Tomorrow’s the anniversary of the inauguration of Brazil’s new capital Brasilia (1960), the traditional celebration of the founding of Rome (753BC) and Red Baron was shot down (1918). Birth anniversaries include naturalist John Muir (1838), actor Anthony Quinn (1915), German educator Friedrich Froebel (1782) and novelist Charlotte Bronte (1816).
Nick Ambeliots opened Mediterra Bakehouse in 2001 out in Robinson. He uses very little yeast creating his bread, instead relying on old Greek recipes he’s picked up spending summers in the Greek town Chios. They crank out 15,000 loaves of bread each day and though they do volume, they keep their operation with a small time mentality. Some of his loaves take 20 hours to prepare. They have done well, expanding their employees to 50 in Pittsburgh and even building a sister bakery in Phoenix, AZ which employs 30. And making bread takes bread, their levain sourdough starter cost $50,000. They are now looking to buy a flash freeze machine at the tune of $250,000. Many commercial operations like hotels want their bread frozen for storage and freshness and you need to flash freeze bread to keep up it’s quality.
Fifty years ago this month, the 1964 World’s Fair opened in New York City. Some of the predictions were for picture phones (Skype and Facetime), personal computers (computers in those day filled a whole room), robotics was introduced as robotic animation by Disney’s It’s a Small World. Sadly the “jet packs” they predicted for travel never materialized. Other predictions that haven’t made it yet were colonies on the moon, under the oceans and Antarctica. The laser machine that they predicted would cut down the Amazon rainforests leaving behind paved roads also never came to fruition (thankfully, we have enough problems with those ecosystems as it is).
Aeronautical engineer, Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock’s first woman to fly solo around the world was completed on April 17, 1964 at Columbus, OH. It took 29 days to complete the 23,000 mile trip. She had been a pilot for a number of years and mother of three children when she decided to take on the challenge. Now keep in mind, this occurred in 1964, she wore a skirt and blouse while flying and would don high heels when she made her stops for re-fueling, etc. Not surprising, Amelia Earhart was one of her inspirations. Still alive in Florida, Jerrie now 88, will not be able to attend the unveiling of a statue honoring her at Columbus International Airport due to health concerns.
Speaking of 1964, Arnold Cohen of Brooklyn founded the American Bidet Company. He had quite the difficulty because no one would carry advertising for his product. His tag line “American way to bidet” never caught on. He eventually sold his patents to Toto, a Japanese company that perfected the design and by 1980 they trade marked the Washlet. Now 74% of Japanese households have bidet style toilets which makes them more common than home computers (not counting hand held devises). The options are actually mind blowing. You can get it with front, rear or both washings, temperature controls, pressure controls, retractable spritzing wands, automatic driers, seat warmers, automatic sensors to raise the lid, buttons to raise the seat, nightlights, self-cleaning mechanisms, music and deodorizer spritzes to name a few. They run from as low as $40 for a very basic model to around $10,000 for the top of the line. One high tech seat can add $50-$60 dollars to your electric bill, but considering the cost of toilet paper and water savings the bidet wins. Some of the models use around 1/10 to 2/10 gallons of water per flush (I assume this doesn’t include the water used for cleansing. :) They are hitting mainstream America, you can now find versions in Home Depot as well as Lowes.
Hopefully, one day soon this won’t be a news item but common occurrences. West View is partnering with ALCOSAN to create a rain garden on vacant land in the town to divert around 250,000 gallons of water out of the sewers. The plan calls for vegetated bioswale, a retention pond, vegetation that absorb a lot of water are also being planned on this 15,000 square foot parcel. Not only does rain gardens keep the excess water out of the sewer system, they also help leach silt and pollution out of our waterways. Neither project’s on this years budget, but when I replace the asphalt in my parking lot, I intend to use the porous material that is now available and I’m already planning on how to capture my roof run off into a rain garden in my Courtyard.
