Filed Under: default || By jt3y
Category: default || By jt3y
"If I was ever ordered to storm a pillbox, going to shear, sudden, and utterly certain death, and told to pick my platoon, I would pick six White Sox fans. I would pick Sox fans because they have known death every day of their lives --- and it holds no terror for them anymore ...."
"... futility meeting hopelessness head on ...."
"The Sox represented not just Chicago, but the South Side. Do you know what it feels like to be a South Sider in a world of North Siders? ... A Sox fan's biggest aspiration in life is to someday get a better job in the mill. A Cubs' fan's biggest aspiration in life is to someday own the Chicago Cubs ...."
"Being a White Sox fan meant measuring victory in terms of defeat. A 6-5 defeat was a good day. A big rally was Wally Moses doubling down the right-field line. ... The White Sox were so bad when I was a kid that I can remember sitting at the kitchen table and seeing my Old Man reading the sports page. On the front I vividly remember seeing in big block letters ... SOX'S APPLING HITS 450 FT ... FOUL BALL!"
--- Jean Shepherd, 1921-1999
Category: default || By jt3y
Guess who's filling in for the editor of Pittsburgh Radio & TV Online this week?
In other, somewhat related news: Guess which president was the first to be televised, and the first to be seen on television? The answer may surprise you.
That link, by the way, goes to the website of the Early Television Foundation, which operates a wonderful museum just outside of Columbus, Ohio. I visited in May and was stunned at how nice it was, and how comprehensive it was. It's operated entirely by volunteers and many of the old TV sets --- including mechanical versions that date to the 1920s --- are operational. They'll even turn them on for you to demonstrate them.
If you're a technology geek, like I am, then you haven't lived until you've watched color TV on a 1950 CBS studio monitor with a spinning mechanical filter to generate the picture. My only regret is that I couldn't spend more time there.
Columbus is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Our Fair City. There are worse ways to spend this weekend than heading out to Columbus for the day and spending a few hours prowling around the Early Television Museum. (And you're in luck, because this weekend, Ohio State is out of town, which should alleviate some traffic congestion.)
Closer to home, Mike Madison over at Pittsblog mentions that McKeesport's Blueroof Technologies had a nice presentation at a recent conference on aging. He asks if it's true that Blueroof's house is the first new one built in the Third Ward in 75 years.
Well, I think 75 years is a little bit of an exaggeration, but if it is, it's not much of one. More houses have definitely been torn down in the Third Ward than built, that's for sure. It may certainly be the first single-family home built in the Third Ward since the Depression. Kudos to Blueroof for bringing some life back to a once-vital city neighborhood.
Finally, my deepest sympathies to the family of Kevin Wander, an occasional contributor to Tube City Online. Kevin, whose family operated Wander Sales in the Mon-Yough area for many years, died recently at the age of 43 after an illness. I never met him, but I did correspond with him via email, where he offered me advice and encouragement.
Category: default || By jt3y
The Valley Mirror has a story this week about people running stop signs on Braddock Avenue in Swissvale. Apparently, police are cracking down after one fatal pedestrian accident and several near misses.
Well, Swissvale is like a stroll through a deserted meadow compared with some places. Remember what I wrote a few months ago about Florida drivers? Dateline, St. Petersburg, Fla.:
A 93-year-old driver apparently suffering from dementia fatally struck a pedestrian, then continued driving through a toll booth with the man's body on his windshield, police said.
Ralph Parker of Pinellas Park drove for three miles Wednesday night after striking the 52-year-old pedestrian with his gold 2002 Chevrolet Malibu, severing the man's right leg, police said.
A toll taker on the Sunshine Skyway saw the body stuck through Parker's windshield and notified police, Traffic Homicide Investigator Michael Jockers said.
Category: default || By jt3y
As usual, the mainstream media in southwestern Pennsylvania has fallen down on the job, and I have to rely on The Onion, America's Finest News Source, to bring me the important information that shapes our world, like this week's front page story:
Study Reveals Pittsburgh Unprepared For Full-Scale Zombie Attack
PITTSBURGH --- A zombie-preparedness study, commissioned by Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy and released Monday, indicates that the city could easily succumb to a devastating zombie attack. Insufficient emergency-management-personnel training and poorly conceived undead-defense measures have left the city at great risk for all-out destruction at the hands of the living dead, according to the Zombie Preparedness Institute.
"When it comes to defending ourselves against an army of reanimated human corpses, the officials in charge have fallen asleep at the wheel," Murphy said. "Who's in charge of sweep-and-burn missions to clear out infected areas? Who's going to guard the cemeteries at night? If zombies were to arrive in the city tomorrow, we'd all be roaming the earth in search of human brains by Friday."
