Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Kernstown (1862), the space station Mir was abandoned  (2001), it’s Pakistan’s Republic Day, “OK” first appeared in print (1839), Patrick Henry’s famous Liberty Speech for arming the Virginians (1775) and the Germans initially used the terrifying new gun Big Bertha (1918).  Barney Clark passed away after living 112 days (1983) and it’s near miss day where a mountain sized asteroid came within 500,000 miles of earth (1989).  Birth anniversaries include actress Joan Crawford (1905) and the 17th vice president Schuyler Colfax (1823).

It’s about that time of year, finally, spring cleaning.  The Pennsylvania Resources Council will be hosting four recycling events for those hard to recycle items.  Free drop offs include computers, cell phones, televisions, printer/toner cartridges, microwave ovens, used cooking/vegetable oil, compact florescent light bulbs and polystyrene packaging.  A small fee for alkaline batteries, tires, small appliances that use freon, fluorescent tubes, vacuum cleaners and small kitchen appliances.   On April 5 from 9 am until 1 pm items will be collected at the Galleria in Mount Lebanon, same hours on May 10 at the Consol  Energy Park in Washington, August 16 at a location to be announce in West Mifflin and at the Mall at Robinson on October 4.  More info at the Resources Council website.

I’ve spoken about Toby Fraley in the past.  He’s the artist that set up the Robot Repair Shop across from Heinz Hall on sixth avenue Downtown.  He’s also the guy that built those robots at Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville.  He has a show running through April 27 at Space, 812 Liberty Avenue called Toby Atticus Fraley:  The Secret Life of Robots.  He says “This show was finally my chance to create mundane, flawed, un-heroic robots that I find interesting”.  He makes his robots out of vintage vacuum cleaner parts, gauges, all kinds of flotsam and jetsam from society.  The challenge is not for you to look at a piece he created and first recognize the vacuum cleaner used as a body, he wants you to see a robot and then realize the body is actually part of a vacuum cleaner.  He has a bunch of whimsical dioramas like a robot laying on the floor with it’s hand up to a telephone like the TV ad “I’ve fallen and can’t get up”.  One is a deceased robot with his spirit floating above.  Pretty creative and fun.

Walking with Dinosaurs is coming back to Pittsburgh after seven years, new and improved.  As is the current speculation in scientific circles that many dinos had feathers, some of the puppets are sprouting feathers.  The show features 20 life sized dinos from 10 species, the cutest is a moma T-Rex and baby.  The largest is a Brontosaurus 36 feet tall and 56 feet long.  It’s going to be at the Consol Energy Center from July 30 through August 3.  More information at their website.

Speaking of dinosaurs, The Carnegie Museum Museum of Natural History‘s  chicken from hell is finally official.  Anzu wyliei (Greek for feathered demon because chicken from hell is a lot less sexy in Greek) was finally formally recognized this week.  A recreation of what scientists thought this guy looked like has been on display in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for years.  But it wasn’t until scientist got enough pieces of this 7 foot tall 500 pound to officially categorize him.

As always, The Parador is on the cutting edge.  :)  I’ve talked about planking and tebowing, the new thing is whaling where you leap up and arch your back like a whale coming out of the water.  Check the U-Tube video.

The Spring Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory is taking a new twist this year with a musical theme.  Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” will be playing in one room with ‘trees of green, red tulips, see them bloom for me and for you’.  Other themed songs include Tommy James and the Shondells Crimson and Clover, Led Zeppelin”s Tangerine and from the Wizard of Oz Over the Rainbow will be in one of the rooms.  In addition to the thousands of spring flowers, Phipps will be working musical instruments into the displays including a fountain made from a tuba, French horn and trumpet that visitors can use buttons to control water shooting into a pond.  Lots of fun and color after this brutal winter.  More info at their website.

American Indians watched the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drill holes into maple trees and suck out the sap and came up with the first maple syrup, a skill they passed on to the early settlers.  Today, Pennsylvania is the 5th largest producer of maple syrup in the United States, 60,000 gallons last year.  Although it’s running late this year because of the bitter winter, maple festivals are springing up all over.  Next weekend there are two, Maple Madness is put on by the Audubon Society of Western PA at the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel starting at 10 am.  Festivities include talks on how maple syrup is harvested and processed, walks through the woods and a pancake brunch, reservations recommended.  Admission is $10, more info at their website or by calling 412-963-6100.  Also next two weekends is the 67th Pennsylvania Maple Festival in Meyersdale, Somerset County.  Admission is $5 with more information at their website or by calling 814-634-0213.  Closer to home, Butler’s 37th Annual Maple Syrup Festival runs in two weeks at Brady’s Run Lodge on Route 51 in Fallston.  Free admission and more information at their website.

