Tomorrow is the Daytona 500, the anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing (1993), the founding of the Grand Teton National Park (1929), the Grand Canyon National Park (1919) and the publishing of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848).  It also is the birth anniversary of Fats Domino (1928), Johnny Cash (1932), Jackie Gleason (1916), William Cody (Buffalo Bill 1846), Tony Randall (1920) and Levi Strauss (1829).

Energy advocate and author Jason McLennan from Portland, Oregon is giving two lectures at Phipps new Center for Sustainable Landscapes on Monday.  The lunch (and lunch) lecture starts at 11:30 and is $35 and the 5:30 lecture is $10 (no lunch 🙂 ).  This short series is timed to coincide with the Center for Sustainable Landscapes opening in the next several weeks.  More info at Pipps’ web site or by calling 412.622.6914.

It looks like we’ve lost.  The Buncher Group, the fat cats that own all that land behind the Terminal Building in the Strip got the city approval to demolish almost a third of the Terminal Building for Buncher to place an access road there to service their new development.  I adamantly am against this.  If they want to develop access, why not improve the intersection at 15th Street and Smallman (by Lydia’s)?  Oh, that street is not in the center of their property easily dividing their development and it doesn’t go all the way up to Liberty Avenue.  So we’re going to let them demolish a third of this iconic building for the sake of convenience of the Buncher group?  When I was just in Florida, I have a series of salvage yards I go to that specialize in selling pieces of iconic buildings Florida allows developers to tear down “for the sake of development”.  I think Buncher reads my blog because just to rub salt in my wound, the first piece to be built (and the only piece at this point officially being built) is an apartment building all the way down between the convention center and the veteran’s bridge.  But they need to tear down that section of the Terminal Building this year.

I’ve spoken of the power of social media in the past, but thought it was worth revisiting since consumers have such a voice now that can count.  Twenty-three year old Stef Gray, an unemployed recent college graduate, was upset the Sallie Mae a private college education loan company was going to charge her a fee for deferring payments until she found a job.  Stef went on line, got 76,000 people that agreed with her and delivered her petition to Sallie Mae and Sallie Mae agreed not to pocket the fee, instead in the future Sallie Mae will put the fee towards the balance on the loan.  Not total vindication, but definitely a step in the right direction.  One of the most successful petition campaigns was done by twenty-two year old Molly Katchpole who was upset with Bank of America decision to start charging a $5 fee on debit cards.  She got more than 300,000 people to sign her petition last year and BoA backed off the fee.  Molly was not about to stop there, she started a petition against Verizon’s plan to start charging $2 for various ways to pay your bill.  Molly got 130,000 signatures and Verizon backed down.  In addition to the standard Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other commonly known social medias, there’s Change.org that puts like minded people in touch with each other.

Interested in buying one of the oldest barns in Allegheny County?  This 177 year old historic landmark is owned by Penn Hebron Garden Club, whose decline in membership has made the upkeep more than they can do.  The barn, at 237 Jefferson Road, Penn Hills has the original exposed hand hewn roof timbers and stone foundation.  The garden club bought the barn in 1928 and the lower level where the animals had been stabled was turned into a kitchen, dining room and lounge.  The second floor was converted into a meeting room and dance floor with stage.  There’s a pen and ink rendering on their web site, but it certainly doesn’t look much like a barn.  They say that details are on Pittsburgh’s History and Landmarks Foundation, but I wasn’t able to find anything there.

Northside’s Thaddeus Mosley has recently had a documentary made on his art and life.  I first stumbled on him in 2009 when his cousin from Maryland stayed with me for the opening of a show he had at The Mattress Factory.  Born in 1926 in New Castle, he has a degree from Pitt in English, but taught himself the art of wood carving.  Generally he uses local cherry, walnut and sycamore logs for his creations.  He taught summer wood working classes for over twenty years at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, Fayette County.  David Lewis authored Thaddeus Mosley: African-American Sculptor through the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1997.  They claim you can view the documentary through humanitydocs.com, but I didn’t see it there.  There was some pretty cool other documentaries there you may be interested in seeing, so I included the link.

The first annual Pittsburgh Craft Beer Week from April 20 through the 28th will be celebrated in about two dozen restaurants and microbreweries (including Penn Brewery, the Church Brew Works, Rock Bottom Brewery and I assume the East End Brewery.  More info on the Craft Beer web site.

I seems we have a replacement for Right By Nature in the Strip.  Late spring, Marty’s Market will be taking over the space.  They don’t have a web site yet, but this link tells a lot about what Regina Koetters plans to do.  She wants to do a fresh, local grocery store option.  I would think with the Cork Factory, Otto Milk as anchors right there and all the other housing options springing up in the Downtown/Strip area a grocery store should be a compliment to the specialty stores of the Strip.

I opened the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City and had a fairly short stint working for Donald and, at that time, Ivana.  What “interesting” people to work for.  Since then, his fame has dramatically increased as has his annoying behaviors.  It’s his way, only.  His latest is he has laid out a blistering attack on Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond over the Scottish plans to build a wind farm off the coast of his latest golf resort.  Despite environmentalist concerns about Trump bulldozing the rare sand dunes and other destructive building practices, Mr. Salmond gave Trump the OK to do this and they were best buddies.  Mr. Salmond has decided to support an off coast wind farm to help Scotland towards it’s goal of clean energy and energy independence.  Trump says the First Minister is “hell bent on destroying Scotland’s coast-line  and therefore Scotland itself.”  Don’t you think it’s a bit of a stretch that a wind farm is going to cause the decline of Scotland?

In preparation for it’s 22nd annual Mt Lebanon Public Library Garden Tour on July 8, once again they are leading up to it with several gardening lectures and workshops.  First up is a free series featuring a master gardener that will be teaching a three part course on sustainable design, use of hardy native plants, ground covers and the use of rain barrels geared toward novices.  the classes start at 6 p.m. and will be held on March 5, 12 and 19.  On June 9 they will be hosting the Pittsburgh Rose Society’s June Rose Exposition (kind of extra words 🙂 ).  This all day event includes lectures and plants on display.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.531.1912.  On March 10, the Mt Lebanon Courtyard Gardens will have it’s fifth annual vegetable and herb seed-sharing event.  This begins at 9:30 a.m., requires preregistration and costs $7.  It is limited to 20 participants.  To register, contact Mary Beth at 412.736.8216 or e-mail her at mbthakar@yahoo.com.  Somewhat related to this, the Mt Lebanon Historical Society is hosting a lecture by Tribune Review columnist John Conti “Ideas that shaped Mt Lebanon”, celebrating their 100th anniversary.  This event will take place March 28 at 7:30.  More info on their web site or by calling 412.563.1941.

