Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: PA Governor's Race

I saw a TV political commercial for Dan Onorato for Governor, and it really impressed me. I wish we had a guy with such an impressive track record like that as Allegheny County Executive.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Immigration and Arizona

By now everyone's already heard about Arizona's new xenophobic... I mean anti-constitutional... I mean anti-illegal immigration law, and if you're on the right or left, you're probably mad. If you're on the left, you're concerned about racial profiling, the usurping of Federal prerogatives to protect the border, and increased debt to the State Government. If you're on the right, you're concerned about brown people that talk funny.

Now, what this law effectively does is require anyone who seems to be "illegal looking" to present their papers proving that they are, in fact, a United States Citizen. While this may be an effective cliche in most WWII or Cold War movies, it's probably only going to be effective at driving illegal immigrants deeper underground.

I mean, it's not like the state would do anything sensible like, say, enforcing or enacting laws that severely punish employers that use illegal labor... but I digress.

But, there's only one way to fight this kind of stupidity: massive performance art.

I propose relocating the entire population of Puerto Rico to Arizona. Remember, Puerto Ricans, as citizens of a U.S. Territory, are citizens of the United States... even though they're brownish and speak some crazy fast moon people language. That's almost 4,000,000 (well, not "immigrants" and certainly not "illegal"... so "migrants" or "commuters", I suppose) to perplex and confound state police.

Trust me: I have deep suspicions that the average cop in Arizona knows that there's a *West* Virginia. "Puerto Rico" will blow their minds.

As part of Phase II of the plan, I'll start importing Canadians from October-March, returning them when the Great White tundra thaws out. That's right: illegal white people, legal brown people.

It'll be chaos and next thing you know, they'll elect a Senator who wasn't born in the United States.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Build a Bridge Out of Her!

When I go for local transportation news, I got to The Pitt News:

The Bates Street bridge is a notorious traffic problem that causes tie-ups that can sometimes stretch for miles. Drivers of standard-sized, 13-feet-6-inch tractor-trailers, often realize too late that they can’t make the 11-foot-6-inch clearance and subsequently scrape the top of their vehicles. But after decades of commercial vehicle accidents, the city expects to replace the battered bridge this summer.

Using $3.6 million of city, state and federal funds, the city will replace the old railroad bridge with a taller, wider bridge, said Chuck McClain, the city’s project manager for bridges and structures. The new bridge will accommodate the proposed Mon/Fayette Expressway into Oakland — and 17-foot-6-inch tall trucks.

Bridge construction was supposed to start this spring, but conflicting requirements of two federal funding sources pushed back the construction. McClain said in a follow-up e-mail that he hopes construction will begin in mid-summer.
Take that Joe Grata!

Now, not having seen the plans I can only speculate*, but the one thing that I'd really like to see is...well...

Awhile back I complained (or at least I think that I complained) about the Walnut Capital project along Brownshill Road, on the Pittsburgh side of the Homestead Grays Bridge. After all the work done by the City on Summerset to make it an "Urban Neighborhood", Walnut Capital threw up (pun intended) what amounts to a strip mall. To make matters worse, as part of a widening of Brownsville Road (obviously so that more "husky" folk can make their way to the all-you-can-eat seafood place in the stripmall), the City tore down the old stone retaining wall on the Eastern edge of the road.

I am by no means a luddite or a historic preservationist zealot, so I can appreciate that sometimes the old needs to get torn down and replaced with the new. However, in this case, and in the case of the West Busway along Carson Street, the decision to tear down these old retaining walls seems to detract from the City's industrial history. I mean, there's no way that anyone ever is going to build those types of walls again; the masonry skill alone is something that very few people have, with the exception of a few little old Italian guys in Bloomfield. That makes it all the more important to try to save these monumental walls whenever possible.

How does this tie into the Bates Street bridge? Well, at some point, in order to open up the Northern section of the ALMONO site a similar wall will have to be torn down. Across 2nd Avenue, you have a patchwork of block, concrete, and fake-block concrete holding back the Jail-Trail. While it may be more difficult, it would be great to find a way to reuse this old wall, and rebuild and refurbish the existing wall so it (1) reflects the historic character of that place and (2) makes it look less sad and pathetic. If the City is looking to rebuild this bridge, it should seriously take into account the historicity of the place.

