creating this presentation.  More info at the gallery’s web site, de la Concha’s link or by calling 412.242.9200.

For those of you familiar with the Northside, the James Street Pub was an icon for jazz and good food for years.  They closed, Legends of the Northshore did a short stint with the location.  (Legend’s is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, this just was not a good fit for them).  It then became Sassy Marie’s, who did a real nice job with food and service, but they had some issues with actually running a restaurant.  The next carnation was Serendipity.  That was a short lived experiment, thankfully.  It’s newest version is the James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy, which opened last week.  On my way out to do some errands I stopped for lunch and had a pleasant meal.  The bartender was very accommodating and attentive.    The menu was creative and the food was good.  I met the new owners that were quite personal and seemed knowledgeable.  I hear they had the independent restaurant MTR and even brought the chef.  I wish them the best of luck.  Their hours of operation aren’t on their menu yet, nor on their web site.  Their menu is on the web site.  More info at 412.904.3335.

ELoop is making recycling akward items easier.  They’ve teamed up with eight Guardian Storage facilities, Construction Junction and four others making recycling more convenient.  They are taking electronics, batteries, old holiday lights even.  More info at their web site or by calling 877.801.6057.

The Morgan Gallery has a show through the end of January where the artists use multiple mediums.  Mark Abildgaard of Woodland, CA creates “crystal vessels” using a “lost-wax casting technique” that makes these vessels that appear to have come directly from nature.  Alex Fekete, a native of Czechoslovakia, uses a technique of blown glass and then delicately sand blasting it’s cold surface for the final effect.  Richard Parrish, from Bozeman, Mont (the home of Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, one of my favorite charities) creates carved, layered panels of kiln-formed glass that resemble topographic maps.  The Amy Morgan’s gallery is at 5833 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadeyside.  More info at her web site or by calling 412.441.5200.

Apps are growing exponentially.  Half of the adult population smart phone users have apps on their devices that do various things.  But shopping apps are new and many adults aren’t using them.  This is the rear occurance where businesses are busting way ahead of the consumer in this, particularly the big retailers.  Here is some examples:  Amazon Price Check will scan the bar code on a product and then look in it’s data base to see if the same item is available in there system for less (a little self serving)  🙂  They also have a wish list friends and family can view, pretty blatant “Buy me this.” 🙂  Amazon has started giving discounts of up to five dollars if you go into a store, scan an item and then buy it from Amazon.  Critics complain Amazon are using brick and mortar stores for their showroom.  RedLaser is eBay’s take on that as are Google  Shopper.  Key Ring is an app that scans and stores all your store loyalty programs, if you are one of those that use them  That way you don’t have carry all those plastic cards to get your rewards.  Mall giant Simon Property Group has an app that if you let it track you through GPS, it will automatically alert you to the closest Simon’s mall and what sales are going on in that mall.  It used to cost up to $100,000 to develop an app when all this first started.  Scott Hirsch, founder of appsbar of Deerfield Beach, FL has created a free app building software and has 50,000 users.  You are going to see more and more large and small use of apps in the immediate and long term future.  Watch out for The Parador Inn app, to be debuing in 2012.  🙂

That’s it for now,


Lots of important anniversaries tomorrow:  The Bill of Rights became effective in 1791, Alexandre Eiffel’s birth anniversary (1832-the designer of the $1M 1,000 foot high iconic structure built in 1889), Uzi Gal’s birth anniversary (1923-the gunsmith inventor of the 9 millimeter sub machine gun), Gone With the Wind’s film premiere (1939), military dictatorship ended in Chile (1989) and Sitting Bull died (1890-after the Little Big Horn when most of his tribe was forced onto Reservations, he fled to Canada and continued his hostility towards the US Army.

Here’s my latest tree for the AGH party this weekend in the Ballroom.  If you look closely, the “ornaments” are all small coconut’s I spray painted and then painted candy canes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus and other holiday images on them.  (I’ve never claimed to be an artist, but they are cute, I think).  🙂  Where coconuts attach to a palm tree, there’s a collar around it’s neck.  When the coconut dries, these “collars” can be pulled off and that’s the colorful small circles on the tree topper.