Government-conducted zombie-attack scenarios described on the State Department's website indicate that a successful, citywide zombie takeover would take 10 days, but according to ZPI statistician Dr. Milton Cornelius, the government's models fail to incorporate such factors as the zombies' rudimentary reasoning skills and basic tool use.
Category: default || By jt3y
Last night was another high school football night in the Mon Valley. This morning I stopped at a dairy store to get a newspaper and a cuppa. Two middle-aged fellows --- I'd have to say one was in his 40s, the other in his 50s --- were standing at the counter, talking:
"Didja hear about TJ?" (TJ, for those of you not from the Mon-Yough area, in this case means Thomas Jefferson High School, not Lubinsky or Maxx.)
"Two players got hurt. One got a busted collarbone, the other got a busted arm."
"Oh, that's great!"
"Oh, yeah. I can't f---ing stand TJ. We're gonna f--king kill them."
"Who, West Mifflin?"
"Yeah. I eat out a lot on Route 51 and you oughta hear what they say about us out there. They talk about us like we're s--t."
And I thought to little old self: You're gloating over the fact that two teen-agers --- kids, really --- have broken bones, and they're the ones who talk about you like you're excrement?
In other news, last month The Daily News reported that attorneys for Kennywood Park had sent a letter to West Mifflin officials, demanding a partial refund for amusement taxes levied against the facility.
It seems the lawyers had learned that Kennywood has been providing virtually all of the borough's receipts for that tax for the last several years, instead of levying it against all of the other amusement facilities in the borough, including golf courses, driving ranges, sports facilities and clubs. Kennywood wanted the refund money paid into a scholarship fund, and the borough to repeal the tax.
Well, according to David Conti in the Tribune-Review, the borough never responded. So this week, Kennywood filed suit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, asking a judge to order the borough to refund the money and alleging that the law has been selectively enforced, which is unconstitutional. They also want the law overturned.
I've already said what I have to say on the matter, and I tend to agree with Kennywood President Pete McAneny. If what the park alleges is true, then there's a smell wafting across Kennywood Boulevard these days, and it's not coming from the stagnant water in the lagoon.
To Do This Weekend: Haler Heights Crime Watch hosts "Public Safety Day" from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Serra Catholic High School, 200 Hershey Drive. Residents are invited to bring their children to tour the city's Fire Safety House and learn what to do in the event of a weather emergency. They can also meet Sparky the fire dog or tour the city's mobile police station. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh will be providing free coloring books and other handouts ... McKeesport Symphony Orchestra kicks off its fall season tonight with "Autumn Sketches," including music by Smetana, Mascagni and John Williams. Call (412) 664-2854 or visit http://www.mckeesportsymphony.org.
Category: default || By jt3y
Nits, notes, nuances, rants and observations:
When Dan Onorato ran for Allegheny County Executive, I was underwhelmed. He was a young guy, and there are darned few young Democrats in public life in Pennsylvania. And he had a reputation as an honest cop. But watching him stump, he just seemed ... well ... dull and unimaginative. I didn't always agree with Jim Roddey, but he at least seemed dynamic by comparison. And Onorato, a former Picksberg councilman, seemed a bit too close to the power structure on Grant Street that had helped send Pennsylvania's second-largest city into bankruptcy.
Yet over the past year or so, I have been increasingly impressed with Onorato. He shoots from the hip, has solid ideas and goals and gets out into the communities to pitch them, and he isn't afraid to defend himself. And Onorato isn't afraid to reach across county borders or political party lines to get help, which puts him head and shoulders above most of the elected officials in the state.
Plus, he genuinely seems to like people. You might think that's a prerequisite for getting into politics, but it isn't. Jim Roddey is not what you'd call a warm and fuzzy guy, in my experience. Cordial and professional, yes. Chummy, no. I admired Roddey, but didn't necessary like him. I kind of like Onorato.
That said, I think Onorato is all wet on his ideas for property tax reform in Allegheny County, and the Republicans on county council are closer to right. Freezing the assessments at 2002 levels only locks in unfair assessments --- both ones that are too high and too low.
Until we find a better way to fund schools and local government in this state than property taxes, we ought to be reassessing property in this county every year. That way, there wouldn't be the kind of nasty surprises that many property owners got when the entire county was reassessed a few years ago; if property values went up, they'd go up at a rate much closer to the rate of inflation. Conversely, if properties in economically depressed areas went down in value, they'd go down gradually, leaving local municipalities and school districts with more time to adjust their budgets accordingly.
