Friday, February 08, 2019

Open Letter to the Port Authority About Its Metrowest "Service"

Is it possible to start a conversation about how mass transit is becoming impossible to use in some areas?  I live in Metrowest.  It used to be easy to get a 28X to go to Downtown or Oakland.  Over the last 10 years or so, companies like IKEA and now Robinson Town Centre no longer permit people to park in their rarely-full lots.  For the first time I remember, the 28X was not full at rush hour yesterday, mostly due to the parking restrictions in Metrowest.

I wouldn't mind driving to Carnegie to get the G2, but the Park and Ride only has space for 215 cars.  It does come frequently, which is an advantage, but if you drive to Carnegie and there's no place to park, you're pretty much stuck driving to Downtown or Oakland and pay for parking as the other lots along the West Busway are tiny.  Shouldn't a mass transit plan aim to reduce the number of cars in already densely-trafficked areas like Downtown and Oakland?

There are options.  For a few years, the G2 used to go to the Mall at Robinson.  Particularly now that Sears has closed, the end of the Mall at Robinson lot has plenty of parking space.  If IKEA would open up the end of their lot by the now closed Toys R Us, that would open up several hundred spaces.  There's a rumor the small lot near the Applebees in Robinson can be used as a Park N Ride but it's not marked.

It's frustrating when you'd prefer to use mass transit to avoid adding to rush hour traffic and your only option is to risk having your car towed due to parking restrictions.  In the meantime, I won't be shopping at IKEA any time soon, and hope other Metrowest commuters will consider boycotting them with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

From AARP Bulletin 1/2019: 99 Ways to Add Healthy Years

https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2019/guide-healthier-longer-life.html

(My honest answers), 1/2019 at age of 61

BE PREPARED

1-4. Establish baselines that count
Do you and your doctor monitor these important numbers?
1.    Blood pressure: High BP is more common than you think: A review of nearly 1,300 healthy people 55-65 put their future risk of hypertension at 90 percent.
(Have had high blood pressure since the '70s (including pre-eclampsia during labor in 1980) and have been on a BP drug since about 2009.)

2.    Waist-to-height ratio: Keep dangerous belly fat in check to extend your life. Researchers recommend a waist circumference less than half your height.
(Yeah, I do need to watch that better.)

3.    C-reactive protein: CRP is a marker of inflammation; a 2016 study found lower CRP levels in “successful” agers, and lower concentrations were associated with longer life. A CRP level below 2.0 mg/L is considered low risk. Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for this test.
(Doesn't appear to be part of my blood test results - will ask)

4.  A1C: A study in the European Heart Journal predicts that a 55-year-old nonsmoking woman with high BP and cholesterol and an A1C of 6 (elevated) won’t make it to age 75. Let that A1C (a test of your blood sugar level) get higher than 8 and life expectancy drops below age 73.
(Doesn't appear to be part of my blood test results - will ask)

5. Update your insurance
A 2017 review found that insured adults had a 37 percent lower mortality risk, and near-elderly people with insurance showed slower health declines
(Still have good insurance)

6. Get to the dentist
Seeing a dentist two or more times a year may lower your risk of mortality from all causes by 30 to 50 percent, according to a Journal of Aging Research study.
(Still go to the dentist - no cavities in years)

7. While you’re at it, floss
According to that same study, nonflossers had a 30 percent higher death risk than daily flossers. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to elevated C-reactive protein inflammation levels.
(...but...I really hate to floss)

8-12. Schedule these 5 screenings

    Colonoscopy   (started having them at 41 due to irritable bowel.  have had some pre-cancerous polyps removed)
    Mammogram   (do this annually - mother died at 86 due to metastasized breast cancer)
    Hepatitis C  (passed this one)
    Skin cancer  (have had an occasional precancerous growth, removed)
    Prostate cancer  (not my issue, but shouldn't you be suggesting that post-menopausal women have occasional gynecological screenings?)

13-18. Check the mirror for these 6 things

    Eyes: Yellowing could signal liver problems, such as hepatitis.   (OK)
    Eyelids: Drooping can indicate Bell’s palsy or, worse, a stroke.  (Always had "heavy eyelids")
    Lips: Cracked or dry lips could mean a vitamin B deficiency.   (OK)
    Teeth: Acid reflux erosion can narrow or shorten teeth.  (OK)
    Tongue: A white tongue could be oral thrush (common in denture wearers). A black fuzzy tongue (yikes!) suggests an infection. Call the doctor.  (OK)
    Your whole face: Dry or discolored patches, or changing moles, could signal skin cancer.   (OK)

19 Get Some Sleep
A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that the effect of sleep deprivation on the body mimicked the aging process on a cellular level, where it can cause cognitive decline and impaired memory. Meanwhile, a Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience study found an association between regular slumber patterns in older adults and longevity. Prioritize your sleep routine and respect the z’s.
(One of my two worst problems.  Developed severe insomnia in 2002 and have rarely slept over 5 hours a night since.  Unable to work a full time job since 2008 as my concentration is toast by 1pm.  Tried many kinds of drugs, increased exercise substantially, don't drink coffee, drink alcohol occasionally...this has been extraordinarily frustrating.)

20. But not too much sleep
Another study found that those who slept more than 10 hours a night had a 30 percent higher risk of early death.
(Never have to worry about that)

21. Snap a selfie
And keep it on your phone. If you ever see something unusual in the mirror, take another picture — then show your doc.
(Done)

22-27. Understand these 6 scientific terms for successful aging

    Telomeres: The capped ends of chromosome strands that shorten with age and cellular damage. Omega-3-rich seafood and folate-packed greens help keep telomeres long.
    Inflammaging: Chronic, low-grade inflammation associated with aging. Inflammation is linked to nearly every major health issue, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes to cancer. Lower inflammation with healthy fats like nuts and olive oil.
    Microbiota: Bacteria in your digestive tract that, when unhealthy, can promote inflammation and weight gain. Studies of centenarians (age 100-plus) have shown healthy gut microbiota to be a key marker of longevity. Good gut health is boosted by high levels of dietary fiber.
    Immunosenescence: Age-related weakening of the immune system that has been linked to chronic inflammation or inflammaging. Boost your immunity through vitamin-packed produce.
    Sarcopenia: Age-related muscle loss. A 2018 study in Aging and Disease notes that maintaining muscle as we age helps lower our disease risk and may also combat chronic inflammation. Your goal: Stay strong with resistance exercises and lean protein.
    Osteopenia: Loss of bone density that is not bad enough to be considered osteoporosis. Lower bone density = higher fracture risk. Resistance training and calcium help build thicker bones. 
(Understand all of the above and already have osteoporosis.  Uggh.)

28. Increase your ‘aging advantage’
Regular physical activity can slow the aging process and prevent disease. A 2017 study in Preventive Medicine compared telomere length in sedentary and active adults and found that exercisers experience a nine-year aging advantage.
(Have been walking more since 2012 and am now walking an average of 6 miles a day.)

29. If you exercise already, keep at it
People age 80-plus who continue to exercise have a lower death rate than those who quit, says a 2016 study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science.
(Ditto)

30. Do something
Anything. A study of 334,000 Europeans found that the biggest beneficiaries of exercise — those who went from inactive to moderately inactive — had a 16 to 30 percent drop in death risk. See, even a little activity goes a long way.
(Ditto)

31-33. Measure your physical vitality
    Get-up test: From a seated position on the floor, stand up. If you can do so without help from your hands, furniture, a wall or other people, you’re looking good. To improve: Do functional exercises like hiking hills.
(I need to push my hands against the floor to stand up, but can get up without grabbing onto furniture.)

