Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Eyes on New Orleans

As grey skies and light rains fall over Pittsburgh today, a quick post to acknowledge the sad and serious state of affairs in the Southeastern part of the country.

I spent Monday and Tuesday in Houston, TX, where hotels are full of displaced families. Graciously, many of these hotels have made exceptions to their normal policies to accept pets. Today, preparations are being made to move evacuees from the Superdome to the Astrodome.

Looking at the Post-Gazette this morning, our son showed so much empathy and concern while looking at the devastating photos.

Every hour there are amazing stories of heroism and sadness. We will all have many opportunities over the coming weeks to contribute to care for, comfort and rebuild for those that have been impacted.

A few links to follow the story...

Red Cross -- to provide financial support
NOLA.com -- continuing coverage from the New Orleans Times-Pacayune
WDSU -- live streaming video of local television coverage from New Orleans
WLOX -- Biloxi's ABC affiliate
The Sun Herald -- South Mississippi's newspaper

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Stroke Prevention -- Brain Friendly Folate

From the Realage tip of the day for August 29, 2005:

Brain Friendly Folate

Protect your brain by kicking up your folate intake.

Adequate folate intake appears to protect against hemorrhagic stroke, a condition that causes bleeding in the brain. Hemorrhagic stroke is a less common type of stroke than ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot-blocked artery. Protect your brain by packing your side dishes with folate-rich asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes.

RealAge Benefit: Getting a total of 700 micrograms of folate per day in food and supplements can make your RealAge as much as 1.2 years younger.

Hemorrhagic strokes, which account for 17 percent of all stroke cases, are less common than ischemic strokes. A recent study reveals a link between high blood levels of folate and decreased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Folate also helps protect blood vessels by lowering homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that increases the risk of atherosclerosis and stroke when found in high levels in the blood. Researchers speculate that folate's favorable effects on blood vessels may extend beyond lowering homocysteine, but more research is needed to explore other potential benefits. In addition to asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes, other good sources of folate include orange juice, fortified whole-grain breads and cereals, and black-eyed peas. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in fortified foods and supplements. Controlling high blood pressure, getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, and reducing your weight and cholesterol, if you need to, also may help reduce stroke risk.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Run Around The Square Weekend

This weekend’s main event was the 24th Annual Run Around The Square 5k and 1.5 mile fun run – Regent Square’s end-of-summer party and signature event. The whole neighborhood seems to participate in the event in some way, whether as a runner, volunteer, water (or other beverage) station host, or spectator. The post-race party in Frick Park is widely regarded as one of the best post-race events in Pittsburgh. This fun spirit, and a beautiful but challenging course combine to make our neighborhood race the 2nd largest running race in Pittsburgh after The Great Race.

This year I "ran" the 1.5 miler with R. pushing S & T in “the chase car,” a borrowed double jog stroller. R. improved his time in the race by almost 10 minutes from the previous year and finished 4th, just outside the trophies for his age group. It is really fun to watch him run confidently down the street in pursuit of his friends, C & J M, and to see the competitive spirit and will power come to the surface. R. easily ran at least 1 mile of the 1.5 m race, and was very proud as GSully paced him to the finish line for a well-deserved drink, raspberry and blueberry Rita’s Italian Ice and a finishers blue ribbon.

We’re all very proud of GSully who completed her first-ever 5k, beating her goal time of 40 minutes to finish in about 39 minutes. It has taken a lot of will power to juggle nap times, navigate school schedules and appointments and coordinate schedules with neighbors for her to find time to fit in runs, (something I wish I could be helpful with more often), and to find the right shoes.

Our neighbor Tom O'Rourke continued his streak as the fastest man in The Square, finishing 4th overall at 16:55, a blistering 5:27 pace, just 4 seconds out of second place and less than 20 second behind the overall winner Matt Meurer.

That evening, we celebrated with 3 other families – the N’s hosted the M’s, the T’s and us at their house for a good meal and good company. As usual, kids outnumbered adults, 12-8.

The Long Run -- Stride Against Stroke Training Update

Perhaps the most famous part of marathon training is the weekly long run. Usually a weekend event (heck most people work), this is the vehicle where runners systematically increase their mileage to build strength and endurance leading up to the race. Dutifully, on Sunday morning, I headed out for my 15 mile, 2 hour and 30 minute odyssey.