Have a great weekend,




Tomorrow would have been Steve Jobs 57th birthday, Estonia’s independence day (1991), Wilhelm Grimm’s  birth anniversary (1786-of Grimm’s Fairy Tales fame), Pittsburgh’s own Honus Wagner’s birth anniversary (1874) and Chester Nimitz’s birth anniversary (1885-commander of all forces in the Pacific Theater during World War Two).

OK, OK, OK.  I don’t hate Catholics, stop being mad at me.  I hate organized Muslims, Catholics, Presbyterians, Jews, Hindus all of them and the ones I missed.  In my world, things are right and things are wrong.  I acknowledge there are degrees, running a stop sign is less wrong than stabbing a man to death.  But it’s still wrong.  Killing a human is wrong, it is one of the most wrongs.  To say it’s OK to kill the infidels to take back the holy land was wrong.  To kill inocent people in the name of Jiah is just as wrong.  And that was a church that not only sanctioned those killings, they offered special dispensations to the crusaders.  As does the current Muslim Jiadist clerics.  Organized churches sanctioned slavery, killing young women accused of being witches, gays and anyone else that didn’t fit in their mold of what they wanted.

Here’s a novel idea, why not rent your kids toys?  Toy sales is a $21.8B industry.  Toddlers in particular loose interest in new toys quickly.  As kids get older and define their interests, toys have more longevity.  Nikki Pope founded Toygaroo that operates a lot like Netflix.  You choose a membership level and can receive from four to eight toys at a time.  Membership runs from $24.99 to $52.99.  There are no due dates or late fees.  You keep the toys until you are ready to trade them in.  More info at their web site.  Locally, thee’s the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library that has a similar program at 5401 Centre Avenue, Shadyside.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.682.4430.

The old Pittsburgh Morgue at 542 Fourth Avenue Downtown has been designated to become a county office building by 2013.  (If you remember the morgue moved to a county building in the Strip between Penn & Liberty by the 16th Street bridge.  After extensive renovations, including adding a floor, it is one of the most modern morgues in the country).  The county is expecting to spend about $4.5M to upgrade the mechanicals in the building as a comprehensive approach.  They also are going to add a second floor in the space over the old actual morgue.  They intend to move the law offices currently in the Fort Pitt Commons to the new facility.  There will be no alteration to the exterior or any of the historic interior facilities.  I believe the morgue was designed by HH Richardson, he worked all over the country.  In Pittsburgh he did our Courthouse and connecting Jail as well as Emanuel Episcopal Church right down the street from me.

There’s an interesting art showing at the Box Heart Gallery at 4523 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield through March 3.  Photographer Nadim Sabella is from San Francisco where property values don’t allow a property to deteriorate too bad.  He became fascinated with abandoned house and has taken photographs of houses in the process of returning to the earth.  He’s taken these photos from abandoned houses in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and New Orleans after Katrina.  Not only has he taken these thought provoking images, he actually created a miniature house complete with decaying rooms.  Old abandoned buildings have always been a draw to me.  I love going into them and seeing the depressing deterioration while enjoying details you’ll never see in modern buildings.  I love the uniqueness as opposed to the cookie cutter approach in current building projects.

There’s a new web site that seems kind of cool.  Nextdoor.com is a site that links neighbors together, like chatting across the fence, but virtually.  A neighborhood group starts a site and to join, you need to verify that you live within the boundaries.  There is currently 13 registered Pittsburgh neighborhoods with around 600 involved.  I think this concept has a lot of potential.  Instead of waiting for the monthly neighborhood meeting and then missing it because you were in Florida and having to wait another month, you have instant access.  You could pass on relevant information, ask local questions and if your neighborhood association is a part actually have the minutes of the monthly meetings posted.  Overall, I prefer face to face interactions, but have no problems with enhancing the world with virtual options as well.

I met Patty Knouse a couple of years ago when I ran the Allegheny West Gift Shop during their holiday tours.  Her and daughter Nicole had a booth and were selling teas and tea accompaniments.  She was talking about starting a tea house.  Well apparently she opened one with a partner and then decided to go off on her own.  Her and her daughter (that makes jewelry) started AntiquiTea Tearoom and Gift Shop at 454 Perry Highway in West View.  They are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and offer the high tea experience as well as regular lunches.  They also host larger shower type teas upstairs.  They have a gift shop with Nicole’s jewelry, tea acrudements, bagged and loose tea.  More info at 412.301.0283 or their web site.

Penn Forest Natural Burial Park, in Penn Hills, has been certified by the Green Burial Council.  The Green Burial Council out of Santa Fe accredits funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries that offer eco-friendly products.  Penn Forest, founded last year specifies that no toxic embalming fluids can be used, caskets and shrouds must be biodegradable and grave markers must be made of local wood or stone and be flat to the ground.  They only have one grave in the 32 acres cemetery, but have sold 20 plots.

Watch out Betty, Peter Kantorowski, 71 has filed to evict his 98 year old mother.  🙂  Peter became owner of Mary’s home several years ago as part of a financial planning move (I assume to avoid inheritance tax).  This is not as cold blooded as it first appears.  Mary’s ability to fend for herself has deteriorated to a point that she’s somewhat of a danger to herself.  And she doesn’t want to leave the house she’s lived in for sixty years.  We just went through that with Betty two years ago (not evicting her, but convincing her that moving into an independent senior apartment was best for all.  It was very hard on her [and us] to give up the old homestead.)  I can only imagine trying to convince her in another 10+ years to make the move.  My heart goes out to both Peter & Mary and wish them a smooth solution that will ensure her safety and care and his nerves.

