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Want a 'Lord of the Rings'-style map of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh?

PA resident Stentor Danielson creates super-cool maps of major American cities -- including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- in the style of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien.

In addition to his de riguer Etsy store, a seeming must for endeavors of this nature, Danielson also maintains a densely-illustrated Tumblr called Mapsburgh, where he showcases his own work as well as that of other fantasy-minded artists and creators of odd, impractical things. There, brave travelers will get some brief, telling glimpses into the mapmaker’s creative process, which seems to exist at the nexus of fandom and fetishism. A specifically-cited source of inspiration for Danielson, for instance, is this map of Middle Earth from the Ballatine paperback edition of Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings.

A faculty member at Pennsylvania’s Slippery Rock University, Danielson works with pen and ink and, on occasion, cut paper to create his otherworldly "cartographic art" of quite-worldly places like Boston and Washington, D.C. The artist, who describes his work as "delicate" (read: alarmingly fragile), also takes requests.


Original source: The A.V. Club
Read the complete story here; and click here for Danielson's Etsy store.

Study to look at impact of wind farms in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania General Assembly's nonpartisan research organization will author a report on the impact of wind farms on the state. Can this renewable energy source work for PA?

Legislators instructed the commission to cover certain basic details, including who owns wind turbines in Pennsylvania, how many there are, which agencies oversee them and how they are regulated.

The report also must include touchier subjects, like comparisons between wind and other energy sources — such as coal, oil, gas and nuclear — in terms of government subsidies and environmental impacts on wildlife and the landscape. It must address wind turbines’ effect on the electric grid and wind energy’s progress in relation to the state’s mandated minimum share of alternative energy in electricity sales.


Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Read the complete story here.

Philly physicist, Allentown saxophonist and Pittsburgh poet among this year's MacArthur 'geniuses'

Danielle S. Bassett, a 32-year-old physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, is the youngest recipient of a 2014 MacArthur Genius Grant. Pennsylvania had a strong showing overall: other winners include Steve Coleman, 57, a composer and alto saxophonist in Allentown, and Terrance Hayes, 42, a poet and professor at University of Pittsburgh who won a National Book Award for his collection Lighthead.

The fellowships, based on achievement and potential, come with a stipend of $625,000 over five years and are among the most prestigious prizes for artists, scholars and professionals...

The oldest fellow this year is Pamela O. Long, 71, a historian of science and technology in Washington, whose work explores connections between the arts and science. The youngest is Danielle S. Bassett, 32, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, who analyzes neuron interactions in the brain as people perform various tasks. She seeks to determine how different parts of the brain communicate and how that communication changes with learning or in the aftermath of a brain injury or disease.

When she received the call informing her of the no-strings-attached windfall, Ms. Bassett recalled being stunned into silence.

“Halfway through, I said, ‘Are you absolutely sure you got the right person?’ ” Ms. Bassett said in a telephone interview. “Then they read my bio to me. It’s an unexpected honor and sort of validation.”


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Uber presents testimony in front of Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission judges

Uber continues to make its case in Pennsylvania, arguing for a permanent place on the transportation landscape.

During a hearing in Pittsburgh on Monday, the local attorney for Uber instructed a witness not to answer questions about the number of rides the company has provided while under a cease-and-desist order, despite a court order compelling the company to reveal the information.

It was the most contentious point of the daylong hearing, which allowed Uber to present testimony before Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission administrative law judges. Under consideration is Uber’s application to begin permanent, experimental service in Allegheny County and other points in Pennsylvania. The application was met with protests by several dozen taxi companies, including Ambridge-based JB Taxi...

To comply with the emergency temporary authority, the ride-sharing companies were required to show their insurance policies provide primary coverage when drivers are conducting ride-sharing business, and that the policies meet PUC standards. The PUC issued a certificate of public convenience good for 60 days to Lyft last week. Uber’s temporary application is pending review of documents submitted, according to a PUC spokeswoman
.

Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Read the complete story here.

