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Friday, May 31, 2013

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 4:59 PM

State Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Brookline, will hold her first Spring Open House tomorrow at her Brookline office.

Members of the public are invited to attend the event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sat. June 1, at 900 Brookline Blvd. Attendees can learn if they have any unclaimed property held by the state Treasury, are eligible for CareerLink or qualify for other state programs.

Here's the schedule sent out by Molchany's office this afternoon:

• 10 a.m. — Senior Services Seminar with coffee & doughnuts
• 11:30 a.m. — Job-seekers’ session
• Noon — Grilling with Rep. Molchany
• 1 p.m. — Safe Communities Seminar for families and kids
• 3 p.m. — Ice cream and closing remarks

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Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 4:02 PM


Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald today announced the selection of Dr. Karen A. Hacker as the new director of the Allegheny Health Department.

Hacker is currently the senior medical director for public and community health for the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Mass. She is also the Chief Medical Officer at the Cambridge Public Health Department and Executive Director of the Institute for Community Health. She holds degrees from Northwestern University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Medical Health.

She will take her post with Allegheny County in September with a salary of $195,000. The Heinz Endowments will pay $50,000 of that amount.

Hacker was chosen unanimously by a search committee co-chaired by Dr. Edie Shapira, a member of the county Board of Health, and Grant Oliphant, CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation.

Hacker's background "reflects a strong community-based focus on health issues," Fitzgerald said "which is something we were very much looking for."

"We think Dr. Hacker is going to do a fantastic job leading the department into a new generation," he said.

The former health department director, Bruce Dixon, was fired by the Board of Health in March 2012 at the behest of Fitzgerald. Dr. Ron Voorhees has been leading the department in the interim. Fitzgerald said Voorhees had been under consideration for the post but withdrew his candidacy. He remains on the staff.

Search committee members and Fitzgerald praised Hacker's academic and medical credentials, and her background in community and public health. "I can see her walking the streets of our communities and interacting" with the people, said Peg McCormick Barron, a member of the search team. "That will bode well for the Department of Health and the community."

Facing less-than-grueling inquiries from reporters -- who seemed most interested in who she'd be rooting for in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- Hacker said her priorities are to get to know the Department and its staff then "set a realistic agenda." (She also confessed she'd be rooting for the Bruins.)

Hacker says she plans to engage the community to develop policies, while addressing air and water quality, gun violence, infant mortality and barriers to healthcare, among others.

"We've got to revitalize the health department and lead it into the future," she said.

The Board of Health still has to vote on the move, and the county will also have to submit her hiring to the state Board of Health. The county Board of Health next meets at 12:30 p.m. Wed., July 10, in the first floor Conference Room, Building 7, Clack Health Center, 39th Street and Penn Avenue, Lawrenceville.

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 2:00 PM

CMUs Dr. Verstynen, neuroscience professor and zombie expert
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • CMU's Dr. Verstynen, neuroscience professor and zombie expert
On Monday, Carnegie Science Center puts the "science" in science fiction with a talk titled, “The Living Dead Brain: What Human Brains Teach us about Zombie Minds."

The Center’s Café Scientifique will open its doors to sci-fi geeks, neuroscience nerds and anyone else who has ever wondered, “Should I be preparing for a Zombie apocalypse?” The speaker is Dr. Timothy Verstynen, assistant professor in psychology and neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University.

This discussion might leave participants weighing the nuances of that eternal question: Does sci-fi imitate science, or does science imitate sci-fi? That's because the traits that make zombies so iconic —their stiff lumbering stride, their inability to talk or experience pain — actually have some root in the scientific realm.

For Night of the Living Dead -heads, it’s that elusive quality that makes zombies so clumsily terrifying. For modern neuroscientists, these features can be explained as the result of a surreal convergence of neurological impairments.

This talk is hosted by the Science Center’s Café Scientifique, a program that calls in experts to give free anti-lectures where jargon is shunned and questions are encouraged. The Café Sci website asks participants to register by May 30, but walk-ins won’t be turned away. The talk starts at 7 p.m. and dinner items will be sold for attendees whose appetites are awakened by talk of the undead.

