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There is No Place Like Home…

The yellow metal suspension bridge out our window spanning the Allegheny River from the North Shore to downtown Pittsburgh is named after the environmentalist Rachel Carson. She was the scientist who found the link between the pesticide DDT and the decline in the populations of birds of prey. Her book, Silent Spring, details her research not only about the harmful effects of the pesticides but the chemical industry’s concerted effort to hide and obfuscate the truth. The impactful tome was published in 1962.  A national conversation began and it led to the banning of the use of DDT in agriculture. The movement Carson started led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Rachel Carson Bridge, Pittsburgh

Rachel Carson Bridge, Pittsburgh

The modern environmental movement created the first Earth Day in 1970 to draw attention to the fragile balance between man and nature. Next came the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, in the past 15 months the EPA itself has removed mentions of climate change and other environmental issues from its website.

A way to remind the EPA and the world that the Earth is worth sacrificing for is by taking a moment to celebrate Earth Day this Sunday. The Earth Day Network is promoting a call to action of five things we all can do to help our planet and ourselves. The simple acts can help us slow plastic pollution, plant trees and other greens, reduce meat consumption and mitigate our carbon footprints. If you have trouble putting in perspective why we need to help our planet just remember it’s the only home we’ve ever known and as every homeowner knows it takes time and sacrifice to keep it in good enough condition to pass it along to the next generation.





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Gateway Clipper

We took the time this past Saturday to do another one of those things in Pittsburgh we keep saying we’re going to do but haven’t done yet, going for a sail on the Gateway Clipper Fleet. We see the large riverboats steam past us out our window almost every day, especially once the weather gets nice. The warm weather this weekend and the long winter of being restricted to indoor activity was just the motivation we needed to explore this unique opportunity to get to know the city better.

The Gateway Clipper Fleet is a fleet of six riverboats based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original Gateway Clipper River boat set sail in 1959. The fleet of six large river boats designed to resemble 19th century paddle boats are moored at Station Square south of the city on the banks of the Monongahela River. We opted for the classic tour with live narration.  We sat on the top deck soaking in the sights and the sun as the narrator pointed out the highlights of the city such as significant buildings, landmarks, bridges, and the historical significance of the three rivers we sailed on, the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio.

You can also take in some other tours they offer on different sails, like How “Pittsbourgh” became “Pittsburgh!” that focuses on the region’s role in the French & Indian War, the Whiskey Rebellion and the Civil War and how it became a world leader in glass, iron, and synonymous for steel. If you want a little lighter topic the Fun, Interesting & (even a little) Strange Pittsburgh tour focuses on some of the world records the city holds, some of the inventions created in the city, and apparently a tale about a B-52 bomber that may (or may not) be sunk in the river.

Point Park and Pittsburgh viewed from the Ohio River

If the weather is nice it’s not a bad way to spend a couple of hours and learn something about the region.

2018 Schedule:

Spring: April and May – Sailing Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays

Summer: June, July, August and September – Sailing Daily

Fall: October – Sailing Daily

Winter: November and December – Sailing Saturdays and Sundays

Tickets: Adult $22, Child $12

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Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping (Julian Calendar Problems)

Christos Anesti (Christ Has Risen) is the traditional Easter greeting in the Greek Orthodox Church. You may wonder why are we writing about Easter a week late, but we aren’t — at least for the Orthodox Christians in the world who use the Julian calendar for the dates of all their holy days. What is the Julian calendar? Click the video and listen to the hypnotic Easter chant, said many times during the midnight services and brush up on your knowledge of horology (the study of measurements of time).

The Julian calendar, proposed by — you guessed it, Julius Caesar — was a reform of the Roman calendar. The Roman calendar consisted of 10 months beginning in spring with March; winter was left as an unassigned span of days. These months ran for 38 nundinal cycles, roughly an eight-day week ended by religious rituals and a public market. The Julian calendar took effect on 1 January 45 BC. It was the predominant calendar for the western world until it was refined and gradually replaced by the Gregorian calendar, the one we use today.

The Julian calendar gains against the mean tropical, or the time that the sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons at the rate of one day in 128 years. The Gregorian calendar it shifts one day in 3,030 years. The difference in the average length of the year between Julian (365.25 days) and Gregorian (365.2425 days) is 0.002%. You could think of it like a mechanical watch that loses a minute each year so that in 60 years, the watch is an hour behind. The Gregorian calendar makes adjustments along the way; the Julian doesn’t.

I know that is a bit confusing. The Julian calendar has a 365-day year divided into 12 months. The calendar adds a leap day to February every four years. So the Julian year is 365.25 days long. When you add all this up the calendar adds three days every four centuries relative to the astronomical equinox. This discrepancy was corrected by the Gregorian reform in 1582; they attempted to compensate for the time slippage. The Gregorian calendar has the same months and month lengths as the Julian calendar, but, in the Gregorian calendar, years evenly divisible by 100 are not leap years unless they are evenly divisible by 400. The result of this is as of February 16, 1900 on the Julian calendar and March 1, 1900 on the Gregorian calendar, the Julian calendar is 13 days behind. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which the Greek Orthodox Church is a part of still uses the Julian calendar for calculating the date of Easter. So the date differs from year to year, sometimes matching up with the Western Church. A good way to remember is that in the Orthodox Church Easter is always after Passover.

The most important thing about all of this is to remember that children that have a parent from the Eastern Church and the Western Church on years when Easter is on different dates, should expect two Easter baskets and twice the candy.



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My Kind of Camping

The year was 1993 and my parents gave me a choice: I could go to Space Camp or the whole family could go on a cross-country camping trip to California and back.

