Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And yet they keep building "upscale" condos downtown. I don't know who lives in them, but developers keep building them.

Macy's puts Downtown building on the market
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Macy's has put its 13-story building Downtown up for sale.

Mike Hanrahan, a broker for commercial Realtor Cassidy Turley, confirmed that the building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street is on the market but referred all questions to Macy's.

A listing announcing the sale stated that Macy's would lease back a portion of the building. Macy's currently occupies about 10 floors and part of the 11th in the building, which for years housed the Kaufmann's department store. The top two floors, previously used for administrative offices, have been vacant.

Even with a sale, Macy's plans to continue to use the building as a store, although there's a chance it could end up using fewer floors for retail operations, spokesman Jim Sluzewski said.

No asking price was listed. May Department Stores, acquired by Macy's in 2005, paid $2.8 million for the building in 1986, according to the county real estate web site. It is currently assessed at $14 million.

Macy's joins a growing list of buildings for sale Downtown. They include the Gateway Center complex, the Oliver Building, the Regional Enterprise Tower, the EQT Tower, and the American Red Cross building.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Does anybody remember these? Many, many of my baseball cards are in these Topps card storage cases that I think you used to have to send away for in the mail with a certain number of Topps card wrappers. I think my mother handled all of that complicated business while I was out spending my hard-earned allowance (I had to do chores to earn my allowance) on packages of baseball cards with which to fill these red plastic containers with the blue handles and the generic sports players scattered around the outside. Good times.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just moments ago, on one of my favorite television shows, ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, when discussing Stephen Strasburg's first loss of the season last night against the Atlanta Braves, 5-0, Wilbon said, and I quote, "The Braves are not the Pirates."

Monday, June 28, 2010

I was with FF on Saturday when she bought a case of this Pure Drinking Water at Walgreen's for $2.99. She and I have already talked about this, so FF, if you're reading this, you can stop now and go back to planning your wedding. Anyway . . . the front label says that this is "Purified Drinking Water." On closer inspection, to the right of the Nutrition Facts on the back label it says, "Bottled by: Absopure Water Company, Plymouth, MI . . . Source: Municipal Water Supply, Plymouth MI. Processed by reverse osmosis and/or distillation. Micron filtered, ozonated and UV." So, the bottled water is tap water from Plymouth, Michigan that has been processed by reverse osmosis and/or distillation, micron filtered, ozonated, and UV . . . something. Listen, it was only $3.00, so it's not like FF or anyone else is paying a bunch of money for municipal water from Plymouth, Michigan, when they can get municipal water from Pittsburgh for free. But those damn plastic bottles. Ultimately, THAT'S what you're paying for. The packaging of your ozonated Plymouth water. Even of you recycle your ass off, we go through so many of those plastic bottles, and we really have nowhere to put them all. It takes oil to make the bottles, and then they rot in landfills for an eternity.

Okay, I'm done.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

For those of my vast and loyal readership who do not live in Pittsburgh, this story is about a very interesting annual convention in town.

Anthrocon event brings out the animal in enthusiasts
Saturday, June 26, 2010
By Dante Anthony Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Friday, June 25, 2010

DAVE: My online research tells me that the 1985 Mark McGwire rookie card is worth $20. Conversely, the 1990 Jeff King rookie card is worth $100. Go figure.

JIM: I guess it's because no one would ever accuse Jeff King of having taken steroids.

DAVE: Yeah, McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds really fucked up the value of their cards.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

DAVE: My avid baseball card collecting days were primarily in middle school, I guess, before I discovered girls. I kept a record of all the cards that I paid money for from mail-order catalogs or a little card shop that used to exist in a place that I walk by everyday when I'm walking dogs in my old neighborhood. In come cases, the cards have definitely increased in value. However, it's interesting how many cards from the years 1966-1975 that I bought for around $5 that are only worth about that much now. So, they've actually LOST value in the 30 years since I bought them. And all those "whole sets" of 1980s Topps cards that I bought back then: essentially worthless.

JIM: Yeah, I had friends who used to buy the whole sets. so many people back then started buying them and there were so many cards produced, that's why they have no value. Because everyone has them. I had friends who used to root through large bins of the Topps 3-packs. They sold them as three packs of cards in one, and you could see the top and bottom card of each pack. So guys used to go through them all to see if they could find packs that they knew had particular cards. I don't know why I remember this, but I remember that any pack containing Mark McGwire's rookie card in it seemed to be particularly in demand and if one could be found, the pack would never be opened because it was deemed to be worth more unopened, even though there was no way of knowing what other cards might be in it. Seemed kind of stupid to me.

