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:


And here’s the shot towards the new fireplace:


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:


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


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


And lastly from the sink towards the toilet:


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.




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 :)




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:





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



Tomorrow is National Work Naked day (for people that work from home – if you’re visiting The Parador tomorrow, don’t worry, I don’t participate).  :)  It’s also the anniversary of Black Maria Studio, the first moving picture studio at the Thomas Edison complex (1893), it’s the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln signing the 13th Amendment (1865), the Greensboro Sit-In (1960), GI Joe was introduced (1964) and Robinson Crusoe was rescued (1709).  Birth anniversaries include Boris Yeltsin (1931), film director John Ford (1895), actor Clark Gable (1905) and the first woman that was elected to the Senate Hattie Wyatt Caraway (1878).

What’s up with bitcoins?  Known for non-transparency and lurking in the shadows, this new form of payment doesn’t even admit who actually came up with the concept.  Supposedly some young Chinese guy has been reported to be the “inventor”, but even his identity hasn’t been verified.  It’s being run here by three guys, two of which are under federal indictment for money laundering.  Two Las Vegas casinos, D Casino and Golden Gate have recently started accepting bitcoins.  Of all places, Las Vegas casinos have a sullied history of crime and money laundering.  And it’s expanding into retail.  Overstock.com, TigerDirect.com, US Hobby are currently accepting bitcoins and Amazon is considering accepting them.

Gun control advocates always quote fatalities when discussing the need for gun control, what they don’t talk about and may be an even bigger issue is that it is estimated one child or teen is wounded seriously enough by a firearm that it requires hospital attention PER HOUR.  I was never aware of this before now.  Firearm injuries are the second leading cause of injuries behind auto mishaps.  In addition to the immediate medical attention these injuries cause, there’s frequently extensive follow-up treatment, home healthcare, hospital re-admission as well as mental health and social services needs afterwards.  This was pointed out in a study by Robert Sege of the Division of Family and Child Advocacy of Boston Medical Center.

Ever wonder about the modernistic stainless steel sculpture in West Park right down the street from The Parador Inn?  It was created by Peter Calaboylias in 1977 (the sister sculpture is in Melon Park) is called Five Factors II.  It was created joining two modules, one has three Factors and the other has two, hence it’s name.

In addition to the two adorable baby African penguins at the National Aviar,y there’s another addition to the Aviary.  Well, actually two adult Andean Condors.  They weigh between 20 – 25 pounds and have one of the largest wing spans in the avian world – over ten feet across.  Condors are “bald” because they don’t have feathers on their heads so they can easily clean themselves after eating carrion (kind of gross here).  :)  They were acquired in the hopes of them breeding, only one chick was produced in zoos last year.  They don’t know each other and condors can be pretty aggressive, so they have the 43 year old male Lurch and the 36 year old female Precious in separate cages next to each other so they get a bit acquainted with  each other.  The Aviary staff will bring them together in the next couple of months (under supervision) to introduce them to each other.  Hopefully they will take a “shine” to each other.

There’s nothing wrong with a cheap night out, if you do it smartly.  There’s lots to do without spending a lot of money, like the weekly banjo night at the Allegheny Elks Club over on Cedar Avenue here on the Northside.  The Elks also has jazz nights as well, and very affordable drinks.

Market Square’s getting something new from February 21 through March 16, an interactive light display created by London artists Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler.  It’s going to be a fifty square foot projection of light that displays geometric patterns and shapes into the square that visitors can change by walking through it.  Market Square’s really changed since they did the latest re-do.  Certainly an improvement from it’s shabbier days.

Just as an aside, Jeannette is finally in the process of tearing down the two outer buildings of the Monsour Medical Center and plan on tearing down the vacant hospital this summer.  All at tax payer expense while the elderly multimillionaire doctors that founded the facility get to keep their money.  Somethings just don’t make sense to me.

While I’m complaining, why is the Port Authority ramming a $200M Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) down our throats?  $200M is a lot of money a cash trapped agency could better spend I would think on other projects.  They already have bus designated lanes, I don’t see where prepaying stations and timing traffic lights justify the expense to shave 10 minutes off the trip.  I’m all for mass transit and Oakland is a major employer in the city, but lets do things that make sense.  It’s like the the $250K (I don’t remember exactly, but it was in that neighborhood) the Port Authority paid some consultant to rename the routes.  Instead of the 18D, it became the 18.  I could have done that.  :)

Well, the contractor is finally finishing up Ruellia.  The tile work in the bathroom and where the fireplace is going is finished, they’re reinstalling the fixtures in the bath today and building the mantle for the fireplace.  The plumber will install the Franklin stove tomorrow.  Now it’s my turn to get in there and paint and reorganize the rooms.  The fun part.  :)  I’ll have pictures in my next post next week.  It shouldn’t take me  long to get it put back together.

Talk soon and I’m so glad that bitter cold weather’s over,



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion (1986), the adoption of the Great American Seal (1782) and the end of the Israeli Siege of Suez City (1974).  Birth anniversaries  include Swiss scientist, engineer, explorer Jean Felix Piccard (1884), Cuban author Jose Jullian Marti (1853), Canadian statesman Alexander MacKenzie (1822) and American painter Jackson Pollock (1912).

I was inaccurate in my latest whine about the Terminal Building and my apologies to Council Members Harris and Gilman.  The final vote in favor of historic designation included Council members Harris, Gilman, Kraus, Rudiak and Gross.  Those apposed were Council Members Smith, O’Connor, Lavelle and Burgess.  Unfortunately, we needed 6 positive votes for the historic designation and only received five.  Mayor Peduto is looking into other options and apparently the Evil Empire Buncher Group seems more amicable to compromise now.

