Tomorrow is the anniversary of the plane crash that took baseballer/humanitarian Roberto Clemente (1972), the first modern bank opened by Robert Morris in Philadelphia (1781), Japan’s Namahage is tonight where men costumed as devils go door to door growling “Any good-for-nothing fellow hereabout?”  giving sluggards the opportunity to change their ways and Panama assumed control of the Panama Canal.  Birth anniversaries include singer John Denver (1943), Uniontown’s general George Marshall (1880) and French painter Henri Matisse (1869).

If you’ve read my blogs, you know I try and be as “green” as I can in life.  Besides the obvious newspapers, plastic, aluminum and tin; I also keep a box in the basement for thrift store items, one for Construction Junction building materials and one for Spring Board Kitchen’s culinary equipment-I keep a trash bag for Styrofoam “peanuts” that I give to various shipping companies.  Something that’s always stumped me is the Styrofoam packaging that comes with electronics, ceiling fans, etc.  Styrofoam is a man made product that is extremely efficient product that because of it’s light weight and strength makes it ideal for safeguarding these product during shipment.  But because of it’s man made properties, it basically sits in landfills forever.  Did you know 100% of Styrofoam is recyclable?  Only 15% of Styrofoam is currently recycled (that’s only 93.7 million pounds-considering that this represents, Styrofoam is extremely light, so the amount of this product we throw away is HUGE).  NOVA Chemicals recycles all Styrofoam into all kinds of products, 100%.  You can drop off the “peanuts” or hard formed Styrofoam at one of NOVA’s local offices in Moon Township or at Appliance Warehouse in the 500 block of Bingham Street on the Southside (down towards the 10ths Street Bridge).  The Warehouse is open 9 am until 5 pm Mondays through Saturdays.  It’s recommended to call them first, they also accept freon infused products as well like refrigerators.

Is our city council getting as dysfunctional as our federal congress?  For the third time (maybe fourth) they’ve delayed taking action on designating the Terminal Building as historic.  Once again, Buncher’s Thomas Balestrieri showed his colors at the latest council meeting when they didn’t give him what he wanted, he said “Kick it down the road and vote on it whenever you want to.  In the meantime, we’ll keep sending our rain checks to the URA.”  He left with a sarcastic  “Merry Christmas”.  And walked out of the chambers.  What a pompous  ass.  Do exactly what I want, or I’ll be a sarcastic SOB.  I’m surprised the council members don’t take offense at his rudeness.  And, by the way, as I predicted he admitted that they weren’t going to “walk away” from their plans to develop 55 riverfront acres they own.  In another of his child like tirades, he threatened to scuttle the entire development.  As I said awhile back, what developer is going to walk away from 55 riverfront acres they already own.  In the latest Trib article, he’s now claiming that they are going to do this commercial development without government subsidies, I’m sure that will change as well.  If any of you on city council (most of which never gave me the courtesy of even acknowledging my formal presentation to you through the council website) can’t see what a slime Buncher is, this latest tirade should start to click some buttons, I would think.

Big things are afoot in and around Pittsburgh in the next two years.  Already under construction is PNC’s $400M Tower at PNC Plaza between Fifth and Forbes Avenues down at Wood Street with an opening scheduled 2015.  Shovel ready and approved is Piatt’s $104M Gardens at Market Square between Forbes and Third Avenues behind the old Aiken’s Restaurant.  In the planning stages is $500M development the Penguins is planning on the old Igloo site.  Also, in East Liberty, the $100M Bakery Square 2.0 is about ready to get started and ALMONO‘s $1B plan to develop the old J & L Steel location in Hazelwood/South Oakland  has finished up the pollution abatement and site leveling is finishing up and next year they plan on starting to install the basic roads and infrastructure (water, sewers, utilities).  Outside the city, Consol fracking plans at the airport intend to commence $500M infrastructure works so they can start drilling in about a year.  The big daddy of the region is looking more and more as if it may get off the ground, the $3B Shell Cracker may take roots soon.  Coal Valley‘s $1B mixed use development in Cecil is making progress and UPMC’s Mario Lemieux Sports Complex $72M complex in Cranberry has broken ground as has the new Chevron headquarters in Moon (they have already did the ground work and the building is actually under construction at the old K-Mart site past Robinson).

The international Computer Sciences Corporation, based out of Virginia is expanding into the Strip and plan on hiring up to 500 persons.  We won out out of 400 potential sites for their newest site.  CSC specializes in next generation of cyber security, data analytics, cloud computing and system modernization services for businesses.  The Strip is their initial location, they are planning to build a $14M, 120,000 square foot facility somewhere in the city.  They selected Pittsburgh because of the “livability” of the city in addition to the affordable cost of living and largely because of the qualified pool of potential employees our local universities are churning out.   CSC has locations Australia, India, South America and Canada.  Pretty good coup for da ‘burg.

Move over Dia de Muertos, Noche de Rabanas is the Christmas Mexican festival.  It’s officially celebrated on December 23, but does carry over to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It began in 1897 in Oaxaca city by Jesuit priests and the displays are by far carved radishes.  Local radish farmers leave some radishes in the ground long after normal harvesting to generate mega radishes, some reaching over six pounds.  These carvings frequently have a religious theme, but they also represent real buildings and many other themes.  Check out the images on Google.

I enjoy following food trends, that’s one of the few things I miss by being out of the corporate restaurant scene.  And though I’m no where near a vegetarian or vegan, I do limit my red meat consumption and try and watch my diet.  Though I haven’t tried it yet, there’s a start up company just outside San Francisco Just Mayo that’s making a plant based egg substitute that’s getting pretty positive reviews.   With the cholesterol concerns and the way much of the poultry industry treats the egg layers, I think this may be something to watch.

I have concerns about fracking, I’m not against it, but I’m not for the process until I’m sure we aren’t creating a legacy for our children like old style mining is still polluting our streams after the mine operators made their millions and walked away.  Another issue I have with fracking in Pennsylvania is Act 13, the state mandate trying to standardize the laws governing fracking so all the frackers have the same rules to abide by.  I’m not against standardized standards, I’m against the way Harrisburg forced this down our throats, it was a one way street.  I don’t recall a real public comment period, I just remember Governor Corbett battling the legislature to force this through like he’s been trying to do with trying to privatize the state lottery.  With out public comment (citizens as well as local governments), Corbett really alienated a large segment of our state.  Local municipalities have the right and obligation to decide where fracking can occur.  I don’t want one right next to a church, synagogue, mosque, school or library and that’s one of the things he tried to railroad.  If Corbett would have engaged locals before deciding “what we need”, maybe the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may have not struck down Act 13.  Thank you Supreme Court Justices.  Maybe Corbett will learn a lesson that he’s representing his citizens.  🙂

To end 2013 on a positive note, as a nation, we have reduced our electric consumption to the lowest level since 2001.  All this while we have added central A/C to more homes, electronics out the kazoo, more and more in-home washers & dryers, upgraded kitchens using much more electrical appliances etc. It’s predicted that we will drop electrical consumption another 1% in 1014.  Could be better, but I love the direction we are going.

I hope you had great holiday and enjoy your New Years Eve safely,





Tomorrow is It’s a Wonderful Life premier (1946-see below), the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended (1956), the Clinton impeachment by the House (1998), the US invasion of Panama (1989), the Virginia Company departed England and settled Jamestown, VA (1606-the first English settlement in the New World), South Carolina seceded from the US (1860-the first state to do so) and the cathode-ray tube was first patented (1938).  Birth anniversaries include baseballer Branch Rickey (1881) and industrialist Harvey Firestone (1868).