Speaking of the upcoming holidays, I’ve finished my shopping and bought nothing at a big box.  🙂  But I did go into K-mart for some gift boxes.  OMG.  First of all, the cashier wanted to know if I had a K-mart rewards card, I said no.  She said would I like to open one, I would get 10% off this package of boxes.  I said no.  She then inquired if they had my e-mail address, they send coupons out to e-mail addresses.  I said they didn’t have my e-mail, nor would they get it.  The register next to me had a “paper jam” and the cashier asked the customer for her e-mail address so she could e-mail her receipt.  Now, I’m one of those annoying people that rip the “You could win $5M by filling out the bottom of this receipt and providing us with your e-mail address” off and leave them on the counters.  So in addition to that on the original receipt, there was also a coupon on the original receipt.  Then there was two more receipts printed with coupons on.  Am I going to turn into one of those recluse’s hiding in a cave?  🙂

Kathleen George, originally from Johnstown has used Pittsburgh as the backup for her crime novels quoting local eateries in her stories.  Author of “After Image”, “Taken”, “Fallen”, “Hideout” and “The Odds” now lives in Pittsburgh with her husband Hilary Masters and she teaches Theater at Pitt.  You can see a list of restaurants she favors on her web site Kathy George Books.  Maybe even buy a book by a neighbor.  🙂

Past guest and good friend Patrick, senior real estate developer for the Mon Valley Initiative is doing some amazing things down in “the Valley”.  Every time I turn around, there’s another project completed and successful.  He’s like John Fetterman, the Harvard graduate from York, PA that’s such a dynamo as Mayor of Braddock.  MVI just completed the Madpnna Del Castello rehab.  They turned the blighted church into into four condos that’s affordable housing over in Swissvale.  Two of the units has already been sold, they’re priced around $90,000 each.  The down side is Swissvale is on the east side of the Squirrel Hill tunnels, the Parkway East is such a nightmare.  If they ever finish the Mon Valley Expressway (Interstate 43) that currently ends in Jefferson Hills) it will be HUGE for the Mon Valley.  The plan calls for the expressway to come in to the City from West Virginia via Hazelwood with a loop that connects the Parkway East before and after the Squirrel Hill tunnels.  THAT WOULD BE FABULOUS.

There’s another of those traveling art shows down in the Cultural Disctrict that looks pretty interesting.  Tugboat Printshop out of Lawrenceville is at the Future Tenant Gallery at 819 Penn Avenue.  Paul Roden and Valerie Lueth come up with an image and carve it in a block of wood.  Then they print these images, from socio-political, to quirky, to hysterical.  They are showing finished prints as well as the process to do this through January 31.  Normal hours are Wednesday through Sunday Noon until 4 p.m.  (Are they followers of my blog?  I was just whining about all these art shows droping an hour on Sundays making me make an additonal entry to reflect this.  Does the hour really make that much of a difference?  🙂 ).  For info at 412.325.7037 or either of their web sites.

There’s a dispute brewing over The Commons Park.  The Commons was the first public park in the area and was the center piece for the former Allegheny City.  It was originally set (1784) up as a common grazing site for residents (well, it wasn’t for the residents, it was for their live stock).  🙂  In the 1860’s, Allegheny City decided to make The Commons into a formal landscaped park.  In 1901, Pennsylvania Railroad buried their line in a deep cut through the park.  The bridge over the railroad at Ridge Avenue is structurally defficient and needs rebuilt.  There’s a 19 foot clearance from the  track to the lowest portion of the bridge, which is fine for regular trains.  But not for the double stacked trains that are so common.  Currently, the trains that are double stacked have to go along the tracks along the Monongahela River which has the 22 foot clearance needed for them.  Under current federal guidelines, all tracks must meet the 22 foot clearance when any modifications take place, like a new bridge.  Raising this bridge to meet this standard and meeting grading standards for Western Avenue through the park means starting at the bridge toward my Inn (and in the other direction) those majestic London Plane trees and Ginkoes will end up being four feet below grade.  One of the suggestions the engineer/planner made to save these trees that I heard was to put wells around the trees.  Even if that happens, the trees would never live having their roots buried four feet.  The grade from the railroad into the park will need to be 85 feet (a football field is 100 feet-for reference) on both sides of the bridge.  Also, there are a number of bridges along this track that won’t need rebuilt for thirty to fifty years and more.  There are two other options besides destroying a large section of this historic park.  One is to lower the tracks the four feet and the other is to build a temporary bridge that will last thirty to fifty years and at that point address the entire line as one issue.  And not a dime is coming out of any railroad coffers.  This drives me crazy that I have to pay (in both added building the bridge expense and aestitics) so the profitable railroads can make even more money.

One more rant, then I’ll quit.  The city formally declared the Lower Hill District as blighted on Tuesday, clearing the way for me to pay for infrastructures to aid in the rebuilding of the land.  They need us tax payers to pay for new streets, untilities, etc so they can get a developer in to develop  how many of blank acres right next to Downtown?  Please, the Penguins got a free arena (actually, not free.  They paid for 1/3, the casino paid for 1/3 and we paid for 1/3-can I get 2/3 off my next hockey game ticket?).  This is not some brown field on the out skirts of the city, this is center city and they certainly do not need subsidized.