Then again, I had my comic books. And the same thing has happened there too.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The story of the fired pierogi even made Monday's Pardon the Interruption (PTI) show on ESPN. I wonder how they heard about the story. Someone must have emailed it to the show over the weekend. I wonder who it was . . .

Pirates put pierogi back in the race
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pierogies float to the top.

Andrew Kurtz, one of the men who perform as a racing pierogi during Pirates' home games, has been rehired by the team after management determined that "he should not have been fired" for posting a disparaging remark about the team on the Internet.

"The employee has been rehired because he was not terminated in accordance with company [human resources] procedures," Brian Warecki, the team's communications director, said in an e-mail Tuesday night. "While his conduct was in violation of our company policy (and many other companies), it was not subject to termination at this time."

Mr. Kurtz, 24, who was in his second year as one of the team's mascots, was dismissed Thursday evening, hours after posting a message on his Facebook page that said the contract extensions the Pirates gave to general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell would mean another losing season.

He said he apologized to Dan Millar, the team's mascot coordinator, but he was still fired from the $25-a-night job.

A newspaper account of his firing Saturday generated a firestorm of bad publicity for the Pirates, but the team already was in the process of reaching out to Mr. Kurtz.

"The fact of the matter is that neither HR nor senior management were involved in the decision to fire the employee," Mr. Warecki said. "When they were made aware of the improper termination on Friday evening, they conducted an investigation into the firing. Upon learning the facts of the case and determining that he should not have been fired, [management] contacted the employee Saturday morning to offer him his job back, and he accepted."

The bad publicity, Mr. Warecki said, did not factor into the decision.

"He was rehired on Saturday morning because it was the right thing to do," Mr. Warecki said. "That same decision would have been made of any employee who was let go in this manner, whether it was reported in the media or not."

Mr. Kurtz said the resulting publicity from his dismissal was "overwhelming," and that he didn't tell anyone that he'd been rehired because he wanted to leave that in the hands of the Pirates.

He also was hoping the controversy would die down.

"They told me I should have had a warning or someone should have sat down and talked with me about what you should or shouldn't do, and the termination was uncalled for," he said, adding that he was "happy and excited" to be rejoining his fellow racing pierogies on the field after the Pirates return from their current road trip.

"I'm still a Pirates fan," he said.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I am already at 2020 standards for Internet speed . . .

Study: Pennsylvania slow in Internet speed
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
By Erich Schwartzel, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

As the Obama administration works to put American broadband connections on par with the rest of the world, Pennsylvania ranks among the worst states in the country for Internet speed, according to a new study.

The Pew Center on the States compared current Internet speeds with the "stimulus standard" speed that's been set as a benchmark by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Pennsylvania was in 39th place.

About 73.5 percent of the state's connections are up to "stimulus standard" (768 kilobits).

Connections deemed "high-speed" -- at least 6 megabits per second -- account for about 46 percent of Keystone state connections.

Hawaii topped the list with 88.3 percent of its access already at the approved level, and Montana came in last at 57.9 percent.

The Federal Communications Commission has said it wanted at least 100 million American households operating at 100 megabits per second by 2020.

In February, Pennsylvania received about $130 million in first-round stimulus funding to provide high-speed Internet access to rural areas across the state. Additional state applications have been submitted for later rounds, but no word has been issued yet on when those funds will be released.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Warning: Unabashed product endorsement . . .

Merrells rock.
BP did it for us: Our choices make disasters inevitable in the pursuit of petroleum
The surge of crude into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico is only a highly visible manifestation of a much larger societal problem, writes geologist DONALD GIBBON
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Murphy's Law, Version 11,983: If it can happen, it will.

The blowout on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico was absolutely predictable. It was bound to happen one day. Just as a single-hulled tanker was bound to end up on the rocks in Prince William Sound.

There is a fundamental reason these disasters happen: Our energy habits create demand for cheap liquid petroleum. To ensure we meet that demand, we elect politicians who allow unsafe practices. If we really valued safety, we would elect politicians who put in place and enforce safety regulations.

