Tomorrow is the anniversary of hurricane Katrina struck the gulf coast (2005), the slave ship Amistad was seized (1839) by the slaves demanding to be returned to Africa, Shay’s Rebellion (1786) and the soviet communist party was abolished in Russia (1991).  Birth anniversaries include actress Ingrid Bergman (1915), musician Michael Jackson (1958) and jazz man Charlie Parker (1920).

I spoke a few posts ago about Ester’s Hobby Shop in Millvale and how they have a big emphasis on model trains.  For you model train enthusiasts, there’s also the Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club on Merchant Street in Ambridge.  The 25 member club is not generally opened to the general public, except for their holiday display that is open from noon until 5 pm weekends from November 30 until January 5.  Last year they had about 1,000 people pass through looking at their displays.  A couple of years ago they added  a Downtown Pittsburgh section to the display on the first floor which has an HO scale railroad.  They are working on N scale model railroad in the basement that they figure will be an 8 to 10 year project.  If you go to see the displays this year, they will be easy to find, they are just completing a new facade that gives the building a train station terminal look with faux freight door and a bay window with a mannequin ticket taker.  The cool thing here is Bob Evans started a program several years ago where they accept donated trains from people’s attics and basements, use their expertise to make sure everything’s in working order and then donate them to kids.  More info on the club can be found on their website, do donate a train, call Bob at 412-761-7469.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival runs from August 24 through September 29 Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 until 5:30 (also Labor Day Monday, September 2) over in West Newton.  It’s not a dress-up fantasy where you sit around watching actors entertain you with the jousting and other medieval sports and contests, it’s more of an interactive event.  There’s also food and craft vendors, many of which have a medieval slant.  There’s also musical performers, comedians and of course jugglers and other period entertainers.  And there’s the returning act Cast in Bronze, a 4 ton musical instrument of 35 bronze bells that musician Frank Della Pena plays by pounding the bells with his fists and feet.  :)  The company that produces the festival, Rocky Mountain Festivals, Inc, does so all over the country.  So they have a lot of experience keeping the festival from becoming old and boring.  Last year they increased the size of the event, this year they are increasing the number of acts and vendors.  More info at their website or by calling 724-872-1670.

Next August we will be hosting the International Conference of the Garden Writer’s Association.  It well be pretty cool showing off the city to these gardening professionals.  In addition to the Western PA Conservancy and all the gardens they tend in and around the city, local neighborhoods have adopted all kinds of empty lots and created some pretty cool urban gardens.  Someone should throw down the gauntlet and start a city wide competition for the most unique neighborhood garden.  I bet that could become quite the competition.

For those of you watching elderly parents, relatives (yourselves) on Medicare, the hospitals are more and more pulling a slick one you need to pay attention to.  Since Medicare is scrutinizing their payments more and more and tightening the strings, hospitals more and more are “reclassifying” certain over night and multiple night stays as “observation” instead of “in-patient”.  This shifts the responsibility for payment to the individual.  Since it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, many seniors assume when a physician tells them they need to “stay in the hospital”, the seniors think it would be covered by Medicare.  To make matters even more confusing for the seniors, they frequently are hooked up to monitors, etc.  600,000 seniors last year were saddled with bills over this reclassifying hospitals are doing.  A $15K bill is not uncommon and a HUGE burden on these seniors.  Shouldn’t we be making the “Golden Years” less stressful for the people before us?  I’m not talking about a Cadillac in every garage and turkey in every oven.  Just don’t make their senior years anymore harsh the they already have to deal with.  Animals, children, handicapped and seniors all look to the rest of us for guidance and help.  (When I talk about seniors, I’m not talking about anyone over 60, I’m referring to actual old people that have limited abilities).  It’s soooo wrong to “reclassify” something so certain doctors and medical administrators can buy that summer condo to compliment the winter one they already have with the imported sports car in each garage at the expense of the vulnerable.  The hospitals have a responsibility to make it very clear to the Medicare recipients exactly who’s going to be responsible for what bills.