* My guess is that, like the Hot Metal connecting bridge, this will be a prefab steel structure to hasten the demolition of the existing bridge and the completion of the new bridge.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Where's the Fun in That?

Via the Pittsburgh Business Times: Pittsburgh ranks No. 12 on 'Fun Cities' list (full report here)... which, frankly, is a bit bizarre as I don't know anyone in this City that I would consider "fun".

Of course, my idea of "fun" is a night discussing Wiggenstein and eating packets of mustard in the back seat of someone's car.

Anywho, we scored high in "Food & Drink" (4) & "Low Impact Sports" (8); moderate in "Culture" (20), "Popular Entertainment" (20), and "Shopping" (21), and lowest in "High Impact Sports" (34) and -- get this -- "Gambling" (53). Obviously "Food & Drink" is buoyed by our ever so liberal drinking laws, and they didn't include "Pothole Dodging" or "Jaywalking" in High Impact Sports.

But, you have to compare it to the bottom five: Provo, Utah (last); McAllen, Texas; Modesto and Bakersfield, California; and El Paso TX. God, those places must be veritable suck-holes of fun... the place where clowns and toys go to die.

Now, back to contemplating das Senf an sich.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

MVX Episode VII: Blue Harvest

In what surely is one of the penultimate nails in the coffin of the Mon-Fayette Expressway:

The Mon-Fayette Expressway might never reach Pittsburgh, now that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission no longer is pursuing private investors.

The $4.5 billion estimate for the remainder of the project includes connecting to the Parkway East in Monroeville and in Hazelwood, but the price tag is too steep for state funding, officials said. And three companies interested in "public-private partnerships" to build the remainder of the highway — in exchange for toll revenue — couldn't raise enough private funding either, said Frank Kempf, the turnpike's chief engineer, during a meeting Thursday in Washington County...

The turnpike decided in late January to stop pursuing partners for the project. Unless state or federal legislators find new funding to design and build the remaining links to Pittsburgh, the future of the project remains unknown...
And hopefully by "unknown" they mean 'buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighter', all of which is fine by me; the project (especially the last 10 miles) is beyond ridiculous from an engineering standpoint, would disrupt communities, and frankly bring little benefit to the Pittsburgh of the 21st century.

The collapse of the housing industry only serves to undermine one of the main "benefits" of the project: the opening up of greenfields to the south of the City to more suburban subdivisions.

Anyway, here's a novel (or at least what passes for novel around these parts) idea, spurred by a musing by Rear Adm. Briem (Ret.):
[A]t the end of the day the foundation of the East Busway was engineered with the intent that rail of some sort could be built along the corridor... Once you take out folks who can't travel by car either because of income or for other reasons, folks who have a choice will take rail who won't ever consider taking a bus.
Indeed, when the busway expansion was planned in the late '90s/early '00s, the folks in Edgewood raised holy hell that damned dirty buses would pass through their gentile community.

Now, I understand why PAT *lurves* its busway and while associated municipal entities/political mucky-mucks also *lurve* in a way that is frankly illegal in most countries, but there is a case to be made for (1) converting at least part of the busway to light rail and (2) using the existing CSX tracks to serve Oakland/Hazelwood/Homestead and eventually beyond. While the upfront capital cost may be high (and the negotiations with CSX may be ridiculous), a dedicated right-of-way would connect downtown, the universities, one of the largest brownfield development opportunities in the City, a fairly successful brownfield redevelopment, and a few muncipalities that really need improved transportation connections to all of them.
Peduto had pushed a somewhat similar heavy rail project back in '08, but it hasn't seems to have gone anywhere; the ACCD is pushing a fixed guideway (which would be a fourth mode of transit, for those of you keeping track). There's something to be said, however, about keeping with what you have and expanding a system.

While, yes, the SPC came out almost kinda-sorta-but-not-quite for this plan (warning: big file), the proposed alternative was, I would say, a bit grandiose and chose to build an extensive system from Etna to West Mifflin, creating a new line through the Strip District, rather than recycle what already exists. There's *big thinking* and there's *over thinking*. Interestingly enough, the major complaint was that they looked at the new line as something to help supplement existing transit oriented development, while ignoring the possibility that it could potentially help to generate transit oriented development. That seems to be *small thinking* or at least *narrow* thinking.