Tuesday, my CPA informed me that the PA Department of Revenue is insisting that they have access to my bank account to make direct withdrawals for state sales tax I collect.  Absolutely not!  I forgo the convenience of on-line banking for fear of some hacker attacking my computer or my bank’s system.  My identity was stolen in the past, I was one of the victims of the Target breach and I’m always reading about different financial institutions having breaches.  The federal government can’t get the health care website working right (not passing judgement on health care, just pointing out the difficulties  with the Internet.)  When I shop on -line, I never use my debit card, always a credit card for this reason.  So last Tuesday night I sent an e-mail to my Senator Fontana, and Congressmen Wheatley and Doyle  expressing my concern.  Thursday, Senator Fontana replied to my e-mail and said the new system was designed to stream line the process and save the state money.  He said the system was set up to process through credit cards as well as direct withdrawal.  Yeah!  I don’t like it, but using a credit card is an acceptable option, it does provide better protection.  (I haven’t heard from either congressmen yet, but I think the quick response from Senator Fontana is very commendable.

The contractor finished the Lady Palm bathroom project.  He’s come a long way on Ruellia’s bathroom project, but has a good bit to do and unfortunately I was sold out last weekend and need the room.  The fixtures are in place, the walls are closed up and the drywall is finished, but they were unable to install the floor and wall tile so they made the tub area water proof so the guests could use the tub and shower.  The contractor came back today and and put the floor down and started working on the area the fireplace is going in the living room.  Hopefully will have that project completed this week.

Here’s a picture of the new Lady Palm bath:


I don’t understand why the state is saddled with $1.78M in debt for a failed development project in Mt Lebanon. It’s that property on the corner of Bower Hill Road and Washington Blvd that at one time had a high rise apartment building and some houses.  There’s been several attempts to develop it which all fell through.   Zamagias Properties received the $1.7M in TIF (tax incremental financing), they spent it on purchasing the property and now they are saying Zamaagias owns the property free and clear.  Why isn’t there save guards on our money?  If Zamagias bought the money with $1.78M from us, shouldn’t there be a lean on the property?  Who’s running the prison, the inmates of the warden?

The Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens plan to open several of there gardens this summer to the public.  So far they’ve spent $10M and anticipate it will take $70M over the next ten years to take to finish the project.  The garden’s being planted out the Parkway West across from the Settler’s Ridge development right before Robinson.  This summer they plan on opening 60 of the 460 acres under their control.  One of the completed projects was cleaning up acid mine drainage with a natural filtration system that’s creating a fresh water lake.  The themed gardens that will open this summer are a Japanese Garden, an Eastern European Woodlands, an English Woodlands, a Dogwood Meadow with established dogwoods, Bookworm Glen will have a “story book house” built by the Greater Pittsburgh Regional Council of Carpenters, a refurbished barn from 1784 and a gazebo in a meadow for weddings and other celebrations.  Pretty impressive for the short time they’ve had the property (maybe two years?).

Jeffrey Lawrence of Ohio is the grandson of John and Mary Flinn Lawrence, the folks that built and lived in Hartwood Acres before they passed away and donated it to the county.  There are still people around that worked at Hartwood while the Lawrences owned it and people that visited, etc the property.  So Jeffrey is trying to round up the tales people have on Hartwood while he can get them first hand.  Although he has never written a book, he’s started a writing project to chronicle what Hartwood was in it’s heyday.   He remembers visiting as a child while his grandmother was still alive and has done a lot of research and there’s a lot of records at Hartwood that have been offered to him by Patti Benaglio, the office manager there.  Jeffrey has created a Facebook page and is encouraging anyone with memories of the estate to post them and maybe pictures.  He’s working with the volunteer group Friends of Hartwood and hopes to merge both groups into one.  If you have any memories, feel free to share.  ;)

The Baldwin-Whitehall School Board really opened Pandora’s box.  I don’t know if you heard about the slimy thing they tried, long time School Board member Martin Schmotzer resigned his post and was immediately appointed to a $120K position as an activities director, at the SAME meeting.  Number 1 it was illegal, you can’t go from a board position to a salaried position without a one year interlude by their official policies.  The newly created position had no posting for someone else to apply for it.  The job description was never posted.  The residents were infuriated.  There was so much stink about it, Schmotzer resigned the position and went back to being a board member.  the School Board meeting went from maybe 12 residents attending to around 100.  It’s so well attended that they only let 87 in the boardroom and the rest of the residents have go into the cafeteria with a live video feed (because of fire code).  I love it when citizens stand up for themselves.

The snobbish Westminster Kennel Club has set up an event for non-pedigreed dogs next month at their show in Orlando.  For the first time since the 1800′s the non-papered pets will be able to vie in an agility contest.  The snobs are calling the mixed breeds “all-American dogs”, more commonly referred to as mutts.  :) Over half Americans have “less than pedigreed” dogs.  It’s about time they get recognized for what they are, man’s best friend no matter what their race, creed, religion or politics may be.  :)

The Arizona Republican Committee is in the process of censuring Senator McCain for not being Republican enough.  I don’t agree with everything Senator McCain says, but I have a lot of respect for the man in general and his ability to  work with others.  The Republicans are not going to be happy until they alienate everyone and splinter into dozens of sub-republican parties.

World renowned glass artist Lino Tagliapietra will be at the Pittsburgh Glass Center in Friendship this week. He’s coming as an artist in residence with his Seattle based team for five days starting today.  The son of a fisherman and dress maker, he became interested in glass blowing when his uncle took him to the glass factory he worked in at age of 6.  He quit school and started working glass at age 11 (he’s now 80) on Murano Island.  By age of 25, he achieved the title Maestro (master glassblower) and has worked all facets of glassblowing including teaching at Dale Chihuly’s glass school.  Lino is not giving classes or anything, but you can just walk in and observe him and his crew working all week from 10 am until 4 pm, and admission’s free to watch them work.  More info by calling 412-365-2145 or by visiting their website.

The Heinz History Center is expanding into the 97 year old Marietta Chair Company at 1221 Penn Avenue.  They’ve owned it for a couple of years now and have been remodeling the nine story building for around $6M.  They plan on using it to store their artifact collection, consolidating storage they use around the city saving around $70K a year in storage fees.  Also they plan on having exhibit space that you can access from the fourth floor of the History Center through a sky walk that will show case items not normally shown at the Center like antique cars, Civil War artifacts and early 19th century police and fire equipment.  They plan on opening this area in the fall.  The renovations included making the facility Smithsonian compliant heating, air conditioning and humidity.  Initially they also plan on leasing several floors to other local museums as well.