OK, we all know there’s a fourth river under the city, right?  And since The Rivers Casino opened, we all know there are 422 official bridges in Pittsburgh?  (That’s why one of their restaurants is named 422).  Did you know when you enter the Courthouse Downtown that you are actually entering through the basement?  I’ve heard several times over the years that the city lowered Grant Street, but it was just one of those things I never put together.  “Grant’s Hill” was the highest elevation in the city and that’s why they decided to build the Courthouse there to make it more imposing.  A few years after completing the Courthouse, they decided to lower Grant’s Hill fifteen feet to make the area more accessible.  Originally they build a plaza like platform so the original entrances could be used.  In the early 1920′s, they decided to widen Grant Street and the plaza had to go and hence we now enter through the basement.  I bet the next time you’re Downtown, you’ll look at the Courthouse a little differently.  :)  (By the way, over the years, they have “modified” most of the Courthouse by lowering ceilings, etc.  For the centennial, they restored one Courtroom to it’s original design, Judge McDaniel’s if you ever get a chance to see it).

Over on University Drive in Coraopolis Moon Flight (a play on the township they’re located and proximity to the airport) is doing something a little different.  It’s a self serve car wash, self serve dog (or cat) wash and coffee shop.  :)  With the coffee shop, they try and bring an upscale offering, not normally found around car washes (and I’ve never heard of a stand alone dog wash, so have nothing to compare that food offering to).  The coffee shop opens at 6 am weekdays and 8 am weekends and always closes at 5 pm.  The car and pet wash are well lit and open 24/7.  Kind of a creative slant.

Speaking of Flight (you know how I love themes), FlightCar and RelayRides are a newer service that aren’t in Pittsburgh yet, but is in several other cities.  Instead of paying to leave your car in the long term parking lot at an airport, drop it off with these folks and they rent it out.  Rental fees depend on the make and year of your vehicle.  They handle all the rental details, carry insurance and you get your car back freshly cleaned.  They are a pretty much unregulated start-up challenging the $11B airport car rental business.  They are kind of like what that Air BnB is to the lodging industry to the car rental industry.  Part of the fee you pay to rent a car at an airport from one of the traditional rental companies goes back to the airport, just as part of what you pay at a lodging establishment goes back to local tourism.  Both Air BnB and the new car rental places don’t do this.  I don’t have a problem with either, as long as they belly-up-to-the-bar and play be the rules.  :)

Have a great day,



One week after the end of World War II (1945), the French  conflict in Vietnam began with the communist guerrilla named Ho Chi Minh, the first Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance in Salt Lake City (1847), the Battle of Stalingrad began (1942) and the volcano under Lake Nios in Cameroon erupted killing more than 1,500 people.  Birth anniversaries include French composer Claude Debussy (1862), cartoonist George Herriman (1880), astronomer Samuel Langley (1834) and controversial Nazi propaganda actress Leni Riefenstahl (1902).

The Bessemer Court fountain at Station Square has gotten a new show.  That’s the fountain that has danced to 80′s music for the last 10 – 15 years.  Station Square officials have been getting sport’s announcers audio recordings of famous Steeler and Penguin’s moments of history (the Pirates haven’t had these moments in so long the recordings aren’t usable).  :)  They have weaved these recordings in famed stadium fan spirit tunes like Queen’s We Are Champions and Ozzy’s Crazy Train.  Possibly the most famous sports moment in Pittsburgh history, The Immaculate Reception was not included because of the poor quality of it’s recording.   ):

The Homemade Arcade, the annual craft show and sale at the convention center since 2004 is looking for new vendors.  This yearly event has around 150 vendors and 6,000 shoppers.  A great venue if you’re a vendor and particularly if you have a unique craft.  The show is only one day, Saturday, December 7.  I always find something unique at it.  If you want to be a vendor, the deadline is September 15 and info is at their website.

The16th Annual Shadyside Arts Festival is back next Saturday (10 am – 7 pm) and Sunday (10 am – 5 pm) on Walnut Street.  This is a fairly select group of artisans at this juried show of 200 craft persons from 30 states and it really draws the crowds that spend some cash.

Am I the only one with problems with the implementation of this federal sequester?  You know, if I needed to, I could reduce the spending at The Parador Inn by 10% and not create havoc and chaos.  I wouldn’t shut down my website, the number one source of reservations.  I could cut my labor and it would take Kevin a little while longer to finish painting the Carriage, Dee might have to go home early a couple of days a week and I’d have to finish up her tasks and the same with Jeff.  I could probably cut my food cost a bit without affecting the quality of breakfast.  And I could postpone new projects to reduce my spending.  See, it’s not rocket science.  They are blaming the sequester for laying off public defenders that make $75 an hour and replacing them with $125 an hour private attorneys.  I don’t think the wording in the sequester says “Lay off public defenders”.  I think some stupid bureaucrat, that should be fired, is making that call.  It’s like the generals saying the sequester is laying America up for eminent invasion.  Please, when you have a yearly budget in the trillions, you don’t have to cut missal defense (although trimming it might not be a bad idea) as your only option.  They are all giving me a headache.

