It’s been a while, business has been unbelievable!  I was sold out for last night and a business traveler contacted me to cancel, his wife had a minor heart attack.  Two hours later I got a call from a gentleman looking for two nights!

Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the strongest earthquake of the 20th century in Chile (9.5 in 1960), Crater Lake was established as a National Park (1902), the Truman Doctrine was adopted by the US Senate (1947), Mr Rogers’ premiered (1967) and President Nixon became the first US President to visit Moscow (1972).  Birth anniversaries include physician and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle  (1859), American artist May Cassatt (1844), Laurence Olivier (1907) and jazz musician Sun Ra (1914).

Have you seen the eagles on the Eagle Cam lately?  Holy Cow, they’re little eagles.  So cute.  Not to take their thunder, but The Parador has a bit of an Eagle Cam:

photo 1

The next is in the Arborvitae outside Allamanda’s living room.  Dee to the picture.  RJ was outside yesterday and I saw several robins buzzing him and realized what had them all in a flutter.  He wasn’t really chasing the chick, he was just following the little guy with curiosity he never got too close, but I guess he was to close for mom.  I called him in the kitchen and everyone was happy.  :)

We are continuing to work on our About Town pages, the next page will be local galleries and it should be live early next week.  My goal is to make the About Town a source not only suggestions for potential guests on things to do, I would love it to be known as “The Source” for things to do in Pittsburgh.  If you have a quirky, lesser known attraction in the area, please send me an e-mail or post a comment so I can include it.  If there’s a particular restaurant that you absolutely love and I don’t have it listed, please let me know about that as well.  I do have a nice selection of restaurants and there’s a lot of excellent ones out there that I don’t have listed.  I can’t include all the good restaurants, but if one really stands out with you, I’m looking for it.  :)  You can see what I have by going to my website www.theparadorinn.com and clicking on the About Town Icon.

The latest in LED display is OLED named for Organic Light Emitting Diodes is being developed by PPG here in Pittsburgh.  OLEDs are said to combine the best attributes of plasma and LCD screens with none of their short comings.  OLED uses phosphorescent organic carbon compounds that are four times more energy efficient the metallic ones commonly used in LED lights.  They are still under development (for one thing, they’re having trouble with blues), but are already showing up in some products like Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

The steel industry is trying to reinvigorate the faltering steel can use in America.  They have hired “nutritionists” to tout the healthiness of canned food.  Canning, in and of itself, is a fine way to preserve food.  But the industry has insisted on over cooking, over salting and over sugaring their products.  Instead of trying to con the consumers into buying “healthy” canned food, why not put a push in for actual healthy options?

Lowe’s is partnering with Porch.com for the do-it-yourselfer.  It’s kind of like a virtual Yellow Book hyperblend LinkedIn, Pinterest and Angie’s List all in one, and it’s free (Look out Angie).  :)  Right now it’s free for businesses (eventually I’m sure you will have to pay to have a prominent listing) and the businesses can list years in service, licenses, insurance even testimonials and pictures of work performed.  Porch.com is live and you can go there yourself for referrals if you are looking to get work done.

The 20th anniversary of The Warhol was this past weekend.  One of the new exhibits at The Warhol will be an exploration called Halston and Warhol Silver and Suede, a look at how they affected each other.  The Warhol intends to keep the festivities going on throughout the rest of the year.  More info at their website or by calling 412-237-8300.

Talk about being the step child of Western Pennsylvania, the land the politicians forgot, the Mon Valley.  The PA politicians are lauding the $788M 19 mile expansion of the Southern Beltway connecting I79 to I 376 out to the airport.  This will give the Marcellus companies at South Pointe easy access to carry suitcases of loot from the Western PA farm fields out of the state.  :)  This WAY under utilized  highway is slated to carry 7,500 vehicles a day (the section of the Findlay corridor was slated to carry 12,000 vehicles and it just carries 3,750).  So I wonder how inflated the 7,500 number is.  To give you a comparison, the Parkway east carries 73,000 daily and the Parkway west carried 85,000 daily.  We have the Parkway west that services the western communities.  We have the Parkway east to cover the eastern communities and the Parkway north to service the northern communities.  We have nothing servicing the southern communities.  Well, I’m not being totally honest here, we do have the Mon Valley Expressway that runs from Morgantown to Jefferson Hills, but it doesn’t enter the city.  If the fathers of Pennsylvania want to do something to spur development in an area generally forgotten, complete the Mon Valley Expressway instead of making Mario Lemieux’s trip to the airport more convenient, why not give access to the Mon Valley?  They have the river for transport, they have the rail systems in place from our turn of the century industries.  There’s vast areas of former steel mill sites just waiting to be developed into new industries.  I70 does go through the Valley, but it doesn’t come up to Pittsburgh.  If I was the decision maker of a large corporation deciding where to invest millions of dollars to create a manufacturing center, I would want access to the major local city.  If it’s going to take over an hour to reach the banking, educational, medical and entertainment centers, I wouldn’t even consider the Valley.  As an added bonus, if they design the Expressway right, it could make a major improvement in traffic flow on what is currently a parking lot during rush hours around the Squirrel Hill Tunnels.  This is a obviously a sore spot with me.  I grew up on the fringes of the Valley, Finleyville.  I remember as a child going down to Monongahela and Charleroi  and their bustling business districts.  When I moved back to Pittsburgh to open The Parador Inn, I went down to Monessen to look at some equipment and was litterally shocked at the conditions of some of the towns down there.  I was speaking with a friend that works down there and he told me I should take a trip down to see what’s going on down in The Valley now days.  He pointed out the Charleroi has quite a bit going on with some recent developments and more on the books with the borough management, code enforcement, business owners and the public all actually getting along and working together to make things happen.  He pointed out the Pyrex is celebrating 100 years in Charleroi and that Charleroi has one of the largest National Historic Districts in Pennsylvania.  He says there’s really a lot of energy and great new dining going on down there.  I’m thinking it may be time for a road trip.  :)  I still think they should finish the Mon Valley Expressway before continuing on with the Southern Beltway.

There’s a couple of cool groups emerging around The City, one is City of Play.  Another is We Are Here.  Both are focused on finding what Norm Peterson referred to as his “third place” in Cheers.  In case you’re not a follower of Cheers, his first place was home, his second place was work and the third place he felt at home was Cheers.  Both groups offer biking and walking tours to introduce residents to places they drive past and would not normally be exposed to.  In addition to the “normal list of suspects” like local coffee houses Coffee Tree, Crazy Mocha and The Bee Hive, they frequent little mom and pop grocery stores with a couple of chairs around a Coke machine.  We have been chosen to host the 2014 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place conference September 8 to 11, the premier gathering of walking and bicycling professionals in North America and We Are Here has been invited to speak at the conference.  They have events scheduled though out the year, particularly in September.  Check out their website or call 412-460-7429 for more info.