On Saturday, May 17, The Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture will have their climbing championship in Dormont Park.  Events will include simulating common work tasks graded on technique, timed events for climbing trees and climbing ropes, tossing throw lines and climbing lines accurately into trees as well as a simulated rescue of a stranded coworker.  For the use of the park, the arborists donate free day’s  tree maintenance in the park, estimated about $30,000 for Dormont Park.  Nice trade.  :)  Last year they did this in the Commons right down the street from me also they’ve been in North Park and Allegheny Cemetery.  There isn’t information on the arborists website, they haven’t updated it in months, but I’ve included the link in case you want to learn more about them.

I hope Mayor Peduto finds a qualified and strong person to head our Department of Public Safety soon.  The police are really out of control.  I do not mean to disrespect the many fine officers that are dedicated to serve and protect.  And I really don’t necessarily overly blame them for what’s going on, there has been a lack of over sight and control in that department.  As in a recent post, police officers are often needed to serve in the private sector for special events, establishments serving alcohol and other activities that the citizens of the city shouldn’t have to pay for.  This should be all above the board, with a city employee paid out of the fund companies pay for this added security.  Never should officers pick and choose who gets what.  And NEVER should compensation be paid in cash. One of the issues with the officers is they want to continue this cash basis on plum assignments.   I’m OK that this has taken place in the past, but it’s not right and the police have no business insisting that this process continue this way.  The excessive force some officers use is just not right.  I’m not saying Jordan Miles didn’t deserve to be arrested, I’m not saying he didn’t have cause for concern when three white plain clothes men approached him.  I’m leaving all those details to the courts.  I don’t understand why that teenager got beaten to a pulp by three grown men.  Officers don’t have a Sunday school job and have to get down and dirty at times (I don’t say dirty as in dishonest).  But if the three adult TRAINED officers can’t subdue a teenager without inflicting such damage, they shouldn’t be on the force.  And the latest controversy causing this tirade (tirade in general, I don’t believe I’ve ever ranted about the police).  Officers are assigned duties during their normally work week.  That’s their job.  If a fellow officer is called in on over time because more manpower is needed, that first officer on a regular shift does not deserve overtime pay.  That’s their shift!  I pay enough taxes, the city is in bad enough financial shape to pay these greedy SOBs.  The audacity of even requesting this extra pay astounds me, let alone to take it to court.  This kind of crap is what gives unions, who are representing these officers, such a bad name.

I’m a board member of PABBI, the Bed and Breakfast Association representing all Inns in Pennsylvania and we met this past week for a board meeting.  We discussed general topics and started planning for our conference at Toftrees in State College in November (you don’t have to be a member to attend the conference, if you have interest in doing so.  It’s a very informative conference).  The first meeting was in the morning in Carlisle, PA and instead of getting up at 4 am and driving there, I left Monday afternoon and stayed at my good friends’ Inn in York PA, The Stone Manse Inn  It’s been three years since my last visit, my oh my.  It’s great to see how much they’ve grown since I was last there.  If you’re every in the area, I highly recommend a visit with Myra, Phil and Alex.  The next meeting we had in Lancaster, Lynne that owns The Australian Walk About Bed and Breakfast was an excellent host with a great Inn.  Her Inn was full with other board members and I was lucky enough to “have to stay at another Inn”.  Lynne’s good friends and neighbors own the Walnut Lawn Bed and Breakfast right down the street.  Another great fine.  Tom and Sarah couldn’t have been more gracious and what a well maintained Inn.  You now have several options when visiting the area, be sure to tell them I said hi.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend,



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the end of the over 300 year old war between Netherlands and Scilly Islands (even though hostilities ended 330 years ago, not one signed a peace treaty), Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge (1975), the Bay of Pigs Invasion was launched (1961), the Polish union Solidarity was granted legal status (1989) and it will be Verrazano Day, when New York harbor was discovered by Giovanni Verrazano (1524).    Birth anniversaries include actors Rod Steiger (1925) and William Holden (1925), baseballer Cap Anson (1852), newsman Harry Reasoner (1923), American play wright Thornton Wilder (1897), Chicago’s legendary blues bar owner Theresa Needham of Theresa’s Lounge (1912) and American tycoon John Morgan (1837).

