Archive for May, 2007

What is a Pittsburgh Drink?

The Atlanta Metroblog is featuring the Drink of the Week (this week is an awesome mojito. This drink of the week idea got me thinking about what is a Pittsburgh drink. A few years ago I was doing some work in Houston and we were sitting at the bar and I asked the group “what is the Texas drink?” The response was “long island iced tea” – which certainly didn’t seem very Texas to me.
So, when people visit Pittsburgh – what is the suggested Pittsburgh drink? I know the immediate answer is Iron City Beer. I know this is a drink favored by Pittsburghers everywhere. Last summer I helped a family pack up a case of iron to take with them to their son who now lives in Alaska. But is there a mixed drink that really screams Pittsburgh?

Of Cats and Men

While we may not be anywhere near the dog days of summer, we have most certainly reached the cat days, judging from the recent furor over animal shelters and Councilman Jim Motznik’s cat licensing scheme. I do have some sympathy for the Councilman — it sucks to have animals wandering into your backyard because someone else didn’t spay/neuter and allowed his/her pet to generate a litter of feral (or, in the words of the article, “loosely owned or unowned”) kittens. That said, his plan stinks worse than a week-old litterbox. The problem isn’t cats owned by the sort of responsible person who goes and buys a license. The problem is cats that aren’t owned by anyone in particular and who at best have conned a few of us humans into feeding them.

The article itself gives a much better suggestion. If you want to get a handle on the roaming cat population, pay a bounty to anyone who brings one in to be spayed/neutered and tagged. It’s summer. There’s plenty of idle hands around to help with the Great Pittsburgh Cat Roundup. And, while that’s going on, Mr. Motznik can solve his fish pond problem in about a week. Find a neighborhood kid, hand him a full Super Soaker (if the Councilman would like, I’ve got one I can lend him), and pay him a nominal fee to sit on the back porch and blast the heck out of any cat that crosses into Motznik territory. They won’t be back.

August Wilson

It was strange, even a year and a half after he died, to see in the Post-Gazette today that a plaque was dedicated to “the late” August Wilson.

After all, August Wilson doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who should be dead. I don’t mean that in the “why, o cruel world” sense, but in the sense that a dead August Wilson doesn’t quite add up. Old and living in New York, maybe, but it still feels like he, or someone like him, should be out there somewhere, writing about Pittsburgh. Not writing about me, exactly, but maybe about the guy down the street or the lady he used to know.

It is a strange thing, feeling that way about someone you never met, and it isn’t just fame. The far more famous Gerald Ford outlived Wilson by more than a year, but I feel as if he might as well have been dead since before I was born.

It is not just the Pittsburgh connection either. It didn’t seem this bizarre to me when Mr. Rogers died, maybe because I had the chance to actually meet him over the years and recognized that he was, in addition to everything else, an old man.

I think that isn’t all of it, though. Mr. Rogers belonged to everybody, all over the world, and children everywhere were his neighbors, even though he lived here. August Wilson, even though he lived elsewhere, was ours, and we belonged to him. Saying “the late August Wilson” may feel a bit too much like saying “the late Pittsburgh.”

I think I will visit the August Wilson plaque sometime soon. Not today.

You Don’t Buy Coffee, You Rent It

I frequently find myself at the Beehive. I like the energy, I like the vibes, and most of all I like the fact that I can smoke my lungs black while watching the most interesting foot traffic in Pittsburgh.

The men’s room is a veritable museum of graffiti, as you can see in Jeremy Salapek’s photograph. There is also one toilet and one urinal. That makes two places for men to do their business, and one sink in which to wash our hands.

Twice now, as I was doing the standing-up thing, other men have opened the door, exclaimed in embarrassment, and excused themselves for disturbing me.

My question is this: how does a heterosexual man with no salacious intentions whatsoever indicate to another man with no salacious intentions that there are, indeed, two places to pee, and that his embarrassment is unwarranted.

Everything I’ve been able to come up with sounds like a come-on.

“Hey, no problem man, there’s room for two in here!”
“No, don’t be embarrassed, there’s plenty of room.”
“You don’t have to wait, dude, come on in.”
“Hey, there’s a stall in here, too.”

Any suggestions?

Legislators who don’t understand technology, part seven million and four

Tribune Review:

Using a cell phone to take snapshots or video of personal information should be a crime, according to a Lawrence County lawmaker who fears this rare form of identity theft might one day crop up in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Chris Sainato [seen here in his Pennsylvania Mustache Society ID picture, which I snuck up and snapped with my cell phone], D-New Castle, doesn’t know anyone who’s been victimized by such covert photography, but he said it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Cell phones are so tiny, they can do it with you standing right next to them and you might not even know they’re taking a picture. That’s kind of hard to do with an old-fashioned camera,” said Sainato, who represents parts of Beaver and Lawrence counties.

