Typical, first day of the month, there’s lots to choose from.  Tomorrow is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s birth anniversary (1914), Iceland Beer Day, celebrating when they lifted a 75 year ban on beer (1989), it’s the anniversary of the kidnapping of twenty month old Charles Lindbergh (1932), Glenn Miller’s birth anniversary (1904) and the anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corpse (1961).

I drink coffee all day.  It’s not a  massive amount, but I just sip it and it has to be hot.  I start my day with a cup of tea.  After leaving the tea bag in the hot water to steep, I wrap the string and tag around the teaspoon and squeeze the last of the water/tea out of the bag.  Why am I talking about this?  Well, I’m being honest to show that I also wrap the string and tag around something.  I just had guests that do something I’ve seen often and always wonder why.  They were in for several days and each day they did this.  They wrap the string and tag around the tea cup handle.  Do they do this to secure the tea bag because they are afraid it may try and escape?  And there are a segment of tea drinkers that do this all the time.  It was fairly common to see when I worked in hotels.  No big deal to unwrap the string and bag, I just find it strange and have no idea what that logic is here.

I’ve spoken about a local group over here on the Northside in the past, Manchester Craftsman’s Guild.  A very cool organization that supports arts and music (in particular jazz) and brings this to school children.  They have a number of programs at their center Bidwell.  But they also bring classes to Pittsburgh City Schools that are free for the kids and the kids get to take classes on ceramics, photography, digital arts and design arts.  The teachers bring industry standard equipment to the schools for the kids.  Bill Strickland, the founder of Manchester Craftsman, is on a Pres Obama tour of the country to promote this kind of initiative to get kids learning and being creative instead of being in gangs and drugs.  The City cut almost $50k from their program in a cost cutting measure.  The overall school budget wasn’t reduced, they were just looking for ways to save money.  Generally I support most all cost cutting and think we need to get ready for new life style changes (and support ourselves instead of the government giving us things), but I’m a big proponent of intelligent public transportation and education.  Public transportation supports our less fortunate and they generally use public transportation to get to work (gangs and other scofflaws generally don’t use public transportation to carry out their nefarious deeds).  :)  And I support education for our children, particularly the younger because they are our future and we need to instill the spark for learning early on.  The City returned the $50k to the budget returning Manchester’s original funding.

There’s a world class art exhibit at Pitt’s University Art Gallery in the Frick Fine Arts Building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday until March 18.  This is organized by Gao Minglu, currently a research professor in History in Art and Architecture, but was editor of China’s leading art magazine “Meishu” and organizer of many Mainland and foreign art exhibits.  This exhibit, “Mind Space” was in Pearl Lam’s Contrasts Gallery in Hong Kong and has moved to Pitt.  Minglu coined the term Maximalism, referring to “daily mental experiences in the way of repetitious, time-consuming and labor-intensive activities.  More info can be found at Frick Fine Arts.

The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History are offering free admission from 3:30 to 8 p.m. every Thursday evenings through the end of March, thanx to the Buncher Family Foundation.  I assume the Museum of Architecture is included as well.

I love companies that are run well.  Last weekend I ordered hair conditioner for in the rooms and then about an hour later realized I also needed make up removers.  So I went back to their web site a second time and placed my second order.  On Monday, I received an E-mail from Accent Amenities notifying me of a $6 refund because they could package both orders together.  I go to Anthony Arms in West Mifflin about once a month for target practice.  When I went in, the range was closed for remodeling.  It was closed the last time I was there as well.  When I mentioned this, they gave me two free range passes.  I wasn’t even complaining.  (Actually, they are a very poor example of customer service, generally.  But they did the right thing here) .  And then there’s the one big box store I enjoy patronizing, Costco.  They have the lowest turnover rate of any big box retailer because of how well they take care of their employees.  Something Home Depot was famous for until the end of the 1990′s.    But I digress.  Costco only accepts their coupons, generally, if you forget the coupon, the cashier has blank ones at the register and gives you the discount, and you don’t even have to ask for it.

