Camera, action: Brighton Heights

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


The Brighton Heights Citizens Federation has put out a call for photographs of the neighborhood, and a handsome neighborhood it is, nestled up against Riverview Park, with lots of big brick houses and front porches. 
Photographers can submit up to three photos. Find out more here. At the first of each month, starting in April, Facebook friends of the federation can vote on those submissions.
The prize for each month’s winner is publication in the Brighton Heights Citizens Report. Of course, the real prize is a photographer’s discovery of form and light in an attitude of place plucked from anonymity and given everlasting life. 
I wouldn’t know this from personal experience, being naturally woeful at the art form and untrained to boot.
In fact, I had to muster all my audacity to ask the great Darrell Sapp if I could take the photo (above) of his camera, then I made the mistake of trying to shoot it while it was prone. You never shoot a camera while it is down. 
I should have known that but I'm hopeless.
The rest of you have at it. With an April 1 deadline, you may have an opportunity to make it up some of the side streets without falling.
For the ringers out there, Brighton Heights’ boundaries are as follows:  from the city line to the Ohio River to Oakdale Ave, Oakdale to Woods Run Avenue, Woods Run to McClure Avenue, McClure to Richardson Avenue, Richardson to Bainton, Bainton to California Avenue, California to McClure, McClure to Eckert, Eckert to Ohio River Boulevard (Route 65), Ohio River Boulevard to the McKees Rocks Bridge, the McKees Rocks Bridge to the Ohio River, Ohio River to the City line.


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Long-range winter weather flubcasts

Written by Jon Schmitz on .


snowglobe“This winter will be memorable for prolonged bitter cold and snowstorms so frequent that many communities will run out of rock salt.”

Do you remember which local TV weather forecaster said that in his long-range winter forecast last fall?

The answer: none of them.

Every year, the TV stations hype their meteorologists’ long-range winter forecasts, hoping we’ll tune in and then quickly forget their predictions. We decided to keep score this year.

Every inch of snow that falls will further bury those forecasts in disgrace. KDKA’s Jeff Verszyla, WPXI’s Stephen Cropper and WTAE’s Mike Harvey didn’t come close to guessing what this winter would bring.

As of the end of February, Mr. Harvey leads the trio in accuracy for his snowfall prediction, which is to say he missed it by only 20.4 inches. He guessed 38 inches would fall before March 1 — actual snowfall was 58.4 inches.

Mr. Cropper told us we’d have 33.5 inches through the end of February. Mr. Verszyla’s dart missed the board entirely, with a forecast of 26 inches through February, or less than half of what actually came down.

Mr. Verszyla said we’d get only 32 inches for the entire winter; counting the weekend’s snowfall, we’re at 60.8 inches for the season.

Mr. Harvey told us the average February temperature would be 1 degree below normal. He’s getting colder … colder. The actual average was 5.4 degrees below normal.

Mr. Verszyla said February temperatures would “nosedive below normal,” and Mr. Cropper said it would be the “coldest month.” Not exactly going out on a limb there, but Mr. Cropper even got that wrong: January’s average temperature of 22.1 degrees was 3.6 degrees colder than February’s average.

Our forecast: These gentlemen will be back in the fall with another round of shameless, self-promoting long-term forecasts. Viewers should take them with a truckload of salt.


Excellent, chilling report by The New York Times looks back (with video) at the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007 and how little the U.S. has done since then to address declining infrastructure. See it here.


The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline in Pittsburgh has risen by 14.4 cents per gallon in the past month, to $3.651, according to That’s 20.6 cents above the national average but still 18.4 cents cheaper than the average price here a year ago. Gasoline prices are another thing that “experts” like to forecast well in advance, with mixed success.


menatworkWe can state with utter certitude that Daylight-Saving Time begins this weekend, with clocks advancing by an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday. We are reasonably sure that the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be closed in both directions between Butler Valley (Exit 39) and Allegheny Valley (Exit 48) from 11:59 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday. Crews will remove overhead bridge beams at Route 910. The turnpike planned the closure for last weekend, but bailed because of the snow forecast. Traffic will be detoured via Routes 8, 28 and 910 and Freeport Road.

Pothole patching will cause lane closures on southbound Interstate 79 from Route 19 to Route 910 in Marshall from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

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Beechview's Canton Avenue has bike cred

