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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s it for now, keep warm,



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

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

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

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

East End Brewery in East Liberty 412-537-2337

All Saints Brewing in Hempfield 724-289-1202

Red Star Kombucha in Point Breeze 412-897-6943

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

Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville 412-688-8200

Penn Brewery in the Northside 412-237-9400

Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville 412-260-6968

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

Packs and Dogs on Mt Washington 412-431-1855

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep warm and safe,



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Tomorrow is It’s a Wonderful Life premier (1946-see below), the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended (1956), the Clinton impeachment by the House (1998), the US invasion of Panama (1989), the Virginia Company departed England and settled Jamestown, VA (1606-the first English settlement in the New World), South Carolina seceded from the US (1860-the first state to do so) and the cathode-ray tube was first patented (1938).  Birth anniversaries include baseballer Branch Rickey (1881) and industrialist Harvey Firestone (1868).

Way to go Pittsburgh!  I take no credit for it, but in my last post (I think) I talked about the Pittsburgh Foundation offering to match donations up to $100,000 to the food bank.  That challenge was met within 24 hours, so they made the same challenge, which was also met.  I guess their running out of money, :)  the latest challenge is they will match up to $50,000 (which is almost maxed out already also).  You see all this negative stuff in the news and then you see this, warms the heart.

Beware!  And you thought the stink bug invasion was bad, wait until we get hit with kudzu bug.  Smaller with a more rounded top, instead of that shield shaped top the stink bugs have.  Of Asian origin, they were first found devouring the Kudzu plant (that could be a good thing) but have branched out to other plants wreaking havoc on soy bean crops.  They made it to Maryland this year and are expected to reach us next fall.  Though smaller than the stink bug, when crushed they have a more intense small and actually can stain objects.

Did you notice Arch disappeared from that little parklet on the corner of  7th Street and Ft Duquesne Blvd a year ago.  Arch is that bright yellow “transformers” looking piece of sculpture that’s been there since 2008.  The twenty foot sculpture of steel and fiberglass that was commissioned for our 250th birthday is moving to the airport to greet arriving travelers.  I don’t know  where in the airport he’s going to be installed, but if you don’t remember him, parts of his body look just like many of our bridges.

The Carnegie Science Center’s Miniature Railroad and Village has 250,000 hand made trees.  They take copper wire and twist it to create the trunks and branches and then glue multicolored pieces of wild dried hydrangea flowers.  Each a unique tree.  That’s a lot of trees.   :)  The display has lots of Pittsburgh themes running through it with steel mills, our rivers and clippers as well as noted buildings like Emanuel Episcopal Church right down the Allegheny Avenue from me designed by HH Richardson (he also did out Courthouse and jail.)

Actor Jimmy Stewart, from Indiana, PA was an amazing person.  A descendant from Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War veterns,  He was both a World War II and Vietnam veteran that rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve.  A very laid back kind of guy initially balked at the idea of creating a museum dedicated to him in his hometown.  He felt it would be self-aggrandizement.  Eventually, family and friends convinced him to give it his stamp of approval.  The Jimmy Steward Museum is housed over the library right across the street from where his father’s hardware store was.  And it’s recently had it’s own “Christmas story” like his movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  It gets very little government funding and has been struggling for years to survive.  Last year, a retired San Diego couple donated $25,000 to keep the museum afloat and they now will match the Stewart family’s yearly donation.  The Schultz’s are from Western PA, but have no link either to Jimmy Stewart or Indiana.  He was just one of their favorite actors and when they heard of the financial difficulties decided it was a good cause.  Admission’s just $6 and Indiana is just over an hour out route 22 if you’re looking for a day trip.

