Hi,

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the attack on the US Mainland by Japan (1942-Santa Barbara, CA), the diesel engine was patented (1893), US Flag was raised over Iwo Jima (1945), Dolly the first adult clone was announced in Scotland (1997) and Brunei Darussalam Independence Day is observed.  Birth anniversaries include American education advocate Emma Hart Willard (1787), American journalist William Shirer (1904), German Composer George Frederick Handel (1685) and earlier London blogger (they used to call us Diarists) :) Samuel Pepys (1633).

As you, I’m sure, I enthusiastically embrace this thaw we’re experiencing.  I’m so over this continually frigid temperatures and snow.  Instead of having a snow storm for several hours, we’ve received very light continuous snow over 10 to 14 hours.  I’d go out and shovel the front sidewalk and by the time I finished the 140 feet length, where I started was covered in snow.  It was so frustrating.  It was kind of funny, I had this ice pack along the brick sidewalk in front of the Carriage house.  I kept it open to Ruellia so guests could move safely, but was sort of negligent outside the office.  So I had this solid sheet of ice outside the office that was several inches thick (I’d sprinkle sand so poor Razor could navigate it).  When the thaw started earlier this week, the water didn’t have anywhere to go, so it kept building up outside the office door.  When it started to seep into the office, I finally broke down and chiseled a trough for it to drain into the year.  That worked for awhile, but the ice was even over the grass and I had to extend my canal deeper into the year.  :)

Here’s a picture of the fabulous original oil painting Colleen Black made for the guest room Ruellia:

P1000549

She did this amazing thing with this painting.  You can’t see it, but with a special paint, she put a hummingbird feeding off that first flower that only shows up with a black light or at night when there’s no light.  Also, the sun turns into a moon and there’s rays of moon light dropping down from it.

Here’s a picture of the painting hanging on the wall:

P1000550

I’m very much against the rogue website airb&b, they promote lodging in unlicensed, un-inspected and accommodations in questionable environments.  I have no problem with Bob & Mary renting their spare room as long as it’s inspected to ensure it’s safe and wholesome, I don’t view them as competition.  I also object to them not paying taxes on this income as I do.  On the other hand, this past weekend, guests asked about getting a taxi and I gave them phone numbers and suggested they call right away because they had dinner reservation and it was a Friday night and it might be awhile before a cab arrives.  As I was registering them, one called Yellow Cab who couldn’t commit to an arrival time.  I took them up to show them their room and wanted to change their clothes for dinner .  While showing my guests their room, the cab arrived.  He couldn’t have been a mile away.  I told them I would go down and ask him to wait, they would be down as soon as they could.  They told me to tell the driver to leave the meter on, they had no problem paying for him to sit there.  I went down to speak with the driver who turned out to be extremely rude and surly.  He said he didn’t care about running the meter, he would wait five minutes and then leave.  This attitude is what I continuously see from Yellow Cab and their drivers.  For this reason, I support the two new endeavors for taxi service in Pittsburgh.  Uber is an app you download and it connects you to independent drivers dispatched through Uber.  The other start up is Lyft that operates under similiar guidelines.  They’re the ones with those tacky, but funny, bright pink mustaches on the front of their cars.  I’m all for the PUC setting guidelines so these start ups can give this nasty monopoly  a run for it’s money.

Want a Miller Lite?  Don’t go to the new bar at 1704 Shady Avenue, Squirrel Hill called Independent Brew.  Brothers Matt and Pete Kurzweg just opened the bar and they only carry independently crafted brews from Western Pennsylvania like the now famous East End Brewery and Sprague Farms Brew Works.

The animal that shot his co-worker in cold blood, Ken Konias was sentenced this week   Luckily he was sentenced to life away from civil humans with no chance for parole.  During sentencing he interrupted Judge Cashman with “Your honor, may I?”, the judge said no and he again interrupted the judge with “I was just going to suggest that you wouldn’t lecture me so we can just proceed”.   OMG, what an unrepentant piece of crap!  He took a human life!