Ten month old Sea Monster made her public debute last week at the Pittsburgh Aquarium.  She’s a Great Pacific Octopus that was caught up in a fisherman’s net.  She arrived in Pittsburgh last June.  This twelve pound little cutie changes the color and texture of her outside “mantle” to blend in with her surroundings to hide from potential predators.  Eric Kellar, her keeper, said if Great Pacific Octopus aren’t continually stimulated, they will go insane.  (When I mentioned this to some guests the other day, that asked how can you tell if an octopus is insane).  🙂  To keep her stimulated, Eric hides tasty morsels in her aquarium to keep her on her toes (actually six foot tenticles).  🙂  She recognizes people by their smell and clothing.  When Eric is not working with her, he locks a lid over her enclosure.  She’s frequently seen probing the lock to see if she can get loose.

Well, that’s about it for today,



Well, the big thing tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, the start of the Mardi Gras.  The Washington Monument was dedicated (1885-I had no idea it was that old), Paczki Day a Polish Shrove Tuesday tradition where sugar coated fruit filled pastries are consumed in mass quantities 🙂 , the assassination of Malcolm X (1965) in Harlem and Richard Nixon started his historic trip to China (1972-the first time a sitting president visited a country not diplomatically recognized by the U.S.

Well, I’m back in da ‘burg.  Two years ago when I was last in West Palm, they had the coldest snap they’d had in fifty years.  This year they had a drought until the day I arrived.  It rained every day I was there, but at least I was in short sleeved shirts and shorts.  And in Florida it can rain and twenty minutes later the sun’s out.  Saw friends I haven’t seen in awhile (planned and just bumped into), had some nice shopping and I’m not a beach person anyway, all was good.  I then went hang to with Jeff from The Inn on the Mexican War Streets, they own a condo in Tampa.  I did a map quest between West Palm and Tampa and a large segment of the trip was through the center of the state was on a two lane road, Route 60.  Well, it’s citrus harvesting time down there and there was all these huge trucks hauling oranges and grapefruits from the orchards.  I had to pass these lumbering beasts quickly and get back in my lane, in my new Prius hybrid.  The little guy did great.  It has a pwr button that gives it a turbo boost kind of thing that really does work.   The Prius does have a good amount of spunk, but that pwr button really does a nice job.  This Prius is rated 51 mpg in the city and 40 on the highway, if I’m reading the gauge correctly, I averaged 50 mpg for the entire trip.  I read a disturbing article on hybrids, they peaked in sales in 2010, sales of hybrids actually dropped in 2011.  Hey, if you’re not worried about the climate and earth, gas supposedly is going up to $4.50 – $5.00 a gallon this summer!  One final note on the trip, I got as far as the North Carolina/Virginia border and it was around 9 at night and I could continue to PGH and arrive around 2 in the morning and have a fitful night sleep and be out of sorts the next day.  Or I could pull over and find a cheap motel room.  Which I did, for being a boring little motel, The Surry Inn in Dobson, NC was actually a well run little place.  The amenities were pretty small (soaps, shampoo-not that I need that) :), but their towels were of a nice quality, the room was clean and had everything expected in a motel and in good working order. I digress, so I head off to bed and get up around 4 in the morning.  I take a shower and am on the road and it’s dark with just the truck drivers and myself cruising along.  I admit, I was doing 80 in a 70 zone, but it was five in the morning!  You know where this is going, yeps I now have my first moving vehicle violation in almost 15 years.  I’m a criminal.  🙂

There’s a famous painting of Abraham Lincoln’s wife, Mary, that has hung in the Illinois governor’s mansion for years.  The story behind the painting is that Francis Carpenter painted it for Mary as a gift to Abraham.  Unfortunately he was assassinated before it was finished.  The painting was sold to the Lincoln family in the 1920’s for about $2,500, apparently in a scam.  One of the descendants gave the painting to the state historical society in 1976 and it was then hung in the mansion.  The mansion is undergoing renovations and so they sent the painting out for maintenance and this is how the deception was discovered.  Apparently there’s an anonymous woman that was painted over to resemble Mary and the signature of Carpenter was added at a later date.

Frankferd Farms in Saxonburg recently received an award from The Association for Sustainable Agriculture for their work in providing sustainable and renewable farming practices.  The Association, out of Centre County, is one of the largest such organizations in the country.  T. Lyle and Betty Ferderber wanted to do sustainable farming long before it became a trend (like thirty some years ago) and developed their farming business into $4M business with over 4,000 items.  Not only do they farm, they also produce a variety of ground flours and pancake mixes at the flour mill as well as a myriad of items.  More info at their web site or by visiting their store at 717 Saxonburg Blvd, Saxonburg, PA 16056.  724.352.9500.

OK, I hope any of you that know me are sitting down.  I am going to endorse a candidate in the Republican campaign.  I officially support the nomination of Rick Santorum, the weasel.  🙂  Seriously, I hope he wins their nomination.  He’s the anti-Christ to me, he is everything I don’t believe in or support.  But he seems to be tailor fit for the Tea Party right wingers.  Let’s let America go to the polls this fall and announce who we are.  Are we a republic that supports corporate greed and wealthy entitlements at the expense of educating and feeding our children, or are we a nation that maintains safety nets for our less fortunate.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out for a welfare state.  There’s a lot of waste, bloated agencies, redundancies and undeserving people getting aid they shouldn’t.  But to take an axe and eliminate programs that take care of basic necessities is just wrong.  The weak (and that includes a lot of definitions) deserve the support of the strong.  And the strong owe the weak this support.  “Christians” like the intolerant Santorum and the Catholic church in Italy sneaking chapels in their “bed and breakfasts” so they don’t have to pay taxes on the income the generate in their lodging establishments is the reason I am no longer a Catholic or a “christian”.  l pride myself in being a “human”.

Sorry, you know me, sometimes I just can’t help myself.