OK, that’s it for now.  What a less than pretty day.  So dreary, but at least it’s almost 50 degrees.  I think the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a bitter cold December, tons of snow in January and then bitter cold in February.  Glad to see the first part isn’t panning out,



Tomorrow’s the birth anniversary of Phillips Brooks (1835),  clergyman and composer of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, the end of the North and South Korean War (1991), Sweden’s Santa Lucia Day (festival of lights) and Archie Moore’s birth anniversary (1913-a colorful boxer who lied about his age to fight, held the light-weight title for nine years, married five times, had an unusual diet and was quite outspoken on many items.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant is up for a license renewal.  Sold to Exelon, First Energy, in 2009 it has received two short term license renewals (one year each) and is now looking for a long term renewal (until 2049).  Exelon does not want to do an environmental impact study.  The last comprehensive study was done around 1970 when they were first getting ready to operate.  Exelon says things have not changed that much to warrent a new comprehensive study.  For one thing, they want it licensed for years longer than it was designed to last.  I would say on those grounds alone, an impact study is needed.  For another thing, this is a year after the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  There are  concerns about the possibility of a loss of power to the plant and whether there is enough back up on site to keep the nuclear rods cool.    Nuclear energy is a very dangerous power source, we can’t take short cuts here.  Nuclear waste is going to last longer than humankind has been on earth.  This is not the same as me doing poor schedule management and serving my breakfasts late.

Did you see where Alex Baldwin was thrown off a plane because while at a gate he was playing a game on his cell phone and was kind of loud and refused to calm down.  His one version seems to differ than the six submitted by the flight crew, including the pilot that was called to help get Baldwin out of the rest room he refused to vacate.  Because he refused to be civil and was asked to leave the plane, he’s boycotting the airline and sending Tweets asking others to do the same.  This is the mature adult that wants to be the mayor of New York.  I can see him hosting heads of state at our possibly most important city.  🙂  Considering how most of our politicians are behaving, he should fit right in.

Finished decorating the Inn last week, but both trees were crooked.  That’s why I didn’t include them in the last post, here’s the more conventional one in the Parlor:

And here’s my Caribbean tree.  It’s all hand painted fish, sea shell ornaments and the garland is actual fish net I cut into strips and spray pained red.

I’m working on the third tree in the Ballroom for a holiday party this weekend.  Any of you that have been here over the holidays may have noticed those odd oval things hanging in my front windows.  They are all coconuts that I’ve spray painted and then painted holiday symbols on them like snowmen, Christmas tree, candy canes, etc.

I didn’t say they were good, but they’re cute.  So I’m finishing up doing about two dozen small coconuts for the Ballroom tree.  I’ll post a picture of this tree (and hopefully it will be clearer than the two above) on my next blog.  Things to look forward to, anticipation.  🙂

Speaking of decorating, “Anything that’s not a solid, natural material has chemicals and toxins in it”.  Making our homes more energy efficient is a good thing, but it’s trapping VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).  These come into our homes everday with cleaning products, dry cleaning, new carpeting, etc.  The heaviest amount of of VOC’s usually disperse after about two weeks after introduction, but they still build up.  I am your white knight coming to your rescue.  PLANTS!  Live plants suck those nasty VOC’s out of our household air and expell oxygen.  Sounds like a win win for human kind.  And the best part, the most effective plants at cleaning our air are low maitenance and don’t need a “lot of sun”, a “lot of shade”, a “lot of extra care”, etc.  I have about half of them in my sun room (did I mention they are easy to care for?  🙂 ).  Here’s the list:  Mother-in-law’s tongue (I have two varieties), Peace Lily (there’s three in the Library), Asparagus Fern (I have it’s cousin Foxtail Fern in the Parlor), English Ivy, Philodenron (slow growing in the front dining room window), Aloe vera, African Violet, Dumb Cane, Rubber Plant (they died outside), and Bamboo Palm.  Go for it, get a couple of small of these plants, spread them around and see how it helps your well being.  If you notice they don’t seem happy, try moving them to new locations (if the plants don’t look happy, they don’t necessarily need more sun or less sun, just try a new location.  Air flow may help them adjust to your home better).  Trust me, you can get into being a detective.  And when you find the right combination/location you will LOVE your success!  Remember, the biggest mistake most people make with plant is over watering.  It’s better to under wate than over water.  Also, Jack or Peterson’s are two of the best water soluable plant foods.