    Grip strength: You can buy a hand dynamometer, a device that measures grip strength, for $30 or less. The test is weighted by age and sex, so you can see how you measure up to your peers. If your grip falls short, or if you just notice it getting harder to open jars, talk to your doctor about a strength-training program.
(Have arthritis in my hands so I've had trouble with jars for nearly a decade.)

    Flexibility: Sit on the edge of a chair with one leg extended. Reach for the toes of the extended leg with both hands. The goal is less than 4 inches’ space between fingers and toes. To improve: Take a yoga class.
(Failed that one.)

34. Join a team
An analysis of data collected from 1.2 million adults found that team sports offered the highest mental health benefits from exercise (though all types of activity are beneficial).
(Hate team sports.)

35. Do squats and lunges
They deliver lower-body strength, a top predictor of physical function in older adults.
(Good idea)

36. And practice balance
In one study, women 60 and older who underwent a 12-week program of balancing exercises improved their strength, balance and power.
(Do some balance training (changing clothes while standing away from the bed and not sitting down).)

37-41. Enjoy these 5 potential benefits of high intensity interval training
You can do HIIT even with a walking program; simply vary short bursts of fast walking with longer bouts of strolling at your regular pace. You’ll help:

    Lower inflammation.
    Improve blood pressure and heart performance.
    Slow aging and increase telomere length.
    Improve insulin response and metabolic health.
    Reduce the risk of many diseases, including some cancers.
(Will try to be more aware of this while walking.)

42. Have your own back
Strengthen your core and fortify your back as you age with plank-style exercises. A study of 4,400 people 70 and older found that staying free of chronic back pain can increase life expectancy by 13 percent.
(Did buy one of those big balls to help strengthen my back.)

43. Go slow and steady
Tai chi is well-known for its mind-body benefits, but a five-year study of about 61,000 Chinese men ages 40 to 74 found the ancient practice may also fuel longevity.
(Never liked Tai chi)

EATING THE GOOD STUFF
44. Feed your muscles
A study of women ages 65 to 70 found that a daily diet of more than 25 grams of fiber, with a third of calories coming from healthy fats (via fish, nuts and olive oil), helped enhance “dynamic explosive strength.”
(I am pretty good at this.  Been eating more beans and berries the last few years and have been getting more fiber and generally consume healthy fats.)

45 Build Unbreakable Bones
Weight-bearing exercises slow bone loss and can prevent fractures. So try some weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, stair climbing, tennis and dancing.
(Still pretty good on stairs, but cautious!)

46. Eat fiber, cheat death
A 2018 study found that, on average, for every 10 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed daily, participants experienced an aging benefit of 5.4 years.
(Will keep that up.)

47. Eat fruits and vegetables …
An estimated 5.6 million premature deaths worldwide in 2013 could be attributed to people eating fewer than 800 grams of produce daily, or about 10 servings, according to a 2017 review of 95 studies.
(Still really hate vegetables, though I am eating more roasted veggies like cauliflower and less potato)

48.  … And nuts and seeds …
A 2017 study found that those eating just 5 percent of their daily calorie consumption from nuts and seeds reduced cellular aging by 1½ years.
(Had peanut butter toast most days for breakfast for about 40 years, and now eat nuts daily.)

49.  … Or maybe eat just a little bit healthier
A 2017 New England Journal of Medicine study of about 74,000 people found that those who made and stuck with even small dietary improvements over 12 years enjoyed a lower death risk, some as much as 17 percent lower.
(Gradually lost 50 pounds between 1996 and about 2011.  Lost another 15 pounds due to illness in 2012, but regained that over the next year.  Except for a brief vacation blip in 2014, have been within 4 pounds of my 2011 weight since.)

50. Back off on calories
In a 2018 study, those who maintained a 15 percent reduction in daily calories for two years lost 17 pounds and enjoyed a marked reduction in oxidative stress on the body, which suggests slower, healthier aging.
(Have been a little better on this.  This year, have been recording what I eat and following the Always Hungry diet.  Have been losing weight.)

51-55. Cut down on these 5 inflammation-causing foods

    Sugar  --  (generally better)
    Refined flour  -- (generally better)
    Fried foods  --  (generally better (when I fry food, I sautéed in olive oil))
    Omega-6 fatty acids (from foods fried in corn and vegetable oils) and saturated fats   -- (generally better)
    Artificial sweeteners  -- (so-so - 2 diet cokes a day)

56. Drink your milk
A study in Cell Reports found that vitamin D3 helps to suppress a “molecular pathology of aging.” Researchers suspect this may be the reason why D deficiency is linked to so many age-related diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
(Am drinking whole milk and recently started taking D3 supplements)

57. Order the guacamole
A review of 129 previously published avocado studies found that eating the fruit — and eating it often — could ward off metabolic syndrome and belly fat.
(Hate guacamole)

58. Boost your lentil health
One study of older Japanese, Australian, Greek and Swedish people found legumes to be the only food that lowered mortality risk — by 7-8 percent for every 20 grams consumed daily (cup of cooked beans is about 85 grams).
(Probably averaging ½ cup a day now and will work to increase that.)

59 Book a Mediterranean Eating Tour
You’ve heard it before, but that’s only because research has shown repeatedly, over decades now, that a Mediterranean- style diet rich in vegetables, fruit, fish and healthy oils is linked with heart, brain and telomere health—leading to longer life.
(When we went to Italy, no matter where we went the menus were full of bread, pasta and pizza and breakfast was always coffee and a croissant.  I almost never saw what we think of as "the Mediterranean diet" in Italy.  I suspect if we ever get to Greece, we might be more likely to see it there.)

60. Cut meat, add beans
Many of the centenarians studied by BlueZones.com eat meat only about once a week. Those in the study who tended to live longest built their diet around, yes, beans.
(Am working on that)

61. Make time for tea
Increased tea consumption has been linked with lower inflammation levels, weight loss and reduced cancer risk in a number of studies. Green tea has been shown to be more beneficial than the black variety.
(Sometimes, mostly peppermint tea, ginger tea and green tea)

62. Throw a party
And cherish the opportunity to hang out with your tribe. A review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that strong social relationships had positive physiological effects, such as lower inflammation, while isolation had an even harsher negative effect on participants’ blood pressure than diabetes.
(Frankly, I find hanging out with people I know online to be helpful - live in the country so often it's the only way)

63. Say some hard goodbyes
A study found that people who are in positive close relationships may have a lower risk of heart disease than those who are entangled in negative ones.
(Yep, or just avoid the folks who are particularly negative)

64. Be a caregiver for yourself, too
Older adults who provided care to loved ones and experienced regular bouts of “caregiver strain” had a 63 percent higher mortality risk than noncaregivers, according to a study in the journal JAMA. If you’re primarily responsible for the needs of a parent or spouse, be sure to give yourself care, too.
(Yes)

65. Apply all of this relationship info to social media
A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that more than a third of Americans 65 and older now use social media, which means you’ve probably discovered just how toxic it can be. Consider reducing your exposure and using it only to keep up with family.
(Completely agree, though while I use social media a lot more than most, I #blockandmoveon when I find toxic people so I don't have to be exposed to them)

No. 66 Thank Your Spouse
Marriage has been linked to better health and longer life for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is, you lasted all these years without killing each other.
(Almost always!)

67. Make time for romance between the sheets
A 2017 study found that sexual intimacy in couples is associated with longer telomeres.
(Endorphins are always very good for you!!)

