Amnesty International was founded in 1961, Joseph Guillotin’s birth anniversary (1738- the proponent of the “less painful form of death sentence”),  William Pitt’s birth anniversary (1759), the Sierra Club was founded (1892), Slugs Return to Capistrano (seriously), Jim Thorpe’s birth anniversary (1888) and it’s Barry Commoner’s birth day, he turns 95 tomorrow.

There’s a Mercer County church softball league and they are banning a Mormon church group because they don’t view them as Christians.  Are we never going to learn as a country?  #1, it’s a church league, are we going to go back to the middle ages and have a crusade against Utah next?  #2, it’s sports, competition, intramural, team building, etc.  It is not dogma being taught.  I don’t particularly like the Mormons coming to my door any more than I like the Jehovah Witnesses.  But I prefer both of them to some stupid telemarketer.  At least they believe in something.

While I’m ranting a bit, let me continue my rant on celebrities now.  I don’t like Ted Nuggent’s political stance, nor his activism.  But I respect him as a human and the right to believe in what he believes in and to support those beliefs.  What I have zero tolerance are celebrities like Charlie Sheen who really should just grow up.  He’s not 21 anymore.  And someone I have even less respect for is Alec Baldwin.  He gives a flight attendant a really hard time because passengers are required to shut off electronic equipment during landing and take off.  I don’t know if he’s missed this announcement for the past forty years, or maybe it’s because he’s a celebrity he doesn’t have to abide by this.  What I do find REALLY offensive is he was was running for the mayor of New York at the time.

Oxford Development owns the building on Smithfield Street between Fifth and Forbes across from the old Kaufmann’s.  Built in 1917 as the Frank and Seder department store, it is a 200,000 square foot building. Oxford is considering either renovating the space to bring it up to class A space or possibly tearing it down and building a 33 story new tower.  They are currently seeking commitments from potential tenants before proceeding with either plan.  I vote for the renovation option.  # 1 it’s a pretty cool looking building right now and there’s enough areas with buildings in worse condition that may benefit by tearing down a bunch of nondescript buildings for a big one.  # 2, Oxford says they would need public subsidies to build the 33 story tower, if the market won’t bear constructing 772,000 square foot building, it shouldn’t be built.

Frank Vittor emigrated to America from Italy in 1906 and to Pittsburgh in 1917.  He became an internationally know sculptor and designed a cast they used to make bronze water fountains around the city.  There were around 30 and their the ones with the upside down dolphin on two sides.  There are still five around that function: two in Schenley Park, one each in East Park, Mellon Park (not to be confused with Mellow Square) and Highland Park.  Mr. Vittor did the bronze sculptor of Hons Wagner that sits outside PNC  Park.  The Laurel Foundation donated $50,000 to the city to recreate the molds.  The plan is to create at least two fountains with this money.  They are adapting the design to make them wheel chair accessible.  Not time line on when they expect to have the first two completed.

A rabid bat entered a home in Richland while the residents were sleeping.  Luckily the residents woke up and found the bat and had the sense to trap it between the upper and lower sashes.  That’s how they found out the bat was rabid.  The residents are undergoing rabese shots.  I didn’t realize a bat can bite you while you are asleep and you may not even feel it and they do not necessarily leave bite marks.

Gallery Sim’s latest exhibit is 89, The Neighborhoods of Pittsburgh and it runs through June 10.  Located at 1735 E Carson Street, it’s hours are Noon to 4 pm Thursdays through Sundays.  There are thirty Pittsburgh artists that are highlighting the various neighborhoods with paintings, photography and other mediums.  Besides reflecting the diversity of our city neighborhoods, it also is reflecting the diversity of the artists.  More info at Sim’s web site or by calling 412.586.4531.

The Pittsburgh Bonsai Society will be having their annual spring show June 2 and 3 at the Phipps Garden Center in Shadeyside.  Hours are from 10 am until 5 pm (4 on Sunday).  There will be featured bonsai creations on display as well as vendor selling supplies and giving advice.  There will be an 11 am class both days on bonsai techniques starting at 11 am  for a minimum fee.  More info at their web site.

Well, I’m going to bed.  Had my second wedding, four more to go.  🙂  Big Burritto was the caterer and they did a fantastic job, both in food and service.  Tomorrow’s Memorial Day, please take a minute at some point to ponder the young men and women who has sacrificed everything so we can enjoy this less than perfect country that we all should love.


Tomorrow it the birth anniversary of publishing and communications tycoon Samuel Newhouse (1895), anniversary of Morse opened his first telegraph line (1844 between Baltimore and Washington DC) The Brooklyn Bridge opened (1883), the Anti-Saloon founded (1893) and it is the start of the 70th Grand Prix de Monaco.

One wedding down, one this weekend and then two in June and two in September.  Done.  🙂  I do enjoy seeing people having fun, it’s just that it’s so much work.  But that isn’t why I brought this up.  Since I won’t be having anymore weddings after this year, I don’t need that grassy space in the Courtyard where that little brick patio is.

So what I’m thinking I may do next year is to rip the grass out and create more gardens.  Specifically as much native plants as I like and working the space into a rain garden.  Maybe plant a tree over by the Mansion/Beach so by the time it’s mature, it will probably be about time for the big locus to come out (I imagine I will be long gone one way or another by then).  🙂  I think I would like to bring in a bunch of topsoil to build rolling hills with large rocks spread around.  I could have a lot of fun tucking things away in there for people to find.  Not a scavenger hunt, but architecturals and other objects of interest.