Facebook, which I don’t like, is facing their demise.  Although still HUGE and worth billions, the new younger kids are not signing up much anymore, they don’t want to be a part of their parent’s social media and Facebook is loosing ground in foreign countries.  That’s why they just paid $19B (yes, that’s billion) for WhatsApp.  This is an app that acts like the old school chat rooms in previous website.  You sign up for the app and you can chat with friends (multiple if you want at the same time), share pictures, etc.  The way it’s set up, you can avoid pricey long distance charges for far away friends normally charged by traditional phone companies.  Currently, Whatsapp doesn’t do advertising, but I’m sure that’s going to change.

Honest, I’m not obsessed with land/water vehicles, it’s just in like a week I see articles on two different kinds.  Gibbs Sports Amphibians in Michigan is cranking out a quad bike that also travels in water.  These are personal vehicles (1 person) as opposed to the last ones I spoke about that could handle several persons.  They start at around $40k.

Pennsylvania has a history of artist creativity and fame.  Andy Warhol is probably the first to come to mind, being originally from Pittsburgh.  His Factory in New York was the hub of contemporary pop art.  York is the origin of pop artist Jeff Koons who’s Balloon Dog (Orange) recently sold for $58.4M, a record for the sale of a piece of art from a living artist.  Also in the pop art arena, Keith Haring grew up in Kutztown and became famous as a graffiti artist.  He’s known for his bright colors and tribal influence.  Andrew Wyeth, origin Chadds Ford, was one of the most famous realist artists of the mid-20th century.  His most famous piece, Christina’s World hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.  Born in Lawnton, Alexander Calder was the grandson and son of famous sculptures.  He invented the mobile, in fact, arriving at the Pittsburgh International Airport, you are greeted by one of his pieces that premiered at the Carnegie International (which is currently running through March 14, if you haven’t made it you really should).  Philadelphia born Alice Neel is know for her expressionistic portraits that can be actually quite brutal.  :)  1800th century John Peto, also from Philadelphia made a name for himself with tromp l’ oeil (French for “fool the eye”) painted objects that were the size that they were in real life to add to the illusion.  Another 18th century artist born in Philadelphia is Thomas Eakins.  A realist, his most famous painting The Gross Clinic sat relatively unnoticed until a New York Tribune art critic saw it and wrote “one of the most powerful, horrible, yet fascinating pitcures that has been painted anywhere in this century”, it’s home now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Take care and enjoy this improved weather.  It’s going to get cold again, but shouldn’t be as brutal as it has been the last two months,

ed

Hi,

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Parador!  As I’ve said (or threatened) :) Ruellia is finished and cleaned ready for guests.  Here’s the new look:

Entering Ruellia and looking towards the kitchenette and dining table:

P1000540

And here’s the shot towards the new fireplace:

P1000541

Complete with the can of paint I had up there for touch-up and forgot to remove.  Colleen is currently working on the new oil of ruellias that I’ll be hanging over those two chairs.  It was funny yesterday, when my new best friend Colleen arrived, I brought her up to Ruellia so she could see what I was looking for.  Being an artist (and having lived in Pittsburgh for a good while), when we came into the bedroom, I pointed out the metal sculpture over the bed and I said it was the proto-type my friend Rick and she finished Bach before I could say his last name.  She recognized Rick’s distinctive work.  She’s good friends with Rich and used to live in the Brew Haus as well.  Small world we live in.

Next up is the bedroom, other than a few tweaks, the main thing is since the place was such a mess from construction and all torn up, I decided to give both the living and bed rooms a fresh coat of paint (and actually changed the color to a brighter yellow:

P1000542

This next picture of the bathroom entrance came out pretty dark:

P1000544

And here’s a picture from the corner by the window towards the toilet and tub:

P1000545

And lastly from the sink towards the toilet:

P1000546

I’m mildly disappointed in the room in the bathroom, I thought the re-alignment of the fixtures would have made it seem a bit more spacious.  Dummy me, I didn’t add space, just added a big old tub.  :)  But that’s OK, I love the bathroom.  It’s square, plumb and level, the walls are insulated, the tile work Mike did is great and the extra lighting really makes the room so much happier.