That’s it for now, keep warm,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Elizabeth Blackwell being the first American woman physician (1849), the USS Pueblo was seized by North Korea (1968), the 24th Amendment was passed eliminating any taxes being able to be levied to vote in Federal Elections (1964) and the 20th Amendment was pasted changing the presidential inauguration from March 4 to January 20.  Birth anniversaries include French painter Edouard Monet (1832), comedian Ernie Kovacs (1919) and the first signer of the Declaration of Independence and patriot John Hancock (1737).

Pittsburgh City Council voted on whether to designate The Terminal Building as historic. (Not all of these images are of The Terminal Building).   The vote was four against, three four and two abstaining.  As I told you (and them), when they voted, I would publish their votes so you can remember them when you vote next.  Bruce Kraus, Natalia Rudiak and Deb Gross (whose district includes The Terminal Building) voted in favor of historic status.  Ricky Burgess, Theresa Kail-Smith, Daniel Lavell and Corey O’Connor voted against historic status.  And Dan Gilman and the ex-president of City Council Darlene Harris abstained.  In case you missed my last post on this, Darlene Harris represents my district and didn’t have the courtesy of even acknowledging my e-mail requesting support of this measure.  I will remember.  The second vote was the same, so the Terminal Building officially lost it’s bid for historic designation.

Gregory Hazuza owns a greenhouse in Sewickley Township that has been in his family for generations.  He started brewing wine awhile back as a hobby and sparked the interest of Cynthia Helinsla who convinced him to take his hobby into a business.  Greenhouse Winery LLC was born.  They’ve been so successful that they are looking into creating a $1M new facility, they have totally outgrown the garages where they’ve been operating for the last few years.  In addition to the wine making facility, they are planning on adding a retail outlet and banquet hall.

Interested in getting your beer from a local brewery in a growler?  Here’s succinct list:

East End Brewery in East Liberty 412-537-2337

All Saints Brewing in Hempfield 724-289-1202

Red Star Kombucha in Point Breeze 412-897-6943

Hough’s Taproom and Brewpub in Greenfield 412-586-5944

Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville 412-688-8200

Penn Brewery in the Northside 412-237-9400

Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville 412-260-6968

21st Street Coffee and Tea in the Strip District 412-

Packs and Dogs on Mt Washington 412-431-1855

I hate flying, so the US Air American merger really has no effect on me.  Parking, tickets, TSA, getting there two hours early and you walk right through or getting there one hour early and there’s lines around the corner, it’s all such a hassle.  The merger was supposed to save the general public money, well the new airline has already started turning the screws.  The DAY AFTER the merger, the new airline announced that American Express Platinum and Centurion card holders will no longer have free admission to the their VIP lounges.  Particularly, if your a business traveler, those lounges gave you a comfortable place to do work while waiting on your flight (did I mention another thing I hate about flying is those seats in the waiting areas are very uncomfortable).  American has had a working relationship with Citibank for years and Citibank has elbowed AMEX out.  :)

The king of mining our data and figuring out how to sell it to marketers, Google, is stepping out of the Internet for a new venture to mine data in our homes.  They just purchased Nets, the premier makers of a programable thermostat that you can access via your smart phone.  Obviously they will have access to the temperature you prefer (how much energy you consume for one item out of that face), when you are home (are you at work, on vacation, etc), when you sleep and for how long.  But this is just the beginning of what they can learn about you.  They are one of the developers of that software that can track your movements in a store I’ve recently talked about.  The software can tell where you are in a store, how long you are in particular areas through your smart phone, even if it’s turned off.  From this data, they can sell the info to marketers that could send a coupon to your smart phone while you are standing at a counter.   I can see a time where late at night your smart phone buzzes with a coupon for Trojan.  :)

For those of you that miss the Igloo, David Aschkenas has a photo exhibit at the 707 Penn Gallery of 36 images (out of the 10,000 he took).  He took pictures of the building intact and during it’s destruction, mundane pictures like trays of hockey skate laces, some pictures are as big as eight feet.  You can see many more of his images at his website or purchase his book Arena: Remembering the Igloo with 100 images that he did in collaboration with Abby Mendelson.  Besides the images, the book interview 50 people about their memories of the Igloo (they didn’t interview me, but I remember seeing an Earth, Wind and Fire concert when the roof still retracted.  It was awesome).  David admits never attending a hockey game, concert or other even in the Igloo, but has quite a bit of experience chronicling historic buildings like HH Richardson’s Allegheny Courthouse and Jail.  His pictures are both warming and disturbing.

They are looking for tour guides at Old Economy Village in Ambridge.  I’ve talked about them several times in the past, it’s an old German religious settlement that was trying to find utopia around 1824.  It disbanded in the early 20th century, if I recall correctly and has been a museum since.  It used to get a good bit of government funding that dried up with the recession and was facing closing down.  The new guy in charge has re-arranged things and though they’re not making money, at least they are surviving.    If you would like to volunteer, they are giving tour guide training Saturday, January 25 from 9:30 until noon.  There’s more information on their website or you can call Carol at 724-266-4500.

The contractors are going gang busters.  They will have Lady Palm finished today and since there’s a bit of a mess from the construction (they’re doing a nice job and clean up after themselves-I’m just a bit persnickety as Kerry Kennedy of KS Kennedy Floral likes to call me),  :) I went into Lady Palm’s living room to repair roof leakage damage.  It seems Welte Roofing finally got that leak (I hope).  The contractors are closing up Ruellia’s bathroom today and may even get to starting the tile work.  It’s going to be a bit of a push, I’m sold out Friday and Saturday and need that bathroom serviceable and time to clean it.  I’ll have some pictures on my next post.

And speaking of activities at The Parador, the paranormal event February 21 and 22 has been official for a couple of weeks now.   I have a notice on the top of my website, posted it in my blog, Facebook, sent notices to a dozen paranormal groups around Pittsburgh and did a press release.  Haven’t received on booking yet.  Come on you paranormal fans, it should be fun.