Instead, we as a society allow these disasters to happen ... so they do. And when they do, we cry piteously for someone to fix the problems they cause. We look for someone to blame -- other than ourselves. We long for the day when things will return to "normal" -- when we can go back to driving demand for oil into the danger zone.

Read More:

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Busy weekend for the Quiet Observer. The observing never stops . . .

BP CEO's yacht outing infuriates Gulf residents
By RAPHAEL SATTER and HOLBROOK MOHR Associated Press Writers
AP Photo/Chris Ison
Jun 19, 6:34 PM EDT
EMPIRE, La. (AP) -- BP chief executive Tony Hayward took a day off Saturday to see his 52-foot yacht "Bob" compete in a glitzy race off England's shore, a leisure trip that further infuriated residents of the oil-stained Gulf Coast.
The whole story is a little long to post here, but I highly recommend following the link. It is a rather sobering look at several aspects of the Gulf oil spill. It even makes President Obama look bad. And maybe he deserves it.
Out at the plate: Pirates dump outspoken pierogi
Saturday, June 19, 2010
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Frustrated fans pleading for something -- anything -- to be done to stop the Pirates' losing ways are likely to find little to cheer about in the baseball team's latest move.

They fired a pierogi.

Andrew Kurtz, 24, of New Brighton, one of the 18 men who take turns posing as pierogies in a crowd-pleasing race after the fifth inning of every game at PNC Park, was dismissed by the team Thursday because he posted disparaging remarks about the Pirates on his Facebook page.

"My son always was a big Pirates fan," said his mother, Mary Kurtz. "He took pride in being a pierogi runner. Since when, in this country, are you not allowed to state an opinion? Well, here is my opinion: The Pirates came through again and let go one of their biggest fans and dedicated workers."

The Pirates introduced The Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N'at, inspired by the sausage races conducted by the Milwaukee Brewers, at Three Rivers Stadium in 1999. Four runners, costumed as pierogies, dash along the outfield warning track to break through a finish line of balloons, then exit into the ballpark seating area, where they greet fans.

Sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogis, the promotion features Cheese Chester in yellow, Sauerkraut Saul in red, Oliver Onion in purple and Jalapeno Hannah in green. One of the original pierogies, the blue Potato Pete, was retired a few years ago, but occasionally makes surprise appearances.
Kids love the event and the team has responded with pierogi-character beanbags, windup cars and other toys given away through the season. The mascots even travel to other cities' ballparks and make frequent appearances at events around town.
Mr. Kurtz became a pierogi two years ago when a friend told him about tryouts. He made the team, joining other men ranging from their early 20s to a 48-year-old runner who has been a pierogi since the beginning. There have been women runners in the past, but none this season, he said.
Sometimes the Pirates will permit outside organizations or groups to buy the right to run a race, but those occasions are rare.
"It's a blast," Mr. Kurtz said. "You pick out which eye you want to look through and just goof around and be stupid. No one knows it's you. You run your race and afterward you go up in the crowd and high-five people. They take pictures. It's a great time."
There isn't a lot of dough involved in being a pierogi. Runners are paid $25 per race and, because of road games and the rotation, Mr. Kurtz said he only participated about four times a month. There are other perks, however, including tickets to games and $50 for public appearances, such as a visit Mr. Kurtz made as a pierogi two weeks ago to Shaler Area Middle School.

Like many people, Mr. Kurtz, who described himself as a lifelong, die-hard Pirates fan, has a Facebook page, where he occasionally would bemoan the team's misfortunes. But he never named names before.

Thursday, at 4:30 p.m., he posted a message aimed at team president Frank Coonelly, general manager Neal Huntington and manager John Russell. It read: "Coonelly extended the contracts of Russell and Huntington through the 2011 season. That means a 19-straight losing streak. Way to go Pirates."

Within four hours, he received a call from Dan Millar, the Pirates' mascot coordinator.

"He called as the game was going on," Mr. Kurtz said. "He wanted to know what was up with my Facebook message. I told him I didn't mean anything by it, and he was like, 'Well, why'd you put it up?' I said, it was just an opinion. But he took it negative and talked to his boss. And then they wanted me to turn my uniform in."

A pierogi's uniform consists of black Spandex pants and a shirt, which Mr. Kurtz turned in Friday.

