Yinzerpedia: Swimming holes, recycling schedule and Pittsburg

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

Pittsburghers are a curious bunch.

Each week on message boards, forums and social media platforms, dozens of questions are asked on everything from where you work to your Burgh confessions to the best box gutter repair.

The insightful answers — those that aren’t complete snark — act as a helpful guide to 21st-century Pittsburgh, and we want to feature some of each week’s more helpful and interesting exchanges. Please do join the ongoing discussion in our comments below.

And yes, we’re affectionately calling this feature “Yinzerpedia,” because it takes the principle of crowdsourcing site Wikipedia, but the "crowd" for our purposes is all of yinz.

Question: Does Carnegie flood easily? (March 12)

A relative suggested the questioner avoid living in Carnegie due to flooding dangers. But as the commenters point out, Carnegie is no more prone to flooding than any other city neighborhood when more than an inch of rain falls in a few hours.

In our archive, we found little evidence of Carnegie’s flood risk being higher than other areas. It was hit hard in September 2004, but then again so was most of the region.

Question: What do you think of Tom Wolf for governor? (March 10)

Tom Wolf Pam Panchak Post Gazette

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf speaks during an endorsement announcement in the courtyard of the County Courthouse. (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)

The Democrat is leading early polls among challengers to Tom Corbett, and he’s apparently getting attention of some voters.

Adding considerable funds from his own bank account is likely helping on that front, as Post-Gazette politics editor James O’Toole wrote earlier this year:

He sought to give his campaign an instant jolt of credibility with the news that he would spend $10 million of his own money on the effort. That's real money in a primary in which some better known rivals have discussed primary budgets in the ballpark of $5 million.

Question: Are there swimming holes near Pittsburgh? (March 10)

rock furnace trail flickr eLeSeA

Rock Furnace Trail near Ford City. (Flickr/eLeSeA)

After this grueling winter, the thought of it being warm enough in the Pittsburgh region to enjoy a swimming hole is inspiring. And that is perhaps why the topic came up on Reddit this week. 

A few contributed helpful suggestions, and one person linked to, which appears to be a great resource.

We plotted suggestions from the thread and that site on the map below. Hang onto it for a summer day when the weather is nice.


Question: Is it recycling week in Pittsburgh? (March 8)

If this guide isn't the easiest to decipher, the following is a rather simple alternative:

A similar resource was among those produced at Steel City Codefest last month, though it’s evidently not yet fully developed.

Question: When did Pittsburgh get an “H”? (March 10)

The Pittsburgh Press 1918

The answer is a little gray.

Pittsburgh was spelled Pittsburgh when incorporated in 1794. But as Rich Gigler wrote on the 1991 centennial of the name change, “Pittsburgh got the ‘h’ officially kicked out of it 100 years ago today.”

From 1891, when a federal report ordered all burghs to become burgs, until 1911, we were Pittsburg. The question arose on our Facebook page because the 1918 story about Daylight Saving Time still ran in a paper called The Pittsburg Press.

This might come as a surprise, but newspapers can be stubborn.

Question: Is the Sportsworks section of the Science Center open to adults? (March 11)


(Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette photo)

Indeed it is.

But as one Redditor correctly notes, not for the 21+ nights:

“Aside from rock climbing there's a ton of stuff there that would be a bad idea to pair with drunk people: running, hockey sticks, baseballs…”

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Francis: Different priorities, not doctrinal change

Written by Peter Smith on .

From what I can tell from interviewing numerous people over Pope Francis' first anniversary in office, he still has a broad swath of admirers, and they tend to come in two categories: Those hoping he'll change some of the church's approaches to sexuality and those emphasizing that he hasn't done such a thing amid his conciliatory words.

In fact, the latter group argues, Francis is calling everyone to repentance, not affirming such things as gay unions. Yet according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, a stunning number of Catholics expect change in their church on hot-button issues. By the year 2050, more than half of Catholics say, the church will allow married priests and artificial birth control. And 42 percent expect woman priests. All those numbers are up at least a little from before Francis' papacy. Also, more than a third of Catholics expect the church to recognize gay marriages. And in all those categories, even more American Catholics think the church should do those things than think it will.

But Francis' own words would indicate those with such expectations should brace themselves for disappointment. I've been reading through his apostolic exhortation, the "Joy of the Gospel," which is filled with ringing phrases about identifying with the poor and evangelizing through the power of "attraction" rather than obligation.

But there's also this:



"All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel." Briefly put, it reflects how Francis may be putting some of these issues a little lower on the ladder of priorities rather than changing them.

Still, the shift in tone is notable. If anyone's going to get the fire-and-brimstone treatment from Francis, it's not going to be those who don't conform to the church's sexual and marital standards. Francis marshals the words of the ancient St. John Chrysostom to denounce the financial greed of modern globalization: "Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs."





