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    • Cold War 2.0 Incoming
      Right, with the ban on Huawei using chips made with American manufacturing equipment (one of America’s last few places of absolute advantage); the bans of TikTok, Tencent and WeChat; the attempt to convince other countries to not use Huawei 5G; the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter for doing business with Iran along with the […]
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WTF does he mean??

Trump is having another covfefe moment. This time, he is planning a “Pittsburgh, not Paris” rally to celebrate getting out of the global climate accord. 

Really??

I don’t even know what that means. Clinton won Allegheny County by 14000 more votes in 2016 than Obama won it in 2012. Pittsburgh is NOT Trump Country. The collective IQ here is still pretty high. Most of us are literate. We don’t even need secret hand signals to identify ourselves. We can easily avoid the raving fanboys and sTrumpets who bore us to death from their portable tables in the mall.

The Trump supporters here are outnumbered. They just haven’t come to accept it and understand that we consider  their willful ignorance tedious.

Or does he mean that Pittsburgh circa 1960 will become the new model with all the pollution from the coal generated smoke and sandblasting that turned our air into a dirty chunky mess? Like this?  

Well, this is what happens when you never actually get out of your vehicle on the way to your pre-election rallies. The steel mills are mostly gone and Pittsburgh is a robotics and IT center these days with a well educated urban population. Oh sure, there are Trump people here who can’t be reasoned with but like I said, they are outnumbered. 

Pittsburgh belongs to the rest of us. Don’t drag our beautiful, clean city into your stupid fight with the rest of the planet, Donald. 

My Favorite Things

My favorite obsession: ballet

My favorite city: Pittsburgh

My favorite composer- DeBussey

 

Ok, you have to admit that was nice.

Now, what’s going on in politics? Got any thots?

Weird conversation

CoWorker 1: When’s your last day?

Me: Sunday, I start my new job on Monday.

CoWorker 1: Where are you going?

Me: To blahdiblah Co. It’s the downtown office.

CoWorker 2: Oh, I wouldn’t want to work down there.

Me: Why not?

CoWorker 2: I hate driving downtown.

Me: (laughing) I’m not going to drive. I’m taking the bus.

CoWorker 2: Why are you going to take the bus?  I would never take the bus.

Me: I don’t want to drive, I don’t like to sit in traffic. I can read when I’m on the bus. I don’t have to pay for parking. I love the bus.

CoWorker 2: {{blank look}} I would never take the bus.

Me: Why? You said you don’t want to drive downtown.

CoWorker 2: {{long pause}}  I like driving my own car.

Ok, this is stupid. I have talked to a lot of people in Pittsburgh who think the bus is a lowlife conveyance device. My experience is that a lot of younger educated people don’t want to drive. It’s expensive, it’s inconvenient, it’s time consuming. So, they are moving to more urban neighborhoods and riding their bikes and taking the buses. When I worked in Oakland, the buses were full of regular people who got off at the Whole Foods stop and read on their iPhones during the trip.

It is the older boomers who have this really negative attitude towards mass transit. They can’t figure out why a person would rather commute to work via a bus. It’s easy. You drive your car to the busway, park the car in FREE PARKING, get on the bus to your destination. Think of it like a shuttle. It extends the life of your car. You will avoid accidents. You will avoid parking fees. The busway makes it easy to drive your car to the store on the way home after you get off the bus.

Duh.

I don’t know who is propagating all the negative mass transit propaganda around here (because I don’t watch the local news) but this is silly.  The bus system is one of the best things about Pittsburgh but someone has average older people convinced that its sole purpose is to import the ghetto to their neighborhoods. That kind of attitude is disgusting and deprives the rest of us of cheap, efficient transportation.

Whineter, and other stuff

Make it stooooop!

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In other news, from another parallel universe, Bill O’Reilly, international man of danger, lies about yet another story he “covered”, this one on the post Rodney King riots in LA. Apparently, he was so obnoxiously abusive and narcissistic that he provoked someone into throwing something at him. I know the feeling.

Oh, wait, that was yesterday’s lie. Today’s lie is about how he covered The Troubles in Ireland and went mano a mano with Irish terrorists.

(All the church ladies swoon)

Anyway, Jay Rosen says that Bill O’Reilly is really performance artist, not journalist. That’s what Fox News hired him for. That makes sense. Certain kinds of confrontational art is supposed to provoke a response in the viewer. Think Piss Christ. O’Reilly just aims his spray at anyone who isn’t laughably pious and deliberately ignorant.

