Tomorrow is ground hog day, good luck Punxsutawney Phil.  Birth anniversaries celebrated tomorrow include the first woman elected senator Hattie Wyatt Caraway (1878), film star Clark Gable (1901) and Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin (1931).  It is the anniversary of the rescue of Alexander Selkirk whom Robinson Crusoe was based (1709), action figure GI Joe was introduced (1964), the first session of the Supreme Court (1790) and the first moving picture studio Black Maria at Thomas Edison’s laboratory at West Orange, NJ (1893).  (The term Black Maria comes from the studio resembling black police wagons of the time and they were referred to as Black Marias.)

Just to make you jealous, here’s where we will be “camping” while in Costa Rica:

One more picture:

Does anyone want to buy The Parador of Pittsburgh, Leigh may have a permanent resident.  🙂

Founded in 1952, non profit Auberle, assisted 2,374 Western Pennsylvania children and families last year.  Some children were referred through the state’s juvenile justice  or child welfare systems.  Also, school districts and relatives refer youth to the programs.  It operates six sites in the Mon Valley offering assistance for housing, substance abuse, mental and behavioral health counseling, foster care and employment training.  They’ve created an Employment Institute with programs in landscaping, construction, food handling, computer graphics, design and commercial driving.  They partnered with Massaro Properties in O’Hara for the landscape training.  Dave Massaro hopes to expand the program this year because of the excellent results he’s seen with his trainees.  In fact, Dave commented that some of the students actually improved upon the work done by some contractors.  They recently the added hazardous waste operations in conjunction with Carnegie-based Weaverton Environmental Group.  Dawn Fuchs, who was on Auberle’s board of directors readily agreed to spearhead this initiative.  Because of state regulations in handling hazardous wastes, Dawn is not able to provide the same “on the job” experience as some of the other trades, but with all the expanding oil and gas industries and environmental concerns, this could be a bright future.  If you are looking to fill entry level positions (or offer your expertise and assistance), you may want to contact them.

Mt Lebanon is doing trial runs on valet parking on the weekends on Washington Road.  I’m not going to touch that one.  🙂

Sewickley United Methodist Church, at 337 Broad Street is having their 65th annual turkey dinner February 7 from 5 until 7.  The cost for this fund raiser is $15 for adults and $6 for children 6 to 10.  You can even get take out for $15.  The turkey and all the trimmings are prepared by a team of around 100 volunteers.  They shoot for a traditional turkey dinner, not a gourmet faire.   They  will be roasting 34 turkeys, 300 pounds of potatoes, 156 pounds of green beans, 125 pounds of cole slaw, 600 dinner rolls and 42 batches of stuffing.  I don’t know about dessert, you may have to bring your own.  🙂  They anticipate serving 600 dinners this year.  So it is strongly suggested to make reservations by calling Dottie Price at 412-741-4460 or the church office at 412-741-9430.

Back to back blogs about Sewickley, the Sweetwater Center for the Arts is hosting an exhibit featuring some pretty striking prints through February 23.  The exhibit showcases 18 pieces of art by 13 artists from across the country and none of them are digital (I’m not saying digital is bad, there’s a lot of incredible work done in digital.  It’s just nice to see more traditional art forms together sometimes).  Denise Presnell-Weidner of Wisconsin used the sun to etch her plates to create Translucent Liz, Indrani Nayar-Gall of North Carolina used intaglio, transfer printing, tracing and drawing to create her Travel Log-Mighty M and Barbara Westman used monoprints created from materials  she collect that give her different textural qualities when inked and printed.  An interesting exhibit.

This Sunday at The Warhol, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artist, Fifty Years will span four floors of 45 Warhol works displayed alongside 100 works by 60 other artists.  This exhibit is to show how Warhol’s interest in consumer goods, pop culture, film making, magazine publishing and design affect world cultures.  It should be interesting to see how the staff at The Warhol pair his work with more contemporary art.  The show is included in your regular admission and regular hours.  That info is at their web site.

Speaking of Warhol, the Warhol Foundation is putting 125 paintings, drawings, photographs and prints up for auction at Christie’s International from February 26 through March 5.  Pre-sale estimates range from $600 to $70,000.  You can bid on line or by phone and receive instant updates in case someone over bids you.  Just thought you’d like to know.  🙂  The proceeds will be used in the Warhol Foundation’s endowment.

I’m all in favor of turning public control over to private interests.  I would really like to see the state liquor control board abolished and that function turned over to private enterprise for all the obvious reasons, high paying political patronage jobs, rude service, inconvenient hours and products, etc.  I also am in favor of turning the lottery over for many of the same reasons.  But I get nervous when the governor rams the lottery take over by a British company down everyone’s throats.    Not saying anything is under the table, it just lacks transparency.

ALCOSAN this week requested an extension on the controversial (and outrageously expensive) solution they came up with to meet DEP new standards so they can explore greener and less expensive options.  FINALLY.  Heinz Endowments has kicked in $31,000 to help the 83 municipalities served by ALCOSAN come up with local green initiatives to help relieve the strain on the sewer systems.  Looks like we may be on the right path, finally.

The owner of Delaney’s Pub in Youngwood reported income of just over $10,000 a year for the last few years.  When State Police and the Feds raided them, they found $586,310 in a safe in the bar’s basement, $117,000 in one safe deposit account and $781,630 in their residence.  OMG are they in trouble.  A roommate of mine in college lived out there and we’d stop by for a beer on occasion.  🙂

Some disturbing statistics.  Nearly 44% of Americans are one emergency away from financial ruin.  Many of these work full time (75%), and 15% earn more than $55,000 a year.  Almost a third of Americans don’t have a  savings account.  We seem to be taking a good first step because credit card debt is down, but we need to start saving.  The report didn’t breakout people that had investments in lieu of a savings account, but we all should have a bit of one, even if the interest stinks.

Well, this may be my last post in awhile.  I leave for Costa Rica this weekend.  I’ll try and do some blogs with pictures, but I’m not guaranteeing. 🙂  Keep warm and happy,



This didn’t originally post to facebook, so I’m posting it again.

Tomorrow’s birth anniversaries include author Zane Grey (1872), baseballer Jackie Robinson (1919) and composer Franz Schubert (1797).  It is the death anniversaries of movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn (1974) and the controversial execution of Eddie Slovik for desertion (1945)-after being buried in France, he was finally returned to the United States and was buried next to his wife Antoinette in 1987.  It is also the anniversary of the Marshal Islands Landing in 1944 after two weeks of intensive bombings and almost 8,500 killed, the marines acquired a major foot hold in the Pacific.

