Hi,

December’s over and we’re half way through January.  I may survive this winter yet.  :)  And I checked the two week extended forecast and we have a lot days coming up in the upper forties.  :)

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the founding of the Civil Service (1883), Dian Fossey’s birth anniversary (1932), the beginning of the Gulf War (1991), the anniversary of Nebraska passing the Prohibition Amendment giving the majority needed for it to become law (1919) and the observance of Martin Luther King’s birth (January 15, 1929).

Bait and Switch.  That seems to be the mentality of many of our elected officials.  John Weinstein our long time County Treasurer has passed up his cost of living raises since 1999.  That doesn’t mean he’s given them up, they’ve been laying in wait for him to cash in this year for a 35% pay raise.  Oh, and that goes of Chelsey Wagner, our new County Controller.  She’s been in office just over a week and “didn’t know about this coming”.  But did I mention that she did have time to check comparable salaries and she says she’s in line with her peers?  A $24,000 a year raise would be a decent paycheck for one of our city residents that can’t put food on their tables.  Personally I think this $50,000 could be better spent on city services.  As a side note, Sheriff Mullen declined the raise.  He had no comment on this, I would say it speaks for itself.  One out of three concerned about the city.

The Fort Pitt Museum is reopening (I didn’t know it was closed).  :)  Since the Heinz History Center took it over from state control, they’ve been evaluating the operation and needed to close down for a couple of weeks for some housekeeping and maintenance issues.  They did dig through The Carnegie’s extensive troves of articles in storage (there’s about 10,000 items on display compared to 22 million in storage) and found two pistols that were actually used there by Colonel George Morgan and Captain Isaac Craig when the  British took control from the French when it was Ft Duquesne.  The museum has basically doubled attendance since Heinz took it over from 11,000 to 22,000 last year.  It’s amazing what a little marketing like putting signs up and caring can do.  Good for you Andy Wasich, President of the Heinz History Center and Alan Gutchess, Director of the Fort Pitt Museum.  If Mr Wasich or Mr Gutchess happens to see my post, I recommend giving the Fort Pitt Museum it’s own web site instead of a subsidiary to the History Center’s.

What a smart man the Senior Judge Stanton Wettick is (yes, I’m being sarcastic).  He delayed implementing the assessment until 2013.  The county has been battling for ten years on creating a new and fair reassessment.  I’m OK with that.  Finally, under repeated court orders, they haven’t even completed the reassessment and are implementing it for this year.  (They have only completed Pittsburgh and Mt Oliver, the rest of Allegheny County isn’t even finished yet!)!!  Notices of the increased assessment were sent out and residents and businesses had less than two weeks to start the appeal process.  Is there anyone else out there that thinks ten years for the county to create new assessments and we only have twelve days for us to aborb and digest what this means to us is a little unfair?  “They” say most property taxes will remain the same or actually go down because “they” will have to adjust the millage.  I have to make a decision about contesting my new “property value” without knowing what the actual impact will be on my tax bill.  I understand Judge Wettick’s frustration with the City/County over this.  But I believe it is wise to let a year pass so we can see what it all means to each of us.

Why do we have a city at Nome, Alaska?  They had an early freeze and their traditional barge shipment of fuel oil couldn’t be delivered in November and Nome would run out of fuel before the ice breaks in May/June.  And at this point, the ice is only going to keep getting thicker and thicker.  So there’s a 370 foot tanker coming from Russia with 1.3 million gallons of fuel oil.  The Coast Guard sent an icebreaker to cut a path through the ice for it.  They are sitting a couple of miles from Nome’s harbor deciding on the final details on how to get within a mile of it.  Once they get within a mile, they will have to position and secure the ship so the ice can reform around it to keep it stable.  Then lay a mile of transfer hoses from the ship to the fuel depot.  I would imagine we are somewhat subsidizing this.  It’s like when I was in Florida and the federal government subsidized my hurricane insurance.  I personally apprciated it, but thought it was unjust for the rest of the country.  If you want to live somewhere, that’s fine.  But the bill should be on you.

Kevin Quigley, president of the Washington based Peace Corpse Association said they are trying to track down the approximately 100,000 past Peace Corpse volunteers they have lost track of (there’s an alumni of approximately 250,000 past Peace Copse volunteers).  If you are or know any past Peace Copse volunteers, your/their information can be updated by visiting http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/findthe250k/.