Ouch.  Former chief Penn State Counsel Cynthia Baldwin said “I can’t get inside his mind, but the fact is that there is not doubt the he lied to me” in her recently released secret testimony last year to the grand jury probe of PSU ex-president Graham Spanier.  She added that he is “not a person of integrity” and that he misled school trustees and the public.  Ouch again.  :)

I’m sure you all saw that blind guy in New York that fainted in a subway as a train approached and his 11 year old lab jumped down onto the tracks to protect him.  The train ran over them, luckily the conductor was able to slow the train down due to people shouting at him about the danger.  They were able to back the train up and both human and canine were rescued with minor injuries.  Cecil, the blind man, stated his regrets, but Orlando, the lab, was retiring and he couldn’t afford to keep him since he needs a new guide dog and Guiding Eyes can only support one animal.  Needless to say, there’s been a major outpouring of support.  The people that raised and trained Orlando said they would be elated to take him back for his retirement.  Others are offering adoption and some are looking into setting up a fund so Orlando can live out his retirement with Cecil.  How sweet.  :)  (Orlando really looks like Razor, just not quite as much grey).

The SBA has finally denied Battalion LLC’s attempt to be accredited as a disabled veteran owned small business.  It’s a front for Sota Construction who’s office is in a Sota owned building with one employee, a disabled veteran named Jason Harris.  They beat out a legitimate small business owned by a disabled veteran on a project at the airport.  P Fleming LLC of Connecticut suspected the sham and filed a claim last year with the SBA.  It’s a shame it took a year and there’s no word if the Air Force is going to again put the project out to bid.

The Christmas Day Meal for the City is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary at Beaver Falls High School cafeteria at 1701 Eighth Avenue Christmas Day from 11:30 until 3 pm.  They are expecting 1,500 guests for this event.  They have no requirements who can attend and try to make it as much of a family meal as apposed to a soup kitchen.  Last year, the 260 volunteers from sixty churches pulled this off.  Expenses are covered by donations to the Christian Assembly of Beaver Falls, 814 Lincoln Place, BF, PA 15010.  They also distribute clothing and toys to the kids they collect throughout the year.  Co-founder Rebecca Ficca-Salopek’s employer, Clearview Federal Credit Union, was the largest donor after honoring her with their their Joseph C Cirelli Community Service Award.  They donated $2,500.  This turkey, ham and fixings are all prepared by the volunteers.  Many local elderly attend not so much that they are in need as for the social contact on Christmas Day.

Rick Fosbrink, executive director of the Chicago based Theater Historical Society of America is planning a tour of about 30 neighborhood theaters in Western PA in June (he’s originally from Connellsville) and they expect about 150 to attend.  Some of the theaters have been turned into non-profits, some are in the planning stages and some just sit vacant.  Neighborhood theaters were a backbone of small towns’ social fabric in the past and they are trying to do the same thing now with classic films, themed events, small concerts and other performing arts.  In the past, I’ve talked about the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, the Denis Theater in Mt Lebanon and the Roxian Theater in McKees Rocks.  All three are in various stages of rejuvenation.  These are such beautiful buildings (a bit shabby these days, but so was The Parador Inn when I bought it).  :)  All it takes  is a lot of love and a lot of money, I know.  It’s worth every penny, trust me.

In case I don’t get a chance for another post before, I wish all a very happy holiday and great new years,







Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the discovery of the South Pole by Ronald Amundsen (1911-Robert Scott was there the following year), Alabama was admitted as a state (1819), the national bird count has begun 7 days before the Solstice and 7 days after since 1900 and it is the death anniversary of George Washington (1799).  Birth anniversaries include running back Ernie Davis (1939), aviator James Doolittle (1896) and Nostradamus ( 1503).

In the past, I’ve talked about the food trucks that are cruising our streets.  There’s a newer one, the Lomito Truck, they serve Paraguayan food.  Folks in Paraguay, like their neighbors the Argentinians, are huge carnivores.  (I used to work parties thrown by John Goodman, from the Amana appliance fame, he was huge into polo and his entire staff was Argentinians.  You have never seen parties with so much meat).  One of the co-owner’s wife is originally from Paraguay and traveling there, they decided to start a food truck based on street food down there.  Rocio’s husband, Damon is a graduate of NE Culinary Institute and a recognized chef.  A lomito completo is sirloin steak with ham, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, chimichurri sauce and a runny egg on a roll.  Not surprisingly, one of their regular haunts is late at night outside Harris’ Grill in a Shadyside neighborhood with a number of popular bars.  They also offer a vegetarian Feijoada which is black beans & rice topped with tomato, Chori Panne an Argentinian sausage with tomato and a vinaigrette on an Italian roll and corn served Havana style (cheese, sour cream and chilli pepper).  A better option than going to Denny’s after closing a bar.  :)  More info at their website or by calling 412-555-5555.