Here’s a very heart warming story.  Kelly Smith, director of the Omega Horse Rescue, was walking through a holding pen for horses waiting to be slaughtered in Lancaster County, PA, when she noticed a mare with blood running down her leg.  Kelly had built up a relationship with the people that run that facility and got permission to have the horse treated.  Kelly ended up paying $360 for the horse and put pictures of this mare on her Facebook page for adoption.  In the  mean time, Brittany from Harwich, Mass. was researching for a paper she was doing for school on horse slaughtering and came across the picture.  The horse looked familiar.  Brittany had a very similar looking horse a number of years ago when she was younger.  She contacted Kelly and inquired whether the mare had a distinctive scare below her tail and sure enough the horse did.  Word spread through the Cape Cod community and they raised the $400 needed to cover the costs so Brittany and Scribbles could be reunited.  When they met, Scribbles immediately remembered Brittany.  What a small world we live in.  🙂

Here’s something pretty scarey.  Since even before the Great Recession, technology has been kicking the middle income out of their jobs by the boat loads.  This isn’t like earlier technological advances that created efficiencies and middle class workers were able to move to better paying, more productive jobs with increased wealth.  The increased efficiencies are not creating new opportunities, just saving money for the companies employing these new applications.  Most of these job losses are in the service industries, which accounts for two-thirds of all workers.  When was the last time you contacted a travel agent for a trip?  With these “smart meters”, the number of meter readers plunged from 56,000 in 2001 to 36,000 in 2010.  In ten more years, it is predicted the number of meter readers will be 0.  Small businesses, historically the largest creators of new jobs, are increasingly using computers instead of an accountant to set their business up, instead of hiring an attorney to incorporate the new business, marketing, advertising, etc.  I’m guilty here as well, but I do farm a lot out.  This is a direct quote from the Tribune Review’s article I read on Sunday “Thanks to technology, companies in the Standard and Poor’s 500 stock index reported one-third more profit the past year than they earned the year before the Great Recession.  They’ve also expanded their businesses, but total employment , 21.1 million, has declined by a half-million”.  Nearly half of the 7.5 million jobs lost in the Great Recession were middle income jobs ($38,000 to $68,000), but only 2% of the 3.5 million jobs created since are of the middle income level.  The vast majority created were for low income positions.  There are opportunities out there, it’s just not as much as in the past and to find and qualify for them you need to be pretty laser focused.

My father passed away several years ago from Alzheimer’s disease and my mother choose to take care of him at home.  I was in Florida during his final years and clearly remember family phone calls about the difficulties with this.  If you happen to be going through this, you are not alone.  The Alzheimer’s Association has a ton of information on their web site and they offer 24/7 help at 1-800-272-3900.  And this phone life line is not just for technical advise, it’s also open as a shoulder to cry on.  Treating a loved one, either at home or in assisted care, can be extremely draining and it’s great to know support is available anytime.  You can get so mixed up with time that 2 a.m. may be the only time you can reach out.

I don’t know if you noticed, they did the first two arm transplant to a Vet that lost ALL four limbs to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  To me, this is the real tragedy of these two wars.  It’s terrible all the young lives we lost (and I’m not making a political statement for or against the wars), but all these injured Vets coming home with such physical challenges is so depressing.  And generally speaking, the VA doesn’t seem to be stepping up to the plate on this.  I do have to give them credit for each February, the VA sponsors the National Salute to Veteran Patients.  The Salute runs from February 10 until February 16.  You can do as little as addressing Valentine cards and sending them to injured Vets or volunteering at a local VA Hospital during that time.  Last year, more than 361,000 Valentines were received at Veteran Centers, 21,904 people visited 82,493 veteran patients and they recruited 364 new volunteers.  More info the VA volunteer web site.

The I Made It Market  is holding their next event this coming Saturday from Noon until 5 pm in the old Joseph Beth Booksellers at 27th and Carson Streets.  Up coming they will be at Bakery Square in Shadyside and the Tangiers Outlets in Washington County.  This is a group that supports and promotes individual crafts persons and artists.  Visit their web site and Bookmark their site so you have a resource throughout the year for gifts.

Speaking of local, anyone that’s visit The Parador Inn, probably has noticed my “vases” are amber colored soda bottles with the Jamaica’s Finest Ginger Beer labels.  Well, I buy a case of Natrona Height’s famous ginger beer (for you long time locals, this is the original recipe they bought from Tom Tucker Ginger Ale-but they didn’t buy the name so had to re-name it) and after drinking the sodas, I coat the exterior with polyurethane.  Natrona Bottling also makes Pennsylvania Punch, Red Ribbon Cherry Pop, Chamayno , Mint Julep, Root Beer, Almond and Vanilla Cream Sodas. You can go to their web site (which they are currently re-building) and order locally crafted pop.  The carbinator Natrona uses is from the turn of the 19th century, kind of hard to find parts for.  🙂  Also using a 100 year old carbinator is Pittsburgh Seltzer in Swissvale.  PGH Seltzer fills those vintage 19th century seltzer  bottles for you to use with your own choice of flavorings.  Pittsburgh Soda Pop is ideally suited to supply you with the flavorings you need for your own flavored soda pop or other flavored ventures.  The tremendously successful East End Brewery has a sister company Barmy Soda that’s producing local pop as well.  Making their own root beer are local restaurants The Church Brew Works and RiverTowne.

Want some money?  Go Green.  🙂  The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has $7.25M set aside for solar heating systems and solar electric and heating systems.  Residents can qualify for up to $5k for solar heating and hot water and up to $7.5k for solar electric.  Businesses can qualify for up to $50k for solar heat and hot water systems and $52K for solar electric.  If interested, go to the DEP’s web site and use the key word Sunshine.

Well, I’m banned from working on stripping Oleander’s wood work.  I recently developed a very unsightly and uncomfortable rash, particularly around me neck.  I really could have gotten a job in some B rated scifi movie.  Little children ran screaming from me.  Well, I am exaggerating a tad.  But this just started this past weekend and I have that trip to Costa Rica scheduled for this coming weekend.  So I contacted Doctor Wilson at Forbes Regional and she was able to see me Monday.  After talking with her, we decided it was a reaction to lotion.  I was told not to use Gold Bond anymore and to find Vanicream.  It’s very old school and still made like lye soap with none of the modern additives in most lotions.  When I picked up the prescription Dr. Wilson gave me, I couldn’t find the Vanicream and so got Lubriderm which I also used in the past with no adverse affects.  Monday night, I applied some Lubriderm to my face and ankles and guess what?  I got rashes both places.  It was odd that I all of a sudden developed an allergy to Gold Bond, unbelievable that I also all of a sudden developed an allergy to Lubriderm as well.  So I called Dr. Wilson in a panic and she said there has to be something else.  I told her about stripping the wainscoting and trim in Oleander and apparently I’m having a reaction to the fumes in the room.  I’m wearing a long sleeved shirt and pants as well as heavy gloves.  I have used this stripper since moving back to Pittsburgh, but this is the largest project and hence the most exposed to the chemicals floating in the air.  Today I’m shedding skin from my neck like a snake.  🙂  When I come back, the kindly Dr. Wilson says I’m allowed to finish the project only if I do in limited quantities of time and if the room is properly ventilated.  🙂

Well, it’s sixty degrees today and raining.  January, sixty degrees, is this called Indian winter?  🙂

As I said, we’re leaving for Costa Rica this weekend.  Not sure how much Internet access I will have (or want), so you may not hear from me for a couple of weeks.

Take care and keep warm,



A lot of birth anniversaries tomorrow:  explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841), abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912), scientist Jean Felix Piccard (1884) and Cuban author/activist Jose Julian Marti (1853).  It is also the anniversary of Congress resolved that the Great Seal of the US  should be kept by the Congress and it affixed to every act, ordinance or paper as directed by congress (1782).

Here’s one for you, the Kaulong tribe in New Guinea practiced widow strangling until 1957!  True story.  It was the brother’s responsibility to strangle a widow after her husband passed away.  In the absence of a brother, the task was passed on to her son.  There is no explanation as to why this custom was established.

