Pittsburgh's 'corpse flower': A big stinking deal

Written by Heather Schmelzlen on .

Around 5 p.m. Tuesday, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden announced that its "corpse flower" (Amorphophallus titanum, also known as the titan arum) was blooming, but not for long.



My verdict? As I told a friend, "It's like someone let garbage sit out in 100-degree weather for months." But totally worth the trip.

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Linking teenagers with LinkedIn

Written by Kim Lyons on .

Social networking site LinkedIn today introduced University Pages, a way for students, colleges and alumni to connect. In the company announcement, Christina Allen, Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, describes the struggles of her daughter and her daughters' friends as they tried to decide where to attend college, and what career opportunities might result.

The changes, effective Sept. 12,  will allow students as young as 13 (the minimum age in the U.S. is 14) to belong to LinkedIn, with heightened privacy restrictions.

But with much attention on how younger teenagers are apparently not using Facebook, is a social network like LinkedIn, aimed at a professional audience, likely to attract a strong high school following? Or, as Wall Street Journal contributor Peter Kafka suggested, is the presence of teenagers on LinkedIn more likely to drive away more seasoned users?



What do you think of this idea? Will it change how you use LinkedIn (if you use it at all)?

If so inclined, you can follow the Post-Gazette on LinkedIn here.


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Allegheny Cemetery: Discovering a graveyard of stories with BikeFest

Written by Mila Sanina on .

I am convinced that the best way to explore the Allegheny Cemetery is on your bike. Of course, you need a guide. Even better, a few guides -- people who can make the graveyard stories come alive, who can enlighten and entertain you while you exercise. 

I am not suggesting that graveyards are the most entertaining places, but they do hide a lot of stories that may make you smile. And I am not arguing that cemeteries are the best places to exercise; still, covering the 300-acre cemetery on foot is virtually impossible and doing so by car is … well, bad for Pittsburgh and, in fact, for the entire planet -- not that the deceased particularly care about carbon emissions.
That's why it was so brilliant of BikeFest organizers to offer a free two-hour cycling tour Sunday morning of the Allegheny Cemetery as part of this year's celebration of all-things-bicycling in Pittsburgh. And they didn't even need to ask the Allegheny Cemetery officials for special permission; a ban on riding a bike through the cemetery has been lifted recently. And the dead do not seem to mind.

photo 1a


I don't know exactly how many times I've passed the Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville. It always looked so massive and … uninviting from the distance.  I remember wondering, "Does anyone even come here?" I never considered it to be a place to learn about Pittsburgh's history. That's what museums and archives are for, right?
Well, I was wrong. And I am not sure I would have known to what extent had I not joined a group of bicyclists for the BikeFest tour. Don't get me wrong: I am not afraid of ghosts. I just figured it would be better to be part of the group than being alone with gravestones … plus the tour's tease sounded interesting:

photo 5d

"The Lawrenceville Historical Society will be leading a bike tour of Allegheny Cemetery, one of only 11 historic cemeteries ... in the United States. At points of interest throughout the cemetery. docents will be providing the stories of the cemetery's most famous residents. Come and hear about Gen. Alexander Hays, Stephen Foster, the notorious Henry Thaw, Galbraith Perry Rodgers, Josh Gibson,  Lillian Russell and others."


So off we went. A leader of the tour named Dan Simkins greeted the bicyclists near the gate built by John Chislett, one of the city's most prominent architects. The turnout was good, with approximately 40 helmet-wearing enthusiasts ready to ride.
For starters, Dan shared a brief history of the Allegheny Cemetery. It was built in 1844 on land purchased for $50,000 by George A. Bayard. Given the smaller size of Pittsburgh in those days, it would be able to provide a resting place for all of the city's residents.
These days, surely Allegheny Cemetery must be one of the places where Pittsburghers would like to rest in peace when their earthly journeys are over (but be advised that building a personal mausoleum would cost you a $2 million donation).
As for the ride, it will be a bit hilly, Dan warned. And up we rolled.
Water-stained and bulging. White and gray. Granite and steel. Short and high. Barely visible and inappropriately ostentatious. The Allegheny Cemetery has them, gravestones of a variety of ages and sizes. Some of the oldest graves belong to solders from the French and Indian War. I found out later that an estimated more than 125,000 dead rest there.  

photo 2a 

As the tease for the ride promised, we visited the grave of Gen. Hays, and our next guide (we met and heard from six guides along the way) told us about his military accomplishments during the Civil War, his drinking habits and how Ulysses S. Grant who, after he became president, visited the grave of Gen. Hays at the Allegheny Cemetery and wept over it.