"I apologized and asked for a second chance, but he did not take my apology," Mr. Kurtz said. "He was like, 'Nah, it's too late.' "

Pirates spokesman Brian Warecki on Friday night said, "While we cannot discuss the specifics of the dismissal, we can say that a part-time employee serving a suspension for a previous violation of company policy was terminated for committing yet another violation of company policy."

Mr. Kurtz said the previous violation involved a miscommunication regarding his work schedule. But there's always trouble when you burn a pierogi. Mr. Kurtz's mother contacted the news media to express her anger.

"I think it was very unfairly done," Mrs. Kurtz said. "If they thought that what he said was wrong, they could have just said, 'Look, take it off Facebook.' And then let it go."

Mr. Kurtz, who over the past season-and-a-half has posed as all four pierogies, said he would miss it.

"The kids really get into it," he said. "They want to hug. Even the parents are like, 'Wow, it's a pierogi, that's so cool. I want to get my picture taken.'

"When the Pirates are playing bad, people still want to see that pierogi race. I've heard people say, 'That's the only reason we stayed at the game. We wanted to see the pierogi race.' "

After each race, the Pirates post on the scoreboard the "standings" numbering the wins recorded by each pierogi. According to Mr. Kurtz, the races are not, in fact, always fixed.

"They try to keep it close," he said. "They don't want a pierogi to fall too far behind. So if Jalapeno Hannah is two, three games behind, they kind of want her to win, so they pick the fastest runner out of the four runners that are racing that night and give Hannah to that one."
All races are choreographed to an extent, Mr. Kurtz said, but there is room for ad-libbing, particularly with the Pirate Parrot.

As far as having a favorite pierogi, Mr. Kurtz said he was partial to Sauerkraut Saul.

"I like the red," he said. "Saul's just the guy."

Mr. Kurtz said Oliver Onion has those giant goofy glasses, and Cheese Chester has a frown on his face that prompts kids to ask "Why aren't you happy?" There is an upside to being Jalapeno Hannah: You get to carry a purse.

"That's the only thing good about her, because you can whack the other pierogies," Mr. Kurtz said.

Asked if he'd learned anything during his time as a pierogi -- or as an employee of the Pittsburgh Pirates -- Mr. Kurtz was ready with a response.

"Don't post personal thoughts about the boss or whoever I work for," he said. "Just keep quiet."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Post Number 700 . . .

JIM: I bought and downloaded Darth Vader's voice for my GPS last night. A rare battle won by me over my kids, who wanted Spongebob.

"Turn right. Don''t make me destroy you."

Long live the wonders of high-speed internet!

DAVE: That is excellent.

I don't have a GPS. Which I guess puts me in the minority these days.

JIM: "After you get a GPS, you will have arrived at your destination. But you will not be a Jedi yet."
Table games are coming! Table games are coming! We're all saved! Maybe Florida should get table games. I'm sure they would help with the massive oil leak in the Gulf. Apparently, table games help everything.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

He ain't no Stephen Strasburg . . .

Pirates: Plenty of seats remain for Alvarez debut
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pirates' game-day sales for Pedro Alvarez's debut tonight at PNC Park are better than usual, but plenty of good tickets remain, team officials said this afternoon.

The crowd of 12,693 Tuesday night for the 6-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox is pretty much the standard this time of year on a weeknight, so even a highly unusual game-day sale of several thousand would be needed to push the crowd past 20,000.

The team is expecting much larger crowds for the weekend series with the Cleveland Indians, during which the 1960 World Series championship team will be celebrated. Some tickets for those games are being sold for $19.60.
While I was getting my hair cut yesterday, Kelly and I decided that it is inappropriate for women over 50 to wear ankle jewelry. Fifty is the cut-off.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thanks to Mr. Blondie for sending me this excellent link:
The great bottled-water scam
North Americans pay $15 billion a year for a product they already own and can use for next-to-nothing, reports science writer JUDE ISABELLA

Jude Isabella is a science writer and managing editor of YES Mag: the Science Magazine for Adventurous Minds ( She lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We think of ourselves as shrewd and thrifty shoppers. Yet, when it comes to bottled water, North Americans are conned to the tune of $15 billion and 8 billion gallons annually, paying twice for a commodity we already own.

The truth is most of us in the United States and Canada can be assured that the water that flows from our taps is as clean as bottled water -- and our taxes have already paid for it.

