Monday, February 28, 2011

Despite being in Florida for two weeks, I am keeping track of events back home in Pittsburgh thanks to the wonders of the I see that Tom Corbett is paying back his big campaign contributors from the natural gas industry by repealing the already rather weak environmental regulations that were put in place during the end of the Rendell administration. Most politicians make all sorts of campaign promises to their big contributors, but rarely do they ever actually come through with all of them. From the early signs, Corbett is going to allow the natural gas industry to rape our beautiful state, while simultaneously screwing the citizens out of safe drinking water and tax revenue. Thanks, Tom.

In other news, I see that Bishop David Zubik has brought a new friend to Pittsburgh to assist him with his duties. I think they make a handsome couple.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Brewed On Grant: Mubarakenstahl
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 09:34 AM
Written by Rob Rogers

According to Bill Peduto's Facebook page and a story in the Trib Review, the Mayor's office sent out a memo that asked City Council members to limit their use of social networks during their meetings. The memo comes on the heels of the Egyptian government shutting down the internet to prevent protesters from accessing Twitter and Facebook. Peduto dubbed Lukey "Mayor Mubarakenstahl."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bob Smizik's Blog
Coonelly wants higher attendance before Pirates do more spending
Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:30 AM
Written by Bob Smizik

In the 1989 oh, so sweet, slightly preposterous baseball movie, "Field of Dreams," the main character, played by Kevin Costner, is walking through his Iowa cornfield when he hears a voice:

"If you build it, he will come.''

So motivated, Costner's character builds a field on his farm and he (Shoeless Joe Jackson) comes to play ball on it.

In the 2011 oh, so sour, completely preposterous upcoming Pirates season, "Field of Screams," the team president, played by Frank Coonelly, is walking among the fan base and, stuck for a good line, does a Costner takeoff:

"If you come, we will build it," he tells the crowd.

Yep, Frank Coonelly is back issuing ultimatums to Pirates fans. In a recent interview, Connelly so much as said the team’s payroll, usually at or near the bottom among the 30 MLB franchises, will remain there until more fans start coming to games.

And there you have it, the Pirates latest promotion to get fans to PNC Park: Blackmail.

Instead of being grateful for the fine support fans give the worst team in baseball, Coonelly is telling them they need to do more. If they don’t, the not-so subtle message is that there will be more years of low payrolls and -- since mismanagement is built in -- more losing teams.

Here’s Coonelly in an interview with the web site

Pirates prospects: "Would the Pirates be able to afford a $70M to $80M payroll, in present-day worth, if this current group of players were competitive enough to merit additional outside free agents?"

Coonelly: "Today, no, but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive. We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future, but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track."

Incredible! Coonelly was asked the question Pirates fans had long been asking: Will ownership upgrade payroll to support a winner? It's a question owner Bob Nutting always has ducked. Coonelly did not duck. He took the large softball thrown up by and . . . swung and missed.

James Krug of had a response to Coonelly's bewildering statement that is reproduced here because he said it far better than I could.

"Sadly, Coonelly does not place the immediate onus on the Pirates themselves to build a better, more competitive team that fans would WANT to see. Rather -- as has been a consistent message from Pirates' ownership -- they desire to see a significant increase in attendance PRIOR to the team actually getting good! It's maddening. From a purely business perspective, it is a backwards approach. You could liken it to a car company telling its customers:

"'We really want to build better cars for you. But before we do, we need you to start buying our lower-quality, underperforming cars in a much higher volume.'

"While many aspects of running a multi-million dollar business are highly complex, appeasing a fan base is not. Offer them a consistently competitive team, and they will show up in droves. Bobbleheads and fireworks only mask an inferior on-the-field product for so long. The Pirates were provided a jewel of a stadium in PNC Park that was almost entirely publicly financed. They are handed tens of millions of dollars every year in MLB revenue sharing and the MLB TV contract- to the point that it could cover their ENTIRE payroll most years!"

This is so typical of how the Pirates operate. They should be groveling at the feet of their loyal fan base and not threatening to raise ticket prices, as they've done, and not threatening to withhold a good team until more fans pay good money to see a bad team.

