Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tanks and Trestles

A little over a week ago some friends told me that the "For Rent" sign was no longer in the window of 410 Corbet Street, and that it looked like aquarium supplies were all over the front of the shop.

There is still no sign in the window announcing what is coming, but this week there were displays in the windows on both sides of the door. I'm not sure what they mean.

aquarium supplies in the window on Corbet Street

On the left side there were aquarium supplies and tanks on display.

trestles in the window on Corbet Street

On the right side there were what appeared to be trestles for model trains.

We all must wait for more information.

File under : ,

How free is "free"?

coupon announcing '15 FREE DONUTS for $3.99'

The coupon above appeared in an advertising insert in the local paper last Thursday. How the typo occurred is a mystery, because a similar coupon -- but without the claim that the donuts were free -- has been printed before in the same publication. If someone had proofread the ad, the typo would have jumped out to most readers who know the accepted meaning of the word "free". As it is, the business owner has been put in a position where she must post notices of the error at the entry to her establishment.

But what is obviously an error when we see it in a commercial advertisement for goods, can become less than obvious when it comes into church life.

We had a very helpful discussion of the relationship between repentance and forgiveness last Saturday at the "Words of Praise" alternative worship service at Central Presbyterian Church. One of the participants shared her personal testimony of how God had worked in her life to bring her to a point where turning/repentance was possible.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God -- not the result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8.

It can be tempting to see our repentance as something that makes us worthy of receiving God's forgiveness, but the reality is that the gift is free and God works in our lives when we do not deserve it to enable us to receive it.

File under : , , ,

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fire in West Tarentum attracts attention

fire in West Tarentum, 8:13 PM, August 27, 2006Last night as I was driving across the bridge I saw an impressive plume of dark smoke rising from a fire up in the stratosphere of West Tarentum (that is an area where one looks down on the Tarentum Bridge).

Flames were clearly visible at the bottom of the plume of smoke. By the time I parked my car and walked back to a vantage point to take a picture, the flames had been brought under control and were no longer visible above the treetops.

Thumbnail of photo by Louis Ruediger in Valley News Dispatch, Aug. 28, 2006, P. A8For those of you who claim the Valley News Dispatch does not cover local news, today's paper had a striking action photo by Louis Ruediger showing the firefighters at the scene.

The thumbnail version of the picture should give you an idea what you missed if you did not read the paper edition of the VND. No wonder the newspaper box at the corner of Corbet and Fourth was already empty this morning when I drove by.

File under : ,

It has been a long summer without ham loaf at Central Presbyterian Church.

It has been a long summer without ham loaf at Central Presbyterian Church. For months people have stopped me on the street to ask when the next ham loaf dinner would be. For months I've been telling people not until fall.

Everybody who has been waiting for Central Presbyterian Church's ham loaf will have a treat in store on September 23, when our Harvest Festival will include a sale of mini ham loaves.

This fundraising event at Central has traditionally included a wide variety of activities. There will be lunch items served a la carte, a bake sale, a vegetable soup sale, a car wash, and a flea market. The Women's Association will have a cutlery sale.

There will be some fun activities for children, a display by the Central Quilters, and an exhibit by the Tarentum Genealogical Society.

There will also be a hoagie sale at the Harvest Festival. I hope that the lack of rain this summer does not interfere with the hoagie harvest.

File under: , , ,

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Something new for skateboarders in the Alle-Kiski Valley

The Skatepark of Natrona is getting ready to re-open on September 2. Through the summer the indoor park has been going through a complete redesign and construction.

Jeff Revilla of Blank Skate Supply says, "What we are building is very new and different for Pittsburgh. Instead of trying to emulate every skatepark out there with rails, boxes and banks we are building one giant mini ramp ramp with 3 sections that has street elements included in it."

Last Saturday I stopped at the Skatepark of Natrona to learn what was happening. The park was still clearly a construction site, but it was possible to start to picture what it was going to look like.

Skatepark of Natrona under construction, August 19, 2006

Skatepark of Natrona under construction, August 19, 2006

Skatepark of Natrona under construction, August 19, 2006

Skatepark of Natrona under construction, August 19, 2006

The Skatepark of Natrona is located at 109 Chestnut Street, Natrona, Pennsylvania.

File under : , ,

Friday, August 25, 2006

It's a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich!

There was a time, before Martha Stewart made people ashamed over putting together meals that were too simple, when a parent would satisfy a hungry child by putting together a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was always an easy fallback when anything else might have taken more time to prepare, or special items were missing from the cupboard.

And in many families before a child was old enough to learn how to boil water, the child could learn how to spread the ingredients and make a PB&J for himself or herself.