Attention Northern communities serviced by Route 28, it looks like they will be opening the second northbound lane sometime later this year instead of next fall!  They also have joined those two southbound lanes that were divided into chutes with Jersey barriers lining the chutes.  There will still be lane closures and stuff through next fall (2014), but at least generally speaking commuting out of the city will be more civilized than it has for the past few years.

Riverfront Park’s latest tribute is the WWII Memorial, they started construction in May and hope to be finished in time for Pearl Harbor Day (December 7).  It’s located on top of the slope over the Allegheny River between Jerome Bettis’ Grill 36 and the monument to commemorate Fallen Allegheny County Law Enforcement Officers. It’s a pretty large monument, with stone as the base and Oregon stone spirals and glass panes the will show photographs and narratives embedded in the glass.  They’ve already raised the $4M for the construction and have a $300K trust fund to maintain it.  Even though it’s fully fund, for some reason are looking for additional donations.  If you would like to donate, you can do that through their website or by mailing checks to Soutwestern PA WWII Memorial, PO Box 23143, PGH, PA 15222.

This weekend is the celebration of the iconic American ice cream parlor treat the banana split in it’s hometown Latrobe.   The Great American Banana Split Festival is set to run this Friday through Sunday in Downtown Latrobe, most events are free.  The banana split was the brain child of David Strickler, an apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy on Latrobe Street there.  It originally cost ten cents and became so popular that Strickler commissioned Westmoreland Glass to create a glass “banana boat” to hold his creation.  Nearby St  Vincent College is making sure all incoming freshmen have the opportunity to partake in the festivities.  The freshmen will be receiving commemorative t-shirts and bus transportation will be provided to the ceremonies.  St Vincent’s planning a flash banana peeling mob on their football field among other themed festivities.  Details at the City of Latrobe’s website.

That’s about it for today, enjoy,




Today, by ordnance, the Swedes can sell this year’s supply of  sour (fermented) herring.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Camden (1780), the battle of Bennington (1777), Klondike Gold was discovered (1896), and death anniversaries of Elvis Presley (1977) and Babe Ruth (1948).  Birth anniversaries include Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, TE Lawrence (of Arabia 1888), labor leader George Meany (1894) and footballer Amos Stagg (1862).

I would like to welcome Jeff to The Parador Team.  Dee, who’s been at The Parador for six years, has done management shifts, but due to school and parenting obligations isn’t able to work evenings.  So Jeff just joined us as an Innkeeping manager, he may regret this choice once he sees all that Innkeepers do.  :)  And we also have Kevin, who started a few months back and never painted in his life.  He started just doing the sanding, wood prep and priming the exterior of the Carriage House.  He’s progressed to having the ability to do the finish coat as well.  The work on the Carriage House is winding down and he’s done about 90% of it himself!

Mark (a commercial and architectural photographer) and Peggy Holewinski have teamed up with framer Lewinter Moulding in Sharpsburg to create unique and very personal gifts.  The Holewinski’s have taken a lot of pictures of buildings, moldings, iron work that look like letters (some are).  You can go to the website and create your own word or message based on the “architectural” letters available.  It can be as simple as Welcome to more involved messages.  The framer will take the letters you request, work with you on matting and framing materials and create a custom picture (actually, a series of pictures) :) for you.

In the lobby of the Art Institute Downtown they’ve tucked the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators’ latest exhibit entitled Art for a Hire Purpose containing 90 original pieces.  As a side note, the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators is the second largest in the country.  With such a large number of pieces to view, they’ve divided the art into Humor, Editorial, Children’s, Sci-Fi, Corporate, Technical/Medical and Advertising.  Which gives you an idea of the diversity of artwork on display.  A small sampling of artists showcased are Rick Antolic, John Blumen, Fred Carlson, Ashley Cecil and Ilene Winn-Lederer.  The Art Institute is located at 420 Blvd of the Allies, Downtown.  More info available on the Art Institute website, the Art for Hire site or by calling 412-263-6600 and the show runs through August 27.