I have Google Alerts for The Parador and Ed Menzer.  Anytime someone types that in a search on the Internet, Google sends me an alert of this occurrence.  Ed Menzer doesn’t come up that often, but there’s almost a daily Alert on The Parador.  Unfortunately, it usually is not my Parador, there’s a lot of other paradors out there.  The reason I bring this up is there was an article in today’s Trib about the power of social media in today’s world.  They attribute Verizon dropping their new $2 service charge when customers pay by phone or over the Internet to pressure from social media.  It didn’t take long from when Verizon announced this new fee until they dropped the whole thing.  It was just a matter of days.  The article attributed it mainly to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to Verizon’s quick reversal.  I say it was my blog!  :)  Seriously, I would imagine Verizon  has a much more sophisticated version of Google Alerts and I’m sure they didn’t say “Ed Menzer’s complaining about this new fee, we better stop it”.  But I do bet they have filters out there that saw me and probably hundreds or even thousands of other bloggers were complaining.  The same thing happened this fall with Bank of America’s planned increase in fees and NetFlix new two tiered pricing structure.  In addition to all the complaints they companies got, NetFlix in particular had a lot of cancelled services.  Power To The People.  :)

Well, that’s about it for today, have a great night and better tomorrow,

ed

 

Hi,

Tomorrow is the official Blame Someone Else Day, traditionally the first Friday 13 of the year, Horatio Alger’s birth anniversary famed for writing over 100 popular books touting frugality, honesty and hard work, Alfred Fuller’s birth anniversary (1885-Fuller brushes), Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison concert (1968), New Years Day for the old Julian Calendar and Tyvendedagen in Norway (also Tjugondag Knut in Sweden)-the traditional end of Christmas holidays after 24 days.

There’s a hidden gem (actually there’s many hidden gems) in Pittsburgh most people aren’t aware of.  Chatham Village up on Mt Washington was built in the early thirties as a show case of how urban planning could create distinctive housing that was aesthetically pleasing, structurally sound and affordable.  These are all townhouses that they planned around the advent of cars, but as cars being of secondary importance to living.  Many modern housing projects have garages as a prominent feature in front of the homes.  Some of the 197 town homes have integrated garages, but these are set back into the structure under a porch so they are basically unnoticeable.  Or they have parking lots that are tucked away behind landscaping so you don’t notice the cars.  There’s actually only one road that goes through the development, all other roads just enter from the outside and end abruptly before coming in too far.  The brick, limestone and slate townhouses are nestled in extensive landscaping featuring large mature trees, smaller decorative shrubs and flowers that are timed to bloom throughout the spring, summer and fall.  The amazing thing is this was developed on some of Pittsburgh’s steep slope real estate and the designers took that into account and you don’t really notice it.  Angelique Bamberg, an instructor of historic preservation a Pitt has published a book “Chatham Village: Pittsburgh’s Garden City” last year through University of Pittsburgh Press, $29.95.  Very interesting in details and pictures, both current and historic.

As a side note (or I guess in this case a bottom note)  :), Chatham University is totally unrelated to Chatham Village.  The name Chatham, that you see all around Pittsburgh is used to honor William Pitt, the First Earl of Chatham and he’s namesake of the City of Pittsburgh.  It’s much like in a hundred years from now and people see Menzer Blvd, the University of Menzer, the Cathedral of Menzer and the soon to be started The Mall at Menzer will be famous reflections of one of Pittburgh’s famous.  :)

Before I send money to a charity, first they need to peak my interest.  Once they do that, I go to one of those charity ranking sites on the Internet, like Charity Navigator.  What brought this up is I noticed the Hatian Health Foundation.  For $150, you can buy a Haitian family a goat.  I don’t know what happened to all that money that was pledged to Haiti since the devastating earth quakes two years ago.  But the are still a mess down there.  Goats will eat most anything and are easy to care for.  They would provide milk (and cheese) for a family down there.  It may be a little help, but the big help doesn’t seem to be working.  And I checked their score, 92.9% of their proceeds goes to their mission.  (as a comparison Brother’s Brother sends 99.7% of donated money to their mission.

