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,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Donner Party leaving from Springfield, IL for California that led to an arduous journey that included famine and cannibalism (1847), the Statue of Liberty was dedicated (1886), the Czech Republic’s Independence Day (1918), Harvard University was founded (1636) and the first woman US Ambassador, Helen Anderson (1949).  Birth anniversaries include artist Francis Bacon (1909), French chef Georges Escoffier (1846) and polio vaccine inventor and Pittsburgh native Jonas Salk (born in New York 1914).

Historic Harmony Village will be having their annual WeihnachtsMarkt November 9 from 11 am – 6 pm and November 10 from 11 am – 4 pm.  Admission is $7, $5 for seniors and $3 for students.  Besides finding hand crafted gifts, you’ll see trades persons plying their trades like black smithing and other colonial efforts.  More info at their website or by calling 724-452-7341.  After nearly closing because of cut government funding, Harmony has re-grouped their mission and ramped up fund raisers like this.

Picking up on my past comments about big charity fund raising, organ transplant organizations are coming under the microscope.  A Trib investigation found 58 organ transplant organizations with multiple improper and undocumented spending.   For example, The California Transport Donor Network spend $19,200 for a retirement party for former CEO Phylis Weber $9,600 of it taxpayer money.  That’s one hell of a retirement party.  And it doesn’t clean up from there, Phylis’ successor said the expenditure seemed “reasonable” based on Phylis’ length of service.  One Legacy, also of California, spent $327,000 on a Rose Bowl float, football tickets, hotel rooms and other “necessities”.  And it’s not just in California, next door in Ohio Life Connection traveled 146 miles by private plane for a cost of $3,900.  You can always check a charity’s track record by going to Charity Navigator.  Charity Navigator is in a bit of controversy themselves lately.  They are planning on changing the way they rate charities from just how much comes in compared to what they spend on overhead to also include how effective the charities are in their stated mission.

The Pittsburgh Public Market has re-opened in the Strip at 2401 Penn Avenue.  They are opening with 15 vendors and 10 produce growers and will be open 10 am – 4 pm Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and 9 am until 5 pm on Saturdays.  They left the Terminal Building last month for several reasons.  One was for more space, they will be able to double in size now and they have a working commercial kitchen in the new facility.  The Public Market has been a major spring board for several local businesses like the East End Brewery that through exposure at the Market, they gave up their leased space in the East End and bought a building that quadrupled their capacity.

Happy Birthday, Mad Mex.  Tom Barron, a New York transplant, was working Wheel Deliver with childhood friend Juno Yoon when he came up with the idea of a fun place to eat with healthy food (as much local as possible back then) and with a Mexican slant.  They created menus based on basic Mexican stables, but with their twist.  The name Mad Mex comes from a play on Tom’s son Max, a toddler at the time that was throwing a fit.  :)  A year later, Bill Fuller, joined the team.  Bill, still the exec chef was working on a chemistry PhD in California when he decided to move back home (Pittsburgh) and pursue his true passion, cooking.  They now have 10 Mad Mex’s as well as Kaya, Casbah, Soba, Umi and Eleven.  They have over 700 employees at corporate as well as the restaurants.  The masks you see throughout Mad Mex comes from a woman in Arizona that sells them to support a ranch for orphaned animals.  The metal sculptures are by Rich Bach, the metal artist that did my Aztec  calendar on my Courtyard wall blocking my neighbor’s dusk to dawn sodium vapor light.

See my name over the center face?  :)

I’m a big fan of John Conti, contributor to the Sunday Trib.  This past weekend he posted an article on the Wood Street corridor by Point Park University and how Point Park is saving and restoring most of the area.  There’s other buildings along that street unrelated to Point Park that are also under going restoration and revitalization.  They are counting on the impact the new PNC green building will have on the area.  John’s point is how he appreciates the old and the new co-existing side by side.  One of the things I like about John is he’s not even an architect, but has such an appreciation of the medium that he gives a great insight into it.  Maybe that’s why he’s so good at it, he’s not formally an architect and that gives him a fresh perspective.  “Upcoming Downtown Projects” was a great article.