Speaking of gardens, here’s a pic of the Veranda gardens as they look today:

Everything’s growing in nicely.  Do you notice the new trellis?  I had been planning on getting rid of that white lattice one that was here when I bought the place.  It was literally falling apart. I was out a Lowe’s a few months ago and thought I’d look around.  It was sitting in the garden center in a cubical with a price of $56, but the $56 didn’t say what was $56.  And there was no price on the box.  It was early spring and I thought maybe it was last year’s model and they may have wanted to get rid of it.  I took it and a few other items to check-out and it scanned in at $174.  I said “Oh no, there’s no price on the box and it was in a section that said the price was $56.  The manager was called and we walked back to see where I got it.  She acknowledged that’s what the price looks like and she would sell it to me for that price.  I said no, that was OK.  I’ve made mistakes myself and appreciate someone understanding that something’s a mistake.  I was back in the same Lowe’s a few weeks later and the same trellis was in the same section for $56.  I called this to the attention of the garden manager and he was very polite and thanked me.  I was in a few weeks later and bought it for $56.  🙂  If they can’t clean up their act after it being pointed out to them twice, shame on them.

And here’s a picture coming in to the Courtyard from the parking lot without the handicapped ramp:

That makes the entry into the Courtyard from the parking lot so much more open.

Speaking about the ramp, the plan was/is to move it to the back of the parking lot.  It will attach to the Ballroom door in the parking lot and drop down to the door that used to go to the office and now goes to Bromeliad.  It only stands twelve inches tall and is all the way in the back of the parking lot, mainly behind my truck.  But part of it is visible from the street so I had to go through the historic review process.  I really don’t care a lot, it’s just that I missed the deadline for the April meeting by one day.  So I had to wait until the May meeting.  And now I’m busy as all get out (sold out last night-a Tuesday Primus concert at AE Stage) and have battled getting back Downtown to pull the permit.  Of course, when I did finally make it down there, I didn’t have a site plan (I should have known better) and had to come home, get one and then squeeze another trip down to the city.  So all’s Kosher at this point, just waiting on Rick DiBucci to come and pour it.

Dave (I don’t remember his last name) was in charge of Light of Life, when I moved here.  Real nice guy, played the game with the local Nazi’s when they remodeled their offices to keep everything smooth between the non profit and the neighborhood association.  Non profits are like businesses to the neighborhood association.  They would rather we were all elsewhere.  Light of Life fills a big need in the community with homeless, abused women and other’s in need stabilizing these individuals and teaching them life and work skills.  Light of Life blatantly lied to the neighborhood association last fall.  (Can you believe I’m actually siding with the Nazi’s?)  Light of Life has services spread all over the city and for efficiency, they are looking to combining everything into one campus.  One of the sites they are considering is the old Columbus school across from the park along the ridge CCAC sits on.  When asked what the status was for their plans, Light of Life claimed it was all up in the air, when actually they had put a formal bid in for the Columbus school.  Pretty shabby.  OK, if you’re not sitting down, please do so.  I don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt.  I must say, I am in agreement with the neighborhood association’s stand against the Columbus school campus.   There’s four agencies over here on the Northside handling the homeless.  I think the services should be more evenly spread throughout the city.

And just to keep my reputation intact, let you know about the poor pound puppies aren’t allowed in my neighborhood.  The people over that the Humane Society got so tired of hearing the neighborhood association whine, they have the unpaid volunteers take these poor animals for their 3o minutes a day outside a cage for a walk through other neighborhoods.

We recycle everything.  Besides the obvious paper, glass & metal any thing I can figure out a new use for, I do.  I collect those styrofoam packing peanuts until I have a full trash bag and drop it off at a Kinko’s or some such.  I take damaged linens down the the Humane Society.  We even process the used bars of soap.  They’re dried on a rack and then kept in a box until it’s full.  Dave at Light of Life was always so excited to get them.  When I took them down today, I got a pretty lukewarm reception “Yes, we’ll take them”.  I’m replacing all the pillows at the Inn and thought Light of Life could use them on their homeless housing on North Avenue.  The receptionist came back from the director of donations and told me they only accept new pillows.  I do understand, bed bugs are becoming a major threat.  And there’s other critters (lice) that could be transported in a pillow.  So I called Bill over at the YMCA on North Avenue that also helps the homeless.  He was elated.

Have a wonderful rest of your week,




Tomorrow is the Preakness Stakes, the anniversary of the Simplon Tunnel (from Switzerland to Italy, started in 1898 and completed in 1906), Malcolm X birth anniversary (1925) and Ho Chi Minh’s birth anniversary (1890), it is the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe serenading JFK’s birthday at Madison Square Garden and it is the anniversary of the near total darkness that fell on New England at midday in 1780, and no explanation has ever been figured out.

To qualify as a “non profit”, hospitals only have to provide 2% of their care as charitable.  The other 98% can be profits.  I guess that’s why AGH’s recently canned Olivia walked with a $7.4M after a two year stint (?) .  He was to turn the hospital around, but from what I’ve heard, he just brought a bunch of his buddies in at high paying jobs while slashing hourly staff.  He even did better than UPMC’s Romoff who hauled in $6M, doubling his income from last year.