Have a great day tomorrow (and forever 🙂 ),





Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor (1941), the 6.9 earthquate in Armenian in 1988 killing 60,000 and Marie Tussaud birth anniversary (1761).

Did you hear that the latest Twilight installment is being blamed for causing people with a certain form of epilepsy to go into seizures?  Supposedly this trigering the seizures at certain scenes with flashing lights as it bounces from one scene to another.  There has been something like nine documented persons going into a seizure in the theaters.  Too weird.

Tis the season of lights and we have the usual drive through exhibits.  Hartwood Acres is probably the best know.  The three and a half mile display has two million lights in more than 100 displays.  The proceeds help Project Bundle Up and other local charities.  It is open weekends (Fridays and Saturdays from six until 11 and Sundays until 10).  The suggested donation per car is $12.  Next weekend there is also a candle lit tour of the Mansion for $6.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.767.9200.  Oglebay, down by Wheeling, has one of the oldest light shows and has been recognized by AOLTravel and hotelscombined.com.  This million light display is six miles long through the park and runs from dusk until ten Sundays to Thursdays and until eleven on Fridays and Saturdays.    Suggested donation is $15 per car and both run through January 8.  More info at 800.624.6988 or by visiting their web site.

Overly’s at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds has a bit different approach to festive outings.  They have a quart mile drive through and then a train display, old-fashioned Christmas village, gift shop, live animal Nativity display, play area and concession stand.  More info at 724.423.1400 or their web site.  New this year, Kennywood is opening up from five until ten Fridays through Sundays until December 18.  They also will be having a light display, holiday themed rides, choir groups and visits with Santa.  More info at 412.461.0500 or at their web site.

Point Park University is teaming up with Rivers of Steel in Homestead in creating an exhibit that looks at the steel industry in Pittsburgh.  (I’ve spoken of Rivers of Steel in the past.  They are the group who’s mission is to keep the memory of the steel industry alive and available.  They are behind the push to develop the Carrie Furnace parcel down the Mon Valley into a lasting tribute).  They have quite the selection on loan from various locations.  One is Edwin Rowe’s lithograph Great Battle of Homestead chronicling the striker and the Pinkerton guards Carnegie bought to break the strike.  There’s paintings by Aaron Gorson, a Lithuanian immigrant that’s know for his nocturnal paintings depicting steel mill’s smoke, ash and fire.  There’s a very detailed E Stonquiet painting that in an odd way makes you think of Escher looking at the interior of a mill and seeing skyscrapers looming over it.  I think the show stopper is Frank Vittor’s “Study for Point Park Fountain”.  It was his entry in the competition to pick for the piece that was to end up at The Point.  His three foot plaster model was to be a hundred foot statue of the allegorical steelworker Joe Magarac with water spewing from two crucibles (one on either side of him)  pouring into a third crucible.  To give you perspective, I think when the fountain is working, that center spray shoots one hundred feet up.  This show runs through December 30 and is open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 until 6 Fridays and Saturdays.  It’s in the University’s Lawrence Hall at the corner of Wood Street and the Boulevard of the Allies.  More info at 412.392.8008.

Here’s some festive holiday pictures of The Parador Inn all dressed up 🙂


WWell, I’m having trouble uploading pictures this evening, so this is it for today.  Have a great Wednesday,



The Abbott & Costello show premiered tomorrow in 1952, the AFL-CIO founded in 1956, Salzburg Austria’s Krampuslauf (see next paragraph), Walk Disney’s birth anniversary (1901), Haiti discovery day by Christopher Columbus (1492) and rodeo star Bill Pickett’s birth anniversary (1870).

The nationality rooms at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland are featuring their ethnic holiday decorations and trees starting today.  If you’ve never seen them, they are well worth going over during the holidays to see.  If you’ve already seen them, you know it’s worth coming back for seconds.  🙂  I recommend taking one of their hosted tours, it cost like $3 and you learn so many interesting traditions.  Like the Austrian evil Cert (locally known as Krampuslauf), a black devil that carries switches to whack nasty children and his image really does terrorize little kids in Austria.  China doesn’t have anything like Christmas, Hanukkah or Quanza, but they are huge about their New Year.  So instead of having a “Christmas tree”, they have New Year’s trees.  As do the Russians.  The Russian Orthodox church doesn’t believe in images of Mary or the baby Jesus, they also believe in fasting from Christmas day until New Year’s day.  So they also are bigger on New Year’s trees (also, under the soviet rule, religious images, like trees were banned from 1917 – 1992).  But they do have some unique traditions like serving their holiday meal on a white table cloth with straw on it to signify the manger.  And of course there’s the love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and how German born Albert was homesick and so Victoria brought the tradtion to England and the English love for Victoria get them all fans of the Christmas tree.

