Friday, July 29, 2005

Rummy in Philly...

So I got b(l)ogged down in this post on Tom Peters website today, and have commented a couple of times. I find it amazing that some people out there think that adopting a representative government and constructing a Constitution should be easy -- kind of like using software to select clause for your will or do your taxes. I happen to think the US Constitution is a great model, but I'm not necessarily surprised that a Congress of Iraqis might not want to adopt it lock, stock and barrel or disagree over the details. We probably should be pushing for them to move to consensus as quickly as possible -- before the moment when agreement is possible disappears -- but we do need to have some patience.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


The stifling humidity is finally gone, replaced by cooler temperatures and dryer air. I think this month I learned what steamed broccoli feels like when it is in the steamer. I'm ready to be beef jerky -- a dry piece of meat.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Big Freeze

Today is a milestone day in our family's history. The volume of the freezer in our refrigerator can no longer contain the variety of meats, ice cream (home made, of course), popsicles, bagels, waffles, chicken fingers and fish sticks (notice these are not included as meats). We have invested in a basement freezer, which will be delivered and installed this afternoon between 3 and 7. (God bless the delivery man, who will first bring the freezer up 20 stairs to our front door, then down 12 while navigating a turn to get it into our basement).

The contents of your refrigerator mark the milestones of life. From the beer and left over pizza in a dorm size, you might add a quart of milk and restaurant leftovers in your first apartment. The contents of our refrigerator reflects our growing children and lifestyle -- and the mind boggling variety of the grocery store.

Our collection of dairy and beverage product could make you moo like a cow. You will find 3 gallons of milk: skim for Russell, Gretchen and me, 11/2% lowfat chocolate for Sydney that sometimes seems to be the bulk of her diet, and whole for Tyler. This does not include the cream or half and half we have for making ice cream. Orange juice, grape juice, lemonade, beer with the occasional bottled water or sports drink round out the beverages. We go our different directions on yogurt...Yoplait (woman yogurt) for Gretchen, Dannon (man yogurt) for me, some variety of kid yogurt, yogurt drink or squeezable yogurt (sometimes all 3) for the kids. On the cheese board you're likely to find mozarella, parmesan, feta, string cheese, cheddar cheese, 3 types of cream cheese (onion and chive, plain low-fat and cinnamon), an occasional "Laughing Cow" or gorgonzola, and velveeta for grilled cheese sandwiches. For those of you scoring at home, that's 3-4 different milks, 3-5 other drinks, 3-5 different yogurts, and 8-10 different types of cheese for 2 adults, and 3 kids age 4, 2 and 1.

I can't wait to stock the freezer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Catholics vs. Quakers

There are few things more emotional and more personal than local politics, football, and stadium deals. I've got one that combines all 3 from my travels.

When it came time to install new astro turf at Woody Hayes Quaker Stadium in New Philadelphia, OH (legendary Ohio State Football coach Woody Hayes was a New Philadelphia native), Tuscarawa Central Catholic, New Philadelphia High School and the City of New Philadelphia worked on a partnership. The partnership called for Central Catholic to pay $200,000 towards the cost of the renovation and for Central Catholic to play home games at the stadium (on Saturdays of course, because Friday Night Lights are reserved for the Quakers).

Well the whole deal unraveled because willing parties just couldn't agree. Rumor has it that the deal disintegrated it because the city and the high school objected to Central's painting of the home locker room and hanging of signs on the visitors side of the field. Central, feeling flush from a fundraising campaign, was able to take their ball and go home, pulling out of the deal to build its own athletic complex through the generosity of its alums. For a single season, they will share WHQS with the Quakers.

Hey, at least they didn't hire Dick Butkus to coach the team and star in a reality show about its season...hasn't anyone seen the Bad News Bears?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Yellow Johnny

Lance Armstrong won his 7th consecutive, and if you believe what he says, last Tour De France yesterday in Paris. I can think of no other athlete that has so thoroughly come to dominate a single event or has become as synonymous with an event as Armstrong has with the Tour De France and its yellow leader's jersey.