Not even Hollywood could make up this story.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Consol Consort
Monday, February 21, 2011 09:35 AM
Written by Rob Rogers

Pennsylvania Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati accepted a free trip to Super Bowl XLV from Consol Energy, Inc. Granted, he wasn't the only government official in Harrisburg to accept the freebies and he has since promised to pay them back, but it looks bad since Scarnati is involved in how to regulate and tax the emerging natural-gas drilling industry.

Monday, February 21, 2011

As some of my vast and loyal readership know, I embark on a two-week odyssey in ultra trendy Bradenton, Florida this week. With a ride to and from the airport safe and secure, I may not even have to wear a jacket on the plane. You probably haven't been paying attention, but the highs in Bradenton lately have been in the low 80s. So . . . I probably won't be needing a jacket.

I have a special present for the gecko hunter with whom I will be spending eight days alone in my parents' palatial estate while they go on a cruise to Central America with my sister's family. As it turned out, my sister got a hotel room for her family for the night before the cruise leaves from Florida and the night after it returns. Enough said.
And for those of you who follow baseball, you know it is Spring Training in Florida. My father offered me his tickets to the Pirate games during their cruise, and I said no thanks. While this season may very well be his FIRST without some kind of ticket plan for the Pirates at a time when he was residing in Pittsburgh, he still hasn't given up the Spring Training tickets. It's what all the seniors do down there. Most of the games are in the afternoon, they only last about two hours, and the old folks can drive home in time for the early bird special and be off the roads by dark.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Father of nine children ranging in age from 25 to 2 months? Roman Catholic? You think?

Baldwin man vows to keep 24-foot lighted cross in yard
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By Sarah Steimer and Mary Niederberger, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Baldwin Borough resident Carl Behr informed borough council at its meeting Tuesday night that he would not remove a 24-foot illuminated cross from his property as he had been instructed to do.

Mr. Behr received a letter from the borough Monday, following a neighbor's complaint, stating the cross was not in compliance with borough code and must come down within five days.

Mr. Behr said the cross, which is nailed to a tree on his property at 1210 Robbins St., is "about the Lord." Those who want it removed, he said, are against God.

"This is a message I have to deliver," he said, and thanked his neighbor who complained because he said it allowed him to share his message with more people.

Mr. Behr, 45, said today that the 24-foot cross that is affixed to a tree on his property is a message to the world that it is time to "make a choice -- are you with the Lord or against the Lord?"

Mr. Behr, the father of nine children ranging in age from 25 to 2 months, said he has been a practicing Roman Catholic all of his life and that he is a member of St. Elizabeth parish in Baldwin. But things have changed for him in the past year.

"Something that's happened to me in the last year is that my journey to the Lord has gotten really strong," he said.

He said it was a message from the Lord that prompted him to erect a small lighted wooden cross on the roof of his home three months ago. Then on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 6, he received another message from the Lord telling him to erect the 24-foot cross.

He said he missed the first half of the game, in which the Steelers played the Packers, to finish the job. He lit it for the first time that night.

He admits that the crosses appeared around the time that a neighbor complained to borough officials about items from his contracting business that he had on his property and construction vehicles parked on the street. But he said those complaints have nothing to do with the crosses, the largest of which shines directly into the home of the neighbor who complained.

Mr. Behr said the placement of that cross was to ensure that it is seen throughout the valley below.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

JIM: Found stink bugs twice recently.

DAVE: Yeah, it's going to be a bad summer for them. They are simply hard to kill and they have no known predators. They may be a superior bug to even the cockroach.

JIM: Pit a cockroach and a stinkbug against each other in a battle to the death. I bet that video would be a hit on YouTube.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sure enough, I found a stink bug crawling across my floor the other night. They're still around, and not going anywhere, as warmer weather mercilessly approaches. But this is America, where even the words "the American Dream" bring John Boehner to girly tears. And where there's a need, there is always someone who is willing to try to find a solution. Usually for about $19.99. Plus shipping and handling.