One final note tonight, I found this to be pretty ingenious.  The Apollo-Ridge School District built a new media center, that seems to have been brought in on budget.  Now the problem is to fill it.  They created a “bridal registry” kind of thing on Amazon.com and are looking for people buy anything from an iMac desk top computer for $1,133 to a 24 count single-serve hot cocoa cups for the Keuring K Cups brewer (one of their goals is to teach the high schoolers to open and run a coffee shop) for $10.50.  Somebody at the Apollo-Ridge School District deserves a gold star for creativity and thinking outside the box.  If you are so inclined, go to Amazon.com and click on the “Find a Wish List or Registry” and enter Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation.

Have a great tomorrow,



Well, Friday was a busy day.  Started by going to Shell World (used to be Shell Man years ago) in Key Largo.  They have the best collection of shells and other beachy things around.  The drive down was quite the challenge, torrential rains half the way down and I was lucky.  While down in the Keys, Palm Beach Island got three inches of rain.  And typical of Florida, the rain came and left and then the sun came out.  Shell World didn’t have what I was looking for (a bag of the same size, type of shells), but that was OK.  I can always spend money.  I traveled down to the Keys on I95.  The stretch of I95 between Palm Beach County and Miami is one of the most dangerous roads in the country right up there with the Schuylkill Expressway.  It’s not the road itself that causes it to be dangerous as much as the drivers.  Also, they have taken the HOV lane and made it an HOV/tolled Express Lane.  They have also taken one of the normal traveling lanes and added that lane to the HOV/Express Lane.  And it only accepts Sun Pass.  I don’t know how they were able to do this and Pennsylvania can’t toll I80 (not that I think they should be able to toll I80.  If they want a toll road, they shouldn’t be able to take a road I already paid to be built and restrict it.)  The worst part is they also took part of the regular traveling lanes and made them narrower to make room for the barrier.  Coming back up to Palm Beach County, I decided to use the Florida Turnpike.  It used to be annoying with these toll booths every so often that you had to plunk fifty cents into.  Now they have these overhead sensors that read Sun Pass, if you have it.  If you don’t have Sun Pass, they take your license plate number and bill you.  Not sure how this is going to work, but it was a lot easier than slowing down periodically.

Then I went to David Culpepper’s marine salvage on the corner of 16th Street and Dixie Highway in West Palm.  David has the most extensive collection of nautical items I’ve seen anywhere.  Mostly vintage as well as a bunch of the touristy kind of new stuff like hand carved pelicans and funny signs.  The picture below is just one of his rooms with old ship lights.

And finally, they have the parts you can build yourself a boat.  Complete with cannon.  🙂

I then went to Adam and Eve Architectural Salvage.  I love architectural salvage yards, Adam and Eve is like Construction Junction gone wild.  What’s funny is they have some really cool vintage Florida planters, building pieces made from coral rock, etc which if you could find in Pittsburgh, they would be very expensive.  But a hot water radiator for my house in their place was $400 ($60 at Construction Junction).  Florida is so busy tearing down old hotels and classic buildings that they have a plethora of old iron railings, marble balusters, and so much more.  I could load a semi with stuff, but I think my neighbors would have a problem with Ed’s Architectural Salvage.  🙂

Well, I’m now in Tampa visiting Jeff that owns The Inn on the Mexican War Streets and my curse continues.  HIm and Karl own a condo on the water here.  If it doesn’t get warmer soon, I may as well just head back up north and start shoveling snow.  🙂  It’s going down into the 30’s tonight.  I’m wearing the one pair of jeans I was wearing when I left Pittsburgh last Sunday and a flannel shirt.  Not very tropical attire.  One of the best parts of visiting Jeff is he’s a chef.  He taught culinary all his life and that is definitely a fringe benefit visiting him.  Meals are always a treat.

Take care and keep warm,





Well, I’m in Florida.  The last time I was in West Palm they had the coldest snap in 50 years.  This year, they’ve had a drought the past few months.  The day I arrived, the drought broke and it’s supposed to rain every day I’m here.  At least here it rains and then the sun comes out and it may rain again and then the sun comes out again.  Also no coat and I’m in shorts.  I’m happy.  🙂  Also I don’t have my copy of Chase’s Almanac, so no anniversaries to list until I get home.  Sorry.

Traveling down I77, there were several signs warning about fog coming up.  It was bright and sunny and I was crossing the top of a mountain.  (For you familiar with I77, it’s that last hill in Virginia that has that dramatic view of the flat farm lands below).  I cressed the mountain and bam, it was a white out.  It reminds me of a trip I made to Philly two winters ago.  The warning on the signs just past Breezewood said to beware of snow and ice.  There were all these Penndot salt and plow trucks on the highway.  The road was dry, the sky was cloudy, but not overly threatening and the temperature was probably in the low forties.  So I though they were over reacting.  Again I cressed the mountain and there were cars off the road to my right in the median and left on the berm from the snow.

My friends that own the Hibiscus House up in Northwood didn’t open this year, so I stayed at the Palm Beach Hibiscus West Palm Beach.  Pat is doing such a nice job.  He’s very comfortable, welcoming and truly concerned that you have a great stay.  The accommodations are very comfortable, nicely appointed and clean.

This is not to say the last place I stayed.  I’ve written Comfort Suites corporate offices (two days later I’ve received three auto replies) and negative reviews on Yelp, Trip Adviser as well as Google Maps.  One of them (I think it was Yelp posted my review on Facebook and the common response I got from people was WOW).  Sunday, I got up at six as normal to make breakfast for my guests, after serving them and pretty much cleaning up (Dee was going to finish up) I loaded my stuff in the Prius and took off.  After ten plus hours later, I enter Georgia and pull off I95 and parked in a common lot between about four of those travel hotels.  I pulled out my iPhone and pulled up Google Places, the first hotel came up was Comfort Suites directly in front of me.  Comfort Suites is a three story hotel, generally meaning they had three hundred rooms, there were twelve cars in their lot.  So I called and a man answered the phone (it turns out to be the manager) and I asked “what the rate would be for a single, this evening.”  Considering it was after nine, his quote of $39 didn’t seem out of line-I had seen that rate on a number of electronic billboards on the highway.  I told him I was in his lot and would be right in.  I entered the lobby and presented him with my  ID and credit card.  He processed my information and put a computer generated form and told me to initial in two places and sign the bottom, which I did.  He ripped the form in half and wrapped my key around my half.  As I walked away, I noticed there was nothing about the charge on my half.  I turned and asked him about the receipt and he said I would get a  receipt under my door overnight.  When I got up at five, there it was and he had charge me $79.  I got cleaned up and gathered my things and stopped at the front desk to inquire about the charge.  The clerk pulled out the form I had initialled twice and signed.  She pointed out the top initial and asked if it was me and I said it was and there was the room rate of $79.  She said there was nothing she could do about it and I dropped the issue.  Shame on me for being tired and not paying attention to what I signed (I had just spoken with him).  Shame on him for being a thief.  This is the same as Enron, AIG, MF Global and the other dishonest organizations that have made headlines of late.  It doesn’t matter if you steal $40 or $40B, theft is theft.  If Comfort Suites ever contacts me to withdraw my three negative reviews, I don’t want the $40, I what proof that they have started an Ethics in Business course and are ensuring that all their managers get certified.