Cell phone-aided identity theft probably makes up “less than one-tenth of 1 percent” of all identity theft crimes, said Jay Foley, executive director of the San Diego-based nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center. The center researches identity theft methods and trends.

“It’s so rare an occurrence, I wonder why anyone would go through the trouble of creating a law for it,” Foley said.

My camera is just as small as my cell phone, and why shouldn’t it be? Perhaps someone should tell Representative Sainato that cameras, even those not attached to other pieces of technology, no longer necessarily rely upon 35-mm film, and not everyone who is taking a picture is likely to look like this guy:

Or even this guy:

The war on cats


The days when anonymous cats roam the city of Pittsburgh with impunity may be numbered, if Councilman Jim Motznik gets his way.

Why? The first reason he gives is so roaming cats are not accidentally euthanized if captured by the Animal Control Officers who aren’t trying to catch them now and have no interest in pursuing them in the future. The second reason is somewhat more revealing:

“I have a fish pond. I chase cats out of my yard all the time,” he said. “I want to have pet owners responsible for their pets, and right now cat owners are not responsible for their pets. There is a way of thinking … that [cats] should be allowed to roam, and go on other people’s properties, and I don’t agree with that.”

That’s right: Pittsburgh City Councilman Jim Motznik wants to institute a new tax against cat owners, add a new mission to an already straining city government, totally rework the way that Animal Control operates, and unnecessarily jam full the shelter that we won’t even have in two months time, all because he is tired of his neighbor’s tabby messing with his koi.

Plus, says the Cat Fanciers Association (who aren’t doing themselves any favors with that name):

Licensing requirements can backfire by discouraging people from feeding, caring for, spaying or neutering, and eventually taking ownership of loosely owned or unowned cats, which make up 40 percent of the feline population in many areas, Ms. Miller said.

“Our effort is to get people to take responsibility for [roaming] cats,” Ms. Miller said. “Cat licensing is a major deterrent to that.”

Motznik, seen here relaxing in his council office after a long day mucking out his fish pond, will no doubt next be introducing a bill to register and track backyard goldfish. After all, they dangerously carry and convey fin rot, and cannot be allowed to roam our ornamental waterways unchecked.

There’s hope for us yet…

In the past two days, we’ve learned that large Pittsburgh companies are actively working on learning how to recruit new college graduates and that Mayor Ravenstahl is improving diversity on city boards/commissions. We’ve still got a long way to go, but that’s two bits of very good news.

I’ll add one bit of editorializing on the second story. Part of the reason there’s not enough young people on local governance boards is almost certainly that not enough young people are applying. Most of the young folks I know aren’t even aware that these commissions exist, let alone that their skills could be useful to our city. Spreading the word would be a good project for a local action group like PUMP.

Canada needs some lovin’

In today’s Post-Gazette, columnist Samantha Bennett writes about Canada’s new marketing campaign. As of January 2008, driving across the northern border will require a passport. Canada is pretty worried that this new legislation will put a dent in their tourism industry. Considering that most people I know go to Canada for strip clubs, casinos and legally drunk 18-year olds, I don’t necessarily agree with Ms. Bennett’s thesis that Canada is the wholesome girl next door. However, I do wonder if the same people who like Canada for the aforementioned reasons will be as likely to go when the new law goes into effect.

How I learned to stop worrying

strangelove.jpgPeter Sellers, Peter Sellers and Peter Sellers are waiting for you this Sunday, when Pittsburgh Filmmakers presents Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. It’s the finale in the politically-aware film series co-sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Pittsburgh.

The darkly comic film, directed by Stanley Kubrick, stars (in addition to Peter Sellers in 3 roles) Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott, two actors better known for their serious sides than for their satire. Which might just be why they’re so disturbingly funny. The NY Times reviewer called the film “The most shattering sick joke I’ve ever come across.” Heck, it’s a masterpiece. Don’t miss the chance to see it on the big screen.

Discussion afterwards with Barry Paris of the Post-Gazette. Be civil; don’t make him say, as President Merkin Muffley does, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.”


As I have mentioned before I work for, my last boss there used to ask me all the time what are the learnings from that project. I know learnings is not a term we often use in normal english, but I kind of like it.
Last Saturday, I attended my sister’s graduation from Kenyon college.

Thank to Janet for sharing this picture of Kenyon’s graduation Flickr.

Sitting through the ceremony I got to thinking about learnings and where do you really learn. I did a lot of studying in high school and more in college, but sitting there I started thinking that I have learned a lot more stuff since college. My learning since college are not necessarily the kinds of book learnings, some are, but some aren’t. I have learned tons about a business from my adventures in screen printing. I have learned volumes about working on teams and working with other people to accomplish something. What have you learned since college? What are the things that you have learned after college that you just couldn’t have learned in school?

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