Way to go Pittsburgh!  I take no credit for it, but in my last post (I think) I talked about the Pittsburgh Foundation offering to match donations up to $100,000 to the food bank.  That challenge was met within 24 hours, so they made the same challenge, which was also met.  I guess their running out of money, 🙂  the latest challenge is they will match up to $50,000 (which is almost maxed out already also).  You see all this negative stuff in the news and then you see this, warms the heart.

Beware!  And you thought the stink bug invasion was bad, wait until we get hit with kudzu bug.  Smaller with a more rounded top, instead of that shield shaped top the stink bugs have.  Of Asian origin, they were first found devouring the Kudzu plant (that could be a good thing) but have branched out to other plants wreaking havoc on soy bean crops.  They made it to Maryland this year and are expected to reach us next fall.  Though smaller than the stink bug, when crushed they have a more intense small and actually can stain objects.

Did you notice Arch disappeared from that little parklet on the corner of  7th Street and Ft Duquesne Blvd a year ago.  Arch is that bright yellow “transformers” looking piece of sculpture that’s been there since 2008.  The twenty foot sculpture of steel and fiberglass that was commissioned for our 250th birthday is moving to the airport to greet arriving travelers.  I don’t know  where in the airport he’s going to be installed, but if you don’t remember him, parts of his body look just like many of our bridges.

The Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad and Village has 250,000 hand made trees.  They take copper wire and twist it to create the trunks and branches and then glue multicolored pieces of wild dried hydrangea flowers.  Each a unique tree.  That’s a lot of trees.   🙂  The display has lots of Pittsburgh themes running through it with steel mills, our rivers and clippers as well as noted buildings like Emanuel Episcopal Church right down the Allegheny Avenue from me designed by HH Richardson (he also did out Courthouse and jail.)

Actor Jimmy Stewart, from Indiana, PA was an amazing person.  A descendant from Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War veterns,  He was both a World War II and Vietnam veteran that rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.  A very laid back kind of guy initially balked at the idea of creating a museum dedicated to him in his hometown.  He felt it would be self-aggrandizement.  Eventually, family and friends convinced him to give it his stamp of approval.  The Jimmy Steward Museum is housed over the library right across the street from where his father’s hardware store was.  And it’s recently had it’s own “Christmas story” like his movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  It gets very little government funding and has been struggling for years to survive.  Last year, a retired San Diego couple donated $25,000 to keep the museum afloat and they now will match the Stewart family’s yearly donation.  The Schultz’s are from Western PA, but have no link either to Jimmy Stewart or Indiana.  He was just one of their favorite actors and when they heard of the financial difficulties decided it was a good cause.  Admission’s just $6 and Indiana is just over an hour out route 22 if you’re looking for a day trip.

Ouch.  Former chief Penn State Counsel Cynthia Baldwin said “I can’t get inside his mind, but the fact is that there is not doubt the he lied to me” in her recently released secret testimony last year to the grand jury probe of PSU ex-president Graham Spanier.  She added that he is “not a person of integrity” and that he misled school trustees and the public.  Ouch again.  🙂

I’m sure you all saw that blind guy in New York that fainted in a subway as a train approached and his 11 year old lab jumped down onto the tracks to protect him.  The train ran over them, luckily the conductor was able to slow the train down due to people shouting at him about the danger.  They were able to back the train up and both human and canine were rescued with minor injuries.  Cecil, the blind man, stated his regrets, but Orlando, the lab, was retiring and he couldn’t afford to keep him since he needs a new guide dog and Guiding Eyes can only support one animal.  Needless to say, there’s been a major outpouring of support.  The people that raised and trained Orlando said they would be elated to take him back for his retirement.  Others are offering adoption and some are looking into setting up a fund so Orlando can live out his retirement with Cecil.  How sweet.  🙂  (Orlando really looks like Razor, just not quite as much grey).

The SBA has finally denied Battalion LLC’s attempt to be accredited as a disabled veteran owned small business.  It’s a front for Sota Construction who’s office is in a Sota owned building with one employee, a disabled veteran named Jason Harris.  They beat out a legitimate small business owned by a disabled veteran on a project at the airport.  P Fleming LLC of Connecticut suspected the sham and filed a claim last year with the SBA.  It’s a shame it took a year and there’s no word if the Air Force is going to again put the project out to bid.

The Christmas Day Meal for the City is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary at Beaver Falls High School cafeteria at 1701 Eighth Avenue Christmas Day from 11:30 until 3 pm.  They are expecting 1,500 guests for this event.  They have no requirements who can attend and try to make it as much of a family meal as apposed to a soup kitchen.  Last year, the 260 volunteers from sixty churches pulled this off.  Expenses are covered by donations to the Christian Assembly of Beaver Falls, 814 Lincoln Place, BF, PA 15010.  They also distribute clothing and toys to the kids they collect throughout the year.  Co-founder Rebecca Ficca-Salopek’s employer, Clearview Federal Credit Union, was the largest donor after honoring her with their their Joseph C Cirelli Community Service Award.  They donated $2,500.  This turkey, ham and fixings are all prepared by the volunteers.  Many local elderly attend not so much that they are in need as for the social contact on Christmas Day.

Rick Fosbrink, executive director of the Chicago based Theater Historical Society of America is planning a tour of about 30 neighborhood theaters in Western PA in June (he’s originally from Connellsville) and they expect about 150 to attend.  Some of the theaters have been turned into non-profits, some are in the planning stages and some just sit vacant.  Neighborhood theaters were a backbone of small towns’ social fabric in the past and they are trying to do the same thing now with classic films, themed events, small concerts and other performing arts.  In the past, I’ve talked about the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, the Denis Theater in Mt Lebanon and the Roxian Theater in McKees Rocks.  All three are in various stages of rejuvenation.  These are such beautiful buildings (a bit shabby these days, but so was The Parador Inn when I bought it).  🙂  All it takes  is a lot of love and a lot of money, I know.  It’s worth every penny, trust me.

In case I don’t get a chance for another post before, I wish all a very happy holiday and great new years,







Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the discovery of the South Pole by Ronald Amundsen (1911-Robert Scott was there the following year), Alabama was admitted as a state (1819), the national bird count has begun 7 days before the Solstice and 7 days after since 1900 and it is the death anniversary of George Washington (1799).  Birth anniversaries include running back Ernie Davis (1939), aviator James Doolittle (1896) and Nostradamus ( 1503).

In the past, I’ve talked about the food trucks that are cruising our streets.  There’s a newer one, the Lomito Truck, they serve Paraguayan food.  Folks in Paraguay, like their neighbors the Argentinians, are huge carnivores.  (I used to work parties thrown by John Goodman, from the Amana appliance fame, he was huge into polo and his entire staff was Argentinians.  You have never seen parties with so much meat).  One of the co-owner’s wife is originally from Paraguay and traveling there, they decided to start a food truck based on street food down there.  Rocio’s husband, Damon is a graduate of NE Culinary Institute and a recognized chef.  A lomito completo is sirloin steak with ham, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, chimichurri sauce and a runny egg on a roll.  Not surprisingly, one of their regular haunts is late at night outside Harris’ Grill in a Shadyside neighborhood with a number of popular bars.  They also offer a vegetarian Feijoada which is black beans & rice topped with tomato, Chori Panne an Argentinian sausage with tomato and a vinaigrette on an Italian roll and corn served Havana style (cheese, sour cream and chilli pepper).  A better option than going to Denny’s after closing a bar.  🙂  More info at their website or by calling 412-555-5555.