Tomorrow, the Carnegie Science Center will be presenting “Remember the Buhl, A Science Center History Tour from 9 a.m.  until 11 a.m.  This exhibit will tell the story of the original science exhibits including the Tesla Coil and the Model II Zeizz Star Projector (that’s that apparatus from the old Buhl that kind of looks like a giant ant, for you who remember the old Buhl where the Children’s Museum currently is.

The Wendell August Forge just announced they were making two tree ornaments made from the stainless steel roof of the Igloo.  They’ve already sold out!  Who says the Igloo is not a favorite in this city.  Oh, right our “city fathers” claim they know the pulse of the city.

The city school district had a meeting and announced that they have either spent or committed 1/3 of the Bill and Melinda Gate’s donation to improve our school district on consultants, most of them not even from Pennsylvania.  So they spent almost $15M on consultants!

Walt Disney kind of white washed children’s books.  The original stories were much more gruesome that what was depicted in say Cinderella (the original story had the mean step sisters cutting their toes off to fit in the slipper).  Personally, I like Walt’s version, but artist Mary Mazziotti has created contemporary “memento mori” which is an embroidered outfit or cloth filled with symbols of mortality.  She has combined various mediums for her exhibit with the artwork depicting what one may find in an “off center” children’s book.  It runs through December 17 from 11 until 6 Tuesdays through Fridays and 11 until 5 on Saturdays at the Borelli-Edwards Galleries, 3583 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.6872606.  Why do all these shows change their viewing hours by just one hour for Saturdays.  Does it really make that much of a difference?

My favorite charity, Brother’s Brother, came tied for first place as the most efficient among the 200 largest charities in the country.  It was given 100% rating in fundraising efficiency, charitable commitment and donor dependency.  Since it was founded in 1958, it has given more than $4B worth of medical supplies, textbooks, seeds and other aid to people in more than 140 countries.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.321.3325.  They are some amazing people.

Have a great week,



Today is the 176th anniversary of the  birth of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain).  Tomorrow is the anniversary of James Naismith creating the game basketball, in Springfield, MA (1891).  In the local YMCA he took two peach baskets and nailed them to either side of the gym and took a soccer ball for the boys to have indoor exercise in the winter.  It is also the anniversary of Rosa Parks being arrested for refusing to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, AL (1955).

While we are dealing with factoids, I know many of you were wondering if there really was a Colonel Sanders, yes, Harland Sanders existed.  As did Little Debbie, Chef Boyardee (correct spelling was Boiardi), Duncan Hines, Howard Johnson, Marie Callender, Sara Lee, Mrs Paul and Fannie Farmer.  There was no Aunt Jemima, or Uncle Ben.  And Wendy Thomas is the real adopted daughter of Dave Thomas.

The Fayette County Food Bank lost the entire ground level of food due to the Redstone Creek overflowing it’s banks and putting two and a half feet of water in their warehouse last Tuesday.  They lost an estimated $30,000 in food.  Luckily, the flood hit after they made their Thanksgiving distributions.  Hopefully, they can get it cleaned up in time and restocked in time for the Christmas holidays.  Items they are looking for are cereal, peanut butter, canned juice and canned goods.  They prefer cash donations because they have great bulk buying power.  More info at their web site.

Finally they are putting Route 19 lights through West Liberty Avenue and Washington Blvd in sync out to Upper St Clair.  Having grown up in the South Hills, that was one of my major routes and I continue to use it fairly often.  It can be quite frustrating traveling that way.  Sometimes you seem to get all the lights green, other times all red (I know, is my glass half full or half empty).  🙂  They seem to have the major work already done and are fine tuning it over the next several weeks with the holiday traffic.  Once the holidays are over, they will do one final fine tuning and call it a day.  It’s not a speeding thing for me, I would rather go twenty-five miles an hour the entire length and get all green lights than forty-five miles and hour and have to start and stop constantly.  They’ve divided the road into three groups, I think West Liberty is one, Mt Lebanon an other and Bethel Park/Upper St Clair the third.

My niece Katie married her fiancee earlier this month in a very private ceremony in Philadelphia and they went to Jamaica for a week for their honeymoon.  They had a celebration this past Saturday for friends and family which I attended.  It was a very nice event and good to see that side of the family, many I haven’t seen in awhile.  Ryan’s family I had met a couple of years ago at a cook out at Katie & Ryan’s house and it was nice seeing them again as well.  My intent was not to drag you into family business, but I stayed at the Thomas Bond House Bed and Breakfast in Philly’s Old Towne.  I haven’t been down around the historic area since the Liberty Bell was still in Independence Hall.  What a change down there.  Actually, Penn’s Landing wasn’t even open back when I was down there last.  It was interesting to see the diverse tourists viewing our history.  And I was surprised at how easy it was to zip around Philly using I95 and I676.  I was zipping all the way out to Abbington in like twenty-five minutes.