Stink bug trap on the way
Saturday, February 12, 2011
By Doug Oster, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The war against the brown marmorated stink bug just got a new weapon.

Sterling International has developed the Rescue Stink Bug Trap and will have it in stores this summer. It uses a synthetic pheromone or sex lure to attract the insect into the trap.

Stink bugs, an invasive species from Asia discovered first in Allentown, Pa., in the late 1990s, have spread to at least 30 states. These bugs have confounded gardeners and farmers alike by feeding on a variety of vegetables and fruits, including but not limited to tomatoes, apples, beans and ornamental plants. They have also plagued homeowners, finding their way inside as the weather turns cold. They are harmless, but a nuisance in the house.

There are no known natural predators for them the United States, but a species of titmice (a bird) will eat them. The stink bug is also resistant to many pesticides.

Stephanie Cates, formerly of Upper St. Clair, is director of marketing and communications for Sterling International in Spokane, Wash. She says that the trap will attract both the immature (nymph stage) and mature bugs.

"In the nymph stage, they can't fly. The trap is most effective if it's close to the garden canopy so they can jump from a leaf onto the panels of the trap," she said.

It's designed for outdoor use only. Tests have found that the bug doesn't react to the pheromone indoors, although the company is working on ways to trap the bugs once they get inside. The radius of the trap is limited to 20 feet, so it won't lure bugs from all over, Ms. Cates said.

The pheromones are odor-free to humans.

"If people can catch them outdoors and eliminate them before they get inside, that's the best way to go," she said.

When the trap becomes available at independent garden centers in July, it will retail for $19.95 and come with enough pheromones to last two weeks. A replacement pheromone insert lasts seven weeks and costs $9.99.

The trap was tested last fall at the USDA's 800-acre facility in Beltsville, Md.

"We caught lots of adult stink bugs," Ms. Cates said.

Information: .

Monday, February 14, 2011

DAVE: Check out this photo of you. There is a little story behind this photo. One of my fraternity brothers was taking photos at Greek Sing that year, and he took this photo of you and then secretly placed it in an envelope and slipped it into my IFC mailbox, where I found it days later, much to my surprise. I've kept it ever since.

CINDY: I'm so embarrassed for myself! Ugh!

DAVE: Don't be. You look a helluva lot better than the other girls.

Friday, February 11, 2011

DAVE: Sidney Crosby could be out for the season. They're not fucking around with his concussion. He is at home in Manitoba or whatever.

JIM: As more information is learned about head injuries and their long-term effects, I think teams in all contact sports are scared shitless. Yes, of course the Penguins care about Crosby and are going to be cautious because they want him to have a long and productive career. But I think that teams are also afraid that they are going to end up on the hook financially big time for all the problems former players are having due to concussions they suffered when playing.

DAVE: Several prominent law firms are already putting together massive class-action lawsuits against the NFL. You can always count on the lawyers to spur change.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Casinos continue to be just great for Pennsylvania, much like the Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling will be. Fortunately, Uncle Ed and his cronies had the foresight to see that gaming casinos were the answer to Pennsylvania's financial problems. How did that work out?

Boy, 15, played slots at casino for an hour
Thursday, February 10, 2011
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Rivers Casino was fined $105,000 by the state Gaming Control Board today in connection with seven instances of underage gambling, including one on New Year's Day when a 15-year-old boy played slot machines for an hour.

The Meadows Racetrack and Casino also was fined $30,000 by the gambling board for three episodes of underage violations. In one, a 3-year-old child was taken into the casino by his stepmother. According to the gaming board, the two were in the casino for only a matter of minutes and did not gamble.

Both fines were the result of consent agreements reached with the casinos and approved at today's meeting.

According to the gambling board, the Rivers' violations stretched from June to January and involved gamblers ranging in age from 15 to 20. In the incident involving the 15-year-old boy, the teenager was cited by state police for underage gaming and both he and his mother were banned from the casino for life.

In another incident in September, an 18-year-old female played slot machines for about half an hour. She also had been issued a player's card by the casino on Feb. 15, 2010, and had used it three times that month. She was cited for underage gaming and carrying false identification.