The housing market has been showing signs of growth for the past while back.  Did you know a big factor in this is?  Investors, large and small.  Investors make up about 1/3 of pre-owned home sales.  And these investors are very strong here in the Pittsburgh market.  Being priced out of the big markets like San Fransisco, New York and Atlantic, they like our more modest prices.  Some of these investors are local companies buying and flipping houses, some are actual out of state investment companies!

Not surprising, banks are reporting record profits this year of $141.3B and the average chief executive pay is $552M.  My question is why is 1/3 of bank tellers are on some sort of public assistance?  That’s roughly 165,000 bank employees not being paid enough to support their families!  You and I are subsidizing their income so the banks executives can live lavish lives.  Way too out of control.  This was in an article I saw in the Trib quoting a Washington Post article.  At the time of these record bank profits, PNC Bank is working to do away with human bank tellers.  They eliminated 600 teller jobs this year and plan on starting an aggressive program to redesign their branches and replace tellers with branch concierge desks where they can advise you on investment, mortgage or retirement needs; oh and they can direct you how to use their upgraded ATM machines.  I guess this is one way to get out of the hot seat for underpaying their tellers.

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside is housed in two adjoining mansions, the Charles D Marshall mansion and the A.M. Scaife mansion.  The Center for the Arts is an umbrella organization representing the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh, Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, Group A, Pittsburgh Print Group, Pittsburgh Society of Artist, Society of Sculptors and Women of Vision Inc.  (The Center was founded in 1945)  They have 70 works by members on display through January 19.  Artists on display include sculpture by Cydra Vaux, glass by Jeffrey Moyer, ceramic by Christy Culp, fiber art by Jane Orgren and print artist Sharon Wilcox.  They ask for a $5 donation and are open from 10 am – 5 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays (till 7 Thursdays) and noon – 5 pm Sundays.  More info on their website or by calling 412-361-0873.  Also, their holiday gift shop is open with handmade gifts from 200 local artists.

The Pittsburgh Foundation is offering to match $100,000 or more in donations to the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Banks on donations made through December 31.  You can donate to the main food bank, or if you prefer one of the 15 local neighborhood food pantries by going to Pittsburgh Gives and the foundation will match your donation.  No one should go hungry in this country, particularly this time of year.

Nestle is cutting ties with a local Wisconsin farm after videos of their staff abusing the cows by being stabbed, beaten and dragged by tractors.  The video was provided by Mercy for Animals of the treatment at Wiese Brother’s Farm who said they were “shocked and saddened” when confronted with this video.  Thank you Nestle for doing the right thing and don’t watch the Mercy for Animals video unless you are ready to be terribly depressed.

Pittsburgh City Council again delayed taking action on designating the Terminal Building as historic until next week.  And the vote looks kind of iffy at this point.  I have written of my support numerous times here in my blog as well as contacting City Council.  My latest contact with City Council, I contacted each Council Person and after expressing my strong belief in the historic designation, I told them I would post how they vote in my blog.  Not that I expect my threat will have as much impact as the traditional city hall value of greased wheels.  You can contact any or all of the City Council members by going to their website and don’t need to be a city resident to express your concerns.  Just go to the website, click on the council member and below their picture is an Icon Feedback.  Click on that and it will take you to the form.

Pittsburgh’s own Sharif Bey has returned to his roots and has 33 ceramic works of his on display at the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild where he got his start in the 1980’s as a teenager.  Sharif, an assistant professor of art education at Syracuse University, has returned to the Guild for his show and to give a workshop.  His work includes:)  some of which are functional as in his pots and some of his jewelry could be functional but are of such a large scale they might be difficult to wear.  They are on display through January 3.  More info at the Guild’s website or by calling 412-322-1773.

Well, that’s about it for today, keep warm,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the last American hostage to be released from Lebanon (1991), the National Grange was founded (1786) and it’s St Barbara’s Day.  Birth anniversaries include entertainer Lillian Russel (1861), English author Samuel Butler (1835), Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795) and Helen Chase, founder of Chase’s Calendar of Events where I get all this trivia (1924).

The Parador Inn is all spruced up and decorated for the holidays.  It’s quite festive and just waiting for a visit from you.  🙂

The bald eagles in Hays are building a new nest, looks like they are going to be permanent residents.  Their first nest was built by the Monongahela River and fell out of the tree last year during a storm.  The youngster in the nest survived the fall.  Mom and dad got smarter and built the new nest in a more sturdy tree in the same area.  Eagle nests can last up to 30 years, if you’ve ever seen one, they’re pretty massive and sturdy.

Hunting season just opened.  Some hunters just hunt for the sport and aren’t interested in the venison.  If you are one of those from Allegheny County and want to donate it to feed the hungry, you can donate it to Kips Deer Processing.  If you are not from Allegheny County, but live in the state, Share the Deer is a statewide site that shows local processors that you can donate the deer to.  Although these processors do charge the food banks, they do so at a reduced rate.

Speaking of food banks and feeding the hungry, volunteers from eight United Methodist Churches in Armstrong County did a pretty amazing thing.  94 volunteers manned assembly lines and made packets to feed 27,000 people last weekend.  Coordinated and lead by Stop Hunger Now, these packets included enough rice, vitamins, dehydrated vegetables and soy to feed about six persons and only cost about twenty-five cents each.  These meals were packed into a truck and driven to Stop Hunger Now’s Philly headquarters and will be distributed based on previous commitments and need.

The Interim President (recently upgraded title from Acting President) of Cal U, Geraldine Jones is no stranger to the University.  She grew up a short distance from there, she graduated from there, her two daughters also graduated from there and other than a few years stint as a teacher, she has worked for the university all of her working life.  She took over after long time President Angelo Armenti was ousted for fiscal irresponsibility.  Armenti spearheaded a very costly unfunded building program that basically transformed the campus.  $97M in debt and a $11.5 deficit in the budget is what she inherited 18 months ago.  Through fiscal responsibility, this year’s budget not only is balanced, but it has a small surplus. Kudos to Geraldine.

Speaking of higher education, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education selected Frank Brogan as it’s new chancellor.  There was a recent article on Frank in the Trib.  Leaving a similiar position in Florida, where he faced similiar problems our system has.  Among them were declining enrollments, a shrinking college-age demographic, stagnant state support, a historically black university threatening court action over uneven support and tension among 14 universities seeking to maintain some autonomy.  When Frank took over Florida’s system, relationships between the educators and legislators was so bad they were suing each other in court.  Besides his experience as an educator and bureaucrat (I’m not saying that in a negative way), he is able to work with other groups by listening to them and sorting this information out making compromises.  With declining enrollments at state colleges, some programs no longer relevant to today’s  environment and new ones needed, we need someone to think outside the box, hopefully Frank’s the one to re-invent out system of higher education.  We can’t just keep spending money on things that don’t work and desperately need a better system to education our youth.