Heinz Galleries, at the Carnegie Museums in Oakland, are having an Impressionist theme through August 26.  When Impressionism first appeared in France in the mid to late 1800’s, they were not allowed in official Paris Salon, but were sent to the first Salon des Refuses.  There are three galleries that this exhibit will take you through various aspects of Impressionism.  Beside the works of Manet, Cezanne, Pissarro and Monet, there is also pictures by American Impressionist photographer Alfred Stieglitz.  At the end of the exhibit is the Carnegie’s own copy of Water Lilies (1915-1926).  Hours are 10 1m to 5 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays, with late showings on Thursdays until 8 pm.  Sunday hours are from noon until five.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.622.3131.

The 2012 BMW M5 has a 560 horsepower engine with sound dampers.  To please their most demanding drivers might miss the sound of the engine revving, so they installed pre-recorded engine noises that will play in the cabin through the stereo system.  🙂

With only 30,000 hotel rooms in Rio de Janeiro and 50,000 expected for UN conference on Sustainable Development, local officials persuaded owners of many “short-time” lodging establishments to change their modeus operandi.  They will be removing some furniture like exotic chairs, I hear the large round beds will stay.  🙂

In Kuwait, at the 10th Arab Shooting Championship, Maria Dmitrienko of Kazakhstan sang the “national anthem”, but actually she sang the perody from the movie Borat with lyrics like “greatest country in the world, all other countries are run by little girls” and filtration system a marvel to hehold, it removes 80% of human waste.”  🙂

They’re having the 55th Annual Pittsburgh Folk Festival this weekend at the Monroeville Convention Center, at the Mall.  There will be ethnic dances, concerts, food booths, an artisan market, cooking demonstrations and ethnic booths showcases the many different folks that make up Pittsburgh.  Some of the 35 cultures participating this year are Scotland, Ukraine, India, Germany, Bulgaria, Philippines, Greece, Iran, Croatia, Hungary, Hawaii (I thought that was American) :), England, Wales and Brazil.  More info at their web site.  Hours are today 4 – 10 pm, Saturday 11 am – 10 pm and Sunday from 11 am – 6 pm.  Admission is $12 per day, free admittance for military service persons (Nice touch).

This is the end of Venture Outdoors Festival at Point State Park.  This has been happening around Western PA since May 10.  Saturday hours will be from 11 am until 6 pm and info at their web site.  These are the cool people that rent kayaks and bicycles under the 6th Street Bridge, out at North Park and several other locations, I believe.  Info on activities outside the Point can be found at Walls are Bad.

Finally, Gallerie Chiz will be having  an exhibit Human Behavior featuring artists Brian Fencl, Daria Pigg and Valetta through May 26.  This show is a bit off center, Fencl’s oil paintings and drawings explore a breakdown in Western society and culture clashes between the old and new.  In one, he features sort of a brawl between “high” culture and “low” culture taking place in the Carnegie Hall of Architecture.  In another he presents a creature carrying the head of Charlie Sheen (one of the most notable persons of 2011) past the Roman god Bacchus (god of wine, naturally).  Pigg‘s work is based on composition, she writes a story first and then interprets it in her art work, sometime incorporating some of her written words.  Then there’s Valetta, pastel paintings with a figurative bent, “my pieces are all based on a stream of consciousness method.”

Well, I have my first wedding of the season tomorrow.  Five more to go.  🙂



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth of Joe Louis (1914) and Mary Wells (My Guy 1943), the anniversary of the Mexican War being declared (1846), Philly Police bombing of the radical MOVE headquarters (1985) and Stevie Wonder’s birthday (1950).

There are rules debt collectors must follow.  The collector must tell you within five days the exact amount you owe, who you owe and how to proceed if you don’t feel you owe.  If you dispute the debt, be sure to send the collection agency a letter within thirty days why you feel you do not owe this amount (request a signature from the postal service showing the letter was received).  Collectors are not allowed to call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.  They also can not contact you at work, if you tell them your boss doesn’t allow personal phone calls.  They can not “harass, oppress, threaten or abuse you”, nor can they publicly publish your name.  They can not lie or claim they are something they are not (ie that they work for the government, etc).  To report problems, go to the state attorney general’s office or contact the FTC.

Pennsylvania has banned payday lenders for the past six years.  That does not keep these predators out of the state, they are very active on-line.  Just ask Pete Alfeche of Havertown.  Going through a rough time with divorce, raising two teenage sons and some health issues, he borrowed $250.  Unfortunately he fell into the trap payday lenders count on and he ended up paying $2,000 over the course of a year when he could finally pay it off.  State Representative Chris Ross, R Chester County has sponsored a bill allowing  payday lenders back in the state.  In his defense, there are some restrictions in his bill about the activities payday lenders can do.  My issues are two, #1 it doesn’t eliminate the on-line payday lenders.  And #2, by nature, they are a predatory business that sucks assets people down on their luck desprately need.  You can contact Rep Ross on his web site.

Canonsburg is getting ready for home town boy Perry Como’s 100th birthday (he passed away in 1971).  The “singing barber” got his break by singing with the Freddie Carlone Band performing in Cleveland.  He was later signed to RCA-Victor Records and had many hits, a TV serial and frequently hosted holiday TV specials.  The local McDonalds in Canonsburg sort of serves as a shrine to him and Bobby Vinton (another son of Canonsburg) with framed photos, records and even busts of the entertainers.  More info at Canonsburg’s web site or by calling 724.745.1515.