For those of you that use the Parkway West from Downtown, be prepared for a major nightmare this fall.  They had to do some emergency repairs in March to support the sagging ceiling and were planning on strengthening it more this fall, but decide since the ceiling is n longer needed mechanically and they were planning on eventually removing it anyway, why not just do it now.  So it looks like the will close all in bound and out bound tunnels for several weekends starting this fall.  Luckily for me, I seldom go out there on the weekends, any errands I do to Robinson is normally weekdays.  But I can only imagine the nightmare traffic this will cause.

There’s Hollywood, Bollywood, what are they going to call Pittsburghwood?  They just finished shooting the Russell Crow movie Farthers and Daughters and next month they’re going to stat filming Southpaw staring Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer that fights his way to the The casting call will be Saturday from 10 am until 3 pm at the Inidana Mall, 2334 Oakland Avenue, Indiana, PA.

Have a great one,



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the Astor Place Riot (1849), the Golden Spike Driving commemorating the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads (1869), Nelson Mandela’s inauguration (1994) and it is Lag B’Omer the Jewish feast of harvest.  Birth anniversaries include dance/entertainer Fred Astaire (1899), Declaration of Independence signer George Ross (1730), entertainer Maybelle Carter (1909) and Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886).

I had a virus in my computer and I couldn’t upload pictures in my last post, I really wanted to post a picture of our new banner.  This is the picture of the banner hung by The Parador to cheer on the Pittsburgh Marathon runners:


Here’s a twist on the recession we’re still in, more and more adults 50 – 64 years old are moving pack in with their parents.  And this is not to help their elderly parents get along, it’s a financial decision based on lack of income to support themselves.  In fact, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, from 2005 through 2012 the number of adults in that age bracket that moved back in with their parents jumped 67.6% in California.  Though there’s more 18 – 29 year olds living with their parents, the older adults are particularly shocking.  That’s the point of life where you should be saving for your retirement and living comfortably.  Job loss, under employment  and sky rocketing rents are the main drivers.

There’s a small, but growing trend with some large businesses, helping out and mentoring small businesses.  Macy’s has The Workshop Macy’s, a training program for women and minority entrepreneurs in how to get their products into major retail stores.  It’s not just altruistic, it exposes Macy’s to some of the newest trends, gives them first dips on their products and is great PR.  Prophet, a brand and marketing company mentors small businesses on creating a presence in the market place and exposes Prophet to the small business’s customer base.  Goldman and Sachs is even getting in on the band wagon with their 10,000 Small Businesses program that hold training classes for new entrepreneurs.  If your thinking of starting a business, or recently did, there’s a ton of mentoring programs out there to help you.  When I opened The Parador of the Palm Beaches, I hooked up with the TED Center in Delray Beach that has retired professionals that donate their time to help fledgling businesses and they were a great help.

I think I talked about Evan Mirapaul up in Troy Hill in the past, but can’t find the post.  Evan is an art adviser that purchased a home on Troy Hill while relocating from Manhattan.  There was a vacant building the city owned that he acquired down the street and he brought German artist Thorsten Brinkmann to create Pittsburgh’s first Art House which he opened last fall.  It’s kind of like the Mattress Factory, where the “room” is the piece of art, or more precisely the “house” is the piece of art.  It is a series of dimly lit rooms, tiny hallways, secret crawlspaces (you can even crawl through a mantel that takes you deeper into the house.  The house at 1812 Rialto Street is called La Hutte Royal and is open by appointment when you e-mail lahutteroyal@gmail.com.  Evan is already creating a second Art House on Rialto Street that he’s commissioned Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski to create.  Evan would like to make a series of these houses all within walking distance.

I love John Conti of the Tribune Review.  He again hits the nail on the head with his latest article on the Terminal Building.  There was so much controversy over the Evil Empire Buncher Group’s plan to demolish 1/3 of the iconic building for easy access to their boring development plans for Riverfront Landing.  When new Mayor Peduto took office, he called for the city to re-look at the proposals.  There’s now three outside proposals for the Terminal Building, all keeping the length intact with one or two pass throughs leaving the roof line in place.  This at least keeps the the presence of the long iconic building.  John takes Buncher to task for their lack of creativity, poor set backs, ill conceived river front access, etc.  It’s worth the minute to hit the link and read his entire article.

Speaking of questionable business companies, Giant Eagle again got caught with their underhanded tricks.  (If you remember a couple of years ago they got caught telling Schweppes to with draw their bid for the closed La Nature Bottling plant or they would stop carrying Schweppes products in their stores.)  The latest is the uproar some Upper Saint Clair residents have caused over the new shopping complex across from South Hill’s Village (with a Market District in an adjacent strip mall).  Resident Margaret Witner has attended township meetings vocally opposing the development and even hired attorney to fight the development.  Witner has never spoken at these meetings or in public about her opposition, she always speaks through her attorneys and guess who’s paying the attorney fees?  Giant Eagle!  When asked about it, Giant Eagle said it offers help to residents who ” exercise their constitutional rights” to oppose such developments”.  I wonder if Giant Eagle will fund my attorney fees to fight the slum load trying to create a 17 unit hostel across the street from me?  To make matters worse, they are recorded as saying it would do “whatever it could to prevent Whole Foods from locating it’s store at the Washington Road property”.  What arrogance!

On a happier note, the Brighton Heights 10th annual Chocolate House Tour will be held Sunday, June 8 from 1 pm until 5 pm.  (No, silly, they don’t have chocolate houses in Brighton Heights, they have local chocolate in the various house for sampling).  :)  Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 the day of the tour.  More info on the tour and online ticket purchases at their website or by calling 412-734-0233.