We then visited the Fosters: the first was William Barclay Foster, a founder of Lawrenceville. By his side stood the gravestone of internationally famous Stephen Foster, sometimes called "the Father of American Music." As we were learning about the agonies and ecstasies of the author of "Oh! Susanna," three people approached his gravestone and performed a tombstone rubbing. 

photo 3c 

We visited the grave of the notorious murderer Henry Thaw who in June 1906 committed the first "crime of the century" by killing architect Stanford White at Madison Square Garden. While standing near his tombstone, we heard the auspicious Icarus-like story of Galbraith Perry Rodgers, who piloted the first transcontinental airplane  flight across the U.S. We saw the memorial dedicated to 78 civilians who died in the Allegheny Arsenal Explosion in 1862, Pittsburgh's worst day during the Civil War.
We walked our bikes along the "Millionaires Row," so called because of the mind-boggling cost of the mausoleums there. And our tour guide shared priceless stories about people laid to rest in these pricey structures: Emil White, for example, a financial giant of his time. White was caught bribing city officials while trying to keep Pittsburgh taxpayers' money in his bank. White seems to have received pharaoh-like treatment in his Egyptian mausoleum.
Nearby stands an exquisite mausoleum of "The American Beauty" -- Lillian Russell Moore, the famous actress who in one appearance on the stage in man's clothes and with a cigar scandalized the audience, yet her talents and beauty earned her accolades and fame. "The world is better for her having lived," the inscription says. Her fourth husband, Pittsburgh newspaper publisher Alexander Pollock Moore, loved Lillian so much that after her death every year he would put a rose on the door of her mausoleum. The tour guide said he was giving a cemetery tour on Halloween a few years ago and was telling the visitors about Mr. Moore's rose tradition. When they approached Lillian's mausoleum, they found a rose was there. Boo!  
And then we saw Jesus. 
Or at least a statue of Jesus, said to be the second tallest 'bronze' statue of Christ in the world after the one in Brazil, that's according to our guide. 


photo 3-1


It's not possible to bike to Josh Gibson's gravesite. There is no pavement but a gravel-covered path that leads to it, then you need to hike up to pay tribute to the most legendary black baseball player in history. Gibson has no gravestone, but a barely noticeable plaque on a steep grassy hill. Segregation seems very much alive, even with reference to the dead. Our guide pointed out that white people called Josh Gibson "the black Babe Ruth," but the black people would refer to Babe Ruth as "the white Josh Gibson." Josh Gibson's remarkable story was told in part by the PG's Steve Mellon, who wrote last week about Gibson in "The Digs" after we found a rare photo of the great player in our archives.


There are more stories from the Allegheny Cemetery to tell and even more to discover. I really wish we would have stopped by the grave of lawyer and founder of the Mellon Bank, Thomas Alexander Mellon, and heard the story of abolitionist, journalist and women's rights advocate Jane Grey Cannon Swisshelm.

There are so many narratives buried here, stories of those who left their footprints on Pittsburgh and on the historical course of the country. They offer lessons, hope, wisdom, comfort and even inspiration for those who are alive. 

BikeFest will run until August 25, if you would like to learn more about the BikeFest tours around the city, visit


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Post-Gazette story appears on Colbert Report

Written by Pittsblogher on .

This is no laughing matter. A Post-Gazette story reported by Don Hopey on August 1st about a court settlement between a Washington Country family and Range Resources over natural gas drilling made an appearance on The Colbert Report last night.