One of my favorite stores down here was Karin’s out on 45th Street.  The ceramic sun as well as high top table and chairs in the Sunroom, Oleander’s end tables, all the colorful ceramic pieces in Bougainvillea came from Karin’s.  I was so disappointed a couple of years ago when she closed.  I was driving down Dixie Highway (6405 South Dixie, Bay 103, WPB, FL 33405 to be precise) and saw a colorful Mexican furniture/accessories store and pulled over.

To my pleasure, she has reopened.  She doesn’t have a web site yet (she’s just reopened), Facebook or Google Places page, which I strongly encouraged her to do.  She says someone is working on a web page.  Look at the two adorable Dia de los Muertos dolls I found there:

Aren’t they cute for dead ladies?  Here’s a final picture of some furniture and accessories in her shop:

I was great seeing and talking to the owner of Karin’s, named after the owner’s daughter, again.  She’s so cool, has great taste and is very reasonably priced.

Also, another store I visited was Music, Movies & More to pick up several new Reggae CD’s.  One of my favorites is Sister Saw (there’s a song they’re playing on my DirecTV of her’s, so I picked one up and I found one of my old time favorites).  My other favorite is Collie Buddz.  Anytime I visit West Palm, I stop by to pick up a couple CD’s.  They don’t have a huge selection of Reggae, but it is nice and they can look for a CD and mail it to you.  They recently passed their 31st anniversary.

I frequently have the TV on when I’m working on my desk, usually I have the DirecTV Reggae on.  I’m obviously not at home, so I have the Ellen Degeneres Show on.  I used to listen to her a lot in the past before I got my Reggae station.   I don’t know if you follow the news, but JC Penney’s hired Ellen as a spokesperson for them.  The group, One Million Moms, who happens to have 40,000 members, says she is an inappropriate spokesperson because of her sexual orientation and have threatened a boycott last week.  JC Penney didn’t back down and has said they will continue to use Ellen as their spokesperson.  She is frequently the object of some far right’s tirade and I have never seen her acknowledge it.  Well, she’s struck back today, click on the link above it you’d like to see it.

Enjoy your evening,



Happy Super Bowl Sunday.  Tomorrow is Bob Marley’s birth anniversary (1945), Babe Ruth’s birth anniversary (1895), Aaron Burr’s birth anniversary (1756), Eva Braun’s birth anniversary (1912) and Ronald Regan’s birth anniversary (1911)-lots of famous people born on the sixth.  It is also the anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth (1952) and the crash of the British air crash outside Munich that killed 21 people including 8 Manchester football players (1958).

I have been having problems posting pictures.  My hosting company, Beenanza finally got if fixed.  I assume most/all of you saw this picture last week, but just in case you didn’t, here’s the picture of the Delta Mariner that took out a bridge in Tennessee last week.  This happened in the middle of the night and some guy was going to work and luckily stopped in time.

Phipps‘ new green house that opened in 2006 has it’s third theme, Tropical Forest India.  The first one was Thailand, the next one was the headwaters of the Amazon.  Ben Dunigan assistant curator of horticulture and program specialist Jordyn Melino spent three weeks researching in India to be sure they would create an authentic recreation of India’s tropical rain forest.  Most of the plants they installed they were able to acquire from tropical growers in Florida and Arizona.  The plants they removed, they recycled to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium and the National Aviary.  The big palm trees and many of the common plants between both the Amazon and India were left.  They took pictures of all the plants they wanted to use in their natural settings so they could present them as true to their natural habitat as possible.  The India exhibit will be here for at least two years, if past precedence is any guide.  It is included in the regular price of admission ($12, $11 for seniors and $9 for kids 2 – 18).  Hours are 9:30 until 5 daily and until 10 on Fridays.  More info at Phipps web site or by calling 412.622.6914.

Champis, the five year old Swedish rabbit has been watching his fellow pet, a sheep herding dog too much.  Champis is now herding sheep.  Check out the You Tube clip, it’s pretty funny.

Sarris Chocolate and Candies in Canonsburg caught fire Friday night.  This family owned chocolatier has been in business for fifty-two years.  Bill Sarris. president vows to reopen early next week and be in full production in time for Valentine’s Day.

I don’t understand why people drink unpasteurized milk.  There’s another outbreak that seems to be winding down of milk infested with Campylobacter jejuni bacteria.  I really like local, small farms and fresh foods.  But we need to temper this with common sense.  It’s legal for inspected farms to sell unpasteurized milk to the public as long as there’s no middle man.  Of the 8,500 dairy farms, there’s 153 with permits to sell raw milk.  That means the farm has been initially inspected and then pop inspections four times a year.  When they inspect, they check for any bacteria in the milk or facilities.  There’s a lot of time in between where the cows are out foraging out in the mud that has had birds flying over doing what birds do and other sources bacteria infection.  I don’t eat raw meat, poultry, fish or dairy products.