Roy Engelbrecht should finish up re-shooting The Parador for the new website Monday.  Roy does such amazing work, he’s the one that did da boiz picture with the Duck for The Parador’s latest holiday card.  I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but he’s also done a lot of work for Pittsburgh’s convention people Visit Pittsburgh among many other high profile others.  My web guy, Nick has The Parador’s  new website in the Beta version, hopefully with these new images, Nick will be able to finish up and the new site can go live later this week.

When we started the two bathroom projects in January (Ruellia and Lady Palm), Mike the contractor suggested I keep Lady Palm’s pedestal tub because it’s so vintage.  We were going to put it in the basement and decide later what to do with it.  After we got it out of Lady Palm and saw how heavy it was, we barely were able to get it down the main staircase.  I doubted we would be able to get it down the narrow stairs into the basement for storage.  So we just brought it out of the Mansion, loaded it on the truck and I took it out toConstruction Junction.  Dave, the less than friendly guy in charge of accepting donations was his normal morose self.  They used a fork lift to get the tub out of the back of the truck (it was still strapped to the dolly).  They freed my dolly and rolled it over and Dave left the receiving area and immediately returned with several guys in suits and they were ooohing and aaahing over it.  Life goes on.  I got a call from Mike the other day, he has a booth at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show and saw the tub from Lady Palm at Construction Junction’s display there!  I went out to the show to give my “last respects” to the tub and started talking to the staff manning the booth.  They had built a special frame with a wooden floor covering a skid with a hard wood floor under the tub especially for the show so they could transport the tub more easily.  They were going to put a price tag on the tub, but decided to “auction” it off.  They started with a bid of $450 and as of Friday morning it was over $1,200.  They said several of the people bidding on it said they were going to come back on Sunday (the last day of the show) and would decide at that point if they wanted to up their bid to get the tub.  Here it is:


Are you considering taking one of those credit card offers for transferring the balance of a current card to a new one, think about this carefully.  Even if it’s a zero percent offer.  First of all, many introductory offers include (but seldom clearly shown) a transfer fee of between 3 and 5% of the transferred balance.  That’s off the top, before anything.  Also, look at how long the zero percent interest (or steeply discounted rate) lasts (usually 12 – 18 months).  Try and find out a commitment on what the interest rate will be after the introductory offer expires.  Usually the credit card companies are very vague here.  Switching from a 15% rate to a zero percent rate sounds good, at first.  But unless you honestly think you can pay the balance off during the introductory rate, you could be looking at up to a 22% rate.  The easiest way to work with a higher interest rate is just call your current credit card company and ask them to lower the rate.  Explain to the rep that you feel the percentage is higher than you think it should be and are looking into doing a balance transfer to another company.  I have actually done this in the past and it worked.  It wasn’t a massive drop, but noticeable.  California has a great website explaining credit cards and all their implications in very understandable English.

Did you know elephants can distinguish the difference between a man’s voice, a woman’s voice and a boy’s voice?  But that’s just the beginning.  Scientists from the University of Sussex studied elephants at Amboseli National Park in Kenya where hundreds of elephants live among humans.  There are two tribes that live in and around the park, the Maasai and Kamba.  The Maasai hunt elephants, the Kamba do not.  The elephants recognized recorded speech of the Maasai and when they heard the Maasai tongue, took defensive stances.  Not so when they heard recorded Kamba speech or Maasai spoken by women (woman Maasai do not hunt).  Pretty amazing!

Contrary to a rumor I heard that our beloved Duck was on display in Asia and sprang a leak, the Duck had been in storage here ever since it was deflated last year.  The Duck is en route to Norfolk, VA and will be there from May 10 through May 26 outside Chrysler Museum.


The Brew House over in Southside is going through some major changes.  For those of you that may have missed my past posts on it, the old Duquesne Brewery closed in 1972.  The three foot thick walls and ten to sixteen foot ceilings were ideal for artists to work in and so they sort of started squatting there in the 1980′s and by 1991 had organized as a cooperative.  In addition to loft studios where the artists work and live, they also created exhibition space for shows.  Unfortunately, they were never able to afford proper upgrades making the facility compliant with current building codes.  So they are under contract now with an architect and developer that will bring the building up to code by creating 75 loft, one and two bedroom units as well as work and exhibit space as they originally planned.  Over half of the 104,000 square feet of the building was never used, that’s where they are putting in the new apartments that will fund the renovations to the rest of the building bringing it up to code.

