Why is Pittsburgh so... great? And Portland so...?

Written by Mila Sanina on .

Why is Pittsburgh so great? Why is Baltimore so... bad? And why is Harrisburg the capital of Pa.? 

A recent piece in The Atlantic explored how Google autocompletes results for 50 states "Why is [insert the state] so..." 
So when you type in Google, "Why is Pennsylvania is so...." Google will greet you with "Why Pennsylvania is so haunted...."
The Atlantic made a tongue-and-cheek claim that Google Autocomplete is one way to explore collective psyche.
So we thought, "OK, let's take a look at the collective psyche apropos cities in Pennsylvania and other cities."
How about Pittsburgh?
Why is Philadelphia so....

Why is Harrisburg so...


Let's take a look at Pittsburgh's rival cities...

Why is Baltimore so...


And lastly, why is Portland so... Weird, right? 




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Longing for a garden tomato, this one comes close

Written by Doug Oster on .

Blog UglyRipeUglyripe is my favorite winter tomato. Photo by Doug Oster

Tomatoes are the number one crop for gardeners and there's nothing better than picking one off the vine and enjoying the fruit while standing barefoot in the garden. This time of the year, you're not going to find tomatoes in the garden and if you're out there in bare feet, you'll end up with frost bite.

Most store bought tomatoes are tasteless, I think a tennis ball might be more flavorful. There's one though which I hunt for each winter called Uglyripe.

It's not a garden tomato, but it will have you fantasizing about those barefoot walks in the garden.

This is a wonderful heirloom variety which makes an amazing tomato, cheese and mayo sandwich.

I wrote about the tomato for the Post-Gazette in 2003. I think the story of marketing a tomato with the name Uglyripe is pure genius.

On a recent trip to the grocery store I found two Uglyripe tomatoes packaged together. As I quickly scooped them up I saw a woman looking over the sickly, bland pretenders. I tried to interest her in the one huge remaining Uglyripe without success. I saw her in another aisle with the pink tennis balls in her cart.

If you're longing for the taste of summer, track down a few Uglyripe tomatoes, you won't be sorry.

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Are we in another housing bubble?

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Emily Badger writes in today’s Atlantic Cities about the price creep of houses vis a vis the cost of renting, which could signal a new housing bubble.
According to her article, “How to Tell If We’re Really Entering Another Housing Bubble,” she cites forecasters’ warnings that housing costs are out of whack as compared to rents.
She cites a New York Times piece by Peter Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which reads in part:
“Housing bubbles are measured by comparing current prices to a reliable index of housing prices. Fortunately, we have one. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has been keeping track of the costs of renting a residence since at least 1983; its index shows a steady rise of about 3 percent a year over this 30-year period. This is as it should be; other things being equal, rentals should track the inflation rate. Home prices should do the same. If prices rise much above the rental rate, families theoretically would begin to rent, not buy.
Housing bubbles, then, become visible — and can legitimately be called bubbles — when housing prices diverge significantly from rents.”
The Atlantic Cities procedes from there:
“Over the last two years,” he writes, “this has begun to happen again. From 2011 through the third quarter of 2013, housing prices grew by 5.83 percent. Rental costs grew by just 2 percent.”
The article quotes other experts who point out that what may look like a bubble on a graph that measures rents vs. mortgages might actually be a correction from the late 1980s, when interest rates were historically high compared to rates that are now historically low.


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Weekend at Brady's (in the coldest place on earth)

Written by Brady McCollough on .