Tonight when I was picking up a few groceries at the supermarket, I saw this:

frozen premade PB&J sandwiches

It is a package of frozen pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. At the sale price of two packages for $5, a two ounce frozen sandwich costs 62.5 cents. And there seems to be a market for it.

Have we come to this? Is there such a shortage of time in modern life that neither a parent, nor a caregiver, nor a child can make a humble PB&J?

I am still stunned.

File under :

Really fresh produce available locally at Farmers' Market

some of the fresh produce available at the Farmers' Market in Natrona HeightsOn Tuesday morning it was time to go shopping for a few items for the dinner at the Tuesday Evening Meal and Ministry at Central Presbyterian Church. I had been told that there was a Farmers' Market in Natrona Heights on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 to noon, so I decided to look for it before going to the grocery stores.

I found that three different farms were each selling produce in the parking lot in front of Macy's at the Heights Plaza.

stands at the Farmers' Market in Natrona HeightsThe prices were amazing and the tomatoes used in the salad that evening were out of this world.

While I was at the market I ran into a number of acquaintances. They all knew about the Farmers' Market, but apparently had joined in the conspiracy of silence to keep me from discovering it.

I have been told that at one time there had been a Farmers' Market in Tarentum. I am wondering why it stopped, and what it would take to get one back in town. Many of the neighbors around Central Presbyterian Church do not drive, so they lack convenient access to good, fresh produce.

File under : , , , ,

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

lower Wood Street open

Following up on my entry about the Tarentum Borough Council meeting, I took a walk yesterday to check out the section of Wood Street that residents said had been blocked off.

Wood Street open to the river, August 22, 2006
There is no longer any chain link fence blocking access to the end of Wood Street. A chain link fence with flags continues to mark the boundary of the development area for upscale apartments that will each have a view of the Allegheny River.

River access from Wood Street
And this is the stunning view of the Allegheny River the kayakers see as they go down to the end of Wood Street. God has blessed the people of this area!

File under : , ,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Citizen concerns about development and zoning dominate meeting

Last night the Tarentum Borough Council held a two hour meeting. The fact that committees had not met during the summer may have contributed to the need for more discussion of the few items of business coming to the meeting. A major part of the meeting was spent dealing with citizen concerns.

There were concerns about the closure of Wood Street between First Avenue and the river. The concerns had to do with prolonged lack of access to the river for kayakers, lack of handicapped access to a residence, and lack of emergency access. It was reported that the public road was blocked in order for the developer of apartments to do demolition and construction. Council members questioned whether it was necessary for the street still to be closed. A local kayaker explained that for many years Wood Street had been a place kayakers had used for access to the river. The state boat launch was not an option because it required purchase of an annual permit even for a kayak. The borough is not considering any petition to transfer the section of street to the adjoining landowners.

Other residents had concerns about the conversion of a single family home on East Ninth Avenue to a two family home. According to Solicitor Strellec, this is a permitted use in that zone if certain criteria are met, and there is no need for a special action by Council to allow it. The change for that one home is expected to increase congestion on the street where there is already a inadequate parking space for the current residents. There was much discussion of the need to revise the whole zoning ordinance to ensure that it allows and encourages the kind of development the borough wants to see.

Council President Carl Magnetta reported that funding had been obtained to accomplish the dredging of Bull Creek.

There was a letter from a Springdale resident commending the Borough for the Summer Concert Series. It was reported that this was the first year in a long time that the concession stand had shown income at the end of the summer. The sale of food was intended to raise funds for recreation in the Borough.

There was some discussion of a letter from the Highlands School District asking whether the number of crossing guards could be cut. There was very strong feeling about the safety of children particularly around the Ross Street crossing. The Council voted to send a letter saying that Tarentum did not want to cut any crossing guards.

In other actions:

  • Council accepted the resignation of Councilman Bill Rossey effective September 24 in order for him to begin his position as Borough Manager.

  • Council approved an agreement with the Allegheny County Housing Authority for a $50,000 grant for imrpovements to be made in the Dreshar Stadium area in exchange for permitting some well drilling.

  • Council appointed Jeff Adams as Chief Water Plant Coordinator

  • Council approved a policy for the use of Taser guns by the police department.

  • Council appointed three alternate members to the Zoning Hearing Board.