In fact, tap water may actually be cleaner. Last month, researchers found that some bottled water contains more bacteria than tap water. More than 70 percent of the popular brands tested in this new study failed to meet bacterial standards set by the United States Pharmacopeia, a nongovernment agency that sets safety standards for medications and health-care products, according to the Montreal Gazette.

In comparison, tap water is usually so pure, bottled water companies can simply bottle it and sell it to you. For example, Coca Cola-owned Dasani bottled water often comes from local water utilities. Visit its website and you can follow the eight-step Dasani treatment process, but never once read which contaminants are so terrifying that the company needs to disinfect the water all over again. If it's taste you're after, you can spend up to $5.50 a gallon on the bottled stuff, or as low as $0.15 per gallon for tap water with a home filter.

The United States and Canada spend enormous sums of money on research and regulations to keep tap water safe. The Colorado-based Water Research Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to drinking water studies, is bankrolled by about 900 water utilities and spends up to $25 million a year on its research, which is used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada, and by water utilities serving roughly 80 percent of the U.S. population.

The bottled water industry possesses no such research arm. Nor is it regulated as rigorously as water utilities.

EPA requires public water supply testing by certified labs that must give timely violation reports. Public water systems must also offer reports to customers, noting their water's source, evidence of contaminants and regulatory compliance.

In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, cannot require certified lab testing or violation reporting. Nor does the FDA require bottled water companies to disclose where water comes from, how it is treated or what contaminants it contains, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Look at the historical record and you'll see that the government-regulated water systems of the United States and Canada are among the best on the planet, protecting against cholera, typhoid and other water-borne epidemics that still plague the developing world. Unfortunately, the success of these utilities has made them largely invisible. It's like mass vaccinations -- when the threat of a deadly disease is eliminated, we quickly forget how we achieved public health in the first place, and then take it utterly for granted.

Fifty years ago, when Americans started to worry about a clean environment, including their drinking water, they didn't suddenly start buying bottled water. Instead they demanded action and the Clean Water Act was passed -- a regulatory framework that dramatically improved drinking water standards in the 1970s, and still does today.

All that said, there is an appropriate market for bottled water. Lead contamination is a big problem in some schools where old pipes leach toxic lead into tap water. In such cases, bottled water is an affordable substitute to keep students safe. Even mundane problems, like the inconvenience of a suddenly thirsty child, makes bottled water a better choice than a sugary drink.

So I'm not saying that bottled water is inherently evil, just mostly unnecessary and a waste of money.

Water is not private property. It's a commonly owned resource, that needs to be managed for the public good, which is exactly what public water utilities do extremely well.

So if you want to pinch pennies in these hard economic times, why pay up to 36 times more for bottled water that may or may not be just as good as your own tap water?

Monday, June 14, 2010

I was driving home on Friday evening, when I noticed that I was behind a motorcycle with a man driving, and a woman sitting behind him holding a dog. That was not something that I had ever seen before. We're not talking about a little non-dog dog that could fit in a purse. No, it was a medium-sized pooch, and the woman appeared to be holding on tight while the dog enjoyed the ride. I tried to get closer to get a better look, and that's when I saw that the dog was wearing a very small pair of rather stylish black goggles. I couldn't resist. For the first time ever, I did a dangerous and foolish thing and pulled my cell phone out of my pocket so that I could try and snap a photo of this dog on a hog. Please don't try this at home.

Friday, June 11, 2010

When I was driving past Mike Tomlin's palatial estate today, I saw what I believe to have been Coach Tomlin himself turning into his driveway in his shiny black Escalade with the really shiny rims. So, I waved to him.
JIM: I almost forgot to tell you. I went to the dentist on Tuesday. They always give me a little goodie bag after my visit, and this time they included a product called Soft-Picks (or something like that; I believe the name of the company that makes it is GUM). It is kind of like a really skinny toothpick with bristles on the end that is supposed to work like floss. Maybe you should try it.

They also gave me a new toothbrush. An orange Oral-B. They let me choose which one I wanted, so I went with the Flyers color.

DAVE: Very funny. Is the Oral-B toothbrush a plain one, or is it fancy?

JIM: I'm not sure I would even know the difference.

DAVE: Here's the litmus test of a fancy toothbrush: Do the bristles come in colors other than plain and blue? Are there all sorts of different colored bristles headed in all sorts of different directions?