The housing market has been showing signs of growth for the past while back.  Did you know a big factor in this is?  Investors, large and small.  Investors make up about 1/3 of pre-owned home sales.  And these investors are very strong here in the Pittsburgh market.  Being priced out of the big markets like San Fransisco, New York and Atlantic, they like our more modest prices.  Some of these investors are local companies buying and flipping houses, some are actual out of state investment companies!

Not surprising, banks are reporting record profits this year of $141.3B and the average chief executive pay is $552M.  My question is why is 1/3 of bank tellers are on some sort of public assistance?  That’s roughly 165,000 bank employees not being paid enough to support their families!  You and I are subsidizing their income so the banks executives can live lavish lives.  Way too out of control.  This was in an article I saw in the Trib quoting a Washington Post article.  At the time of these record bank profits, PNC Bank is working to do away with human bank tellers.  They eliminated 600 teller jobs this year and plan on starting an aggressive program to redesign their branches and replace tellers with branch concierge desks where they can advise you on investment, mortgage or retirement needs; oh and they can direct you how to use their upgraded ATM machines.  I guess this is one way to get out of the hot seat for underpaying their tellers.

The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside is housed in two adjoining mansions, the Charles D Marshall mansion and the A.M. Scaife mansion.  The Center for the Arts is an umbrella organization representing the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh, Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, Group A, Pittsburgh Print Group, Pittsburgh Society of Artist, Society of Sculptors and Women of Vision Inc.  (The Center was founded in 1945)  They have 70 works by members on display through January 19.  Artists on display include sculpture by Cydra Vaux, glass by Jeffrey Moyer, ceramic by Christy Culp, fiber art by Jane Orgren and print artist Sharon Wilcox.  They ask for a $5 donation and are open from 10 am – 5 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays (till 7 Thursdays) and noon – 5 pm Sundays.  More info on their website or by calling 412-361-0873.  Also, their holiday gift shop is open with handmade gifts from 200 local artists.

The Pittsburgh Foundation is offering to match $100,000 or more in donations to the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Banks on donations made through December 31.  You can donate to the main food bank, or if you prefer one of the 15 local neighborhood food pantries by going to Pittsburgh Gives and the foundation will match your donation.  No one should go hungry in this country, particularly this time of year.

Nestle is cutting ties with a local Wisconsin farm after videos of their staff abusing the cows by being stabbed, beaten and dragged by tractors.  The video was provided by Mercy for Animals of the treatment at Wiese Brother’s Farm who said they were “shocked and saddened” when confronted with this video.  Thank you Nestle for doing the right thing and don’t watch the Mercy for Animals video unless you are ready to be terribly depressed.

Pittsburgh City Council again delayed taking action on designating the Terminal Building as historic until next week.  And the vote looks kind of iffy at this point.  I have written of my support numerous times here in my blog as well as contacting City Council.  My latest contact with City Council, I contacted each Council Person and after expressing my strong belief in the historic designation, I told them I would post how they vote in my blog.  Not that I expect my threat will have as much impact as the traditional city hall value of greased wheels.  You can contact any or all of the City Council members by going to their website and don’t need to be a city resident to express your concerns.  Just go to the website, click on the council member and below their picture is an Icon Feedback.  Click on that and it will take you to the form.

Pittsburgh’s own Sharif Bey has returned to his roots and has 33 ceramic works of his on display at the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild where he got his start in the 1980’s as a teenager.  Sharif, an assistant professor of art education at Syracuse University, has returned to the Guild for his show and to give a workshop.  His work includes:)  some of which are functional as in his pots and some of his jewelry could be functional but are of such a large scale they might be difficult to wear.  They are on display through January 3.  More info at the Guild’s website or by calling 412-322-1773.

Well, that’s about it for today, keep warm,



Tomorrow is the anniversary of the last American hostage to be released from Lebanon (1991), the National Grange was founded (1786) and it’s St Barbara’s Day.  Birth anniversaries include entertainer Lillian Russel (1861), English author Samuel Butler (1835), Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795) and Helen Chase, founder of Chase’s Calendar of Events where I get all this trivia (1924).