 

ed

Hi,

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first magazine published in American, The American Magazine (1741-three days before Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine), Colonel Bernard Irwin was the first to win the new Medal of Honor (1861) and it is the anniversary of the Dresden Fire Bombing (1945).  Birth anniversaries include first lady Bess Truman (1885), Venetian artist Giovanni Piazzetta (1682), American artist Grant Wood (1892) and the winningest college football coach Eddie Robinson (1919).

Ruellia is finished!  I love it.  It’s basically cleaned, there’s some detail work to do and we have to finish putting it together tomorrow.  My next blog, maybe Friday I will dedicate to it with pictures.

Good news, my “competition” The Allegheny Inn is back under construction. They seem to have worked out their dispute with the city over their fire alarm permit.   Great people, great building, I’m sure it’s going to be a great Bed and Breakfast and asset to the Northside.

Reinvention is a good thing, it’s a great business strategy to keep your business fresh and exciting, as I’m redoing the two bathrooms.  Let’s take this to a new level and change those horrid Food Courts that are in all indoor shopping malls (and other places).  Instead of Food Courts, there’s a trend called Food Halls.  I’m not sure of their total structure, but I would assume there’s a central commercial kitchen Food Hall vendors have access to for making stocks, roasting meats, etc and then they have the typical storefronts you find in Food Courts.  These Food Halls are generally being developed by international chefs around the country.  The traditional Food Court has been around since 1974 in the malls.  One of the pioneers of Food Halls was chef Sebastien Bernsidoun when he opened his first one in Chicago 16 years ago, basically a flop, but he tried again with the Chicago French Market in the West Loop in 2009.  What a great concept for malls!  Instead of greasy fast food and hard plastic tables & chairs and plastic plants catering to teenagers (no offense to teenagers, but they don’t spend money in the mall), offer artisan foods  in a more upscale dining area.  It doesn’t have to be white table cloth, nice wooden tables and chairs with real plant segregating the area into groups would work fine.  The two more famous Food Halls include chefs Anthony Bourdain & Todd English join venture in New York’s Plaza Hotel has been around since 2010 and chef Mario Batali’s Eataly now has locations in both New York and Chicago.

Another trend I think is kind of interesting is banks setting up games for customers to increase their credit worthiness, this trend is being called gamification.  It’s a trend more foreign banks are starting, but there is some movement in the US towards this.  It’s an App the bank develops and depending on the bank, some have you go through the App to take classes on money management and financial instructions.  You get points for completing these “courses”.  Also, you may get points for paying your bills in time, not bouncing checks, etc.  The more points you get, the lower your next loan interest rate will be.  Also, you can get a higher interest rate on your savings account the better you do.  I can see this expanding to things like encouraging growing your savings account gets you more $, starting an IRA could be included and many other financial incentives.  What a win/win situation, better educated customers are better for the bank, the better the customer and the more opportunity for the bank to make money and loyalty.

The Natural Bridge in Virginia is entering a new life.  This 215 foot high natural bridge is located in the scenic Shenandoah Valley also has 150 room hotel, cabins and caverns.  It has long been a tourist attraction dating all the way back to when Thomas Jefferson bought the acreage from the King of England for 20 shillings in 1774.  The private owner, real estate developer Angelo Puglisi, sold the bridge (the bridge alone is valued at $21M) AND threw in 1,500 plus acreage to the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund for just $8.6M.  Once the Fund retires that debt (they’re hoping within a year or two), they plan on donating the property over to the Virginia Parks Service.  Maybe the owners of Svonavec Quarry out by Shanksville could take note.  They were in a big fight with the National Parks Service over the value of the property they used to own that was needed for the Flight 93 Memorial.  Initially offered $25K, wanted $750K and said the property was worth $25M.  The Natural Bridge is a very cool thing and deserves to be in the parks system.  Flight 93 is a national treasure.  His $25M figure came from expected tourists and a hot dog stand (vending options) they could rake in through admissions.   Svonavec should be ashamed.