Of course, the benefits of this type of project would acrue, not to the suburbs, but to the City which could now easily connect future lab space in Hazelwood with the professors in Oakland and the banks downtown. That kind of forward thinking is something up with which the legislature does not put. And to make it worse, we'd be severely conveniencing people in the Mon Valley, making their trip to work or school easier, quicker, and more enjoyable. The horror!

If the MFX is well and truly dead (and I hope it is), now is really the time to start planning its alternative. Perhaps what PAT and the folks at the DoT really need is a big ol' money sink. If that's the case, I'm more than happy to amend my proposal to call for the boring of a giant tunnel under the Mon to waste a few billion here and there.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Open Letter to Ben Roethlisberger

Dear Ben,

I'm sure you're secretly basking in the warm glow from the knowledge that you're not going to have to spend any time in court, and while that feeling may be reassuring, remember this: you got lucky this time.

Now, I don't know what you did (if you did anything), but an alleged victim that doesn't want to press charges and a District Attorney that doesn't have enough evidence to prosecute doesn't mean that you didn't probably do something that was really, *really* stupid.

Frankly, even if what was alleged to have transpired never even came close to allegedly transpiring, your Yinzer fans already know about your history of making some real boneheaded decisions. We're not even talking about you sticking your Dick LeBeau into some tight end here; you proved that you were perfectly capable of making non-sexual mistakes when you decided to ride your motorcycle without a helmet. Dumb move, Ben.

Dumb move.

If my life long Steelers fan grandmother had been alive to see all the stupid things you've done, she would have slapped you upside the head with her ring hand, pointing side first. My guess is that there are thousands of other grandmothers in the Steelers Nation of ump-teen millions that would probably join her in kicking your ass. Get enough of them together, I think we could easily pay off the City of Pittsburgh's pension obligation with a "Smack Stupidhead in the Face" fundraiser, selling tickets for $1.

Had you had been paying attention, you would have noticed that, in general, Pittsburghers don't really like its sports heroes to act like assholes. I'm not just talking about Santonio Holmes or Plaxico Buress here either; I distinctly remember booing former Pirate outfielder Dave Parker after he got hooked on cocaine and started playing (better) for the Cincinnati Reds. We don't appreciate that kind of bullshiat.

So, here's what I would suggest: you need to chain yourself to one of the thousands of little old, black & gold babushka wearing grandmother (of which I spoke about earlier) in order to keep yourself out of any situation that could even possibly be potentially construed as a dumb, dumb move. Everywhere you go, whether that's to a charity event, to a bar, or to a strip club, you need to know that Grandma is going to whup you if you even think of getting out of line. And while you may think that this is a tad excessive, I'm sure that it's going to be better than being drummed out of the league or becoming bunkmates with Chris Henry in the future, if you know what I mean.


The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

An Open Letter to Governor Ed Rendell

Dear Gov. Rendell,

There are too many Ories in State Government.  Please eliminate two.


The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

P.S. I am not a kook.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

Smile! You're on Ravenstahl Camera

And then there's this:

The city of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon Unviersity, and Community College of Allegheny County this morning announced that they're jointly seeking about $14 million in federal stimulus money to install 220 additional video cameras throughout the city.

The cameras would operate on a wireless network and "dramatically enhance the city's public safety and homeland security capabilities" Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a statement.

The city, CMU, and CCAC are hoping to tap part of the $2.6 billion available in the second round of the broadband technology opportunities program. Applications were due March 26. The grant program is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Security. Terror. Crime. Blahblahblahblah.

The only way that I think that I'd be comfortable with this is if the cameras were available for public viewing on the internet. Now, while I realize that this would open up the cameras to public mooning, I'd feel a lot better if I could see what Howard Stern was seeing alone in the dark of his office without wearing pants.

Not that I think that Howard's doing that, but I can't speak for all of his pantless staff. And by "staff" I mean his employees not his...

Anywho, I just want to have a group mooning of Pittsburgh security cameras that I can record and watch repeatedly in my basement away from prying eyes.