For the first time since I started increasing mileage steadily in July, the weather was cool and a little bit damp. This made for the most comfortable long run of the cycle by far. (GSully can attest to the resuscitation that was required after my 13 mile run 2 weeks ago.)

For the first time this week, I used gel during the run. If you are unfamiliar, gel is a little packet of sugar and nutrients combined into a sticky paste that you slurp from a little packet. Texture-wise it’s like a cross between peanut butter and jell-o, and is formulated to be easily digested during strenuous physical activity. The flavor I tried was an espresso flavored gel by Gu. While I don’t think I will be slurping any with a spoon any time soon, the flavor was not bad (although make sure you take it with water), and when I took it at the 90 minute mark of my run, it did give me a surge that made the last 60 minutes that much more comfortable.

The numbers:

Last Week's Mileage - Last week's total mileage was approximately 31 miles, with this weekend's long run an all-time high of 15 miles. This is a 5 mile increase over the previous week's mileage. Total mileage since the beginning of training is approximately 355 miles in 80 individual workouts, an average of 4.4 miles per workout.

Planned Mileage -- This week's planned mileage is 29 miles, 2 miles fewer than last week, including a 12 mile long run.


Regent Square Beer

Earlier in the summer, I mentioned East End Brewing, a neighbor’s entry into the business of craft brewing. This Saturday, I was able to visit the brewery and pick up a growler full of the Black Strap Stout and the Big Hop IPA. As it turns out, I know the brew master, Scott Smith from the 63B bus – the lifeline for many Regent Square dwellers who commute downtown each day.

A couple of years ago on an evening bus ride home from downtown we had a lengthy conversation. At the time, Scott, a recent “repatriated” Pittsburgh-er was not enjoying he job in the food industry.

Shortly after that, he quit that job and began laying the groundwork and building his brewery which began operation late last year. As the only employee, he has until recently been brewing, selling and delivering all of the beer himself. With a new arrangement with a distributor, he is now positioned to ramp up production and sales.

Best of all, the beer was delicious. It was great to share beer made by our neighbor with our neighbors. I’ll be a frequent visitor back to the brewery for growler refills.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More Truth: On the stroke test and signs of stroke...

Responding to yesterday's post, Truth: A Simple, 3-Question, Lifesaving Test, Rob Carr of UnSpace, an EMT whose mother was a victim of repeated strokes, posted some additional detail about the test and some valuable perspective on the test's application. Read UnSpace's post here.

In addition, he posted 5 signs of stroke, which I will repost here:

1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, and
5. Sudden sever headache with no known cause

As UnSpace points out, it is worth committing both the test and symptoms to memory -- fast treatment is the most important and effective factor in treating stroke.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Truth: A Simple, 3-Question, Life Saving Test

This simple test can help a bystander identify whether someone is having a stroke:

1. Ask the individual to smile.
2. Ask the individual to raise both arms.
3. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence coherently.

First presented at the 2003 International Stroke, researchers at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine determined that bystanders could correctly identify a victim of stroke 96% of the time by administering this test, potentially helping to accelerate response and care during the critical early moments during and following a stroke.

This test has widely circulated by e-mail, and while not endorsed by the American Stroke Association, has been verified to be true here and here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pittsburgh, Where Striver Seems To Be A Dirty Word

Front page news in Pittsburgh this morning..."'Strivers' jam Downtown for motivational seminar...It's not the Stones, but it's still rocking"

Cars loaded with 15,000 people headed for the Civic Arena disrupted rush hour yesterday morning as they headed for the Get Motivated! Business Seminar. Mackenzie Carpenter's recap has a "Day at the Zooish" aspect to it, as if people should be shocked a "small-business crowd that thrives on [a] message of self-reliance, wellness and salesmanship doused with religious fervor" exists in Pittsburgh.

The nut-jobs attending this all day affair were dressed "in business casual -- the men in Dockers khakis and golf shirts with cell phone holsters hanging off their belts; the women in blazers, comfortable slacks and walking shoes." How many butts did she look at to determine that they were Dockers and not just pants?

