Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day Parade in Lower Burrell

Lower Burrell's Memorial Day Parade took place at 11:00 A.M. on Memorial Day, May 29. The parade route was along a straight portion of Leechburg Road.
"Oh soldier, where have you been?"
Leading the parade was a group from the Lower Burrell American Legion. They marched in cadence, singing "Oh soldier, where have you been?" I had not heard this song before, but it was very inspiring, particularly at the start of the parade.
WWII vets in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
A car with World War II veterans had a surprise for me ...
Civil War vets in 2006 Memorial Day parade in Lower Burrell
The Burrell Band was quite impressive.
Burrell Band in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
Burrell Band in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
Burrell Band in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The fire department for the City of Lower Burrell was the first of a number of fire departments to appear in the parade.
Lower Burrell fire department in 2006 Memorial Day Parade, Lower Burrell
Lower Burrell Cub Scouts marched in the parade.
Lower Burrell cub scouts in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Brackenridge American Legion, that had marched in the Tarentum-Brackenridge parade the day before, made another appearance.
Brackenridge American Legion in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Kinloch Fire Company of the Lower Burrell Fire Department was present with their yellow truck.
Kinloch fire company in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Relay for Life of the American Cancer Society was represented in the parade. The also handed out fliers to remind people that August 5-6 there will be a Relay for Life in Memorial Park, New Kensington.
Relay for Life, in the 2006 Memorial Day Parade, Lower Burrell
The Upper Burrell Fire Department was also present.
Upper Burrell Fire Dept in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The New Kensington Fire Department was represented by a color guard, band, and many pieces of equipment.
New Kensington Fire Department color guard in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
New Kensington Fire Department in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Markle Fire Department was also present.
Markle Fire Department in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Arnold Fire Department brought their color guard, band, and pieces of equipment. They had also been in the Tarentum parade the day before.
Arnold Fire Department color guard in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
Arnold Fire Department in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Fawn Township Fire Department (who also appeared in the Tarentum parade on Sunday) was present with their "Fireslayer."
Fawn Fire Department "Fireslayer" in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
The Apollo Hose Company was also in the parade.
Apollo Hose Co in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell
As the grand finale to the parade, the New Kensington Top Hats made an appearance.
New Kensington Top Hats in 2006 Memorial Day parade, Lower Burrell

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Tarentum's 2006 Street Fair

Ferris Wheel at 2006 Street Fair, TarentumTarentum's 2006 Street Fair opened on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29 with beautiful weather.

I have come to look forward to this event each year. Summit Hose organizes it with an emphasis on activities appropriate for children. In addition to being a worthwhile fundraiser for the fire department it is a pleasant way to spend a summer evening.

midway at 2006 Street Fair, TarentumAlong the midway there are games of chance and skill, as well as stands selling fair food. One offering that was new to me, and which I did not want to try, was something called fried Oreo cookies. It looked like they were using a deep frier.

In addition to the fair food, the fire department has a stand selling hot dogs, pizza, nachos, and soft drinks.

It seems that there are much bigger banners out to publicize the event the locals call the "DrunkFest". That is a different event that comes later in June. But this week Tarentum families will want to take advantage of each evening of the Street Fair.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Tarentum's Memorial Day Parade, May 28, 2006

Tarentum and Brackenridge had their joint Memorial Day parade on Sunday May 28, 2006. There was a rather small crowd that turned out to see it.
Brackenridge American Legion, Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
a youth choir in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
a color guard in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Marine Corps League in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
a color guard in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
a veteran in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
cub scouts in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Frazier rescue squad in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Natrona Heights fire department in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Citizens Fire Dept in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Highland Hose, Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Fawn Twp, VFD, No 2 in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Arnold Fire-EMS in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Eureka in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum
Eureka rescue squad in Memorial Day Parade, Tarentum

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A surprise in the parking lot

This afternoon I returned to the church after lunch in order to be downtown for the Memorial Day Parade. As I was parking my car, I saw a car with out-of-state plates passing slowly through the parking lot.