I’ve talked about the Dormont’s non-profit Hollywood Theater’s dilemma in the past.  In order to stay afloat, they need to upgrade their projection system to the new format at the tune of $75,000.  So far, they’ve raised $12,000.  Enter Gary Streiner who worked on Night of the Living Dead.  Streiner heads The Living Dead Festival, an annual celebration of that movie that brings groupies, cast and crew members together together.  He is organizing “The Hollywood Theater is Closing, Over My Dead Body”, apply named because he is bringing cast and crew members to the event on March 2 who will be signing posters and other memorabilia as well as just mingling with the crowd.  Get your tickets now at  ShowClix.  Be quick, they’ve already sold 100 tickets.  Last year, Streiner’s group raised $50,000 to rehab Evans City Cemetery chapel that was so prominent in the original Living Dead movie.

OK, we all know what a vegan is and what a wiccan is.  Do you know what a freegan is?  I don’t know how widespread this movement is, but it’s people that like to survive on free.  They pretty much are a group of dumpster divers.  They know where the dumpsters are that grocery stores throw away food that has gone beyond it’s “expired” date and other “prime” dumpsters.  The pros never spend money on objects, they survive and barter with each other on objects they find.  No don’t think homeless, these people own homes, live in apartments and some in vehicles.  And I’m not being critical here, I’ve done my share of dumpster diving in my life.  🙂

Has the financial recession caused you to cut back on entertainment, maybe home remodeling projects you were planning on or caused you to delay other purchases?  Would someone please tell the Pentagon this?  The American defense budget is over $1T (yes that’s TRILLION).  Last week, before the Pentagon went before Congress to plead their case to INCREASE their budget, they LEAKED to the press information they planned to submit to Congress.  Obviously a political ploy, what is the Pentagon doing playing politics?  I thought they were supposed to fight enemies and keep us safe.  This week, they are warning that budget cuts will hurt the war effort.  Well, number one, if they haven’t won a war in over ten years, maybe they should go back and look at their play book.  Number two, why are they holier than thou when the entire country is cutting our budgets?  Don’t get me wrong, I want a strong defense.  I just think people need to use reason.

It appears Steve Bland’s about to get the axe.  County Executive Fitzgerald seems to have given Port Authority’s Board a list of reasons why Bland should go and they tabled it at their last meeting and will bring it up next week.  Although the Board is independent from the county, the County Executive does appoint the members and so has a lot of sway there.  Maybe we can get someone in there that can actually run the transit authority instead of just hiring outside companies at the tune of $230,000 to tell them to take the letters off the bus routes and just use numbers.  (I am exaggerating here a bit, but basically that’s what one of the studies concluded).

After a $25M renovation, one of my Alma Maters, the Omni William Penn picked up their fourth diamond from AAA.  Celebrating it’s 100th anniversary in 2016, the Wm Penn has had it’s storied past.  When I worked there, it was the cash cow for Servico, a West Palm Beach based hotel group that seemed to have the propensity to purchase poor performing locations.  So for years, needed maintenance and up grades kept getting pushed back until the back log became too great.  I left while Servico still owned it and I’m not sure, but I think Omni bought it next.  It certainly is a grand hotel.  I just love that art deco ballroom up on the 17th floor.

You Tube sensation Angela Trimbur has recently posted a new Dance Like Nobody’s Watching video at LAX airport.  They’ve had over 4 million views on this one.  She’s pretty funny (I say that in the kindest of ways).  🙂

Included in the general admission price for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (and Art & Architecture) is a pretty cool Empowering Women: Artisan Cooperatives that Transform Communities.  These women band together to create co-ops to provide a safe haven from violence, preserving fading heritages, nurturing the environment and of course earning income.  The groups go from maybe 100 and I’ve heard of them reaching 4,000 members.  You can always purchase their wares at 10,000 Villages.  That’s a group that has a year round presence here, but the have multiple locations right before the Christmas holidays.  The show runs through May here, then moves on to other cities.  The traveling exhibit is available starting in August, 2014 for $16,000 if you would like to display it.  Just go to the Empowering Women web site for more info.  🙂

There’s a pretty cool visual artist that’s come back to Pittsburgh.  Mexico City native Miguel Chevalier‘s new video installation will be at the Wood Street Galleries through April 7, admission is free.  Miguel Chevalier: Power Pixels 2013 will be accompanied with original music composed by Jacop Baboni Schilingi for the exhibit.  This is all computer generated, random (?) images of all numerals that are combined with psychedelic images that are in constant change.  Not only being changed in the computer program, but also by observers entering the exhibit effect the images.  One of the things that’s intriguing about this exhibit is the way he’s gotten the technology to bend these light images around corners.  This kind of artwork used to be only clear when shown directly on a flat surface.

I have been working on Oleander’s wainscoting, but nothing to post any pictures about.  I decided to scrape everything scrapable, clean up the dust and then do the stripper/alcohol routine.  And I decide to include the door and window trims as well.  I have all the scraping finished and just did the first coat of stripper/alcohol on the wainscoting behind the sink and toilet.  I’m helping my brother move out in Murrysville today, so probably won’t get much done until tomorrow.  Enjoy this bright and crisp day,


Happy Inauguration Day.  What a great country we live in.  George Washington was quoted that the important act wasn’t him being the first president, but a smooth transition to the next president.  It was a very antagonistic and polarizing election, but we still transitioned to a new four year term with Democrats and Republicans in attendance.  Not like Syria, Mali or so many other countries.

Margaret Brent demanded a political voice in 1648, our first feminist and one you may want to read up on, a very dynamic lady.  It is the birth anniversaries of patriot Ethan Allen (1738), ACLU founder Roger Nash Breckinridge (1821), gun maker John Moses Browning (1855), designer Christian Dior (1905), civil war legend Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson (1824) and radio personality Wolfman Jack (1938).

Here’s an update on the wainscoting project in Oleander:

This wall is letting me scrape it first, that will make the obnoxious job of using the stripper much easier.  For some reason the wall behind where the sink and toilet sit won’t let me scrape it.  But the good news on that is the finish is much thinner and it takes a lot less stripper.  So the next step is clean up that little bit on the bottom and then scrape the trim around the window and both doors (bathroom/bedroom door and the bathroom closet door).  The next pic’s I post should be pretty impressive (I hope).  🙂

3-D printing, also known as “additive manufacturing” it the process of taking an image of an object and making a three dimensional copy of it.  This is done by building a prototype of an image and printing or stacking thousands of precision layers of a material to form a solid model  of the object.  There are different mediums used in this process, like hair-thin gypsum powder, plastic and even molten metal.  The layers are held together with a binding agent, frequently epoxy.  3-D printing evolved out of laser printing technology.  One local 3-D printer manufacturers is ExOne Co LLC headquartered in North Huntingdon (with offices in Troy, MI; Huston, TX, Augsburg, Germany and Japan) is cruising to exceeding $15M, this their ninth year.  Another major 3-D player is Pittsburgh 3D LP of Blawnox.  They are the regional distributor for Z Corp 3D printers covering Western PA and NY with these printers made in Rock Hill, SC.  Although these are not five cent color copies from Kinko’s, they are a huge savings going from drawing board to more traditional forms of demos.  The technology has exploded the last three years and there’s tremendous growth in the technology in the machines, the mediums for making the 3D image and other parallel equipment.