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Beechview’s Canton Avenue makes the grade in John Metcalf’s Atlantic Cities article today, “The 10 Most Hellish Hills for America’s Cyclists.”
He cites Waipio Valley Road in Hawaii as what Lance Armstrong claimed is the “steepest climb I’ve ever seen on a bike.” Canton Avenue comes in at No. 2. The YouTube video above is of the 2010 Dirty Dozen race here.
Canton and the next four steepest grades, all in Los Angeles, might challenge many people’s expectations that America’s steepest cycling challenges are in San Francisco or the Rockies, he writes.
The ranking was created by Fixr, which the article says describes Canton as the “steepest public street in the United States.” Interestingly, a street in East Hills, Dornbush, comes in at No. 8, ahead of the top two in the Pretty City by the Bay, which are numbers 9 and 10.
San Francisco’s rankings rankle its natives, who take issue with having the ninth and 10th steepest grades, according to the article. C'mon, Frisco, your housing prices are steep enough. Why do you want to go trying to hog all the honors? 
As for the top ranking, Waipio Valley Road is described as “a tortuous climb of 800 feet in six-tenths of a mile. With sections slanted at a 45-degree grade, and access given only to cars with 4-wheel drive, just looking at the muscle-shredding lane can make rivers of sweat start to flow.”
Canton is a little monster, one block long between Coast and Hampshire avenues. If I'm on two wheels, I’d stay away from it until spring.


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Poll shows revolution in views on gays

Written by Peter Smith on .

If the personal is political, as they say, then the sexual revolution is indeed a revolution. That was in evidence in Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a bill that would have effectively allowed business owners a stronger legal defense if they refused to provide services to same-sex couples.

It wasn't that long ago that such legislation would have been a sure winner. Now it's a loser even in a state like Arizona, whose immigration laws have hardly lent it an air of political correctness.

We also noted recently that a federal judge in Kentucky said attitudes against homosexuality may become as anachronistic as those justifying legal discrimination against racial minorities and women. That's happening sooner rather than later.

A new poll shows as much. Taken by the Public Religion Research Institute, it shows how a solid majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, whereas more than two-thirds opposed it back in 2003 when Massachusetts was legalizing it under court order. In Pennsylvania, 61 percent support same-sex marriage, mirroring other recent surveys.

The poll would indicate that conservative groups, both political and religious, are paying a price for their historic opposition (if not outright hostility) to gays and lesbians. Gay marriage is looked on more favorably by younger adults (though it's growing among all age groups), and people tend to perceive Catholic, Mormon and evangelical churches as especially unfriendly to gays and lesbians. Of those who left their childhood religion, a quarter said it was partly because of their religions' treatment of gays, and the figure is higher among younger adults, who are also more secular. Something to consider as liberal churches, who have long debated and finally approved ordaining gays, begin to consider endorsing same-sex marriage. Such proposals are coming before the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s General Assembly this June.

Certainly many conservative churches feel they have to take the stand they do on eternal principles rather than poll results, but the results do show the price they're paying at least in terms of public perception. One could also point out that the liberal churches who are most open to gays are actually suffering some of the worst membership losses.


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From Watergate to 'House of Cards': Journalists not always true-to-life on film

Written by Kim Lyons on .


Zoe Barnes, played by Kate Mara in "House of Cards."

SPOILER ALERT: If you're not caught up on the current season of House of Cards, mild spoilers ahead.

Much has been written about the portrayal of journalists in the Netflix series "House of Cards." For the most part, the show's fictional reporters are examples of what not to do; they sleep with sources in exchange for information, contact shady computer hackers (whose portrayal is a whole other level of fiction) to help them break the law, and promise to print whatever a source tells them, among other things. One older editor even decries the rise of blogs and Twitter (he's actually a slightly more realistic character, a version of whom a few print reporters have likely come across).

As any reputable journalist knows, most of the antics of HoC's girl reporter Zoe Barnes would get a real reporter fired.  The only truly realistic journalists in the series are the real-life journalists who appear as themselves (Matt Bai and Ashleigh Banfield).

But there is a long history of potraying reporters in movies and on television as more interesting and less realistic than we really are. If you tried to make a movie about what the average reporter does on a given day, it would likely involve a vending machine lunch, waiting for return phone calls, staking out a crime scene in the freezing cold, waiting for a police spokesman to take pity on you and tell you what's happening, and cursing at the computer that has crashed (AGAIN) and lost the 1,000 word story that's already way past deadline.

Not the sexiest job in the world.

The venerable Bob Woodward once said sometimes when people meet him they are disappointed that he doesn't look more like Robert Redford, who portrayed Woodward in the 1976 film "All the President's Men." That movie was, of course, based on the book Woodward co-authored with fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (played by Dustin Hoffman in the film), about their reporting on the 1972 break-in at the Watergate Hotel and subsequent coverup by members of President Nixon's administration (read your history, kids).
But All the President's Men was a mostly realistic portrayal of how the reporters got the story.

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, we were thinking about other movies that depict journos, good, bad and otherwise. Newscastic put together a pretty decent list of 10 Movies Every Journalist Should Watch (even though the headline isn't in AP style), and the PG's Barb Vancheri  wrote about the topic of unrealistic journalist movies back in 2007.

Which newsroom-based movie is your favorite, and who's your favorite fictional reporter?

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Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Bernstein and Woodward in "All the President's Men." You can see clear evidence of fast-food dining, sadly a staple of many a reporter's diet...





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