JIM: I didn't look at it that closely. I know that it was orange. For the Flyers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

DAVE: If an athlete has ONE good year these days, they want a new contract. I sound old.

JIM: Yes, you do sound old. But that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with that.

Speaking of old, have I told you that over the past few weeks, I've noticed a lot of hair in my brush every time I brush my hair. I guess I am losing my hair. It is not noticeable at all yet, but there has been a lot of loose hairs in my brush lately.

DAVE: Most guys lose their hair. At least part of it.

And, of course, we gain it in our ears, our upper arms, and our backs. At least some of us.

JIM: Nose hair.

DAVE: Oops. Forgot about that one.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Is this job almost over? I need to get the hell out of here and go do some cushy political consulting gig.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Over the weekend, I took a look online at my Verizon land line telephone bill and decided that I could probably change my local calling plan from the UNLIMITED local calling that I've had for as long as I can remember to the BUDGET plan. Not only do I not make unlimited calls on my land line, I hardly make ANY calls on it. I needed the UNLIMITED plan when I still had dial-up internet, but I don't anymore. Like most people these days, practically my entire calling life exists on my cell phone. But like a lot of folks, I just can't give up my land line. I've trimmed my service down over the years, as my cell phone has become my "primary" number. First I cancelled my long-distance service. Then I cancelled Call Waiting. Now, all I want is a phone and a dial tone. Why do I keep the land line when I hardly ever use it? First of all, I have a cool phone number that I would miss terribly. Secondly, I like to have a land line in case of extreme emergencies when cell phones might not work. Thirdly, with my cell phone as my primary number, I like to have a secondary number that I can give out to businesses and companies, etc. who I don't necessarily want to have my cell phone number. It's a shame, really, because I really love my land line phone. When I found it online using my high-speed internet, I just had to have it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Now, THAT'S something that you don't see everyday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ethics board to discuss Adam Ravenstahl appointment
Friday, June 04, 2010
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board will hold a discussion next Friday of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's nomination of his brother to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority board.

City Councilman Bill Peduto last week asked the board to render an opinion on Adam Ravenstahl's nomination. The mayor made the nomination May 19, the day after his brother won a special election to the state House.

Sister Patrice Hughes, ethics board chairwoman, today confirmed that the board will discuss the nomination at its June 11 meeting.

Did anyone else notice that the chairwoman of the ethics board is a Sister?
I realize that "Sex in the City 2" is not a movie intended for me. But I still think that the franchise may have fallen into the common movie trap in which the sequel (out of all of the ideas in the world, the best that anyone could come up with) is a road trip. It happened with "The Karate Kid," in which Part 2 took the heroes to Okinawa, Japan. It happened with "Crocodile Dundee," in which Part 2 actually had the heroes lead the bad guys from New York City on a road trip to Australia's Outback. It's what sequels do. And then in the third installment, they always return home for their greatest adventure ever. Or to have a baby. Stay tuned for "Sex in the City 3," Ladies. And don't forget to take your husbands/boyfriends.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dave and Dennis say good-bye . . .

DAVE: I received the package over the weekend. Thank you. Four toothbrushes in blue and green. Very kind of you. I wanted to let you know that I tried the NoWax Classic Super Thin White Floss, and I shredded it. I haven't tried the other floss yet, but I will. I'm telling you, many brands of floss have not been able to conquer my teeth. They are a freak of nature. But Glide does do the job. I'm sure your floss is great. For people with adequate space between their teeth. I have all four of my wisdom teeth, straight and perfect, but they pushed all of my other teeth closer together, and I've been shredding floss ever since.

Again, many thanks for the little package of dental care goodies.

DENNIS: You're welcome! Let me know if I can be of any help in the future.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Study finds 1 in 4 Pa. drivers don't know rules
Scores on yearly test 'not getting better'
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This might come as no surprise, but there's a 1 in 4 chance that the person ahead of you in traffic is clueless.

So suggests a study by GMAC Insurance, which administered a 20-question written test to more than 5,000 drivers nationwide, with questions pulled from actual tests administered by state motor vehicle agencies.

Pennsylvania did not shower itself in glory, finishing 39th among states with an average score of 75.8 percent, below the 76.2 percent national average. Possibly more dismaying is that 25.3 percent of Pennsylvania respondents flunked the exam.