After I left my car the driver approached me and asked if I was going into the church. I started to explain that I had not been planning to go in, but he should feel free to park there if he was in town for the parade. He told me that he used to serve the church. In my mind I started to form a list of former pastors whom I had not met and who might be still living. The list was going to be very short in any case. He quickly introduced himself to me as Dave Kilpatrick. He had been the interim pastor in the 90's.

He introduced me to his fiancee and asked if I could let them in to see the building. People with any connection to Central Presbyterian Church have long memories, and it was a privilege to be able to let him show the special person in his life a place where he had had a significant ministry.
Dave Kilpatrick and Gail

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Trivia tips

I found this blogthing courtesy of Apostle John. I have a feeling that some of these statements might not be true.

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Central Park Bench!

  1. Half a cup of central park bench contains only seventeen calories.
  2. There are more than two hundred different kinds of central park bench.
  3. You share your birthday with central park bench.
  4. A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find central park bench!
  5. It is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same central park bench.
  6. 99 percent of the pumpkins sold in the US end up as central park bench.
  7. During severe windstorms, central park bench may sway several feet to either side.
  8. Antarctica is the only continent without central park bench.
  9. To check whether central park bench is safe to eat, drop it in a bowl of water; rotten central park bench will sink, and fresh central park bench will float!
  10. Central park bench is the largest of Saturn's moons.
I am interested in - do tell me about
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Future news

The Valley News Dispatch that hit the news stands this morning carried as its lead story "Council plans illegal meeting tonight."

Laurels to the Valley News Dispatch for blowing the whistle on this misbehavior before it happens. This is timely information given to the public when it makes a difference.

This is almost like something out of science fiction; it reminds me of the part of "Back to the Future Part II" where Marty decides to bring a sports almanac from the future back in time. Except - without time travel - the VND was in the position of telling a story about a law that is about to be broken at 7:00 PM tonight if the Apollo Borough Council convenes for a general business meeting without having advertised its meeting in accord with the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act.

I don't know whether all solicitors have the responsibility for seeing that meetings are properly advertised, but that borough's solicitor appears to be right in the middle of the process for this proposed illegal meeting. There wasn't enough time to advertise the meeting, but his office had time to send a news release about the meeting. Very odd.

Lances to the Valley News Dispatch for leaving a key fact out of the story. The story tells WHEN the meeting is to happen (tonight at 7:00). It tells WHO is involved (names of the Council members and the borough solicitor). It tells WHAT law is going to be broken and WHY the plans are illegal. But it omits a statement of WHERE the illegal meeting is to happen. If I wanted to find my way to Apollo (where I have never been) and watch the travesty happen, I would not know where to go in Apollo. The story does not have the sidebar that usually accompanies stories about legally advertised meetings telling when and where.

It appears that the council hoped that a news story about their meeting tonight would lead to actual notice to the public where they had not given the public statutory notice. Whether the omission of the place was intentional on the part of the paper or not, the story as it was written does not give the public a key piece of information that the borough should have paid to have advertised in the first place.

If I had time tonight I might have wanted to find my way to that meeting to see whether it actually convenes, and whether any council members carry copies of today's VND and ask their solicitor for advice about the illegality of what they are about to do. I wonder if they'll think to ask about the fines for individuals who intentionally violate the Sunshine Act. And I'd really love to be able to hear his answers. What a pity. The Valley News Dispatch keeps all the fun for its reporters.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What do you get when you cross a Jaguar with a Hyundai?

Jaguar/Hyundai. Click to see larger image.

I'm not sure, but I spotted the tail of this one in Natrona Heights today.

(And no, I wasn't driving.)

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Labor Relations for Dummies

Editorial "Highlands Contract: the board's to blame", Valley News Dispatch, May 22, 2006, page A6.It's all over except for the recriminations.