James Cargnoni, of the family owned Collier Development LP company is the name on the deed for the old Iron City Brewery in Lawrenceville.  Collier Development is best know for Trader Jack’s flea market right of I79 south.  Surely he’s not planning on putting a big flea market there.  🙂  Actually, it’s kind of cool what’s happening in Pittsburgh.  A couple of our biggest development challenges have been addressed by Pittsburgh developers.  We have the Piatt family doing all that work Downtown and now the Cargnoni family takling this jumble of 22 buildings in the middle of the Strip, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and Polish Hill.  Some of these buildings date as far back as 1868 on this 9.5 acre site.  Then there’s Collaborative Ventures of Mt Lebanon that partnered with Zukin of Philadelphia to start redeveloping the Garden Theater Block over here on the Northside.

I bought a Prius last week.  The 2011 Prius is rated at 51 miles per gallon, the 2012 is rated at 45, go figure.  I’ve been thinking about getting a new vehicle for some time now.  I’ve been interested in the Prius all along.  But while shopping, I ran into some real “used car sales men.  They are truly annoying.  They never listen to what you have to say.  They take part of what you say and then twist it around for their benefit.  I bought this at Rohrich Toyota.  Paul, the new guy there was easy to deal with and other than a few minor mis-communications, offered the best deal.  Not to mention corporate Toyota was offering a 0% financing for five years.

Well, that’s about it for today, enjoy the game,





Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first Social Security check being issued (1940) to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow,VT, dentist and prolific author Zane Grey’s birth anniversary (1872), Robert Morris’ birth anniversary (1734) one of the only two men that signed The Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, athlete and business person Jackie Robinson’s birth anniversary (1919), composer Franz Schubert (1797) and the execution of Eddie Slovik (1945), the first Service Member to stand before a firing squad for desertion since the Civil War, he was buried in France and his wife Antoinette fought until her death in 1979 to clear his name and have his body brought back to the US (which it was).

David Lewis: Old Friends, New Horizons’ is in the Mendelson Gallery at 5874 Ellsworth Avenue through February 28.  Hours are a simple noon until 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, admission’s free.  The recently turned 80 year old Mr Lewis has been an architect, urban designer, teacher, writer, artist and South African Navy submarine chaser.  His art endeavors has recently turned to metal sculpture that adds to his other mediums.  This show highlights his new metal sculptures and colorful art on Kraft paper and colorful gouache (gouache is a water based medium that is heavier,more opaque and reflective than your traditional watercolor).  Both forms of his whimsical creations have a heavy influence of animals, particularly dogs, birds and lizards.  I couldn’t fine a web site for him (there’s a ton of famous David Lewis’), but more info at the Mendelson’s gallery or by calling 412.361.8664.

Northside’s adding another quality restaurant to our list.  Bob Gones second Nakama Pittsburgh Restaurant (the extremely popular and successful first is on Carson Street)  is set to open in the Masonic Temple building on North Avenue next to the Garden Theater.  (Mr. Gones has a Nakama in New York City).  They are planning on creating ten loft apartments above Nakama in the brick and limestone Masonic building.  The developers have already started renovating two large duplexes just around the corner on Federal.  They are looking for retail, professional types for the first floor and apartments above).  There’s talk that Strip District lounge owner Spencer Warren has signed a letter of intent on space in the development.  With the new town homes up on Federal selling before they are finished (they are getting ready to start phase three), the new library, Crazy Mocha on the corner and the AGH medical center, that is becoming one bustling corridor.

Did you notice the 36 foot bus that passed us Friday.  The comet 2012 BX34 passed within 36,750 miles of earth.  The scientists said we shouldn’t be concerned, but just hearing on Sunday that a comet that large was a fifth closer than the moon makes me a bit skittish.  They say we should worry if the comet’s 460 feet across.  I don’t know, if a bus sized comet is hurtling down at me, I’m going to be quite nervous.  🙂

The USS Requin, docked at The Carnegie Science Center that arrived in 1990 is in need up some hefty repairs, to the tune of $2M.  Having survived World War II and salt water oceans, it seems the might Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio River waters are taking their toll.    Some fairly serious rust that’s actually allowing water to leak into it.  The Science Center says it’s perfectly safe, just in need of some serious repairs.  Approximately 160,000 people visit it annually.   This submarine, launched New Years Day, 1945 is 311 feet and 7 inches long.

Bill Powers of Export based PixController Inc has installed web cams in three Minnesota bear dens that you can watch 24/7 on “Den Cams.”  Lily & Faith as well as Jewel and her two cubs are in actual cave kind of dens; Honey and Lucky are in some kind of a man made enclosure.  The first two were sleeping and it was kind of hard to make a whole lot out, other than Lily & Faith snoring very loudly.  🙂  As I was watching Honey and Lucky were waking up and were pretty funny being all groggy and stuff.  Check them out when you get a chance.  I’ve Favorites them to go back now and then.  You can watch Jewel giving birth to her two cubs on January 22 at 7:20 and 8:40 in the morning on YouTube.  They don’t know the sex of Jewel’s cubs, and I’m not going in there to find out, so don’t ask me.

Dormont’s Hollywood Theater is hosting a special fund raiser for repair of “The Living Dead” chapel from the movie in Evans City Cemetery in Butler County.  So far Fix the Chapel has raised $13,000 of the $50,000 needed for the repairs.  On Saturday, the doors open at 2:30 for a silent auction and other merchandise sale.  Tickets for the 4 p.m. screening of Night of the Living Dead are $6 and all proceeds go to the group of George Romero fans.  Don’t you love unconventional small theaters and what they can do?

Have a  great day,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Auschwitz being liberated (1945), Apollow I fire where Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee all perished in the fire (1967), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart birth anniversary (1756), Vietnam Peace Agreement (1973) and Thomas Crapper’s death anniversary (1910) although indoor plumbing had been around for a hundred years, he perfected it to the point that he had patents placed on different parts.