For many Americans, the TDF is the only bike race of the year (sorry Tours De 'Toona and Georgia), and Lance has been taken us on a 7 year journey from the shock and happiness of his initial win in 1999 when no one but him and his team believed he could win to a 2005 Tour where no one believed he could be beaten.

Gretchen and I were imagining where the strength, devotion, and tolerance of pain comes from in the world's longest and most grueling painful event. Like no other, Armstrong knows his ultimate limits. In his cancer and recovery he has gone beyond points of pain and despair that probably can't be imagined by Jan Ulrich and Ivan Basso. Through the support of his team, (particularly George Hincapie, the only rider to support Armstrong on all 7 victories) and the study of his craft, Armstrong constantly tests and expands his limits -- not just in competition but in training.

It's hard to imagine that Armstrong is truly retired, my guess (hope?) is I would love to see him return to his 1st sport the triathlon (Armstrong --- Ironman?). Whether I'm right about the triathlon or not, it is hard for me to imagine that a man that craves competition and to push the depth of his limits with his relish won't be making some sort of triumphant return to competition in the next 2-3 years.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Maxi-Mini Weekend

Things have been very hectic at Sully Central, hence the lack of posts. July is the time of the year when the whole world, or at least the better part of our family comes to Pittsburgh for a visit.

This past week Russ and Pat were in town for their annual visit during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. This year we were also lucky because my father, John and my sister Shannon were able to stop on their cross country trip from Fountain Hills, AZ to West Haven CT. (Shannon began a new job at the Carver Foundation in Norwalk, CT on Monday.)

Schenley Park Golf Course becomes a sea of interesting cars each year as the vintage racers take to the hairpin turns of Serpentine Drive and Westinghouse Pond. This year for the first time, we participated in the car show with the Pittstop Mini Car Club of Pittsburgh, parking with about 20 other "BMW" Minis above turn 13. Despite the hot, humid weather that has pulled in for the first time in 3 years, Gretchen made our PVGP debut memorable by taking home the trophy for best Mini Limerick:

"There once was a family of five,
with only an old van to drive,
they thought it'd be super
to motor in a Cooper -
now they're the happiest family alive."

The visit included visits to 3 of Pittsburgh's culinary highlights:

  • Prestogeorge Coffee Roasters in the Strip District where Uncle Russ was able to buy 5 pounds of his favorite freshly made peanut butter that is made from peanuts that are freshly roasted in the store's coffee roaster. Thankfully, he was able to learn how he can order it and have it shipped directly.
  • Mon Amie Chocolates, also in the Strip District where we were able to pick up Garrison Confections salted caramels. Created by Andrew Shotts, one of the top artisanal chocolatiers in the U.S. , Garrison's is known for their bonbons, hand enrobed in milk, dark or white chocolate. Introduced to her by our friend Betsy, these caramels have become Gretchen's latest addiction.
  • Tessaro's in Bloomfield, home of Pittsburgh's best hamburger. Using meat freshly ground by the in-house butcher, cooked to perfection over an open flame, served on a freshly made bun with a side of homefries, this is about as luxurious as a hamburger gets. During this meal we were introduced to the beer of Pittsburgh's newest craft brewer, East End Brewing, the creation of former home brewer and fellow Regent Square resident Scott Smith.