Granted, I can think of a million ways I'd rather spend the day than listening to something called a Zig Ziglar, the insufferable Suze Orman, Rudolph Giuliani, Steve Forbes, and Ben Roethlisberger (on television no less) speak to me about how I can live my life better. But from the quotation marks around the word 'striver' to the garish photo of Dave McClelland that requires an explanation that he is dancing to Surfing U.S.A., there is an undertone that these people are not Real Pittsburghers and are somehow selling out and not keeping it real. While these people attended a frivolous event while real people were delayed from getting to their real jobs.

I hope the real people who went to their real jobs and pushed real paper across a real desk between smoking real cigarettes outside a real building had a really great day yesterday.

Pennsylvania: Always Beautiful, Seldom Spectacular


This past weekend, in addition to the running, I also set out on a camping adventure at Prince Gallitzin State Park near Altoona with R. and R.M., J.M. and C.M.

Observation #1. For beauty, Pennsylvania is like a consistent doubles hitter, often beautiful to very beautiful but seldom spectacular, especially if you like hills with trees.

Observation #2. Campgrounds do not really attract the most active outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, for many it is a lot like moving from a suburban subdivision with big lots and big homes to a subdivision with much smaller lots where you sleep in a truck or on the ground with plumbing shared by the entire neighborhood.

That being said, the trip went as well as it possibly could have with 7, 4 and 3 year old boys and overnight thunderstorms. First, the rain held off at least until we cooked hotdogs. Second, the tent stayed dry. Third, everyone fell asleep without major trauma. Fourth, everyone stayed asleep without awaking to major fear or trauma. Fifth, the next day brought beautiful weather, which was perfect for a morning hike and kayaking.

R. got a little bit homesick. Once morning came, he kept asking to go home. Except he had a laundry list of things he wanted to do before he left. "I want to go home and see mommyright after this hike -- but I want to try canoeing first. Let's try canoeing right now." Sure enough, we got in a kayak and he paddled the entire hour, and said "I want to go home -- right after I go swimming," which led to "I want to go home -- as soon as I have a little snack." This was soon followed by actually going home, and for that trip he was asleep before the van left the parking lot.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Running Updates

Back from a busy weekend that included running and camping (more on that later). Here are a few quick updates:
  • Last Week's Mileage - Last week's total mileage was approximately 26 miles, with Saturday's long-run a down week, 10 miler. This was a 3 mile reduction from the previous week, which included a 13 mile long run. Total mileage since the beginning of training is approximately 324 miles, accumulated on 75 individual runs, an average of 4.3 miles per workout.
  • Planned Mileage - This week's planned mileage is 31 miles, including a 15 mile long run. This week's long run will be on Sunday so GSully can do Run Around The Square on Saturday and I can run the fun run with R, T and S.
  • Heinz 57 -The Harrisburg Marathon is assigning bib numbers as registrations are received. Perhaps a sign of good things to come, my bib number is a very Pittsburgh (Heinz) 57.
  • New Shoes - At GSully's insistance, drove out to Fleet Feet (crossing a river mind you) to get fitted for some new shoes. Turns out my trust Size 13 New Balance trail running shoes were both a little heavy and more importantly a little small. After an expert fitting, I'm now running in Adidas Supernova, Size 14, supplemented with some extra cushioning for my 237 lbs. I get more room in the toe box, which should result in fewer blisters, and a snug fit around the arch. The trail shoe had a very hard, rigid heel, which gave an added sense of security...I miss that a little, but so far the new shoes are great and should take me to the finish line in November.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Is Southwest A D-List Airline?

I'm going to embarass GSully by asking a Kathy Griffin question.

On her show "My Life on The D-List" whenever she talks about flying someplace they cut to a jet taking off and landing. It is often a Southwest Airlines jet -- Ding!. Does she really fly Southwest, Pittsburgh's new favorite (albeit #2) airline? Or is this just stock footage from the A&E show Airline?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Coretta Scott King Suffers Stroke

CNN reports that Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been hospitalized at Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital and is having trouble speaking after suffering a stroke.

According to the American Stroke Association, each year about 40,000 more women than men have strokes and black men and women are at almost twice the risk of white Americans for first-ever strokes. To combat this the Association has an educational campaign targeting African Americans, encouraging them to take a pledge to educate themselves and their church congregations on risk factors and prevention of stroke.