The Inn was interesting.  Affordable, I found a room for $130, it was small, but for $130 you couldn’t beat the price for a Center City guest room.  Now they don’t have a parking lot, but right next store to them, there’s the Ritz Parking Garage.  The most they charge is $18 per day, so that made my room $148, not bad.  The key is to not move your car but once a day.  The Innkeepers were very nice and their manager was exceptional.  They offered one of the nicest full hot American breakfasts of any of the Inn’s I’ve stayed at recently.  But I think they only offer a continental on week days.  There were some minor issues like I couldn’t get my lap top connected to the Internet, even with an Ethernet.  But they won’t stop me from staying there in the future, the location is convenient. I kept tabs on my e-mails with my iPhone.  I’m becoming quite the electronically proficient person these days.  🙂

While there I saw J Edgar with a friend.  I know a lot of it was factual, I’m curious how much and what they made up for dramatization.  What I didn’t like was how the film kept going forward and then back in his life.  It wasn’t just bouncing between when he started the FBI and his final days there.  They would jump into middle ground as well.  I found that rather annoying.

So Southwest is pulling their non stop flights to Philadelphia from Pittsburgh leaving just US Air with non stop flights.  They are predicting that flights are going to jump from an average of $340 round trip to over $600.  So there’s now talk of US Air merging with American Airlines since they are in bankrupsy.  I guess we’ll end with just one airline that charges whatever they want.

OK, I’m going to whine a bit, but I promise I only have two items today.  #1 is a common thread with me, the Stadium Authority and sports teams.  We seem to have won the battle over the Northside give away to the Steelers.  The new one is the give away to the Penguins.  I love the Penguins, Mario, Sid, etc.  But cut me a break.  They want to declare the lower hill as a distressed area qualifying for tax deferred and other incentives.  (In case you miss my point here, these “incentives” are things WE pay for right away or later on).  OMG, two blocks to a major downtown center and they need “incentives” to get investors?  Something’s wrong with this picture.  We built you a damn stadium, isn’t that enough?  (Sorry for the expletive.)

#2 is the Post Office.  They’ve been practicing the Steve Bland form of money management possibly longer than he has.  (In case you’ve missed, Steve Bland of the Port Authority just says “Give me more money or I’ll cut services and raise fares.”  Ever think about running your organization efficiency?  How about retiring 3/4 of those big empty buses and replacing them with smaller vans during off peak times?).  The post office moved the sorting function from their Grant Street location in 1983!  And have been paying rent on that empty space since then!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So in 2011 they address this down sizing from hundreds of thousands of square feet they pay rent on to a few thousand.  It took them almost 30 years to realize they shouldn’t pay rent for space they don’t use!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have a great afternoon and do something nice for a stranger to brighten at least one day on this dreary day,



President George Washington declared the first official American holiday, Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first publishing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the premiere of Casablanca (1942), Queen Elizabeth agrees to pay taxes (1992) and Japan agreed to stop using drift net fishing practices (1991)

A floating island in a lake less than three hours from here?  With TREES growing on the floating island?  Go to Buckeye Lake, just this side of Columbus.

So you always wanted to be an auctioneer?  Well, I have the low down for you.  Clarion University will be offering an associate’s degree in auctioneering conveniently here at West Penn Hospital starting in January.  There are approximately 2,500 apprentice and professional auctioneers in Pennsylvania.  Courses will be offered Saturdays and Sundays through May.  After accruing 20 credits, you can apply to take the state exam.  Once you pass that, an apprentice has to work under an already licensed auctioneer for two years before you can take your state test.  More info at Clairion University or by calling Bill Hallock at 814.676.6591 ext 1307

Buncher Company is still pushing it way into destroying a block of the Terminal building so it’s convenient for them to sell their townhouses and other development behind this iconic Strip structure.  It’s EASIER and CHEAPER for them to destroy a block of history than going down to 15th Street (where Lydia’s is) and upgrading that intersection.  But after what the Penquins got away with in destroying the Igloo, what else can you expect around here.

Did you hear about that dancer in Miami that wanted a bigger butt and went to this fake doctor that injected cement, mineral oil and flat tire sealant.  OMG  The poor girl’s mother made her go to the hospital and she’s being treated.  The police have the “doctor” in custody.