File under : , ,

Monday, August 21, 2006

Busy bees

Today there were a number of kinds of bees visiting the various flowers in the garden between Central Presbyterian Church and the parking lot. The Russian Sage seemed to be a particular favorite. The bees reminded me of the bustle of activity around the church in the final days of August as we get ready to roll out a set of church programs.

bee on Russian Sage in Tarentum

bee on Russian Sage in Tarentum

bee on Russian Sage in Tarentum

File under : ,

From Salvador Dali to Fanny Crosby by way of Luke's crucifixion narrative

Christ of St. John of the Cross, by Salvador DaliWe began the alternative worship service at Central Presbyterian Church on Saturday evening by singing three hymns along with an iWORSHIP DVD that was brought in by one of the participants. This DVD was set up so we could display the lyrics along with the slide show that accompanied each hymn.

One of the participants brought in a number of prints of Salvador Dali's "Christ of St. John of the Cross." She said that it was a picture that spoke to her about forgiveness, the theme for the first few weeks of our gathering. We each spent some time looking at the picture, sharing our impressions of what it said to us about forgiveness.

Another participant brought in a yellowed clipping of a newspaper column that spoke about forgiveness. She read the relevant portion of the column to aid us in thinking and discussion of the implications of not forgiving.

We read the crucifixion narrative from Luke 23:26-43 and reflected together on Christ's prayer "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."

One of the participants said that the Fanny Crosby hymn "Blessed Assurance" spoke to him about forgiveness. We found some copies of Vesper Chimes and sang "Blessed Assurance" and another hymn. Having begun the service with some high-tech hymn singing, we discovered that we could also do just fine without instrumental accompaniment.

We closed our time together in prayer.

File under : , ,

Friday, August 18, 2006

Just a reminder

Sock puppetSocky wants to be sure you remember:

August 19 is Sock Puppet Assertiveness Day.

All day long.

Tell your friends and acquaintances how you really feel, but let a sock puppet do your talking.

(Blogged about here, and a greeting card for the holiday can be found here.)

File under : , ,

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Steve Derose finishes Tarentum's 2006 Summer Concert Series

Blue Magoo opens the concert in Tarentum, August 16, 2006There were over a hundred people in the audience this evening for the fifth and final concert in Tarentum's 2006 Summer Concert Series.

It was a beautiful summer evening for a concert in Riverview Memorial Park in Tarentum, with the Allegheny River flowing peacefully nearby.

Blue Magoo opened the concert.

Steve Derose playing in Riverview Park in Tarentum, August 16, 2006Steve Derose was the "headliner" for the concert, although the public was not informed until this evening that he would be performing.

Originally this concert was to have been a karaoke contest, but only one person had signed up to compete. So plans were changed to make it possible for local performers to appear.

Tarentum's 2006 Summer Concert Series was sponsored by Old Friends Guitars and the Borough of Tarentum.

concert audience in Tarentum, August 16, 2006

File under : , , ,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Don't expect the Gong Show

The final concert of the 2006 Tarentum Summer Concert Series has been changed from the originally planned karaoke contest because of the low response from people planning to compete. Locals who were looking forward to laughing at their friends' and neighbors' attempts to sing will need to set their expectations higher.

The Stroller in today's Valley News Dispatch reports the new plans for the concert to consist of performances by local entertainers.

The concession stand at Captain Jacks will open at 6:30. The concert starts at 7:00 PM.

August 16th 7pm,
8:30pm 2006
2006 Summer Concert Series— at
Riverview Memorial Park, Tarentum
Performances by local entertainers in the final concert in the 2006 Summer Concert Series sponsored by the Borough of Tarentum and Old Friends Guitars

This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

File under : , , ,

Words of Praise begins at Central

forgive graphicOn Saturday, August 12, Central Presbyterian Church started its alternative worship service, "Words of Praise." The gathering will continue every Saturday at 6:00 PM.

The theme for the first several weeks will be forgiveness.

At the first gathering, there was a discussion of worship in which each participant will be responsible for bringing a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a memory, a personal testimony, or some other way of enhancing the group's understanding of our theme.

flowersOur worship space for the first gathering was a simple circle of chairs in the fellowship hall. A bouquet of flowers borrowed from the next day's service was on a small table off to the side. A CD player provided some gathering music as the seven participants arrived.

We spent some time reading and reflecting on the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Participants shared memories of forgiveness with one another and discussed ways in which we can show forgiveness. We closed with a time of silent prayer, and had some refreshments together.

I am looking forward to the next gathering.

File under : , ,

Monday, August 14, 2006

What will it take for Synaxis to stand behind an insurance policy?

According to the website of the Synaxis Group,
For 29 years, Synaxis Polk & Sullivan has put the interests of clients first. We can draw upon the extensive capabilities of the entire Synaxis organization to meet your needs.
This claim seems to be in dispute according to a news story in today's Valley News Dispatch entitled "Hot dispute."

There had been a fire at Freeport Brick on Feb. 2, 2006. In ten days it was clear that the fire had affected the ability of the company to fill orders.