In a perfect world, we would have unlimited clean energy from fusion power plants and renewable sources, unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world so we need to compromise.  This explosion in various fossil fuel extraction in the United States really needs to be addressed carefully.  (Pun intended). :)  Shipments of oil by rail  car went from 9,500 cars in 2008 to 400,000 last year!  These cars travel anywhere the railroads want to route them, even through densely populated cities.  Not to minimize the catastrophe that leveled the entire town of Lac-Megantic Quebec killing 47 residents, but what would be the consequences of another accident through the Southside?  The rail companies seem to be willing to upgrade the cars carrying the various products of drilling, but want a concrete answer from the Federal government on what the new standards will be.  The Federal government responds that they want to set the standards that are appropriate and safe and this takes time.  They are both valid points, but they should have been addressed several years ago.  Although not as sensational as melting an entire town, these pipelines that are carrying all this dangerous products needs a comprehensive solution.  Exxon’s pipeline leak under Yellowstone River lasted for days before it was noticed.  I’m not an engineer, but we need to develop solutions and add the cost to the energy production.  What good will saving $10 on your heating bill if you can’t drink your water or you happen to get melted standing next to a railroad?

Did you know the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and Power teams all have their uniforms made locally?  Pro Knitwear in Brookline is a little company with 35 employees that hand sew names, logo’s, numbers, etc.  They also customize the fit if needed to the jerseys supplied by the various sports teams.  Like Ben Roethlisberger likes loose sleeves and Casey Hampton liked form fitting jerseys so opponents couldn’t get a hand full.  :)

The trees are turning green, the grass is growing, I’m happy,



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla (Cinco de Mayo) (1862), the Battle of the Wilderness (1864-the first battle between Generals Grant and Lee), the AMA was founded (1847), the liberation of Denmark and Netherlands (1945) and the first solo female flight between England and Australia by Amy Johnson (1930).  Birth anniversaries include actor Tyrone Power (1913), socialist Karl Marx (1818), journalist Nellie Bly (1867) and culinarian James Beard (1903).

There’s a new trail in the planning stages for 41 miles along the Ohio River from the Coraopolis-Neville Island bridge all the way to the Ohio boarder.  This trail, when completed, will join with the Allegheny Passage and the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway.  The first section will be from the Neville Island Bridge to the Sewickley Bridge.  The plan includes turning some “brown fields” into usable spaces with possible boat houses, multifamily housing and other uses.  The proposed trail can be seen on the article in the Trib.

Venture Outdoors is having their Outdoors Fest at Point State Park on May 17 from 11 am until 6 pm.  They plan on boating, fishing, rock wall climbing, a kids zone, dragon boating, River Quest (the educational boat I spoke about last post) will be there, capoeira (a Brazilian martial arts) will be demonstrated and much more.  See their website for more details and links explaining the various events.

Also on May 17 & 18, the Warhol Museum is going to host their 20th anniversary gala and community day.  More info on their website  or by calling 412-237-8300.

On May 22, The Wailers will perform at State AE with Rusted Root, definitely a concert for me.  :)

Pyrofest will be returning to Hartwood Acres on May 24.  It’s billed as America’s largest fireworks festival.  They are planning a US Military Salute & National Anthem Daytime Display,  Daytime & Colored Smoke Fireworks, Pyro UFO Launch, “Fantasy in the Sky” Fireworks Challenge (Choreography designed by an aspiring fireworks choreographer and chosen by PyroFest judges to kick off the night-time displays), Direct from Spain world-renowned award winning Ricardo Caballer Ricasa Fireworks Production and  World Premiere of a Never Before Seen Pyrotecnico Production!  For you fireworks aficionados, this is the event to attend.

And for my “cute” post, here’s Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos.

There’s a new bus tour in Pittsburgh, Lights, Camera, Pittsburgh will start May 31 and run through October.  These bus tours will go to site locations of movies filmed in Pittsburgh.  Movies being featured will be locations for Flashdance, Striking Distance, Inspector Gadget, Wonder Boys, The Bread, My Sweet, She’s Out of My League, The Dark Knight Rises, Jack Reacher, Foxcatcher and of course Night of the  Living Dead.  Tickets are $30 and $40 and can be purchased at ShowClix.  The bus tours do stop at the various locations and you can get off and scout the area out.  The tours are being put together with Yellow Cab’s new Pittsburgh Tours and More in conjunction with Pittsburgh Film Makers.  Snacks will be provided and film clips of the movies will be shown.


Steve Mendelson, name sake of Mendelson Galleries is celebrating 40 years as an artist and gallery owner.  He’s been at the current location for the past 30 years after buying a former brothel at an IRS auction.  After extensive renovations, Steve has hosted numerous known and yet to be known artists in his gallery.  In the course of time, he has become friends with many that went on to become world famous.  His current show will feature many of these artist/friends like Not Vital, Jane Katsales, Emily Lukas and David Lewis.  The gallery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays noon until 5 pm and the show runs through May 31.  More info a the website or by calling 412-361-8664.

Last year, there were 23,000 boat registrations sold in Allegheny County.  That’s a lot of boats!  The local Coast Guard Axillary is offering free boat inspections to be sure you’re operating a safe boat.  Obviously not mandatory, but a good idea to let them check you out to be sure you’re safe.  And you get a sticker for your boat saying that you passed the inspection.  The first one will be May 17 at Cabela’s at One Cabela Drive in Triadelphia, WV, the next will be May 24 at Loyalhanna Lake, then May 31 at the Pittsburgh Aquatic Club 517 Twin Oak Drive, Neville Island, June 22 they will be at Point State Park and finally June 26 back at the Aquatic Club on Neville Island.  All events are from 10 am until 4 pm.   It’s always better to be safe than sorry.  More info by e-mailing normarbels@gmail.com.

Michael Warhold, president of Castle Shannon’s Revitalization Committee saw an idea in Leechburg honoring past and current Vets that caught his attention.  He teamed up with Harry Munson, owner of HTM Designs to develop the program that posts pictures and a very brief bio on local vets that hang on utility poles in the community.  Originally the banners were placed in Castle Shannon’s Memorial Park, but the idea was so popular that they have spread to Library Road (where I first saw them) and the business district.  There are plans in South Park, Whitehall, Carnegie and Scott to copy the plan.

Celebrate Spring next weekend by going to Phipps 78th annual May mart Friday and Saturday.  Besides Phipps, 55 other nurseries, farms and other vendors will be set up on the lawn selling plants, garden accessories, pottery, jewelry and more like free advise.  :)  Friday hours are from 9:30 am until 7 pm and Saturday hours will be 9:30 am until 5 pm.   And Phipps will be offering 1/2 price admission during the Mart.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-6914.  As a side note, their Summer Flower Show starts that Saturday.