I’ve spoken several time in the past about the importance of managing and safe guarding your financial information.  I’ve spoken about how you should get a copy of your credit card for free by contacting the three reporting agencies yearly (or at least every other year) to see if anything unwarranted shows up.  (Don’t use those sites that advertise free credit reports, they usually demand a credit card number and then they give you a free limited credit report and sign you up for their monitoring, for a monthly fee that is sometimes hard to stop).  I’ve talked about how you can improve your credit report as well.  What I just realized is I never discussed what you should do in the case of a breach in your credit.  Notify your bank.  File a local police report, it just takes a few minutes and now it’s “official”.  Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338.  Contact the fraud department at the credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a SIGNIFICANT increase in the amount of spam I’ve been receiving.  In addition to the 200+ spams my website host pulls and puts in a spam filter for me to review once a day, for the past two months Outlook has been pulling over 100 spams into my Junk Mail folder AND I’m getting close to another 100 in my regular In Box each day.  Much of the spam isn’t nefarious.  Many are legitimate solicitations of things I don’t want and have never inquired about.  Examples like right now I probably get over 25 solicitations for roses with Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching.  I get a lot of dating sites and low cost loan offers (many are legitimate I think), dieting sites and so much more.  What I believe is going on is companies set up data mining on the Net and then these miners sell bulk addresses to on line businesses.  These businesses operate under the assumption that if you throw enough mud on a wall, something will stick.  :)

Well, that’s about it for now.  It’s supposed to go up into the 40′s next week, I for one can’t wait :)

ed

 

Hi,

Tomorrow’s the anniversary of Princess Elizabeth ascending to Queenhood :) (1952), Massachusetts ratified the Constitution (1788) and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the native Maori and European settlers allowing the formation of New Zealand (1840).  Birth anniversaries include Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun (1912), President Aaron Burr (756), Rastafarian and musician Bob Marley (1945), President Ronald Reagan (1911) and baseballer Babe Ruth (1895).

In observance of Black History Month, Citiparks is hosting Beyond the Funny Pages: The Works of Art and Life Captured in the Comics all February long in the City-County Building.  It’s free and open to the public Monday through Friday, from 8 am until 5 pm.

Got a spare $135K or $300K?  Then you can be the first in your neighborhood to own a land and water amphibious vehicle made by Dave March of WaterCar.  Just getting under production, the Panther (top land speeds of 85mph and 45mph in the water) and the more pricey Python (top land speeds of 127mph and 60pm on water) are taking pre-orders.  You have to register the vehicle as both a boat and a car, and it doesn’t come ready to drive.  The cars come as a “kit” with the motor separate from the chassis to by pass some manufacturing regulations.  You then need to get a third party to install the engine, this way the buyer, not WaterCar built the vehicle.   It comes with a engine similiar to a corvette and has pretty good all terrain capabilities like a jeep.  Sounds like fun.

I don’t understand the drama with the Pittsburgh Police working extra details, off the city payroll.  Bars, special events and even me when I was required to have an off duty officer direct traffic when they had to tear the street up to install separate lines for my sprinkler system when I purchased the Inn.  All special detail assignments should come through a central office that is staffed by a civilian hired for that position and paid from the special detail’s account.  All compensation for special duties should come out of this account, as should all expenses of running the system.  NEVER should CASH be exchanged, you’re just inviting trouble. Cash is not a word that should ever be used in a city government.   It should be written in the police contract that accepting cash is a terminal offense.  The special duty scheduling employee should post available work schedules and officers can bid on the assignment  and it should be assigned based on seniority.  This is in line with the current contract and standard union requirements.  Currently different active officers assign special assignments, again, you’re asking for trouble.  Unemployment, taxes, worker’s comp, etc can all be address through this account and it would be incredibly transparent.