And another thing: If a property has been sold recently, the assessed value should be within 5 percent of the sales price. Indeed, the sale of a property should automatically trigger a reassessment by the county. (In my own case, this would hike my property taxes, but I'm willing to take my own medicine.)
It pains me to say it, but Onorato's professed opinions on property tax assessment smack of pandering to elderly voters in hopes of using his "brave stand" as a way to get re-elected in a few years. If not, then he's got a deeply warped view of the reasons for assessing property values in the first place. I'm not sure which I like less; the idea that Onorato could be so wrong on this issue, or that he's deliberately misleading older voters. Perhaps that's just the price of running for office.
In any event, even if I think Onorato's off-base on this subject, it hasn't changed my overall favorable opinion of him. In fact, Democrats in this state could use a few more Onoratos --- male and female, black and white --- and a few less Vince Fumos and Bill DeWeeses.
Speaking of Bill DeWeese, every time I think of him --- particularly in light of the state legislative pay raise, and his punishment of people who voted against it, like Irwin's Jim Casorio --- I am reminded of "Senator Bedfellow," the fictional legislator from the old "Bloom County" comic strip. Am I the only one?
While DeWeese doesn't appear to share Bedfellow's predilection for fermented beverages and white linen suits, he does share Bedfellow's love of oratory.
DeWeese also seems to share Bedfellow's love of shady, backroom politics. So perhaps the number one reason I think of Bedfellow whenever I think of DeWeese is the legendary profile of Bedfellow that ran in the local newspaper in "Bloom County." If you weren't a fan of the strip, I won't spoil it, but you can find it here. Then, go write your own punchline.
And speaking of pay raises, this photo of state House Speaker John Perzel by the Tribune-Review's Phil Pavely is worth many, many more than 1,000 words, I think.
And speaking of all of this, perhaps we're overdue for a reminder that opinions expressed at the Tube City Almanac are not those of my employers, or of anyone else, for that matter. I'm not even sure they're mine.
On a lighter note, those of you familiar with the work of Tom Lehrer will want to visit this webpage, I think. It collects never-released recordings, lyrics and photos from a review that Lehrer and his colleagues in the physics department at Harvard (or is that "Hah-vahd"?) staged for their students in 1951 and '52. (Tip of the Tube City hard hat to Mark Evanier's News From Me.)
Those of you who aren't familiar with the work of Mr. Lehrer ... well, I feel sorry for you. But there's no time like the present to start, I suppose. Here's an excellent place to start.
Category: default || By jt3y
I'd like to offer a special welcome to those of you visiting the Tube City Almanac for the first time after reading about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Are you ready?
Ahem. Since that's out of the way, just a note to say that the Almanac principally concerns life in and around the Greater McKeesport area, which sometimes includes Picksberg, a city about 12 miles down river. Which is not to say that the Almanac is parochial; just that I sometimes feel bad for Picksberg. It might have amounted to something if only it had been closer to Our Fair City.
I have been corresponding with Peter Leo longer than either he or I cares to remember, so when he called yesterday to ask if it was OK to write about the Almanac, it tickled me like feathered underpants. But I was taken aback when he said that he might have to explain to the Post-Gazette's readers what the "Tube City" is. Great jumping George H. Lysles!
It's the Tube City because we once produced a large percentage of the world's steel and iron pipe, or "tube." Our once-prodigious tube output is down to a fraction of what it used to be, but we still make a fair amount of steel pipe and pipe-related products (only in McKeesport could you use the phrase "pipe-related products"), thanks to companies like Camp-Hill Corporation, CP Industries and Dura-Bond, among others.
And of course, McKeesport is also home to a different kind of "tube" --- the Canady catheter invented at UPMC McKeesport hospital by Dr. Jerome Canady.
We get together twice a week, at least, to update you on things happening in and around Our Fair City and its suburbs, which for our purposes include, oh, most of southwestern Pennsylvania when we're really hard up for a topic to write about. And your participation is always welcome.
Anyway, thanks for coming by. Feel free to look around. Some of the links in the menu at the left may also amuse you; the Almanac is just one part of Tube City Online, the Mon-Yough area's leading source of misinformation on the Internet since 1995. (And if you're so inclined on your way out, we also have a nice selection of souvenirs in the gift shop.)
Category: default || By jt3y
I've been in my house in North Bittyburg for a little more than a year now. Going through some old bills the other night, I found a letter from my state senator, welcoming me to his district and offering his services. He sent it last November.