Besides the incident involving the 3-year-old, The Meadows was fined for a July episode in which two children, ages 9 and 11, entered the gambling floor with their mother. According to the board, they were there for only minutes and none gambled.

The fines are the second for both facilities. The Rivers Casino also was fined $16,000 in January 2010 for one instance of underage gambling. The Meadows was fined $5,000 in December 2009, also for a single instance of underage gambling.

That's a raise of 361% for a 1-11 season on a last place team . . . in case you're scoring along with us at home . . .

DAVE: The players ALWAYS get raises. And pretty generous ones at that. Regardless of performance.

Pirates pitcher wins salary arbitration hearing
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf won his salary arbitration hearing today and will be paid $2,025,000 this coming season.

The Pirates had argued that his salary should be $1.4 million.

The case went to arbitration after the Pirates and Ohlendorf, 28, could not agree to terms. He earned $439,000 last season.

Ohlendorf had a 1-11 record with a 4.07 ERA in 108 1/2 innings last season. He was on the disabled list twice, once with a back injury and then with muscle strain in his right shoulder.

Pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Bradenton on Sunday.

JIM: The real issue is: why would the Pirates even offer him arbitration?????

DAVE: Because his is a cornerstone of the Pirates' five-man rotation of fifth starters.

JIM: Dude...

DAVE: It's true. You can look it up.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

And this is why you should always check to make sure the names and email addresses in your "To" field are the right ones.

2 workers, fired over Obama e-mail, file suit
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
By Timothy McNulty, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Two workers at the Centers for Rehab Services at UPMC Mercy hospital who were fired after they shared an e-mail comparing Barack Obama to "another tar ball washed up on the shore" have filed suit against the center, saying their constitutional rights were violated.

Administrative assistant Deborah Bonnano sent the "tar ball" e-mail to rehabilitation aide James Sprung during the Gulf oil spill last summer, along with a photo of Mr. Obama running on a beach. The center fired them, saying it was "an inappropriate e-mail that contained political and discriminatory content."

But a civil suit filed in Common Pleas Court Friday said the termination violated their constitutional rights to free speech, and specifically their opinions that Mr. Obama was "dithering while oil continued to gush" after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

The e-mail was apparently discovered after Mr. Sprung tried to send the e-mail to his sister but inadvertently sent it elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

JIM: I'm sorry for you about the Super Bowl.

DAVE: Thanks. It was a little painful to watch. But I didn't watch ONE minute of the FOX pre-game, so at least I didn't watch something that would have been even more painful.

JIM: You mean you didn't watch the robot built by NASA and GM to see who it predicted was going to be the game's MVP?

DAVE: Nope. Didn't see it. In traditional fashion, I turned off ESPN around noon and watched Entourage for the rest of the afternoon, before going to my friend's house to watch the game, arriving at 6:15. Unfortunately, I did catch the overly patriotic singing of BOTH of our national anthems, apparently, even though I tried to time my arrival at the party for exactly 6:30. I hate the Super Bowl pregame. But with FOX handling the "official" pregame, I was even more predisposed to skipping it. And from what I've read, I am the lucky one.

JIM: I always like to watch the singing of the national anthem. It always amazes me when teams hire people who screw it up though. Even more amazing, I was at a party in a roomful of people who were all watching and I was the only one who realized that Christina Aguilera screwed up the words. Unbelievable.