That’s about it for today,



Tomorrow is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s birth anniversary (1807), the Dominican Republic’s Independence Day (1844) and the anniversary of the Shanghai Communique (1972)-when Presidents Nixon and Chou En-Lai signed a treaty to start normalizing Chinese/American relations.

Coca Cola released a new “plastic” bottle in 2009, it’s a 30% plant and 70% oil based composition.  They plan on eventually totally eliminate the oil based portion.  Heinz has entered into an agreement where Coke is going to start making Heinz’s ketchup bottles.  It’s going to cost a bit more, not only is Heinz planning on absorbing this increase, they also say they just want to “do the right thing”.

When is someone going to do something with Allegheny County’s Port Authority?  In stead of fixing it so it operates efficiently, Steve Bland just keeps demanding more money from the tax payers.  They have the longest history of mismanagement and incompetency of anyone I watch.  They built that huge parking garage by South Hills Village years ago.  Their “studies” showed something like 6,000 cars would park there a day and use the T.  I think they’ve been averaging about 600.  After years of loosing money there, they’re now starting to looking into adding professional offices either on the ground floor of the garage or on property they own.  It’s only taken them about 15 years of loosing my money to figure out they should do something about it.  They undertook the project of making the old Wabash Tunnel into an HOV tunnel.  Their “studies” showed something like 1,000 vehicles would use the tunnel.  It’s actually about 20.  It cost more to keep it open than it’s worth, but they can’t close it because they did it with mainly Federal money and if they closed it before the next ten years, they have to pay the Feds back.  They’re building this extension for the T over here to the Northside.  I personally like it because it’s in my back yard.   This project doubled in price from what their “studies” showed it was going to cost.  Yes, it’s coming over to an area with two stadiums and some other things.  But Oakland would be the third largest city in Pennsylvania, if it wasn’t part of the city of Pittsburgh.  That’s where they should have done the T extension.  It would have given a great relieve to vehicle congestion, been full all the time, could have paid itself off, etc.  Yes, there’s a reason for this rant.  They just announce that “this cash strapped Port Authority will shell our $39.2 MILLION dollars (oops, I already said dollars), to cover risky financial bet it made seven years ago.”  Yes, part, probably most of the $39 MILLION they paid out covered the principle, but they were clever enough to give enough details for the press to cover without actually admitting how much of my money they actually lost with this bad investment.     And shame on the Trib for not following through to detail how much of my money they threw away this time.  Oh, I guess Steve and just demand more tax payer’s money to cover this one as well.

Anyone that follows my blog or has met me for five minutes, knows what a huge fan I am of small business.  There’s a very cool company over in South Side, Alpha Lab.  I’ve seen it over there, but never knew what it was.  It’s a non profit business incubator.  They provide space, professional marketing guidance, and start up funds for a 5% stake in the business as it grows.  One of the start ups over there now is Tim Kern and Chris Allen’s new web site, www.wawadoo.com.  It’s a site where guests basically vote on what local attractions are the best.  They’re hoping to become a Twitter like phenomenon.

Well, that’s about it for today, have a great evening,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Cassius Clay (Mohamed Ali) becaming the heavy weight champion, it’s impressionist Pierre Renoir birth anniversary (1841) and it is Enrico Caruso’s birth anniversary (1873), he passed away in 1921.  Today, the space shuttle Discovery made it’s last lift of.  It was the longest lasting shuttle that took the hubble telescope and John Glenn for his second trip into space and he was in his 70′s I think.

I love my guests.  I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and could only offer breakfast at eight.  So they came down promptly and I served breakfast.  As I was leaving, I asked it they would put the cream, OJ and butter in the pantry fridge.  When I came home, they had put all the perishables away and had their dishes stacked for me.  :)  I was pretty nervous about the procedure, I had to fast for a day and purge my system.  I feel better and clearer today than I have in a long time.  I may have to do that periodically.  :)

My web site’s doing fantastic.  I’m still averaging over 70 visitors a day, and this is in February.  Kirk says my blog is almost set for linking to Facebook and Twitter.  He had a couple of issues and thinks he has it corrected.  He’ll let me know tomorrow if it’s fixed.  So next week I take the big step.  A dumb guy’s getting a smart phone.  :)