Since they are predicting winter to finally strike this evening, thought I’d keep the theme going.  Tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday is Somerset’s 17th Annual Fire and Ice Festival.  They have ice sculptures, fire rings on the street!, fire works, kettle corn, vendor and activities for kids and adults.  Many of the ice sculptures are made by Pittsburgh’s ice artists Joe & Mike Mastro of Mastro’s Gourmet Quaility Ice on Polish Hill.  The Mastro brothers supply 60 ice sculptures for the Somerst event.  More info by visiting their web site or calling 814.443.1748.  Next weekend is the 21st Annual Ligonier Ice Fest.  Ligonier’s Fest is on the streets around the diamond on January 21 and 22.  Jeannette ice artist Ernie DiMartino and staff at DiMartino Ice Company will create around 20 sculptures for this event.  They sponsor kids crafts, wine tasting, hot soups, arts, crafts and entertainment for the adults at the Ligonier Theater on January 21.  More info and reservations for the adult Chill Chaser can be had by calling 724.238.4200 or by visiting their web site.

There’s an exhibit at The Box Heart Gallery 4523 Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield through February 4.  It’s their 11th annual Art Inter/National and hours are 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesdays, an hour earlier Wednesdays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Sundays.  Of the 500 pieces submitted, gallery owners selected 25 pieces by 20 artists for this year’s show.  These international artists defy logic with the creations.  Katerina Bodrunova’s “Marionette Spectacle. I act Apptence” has repeated images of a woman walking down a hill toward a cliff where she meets her lover that is standing perpendicular to the cliff.  Anna Berndtson’s Dream Sky is a brass fawcett spewing smoke and liquid, contrary to common logic.  Richard Elaver’s 3-D print Tendrils is hard to decipher if it’s real or imagined.  He used computer graphics and algorithms to simulate natural forms.  A more conventional appearing piece is Irina Dorofeeva’s silk painting Winter.  Made from one piece of silk and then hand dyed to create a moody winter landscape.  More info at their web site or by calling 412.687.8858.

That’s about it for today.  I hope you have you snow shovels brushed off and mittens warming.  They are predicting winter is to strike this evening through tomorrow.

Keep warm,

ed

Hi,

I got my new version of Chase’s Calendar of Events, so we’re back in business.  Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the Divestiture of AT & T, the largest antitrust since Standard Oil in 1911, Elvis Presley’s birth anniversary (1935), in 18551, Jean Foucault proved the earth was round with his Foucault pendulum in Paris and it’s the anniversary of Chou En-Lai’s death anniversary (1976).

Brix restaurant opened months ago.  They opened with the theme of a wood fired oven and had that for about two weeks until the city pulled their CO for it and they’ve been struggling with a temporary menu since.  Well, the city finally gave them their CO this week and they have their wood fired oven up and running.  When you get a chance, check them out.  Also, recently, James Street has reopened.  I thought I talked about this in a past blog, but didn’t see it.  It was famous for years for some of the best jazz in the city.  When they closed, Legends took it over.  They really did a bad job, the original Legends is still excellent.  It closed again and re-opened as Sassy Marie’s.  Sassy’s did great, but ran into some management issues and closed.  Serendipity was next, just poorly run from the beginning, bad menu, bad food, bad service.  So it closed again.  The new owners are calling it James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy.  I’ve eaten lunch there several times and have been real pleased with their food and service.  They will be featuring jazz within the next few weeks.

Would you get them to take their hands out of my pockets?  They drive me crazy (no comments here) :).  The turnpike commission is raising the rates on cash customers only AGAIN, trying to force everyone to sign up for EZ pass.  I don’t want EZ pass, I travel the turnpike maybe twice a year.  EZ pass is an account tied to my bank account.  They can’t pave streets and I’m going to trust that they can keep hackers away from my bank account information?

Speaking of getting their hands out of my pockets, I had a situation with Trip Advisor a few weeks back.  I don’t pay Trip Advisor for any advertising or anything.  When that lady complained about me telling them “to leave”, I went in to the management section to refute her claims and Trip Advisor wouldn’t give me access because they “needed to verify that I was the person responsible for The Parador”  (Whenever I enter Trip Advisor from my computer, I immediately have my picture on the screen and Trip Advisor is welcoming ed@theparadorinn back).  Whatever.  So I start the process of verifying that it’s me and the first screen says I would have immediate access to the management section of Trip Advisor if I provide them with a credit card number.  My other option was to fax them a copy of a utility bill with my name and the name of The Parador on it.  At the top of that screen was another message that if I provided them a credit card number, I would have immediate access to the management section.  Why are they being so persistent attempting to get a credit card number on file?  All of my utilities are either in my name OR The Parador.  So I faxed them one with The Parador on it and then sent them an e-mail asking if they want me to fax another one with my name.  They said, no, they were confident that I am I.  I was then granted access to the management section.