Aguilera was so bad, it reminded me of the national anthem sung before the Penguins first Stanley Cup game. I don't understand how professional organizations cannot hire people who can sing the national anthem. I used to be a season-ticket holder for the 76ers and I can say that at every home game I attended, they always had someone who was absolutely, jaw-dropping amazing at singing the national anthem. If the Sixers can get it right for every single meaningless regular season game, how can the NFL screw it up so bad in their biggest game of the year with the entire world watching? Pisses me off.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'm 14 minutes into "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," and I'm already thinking about stopping it and cutting my losses on yet another failed sequel. Oliver Stone used to make good movies. And he used to use good actors. Or at least actors who could act convincingly. I swear, the first one was good. Maybe a little dated now, but still a good movie.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The last remaining Blockbuster in my part of Pittsburgh, if not all of Pittsburgh, is closing. The time has come for the Blockbuster next to the 24-hour Wendy's on Baum Boulevard (which I don't think is even opened 24 hours anymore). While all of the other Blockbusters around town and around the country have closed, this one store remained opened as it continued to serve the variety of small neighborhoods around it. Like so many others before me, I joined the Netflix cult last year. But if you don't have a credit card, then you can't join Netflix or the similar companies that rent video games. I guess this Redbox that I see everywhere has pretty much replaced Blockbuster among consumers without credit cards. Just think about how the emergence of Blockbuster about 20 years ago dramatically changed the way people watched movies at home. For years we rented movies on those VHS tapes (Please be kind and rewind), and then when Blockbuster transitioned to entirely DVDs, I was forced to buy my first and still only DVD player. Blockbuster was the gold standard for renting movies and then video games for many years. Realizing that I will never need it again, I cut up my Blockbuster membership card the other night. I had originally opened my account at the Blockbuster on Baum.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dave's Super Bowl XLV prediction . . .

My vast and loyal readership may or may not know that I do not ordinarily make predictions on big games like, say, the Super Bowl. But I thought I would take a shot this year.

I am a little concerned that the Steelers are overconfident going into the game, and that they may have to withstand an early passing attack from the Packers. I see the game settling down to more of a defensive battle going into halftime. In the second half, I expect both teams to come out throwing early and often as the second half becomes a battle of the two quarterbacks. In the end, of course, I expect Ben Roethlisberger to emerge victorious with a winning drive late in the game.

Final score:

Steelers 33
Packers 30

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DAVE: Well, it seems that in addition to all the wonders that have come into my life because of high speed internet, it has also brought with it a virus of some kind. And I swear to you that I never went to one porn site or opened up even one dirty photo. After I got the high speed internet, that is.

JIM: Kind of makes it not worth it, huh? If you're going to get the virus anyway, you might as well be visiting those sites then.

DAVE: Dude, I love the real thing so much that porn has just never been able to match that. I was talking to one of the wacky women in my life today about her desire to purchase some ridiculously expensive undergarments. She sent me the link, and all I could think about was taking the underwear off of her.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recap of Monday morning . . .

DAVE: Do you ever use a shoe horn?

JIM: I used to have one when I was young. Don't know what ever happened to it. I would say that I have never used a shoe horn since I left home to go to college. Why do you ask?

DAVE: Like you, I never really took to shoe horns, except maybe when I was a young man and I had to cram my feet into dress shoes every Friday night for dance class. But generally, I haven't had a need for one. I bought a new pair of shoes recently that fit nice and properly, and I need a little help getting my heels into the things. I knew that I had one somewhere in my place that I had been carrying with me for years. I looked around and finally found it. It really does help me get my new shoes on. I suppose, like other shoes before it, there will come a day when I start slamming my feet into the shoes without the assistance of the shoe horn, but for now, I need it.

JIM: So since probably about last Wednesday, my work computer has been making this loud, high-pitched squealing noise, and performance has been really slow. I mean, REALLY slow. So I called our Help Desk last week and the guy on the phone told me to blow canned air into the vents on the computer. Nice. How do I get that job?

Anyway, now my computer has pretty much ceased to function at all. I just now was finally able to get it to boot up, after nearly an hour and a half. I called our Help Desk again and the guy I spoke to this time said that they had me down to get a new one, but that they hadn't gotten to it yet. It's possible that they might be able to get me a new one by tomorrow, but he didn't know because "the depot is really backed up," whatever that means.

100% of my work is spent sitting at my desk staring at my computer screen. If I don't have a functional computer, then I can't get any work done.

DAVE: Fifteen minutes ago, I was just reading an email response that I got from the Pirates guy at the PG when my laptop started making a clicking sound, then a blue screen, then I just shut it down. I just got it back up and running. My laptop is in desperate need of replacement, but I really don't have the money right now. So, yes, having no computer at work for you definitely sucks. But if I don't have my laptop at home, then I got pretty much nothing.