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Google executive visits Pittsburgh, discusses Internet freedom, power and digital literacy

Written by Mila Sanina on .

It may be hard for you to imagine the world without Internet, but did you realize that 4.5 billion of people still do not have online access? It's hard to imagine the Internet without Google. But did you know that there are more than 30 countries where Google services have been blocked?

And it's a rare occasion to witness a Google executive speak about internet freedom in a theater nearly 100 years old. But that's exactly what happened on Tuesday evening in Pittsburgh: Google's Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations Ross LaJeunesse spoke at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, which opened in 1914, in East Liberty as part of the event organized by the World Affairs Council.
photo 2 4
His talk was titled "Freedom and Power in the Digital Age," he spoke on information security, freedom of information online and the rise of splinternets that emerge when governments worldwide are trying to control access to information on the web.
Mr. LaJeunesse began his speech with an anecdote about his niece who was born in the world where internet is a given and where she wants to swipe her television screen because that's how it works with the devices she is familiar with, she does not know look at the world as pre-internet or post-internet. It's just internet.  
The Google executive made a strong case in favor of free Internet, arguing that it's what people want even if their government doesn't and it's in line with Google's mission, which is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
"We live in the world where information is the most valuable commodity." And authorities worldwide are realizing how powerful this freedom can be, LaJeunesse said. He cited just a few cases of how a blog post, a YouTube video, a picture changed the world in a past few years: Bassem Youssef, a satirist known as "Egypt's Jon Stewart," started his comedy on YouTube, Martha Payne, who posted photos of her school lunch on her blog, inspired movements like hers worldwide. 
Everyone has a stake in free Internet, Mr. LaJeunesse argued. "If a company says it's not an Internet company?  I'd sell the stock."
Of course, these days when Snowden revelations bring more surprises every day about how connectedness makes us vulnerable, there are plenty of concerns about privacy and data protection online. LaJeunesse did not dispute that, but said that Google treats these things seriously. "It cannot afford doing otherwise, we realize that competition is just one click away."
But there is also need for digital literacy, parents need to make sure their kids understand what appropriate and not appropriate to post online, how to encrypt your data and protect yourself, LaJeunesse said. 
"We have to teach our kids how to be better citizens."
LaJeunesse confessed that he is not on Twitter and chooses to read his Sunday edition of the New York Times in print. He said that the beauty of technology is that people have choices. You can opt out or opt in depending on your comfort level. 


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No surprise here: Bad driving blamed in turnpike pileup

Written by Jon Schmitz on .



The pileup of dozens of cars and trucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Philadelphia on Feb. 14 was caused by weird weather and bad driving, state police have concluded.

“I believe human error played a large factor in this,” said Lt. Col. George Bivens, deputy commissioner of operations, at a hearing today. Weather conditions were changing at the time of the pileup but “we had a number of drivers who did not compensate for those changing conditions,” he told the state Senate Transportation Committee.

There were 41 separate crashes on a stretch of the turnpike west of Philadelphia. The first involved 15 vehicles including four tractor-trailers; the others came as people approaching the crash scene hit their brakes. Police cited 52 drivers, mostly for going too fast for conditions.

“We’re our own worst enemy,” said Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport.

“A lot of this is human error … People are crazy,” said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Johnstown.

Two hours before the crash, the Pennsylvania Turnpike had lifted a 45 mph speed limit imposed during a snowstorm. Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in spite of that, the average speed of traffic around the time of the pileup was 45 mph.

Road crews were on the job and the turnpike had been heavily salted after 4 to 5 inches of snow fell between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. The skies had cleared and drivers were dealing with sun glare when all hell broke loose. It took hours to clear the wreckage and reopen the turnpike but no one was killed.


With Congress terrified to raise gasoline taxes or come up with some other source of badly needed transportation funding, some advocates are pushing for an end to restrictions on tolling existing interstate highways.

The federal gasoline tax, a flat 18.4 cents per gallon, hasn't been raised since 1993. It doesn’t grow with inflation, so its value has fallen by 40 percent since then, according to a computation by The New York Times. If you’ve enjoyed your effective 40 percent gasoline tax reduction, you also might be noticing the decay of the nation’s highways and bridges. The federal Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke.

The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (aka the toll road industry), meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, assembled transportation officials and leaders from across the country to urge Congress to let states solve their own funding problems with tolls.