Out of the mouth of babes, well somewhat.  Last weekend, there was a Pirates game at the same time as a Marilyn Manson concert and an estimated 40,000 people were on the Northside for the events.  The T service was chronically short, which infuriate our new County Excecutive Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald said this was unacceptable and the Port Authority will fix their operations or he will do the same thing to them as he did to the county board of health (he fired the director about a month ago). Port Authority Jim Richie said “A lot of people think we should have added  service.  But it came down to money.  We tried to throw out as much service as we could , as much as we could afford.” This goes back to what Steve Bland, the director of Port Authority said during construction of the Northshore connector.  When asked if they would beef up service on Steeler home game weekends, he said “No, that would involve overtime”.  He quickly backed off that statement.  But apparently they still have that mind set.  Lesson #1 Mr. Port Authority, as a business owner, I would decrease service when the T’s are empty and increase it when they are full.  Idiots.

I seriously apologize.  I can’t stop here.  Port Authority just lost a lawsuit about running an ad for ex-felons that they could be eligible for voting rights.  They refused to run the ad sponsored by the League of Young Voters in 2006.  Port Authority said the ad was against their one paragraph policy governing ads.  (They have since replaced that with a four page policy after finally reviewing the ad policies of their peers, like SEPTA in Philly).  After six years of legal wrangling, the judge ruled that Port Authority was totally wrong and not only has to run the ads, they also must pay for UCLA’s legal defense.  The cash strapped agency that’s slashing routes and raising fares has to pay the ACLU $476,357.77 (and that doesn’t include Port Authority’s legal bills!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Pyrotechnico, like the the better known Zambelli Brothers are from right up in New Castle. They have been around over 125 years and produce 2,500 shows a year.  They are producing PyroFest in Hartwood Acres on Saturday, May 26.  They are having several shows, it starts at 5 with smoke and noise displays.  All toll, there will be six shows, including a military tribute, a national anthem display, a “Renegade” display featuring the Styx song so associated with the Steelers as well as UFO and smoke.  Phantom Fireworks will also have a demo and display of their products.  Performing will be B.E. Taylor and The Gathering Field.  Pyrotechnico hopes to make this an event they can replicate around the country.  Doors open at 3 pm, price is $18, $10 for kids.  (VIP seating is $40).  Don’t forget to bring a chairs or blankets.  More info at their web site, Showclix or the Hartwood Acres site.

Have a great weekend and happy Mother’s Day,



Tomorrow is anniversary of Schuman Plan (the European Union in 1952 which later evolved into the Euro Zone), the British captured the Enigma Machine from a disabled German sub the cracked the German secret codes (1941), FCC’s chairman Newton Minow invited the TV executives to sit down and spend a day watching what they were producing “a vast wasteland” and challenged them to come up with new and creative programing (1961).

I’m torn here.  I like art and creativity as well as function.  When combined, you go to a new level.  The Morgan Contemporary Glass Gallery at 5833 Ellsworth Avenue, Shadyside is having their annual tea pot exhibit.  By definition, gallery owner Amy Morgan says “You can’t put tea in any of the teapots in this show.”  The sixty artists that have entered this show have made tea pots are made of glass, metal, ceramic, welded & forged steel, wood and various other fibrous materials such as felt, silk, raffia, even pine needles.  There’s a porcelain shaped like a candy tin with cheese, fruit and a napkin on top, there’s a colorful parrot carved from wood, a flame worked and cast glass pot that resembles a whimsical octopus, little red riding hood sitting on a couch conversing with the wolf that looks like he’s ready to pounce and many other unique pots.  The show runs from 11 am until 5 pm Tuesdays through Fridays and noon until 5 on Saturdays through June 2.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.441.5200.

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation has started up their free Downtown tours already.  This is a must do for anyone that has time starting at noon every Friday through September.  The tours are about an hour and the guides pass on an incredible amount of information, like the documents forming the now defunct Czechoslovakia were signed across Seventh Street from the Benedum.  Banks at the tour of the 19th century generally had lions guarding their doors.  Pittsburgh was the second riches city in the country in 1907 (the year the city of Pittsburgh illegally annexed the City of Allegheny).  May’s tours are focusing on the Penn/Liberty Cultural District, June’s tours will focus on Market Square, July will tackle Grant Street and Mellon Square (hopefully the renovations will show progress), 4th Avenue and PPC Plaza  will take the spotlight in August and September bridges and river shores will be the center of focus in September.  October will feature tours of some of the key city neighborhoods.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.471.5808.

Conflict Kitchen’s moving from the East End to Downtown this summer.  They haven’t finalized a lease yet, so the exact location hasn’t been released.  They are looking for a space that has some space for some seating (currently it’s a walk up).  Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski started this restaurant (which is internationally known) to educate people about the cultures the U.S. is in conflict with.  The menu rotates between Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  And the staff can initiate conversations about the featured nation’s culture, the don’t take a position “these poor countries need American help” or “America is the super aggressor that needs to leave”.  They focus on cultural distinctions that can aid in our understanding of a different culture.  Cool.

OK you mid lifers, one of the biggest concerns of people my age is retirement.  It’s HUGE.  Do we have enough money to cover expenses?  What will our life style be like?  Can we enjoy our “golden years”?  There’s a web site, analyze now that can give you some guidance.  Something many of us aren’t familiar with is Medicare/Medicaid.  And with all the current political conversations, things aren’t getting clearer.  Some people plan on $5k per year “out of pocket” costs in retirement to find it’s more like $10k per year.  Keep in mind Medicare/Medicaid does not cover eye, dental or hearing treatments.

Jim Scalo or Burns & Scalo Real Estate has started a new venture with Joe Blattner, Class-G.org.  They are organizing green ratings for existing buildings.  I guess it’s OK for large business, but I find their $700 annual fee daunting.