Synaxis Polk & Sullivan of Nashville, Tennessee, who is alleged to have sold Freeport Brick a $4.6 million insurance policy against catastrophic losses has denied that Freeport Brick was covered for this loss. In June Freeport Brick's parent company sued Synaxis Polk & Sullivan for breach of contract.

The news story quotes Freeport Brick's Plant Manager Mike Livingston as saying "We are hoping to get the insurance company to the table."

Synaxis simply wants the lawsuit to be moved to Tennessee.

This sure seems like a strange way to "put the interests of clients first."

The "entire Synaxis organization" is getting smaller. Earlier this month the Synaxis Group sold off two of its insurance companies, Synaxis Van Meter Insurance Agency and Employers Risk Services, to the Bowling Green-based Houchens Industries. As of today, the Synaxis website does not reflect the sale of those units.

File under :

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What they might have been looking for

Every now and then I check the visitor logs for this blog to see what brought people here. Sometimes they have looked for something in a search engine, and I run the same search to see what else would have come up.

dazzle painting
When I ran a search for which my photo question of the blinded sphinx moth came up very high, I discovered fascinating pages (the best summary I found is here) about dazzle painting -- art used to camouflage warships in WWI.

They had figured out that it was not possible to hide a ship on the surface of the ocean, but they could make it very difficult for a U-Boat commander to target the boat. By the use of shading, broken diagonal lines, and other optical illusions, they could conceal from an observor the orientation, direction, and speed of the ship.

So what was a U-Boat commander to do? Step away from the periscope, shut his eyes, and "Use the Force, Luke."

File under : ,

Monday, August 07, 2006

Choices, choices

Every now and then I come across a sign with extraneous markings that raise questions for me. In a local grocery store I came across the following:
Sign reading "Assorted T-Shirts Your Choice $5.00"
In a store where it is my choice whether I buy anything at all, and where a shopper can choose which vegetable or fruit or loaf of bread or can of soup to take off the shelf, what on earth does it mean to say that the T-shirts are "your choice"?

I am so used to making so many choices every day, that signs like this push me to ask "as opposed to what?" Where in this store is it not my choice?

Where in life is it not my choice?

Jesus said, "You did not choose me, but I chose you." (John 15:16) Among all the decisions I make each day, the most I can say about my faith is that I decided (or not) to live up to my identity in Christ. There are some things in life for which I did not go shopping, and which lay out the parameters for the choices I do make.

Of course, in the grocery store there was at least one other sign that did not offer a choice.
sign reading "Steeler Sportswear Assorted Sizes $4.99-$12.99"
Around Pittsburgh it goes without saying. You WILL wear Steeler sportswear. (But don't tell anyone I passed that rack without making a purchase.)

File under : , , ,

A Big "Viva!"

Group picture of Central Presbyterian Church's VBS August 4, 2006At the end of the VBS week at Central Presbyterian Church we got everybody together on the front steps for a group picture. Many of the kids joined in giving a big "Viva!" for this picture.

Sunday we invited the children and their families to come to worship, and the VBS leaders explained what we had been teaching the children.

There was an impromptu reception following the service with some simple refreshments, and most of those present lingered and chatted for a while.

I'm not looking forward to having the decorations come down because they have added so much to the church over the past month.

File under : , ,

Saturday, August 05, 2006

How Well Traveled Are You?

Your Travel Profile:

You Are Very Well Traveled in the Northeastern United States (71%)
You Are Very Well Traveled in the Southern United States (69%)
You Are Well Traveled in Africa (50%)
You Are Well Traveled in the Midwestern United States (50%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Canada (40%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Eastern Europe (40%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Southern Europe (33%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in Western Europe (29%)
You Are Somewhat Well Traveled in the Western United States (26%)
You Are Mostly Untraveled in Scandinavia (20%)
You Are Untraveled in Asia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Australia (0%)
You Are Untraveled in Latin America (0%)
You Are Untraveled in New Zealand (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the Middle East (0%)
You Are Untraveled in the United Kingdom (0%)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Marino concert in Tarentum park sparks discussion

Curt Marino singing in Riverview Memorial Park, Tarentum, August 2, 2006Curt Marino performed for a crowd of more than 100 on Wednesday evening at Riverview Memorial Park in Tarentum. His performance is part of the 2006 Summer Concert Series sponsored by the Tarentum Borough and Old Friends Guitars.

Marino is originally from Natrona Heights, but now lives in Lower Burrell. A local businessman, he is the co-owner with his wife of Seita Jewelers on Sixth Avenue in Tarentum.