73Take a walk just outside the boundaries of historic  Allegheny Commons to the corner of Federal Street and North Commons Drive to view the Man, Beast and Bird Monument, the only monument to a woman found in the park. The fountain was erected as a memorial to Annie Hartzell who lived at the turn of the twentieth century and devoted much of her time and energy to a variety of charities. She was most passionate about animals and birds and became very active in the Humane Society.

84At her death, as a tribute to her love for animals, she set aside $18,000 for the creation of a memorial fountain. The Fountain features a birdbath on top, a basin on one side for horses, and a drinking fountain on the other side for people.  It was originally sited on the curb along Federal Street, near North Avenue. It was moved into storage during construction of Allegheny Center, resurfaced in Market Square for a time, before returning to the North Side and its current location. The Master Plan calls for its restoration and relocation nearer to the original site.

I tried to find another picture of this monument, but couldn’t so I cut and pasted the article from the Allegheny Commons Initiative newsletter.   The ACI is a very grassroots organization trying to re-establish the Commons as the historic first and largest park in the City of Pittsburgh that was established as a common grazing pasture and park for inhabitants of the City of Allegheny (before Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny City).

The Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society has maintained a rock garden in the Commons for years.  Unfortunately, the rock garden had to be destroyed so the space could be used as a staging area for the National Aviary’s expansion.  But not to fret too much over this, though the Commons lost this asset for several years, it’s back and better than ever.  They came up with a new and expanded design at an even larger and better spot.  I couldn’t find a decent picture of the rock garden in the Commons by the National Aviary, so I cut and pasted this pictures from ACI’s Newsletter also.


Photo thanks to Alan Peacock

Welcome back to the Commons!

On that Spring note, I think I’m going to sign off,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the first telephone call, Alexander Graham Bell calling his assistant in the next room “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” (1876), the Salvation Army was established in the United States (1880) and US paper money was introduced (1862).

Technology, Entertainment, Design is what TED stands for, it’s a movement to get ideas moving around on these subjects.  It has a national following and the annual, national TED conference is highly respected and well attended by a lot of innovative people.   Past speakers at the TED conferences include Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck to name a few.  TED has been around for a number of years and TEDx is locally grown TED groups.  The TEDx in Pittsburgh is Tedx Grandview Ave.  They will be having a local conference at the New Hazlett Theater on Saturday, April 26 starting at 11 am.  This year’s conference (Pittsburgh’s second) will last until around 5 pm with around ten speakers.  The theme is Dare to Create.  There’s an after party at the National Aviary.  Tickets are available now and it’s $40 for the TEDx and $55 if you’d like to attend the after party.

Some neighborhood associations are civic minded and care about their overall community.  Like Bellvue’s neighborhood association had a holiday house tour last December and all proceeds went to charity.  The Mexican War Streets Association just had a successful Progressive Dinner and their keynote speaker, David McMunn had a very insightful comment in his speech “We don’t take grant money.  We produce our own money for our own neighborhood.  We’re out to make the best neighborhood that Pittsburgh has”.  Up coming events include a Guided Historical Tour May 18 at 2 pm and a walking tour June 22 about ways to capture the architecture of their neighborhood on film.  It’s been 2 months since the Northside Common Ministries, our local food pantry, made a plea for assistance to my neighborhood association.  Common Ministries sent representatives to all the neighborhood associations asking for a one time $1,000 donation to help them through this very difficult time.  One excuse my neighborhood association made was “We don’t have a budget yet” and another excuse was “We don’t know if our charter will permit this”.    I won’t quote exactly how much money my neighborhood association grossed at their holiday tour or what they sold a house for, but they grossed almost as much as I did last year, without $2,000 monthly gas bills in the winter, $13,000 property taxes, etc etc.  And yet I donate monthly to the the food bank, no one should go to bed hungry in America.  (Or the world for that matter).  I wonder what their next excuse will be to not donate to the food bank.