Gary Geyer of Lawrenceville is open Pittsburgh’s first indoor bike park in an 80,000 square foot old warehouse on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood.  Geyer, an avid bicyclist, got interested in the idea after visiting Cleveland’s Ray’s MTB Indoor Park.  This 120,000 square foot indoor bike park was the first of it’s kind in the US.  It opened in 2004 and had 20,000 visitors in 2010.  Geyer, a local contractor, is planning mountain biking trails, a BMX trick park, an area for beginners, a spin class area and possibly a lounge.  He’s planning on opening in stages and hopes to have the first section of Wheel Mill open by the end of the year.

There are four reliefs carved into two foot square pieces of stone tucked away in an alleyway.  One is obviously Prez Lincoln (and he’s the only one facing left), an Indian with a headdress, a man that could  be Prez Washington and a mystery lady.  Originally they were on the front of a building built during the Civil War at 808 Liberty Avenue that was demolished after the 1936 flood.  The building belonging to the Arbuckles (of coffee fame) constructed a new building on the original foundation and for some reason had the reliefs placed on the back of the building facing the alleyway.  Anyway, it’s a little piece of Pittsburghabia (my word) you can impress your friends when walking around Downtown.

I was scheduled for jury duty a month ago and wrote the wrong date on my calendar.  When I realized this, the date had passed.  I called them and they were very understanding and I was scheduled for today.  I went in this morning (in shorts) and was waiting with the masses when one of the clerks came to me and asked me to follow her with all my stuff.  Again, she was very nice telling me to go home.  I think they’re going to end up sending a sheriff next time to be sure I’m aware of when I’m scheduled and that I am properly attired.  🙂

I really am loving these longer days.  I am so much more productive and full of energy.  The white lilacs are opening up and filling the Courtyard with their wonder scent.  Everything’s so green and healthy looking.  Yeah spring!

Have a great day,



Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby (since 1875), the American made up Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo, 🙂 Karl Marx’s birth anniversary (1818), James Beard’s birth anniversary (1903), Tyrone Power’s birth anniversary and Thailand’s Coronation Day marking the day the current king was crowned in 1946.

They officially opened South Side’s river front park this week.  The 3.2 acre park runs from 25th Street down to the Hot Metal Bridge.  This gives river access to the Southside Works retail complex and connects Three Rivers Heritage and the Great Allegheny Passage Trails.  They are not ignoring the history of the land there (formerly the J & L Steel Mill).  Five steel ingots and a large slag ladle crews discovered while constructing the park have been preserved and on display, as is a former gate from J & L’s Morgan Billet Mill donated by Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.  The park is designed to incorporate a marina, possibly as early as next year.

The Butler County Industrial Museum opened recently.  It is at 801 Plumb Street in Darlington and starting June 3, it will be open Saturdays from 10 am until 5 pm and Sundays from 1:30 until 5 until October.  Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.  The museum houses records and collections from A & S Railroad, B & W, Crucible, J & L, Moltrup, United Steel Workers of America, Fry Glass, Cooperative Flint Glass, Mayer China and other Beaver County based businesses.  They don’t seem to have a web site yet, but more info or to arrange a special tour, call 724.312.0831.

Louisville, CO painter Mark Loebach believes that when it comes to our individual identities, each of us builds layers that eventually become a wall that keeps us from understanding ourselves.  Over our life time, this wall gets thicker and thicker.  His latest exhibit Beautiful Beasts is being shown at Boxheart Gallery (4523 Liberty Ave, Bloomfield) is open through May 26.  It is a series of large-scale bodies in motion.  Regular gallery hours are Tuesdays 11 until 6, Wednesdays through Saturdays 10 until 6 and Sundays 1 until 5.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.6878858;.

Meadowcroft, the oldest site known for human habitation is opening for the season down in Avella, Washington County.  Under a 16,000 year old ledge, archaeologists have been unearthing remnants of their civilization for a number of years now.  Visitors can explore the massive Rockshelter and the recreated 19th century Ohio Valley village.  New this year, visitors can walk along a self-guided trail loop through the woods.  It is open Saturdays from noon until 5 and Sundays from 1 until 5.  More info at their web site or by calling 724.587.3412.

Saturday will have the largest full moon in years, the moon will pass in it’s closest orbit to earth in it’s cycle.  Which will make for a pretty dramatic view of the moon, but hinder the viewing of the meteor shower also passing us tomorrow.  The moon peaks out at us around 8:30 and will be it’s fullest around 11:30.

Sculpturer J Seward Johnson makes life sized and realistic looking sculptures.  His business man, sitting on a bench in New York became iconic when first responders saw him bent over his briefcase covered in white dust on 9/11 and went to aid him.  🙂  Fifteen of his sculptures will be spread around Downtown, mainly in the Gateway Center area through August 5.  The are “Out of Sight”, “Allow Me”, “No, Mommy, That One”, ” Far Out”, “Monet, Our Visiting Artist”, “Follow The Leader”, “Taxi”, “Sidewalk Jungle”, “Holding Out”, “Contact”, “Weekend Painter”, “Gotcha”, “Nice to See You”, “Waiting to Cross” and “A Little to the Right”.  Take a walk Downtown and see if you can pick them all out. 🙂

Be sure to go out and cheer on the runners on Sunday,


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Tomorrow is Beltane, one of the Greater Sabbats of the Wiccan year, Cambodia was invaded by the US (1970), Siagon fell (1975), Franklin Del Roosevelt had the first televised address to the country (1939), George Washington’s inauguration (1789) and Walpurgis Night, St Walpurgis is the German protectress from the magic arts.