I have been fortunate enough to travel internationally a good bit. I have tackled Amsterdam, Paris and London in 10 days. I have done Pittsburgh to Machu Pichu and back in one week. As it turns out, none of those experiences prepared me for my 28-hour trip from my home in Lawrenceville to my hotel in Magnitogorsk. 
In that span, I switched modes of transportation 11 times, went through airport security three times and all the while only managed to drink two beers. Fail. 
In more detail: Drive to Pittsburgh International. Fly to JFK. Switch terminals. Check in again, go through security again. JFK to Moscow's SVO airport (I watched the latest Superman movie and got hooked on HBO's Game of Thrones and didn't get a minute of sleep). Train into Moscow's Belorussky station. Subway to Moscow's Kievsky station. Train to Moscow's VKO airport, where I went through security again. Frigid bus ride to the airplane on the tarmac. Flight to Magnitogorsk. Frigid bus ride to the terminal. Drive to hotel.
By the end of it, I looked a little bit like Bernie Lomax.
I couldn't keep my eyes open on the train to VKO or in the terminal at VKO, which made me a risk to make the flight. Luckily, having to walk outside to a bus in negative temperatures and then to the plane brought me back to life long enough to get to my seat and pass out for two hours.
I'll tell you this: The good people of Magnitogorsk don't bother with trying to convince you this isn't the coldest place on Earth. Some cities are able to use their airports to play tricks on you, like Detroit with its state of the art Delta terminal. In Magnitogorsk, they introduce you to the -20 degree temperatures as you walk off the plane and pile you into a bus that's basically a frozen can of sardines. People here are comfortable being in tight spaces together because, in this case, it provides warmth. 
My salvation thus far has been learning one phrase in Russian: "Do you speak English?" (pronounced Vwee Goh-va-reetza pa Ang-lais-ky?) While the answer has usually been "no" it has at least shown them that I'm sort of trying. After all, if they came to the U.S.A. and started talking in Russian, I would have no idea what they were saying, so at least I can make that effort to start the conversation in their language.
Upon arriving at the hotel, my host from the Magnitogorsk Metallurg hockey team, for which Evgeni Malkin played growing up and during last year's lockout, told me to make sure that my room had hot water because the place had issues with that in the past. The water was hot, but what was almost more important to me was having wireless internet, which my room did not. 
Thursday morning, I switched to a room with great wireless. Therefore, this blog entry. 
Oh, and this was rich: I wanted to go check the "Russia Best" blog out but was told upon clicking a link, "Your country (RU) has been blacklisted."
Apparently, the Post-Gazette is still fighting the Cold War, only against hackers.
Today, I'll get my first taste of Magnitogorsk. 

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Robert Morris and eight-man rotations

Written by Craig Meyer on .

A 6-0 start in NEC play has undoubtedly been impressive for Robert Morris, but as many of you know, the storyline revolves around how it has achieved that record. For the past two games, following the indefinite suspensions of four players, the Colonials have played with just eight players. They've also happened to win those two games.

As long as this the roster situation, which appears to be the case for the foreseeable future, the team will be viewed through this lens -- that is, as the resilient squad that is somehow winning games with just three players on the bench.

But just how unique and bizarre is this?

Before Saturday's win against Wagner, I was talking with SB Nation's Stephen Gertz about how distinct this eight-man rotation really was. Off the top of our respective heads, we didn't think it could have been all that different than how the team had done things this season. Obviously, the Robert Morris roster had 14 players on it when the season began, but for the most part, we thought it generally didn't give significant minutes to more than eight or nine players per game.

Based on that conversation, and with the Colonials still thriving despite their lack of numbers, I decided to delve into this issue a little bit more. I took a look at each of their games this season to see how many players entered the game and wanted to figure out what that could tell us about the team's current situation.

For the most relevant number possible, I did not include players who saw less than five minutes of court time as a member of the team's rotation, especially since RMU has been involved in a few blowouts this season. Here's what I found:

Game # of players in rotation
Savannah State  11
Lafayette 10
Eastern Michigan  10
Kentucky 10
Texas-Arlington 10
Cleveland State 10
Buffalo 10
Delaware 10
Youngstown State  10
Toledo 9
Duquesne 10
Campbell 9
Oakland 10
Oklahoma State 10
Alabama* 9
Sacred Heart 11
Bryant* 9
Saint Francis (PA) 10

Average: 9.89

* Game was played without Mike McFadden, who missed it because of injury.

As the table shows, Robert Morris used a 10-man rotation in 12 of its first 18 games this season, it has never had more than 11 players in its rotation and up until the past two games, it never had smaller than a nine-man rotation.