Here’s Rosen’s take on O’Reilly and why Fox isn’t likely to hold him accountable.

Ahem, I live in Pittsburgh…

Afternoon rush hour on the East Busway at Wilkinsburg Station

Afternoon rush hour on the East Busway at Wilkinsburg Station

and I take the bus to work.

Granted, I only go partway to downtown, stopping at Oakland.  But I can’t say enough good things about the East Busway, where a constant, steady stream of buses and free parking, make it a breeze to ditch the car and take public transportation.

I’m not sure I’m totally onboard with the decision to eliminate the buses in downtown Pittsburgh just because there are too many people waiting for the buses.   That sounds like the dumbest excuse from a government official since the Republicans shut the government down for some unspecified gain they haven’t even dreamed of yet.  I mean, really, there are too many people waiting for the buses so let’s cut back on the buses and the crowds on the sidewalks will disappear?  No one will go downtown anymore because it will be impossible  to get there.  I don’t see any plans to expand the Parkway right over the river, because that’s what it would take to accommodate the increased car volume.

There are potentially good reasons for curtailing the buses downtown, but none are exceptionally convincing to me.  After all, my grandfather was a PAT bus driver for many decades and the buses downtown never struck me as the primary reason there were issues with traffic or crowds.

What I see as the traffic problem downtown is not the buses but the absolutely ridiculous amount of traffic trying to get across the Fort Pitt Bridge from either direction.  Basically, too many people are taking their cars downtown.  It’s not the buses that are causing the traffic jams.  After all, most of them are taking the Busways to get to downtown so they’re not the things cluttering up the Parkway, causing us hours to get from Monroeville to Ikea.

And while it’s true that Pittsburgh is very walkable, and because the city comes to a point, literally, nothing is very far away from anything, Pittsburgh does have possibly the most uncomfortable winter weather ever.  It’s damp, it’s slushy, it’s “slippy”.  You don’t want to go out of your house much less out of your car because the chill goes straight to the bone marrow like a thousand needles.  So, if the “presumptive mayor” wants to make life bearable for commuters who will now be forced to walk extra distances to work, he might want to take a cue from the Universities and medical centers in Oakland and employ a s^&*load of free shuttles.  They’re smaller and more nimble.

By the way, the universities pay quite a bit to PAT for the use of the buses for their employees.  If you have a university employee ID (Pitt, CMU, Carlow, Duquesne, UPMC), you can ride the buses for free.  That saves employees a ton of money in parking and gas.  And traffic in Oakland is actually kind of bearable, because there are dedicated bus lanes.   I’d call that a success.  Once you get to Oakland, your ID will get you almost to your workplace front door with plenty of shuttles and Pitt buses. There’s even a shuttle for the biotech corridor along the river. You don’t have to walk but walking in Oakland is pleasant and if you work in the medical center area, a daily workout up Cardiac Hill.  You can even track your shuttle on your mobile device.

So, maybe this plan is the “presumptive mayor’s” way of hitting up downtown businesses for money to support the bus system or a shuttle system.  Otherwise, I dread the increase in traffic.  It’s bad enough that the bus service to my area was cut back a couple of years ago.  I definitely notice a difference in the morning in traffic where the bus service picks up again.  The traffic jams going downtown are spectacular and just forget trying to get to work on time by taking the Squirrel Hill tunnels in the morning.  Nah-gah-happen.  Life would be so much better if the bus service to the suburbs went back to the pre-cutback state and more people took the buses to work along the breezy, fast moving busway.

Now, if Peduto wants to make the downtown district car free, I’m all for that.

Things I learned this week and other stuff

If you're 5 and can read this sign...

If you’re 5 and can read this sign…

I went back to work full time this week after my prolonged involuntary sabbatical featuring periodic consulting work.  Here’s what I learned:

1.) Don’t park in Oakland.  Just don’t.  Fortunately, this is only temporary for the summer because I have to drop the kid off somewhere else and can’t take public transportation.  In the fall, I’m taking the bus that’s within walking distance from my house.  My brilliant plan to take public transportation will work perfectly.  Bwahahahahahahahahhhhh!**

2.) It’s easier to get up and get going at 6am than 9am.  Go figure.  I guess I really am a morning person. If I get up too late, I might as well bag the rest of the day.