I have been working on a new page on my website, The Parador Inn, Restaurants.  There’s literally thousands of restaurants in Pittsburgh, many excellent.  The purpose is not to list all restaurants worth dining in, that list would be too extensive.  I think my next post I will just copy and paste that for your review.  If I missed a restaurant you frequent and think I should include, please let me know so I can add it.  I sent the list to a good friend Ann that lives in Chatham Village.  Anne likes to find great and new restaurants and gave me some great suggestions that either I missed, mean on trying but haven’t yet or wasn’t aware of.  Her home in Chatham Village is so cute, I love Chatham Village.  Chatham is a “planned” community built in 1932 at the advent of popular use of the automobile.  They designed this English village looking community with a discrete handling of the automobiles.  Garages are from the rear and somewhat camouflaged and they have small parking lots spread around that are frequently screened.  The community was designed for fairly dense occupancy, but with a good bit of open spaces because of proper planning.  If you’ve never been there, you really should take a drive up and explore this Mt Washington gem.

Well, that’s it for today, keep warm, limit your outside exposure, pay attention to your pets and elderly neighbors,







Tomorrow is the anniversary of Prohibition being enacted (1919), the Gulf War began (1991), Civil Service was started (1883) and the British Air Raid on Berlin (1943).  Birth anniversaries include anthropologist Dian Fossey (1932), baseballer Dizzy Dean (1911), musical comedy star Ethel Merman (1909)  and industrialist Andre Michelin (1853).

After retiring from from a career in advertising at Ogilvy in Manattan, 80 year old Neal Martineau moved to Shepherdstown, WV with his wife of fifty years Patty.  Although he drew all his life, painting always seemed to allude him.  Since moving to WV, he seems to have jumped over that limitation.  His paintings are just flying off the easel these days.  So much so that he is currently having his first showing ever at Exhibitions Art Gallery, 209 N Queen Street, Martinsburg through February 2.  I really like Neal’s work, it’s like primitive native art, but with a whole lot more color.

At the young age of 37, Pittsburgh native Stephen Foster died in New York on January 13, 1864.  (That’s 150 years, for those of you challenged in arithmetic).  :)  Who many call “the father of American music” died a pauper after suffering with a fever for days and collapsed into a chamber pot gashing his head while trying to get aid in the Bowery.  He was brought home and buried over here at the Allegheny Cemetery on the Northside.  Allegheny Cemetery was founded in 1845 and has some amazing art made for remembering the deceased.  It can easily be a day’s adventure in nicer weather for visiting the cemetery’s 200+ acres.  There’s a Stephen Foster Memorial  on Pitt’s campus right by the Cathedral of Learning that has performing arts spaces and artifacts from his life.

I think Edward Snowden is a criminal and should be prosecuted.  But the dialog he has created is a vital one we need to have.  US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose is hearing a case against Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo about our privacy.  Like Facebook, the giants of the Internet mine our personal information, without our consent, to sell to the highest bidder in the $42.6B on-line advertising industry.  They follow you when you shop on line, know what sites you’ve been to, how long you’ve been there and what if anything you purchased.  They are accused of reading your private e-mails and hacking into you mailing lists.  Google (whom otherwise I actually like) has the biggest interest in an estimated 40% of that pie.  I try to keep my tracks as covered as I can by making purchases as a “guest” instead of creating accounts where I shop.  I also don’t have any of those “frequent flyer” perks cards just about all large businesses try and make you sign up for.  And now in one of the latest trends to get more info on us, I love the “be greener, give us your e-mail address so we can e-mail the receipt to you”.  If K-mart wants to save paper, stop printing 30 inches of coupons attached to the receipt for my purchase.  There’s also programs out there under development that even if you do not have your iPhone turned on, they can follow you through particular stores, know where in the store you stop to look at something and even send you coupons while you are in the store (without turning your iPhone on!).  And I haven’t even gotten to the scary part yet.  With Google Plus’ Find My Face and Facebook’s facial recognition software, they can figure out who you are just by scanning a photograph posted on line.  Once they have your name from an innocent picture of you at a party on Facebook, they can get your name, address, age, employment, taxes paid (indication of your income), political affiliation, campaign contributions just to name a few.  From a picture!  Depending on the software behind the picture, they can also tell exactly (by GPS coordinates) where you where and when!  I know I’m sounding a bit crazed, but this is something we really need to have a serious dialog on.  One of the articles I read in the Trib on this had several people that they did searches based on facial recognition on for the article.  One of the people they researched, Alexandria’s ex-boyfriend posted a topless picture of her with her name, hometown and age on a porn website out of Netherlands two years after they broke up.  He has since married and has a child and she’s engaged.  When she contacted the website, they wanted $500 to remove it!

Speaking of dangers on the Internet, here’s on I wasn’t aware of until Eric Thompson, the IT guy at Raff Printing, my printer, put this e-mail out.  CryptoLocker is a version of malware commonly called Ransom-ware that infects your computer and demands payment to uninstall it.  It has just been around since this past September, but is making major inroads.  This malware usually comes as an attachment to an e-mail saying you have FedEx or UPS tracking info you need to open.  It also comes as credit card notification that you need to open to verify your account.  Once you open it, it burrows into your hard drive looking for any documents it can encrypt.  These include images, videos, documents, presentations, spreadsheets AND including any backup files that may also be maintained on the target system.  Once it is established in your computer, it demands $300 for the key to un-encrypt your information and you have just 72 hours to pay up.  If you don’t pay up in the 72 hours, it destroys the key and your information is permanently locked and there’s no known way to un-encrypt it.  It uses a RSA encryption method of a public/private key pair to encrypt your data.  The key is not part of the malware sitting in your computer, they will only send it to you once you pay up.  (My question Eric didn’t address is if you pay up, how are your sure it’s not lingering around and in a month or a year demand another $300?).  Hackers behind this malware are able to avoid the trace back by using digital cash systems like Bitcoins, UKash and MoneyPack, where the payments can be anonymous. Here are two very simple steps you can take to minimize your risk:

  • Never entertain unknown or unwanted emails with attachments, especially those that come from FedEx, banking, credit card, or UPS tracking notifications. Use strong anti-phishing, anti-spam and content filtering to filter out the fraudulent emails and no-go web sites.
  • Ensure that your systems are backed on a regular basis. Preferably daily, with multiple versions and maintained at an off-site location.