OK, time for my soap box.  I’ve never been a big fan of Egypt’s Mubarak, Tunisia’s Ali or Libya’s Gaddafi, and I could give a long list of why I don’t like them.  But I listen to the news for fair and unbiased presentation of events in the world.  That’s one of the reasons I generally follow BBC.  I find them generally pose a more unbiased news case.  Tonight BBC referred to one of Gaddafi’s officials as a henchmen.  All the news I’ve followed on all three countries have used negative adjectives for the current regime and positive adjectives on the masses.  Again, don’t confuse my griping about the news coverage and the thieving corrupt governments that are being replaced.  Hopefully these struggling peoples will be able to create a true democracy.  I hope our government pays attention.

It’s been a long day, have a great evening,



Yesterday was the anniversary of Andy Warhol’s death (1987).  Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of Pittsburgh’s own Honus Wagner (1874), it’s Estonia’s Independence Day, and the anniversary of the start of the Gregorian Calendar (1582 when Pope Gregory adjusted the Julian calendar with leap year) and the anniversary of the start of the impeachment proceedings of President Johnson in 1867.

Derronda and myself had a behind the scenes tour of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  It was sponsored by Judy and Deven with the Office of Corporate Relations.  There was about twenty of us and they split guests that worked at the same place.  So D went with the group that saw snakes and birds and I was with the bug people.  Utterly amazing.  They have something like 8 million bugs categorized and organized.  They have another 8 million waiting on categorizing.  The diversity of “bugs” is incredible.  One of the things I saw was a bug on one of the pins they store the “bugs” on.  It was just this little black speck and they had it’s cousin under a microscope for us to see. OMG, what a incredible specimen.  The colors and patterns were totally amazing.  The scientists are busy categorizing the huge inventory they have of “bugs”, but they also are out collecting more, even though they probably have a century of work with what they already have.  They reason that with the way mankind is destroying endangered species, they need to get as many specimens as they can while they can.  They also are HUGE in studying these creatures.  They have traveling scientists that work there and they lend samples of their “bugs” to scientists all over the world that also are studying “bugs”.  One of the storage rooms we were in is next to a common hallway.  All the “bugs” are meticulously labeled with what the “bug” is, where and when it was collected, etc.  The drawers these specimens are stored are also meticulously labeled.  While the one scientist was talking, my mind wandered a bit and I noticed some of the drawers about four feet of the floor were labeled “Wow”.  He explained the Wow drawers are specifically filled with specimens that would wow school children when they come in for private tours.  How cool, scientists with a sense of humor and awe.  And this was just the section on “bugs”.

The largest group of life on earth are “bugs” and these people at the Carnegie are so dedicated and knowledgeable it made me feel totally dumb and useless.   As an aside, they showed us the stacks where that segment of Silence of the Lambs was filmed.

I came back from Florida on Friday, and once again I swear I’m never taking a trip again.    I always push my luck and came back to bedlam.  I only had three reservations for Friday when I left and picked up another three.  Of course one of the couples arrived at noon (my flight didn’t land until 2).  And there’s all the paperwork I had to get caught up on, supplies for breakfasts, etc.  But Jeff, from the Inn on the Mexican War Streets was the perfect host.  I did have a fabulous time in Florida and am very happy for my break.

We’ll talk again soon,



No quotes from Chase’s almanac today, I’m in Florida and the book’s in Pittsburgh.  I was able to squeeze five nights out to come down for some sunshine.  :)  Two years ago when I came down to West Palm, they had the coldest day in 25 years!  Last year when I went down to West Palm, we broke records for the coldest day!  I was a little nervous of this trip, but the weather’s spectacular.  :)

Since I’m only here for five days, I didn’t want to spend a day driving down and a day driving back, so I flew down and am staying with my good friend Jeff, he and Karl own and run The Inn on the Mexican War Streets.  Not only do they have a wonderful condo on the water in Tampa, but Jeff is a great culinarian (he taught culinary for years) and we’ve been having these wonderful b’fasts and dinners here.  The sun burns me like a two year old, so I need to be careful, but have been out in the sun for about an hour each day and getting a little bit of color.  Spent some time around Tampa/St Pete, I’ve been here before a couple of times, but this is the first time with a “local” and it’s a very nice area (generally, I still prefer the east coast, but do like what I’ve been seeing here).  Here’s a picture of Jeff and myself at the Vinoy hotel in St Pete, a historic hotel with this huge Chihuly chandelier in their ballroom.