This post is for my good friend, Jeff Trebac, the owner of Peppi’s, the best cheese steaks in the city.  The Justice League will be a feature film set to release in 2018.  Warner Brother’s president of production, Greg Silverman wouldn’t disclose many details, but hinted that Henry Cavill may return as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman and Cal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture has been in the news quite a bit since they defaulted on the mortgage and insurance.  Tax payers and foundations have already ponied up $30M for this $40M center that’s $9M in debt.  If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know I am no big fan of banks, basically I think most are evil incarnate.  But a deal is a deal, I pay my mortgage monthly (although I love my bank, Slovak Savings Bank). Dollar Bank, holds the $3M mortgage and there’s other creditors including the Stage Hands Union, contractors, etc.  The best anyone has come up with so far is a $4M offer from a consortium of local foundations.  #1, that leaves a lot of people stuck without getting what they are owed, big and small.  #2, it still has the same problems that put the Center in this position.  A real estate company out of New York has offered $9M to take ownership of the building.  Their stated intent is to let the Center continue on the first floor while they put a hotel above it.  In my opinion, this could be the best of both worlds.   The devil is in the details, but if someone with some brains guides this option through, what a great deal.  The Center can continue, they don’t have to worry about digging themselves out of this massive debt and (again the devil’s in the details), the Center can focus on the arts, which is what they were created for.  As a bonus, the property goes back on the tax roles (probably pro rated for the Center’s space being tax exempt), a new hotel will grace the city that will be paying the county bed tax and other operational taxes.

I am unable to upload a picture of the banner I hung for the runners in the Pittsburgh Marathon that ran past The Parador this morning.  It’s super cool and I saw many of the runners looking at it as they ran past.  I will post it on my next blog.

Enjoy this spring weather,




Tomorrow is the anniversary of the zipper being patented (1913), the liberation of Dachau (1945) {I visited Dachau several times while in the army and will never forget the chilling photographs in particular), the Los Angeles riots (1992) and the Peace Rose was introduced (1945).  Birth anniversaries include jazz great “Duke” Ellington (1899), media magnate William Randolph Hearst (1863), Japanese emperor Hirohito Michi-no-Miya (1901) and race car driver Dale Earnhardt (1952).

My friend Myra from The Stone Manse is familiar with the fold we have done here for a number of years with our toilet paper fold:


in sent me a link to a book on origami toilet paper folds.  I gave the book to Dee, and in case you don’t follow The Parador on Facebook, here’s some of her new folds:

The Sail Boat


The Marquis:


The Montecito:


The Heart:


She even came up with a creation not in the book, I call this one The Dee:  :)




The annual Lawrenceville Historical Society spring walking tour will be next Sunday (May 4) and the following Sunday (May 11) starts at 1 pm on the corner of Butler Street and Stanton Avenue.  This is a free guided tour and reservations are not required.  More info at their website.

The Monongahela River has passed another land mark.  The state Department of Environmental Protection says the sulfate contamination dropped enough to recommend removing it from it’s “impaired” list. The sulfur content (mainly from mine run off) has dropped to 250 mg per liter, a significant improvement.  The sulfur content still needs to come down and there’s other contaminates of concern, but it’s another step in the right direction as noted by our eagles making Hays their home.  The chicks are certainly getting bigger.  I still wouldn’t drink directly from the water though.  :)

The Brownsville Drive-In Theater was named the 10th and last drive-in to receive Honda’s Project Drive-In promotion.  They will be receiving a grant to help up-grade their projection system to the new format.  They are still fund raising to cover the rest of the costs of upgrading the property.  It costs roughly $75,000 just for the projection equipment.  I’m glad to see some of these iconic venues are being saved for the future.

Electrified is a new work at the Wood Street Galleries through June 22.  Taking a page out of Nikola Tesla’s work, Dutch artist Edwin van der Heide has 80 identical spark bridges spanning a grid hanging from the ceiling where sparks arc from one node to another, the display is enhanced by motion detectors that customize the firings by the observer’s movements.  They are meant to mimic our neurons firing in our nervous system. Montreal artist Alexandre Burton has a series of of Tesla coils encased in glass (for safety) that fire based on the observer’s proximity to each coil.  A real “hair raising” experience.  :)  More info on this free exhibit is at their websites or by calling 412-471-5605.

Back in the day, the Missouri River went where it wanted.  Before the Army Corps of Engineers told the river where to be, this shallow waterway moved across the flat landscape of the parts of the country it flowed.  Pittsburgh had a healthy ship building industry up until the late Victorian age.  One of the steamboats built on the banks of the Monongahela River was the Arabia and it sank in the Missouri River in 1856.  There river changed course, changed course and changed course many more times.  Although it was known to have sunk in the area, it was never found until 1988 under a cornfield.  They excavated the boat and it’s a major attraction in Missouri with tons of relics that were preserved because they were encased in water all those years because of the high water table.  The boat was carrying supplies for settlers out west and they found nails, stoves, shoes and even pickles that were still edible.  The Heinz History Center has arranged with their Kansas City, MO counterparts to create on of the largest shows ever at the History Center, the exhibit is 8,000 square feet.  The exhibit is included in the History Center’s normal admission and is available for viewing during their normal hours of operation.  That can all be found at their website or by calling 412-454-6000.

Animal Friends has come up with a new program for cats that are pretty much anti-social and unadoptable. They are called the Working Cats.  They take these cats, treat them however is needed, neuter them and put them up for adoption for vermin control like at farms, etc.  These cats are  actually feral, but not the warm and cuddly cats you’d want to give to a grandparent for comfort.  :)  Left on their own, they can become “friends” with their “owners”, but on more restricted terms, theirs.  More info on the programs can be found at Alley Cat Allies or the ASPCA.

They’re working on making the South Park Fairgrounds viable for it’s new life.  I remember when it was an actual fairgrounds, I got my first Heinz pickle there.  :)  They haven’t had a fair there in years and really just let it sit there with no real maintenance in probably forty years.  Some of the buildings they’ve rented out over the years to some small businesses and the main hall down at the bottom would occasionally host some smaller festivals and things, but basically everything’s been falling apart.  They’re going to raze the old out buildings that are beyond saving and shore up the others.  The main focus the the parade field.  They are going to remove the crumbling paved track and replace it with a hard pack for jogging and walking.  They are removing the old bleachers (leaving the stairs for access) and planting native plants for low maintenance and visual appeal.  They will re-align the ball fields on the parade field itself with more intimate bleachers so you can actually see the people playing baseball, etc.  The sides of the rest of the hollow they plan on planting native plants there as well.  All and all I think it’s a great concept and not some expensive redesign as some where advocating.