I’m not an attorney or elected official, but I like to think I have common sense.  Senator Jane Orie’s corruption case has been the best thing in the news for close to two years now.  It’s one thing after another.  The latest is she sent letters to her constituents seeking volunteers to speak as character witnesses.  If I was going to trial and needed character witnesses, I think I would know who likes me and would say something nice about me.  I may even think this out a little further and seek people that know me professionally vs personally vs intellectually vs whatever.  But a blanket letter asking for volunteers I fine hysterical (and a bit sad).  I wonder if she had state paid employees work on this.  🙂

We are on another list.  US News and World Reports listed Pittsburgh in the top ten places to retire (#7 by the way).  Criteria listed as affordable housing, health care, higher education, arts and entertainment as well as free transportation, if your over 65 and Port Authority’s still operating.  🙂

Did you know that Ron Johnson is a fan of my blog?  Whose Ron Johnson?  Hey, hey, hey.  He’s the former Apple executive that now runs JC Penney’s.  He’s streamlining their pricing structure and over all reducing prices by 40%.  Instead of having inflated daily prices to cover deep discounts at their never ending THE BEST SALE EVER, they are going to have decent prices on a regular basis with targeted sales like for closeouts, seasonals, etc.  They may actually get me to go in there.  If I’m going to an event and need a shirt, I go out and buy a shirt.  I don’t watch for months for who’s having this sale or that.

Bottom Dollar’s hitting da ‘burg in a big way.  Six opened today and three more next month.  I hear they are considering up to fifteen more within the next year.  Watch out you nasty Giant Eagle.  They are somewhat of a no frills place, they don’t have a pharmacy, dry cleaners, bakery and some other specialty functions.  But supposedly they have some of the best prices on brand name items and their personal label’s are 10% – 50% below brand names.  Supposedly they will carry the brand names as well as their named items.  I don’t know how many times I’ve gone into Giant Eagle and the only item available is their private label.  I will never forget those sleazy SOB’s threatening Schweppes that if they didn’t with draw their bid for Le Nature’s bottling plant, Giant Eagle would never carry their beverages.  AND they got caught.  🙂  They do carry a few items I can’t find elsewhere, but that list is now down to just one, poppy seeds.

Starting today, the airlines can no longer do that bait and switch kind of pricing.  Oh, you wanted a seat with the $9 air fare?  That will be $200 more.  🙂  When they advertise prices, they have to show the total cost.  Now be careful here, the new rules regulate mandatory fees like airfare, taxes, etc.  Not included are things like charges for infants, pets, baggage, etc.  But I find it a good start so that now we can easily compare apples to apples when planning a flight.  Other new rules that have taken effect are the airlines can not increase the price once you bought the ticket (I didn’t know they could do that), let you hold a reservation for twenty-four hours and still let you cancel it within that twenty-four with no charge (not so for short term bookings, which is fair), require airlines to disclose baggage fees when you book and airlines are now required to give prompt notifications of flight cancellations and delays.  Overall, I think we did pretty good today.

Fresh Market, and upscale grocery store headquartered out of North Carolina got the preliminary approval from Mt Lebo to tear down the old Roth Carpet on Connor Road right of Washington Road across from the Mt Lebanon Galleria.  Because Washington Road is a state road, PennDOT has to approve the entrances.  Once that is OK’d, they take the final plans to Mt Lebanon and hope to start construction early 2013.  This will add to the Uncommon Market on the top of the hill by the Village, the new Trader Joe’s in Upper Saint Claire and the proposed Whole Foods across from the Village where Consol Energy used to have their headquarters.

A huge item this past holiday season was e-book readers.  All toll, Pew Research estimates that 29% of Americans have an e-reader of some sort.  That’s a lot of novices out there and e-books can be for a totally untechnoligically savvy group (me included).  So where to we floundering e-book novices go for help?  Did you notice a key clue in the past couple of sentences?  Book!  Where do you go for book knowledge?  A library.  Mt Lebanon, a year ago started classes to assist patrons get the mastery of their e-readers with instructions as simple as “Here’s the on switch”, to how to download books and the actual functions of the e-reader.  They started with two or three a week and now seem to have classes most days.  Not be left in the wake, the Carnegies are starting similar assistance programs.  The Carnegies currently have 30,000 e-books available and hope to add an additional 13,000 this year.

Inside scope here guys, they’re starting a new exhibit at The Warhol next week.  It’s focus is on cars and did you know Andy hand painted a BMW?  Yeps, he did and it’s going to be on display in the lobby.  But the problem is it won’t fit through the normal loading doors.  They have to take one of those huge plate class windows out next week and bring the BMW in through there.  I don’t know which day they are planning on doing this, Judy if you read this and want to make a comment, feel free.  🙂  I love Judy, she’s in charge of corporate memberships and she is absolutely the best thing the Carnegies got since the dinosaurs.  🙂

The Convention Center is hosting the World of Wheels starting tomorrow.  Friday from 3 – 10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.  Appropriate entertainment will feature BMX Extreme Stunt Shows throughout the weekend, appearances by WWE wrestler Rey Mysterio, Deena Nicole from Jersey Shore and TV reality show host Billy the Exterminator (I don’t know any of them).  🙂  Two award winning Pittsburgh car enthusiasts will have their vehicles on display.  Gerry Lerma woth her 1962 Chevy II “Runt” and Michael Tarquinion’s 1932 Ford “Second Wind”.  More info at their web site.

Well, have a great night,


Newspaper reporter Nellie Blie wanted to beat the fictional Jules Verne’s Phileas Foggs air balloon trip around the world in 80 days (she did in 72 days) landed on 1890 in New Jersey, Apple’s Macintosh premiered in 1984, Pan Am had the first scheduled trans-continental flight from California to New York (1959) and the first modern winter Olympic Games was held in Chamonix, France in 1924.

The Cleveland Aquarium opened Saturday, January 21.  It’s part of the city’s effort to rebuild the riverfront district on Lake Erie.  It was built around a powerhouse that used to power Cleveland’s streetcar and railroad lines.  The powerhouse was built in 1926 and because it is a historic structure, the developers were not permitted to alter the structure.  Which makes the layout quite interesting with the saved brick walls, smoke stacks and other architectural as a back drop.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia really scared me.  I have always had a lot of respect for the Judiciary thinking that judges in general are fair and unbiased humans that are beyond politics.  Some make poor decisions (in my opinion), but the decision was based on a logical thought process based on facts.  And I’m fine with someone having an opinion different than mine.  When asked about his decision two years ago that approved the Super PACs.  He said, and I quote, “People are not stupid.  If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”  Does this mean children should be entrusted to turn the television off when they approve porn being shown during prime time?  Does this mean when a criminal shoves a gun in  our face we should close our eyes?  Maybe if your house is on fire, you should go to another room?