I have a question, are we stupid as a country or is our military out of control?  (I’m a proud vet, I can go here).  We had the scandal at Abu Ghraib in 2006, in February we burned the Koran, Staff Sergeant Bales last month’s accusation of murdering 17 civilians in the middle of the night, including women and children.  An now there’s stuff coming out about troops urinating on dead insurgents.  I admit, I have never been in war, and as I think it was MacArthur said War is Hell.  But when you are in a country that many citizens don’t want you there, don’t you want to live to the higher standard?  What happens on the battle field is one thing.  What happens later in a prison or post fighting on the battle field isn’t the same as in the heat of battle.  Isn’t there sergeants, captains, other mangers around.  I understand Sergeant Bales lost some fellow soldiers because of an IED earlier that day, and I feel real bad for him.  But that’s why I am totally baffled why they burned the Koran.  Why?

The Swiss room was just dedicated on last Sunday, joining the other 29 Nationality Rooms to grace the Cathedral of Learning.  Pitt was founded in 1787 and the rule is nationality rooms have to reflect design prior to that.  So for inspiration, the Swiss room is based on an Abbey built in 1489.  It has four custom trestle tables and 28 stabellen chairs reflecting of the style back then.  Switzerland has many Pittsburgh connections.  The Isaly family was originally from there and was influential in raising funds for the creation of the room, as had Ben Roethlisberger whom has Swiss heritage in his lineage.  The owners of the Priory, the Grafs originally was from there as well.  They donated a hand crafted oven that was central to heating Swiss homes in the 15th century that their ancestors made.  The room has to appear authentic, so modern conveniences have to be disguised.  So they did things like hiding the energy efficient LED lighting behind floral rosettes in the ceiling.  The Swiss room makes a nice addition to the Nationality Rooms.

The Fein Art Gallery, 519 E Ohio Street right here on the Northside has a new exhibit through May 4, Associated Artists Winners Jerome D’Angelo & Linda Van Gehuchten.  Both were winners last fall at the competition at the Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip.  D’Angelo is fascinated with rectangles and the importance of them visually from art in frames, windows, TV screens, even boxing in fireplaces.  So you see a lot of rectangular influences in his works that incorporate collections of detail that form a single entity suggesting a bigger idea.  He cobbles together bits and pieces of miscellany from everyday life to create his creations.  Van Gehuchten, originally from Venezuela, works with wood pulling out the intimacy of the piece itself.  She does this with various methods of turning the wood, not just round but oval as well and working with veneers and colors.  She does large objects like tables and small works of art that could sit on the table.  Admission is free and the hours are from 11 am – 5 pm Tuesdays through Fridays and Noon to 5 pm Saturday.  More info at Fein’s web site or by calling 412.321.6816.

There’s a new breed of predatory debt collectors, they buy old debts on the premise that they can collect on them with a profit.  These are not a business that’s trying to recoup debts owed to them or even a legitimate debt collection agency for companies that are owed money.  These are companies that’s sole purpose is to buy uncollected debts steeply discounted and try and make money on them.  By nature, they are bottom feeders and use all kinds of unsavory tactics.  They have this system down to a science, they know how to call from California and disguise their number on caller ID so it looks like your state capital, among other tricks.  Diane Mey, from Weirton, was so incensed when a debt collector threaten her with sexual assault if she didn’t pay up on a debt that wasn’t hers that she took Global AG and it’s owners Thai Han, Jim Phelps and Stewrt Phillips to court and won $10M.  It’s fairly easy and free to file a complaint against these people.  Contact the Federal Communications Commission at their web site or by calling 1.888.225.5322.

There was an article in last week’s City Paper about recycling and how terrible those “peanuts” are.  Well, actually they are, but they are very  much reusable.  Any of those public pack and ship companies eagerly accept them.  I keep a trash bag in my basement and whenever something comes in with those peanuts, I dump them in the plastic bag and periodically drop them off at the Fedex/Kinko’s on McKnight Road.  They are very happy to accept them.  I sent Bill O’Driscoll, the writer of the article an e-mail and he said he would change the on-line version to reflect this.

There’s a new restaurant in Beechview that’s getting some pretty good reviews.  (That Betty really knows what neighborhoods to move into, or does the neighborhood change because Betty’s there?  🙂 ).  Casa Rasta is at 2102 Beechview Blvd is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 am until 9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 am untl 10 pm and Sundays from noon until 9 pm.  Kind of a walk up with two inside tables and counter and a couple of outside tables, serves a kind of Caribbean/Mexican flavored menu of taqueria, tacos, tostadas, burritos and tortas.  Very fresh and very cheap.  Watch out Mad Mex.  🙂

Have you heard about the vicious malware out there, the ghost virus?  The FBI broke them awhile back, it infected your computer and when you did a search, it sent you to advertisers they were making millions from.  They are in custody, or in jail, I don’t remember what.  The reason for this post is there are many computers out there that are infected and in July the virus is scheduled to kill your hard drive.  They set up a very easy way to see if you are infected.  Visit www.dcwg.org and scroll down just a bit to the link.  If the background is green, you’re cool.  If it’s red, you’re infected and instructions will be down below on options you have.  I just did it, I’m green.  🙂

Grove City College is working it’s way into my heart as my favorite higher education institution.  It’s tuition is $13,598 a year, compared to $28,500 which is the the average tuition according to the College Board.  And they severed Federal subsidies in 1984 over Title IX requiring female sports activities meet the same as male.  This wasn’t about “keeping up with the Jones” in male female sports.  It was about keeping up with bureaucracy.  Grove City actually has more females in sports than males.  But they run their college like a small business.  They plan and build when they have the money, they don’t embark on this massive building campaigns figuring someone will bail them out later.  Like Penn State, Pitt and the other major universities.  Their entering freshmen have an average SAT score of 1244 vs the national average of college freshmen of 1009.  94% of their budget is covered by tuition, room and board.  Maybe their “prestigious” big brothers can learn something from their little sibling.  Maybe Steve Bland at the Port Authority to take up an internship at Grove City College to learn to live within his means and how to run an organization with intelligence instead of “give me more money”.  (I do hope he Googles his name and sees how often I dis him.  Hopefully he won’t send a bus through my Inn).