The Silver Eye Center for Photography put out a call for photographers to take images of Carrie Furnaces for an exhibition celebrating that Pittsburgh icon.  77 photographers submitted 332 images and of these Silver Eye selected 51 images from 32 artists.  People may think of the old steel mills and related pieces left behind of heaps of rusted metal waiting to be recycled, but when viewed through the eyes of photographers, you see the rich blend of textures, details, colors and hues.  Add to the mix how important this was to our history, it makes a very compelling exhibit.  Silver Eye is located at 1015 E Carson Street on the Southside and more info can be had at their website or by calling 412-431-1810.  The show runs through August 24.

Pine Township’s E-Cycling Recycling is located at 11490 Route 19 behind Holdcroft’s Hub Cap City and Auto Sales.  In the words of owner Jenn Carr, they take anything with a plug (and remote controls).  E-Cycling contracts with e-Loop to send the items to who intern send the items to 35 manufacturing firms that take the items apart and sell the pieces to other firms that re-can use the pieces.  e-Loop believes in zero exportation, zero landfill and zero prison labor.  You can drop your items off from 10 am through 4:30 pm weekdays and from 9 am until noon Saturdays.  If it’s an item you would have trouble transporting, Jenn can assist you in finding someone to transport it.  They also accept alkaline batteries and light bulbs for a small fee.  More info at their website or by calling 412-367-0831.

There’s a new bar concept here on the Northside (actually down on the Northshore), BYOF.  Started in Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are the two cities they are initially expanding to.  Pittsburgh is also their first urban location, all the others are in the suburbs.  Across from PNC Park, they feature 500 beers, 50 on tap on a rotating basis, and no food.  So you can bring your tailgate into the bar and sample their wide selection of brewskies.  They even carry menus for other restaurants on the street that will take phone orders and deliver.  They have live music Thursdays through Saturdays, usually of the acoustic type.  Soap actors Steven Burton and Bradford Anderson are major investors and are know to show up with their band Port Chuck for a session.  BYOF is located at 110 Federal Street and more info at their website or by calling 412-322-2337.

That’s about it for today, enjoy this wonderful Fall weather we have in August :),



Tomorrow’s anniversaries include IBM introduction of personal computing in 1981, the worst commercial plane plane crash at Mount Ogur, Japan took 520 lives (1985) and the Night of the Murdered Poets, Josef Stalin, an antisemitic, ordered the trial and conviction on trumped up charges of 13 prominent Jewish writers and leaders (1952).  Birth anniversaries include cinematographer Cecil B DeMille (1881), actress Jane Wyatt (1910), baseballer Christy Mathewson (1880), oater Buck Owens and famous Mexican comic actor Cantinflas (1911).

Andy Warhol, always the media buff, has a new video.  They installed a streaming webcam on his grave at St John Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park.  They did this to coincide with his birthday (August 6) last week.  Filmography was always a big interest to him, two of his projects was Empire, an eight hour long film of the Empire State Building and Sleep which showed John Giorno sleeping for five hours.  I remember when I moved up here, there was a video loop in the Warhol Museum of his mother sleeping in a chair.  So what would be more fitting than a film at his grave site.  :)  Apparently the location on the web has not been released yet.  I’ve read a dozen different stories on this and none have an actual address to watch the webcam.    There is talk that from the website, you will be able to buy flowers and other memorabilia and watch as it’s delivered to the grave.

Let’s debunk some misconceptions on adopting pets and animal shelters.  #1, very few shelters are actually “no kill” facilities.  Most shelters euthanize viscous, dogs that can not be rehabbed.  Many euthanize animals in their care that have lasted longer than their standard in the facility due to no one adopting it.  Sometimes animals are euthanized just because the shelter has reached capacity.  It is estimated the between 3M to 4M animals are euthanized each year.  Another misconception is that there are “only mutts” in shelters.  First of all, as my friend Tony from State College would say, “There are no such things as weeds, just misplaced plants”.  Second of all, around 25% of shelter animals are full breed animals.  (And many “mutts” make a much better companion than some of those over bred “pure breeds”).  Another misconception is that animals in shelters are dysfunctional, why else would someone get rid of a perfectly fine pet.  The main reason pets are in shelters is their previous owners can no longer take care of them.  Elderly moving into restrictive housing, young professionals moving to new cities, allergies, the list goes on.  If a shelter takes in an animal with behavioral problems, they have professional programs to treat the bad behaviors.  They would never let a pet be adopted that they didn’t feel comfortable with.  It could actually be a liability to them.  And here’s the worst part, the vast majority of 18 to 34 year olds would purchase a pet from a breeder or pet store and aren’t even aware of the needs for adoption from shelters.  It’s not even on their radar.  Here’s some local shelters:  Animal League , Animal Rescue , Western PA Humane Society , Animal Friends and Good Dog Rescue  .