Overlapping my family's visit was the annual summer visit of Gretchen's brother Kevin. Last Wednesday was Kennywood day, where Sydney and Ella stole the show at kiddie land, while Russell and Delaney outrode their older cousins on the big kid rides. Caslow family events are never small -- the visit concluded with a small, intimate dinner for 16 at Don Pablo's. We need a rest.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Good friend, fellow 63B bus rider and map and sign innovator Bob Firth (not the photographer, Google's current #1 Bob Firth) was featured in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review's (Pittsburgh's other paper) business section today. If you've been to Pittsburgh, Greensburg, PA or Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, you may have navigated your way around using his signs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

10,000 Mile Mini

This morning on the Parkway West just after The Fort Pitt Tunnell, our Mini Cooper motored past the 10k mark on the odometer. That's a lot of mileage under the bonnet in 5 months!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Slow news days are made for nostalgia, a look back at the important days of yesteryear. The 30th anniversary of Mr. T's Mohawk, the sesquicentennial of nowheresville, the 50th anniversary of the cure for boredom.

I've noticed something this year that makes me feel old. The core of the web seems to be 10 year old this year. The New York Times celebrated Amazon's 10th with an update on former Time Man of the Year Jeff Bezos' quest to make Amazon the Internet's Walmart. E-bay got a 90 minute love letter from CNBC for it's 10th, and was so important it was honored by C-Net during their celebration of their own tenth. Yahoo! looked back with a "Netrospective" on the Top 100 moments on the web (Dotcomguy -- where are you now?).

I'm not suggesting that the web is suddenly old...but remember your 10th birthday. You thought you had really made it, double digits. In reality, you were no longer the cute baby, not yet old enough to drive, drink or do your own taxes. In ten years, the web has gone from excruciating, crawling dial-up to wireless, broadband, 1 click ordering and has it's eyes on the car in the driveway.

Monday, July 11, 2005

All-Star Ground Rounds

Tomorrow, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played in Detroit at Comerica Park, Detroit’s retro replacement for Tiger Stadium. In Sunday’s New York Times, Tyler Kepner wrote a piece about the Tiger Stadium, which stands gated and locked at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull where it has stood every summer since 1912.

In the summer of 1995, my friends Eric and Pete and I set out on a trip that had no good purpose other than to see baseball games at Tiger Stadium and take our then 20 year old friend Pete drinking in Canada. Arriving in Detroit late in the afternoon, we pulled into a parking lot and up to a bar stool. After ordering beers, and being from Pittsburgh (a very sophisticated dining town if you like french fries on sandwich), we asked for menus. This caused the bartender to point to a chalk board behind the bar that read “Ground Rounds…..Ground Rounds w/ Cheese….Ground Rounds with Cheese and Onions.” So we had ground rounds.

That night we sat in the upper deck down the 3rd base line, seemingly on top of the action on a cool Michigan summer night. I vaguely remember that they played the Kansas City Royals. I can’t remember who won, but I can remember that the beer was cold, the grass was green, the restrooms and concourses small, cramped and dirty. I think we saw a rat that day. It was perfect.

The next day, perhaps a little groggy, we went back for more. Wanting to fully experience the area around Tiger Stadium, we went to another bar called Hoot Robinson’s (which according to the Times article is now closed and was once frequented by Babe Ruth!). A long bar went down the left side…a set of vinyl booths down the right. We took a booth and ordered beers. We were all 3 excited when the waitress, without asking, brought us menus. They were tall menus with thick, substantial covers. Surely these would contain some culinary delight or at least a magical hangover cure. Mouths watered in anticipation as we opened the menus: “Ground Rounds, Ground Rounds w/Cheese, Ground Rounds w/Cheese and Onion.”

US Air Force Thunderbirds

Since before he could talk, really since he could point and grunt, our son Russell has been nuts about airplanes. That's what brings us back year after year to the Wings Over Pittsburgh air show at the 911th near Pittsburgh International Airport.

Stuck in traffic on the way to the show on Sunday (which seems to be getting more and more popular every year), we were treated to bi-plane stunt maneuvers, and fly-over by some of the military's most sophisticated fighter jets. In fact, traffic was so bad this year that we never made it onto the tarmac for the main show, but we did get there in time to see the United States Air Force Thunderbirds perform.