The free speech movement stated where else, but on the campus of the University of California, Berkley in 1964.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this, the Berkeley Art Project held a national public art competition to design fitting monument.  The winner was Mark Brest van Kempen a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute.  “He created an invisible sculpture that creates a small space completely free from laws or jurisdiction. The six-inch circle of soil, and the “free” column of airspace above it, is framed by a six-foot granite circle. The inscription on the granite reads, “This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity’s jurisdiction.”” That is a direct quote from the Roman Mars article at KAWLNews.  Once the Berkeley Art Project selected the winning monument, they tried to give it to Berkeley who continued to try and not accept it.  This six inch circle of monument goes 60,000 feet into the air and when Mark was asked why so many people miss it, he said “Maybe I should have made it bigger.”  Here’s a picture of it:


Oops, you missed it?  :)

Do you want a 1897 HK Porter0-4-OT Locomotive and a P & LE Bobber Caboose?  Before making an offer, you can view it Sewickley’s Riverfront Park along Chadwick Street.  The city has determined it’s a liability waiting to happen and want to sell it and are hoping to get $1,000 for it.  I’d kind of like to snag the caboose, Joshua Rhodes, the industrialist that built the building that became The Parador Inn founded the P & LE Railroad (Station Square was his train station). We could just put it in the Courtyard as an additional guest room?

Finished the latest window replacement Thursday, that’s 30 windows this year and sixteen I previously installed.  That leaves 46 regular windows in the Mansion (these numbers don’t include the stained and leaded glass windows which total 20).  96 windows in just the Mansion.  Wow.  I certainly hope is notice it in my gas bills this winter.  With the construction and three of the rooms torn apart for it, we really did a nice job deep cleaning them.  It’s amazing the dirt you can find in a “clean” room when you tear it apart.

By far a record breaking year, after a sluggish start.  Really kicked some butt this past two months, thanx Dee and Jeff for keeping me from going insane.  Biz is slowing down, but November is actually over last year already.  It’s weekdays that are fairly slow.

Well, that’s it for today.  It was cool and sunny this afternoon, but certainly has turned blustery by late afternoon.  Keep warm,



I’m posting this early in case you want to participate in Bridge Day on the New the New River Gorge, West Virginia’s largest festival and the biggest extreme bungy  jumping competition in the world.  Over 500 BASE jumpers participate and they get crowds of over 100,000 people.  Tomorrow is also the anniversary of the Saturday Night Massacre when President Nixon fired many of his legal staff over the Watergate Affair (1973), the Sidney Opera House opened (also 1973), General Douglas made his famous Return to the Philippines (1944), and the Moscow Soccer Tragedy where 340 people were killed  (1982) and Guatemala celebrates it’s revolution over dictator Jorge Castanada (1944).  Birth anniversaries include horror movie star Bela Lugosi (1882), baseballer Mickey Mantle (1931) and actor Jerry Orbach (1935).

Spoiler Alert:  If you have followed me in the past and heard me whine about Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, you may want to sit down.  I am in favor of their proposed rate increase, on one condition.  They say they want to raise our rates to fund a comprehensive infrastructure replacement, if that’s what the rate increase funds, I’m 100% behind it.  You can live life without having a phone or cable, you can survive for a number of days without food, you can’t survive without water.  Most of us pay more for our phones and cable (individually) than we pay for water.  I understand it’s all around us, but clean, potable water isn’t free.  We have lines in the system that are over 100 years old.  PWSA should have the information available to them to know which lines are in the worst conditions and start there and work our way forward for our children.  He’s a novel idea for them, maybe coordinate with other utilities so they only dig a trench once, less invasive for us residents and a significant savings if they share the cost.  Obvious partners would be the gas companies and ALCOSAN (who’s still major on my negativity list).

