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,



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.