Why does everyone want information that’s not needed.  I went to an oral surgeon and one of the new patients forms was the HIPPA (that may not be the correct acronym-it’s the federal law providing for patient confidentiality).  It had a space for my social security number.  What do they need my social security number for HIPPA, or for any reason for that matter?  The oral surgeon also had a disclaimer on his form that he could change it at anytime and didn’t need to notify me.  I refused to sign the form and the office administrator had an issue with this.  They treated me, I guest the color of my money was more important than having all their forms completely filled out.  :)

There’s a cool thing going on Downtown, it’s the Pop-up Project.  It a collaboration between the City, the Downtown Partnership, some of the foundations and I think maybe the Cultural District folks.  They have given vacant storefronts out to various people for various projects.  Mostly it’s a venue for exposure for artists.  I was walking down Sixth Street a couple of weeks ago and noticed a robot repair shop about two doors down from the Starbucks.  I thought it was pretty cute, but didn’t think too much more about it.  So these people put the word out seeking people to fill these storefronts and they approached the landlords to see if they would be willing to let someone move in for free on the understanding that if the landlord got a regular tenant, the freebies would move out.  Merrill Stabile (the owner of ALCO Parking and the guy that challenged the Stadium Authority’s give away to the Steelers) is one of the landlords donating space.  Out of about 100 applicants, they narrowed it down to twelve.  They include Awesome Books opening a second location at 929 Liberty Avenue (the original is in Garfield), The Steel Curtain Art Installation (1035 Penn Avenue), The Sweet Lounge Bakery (901 Penn Avenue), The Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa and Symbiontic Collusion :) at 131 Seventh Street, Burgheoisie Retail Boutique (208 Sixth Street), Summer Sky Eternal (604 Liberty Avenue), Dream Cream upcoming ice cream parlor at 539 Liberty Avenue, the Main Feature Film Art (420 Wood Street) and Community Photo Art at 422 Wood Street.  Bike-Park will be coming this spring.  Other cities (New York and Baltimore) have similar programs, but they are strickly art.  I find it very cool to support local art and small businesses by utilizing unsightly urban space for something positive.  Their glasses are definitely half full.

The federal subsidy for ethanol is expiring and they anticipate that will raise the price of gasoline about four and a half cents.  I hate seeing the price of gasoline going up, but I hate seeing ethanol being subsidize even more.  When they first started talking about growing corn for ethanol, I thought what a poor use of resources.  With so many people on the verge of starvation, why are we shifting resources from food to fuel?  I’m glad to see at least the subsidy is going away.  Maybe we will start growing more food for people.

Finally finished taking down the holiday decorations today.  The Inn looks so different.  Since the holidays are over, the Steelers don’t seem to be having any home play off games it’s time to settle in for the slow winter months.  Time to do projects I can’t do when I have lots of guests.  The list is quite long.  :)

Enjoy the next couple of days, weather’s supposed to be really decent,

ed

Hi,

I hope you all had great holidays and a fantastic New Year’s Eve.  I have to break a tradition with this blog.  I finally ordered a new Chase’s Almanac thought it would be in by now.  I gave my old copy to a friend and the new one still isn’t in.  So I don’t have any anniversaries to announce for tomorrow.

The Silence of the Lambs and Forrest Gump were both inducted into the Library of Congress Film Registry this year.  The odd thing is Bambi was inducted as well.  Didn’t it take them a long time to finally select Bambi.  I have no back up on this, but I would venture to guess that Bambi would be Walt Disney’s all time favorite.  It’s such an iconic film and has had such a major influence on generations of children.  That forest fire still haunts me.  :)  The film registry, started in 1989 has 575 films currently registered as historically, culturally or historically significant.

We all know the Jersey Barrier.  Many are familiar with the Texas Barrier.  Did you know there’s a Pennsylvania Barrier?  In 2003, during the reconstruction of the Ft Pitt bridge, Riverlife was concerned about the famous views coming out of the Ft Pitt Tunnels would be decreased to meet federal standards.  They had new barriers engineered that would meet federal guidelines and be seven inches lower, who-la, the Pennsylvania Barrier.