To pledge your donation to Stride Against Stroke, suporting Gaylord Hospital's stroke rehabilitation programs, please e-mail sullysstuff@gmail.com.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stride Against Stroke

Friends:

On the morning of November 13, 2005, I will line up for the Harrisburg Marathon in Harrisburg, PA, marking the end of more than 6 months of planning and preparation.

I've quickly learned in the past 16 weeks and 300 miles of training that running a marathon is an oddly selfish thing. It can not be done without the patience and assistance of loved ones while you spend an additional 5 hours or so a week literally running all over the place. To make these hours and miles of training less selfish, I am raising money to support stroke rehabilitation programs at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, CT.

On November 21, 1987, my grandfather Russell Sullivan's life was changed forever in the course of 5 minutes. While preparing to go to 5PM mass on a cold Saturday, he suffered a massive stroke. While he survived, he would never fully recover. Paralyzed on the right side, he would never be able to get himself out of bed or live at home again. Perhaps even more difficult, the stroke affected the part of his brain that controlled speech. While fully formed thoughts pooled in his head, they became trapped, making communication difficult, frustrating him and us. Caring for my grandfather became a way of life for our extended family for the rest of his life, and we were thankful for the nearly 6 years that he lived following his stroke.

Now, 18 years later, stroke continues to impact thousand of families in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, approximately 700,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke, 1 every 45 seconds. While stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US, more than 75% of stroke victims survive. Victims of stroke often experience paralysis or weakness in one side of the body, impaired ability to understand speech, impaired ability to speak, and memory loss.

For these victims, quality care in the early period following the stroke can make the difference in returning to a normal life and resuming careers and hobbies. For more than 30 years, Gaylord Hospital has been a leader in stroke care for thousands of patients including my grandfather.

I am lucky to have a loving and generous family and to know and work with compassionate and generous people around the world. Please support me on this journey with a donation to support rehabilitation programs for stroke victims.

I am doing this with the help of my family and friends only. Formal fundraising and training programs, while valuable and rewarding, use up to 30% of all proceeds to fund travel, coaching, uniforms and other program expenses. All of the money raised here, 100%, will be donated on your behalf to Gaylord Hospital's stroke rehabilitation program in memory of my grandfather, Russell J. Sullivan or a person you know whose life was impacted by stroke.

If you are willing to join me on this journey please e-mail me at sullysstuff@gmail.com. I will provide you with a postage-paid, business reply envelope for your donation. In order to ensure the tax-deductibility of your donation, please be sure to make your check out to Gaylord Hospital.

I am confident that with your support, the amount of money we raise will exceed our highest expectations. I will keep you posted on my training progress and provide occasional information about stroke on my weblog, Sully's Stuff ( http://sullysstuff.blogspot.com/). In the coming months, I look forward to talking with you and hope that many of you will join me in celebrating our accomplishment after the race!

Thank you,
Justin Sullivan

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tour De Bush

Yesterday’s USA Today featured a rather chummy article by sports reporter Sal Ruibal on the mountain biking exploits of President Bush who led a group of 7 reporters on a tour of his Crawford, TX ranch over the weekend. President Bush happens to be among the fittest 1% of American men aged 55-59. (Detractors insert “fit for what?” or pithy “being President is supposed to kill you” here _______________________.)

Because every story has a Pittsburgh connection, UPMC Sports Medicine and cycling team sponsor Dr. Freddie Fu is quoted with this exciting observation: “Riding a bicycle gives the benefits cardiovascular benefits of running without the impact.”

Complete with numerous references to the journalists being part of Peloton One, a chummy photo of the author and the President, and the gift of free bike socks, by golly this was a scathing piece of attack journalism by the liberal left.

The story appears to be a thinly veiled part of Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld’s obvious conspiracy to train aging baby boomers for military service in Iraq by picking up dangerous “extreme” sports, living a healthy lifestyle.

Extremely revealing is the President’s nervousness about switching to clipless pedals that he overcame by focusing on his desire for “15% greater efficiency,” he does not plan to shave his legs or wear tight bike shorts with unsightly bulges, he refers to himself as “Bike Guy,” and his propensity for naming geographic features on his ranch for seminal events in his Presidency, including “Balkan Hill” where “Condi Rice gave me and Laura a lecture on the Balkans.”