Next Wednesday, August 14, Irish and Blues band Cue Ball will be performing at the Hemlock Court behind the mansion at Hartwood Acres.  It’s “free”, but it’s also a fund raiser by the Friends of Hartwood, founded in 2003, a volunteer group who’s current project is trying to stabilize the stables and barn.  They’re requesting a $5 donation and would happily accept something more generous.  I didn’t know Hartwood has a dog and even a horse cemetery.

Durham, North Carolina is home to Organic Transit, the manufacturers of the ELF vehicle. It’s a bicycle/electric vehicle hybrid that turns heads when you’re traveling around.  The ELF features solar electric assist, disc brakes, and spacious interiors that keep you out of the elements and in view of other drivers.  CEO Rob Cotter was working on Porches and BMW and was interested in bikes and their efficiencies came up with the idea for this 130 pound vehicle.  They have either sold or have orders for 200 ELF’s.  This Made in the USA product is expanding into a production facility in California later this year and hope to increase production to four a day (from one).  Their base price is $5,000.

Leaving Brooklyn Navy Yard on September 6, the Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening is scheduled to arrive at the Pennsylvania Station Downtown on September 8 (Across from the new Pittsburgh Transportation Center at Liberty, Grant and 11th).  This is a multimedia exhibit will have some fairly edgy music, sculpture and other art forms.  The train itself will be LED emblazoned and carry artist Doug Aitken, the organizer of this, and the traveling pieces/artists.  They will combine with local artists here for the show before moving on to it’s next stop, Chicago.

Yarn and knitting as a public form of art has been growing in popularity in recent years.  A current trend is “yarn bombing”, it is a current trend around the country where people install knitted panels of all sorts around trees, parking meters, even cars.  It’s likened to graffiti, in that it’s colorful urban art, but unlike graffiti, it is easily removed with no damage to other people’s property.  Knit the Bridge opened this past weekend and runs through Sunday, September 8.  The organizers of Knit the Bridge estimated they needed 572 panels measuring 34″ by 72″ (about the size of a standard blanket), they got 650 panels donated by local artists.  The project has recruited 90% of Allegheny County municipalities to participate, over 1,800 people have been involved either knitting or assisting in other ways.  After the exhibit, the organizers intend to launder the panels and donate them to homeless shelters, not how cool is that?

Southside’s having it’s Secret Gardens Tour next weekend.  What’s cool about this tour is we all think of Southside as total hard scape, and much of it is.  But tucked away behind walls are a lot of creative use of limited space.  You will get to see a traditional Japanese garden, a contemporary pocket garden, a biodome on a roof by the Rex Theater and much more.  The self guided tour is next Sunday from 10 am until 2 pm and cost $7 and can be purchased on line at South Side Community Council Tickets.  The tour starts at 18th and Carson Streets.

Well, that’s about it for now, take care and enjoy,




Tomorrow is the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima (1945), Bahamas & Granada Emancipation Days (1934), Bolivia Independence Day (1825), Jamaica Independence Day (1962), the first death penalty carried out by electrocution (1890) and the disappearance of New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crater (1917).  Birth anniversaries include comedian/actress Lucille Ball (1911), penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming (1881), actor Robert Mitchum (1917) and artist Andy Warhol (1928).

Northsider Steve Hoover is again collaborating with fellow documentary producer and Pittsburgh native Danny Yourd.  They won the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for US documentaries for their film Blood Brother.  That was the story of a disenchanted American that became a dedicated volunteer at an Indian orphanage for children with HIV.  Their latest endeavor is a film about Gennadiy Mokhnenko, a Ukrainian cleric that has dedicated his life to helping orphaned children, many of which have become addicted to sniffing glue, alcohol, shooting diluted cold medicines in their veins and many other heart wrenching stories.  He finds these kids curled up next to steam heating pipes to keep warm, abandoned buildings and other desperate locations and situations.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, the orphanages as many other infrastructures also collapsed.  What Gennadiy does is load these kids in his unmarked van, takes them to his “orphanage” and the addicts he locks them in a room to detox cold turkey.  The film explores when is it OK to to force someone to change.  UNICEF reports that there are 100,000 homeless children in the Ukraine, some are orphaned, some run away from abusive homes, some just  run-aways.     They are trying to raise at least $40,000 for travel and related expenses to complete this project through a Kickstarter campaign.  They have composer Atticus Ross lined up to make an original musical score for the film (he did the score for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).  For pledges of $50 or more, you are invited to attend a screening on August 16, where else, but at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont of Blood Brother.  The Kickstarter campaign just lasts until August 16, so shake a leg.  :)