Not much of a choice, really. When you’re a good kid, as I was, you end up volunteering to test your family bonds for weeks of travel in a minivan. You let the idea of Space Camp, which you’ve dreamt of attending since you were eight years old, go.

Fast forward a little more than a decade and you’ve become an adult, you have a job, you’ve found the love of your life and get a new job in the big city. The world is looking pretty good and you’re content. You then find out that your betrothed is going to Space Camp for work. You then become more jealous than you’ve ever been since you were a child.

Amanda in her NASA flight suit

Amanda wears her NASA flight suit at pretty much every opportunity.

Jump forward another decade and you realize you’re closer to retirement than you were to being eight. You’re thinking about summer vacation plans when you see a tweet track by in your Twitter stream and it’s someone talking about Adult Space Camp. You immediately forward that tweet to your nerd of a wife and suggest going. She says yes. You are so happy you find yourself dancing like Snoopy when you tell your boss you’re going.

I guess the whole point of this somewhat rambling post is that I will finally be living a childhood dream this summer. (Amanda notes this is becoming a theme; we fulfilled my dream of learning to sail this past November.) We will have much more information about the trip as the the date gets closer.

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Errant Comma at 1K +

The Errant (Fiat Shown For Scale)

I received some amazing news from my sister and her husband this week. The YouTube channel they started to document work on their sailboat, Errant Comma, has gained more than 1,000 subscribers. We’ve mentioned before (in the post titled The Fulfillment of a Childhood Dream) that Amanda and I along with my sister Andi and her husband Matt bought a sailboat together. The boat was then dubbed “Errant” — as in a a wandering knight due to Matt’s love of medieval history. Andi, being a dork, decided to name the dingy “Comma” so together they read “Errant Comma.” Amanda and I moved for work shortly after we got the boat, so Matt and Andi have been handling the refit in a dry dock we constructed in my parents’ pasture.

The two have been documenting the long (and we mean l-o-n-g) process of gutting the boat down to its hull and rebuilding it from the inside out. The videos they’ve done so far have focused on things like gutting of the boat, restoring the toe rails, installing new bulkheads, and replacing the core-balsa and plywood.

I’m absolutely amazed at the 7,100 views they got on that one about replacing the core-balsa. I’m also extremely proud of their diligence in this project. The two are both working full-time jobs and yet have found time to continue the project. You aren’t really watching a pair of polished sailing and engineering pros, either. Matt is an IT guy and Andi is a American Sign Language interpreter and Paraeducator. The two of them are learning as they go and sharing what they learn along the way.

If you like watching a DIY project or love boats and want to learn more about how they are repaired and constructed, you should check Errant Comma out.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the museum and monument to the men and women of the NFL. The museum opened in 1963 enshrines players, coaches, franchise owners and front-office personnel for their exceptional contributions to the league. The HOF is located in Canton, Ohio. Why Canton, you ask? The American Professional Football Association, later to be known as the NFL, was founded in Canton in 1920. The other reason, the Canton Bulldogs were a successful team in the early years of the league. In 1921–1923, the Bulldogs played 25 straight games without a defeat (including 3 ties), which as of 2018 remains an NFL record. The team was then moved to Cleveland where it was eventually dismantled after the owner couldn’t find another buyer.

Football Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame sees 200,000 visitors annually and brings in roughly 18-20 million in revenue much of which goes into its festivals, the museum and a massive expansion project called the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village.

“It will be the first-ever sports and entertainment ‘Smart City.’ Ten major components will be integrated through technology to subtlety and seamlessly share the values from the game – commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence – with guests in a way that will impact their lives.” according to the HOF website.

From our current home base in Pittsburgh, the Hall is less than two hours away; it was an easy day trip even through the snow flurries. As lifelong Washington Redskins fans, we were most excited to see the memorabilia from the team’s better days in the 1990s. We spotted an Art Monk trading card, Robert Griffin III’s grass-stained jersey from a game against Cleveland where he broke a record for rushing, and Jordan Reed’s jersey from the game where he became the fastest tight end to complete 200 catches. We were on the lookout for Zeke’s grandfather’s marching band uniform — it’s at the Hall but was not on display during our visit.

Another highlight of any visit to the Hall is the Hall of Fame Gallery, which is where the busts of every inductee are displayed.

HOF Class of 2008

The HOF class of 2008 included Redskins’ greats Art Monk (top) and Darrell Green (bottom left).

Amanda was quick to move down the line to spot her favorite Hall of Fame members: Art Monk and Darrell Green. Green even responded to her tweet about our visit.

Tickets to the Hall range from $18 for children to $21 for seniors and $25 for adults. There is also a $10 parking fee.

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Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh

The legacy of 19th century steel baron Andrew Carnegie isn’t in the business he built, it’s what he built with his business.  Carnegie was a believer in concept of the self-made man, like himself, and believed the masses would need access to education and cultural enrichment to fully realize their potential. He went about sponsoring many philanthropic works including 2,509 Carnegie libraries. Some of the libraries had an event space attached, the most ornate and grandiose of those spaces are sister music halls in New York and Pittsburgh.

The Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh, was built in 1895 and is a grand example of the guilded age with gold leaf, marble, and frescos. The 1,928 seats in the theater are built from mahogany and covered with crimson velvet cushions. We learned that they also have wire cages under the seats where gentlemen once stored their top hats.

The acoustics are excellent. We recently visited to hear former Vice President Joe Biden speak and think even without the microphone he could have been heard loud and clear. If you have the chance to visit the hall, take it.  You’ll be impressed with the design and wonder why they don’t build buildings this beautiful anymore.