19 August 2009

Small risk taken, wonderful reward - beautiful hour on the water

Last week, I started rallying the folks at work to bring in their boats and do a quick trip on the Allegheny River near the office one night this week. That day turned out to be today. It was a great site to see a three kayaks and a canoe (mine) on vehicles in the company parking lot. One other set of friends with their canoe I don't work with intended to come as well. However, life decided to not cooperate with everyone's schedule. One guy was unable to go for personal reasons, another couldn't because he's a slave to the Company and worked late. The couple decided to call it off because the weather was pretty terrible all afternoon, and it was still raining steadily at 5pm when I talked to them.

Nonetheless, my coworker, Bruce, and I figured we had the boats on our cars already and that it wouldn't hurt to check out the water and maybe get out for a little bit. If it got bad, we'd not be far from the cars.

We put in the Allegheny at a nice launch in Lawrenceville, under the 40th Street bridge. It was raining, but not very hard. This was the small risk I spoke of in the title to this post. Within the first 15 minutes, though, it stopped raining and got progressively sunnier.

What started out as a marginal day for paddling became a beautiful experience out on the water. This was our wonderful reward for avoiding the gumption trap and getting on the river. The river's surface was smooth and calm. The lighting was great. There was a slight breeze. Pretty much perfect weather for paddling.

We came across a great blue heron in a tree near a factory.

I ended up disturbing it, and it flew upstream, allowing for more photographs in different locations.

We turned around near the 62nd St bridge.

Looking at downtown Pittsburgh in the distance. It's only four river miles to the buildings from where this picture was taken. This is one of my very favorite things about Pittsburgh.

18 August 2009


We harvested our first wave of tomatoes from the garden today. Not a bad haul for only two plants of red heirloom tomatoes and one unstaked yellow plum tomato plant. The basket holds some basil, which we've been harvesting for a while.

There is a single bull-nose bell pepper and a single Anaheim pepper on their plants looking pretty close to ready to remove. I'm optimistic the flowers on the upper part of those two will produce another round. It's probably not going to come to fruition, but I can hope.

It's been a bad year for tomatoes in this region. Many farmers and backyard gardeners are losing their plants and fruit to the Late Blight fungus. Evidently, it's the same pathogen that caused the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840's. One of my plants doesn't looks so healthy, but the fruit are looking fine so far. After pulling these today, there are only a handful of immature tomatoes on each. I'm crossing my fingers and will wait and see.

I made insalata caprese tonight with the tomatoes and basil (with mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar) as an appetizer Bethany could eat as soon as she got home from teaching her yoga class. I also made a big bowl of pico de gallo to adorn our dinner of nachos with chicken, refried beans, red pepper, and cheese. There are still more than 10 good-sized tomatoes left to make vodka sauce for tomorrow night's dinner.

Clean Energy for America - Strip District

Here are some of the Shepard Fairey posters in the Strip District. I have others from other places in town, including the big installation across the street from the Andy Warhol museum, bu they're all trapped on my computer at home (shhh...I'm throwing this post up from work right now). I'll post those later.

17 August 2009

Guest post - sign grammar

My friend Zen sent me this picture of a sign he walks by on his way to work in New York City.
This is one of my favorites on the way to work. This sign is on a building where most of the block is abandoned.
Thanks, Zen!

14 August 2009

Car-free Friday and the start of Bike Fest in Pittsburgh

It was a wonderful morning to be out on the bike today. It wasn't too hot. It was nice and sunny, but there was a bit of fog hanging around to give some sense of distance as the sunlight filtered through it.

Pittsburgh (and other places) has an ongoing group of folks promoting the concept of car-free Fridays. The biking, public transit, and environmental (for lack of a better all-encompassing term) communities are trying to get the idea out there that there are a lot of reasons to avoid use of a personal motor vehicle when it's unnecessary. If we take one day a week and use some alternative form of transportation, it can help reduce traffic congestion, pollution, energy use, stress, and other bad things. I don't mean to leave out the other forms of transportation by talking about bikes and buses. The in-line skating and kayak/canoe communities are represented in groups promoting friendlier forms of commuting.

