Tomorrow’s the anniversary of adoption of the Constitution (1787) and the battle of Antietam (1862). Holidays include Japan’s Respect of the Aged Day and Jewish Rosh Hashanah. Birth anniversaries include Chief Justice Warren Burger (1907), baseballer Andrew (Rube) Foster (1879), C & W star Hank Williams (1923), Prussian born Revolutionary General Baron Von Steuben (1730), Orville Wright’s passenger that was killed when the plane crashed Thomas Selfridge (1908) and tennis pro Maureen Connolly (1934).
Holy Cow, business has absolutely unbelievable. We had an 87% occupancy in August and we will go over that in September! August I was frequently serving 18 – 20 guests breakfast DURING THE WEEK. A lot of leisure travelers. September we have a lot of business travelers. Even though we’re sold out frequently during the week, I may only have 8 or 10 for breakfast, since most business travelers are single. And my international trade is way up. We had a Scottish family in for a week several weeks ago, currently we have a gentleman originally from Iraq that lives and works in Australia, and a couple from Singapore in for several days for the same convention. I received a reservation today from a couple from Mexico coming in for a Steelers game. I should sit down and make a list of all my foreign guests to see if there’s a pattern.
The 709 Gallery on Penn Avenue is hosting a show by artist Tina Williams Brewer through November 16. The show is of her quilts and she does them overlapping printed, dyed and various materials to create her images. African American of heritage, she reaches back to her heritage to use old hieroglyphs and symbols to tell stories. Most of her imagines are based on mandalas, the ancient Hindu/Buddhist symbol for the universe. These circles are the center piece of her work. Tina needs to update her website, a show from 2011 is still listed and Pittsburgh Trust Arts needs to update their website to reflect this show. But you can see images of what Tina does on her website and the hours, etc for 709 Gallery are at least on that website. I love that African/Caribbean art.
They estimate that almost half of Americans have had personal or financial information hacked from corporate computers. And this is not going to let up, it’s just going to get worse, so prepare for it. By far, most of it is by Chinese or Russian (many formerly Russian republics). Why go rob a bank, when they can sit on their butt and hack into computers continents away and they don’t have to worry about the police showing up at their door. You can’t stop it, but you can take precautions. Use your credit card as much as possible, versus your debit card. Credit card companies protect your money much better than banks. Once hackers have access to your bank account, they can siphon off all your $ and there’s not much you can do at that point. If your at location that takes your credit card out of your sight (many restaurants have there machines back an a pantry kind of area), use your credit card, not your debit card. In particular, use your credit card for all online purchases. Most hackers seem to do a test run of maybe $10 and keep increasing it until your dry. I use Slovak Savings Bank and they are incredibly vigilant. I also use USAA for my credit cards, they also are extremely customer service centered and watch my back. As always, get your free credit report directly from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You are entitled for a free credit report once a year and more than that if there’s suspicious activity on your card. Most credit card companies alert you of large and suspect purchases. You can request alerts for most any amount, if you want. The solution (at least until the hacker figure out how to break this system) is going to the form used by most other developed countries, using a microchip instead of a magnetic strip. But that’s going to cost a lot of money for the card issuers to create all new cards and businesses to buy the new machines. But at the rate these hackers are stealing from us, it’s about time we make the switch.
While we are on the subject of money, I would like to encourage you to have a conversation with friends and family. Don’t make it accusatory or anything that would put people off. Most states allow credit collection companies to garner 25% of a persons salary to pay off a dept! They also allow credit collection agencies to confiscate ALL of the money you may have saved up in a bank account. They main way they get away with this is people don’t show up for a court hearing. If someone receives a summons for a court hearing on a debt, DON’T IGNORE IT. They win by default, even if it’s not your debt, a minor debt, a debt you can correctly fight. The attorneys representing the debt collection agencies make their money on how many judgements they get in their favor, so they ALWAYS show up for the hearing. Another ploy they use is to request a postponement when you do show up. They know how they can legally do this and will do it repeatedly until you get fed up and don’t show up for one of the hearings. Again, they win by default. Collection agencies are on record for charging up to 200% interest on the amount owed! Usually the people in this fix are ones on the lower end of the income scale that are busy working two jobs or such trying to make ends meet. Frequently their recent grads trying to get started and work long hours and trying to create a new life for themselves. (But that’s not always the case). If you know someone that might be in such a situation, have a general conversation that you can bring this up without offending them that “they can’t manage their money.” This is a very scary thing.
Edgar Kaufmann was one of the most innovative merchandisers of his time, and he was a huge fan of the arts. In 1929, he commissioned Boardman Robinson to create a a series of 10 huge paintings they called the History of Commerce. Mr. Kaufmann did a radical thing with his remodeling of the first floor of his Downtown store in the early 1930′s, he put the counters at angles and hung this artwork from the ceilings. There were there for 25 – 30 years and then came down for a future remodel. These huge paintings (8′ x 15′) couldn’t fit anywhere for easy storage and because of there size, Kaufmann couldn’t find a museum to take them. Robinson eventually went out to Colorado and co-founded the Colorado Springs Art Center and the paintings are now stored there in a climate controlled vault.
Have I told you lately I love our new mayor? Other than like last last clown that sent a crew out slapping down bicycle lane stickers all over the place and declaring us a bike friendly city, Mayor Peduto is taking his time and thinking about how to incorporate bicycle exclusive lanes connecting different areas of the city. These lane will connect to our many trails and bicyclist will be able to safely navigate the city. I think I spoke about the diverse and highly educated and experienced people he’s been bringing in to run the city, instead of the ole ‘burg thing of appointing cronies to various positions. Case in point is our new police chief, Cameron McLay. A thirty five year police veteran that is known for community involvement and inclusion. This past weekend, he went to FOP softball game in Brookline to meet with off duty officers to see what their concerns are. And he didn’t take office until this past Monday. He’s aware of the racial tensions in the city and called from his old home while coordinating his move here various leaders of stake holder organizations around town to introduce himself. And supposedly this was strictly on his own, no prompting by Mayor Peduto or others in his office (and I believe this).
I’m a big fan of non-conventional things, in particularly banks. I know I rant about the greedy SOB’s frequently. I’ve talked about Kickstarter and the other crowd funding sources, but they are basically charity where you might get a tee shirt or something. There’s a new thing out there for peer to peer lending sites on the Internet. Lending Club is the largest, closely followed by Prosper. While traditional bank lending has been decreasing around 2% per quarter, these options have been growing at 84% per quarter. Now granted, the percentage is huge because they are so small compared to traditional lenders, but the options are there. Since they are not a part of the traditional banking system, they write their own qualifications. Naturally, they want to know what you want the money for, what your assets and liabilities are, but they also have the creative options to take SAT scores into account for new grads and other non-traditional ways to determine credit worthiness. Though the interest rates on these loans can run from 6% to 40%, depending on your credit worthiness, they usually are less than what credit cards charge. And the cool thing about this is if you have some extra cash, you can become a lender. A lot better return than the 1% your bank’s giving you on you savings account (if you can get that much).
Enjoy this cool Fall weather,