Pennsylvania Food & Wine Festival set for this weekend

Pennsylvania Food & Wine Festival at the Monroeville Convention Center will showcase the state's top producers.

Sure, you can buy wine from all around the world, but the 15 wineries participating in a festival this week want to show folks what's being made right here in Pennsylvania.

The second annual Pennsylvania Wine & Food Festival, set for June 14 at the Monroeville Convention Center, will feature more than 60 exhibitors, including 15 wineries from Western and Central Pennsylvania and other parts of the state.

“We look forward to this event,” says Tina West, co-owner of Allegheny Cellars Winery in Sheffield, Warren County. The winery makes red, white, blush and fruit wines and is bringing eight kinds of wine for visitors to taste.

“I think it educates the people in Pennsylvania about Pennsylvania wines and the different types of grapes that we grow here, as opposed to California,” West says.

At the festival's entrance, visitors will be given a 2-ounce wine glass, which they can take from booth to booth to get unlimited samples from 150 wines. If they make a purchase, they can pick up the bottle or case on the way out or drink it at the festival along with any food they buy. The food vendors, largely local, offer items including homemade dips, cheeses, meats, cookies and fudge.


Original source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Read the complete story here.

Pushing BRT in bustling urban centers, including Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system has been a huge success -- but there is still a battle over its integration into Downtown.

Space is the biggest battle, says Weinstock, but the problem is largely illusory. In technical terms, any street 40-feet wide can handle BRT. Drivers and businesses often fear the loss of traffic lanes or parking and delivery areas, but traffic patterns and customers tend to find a way of rerouting themselves — as they did when New York repurposed hundreds of miles of city streets during the Bloomberg administration (albeit for bikes and pedestrians).

More often, says Weinstock, the challenge is political will masquerading as street space. "People like to say there's no space," she says. "It's more that there's not the political will to take the space that exists."

Take the case of the East Busway — a dedicated BRT highway in metro Pittsburgh. The busway has done loads of good for the city: it's stimulated hundreds of millions of dollars in development and contributed to the 38 percent of city commuters who reach downtown by bus. ITDP recently gave it a bronze BRT rating.

But the East Busway loses a lot of its impact when it enters mixed traffic downtown. Bus traffic is so bad within the city center, with riders crowding sidewalks, that businesses have urged local officials to eliminate buses from entering the downtown area at all. Weinstock say the problem could be avoided by running true BRT downtown, because the buses would be organized in an attractive and efficient way.


Original source: The Atlantic's CityLab
Read the complete story here.

Slate dubs PA 'the most linguistically rich state in the country'

A writer for Slate investigates our state's status as a "regional dialect hotbed nonpareil."
 
A typical state maintains two or three distinct, comprehensive dialects within its borders. Pennsylvania boasts five, each consisting of unique pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar elements. Of course, three of the five kind of get the shaft—sorry Erie, and no offense, Pennsylvania Dutch Country—because by far the most widely recognized Pennsylvania regional dialects are those associated with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The Philadelphia dialect features a focused avoidance of the “th” sound, the swallowing of the L in lots of words, and wooder instead of water, among a zillion other things. In Pittsburgh, it’s dahntahn for downtown, and words like nebby and jagoff and yinz. But, really, attempting to describe zany regional dialects using written words is a fool’s errand. To get some sense of how Philadelphians talk, check out this crash course clip created by Sean Monahan, who was raised in Bucks County speaking with a heavy Philly accent. Then hit the “click below” buttons on the website for these Yappin’ Yinzers dolls to get the Pittsburgh side of things, and watch this Kroll Show clip to experience a Pennsylvania dialect duel.

Original source: Slate
Read the complete story here.

Huffington Post thanks Pittsburgh for 'Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made'

Huffington Post writer Julie R. Thompson fell hard for the burnt almond torte from Prantl's Bakery.

No cake made in any of the five boroughs of New York holds a candle to Prantl's amazing burnt almond torte. It is probably the BEST cake America has to offer...