The Strip District certainly is becoming THE host spot in Pittsburgh for apartments.  Obviously well situated for shopping and close proximity to Downtown, there’s a huge growth in projects either shovel ready or in the planning stages.  Starting at the beginning of the Strip on the corner of 11th and Smallman Streets, that vacant building that’s had an “Available” sign on it since I came back to Pittsburgh eight years ago is now slated to become 59 apartments.  That huge building across from Lydia’s with the huge Wholey’s blinking fish was slated to become a hotel or office space.  Plans are now in the works to convert it into 144 apartments.  Next up is the development by the Evil Empire Buncher Group which plans to build 750 apartments in their mixed development along the Allegheny River.  (If you haven’t read my blog in the past, the Evil Empire wants to demolish 1/3 of the iconic Terminal Build for easy access to their government subsidized commercial development project.  Even though many residents have complained about their plans to destroy a landmark, the Buncher Group was “shocked” at the “last minute” move to designate the Terminal Building as historic.  What an idiot to be “shocked” that residents took this step after repeatedly refusing to look for alternatives to demolition and took this action).  Moving on, 🙂  there’s also Oxford Three Crossings’ 299 apartments being constructed between 26th and 27th down by Railroad Street. This is all happening due to the success of the Cork Factory that’s had 100% occupancy since opening (they even added Lot 24 next to it that has 96 units), the former owner of my Inn’s development of condos across from the Smallman Street Deli, the 31st Street condos on Smallman Street and the Otto Milk development on Smallman.  There’s even talk of high end condo’s down there STARTING at $1M.

There’s a new trend out there, Steampunk is a blend of Victorian and high tech like making iPhone covers out of leather, and other blending of newer technology with age old materials like wood, leather and metal.  An example is an iPhone docking station made of a 1910 phone box, a 1920’s gramophone to amplify the tinny sound of the iPhone.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald started what I hope will be a re-occurring Pittsburgh tradition.  He invited local high schools to make ornaments for the tree at the City/County Building.  Carlynton Junior Senior High School won the competition with four ornaments.  One made to represent each  of the three neighborhoods that make up the school district and one representing the entire district.  Last weekend they hung their ornaments and the other 100 submitted by other high schools on the tree.

Well, it is the holidays.  What holiday wouldn’t be complete without at least two of the attractions below?

The Carnegie has their traditional five huge trees decorated by the Museum of Art Woman’s Committee.  The theme this year is the international Santa.  They have St Nick as depicted in the Byzantine Empire, Mexico, Holland, Italy and America.   The centerpiece of the Christmas Tree Display is the Neapolitan Presepio. More than 100 figures, created between 1700 and 1830 by Italian craftsmen, represent the Neapolitan concept of the Nativity in a panorama of village life at the time.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-3131.

The Phipps has it’s annual Christmas flower show.   The South Conservatory has a miniature railroad with a whimsical miniature Jurassic Park theme.  The Palm Court has a large Christmas tree made out of poinsettias, two wooden carousel horses originally from Kennywood  and festive holiday flowers and gift boxes around.The Serpentine Room has glass snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and glass mushrooms that are lit at night created by Baltimore artists Matthew McCormack and Jenn Figg.  The Victoria Room has an 18′ tree decorated with ribbons and fabric butterfly towers.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-6914.

The Clayton at Frick is decorated with a fitting Victorian theme.  On display is a gift shopping list by Adelaide Frick, their children’s stockings are hung on a fireplace and toys the children enjoyed.  Remember to call if you want a tour (the classic autos, grounds and cafe are open to the public, tours of the mansion are guided.)  More info at their website or by calling 412-371-0600.

Due to budget cuts, Hartwood Acres does not have their drive through light display.  Not to dismay, there’s other options.  Since 1985, Oglebay Park has had a drive through lighting display.  Yahoo Travel rated it as one of the top seven displays in the country.  It’s a six mile drive featuring 80 lighting displays.  Suggested donation of $15 per car gets you in.  More info at their website or by calling 800-624-6988.  The Westmoreland Fair Grounds has a two mile drive through of 2M lights, a Christmas Village, C Edgar & Sons General Store with handmade seasonal gifts, sleigh rides and more.  The Harry Overly home is also open (a tradition since 1956) with festive decorations.  The admission is $12 per car and more info can be found at their website or by calling 724-423-1400.  Although not a drive thru, Kennywood Park has a lighting display throughout the park.  There’s an animated light show at the lagoon, holiday concerts, Toy Soldiers keeping the peace 🙂 , concerts and many of the family friendly rides are open.  Admission is $13.99.  More info at their website or by calling 412-461-0500.

Completed last week, just in time for the holidays, Ambridge’s Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club finished their new facade last week.  The interior work isn’t completed, but the first floor has an HO-scale model railroad with a new addition, the City of Pittsburgh.  A Lionel Model train was added to the basement level.  Also in the basement an N-scale railroad is under construction.  Although not complete, the train lines are up and running.  They expect the scenery to take another ten years to finish.  Either these are extremely detailed people or slackers.  🙂  It’s open from noon until 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays and a donation of $5 is requested.  Members will give away three train sets everyday at random, best of luck to you if you go.  More info at their website, warning, they site doesn’t always open at first click, try it again if it doesn’t work.

Enjoy this warm weather while we have it,



Tomorrow’s the independence for Albania (1912), Panama (1821), Mauritania (1960) and Chad’s Republic Day (958).  Birth anniversaries include English poet William Blake (1757), African American painter Charles Alston (1907), French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (1908)

Well, I hope everyone enjoys this Thanksgivukkah, it’s the last time Hanukkah and Thanksgiving occur together for the next 79,000 years.  What will we do with all those hybrid recipes that I’ve been seeing on the Internet?

Although they are already decorated, the Cathedral of Learning is officially opening their Nationality Room on December 8 with guides dress in ethnic clothing from noon until 4.  There will be ethnic dance and music as well traditional food and crafts for sale.  The rooms will be open to the public daily until January 17 (with the exceptions of December 24, 25 & 26 as well as January 1).  More info about the tours or rooms in general can be had at their website or by calling 412-624-6000.

Don’t forget, this is Small Business Saturday, support your local small businesses.  Just because The Parador Inn does not have worldwide name recognition as some of the big boys like Marriott and Exxon, combined, we’re  a powerful engine.  I know I’ve said this in the past, while attending business school at Penn State, a professor pointed out the 93% of the economy is fueled by small businesses.  I’ve seen that stat several times since, most recently in an article about a year and a half ago.  There’s a lot of small neighborhood shopping districts around that just might have that special gift you are looking for.  Sewickley, Shadyside, Southside, Oakmont to name just a few.  There’s also the Hand Made Arcade at the convention center next weekend that always has tons of vendors selling their homemade wares.

Instead of scrapping plans for multi billion dollar warships (which I’m not saying we don’t need to keep our defense updated, it’s just  we don’t need to buy all the new toys the generals want), we cut social net programs because they don’t have high priced lobbyists.  The temporary expansion of SNAP benefits expired at the same time the government did a 5% reduction in their participation in the nations food banks.  That figures out to average 20 fewer meals a month for a family of four.  Of the 87 million recipients of food vouchers in Pennsylvania, 87% are a family that includes a child, a senior or a person with a disability.  Our most vulnerable.  With the reduction in government assistance, many families run out food benefits by the third week of the month, then they turn to the depleted food banks go help them through the last of the month.  I donate to the Northside Common Ministries trying to keep as local as possible.  Our regional food bank, The Greater Pittsburgh Community is another source that needs assistance.