Today's Valley News Dispatch had an editorial that assigned responsibility to the Highlands School Board for the debacle that almost resulted in a strike in our local public schools. I appreciated the line that suggested that the board was going to author a primer called Labor Relations for Dummies.

Now before anyone suggests that the title of such a book would be an insult to dummies, remember that the audience that reads the "For Dummies" books is composed of people with a reasonable level of intelligence who are so deficient in actual understanding of a specific field that they need an introduction that makes no assumptions of prior knowledge. Remember also that the nine members of the school board are individuals who were recently capable of mounting effective election campaigns for their positions.

So what went wrong? According to the VND, "By not finding rock solid common ground before making a proposal, [the board] set themselves up to fail."

My impression as an outsider is that the board had not even been trying to have common ground. The new majority, with memories of how it felt when they had been the minority, promptly set to work disempowering the new minority. The negotiating team from the board was appropriately small, but did not ensure that the views and wisdom of the whole board would be brought to bear on the challenge. Thus the OOPS!

With a negotiating team that lacked adequate knowledge of what it would take to actually get a "Yes" from the board they represented, things could have turned out a whole lot worse than what the paper describes as a "sweet deal" for the teachers. There could have been a strike, an outcome that would have been costly for the teachers, the students, the community, and the school board.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Disappointed by DaVinci Code

The Da Vinci CodeLast night I went to see The DaVinci Code, and was rather disappointed. Although the action was fast-paced at the beginning, there were points when I almost fell asleep. It was a good movie, with good acting, a great cast, good special effects, and great scenery; but I probably won't bother to see it a second time.

As to the controversy about the movie, I still don't get either the fascination with the possibility that Jesus had a bloodline of descendants born through Mary Magdalene, or religious opposition to that idea. The movie spent far too much time spelling out the theory without making a persuasive case for why it would matter either way.

If you want to see an action/adventure/mystery based on a silly (pseudo-)historical premise of a centuries old conspiracy, I'd recommend National Treasure instead.

Or for an entertaining spoof, check out The Norman Rockwell Code. (You can watch the 35 minute parody on its website.)

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The old voting technology was equally as bad at reading minds

Today I joined many Pennsylvanians in voting in primaries today using the new electronic voting machines. I thought the process went very smoothly, and the elections workers did a good job of telling me what to expect from the electronic device.

While I was finding my way through my electronic ballot, the voter at the machine next to me was having some trouble. He told the elections worker that he wanted to do a write-in ballot. The worker explained to him that if he pressed the write-in button next to the position, the screen would display a keyboard that he could use to type in the candidate's name.

"But I don't know his name," the voter replied.

Perhaps a recognizable attempt at a campaign might have helped.

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I did not know that August 19 is a holiday: Sock Puppet Assertiveness Day.

A good friend has suggested that we should celebrate this holiday year round.

You all know my issue with anonymous comments on the internet. Visit the Yahoo greeting card for Sock Puppet Assertiveness Day, an interesting alternative to anonymous comments.

And have your sock puppet send it to a friend.

I can hardly wait for August 19.

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May meeting of Tarentum Borough Council clarifies and mystifies

On Monday evening, May 16, 2006 at 6:30 PM the Tarentum Borough Council held its regular monthly meeting. All the members of the council were present, along with approximately forty citizens present to observe and give comments.

The meeting was two hours and fifty minutes long, (My Tarentum readers will recognize this as a long meeting for our Borough Council. My Pittsburgh Presbytery readers - pros at handling long meetings - will recognize this as almost as long as a short presbytery meeting.) Citizen comments filled the first hour of the meeting.

One of the issues clarified at the meeting was the purpose of the executive session held on April 17. (my blog here, here, and here; VND here and editorial here) The issue first arose in this meeting at the time when the Council was voting on one of the most important actions it would take - to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. The minutes first circulated to the Council members acknowledged that Councilwoman Newcomer had stated the meeting was for a personal matter. In fact, the council considered personnel matters, among other things. The motion to approve the minutes included a correction to the purpose of the executive session to indicate that it was for personnel matters.