While in town, we visited the Chihuly exhibit in one of their local art museums.  It was nice, but nothing like the exhibit when Chihuly was in the Phipps Conservatory.  Now that was spectacular.  We didn’t make it to the new Salvatore Dali museum that recently opened here, Jeff had recently been there and I didn’t want to be pushy.

Well, my flight is due in Pittsburgh at 2 p.m., when I left for Florida, I had three reservations, I am now almost sold out Friday night.  #1 I hope the flight isn’t late.  #2, I have some hustling to do on my way home from the airport.

Wish me luck,  :)



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden Germany in 1945 that totally burnt the town to the ground and killed 135,000 people.  It is also the Get a Different Name Day, for those of you that hate your birth name, this is the official day you can require friends, colleagues, family and the rest of the world to call you whatever you want.  More info at Thomas & Ruth Roy, Wellcat Holidays, 2418 Long Lane, Lebanon, PA 17046.  717.279.0184 or info@wellcat.com.

I had a phone call yesterday, this lady said she was getting married and was looking for information.  We chatted for awhile and when we got to catering, I told her there was five approved caterers and she could find them on my web site under the Partners Page.  She said “It’s my wedding, I should be able to use who ever I want.”  I told her these caterers are already approved, if she wanted another caterer, I just needed to meet with them to make sure they meet my standards.  She said, “But it’s my wedding, I should be able to use who ever I want”.  I explained to her that people are going to walk away from the event and not complain about the food from the caterer, they would complain about the food at The Parador.  She said “But it’s my wedding, I should be able to use who ever I want”.  I told her she could, but she would have to do it elsewhere.  :)  Sounds like we have a real Bridzilla on our hands.

What a disturbing law suite, from the opinion of a champion of small businesses.  There’s a pretty big local plumbing company in Pittsburgh, Fagnelli Plumbing.  They’re out of Oakland area.  Another big local plumbing company, Gillece Plumbing.  Gillece commandeered Fagnelli’s name, creating a false web site that redirects potential Fagnelli customers  to Gillece’s web site.  Fagnelli owns www.fagnelliplumbing.com, but they didn’t also purchase www.fagnelli.com.  So Gillece bought the second name through Go Daddy and created a web site that directs hits to Gillece’s site.  What a scum bag.  If you can’t get business on your own, steal from someone else.  Gillece (if you notice, there’s no hyperlink to their site) should be ashamed of themselves.  I sent Gillece a comment through their web site asking how I would ever be able to trust their integrity using shabby tactics like this, of course they don’t have the nerve to respond.  It’s bad enough that Gillece pulled this stunt, when Fagnelli complained, they had to sue Gillece and now Gillece is fighting it saying they have the right to be scum bags.  I hope all the lines in Gillece’s glossy new Bridgeville headquarters freeze and burst.  It’d serve them right.

Well, I heard from Kirk, I think when I send this out, it’s going to Twitter and Facebook.  I’m going to Florida tomorrow, when I come back, I plan on getting an iPhone and will be able to be a fan of myself.  :)

Wish me sunshine, it’s supposed to be nice,



The New York Times quote “All the News That’s Fit to Print” first appeared today in 1897, I think it’s the start of the Iditarod (remind me to tell you a funny story about that one day) and it’s today, in 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War in America.