3.) Don’t take the Parkway to work, especially if your route has to go through the Squirrel Hill tunnels.  Getting to work on time?  Nah-gah-happen.

4.) If you want to get to the South Side in the morning, do the counterintuitive route and go east and then north west.  Sounds bizarre but I cut a lot of time off my trip and the view of Pittsburgh in the morning as I’m flying over the bridges is spectacular. We were gobsmacked. It looks like some skyline poster from the early twentieth century and you can almost hear Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background. I need to get a dash mountable video camera.  Pittsburgh really is beautiful.  Buy real estate now because when the rest of the biotech industry decides to move here, the neighborhoods with the great views will be in high demand.  I almost feel like buying a fixer upper nearer to downtown to renovate.  (No, no, stop me before I buy again.  What am I thinking??)

5.) Another counterintuitive thing: There’s more variety and diversity in Pittsburgh than in suburban New Jersey.  What I mean to say is that the marketers haven’t really pinned down this city so there seems to be a lot of choice here where there’s virtually no choice in New Jersey.  I feel like I’ve been missing something for the past 20 years.

Last night, Brook, who is changing her look, bought something at Hot Topic and the kid running the cash register asked us where we were from.  We told her we were fugitives from New Jersey.IMG_1978

** What is with the conservatives’ hatred of public transportation and trains??  I don’t get it.  30 years ago, I got around Pittsburgh without a car because the bus system was excellent.  In the past few years, funding for the PAT bus system has been cut, as have many routes.  This is a real problem for the studdabuppas who never learned to drive and now find themselves stranded in their neighborhoods without the buses they used to rely on.  In my case, the bus will stop close to my house at 7:04am and I will have to transfer closer to town.  I used to be able to take the bus directly to my destination but someone decided that people in the east suburbs didn’t need as many buses so they cut back and changed the route.  That means more traffic gets dumped onto the Parkway and snarls local roads on the way downtown.  And this is the summer.  I can’t wait to see what it’s like in the fall when everyone is back from vacation.

One disturbing trend I’ve heard from a couple of my  40 something cousins is that they think it’s alarming when an employer has to pay benefits to new hires and I think that’s part of what’s behind the cutbacks in public transportation.  The PAT drivers are union and they get bennies.  So, if there are fewer buses and more complaints, maybe there will be more pressure on the unions to drop their demands for benefits. The public might be willing to chuck the bennies in exchange for more bus drivers who are new hires not covered by the old contracts.  Just speculation on my part as to what the politicians are thinking.  I think it’s going to be tough to convince a lot of the boomer generation though who grew up in a very union city where the buses ran great and who still think that there’s nothing wrong with benefits.

Pittsburgh could use more trains.  It’s depressing to walk through Oakmont, a lovely little town on the Allegheny not too far from me, and see the unused train tracks that run right through the center of town to downtown.  Now, that former commuter train area is a pretty landscaped park.  I’m not exactly sure why it can’t be prettily landscaped and functional but for some bizarre reason known only to the editorial columnists at the Wall Street Journal, the wealthy, powerful and Republican hate, Hate, HATE trains, even if it means that the minions can’t get to work on time with the least amount of trouble and expense.

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning behind this.  The wealthy and Republicans don’t need trains so no one can have them?  It’s perfectly ok to spend $150 million of public funds on a new sports facility because that’s what the wealthy want but not ok to spend the same amount of money on a better bus system because that’s what the not so wealthy want??  Who died and made them gods?  Where do they think they’re living? Rome?  Even Rome knew that it was a bad idea to skimp on the bread for the masses.  What’s really a bad idea is to party like there’s no tomorrow while the natives get restless and the barbarians are at the gate.

Quick Notes about Pittsburgh

IMG_1983

Parrothead pastries at The Oakmont Bakery

There are a couple of posts in the NYTimes today that are full of praise for the economic recovery of Pittsburgh.  (Here and a Krugman post here.)  So, I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents.

First, I love it here.  People are just nicer than they are in Jersey.  And there are fewer of them.

Second, it is true that you can get higher incomes in places like Boston and San Francisco.  A lot of people who lost their good salaries in NJ due to Pharmageddon decided to try their luck in Massachusetts because that’s where all the lemming CEOs pharma companies relocated a fraction of their workforce and where there are a bunch of start up companies.  And I thought about that- for about 15 seconds.