68. Use your smartphone’s full potential …
Your phone has the power to keep you connected and also to be a data center for your health. Patient-generated health data — info from your phone or wearable devices — can now be used to customize medical care. Ask your doctor what kind of data or apps might be useful.
(Absolutely)

69. … But not in the car
A study at Wayne State University found that older drivers are much worse than younger drivers when texting while driving. During a test, almost 40 percent of those 25 to 34 wandered out of their lanes while texting. Among people 45 to 59, the incidence was 100 percent.
(I'm guilty of this when in traffic jams and driving under 5 mph)

70. While we’re on the subject, beware that left turn at Albuquerque
Pay extra attention when you’re hanging a louie: More than half of all fatal two-vehicle crashes involving drivers 70 and older occurred at intersections, particularly when a left turn is involved, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
(Good warning)

71. Wash your hands
And avoid people with head colds. The virus is no joke for older folks.
(Absolutely)

72. Don’t skip the flu vaccine
A new five-year study found that annual flu shots were just as effective in older adults as in everyone else. So, no excuses.
(Absolutely)

73. See the bad guys coming
According to the 2018 report from the National Center for Victims of Crime, the crime rate against people 65 and older dropped between 1995 and 2015, but older adults are still at high risk for violent crime. (Women have more than double the risk of men.) Forty-four percent of violent-crime victims in 2015 knew their attacker.
(Absolutely -and always consider what you might have with you that could damage a potential attacker.  It might even just be the camera on your phone.  There are also apps you can get that will contact the police for you.)

74. Ask yourself: Do I react well to stress?
If not, it’s time to reevaluate your approach. Research shows big links among chronic stress, chronic inflammation and stress-related diseases.
(I'm erratic about this but generally stress out less now than when I was younger)

75. Find financial support
A 2017 global survey of 31,240 people found that more than 60 percent of financially struggling workers 50 or older would like to retire as soon as possible, but half expect to be working into their 70s. If that sounds like you, realize that you’re not going through this alone, and find an outlet for your stress. If chronic debt is your issue, consider looking into a financial support group like Debtors Anonymous. For those who need financial planning but can’t afford it, the Financial Planners Association offers free financial counseling in many of its chapters; check out onefpa.org.
(We have been planning, have financial support, are careful with money so expect to be OK)

No. 76 Don't Drink and Climb
A 2018 study analyzed falls in older adults and found the biggest predictors were previous fractures, high body mass, falls in the past year and taking alpha- and beta-blockers. An analysis of stair falls found that intoxication increased head and neck injuries.
(Good idea!)

77-82. Beware of these 6 other symptoms of financial stress
The 2017 global survey also found that employees who are troubled by their finances are twice as likely to be in poor health as those without money worries. Here are six signs that your financial woes could be creating health problems:

    You have physical symptoms like back pain, digestive issues, migraines and anxiety.  (Generally not anxious)
    You exhibit more absenteeism and less engagement at work.  (Can't work regularly)
    Your existing health issues are getting worse.  (Somewhat true)
    You self-medicate with alcohol and drugs at a greater rate.  (No, but I may self-medicate with cheese...)
    You have greater difficulty in quitting smoking.  (No)
    Your relationships with loved ones are damaged.  (No)

83. Don’t cling to a dying profession
Moving on to something new is the new normal. In an AARP report, about two-thirds of workers 51 and older who changed jobs ended up moving to different occupations entirely. Which may sound stressful until you actually do it and find that you have an exciting new career underway.
(This is an excellent point.  Adaptability is paramount in coping with life.  About a year into my insomnia, I had a serious depression, mostly over the insomnia and the work-related issues it was causing.  Also had a new boss who was really awful.   I moved to a part-time job, cut down a little on my volunteer commitments and the depression went away.  While it took me another 13 years to admit it, I really retired around then, though I have worked from time to time since, mostly temp jobs like movie extra (which, while I don't work at it much, I absolutely love).)

84. Don’t ignore that little pain
A 2015 study found that more than half of those who experienced sudden cardiac arrest had ignored warning signs. Meanwhile, studies have shown that when cancer patients ignored symptoms, it was often because they were busy, or because they didn’t want to make a fuss or waste a doctor’s time.
(I have been to the ER with some sudden-onset things that seemed like heart attacks but turned out to be pleurisy, a muscle pull presenting bizarrely and gastric issues (one time it turned out to be an ulcer).  The doctors/ER folks always nice, but I've heard some are not, which makes people, particularly women not want to go to the ER or to their doctor)

85. Ride in the back
According to Boeing, the majority of airline fatalities from 2008 through 2017 happened during final approach and landing. And two analyses of the history of air disasters — one by Popular Mechanics in 2007 and another by Time in 2015 — concluded that the rear third of a plane has the highest survival rate.
(Good point)

86. Grab your life jacket
The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that more than 80 percent of people who died in boating accidents would have been saved if they had been wearing life jackets. If your boat capsizes? Stay with the boat — it’s the biggest object rescuers can spot — and if you can, climb on top of it.
(Good point)

87. Calm that doggie
If a fierce dog is coming toward you, the Humane Society has these suggestions:

    Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.
    If the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until it has moved out of sight.
    If the dog attacks, feed it your jacket, purse, bicycle or anything else you can put between yourself and the animal.
    If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.
(Good points though I've found yelling "NO!" at charging dogs often works too.)

88. Don’t get lost
If you become disoriented in the wild, the U.S. Forest Service suggests the STOP plan.

    Stop: Stay calm, stay put.
    Think: How did you get where you are?
    Observe: Are you still on a trail? What landmarks should you be able to see?
    Plan: If you’re unsure, or night is coming, stay put.
Aside from water, what’s one of the best things to bring on a hike? A whistle.
(And remember even if your phone has no bars, it can be used to signal with a simple flashlight app)

89. Think young
A study of nearly 6,500 subjects who were 52 or older found that those who felt younger than their years had a mortality rate of 14.3 percent, while those who felt older had a rate of 24.6 percent.
(This is very true.  My dad retired at 63 (as his employer insisted in those days) but, as he'd worked at a college, he was an informal advisor to many and was often on campus for another 24 years.  Was even playing cards with students until about 10 days before he died.)

ENGAGE YOUR BRAIN
90. Define what drives you
Research has shown that purposeful people live longer than their counterparts.
(Absolutely, see 89)

91. Raise your hand …
Folks over 50 who volunteered at least 200 hours in the past 12 months experienced mental health benefits but also were less likely to develop hypertension, a Carnegie Mellon University study reveals.
(Or even if you still have hypertension, you can volunteer anyway)

92. … But only if you really want to
Half-hearted volunteer work isn’t healthy. A Boston College study found that people age 50 and older who had “low or medium” engagement in their work reported even lower well-being than folks who had zero engagement.
(Good point)

93. Find your bridge
A new part-time or “bridge” job in retirement — either in or out of your field — has been associated with fewer major diseases and physical limitations, as well as better mental health.
(I know if we had financial problems, I could work part time in a store as so many older folks are these days)

94. Take a bath in the woods
The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku — “forest bathing,” or taking in the natural world through your senses. This kind of nature therapy can relieve stress and improve immune system function. You don’t need the woods, either; even the local park can help.
(This has always sound like fun.  Our master bath overlooks the woods, and have sometimes considered putting in a window near the shower...)