The Carnegie Science Center is Located at 1 Allegheny Avenue on the North Shore. For more information call 412-237-3400 or check out

  • Carnegie Mellon University

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Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 1:19 PM

JEFF the Brotherhood seems to have amassed a large Pittsburgh following in the years since I first saw them on tour with Pentagram several years ago. Last year’s Thanksgiving show at Howlers was a total party, and those who packed Brillobox last Friday night seemed primed for something similar.

First, there was local three piece Chrome Moses, who offered some well-executed, fully rockin’ garage-blues, and brought to mind Kings of Leon circa 2003. Admittedly, comparing anyone to Kings of Leon is kind of loaded, and potentially a little backhanded, but in this case it wasn’t a bad thing.

Next came Hunters, from Brooklyn, who — because one of their t-shirts featured photo of Kelly Bundy — won me over a little bit before they’d even started. My plus-one was less enthused, describing them as “young, with haircuts.” They did have nice haircuts, it’s true. And the singer’s cotton candy-colored locks were pretty much all I could see of her, because she almost never stopped moving, showing a level of energy to rival any sugar-high 5 year old. Can’t say Hunters blew my mind, but they did their thing, and did it well, and in their best moments reminded me of both the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Live Through This —era Hole. Not bad at all.

JEFF took the stage after a long sound check — “Ten hours” by guitarist Jake Orrall’s estimation. They played half the set as a two-piece, and adding a guitarist and a keyboardist (I think? As a short person, I often fantasize about having a periscope at crowded shows) for the second half. When I’m not actually listening to JEFF the Brotherhood, I think of them as a band that plays succinct and catchy garage rock, and I forget that — as song titles like Heavy Krishna and Heavy Days suggest — they owe as much to Deep Purple as they do to the Ramones. They can also jam out, and did so, quite a bit. It was a strong set, even if it lacked some of the spontaneous exuberance of their Howler’s show. That night had obviously proved memorable for them, too. “We always have fun in Pittsburgh,” Jake said, noting Thanksgiving as a prime example.“Cheers to anyone who was at that show.”

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Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 12:15 PM


Tiny dogs wearing skull sweaters, sitting in shop windows

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 10:00 AM

And we don’t mean the general election.

No, as he told City Paper in an interview after winning last week’s primary, “I’m a pretty funny guy.”

Peduto can prove it tomorrow night when he’s a guest on the John McIntire Dangerously Live Comedy Talk Show.

I dunno — are we ready for a mayor who, you know, appears in public? Might take some getting used to.

The show’s theme is Dogs and Cats Living Together — Mass Hysteria, referencing “Obama accused of being Nixon. Kidnappings in Cleveland” and such.

Comedian McIntire and Gab Bonesso host. Other guests include two accredited funnymen from the Post-Gazette, cartoonist Rob Rogers and columnist (and standup comic) Gene Collier.

The long-running show starts at 10:15 p.m. in Downtown’s Cabaret at Theatre Square, 655 Penn Ave. Tickets are $5 (or free with a stub from an earlier Cultural District show).

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Curious about what being a backyard chicken farmer might be like?

A group of volunteer chicken farmers -- who, in their words, "seek to promote the joy of chickens and the freedom to design and build small structures within the city without permit requirements" -- are offering a one-day, self-guided tour of coops on the North Side and East End Sunday, June 9.

(Permits are required in the city of Pittsburgh. City zoning regulations allow a backyard farmer to house up to three chickens on a minimum lot size of 2,000 square feet. An additional chicken is allowed for each additional 1,000 square feet. More info here.)

The tour lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is in its third year. Urban chicken farmers will be at each location to talk about the effort and answer questions. According to the information sent by the group, "there will also be opportunities to photograph and get to know the chickens up close and personal."