What’s with Ravenstahl, after disappearing for months (on an extended vacation?), he’s re-emerged saying what a wonderful mayor he’s been and that he’s been working hard for the city.  Working hard at the exclusive golf club he was at for hours last week during a work day?  Or networking for his next job?  Besides me paying him (and you) over $100K a year, he’s mayor for a major American city, to just disappear for months is unacceptable and then to come back to tout his accomplishments, please, it’s obvious to me he’s posturing for his next position.  How could some politician justify placing him in some plum job after his Houdini trick.  I don’t forgive him.

Yea!  We almost won.  The Historic Review Commission recommended that the Terminal Building be designated a historic building, now we just need City Counsel to approve the application and we’ve derailed the Evil Empire Buncher group from tearing down 1/3 of this iconic building.  Of course, there was griping by Buncher and one of the Commissioner’s.  They said they were blind sided by the application for historic designation.  What’s with that?  There has been a vocal group that has been opposed to the destruction of this building, myself included.  That a petition was filed for historic designation when Buncher refused to modify their plans wasn’t back handed.  Go Historic Review, thank you.  :)

The Carnegie Park (in Carnegie) is hosting their second Trail of Terror on Forsythe Road from 7 pm – 11 pm Friday and Saturday, October 25 & 26.  This is a fund raiser to Pitcher Park Memorial Skatepark that’s being build in Carnegie Park.  Last year, they threw it together in three weeks, this year they’ve been planning since July, so it should be a lot better.  A school bus takes you to the top of the hill and you walk down through their haunts.  It’s supposed to be fairly graphic and gory, but they have a pumpkin patch for the young ones.  The admission is just $7 for adults and $5 for kids.  More info at 412-853-0515.

While working as a hunting guide in Knox City, Texas, Joe Maringo was shocked at all the stray dogs.  He brought two home and started Southwestern PA Retriever Rescue Organization in 2000.  He added Shades of Grey Sanctuary for senior dogs in 2009.  Pretty low keyed and family run, they took in 153 dogs their second year in operation.  They’ve limited the number of dogs they could handle and put up for adoption since.  Friend and pet groomer Kim Tamburri at the Barker Shop also in Plum is organizing a fund raiser from noon until 8 pm at John Anthony’s Italian Restaurant also in Plum (see a theme here?  friends helping friends).  :)

I never donate to those big advertised campaigns, in my experience they are rip-offs that some well-to-dos are making money off a very worthy cause. Case in point, the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign for the American Cancer Society.  Of the $4.5M collected since 2009, 8% actually goes to cancer research.  There’s the manufacturers cut, the retail cut, the NFL cut, the franchise cut and even the Cancer Society’s cut for administration fees doesn’t leave much for research.  When interviewed on this, the NFL tried their double speak, but the bottom line is 8% of  $4.5M is a fair amount of money, but no where near what people expect to benefit the cancer research.  I donate each year to both NPR stations WYEP and WESA here in Pittsburgh, Brother’s Brother, the Pittsburgh Food Bank and the Western PA Conservancy and CAI religiously each year.  I also donate to individual causes as they come up and donate gift certificates to most any Pittsburgh organization that asks.  I never donate to the big guys, if they’re not actually scamming, their overheads are way to high.