As if having 3,000 natural lakes (the most of any country on Earth), Canada is giving the go ahead to Syncrude to create artificial lakes to store the contaminated waste water from processing the oil sands.  They estimate that by 2022, they will be generating monthly enough toxic waste to fill New York’s Central Park 11 feet.  The plan is to fill the old fields where they removed to oil sands with this sludge and then put 16 feet of fresh water on top to force the pollutants down to the bottom.  And then make another “pond”.  The industry says there are naturally occurring microbes that help break down that break down some of the pollutants.  Or at least this is what happened in their “test kitchen” they say.  They also say in their “test kitchen” ecosystems of insects, amphibians and fish eventually developed.  Maybe they can film the next Star Wars bar scene there.  🙂

The National Cathedral will start charging $10 admission for tourists to cover upkeep ($6 for children, seniors and military).  After all the expense they had to shell out since the earthquake (insurance only covers so much), I think that’s fair.

Well, The Parador is almost ready for the holidays.  I hope to get the outside decorations up this weekend, the weather’s looking a little better than it’s been for the past few days (bitterly cold with the wind, I even turned the furnace on low in the Ballroom at night to keep the pipes from freezing).  The coconuts in the windows have all been repainted and I’m trying a new way to hang them so they don’t get all snaggled together when they’re stored off-season.  I still have a few tweeks to do inside.  Many of you have received the yearly holiday card featuring The Duck.

This year, I was able to convert the address book in my data base into Excel and my printer, Raff Printing, was able to print the cards with the addresses.  Saved a ton of time (3,600 addresses!).  Next year, we’ll do postage as well.  By the time I’m ready to through in the towel, this job’s going to be a piece of cake.  🙂

Well, I wish each of you a very Happy Thanksgiving and if you are traveling, please take your time.  They say a key is to rest up before leaving, I’m a big believer in naps.  🙂




Tomorrow is the anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy (1963), where were you?  Also, the anniversary of the first China Clipper flight delivering mail to the Philippines (1935), Lebanon’s Independence Day (1943), Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was first published (1859) and Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister (1990).  Birth anniversaries include pilot and stunt parachutist Wiley Post (1898), French President Charles De Gaulle  (1890) and novelist George Eliot (1819).

When I talk, you better pay attention.  Apparently, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority did.  🙂  PWSA is planning on spending $155M to comply with the EPA mandate to keep raw sewerage out of our waterways during heavy rain. PWSA plans on dedicating $10M out of the first $80M investment on green infrastructure.  The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (PWSA’s county counterpart) intends to include green infrastructure in their $2.2B plan.  GM George Hawkins wouldn’t commit how much would be earmarked for green infrastructure and I don’t expect a lot after hearing his comment “We don’t think we’re going to save money by going green, though we do get all of these other benefits.”  Well, for one thing, passive rain gardens and swells don’t need much maintenance.  Porous paving is pretty permanent.  I have sent a suggestion to PWSA on numerous occasions that I am sure would greatly reduce the volume of storm water entering the sewer system.  When they rebuilt Western Avenue out front of The Parador a couple of years ago, I was excited because I thought I saw a very ingenious way to reduce storm water runoff going into the sewers.  They replaced the catch basins.  They dug the old ones out, put a healthy layer of crushed rock in the hole and the new cement catch basin was sitting next to it, five sides of concrete.  One had the hole for the pipe to take water out of the basin and one side was totally open.  I thought if they put the open side down over the crushed rock and raised the pipe opening, water would naturally percolate through the rock into the ground.  If this was the new standard throughout the city, we would keep tons of water out of the system.  PWSA has never even acknowledged my suggestions.

How about Mayor Elect  Bill Peduto?  Once again he’s impressing me.  He’s offered current city employees an early retirement package if they’re concerned about the performance bar being raised.  Other than his inner circle, hiring will be done through an organization set up by the Pittsburgh Foundation.  The committee will review applications and forward the most qualified to his office.  This should keep politics and “the old boy” patronage system out of government new hires.  The Mayor Elect does not have to accept them, he has the option of rejecting them and asking the committee to find another candidate.  He’s also set up advisory panels of volunteer city residents to meet and come up with solutions to the many problems the city faces.  He’s had nearly 900 residents volunteer for these positions.  I’m not saying Joe Residents knows how to fix all the problems in the city, but when you pare concerned citizens with experts you start thinking outside the box.  This could truly be huge.

Starting Saturday at 6 pm, as part of Light Up Night, they are having a candle light horse drawn carriage parade from the convention center down Liberty to the Gateway “T” stop.  More than 100 horses, 30 carriages decorated like Cinderella’s pumpkin and other themes.  Clydesdale and miniature ponies and mascots including the Pirate Parrot, Iceberg and the Pierogies  will join Mr McFeely in the parade.  Sounds pretty fun.  There’s so much scheduled for Light Up Night, it would take forever to list them in my blog, please visit their website for details.

Thanx Ravenstahl, back when you were running for mayor, you showed up for the Veteran’s Day parade.  But now that you don’t need our votes, you’re too busy hob knobbing with the rich and powerful to honor Vets.  We’ll remember.

I’ve been against ethanol since the fad started.  Yes, the burning of an ethanol and gasoline blend gives off less carbon dioxide.  But my first concern about it is there’s millions of people starving around the world, many hungry right here in America.  Farms should farm food.  As time goes by, more and more scientists are getting on the bandwagon showing how when you add the cost of actual farming (tractors, etc), trucking the grain to processing plants, trucking to ethanol to blending plants it’s a net negative for the environment.  And, because corn prices are at near record levels, farmers in the mid West and Western states are tearing up virgin grazing lands releasing pent up carbon in the soil below the grasslands.

Fifty years ago this week, touch tone phones were first introduced right here in Carnegie and Greensburg.  Developed in Bell Labs, they ran the experiment in these two local cities because of their relative size, average income and isolation from larger sections of the old Bell Telephone system.  What’s kind of interesting here is with all the advances with cell and i phones, the key pad is basically the same as it was 50 years ago.  Some ideas last.

The basic books in my foodie collection that I highly recommend are the reference books A Food Lover’s Companion, a dictionary of culinary terms, many you probably never heard before.  For all there is to know about beer, wine and spirits, Grossman’s Guide to Wine, Beer and Spirits is the source.  For all things cooking, the Culinary Institute of America’s New Professional Chef is a must have.  These aren’t so much “cook books” as much as reference books.  The reason for these three recommendations is I  read one of my favorite writers for the Trib, John Conti’s article in Sunday’s Trib “Bigger and Glossier Doesn’t Always Mean Best Book.”  Although John isn’t an architect, his insight always amazes me and if you are looking for a reference book on architecture, whether it’s architecture in general, Pittsburgh’s architecture or even hiring an architect, you really should read this article.

A belated congratulations to Center Fielder Andrew McCutchen’s landslide winning of the National League’s MVP player.  He’s just one of six Pirates to receive the honor since the award started in 1931.

Pittsburgh’s indie market of local artisans “I Made It” is being held at the Waterfront Friday from 5 pm until 10 pm and Saturday from 11 am until 6 pm.  Since 2007, local crafts persons have offered unique gifts of photography books, reclaimed wood wall hangings, housewares, apparels, ceramic, baby items, furniture, Pittsburgh themed items and much more.  There will be more than 90 local crafters located in the former Abercrombie and Holister retail space.  If you want a unique gift and meet the creator, here you go.

Have a great day,


Tomorrow is 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, the cold war officially ended in 1990, the first automatic toll collection machine was introduced in 1954 at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway, Pele scored his 1,000 goal (1969) and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized (1874) and the first Presidential Library was dedicated to Franklin Roosevelt (1939).