Curt Marino singing in Riverview Memorial Park, Tarentum, August 2, 2006Marino's music was a mix of country and pop, performed with recorded instrumental tracks and a wireless microphone that allowed him to move freely away from the bandshell and through the audience.

Once again Captain Jack's was open. The concession stand in the park sold a variety of food to raise funds for Tarentum Borough's recreation programs. Halushki that had been introduced a couple of concerts ago is a good seller, and they now serve it in two sizes.

Although Marino's music was not my particular favorite, the concert was a great open-air setting to relax with friends, and enjoy some simple food in the shade on a hot summer evening before taking a walk down First Avenue to Candice's for ice cream cones.

The last concert in the 2006 Summer Concert Series will be on Wednesday, August 17, and it will be a Karaoke Contest.

Curt Marino singing in Riverview Memorial Park, Tarentum, August 2, 2006Before and after the concert I was in conversations with local residents who were very distressed about the perceived lack of coverage of the concert by the Valley News Dispatch. My memory was that the VND had done a nice story on the whole 2006 concert series in its "Ticket" magazine sometime earlier in the summer. But the feeling of those who spoke to me was that there should have been at least a short note in the paper the day of the concert. (As far as I am concerned a note that day would have been rather late because most subscribers don't get their paper until 4 PM.)

The discussion raises a number of issues for me. One question is how many times can a newspaper write about an event before it assumes for itself the role of promoting the event rather than objectively reporting news?

Another question is what would have been the genuine news about this concert that had not been reported earlier? I am honestly not sure what a reporter would have said about this concert had one been sent. What made the concert a nice experience for me were a host of intangible factors separate from the music.

A big underlying question for me is: given that information about events is being produced and transmitted in so many new ways that were not used even a decade ago, what opportunities were missed to get the word out? Maybe the VND did miss an opportunity, but are there other ways the concert could have been publicized that nobody used? I ran a couple of Google searches on "curt marino" and "curt marino lower burrell". The artist does not have a web page to announce his own appearances to the world. Ironically, this blog shows up near the top of each of the internet searches. (And I am not even trying to do any search engine optimization to convince people that I am an expert on that artist.)

Tarentum Borough has - or had (it appears to be down now) - a little-used website at The website when I last saw it had more typos on it than the average issue of the newspaper people in Tarentum love to criticize. But that website was not used to announce any of the events happening in the borough, not even the events organized by the borough itself.

I have been experimenting on this blog with an event "microformat" I learned about through technorati. The idea is that if I fill in the form at hCalendar Creator with the information about an event, I can get some code for an article on my blog. Theoretically, the code can be read by programs that are searching the internet for information about upcoming events. There are people trying to make money on gathering and providing information about events. They will find this information useful. So here is where I will insert the code for the next event in the 2006 Concert Series.

== coded entry starts ==
August 16th 7pm, 8:30pm 20062006 Summer Concert Series— at Riverview Memorial Park, Tarentum, PA
The final concert in the 2006 Summer Concert Series sponsored by the Borough of Tarentum and Old Friends Guitars

This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

== coded entry ends ==

Maybe a robot will read it; maybe not. In time I will learn more about whether these things get picked up at all.

My own opinion is that fretting over whether the VND covers something in this day and age is a waste of negative energy.

File under : , , , , , ,

Fiesta at Central

decorations in the sanctuary of Central Presbyterian Church for Fiesta Vacation Bible SchoolThis has been a busy week at Central Presbyterian Church in Tarentum, where each morning we have been holding a Vacation Bible School using the Fiesta curriculum by Group Publishing.

A number of area churches have lent us decorations and props; among those churches are First United Presbyterian Church of Tarentum, and the Cheswick Presbyterian Church.

Village mural in the fellowship hall at Central Presbyterian ChurchWe've also made some of our own decorations, including the mural of a southwestern village appears on the wall of our fellowship hall.

This year we made a switch from past years, and decided to hold our openings and closings for each day in the Sanctuary.

some of the children and crew leaders in our Vacation Bible SchoolWith the pulpit and its railing moved out of the way, we have plenty of space for skits and lessons. And we have been able to project the videos for the songs on the wall where all the children can see them.

This change also freed up space in the Fellowship Hall downstairs where it was a bit cooler than outside on some of the hot days this week.

crafts in our Vacation Bible SchoolWe had 35 children on our first day of the VBS, and have seen new children each day.

It has been a loaded week for all the leaders in the program, but filled with blessings for all. One more day to go!

File under : , ,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Just in case you were wondering what that is in Chinese

Fortune cookie with the obligatory lesson in ChineseI know there are limits to what one can learn from a fortune cookie, but the lesson on this fortune seems particularly limited.

File under : ,