Citizens asked Council President Newcomer what she planned to do to rectify the Council's violation of the Sunshine Act, and what she knew and was intending to do in the executive session on April 17. Solicitor Strellec explained that the Council had not adjourned before the executive session and the public could have stayed until the executive session was over. Solicitor Strellec acknowledged that people do misspeak, and stated that the minutes can be corrected to reflect what was intended rather than what was actually said. Councilwoman Newcomer refused to disclose what intentions had been in her mind before the executive session.

There were also issues concerning the retirement of Borough Manager Jeffrey Thomas. Apparently there had been a move afoot by the Administrative and Employee Relations Committee to lay him off as early as last Friday. One citizen spoke at length about the possible increase in the cost of unemployment compensation to the Borough. If there were a layoff the bill for the next three years would be an increased percentage (perhaps tripled) of the total payroll of the borough. No reasons were ever offered for the potential layoff, which apparently came to light only after Mr. Thomas submitted his letter of intention to retire. The motion to lay off the borough manager was withdrawn before it ever came to a vote.

In light of Mr. Thomas' retirement, the Council voted to advertize for the position of Borough Secretary, and will begin the process of passing an ordinance to eliminate the position of Borough Manager.

There were a number of citizen comments with concerns about garbage pickup, the "Pride in Tarentum" revitalization process, the Christmas parade, an unpaid bill owed by the borough, requests for more parking downtown, the development of the Keystone Opportunity Zone, and the dredging of Bull Creek.

In the Finance Committee report there were a number of questions about the use of money. The Council adopted a motion that all purchases will be by purchase order and accompanied by the original receipt.

The Council adopted new ordinances on fines for parking tickets and excessive police calls. A proposed ordinance on the regulation of apartment dwellings has been held up for further work and review

The schedule of Wednesday summer concerts in Riverview Park was announced:
  • June 21, Gas House Annie
  • July 12, Lilly Abreu
  • July 19, Chromatics
  • August 2, Curt Marino
  • August 17, a karaoke contest
The Council discussed ways to address the need for rain locations for any of these concerts. Finding alternate locations in case of rain will be the Council's responsibility.

For those who think that Tarentum Council meetings are all about a legendary feud between council members Magnetta and Sopcak, take note that during this meeting Councilman Magnetta made a motion to have the solicitor send a letter to Highlands Little League laying out the conditions for their work on the field house at Dreshar Stadium. Councilwoman Sopcak seconded the motion, and it was adopted unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 9:20, in time for Councilman Rossey, and perhaps a few others, to catch at least the second half of The Apprentice.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

"A Season of Discernment": 3. Pittsburgh Presbytery has an actual conversation about the report

Beulah Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PAOn Saturday, May 13, 2006 the Beulah Presbyterian Church hosted a conversation for Pittsburgh Presbytery among ministers, elders, and members about "A Season of Discernment", the final report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace Unity and Purity of the Church.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations to the PCUSA General Assembly meeting in Birmingham, Alabama next month (June 15-22). The recommendations call for further dialogue and study at the local level, but there is controversy around Recommendation 5, which some see as simply restating how our Presbyterian system handles ordination decisions, while others see it as introducing a new form of "local option" that would enable presbyteries or sessions to ordain gay or lesbian ministers, elders, or deacons.

Getting to this conversation was a long journey in Pittsburgh. On October 20, 2005 the Pittsburgh Presbytery heard from Mike Loudon, a member of the Theological Taskforce, and it had been indicated that there would be a further discussion at the Pittsburgh Seminary. There were some difficulties in finding leadership for the conversation at the seminary, and the Presbytery had two intervening debates relating to issues raised in the report in January and April 2006. The scheduled conversation was announced to the Pittsburgh Presbytery in April.

Twenty-three people were present, a group that included pastors, elders, retirees, a teenager, people related to congregations of all sizes, and from different points along the theological spectrum. As I signed in, I noticed that twenty-three people had told the Presbytery office they would be there; some of them didn't show, but an equal number of walk-ins replaced them.