Want a tour of the City of Pittsburgh?  There’s many options which include the WWII amphibious vehicle tours.  The Duck (actually DUKW in military speak) is a six wheel drive truck and boat that deposited our troops on foreign soils during that war.  With a top speed of 5 to 6 mph in the water, this is a leisurely way to view the city from the rivers and then also from the roads.  Trips last about an hour, take off from Station Square and tickets are $22 for adults, $15 3 – 12 and $5 for those under 3.  Reservations are strongly recommended at the Just Ducky website or by calling 412-402-3825.  Molly’s Trolleys is also owned by the same guys.  These tours are offered Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays mornings and afternoons also depart from Station Square.  These tours are two hours long and the same price as Just Ducky.  Obviously, twice the length you get a much more in depth view of the city, including a trip up to Mt Washington and a ride  on the Duquesne Incline.  More info at their web site or by calling 412-391-7433.  Haunted Pittsburgh offers ghost tours of Downtown, Oakland and even on the Duquesne Incline.  Most tours are weekend evenings when the streets aren’t too busy.  The cost is $15 or $18 and more info at their website or by calling 412-302-5223.  The Gateway Clipper fleet offers lots of different kinds of tours on the water.  The knowledgeable tour guides and captains for the six boats and unparalleled view of the city from the water really gives this option a unique twist.  The Clipper fleet offers day and evening tours as well as dinner cruises, dance/party cruises, school field trip cruises and shuttle service to both Heinz Field and PNC Park when the teams are playing.  Way too many options here for me to list, go to their website or call 412-355-7980 for more info.  They also are located at Station Square. Pittsburgh Tour Company Double Decker Bus four bus fleet is originally from England.  They wind all over the city including both the Strip and Cultural Districts, Phipps, Oakland with 21 stops in the city.  Something that’s cool about this tour, is you can select an option where you can get off the bus in say the Strip, do some shopping and then get on the next bus.  The price of the tour varies (the off and on option versus the continuous tour), hours of operation changes with the season and such.  So just go to their website or call 412-381-8687.  Also starts at Station Square.  Segway in Paradise tours start, guess where, Station Square.  Do we see a theme going on here.  :)  Their main tour is the two hour Downtown tour, but they also offer a two hour sunset tour on Saturdays, a Northside tour and a four hour Adventure Tour with stops at the Wood Street Galleries, National Aviary, Heinz History Center and other stops.  Prices vary from $59 to $97 for the four hour tour.  You must be at least 14 and they give you instructions first on how to navigate the Segways and the tour guide speaks to you through earpieces so you can hear him/her without worrying about city noises.  More info at their website or by calling 412-337-3941.  Lenzner Trolley Tours offers a morning Historic Neighborhood Tour highlighting Mt Washington, Northside and Downtown and an afternoon Heritage Neighborhood Tour that covers Downtown, Oakland and the Strip.  Either tour is $25 for adults and $40 for a combined tour.  Discounts for children.  They pick up at several locations, but both tours actually start at Station Square, the morning tour at 9:45 and the afternoon tour at 1:15.  More info on their website or by calling 412-761-7000.

Sarah (illustrator) and Frank (author) Cunniff have released their second on-line comic book series Doc Red.   The story takes place in the old west around 1862, where Doc Red is quite the character.  She’s not only a doctor, she’s also kind of a John Wayne kind of character.  Roughedly independent, she travels with her Native American daughter-in-law on a stage coach and they explore the two diverse cultures of these two widows.  The story includes Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to receive a medical degree from an American school.  The image for Doc Red is actually Pittsburgh native and psychologist Ellen Redinbaugh of Squirrel Hill who is a long time friend of the Miller family (Sarah’s maiden name is Miller) who own the Blue Dust restaurant in West Homestead, I’ve spoken of this fabulous restaurant that has the best smoked brisket sandwich in da Burg.

