Best Source for Local Environmental News
Allegheny Front radio show
7 p.m. Wednesdays, WYEP 91.3 FM
Everybody talks about environmental issues these days, but week in and week out, nobody covers every angle like this long-running weekly show. Under executive producer Kathy Knauer, a typical half-hour broadcast might cover anything from the controversy over deep-well gas-drilling in Pennsylvania to the benefits of green roofs, problems with air pollution in schools and the rewards of backyard gardening. Nature appreciation, environmental legislation and even fishing are also in the mix. The recent departure of longtime host Matthew Craig notwithstanding, the show's sure to continue offering accessible, informative programming with a wide-angle perspective on the planet, and our corner of it.
Best current-events inspired ring-tone
The LRAD tone heard throughout the G-20 protests
If you were caught up in the G-20 protests in Lawrenceville and Oakland this past September, then you surely know what the LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) crowd-control device sounds like. And thanks to local artist T. Foley, there's no need to wait until the next people's uprising to hear it again. Inspired by a Daily Show joke about the summit, Foley turned the sound into a ring-tone as part of her Locally Toned art/original ring-tone creation project. The site features numerous Pittsburgh-related ring-tones: sounds of steel, area bands and phrases spoken by locals. But the LRAD tone is perfect if you want to clear out a room and talk in private: It's a cross between the Psycho shower scene noise and a smoke alarm.
Best sign that Pittsburgh is leaving 1957 behind forever
Allegheny County's anti-discrimination ordinance
OK, so it took about a year for this measure -- which outlaws discrimination against LGBT residents and creates a Human Relations Commission to police such acts -- to become law. But for Allegheny County, that's warp speed. Proposed in July 2008 by Democratic County Councilor Amanda Green, the measure passed the following summer (on a party-line vote). Early on, there were questions about whether County Executive Dan Onorato would sign it ... now he's touting the bill in his run for governor. (Never hurts to burnish those progressive credentials when you're introducing yourself to voters in Philly.) Lots of fundamentalist types objected to the ordinance, of course. But no fire and brimstone so far.
Best triumphalist "City of Champions" T-shirt, 2009 edition
"On ice or grass, we'll kick your ass"
Is there any phrase in the English language that more accurately captures Pittsburgh's spirit? While many football and hockey shirts sprang up after their respective wins, none so masterfully celebrates the Steelers' six victories and the Penguins' three triumphs. There are several designs floating around area stores, but don't fall for the more ambiguously violent slogan, "Pittsburgh: We'll kick your ass." Only this shirt artistically displays the word "ice" in blue and "grass" in green. We already had the Lombardi Trophy and the Stanley Cup. This time, we also got a shirt with a cuss word on it.
Best local innovation in mass transit
Rolled out this past winter, RouteShout freed bus riders from the nuisance of having to tote around bus schedules ... or the aggravation of wondering why nobody has taped one up to the bus shelter. The technology, which Pittsburgh tech firm DeepLocal is shopping to other transit agencies, allows you to get a roster of bus routes serving your stop, as well as upcoming scheduled arrival times. Riders need merely text a message (posted on orange signs displayed at participating bus stops) to get the information they need. Which spares you the need to call customer service -- a good thing for all concerned. Impressive: Perhaps the next innovation could be a system that automatically e-mails an apology when the bus pulls away even though you were standing right there.
Best G-20 activist
The bloody PETA seal guy
During the G-20 protests in September, there were few sights more stirring than watching an animal-rights activist writhing on the ground in a furry, blood-stained seal costume. Everywhere he turned up -- and he turned up everywhere -- this PETA activist reminded us that even in police-state Pittsburgh, activism wasn't dead ... just withering from pepper spray and the ear-piercing screeches of crowd-control devices. If you lost wages by staying home during the G-20, fear not: City Paper video taped the protester as he pantomimed his own bludgeoning in Lawrenceville. Watch his moving re-enactment -- as police order crowds to disperse, and anarchists flee -- at video.pghcitypaper.com/153media.html.