I was audited by the county this week to ensure that I’m paying the proper amount of bed tax (7%) and they found no deficiencies.  I received a notice in the mail that this was going to happen about a month ago.  I received a certified letter from the county about a week later with the same notice in it.  I received a phone call from the county last week ensuring that I was going to be available with the financial records for them to audit.  The last time I went through this two years ago, there was four county auditors here for two days and one on the third.   So for the roughly 70 hours the county paid these auditors, they found about $700 in unpaid taxes, mainly from me not charging non-profits the bed tax, non-profits are not entitled to this discount by the county (they also found four room sales that I couldn’t justify the tax being collected).  So this year, the county hired that function out to a CPA firm here in Pittsburgh.  Dominic was here for about four hours.  OMG!  At least the county figured out it would be more cost effective to outsource.  But my beef is this auditor called me today to let me know that he found no discrepancies with my book keeping and he was going to send me a form he wants me to sign acknowledging this.  I asked if I was going to get a copy of his report and he said no, the county wouldn’t let him.  #1, the county scheduled an audit and never told me it was going to be a third party.  #2, I voluntarily gave this auditor highly sensitive information (to me anyway).  And I can’t get a copy of what he says?  I don’t owe any money, that’s not the point.  I trust his integrity not to divulge my personal information to a competitor or such, that’s not the point.  The point is he’s writing things about me and I don’t get to see them.  Supposedly the county will send me a re-cap.  This is the same county that wouldn’t support me when I was preparing to open in my battle with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority that ended up costing me $48K to open my doors.  This is the same county that finally kicked Steve Bland, the incompetent person in charge of Port Authority, and hired a new crony from the Turnpike Commission that luckily was indited for “pay to play” shenanigans before he actually started.  I know it’s petty, but I don’t believe I have to sign this form, so just to irk some bureaucrat it’s going to remain unsigned and unsent.  :)

The twelve windows have the insides all stained and two coats of polyurethane on them.  I have the first coat of finish on the outside and should have time to do the second coat this weekend.  Then it’s just clean the windows and touch up and I’ll be all set for the install next week.

So far October is running about 20% over last year and we have two weeks left.  I already have more on the books for November than I did all of November last year and have a pending group reservation for 28 more room nights.  Holy cow!  :)

Enjoy this Fall weather, the winter cold’s just around the corner,








Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first manned flight in a hot air balloon in Paris, France (1783 by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent Marquis d’Arlandes), Mata Hari’s execution (1917) and when the Crow Reservation was opened for settlement (1892).  Birth anniversaries include economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908), German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844) and pugilist John Sullivan (1858).

Well, it’s official, September was the best month I’ve ever had since opening in Lake Worth in 2010.  :)

The next 12 windows are in the Ballroom.  I’ve stained and 2 coats of polyurethane are on the insides, two coats of finish on the outsides and I’ll be ready for installation next week.  That’s 30 new widows this year!

My favorite room in the Mansion is the front foyer.  The paneling and hand tolled leather cornice are absolutely amazing.  I believe I’ve talked about it in the past.  It’s very poorly lit to show off the craftsmanship in there.  I won’t just install any kind of lighting, I wouldn’t damage anything with drilling holes, etc and have waited the eight years I’ve owned The Parador until the right solution came along.  I knew it would.  I also believe I spoke about the architects that were in last July that recommended Environmental Lights that specialize in LED and other high efficiency lighting.  Well, I ordered LED strip lighting and just had it installed.  Here’s a picture of the foyer with just the sample they sent me installed:

And here’s a picture with the strips installed:

Amazing?  Thanx John & Kerry.

The Balmoral Classic0 is back November 8 & 9 in Shadyside.  It is a celebration of drums and bag pipes and will have the US Junior Solo Bagpiping and Drumming Championship on Friday.  And on Saturday, Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and American Cellist Natalie Haas will offer a concert.  More info on their website or by calling 412-323-2707.

I don’t if any of you are into “Slow TV“, but the Norwegians who pioneered it are coming out with a new show.  Slow Knitting, you can watch them shear the sheep, spin the wool and then knit a sweater.  They expect it to take four or five hours.  Past feats was watching a fire burn for 12 days in this past February and  5 1/2 days of a cruise ship plying the Arctic coast in 2011.

Originally a Tucson, AZ native that lived in NYC for 10 years, Matthew Buccholz has been in Pittsburgh for awhile.  While working at the gift shop Wild Card in Lawrenceville and started taking old maps and photographs and photo shopping them with a touch of the comic strip Bizzaro.  You’ll see an old photograph of Downtown with a flying saucer hovering between buildings and an old map of the city with Minnie the Monongahela Monster rising at the point.  He created a map showing the Living Dead Outbreaks in the city from 1875 and the map was provided by Romero & Sons.  :)  To go with this, he also has created a BEWARE poster warning of any contact with zombies.  Kind of fun and whimsical.