Well, that’s if for today, enjoy the rest of your Sunday,


Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of James Buchanan (1791), the first movie theater, Koster and Bials Music Hall, opened in New York (1896), the first public school opened in Boston (1635), it is the birth AND death anniversary of William Shakespeare (1564/1616), Max Planck’s birth anniversary (1858-formulator of quantum theory) and it is Shirley Temple Black’s birthday (1928).

Add to Pittsburgh being Gotham City in The Dark Knight Rises, a post-apocalyptic wasteland in The Road, backwoods Kentucky in the TV series Justified and Jody Foster in Silence of the Lambs, we are now going to be the back drop for Producer Chris Moore’s Promised Land staring Matt Damon and John Krasinski (from The Office).  Filming starts on Monday.  The story is about a sales executive, Damon, coming to a small town and questions about the life choises he has made.  And his corporate rival is played by Krasinski.  Moore will be hosting a community screening of The People Speak on April 30 at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont with questions and answers afterward.  The People Speak is a film Point Park University professor Lisa Smith made with Moore that initially brought him to Pittsburgh.  It is based on the work of historian Howard Zinn with contributions by Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Marisa Tomei, Josh Brolin, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

Anyone that reads my blog, knows I have a fairly low regard for politicians.  I’ve always pretty much held the judiciary in a pretty high regard.  I may strongly disagree with their opinions, but that’s the nature of opinions.  We all have them.  I like to think that they have the education, experience and integrity to render what they honestly think is right.  There’s been a number of national issues that have come up recently with judges that have caught my eye.  And I have been watching the developments with PA Supreme Court Justice Orie-Melvin and using her sister’s staff for campaigning.  And then there’s Common Pleas President Judge Donna Jo McDaniel.  Her daughter, Lindsay Hildenbrand was working as the judge’s executive assistant and mom promoted her to supervisor of jury operations in November (which included a modest increase). Four months later, Hildenbrand received an eleven percent raise.  One of the highest raises in the court system this year.  This is in a court system that is facing a $3.5M deficit this year.  Judge McDaniel’s son-in-law, Brian Quigley received a promotion in January to assistant director of jury operations (he happens to be married to McDaniels other daughter, Jamie).  Brian received an eleven point nine percent raise.  More than 900 union court workers received a three percent raise.  Deputy Court Administrator Claire Capristo stated the chief judge had nothing to do with the raise and that it was appropriate since some of the people reporting to Hildenbrand made more money than she did.  Sorry, that doesn’t fly with me.  That should have been known before the position was offered and accepted.  Even if this is not nepotism, it sure appears as such.  And with a judge!  Come on McDaniel, come out of your ivory tower offices in the prestigious Frick building and join the real world.

Western PA Conservancy was just honored by Charity Navigator by ranking them number seven out of 5,500 charities reviewed.  This was for using 87% of their budget directly in their programs, clear transparency of finances, growth and longevity (they’ve been around 80 years, the oldest Conservancy in Pennsylvania.)  I spoke of the Conservancy just a few blogs ago.  Besides running Fallingwater, they have assisted in establishing 10 state parks, conserved more than 232,00 acres of natural land, protected or restored 1,500 miles of streams and developed science-based inventories of species, their habits and ecosystems.  Coming soon, you will see the sponsorship of The Parador Inn at the Brighton and California Roads intersection parklet.  🙂  I’ve spoken of Charity Navigator in the past, they’re the ones that consistently rank Brother’s Brother as a great charity that is very transparent and uses a very small portion of donations for overhead.  You can see what their priorities are by just walking down the street from here and seeing their warehouses and offices.  Nothing to brag about.  I love them.

Is it coincidence or is Jessica Walliser a fan of my blog?  She just wrote a very informative article in the Trib about rain gardens.  In my past blog, I had talked about we need landscapers to take up the challenge of figuring out the details of how to build rain gardens since the city now bans placing roof run off in the sewer system.  The Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance is a non profit comprising of 12 organizations that advocate rain gardens.  Jim Bonner of the Audubon Society of Western PA (a founding member of our alliance) says that as little as 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch of rainfall can push raw sewerage out of our system into our waterways.  Their web site has a wealth of information on it, such as a calculator that tells you the size of garden you will need to handle your homes rainwater runoff.  They also have recommended native plants that do well in these gardens.  Creating a rain garden costs about the same as creating a regular garden-$3-$5 per square foot.  You can even register your garden on the site.  There currently are 63 gardens registered that absorbs 100,000 gallons of water each time it rains.  Pretty impressive.