Added fees are nothing new to us.  The airlines have been back and forth for years over what extra fees they can charge and get away with.  They’ve run into problems with the federal government and public back lash.  Fees still account for billions of dollars in profit (fees are usually applied to actions they already take, like checking bags.  So the fees more or less are pure profit).  Hotels also are famous for fees of various sorts.  They rent a ballroom for your special event for a fee and usually they charge you a per person fee for food served, the amount depends on the menu selected.  “Oh, did you want tables and chairs for your guests to sit at?”  “Linen?”  “We have these really beautiful silver candelabras that would really grace the buffet table-for a fee.”  Valet parking, self parking fee, surcharges, tariffs, etc.  Well the latest I’m hearing is the Crowne Plaza are hiring “hall monitors”.  Seriously.  They are the snoring Nazis.  They walk the halls at night and if you are snoring too loudly, they knock on your door and ask you to quiet it down.  Speculation is they will eventually offer quiet areas to the hotel, for an up charge of course.  :)

Speaking of fees, public outcry forced Bank America to drop their outrageous new charges on debit card use.  Now it seems public pressure has forced Verizon to drop their plans for a “convenience charge” for certain payment options.  The plan was to start with two payment options and then add the fee to all payment methods.  They just keep trying to squeeze more and more out of us.  Why can’t they just set a fair price and charge it.  If you want to make more money, great.  Offer new services, bring in more customers, do something innovative.  Don’t just start charging me for something I already am paying for.  ):

A while back I talked about the Planking, the so called dead man’s game.  Generally someone would lay horizontally some place with an iconic background behind them.  One picture I saw was a guy perfectly horizontal suspended between two benches on Mt Washington with the city behind him.  For you Plankers, you are soo passe.  The in thing to do now is Tebowing.  Yes, Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos has started a new fad.  Instead of laying horizontally, you now humbly go down on one knee and the rest of the rules still apply (iconic back ground).  Tebowing.com, just started in October already has over 18,000 pictures up loaded to it.

The Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce is offering a trip to Cuba June 7 through 16.  The cost per person is $3,299 and the price includes airfare, lodging, meals, tours and health care.  Not a bad deal, but in June?  Why not sponsor a trip out of Pittsburgh to the Caribbean in the cold winter months?  Besides June being one of my busiest months, I wouldn’t be overly eager to go to Cuba in the hot summer.  The chamber does seem to sponsor a fair amount of yearly trips like one this March to Spain and one that left last week to China.  More info on their web site.

Lena Paahlsson of Sweden lost her wedding ring sixteen years ago while preparing Christmas dinner.  She discovered the ring on a carrot she harvested from garden this year.

I keep finding you guys jobs.  Here’s another cool suggestion.  Phipps Conservatory is seeking a new batch of volunteers.  You have to be willing to commit three hours a day twice a week for a year.  That comes out to about 80 hours a year.  There’s a bunch of different positions they are seeking to fill, and they provide training.  If you are looking for more information, call Laura Rundell at 412.622.6915 ext 6958.  How could you call that work?  :)  I love the Phipps.  :)

Speaking of flowers and work, I have a great idea for a new profession.  I don’t know of anyone that is specializing in residential swells.  I’m sure there’s high end companies out there.  There’s a federal mandate on ALCOSAN to reduce the amount of run off out of the sewer system.  Before a property in Allegheny County can sell, it needs dye test showing that they are not including roof run off into the sewer system.  Figuring out the amount of water coming off your roof so the size of swell you need would be the engineering part.  What native plants to use and how to arrange them would be the creative part.  Rearranging the the downspouts so they all feed the swell would be the plumbing part.  The Home Swell Specialist :) could advertise through normal channels.  And then for a premium, hook up with local real estate offices and come up with quick fixes so people can sell their houses.  I think there’s a dire need of solutions for gray water handling and a landscaper could do well here.  We’ve all seen them expanding into snow removal and hanging outside holiday lighting.  Here’s a new direction for expansion, or specialization.  I think they should be able to command a higher price with this than the cut throat landscaping market.  If you know a landscaper, please pass my ideas on.  I don’t want any royalties.  :)

Have a great one and keeps safe on those icy roads out there,

ed

 

 

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