Among those in the chorus was former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, who said:

“With transportation funding shortfalls at all levels of government, and traditional sources of funding no longer keeping pace with growing needs, it is important that Congress no longer tie the hands of governors as they seek to meet their transportation challenges. It is time for Congress to finally lift all federal restrictions on tolling existing interstates.”


menatworkThe Pennsylvania Turnpike is scheduled to be closed to traffic in both directions between Allegheny Valley and Butler Valley from 11:59 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday, a closure that was called off last weekend because of the weather. It will allow removal of beams from a Route 910 bridge that crosses the pike.

Also in the wee hours of Sunday, the entrance and exit ramps at Beaver Valley (Exit 13) will be closed, along with part of Route 18. Traffic will be redirected to Exit 10 at New Castle from 11:59 p.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Sunday. The closure will allow crews to set the bridge that carries the interchange ramps over Route 18, part of the future Beaver River Bridge replacement project.

Inspection of overhead signs will cause a lane closure on the outbound Liberty Bridge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, and on the inbound Birmingham Bridge from noon to 3 p.m.

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FAQs: Hays Bald Eagles and mysteries of the eagle cam

Written by Mila Sanina on .

Rise up this mornin', 
Smile with the risin' sun, 
Three little eggs... 
Inside the Hays nest... 
There are not yet tweeting or singing sweet songs (or making eagle calls like these), but they've become sort of a local sensation.
The Eagle cam, courtesy of PixController, has been one of the most popular features on this year. Actually, in the past three weeks, it has been in top 10 most visited pages on our website. 
The newsroom has decided people just love watching the eagles, especially if it's a live video feed. They cheer on the birds scaring off the raccoon, defending the nest against the hawks and laying the eggs.
Eagle fans have been tweeting (on Twitter, not trying to imitate the birds), about the Hays bald eagles and asking questions about the eggs, the nest and the eagle cam. Wildlife professionals from Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania were generous in providing answers to some frequently asked questions.
How big is a Bald Eagle? 
Adult-sized eagles, depending on sex and age, will have a wingspan of six to seven feet. Females have larger wingspans than males and weigh approximately 20 percent more. First year birds have larger wingspans than older birds of the same sex because of their longer, “practice” feathers, which make learning to fly easier. Eagles weigh between 8-12 lbs. with a body length of about 32 inches.
Why do the mom and dad Bald Eagles keep turning the eggs? 
We're getting closer to the expected hatch date, and mom and dad are still turning the eggs--research has shown that eggs are kept at a mean temperature of 101 degrees. Turning the eggs helps to keep the eggs at the same even temperature. Another thing that happens during incubation--to the parents--both birds develop brood patches (a bare part of the chest which makes contact with the eggs), but the female typically has a more extensive brood patch. Interestingly, some eagles do not develop a brood patch at all.
What is the role of "dad" eagles in the nest?
The Bald Eagles' roles at the nest are somewhat interchangeable. Papa eagles take turns incubating eggs just like mamas. But because she often spends more time incubating, he will patrol their territory, watching for intruders, and will catch/gather food for both of them. (Hays eagle watchers have seen papa bring a fish to the nest occasionally). But, not to worry, because his busy time is coming! Typically, the male takes a larger role in collecting food for babies, especially for a two week period after the eggs hatch. The female spends more time protecting the babies during the first two weeks, when they are confined to the nest (called the nestling period). Therefore, he brings the lion's share of the food. During this period, mama will tear the food and will feed the babies. Again, typically, at the third and fourth week of the nestling period, things equal out. The female spends a bit more time away from the nest and also brings her share of food to the babies. 
Do the Eagles have a great sense of hearing that goes along with their eyesight? With all the noise of Route 837, two railroads, metal, concrete and asphalt recycling yards, how is it that their heads turn when a stick is snapped nearby, or another bird is sing in the area?
Just like people, the Bald Eagles get used to their environment and likely ignore what they hear all the time as background noise. When they hear something out of the ordinary, they do respond. The Hays Bald Eagles have nested near the railroad for two years now, and they are very used to the sounds in the area, so there's no need for concern that the usual sounds around them are bothersome to the eagles.
What kind of tree is it in? 
Until the leaves are out in a few months, we don't know for certain what type of tree the Hays Bald Eagles have chosen to build their nest in, since the nest is new this year. The Harmar Bald Eagles' nest, located on a hillside above Route 28, right across from the Hulton Bridge, is in a sycamore tree.
Can the camera zoom out? 
The camera can pan, tilt, and zoom. It's operated by PixController and the operators there control what the camera is doing. Sometimes when you watch the feed, you can see that the camera operators are changing the pan or tilt of the camera



Watch the live cam

(Courtesy of PixController)
This webcam, courtesy of PixController, is a pilot project with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The camera will be streaming 24/7 as long as temperatures don't approach 0°F. The new player should work on PCs using Chrome and Firefox browsers, and on Apple iOS. If the new player is not working try the old player here:

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