 Well the demolition’s finished, here’s a picture of where the toilet was and the shower was on the wall on your left of the toilet.  The tub/shower are going on that far right wall and the toilet is scooting to the right:


Here’s a picture of the gutted bath  It’s a shame you can’t see the detail, some of the walls/floors/ceiling have a two inch drop.  Believe it or not, Mike has everything square/plumb/level.  Andy’s coming by this evening to rough in the plumbing and Mike will start closing it up tomorrow.


And here’s a picture of the original Ruellia’s sink from the toilet:


And here’s the same space, but shot from coming in the door from the bedroom, you can see the sink pipes along the bottom of the wall:


Last picture is Lady Palm’s bathroom.  Up in the corner where the wall’s been torn out was where the toilet was.  We’re scooting the tub/shower up there and at the foot of the tub, we’re building a wall to enclose the tub and the toilet will be just past that.


I feel so bad taking that pedestal tub out, but I won’t have to worry about floods from the third floor to the basement anymore.  :)

That’s it for today, have fun and keep warm,



Tomorrow the Designated Hitter rule was adopted by the American League (1973), The Surgeon General declared cigarettes are hazardous (1964) and it is Morocco’s Independence Day (1956).  Birth anniversaries include American statesman Alexander Hamilton (1755), Roman emperor Theodosius I (347) and the man many consider the father of wildlife ecology Aldo Leopold (1887).

The 23rd annual Ligonier Ice Fest is coming up in a couple of weeks (January 25 & 26).  Watch the ice carving artists create more than 50 ice sculptures spread around their downtown shopping and dining district.  Saturday the carving starts at 10 am and Sunday at Noon.  At 2 pm on Sunday, they have the speed carving contest.

The joint venture between Braddock’s mayor John Fetterman and celebrated chef Kevin Sousa crossed it’s first and most significant hurdle.  Money.  Unable to find a bank willing to lend$250,000 to turn the vacant Superior Motors car dealership building into Superior Motors restaurant in the poverty racked city, John and Kevin went to Kickstarter.  It was looking pretty grim Saturday with only $150,000 raised and a Monday deadline looming.  (With Kickstarter, you have to raise the entire amount by the imposed deadline, 0r you don’t get anything.)  They ended up raising just over $300,000 and then became eligible  $40,000 grant from the Heinz Foundation for job training in this city desperate for new job opportunities.  Kevin who created the wildly popular Salt of Earth in East Liberty as well as Union Pig & Chicken as well as Station Street Food is taking his culinary skills to a new level.  He intends to offer culinary training to locals at no cost and they can stay with him, or move on and let someone else in to gain culinary skills.  John, who owns the Superior Motors building is letting Kevin use the space with no rent.  Kevin plans to grow most of his food in a 2 acre urban farm one block from Superior Motors and plans on adding a green house on the roof of Superior as well as another open garden.  Superior Motors restaurant plans on giving special pricing to Braddock residents.  John’s been a hero of mine for years, looks like Kevin’s moving in as well.  :)

The May 12, 2008 Nor’ easter that hit the East Coast was the root cause of Jayme Bella to co-found Greener Days with her parents Alan & Sharon Beiburg.  After searching all over for a human safe bug spray and coming up with nothing, she decided to create her own.  They currently just have two products, a surface sanitizer and a bug spray made of just citronella, lemon grass and cedar oils.  In development is what they believe will be the first certified-organic baby wipe.  They already have products on the shelves in Australia, Japan and China.  Pretty impressive for a mom and pop (literally) :) in just a few years.

For 51 years, Old Economy has sponsored shovel riding contests.  Admission is free and children under 13 need a parent.  Events/Categories include boys and girls under 10 years old, 17 and under years old, 18 and older and a seniors contest for those over 55.  Winners get  a trophy and winter gear (scarf, mittens, etc).  It was rescheduled from January 11 because of warm weather and no snow, if that’s the issue again on  January 18, they will again reschedule.  Practice at 9 am, registration at 11 am and races start 12:30 pm.  Free registration, free hot dogs, free bagels, free coffee, free music by a DJ.  You don’t get much freer than that.  :)  More info at the Beaver County Visitors and Convention Center‘s website or by calling 724-770-2060.

Need an old school desk?  How about a maintenance truck?  North Hills School district will have an on line auction to rid excess equipment from storage all over the place.  They’ve closed a number of schools and lots of stuff just started accumulating.  The auction runs from January 23 to January 26 through Hostetter Auctioneers.

It’s that time of year again for Just Harvest to host their annual Empty Bowls Dinner on March 2.  It’s a fund raiser for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.  In conjunction with this event, Sweetwater Center for the Arts at 200 Broad Street, Sewickley will have a “make your own bowl” from 10:30 am till 12:30 pm and then 2 till 4 pm this coming Saturday.  For just $5 ($3 for members), you get three balls of clay and can design the shape and size of the bowl (not the color).  You learn how to “throw” clay on a wheel to make the bowl being guided by pottery artisans, their apprentices and local volunteers.  The bowls are later fired and donated to the cause.  A fun and inexpensive way to help out.  More info at their websites or by calling 412-741-4405.

The latest grass roots park in the area is Aspinwall Riverfront Park is opening an ice skating rink in the next several weeks.  This 108′ x 88′ rink was made possible by a $10,000 donation by Ginny Merchant and a lot of volunteer work spearheaded by Fox Chapel hockey head coach Rick Villani and his young hockey players.  When the rink opens, they plan on having a fire pit and benches to rest and warm up as well as a concession stand.  There already is lighting in the area.  They are looking for volunteers to man (or woman) :) the concession stand and are mainly looking for old ice skates.  You know, those things that have been sitting in your basement or attic for the last few years.  They want to letting people try ice skating for free before taking the plunge of buying their own skates.  When the rink is open, they are planning hours of 9 am until 8 pm and will have a sign indicating that the rink is open right on Freeport road in front of the park.  If you’d like to donate skates, you can drop them off at the rink once it opens or at Aspinwall’s borough building  during normal business hours.