Greedy SOB.  Michael Svonavec is suing the Federal government saying the land he owned in Shanksville is worth $23M.  The heroic actions that caused that tragedy aside, what was his farm worth prior?  Even considering the added value of the deaths that saved possibly thousands of more American lives gave to that land by making it a destination for solemn reflection, $23M?  Maybe we should send him to Afghanistan for a year to appreciate what he has here?  Now don’t get me wrong, the value has increased from the what ever it was before the crash, but $23M?  It’s a memorial, not a casino.

The Garden Club of Allegheny County (a member of the American Garden Club since 1914) is having their annual fund raiser Pizzazz October 17 from 9:30 am until 7 pm and from 9:30 am until 3 pm on October 18.  Admission’s $10 (there’s a “preview” on the 16th from 6 – 9 pm for $75).  Besides the door, the vendors also give a portion of their proceeds and last year they raised $80K which the garden club distributes as grants to such organizations as Phipps, Allegheny Land Trust, Tree Pittsburgh among others.  The garden club is pretty selective on accepting vendors.  Two highlights this year is 1000 Jobs Haiti, where all items are made by Haitian woman, frequently the sole provider for their families.  And handbags made by The Purlettes + One, these seniors from the Redwoods community that hand-knit their hand bags from Peruvian wool.

Well, that’s it for now, it’s a bit drizzly and overcast, welcome to Fall.  ):



Sorry about the long delay, it’s been super busy.  September was 40% over last year.  And it seems to just keep going (I’m not complaining).  :)  The latest 12 twelve windows are being delivered tomorrow.  That will bring up to 30 I’ve replaced this year.  Hopefully I will see a difference in the gas bill this winter.  Anyways, even with having to stain and put two coats of polyurethane on the insides and two finish exterior coats, I will be back to blogging more regularly.  Have you seen the Duck?

If you have followed my past posts, you know I am not a hawk or a dove.  Being a veteran, I strongly believe in a strong defense.  But abhor wasting my hard earned tax dollars.  I really hate this sequester thing and how bureaucrats are using it to defend their fiefdoms by crying that the sky will fall if their budgets are cut.  They are using the sequester as an excuse to lay of public defenders paid $75 and hour and outsourcing to private attorneys at $125 per hour here in Allegheny County.  It just doesn’t make sense.  The Stimson Center has just released a report showing how the military can “shave” $50B off the books.  (shave :) ).  The panel included four former members of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, I’d say they should know what they are talking about.  One of the big things they are suggesting is a reduction in the number of ground troops.  With the advent of drones, cyber technology and other modernization coupled with a reduced presence of American ground troops on foreign soils, why does the military need to be so big?

While I’m being Mr. Negativity, they are phasing out the Federal subsidies for flood prone areas starting last week.  Congress passed a law in 2012 that will raise flood insurance premiums paid to insurance companies to reflect “true-risk”.  The premiums will go up 25% per year until the true-risk amount is reached so property owners aren’t hit with a  one time wallop.  I feel bad for coastal residents and people living in flood prone areas, but particularly in these times of budget cuts to essential services like education and food for the less fortunate, it’s a good time to start this.  It’s wonderful to wake up to the surf pounding through your window, I have many times.  But if you want to build in a flood prone area, you need to be prepared to pay the full cost of it.  It should also cause people living or having a business in a flood prone area to think twice about the location.  In particular I’m thinking of areas like the Route 51 corridor that continues to flood and the property owners keep wanting someone to stop the flooding.  Move or make your structure flood proof.  That generally can be done, but again, you’d have to pony up with the cash.