The National Aviary’s Holiday Bird Show starts this Friday.  The head liner is a one year old snowy owl (who’s gorgeous) and native to Quebec is named after Marc Andre Fluer who also is a Quebec native.They are having these shows in the new Free Flight Theater at noon and 3 p.m.  More info at their web site or 412.323.7235.

Seems they’ve put the last piece in the Shenley Plaza renovations.  The Porch restaurant has just opened up.  It a much needed full service restaurant.   Currently they just have that kiosk with fast food options in the Plaza with open seating on a patio.  With Phipp’s, The Carnegie Museums and main library branch as well as Pitt’s Law Building, Hillman Library and the Cathedral of Learning across the street, it should do well with just it’s location.  I don’t know who’s going to be running it, I hope they do decent food.

The Box Heart Gallery, 4523 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield is hosting Reinhardt Sobye’s exhibit The Secret Garden through November 26 from 11 until 7 Tuesdays, 10 until 6 Wednesdays through Saturday and Sunday from 1 until 5.  I chronicles the photo artist and his significant other Ida.  He rented Ida’s cottage while she was in Edeinburgh, Scottland and met her a few months later.  She was in an abusive relationship and as Ida & Sobye’s relationship grew, he became aware of her past.  This exhibit is dedicated to her and the horror of abuse.  Of the hundreds of photos he has in his computer, he’s pulled 15 and I don’t want to say photoshopped, but edited the pictures to reflect how they seemed to him.  Like the picture hanging in my powder room, The Way Home.  I found this framed photo at the Three Rivers Arts Fest two years ago.  I love the way the artist re imaged the picture.

OK, all you scaredy cats, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Here’s help, The Crisco Pie Hot line is 877.367.7438.  Butterball Turkey is 800.288.8372.  Empire Kosher Poultry Hot line 717.436.7055.  Fleischmann’s Yeast Baker’s help line 800.777.4959.  Foster Farms Turkey hot line is 800.255.7227. King Arthur’s Flour hot line is 802.649.3717.  Ocean Spray help line 800.662.3263.  Perdue 800.473.7383.  Reynolds hot line 800.745.4000 and USDA Meat and Poultry hot line 888.674.6854.

Go out there and bake and cook your hearts out.  Enjoy,  🙂



Tomorrow is Mickey Mouse’s birthday (1928), the anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre (1978), Latvia’s Independence Day (1918), the push button phone premiered (1963) and it is the anniversary of the US Uniform Time Zone Plan (1883).  Professor Charles Dowd convinced the railroads to put the four zones in place and because it wasn’t an enacted law, some locations didn’t adopt it until it did become law in 1918.

Light up night is tomorrow (and Saturday).  Macy’s unveils their windows (their theme this year is celebrity decorations) at 6, the parade kicks off from Steel Plaza at 6:15 and the lighting of the Unity Tree at the corner of Stanwix and Penn is at 7.  Friday’s entertainment at Market Square is Al Dowe and Etta Cox at 5, Jeff Jimerson and Airborne at 6 and Borelli’s Dance Gallery will be performing at 8:30.  At the Clemente Bridge (6th Avenue Bridge for you old schoolers) will be NOMaD at 5, John Angel and the Halos at 6:15, No Bad Juju at 8 and the fireworks at 9:38.  Saturday the Mascot Skate at PPG Place from noon until 2 and the Horse Drawn Carriage Parade starting at the Convention Center at 6.  Entertainment at Market Square will be Joe Negri at noon, Doublshot at 1:45, Vanessa Campagna at 3, Granati Brothers at 4:30 and Bill Price Band at 7:30.

Speaking of the Holidays, I got the cutest hoodies last weekend at the craft show at the Convention Center for my three newest nieces.  They’re monster hoodies with fur on the inside of the hood to keep the tykes warm, two horns on the top with a little bird clinging to one horn.  So cute.  Saturday, St Brendan’s Episcopal Church at 2365 McAleer Road, Franklin Park is having their 12 Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Show from 9 until 2.  They are featuring over 50 vendors and the cookie mart is back.  What they do us pile out the cookies by type, you buy a small container for $10 (it holds about three dozen cookies) or the large container for $15 (holds five to six dozen cookies).  And you select what kinds of cookies you want.  That’s a pretty cool twist to things.

Holidays for you train buffs, the Ohio Valley Railroad Club is hosting an open house noon to 5 Saturdays and Sundays starting November 26 through January 15.  They will be closed Christmas Eve and Day as well as New Years Eve and Day.  They are located at 1225 Merchant Street Ambridge.  The club has been working on this display for the last ten years and it’s theme is large and small industry that’s been located from Pittsburgh to West Virginia in the 1950’s and 60’s.  It’s not finished yet, they hope to have the final touches done by next year.  Any of you that visited last year will notice the new section they added on Dawhntawn.  🙂 Admission is $5 adults, kids 6 – 12 $1.  More info at 724.266.4787.