I had a conversation with a guest that’s visited since 2007 (after his son, daughter-in and granddaughter stayed here when relocating to Pittsburgh).  Bob said that although he frequently reads my blog, he doesn’t always agree with me.  That’s the point of my political ramblings, I don’t want people to agree with me.  The purpose is to stimulate conversation, either with me through the Comments section or by e-mail if you feel the topic warrants it.  Or possibly stimulate conversation among your family and friends. As any of you that read my blog know, it’s not just political ramblings that I talk about, mainly I try and cover events people might be interested in attending and happenings at The Parador.  Speaking of happenings, we’re finishing up with the deep cleaning and paste waxing of the floors in the Parlor and Library this afternoon in preparation for the holiday decorations.  Also, I’m working on the coconuts I hang in the front windows.  In case you’ve never been here over the holidays, I came up with the idea while in Florida to take coconuts, spray paint them and then paint holiday images  on them like snowmen, candy canes, Christmas trees, etc.  Well, I haven’t done anything with them in over eight years and they were really looking pretty shabby.  I’ve put a fresh coat of paint on them all and are now re-painting the images.  They’re looking pretty sparkly.  🙂

Speaking of my blog, theirs a counter on it (don’t worry, it doesn’t show who read blogs or when they did), it just shows the gross number of people that have read individual blogs.  I’m closing in on 5,000 on several blogs!

The Netflix feature Orange is the New Back has a Pittsburgh connection.  One of the writers is Lauren Morelli from McCandless.  The story line is about a nice middle class woman imprisoned for prior association with a drug dealer.  I haven’t seen it, but it’s supposed to be pretty good and is available in their streaming service.  The first season was such a success that they are currently filming season two.

I’m reading the most interesting book, Last Ape Standing by Chip Walter.  The book explores the evolution of man, did you know there were 27 forms of us before homo sapiens turned out with our final form?  The book is well written and not too technical that it’s hard to read, in fact Chip makes the book very entertaining as well as informative.   It is the first book I can recall where I actually would Google things in the book like the alien looking aye-aye from Madagascar, the blobfish of Borneo and the bizarre mating rituals of porcupines and anglerfish.

Looking for unique holiday gifts?  Try the Holiday Artist Market in the Cultural District.  They have 30 local artists that belong to the Craftsman’s Guild of Pittsburgh.  The diverse offerings include hand crafted works in jewelry, glass, clay, wood, sculpture, textiles and paper with prices from the inexpensive to fairly pricey.  It’s being held at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s 709 Gallery on Penn Avenue and is open during the gallery’s normal operating hours of 11 am – 6 pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 am – 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays as well as 11 am – 5 pm Sundays and runs through January 5.  More info at their website or by calling 412-456-6666.

Through the rest of the month at Gallerie Chiz has four artists featured including Pittsburgh Mitzi Hall who works in colorful mosaics of pieces of glass, mirror and ceramic.  She really “dolled” up everything from shoes to violins.  Very colorful.  Venezuelan artist Salvador Di Quinzio takes a light hearted colorful use of acrylic.  Not as colorful as the last two artists, there’s 32 paintings by Romanian artist Manulela Holban.  Although much darker (in shade, not theme), they are very interesting works in oil.  Finally, Masha Archer makes jewelry from objects she collects from around the world.  We’re not talking simple strings of pearls here.  🙂  Though I don’t see me with one of them, I can still appreciate the creativity.  The gallery is open 11 am – 5:30 pm Tuesdays through Fridays and 11 am – 5 pm Saturdays.  More information on this show in Shadyside at their website or by calling 412-441-6005.

After 206 years, the iconic Pleyel piano company is closing it’s doors.  Favored by such greats as Chopin, Lizst, Ravel and Stravinsky it was the standing in all upscale Paris parlors and salons for generations.  Ignaz Pleyel, a composer and music publisher studied with Haydn and was always on the cutting edge of their craft.  They’ve been on the decline for many years and are down to just 14 employees being under cut by budget pianos from the East and the change in consumer tastes for the bulky pianos.

Be happy,





Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day.  Originally set up in 1919 as Armistice Day to commemorate the soldiers on both sides of World War I that lost their lives fighting for their countries.  Be sure to say Thank you to any Vets you know.  It’s the anniversary of the Anglican Church’s first permitting women priests (1992), Irving Berlin’s God Bless America’s first performance (1938), independence anniversaries include Angola (1975), Maldives (1968), Poland (1918) and Washington was admitted to the Union (1889).  Birth anniversaries include Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), General George S Patton (1885), the last Italian king Emmanuel Victor (1869) and American novelist Kurt Vonnegut (1922).

The Evil Empire Buncher group strikes again.  They sent a letter to City Council that if they don’t get there way and be allowed to tear down 1/3 of the Terminal Building, the project won’t go forward and harm will be caused to so many people counting on the project.  They also say that no other developer would consider the project without approval to tear down 1/3 of the Terminal Building.  If I understand things correctly, Buncher OWNS the 200 acre parcel behind the Terminal Building and they have an option from the URA on the Terminal Building.  #1, let me get this clear, they own 200 acres of extremely valuable vacant land next to a major river (Allegheny) and within walking distance Downtown and the Strip and they are going to walk away from the project?  Really!  I  guess the mayor of Toronto isn’t the only one smoking crack.

I’ve been seriously trying to quit smoking for over four years now.  I’ve been on Chantix four times and it works for awhile and the next thing you know, I’m smoking occasionally and then regularly.  I don’t think being on Chantix full time would be healthy either.  🙂  (I had those nasty nightmares the first time I was on Chantix and took it by their dosage of once in the morning and once in the evening.  But anytime I would only take it once a day, I had no problems).  So I decided to try those E-cigarettes.  I opted for V2 and that seems to be working fine for me.  In case you aren’t aware, E-cigarettes look like a cigarette with a rechargeable lithium battery where the tobacco would normally be and a cartridge where the filter would be.  The cartridges contain nicotine, but none of the tar or carcinogens associated with regular cigarettes.  My lithium batteries are not holding the charge for long, so I went to their website to order two replacements (I thought).  While on their website I clicked on the Icon that says Batteries, three images popped up showing two batteries in each.  I chose which one I wanted and then clicked Buy Now and the next screen popped up, again showing two batteries and I made my purchase.  One arrived today and I thought they had just mispackaged them, so I called them.  When I spoke with their customer service rep, he explained that the reason they show two batteries is there’s actually two models in each of the three pictures, a manual and an automatic version.  Even with him explaining this to me and me being at the website looking at the pictures, I had to squint to see the difference.  And there was no verbiage saying you’re buying one and we’re showing two for this reason.  I explained him that I thought I was buying the automatic, not the manual, but that’s not the point.  I thought I was getting two batteries.  Well he kept explaining to me why there was two pictures and how I could return the manual for an automatic.  I was obviously getting nowhere with him, so I told him good bye and went to the Contact Us section of their website and sent them an email explaining my concerns.  In less than an hour, they called me!  The lady I spoke with was so nice, I felt bad complaining.  I think she totally understood I wasn’t looking for something for free (which I believe the first guy thought), I was upset with my shopping experience.  I don’t think they ware deliberately deceiving their customers, it’s just that their website is misleading.  I explained how I run my Inn so everything is so totally clear, there’s no confusion when a guest arrives about what room they are going to be in, how long they are going to be here, what the charge is going to be, etc.  I think because I wasn’t screaming and hollering and politely explained my beef, she’s sending me a pack of cartridges.  What does a pack of cartridges actually cost them?  Going above and beyond, she has a loyal customer as long as I smoke E-cigarettes and they got a free link in my blog.  I love good customer service.