To say that the burnt almond torte is light and airy doesn't even begin to describe the texture of this cake. It is beyond that. This cake is so airy it tastes like the idea of a cake, one that can only be tasted in the best of dreams.

Only it does exist in real life -- in Pittsburgh, PA, to be exact-- and it is frosted with the lightest of buttercreams (of course) and then dressed in candied toasted almonds. The contrast of the sugared almond slivers and the cloud-like cake is EVERYTHING. Oh, and did we mention the thin layer of custard in the middle and the large flakes of sugar on top? This is the kind of cake that will have you belly up to the kitchen counter, forgoing the civility of plates and diving in fingers first.

When Bon Appetit named Pittsburgh the best new food city of 2014, they couldn't have been more right. Only it's not because of the surge of hot new restaurants opening up. No, it's because cakes like this are made there -- and it's time people know about them. If a trip to Pittsburgh is not in the near future, you can still get your hands on this cake because, lucky for you, they deliver.

 
Original source: The Huffington Post
Read the complete story here.

Live-streaming Pittsburgh's bald eagles

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is now live streaming an eagles nest in Pittsburgh. 

Only 30 years ago, Pennsylvania had a mere three bald eagle nests left in the entire state. Today, Pennsylvania boasts more than 250 nests including this one near Pittsburgh. Click here to view a 20-minute documentary about bald eagle restoration in Pennsylvania and learn bald eagle fast facts, identification tips, nest viewing etiquette and more.

This camera provides a way for us to view the nest without stressing the birds. Federal mandates prohibit anyone from approaching within 660 feet of any bald eagle nest from January 15 until young eagles fledge. It is important to note that nature includes all creatures not just the eagles and eggs showcased through this camera. The Game Commission's mission is to manage Pennsylvania's wild birds, mammals and their habitats for current and future generations. Although we hope to watch three young eagles fledge from this nest, we advocate for all native wildlife and therefore will not take measures to prevent another animal (such as the raccoon that made an attempt at the eggs) from conducting its natural behavior. Despite predation and other nest failures, the bald eagle population is increasing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent each year.


Check out the livestream here.
Via ABC 27

PA restaurants make OpenTable's 'Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants' list

Three PA eateries made OpenTable's list of the country's "Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants."

The Butcher and the Rye, a Pittsburgh restaurant owned by Richard DeShantz, has made  a list of 100 hippest restaurants in the United States as picked by users of OpenTable reservation and review website.

Butcher and the Rye is the only restaurant in Pittsburgh and one of only three in Pennsylvania to receive the OpenTable 2014 Diners' Choice Award. The others in Pennsylvania are Cafe Fresco in Harrisburg and El Vez in Philadelphia.

The Butcher and the Rye opened in the fall of 2013 at 212 6th St. in downtown Pittsburgh. The restaurant is on the site of another former restaurant, Palate. It is owned by DeShantz, who also owns the downtown restaurant Meat and Potatoes. It features contempory American cuisine and was recently awarded a Yahoo Travel list  as one of the best new bars in the U.S.


Original source: Pittsburgh Business Times
Read the complete list here.

Nation's 10 most hellish hills for cyclists includes two Pittsburgh streets

"Top 10 U.S. Steepest Streets" calls out Pittsburgh's brutal Canton Avenue. It clicks in at 37 percent gradient. 

Any cyclists out there want to take on what Lance Armstrong has deemed the "steepest climb I've ever seen on a bike"?

Then buy a ticket to for Hawaii and pedal to Waipio Valley Road, a short but tortuous climb of 800 feet in six-tenths of a mile. With sections slanted at a 45-degree percent 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. As Armstrong said: "You know it's steep when the people walking down are walking backward."

This fearsome cliff road gets top billing on "Top 10 U.S. Steepest Streets," a ranking of terrible hills for cyclists created by Fixr and recently featured at Urban Velo. The run-down contains some challenging claims for folks who think America's worst hills are located in San Francisco or perhaps the Rockies. The second-slantiest street, for instance, is said to be Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh. It is the "steepest public street in the United States," writes Fixr, "only second steepest in the Guinness Book of Records because of a mistake in calculations (1st is Baldwin St. New Zealand, thought to have been 38% but is actually 35%)."