For being in charge of JP Morgan Chase bank when they lost $6B in trading losses, CEO Jamie Dimon had is pay cut by $11.5M (from $23M).  OMG, will he be able to feed and clothe his children this year?  🙂

We (Pittsburghers) all know about our convention center and how it’s considered the largest green building in the world.  For you non-Pittsburghers, it’s design incorporates massive natural light, so very little artificial light is ever needed, the sloping roofs etc mean it consumes very little air conditioning, it has it’s own grey water recycling/reuse system, etc.  (that’s why it holds a platinum LEED rating).  What I have always noticed, but didn’t notice (if that makes any sense) is there’s no “main entrance”.  Buildings of that size and importance always have a grand entrance.  The “grand entrance” was designed to be from the yet to be built convention center hotel.  This hotel, up to 500 guest rooms, was slated to go where that service parking lot is in front of the convention hall bounded by Tenth and Penn (the parcel doesn’t seem that big to me).  🙂  The hotel’s main lobby was to go from Penn Avenue all the way through the building to the back wall (across that alleyway from the convention center).  There you would come to grand elevators that would take you to either the third or fourth floors of the convention center.  The fourth floor would let you out on the roof top terrace.  The third floor would let you off at a glass enclosed walkway over the center’s cavernous main hall.  After traversing this walkway and getting a glimpse of the event you are about to attend, the walkway ends at a lobby facing the river with escalators down to the main floor.  Pretty dramatic entrance.  Now I know why I always felt like I was using a side entrance anytime I’ve attended anything at the convention center.  🙂

The Box Hart Gallery at 4523 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield has their “12th Annual Art Inter/National … here and abroad” exhibit through February 2.  They are highlighting 24 works of art by 20 artists using a variety of medias.  (They received more than 550 entries from local, national and international artists).  A couple of pieces if found intriguing were Sia Aryai: Iran Eternity 1, an artist originally from Iran that masked a photograph  with thin veils of milky – white pigment.  British artist Sarah Michalik‘s sculpture “Patterns of Immersion” is an interesting way of looking at our “connections” through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other forms of social media.   Jardley Jean-Louis of Queens who’s piece Yellow depicts bathroom has a lot in this drawing that doesn’t meet the eye at first glance, like the lady in the bathtub and the gentleman wrapped up in the shower curtain at the foot of the tub.  Finally, possibly the most dramatic piece is Russian born sculptor Irina Koukhanov’s Iron Enclosure 2.  It is two bronze sculpture of two birds, one wearing a military helmet and the other wearing a gas mask.  The implications here are obvious.  More info at Box Heart’s website, the individual’s web sites or by calling 412-687-8858.

You may think you’re living in the city, but we keep getting sightings of black bears.  There was a young male in my mom’s Beechview area this past spring, there was the one out at Pittsburgh Mills that actually went into the Sears store there, there’s been sightings in Cranberry recently.  Now they seem to be hanging out around Robert Morris’ campus in Moon Township.  Even though they are famed for being shy and avoiding people, I think I’d be pretty scared coming across one.  Call me wimpy.  🙂

Here’s a list of local events coming up in the area:

The traveling Celiac Awareness Tour is returning to Monroeville this coming Saturday from 9 am until 2 pm.  It’s a great source of learning to live without gluten and an opportunity to get great gluten free recipes.

The 53rd Annual Pittsburgh Boat Show starts Thursday at the Monroeville Convention Center and runs through January 27.  A nice way to pretend it’s no longer winter.  🙂

The 52nd Annual Baierl Subaru Pittsburgh World of Wheels is also this weekend (January 25 – 27) at the David L Lawrence Convention Center, what a long name.  🙂

Also at the convention center next week (January 29 – 31) will be the Fourth annual Marcellus-Utica Midstream Conference & Exhibit.

More info at their web sites.

Keep warm and happy,




Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of Al Capone (1899) and Benjamin Franklin (1706).  The patent for cable cars was issued in 1871, the first nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus, was launched (1955), the cartoon Popeye debuted (1929),  the last Hawaiian queen, Liluokalani was deposed (1893) and the terrible nuclear accident where an American aircraft carrying nuclear bombs collided with it’s re-fueling aircraft spilling two bombs on the Palomares region of Spain (1966).

What a challenging two weeks I’ve had.  At least I’ve been dealing with this while business is fairly slow instead of the midst of a busy time in the summer.  I hate credit card processing companies.  Let me preface this with the very first credit card processing company I signed up for when I opened my first bed and breakfast in Florida.  The sales rep I met, signed a contract with and gave a $1,000 deposit opening my first credit card processing account was a retired Texas professional football player who’s name and face I recognized from watching football and the news.  When I didn’t receive a credit card machine and my phone calls to the processor weren’t returned I became angry and more aggressive on this.  Well the credit card processor told me that the ex-pro football player was an independent sales agent and they had no control over what he did.  Fast forward twelve years.  I have never had a credit card dispute since opening in Pittsburgh, my sales volume in Pittsburgh is very respectable and personally my credit score is in the 800’s.  In other words, I’m a prime candidate for the best rates around.  I have had Heartland processing my credit cards since opening here in Pittsburgh.  I’ve had very little problems with them and am generally happy with their service.  For the past year, I have been inundated with telemarketing calls claiming they could save me tons of money.  I was fairly slow in December and decided to pursue this and sent Blue Pay a copy of my current processor’s end of month report “for comparison”.  #1, never show your hand to insurance companies, credit card processors, contractors, etc.  Let them come up with an offer on their own.  So Blue Pay showed me how they were going to save me about $600 a year ($50 per month) and I agreed to go with them.  Credit card processors have to write a specific program for your terminal so everything meshes between you and their system and to ensure you are compliant with federal credit card security requirements.  Two weeks later, I get a phone call from Blue Pay around 5 pm saying the program was ready to download.  I went to my machine, got the process started with the tech and she said it would take about thirty minutes and when it was all loaded, a message would appear on the screen and I need to call in so the re-programing could be Initialized.  Thirty minutes later, the message was on the screen and I called the 800 number.  After ringing and some clicking sounds (the call was re-routed), the call went to voice mail and I left a message.  I waited fifteen minutes (they close at 6 pm EST)  I called them again and left a second voice mail.  At five minutes to six, I called the 800 number I was given to call, I called the programer I had on caller ID and I called my sales rep, all went to voice mail.  Everyone went home and I was unable to process credit cards.  Unbelievable.  So the next morning, the tech calls, couldn’t be nicer or more apologetic and we finish the programing.  This is Friday before Christmas (there will be no one in their offices for four days) so I was sure to get contact phone numbers in case I had problems over the long weekend.  So Friday night I had a problem with a guest’s credit card (the machine accepted the sale, but when I tried to recall the sale to close it out I couldn’t find the transaction in the machine).  I called the first number Blue Pay provided me and it rolled over to First Data, the company Blue Pay subcontracts to for machine technical support.  They couldn’t help me with the credit card itself.  So I called the second number I had and it went directly to First Data (the other number was forwarded to First Data).  The second rep I got, after I explained what I needed, first suggested I get the guest’s credit card and try again.   When I explained the guest had left (for the evening) and I just wanted him to find the info that I knew was in my machine and their system or retrieve the information so that I could re-process the charge.  He apologized and said he could only help me with terminal problems.  Over the weekend, I decided that even if Blue Pay was honest in their assessment of the fees I pay Heartland, for $50 a month to be able to reach a rep or tech 24/7 was worth it.  So Wednesday, I attempted to contact my sales rep from Blue Pay through voice mail and e-mail to cancel my account and never heard from him (he was on an extended holiday).  When I didn’t hear from Blue Pay on Wednesday, Thursday morning I called Heartland, my account was still active and they started the process of re-programing my terminal.  After repeated attempts to re-program my terminal (the final attempt was Friday morning-I had been up until 2 am Thursday night trying to get the terminal to accept Heartland’s program), Blue Pay had a piece of code in the processing machine that Heartland couldn’t overwrite.  I needed a new terminal, Heartland overnights them, but because this was now Friday and the holidays, I wouldn’t get it until Wednesday.  This is New Years Weekend AND the Steelers had their last home game of the season that Sunday.  I had to manually write down the credit card numbers over the weekend and then go to an on-line processing program Heartland has and for each transaction there was multiple forms I needed to fill out.  Now remember, I was sold out those four days with multiple rooms that needed cleaned, turned, guests needed checked in (my check-in process is at least 20 minutes, in addition to showing the Inn, their room, getting ID and credit card info, I can easily spend another twenty minutes giving “directions and recommendations”).  Also, each time we tried to re-program the terminal, it was a half hour download time and then at least a half hour trying to get the terminal to work.  Dee does most of the housekeeping work, but there’s things I need to help her with in addition to my Innkeeping and breakfast cook duties.  Busy time for me.