With 8.7 million licensed drivers in the state, that means there could be as many as 2.2 million Keystone State motorists who don't know whether to yield or wind their watches.

It was the sixth year GMAC administered the test, and this year's results showed that as a nation, we're skidding. The national average score fell by 0.4 percentage points from the preceding year.

Wade Bontrager, a senior vice president for the company, said although the drop was small, it was discouraging. "We've been evangelizing this message for six years now. ... It's not getting better," he said.

The company decided to test drivers because of the volume of accident reports and claims in which lack of driving knowledge was a contributing factor, he said.

"In so many of these (accidents), it's little things that caused them. Someone followed too closely or failed to yield," Mr. Bontrager said.

Nationally, 18.4 percent of the 5,202 survey respondents failed to score the 70 percent needed to pass the exam. That translates to 38 million drivers nationwide who would flunk if they were required to take a written test, the insurer said.

Kansas drivers had the best average score, 82.3 percent. New Yorkers ranked last, at 70 percent.

The Northeast had the lowest average test score (74.9 percent) and the highest failure rate (25.1 percent). The Midwest had the highest average test score (77.5 percent) and the lowest failure rate (11.9 percent).

Men outscored women 78.1 percent to 74.4, and had a lower failure rate, 18.1 percent to 24 percent for females.

"It's very concerning," Mr. Bontrager said of Pennsylvania's failure rate. "Even the good states have a lot of people failing this test. They all should be doing better."

"It is alarming," agreed Bevi Powell, spokeswoman for AAA East Central, based in Pittsburgh. But she added that "more crashes happen due to inattention than a lack of knowledge."

Most Pennsylvania drivers aren't required to be tested for knowledge once they've passed the written exam to receive their learner's permits. On that test, they must correctly answer at least 15 of the 18 questions to pass.

The state has administered about 430,000 knowledge tests for car and motorcycle applicants since last July, with a pass-fail ratio of about 50-50, said Danielle Klinger, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Drivers who accumulate six points for moving violations are given a special exam and must pass it within 30 days to avoid a license suspension.

Others might be required to be retested if they are diagnosed with an impairment that affects their driving ability, Ms. Klinger said. Medical professionals are required to report such diagnoses to the state.

Ms. Powell noted that AAA and other agencies offer an 8-hour refresher course on driving rules, and those 55 and older who take the course are eligible for 5 percent reductions in their car insurance premiums.

AAA does not support mandatory retesting of older motorists, and Ms. Powell said she was unaware of any state that requires it.

Mr. Bontrager said GMAC wasn't advocating that states require periodic retesting. He said he considered it a matter of personal responsibility for drivers to brush up on their knowledge, and to realize that the value of such knowledge was improved safety, not just a step toward getting a license.

After the test results are announced each year, millions go to to take the test, he said. "If some of those people get better as a result, and avoid getting into an accident, we will have succeeded."

PennDOT's drivers manual also is available online and has 183 sample test questions at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

JIM: So, your boy Al is dumping his wife after 40 years. Think he's going for a younger woman?

DAVE: I don't care who you are, marriage for a lifetime is a hard accomplishment these days. If he's leaving her for another woman, then he is leaving her for Mother Earth.

JIM: I guess I shouldn't provoke you knowing your bromance with Al Gore. sometimes I just can't stop myself from poking the bear. And you know, it never turns out well for me when I do.

DAVE: It is because Al Gore lost the Presidency to George Bush that our country is in greater peril than anyone is even willing to talk about out loud. Bush becoming President instead of Gore was the final push I needed to stop believing in god. True story.

JIM: Maybe the whole situation was set up by God just to test your faith.

DAVE: If that was the case, then my faith failed. But letting Bush destroy our country over the course of eight years was too much for me. I believe that the United States would be a much better place had Gore won. And he did win.

JIM: Get over it.

wow, that sounded harsher than I meant it to be.

Dave and Dennis continued . . .

As promised, I received a package from Dennis the POH salesperson over the weekend. He sent me two spools of their special, one-of-a-kind floss and four toothbrushes. Two in blue and two in green. Considering that my original goal was to purchase five toothbrushes from the POH website, I would say that Dennis is a good guy. Even if he does live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and sell POH dental products over the internet. With a $20 minimum.