In the segment Mr. Colbert referred to the PG story that said, "The non-disclosure agreement prohibiting Chris and Stephanie Hallowich from talking about the 2011 settlement of their high-profile Marcellus Shale damage case in Washington County, or saying anything about gas drilling and fracking, isn't unusual. It happens often in settling such cases. But the insistence that their two minor children, then ages 7 and 10, are also bound by the "gag order" is."

THANKS to Mr. Colbert for the shout-out and for highlighting the important case, of course... BUT he did not quote from the latest story the Post-Gazette published on the matter. This week, Don Hopey reported on another 'bizarre twist' in the case, according to a Range Resources attorney, "the lifetime gag order preventing the Hallowiches from saying anything ever about Marcellus Shale gas drilling or companies involved in its development, doesn't apply to their two small children."

So here is the latest development in the Hallowiches' case for Mr. Colbert and others who might have missed it



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Pittsburghers' public transit pet peeves

Written by Heather Schmelzlen on .

Pittsburghers love to hate public transportation, especially if they rely on it. So we asked for your complaints and horror stories, and you delivered. Here are some of the top responses (Updated at 5:23 p.m.):


It's crowded.

My main peeve is the fact they let people on the 28X with 4 suitcases, there needs to be a bag limit, especially for people like me who is an airport employee, I have to stand for 8 hours there, I should not have to on the bus cause ignorant college kids or foreigners hog up 2 seats, 1 for them and a bag and a seat in front for there 2 other bags. 


 Suitcases blocking the wheelchair spot on the 28X on Dec. 16, 2012.
Photo by Don Montgomery)

This bus was so crowded the doors to get out in back was blocked which is a fire hazard and the "wheelchair" seat was up and blocked by bags that was laying in aisle blocking egress. This is uncalled for!! Now if a wheelchair bound person got on at IKEA and wanted to go to airport, they would have to wait for next bus!!! Is that fair????? 

— Don Montgomery


It's expensive.

Anna Shaffer  Living in a major metropolitan city with a mass transit system, you shouldn't have to own a car to get around but in Pittsburgh, that's virtually impossible. Between transfers and zone charges it's extremely expensive. (whether going two stops away or 10 stops away, it's the same price.) PAT is asinine around the board. There's nothing "good" about Pittsburgh Public Transit.


It's unreliable.


Other riders are the worst.

Joshua Michael 1) when people sit on the end seat taking up both seats even when the bus is crowded 2) people who pay with change--like nickels and dimes--which holds up the bus.

Amy Doltis Cooper   Pet peeve for sure is listening to other people's music. Listening to heavy metal or rap at 7am...turn it down!


Things get broken.

bus seats small

(Mila Sanina/Post-Gazette)

Sue Collins The worst was a bus somewhat like the one in the picture-seat "cushions" flattened beyond recognition, springs showing, etc. It was the 28X, to the airport, and it was gross. Then I realized that this, after the airport, would be one of the first impressions that a visitor might get of Pittsburgh-not flattering at all. Public transportation in other cities has those formed plastic seats with permanent cushions embedded in the seats (sorry for the poor descriptions)-so much better than flattened, filthy rags on springs passing as seat cushions.


Drivers are sometimes aggressive, unfriendly, and...well, hungry.

Laura Cavazos Szafranski When we lived in Troy Hill, I rode the 6A to work. One day on the way home, the driver stopped at the corner next to Hughes Funeral Home. Everyone wanted to know what was wrong. Turns out he had ordered a pizza from the place on the corner and he was waiting for his delivery.
Same driver would also bring his small stereo and blast his own music. He was overly aggressive as a driver in that he would speed up quickly and then slam the brakes actually knock people off their feet, me included.



Public transportation causes headaches for others on the road.


And sometimes, buses are just downright nasty.

Karly Shorts Horror story: I once sat in someone else's pee. Once I realized my bottom felt wet, I was hopeful it was just a spilled drink but the smell was a dead giveaway.


Um. Ew. There are many, many more responses from your fellow commuters, and you can read them here. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments.


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