ALSO, that Friday before NYE, my CPA does what he does every year.  After reviewing my books, he has me call ADP (my payroll processor) and assign personal use of company vehicle, health care payments and a pay check for myself (I still don’t draw a pay from the company, this amount is for tax purposes for the company and myself-totally legal and above the board).  I entered Dee’s payroll Sunday night as always and called in Monday for the the items that need charged to me.  I was aware Monday was New Years Eve and made it abundantly clear the these adjustments to me HAD to be for pay period ending December 30, 2012.  It could not be in 2013’s payroll.  After a lengthy conversation with the clerk, I let her make the entries.  I wasn’t comfortable after hanging up, so I called back and asked for a supervisor.  The very nice lady I was talking to needed to know what I needed a supervisor for so she could direct the call.  I explained my concerns and she assured me it was not problem, she could handle it.  We went through the process and again I emphasized the charges HAD to hit in 2012.  When I got the reports and paychecks from ADP the next day, my check was dated 1/2/13!!!!!!!!!!  So I call ADP again and I think we finally have it straightened out.  BUT, ADP ran the first payroll from the first clerk I spoke with, then when I spoke with the second clerk, she needed to delete that first run and do a new one.  Then when I spoke with them for the third time, they had to delete the second run and do a third.  I have receive five sets of payroll (three initiating and two deleting), two sets of end of year reports and three letters notifying me that they were taking money out of or replacing money in my account.  I’ve had to figure out from my bank statements showing what was taken out of my account  in January by ADP on my own.  ADP was totally useless in this.  Not totally the clerk’s fault, you need to see ADP’s reports to understand how you can not have an intelligent conversation over the phone with an ADP representative if you don’t see how the number the pages.  There’s close to twenty pages for the report for each pay period.  Some are listed “This Page Has Been Deliberately Left Blank”.  Others are reminders you might need to order supplies, some are alerts that this was the End of Month Report, etc.  These pages are identified  by Period Covered, Check Date, Run Week, Qtr Page on the bottom of each page (the rest of the human race would use PAGE NUMBERS).  And Page does not mean page number.  Of these twenty odd pages, some have no Page description, there’s multiple Page 1’s throughout.  There’s no way you can talk to an ADP clerk and say “On Page 6, it says you deducted $75 for FICA, why’s that?”  Add to that, I assume that the ADP clerk is looking at a computer screen that doesn’t mimic the printed page I am looking at.  The same information is probably in their computer, but that probably is not image to image identical, how can you talk intelligently?  Dealing with ADP for the last six years, I have found their staff to be very professional, courteous and a genuine desire to make things right.  BUT ADP’s system is so cumbersome that it is not functional.  The system is a breeze to work with when things are smooth, but an unbelievable nightmare when a problem arises.  I don’t blame the first clerk or the nice lady for making a mistake.  I blame ADP for having a system that is so cumbersome that it can be useless when their clients need help.

Wow, thanks for listening.  I feel better, not so much that I vented (it did help), but last night I finally got my bank account balanced between Blue Pay, ADP and Heartland’s challenges.  I do still have an end of year report I need to finish for my CPA so he’s prepared to come and do my year end audit this week, that’s today’s project.  Hopefully I can get back to stripping the wainscoting in Oleander’s bathroom tomorrow.

After five years and about $500M dollars, the new Clairton Coke Works came on line this past November.  Much to the relief of the small city of Clairton and the Mon Valley in general.  This year, Allegheny County seems able to be in compliance with the current federally mandated soot limit for the first time ever.  (We have for years achieved past levels set by the EPA, but they kept increasing the stringency of the rules and so we were credited with complying past levels and promised to “do better”).  J  The Clairton Coke Works, I believe it is the largest in the United States, was a major component in this increase in air quality.  The reduction in the number of coal fire power plants or the increased efficiency of the air scrubbing equipment is the second biggest factor.

Speaking of coal, in eastern Mississippi, Mississippi Power Company ( a subsidiary of mega power group Southern Company) is working on a $2.6B coal to gas fired power plant that supposedly will emit much less carbon pollution than any other coal fired plant.  Although the plant is already a half a billion dollars over original budget, the technologies coming out of this plant should help other coal fired plants be more compliant to federal standards.  Southern Company (you may be more familiar with another of their subsidiaries Georgia Power) says the reason for this huge expense is diversification.  Five years ago, 70% of their power came from coal fired plants and 11% came from natural gas.  Today, 35% comes from coal and 47% comes from natural gas.  With the life of power plants ranging in the decades, planning on not having “all your eggs in one basket” does seem to be a wise option.  Southern is also adding two nuclear power plants to their mix (out of four currently under construction in the US).

Did you know most free apps aren’t free?  Take the wildly popular (not as popular as it was a year ago, but still huge), in the program, they track your location and sell that information to third parties.  This is not nefarious, like big brother checking up on you or that they are going to sent a “hit squad” to “take you out”.  I imagine it’s generally sold to say Chilli’s and if your location is near one of their stores, you get an ad sent to your smart phone.  Some of the “cookies” are more nefarious.  (A cookie is a program planted in your computer, smart phone, etc that keeps info stored.  It’s like when you go back to a site you’ve been to before and start filling out a form, and with the first few keystrokes the site prompts you with what your typing in-like your name or address).  Sometime they take your address book or even pictures you have stored on your computer/smart phone/etc.  Of the 2,254 app users interviewed by the Pew Research Center, 54% chose not to install an app for privacy reasons and 30% chose to uninstall apps for this reason.  There’s currently a push in certain circles for more transparency in what these apps are placing on you device.  (To be fair, they do tell you, but who ever reads all that fine print when you “Agree to Terms and Conditions”.  The push is pull the description of these cookies out of the Terms and Conditions and make them readily apparent when selecting to download the app.



Tomorrow’s birth anniversaries include Benedict Arnold (1741) and Albert Schweitzer (1875).  It is Ratification Day (1784-the act that officially ended the American Revolution and established the United States) and it is Uzbekistan Army Day, a national holiday there.