95.  Put your best skills to the test — often
People who achieve a state of “flow” with their talents — total immersion, time disappears, no critical voice interferes — have greater long-term happiness than those who don’t. Flow is also predictive of high performance: One study found that winning athletes experienced more flow than losing athletes.
(Still help out some with conventions, and while I can't work the kinds of hours I used to, I still enjoy it)

No. 96 Kick Around A Bucket List
One study showed that having a bucket list isn’t just for kicks—it can make end-of-life planning easier, as all parties, including family and physicians, will be on the same page about your life’s priorities.
(Good idea; my bucket list has always been more informal and I have accomplished many things I want to.)

97. Hang around kids
When older adults share experience and knowledge with the young, they gain emotional satisfaction and feelings of fulfillment, according to a Stanford Center for Longevity report.
(Good idea)

98. Dust off that library card
A study of 3,635 older adults found that book readers had a 23-month survival advantage and 20 percent lower mortality risk compared with nonreaders. Reading was protective regardless of gender, education or health.
(Excellent idea)

99. Pray for longer life
A 2016 study followed 74,534 women for 20 years; those who attended religious services more than once a week enjoyed a 33 percent lower mortality rate than those who skipped church.
(As an atheist, I will study about how to have a longer life, do what I enjoy, and hope my genes (Mom and Dad made it to their mid-80s) will help.)

Monday, January 14, 2019

It's True - Honest Atheists Cannot Hold State Office In Pennsylvania

You see a lot of graphic memes online.  Often, they are not true.  But...sometimes they are.

A graphic showed up on Facebook today, showing the seven states where atheists could not legally hold state office.  One of the states was Pennsylvania.  I thought it might have been a phony meme, bud I did a quick scan of the Pennsylvania Constitution and saw this (ignoring the obvious sexism that it still uses "man" and "men" instead of "person" and "people"):

  § 3.  Religious freedom.
        All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship
     Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;
     no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any
     place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his
     consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control
     or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference
     shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or
     modes of worship.
 
  § 4.  Religion.
        No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future
     state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his
     religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or
     place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.
 

Anyone else note the collision of these two sections, which are at the very beginning of the Pensylvania Constitution? 

So, I did what any other voting/tax-paying Pennsylvanian would do - I wrote to the governor:


Dear Gov. Wolf,

I have just read that the Pennsylvania Constitution says I cannot hold state office.

We'll ignore the fact that the Constitution still uses "man" instead of "person" everywhere.

It says this:

  § 4.  Religion.
        No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future
     state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his
     religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or
     place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

I am an atheist.  Therefore, I do not believe in God, Heaven, the Devil or Hell..  So, according to the state Constitution, I cannot run for office, despite being a tax-paying, law-abiding citizen of the state for about half of my life.

Wouldn't the federal Constitution which says that there can be no religious tests to run for or hold public office supersede this?

I realize the state legislature is owned by Republicans, but can anything be done to amend this?


Laurie Mann
McDonald, PA


I encourage other Pennsylvanians who sees that this is in direct conflict with the "no religious tests" part of the federal Constitution to drop the governor a line.

I have been an atheist for most of my life.  I am polite when I am in a religious establishment and I do like to sing so I might look like I'm a believer but as I am a guest there I don't make an issue of my atheism.  But secular life is a wholly different issue.  It is obscene for a state to have its Constitution state that I would not be eligible for public office because I don't share in ancient beliefs.  


Sunday, December 02, 2018

My Tale of Two Messiahs

I performed The Messiah with the Calvary United Methodist Church Festival Choir on Saturday afternoon (https://www.facebook.com/events/1825036400948324/), then attended the Pittsburgh Symphony/Mendelssohn Choir performance Saturday night (https://pittsburghsymphony.org/production/56154/handels-messiah).  That was many hours of The Messiah for one day, though we only sang the first half of it (plus the "Hallelujah Chorus," of course). 
We were good, but, realistically, the PSO/Mendelssohn performance was better. They were all professionals and had a much bigger orchestra and many more singers.   We were mostly amatures.

But...
I think our tenor soloist (George Milosh) was better than their tenor soloist (Paul Appleby), and our soprano (Anna Singer) was more understandable than their soprano soloist (Rachele Gilmore, who had great tone quality but her diction was lost). I was a little concerned about the PSO hiring a countertenor to sing the alto solos, but Andrey Nemzer was very good, though had a little trouble with a few high notes. 
Much as I like Manfred Honeck as the conductor the PSO, many of the choral pieces, except for "Worthy Is the Lamb," were just too fast. Our conductor, Brian Burns, had a much better sense of how the music should be paced.
It was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday.  I hadn't been singing with choirs very much the last few years, due to severe insomnia and some throat problems.  It was great to find the Calvary group. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Contact Congress NOW

On July 16, 2018, Donald Trump committed treason by denying Russian influence over the 2016 election and refusing to believe the findings of his own FBI and Department of Justice (and even British Intelligence) about Russian involvement in it. Those of us who believed in Trump-Russia-Collusion spent a lot of time venting on Twitter because it should be really clear to anyone that it happened. Impeach him! Convict him of treason! Maybe even execute him!

But, today, take a deep breath...and fight on but a little more calmly (and this is a reminder to myself as much as anyone else).

I will call my senators and my representatives today, and my message will be:

  1. We need Congressional hearings now on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  2. We need Congressional hearings now on the Emoluments Clause and the way Donald Trump is enriching himself and his family by being president.
  3. Congress must prevent Mueller and Rosenstein from being fired or their investigation being defunded prematurely.

We are very used to the Republican "witch-hunty" hearings of recent times, where Hillary Clinton spent 11 hours answering many questions over and over again. But while she was accused of many things, the committee could never charge her with anything.

I know Congressional hearings can be meaningful and relevant. Because, when I was 16, I spent part of the summer of 1973 watching the Watergate Hearings on TV.

I felt like was part of the only Republican family in Massachusetts. I did support Nixon, I supported the war in Viet Nam and so on. I even believed he was innocent of knowing anything about Watergate and it was all on his underlings. But, remember, back then, many Republicans were pro-ERA and pro-choice, so you could be a Republican and support women's rights. The party was definitely turning racist, but, sadly, I just didn't notice that as much as I should have.

But watching the Watergate Hearings, it became clear to me that Nixon did know what was going on, and I believed Nixon was guilty-guilty-guilty as Gary Trudeau used to say in Doonesbury.

I told Mom I thought Nixon was guilty, she called me a Communist, I cried about that and didn't talk politics with her again until the '90s. In fairness to Mom, she didn't vote for Goldwater and she wasn't planning to vote for Trump (but died before the election).

The problem is, while millions of us know that Trump is guilty of multiple impeachable crimes, millions are in complete denial, aided and abetted by the lapdog Republican Congress and Faux News reinforcing their fantasy that the Trump Regime is somehow good for the country and the world when it is anything but.

If the Republicans refuse to hold hearings on the 2016 election or on the Emoluments Clause, the Democrats should rent a hotel ballroom and hold mock hearings on Trump. Invite the TV networks to film them. Bring forward witnesses. Show the American people what a functional, Congressional hearing can look like.

If you don't have your representatives phone numbers & E-mails on your phone (and you should!), here's how you can find them.

PS: While it was exciting for the DOJ to have arrested Russian agent and NRA photo-girl Maria Butina, she's a small fish in a big school. She was too young to be anything but a minor player. I hope the DOJ is focusing on her handler(s).


Sunday, January 07, 2018

All Gone to Look for America (Part

Simon and Garfunkel's "America" came out in April, 1968. I always heard the chorus as "All gone to look for America." The Internet tells me I've heard that line wrong for nearly 50 years - it's really "All come to look for America." But, I think my mishearing is a better title for this series of blog posts on a trip back in 1968.