Aspinwall may be getting their first bed and breakfast. Karen Connor is applying to the city to get that use approved the area zoned AR-3. Bed and breakfast are great for a community (obviously, I’m biased here), my neighborhood restaurants love me. It also creates a lot of pedestrian traffic. Visitor love to walk around the neighborhood their staying in and foot traffic really adds vitality to a neighborhood. The property she’s looking at has a great front porch, even more vitality in the neighborhood with guests relaxing and watching the comings and goings. Some of the residents have voiced some concerns and these do need to be addressed. The number one (beside health and safety issues that the city and county should be able to regulate) would be parking. An Inn needs to have adequate parking, which sometimes is not addressed by some bed and breakfasts. The other concern the locals expressed was safety, this I don’t understand. I view an Inn as an enhancement to neighborhood safety as I spoke about above.
The iconic Duke’s Station in Bethel Park on Baptist Road is going through a major change. Grant Scorsone, who worked on getting the Church Brew Works opened 17 years ago is taking on the project with his wife. They are creating a brewpub called Spoonwood restaurant that will feature in-house beer and draft wine. They hope to open by October with 10 in-house draft beers. The menu is going to be tapas, Italian sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas (sounds a bit like the Brew House, doesn’t it?). They are planning quite the project, the old train cars that used to house house Duke’s restaurant next to the bar are going to a park in DuBois to make room for construction of the new restaurant.
I love urban art. I hate gang tags on buildings, but really stop sometimes when I see some artistic graffiti. Some graffiti is so creative and colorful creating such a contrast to it’s typical surroundings. (I admit the wrongness of vandalism, but just because it’s wrong doesn’t make it unattractive). Another urban art I like is old signs painted on buildings. There’s a great show at Pittsburgh Film Makers Galleries 477 Melwood Avenue through May 16 showcasing Ghost Signs of Pittsburgh. Back in the early 1900′s, painting advertising on buildings and barns was big business. There’s about 150 images taken through a collaboration between filmmaker Will Zavala and photographer Kelly Bogel on display. It’s great they did this project because we are constantly loosing these ads through building demolition and the weather.
On May 25, at Lake Elizabeth in the Commons here on the Northside John Luther Adams and 99 percussionists will be performing. Pittsburgh New Music is sponsoring it, but I don’t see any coinciding dates on their website or John’s.
RiverQuest is in trouble. Between state funding cuts to them and schools, their budget’s been slashed and schools can’t afford to send the kids on the field trips. In 2008-2009, RiverQuest had a budget of $2.1M and this year it’s $1.2M. If they can’t find new funding sources, they may close down as early as June. They’re not in desperate shape, if they decide they need to close, they have enough reserves pay all their creditors off and then return any left overs to previous donors. They are looking to possibly partner with The Carnegie Science Center/USS Requien or Point State Park, both seem compatible partners, if they have the resources to be able to help out. In you don’t know, RiverQuest is an educational boat that would take kids on trips up and down the rivers and teach them about our waterways through hands on with environmental experiments.
Pittsburgh has 440 illegal dump sites that are frequently by illegal dumpers. Not only do they create an eyesore, frequently hazardous materials are dumped as well to run into our water stream. The city has three cameras on two of these dumping sites and they recently caught some scofflaws dumping sludge in Larimer. These cameras are fairly high tech in that they aren’t on all the time, they have motion sensors that turn on when there’s activity in the area and the system sends an e-mail or text to authorities and work day as well as night and can even capture a license plate on a vehicle traveling 50 mph. Though they haven’t yet been sited, the cameras captured pictures of the two perps as well as pictures of the vehicle and it’s license plate. I’d say BUSTED. An environmental group is donating six more of these cameras, so hopefully we can make some headway in stopping this. According to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, there are 6,500 illegal dump sites statewide containing an estimated 18,000 tons of trash, this is significant.
Well happy Easter, Passover or whatever your persuasion is and have a great Earth Day next Tuesday, do something for the environment,