I had guests last week that came here to visit Point Park University for possibly enrolling their daughter (showing my roots, I said something about Point Park College and they said “We thought it was a university”. Oops, it’s all grown up now.)  :)  It certainly has “grown up”, just six years into their Urban Village vision, they have really transformed that area of Downtown around the Blvd of the Allies and Wood Street.  I don’t know where they get their money, Downtown properties aren’t cheap, but they have continued to acquire more and more buildings and convert them to their educational mission.  And a nice thing about Point Park is they try and keep their eye on preservation as well as new use.  Aurthur Ziegler of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks has commended them.  They’ve also added some very nice amenities like that park on the corner of the Blvd and Wood Street.  I was surprised when I heard they were adding student housing, that is such a nice breath of fresh air, seeing students walking around not just during the day, but in the evening as well since they live there.  They went for a resident population of just 350 a decade ago to 958 this past fall.  Add to that all the residential   construction Downtown, it’s no longer the ghost town it’s been for so long.  The next step will be for businesses to start moving in to cater to the needs/wants of close to a 1,000 students.  They also bought those buildings on Fourth Avenue a year ago around (and including) the Honus Wagner sports store to bring their Pittsburgh Playhouse down from Oakland (and the 40,000 non-student patrons) as well as create a student center there.

Enjoy this wonderful spring weather we have been having, it looks like April showers are starting soon, I’m OK with that as long as it’s no longer cold.



Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the inauguration of Brazil’s new capital Brasilia (1960), the traditional celebration of the founding of Rome (753BC) and Red Baron was shot down (1918).  Birth anniversaries include naturalist John Muir (1838), actor Anthony Quinn (1915), German educator Friedrich Froebel (1782) and novelist Charlotte Bronte (1816).

Nick Ambeliots opened Mediterra Bakehouse in 2001 out in Robinson.  He uses very little yeast creating his bread, instead relying on old Greek recipes he’s picked up spending summers in the Greek town Chios.  They crank out 15,000 loaves of bread each day and though they do volume, they keep their operation with a small time mentality.  Some of his loaves take 20 hours to prepare.  They have done well, expanding their employees to 50 in Pittsburgh and even building a sister bakery in Phoenix, AZ which employs 30.  And making bread takes bread, :) their levain sourdough starter cost $50,000.  They are now looking to buy a flash freeze machine at the tune of $250,000.  Many commercial operations like hotels want their bread frozen for storage and freshness and you need to flash freeze bread to keep up it’s quality.

Fifty years ago this month, the 1964 World’s Fair opened in New York City.  Some of the predictions were for picture phones (Skype and Facetime), personal computers (computers in those day filled a whole room), robotics was introduced  as robotic animation by Disney’s It’s a Small World.  Sadly the “jet packs” they predicted for travel never materialized.  Other predictions that haven’t made it yet were colonies on the moon, under the oceans and Antarctica.  The laser machine that they predicted would cut down the Amazon rainforests leaving behind paved roads also never came to fruition (thankfully, we have enough problems with those ecosystems as it is).

Aeronautical engineer, Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock’s first woman to fly solo around the world was completed on April 17, 1964 at Columbus, OH.  It took 29 days to complete the 23,000 mile trip.  She had been a pilot for a number of years and mother of three children when she decided to take on the challenge.  Now keep in mind, this occurred in 1964, she wore a skirt and blouse while flying and would don high heels when she made her stops for re-fueling, etc.  Not surprising, Amelia Earhart was one of her inspirations.  Still alive in Florida, Jerrie now 88, will not be able to attend the unveiling of a statue honoring her at Columbus International Airport due to health concerns.

Speaking of 1964, Arnold Cohen of Brooklyn founded the American Bidet Company.  He had quite the difficulty because no one would carry advertising for his product.  His tag line “American way to bidet” never caught on.  He eventually sold his patents to Toto, a Japanese company that perfected the design and by 1980 they trade marked the Washlet.  Now 74% of Japanese households have bidet style toilets which makes them more common than home computers (not counting hand held devises).  The options are actually mind blowing.  You can get it with front, rear or both washings, temperature controls, pressure controls, retractable spritzing wands, automatic driers, seat warmers, automatic sensors to raise the lid, buttons to raise the seat, nightlights, self-cleaning mechanisms, music and deodorizer spritzes to name a few.  They run from as low as $40 for a very basic model to around $10,000 for the top of the line.  One high tech seat can add $50-$60 dollars to your electric bill, but considering the cost of toilet paper and water savings the bidet wins.  Some of the models use around 1/10 to 2/10 gallons of water per flush (I assume this doesn’t include the water used for cleansing.  :)  They are hitting mainstream America, you can now find versions in Home Depot as well as Lowes.

Hopefully, one day soon this won’t be a news item but common occurrences.  West View is partnering with ALCOSAN to create a rain garden on vacant land in the town to divert around 250,000 gallons of water out of the sewers.  The plan calls for vegetated bioswale, a retention pond, vegetation that absorb a lot of water are also being planned on this 15,000 square foot parcel.  Not only does rain gardens keep the excess water out of the sewer system, they also help leach silt and pollution out of our waterways.  Neither project’s on this years budget, but when I replace the asphalt in my parking lot, I intend to use the porous material that is now available and I’m already planning on how to capture my roof run off into a rain garden in my Courtyard.

Aspinwall may be getting their first bed and breakfast.  Karen Connor is applying to the city to get that use approved the area zoned AR-3.  Bed and breakfast are great for a community (obviously, I’m biased here), my neighborhood restaurants love me.  It also creates a lot of pedestrian traffic.  Visitor love to walk around the neighborhood their staying in and foot traffic really adds vitality to a neighborhood.  The property she’s looking at has a great front porch, even more vitality in the neighborhood with guests relaxing and watching the comings and goings.  Some of the residents have voiced some concerns and these do need to be addressed.  The number one (beside health and safety issues that the city and county should be able to regulate) would be parking.  An Inn needs to have adequate parking, which sometimes is not addressed by some bed and breakfasts.  The other concern the locals expressed was safety, this I don’t understand.  I view an Inn as an enhancement to neighborhood safety as I spoke about above.

The iconic Duke’s Station in Bethel Park on Baptist Road is going through a major change.  Grant Scorsone, who worked on getting the Church Brew Works opened 17 years ago is taking on the project with his wife.  They are creating a brewpub called Spoonwood restaurant that will feature in-house beer and draft wine.   They hope to open by October with 10 in-house draft beers.  The menu is going to be tapas, Italian sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas (sounds a bit like the Brew House, doesn’t it?).  They are planning quite the project, the old train cars that used to house house Duke’s restaurant next to the bar are going to a park in DuBois to make room for construction of the new restaurant.