The Parador Inn is all spruced up and decorated for the holidays.  It’s quite festive and just waiting for a visit from you.  :)

The bald eagles in Hays are building a new nest, looks like they are going to be permanent residents.  Their first nest was built by the Monongahela River and fell out of the tree last year during a storm.  The youngster in the nest survived the fall.  Mom and dad got smarter and built the new nest in a more sturdy tree in the same area.  Eagle nests can last up to 30 years, if you’ve ever seen one, they’re pretty massive and sturdy.

Hunting season just opened.  Some hunters just hunt for the sport and aren’t interested in the venison.  If you are one of those from Allegheny County and want to donate it to feed the hungry, you can donate it to Kips Deer Processing.  If you are not from Allegheny County, but live in the state, Share the Deer is a statewide site that shows local processors that you can donate the deer to.  Although these processors do charge the food banks, they do so at a reduced rate.

Speaking of food banks and feeding the hungry, volunteers from eight United Methodist Churches in Armstrong County did a pretty amazing thing.  94 volunteers manned assembly lines and made packets to feed 27,000 people last weekend.  Coordinated and lead by Stop Hunger Now, these packets included enough rice, vitamins, dehydrated vegetables and soy to feed about six persons and only cost about twenty-five cents each.  These meals were packed into a truck and driven to Stop Hunger Now’s Philly headquarters and will be distributed based on previous commitments and need.

The Interim President (recently upgraded title from Acting President) of Cal U, Geraldine Jones is no stranger to the University.  She grew up a short distance from there, she graduated from there, her two daughters also graduated from there and other than a few years stint as a teacher, she has worked for the university all of her working life.  She took over after long time President Angelo Armenti was ousted for fiscal irresponsibility.  Armenti spearheaded a very costly unfunded building program that basically transformed the campus.  $97M in debt and a $11.5 deficit in the budget is what she inherited 18 months ago.  Through fiscal responsibility, this year’s budget not only is balanced, but it has a small surplus. Kudos to Geraldine.

Speaking of higher education, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education selected Frank Brogan as it’s new chancellor.  There was a recent article on Frank in the Trib.  Leaving a similiar position in Florida, where he faced similiar problems our system has.  Among them were declining enrollments, a shrinking college-age demographic, stagnant state support, a historically black university threatening court action over uneven support and tension among 14 universities seeking to maintain some autonomy.  When Frank took over Florida’s system, relationships between the educators and legislators was so bad they were suing each other in court.  Besides his experience as an educator and bureaucrat (I’m not saying that in a negative way), he is able to work with other groups by listening to them and sorting this information out making compromises.  With declining enrollments at state colleges, some programs no longer relevant to today’s  environment and new ones needed, we need someone to think outside the box, hopefully Frank’s the one to re-invent out system of higher education.  We can’t just keep spending money on things that don’t work and desperately need a better system to education our youth.

The Strip District certainly is becoming THE host spot in Pittsburgh for apartments.  Obviously well situated for shopping and close proximity to Downtown, there’s a huge growth in projects either shovel ready or in the planning stages.  Starting at the beginning of the Strip on the corner of 11th and Smallman Streets, that vacant building that’s had an “Available” sign on it since I came back to Pittsburgh eight years ago is now slated to become 59 apartments.  That huge building across from Lydia’s with the huge Wholey’s blinking fish was slated to become a hotel or office space.  Plans are now in the works to convert it into 144 apartments.  Next up is the development by the Evil Empire Buncher Group which plans to build 750 apartments in their mixed development along the Allegheny River.  (If you haven’t read my blog in the past, the Evil Empire wants to demolish 1/3 of the iconic Terminal Build for easy access to their government subsidized commercial development project.  Even though many residents have complained about their plans to destroy a landmark, the Buncher Group was “shocked” at the “last minute” move to designate the Terminal Building as historic.  What an idiot to be “shocked” that residents took this step after repeatedly refusing to look for alternatives to demolition and took this action).  Moving on, :)  there’s also Oxford Three Crossings’ 299 apartments being constructed between 26th and 27th down by Railroad Street. This is all happening due to the success of the Cork Factory that’s had 100% occupancy since opening (they even added Lot 24 next to it that has 96 units), the former owner of my Inn’s development of condos across from the Smallman Street Deli, the 31st Street condos on Smallman Street and the Otto Milk development on Smallman.  There’s even talk of high end condo’s down there STARTING at $1M.