Though teams used bigger and smaller ones, a 10-man rotation almost feels like standard operating procedure, solely because it allows each player that starts to effectively have a back-up. That average number from the table is effectively two more than what Robert Morris has been using the past few games.

Two players may not seem like all that much -- and in reality it's not anything that's particularly debilitating -- but it effectively means that Robert Morris lost 20 percent of its team. When you look at who was lost between the suspensions and the absences, there is a promising and productive freshman forward (Jeremiah Worthem), the team's starting center (Mike McFadden) and someone who, while he was playing, was a useful piece off the bench (Desjuan Newton).

It's one thing to see rotation numbers, but what product of those changes is increased minutes for the remaining players. Here's are the minutes per game numbers for the eight remaining players both before and after Newton and McFadden left the team (for the time being):

Player Before After Difference
Karvel Anderson 28.9 31.7 +2.8
Lucky Jones 28.5 30.3 +1.8
Chuck Oliver 11.6 22.0 +10.4
Anthony Myers-Pate  25.1 28.7 +3.6
Kavon Stewart 16.3 22.7 +6.4
Stephan Hawkins 14.8 20.7 +5.9
Aaron Tate 16.5 22.0 +5.5
David Appolon* 10.6 12.7 +2.1

* A quick note on Appolon: since the eight-man rotation came into being, he's averaged 16.5 minutes per game the past two games, so his number in the table doesn't entirely reflect the increase in minutes he will see.

Even with the roster turnover, there's not a huge difference for guys like Anderson and Jones, the team's top two offensive players who were already playing around 30 minutes per game. If you talk to them, they say as much. Basically, and I'm paraphrasing here, "I was already getting a lot of minutes -- what are a few more?"

Where the impact is felt is further down the bench, namely for the guys who have a minutes per game difference of more than five in the above table -- Oliver, Stewart, Hawkins and Tate (it'd even be fair to include Appolon, too).

To me, this is where the season is going to be won or lost for Robert Morris. As much as guys like Anderson and Jones are used to the high number of minutes, these players are not and how they adjust to that change will be paramount. So far, the results are obviously promising -- a 2-0 record, with one of those wins coming against one of the top teams in the NEC (Wagner).

But can it continue? If you're looking for some kind of recent precedent on this matter, you don't have to look further than Bryant, the Colonials' opponent tonight.

Last season, the Bulldogs had only seven players who averaged more than six minutes per game and for a while, that worked perfectly fine. They started the season 16-6, a run which included a 9-2 mark in NEC play. But from there, they lost six of their next nine and didn't make it past the first round of the conference tournament.

Was that fall-off because of the team's lack of depth catching up to it? Possibly, but I didn't cover the team and wasn't close enough to the situation to really know if that was the case. But for a team like Robert Morris, that example can serve as something of a cautionary tale.

With only eight players for what looks like will be the remainder of the season, there are two things to keep in mind with this team and the way it's coached.

One is that Andy Toole is very conscientious of his players minutes and how to divvy them up. He has one of his assistant coaches keep tabs on it throughout the game and if you watch him on the sideline, he regularly checks with him about it.

The second is perhaps more critical -- and that is conditioning, which -- as far as I see it -- will not be an issue. The physical endurance of players is so essential when there are only three guys to turn to on the bench and I think the Colonials have that. Perhaps this is because I get to see them on a regular basis, but Toole's practices are tough. I mean really tough, especially when it comes to getting his players in shape. Even before practices officially begin, much of the offseason is spent on conditioning. When I asked players after the Wagner game if practices are almost harder than games, they laughed, nodded their heads and said "You've seen them."

What some may try to paint as a grand experiment is something being done out of necessity and, for now, that will have to suffice for Robert Morris. The early returns are certainly encouraging, but as many people know, the final verdict won't come until we see how this team performs over time in a sample size larger than two games.

At the very least, we know this -- there may not be a more interesting storyline to follow in the NEC for the rest of the season.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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