The city is moving to the suburbs next weekend (Saturday, August 10) from noon until 5 pm.  The Northland Public Library (McCandless) will be hosting seven Pittsburgh food trucks in a fund raising event (20% of sales goes to the library) in their parking lot.  The trucks include PGH Taco Truck, Franktuary, BRGR, The Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck, Oh My Grill, Dozen Bake Shop and Fukuda.  Many of these food trucks are off shoots from brick and mortar restaurants.  These aren’t the old “roach mobiles” of the past you’d see at construction sites.  Last year the library partnered with the Pittsburgh Pierogi truck and the lines went around the library, so they expect quite the turn out.  Should be fun.

There’s 10 homes in Mt Oliver that are being affected by mine subsidence.  I grew up out by Finleyville and remember the gold/yellow water in the creek across from the railroad tracks, the sulfur smell and lack of anything living in it (not like the creek with salamanders and other aquatic life behind the house in Baldwin we lived in until I was in sixth grade).  You know, this is my biggest problem with long wall mining and Fracking, the long term effects of these processes.  The coal barons in the 19th century made their fortunes and walked away.  We are and will be for many years in the future paying for what they caused.  If you are in an area that has been mined, you really should carry the state mine subsidence insurance.  It’s cheap, like $60 a year and will be well worth the investment.  It’s easy to find if you are in an area extensively mined by going to the Pennsylvania mine subsidence website.  Click on the link and a graph pulls up for Allegheny County.  Click on your town (or area) and it will show where know abandoned mines are.  You can also start the process to purchase insurance from the same site.  This site is not all inclusive, there are many mines that were never registered, but it’s a good start.  Most abandoned coal mine in Pennsylvania are in Western PA, so think about this.

A walk down memory lane.  The best job I ever had in corporate America was by far the hardest, dirtiest and most demanding.  I was Executive Steward (chief dishwasher) at Resorts International Casino in Atlantic City.  My crew (a staff of 125 hourly employees and about 15 supervisors of various levels of responsibility) was what made the job so fulfilling.  Within six months of accepting the position, of the seven separate kitchens in the facility, we turned the six with conditional satisfactory ratings to satisfactory.  I have tons of stories from my stint doing this, but the bottom line was I had an incredible crew.  I was there when Trump opened the Taj Mahal next door and he was offering across the board, a twenty-five cents and hour raise over the union negotiated rates.  I lost some, but not a bunch and since all of the local low skilled talent were being hired there, Ana and myself would go out to the fields west of Atlantic City and recruit farm workers.  (Ana came because of her fluency in Spanish and I trusted her judgement-she was very intuitive).  For these kids we hired, I started programs to acclimate them into the American mainstream society, “big city” living, banking, classes on English as a second language, etc.  They all had to be legal to get hired because they needed a casino license, even to work in the kitchens. The reason for this introduction is I saw something in the newspaper that caught my eye.  In Los Angeles 19 companies have signed up to participate in a program getting migrants properly documented.  For the immigrants, dealing with English speaking bureaucrats in suits can be quite intimating.  These people qualify for documentation.  It’s a win win for the companies, they take productive employees they already have, make them “legal” and have very grateful and loyal employees afterwards.  Also, the immigrant population is a very inner-connected group of people, when you do well with one, recruiting a new employee is so much easier.  And it doesn’t cost the companies or the employees anything.  The National Immigration Forum sponsors the Bethlehem Project that sends people out to the work place to handle all of the details.

Don’t look at this link if you want to keep a dry eye, Christine Swidorsky married her fiancee Sean Stevenson this past Saturday in Jeanette because their two year old son Logan has terminal leukemia and only has a few weeks left.  What a cute picture.

Do you own a small business and not have $3M for a Super Bowl ad?  No sweat, I have you covered.  Intuit, the company that makes business software like Quick Books, has a contest up and running that if you win, they pay for the ad and even have a PR company lined up to make the ad for you.  All you have to do is convince them that you are the one.  Go to Small Business Big Game and tell your story, the public will vote on who goes on to the next round (call all your friends and have them vote for you, I will).  The 50,000 winners of the first heat Intuit employees will cull that down to the 20 best.  Again Inuit employees will vote that down to the final four whom the general public will pick the winner.  It’s worth the try, what do you have to loose.  You will have to convince them that you have the infrastructure to handle the massive influx of business an ad during the Super Bowl will bring.  (The Parador Inn was just mentioned in the New York Times the year after I opened and my website experience a 100% increase in visits the next day).