Do they ever let up?  A friend and myself set up an e-mail box for Jeff back in maybe September and didn’t think to password protect it.  I tried to pull my e-mails the other day and couldn’t access my e-mail from my lap top.  Thinking it may be a problem with Comcast that brings my high speed into the Inn, I pulled out my iPhone and tried to get my e-mail, that also failed.  So I tried to access my website, which is where my e-mails come from and couldn’t open my website.  So I called David that hosts my site and he said they had to shut it down.  They already had 50,000 spams pass through my site and it was drowning his equipment.  He said he’d call me back when he had it figured out.  An hour later, and the spam was up to 80,000, he said someone from east Europe had found the unprotected e-mail account and hacked my site from it.  So we password protected it and made the password for my e-mail.  I get over 200 spam, unsolicited solicitations and other nuisance e-mails EACH day.

My contractor’s started the two bathroom projects.  I just cleaned and spruced up the bathroom in Ruellia in the Carriage House when I bought The Parador.  Just a shower, no tub and overall pretty shabby.  Mike totally gutted the room and is now making everything square, level and plumb.  We’re rearranging the fixtures so it’s more functional and freeing up space.  The tub/shower will go on the south wall where the toilet was and the toilet’s going where the shower used to be.  It really saves a lot of space and opens up light from the window.  The new pedestal sink (actually vintage from Construction Junction) goes where the last sink was with a new plate glass mirror over it.  Separating the fan from the other lighting and we’re going to add an open closet at the end wall of the shower/tub enclosure.  Hopefully it will be large enough for rolled bath linen.  White hexagon floor tile and white subway tile will help give the bathroom a more vintage look and make it much brighter.  Instead of using the normal bull nose for the edging, I’m doing the same as in the bathrooms in both the Loft and Bromeliad:


As of this afternoon, the demolition in both rooms is finished and Mike’s leveled Ruellia’s floor.  Mike’s plumber is stopping by tonight to make a list of what he needs and will rough both rooms in over the weekend.  Another thing Mike’s doing is studding the walls out in Ruellia because they are in such bad shape as far as square, plumb and level.  This will give us the opportunity to insulate the walls.  I just got a $1,300 gas bill for last month, anything I can do to save heating and cooling costs makes me smile.

The other project we’re doing is Lady Palm’s bathroom.  As much as I hated to do it, we pulled that courageous pedestal tub out and replacing it with a new tub and shower.  No matter how clear I tried to be explaining the age of the tub and that you can’t fill it to the top for a bath, people still did it.  The gravity stopper was not strong enough for the weight of all that water and when the tub would start to overflow, the guests would panic and for some bizarre reason, turn the handles to full instead of shutting them off.  (I know this for a fact because each time it over flowed, I would run to the bathroom and immediately turn the faucets in the opposite direction and stop the flow of water.)  Lady Palm was the worst room for this, and it’s on the third floor.  I would get water flowing all the way down to the basement.  It’s over flowed so much that one of the times it brought the ceiling down in Bird of Paradise’s bathroom which sits directly under Lady Palm’s bathroom.  So for headroom, we’re swapping the location of the toilet and the tub/shower.  I think it’s going to work pretty well.

The pedestal tub had to weigh 500 pounds.  You should have seen us (I really wasn’t much help) getting it from the third floor to the first.  We immediately loaded it on the back of my truck and the next day I headed off to Construction Junction with it and other building materials I figured they could use.  Dave, the guy out there in charge of donations, was his normal unfriendly self.  He’s not miserable, but just totally unfriendly.  A couple of years ago when I replaced the Veranda composite flooring with exposed aggregate concrete, I tried donating that to them.  I couldn’t transport all of it out to them and they offer free pick up, so I called their main number and they patched me through to Dave’s line.  Of course he didn’t answer the phone and his message actually said basically “Leave a message, I probably won’t return your call, you may want to try again later”.  So I put it on Craig’s List at 5:30 the next morning and had to take the ad down by 8 because I got so many calls.  I accepted the first one and insisted that the composite had to be picked up that day, or I would give it to the next person.  I took three backups, but he did show up later that afternoon and loaded it all up.  Anyway, when I got to Construction Junction, Dave in his normal unfriendly manner instructed me to move my truck to where they could pick the tub up with a fork lift, which I did.  They unloaded it and when they put it on another skid right side up, I saw Dave go out to the main section of the store and by the time I got my dolly and straps together from transporting the tub, there were about five Construction Junction persons that carried the air of being bosses ohhing and awwwing around the tub.  If you want it, you better hurry.  I don’t think it’s going to be out there long.

Well, that’s it for today.  Have a great weekend all,



Tomorrow is Armenian Christmas, also the Epiphany or 12th Day of Christmas when the Magi arrived at the manger, Pan Am first circled the globe (1942) and New Mexico became at state (1912).  Birth anniversaries include oater actor Tom Mix (1880), poet Carl Sandburg (1878), comedian Danny Thomas (1912), actress Loretta Young (1913),  poet & author Kahlil Gibran (1883) and Joan of Arc (412).