Another chapter of one of my favorite charities has closed.  The judge threw out the lawsuit against Greg Mortenson, founder of the Central Asia Institute, for exaggerating in his book Three Cups of Tea.  I don’t care whether he fell off a cliff and was rescued by some Sherpa, I don’t care if he personally had to carry a forty foot iron beam up the Himalayas by himself or if he needed to part the roaring waters of some river to save a kitten.  The work he does is significant and important.  Shame on Sixty Minutes for creating a mountain out of a mole hill to get ratings.

Weather persons, run to the store and get supplies, super snow storm coming this evening.  Feet and feet of snow with a projected low of 34.  Please.  Miserable, but not the end of the world.  Keep warm and dry,




Tomorrow is the anniversary of Columbine High School shooting (1999), Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion (2010), it is the birth anniversary of Lionel Hampton (1908) and Adolph Hitler (1889).

The Butler Home Show runs this weekend, April 20, 21 & 22 at the Family Sports Center, Route 68, Connoquenessing.  They have about 100 vendors with seminars and demonstrations on how to DIY projects.  The Pennsylvania Resources Council will celebrate Earth Day by collecting and recycling unwanted cell phones and they will be giving advice on “green” home and lawn care.  Hours are Friday from 4 – 9 pm, Saturday, 10 am until 9 pm and Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm.  Info at their web site.

The Pittsburgh Observatory up in Riverview Park is getting noticed again with a documentary created by local scientist Dan Handley.  This is the debut film by Mr. Handley who has a master’s degree in logic and computation from CMU, a Ph.D in human genetics from Pitt and has studied play writing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and documentary film making at the Pittsburgh Filmmakers where he is an Artist Member.  Quite the pedigree.  🙂 Pittsburgh actor David Conrad narrates the film and Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto was the  executive producer.  Quite the hometown production on a hometown significant institution. The Observatory was initially conceive after the Donati comet of 1858 was seen over Allegheny City by John Brashear and Samuel P Langley.  (Not coincidentally, two of our high schools were named after these men.)  It was built in 1859 and was taken over by Pitt in 1867, who still runs the Observatory.

Dave Sevick is up for the regional Volunteer of the Year award today.  The winner from Western PA will go to Washington, DC for the national Jefferson Award for Public Service.  Dave, a retired nurse from the operating room at Children’s Hospital started ComputeReach in 2001 to take old computers, refurbish them and give them to disadvantaged kids and schools.  Overall, he and his volunteers has refurbished 3,272 computers.  Google recently awarded ComputeReach a $36,000 grant for operations.  70 year old Ms Bizic, a retired librarian from the elementary school his daughters attended nominated him for this award.  Typically, Dave deferred praise to the 160 volunteers that work with him.

Tucked away at William Penn Place and Strawberry Way is the Allegheny Harvard, Yale, Princeton Club.  Built in 1894 as fairly spartan housing for workers, local architect Edward B Lee converted the building into a Georgian Revival in the 1930s (the same time the Knights of Columbus bought The Parador and made my Ballroom).  In 1980, the club started accepting women and in 1987 the eliminated the requirement that you be an alumni from Harvard, Yale or Princeton to join.  The four levels of membership are premium at $1,440, golden triangle at $1,380, suburban at $900 or nonresident $480.  Very cool looking building and very refined service and food inside.

It used to be referred to as “domestic violence”, the CDC has redefined it to “intimate partner violence” to be more inclusive.  It is estimated the thirty percent of women and twenty-five percent of men were subjected to being slapped, pushed or shoved by an intimate partner.  Woman are by far, subjected to the more serious abuses than men.  An Oakland based non profit, Standing Firm has taken on the challenge of educating the work place on signs of abuse and how to handle it.  Employers are frequently the third party able to notice something amiss and in the past the attitude was to “mind one’s own business”.  That is changing, not only is it the right thing to do, but you may save a person’s life.  Working with someone forty hours a week, you become intimate with their habits.  If some habits suddenly change, the person starts changing the way they dress maybe to cover up bruises, etc, if the employee all of a sudden starts having personal phone conversations away from everyone else, these are all warning signs.  Coordinators Susan Nitzberg and Barbara Penner give classes to the 131 member companies and offer managers a free thirty minute phone consultation.

Did you see where Citibank shareholders rebelled against the CEO’s compensation package?  Someone may have read the fine print, the compensation listed on their agenda was an “estimated” $14M where he is actually eligable for up to $55M!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And EQT shareholders threw a fit yesterday.  Maybe the 99% are finally making themselves heard.  Here’s a new twist on corporate greed.  Chesapeake Energy’s shares dropped 5% the other day after Reuters announced that CE Aubrey McClendon has taken $1.1BILLION loan against his stake in thousands of company wells.  What, he needs a new car?  Or maybe country.

Baldwin Borough is still fighting with Port Authority to take down signs still posted for bus routes that don’t exist.  And I’m not talking about the slashed routes recently cut.  There are signs still up that are so old and rusted you can’t read them.  There’s also posts still in the ground with nothing on them.  Baldwin has been trying for months to get Port Authority to take these signs down.  They are now talking about having their public works department take them down and then bill Port Authority.

April 21, the PA Resource Council will be holding an e-waste collection in the VIP parking lot on Corrigan Drive (for those of you not familiar, the VIP is the old swimming pool and the parking lot is the one between that catering venue and the ice rink).  Hours are from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  There’s a small fee for fluorescent lights, ink cartriges, batteries, etc.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.488.7490 ext 236.  The next collection will be May 12 at Steel City Harley-Davidson, 1375 Washington Road, Little Washington, same hours.

That’s about it for today.  Enjoy tomorrow, because Saturday’s supposed to be pretty rainy,