How about the Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto?  I wasn’t 100% behind him in the past.  As you know, I really hate that constant bickering in politics you see all the time and I saw him and our current ghost mayor at each other all the time (and other squabbles).  He held his election celebration event in Homewood.  He’s named cabinet and it includes two white males, a black male, a black female, a Hispanic female, an Oriental female and a white female.  All with some amazing credentials.  This may be too good to be true, but I’m really looking forward to see what he does.  And I don’t seem to be the only one that took notice.  VP Joe Biden called him to congratulate him.

What a great Veteran’s Day story.  Illinois native Stephanie Hare, living in England called the USO at O’Hare and told local USO volunteer John Colas that her fiance Pravin Rajan would be passing through with his fellow Marines on their way home from Afghanistan.  In just an hour and a few phone calls, John got 15 Chicago police officers and fireman to come to the airport who were joined by airport security and others to present a water salute the plane went through and then as the Marines got off the plane, they went through an honor guard of the uniformed police and fire fighters, as well as other airport staff.  Then, American Airlines has a policy of upgrading uniformed service members to first class whenever there are empty seats.  So seven of the Marines received upgrades and 6 first class guests gave up their seat for the remaining Marines so they could all sit together.  It didn’t take a lot of money, planning or resources.  Just effort and a little thinking outside the box.  It created memories for these heroes (flawed I’m sure as I am, but Americans that did the best they could) that will never forget.

To celebrate their 20th anniversary, the National Aviary has created an new exhibit, Canary’s Call.  It’s an educational exhibit that shows how the impact of man (and women) 🙂 is affecting the environment.  Through over population, habitat loss, invasive species and over consumption we are having a real impact on so many species.  Add this to other diseases like the white nose bat syndrome our co-inhabitors of earth are really taking it in the shorts.  They have rehabbed the rhinoceros hornbill’s cage for this exhibit, they rhinoceros have been at the Aviary for awhile, but they have these amazing beaks that are topped with horns.  The Aviary has added the fruit eating Malayan flying foxes, which are bats (bats are technically mammals, but they fly and look like birds, so we’ll give the Aviary a free pass card here) and are about 16 inches long but have wing spans up to 6 feet.  Pretty amazing.  More information at their website or by calling 412-323-7235.  By the way, there are several National Aviaries, but Pittsburgh’s is the largest of them all.

Pittsburgh’s 53 annual Light Up Night‘s just around the corner (November 22).  They are expanding the event this year, it seems Smithfield Street will be closed to vehicular traffic.  The classic rock groups The Elliots and Totally 80s will perform from Mellon Square facing down to Smithfield for street dancing.  Gloria Gaynor will perform in front of Macy’s for the unveiling of Macy’s holiday windows.  They are also adding a laser effects and bubble machines.  Santa will light the holiday tree at Market Square at 5:45, the European Market opens again and has expanded and live Christmas carols will be song by Jeff Jimerson as well as other family friendly activities.  PPG’s ice rink opens that weekend and the free Fifth Avenue Holiday Trolley will also debut.  More details at their website.

I hope you’ve winterized your house, if not, you better get hoppin, it’s getting close.  🙂

Happy Veteran’s Day,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the commissioning of the USS New York, the $1B warship has 7 1/2 tons of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center (2009), the Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1885), the Republican Symbol was started by Thomas Nast in a satirical cartoon (1874), President Roosevelt was elected to his fourth term (1944) and the first black governor was elected (in Virginia) (1989).  Birth anniversaries include opera star Dame Sutherland (1926), scientist Marie Curie (1867), American actor Dean Jagger (1903) and French writer and philosopher Albert Camus (1913).

Did you vote yesterday?  If not, shame on you.  You don’t need to vote for each position up, if I’m not familiar with particular candidates for a position and can’t make an informed choose, I by pass it.  I vote knowledgeably on the candidates/issues I am familiar with.  Please, make a commitment to the American system and commit yourself to vote in each election in the future.

It’s unbelievable.  After all the controversy at Penn State over the last few years, the power elite still don’t get it.  They are selecting a new president to replace retiring interim president Rodney Erickson.  The process is totally secret and even the trustees are being kept in the dark.  Transparency is not a difficult thing to do, if you are upright and don’t have hidden agendas.  I think the 96,000 students should have an armed uprising.  🙂   Just kidding, NSA.  🙂  And do you know the best part?  The people selecting the new president met in a BASEMENT in a hotel off campus.  How ludicrous can they be?

The last 8 residents in Centralia can live in there homes as long as they want.  If you are not familiar, Centralia is that coal mining town in NE Pennsylvania that a seam of coal ignited and has burned since 1962.  The fire has followed several seams in and around the town and seems to have tamed down these days, but in it’s hay day, fissures would open up and smoke and fire would come up through them.  Most residents left, but a hardy 8 remained refusing the government’s attempt to buy them out.  Besides it being their “home”, many felt it was a conspiracy to steal the mineral rights.  The state government tried all kinds of tactics to get them out and the last 8 wouldn’t budge.  It all pretty much died a decade or so ago.  Recently, the state started again to try and evict them and they filed a federal lawsuit and came to a compromise.  The state bought their houses, the residents can stay at their own risk, but they can’t sell the house or bequeath it.  Sounds fair to me.

Why are our gas heating bills going up this year?  Natural gas prices are raising an average of 6% I’m hearing (Equitable, my provider is raising their rates 8.9%) during the largest glut of natural gas in history!  Now I understand Columbia gas is doing a capital project replacing all (I think it’s all) of their old lines.  I can understand paying for that.   And I thank all the heavens that we have Tanya McCloskey as our head of the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocacy, when asked why the PUC is permitting these increases she said “The reason additional supply does not necessarily mean lower prices is that customers’ gas prices depend on several factors”.  Oh, I understand now.  Thank you Tanya for clearing that up for me.  I’m not advocating that she be fired, maybe shot?  Just kidding NSA.

The oldest public park in Allegheny County recently received the country’s highest designation.  The Commons, originally an Allegheny City pasture designated for common grazing of animals, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  I don’t think that will affect the battle with the railroads that wants us to pay to raise the truss bridge on West Ohio Street to accommodate their double stacked cars.  The bridge needs replaced, it’s in pretty poor shape and I’m fine with paying to replace it, but not to raise it so they can make more money off the tracks.  #1 it’s going to do some serious visual disruptions to the park.  #2 quite a few of those stately London Plane trees will have to be removed.  #3 our fore fathers had the foresight to put the track below grade to minimize the noise, dirt and visual of having a train go through their park.  #4 if the rail company wants to be able to double their profits, they should pony up and either A-lower the track bed to accommodate the higher cars or at least B-pay for the added cost of bridge replacement to accommodate them.

The Federal Reserve Bank downtown is going to be converted to a Drury Inn and Suites by next year.  They are looking to create a 180 room hotel in the upper floors leaving the grand first floor pretty much as it is.  Drury is an international company (with a really annoying website) with 130 room hotels.  Currently they only have 4o parking spots, not sure what they’re going to do there, but Drury runs higher end hotels, the the room rate would probably warrant carving out the multiple basements into parking.  This will be their first hotel in Pennsylvania.  They will be joining Hotel Monaco under construction in the old Reed Smith building on Sixth Avenue that plan 250 rooms and is also pretty upscale.  Watch out  Fairmont, competition’s on it’s way.  🙂  An Embassy Suites is under construction in the old Oliver Building on Smithfield Street and the new Hilton Gardens down by Market Square.  A little bed and breakfast on the Northside better watch out, the big boys are moving to town.  🙂

Want that unique holiday gift?  Try checking out Tucker-Jones House Tavern Puzzles.  Blacksmith Dennis Sucilsky hand crafts forged steel brainteasers.  Going back to colonial times, tavern owners supplied iron puzzles to their guests to entertain (and retain) them.  They frequently used iron puzzles because of their durability.  One of Denis’ puzzles, the Patience Puzzle takes 43 steps to solve, if you even can.  They start at around $20 and box sets run just over $100.

