Archive for October, 2010

Going Green … In A Big Way
October 21, 2010

“Green” is in!

Wherever you go, you hear about people wanting to live “green”. The desire to live life in an environmentally friendly way. Sometimes its a simple as recycling.  Sometimes its something on a much more massive scale. Such is the case of the home just built for Sherwood and Shawna Johnson in Gibsonia.

It was a multi-year project … and this weekend its open for all the world to see. The Johnsons, who  tell me they are anxious to move into their new home, say they have decided to open their doors to the public so they can encourage others to look into environmentally friendly was to live their lives. Already its being profiled in several national home publications for its innovations. Take a look.

I visited the home during Saturday night’s open house … and let’s just say I was blown away. It’s large to begin with … and spectacular in size as many homes in the Gibsonia area can be. What’s different is the subtleties that make will allow the family residing in this home to save money and energy.

The countertops, for instance, are made of recycled paper and they are as hard as a rock. Floors made of bamboo. Solar power heats and cools the home. With the other internal devices, it will cost the family virtually nothing to heat and cool this home … and they have a relatively big family. outdoors, rain water is collected for irrigation of the lawn and garden.  Even the windows are set that at certain temperatures, they will automatically open and allow the outdoor air inside.

It was an amazing house … and yes it’s not cheap, but there homeowners and along with home designer Lori Smith of Distinctive Dwellings, tell me there are lessons for all of us inside this “super” green home. We can do simple things like using environmentally friendly cleaning products in our home. We can add weather stripping to older doors and windows which can reduce energy consumption. Another idea is a conversion kit fo the toilet, For less than $30, it can be self-installed and the home builders tell me you can save as much as 9000 gallons of water annually.

However, the contractors  ( SureGreen of Wexford ) of the Johnson’s dream home tell me the easiest thing you can do is invest in an energy audit, They add it’s always best to hire a licensed contractor and always check those references before having any recommended work done.

The Johnson house is open this weekend at 549 McLeod Drive, Gibsonia from 10am-4pm Friday-Sunday

Harrison and the Hits
October 20, 2010

It was a June evening in 2009 … months after the Steelers had won Super Bowl XLIII and days before their trip to Washington. I was serving as the night’s emcee at Oakmont Country Club and one of the celebs on hand for this fund-raiser was James Harrison.

That night I asked the Steelers linebacker during an on-camera interview that night about the trip to meet the President. He told me was not going. Startled, I thought he was kidding so I asked again. He was adamant that if  the President wouldn’t invite the team before they won the Super Bowl, then why go after?

That interview became national news … and Mr. Harrison did not go to Washington.

I share that story only to give credence to Harrison’s comment that he may “retire” after being fined $75K for his controversial hit on Sunday. This man will actually retire. He is a man of his word. I learned that first hand.

That being said, I don’t think he should retire because of the league’s decision to enforce stiffer penalties for shots to the head on opposing players. So many of our Facebook fans on WTAE have been calling the NFL a “skirt” league and attacking the league for going after the Steelers on this. In my opinion, this should have been done a long time ago.

I never played in the NFL. Like many boys, and more and more girls, my career ended in high school. However, I was always taught the proper way to tackle was to go after the opponent’s mid-section or legs and wrap my arms, pushing my helmet and shoulder pads into the opponent from the side. Never was I ever taught to hit someone above the head. I have attended Steeler training camp for more than a decade and never seen a single drill emphasizing such hits.

Simply put, it’s not a skill to be able to take someone’s head off.

So many Facebook posters are saying the league will become a “flag football” league if such head hunting rules are enforced, If that is what you seek, then football is not the game for you. The excitement of football is execution of big plays and solid, physical tackling. Not hits that could leave a player dazed, unconscious or possibly dead.

Like all things in life this controversy will pass. People will accept the game and continue to make it the nation’s most popular sport. We will get used to it. Hopefully, it will cut down on the injuries. And James Harrison will play again. While he may be a different breed, even he knows he’s not going to make this kind of money doing anything else … and believe me, money can make people do things they don’t want to do. Even tackle below the waist,

Catching Up with Jackie Evancho
October 19, 2010

You know her by now. The surprising runner-up on “America’s Got Talent”. The ten-year-old girl with the voice of an angel who sings well beyond her tender years. Now, she is touring with AGT, putting out her second CD, signing a major recording contract and appearing on “The Tonight Show” and “Oprah”.

Jackie … you have come a long way.

A long way from our first meeting last December. Then, she was a talented 9-year-old girl who was performing at charity events and doing concerts in smaller venues and her first CD was just beginning to get attention. When we sat down for our first interview last winter, Jackie was a little girl who acted and spoke like a 9-year-old. Her parents, proud of her accomplishments and just trying to balance their emerging star in a family of four children.

Meeting Jackie Evancho for first time as emcee of Variety Gala in November 2009

When I sat down with Mike Evancho and her daughter Monday, some ten months since we last talked, you could tell they had been transformed. Mike called the whirlwind of activity “overwhelming”. Jackie spoke of life changing little, but acknowledging the sadness of not being able to see family as much as she had. She still had the innocent look of a fifth grader, but in her eyes you could see she had experienced a lot of growing up in a short period of time.

I can’t imagine how Mike and Lisa Evancho are able to manage Jackie’s endeavors with the desire to allow her to grow up and be a little kid.  They admit her success has changed their lives. Jackie’s on the road quite a bit and everyone, it seems, want her to come and sing . She was just in las Vegas last weekend. They tell me they try to protect her from the painful side of fame and fortune. The problems that have sent many young stars into a downward spiral.