Cliff Wilson, started at 16 at his father’s Ritchie Industries livestock equipment business in Conrad, Iowa, a town of 1,110 people.  At 76 years old, he was ready to retire.  The only buyers interested were those stripping companies the remove any equipment they can salvage and leave a vacant building.  Loosing this employer of 65 persons would be devastating to Conrad.  Mr. Wilson grew up and lived his life in Conrad and didn’t want that to happen to the town, but there wasn’t many options.  He agreed to let his employees do an ESOPs.  That stands for Employee Stock Ownership Plan.  Actually, there’s quite a lot of ESOPs in the country, 10,900 in 2011.  ESOPs aren’t easy to get off the ground, usually the employees don’t have enough cash to talk a bank into lending the balance.  Frequently the previous owner has to carry at least a significant portion of the amount.  Banks are very wary of start up businesses, even ones that are already operating because this would be a new management team.  Mr. Wilson took a down payment in 2004 and the ESOP made the last installment in 2011.  He financed the entire transaction.  Sales have increased 50%.  “Workers are much more engaged in the business-from safety to work habits, to new innovative ideas, right down the line.”

Artist Keith Haring originally from Reading/Kutztown, after graduating high school went to the now closed Ivy School of Professional Art here in Pittsburgh.  He also took classes at Pitt before moving to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts.  His first solo exhibit was at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center (now the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts).  He famous for his vivid colors and primitive shapes, reminds me of Peter Max.  He did several short films for Sesame Street, the first of which was Exit, which features live kids dancing to the music Exit with his animation finalizing the short.  His art work is on show at Toonseum at 945 Liberty Avenue, Downtown through February 26.  Hours are from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Friday and Saturdays.  More info at Toonseum web site or by calling 412.232.0199.  Admission is $5 for adults and $1 for kids, great family entertainment.

Valley of Decision, written by Marcia Davenport that lived in Allegheny West was published in 1943.  The story was adapted to a movie in 1945 staring Gregory Peck, Greer Garson and Lionel Barrymore.  The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards (one for best actress and the other for musical score).  The story is Pittsburgh based on a the son (Gregory Peck) of a steel mill magnate that gets involved with an Irish immigrant housekeeper (Greer Garson).  This classic movie is being presented by the Allegheny City Society at the Unitarian Church on North Avenue on April 4 at 7 p.m.  I don’t know the price, but I’m sure it will be affordable.

That’s about it for today, keep happy,



Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of the electrical pioneer Andre Ampere (1775), the father of “the scientific method” Francis Bacon (1561), famed American architect Richard Upjohn (1802) and the death of Queen Victoria (1901).  It is also the anniversary of the Roe vs Wade Supreme Court ruling, the Allied landing at Anzio (1944) and the Allies winning New Guinea from the Japanese.

Huntington Bank took over Union Commerce Bank in 1983 and acquired boxes of old records.  Guess what they found in those boxes?  A check from Abraham Lincoln on April 13, 1865 for $800 ($11,260 in today’s money) to pay for Mary’s bills.  A check from Ernest Hemingway written in 1932 for $3.50, one from Teddy Roosevelt for $185.80 and one from Susan B Anthony for $5.63.  Who forgot to tell them that these checks were in storage?  Huntington, headquartered out of Cleveland has them on display at their Grant Street branch and are available for viewing during normal banking hours.

I’m sorry, I can’t let Port Authority’s Steve Bland’s latest tirade go unmentioned.  If we don’t give him $64M, he’s going to cut service to 100 communities (including the 28X airport flyer making us the only major city in America without public transit service to our airport), he will raise fares and slash ACESS (a transportation service for the handicapped and elderly). The attack on ACCESS is a new one for him.  I guess he’s counting of the sympathy vote on this one to help him pull this one off.  IN STEAD OF FIXING PORT AUTHORITY’S OPERATING MESS.  Sorry for shouting, I was hoping he might hear me.

Volkswagen is again advertising at the Superbowl with a Star Wars theme.  This year, they are doing the Imperial March with a chorus of dogs barking out the theme.  It’s pretty cute way to go to The Bark Side.  🙂  Last year’s version with the little kid trying to be Darth Vader was equally cute, click on Darth for a reminder of last year’s ad.

Well, I’ve shoveled my parking lot three times in the past two days.  GIVE ME FLORIDA.  🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I very much believe in a strong defense.  Being a vet, I watch the miliary and pay particular attention to both wars we are involved with and strongly believe our soldiers deserve the best.  When I hear that we’ve lost a service member because they didn’t have approrpriate equipment, I go nuts.  But the Pentagon is pursuing th F-35 fighter jet.  The initial cost was supposed to be $223B, it has jumped to $385B. In case you didn’t notice, that’s a B as in Billions of dollars.  They are now talking about the cost to exceed a TRILLION dollars.  We’re cutting food assistance for the less fortunate, we’re arguing over health care for all, we’re cutting spending on education and we’re going to invest over a TRILLION for a new fleet of fighter jets.  It just doesn’t seem right to me.  It’s like ethanol.  We’re diverting crop yeilds from food to fuel for our vehicles.  (Yes, I know they quit using corn and now use a less desirable soy for the biofuel.  It’s still acreage we could use to feed the billions of people on this planet that are staving).   As a nation, we really need to get our priorities straight.

Business is slow, revenue’s way down from last year.  But considering there was no hockey Winter Classic and no Steeler’s play off games, I’m doing pretty good.  Those three events gave me 48 room nights alone last January.  I’m going to end the month with close to the same number of rooms sold, without the added draw of sporting events.  Unfortuneately for me, many of my room sales are at the heavily discounted Tropical Breezes Special, hense the lower revenue.  But with my room sales similiar without the big draw, I’d say my room sales are continuing to increase.  A great trend and I appreciate all my wonderful guests that have taken the time to do a review on Trip Advisor and BedandBreakfast.com.  It’s huge, you don’t have any idea how many potential guests look there first before booking.  Thank you.

Have a great weekend and keep warm,