Given the large turnouts we had seen at the recent Presbytery meetings planning to debate matters, some wondered whether this was a disappointing turnout for a conversation that would not lead to making a decision or taking action. As I looked around the room at the self-selected participants, I reflected to myself that we were only a slightly larger group than the Theological Taskforce itself. There were enough of them to do their job. I think there were enough of us present to make a hopeful attempt at dialogue.

We began the day with worship. We sang "Holy, Holy, Holy!" a capella. Gathered at separate tables we reflected on 1 Peter 2:9-10, and answered the following questions in groups of two or three:
  • What strikes you as the most amazing/most daunting designation of the church in these verses?
  • Which of God's mighty acts do you feel called to proclaim?
  • What is the most important about being God's people?
Then we joined in prayer.

Following worship counted off by threes to assign ourselves to separate discussion groups. Three members of the Presbytery Council (Tom Bice, Frances Wilson, and Bebb Stone) were present to serve as convenors/reporters for the groups. We discussed our hopes and concerns about the report, and what it would mean for the life of the congregations of which we are a part. We had a brief break for refreshments, and then the convenors reported to the whole group what had been discussed at each table.

The two hour conversation was positive and worthwhile. I hope that there can be future times for dialogue such as this.

My other articles about "A Season of Discernment": 1 2 3
Beulah Presbyterian Church

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bidding open for Tarentum Skatepark

Bid notice in Valley News Dispatch, May 10, 2006Tarentum is one step closer to having a free public skatepark. Today's Valley News Dispatch included the bid notice for the the park.

Although the committee makeup for the Tarentum Council has gone through two major changes this year, the project has moved ahead and did not slip through the cracks.

According to the bid notice the bids will be opened on June 2, 2006.

Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Laurels and Lances

In the tradition of the occasional Laurels and Lances piece on the editorial page of the Valley News Dispatch:

Laurels to the Valley News Dispatch for the four Golden Quill Awards given to VND staffers by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania at the awards banquet Monday night in Pittsburgh. No other newspaper in its circulation group (under 45,000) received as many 2006 Golden Quills. The Trib Total Media organization received a total of 13 Golden Quills; the VND's awards were a significant percentage of the total.

One of the favorite pastimes of many Valley residents is to harbor memories of when they were let down by the local paper and to criticize the paper as if all those disappointments were still the present reality.

Wake up, Valley residents! It is 2006. We have a decent newspaper in town. Its reporting and photography has the respect and recognition of other journalists in the region.

Lances to the Valley News Dispatch for leaving this story off its website the day it appeared in the paper.

VND websiteToday's web page for the Valley News Dispatch has a glaring omission among the day's headlines. One has to read the paper edition to get this story. Or know to look for it elsewhere online (here or here).

You really are allowed to toot your own horn online, especially when it is good news about excellence in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

You should not have kept the awards a secret from your online readers.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

May meeting of Tarentum borough committees

The Tarentum Borough Council held committee meetings on Monday evening, May 8, 2006 at 6:30 PM. The Council went into executive session twice, and announced what they were going to be doing each time.

The first executive session was brief. They said the executive session was for personnel issues, and made a point of pronouncing every syllable to make it clear that they were not closing the meeting in order to get personal. Council President Mary Newcomer apologized for the confusion that occurred the previous time the Council went into executive session. The council went to a side room to have some privacy. When they came back from the first brief executive session, President Newcomer invited Borough Solicitor David Strellec to describe what they had discussed. The solicitor explained that the Federal Family Medical Leave Act now applied to the borough and that he had recommended to the council that they needed to adopt a FMLA policy.

It was announced that the Council would need to go into executive session a second time at the end of the meeting.

The council began to discuss the problem of high levels of trihalomethane in two recent tests of water in East Deer. Tarentum supplies water to East Deer. The high levels occurred during the summer, and storage may be related to this issue. Unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting before the committee concluded its discussion of the topic.