Well, we won, somewhat.  Buncher has withdrawn their request for $50M Tax Increment Financing.  Buncher said “the public’s negative perception of the TIF was too great to overcome.”  At least they seem to be starting to listen to us.  I would like them to abide by the current code calling for a 95 foot set back from the Allegheny River and to gussy up their plans so it’s actually something we can all be proud of.  There is at least one study out there that architect John Conti quoted awhile back that could be helpful.  When you are planning a development as massive as this, in the grand scale of things, they could come up with some designs that really wouldn’t cost that much.  I’m fairly flexible on this, but my big thing, still, by far, is their plans to demolish a third of the Terminal Building.  (I would consider stopping my whining if they even just cut a minimum hole through the Terminal for just a road and sidewalk, leaving the bulk of that third in tack).

Speaking of TIF’s, the URA is starting to work on a $100M TIF to get the 178 acre site of the former LTV mill in Hazelwood off the ground.  The funding would be for some brownfield work, and installing some of the streets and utilities.  That’s a huge chunk of very valuable land that could really turn into something just below Oakland and five minutes to Downtown.  The development by Almono LP, so named after the ALlegheny, MOnongahela and Ohio Rivers seem more interested in outside input than Buncher and this project might turn into a jewel for the city.

For anyone that’s followed the St Nicholas church saga of the past ten years, they took the bells out Tuesday in preparation for the church’s demolition.  In case you haven’t been following, a group of ex-parishioners didn’t want PennDot to tear it down for the route 28 rebuilding project.  After years, PennDot threw in the towel and redesigned the path of Route 28 that included moving railroad tracks.  Then the Diocese didn’t want the building anymore, the parishioners couldn’t raise the money to create their museum and then wanted PennDot to buy the building and tear it down.  Then the Northside Leadership Conference joined the push to turn it into a national Croation heritage museum.  The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh turned down the latest offer from the city to purchase the building.  It’s a shame, it’s a beautiful building, but I guess enough is enough.

Having lived in South Florida for ten years and really enjoying the Everglades, I always pay attention to what’s going on there.  In particular with preservation and restoration efforts.  What they’ve done over the years has been massive to correct all the mistake we made trying to tame the Everglades to our needs.  Well the temperature and ecology is ideal for Burmese pythons.  People buy the pythons as pets, they get too big and the fools have for years turned them loose in the Everglades.  (It’s the same mentality of putting your batteries in the garbage, I don’t see where the mercury goes, so I don’t care).  Well the pythons don’t have any natural predators in the Everglades and have been breeding prolifically.  There are no small animals left in large areas.  So they are having the 2013 Python Challenge with a $1,000 prize for the longest Python and a $1,500 prize for catching the most.  At first glance that may seem like a good solution, but I’m wondering how many native snakes are going to fall to this and more than that, this competition is open to basically anyone.  There is going to be a lot of non-seasoned hunters running around the Everglades with guns.  Seems to be a recipe for disaster to me.  400 people have registered for this event that begins this Saturday and runs through February 16 at the Miami Zoo.  More info on their web site.  As an update (I wrote this the other day), 800 people have signed up by the opening yesterday.

The live TV over the web company, AEREO, Inc is coming to Pittsburgh soon.  What they do is grab free TV broadcasts that are sent over the air and they have the technology to bring it in to individual tiny antennas and then stream it to their subscribers.  Each subscriber has one of these antennas assigned to them, that’s how AEREO is skirting the copyright issues.  A New York judge has given tentative and somewhat skeptical, ruling in their favor.  So for $8 you get 29 stations, it can come with a DVR service at a higher fee.  I have no love for the big cable or satellite companies, but this really is just not right.  But when you look at all the shenanigans the cable/satellite companies pull on us, maybe it’s just desserts.  🙂

Pittsburgh came out on top of the list of cities with the most home owners that actually own their home.  38.6% of Pittsburghers have no mortgage, compared to a national average of 29.3%.  Two big factors are our aging population and affordable housing.  Tampa came in second at 33.2% and Philly came in third at 27.6%.

Ivy League college Harvard has a pretty amazing program targeting lower income, high achieving students.  Not only are they offering free tuition, they also offer free room and board.  Pretty incredible.  Harvard is the only one I heard about, I would assume other Ivy League schools have similar programs.

Gotta run and enjoy this 70 degree day (on my thermometer).  Going on my front porch with a glass of wine and a book, 🙂



Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of Richard Nixon (1913), the St Petersburg Massacre (1905), Murat Bernard Young’s birth anniversary (1901-the creator of the comic strip Blondie), the first manned free balloon flight in America by Jean-Pierre Francois Blanchard (1793) and Connecticut ratified the Constitution (1788).

Originally called Shannon’s Rainbow, Amazing Racer is being released today at AMC Loews at the Waterfront 22 to an invitation only crowd.  The film is also being released on CD.  John Mowod (any relation to Tony on WESA?) co-wrote the script with Larry Richert of KDKA awhile back and it has been held up in some court battles and was pretty much filmed in the Pittsburgh area in 2008.  This “feel good” story of a depressed girl and a injured race horse who help each other heal was inspired by a true story out of the Meadows Racetrack. The movie has guest appearances of Daryl Hannah, Steve Guttenberg and the late Charles During.  The film is not listed on the Loews web site, I am assuming they will be showing it to the general public after today’s private screening.

Live Life Without the Disease Series was founded in 2008, but has not been active until now do to a lack of funds.  Highmark has given the group a $75,000 grant and so they are planning their first meeting this coming Saturday at the Thelma Lovette YMCA on the Hill.  The non-profit Educating Teens About HIV/AIDS is out of Manchester and is trying to start the very difficult discussions needed to stop this very preventable disease.  They are gathering forums of teens, parents, educators, doctors, nutritionists, relationship professionals and religious leaders to discuss this epidemic.  The organizers are planning on ten more sessions between now and September.  They are seeking about 30 teens between 13 and 19 to participate in the sessions and depending on the location of these volunteers is where future sessions will be held.  More info at both links above.

With all the debates, projects, legislation and scrutiny going on about Marcellus, the tons of information about the drilling has been scattered all over the Internet.  Carl Hagstrom founded MarcellusGas.org trying to pull the vast amount of information into one site where you can search for information.  It is mainly set up by well site so property owners can see what’s going on in their area.  You can visit the site a couple of times for free, but Carl charges $20 a year for unlimited access.  What he has found is for every two searches by people interested in the non-monetary aspect of the site, there is eight by those interested in the monetary aspect (real estate agents, .gas industry professionals, etc).

The 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show opened this past Saturday and runs for eight days.  This free event (they do charge $10 for parking) runs from 8 am until 9 pm and they expect 400,000 people to attend.  The Farm Show Complex will feature food, competition, education, more than 8,000 farm animals and more.  In addition to what you would expect as food at a fair they will have bacon on a stick, veal meatballs, potato donuts and milk shakes.  One of the more popular attractions is the sheep to shawl contest.  Wednesday, they shear the sheep and give the wool to to weavers that make shawls out of it.  A new and somewhat bizarre feature will be “cow bingo”.  This is where they put cows on a huge bingo board and where the bovines “plop down” (I’ll let your imagination figure exactly what that is) is the winner.  🙂  More info at their web site.  If you plan on going and what a place to stay, my very good friends Myra, Phil and Alex would love to host you at their nearby The Stone Manse Inn.