Well, I never wrote back, and I guess I feel a little bit bad about that. Here's this busy guy, who takes the time to send me a bunch of free stuff in the mail, including a nice letter, and I didn't respond.
But the funny thing is, he's been on my mind lately. So, I decided to sit down at my trusty IBM last night and write to him. (I've omitted his name and my home address, because it really doesn't matter anyway, and I don't particularly want to put my personal information on the Internet. Suffice it to say that he's one of a big group of our servants in the state Legislature who had a very fruitful summer.)
(Scans: Page 1 | Page 2)
Dear Senator -- :
Last year at this time, you wrote me a very nice letter, welcoming me to your district. Since you took the time to write, I thought it was about time I gave you an update.
(Frankly, I'm surprised you had time to write. Last week, when Tom Barnes from the Post-Gazette called to ask you about that protest at the state Capital, you were too busy to talk.)
You even wrote on that fancy state Senate letterhead. Sorry if this letter doesn't look as classy as yours was to me. My printer doesn't work any more, and I can't get a new one until payday, so I had to write this on my typewriter.
Anyway, enough about that. You wrote about my new house, so I'll tell you about that. Everything is pretty good, except for the water leak in my one basement wall. I had a man out to look at it, and he says it'll cost $1,800 to fix it. (I did some quick math, and it looks like you could pay that bill out of your annual expense account, and still have $8,200 left over. Hint, hint! You don't even have to show a receipt. Just kidding!)
Otherwise, the house is fine, except for the refrigerator, which is wearing out. The repairman says it's not worth fixing. For now, anything that needs to stay cold, I put in the freezer part, and it doesn't spoil. Most of the time.
I'm not complaining. I'm pretty lucky, mind you, especially compared with all of those people on fixed incomes. I just have to save my money until I can afford a new fridge. I was hoping that my annual raise would cover the cost of a new one, but I work for a non-profit, and we get part of our budget from the state. Well, our subsidy keeps getting squeezed, and as you can probably guess, our salary pool got capped, too. (And it's not like we can just vote ourselves raises. Ha, ha!)
Plus, with fuel prices getting so high, I have to save money any way I can. I just paid my gasoline credit card bills tonight. I used to spend about $77 per month for gas. This month, I'm spending $125. (That's ironic, because I see where you guys get $129 per day in travel expenses. I could pay my gas bill for a month, and still have $4 left over.) I suppose I could look for a more fuel efficient car, but I still have a year's payments left on this one. It's a '99, and I got it second-hand. Luckily, it's still worth about $7,000. (You get $7,200 per year for a car lease. Want to lease mine? Kidding, again!)
Come to think of it, I just did some more quick math. I added up the value of the car, and the house, and my yearly salary. And guess what? It comes out to less than you'll be taking in "unvouchered expenses" through the end of your term. (According to The Associated Press, that's $103,683. Does that sound right? It seems high.)
How was your summer? You get two months off, right? Great! In fact, I see where state legislators work an average of 77 days per year. Good for you. I just took a second job, working on Sundays, so I'll be lucky if I get 77 days off per year.
Personally, my summer was pretty good, right up until August. First my thermostat went bad. I no sooner replaced that, and the air-conditioner itself broke! To make a long story short, I'm trying to save money (blah, blah, blah), so I haven't gotten it fixed yet. Sometimes, the heat and humidity made it pretty hard for me to sleep at night.
How have you been sleeping at night, by the way?
Thanks again for writing. I really appreciated that, and I also appreciated the fact that you sent me a nice "reminder" card with your contact information on it. That way, I won't forget your name.
Well, don't worry, because you can bet I'm not going to forget your name! In fact, I see that you're up for re-election in 2008, and I'm going to make sure I talk with all of my new neighbors (I have some really nice neighbors here) about you.
In fact, I can hardly wait for election day!
(To) cite another example we ought to be talking about, take Act 201 of 2004, the “Responsible Utility Customer Protection Act.”
Utilities sought the bill because, they said, too many people were able to get out of paying their bills, passing the cost to the rest of us while they hid behind fake names or hid from meetings with utility reps, who under the old law had to speak to customers in person before shutting them off.
But as much as the pay raise itself, Act 201 was a classic piece of Harrisburg chicanery. Passed by the Senate in 2003, it sat in a House committee for a year. Then, in a single week during a late-November “lame-duck” session last year, the House rammed the bill through, sent it back to the Senate and then to the governor’s desk. Throughout the entire process, there was not a single public hearing on the measure.