In the mornings I listen to NPR radio while making breakfast.  They had an interview with Thaddeus Mosley, he is an artist that works with logs of cherry and walnut, his studio is right over in Manchester.  He uses what he calls the Weight and Space Concept, where much of the “weight” (bulk of the sculpture) is in “space” (above the base/floor).  This evolved from his interest in African art from when he was a Junior at Pitt in 1948.  You can get a copy of his interview and a couple of pictures by clicking on the NPR link above, clicking on the DUQ Latest News Stories and scrolling down.  Also if you scroll down a bit more, you will come across an interview they had with Rick Bach a few days ago.  Rick’s a friend of mine that has a residence/studio over in The Brew House in the Southside (an artist community).  Rick does all the metal sculpture for the Mad Mex restaurant chain, a part of The Big Burrito Restaurant Group.  He also did the Aztec sun calendar sculpture on my Courtyard wall. 

I love finding people that amaze me.  When I bought my first Inn in South Florida, I met a guy that became one of my best friends ever, Dino.  One of the first things about Dino I noticed was that no matter what we started talking about, he always knew all about it.  I went on a mission trying to trick him up and he ALWAYS won.  As time went by, I learned not to doubt him.  Dino was one of those people that had a mind of a trap, he never forgot a detail.  (My mind on the other hand remembers NOTHING).

Well, I’ve found another person that’s amazing me.  I first became aware of Ed a year or so ago.  I was having a “yard sale” in the Ballroom in the winter.  One of the things I was selling was a fireplace mantel mirror frame.  It was probably about five foot tall with a number carvings on it.  Some of them were missing.  I overheard him ask his girlfriend to put the piece in his pile and she said “But some of the carvings are missing”.  He looked at it again and said “Don’t worry, I’ll just carve new ones”.  He was so nonplussed, just matter of fact.  So he’s worked here several times since.  I had some fairly significant termite damage under the first floor powder room, main staircase and under the piano in the Parlor.  In particular, he made quarter sawn oak to match the original flooring, he even made the walnut trim and intricate box pattern corner under the piano.  And he’s creative/flexible.  There is a door at the end of the front hallway across from the main entrance that goes out to the Courtyard.  From the day I bought this Inn, I had noticed the the trim on the left side of the door was missing.  I guarantee no one but me noticed it.  I asked him to fix it and he asked me if I wanted him to do it with walnut to match the original for about $800 or he could do it in pine and faux the finish to match for about around $200.    He’s amazing, none of the “stock” pieces of walnut or pine matched what was needed, he made “stock” pieces to match what was there.  A guest recently banged his head on one of Chenille’s stained glass window seat windows.  I asked Ed about removing that window (it’s built in) so I can take it for repair.  He does stained and leaded glass as well as everything else he does.

I think what it is is I have no interest in accounting or auto repair.  I’m sure if I was and ran into a CPA or auto mechanic, they could dazzle me as well.

Someone asked me to post a picture of the closets I’m turning into bookcases in bougainvillea, I never got a picture before I took the doors off, but here’s the “closets” as they stand today.

Finally, a while back I was complaining about having trouble finding an architect.  The guy I used since buying this Inn is in semi retirement in New England, I tried “shopping local” and tried to get an architect right down the street, after missing a tour of the spaces to be address and a voice mail not returned, I turned to a plumber that seems well connected.  He said he had someone and several weeks later, having not heard from them, I turned to pursue an architect my original had recommended.  I had called David’s office many times before and never got him and the voice mail box was full.  I initially gave up on him.  Well I went to his office last Thursday, liked him a lot, e-mailed him the blue prints I want changed and he’s ready to go.  Him and his draftsman will be over this week to physically view the project and I should have prints in a week or so.  Yeah!!!!!!!!!!

It’s 2 degrees right now, keep warm,



Tomorrow, obviously is the Superbowl with the Steelers and the Packers battling it out.  It is also Aaron Burr’s birth anniversary (1756), Bob Marley’s birth anniversary (1945) and Midwinter’s Day Celebration in Ann Arbor, MI.  It is also day of the Celtic holiday, Umback (sp?), also celebrating midwinter’s day.  I’m hosting a party tonight for a local business that has their annual holiday party celebrating Umback instead of competing with all the holiday parties in December-it’s Kirk & Penny’s third year with me (last year it was scheduled on the day of Snowmageddon and was postponed for two weeks.  :)