I love urban art.  I hate gang tags on buildings, but really stop sometimes when I see some artistic graffiti.  Some graffiti is so creative and colorful creating such a contrast to it’s typical surroundings.  (I admit the wrongness of vandalism, but just because it’s wrong doesn’t make it unattractive).  Another urban art I like is old signs painted on buildings.  There’s a great show at Pittsburgh Film Makers Galleries 477 Melwood Avenue through May 16 showcasing Ghost Signs of Pittsburgh.  Back in the early 1900’s, painting advertising on buildings and barns was big business.  There’s about 150 images taken through a collaboration between filmmaker Will Zavala and photographer Kelly Bogel on display.  It’s great they did this project because we are constantly loosing these ads through building demolition and the weather.

On May 25, at Lake Elizabeth in the Commons here on the Northside John Luther Adams and 99 percussionists will be performing.  Pittsburgh New Music is sponsoring it, but I don’t see any coinciding dates on their website or John’s.

RiverQuest is in trouble.  Between state funding cuts to them and schools, their budget’s been slashed and schools can’t afford to send the kids on the field trips.  In 2008-2009, RiverQuest had a budget of $2.1M and this year it’s $1.2M.  If they can’t find new funding sources, they may close down as early as June.  They’re not in desperate shape, if they decide they need to close, they have enough reserves pay all their creditors off and then return any left overs to previous donors.  They are looking to possibly partner with The Carnegie Science Center/USS Requien or Point State Park, both seem compatible partners, if they have the resources to be able to help out.  In you don’t know, RiverQuest is an educational boat that would take kids on  trips up and down the rivers and teach them about our waterways through hands on with environmental experiments.

Pittsburgh has 440 illegal dump sites that are frequently by illegal dumpers.  Not only do they create an eyesore, frequently hazardous materials are dumped as well to run into our water stream.  The city has three cameras on two of these dumping sites and they recently caught some scofflaws dumping sludge in Larimer.  These cameras are fairly high tech in that they aren’t on all the time, they have motion sensors that turn on when there’s activity in the area and the system sends an e-mail or text to authorities and work day as well as night and can even capture a license plate on a vehicle traveling 50 mph.  Though they haven’t yet been sited, the cameras captured pictures of the two perps as well as pictures of the vehicle and it’s license plate.  I’d say BUSTED.  An environmental group is donating six more of these cameras, so hopefully we can make some headway in stopping this.  According to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, there are 6,500 illegal dump sites statewide containing an estimated 18,000 tons of trash, this is significant.

Well happy Easter, Passover or whatever your persuasion is and have a great Earth Day next Tuesday, do something for the environment,



Today is the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.  Also today, the Titanic sank (1912), Botox was approved by the FDA (2002), the first McDonald’s was opened (1955), the first school for the deaf was founded (1817) and Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier in baseball (1947).  Birth anniversaries include artist Thomas Benton (1889), North Korean leader Kim Il Sung (1912), capitalist John Longyear (1850), blues singer Bessie Smith (1894) and artist Charles Peale (1741).

The best year yet for composting, my first year it was a clump of mud, the second year (when I ramped up water and brown-leaves) it was decent.  This year it came out ideal.  Black gold:


It was so well decomposed, I was able to spread it over the grass this year:


The rain will soak it into the soil.  Here’s the old guy watching dad work:


The gardens are all prepped for the season, winter is officially banished.  Mulch is scheduled for delivery this morning.  Hopefully I can get it spread before the rains come this afternoon.  13 cubic yards is a lot of mulch.  :)

Point Park University is hosting an art show celebrating women in art through May 18.  They selected 26 works from 200 submitted in all forms of art, 2D as well as 3D and combinations of both.  The submissions came from the National Association of Women Artists, headquartered out of New York City.  Several artists in the show include Claudia Kleefeld, Michelle Manley, Judith Modrak, Pennie Brantley and my favorite, Pittsburgh native Elizabeth Myers Castonguay.  Elizabeth is contributing part of her current series she is working on highlighting endangered species.  She paints the humans in drab colors showing all people on earth regardless of their heritage all are involved with this tragedy and she paints the endangered animals in bright vivid colors.  The hours are from 9 am until 6 pm (school hours) Mondays through Saturdays, admission is free.  Located in Lawrence Hall at the corner of Wood Street and the Blvd of the Allies.  More info at 412-392-8008 or Point Park‘s website.

Next week is the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, April 17.  When it was rolled out in 1964 (in case you’re mathematically challenged)  :) , the dealerships had drapes over the windows and you had to wait in lines to get in to see the car.  Many dealers were offering hot dogs, donuts and lemonade while you waited.  The base sticker price back then was $2k and the dealers took over 22,000 orders for the car that day.  If you want to see the very first Mustang (Serial Number one #0001), just go the the Ford Museum in Dearborn.  The Mustang Club of America will be hosting simultaneous birthday parties in both the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC and Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada April 16 – 20.  If you are really into it, the American Pony Drive will meet up in Norman, Okla and caravan to either destination.  More info at their sites.

President Wm McKinley’s wife Ida’s tiara is being held hostage at Las Vegas pawn shop.  When Ida passed away, it was inherited by members of her family and it’s location became lost.  It turned up on that TV series Pawn Stars feature and now the private non-profit McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton is trying to acquire it.  The pawn shop paid $43k for it and want $75k for it.  If you’d like to assist, you can call a donation to 330-455-7043 or mail a check to Ida McKinley Tiara Fund, McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive NW, Canton, OH 44708.

Pittsburgh seems to be the darling child of the Huffington Post.  They ran an article singing our praises in December What Pittsburgh Can Teach The Rest Of The Country About Living Well.  The Trib picked up another article from the Huffington Post who picked up an article on us from Air Fare Watch Dog that also was singing our praises.  We have really been getting a ton of super positive press, maybe one day I’ll devote an entire blog to all the wonderful things people are saying about us.  :)

I believe the last time I complained about my neighborhood association was in January.  The local food bank Northside Common Ministries made a plea for $1,000, they were visiting all the Northside neighborhood associations asking for help.  Later in the meeting, when it was discussed whether to donate or not, two issues came up.  #1 the association didn’t have a formal budget, so they couldn’t commit.  #2 one of the members questioned “Can we even donate due to out by-laws.”  It made the minutes, so it had to come up in February’s meeting.  “We don’t have an approved budget, the item is tabled.”  In March, two representatives from the food bank made a second plea.  When it was discussed, after they left, “we don’t have an approved budget, the item is tabled”.  After much rancor in the April meeting over hiring attorneys over renovations at two neighborhood buildings, the item came up on the agenda AGAIN.  Because of the length of the meeting to that point and another major issue yet to be discussed, the motion was AGAIN tabled until next month.  At the previous meetings, I pointed out that these were neighbors that were going to bed hungry partially because of these delays.  This meeting, I asked how long it would take to vote, necessitating another month.  My comments again “were noted”.  I won’t go into specifics about how much money the association brought in last year, but I can compare it to my gross revenue.  They paid as much in attorney fees as I paid in heating last year.   They don’t have property taxes, mortgages, etc.  Second harvest notes that they activity increased 26% from 2012 to 2013.   49 million families are at risk of hunger, 16 million of these are children!.  How can they sleep at night?