Some parents are turning to libraries for unofficial after school daycare.  With stretched budgets and parents working more, a safe place for their kids to go after school are libraries.  It’s an added strain on the libraries, but if they play their cards right, they have the perfect opportunity to develop future readers and patrons from this.  Some libraries are starting after school programs that’s engaging these children.  They have the resources right there with all the books, reference materials and computers to run programs that they can run internally.  And there’s a lot of low cost crafts they can offer like origami.  This comes to mind because I got Dee’s son Taymar an origami kit for Christmas.  Tay’s pretty creative, you should see the cartoons he draws.  When I asked Dee if it was a hit or a bust, she said the two of them compete with each other on projects.  :)

Pittsburgh’s bald eagles in Hays are going to be streamed on line starting in February.  PixController from Murrysville has teamed up with the PA Game Commission and WildEarth.TV and installed possibly the first webcam with remote tilt and zoom lenses.  Last year, the young eagle couple built their first nest and they didn’t do it right.  They picked a weak part of a tree and didn’t follow “eagle building codes” and it fell out of the tree.  Luckily their young offspring was already grown.  :) This was the first successful raising of a bald eagle in Pittsburgh in over 200 years. So they built a new bigger and stronger nest in a bigger tree along the Monongahela River.  In 1989, PA only had three nesting bald eagles in the entire state due to the pesticide DDT.  The commission went up to Saskatchewan to bring some eagles down here.  We now have 266 next pairs of these magnificent creatures.  This project really was a team approach that includes National Geographic and batteries donated by Interstate Batteries from Verona.  The batteries are charged by solar panels donated by PixController.  PixController also supplies webcam equipment for the peregrine falcons on the Cathedral of Learning.

Speaking of local eagles, the pair in Harmar near the Hulton Bridge stole a red tailed hawks nest last year and the battles between the hawks and eagles were much watched up there.

The South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club out by Johnstown has a very storied past.  In the late 1870′s 60 of Pittsburgh’s creme de creme like the Fricks, Carnegies and Knox used this remote resort to recreate in private away from the smoke and congestion of the city.  When they bought the property, they didn’t rebuild the dam creating the lake they enjoyed.  I originally was constructed in the early 1800′s and actually failed twice before.  They didn’t replace the drainage pipes and when the area was hit with some significant above normal rainfall, the dam failed again causing the Johnstown Flood.  Over 2,000 persons perished.  The National Parks of Western PA is restoring the 47 guest room club house and several of the cottages in the hopes to at least partially opening next summer as a 125th anniversary of the flood.

Well, as the holidays are winding down, local governments are setting up locations to drop your live Christmas trees off for recycling.  Allegheny County has set up several of the county parks as drop off locations.  The trees need to be free from lights, ornaments and tinsel before drop off.  The mulch from these trees will be used throughout the park in landscaping and soil retention.  Drop off locations on the link.

Northside has suffered for decades due to policies and initiatives from the city.  Not only did they demolish the old Market House in the center of the Northside for the ill fated Allegheny Center Mall, they disconnected the major north/south and east/west roads joining the communities in the 1960′s.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they then slated the interstates to even more divide the communities.  No where in Pittsburgh is the saying “You can’t get there from here” more relevant than the Northside.  BUT, the Northside has some of the strongest (yet segmented) communities in the city with a core of families that have been here for generations and great housing stock.  If you are looking for inexpensive housing to fix up, there are areas here that you can pick up homes at a steal.  There is no place else in the city that you can own an affordable home and walk Downtown in fifteen minutes.  I was living in Philadelphia when West Philly was in a similiar position of being way under appreciated and those neighborhoods exploded (I mean that in a good way).  :)  So if you are looking for city living at a fraction of the price for the Downtown and Strip condos, look no farther than some of our neighborhoods.  Allegheny West and the War Streets are on the upper end of the prices, but Manchester, Spring Garden, Spring Hill, Troy Hill, Deutschtown and East Allegheny are areas with great potential.

Dormont’s the little city that can’t seem to grow up.  They’ve had bickering between the police chief, mayor, city council and borough manager for several years that have ended in incredibly embarrassing lawsuits, locking each other out of their offices, and other childish antics.  Their little business district has struggled with enough parking as most city business districts do.  I saw last year where the borough was selling their 75 slot lot to Cochran Automotive group and in turn they got a 39 slot lot and another that they leased to Cochran during their new building expansion.  I don’t know how they do their math and they haven’t said how many spaces the lot Cochran is leasing will furnish, but the net LOSS of parking spots is quoted at 39.  I’m sure Cochran is a good corporate citizen and I think helping a business during construction is generally a good thing.  But not at the expense of the little guys struggling to survive.  Dormont’s solution for the problem they helped create is to increase the time meters are enforced and give out more tickets to force people not to park too long.  Doesn’t make sense to me.

The Parador Inn’s first paranormal weekend has been scheduled for Friday and Saturday February 21  and 22.  Friday evening will feature psychic reading by psychic medium Sara Sachs and a welcome wine and cheese reception.  Saturday the Pittsburgh Paranormal Adventures Society will contact a paranormal investigation.  When I first tried to do this last fall, I couldn’t get all the pieces together  to meet everyone’s schedule.  But there was a lot of interest, so get you reservations in quickly.  The weekend prices will be The Parador Inn’s normal rate, no added fees so it’s a bargain.  :)

Watch out for the cold snap coming this week.  Limit the exposure of your pets, watch out for your neighbors (particularly the elderly) any exposed pipes or those close to outside walls should at least monitored, although locally we’re not supposed to get much snow, it’s always a good idea to have a bag of kitty liter and blanket in your car.

Keep warm and safe,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the plane crash that took baseballer/humanitarian Roberto Clemente (1972), the first modern bank opened by Robert Morris in Philadelphia (1781), Japan’s Namahage is tonight where men costumed as devils go door to door growling “Any good-for-nothing fellow hereabout?”  giving sluggards the opportunity to change their ways and Panama assumed control of the Panama Canal.  Birth anniversaries include singer John Denver (1943), Uniontown’s general George Marshall (1880) and French painter Henri Matisse (1869).