When the team of F-16s flies overhead close enough to the ground for you to read the markings and feel the force of the engine vibrations you pulse quickens. To see them fly, first in such close proximity to each other, and then in such close proximity at each other is awe inspiring. Awe for the technology that allows the planes to climb vertically so far so fast and roll, bank and curve so quickly, and awe at the abilities of the men and women that pilot the jets.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

An All American Weekend In The Burgh

Here's the highlights of 4th July Weekend in Pittsburgh with my sister Danielle and her husband Ray:

Friday we went to the Posner Center at Carnegie Mellon University to view one of 4 remaining copies of the original printing of The Bill of Rights. (see A Rare Bill.) It is easy to feel a very close connection with history when you can see and read (albeit behind glass) an actual document that dates from 1789. With no crowds, there was plenty of time to linger and ponder the document, it's content, what it means, its history. In addition to the Bill of Rights, the rest of the Posner Center is a hidden treasure as well. There is a great collection of rare books, including a Bible from the 15th Century, with beautiful handmade bindings. It is very difficult to see those books behind glass and not want to reach through and handle the book, leaf through its pages and examine the details.

After a brief romp on the Dinosaur playground at Schenley Park and a quick nap, it was off to Music Picnic #3 of the summer by The Brazilian Guitar Quartet. Sometimes called "The Dream Team" in their native Brazil, the latin rhythms and delicate melodies were perfectly suited to a hot summer night. The grounds of Clayton were packed, with families and couples spread out packed into every available inch of space in front of the stage, and spilling over around the backs and sides. We have rarely seen it quite this crowded. The music complimented a delicious dinner of beef barbecue, with fresh strawberries, finished off with cupcakes and brownies from the Cafe at the Frick and complimented by red wine selected by Ray and Danielle. Dinner was followed by games of hide and seek and chase on the Frick's huge front lawn.


On Saturday, we heeded the siren call of the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Rregatta for the return of speed boat races. Instead of going to the crowded Point, we watched the races from the grassy banks of the North Shore. The scene was NASCAR on the water, with the boats running at up to 135 mph on an oval course running from just past the Fort Duquesne Bridge to the fountain at the head of the Ohio river. Being on the North Shore also allowed us to sneak over to the water steps to splash in the water fountains and cool off.

After another mid-afternoon siesta, it was over to Lawrenceville and The Church Brew Works for dinner, a favorite of Ray and Danielle's and special to Gretchen and I because we held our wedding rehearsal dinner there and we also went there for dinner on September 20, 2000, the night before Russell was born. The old church provides a beautiful, spacious and importantly kid friendly setting to enjoy handcrafted beers, pizza, and not quite the same-old food like pierogies stuffed with black bean and buffalo with a jalapeno reduction sauce.


Sunday morning, it was off to the Strip District for a Pittsburgh institution, breakfast at Pamela's. Since it was a beautiful sunny morning, we ate at the tables in the shadow of the beautiful St. Stanislaus Church. Tyler loved the corned beef hash and the chocolate chip banana pancakes!

Monday, July 4th.

After celebrating our annual bacon day tradition (July 4th being the only day we buy and prepare bacon for breakfast), we capped off Independence Day with fireworks at The Point. The Pirates play 81 home games each year, and there are just about as many nights in Pittsburgh with fireworks. The 4th of July fireworks were the first since the previous Sunday when Pittsburgh commemorated Jimmy Buffet's 1st ever concert at PNC Park with a fireworks display from the Roberto Clemente Bridge. As always, the fireworks display by local fireworks legends Zambelli Internationale was fantastic. Pittsburgh's fireworks obsession is probably best summed up by this quote from the Post-Gazette's Brian O'Neill's column "Hey, don't I know that guy?" on July 3:
"I remember being in Washington, DC on the Fourth of July more than a decade ago, and watching a fireworks display that was, one would expect, the best the nation could give for its own birthday. But when it was over, I stood there thinking "That's It? That's all you got? I can get that after a Pirates game."