When I came back to the meeting there was a discussion related to COG (the Allegheny County Council of Governments). First Avenue is going to be repaved, and the milling will start soon. A notice about grants for the skatepark will be in the Valley News Dispatch on Wednesday.

There was a noisy dispute about alleged behavior of a council member or borough employee. What was particularly distressing to me about this part of the meeting was that it seemed that almost no one was ready to recognize the authority of the Council President to keep order. Citizens and council members were talking over each other, exchanging accusations that "you're out of order." The only person in the room with the authority to say that to anyone was the Council President; when she did intervene she should not have had to repeat herself to establish order, and should certainly not have had to argue with citizens about her ruling.

Borough Manager Jeff Thomas announced that he will retire in September and had sent his letter of resignation to the members of the Council.

Councilman Bill Rossey spoke about the kick-off for the revitalization program (described in this blog here and in the Valley News Dispatch here). The banners and entertainment for the evening had all been donated.

Joe Davidek reported that a company has a desire to drill for oil in the KOZ (Keystone Opportunity Zone). If they were to find oil, the borough would get a share of the proceeds. The council is going to need to decide soon what it wants to do with the land in the KOZ, i.e., whether there should be oil drilling or some other development of the land.

The Council went into executive session again at 8:00 PM, and asked the public to leave the Council Chambers. The Council left executive session at 8:40. It was reported to the public that the Council had been discussing borough personnel, job descriptions, and related matters.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

"The future of Tarentum is whatever we want it to be."- William Rossey

There was a festive atmosphere in the Grandview Elementary School auditorium as about 110 people gathered for the 7:00 p.m. town meeting about revitalizing Tarentum.

Curt Marino entertaining the participants in Tarentum's renaissance town meeting, May 5, 2006Curt Marino of Seita Jewelers was singing a variety of songs in the auditorium while participants signed in at the door, picked up literature for the meeting, and found their seats.

Among the items being distributed was a questionnaire and a list of committees on which residents could serve if interested.

Councilman William Rossey speaking to "New" Tarentum Town Meeting, May 5, 2006About 7:15 Councilman Bill Rossey began the meeting, stating that there was a broad consensus that changes needed to be made and that everyone must be part of it.

He named a number of good things that have been happening in Tarentum, as well as projects the Borough Council is working on. He said that Tarentum needed a comprehensive plan, and invited residents to participate in the process of establishing one.

He then introduced a series of guest speakers who spoke in support of establishing a comprehensive plan.

According to State Representative Frank Dermody, Tarentum already has the base for a business community that cares.

Denny Puko of the Pennsylvania Department of Community Economic Development said that we need to ask for and seek change.

Jim Burn, our representative on the Allegheny County Council, told us that Allegheny is the only county in Pennsylvania that does not have its own comprehensive plan, and that establishing one was a priority for Allegheny County's Chief Executive, Dan Onorato. He spoke about his experience as the mayor of Millvale when it developed its own comprehensive plan, and said that before Hurricane Ivan devastated Millvale, there were already grant proposals submitted to accomplish goals in the plan; the existence of a comprehensive plan gave their grant proposals an edge over those from other communities. He emphasized that the fundamental tenet for the process of developing a plan must be what is in the best interests of Tarentum, not anyone's personal agenda.

Rossey recognized a number of other local officials: Mary Bowlin, Chair of the Allegheny County Chamber of Commerce; the mayor, council members, the borough manager, the borough's code enforcement officer, and local business owners.

He then invited residents to share their comments, which continued until about 9:00 PM. A number of residents spoke about their decisions to move to Tarentum. There were a number of comments to the effect that the Pittsburgh Mills is a good thing for Tarentum, providing jobs and attracting people to the area.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Broadband (?) on the road

In advance of my vacation in Myrtle Beach, I had resigned myself to the prospect of infrequent opportunities to connect to the internet. But my brother-in-law was going to have to check his email regularly for his graphic design business, so he brought along his laptop and made some initial contacts to the resort to find out what he would need. There were assurances that connecting would be simple. If only it had been so.