The Center for Creative Reuse has their very own door now at 214 N Lexington Avenue, Point Breeze.  They are still in the same building as Construction Junction, you just don’t have to enter them from the Junction anymore.  You can find some pretty interesting things in both places.  More info at their web site or 412.473.0100.

I got a new computer last week.  What a nightmare.  ABSOLUTELY everything I touch gets more and more complicated.  I bought the new version of Quick Books, what I wanted to do was to pay for it, get a 2010 or 2009 downloadable version e-mailed to me (so my IT guy could install it) and then snail me a hard copy.  The reason I wanted an older version is by now the bugs should have been identified and fixed.  They would only sell me the 2012 version and they insisted on installing it on my computer.  Two and a half hours later, they were still trying to get it working.  Finally we get it up and running, I finished my day and go to bed.  The next morning when I tried to turn it on, the data won’t fill in the program.  The demo stays up.  The next phone call was about 45 minutes.  One of the errors was everytime I turned Quick Books on, my computer kept asking permision for Quick Books to connect on line to Intuit and down load updates.  As I’m talking to the tech, the way they have Quick Books set up, everytime I open it, it goes to Intuit, the company that makes Quick Books to look for updates.  That means Quick Books as constant access to my financial data.  The tech told me I could lower my Norton security settings so Quick Books can get right in.  The tech said the main reason for this is when Quick Books processes credit card payments, there’s certain things it needs to know.  I asked “Are you suggesting I increase my vulnerabilty to outside threats so Quick Books can enter my computer?”  #1 I process my credit card through Heartland Payment Systems and am very happy with them.  #2 Even though I’m a small guy, Quick Books has no need to know how much money I make or don’t.  The tech said that the only way it can work is with this connection.  When I threw a fit, she said if it wasn’t set up like this, I would have to go to Quick Books website to search for updates I may need!!!!  I again threw a fit and the tech said I misunderstood her, she then claimed that was the optimal way.  So we severed Quick Books access to my computer.,  We chatted the next day again and it seems to have worked since.

Last night when I went to bed, I clicked on my Favorites button and went into Webervations (my on-line reservation system) and processed some reservations.  This morning, there was no Favorites button.  The print button on the toolbar disappeared as did the Google relevance ranking button.

All of the places I go, like Webervations, has user ID’s and passwords and they  are all different.  So with the new computer, everywhere I go, I need to figure out my ID’s and input them.  Luckily, awhile back I created a file with almost all of my accounts and their security info.

I have a pretty recent version of my data base system, ACT.  We loaded the program and when we went to transfer my data from the old computer to the new computer, it wanted a password.  The program was programed and I just needed to get the password from ACT and so my tech guy left.  The next morning when I contacted ACT, they informed me that I didn’t own a support package and it would cost $60 for them to enter my computer and get the password.  I gave them my credit card number, he entered my computer and he didn’t need a password!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I now have an ACT support package.  Those of you that have visited, I send out a confirmation letter when you book and a thank you letter when you leave (actually, Razor & RJ does).  For the past week, I’ve been able to punt with the e-mail confirmation and thank you’s.  I’ve tried going into the templates for these, edited them and came back out and they are not saved to where I tried to save them to.  I can type the name of the form letter in the dialog box and pull it up that way, but that’s multiple strokes instead of direct.  I accepted a reservation and needed to do a snail mail confirmation today.  After stumbling around with this for over an hour, I called ACT.  They informed me that the $60 I gave them a couple days ago was for a one time deal.  BLOOD SUCKERS.    I went back in and putzed with it for a little better than an hour and got it figured out.

I haven’t blogged in a bit because there was some “opportunities” with Word Press.  It’s spell check feature didn’t and doesn’t work.  I couldn’t toggle between the small screen and full screen modes.  The “New Post” Icon disappeared.  The File Save Icon dissappeared.  They’re still in there, they’re just in new locations that I need to find (and have).  I have all this figured out, except the spell check function, so I applogize for any misspellings here.

I like using a 12 or 14 font in my typing, I can’t seem to get Outlook to set either of those as my default setting.  It started going down a space and a half when my text goes to the next line (been there, took care of that pretty easy).  When I reply to some e-mails, it goes down to the 11 font and the section where I would change it is all shaded and won’t let me in it.

Have a great weekend and wish me luck with my evil computer,