I spoke awhile back about a lady in Florida that let her boyfriend take naked pictures of her and when they broke up, he posted them on that extortion website out of the Netherlands (you have to pay them something like $300 -$400 to remove the pictures) and she was whining “Why doesn’t someone help me?”  #1 don’t let someone take compromising pictures of yourself.  #2 you messed up, pay up or shut up.  The site shouldn’t exist, and that’s my topic.  Extortion is illegal on the street, it should be on the Internet as well, just as soliciting someone to kill an enemy on line is illegal.  There are websites out there whose sole existence is extortion, like justmugshots.com.  They pay people to cull the Internet for negative information on you and then post it.  They then charge “a fee” to have it removed.  It’s cost people jobs among other things.

Some Republicans are now saying that for emigration reform to move forward, they want up to $2,000 in fines be added to the $680 application fee that currently is charged.  $2,000 may not be much to our multimillionaire legislators, but it’s an incredible burden for the working poor, who many if not most of our illegal aliens are.  Do those Republicans really want to alienate such a huge number of people that are potential voters?  Cuban Americans in Miami are a very strong voting block.  Every time I turn around, it seems the Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot (or feet may be more appropriate here).  :)  It’s like the government shut down, who’s carrying the majority of blame, the Republicans.  Politically, I could align myself more with Republican views on many issues than Democrats.  But that party seems to be such a bunch of idiots.  Sorry.  ):

I opened my Home Depot bill that came in today and there was a $2 “Fees Charged”.  I called customer service and the rep said it was a late fee, I disagreed and when he looked into it, he couldn’t explain what the fee was and made a big deal about he was going to waive it, like he was doing me a favor.  Watch your bills closely.  There’s a scam going on where somehow they’re placing an $8.84 charge on your bill.  A small amount in your credit card statement that would be easy to overlook.  The best part of this scam is when you contest it, the credit card companies remove it from your account, but rarely actually pursue collecting it because of the size of the charge.  What a great scam, they get their money either way.  :)

No pictures on Ruellia yet.  The contractor still has to install the Franklin stove, build the mantle and some other minor things.  But the big reason for no pictures is I decided to patch and paint the suite.  Since everything’s torn up and pulled apart, I figured I might as well do a good paint job, it’s been awhile since I did it.  Since I have the room closed for the winter, I might as well.  And it will look nice and sharp when photographer  Roy Engelbrecht re-shoots the property for my new website.  Some very exciting news about Ruellia ….. Colleen Black may be making an original oil for the room!  More on that soon.  I’m super excited.

Most of the calls seeking me to advertise on Google are robo-calls.  The ones that an actual person is on the phone, I inform them that I would slit my wrists before I ever advertised on Google (I get at least ten solicitations about Google each day!).  That usually shuts them up.  I do get occasional solicitations from Yahoo, Trip Advisor, Yelp and Facebook either by snail mail or e-mail, none hold a candle to Google.  I have heard some unsettling things about Yelp for the past year or so.  A restauranteur friend of mine approached me about a month ago and asked if I had trouble with Yelp and I said no.  I have received a couple of solicitations from Yelp in the past year by phone.  I always explain to the solicitor that I won’t advertise on any of the major Internet sites, period.  I don’t single one out, it’s just a blanket policy of mine.  They seem to leave me alone after that.  Dave said he was approached by Yelp and when he wouldn’t advertise with them, the rep actually threatened him with messing with the reviews on Yelp’s site (hiding good ones, putting bad ones on top, etc).  Dave still refused to advertise and immediately his reviews on the site changed.  There’s been a lot of talk about this and I just went to the websites for Dave’s restaurants and they seem to be good again.  But I thought I should talk about this for any of my other small business readers  and include the links he shared:

Yelp1

Yelp2

Yelp3

Yelp4

Well, that’s  it for today.  Keep warm, keep your sidewalks shoveled, watch out for your elderly neighbors,

ed