For you hearty folks, the third annual Joe Root’s Frozenbite Open will be held February 17.  Elmer Keisel, owner of the Joe Root’s Grill (named after a hermit that lived on Presque Isle before it became a state park) started this fund raiser to give back to the park he depends on for his business to survive.  This nine hole event will be held on Presque Isle if the bay is frozen or on the sand if not (the world’s largest sand trap?)  🙂  They are hoping for a turn out of between 150 and 200 golfers, the past two years they raised $3,300 and $8,900 respectively and have used the proceeds to create a turtle observation deck over the park’s Graveyard Pond.  With this year’s proceeds, they hope to accomplish the paving associated with the deck.  if I wasn’t such a sissy about the cold, a terrible golfer and just coming back from Costa Rica, I may be tempted to participate.  More info at their web site.

Tom Balestrieri, president and CEO of the Buncher Group seems to be living in denial.  He claims that the opposition to his company’s planned destruction of 1/3 of the iconic Terminal Building, all kinds of zoning variances, boring design AND $50M in my money is politically motivated.  #1 Mr Balestrieri I have been opposed to this plan since it’s inception, have been very vocal about it AND I have no political aspirations.  #2 I do not support OR oppose Mayor Ravenstahl.    The mayor has done some things I oppose and some things I support.  I have included a link to Buncher’s contact page on their web site in case some non-political people would like to send him an e-mail expressing displeasure with his plans (and in case you are crazy enough to support this plan, being a fair and equal opportunity blogger, you are welcome to use the link to let them know your feelings as well.)  Mr Balestrieri says that the reason people are against the project is because Mayor Ravenstahl favors it and there are residents “opposed to whatever the administration is doing” and he continues (and I like this) “It’s not so much directed at Buncher, but we happen to be a by product”.  I hear Mr Balestrier is a big fan of Bashar al-Assad.  🙂  Then Mr Balestrieri says “for a company that has built a reputation over the last 60 years in Western Pennsylvania … We have a lot to be proud of”.  #1 most of Buncher’s projects are industrial parks, not what the Strip project should aspire to.  #2 Maybe he should listen to the experts that are opposed to his plan like ex-mayor Murphy and architect John Conti and learn from people that have valuable insights.  #3 because you did something good once (or multiple times), doesn’t guarantee that future projects are right.

Well, I was a failure.  I tried not using wood stripped on Oleander’s wainscoting in the bathroom, but I would only take one swipe with my orbital sander and the sand paper gummed up.  So I applied the stripped, let it sit and then scrapped it and the old varnish off.  I then took denatured alcohol and 000 steel wool and worked the rest of it off.  Getting in the grooves is very tedious.  Here’s the before and after behind the tub.  This picture shows after I had first tried with the sander and then the denature alcohol:

This next picture shows it pretty much cleaned up:

Looks pretty good, don’t ya think?  This next picture is what I plan on working on today.  I put the stripper on the right side of the off/on handle last night and let it loosen the old varnish:

This is forcing me to bend in places I don’t normally bend, so I guess I’m going to be a more limber person soon.  🙂

Have a great day and enjoy this unseasonable weather we’re going to be having the next several days,





Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of Joan of Arc (1412), poet Kahlil Gibran (1883), oater actor Tom Mix (1880), Danny Thomas (1912) and Loretta Young (1913).  The first commercial aircraft circled the earth (Pan Am 1942), New Mexico was admitted to the Union (1912) and Jamaica’s Maroon Festival celebrating when the Spanish were driven out, (the Spanish exterminated the native Arawaks and replaced African slaves) the Africans were permitted to settle the north of the island with the Treaty of Cudjoe.

There was an interesting article in the Trib this past Sunday about the disparity of income between the rich and the poor.  In an article quoted from the Bloomberg News, a Tyree Johnson says he has to work two part time jobs to make ends meet, barely.  The article talks about the dead end life a minimum pay jobs.  Tyree has worked for McDonald’s for two decades and still just earns minimum wage ($8.25) and doesn’t get forty hours between the two McDonald’s he works at.  The last CEO of McDonald’s compensation on record was Jim Skinner’s $8.75M.  There is obviously a huge difference education, experience and responsibilities between Johnson and Skinner.  And one has to consider the intermediate folks like the corporate chain in McDonald’s and share holders that need compensated appropriately.  And I have no issues with rewarding a person that has invested in education, worked their way up “the corporate ladder” and spend the extra time “on the clock” with more responsibility being compensated more than an “hourly employee”.  But the follow up article by Trib writer Jack Markowitz was such a bigoted viewpoint, I can’t ignore it.  Markowitz suggests 44 year old Johnson move back in with his parents (making the assumptions #1 that Johnson’s parents are still alive, #2 that their quality of life makes this an option on Senior or Junior’s part, #3 that they are even in Chicago).  His condescending attitude in “Then consider Tyree‘s reported 20 years on the bottom rung of McDonald‘s career ladder. Never a shot at promotion? Hmm.”  OMG, not everyone has the desire or ability to get rapid promotions (or slow ones for that matter).  So does this mean that a man (or woman) that has worked for two decades for the same company doesn’t deserve decent money?  Then the racist pops up “Throw in food stamps and Medicaid, and the “working poor” surely aren‘t bereft of help when trying to quit being poor — if they also cut out such foolishness as lottery tickets and cigarettes.”  At least GEICO uses a sense of humor in their “racist” commercial about “When Pigs Fly”.  Yes, the CEO deserves better compensation than a line employee, but that doesn’t mean line employees need to be kept at poverty levels.  Johnson is obviously a low income individual that has held a JOB with the same company for twenty years, he’s not selling drugs, he’s not on welfare.  Cut me a break Markowitz.  I’m rambling and getting angry, I’ll drop this here.

Theodore Bolha opens a one man show at The Gallery 4 in Shadyside and it runs through January 26. He has been interested in botanical art since a child, the Latrobe native got caught up in Scherenschnitte, the German art of cutting images out of paper with either very sharp scissors or knives.  He has about two dozen examples on display.  The Gallery is at 206 S Highland Avenue and more info at their web site or by calling 412-363-5050.  (I tried Googling Theodore, but he doesn’t appear to have a web site, he does have a VERY explicit post on an adult web site that comes up, be careful what you put on the web).  🙂

Want a break from this nasty cold weather we’ve been having, Phipps Conservatory is always a good bet.  Their Winter Flower Show ends this week and next week the Orchid and Tropical Bonsai Show opens up.  Always a great way to spend an afternoon to get out of the winter doldrums (not as good as going to Costa Rica).  🙂  More info at Phipps web site or by calling 412-622-6914.

Jeremy Kost: Friends with Benefits takes a close look at Pittsburgh’s ‘queens’ at The Warhol through January 27.  The title doesn’t refer to what most people assume Friends with Benefits means, it’s a play on words about how kids have a relationship with each other and how drag queens have a tight knit family of sorts and how this family can be quite dysfunctional at times.  What’s interesting about this show is Jeremy took all these photographs of various drag queens with a Polaroid camera and pieced the Polaroids together to create a congruent image.  More info at The Warhol’s site or by calling 412-237-8300.

My current project is refinishing the wainscoting in Oleander’s bathroom, it’s the fifth guest room down.  It’s bugged me since purchasing the place and I had a guest about a year ago that stayed in Oleander make a comment on the woodwork in a guest review.  It really was looking tire:

This picture shows the shadow from the ancient toilet I had to take out.