It’s the 50th anniversaries of many children’s favorites and adult’s bane, It’s a Small World at the Disney attractions.  That is one of the most annoying attractions I have ever been to, and all the kids in our group loved it.

Here’s a controversial post.  I was listening to NPR the other day and the topic was child pedophiles.  They interviewed this 18 year old guy that’s an admitted pedophile.  When he turned 16, he realized he was attracted to very young girls.  He has never acted on his impulses.  He went to his mom who tried to find a psychiatrist to treat him and ran into problems finding one.  Number one, it’s not a recognized medical issue and number two there’s a major liability issue.  If the psychiatrist is treating him and he takes action on this, the psychiatrist would be liable for not alerting authorities of his pre-disposition.  It’s like someone suicidal and the psychiatrist doesn’t alert authorities ahead of time and they take their life, the psychiatrist can face criminal charges.  The kid set up an on-line chat group for other young pedophiles.  The number one requirement to join is you have to adamantly acknowledge that pedophilia is wrong.  I never viewed this in this light.  And please, I am no way justifying or otherwise condoning this.  It’s just I always viewed pedophilia  as some old geezer preying on young children (which I pretty much still feel).     I guess it’s like the rest of life, it’s more complicated than you realize at first.

On that twisted note, I’m signing off.  Breakfast to serve and mulch to spread.  Enjoy this fabulous weather,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of Anne Sullivan finally getting through to Helen Keller the concept of sign by placing her hand under cold water and signing WATER on her palm and the first Chamber of Commerce was founded in New York City in 1768.  Birth anniversaries include educator and leader Booker Washington (1856), astronaut Judith Resnik (1949), physician who first used aseptic surgery Joseph Lister (1827)actors Gregory Peck (1916), Spencer Tracy (1900) and Bette Davis (1908).

American Eagle’s last year’s April Fools prank, Skinny Jeans, was out done by this year’s American Beagle.  The skinny jeans joke was a video where the sales crew was showing real customers in a real American Eagle store the “latest fashion”, in just your underwear, they spray painted your underwear and legs so you have “form fitting” jeans.  Well this year’s American Beagle features AE coming up with a clothing line for dogs.  It’s been such a hit that AE is looking into possibly adding a pet line.

The original La Gourmandine Bakery and Pastry Shop in Larwrenceville, has been so successful the owners are planning their second location in Mt Lebanon on Cochran Road where the Northwest Savings Bank used to be (right below where the high school is).  The French born couple has Pittsburgh roots, Lisanne Moreau’s mom is from Pittsburgh.  Lisanne talked her husband Fabien to follow her to Pittsburgh for job opportunities.  Initially Fabien, who has worked in many great French restaurants thought he’d open a restaurant here.  When he realized there wasn’t an authentic French bakery in the city, he and Lisanne decided to open La Gourmandine in 2010.  They decided on the Mt Lebanon site because of it’s close proximity to their home in Upper St Clair and the school their kids attend.  By the way, Fabian didn’t speak English when he moved here. The land of opportunity.  :)

I think it’s a bit odd that West View’s borough manager and police Chief are the same, Bruce Fromlak.  Not that has anything to do with this post, I just noticed it in the article and found it a bit odd.  Anyway, a group of West View residents, borough officials and the Chamber decided to go a new route and created West View Community Connection and they have already either sponsored, or have scheduled movies in the park, junk in the trunk sales, parades, a community day and a car cruise.  Their next event will be a crafts, baked goods and other items for sale from 9 am until 2 pm next Saturday at the St Athanasius Education and Community Center at 7 Chalfonte Avenue.  They also have tables available for $20 if you want to try you hand at selling.  More info at West View‘s website or by calling the organizer Debbie Andrews at 412-931-2171.

I think Mayor Peduto must read my blogs, or maybe he actually uses his brain, not like a past unnamed Mayor.  Instead of slapping stickers all over the city on our streets declaring this a bicycle lane, that a bicycle lane, Mayor Peduto is having a study done that will identify exactly where to place bicycle only lanes that will be separated from  vehicle traffic by physical barriers.  They are tentatively looking at the Fort Pitt Blvd for the East West bicycle corridor and Smithfield St as the North South corridor Downtown.  This will entail changing some traffic patterns, maybe making some roads one way or moving from four lanes to two.  It is so much safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers to have separate bicycle “highways” and with some thought put into it, it can truly be an asset to the city.

Here’s a twist on energy consumption.  There’s a huge dock facility at Cove Point, MD owned by Dominion Gas Company that sat empty this past winter.  The reason it sat empty is America is not importing much gas these days.  So Dominion is looking into reversing the flow, they have the infrastructure for shipping at the dock and they have the pipe lines that used to bring gas into the  country.  So now they are looking into drawing from Marcellus and other fields and just reversing the process.