In the end, the President seems to bike for the same reasons that many people do, to keep fit and escape the pressures of life – in his words to “feel like I’m outside the bubble” and to “get the sense of freedom,” a brief escape from one of the most intense occupations in the world.

The President will be resting this week in anticipation of welcoming the newest member of Peloton One, Lance Armstrong, this weekend.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Dy-no-mite

Just caught Hines Ward on the Steelers sideline talking to Suzie Kolber on ESPN with his Good Times Jimmie Walker Dy-no-mite t-shirt on. On Saturday, he'll be back in #86. (Too soon to tell if the smile will still be that big though.)

Hands-on Daddy

It is no secret that being a stay-at-home mom of three kids under the age of 5 is hard work, or that I often begrudge my husband's traveling work schedule. But as I came across this excerpt from a book a neighbor lent to me, The Three Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor, I was reminded how lucky I am to have a husband who misses being home with his family as much as we miss him:

I know a handful-a very small handful-of men who actually do carry half the load or more, and I mean making the shopping list, not just going to the grocery store. Knowing where the children keep their art supplies and favorite toys, handling a load of laundry with aplomb, and generally doing what needs to be done. These are the quiet heroes who will read books to the kids without talking about whose "turn" it is. The fine men who do not have to call their wives frantically after fifteen minutes of being alone with their progeny because their child has peed on the floor. Those admirable men who don't expect a hearty round of applause for their amazing display of sensitivity and strength after they manage to do the tiniest thing related to the keeping of the house and children. The ones who have really bonded with their children, because they have been there for the good and the bad.

For all the daddies out there who either take care of their child full-time or contribute more than their share of the domestic duties, I salute you, and I can't tell you what a joy it is to be married to one of you. Carry on, and continue to show you sons and daughters what a real man is made of.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Social Protesting monkeys

From the nationally syndicated Earthweek column:

"More than 100 large monkeys in southwest Bangladesh's Kushtia district refused to take food for several days as they mourned the murder of one of their troup, according to press reports. Forest officer of Kushtia, Towsiful Bari Khan, told the Xinhua news agency that a young man lured the victim into a cage with a banana, then beat it to death while the other monkeys looked on. The horrified simians broke branches and protested loudly as the man threw the monkey's body into a river. Kahn said that the surviving monkeys scoured the riverfor days without eating, in search of the victim's body."

Amazing. I have been thinking about how the role of the monkey and the man are transposed in this story -- with the monkey's showing the humanity. First there is the aggressive and senseless brutality of the man. Second there is the immediate and sustained protest of the other monkeys, and the absence of retaliation. Third, there is the search for their fallen comrade. Fascinating.

Here is a link to the Xinhua news agency story: "Monkey's fasting to mourn killing of their friend"

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Outnumbered 2 to 1

Today was the annual neighborhood blockparty for our deadend block in Regent Square. As usual, it was on the hottest, most stifling day of the year, but with a great and interesting bunch of people, it was still a great time. Suddenly, it seems children outnumber adults 2 to 1.

The party changed venues this year to a set of connected backyards at the top of the street. When our children were turning one, we had a birthday party there and the kids couldn't walk, couldn't talk, and barely interacted.

Now 4 years later, we've mostly all got more kids and more have moved into the neighborhood. They all can run around and play together -- water balloons, swings, sprinklers, baseball. There are lots of boys and girls, and who knows probably more on the way. Cookies and cupcakes go fast, as does lemonade (both regular and Mike's Hard for the big kids), and we all do a pretty good job drinking the cold beer too.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Perpetuating one of Pittsburgh's worst traditions: moldy radio

Last night the phone rang while G and I were watching Kathy Griffin: My Life on The D-List on Tivo. Somehow, I've become part of ths survey group that molds one of the worst aspects of life in Pittsburgh -- Pittsburgh radio. Pittsburgh radio has about 4 formats: old, older, oldest and country.

The survey involved playing song snippets. After each snippet, I provided a grade: unfamiliar, never liked, tired of, undecided, and liked. The survey started out innocently enough with Three Doors Down, and Green Day. Little did I know that when Pearl Jam came on it was the first step on a miserable, 40-song musical journey that included Ozzy, AC/DC, Boston, Blue Oyster Cult, Bob Seger, Pink Floyd, Lynard Skynard, Guns N' Roses, and Tesla.