In 1968, our parents took our family plus Grandma on a major trip - a cross country trip mostly by train, returning eastward across Canada. It was an amazing few weeks and fueled my lifelong love of travel. It was also challenging at times for my folks who were traveling with 4 children under the age of 12 - I was 11, Carrie was 10, Jeff was 8 (had his 9th birthday on a train in Canada) and Terry was 3 (turned 4 not long after we got home). This was not the kind of trip middle class families made in the '60s but my grandfather had died in late '66 leaving some money for extras like this trip.

The main argument I had with Mom over this trip was her refusal to fly. She was phobic about flying, and this phobia extended to Dad (who occasionally had to fly on business) and her kids. Her stepmother would fly, but she traveled with us for most of the trip. She left us in Canada for a separate trip to Banff; don't remember if she flew home from there or not.

This story of our trip will be mostly lacking something important - photographs. I know Dad took a fair number of photos as he stored them in photo envelopes in his office drawer for decades. Over the last few years, both of my parents have died. One thing we have yet to find after two years of combing over their stuff - most of the photos from that trip. The one family picture I have from early that summer just before the trip is the single most ugly shot of the four of us, so horrifying in its utter dorkiness that one brother has begged me to never put it online and I agreed. How bad is that photo? Well, here's the picture of me from that photo, and, I agree, it is one of the worst photos of me ever.


Here's a travel shot of us taken in Canada in 1967 (we were all bigger by '68, me especially).


And our youngest brother looked roughly like this in 1968 (though smaller in this case)


And, finally, here's a photo of my parents, taken around the time of the big trip.


While most of the photos of that summer are probably still buried in a box somewhere, one thing we did unearth last fall was the itinerary.  My folks used a local travel agent who arranged the hotels and the like.  So I can tell you that we left Union Station, Worcester, MA on Friday August 2, 5:10pm and took the train to Chicago.  We had sleeper bunks in the train and got to Chicago the next morning.  We stayed at the Harrison Hotel (now the Travelodge on East Harrison St.).  I never had many memories of Chicago, other than it was the first huge city I'd ever been to.  I think we went to one of the museums and walked around. I think we took a sightseeing trip on Lake Michigan.  But the reason I have so few memories of Chicago from that trip is we were only there for about a day and a half.  By early Sunday evening, we were on a train, heading west for Flagstaff, Arizona.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Our Trip to Italy: Lessons Learned and Great Restaurants

[[Originally published on 11/12/2017 in Alien Cheese]]
We had a wonderful 2 1/2 weeks in Italy this fall. It's a trip we'd been planning for ages, and it was postponed from last spring after my father became terminally ill, so it was bittersweet in some ways.
While I do plan to share some of my 1,600 photos of familiar tourist sites online, I want to talk a little about the things the tourist guides and Websites manage to overlook.
Printed Maps Matter. Most of the traveling we've done over the last 20 years has been in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland and Australia. Online maps work well in those areas. However, Italy chews up and spits out online maps, especially when you're walking. We wasted a lot of time (and probably more money than we think on international roaming fees) because we thought the online map software would work fine in places like Venice and Rome. Nope. And what you don't realize until you're there is that street names change frequently. What we thought of as "Via Croce" in Naples had a different name about every 50 yards. Complicating things even more was that street signs on buildings are very erratic - non-existent, really faded and hard to read and sometimes the streets were inconsistently named. So we did a lot of walking while lost in Italy, particularly in Venice and Bologna. It was fun at times, but also very, very frustrating.
What we should have done, once we used online sources and books to figure out where we wanted to stay, was to buy some of the excellent detailed local maps, study them, make notes about places we planned to go and rely more on traditional printed maps than online maps. We found the Rick Steves pocket guides to the cities helpful, but studying detailed maps in advance would have saved us time, money and frustration. Before you go, pre-print all mass transit maps for your city. We never used mass transit in Florence as it was so walkable, but having more familiarity with mass transit for Rome and Naples would have been invaluable.
The hard lesson we especially learned in Bologna - never enter the name of a site in an online map site in Italy, only enter a street address. We were looking for a particular museum, entered the name into AppleMaps, and wound up walking miles away from where we'd intended.
Signs Matter. Signage in Italy is wildly, wildly erratic. Sometimes, signs were very helpful. You'll find many signs in Rome that will help you get to the Pantheon and the Collesium. But signs that should exist don't always. I'd thought there was a train between Rome's Termini train station and the FCO Airport. At Termini, we couldn't find any info on the train to the FCO airport. There isn't a central info booth in many places, like train stations. There were signs about the bus to the airport, but the signs often led to dead ends. It took over a half hour to find the bus to the airport. The next day, at the airport, we saw signs there about the train between the airport and Termini! Sigh.
Another place where signage was dreadful was for the Circumvesuviana line train from Naples to Pompeii. The Metro in Naples is clean, well-signed and inexpensive. However, the Circumvesuviana is a privately-run train system to the Naples suburbs and while it's inexpensive, it's a mess. We missed the one sign that partially explained what we needed to know. There are at least five lines on this train system and the right one for old Pompeii isn't obvious. Some local people helped us out - but we wound up on the "slightly wrong" train, the one the went to "new Pompeii" instead of "old Pompeii." And it was pouring rain when we reached new Pompeii. So we paid 15E to take a cab 3 km from the new station to the old station. Pompeii is still very much worth it - a highlight despite the pouring rain - but getting there was quite frustrating.
City Cards. Many cities have cards you can buy that might give you free admission to some places, discounts and some public transportation. The cost of these cards vary wildly from city to city. We bought a card for Venice and maybe lost a couple of Euros on the deal. But the Venice card included bus transit from the airport to the train station, though not the more direct Alilaguna from the airport to just outside of San Marco. The Florence card was particularly expensive so we didn't buy it. The Roma card wasn't too expensive, but we just didn't buy it. We wanted to buy the Naples card as it was a great deal, but when we went up to the National Archeological Museum, they were no longer selling it (even though official Naples Website said they were!).
"Skip the Line". In general, "skip the line" for attractions is not necessary, at least in late October/early November. We got into everything we wanted to except for climbing Il Duomo in Florence where the reservations fill up, especially on the weekends (it turns out I could not have done this anyway, and Jim probably wouldn't have). We did get a reservation for the Vatican Museum on a weekday which was necessary. The extra fee for dealing directly with the museum/attraction is 4E; you do not need to go through any tour company to skip the line (and you'll save lots of money if you make your own reservation). The longest lines we had anywhere were for St. Peters (in the rain) and for Pitti Palace in Florence - both about 45 minutes long. As we tended to go to places early, we had either no wait at all or about 10 minutes. Our main failure was to not go to the Vatican Museum in the morning - the crowds there in the afternoon are massive. The crowds in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence are large but not as large as for the Vatican Museum. There were almost no crowds at all in Ostia (ruins of an ancient trading down outside of Rome) or in the National Archeological Museum in Naples. After you do something that's hugely crowded, you'll do yourself a favor to then go to something quieter or just go back to your room for a siesta.
Rain Gear. The first 11 days of the trip were rain-free, but the last few days...no. Was reminded my jacket, while water-resistant, was not waterproof. Jim gloated as he did have a waterproof jacket. We should have brought our small umbrella (wound up buying a 5E umbrella while standing in line for St. Peter's Basilica) and baseball caps with the long front brims to keep the rain off our faces.
Restaurants. Most restaurants are pretty good and will treat you well. The only time we felt cheated was at a little restaurant just off of San Marco in Venice. We were jet-lagged and starved our first day in Venice, and the food was pretty good there. But this place said it didn't sell wine by the glass, so Jim bought a half-bottle of wine. And that bottle cost about 25E, an insane price we later learned. The vast majority of restaurants sell glasses of house wine for about 3-7E. Unlike at most American restaurants, house wine at Italian restaurants is usually pretty good.
We failed to make any restaurant reservations for dinner in advance, but that only bit us once - in Bologna. Always wanted to try a place with a Michelin star and there was one in Bologna with an intriguing menu wasn't terribly expensive. But when we checked with the restaurant, their only open spot was at 9:30 which was too late. But we had three fabulous meals in Venice, Florence and Rome in excellent restaurants by making reservations the same day for 7pm. We highly recommend these three restaurants for special meals in Italy:
  • Venice: Ristorante Antica Sacrestia - this is not very far from San Marco. Brick walls, very warm and inviting, lovely traditional food.
  • Florence: Ristorante Cibreo, Via dei Macci - hands down the best meal of the trip. Fixed price for each course (you don't need to have every course), extensive and interesting wine list. They don't have a menu, but they have about six choices for each course which they explain to you. They also gave you little dishes of kind of an experimental antipasto which was excellent. Cibreo also has a few less-expensive, related variants in the same area, but for the full experience, go to Ristorante Cibreo.
  • Rome: Taverna Trilussa, in the Trastavere neighborhood near Ponte Sisto (their Website is flakey so I'm linking to the TripAdvisor page instead) A fascinating restaurant with amazing cheese (and meat) plates, excellent pasta dishes.
Other recommendations: We had the full Tuscan steak experience in Florence at 4 Leoni, not far from Ponte Vecchio across the river from "downtown Florence." This does not need to be an expensive dinner and they have plenty of pasta dishes if you're not a carnivore. You can get great pizza and Italian craft been in Rome at Roma Beer Company, Campo Fiori. We had some of the best pizza in Naples at Pizzeria Trianon which is in an older part of the city not far from the train station. Jim had a seven cheese pizza which was fantastic. Had an interesting dinner our first night in Naples at Trattoria del Golfo, a fish/Genoese-style restaurant near Umberto Galleria. The Genoese pasta is a little like eating long-simmered onion soup with a little beef over pasta - YUM!
When you want to try out a restaurant in a city you don't know (and you don't want to use cabs to get there), scope out the restaurant by day to make sure you know how to get there. We generally stuck to restaurants that were within about a mile of our hotel or apartment.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Why Massacres Are ALWAYS Terrorist Act