United States has the largest defense budget in the world, over $580B (yes that’s a B as in billion) this year.  The country with the second largest defense budget is China with $139B followed by Russian with $68B.  I’m just setting the stage here.  The defense department has been pursuing the F35 fighter jet for years now, it’s seven years behind schedule and $163B (yes, that’s another B) over budget.  If Lockheed ever gets it working right, the military plans to purchase these planes at a cost of $400M, which is more than twice what it takes to put a man on the moon.  If you know me or follow my blog, you know I’m very patriotic and believe in a strong defense, but listening to these generals and admirals whining about budget cuts and how it will destroy our defense systems is more than I can bear.  And what is their solution to budget cuts?  Reduce the size of the armed forces (I’m not against this, by the way), reduce pay and retirement benefits (I’m not necessarily against this), reduce housing allowances, health benefits, close and redefine the PX system.  OMG, a budget of $580B and they’re going to balance their budget by closing a PX!  There’s no excuse for the F35 being $163BILLION OVER BUDGET.  (Sorry for shouting, it just makes me incensed that they’re going to cut housing allowances and continue to pay Lockheed more and more covering every expensive mistake they make).  You know, my contractor  measures a window for replacement and his measurements are wrong, I don’t pay for two windows.  I can’t get away with “The stealth coating we applied to the jet worked fine in the lab, we don’t know why it won’t stick on the jet when it actually travels.  Give us more money and we’ll figure it out.”  This is where the defense budget needs looked at.

The Allegheny Observatory, up in River View Park above me has a connection through Samuel Langley I didn’t know.  Langley and John Brashear where the scientists behind the building of the Observatory built in 1912, it is owned by Pitt and besides being a teaching facility, it also does a number of jobs like finding planets in the cosmos by measuring light around a star (or the lack of light) that indicates a celestial body.  But I digress here, Samuel Langley was also very interested in aviation and actually built the two first successful aircrafts (non-manned).  The first one, an Aerodrome is housed in the Smithsonian and the other one is in Pitt’s Posvar Hall.  It reached speeds of almost 30 miles an hour and proved heavier than air flight was possible.

Celebrating his eightieth birthday, Pittsburgh native and artist Robert Qualters has a show of 64 of his pieces at The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts all the way through November 5.  Educated at CMU and the California College of Arts and Crafts he returned to Pittsburgh to teach art for awhile before moving on to teach art in New York and picking up his Masters degree before returning to teach art at Pitt in 1968.  His oils are marvelously complex and colorful and usually represent Pittsburgh’s many famous locations.  Some of his pictures has a central image with “tile work” around the edges with peripheral images superimposed over the tiles.  During the exhibit, a film by Joe & Elizabeth Seamans “Bob Qualters: The Artist in Action” will be shown in the conference room from noon til 3 pm.  The film will have a screening at the Melwood Screening Room in Oakland on March 20 starting at 6:30 with a reception afterwards.  On the night of his birthday, March 13, a book launching party for Vicky Clark‘s book Robert Qualters Autobiographical Mythologies at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts with a tour of the exhibit starting at 6 pm.

Though it’s a bit chilly today, the forecast says it’s going to start going up into the fifties this week.  It’s almost over,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Stalin’s last of three Trial of Twenty-One (1938), it’s Texas independence from Mexico (1836), the movie Sound of Music’s premier (1965), Mt Rainier National Park was established (1899), the Federal highway numbering system was introduced (1925) and the Battle of Bismark (1943).  Birth anniversaries include actor Desi Arnaz (1917), Dr Seuss Theodor Geisel (1904), soldier & politician Sam Houston (1793), baseballer Mel Ott (1909), Soviet politician Mikhail Gorbachev (1931).

Well, Governor Corbett finally made the number one spot in a recent poll.  Of the 15 governors up for reelection, he is the least likely to win his seat back.  Maybe it was him gutting our educational system two years ago to balance the budget.  Maybe it was his back handed way of trying to force a uniform code for his buddies in the fracking industry (I would be in favor of a uniform code, it’s just don’t do it unilaterally without input from the cities and counties effected).  Maybe it was trying underhandedly give the operation of the cash cow lottery over to a third party out of England.  Maybe it was his setting up the Commonwealth Financing Authority to award state contracts that has NO transparency.  When the Trib was researching an article on this, ninety percent of the documents they were supplied were redacted.  I wonder why he’s so unpopular.  :)