Number eight in is the Steel City, too.

Source: The Atlantic Cities
Check it out here

A&E sets its latest drama, 'Those Who Kill,' in Pittsburgh

'Those Who Kill,' a new series on A&E, is shot and set in Pittsburgh.

The 10-part serial was adapted from a Danish TV show, and stars Chloe Sevigny as newish police detective Catherine Jensen, and James D'Arcy as a forensic psychologist.

Episode 1 was very pilot-like, with a self-contained serial-killer story (that guy was easier to catch than a cold!), and some clunky set-up establishing the characters, their relationships to one another, and the likelihood that everybody is brooding over their own secrets.

In many ways, this first episode was a checklist of Cop-Show Tropes (COP) intercut with Filmed in Pittsburgh markers (PGH), as noted below.

So, is the show worth watching? Sure. It's fun seeing our town on TV, and the main story hasn't even unfolded yet. Seek out the first episode online or on demand, or just jump right in after absorbing these predictable aspects, listed as they played out.


Original source: Pittsburgh City Paper
Read the complete story here.

Rule change could be in the works for the state's distilleries

A potential rule change could make life easier for the state's growing stable of small distilleries.

Pennsylvania's small distilleries, four of which operate in the Pittsburgh area, could soon be shipping directly to at-home customers thanks to a rule change being considered by the state.

The state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which reviews and recommends nonlegislative policy changes, and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board have been vetting a proposed rule that would "permit licensed limited distilleries and distilleries to deliver their products directly to consumers [and] retail licensees, [similar] to licensed limited wineries."

The proposed policy change originates out of Act 113 of 2011, which was passed in order to give the state's small distilleries "the same privileges enjoyed by licensed limited wineries."

At a meeting set for Feb. 27, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission will have the opportunity to affirm the new regulations based on feedback received from the Liquor Control Board last month. If the commission approves the final version, the new rules would be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General for review and approval, a process that could take up to 30 days.


Original source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Read the complete story here.

POLITICO Magazine explores the reinvention of Pittsburgh

POLITICO Magazine takes a deep dive into Pittsburgh with a cover package on its rebirth. The lead feature is titled, "The Robots That Saved Pittsburgh":

“Roboburgh,” the boosterish moniker conferred on the city by the Wall Street Journal in 1999 and cited endlessly in Pittsburgh’s marketing materials ever since, may have been premature back then, but it isn’t now: Pittsburgh, after decades of trying to remake itself, today really does have a new economy, rooted in the city’s rapidly growing robotic, artificial intelligence, health technology, advanced manufacturing and software industries. It’s growing in population for the first time since the 1950s, and now features regularly in lists like “the Hottest Cities of the Future” and “Best Cities for Working Mothers.”

“The city is sort of in a sweet spot,” says Sanjiv Singh, a Whittaker acolyte at Carnegie Mellon who is working on the first-of-its-kind pilotless medical evacuation helicopter for the Marines. “It has the critical mass of talent you need, it’s still pretty affordable and it has corporate memory—the people here still remember when the place was an industrial powerhouse.”


Original source: POLITICO Magazine
Read the complete stories here.

PA wind and snow create rare 'snow roller' phenomenon

All the recent horrid weather has had one exciting side effect: the creation of beautiful "snow rollers" in Western PA.

According to the National Weather Service, a snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally when chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind.

The shapes are often hollow, and the conditions need to be precisely right for them to form, according to the weather service. For example, wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not so strong they're blown too fast.
Weather service records from various states note that snow rollers can be as small as a golf ball or as large as a 30 gallon drum, but typically average 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

The area where the phenomenon was spotted Monday is about 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Some residents said the shapes resembled bowling balls, while Charles Keith of Franklin described "500 Tootsie Roll-like" forms in an empty field nearby.


Original source: Christian Science Monitor
Read the complete story (and check out the pictures) here.
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