Anyone that knows me or follows my blog know I follow the news a lot.   I used to watch BBC World News Tonight, until they quit broadcasting it a couple of years ago.  DirecTV now carries Al Jazeera on channel 347 and I’ve been watching it a fair amount. It’s not that I’m against American news broadcasts, and Al Jazeera doesn’t come off with an “agenda”, it’s the same news American networks are covering with a slightly different slant.  And they cover things American new broadcasts don’t cover, and I’m not talking controversial topics, just things outside the box.   Also, they have noticeable less commercials!  I’m not against commercials, in general.  Companies need to make money, it’s the over saturation of commercials during prime time on the major networks that bother me.

The oldest company in America making the original product they were founded making is Waterbury Button Company.  When the war of 1812 stopped the import of buttons from England, Aaron Benedict started making buttons at his company in Connecticut.  Brass was hard to come by then and Aaron scrounged metal from everywhere he could find it.  Every time they make a mold, they save it.  They have 40,000 dies for various button designs they made.  They have been the major supplier for the US Military, all the way back to before the civil war.  They provided the buttons for the staff officers on the original Titanic and when the movie producers recently made the remake, guess where they got their buttons?  Pretty cool, a made in America product.

I’m going to the Pennsylvania Bed and Breakfast Association Second Annual Conference.  (PABBI)  It’s just one evening and a full day, but there’s always lots to learn and it’s great seeing other Innkeepers I already know and meeting others.  There’s always new stuff to learn and stuff to see.  I’m looking forward to it.

That’s it for today, have a great one,




Harry Houdini died on this day in 1926, Mt Rushmore was completed in 1941, one of my favorites on NPR, Car Talk, started in 1987 (they retired last year and play re-runs which I missed many anyway), of course well all know tomorrow is Halloween and Samhah in the Wiccan calendar.  Birth anniversaries include Chiang Kai-Shek (1887), poet John Keats (1795), girl scout founder Juliette Gordon Low (1860) and singer Ethel Waters (1896).

I was replacing a broken window today on the front porch and da boiz were with me for awhile.  I came in the house and left da boiz in there and came back out to do some finishing touches on the window and RJ was on the porch.  I’m thinking what’s he doing on the porch, I left him in the Courtyard.  Then I noticed someone put a blue collar on him.  Then I noticed he was a she.  She could be RJ’s identical twin.  She was with us for an hour or so before her owner came to claim the run-away.  🙂  Da boiz and her had a grand time in the Courtyard chasing each other and doing other dog things.  🙂

The New York Times ran an article about farm subsidies in September.  Farm subsidies were set up to assist farmers through rough times and cyclical low priced farm prices.  Adjusting for inflation, since 1976 five of the highest farm income years have been since 2004.  A GAO report issued last year shows that 2,300 recipients had grown no crops in five years and 622 have grown no crops for ten years.  Much of this goes to wealthy people that own farm land.  The American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest farmer’s organization has adopted a position that they would not oppose elimination of the “direct payment” system, particularly if the funds went to a fund to support farm insurance for the cyclical downturns.  I’d say that’s a decent way to ensure that our farmers futures without making some rich richer.

This past summer’s Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix blew  the doors off past fund raising for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh.  Last year they raised $250,000 for Autism, this year they raised $350,000.  I believe PVGP is a totally volunteer endeavor.   Way to go PVGP!

Have you heard of  graphene?  I did awhile ago, but I haven’t been very clear on exactly it is and it’s potentials. There was a great article on it in the Trib Sunday.  Graphene is a sheet of carbon one atom thick, how amazing is that?  It is the strongest material around and the thinnest.  It conducts heat and electricity better than copper and silicon and it is impermeable to helium, helium is so small that it can penetrate steel tanks.  It is as flexible as rubber and as clear as lightly tinted glass.  Anticipated applications include room temperature super computers, faster computers overall, lighter transportation vehicles (cars, airplane, etc), improved battery charging times (estimated cell phone charging could be as low at 15 seconds and cars in 15 minutes), medicine (they are working on a sensor that has 100 squares that can be individually calibrated for each to pick up something else from our breath without taking blood), transparent solar cells that can be wrapped around buildings, embedded sensors (like cooking pans that can detect bacteria) and even even more impervious fracking well liners.

The Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown (near Ligonier) will be hosting their Christmas candle light tours weekends starting the last weekend in November and for the following two weekends.  Compass Inn was an old stage coach inn that has been totally renovated and furnished in period pieces.  The tour includes the seven rooms in the Inn (the common room, serving kitchen, ladies parlor and the four guest rooms) as well as three reconstructed buildings (the cook house, smithy and barn).  Tickets are just $9 for adults and discounts for seniors and students.  More information on their website or by calling 724-2384983.

On October 13th, Entropy Syndicate, a guerrilla art group staged Water Foul, a take off on our beloved and departed Duck.  It was an over sized can of Campbell’s Duck Soup.  🙂  They had a lot of difficulties keeping the “can” upright and water tight (the paper label disintegrated) in the water.  But they get an A for effort and creativity.

Alright, you figure this one out.  The federal government just gave the OK for chickens processed in China to be sold in the US for human consumption.  But, the chickens have to be raised here (or in Canada or Chile), butchered here and then sent to China for processing.  And then shipped back??????????  Makes no sense to me.  This is the country where they wear masks in the cities because the pollution is so bad and they find 6,000 dead pigs floating in Huangpu River in Shanghai and can’t explain it.  The Chinese pet food industry is being blamed on 600 American pet deaths from tainted dog treats.  And we’re going to let them supply processed foods for human consumption?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty much OK with the Chinese, for the abject poverty that gripped that nation not that long ago to where they stand now is pretty amazing.  They really need to crack down on their pollution and quality controls and until they do, I don’t think we should be importing foods from them.  And I really don’t understand how anyone can make money shipping frozen chickens 6,500 miles to China and then back can make any money.  Someone told me that this was all about opening the door for permitting imported processed foods into the US from China and that makes sense.

Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson have announced they will voluntarily start making products without microbeads, or at least with biodegradable ones.  L’Oreal announced they won’t develop products with microbeads.  Microbeads are those tiny (some you need a microscope) that are so small, they slip through treatment plants into the water causing serious problems with aquatic life.  My hat goes off to responsible (and voluntary) to companies that respect our environment.

The Wendell August Forge has reopened their new $8M facility after fire consumed the 75+ year manufacturing and retail complex.  They hand craft gifts and collectables that can be engraved and personalized.  With the larger facility, they almost doubled their employment and ramped up their distribution areas.  Of the $8M it took to rebuild it, $4M was a grant.  That’s the bad news on state money, the good news is it went to a small business instead of one of the mega companies that usually seem to be the recipient of government largess.

Well, that’s it for today.  I’m expecting a phone call for a conference call any minute to get instructions on better ways to handle ACT, my data base mgmt system.  I’m pretty good at it, but know my weaknesses and Alan said they’re easily explained.  I look forward to it.  Have a great one,