I spent the evening with Jackie and her two brothers and her sister Rachel. The littlest Evancho, Rachel wears a very stylish fedora and loves to give out hugs. In fact, she wouldn’t let me leave without giving out several hugs. We did our interviews at Jackie’s grandparents house … where she is one of 12 grandchildren. Talk about having your hands full.

Jackie on her way to “The Tonight Show” in Los Angeles

One of the things I love is seeing young people who I have covered over the years grow into stars on the national stage. From McKeesport basketball player Swin Cash … to North Hills football sensation LeVar Arrington, it was a joy to watch them grow and be there as they went from local star to national superstar. Jackie is already there.

I hope as she grows into the singer she dreams of being, she will always be that sweet young girl I have gotten to know. The one who smiles and laughs … and knows just what to say. I hope she will continue to wow audiences with her voice the way she wowed me the first time I saw her last November. Most of all, I hope she continues to bring  joy to her fans with, as she calls it, “her gift from God”.

Up In the Air
October 15, 2010

On Channel 4 Action News at 5pm Thursday, I presented a story on new FAA proposals designed to keep people safe in the air while riding medical transport helicopters. Part of the story was the features and safety measures utilized by West Mifflin-based Stat Medevac. Here’s the link to the story and video on our website.

While I was witnessing these safety features, I was also captivated by flying through the air and taking pictures with my cell phone came from on-board the Stat Medevac helicopter. Below are some shots of the city from an angle which I had never seen. Thanks to pilots Tim Daschbach and George Cavalier as well as Tim Lhote and Dan Nakles from Stat Medevac for hosting us … and allowing me to experience the city in a whole new way.

The old and new arenas.

Heinz Field from high above the playing surface.

I think you get “The Point”. Thanks again to Stat Medevac for the great view and the cool ride.

The Joy of 1960
October 13, 2010

Wednesday afternoon, an entire city will celebrate like its 1960 … as the moment passes and the play that won the world series that year is replayed in an audio broadcast. For the past decade plus, hundreds have gathered around what remains of Forbes Field to listen to the broadcast which began at the exact point the game began … and ends at the exact moment Bill Mazeroski hit his game-winning home run. There are cheers and celebration … even for a moment that happened so long ago.

What is about this series-ending moment that continues to capture our attention and fascination 50 years later? After all, this is a football team and since that Pirates upset of the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh has raised Lord Stanley’s Cup three times and accumulated four Vince Lombardi Trophies. Even the woeful Pirates have won a couple of fall classics since. However, no championship continues to hold our hearts quite like 1960.

 Was it the greatest World Series game ever? Sadly, no. That honor has gone to game six of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox which ended on a dramatic home run. Another world series has ended on a game-winning blast since 1960. Joe Carter carried the Toronto Blue Jays to a series win over Philadelphia in six games. There has even been a World Series that ended in game seven’s final at-bat. Arizona knocked off the Yankees in 2001.

What cannot be denied is the drama of that moment and the game’s unlikely hero, Bill Mazeroksi. It still remains the only game seven decided on a walk-off home run. In fact, it’s the original walk-off homer, long before the term was ever coined. It still remains one of the great upsets in baseball history as David really did slay Goliath. But above all, it’s a moment that reminds that generation … and ones that follow … that baseball is truly our national game. It can provide great drama and excitement. It was pure joy on that October afternoon. A joy that continues today 50 years later …. and I trust it will still hold sway 50 years from now.

Walking With Purpose
October 12, 2010

Once again, my apologies for not blogging lately. While I am an active  Twitter and Facebook user, there is still something simple and powerful about writing … especially when you have something to write about. Something like this past Sunday night.

Joining staff of Family Hospice and Palliative Care as we lead the Memorial Walk on the Southside

I spend a portion of my weekend trying to give back. Whether it’s through volunteering, serving as an emcee or throwing out the ball at a little league game, I feel we should all do something to help make the place we call home a better place. This Sunday, I was at South Side Works, serving as emcee for the Family Hospice and Palliative Care Memorial Walk.

“Hospice” is something I’m sure most of us would rather not think about, but for those facing mortality, it is vital to help them and their loved ones get through these final emotional days with dignity, love and hopefully pain-free. I have worked with this organization for four years, serving as emcee of various events they host. However, this walk was different.

As dusk falls on the Southside Sunday, talking with family members taking part in the memorial walk

With 600 people, all in blue shirts, we walked a mile plus on the trail along the Southside. Along the trail were luminaries with the names of people who had passed on and spent their final days and weeks with Family Hospice. Walking the trail were hospice employees and volunteers as well as family members.

I started the walk with the executive staff of Family Hospice, but soon dropped back to greet the walkers and hear their stories. Most had recently lost loved ones but all were grateful for the service and help of Family Hospice. Their grief was mixed with the knowledge that thanks to this organization, those last few weeks were as pleasant as possible and positive as could be.

               Serving as emcee for the kick-off of the Family Hospice and Palliative Care Memorial Walk

It never fails that when I leave an event that I have hosted, I think about those who have benefitted. On this beautiful Sunday night, I met those who were the beneficiaries. It made gave me that good feeling, perhaps a selfish feeling, that I had helped in some small way. I hope you will take the time to enjoy that special feeling and give back.