[[Originally published on 10/2/2017 in Alien Cheese]]

Many people have a very narrow definition of terrorism -- it's always related to a political stance. So 9/11 was a terrorist act, as were the car attacks in France and Germany and the shooting massacres in Mumbai and Paris.

And it's interesting that all of those were related to Islamic terrorists. Because, in America, there is the common belief that terrorists have to be brown male Muslims to be "real terrorists."

I don't believe that.

I believe the act of a mass shooting, mass bombing or car attack by a disaffected person of any gender, race, religion, or ethnic background is a terrorist attack. Those random attacks on people they don't know are meant to inspire terror and fear. Anyone called a lone wolf, which which American mass murderers are typically called, is really a terrorist.

Yes, the Las Vegas massacre was a terrorist act, as was Pulse, as was Sandy Hook, as was Virginia Tech, as was Oklahoma City, as were the Unibomber bombings well, the list goes on.

So long as our government is only looking at the danger of Muslim terrorists, they will continue to ignore the murders enabled by our government's lenient view on the danger of guns, particularly the danger of semi-automatic and automatic weapons that some nutjobs are able to get and use.

Why do you think, in most terrorist acts in Europe in recent years, terrorists used knives and trucks and not guns? Guns are restricted in much of Europe, meaning gun deaths are not nearly as common there as they are here, whether by terrorists or everyday criminals. http://www.humanosphere.org/science/2016/06/visualizing-gun-deaths-comparing-u-s-rest-world/.

How many more massacres will we have in this country before the Congress and our state legislators stand up to the NRA and say enough is enough!

When you write about these massacres, never use the murderer's name and never care about their "rationale" for murder. Don't give them additional publicity. Only talk about the location of the murders, and what we must do to fight these terrorists - pass better gun and ammunition laws. And elect legislators with the guts to stand up to the NRA.

#LasVegasMassacre #ActForVegas #PassSaneGunLaws

Some folks on Twitter have done a good job in reminding us that, in some state law, there is no connection between the political/religions/ethnic beliefs of a person and terrorist murders like those committed in Las Vegas on 10/2/2017. Here is the definition of terrorism for in the laws of the state of Nevada:

More details on Nevada laws about terrorism.

US law definition of domestic terrorism:

More details on US laws about domestic terrorism.

The CIA view of terrorism is slightly different.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Confluence 2017 Restaurant Guide: Restaurants Between Robinson Township and the Airport

[Originally published on 7/17/2017 in Alien Cheese]

Most of the restaurants fall into three areas: Thorn Run Crossing near the Sheraton Pittsburgh Airport at 1160 Thorn Run Rd (Area 1), University Blvd (Area 2) and Robinson Town Centre/The Pointe, the shopping area where Routes 22 and 60 intersect (Area 3).

Recommended Restaurants

  • Hyeholde Restaurant 1516 Coraopolis Heights Rd. (near Area 1), 412-264-3116, 4pm-9pm Mon-Thur, 5pm-10pm Sat: For an elegant meal out, great wine list hyeholde.com
  • Maxime’s Mediterranean 937 Beaver Grade Rd., Ste 5 (Area 1) 412-269-0111 11am-10pm sandwiches, salads maximesfresh.com
  • Eggs’N’At 8556 University Blvd. (Area 2), 412-262-2920, 7am-2pm: Eggs, burritos, apple strudel pancakes! eggsnat.com
  • Selma’s Texas BBQ 9155 University Blvd. (Area 2), 412-329-7003, 11am-8pm Mon-Sat, noon-6pm Sun: six kinds of BBQ, sides selmasbbq.com
  • Burgatory 300 McHolme Dr. (Area 3), 412-809-9400, 11am-10pm: Excellent burgers, snacks, drinks. burgatorybar.com
  • Papaya 210 McHolme, 412-494-3366, 11am-3:30pm 4:30pm-10pm M-F, noon-10pm Sat-Sun Excellent Thai papayathaicuisineandsushibar.com/30364
  • Industry Public House 140 Andrew Dr. (Area 3), 412-490-9080, 11am-2am: Brunch, gourmet popcorn, beer industrypgh.com
  • Ya Fei 1980 Park Manor Blvd., 412-788-9388, 11:30am-9pm Mon-Sat. 1pm-9pm Sun: Pan-Asian, sushi http://www.yafeipittsburgh.com/menu.aspx
  • DeLuca’s Diner 1110 Park Manor Blvd. (Area 3), 412-788-1007, 7am-3pm Mon-Sun: Massive breakfasts! delucasdiner.com
  • Bakd 6520 Steubenville (Area 3), 412-788-2253, 11am-mid F/Sat 11am-9pm Sun: Pizza, Italian food, beer, full bar bakdpizza.com
  • Mad Mex 2 Robinson Plaza (on Route 60 near Area 3), 412-494-5656, 11am-11pm: Huge burritos, great chips & salsa, beer madmex.com

All the rest of the Restaurants    

(Area 1):  Within a Half Mile of the Sheraton

Sheraton (Con Hotel)  Link@Sheraton Cafe breakfast, lunch, dinner and Starbucks Kiosk 6am-11pm  sheratonpittsburghairport.com

