Tomorrow is the anniversary of the ENIAC computer being introduced (1946), James Polk was the first president to have photograph made of him (1849), the League of Woman Voters was formed (1920) and The Maltese Falcon was published (1930). Birth anniversaries include comedian Jack Benny (1894), Pittsburgh native and inventor of the Ferris Wheel George Ferris (1859) and tap dancer Gregory Hines (1946).
The annual National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count is this weekend. It’s one of several bird censuses sponsored by the Audubon Society nationally throughout the year. Over 7,600 people participated last year. It is the most laid back count of all the censuses, just spend 15 minutes in your backyard and count what you see. Many people are intimidated by the bird counts because they don’t know a lot of different species, you don’t need to worry about correctly identifying species, if you know it’s a blue jay, great. All you really need to do is count the birds you see and enter the data at their website.
Getting married or having a special soiree? Want a famous entertainer to headline? John Legend has a contest on Omaze that for a $10 donation, you are entered to win a private performance by this legend (pun intended). All proceeds go to his charity to rebuild his high school’s auditorium in Springfield Ohio.
Since Phipps Conservatory opened the huge enclosed garden in 2006, it’s had several make overs. First they featured Thailand, then Amazon, then India. The new exhibit that just opened is the jungles of Congo. They switched out more than 60% of the plants from the India exhibit. They’ve installed large trees like the sausage trees (with fragrant red flowers), shrubs like the Napoleon hat plant (with blooms that look like passion flowers) and many smaller plants. In addition to all the flora, there’s African tribal masks, residential huts made of thatch, bamboo leaves and other indigenous materials. Staff from the Phipps traveled to Cameroon to ensure the exhibit is a true as possible. A nice break from our winter doldrums, if you want to travel without getting on an airplane.
The movie based on Point Breeze native Jesse Andrews book Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was quite the hit at the Sundance Film Festival. It won the Grand Jury Prize of Dramatic Winner and Audience Award of best US Drama. Its about a high school couple that befriend a classmate dying of cancer. A real tear jerker that has a lot of fun mixed in with the serious theme of the movie. The film was shot around Pittsburgh last summer to include shots in the closed Schenley High School where Andrews went to high school. Fox is already working on releasing the film.
Also shot in Pittsburgh last summer was Southpaw staring Jake Gyllendaal abut a troubled boxer, Bill “the great” Hope whose life was spiraling out of control when a washed up former boxer (Forest Whitaker) takes him under his wing. The movie was directed by Pittsburgh native Antoine Fuqua and is set to be released July 31.
Old style typewriters are making a come back. Royals, Remingtons, IBM Selectrics are all in hot demand these days. A lot of people are just buying them for nostalgia, but many are being used as they were meant to be, writing letters, books, anything of the written word. Some areas, they are really hard to find and bringing premium prices. The problem is finding someone that can repair them (and ribbons).
As you may or may not know, we sit over ocean beds that were here millions of years age (hence The Marcellus Shale oil). Uranium would settle to the bottoms of these oceans and in it’s decay, become the radioactive gas Radon. This gas percolates through the soil upward and can cause serious health issues. Building houses and buildings over this old seabed disturbs the containment that has held it in place for millennia, we act as a chimney. This can be exasperated by adding sump pumps to our basements, building additions, Marcellus drilling and anything that disturbs the natural protection blanket of soil. It is estimated that between 15,000 and 22,000 American deaths are attributed to Radon. Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 53 fall into DEP’s most dangerous categories! Western PA has one of the highest rates of Radon in the country. And it is extremely random, your neighbor can have high levels and you none. Radon is a colorless odorless gas and there’s no way to know you are being affected by it without a test. A Radon test by a professional costs about $140, but you can get a kit from the DEP for a nominal amount, take the test yourself and send it to the DEP for results. If it turns out that you do have Radon, a system to remove it costs around $880 – $1,200. Kits and more info are at the DEP website.
What a great idea, Raymond Ventrone, Business Manager for Boiler Makers Local 154 announced a new gun buy back program. The first Guns for Opportunity will be in Braddock, with the first collection on February 24. Instead of getting a gift card from Giant Eagle or some such, he’s offering job training for a job that the person surrendering a gun can earn a living wage. The course in welding (both classroom and on-hands) takes six month to a year to complete and get certified as a welder. Mr. Ventrone would like to move the program to other violent prone areas in the city. With all the publicity he’s receiving, maybe some other trade unions will step up to the plate.
After collecting $104,383 he with drew from his state pension, disgraced AND convicted ex-Turnpike CEO will be drawing a $43,027 yearly pension. Joe Brimmeier did a plea deal in his accused bid-rigging and influence peddling scheme before it went to trial. Now that we will never find out for sure exactly what went on, he’s claiming he did the plea deal for his wife and family. $2B shortfall in our state budgets and crooks and criminals get to collect pensions we paid for. Totally unacceptable. (As a side note, he’s the guy Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgarld nominated to run PORT Authority. Hmmmm).
I’ve always love the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, such rich history there. I just learned that E Maxine Bruhns has been it’s director for 50 years! She has lived and worked in some many interesting places and jobs in her prior 41 years (yes, you added correctly, this dynamic lady is 91 years old.) She has traveled to at least 83 countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, Austria, Germany, Greece, Iran (while the shah was still there), Lebanon and the Jordanian section of Jerusalem. She has met such notables as the Dalai Lama, Dag Hammarskjold and Albert Schweitzer to name a few. Read the entire article on this amazing woman in Sunday’s Trib.
Well it looks like it’s going to be a bitterly cold Valentine’s Day Weekend. Be smart, take appropriate safety measures for yourself, watch out for your elderly neighbors and report animals that are being left outside for extended periods of time. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day and President’s Day to you,