Tickets are $10. Proceeds benefit Just Harvest. Ticket locations on the day of the tour are:

* Quiet Storm, 5430 Penn Ave. in Friendship
* Tazza D'Oro at 1125 North Highland Ave. in Highland Park
* Animal Nature at 7610 Forbes Ave. in Regent Square
* Thompson 0.08 Acres (residential location) at 1240 Resaca Place in the Mexican War Streets
* Choderwood at 7665 Lock Way West, at the Highland Park Dam at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Allegheny River Boulevard.

A guided East End bike tour is also available at 9:15 a.m. starting at Animal Nature in Regent Square.

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM

State Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat from southwestern Pennsylvania, has long been a foe of the Marcellus Shale gas-drilling industry. But he may be as prone to dangerous flare-ups as a shoddily constructed gas well.

Last night, KDKA-TV's Andy Sheehan reported that White may have been was (see below) criticizing gas-industry supporters under cover of online aliases. Among those targeted by the online attacks, Sheehan reported, is Janice Gibbs, a seemingly sweet-natured grandmother who lives in White's own district. Gibbs voiced support for drilling on local online forums, and was attacked by other users as a "classic uneducated yinzer" and a "puppet" for drilling companies.

Gibbs tells KDKA she thought White, who'd responded to her using his official account, might be behind the anonymous criticism as well. And Sheehan reports that the same online aliases were used to post critical comments on a website operated by Energy in Depth -- an industry PR group. EID, it seems, traced the IP address back to a computer linked to White's state e-mail account.

Doing some internet sleuthing of his own, Sheehan also reports that an anti-fracking website was originally registered to White (though the registration later changed).

When confronted by Sheehan, White didn't exactly deny setting up the website or engaging in online criticism. (UPDATED: He has since confirmed the report, and apologized -- sort of. See below.) Instead, he told Sheehan, "I have no comment to these repeated personal and political attacks put on me by the propaganda wing of the natural gas industry [including] companies that are paid advertisers for your network." And he stuck to that line repeatedly.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Includes material deemed too wonky for general-interest audiences!

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2013 at 8:34 AM

For hard-core political junkies, here's the extended version of my interview with Bill Peduto last week, just 48 hours after becoming the Democratic nominee in the city's mayoral race. The bonus material includes more election-night emotions, campaign tactics, his next chief of staff -- will it be Kevin Acklin? -- and his expectations for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's final days in office.(The abbreviated print version is here.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2013 at 3:00 PM

An aspiring novelist from Pittsburgh is one of five finalists in the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The winner will be determined by online voting, which ends tomorrow, May 29.

Evelyn Pryce’s romance novel A Man Above Reproach was selected from among thousands of entries from around the world. Voters can see excerpts of all five finalists at and vote for their favorite.

The winner receives a publishing contract from Amazon Publishing and a $50,000 advance. Though in a sense, Pryce has already won: Each remaining finalist also receives a publishing contract, along with a $15,000 advance.

Each finalist is in a different genre: general fiction, mystery/thriller, romance, science fiction/fantasy/horror or young-adult fiction.

A Man Above Reproach “is a Regency romance featuring a stoic duke who falls for a mysterious piano player at a brothel and then must navigate the choppy waters of class, identity and love.”

Pryce is the pen name of Kristin Ross, of Port Vue, an administrative assistant at Chatham University who studies literature and history there part-time.

  • Photo courtesy of Mindi Harkless

Ross, 34, grew up in Glassport. After moving to Pittsburgh, she sang and wrote lyrics for rock bands Sing the Evens, Play the Odds and The Will Kill. She later wrote, with artist Mike Wood, several issues of the comic book Hate Your Friends, about life in a record store.

Ross says she’s attempted writing literary fiction before, but her work is unpublished. She tells CP that she really found her groove in historical romance.

Still, given the popularity of romance novels, “I did not expect myself to be the winner” in that category, she says.

You can see other excerpts plus author photos here. Pryce is the only one posing with a glass of white wine, which you’d have to think bodes well.

Amazon is flying Pryce and the other finalists to Seattle for the June 15 awards, where the winner will be announced.

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