Casa Amigo 333 Rouser Rd, Bld 4, 412-264-0800, 11am-11pm Mon-Sun  Mexican/tequila casaamigospgh.com/contact

Take a left from hotel to Thorn Run Rd, walk past Post Office. Bruegger’s & back entrance to Thorn Run Crossing up street on left

  • Bruegger’s Bagels 1134 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-264-2243, 6am-6pm: Bagels & sandwiches of all kinds  brueggers.com
  • Kip’s Ice Cream, 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-269-7457, noon-10pm:     facebook.com/kipshomemadeicecream/
  • Subway 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-264-6655, 8am-9pm: Breakfast, sandwiches & salad subway.com
  • Hunan Chinese 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-262-1322, 11am-10pm Fri, noon-10pm Sat, closed Sun: Chinese  hunanmoonpa.com
  • Pizza Bella 1136 Thorn Run Rd. Ext., 412-299-1990, 10:30am-10pm, noon-10pm Sun: Pizza, wings, hoagies  moonpizzabella.com
  • Armstrong’s 1136 Thorn, 412-262-9355, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat, noon-8pm Sun: Italian allmenus.com/pa/moon/28744-armstrongs/menu

(Area 2):  Left on Beaver Grade Road, Moon Township

Take a left onto Thorn Run Rd, Ext, then another left in 1/4 mile onto Beaver Grade Rd.  After about 1.5 miles, you’ll intersect University.

  • Vocelli’s 935 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-269-1993, 11am-10pm Sun-Thur, 11am-mid Fri-Sat: Pizza carryout vocellipizza.com/moontwp_pa
  • Mario’s Italian 935 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-262-3020, 5pm-10pm Mon-Sat: Northern Italian, seafood  mariosfamilyrestaurant.com
  • Forgotten Taste Pierogies 910 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-269-9800, 11am-6pm Mon-Sat:  Eastern European carryout     forgottentaste.com
  • AJ Bambino Pizzeria 910 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-299-8590, 10am-3am Fri-Sat, noon-mid Sun:  Pizza, pasta, gyros   ajbambino.com
  • Dunkin' Donuts  830 Beaver Grade Rd., 412-474-3245, 5am-mid: Donuts, coffee, sandwiches   dunkindonuts.com

Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, K-Mart, Kuhn’s groceries, Dollar Bank on right just before University Boulevard.

(Area 2):  Left on Beaver Grade Rd, Right on University Boulevard, Moon Township

  • Kiyoshi Bistro 6506 University Blvd., 11am-10:30pm, 412- 269-2677: Chinese special, sushi. bar  kiyoshibistro.com
  • Buford’s Kitchen 5980 University, 412-269-0644, 11am-10pm Mon-Fri, 8am-9pm Sat-Sun:  Southern food/burgers  bufordskitchen.com
  • Giant Eagle 5990 University, 412-264-3856, 7am-11pm: Groceries, pharmacy, beer, Pizza Roma, Brighton Hot Dog, Wine & Spirits
  • PNC Bank, Burger King, 6052 University Blvd. (parking lot of the Giant Eagle plaza)

(Area 2):  Left on Beaver Grade Rd, Left on University Boulevard, Moon Township

  • Bob Evans 8405 University Blvd., 412-269-0333, 6am-9pm: Great breakfasts, large portions, salads, sandwiches  bobevans.com
  • Pizza Hut 8609 University Blvd., 412-264-4423, 11am-11pm: Pizza, pasta, wings            pizzahut.com
  • Primanti Brothers 8651 University Blvd.,  412-865-2200. 11am-2am: Large sandwiches with fries & slaw, beer  primantibros.com
  • Wendy’s 8703 University Blvd., 412-264-4343, 10am-1am: Burgers, salads  wendys.com
  • Wings Suds & Spuds 8806 University, 412-264-1866, 11am-mid Tue-Sat, noon-10am Sun: wingssudsspuds.dev.dexhub.dexmedia.com
  • Arby’s 9100 University Blvd., 412-264-3830, 10am-mid: Roast beef sandwiches, milkshakes    arbys.com
  • Eat ’n' Park 9526 University Blvd., 412-264-7201, 24 hours:  Breakfast buffet      eatnpark.com
  • Hilton Garden Inn, 9600 University Blvd., 412-205-5400 Bar has some unique local beer     hiltongardeninn3.hilton.com/

When University Boulevard ends at the lights, take a left to go to The Pointe (Area 3) and, eventually, Pittsburgh.

(Area 3): 376 East, Right at top of Robinson Town Centre/Pointe/North Fayette Township Ramp

From Route 376, take the Robinson Town Centre/The Pointe exit, turn right at the end of the ramp to reach these restaurants:

  • Quaker Steak and Lube 110 Andrew Dr., 412-494-3344, 11am-11pm:  Award-winning wings, burgers, bar food. thelube.com
  • Tilted Kilt 120 Andrew Dr., 412-494-5458, 11am-11pm:  Steaks/burgers.     tiltedkilt.com/robinson    
  • Max & Erma’s 130 Andrew Dr., 412-787-7000, 11am-10pm:  Pub food, burgers, salads, good desserts.  maxandermas.com
  • Uncle Sam’s Classic Subs 225 Summit Park Dr., 412-788-4782, 10:30am-9pm: Philly cheesesteak  unclesamssubs.com    Starbucks   
  • Bravo! Cucina Italiana 211 Summit Park Dr., 412-809-9115, 11am-11pm: Italian food.    bravoitalian.com
  • Jimmy John’s 401 Home Dr., 412-809-8000: 11am-10pm: Sandwiches   jimmyjohns.com
  • Buffalo Wild Wings 480 Home Dr., 412-788-9464, 11am-mid Sun-Thu 11am-1am Fri-Sat: Appetizers NTN   buffalowildwings.com
  • El Campesino 460 Home Dr., 412-787-2225, 11am-10pm Mon-Sat noon-9pm Sun: Large Mexican menu elcampesinorestaurant.com

(Area 3): 376 East, Straight at top of Robinson Town Centre/Pointe/North Fayette Township Ramp

  • Cracker Barrel 200 Davis Blvd. (near Lowe’s), 412-788-1103, 6am-10pm:  Breakfast, lunch & dinner, loads of sides   crackerbarrel.com
  • Panera 250 McHolme Dr. (behind Pier One), 412-747-0460, 6:30am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm: Pastries, soups, free WiFi      panera.com
  • Chipotle 300 McHolme Dr., 412-787-3227,  11am-10pm Mon-Fri/Sun, noon-10pm Sat:  Burritos, tacos   chipotle.com
  • Firehouse Subs  320 McHolme Dr., 412-788-4070, 10:30am-9pm: Subs          firehousesubs.com
  • Five Guys 324 McHolme Dr., 412-788-5777,  11am-10pm: Burgers, fries          fiveguys.com
(Area 3): 376 East, Left at top of Robinson Town Centre/Pointe/North Fayette Township Ramp
  • Chick-fil-a 121 Costco Dr, 412-490-0177, 6:30am-10pm, closed Sunday: Chicken sandwiches, salads, breakfast.  chick-fil-a.com
  • Costco 202 Costco Dr., 412-490-2204, open 10am: Great place to buy party supplies.  GFS Marketplace/Aldi’s nearby.
  • Plaza Azteca, 1000 Sutherland Dr., 412-787-8888, open 11am-10pm Mon-Sat, noon-9:30pm Sun:  Mexican  plazaazteca.com
  • International House of Pancakes 1002 Sutherland Dr.,  412-859-0282, 24 hours: Pancakes & more pancakes   ihop.com
  • The Mall at Robinson 100 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-788-0816 10am-9pm Mon-Sat, 11am-6pm Sun: Free WiFi, Little Tokyo
  • Buca di Beppo 6600 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-788-8444, 11am-10pm: Family-style Italian, lasagna, ravioli       bucadibeppo.com
  • Joe’s Crab Shack 6491 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-494-5444, 11am-11pm Sun-Thu, 11am-1am Fri-Sat:  Crabs & mallets  joescrabshack.com
  • Cold Stone Creamery 6509 Robinson Ctr. Dr., 412-788-8380, 11am-10pm: Variety of ice cream & yogurt  coldstonecreamery.com
  • Golden Corral, 900 Park Manor Blvd., 412-788-1776, breakfast 7:30-11, lunch/dinner 11-10:  Buffet restaurant  goldencorral.com
  • Beer - House of Brews 1928 Park Manor Blvd., 412-787-5070, 9:30am-9:30pm Mon-Sat, 11am-6pm Sun: twitter.com/houseofbrewspgh
  • Ichiban Hibachi Steakhouse 1160 Park Manor Blvd., 412-787-1999, 1pm-9pm Sat-Sun: Japanese      ichibanhibachisteakhouse.com