Clairton Police Officer James Kuzak is going to be featured with two other officers in a documentary Heroes Behind the Badge series.  If you recall, Officer Kuzak was shot when responding to a home invasion and left paralyzed from the waist down.  The series follows officers that have given so much in the line of duty to keep us safe, others like him that have lost so much and the families of fallen officers that gave the ultimate sacrifice.  The documentary will be aired at 7 pm on April 5 at the Hyundai West Club Lounge at Heinz Field.  Tickets and more info at Ticket Fly or by calling 877-435-9849.  Tickets are $10 and $15 in advance and all proceeds go to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Identity thieves and financial fraudsters are getting cleverer and cleverer.  Users of social media frequently give the high school they attended, their mother’s maiden name, their pet’s name, (a frequent password used), and date of birth (not to be confused with their birthday which is less a security risk).  Thieves with just this information can actually open credit cards and fraudulent bank accounts, shame on the banks for not being more strict on this, but the bottom line you can be saddled with the ramifications.  Smart phone use to access you bank account in the open can be hacked, as well as your passwords if you keep them in the “Notes” section of your phone.  Something you can easily do to help protect your phone is to add a password to use it.  It only takes seconds to enter it and is just another layer of security you can add to your life.

Thinking about getting a new refrigerator, air conditioner or other high energy consuming product, check out Duquesne Light’s rebate program, or the Federal Energy Star for rebates first to see if what you are considering is covered or maybe another product may become more appealing.

The eagles that nested in Hays last year had one chick, this year Mrs Eagle just laid three eggs.  The Trib in conjunction with Wild Earth has a live web cam you can access anytime to observe the nest.  Just now, I’m watching mom keeping her eggs warm.  It is sooo cool.  Not only is it very cool to watch these magnificent creatures, it’s also very cool to realize that with as polluted as our planet is, we are making significant strides to clean up our mess that the eagles are able to eat the fish from our rivers.  The eagles’ nest out in Harmar are in a very inconvenient location to see the nest (they actually stole the nest from some hawks last year) :).  To make matters worse, the parking lot people used last year to view the nest and eagle activities is being used by PennDot as a staging area for the Hulton Bridge replacement project, so there’s no close parking.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is offering free admission to many of their historic sites on March 9 (Charter Day) on March in celebration of their 333rd birthday.  Check out their site to see what peaks your interest.

Girl Scouts of America put a stop to the creativity of some young savvy girl scouts.  The girls camped out outside several medical marijuana shops and was selling bunches of cookies.  Can you say munchies?  :)

It looks like some start ups are taking on the lawyers.  There’s an app that’s been out since September called Shake, once you down load it, it will walk you through the process of creating a contract based on information you fill in.  With a smart phone or tablet, you can create the document and have it signed with just the swipe of a finger.  The best part is this app eliminates most of the legal jargon that so confuses everyone.    What’s next, a divorce app?  :)

Pascale Lemire set up the website Dog Shaming back in 2012 and has over 58 million page visits and 65,000 submissions from pet owners since inception.  It’s pretty cute and changes all the time.  Another cute site is Shame Your Pet.

The Croatian Church in Milvale has 22 murals by famed Maxo VankaSt Nicholas parish was founded in 1894 and built the first church in 1900, but that was destroyed by fire in 1922.  They built a new church and in the 1930’s the pastor got Maxo to create the murals adorning the church, covering 11,000 square feet.  It costs about $17k to restore each mural, so St Nicholas is hosting a fund raiser next Friday, March 7 starting at 6 pm.  General admission is $50 and for donations $100 and above you get the VIP treatment starting at 5:30.  If you just want a tour sometime, there’s docent led tours on Saturdays at 11 am, noon and 1 pm.  More info at their website or by calling 412-407-2570.

Coming to Carnegie in July is Apis Meadery on East Main Street.  In case you don’t know, mead is brewed from fermenting honey and water, fruits, spices and grain.  David Cerminara is a brewer at Penn Brewery and is looking to fill a niche.  There’s a lot of great crafted beer breweries around, but no Meaderies.  It should be a nice addition to the mix of locally crafted beverage choices.

Throughout the month of March, The Carnegie Museums of Art, Architecture and Natural History has free admission from 4 until 8 pm on Thursdays.  A great way to see the 2013 Carnegie International before it closes March 16.

Well, bundle up and keep warm for hopefully out last big storm of the season, tomorrow it’s supposed to hit Pittsburgh starting in the afternoon,



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:


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:


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,



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,