While we’re talking Marcellus, I’m not for fracking, but I’m also not against it.  If we can regulate the extraction that it is safe and doesn’t hurt the environment and then if we can then transport it and store it safely, I’m all for it.  Those are two huge ifs.  It’s almost daily anymore that I read about a pipe break, train derailment, oil tank breach. To the extent that one derailment in Canada totally leveled a town and killed most, if not all, the residents.   The worst part of this is generally speaking, train tracks and pipe lines follow along our waterways because that’ s the path with the most gradual grade.  But also along our waterways, generally speaking, are the coal fired power plants.  They’re placement there is so they can receive the coal needed to run the plant on the most cost effective transportation, barges.  The huge downside to this, and I admit I wasn’t aware of this until a few years ago, are the fly ash retention ponds.  HUGE ponds, some would call them lakes, with millions of gallons of toxic slurry next to our waterways.  And it’s increasingly becoming evident like the much publicized Dan River spill in North Carolina.  But include in the slurry mishap list the KIinston spill, the Charleston, WV spill and the Chattanooga, TN spill.  And the rate of pipe failures seems to keep increasing, 42,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in 2011.  In 2012 there were 300 oil spills in North Dakota that went unreported to the public.  Oil is North Dakota’s major source of revenue and this hints at collusion between the oil companies and the state government. The oil spill in Mayflower, AK last year spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in that town.  I grew up in Finleyville, southwest of Pittsburgh and there were many old and abandoned coal mines and I clearly recall the yellow creeks and the smell of them from the abandoned coal mines.  The coal barons made their fortunes back at the turn of the century and we’re paying to clean up their mess.  Again, we need energy.  It would be nice if someone figured out how to build a fusion reactor, but until that time we need compromise.  But that compromise can’t come at the expense of the residents and the environment.  Exxon fought every inch of the way the disaster they caused in Alaska with the Valdez spill.  BP started being upfront over their Gulf spill until their lawyers told them to clam up.  Industry needs to step up to the moral plate and we need to trust our governments to look out for us, not like the implied collusion between North Dakota and their largest employer and source of revenue.

Next Sunday, St Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Carnegie is having their annual Pysanky and Traditional Food Bazaar.  They will be featuring the traditional art of Pysanky, intricately decorated eggs using wax and dyes.  There will be also other crafts and ethnic Ukrainian food available.  They will even offer a beginners pysanky class for $20 and an advanced class for $30.  The event is free and open to the public.  The classes require a reservation, if you are interested in the classes, call412-527-5359 for reservations.  Go to Sts Peter & Paul’s website for more event details.

Braddock Carnegie Library will be celebrating it’s 125 years this year.  The first Carnegie Library was founded March 30, 1889 as a place for learning and community interaction.  In addition to the library, they build the music hall (which is going through extensive renovations for the anniversary), recreational facilities including a bath house. Follow their website for upcoming events.

Enjoy this cool, but bright Saturday,




Tomorrow is the anniversary of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) being used as an anesthetic in America (1842), the assassination attempt on President Reagan (1981), the pencil was patented (1858) and the repeal of the Shouter Prohibition Ordinance in Trinidad and Tobago (1917).  Birth anniversaries include painters Vincent Van Gogh (1853), Francisco Jose de Goya (1746) and Irish Playwright Sean O’Casey (1880).

In the conversion from my old website to my new one, we lost my last post (March 22), I’m going to see if Nick can recover it somehow.  We also lost a draft post I was ready to post Friday.  Oh well.

OK, we’re going to call this the post of pictures.  First of all, Roy perfected the picture of my ghost hummingbird.  Here’s the oil painting when you see it in daylight:

ghostbird 8174

And here’s the image you see at night with my ghost:

ghost bird

Isn’t it amazing?  I love Colleen.

When I bought my Inn, my sister brought over a can of Restor-A-Finish, she said it was amazing.  I tried it on the top of a credenza and wasn’t too impressed.  It ended up in the storage area under the stairs.  Dee pulled everything out of that closet to clean it this week.  I asked her to organize everything when she put the stuff back in.  She asked me what to do with the stuff she doesn’t use and I told her to just put it on the kitchen table and I’ll figure out what do do with it.  One of the items was that Restor and I had been bothered with the condition of the main shelf in the Pantry between the upper and lower cabinets, it was pretty dry and tired looking.  So I thought I’d give it a try there.  Obviously it’s not the solution to everything, but what a fabulous job it did.  I scraped the paint splatters from over the years first and applied this product.  Here’s the Pantry:


I didn’t think (as usual) to take a picture before, but I did today before I applied it to the Pantry door, here’s the before:


And here’s the after:


The Pantry’s such an amazing room, one day I’ll invest the time to properly strip it, but in the mean time, this is a good solution.

I saw the first eaglet hatch yesterday.  I’ve been going to the webcam off and on and on Friday I saw mom move around a bit and you could see one of the eggs cracking.  Then all of a sudden, there was this little furry chick.  Pretty indistinct.  But today it looks like a real baby eagle.  As of this morning the other two eggs haven’t hatched, but that could be any time.  There had been 500 – 800 people watching it in the past, today there’s over 6,000!  Check it out.

Pennsylvania is offering a special driver’s license for military veterans (you can also get this as an official Pennsylvania ID, if you don’t drive). It has a flag and the word “veteran” on it. As of last week, 2,500 people had applied for the licenses. Someone could use the driver’s license or ID card to get discounts, etc, but they won’t be valid for serious veteran’s benefits like claims with the VA or access to military facilities. They are not requiring proof of service, which I find strange. I can pull out my DD214 at any time, it’s with my birth certificate and other important pages.  And it’s not a major process to get a DD214 duplicate. I don’t know why the state just doesn’t do this right the first time and require proof of service and be done with it.

Did you know there are over 700 city owned and maintained sets of stairs covering our hilly terrain? That translates into roughly 44,600 stairs! Retired Pitt professor Bob Regan wrote a great coffee table book, The Steps of Pittsburgh that was published in 2004. A bit pricy on Amazon, $250 for new versions and $150 for used. Amazingly 334 sets of stairs are legal streets, yep. :) Some areas, where the street would descend would be too steep for vehicles, so the city turned them into stairs. When I lived on the Southside Slopes, Sterling, which came down to my street Patterson was so steep the city quit maintaining two blocks past Patterson. You could come down Sterling to Patterson, then wind around and find Sterling about two blocks farther down the hill. Some of these stairs are identified as streets on city maps, which can be confusing for first responders at times. Some residences in the city only have access via city stairs.

There’s a new on-line store that sells customized paraphernalia, in particular Pittsburgh themed items.  They have images of various locations around the city that you can have put on glassware, key chains, etc.  (my favorite is Ed’s Bar :) ).  Nice idea for that hard to buy for person or  for that ex-patriot you know.  It’s called Pittsburgh Artifacts.

There’s a new exhibit opening this weekend at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Race: Are We So Different?  It explores the science behind anthropology and the culture behind race relations.  It’s  a unique introspective created by the American Anthropological Association in Virginia and the Science Museum of Minnesota in 2007.  It has been so popular around the country that they created a second 5,000 square foot exhibit as well as a 1,500 square foot exhibit for smaller spaces.  Joanne Jones-Rizzi of the Minnesota Science Museum says they designed the exhibit to explore the history, biology and social aspects of race.  A pretty thought provoking show.

Well, enjoy this warmth we’re having, I’m OK that it’s raining as long as it’s warm,



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,