It’s less than a half hour to drive to Pittsburgh, now one of the best restaurant cities in America. Recommended:  Altius, Poros, City Beer Works, Eleven, Six Penn, Le Lyonnais, Soba, Gaucho Parole, Braddock’s American Brasserie, Spoon, Emporio, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Nine on Nine, and Butcher & the Rye are all worth the trip. tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g53449-Pittsburgh_Pennsylvania.html


Speculations on Game of Thrones [[Full of Spoilers]]

[Originally published 7/17/2017 in Alien Cheese]

While I'd been aware of George Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" for many years, I never read the books. I loved "Lord of the Rings" but generally didn't like epic fantasy.

I watched the first year of the series anyway and absolutely loved it, aside from the violence. It was much more grounded in European history as a model than I'd expected. I read all the books in the fall of 2011, giving up quickly on the sea king stuff which was really boring (and I'm so glad HBO left that subplot out).

From the very first episode, I felt it was a lie that Jon Snow was Ned Stark's bastard. I always felt Jon Snow was Lyanna & Robert's child, particularly late in season one when we kept hearing "The seed is strong." Jon looks more like a child of Robert's than a child of Ned's with his very dark, unruly hair, though he behaved more like a Stark with his stubbornness and love of honor. I'm still kind of annoyed that he's part Targaryean as he looks nothing like any Targaryean we've seen up 'til now.

I generally enjoyed the first episode of season seven. The only thing that struck me as kind of odd was the relative quietness of King's Landing. I think there would have been a revolt by the people who were left after the explosion at the Sept. The scenes showing Sam's tribulations went way, way too long. Loved the quiet scenes with Arya and the soldiers [Ed Sheeran was fine in that scene, and, frankly, after everything Masie Williams has been through on camera the last few years, give the girl a chance to flirt a little will ya?] and the Brotherhhood and the Hound. Loved the rallying cry of Lady Mormont about training the girls for war.

I'm still not sure who will wind up on the Iron Throne, but I don't think Cersei will be able to hold it for long. Not sure whether Tyrion or Jamie will ultimately kill her, since it is fortold she will be killed by a younger brother.

Other comments on some of the characters:

Arya: doomed, probably this year. It's one thing to murder Walter Frey & even his two sons, but taking out a whole hall of them (about half of Cersei's body count from blowing up the Sept) is bound to make people angry. I think it'll come down to John's sense of honor requiring him to execute her. Arya was my favorite character, but she's too dangerous to stay alive. She has great abilities but still very little discipline.

Bran: will probably live until a battle involving dragons. I think he'll be able to control a dragon, and he might help to win a war against the White Walkers. It almost looks like the Westeros intra-kingdom warfare will be concurrent with the war against the White Walkers and we won't know who will wind up on the Iron Throne until next year.]


Monday, June 05, 2017

The Wonder of Wonder Woman

Months ago, I had very mixed feelings about going to see the Wonder Woman movie. I was never a big Wonder Woman fan in the first place. I'd read the comics sometimes in the '60s, watched the amusing Lynda Carter show in the '70s but was never really into it. I was really sick to death of the current Marvel and DC comic movies - the Marvel movies were no longer very funny and the last good DC-related movie was probably Batman back in the late '80s.

I always liked heroic, smart and/or very inquisitive women. Give me someone like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Harriet from the Harriet the Spy books, Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings, Princess Leia from the Star Wars movies, Ripley from the Alien movies (at least the first 2 movies), Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, Marie Curie from history, Eleanor Roosevelt from history (who, on surface, was not overly heroic, but she really learned to be over time).

A few years ago, I'd run into some interesting info on Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (while I don't think I ever met her, her lovely Dad Frank had been my guidance counselor in high school so I've watched her career with interest). Fascinating that Wonder Woman had some real life inspiration from suffragettes and probably Margaret Sanger! Growing up, I'd found Wonder Woman kind of irritating for the overly brief costume and a bit much emphasis on her physic. But she was quite strong, even in the old days. The current brand of superhero movies were just getting too bombastic with no plot and very bloated and endless fight scenes. So I figured I'd give the new movie a pass.

And then I started seeing the trailer for the new Wonder Woman movie. It was an impressive two minutes. Interesting photography, athletic leaping about, some humor...maybe this would be good. I'd always hated the slow motion in movies like The Matrix but the use of slomo in the trailer made sense for Wonder Woman.

So I went on the first day. I went on about one hour of sleep, so during the first hour of the movie, i dozed off periodically and missed a few points. The theater wasn't terribly full for a 12:30 show, but it had more than the 10-20 you often see during the first show on a Friday. I did manage to stay awake through most of the second half and really enjoyed most of it. The scene where Wonder Woman rose out of the trenches and ran across the battlefield was extremely moving on many levels.

There were at least two backward-nods to "Great Famous Feminist Moments in Movies and/or Books." The scene I mentioned featuring Diana racing across "No Man's Land" just screamed the famous moment from Return of the King where Eowyn rips off her helmet, yells "I am no man!" and kills the Witch King (with help from another "non-man," Merry). The other moment was a little quieter and I missed it during it first time I saw the movie as I was sleeping. But I went again on Saturday with my family. There's that amusing scene when Diana and Steve talk on the boat, and she explains that she understands about pleasure seemed like a shout out to Teri Garr's famous comment in Tootsie "I'm responsible for my own orgasm."

The action scenes were all well-shot, and there was always enough character development and dialog to keep the movie interesting. Strong photography, effects, costumes, production development, acting, script - this is probably the best comic-based action movie I've ever seen, though I'm still debating between Wonder Woman and the '78 Superman. I ranked it an 8 on IMDB. Congratulations to Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot & the rest of the crew - you did a great job!!

MY ONE BIG QUIBBLE WITH THE MOVIE


I had such hope that maybe, just maybe, the 20 minutes of bloated fighting at the end of every action movie would not happen in Wonder Woman. When Diana killed the German general, I nearly stood up and cheered. But then she realized that even though she thought she'd killed Ares, the war was going on...because the war-mongering general was not Ares, but someone more behind-the-scenes was...which, after a few minutes of interesting discussion about how Ares worked, launched into about a 15 minute-long boated fight scene. Oh well, at least it seemed a little shorter than usual, and the bits that featured Steve added some real pathos to the ending.