I love it when one of my brain storms work.  Any follower of my blog should know I’ve been working on Bougainvillea, the guest room that’s like a town house with it’s living room on the second floor and the bed room’s on the third floor.  I changed the bedroom from a full to a queen, repainted it, changed some of the wall art around in the bedroom.  I came down and rearranged the living room and repainted that as well.  The second floor hallway was a series of narrow closets, probably of use back when the servants lived there, but useless today and just added clutter.  I took the doors of the two under the stairs going to the third floor, took the old shelves out and canvas wall paper and all the extraneous things out of there.  I started patching it and am going to make them open book cases.  It already looks so much better and open.  It’s amazing how changing a small area in a room can make such a major visual improvement.

The Super Bowl Trophy, originally designed by Tiffany & Company in 1967.  It is a regulation sized football weighting about seven pounds of silver, is made in New Jersey and takes about four months for Tiffany’s craftsman to make.  Go Steelers.

An eight grader from Brentwood won the Justin Bieber singing contest and will be going to LA for the premier of Bieber’s movie Never say Never and meet with the singer.  Deven was the winner of an on-line contest that had thousands of votes.  Way to go Deven.

“Relish” is a newspaper supplement magazine similar to “Parade”.  I get it in the Thursday’s Trib and there was an article on Conflict Kitchen out in Shadyside, complete with a recipe and pictures.  Conflict Kitchen’s been operating at 124 S Highland Avenue for awhile now, it’s a take out only restaurant that features menu items from a country the US is in conflict with.  They feature foods from Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi and other countries.  You can get more info and even discuss menu items at their other web site www.conflictkitchen.com.

Just a reminder, you should check your credit report once a year.  I had a very bad credit score when I opened my first Inn down in Florida and paid a dear price.  I worked diligently and raised it over 200 points before I sold that Inn (it’s since gone up even higher).  :)  Some general pointers to consider, the biggest issue that can negatively effect you is the amount of credit available to you and the amount you have in use.  If you have a thousand dollars available at maybe a dozen department stores (frequently people open a charge account to get that twenty percent discount off a purchase over the holidays and forget about that odd ball card), the banks look at it as you could add $12,000 debt over night.  Add to this multiple general Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, etc with limits of five thousand each.  Even though you only have maybe five thousand in debt on these cards, banks look at it as you could be thirty maybe forty thousand dollars in debt over night.  You should cull the cards you have down to ones you actually use.  To have a mix of major credit cards and local (ie Macy’s Sears, etc) is a good thing, just pay them off.  Of course many of us can’t “pay off all our cards”, we can better manage our debt by stream lining it.  The next major issue is your payment history.  Do you pay consistently on some cards and forget about others?  That’s what happened to me, I missed a Discover payment, the balance was about $10 and I let it slide over 90 for various excuses.  MAJOR hit on my score.  Be sure to make all your payments on time, and I recommend paying off the smaller ones so you can focus on the major debts after wards.  Also, with a lot of these bank consolidations, many banks can’t track bad payment history from absorbed banks.  So get your credit report and if there is a negative report from that loan you had with Local Bank Pittsburgh that was bought by Chase, there’s a good possibility they can’t prove a bad payment history.  If they can’t prove this, they have to remove it.  Also, generally speaking negative info should be removed after seven years.  What for this.  And as you build your credit, you become prime for scammers to try and steal you credit.  What for credit cards opened under your name, but you didn’t open this card (this also has happened to me).n You can get a free report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1.877.322.8228.  You can do this once a year and it is free.  I don’t believe these give your actual FICO score, but it’s a good tool too work on your credit.  You will thank me when you go to buy a new car, house or other major investment and get a significantly better interest rate.  :)

I Made It Market is back.  It is being held February 11 from 11:30 until 3:30 at University of Pittsburgh’s William Penn Ballroom  in Oakland and from noon until five p.m. at the Glass Lofts on Penn Avenue in Garfield.  I features had made gifts and art of natural body and bath products, greeting cards, clothing, jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, etc.  A good chance to pick up something for yourself, that gift you’re going to be needed or just to browse local artisans that aren’t big enough to have their own shop.

Did I say Go Steelers?