Ashleigh Kuhn, then a Pitt student, sits at her computer in fall 2004 with a nine-month-old version of The Facebook on her screen. (John Heller/Post-Gazette)
Ten years ago, exactly on Feb. 4, Mark Zuckerberg and a group of his Harvard classmates founded The Facebook (as it was known until 2005).
Back then thefacebook.com was open to Harvard students only. Other Ivy League students were permitted to join in the summer that year and, soon thereafter, all college students could become members. Anyone with an .edu email address could sign up.
Pittsburgh-area students started getting access to it in the fall.
And to report on this exciting new phenomenon, the Post-Gazette assigned Bill Schackner to cover The Facebook locally.
His story from Nov. 28, 2004, began with an anecdote about Pitt senior Brian Kelly evaluating a friend request -- a novel concept at the time.
Kelly weighs the online request for all of two seconds, then uses a single keystroke to give his classmate the thumbs up. In the parlance of The Facebook, Kelly has just "friended" him. "He's a good kid. He was in my freshman studies class. I'm going to confirm it."
The article ran on the Sunday front page's top right column. The Facebook had clearly caught on by that point, even if high school students (and their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.) would not be able to join for another year or so.
Schackner described more of the nascent Facebook behavior that is now common.
Why, for instance, do people with seemingly endless chances to socialize face to face on campus flock to such a site? Is having half as many Facebook friends as your roommate any reason to think about moving back home?
And he noticed the already-shifting meaning of being friends with someone.
Adding a Facebook friend to one's tally doesn't necessarily imply intent to spend time with that person. At Pitt, Kelly has amassed 345 friends in just over a month [...] but a few he has never met. "Nobody really rejects friends unless you really hate somebody," he said. "It's all pretty non-committal."
Julian Dunn, a Carnegie Mellon freshman from Harmony, predicted one of its enduring purposes, saying he used it most often "when I'm on the Internet and I'm bored."
For more on poking and other outdated features of The Facebook, here's a copy of the page from that Sunday.
Pittsburgh is no stranger to big budget film-making. Just recently it served as a primary location for "The Dark Knight Rises," "Jack Reacher" and "Out of the Furnace." To many celebrities, Pittsburgh may have been a temporary home during the movie-making, but there are quite a few celebrities who once lived here; David Conrad, for example, still lives here and recently talked about his affinity to Pittsburgh on WQED. But there are other, perhaps more surprising names you may have never associated with Pittsburgh.
1. Julie Benz
Benz is most recognizable from her roles as Darla in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” In 2006, she won Best Supporting Actress at the Satellite Awards for her role of Rita Bennett in “Dexter.”
Benz grew up in Murrysville, Pa., and graduated from Franklin Regional High School. “I remember the teacher telling me I should not even try acting,” she told TV Guide. “I still have the report card where she was like, ‘You will never be an actor. Your voice is horrible.’ That was the best thing that ever happened to me because I was like, ‘I’ll show you’.”
2. Joe Manganiello
Best known for his character, Alcide Herveaux, on “True Blood”, Manganiello is a heart throb to all “truebies.” Manganiello graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School, and he attended Carnegie Mellon's acting program before moving to Hollywood. As many actors with ties to Pittsburgh, Manganiello hasn’t forgotten his roots: he remains a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and in 2007 produced and directed a short documentary “DieHardz,” about Steelers fans that meet at bars in Los Angeles. He also stays involved with UPMC Children’s Hospital charity events.
3. Zachary Quinto
Another CMU grad, Quinto started his acting career in the Pittsburgh Theater. Quinto grew up in Green Tree and graduated from Central Catholic High School. He landed a role on the hit show “Heroes” before getting his big break as Spock in the very successful remake of “Star Trek” alongside Chris Pine. Quinto is currently working on a 10-part TV series based in Pittsburgh about college students returning home on their first break.
4. Jeff Goldblum
Just a simple boy from West Homestead grew up to be a big star. Goldblum starred in the box office hits, “Jurassic Park” and “Independence Day.” In 2007, Goldblum played in “Pittsburgh,” a witty variation on a Christopher Guest mockumentary that combines fiction, reality and an irregular cast including Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Illeana Douglas, Moby, Conan O’Brien and many unsuspecting Pittsburghers.
5. Cherie Johnson
Born right in the heart of Pittsburgh, she is best known for her role as Cherie on “Punky Brewster” and Maxine on the long-running TV series, “Family Matters.”
6. Dennis Miller
With a resume ranging from a stand-up comedian and talk show host, to sports commentator, actor and more, Miller is a curious Pittsburgher. Miller grew up in the South Hills and graduated from Keystone Oaks High School. He then attended Point Park College — now Point Park University — where he majored in journalism. “When I went to college, I lived on campus, and the guys I hung out with made me do some things I’m not proud of, although they made the characters in Revenge of the Nerds look like the Rat Pack in 1962. I myself made that kid Booger look like Remington Steele,” Miller wrote in his book, "I Rant, Therefore I Am."
Justine Ezarik grew up in Scenery Hill and graduated from Bentworth High School. She started her career from a YouTube video about a 300-page iPhone bill and quickly became an online sensation. Since then she has been an Internet celebrity and made many guest appearances on popular network television shows such as “Law & Order,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and was a guest host of “E! News.” Ezarik graduated from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute in 2004 and started her own business that she ran out of Pittsburgh until 2008, the year she moved to Los Angeles. While living in Pittsburgh, Ezarik also worked as a spokeswoman for Bill Peduto, then a city councilman.