There’s a new trend out there, Steampunk is a blend of Victorian and high tech like making iPhone covers out of leather, and other blending of newer technology with age old materials like wood, leather and metal.  An example is an iPhone docking station made of a 1910 phone box, a 1920’s gramophone to amplify the tinny sound of the iPhone.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald started what I hope will be a re-occurring Pittsburgh tradition.  He invited local high schools to make ornaments for the tree at the City/County Building.  Carlynton Junior Senior High School won the competition with four ornaments.  One made to represent each  of the three neighborhoods that make up the school district and one representing the entire district.  Last weekend they hung their ornaments and the other 100 submitted by other high schools on the tree.

Well, it is the holidays.  What holiday wouldn’t be complete without at least two of the attractions below?

The Carnegie has their traditional five huge trees decorated by the Museum of Art Woman’s Committee.  The theme this year is the international Santa.  They have St Nick as depicted in the Byzantine Empire, Mexico, Holland, Italy and America.   The centerpiece of the Christmas Tree Display is the Neapolitan Presepio. More than 100 figures, created between 1700 and 1830 by Italian craftsmen, represent the Neapolitan concept of the Nativity in a panorama of village life at the time.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-3131.

The Phipps has it’s annual Christmas flower show.   The South Conservatory has a miniature railroad with a whimsical miniature Jurassic Park theme.  The Palm Court has a large Christmas tree made out of poinsettias, two wooden carousel horses originally from Kennywood  and festive holiday flowers and gift boxes around.The Serpentine Room has glass snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and glass mushrooms that are lit at night created by Baltimore artists Matthew McCormack and Jenn Figg.  The Victoria Room has an 18′ tree decorated with ribbons and fabric butterfly towers.  More info at their website or by calling 412-622-6914.

The Clayton at Frick is decorated with a fitting Victorian theme.  On display is a gift shopping list by Adelaide Frick, their children’s stockings are hung on a fireplace and toys the children enjoyed.  Remember to call if you want a tour (the classic autos, grounds and cafe are open to the public, tours of the mansion are guided.)  More info at their website or by calling 412-371-0600.

Due to budget cuts, Hartwood Acres does not have their drive through light display.  Not to dismay, there’s other options.  Since 1985, Oglebay Park has had a drive through lighting display.  Yahoo Travel rated it as one of the top seven displays in the country.  It’s a six mile drive featuring 80 lighting displays.  Suggested donation of $15 per car gets you in.  More info at their website or by calling 800-624-6988.  The Westmoreland Fair Grounds has a two mile drive through of 2M lights, a Christmas Village, C Edgar & Sons General Store with handmade seasonal gifts, sleigh rides and more.  The Harry Overly home is also open (a tradition since 1956) with festive decorations.  The admission is $12 per car and more info can be found at their website or by calling 724-423-1400.  Although not a drive thru, Kennywood Park has a lighting display throughout the park.  There’s an animated light show at the lagoon, holiday concerts, Toy Soldiers keeping the peace :) , concerts and many of the family friendly rides are open.  Admission is $13.99.  More info at their website or by calling 412-461-0500.

Completed last week, just in time for the holidays, Ambridge’s Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club finished their new facade last week.  The interior work isn’t completed, but the first floor has an HO-scale model railroad with a new addition, the City of Pittsburgh.  A Lionel Model train was added to the basement level.  Also in the basement an N-scale railroad is under construction.  Although not complete, the train lines are up and running.  They expect the scenery to take another ten years to finish.  Either these are extremely detailed people or slackers.  :)  It’s open from noon until 5 pm Saturdays and Sundays and a donation of $5 is requested.  Members will give away three train sets everyday at random, best of luck to you if you go.  More info at their website, warning, they site doesn’t always open at first click, try it again if it doesn’t work.

Enjoy this warm weather while we have it,