Although the chances of finding a job up there for me is slightly greater than in NJ, job insecurity comes with it.  I heard from a lot of people who were transferred there or got a job in a start up there or were already working there and they hated it.  They were scared to death of losing their jobs, the cost of living was astronomical and the commute from the burbs to Cambridge proper is ridiculous.  It was even more ridiculous when you consider that even with their good salaries, they couldn’t afford to live close to work.  So, I crossed it off my list.  I didn’t want to drag a teenager to a place where I could lose another job and spend all my money on rent and taxes because my salary was high.  It sounded like an unreasonably risky thing to do for a job.  I have no idea what the bonus class is thinking but I think it has something to do with the status of being near Harvard and MIT.  In my humble opinion, that is not a good enough reason in the age of internet to risk your staff’s domestic security and increase its precariousness.  Precariats are under too much stress to be innovative creative types.  You can’t whip and threaten them and expect them to discover all the time.  Nah-gah-happen.

When I sat down and did the math, I figured that I could have the same standard of living in Pittsburgh, on a much more modest salary, as I would in Cambridge or NJ AND because I own my home without a mortgage, I am not in danger of losing my house if the job goes away.  I can eek out a living here as a bartender and still live reasonably well.  Fortunately, I won’t have to relearn how to pour but if I had to, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

So, I’m glad that Pittsburgh is now being held up as a model of urban renaissance because it deserves it, although it would be great if the bus capacity went back to what it was 20 years ago.

I see your problem

Over at No More Mister Nice Blog, the author comments on just how livid Democrats would be if Joe Lieberman was nominated to replace Janet Napolitano at the Department of Fatherland Homeland Security:

And though it’s a small step in the scale of things, it could also be the final straw, the act that finishes the job of alienating the liberal base that worked to elect Barack Obama twice.

Um, just out of curiosity, what was it the so-called “liberal base” saw in Obama in the first place that led them to believe he was one of them?  It’s like putting the first piece of a complicated piece of Ikea furniture together incorrectly and then, halfway through, looking at a badly constructed sideboard and a pile of wooden pegs and cam screws. (No particular reason for this metaphor, why do you ask?) Nothing fits and you have to take it all apart and start over.  It’s frustrating and maddening.  Obama didn’t fit from the very beginning.  But I suspect that only people who actually understood what “liberal” means realized that.

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In other news, my basement walls are exposed after demolition of the damaged and mildewed paneling.  As expected, the previous construction was shoddy and the walls uninsulated.  Now that the concrete block is exposed, I get to spend the weekend cleaning, waterproofing and sealing the suckers up so the room can be rebuilt and finished next week.

It’s a lot more fun than I make it sound.  Really, it’s a field day.  I can’t think of anything I like more.  In fact, I would be completely selfish to keep all this DryLocking pleasure to myself, so if you’re in the Pittsburgh area, by all means, bring your nappy roller and masonry brush and join the fun!  No, no, don’t thank me.  It’s the least I can do.

******************************

And here’s a picture of my local mall:

IMG_2014

If you are a fan of horror movies, you might recognize this place as the location of one of George Romero’s zombie movies.  Yes, this is THAT mall.  Well, it’s been 40 odd years since the zombies moved to Pittsburgh and at first there was a lot of local prejudice.  It was hard to make friends with them, they seemed to have their own night culture and, ok, they smelled.  But gradually, over time, they started to assimilate.  There were a few human-zombie romances that ended tragically but teenagers are all about melodrama, am I right? These days, it’s not unusual to see glassy eyed couples together.  And while brains cuisine kind of didn’t catch on, zombies have gotten used to putting french fries on their sandwiches.  It’s like they’ve always been here.

 

Domum Habemus

IMG_1822We have a house!  I closed on it yesterday. I am now technically a resident of Pennsylvania.  Still gotta move there but we’re getting closer.  The house needs some TLC before we can move in so I have a list of contractors and bids to go through today.  Lots of scheduling to do and I have yet to find a roofer.  If anyone in the Pittsburgh area has a recommendation, list it in the comments.