Is that wrong?*

*Yes, probably.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Baked Rueben Casserole

Back when I was growing up, my Großmutter, between the regular Bavarian beatings, used to make us grandchildren "Rueben Sandwiches" with all the leftovers that she had in her refrigerator. Unfortunately, because of the war, she had never really learned to cook anything other than grilled Hitlerwürst, so we just nodded and smiled as she served up another plate of German scheiss-spatzel.

Fortunately for us, none of her other recipes have been released by the Mossad.


14-ounce can sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry
Small bottle Thousand Island dressing
1 pound corned beef, sliced
1/2 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
4 to 6 slices rye bread, buttered on one side

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine kraut and dressing (couldn't find a small bottle so I used 1 cup from a regular-size bottle) in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Top with beef, then cheese. Place bread, buttered side up, on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Equally good the next day.

We never did tell Großmutter of the sandwich's non-Arian origins. That was probably for the best.

Chicken & Rosemary Crepes

In response to last week's "Never Fails, Gets You Laid Lasagna" Recipe, regular reader Steve sent in his recipe for Chicken and Rosemary Crepes, which, he assures us will make panties damp:

I made this recipe for this one smoking hot chick and 9 months later we had a son. I wish that I had just taken her out for pizza like I had originally planned.

Must be a great recipe Steve!


For Filling:
Olive Oil
Onion (minced)
Tomatoes (diced)
Chicken (cubed)
Salt & Pepper
Assiago Cheese

For Crepes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon salt


Saute the Chicken in the olive oil and butter and brown at medium heat. Add the onion and continue sauteing. Add the rosemary, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt & pepper. Add the tomatoes and let simmer until the liquid is reduced. Turn the heat down to low and set aside.

Make a large crepe.

Put the filing on the crepe, add the cheese, and fold into a triangle.

Serve with more cheese on the top.

Lemon Lace Cookies

This is a great old recipe from my mother's P&T Cookbook which she had on the back of the shelf for years. I bring these cookies to card club every week, and it really makes the other ladies jealous.

You have to be really careful with the recipe and work fast, but not too fast, or the whole thing will turn into an inedible mess.


1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. finely chopped blanched almonds
8 Tbs. baking soda
3/4 c. (packed) light brown sugar
2 c. lemon juice
1/2 c. light corn syrup
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tsp. lemon extract
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter heavy baking sheets.
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and almonds in a large bowl, and stir thoroughly.
Combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and cool. Stir the lemon extract, zest, and juice into the flour mixture, then into the sugar.
Drop the batter by 1/2 teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake just until they are lightly browned at the edges, 9 to 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the baking sheets before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Sourdough Starter

I've been inundated with emails about sourdough ever since last week's long bread discussion. I'm a big fan of sourdough bread, partially because of the taste, but mostly because I get to burden friends and relatives with starter. There's no better way to get rid of irritating people (while still putting up a front of being thoughtful) than to unload a cup or two of starter on the unsuspecting chumps.

It's like a case of herpes that has to be fed weekly.


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar (optional)
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active-dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)


Mix the flour, sugar, and yeast together in a clean and sterile container (use only glass, glazed ceramic or crockery to hold your starter. No metal or plastic) that can hold two quarts. Gradually stir in the water and mix until it forms a thick paste (don't worry about any lumps, as they will disappear).

Cover the container with a dish cloth and let it sit in a warm (70 to 80 degrees F.), draft-free place. NOTE: Temperatures hotter than 100 degrees F. or so will kill the yeast.

The dish cloth will let wild yeasts pass through into the batter. The mixture should bubble as it ferments (this will foam up quite a bit so place it in a sink or on top of your tax forms in case it spills.)

Let it sit out from 2 to 5 days, stirring it once a day. The starter is ready when it develops a pleasant sour smell and looks bubbly. If it smells like your uncle Ray, throw it out and start again.

Once your starter starts bubbling, then start feeding it daily with flour and water according to the directions below.

Then stir it, cover loosely with plastic wrap (allow a little breathing space), and store it in the refrigerator.

Your starter should be fed every other week: one (1) cup flour and one (1) cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.). I let this site eight (8) hours or preferably overnight