If you’ve read my blogs, you know I try and be as “green” as I can in life.  Besides the obvious newspapers, plastic, aluminum and tin; I also keep a box in the basement for thrift store items, one for Construction Junction building materials and one for Spring Board Kitchen’s culinary equipment-I keep a trash bag for Styrofoam “peanuts” that I give to various shipping companies.  Something that’s always stumped me is the Styrofoam packaging that comes with electronics, ceiling fans, etc.  Styrofoam is a man made product that is extremely efficient product that because of it’s light weight and strength makes it ideal for safeguarding these product during shipment.  But because of it’s man made properties, it basically sits in landfills forever.  Did you know 100% of Styrofoam is recyclable?  Only 15% of Styrofoam is currently recycled (that’s only 93.7 million pounds-considering that this represents, Styrofoam is extremely light, so the amount of this product we throw away is HUGE).  NOVA Chemicals recycles all Styrofoam into all kinds of products, 100%.  You can drop off the “peanuts” or hard formed Styrofoam at one of NOVA’s local offices in Moon Township or at Appliance Warehouse in the 500 block of Bingham Street on the Southside (down towards the 10ths Street Bridge).  The Warehouse is open 9 am until 5 pm Mondays through Saturdays.  It’s recommended to call them first, they also accept freon infused products as well like refrigerators.

Is our city council getting as dysfunctional as our federal congress?  For the third time (maybe fourth) they’ve delayed taking action on designating the Terminal Building as historic.  Once again, Buncher’s Thomas Balestrieri showed his colors at the latest council meeting when they didn’t give him what he wanted, he said “Kick it down the road and vote on it whenever you want to.  In the meantime, we’ll keep sending our rain checks to the URA.”  He left with a sarcastic  “Merry Christmas”.  And walked out of the chambers.  What a pompous  ass.  Do exactly what I want, or I’ll be a sarcastic SOB.  I’m surprised the council members don’t take offense at his rudeness.  And, by the way, as I predicted he admitted that they weren’t going to “walk away” from their plans to develop 55 riverfront acres they own.  In another of his child like tirades, he threatened to scuttle the entire development.  As I said awhile back, what developer is going to walk away from 55 riverfront acres they already own.  In the latest Trib article, he’s now claiming that they are going to do this commercial development without government subsidies, I’m sure that will change as well.  If any of you on city council (most of which never gave me the courtesy of even acknowledging my formal presentation to you through the council website) can’t see what a slime Buncher is, this latest tirade should start to click some buttons, I would think.

Big things are afoot in and around Pittsburgh in the next two years.  Already under construction is PNC’s $400M Tower at PNC Plaza between Fifth and Forbes Avenues down at Wood Street with an opening scheduled 2015.  Shovel ready and approved is Piatt’s $104M Gardens at Market Square between Forbes and Third Avenues behind the old Aiken’s Restaurant.  In the planning stages is $500M development the Penguins is planning on the old Igloo site.  Also, in East Liberty, the $100M Bakery Square 2.0 is about ready to get started and ALMONO‘s $1B plan to develop the old J & L Steel location in Hazelwood/South Oakland  has finished up the pollution abatement and site leveling is finishing up and next year they plan on starting to install the basic roads and infrastructure (water, sewers, utilities).  Outside the city, Consol fracking plans at the airport intend to commence $500M infrastructure works so they can start drilling in about a year.  The big daddy of the region is looking more and more as if it may get off the ground, the $3B Shell Cracker may take roots soon.  Coal Valley‘s $1B mixed use development in Cecil is making progress and UPMC’s Mario Lemieux Sports Complex $72M complex in Cranberry has broken ground as has the new Chevron headquarters in Moon (they have already did the ground work and the building is actually under construction at the old K-Mart site past Robinson).

The international Computer Sciences Corporation, based out of Virginia is expanding into the Strip and plan on hiring up to 500 persons.  We won out out of 400 potential sites for their newest site.  CSC specializes in next generation of cyber security, data analytics, cloud computing and system modernization services for businesses.  The Strip is their initial location, they are planning to build a $14M, 120,000 square foot facility somewhere in the city.  They selected Pittsburgh because of the “livability” of the city in addition to the affordable cost of living and largely because of the qualified pool of potential employees our local universities are churning out.   CSC has locations Australia, India, South America and Canada.  Pretty good coup for da ‘burg.

Move over Dia de Muertos, Noche de Rabanas is the Christmas Mexican festival.  It’s officially celebrated on December 23, but does carry over to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It began in 1897 in Oaxaca city by Jesuit priests and the displays are by far carved radishes.  Local radish farmers leave some radishes in the ground long after normal harvesting to generate mega radishes, some reaching over six pounds.  These carvings frequently have a religious theme, but they also represent real buildings and many other themes.  Check out the images on Google.

I enjoy following food trends, that’s one of the few things I miss by being out of the corporate restaurant scene.  And though I’m no where near a vegetarian or vegan, I do limit my red meat consumption and try and watch my diet.  Though I haven’t tried it yet, there’s a start up company just outside San Francisco Just Mayo that’s making a plant based egg substitute that’s getting pretty positive reviews.   With the cholesterol concerns and the way much of the poultry industry treats the egg layers, I think this may be something to watch.

I have concerns about fracking, I’m not against it, but I’m not for the process until I’m sure we aren’t creating a legacy for our children like old style mining is still polluting our streams after the mine operators made their millions and walked away.  Another issue I have with fracking in Pennsylvania is Act 13, the state mandate trying to standardize the laws governing fracking so all the frackers have the same rules to abide by.  I’m not against standardized standards, I’m against the way Harrisburg forced this down our throats, it was a one way street.  I don’t recall a real public comment period, I just remember Governor Corbett battling the legislature to force this through like he’s been trying to do with trying to privatize the state lottery.  With out public comment (citizens as well as local governments), Corbett really alienated a large segment of our state.  Local municipalities have the right and obligation to decide where fracking can occur.  I don’t want one right next to a church, synagogue, mosque, school or library and that’s one of the things he tried to railroad.  If Corbett would have engaged locals before deciding “what we need”, maybe the Pennsylvania Supreme Court may have not struck down Act 13.  Thank you Supreme Court Justices.  Maybe Corbett will learn a lesson that he’s representing his citizens.  :)

To end 2013 on a positive note, as a nation, we have reduced our electric consumption to the lowest level since 2001.  All this while we have added central A/C to more homes, electronics out the kazoo, more and more in-home washers & dryers, upgraded kitchens using much more electrical appliances etc. It’s predicted that we will drop electrical consumption another 1% in 1014.  Could be better, but I love the direction we are going.

I hope you had great holiday and enjoy your New Years Eve safely,