Anyway, it’s nice to have a house that I own free and clear without a mortgage.  Whew!  And according to the deed, I own quite a sizeable chunk of mowable yard.  It looks like I own a lot and a half, which is still a modest size but there’s a large sunny patch of ground with plenty of space for several raised beds.

cool

Friday- Two Weekends to GO!

Yes, sportsfans, it’s that time of day again. This is your daily reminder that there are only 2 more weekends to go before the big PA primary. The big EN-CHEE-LA-DA. The mother of all primaries. The seismic shift that the person who kidnapped Josh Marshall refers to. And YOU can be a part of it. Pennsylvania is tres lovely in the spring. All of the trees are blooming. The food is great too. You can have halushka and pierogies in Pittsburgh, chicken-corn soup with dumplings in Harrisburg and all the cheese steaks (with Velveeta) that you can stand in Philadelphia. Come see The Point where three rivers meet, the Liberty Bell, the battlefield at Gettysburg (where my Dad dragged me to every frickin’ monument when I was 14), the Amish teenagers driving buggies with Led Zeppelin blaring out of their portable radios.

People are nice there too. They’re as nice as they are in Denver.

So, if you’ve ever been itchin’ to see the lush rolling hills of PA, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the home of the Nittany Lions (gag!), yins better get your butts over to this site to volunteer. Pennsylvania for Hillary

In other news:

  • At The Caucus (NYTimes), Early Word: Keystone State Divide continues to propagate the conventional wisdom. Yes, once again, the old stupid people live in Pittsburgh where all of the Clintonistas are; the young, smart and groovy AA’s are in Philadelphia and are voting for Obama. *sigh* You’d think the media would be tired of this shtick by now. Not only is it old and untrue but I need to point out that the Steelers have won 5, yes, FIVE, Superbowl rings and how many have the Eagles won? Anyone want to take a guess? 0, zilch, nada. Or as Myron Cope used to say in Pittsburgh, ZEE-row. Well, that just goes to show you that we might be smaller and a bit less affluent but we are tough and we can whoop Philly’s ass in this primary too.
  • A Clinton campaign office in Terre Haute, Indiana was destroyed by fire. The Obama campaign has not taken responsibility for the cause of the fire. (What?! I didn’t say his campaign did it. I’m just saying they haven’t denied it yet. Chill!)
  • Obama continues to thumb his nose at the workers by purging some of his hard working but less well connected supporters from his delegate pool. Maybe they still shop at JCPenney’s for their clothes or they never got their teeth straightened or maybe they actually use their hands to make a living (ewww!). Or, maybe they are a little bit too insistent about ending the war. Anyway, there’s an image problem. They just don’t fit in with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Models with PhDs in Architecture or the well-t0-do and their eye candy girlfriends who know how to bundle (if you know what I mean 😉 ) They are the weakest links. Good-bye!  Actually, I’m on a roll now about the “creative class” meme.  Let’s take a look at how stoopid this is: The creative class are drawn to metropolitan areas where there is a higher concentration of cultural activities, universities and industries that do creative type stuff, like biotech research, high tech and finance.  Places like, oh, I don’t know, CA, NY, NJ, MA, PA, AZ, FL.  And how many of these creative class behemoths did Obama win, exactly?  Oh, yeah, none.  He won MD, VA, CT, WA (but scored big in the caucus.  Besides we’re talking Microsoft territory.  Hardly creative).  And how is it that the vast majority of creative class people that I know in NJ are voting for Clinton?  All my asian buds, the professional class, many of the Princeton types.  Did they suddenly become senile overnight?  I suppose we have been moved into a different demographic.  I wish I knew what it is that sets OUR creativity apart from the SI Swimsuit model PhDs in Architecture for Obama.  There’s got to be *something* besides Madison Avenue advertising and marketing.  No, no, don’t tell me.  I’m sure it will come to me…
  • Donna Brazile does her best “Clinton has racist Weapons of Mass Destruction” thing in this exchange with Masslib (Also cross-posted at Hillarysbloggers). She never comes right out and says what their duplicity is. She never directly accuses them of anything. She just assumes that we too will be duped into thinking there’s a THERE there even though playing the race card could never be a winning hand for Clinton. I’m sure that after the primaries, we’ll see that it was all a set up but by then it will be too late. WE, on the other hand, have ample *proof* that Ms. Brazile was prepared and all too willing to plunge the knife into the heart of the hapless voters of Florida. Have you no sense of decency, Ms. Brazile? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

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