8. Christina Aguilera
Though originally from Rochester, Pa., Aguilera moved to Wexford after her family received threats stemming from jealousy of her talent; it was obvious even then. She attended Marshall Middle School and North Allegheny High School. Aguilera was discovered when she sang at a Pittsburgh charity banquet and started receiving offers to sing the National Anthem for the Pirates, Penguins and the Steelers. She got her break on the “Mickey Mouse Club” along with other stars of the 1990s like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Her singing career took off from there. In her song, “I Will Be,” she says, “all the things that you never expected to see from little old me, this Pittsburgh girl.”
9. Melina Kanakaredes
Kanakaredes was not born in Pittsburgh, though she moved here to pursue acting after high school. She attended Point Park and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts. It was in Pittsburgh where Kanakaredes began her acting career in the professional theater scene. One of her earlier roles included Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Pittsburgh Musical Theater. She eventually got her break as recurring characters on popular shows like “CSI,” “NYPD Blue,” “Guiding Light,” and, prominently, as Dr. Sydney Hansen on “Providence.”
If you haven't had enough of high-stakes conflict following the Superbowl, here's another reason to put out the guacamole and chips: To watch a debate over evolution versus creationism.
Bill Nye the Science Guy, the media-friendly teacher of scientific concepts, put it bluntly in a recent viral video post when he said belief in creationism is not just wrong, it's harmful to children:
"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your ... world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it, because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers."
Now he's facing some criticism among his fellow scientists for agreeing to debate creationist Ken Ham in the latter's home turf, the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which promotes belief in a literal six-day creation and worldwide flood and depicts dinosaurs co-existing with humans in the garden of Eden and on Noah's Ark.
Ham invited Nye to debate, saying people often lose their faith in Christianity as a whole when they start to question the literal reading of any portion of the Bible, beginning with Genesis.
It's hard to remember a time when two such high-profile champions of these viewpoints got in the same room for a debate. Maybe when Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan (or at least Spencer Tracy and Fredric March) met in the courtroom?
Some evolutionary scientists refuse to debate creationists. “Framing it as a formal debate, you’re saying there’s controversy to begin with. And there’s really no controversy in the scientific community,” Dan Phelps, head of the Kentucky Paleontological Society, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville.
But Nye hopes to change some minds. The debate will be livestreamed.
Americans are still sharply divided over human origins, although surveys give different measures for the divide.
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 57 percent of Americans believe humans and other living things have evolved, while 38 percent believe they've stayed the same since creation. The Pew Forum has a slightly larger amount believing in evolution. In both groups, those believing in evolution are divided between those who believe God was or was not involved in it.
But according to Gallup, 46 percent believe God created humans in their present form, 32 percent say God guided evolution and 15 percent say evolution occurred without divine help.
It's no surprise that white evangelicals and black Protestants are the most likely to believe in creationism, Catholics less so and mainline (mostly white, often liberal) Protestants and the unaffiliated are even less so. And like everything else, there's a political divide. Republicans are more likely to believe in creationism, Democrats in evolution.
Time for another check of how well those long-range winter weather forecasts issued in the fall by Pittsburgh TV meteorologists are holding up.
KDKA’s Jeff Verszyla might want to crawl into the hole with Punxsutawney Phil, having predicted 7.9 inches of snow for January and “slightly above normal” temperatures. The actual total was 17.9 inches, ninth-snowiest January in recorded history per the National Weather Service, and the monthly average temperature was 6.2 degrees below normal, making it the 16th-coldest January on record.
Mr. Verszyla said we’d get 32 inches of snow during the entire season. With February and March still to go, we’ve had 42.3 inches.
WPXI’s Stephen Cropper said we’d get 12 inches of snow for the month with “mild spells” before mid-month when Arctic temps would lock in. Not bad on the temperature forecast. Bad on the snow forecast, nearly 50 percent off the mark. Mike Harvey of WTAE came closest on the snow forecast, predicting 15 inches, but said temperatures would average 0.5 degrees below normal. Swing and a miss.
Our forecast: These guys will continue to shamelessly offer long-range forecasts in an effort to hype their ratings. We should assign those forecasts a zero percent chance of credibility. (Photo by Larry Roberts of the Post-Gazette)
The right lane on northbound Route 51 will be closed between Stewart Avenue and Ivyglen Street in Overbrook starting tonight and continuing weeknights through Feb. 28. The closure will be in effect from 7 p.m. daily until 6 a.m. the following morning for utility work related to the Route 51-Route 88 intersection project.
Inspection of overhead signs could cause lane closures on the Parkway West/Interstate 376 between Pittsburgh International Airport and Hopewell from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. between Exits 13 and 15 in Butler and Lawrence counties.
Rodi Road in Wilkins will have alternating one-way traffic on the ramp over Chalfant Run south of William Penn Highway from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through Feb. 10. Crews are doing research for a future project.
Banksville Avenue has reopened from McMonagle Avenue to Potomac Avenue. The road was closed Oct. 17 for landslide removal and construction of a wall. More work is planned in the spring.
Work to convert the intersection of Streets Run and Prospect roads in Baldwin Borough to an all-way stop requirement is scheduled Tuesday starting at 10 a.m. An engineering and safety study concluded that traffic from all directions should have to stop.
The Wabash Tunnel will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday for replacement of a ventilation fan.
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