Watch out you evil cable and satellite companies, since 2007, people opting to drop their expensive price tags has grown from 2M to 5M.  Besides the corporate greed to generate higher profits each year, the big driver of these increased rates is licensing fees paid to sports leagues.  Even if you don’t watch sports, it’s bundled to all customers to spread the pain.  An obvious option if you live in a metropolitan area is to go with broadcast TV that’s still available using HD rabbit ears.  You can also stream on line using on-line options like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.  Now these options don’t carry live and local broadcasting, but you can view most of the major shows a day later (for a price of about $25 versus $135 on average). A new service that’s expanding across the country is Aereo , they have tiny antennas that pick up local channels and then broadcast them over the internet for just $8 – $12 per month.  You can go to their website, but your zip code in and they will tell you if you are in an area they serve.  I use Comcast for my Internet, they raised my rates twice this year bringing the bill 20% higher than last year.  When I called Comcast, the “Customer Service” rep I spoke with to complain about 2 increases in one year and the 20%, his response was to e-mail me a cancellation form.  What audacity!

The National Aquarium in Washington, DC. which opened in 1885 and closed September 30.  It had to move from the US Department of Commerce because of extensive renovations to that building and is not slated to move back in.  They’re shipping the 1,500 animals to various aquariums around the country.  There’s still the National Aquarium in Baltimore and many other significant aquariums around the country.  We have a nice aquarium right here at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.

Alcoa just celebrated their 125th birthday this past week.  That’s one company that really has it’s ups and downs.  The latest was another down grade by some British analyst firm.  Alcoa is predicting huge things with the new minimum gas mileage average of 54 mpg coming up in a few years.  That will spur auto makers to use the less weight aluminum more that the heavier steel.  They have also come up with an aluminum with an adhesive for auto manufacturing that is durable and pretty cost effective.

Believe it or not, I’m OK with the rate hikes the airlines are starting.  They are taking what years ago were standard and offering the same service for a fee.  It’s my overall opinion if you want a cheap place to stay, go to a Motel 6.  If you want luxury, go to a Fairmont. If you want a nice place to visit with great accommodations, congenial host :) and two wonderful boiz, come to The Parador.  (Shameless plug) :)  They used to have decent food they served on airplanes and in cost cutting over the years, it got worse and worse until they dropped it.  You can now pay for a decent meal.  Want more leg room, you can pay for that as well.  Priority boarding is available for a price as well as many other “upgrades”.  If saving money’s your thing, just go for the standard fare and wait.  I prefer this than every time I turn around they are adding baggage fees, raising prices, etc.

There’s a start up robotics company in Lawrenceville that has CMU roots, Carnegie Robotics.  CMU researchers are always developing ideas and they just exist as ideas until someone puts them to practical use.  John Bares and Dan Beaven founded the company and one if their applications is the Line Scan Sortation System-the real name.  :)  Strawberry plants last just two years and so sorting out the good plants from the less desirable plants (why plant a strawberry plant that won’t bear fruit?) and it is very labor intensive task in strawberry production to sort and plant the new viable strawberry plants.  The volume this machine can sort it 60,000 plants per hour.  They use high powered blowers, laser lights and other technology to sort the good plants from the not so good plants.  They even have a system that takes so-so plants to be re-evaluated.  Other systems they manufacture are explosive devise and tunnel detection systems.

Quirky Nikola Tesla has been called The Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived, The True Father of the Electric Age and even the simplistic Badass.  :)  An amazing scientist that had famous bouts with JP Morgan and Thomas Edison to name a few.  Pittsburgh’s Michael Anton is writing a biopic he hopes to make a film from next year on the man.  There’s a red carpet event hosting the writer (and soon to be director) October 18 at 301 Fifth Avenue Downtown  which will also showcase a mini Tesla museum.  Tickets can be purchased at showclix.com.  Tesla was such an interesting person, besides all the ingenious ideas that emerged from his mind.  Eons ahead of his time, he even talked about sending messages to Mars and texting way before the technology was there.

Be back soon,