The ResortLynx system required accepting a charge through the television of almost $10 for unlimited use of the wi-fi connection for a twelve hour period. The help screen on the television provided a username and password, and reminded the customer to enable pop-ups on the computer. The system was intended to give a "challenge page" to the computer when one attempted to access the internet, and one would then log in using the username and password.

No challenge page appeared. Why? What was involved was no mere pop-up, but some kind of script. My brother-in-law was using a Macintosh with Safari as his browser. Safari had pop-ups enabled, but would not process the specific script.

Our work-around was to use a dial-up connection to another ISP and download a different browser -- one that could have been downloaded at home in advance of the trip had any information been provided that the broadband system did not work with Safari.

Netscape worked fine for logging in. Once there was a broadband connection we downloaded FireFox, which was also able to handle the log-in to the wi-fi system.

Over the course of the week, the broadband connection was spotty. At times it seemed to download data at a good clip, but it would also frequently slow down to a crawl or even a dead stop. By the end of the week, we were back to using the dial-up connection in order to have reliable, slow but steady access to the internet.

Lessons learned:
  1. When travelling, have a few browsers available.
  2. Those slow dial-up connections you used to use can come in pretty handy.
  3. If you are providing internet service to others, be sure to tell prospective customers what they will actually need to connect to your system.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Some old and new vacation traditions

While I was on vacation last week, our family observed some vacation traditions that had been going on for some time, and one that we hope is not repeated. As I have mentioned earlier, I'm kind of new to the family traditions for the week in Myrtle Beach, so I am learning the things that "we've always done."

Hospital DayMonday was Hospital Day, a new event that we hope does not become an annual tradition. On the drive down, my father had not been feeling well, and had a cough that just would not quit. By Monday morning he decided that he needed to get it checked out, so he presented himself at the Emergency Department of the nearby hospital. Having overseen an emergency department himself, Dad had some understanding of what was happening, and made the simple observation that this emergency department was "very busy." During the middle of this day my sisters and I sat in the waiting area while my father waited in one of the examination rooms. We discovered that a hospital waiting room was as good a place as any other to catch up with each other. By mid-afternoon an X-ray had confirmed that our father did not have pneumonia, and he left the hospital with a prescription for the rest of the week.

Local lizardTuesday was Tolerate Stewart's Cooking Day. I fixed supper for twelve that evening, and we had leftovers to consume over the remainder of the week. This was a new tradition I introduced last year. No local lizards were harmed in the preparation of this meal. Although most of the meal was "normal" food, I did fix a small dish of chicken gizzards. I suspect that one of the reasons some were wary of trying the gizzards is that they rhymed with lizards. Or they might have had other reasons ....

WaffleHouseDay.JPGWednesday was Waffle House Day. Nine of the twelve of us descended on the Murrells Inlet Waffle House for breakfast, and we took up two booths. For some reason this friendly restaurant serves each item on its own plate, so we had a contest to see which table could end up with the most plates. The table with only four guests won. By the way, Waffle House makes a very good cinnamon oat bran waffle.

Donut DayFriday was Donut Day. Donabeth and Gil went out before breakfast and brought back two dozen assorted Krispy Kreme donuts, two dozen Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, and a muffin. I was told that one of the explicit, long-standing rules of Donut Day was that you didn't have to eat a donut if you did not want to. Somehow I don't think any of these donuts were sugar-free, but I hoped I was mistaken.

Friday we also brought in a take-out Italian dinner from Carrabba's. The food was delicious and the quantities were enormous, so we made a note that next year we will do the dinner from Carrabba's earlier in the week.

Group picture. Reserved pastor not pictured.Saturday was Start Saying Goodbye Day. Over the course of that day two contingents from our group headed out in different homeward directions. We made a note that next year it would be better to get our group photo earlier in the week so that it would be easier to get everyone into one spot when not preoccupied with the trip ahead.

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