The results were predictable. In June, the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) reported that utilities were shutting off service to twice as many customers -- at Columbia Gas, the number of shut-offs jumped by 230 percent. Critics have already linked some deaths to utility shut-offs enabled by the new law.
Category: default || By jt3y
Editor's note: The following article from a news organization far in the future was recently discovered on a computer at Tube City Omnimedia's world headquarters just outside Our Fair City. Dr. Pica Pole, director of research for the laboratories division of Tube City Online, speculates that an unusually warm October, combined with the surprising 5-0 start of the Penn State Nittany Lions, caused a temporary fracture in the space-time continuum.
Dr. Pole is continuing to investigate the phenomenon with the help of what he calls "liberal application of Newton's theories of motion, Einstein's theories of relativity, and Glenlivet's theories of malting."
Pirates end season with 20-3 home loss
By UPMC-Eat 'n Park-Gazette-Tribune Staff
Oct. 10, 2105
The Pittsburgh Pirates last night closed their 113th consecutive losing season with a 20-3 loss to the Havana Fidels at New Forbes Field.
An outstanding pitching performance by rookie robot phenom XDR-201-A, which gave up only 17 hits in seven innings, wasn't enough to overcome the Bucs' anemic hitting. Interim Manager Suzanne Rodriguez said that a new combination of steroids and mind-altering drugs prescribed to the Pirates' humanoid players by team physicians was to blame.
The start of the game was delayed for about two hours because of high ultraviolet radiation levels. The temperature at the surface of the infield was 43 degrees at the scheduled 7:05 p.m. start, but had dropped to a more manageable 32 when play began.
Though they ended the season at 75-107, Stewart McClatchy, managing general partner of the Pirates, said he was pleased with the progress the team had made this year.
"We have a very young team, including several experimental players," he said. "I also think Suzanne did an admirable job as the interim manager, especially considering the tragic circumstances under which she took over."
The previous manager, Herbert Delmark, was gunned down by crazed fans on July 13 during an exhibition game between the Pirates and Schenley High School. According to investigators from Halliburton, who currently police Pittsburgh under contract, the fans were angry after two fielding errors allowed Schenley to put runners on base.
A Halliburton jury later ruled the shooting "justified" because the Pirates have led the Eastern League in fielding errors since 2091. Schenley went on to win that game, 7-3.
McClatchy said next season is likely to be a "rebuilding year."
"We have some excellent clones nearly completed in the laboratory, and our minor-league programmers say that they've greatly improved the AI in their most promising robots," he said. "Next year is going to be our best season yet. I only wish my Uncle Kevin had lived to see it."
Kevin McClatchy, who led a group that purchased the Pirates in 1996, was placed in suspended animation in 2065, after asking his doctors to revive him when the team won the World Series. A team of medical experts last year advised the McClatchy family to remove him from the machines, saying that freezer burn had caused irreversible cell damage.
Fans interviewed last night outside New Forbes Field said they couldn't share Stewart McClatchy's optimism.
"How long have we been hearing about this?" asked Farishta Salahuddin, 27, of Kandahar, Afghanistan, as she waited in line at one of the teleportation chambers near the Bouquet Street entrance to the ball park.
Salahuddin, like other fans, blamed McClatchy's partners and co-owners, the Nutting family of West Virginia, for keeping the Pirates payroll artificially low. "How can they expect to compete when they're only paying seven-and-a-half trillion per year?"
The Pirates' payroll, which is actually about $7.4 trillion, is the lowest of International Major League Baseball's 78 teams.
Asked about claims that the Nuttings, who own West Virginia's largest chain of mind-control rays, are unwilling to spend the money to make the Pirates competitive, McClatchy pointed out that the team's board of directors is obligated to make a profit for shareholders.
"That's one of the reasons why we were so glad to get New Forbes Field, and access the new revenue it provides," he said. "We are confident that with the new ball park, we're going to be competitive again within the next few years."
Yet the ball park, erected two years ago in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, also remains a point of controversy. Historic preservationists were angered by the destruction of Hillman Library for the ball park. Experts considered the building to be among the best remaining examples of 1960s architecture still standing.
Anger over the diversion of tax money to pay for New Forbes Field --- the seventh home of the Pirates since PNC Park closed in 2020 --- helped lead to the ouster of former Pittsburgh Mayor Cyril Costa-Flaherty.
"I feel good about our prospects for next season," McClatchy said. "I think our young players continue to get better. Those who are organic have a lot of room for improvement, and as for those that are mechanical, we'll disassemble those that aren't working out, save the parts that we can, and move forward from there. We're as committed and as hungry to win as we've ever been."