That’s it for now, enjoy this almost Fall like weather until the blistering August temperatures return,



Tomorrow is the  anniversary of Christopher Columbus setting off for the New World (1492), Equatorial Guinea Armed Forces Day and Niger’s Independence Day (1960).  Birth anniversaries include journalist Ernest Pyle (1900), author Leon Uris (1924) and Gray Panthers founder Margaret Kuhn (1905).

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing will be held Sunday, August 11 into the early hours of Monday August 12 at Mingo Creek Park out in Washington County (right off Route 88).  This free event is being sponsored by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh who note this event is best seen with just your eyes in a location that doesn’t have much ambient artificial light.

Simon Property Group, the largest mall developer and owner in the United States, build Century III Mall some thirty years ago.  It has been in a downward spiral for at least ten and has really lost it’s edge.  Many empty storefronts, discount retailers and other lower end shopkeepers are generally the norm in there these days.  Simon voluntarily defaulted on $78.97M in debt and sold the property to C-III Capital Partners from Irving, TX for $1 (yep, that’s not a typo) in 2011.  Capital Partners sold the property to Moonbeam Capital Investors from Las Vegas for $10.5M this May.  $1 to $10.5 in two years, not a bad return on investment.  :)  Moonbeam claims to be in it for the long hall and will have many vacant storefronts rented by November.

There’s a couple in Washington county that have been very vocal about their objections to Range Resources and fracking on and around their property.  They feel their property has been ruined by Range Resources and have been desperate to sell it.  Range agreed to buy it for an undisclosed amount, but part of the agreement that was just released is the couple AND THEIR 8 AND 11 YEAR OLD CHILDREN are bared for life from speaking publicly about Range Resources or fracking.  Range is now back peddling saying it only applies to the parents, but the court order includes the children.

ALCOSAN has announced their plan to comply with the federal DEP decree to clean up the storm water discharge.  Not surprising, after holding secret meetings on how to achieve this mandate, of the $3B dedicated to this clean up, they have designated $10M to green infrastructure.  This dismal amount for permanent changes in the way we deal with storm water management by changing our  “paved over” mentality for cities is not surprising.  ALCOSAN deliberately excluded the professionals that could have advised them how to channel rain water away from the storm water piping system.  Their adamant rejection of green solutions and insistence on creating a MASSIVE new piping and storage system only makes me think one or several of them own stock in a pipe company.  I’m just saying …………. :)

I am so unbelievably excited.  My favorite space in the entire Mansion is the front foyer.  That little five foot by eight food entry way just blows me away, every time I take a minute to look at it.  Architects pointed out to me how the original craftsmen took a board, cut the squares, beveled the edges and put them back in order.  You can see how the grain matches on each line of boards:


Then there’s the tile floor (that matches the tile on the Parlor’s hearth):

And finally, the hand tooled leather crown molding:

Since I bought the Inn in 2005, I have wanted to light the foyer, but #1 would not drill holes in the paneling or floor to bring electricity in.  #2 I didn’t want to do something garish that would take away from the craftsmanship exhibited in this room.  I have spoken of this to many people since buying the place and finally, architects John & Kerry were here about a month ago and suggested I contact Environmental Lights, what a find.  They have this very small strip of LED lighting that I can mount on the upper ledge in the foyer and direct this discrete light upwards onto the leather.  You don’t see the light source, it’s just a warm glow. (The light you see in the above picture is the sample strip they sent me).   I will be able to tap into the the electricity that feeds the front porch lights and the pendant light that hangs in the foyer.  And the salesman/engineer Greg Higgins couldn’t have been more accommodating.  You can contact him directly at 1-888-880-1880 ext 110 or you can contact the company through their web site.

The 3,000 glass models in the museums at Harvard University by 19th century German glass smiths Rudolf & Leopold Blaschka inspired the Pittsburgh Center’s exhibit through November 17, admission free.  The exhibit, Lifeforms, has some very realistic renditions of creatures found in nature and some very whimsical pieces as well.  Since the International Glass Art Society’s conference was cancelled in Boston for logistical reasons this year, famed glass artist Robert Mickelsen worked with the Pittsburgh Glass Center to create this exhibit with over 50 works from the likes of Alex McDermott, Emma Mackintosh, Rachel Elliot, Wesley Fleming and the late Tim Jerman.

So that’s it for now, big news on the Parador coming in about a week.  I love holding secrets.  :)