This picture shows the wainscoting behind the shower curtain where the controls for the shower are.  My plumber John from All Pro Plumbing removed the bath fixtures and I just started working on taking the old finish off.  I will take some more pictures tomorrow in the day light for my next post.  I’m pretty slow this week, I’m hoping to have most of the stripping finished in about a week, but then again, I’m always the optimist when I take these projects on.  🙂  I’m hoping to avoid wood stripper, it’s too caustic.  My plan is to use my orbital sander and then my Dremel (I love my Dremel).  It’s ancient varnish that I’m dealing with and it’s very dry and should come off fairly easy.  Then when I get most of it off, the next step will be with denatured alcohol and 000 steel wool.  The main challenge will be getting behind the radiator.  We can’t take that out without shutting the entire heating system down.  ):

Well, you guys have a great rest of the weekend, it’s supposed to go up into the upper forties next week, maybe even the fifties.  🙂



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Alaska being admitted (1959), the drinking straw was patented (1888), the first cave dedicated as a national park, Wind Cave (1903) and JRR Tolkien’s birth anniversary (1892).

Sorry it’s been a week, I haven’t been this tardy in quite awhile.  Besides the holidays, I tried switching credit card processors and what a nightmare that was.  This past holiday & Steeler home game weekend, I had to manually write down the credit card info on all guests check-ins and  then manually enter it into an on-line system.  This was because the new processor was terrible and when I got fed up with them and went back to my original processor, the original processor couldn’t over write parts of the new processor’s code.  I was up until 2 am Thursday night trying to straighten it out.

The Steelers are keeping a low profile on the latest controversy over here on the Northshore, not surprisingly.  After threatening (and I think they may have actually did file it) a law suite to make the tax payers pay for adding 3,000 more seats that the Steelers can sell tickets for and make money off of, Continental Real Estate Company is requesting more time to begin construction on the two buildings they are planning on constructing.  A little background here, the Steelers are a part of Continental Real Estate, when Continental’s option on the land was about to expire, the gentleman that owns Alco Parking made a counter offer, significantly more than the Steeler’s group was offering.  Alco was also prepared to build two a six or eight story buildings and pay significantly more than the Steelers were offering.  The Steelers threatened a law suite if the land didn’t go to them and they did up the price (not as much as Mr. Merle Stabile offered).  The Steelers group is requesting an extension because their original plans called for two two story structures.  They are now talking about adding a third story and the excuse this time is they don’t want to break ground until they have secured tenants.  If it wasn’t that they bullied Alco out of building two eight story structures with shops, restaurants, offices and housing, if it wasn’t that the Steelers is trying to bully the residents into paying for seats they are going to make money off of, if the Steelers ever played fair-I’d say go ahead and give them an extension.  But since the ball is our court to bully the Steelers, I say lets bully them.  (Don’t get me wrong, I like the Steeler’s football team, I do not like their business management model.)

Flashdance, the film shot here in the 80’s and based on a mill worker with dreams (you could say based here) is doing a full circle this week.  The the national debut musical version opens here on this past Tuesday at Heinz Hall for a week.  The ironic thing about Flashdance is it’s authors Robbie Roth and Robert Casey originally wrote it to be a Broadway play, they couldn’t find any backers and so re-wrote it into a screen play.  It is showing at 7:30 pm Tuesday through Thursday, 8 pm Friday, 2 and 8 pm Saturday and 6:30 pm Sunday.  Admission is from $20 to $65, depending on seat and day.  A nice aside is two of the stars in the play are Pittsburgh natives.  Matthew Hydzik plays Nick, the owner of a steel mill that falls for the lead Alex, is from Sewickley.  Tess, the more mature woman that portrays an older friend and confidant of Alex is played by Rachelle Rak from the South Hills.   More info at the Cultural Trust‘s web site or by calling 412-392-4900.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust owns a lot of property down in the Cultural District.  Some with store fronts that currently don’t have tenants, they give you to artists to display their works (they might charge a nominal fee, I really don’t know for sure).  They own the building on 6th across from the Heinz that has the “robot repair shop” in one of it’s windows.  The Trust also owns SPACE at 812 Liberty Ave and the current installation is called Romper Room, created by seven artists with a Pittsburgh connection.  The artists include Jen Cooney, Jae Ruberto, Jacob Ciocci, Matt Barton , Thad Kellstadt , Jim Lingo and Ladyboy .  I was Downtown several times as they were assembling this exhibit and was wondering how it would turn out.  Jacob Ciocci created Copy Cats, a very cute graffiti looking piece of art with a main theme of cats (obviously).  🙂  Jae Ruberto has taken some real liberties with images of Santa Claus.  Ladyboy, the organizer, was/is very much into skateboards and skateboarding and the ramps and skateboards, much of the graffiti and strategically placed trash are pretty much the result of Ladyboy.  The exhibit runs through February 3 and admission is free.   It is open 11 am until 6 pm Wednesdays & Thursdays; 11 am until 8 pm Fridays and Saturdays and 11 am until 5 pm Sundays.

There’s something I don’t understand about how people perceive what I do.  I would never go into my dentist’s office (who probably makes $300K a year) and tell him that I won’t pay the $5,000 he wants to charge for the root canal, I’ll only pay $4,000.  I would never go into a brain surgeon’s office (who probably makes $1.5M a year) and tell him I’ll only pay $18,000 for the operation instead of his normal fee of $20,000.  Let’s bring it down a notch, I would never go in a restaurant and tell the waitress I won’t pay the $18 they want for the special, I’ll only pay $16.  What makes it OK to do that to me?

“we’d like to reserve a room with you if we can get the Tropical Breezes Special for all three nights, including our last night Friday”  I’m already giving them $100 off, but that’s not good enough.  I also like when someone books my Caribbean Freedom Special (visit for three days and pay for two Sunday through Thursday nights) and then asks for a AAA discount also.  I’ve already given them a $150 discount.

I don’t draw a salary yet, almost everything I bring in goes right back into the the house.  This is quite possibly what I was doing before you arrived:

I have a special on my website, the Blizzard Special.  I offer 1/2 off the night of a snow storm, the altruistic purpose of it is if someone is working locally (maybe a nurse at AGH after a twelve hours shift) doesn’t have to battle the icy road going home.  I had a guest that wanted to book today and asked for the Blizzard Special, I told that one that I do not off that special because there’s snow on the ground.

It’s not uncommon to receive a phone call that they want my “cheapest room”.  I have been slow and offered a room for $100 for that night and get “Don’t you have anything cheaper?”  NO!

Well, it’s the end of the holiday season.  If you decorated a live tree, please recycle it.  If you live in the city, you can put it out on the curb and the trash collectors will take it, but it just goes to a dump.  Follow the link to Pittsburgh’s Tree Recycling program to see where you can drop an undecorated tree off through January 29.  Here’s a link to the Allegheny County Tree Recycling program.  There are an estimated 25 to 30 million live Christmas trees sold each year.  Each recycled tree creates 5 pounds of mulch that is used in public parks and other public properties.  Remember, you are not just keeping the tree out of the trash stream, the mulch is returning much needed nutrients into the soil.  There’s no estimate on the number of live trees purchased in Allegheny County that I could find, but we only collected 600 last year.  Some jurisdictions use the discarded trees to improve habitat in waterways for aquatic life and in stabilization projects of different waterways.

Have a great day,