Anyway, today's a Friday, but it's also the start of Bike Fest! Bike Fest is an annual cycling celebration in Pittsburgh that sees a wide array of celebratory events around the city for about 10 days. The events are grass-rootsy in that most are organized by various groups, clubs, or companies. However the overall coordination and some of the events are done by the local bike advocacy group, Bike Pittsburgh. This morning, the Neighbors in the Strip business association sponsored a car-free breakfast event outside the office of the advertising company, Mullen. From the Bike Fest description of the event:
There will also be a host of businesses attending as well including Enrico Biscotti Co. (with free biscotti samples), Right by Nature (with Give Water and Streaz drink samples and bike raffle), Schoolhouse Yoga(with free yoga breathing sessions) and Three Rivers Inline Club (info on inline skating as a commuting option), just to name a few.
Pittsburgh Pedicabs was present, letting folks try out the bike.

Four of us in our office rode in today. Our count is between 2 and 8, depending on weather and what's going on at work. There are only three of us who ride regularly year-round. Below is a picture of the new location of our bike rack. The HVAC testing area caused the first move of the rack to the larger research bay. But then, the building envelope/thermal enclosure mock-up took up that space, and the bike rack got moved to the area outside the former BuildIQ cubicle area. I'm happy the company has continued to try to keep the rack indoors.

Two parting shots of cyclists I encountered on my way into town this morning. Both on Penn Ave. Note the correct name, Becky. :)

Penn Ave Shepard Fairey mural update

I rode through downtown on my way to work to see the finished Shepard Fairey mural at Penn Avenue. I couldn't stay to see it complete yesterday, as I was already late to meet Bethany, Silas, and a friend for a hike at Frick Park. Here is a photo of the piece.

Shepard Fairey murals in Pittsburgh

Shepard Fairey is in town for the unveiling of a piece of work (Clean Energy for America) this weekend as part of a Netroots Nation event. He is, of course, to date probably best known for his Obama "HOPE" poster. A number of murals are going up around Pittsburgh.

I ran across one going up in an alley off Penn Blvd between 8th and 9th (I think) and watched them work for a while. Then I rode over to the one at 1st and Wood St, as shown below. I think this is a very exciting series of events for Pittsburgh. I'd like to see the mainstream media pick up some of the issues and talk about them. We'll see.

I'd love to go to the Clean Energy for America unveiling, but I'll be watching the Decemberists play at the Byham Theater. It's tough to have such difficult choices.

Here are a few links discussing the murals, the event, and the organizations.

13 August 2009

Bus organ donation

I rode by a sad hull of a city bus partially through the process of being stripped of useful parts. I wonder if it's completed yet or if its carer is on his/her way to help their charge... (give "Never Let Me Go - by Kazuo Ishiguro a read sometime if you haven't for my lateral allusion).

Casino friction and poop engineering

Here are a few pictures from casual ride around the North Side last week. I'm trying to catch up a little bit. The picture above is of the riverfront along the new casino. They originally wanted cyclists to dismount in front of the casino. However, that was met with outrage by the cycling community. The city responded fairly and appropriately, asking them to remove the signs. There were articles about it in the local media. Bike Pittsburgh has a good summary article, here. I'm happy with the city's response and that the casino agreed to remove the signs. I'm sure there will be times where it is too crowded to ride safely, and that's ok. We can all get along.

Below are two shots of ALCOSAN, the county wastewater treatment plant on the Ohio River. A civil engineer I know who consults with ALCOSAN considers himself a "poop engineer". It cracks me up. I like it when people don't take themselves too seriously.

07 August 2009

North side trail reopened

The riverfront trail on the North Side downriver (west) from the Carnegie Science Center has been closed for a long time due to the construction of the new casino. The trail has finally been reopened. I only had my cell phone, so the pictures are all terrible. I'll get back with a better camera soon.

I'm pretty neutral on the casino. I don't know enough about how such a thing affects an area to form a strong opinion. I'm not too excited about the increased traffic potential, though. The riverfront area is a nice outdoor space that is a nice addition to the North Shore.