At first, I was honest. After all, some of these songs are good. About half-way through, when the music wasn't getting any younger I got tired and infuriated. I was not going to be a part of perpetuating this cycle of moldy radio in Pittsburgh. "Never Liked" with the occasional "Tired Of" became the standard response. Does any city really need 3 classic rock radio stations and an oldies station?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Googled! By The Data Paparazzi

One of the smarter things to do once you find out the name of someone you will be meeting for the first time is to “Google” them. You can find out any number of things – from articles they may have written, companies they’ve worked for, places they’ve lived, political or community service causes they’ve contributed to, hobbies.

In today’s New York Times, Saul Hansell reports that Google has recently penalized some good googling by CNET’s Elinor Mills by refusing to talk on the record to CNET until July 2006, a 1-year ban. The reporter used Google to learn details about Google’s low-key CEO Erik Schmidt, things like where he lives, political candidates he’s raised funds for, the fact that he’s a licensed pilot, etc.

Google’s position is that the CNET article was a violation of Schmidt’s privacy. CNET counters that the article contained nothing but publicly available information culled from Google’s search results, available on the internet, and linked in the article.

Now it seems obvious that if the information is readily available on the internet (some of it culled from other publications) that CNET can not have violated Schmidt’s privacy. For some facts perhaps the case can be made that the original source violated his privacy – but the report itself is really just an example of meta-reporting and didn’t involve traditional journalistic “tricks” like interviews to get the information on Mr. Schmidt.

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, there has been a great deal of discussion about this issue since the government made property assessment information, which has always been publicly available by going to the recorder of deeds and requesting it, available over its web site. Do you want to know where Mario Lemieux lives and how much he paid for his house, how big is the lot, what about the square footage? All of this information is freely available by typing his name into the easy to use interface.

My opinion is that most people may not have realized that this amount of information was available about them. Then the internet comes along and removes the friction of obtaining the information – suddenly I may find this out not because I need it, but just for fun because it’s easy. Not only that, all of these individual data points can now be combined to tell a story that in total might be more revealing than we want it to be -- and leaves the CEO of Google victimized by his own tool. We are now all stalkable by the data paparazzi.

Catching up…

I had a great surprise this weekend. Old-friend and F-16 pilot P.G. was in town with L. the woman in his life (she's pretty intense, training for the Monaco Half-Ironman Triathlon coming up in Spetember). It was great to catch-up on his travels and misadventures on the ski slopes of Europe and his upcoming return to San Antonio. Even better, it caused some good friends J. and V. C., D.D., M.L. and S.K. who live much to close to get together as infrequently as we do (last sighting of J. and V. C. was on a subway platform in Philadelphia after the U2 concert) to reconnect over a couple of cold beers to reminisce and talk about new adventures, careers, family, travel – car accidents.

Now on Pittsburgh Webloggers

Sully's Stuff is now listed on Pittsburgh Webloggers.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Music Picnic #4: Steep Canyon Rangers


Last night was the first friday in August, so we packed up Panera Bread sandwiches, some cheese and bread and a bottle of Meridian Pinot Noir (an OK choice) (juice boxes for Russ, Syd, and Ty) and met our good friend B., B., J., C. and A. M. (who brought some yummy couscous salad) for First Fridays at the Frick for blue grass music by Chapel Hill, NC's Steep Canyon Rangers.

A humid, rainy day kept crowds down from last months record attendance, and we were able to experience the concert from the area between the cafe and the gift shop.

Steep Canyon's music was high energy and engaging, winning over the east end's wine and cheese crowd. With good humor and entertaining stories (they offered to stick around after the show to autograph cds and kiss female babies under the age of 80 -- a good move in Pittsburgh) moved from song to song, showcasing the bands combination of mandolin, banjo, mandolin, bass (bass player Graham Sharp wore "no socks and underwear to match" on stage last night -- a little too much information if you ask me), and fiddle.

Steep Canyon is making a name for itself in bluegrass and developing quite a following. Steep Canyon's newest CD, "One Dime At A Time" will be released September 13. If you'd like to get a listen the band's website, www.steepcanyon.com, and there's a free download at Amazon.

Friday, August 05, 2005

744,356 (0 links from 0 sources)

This is the current rank recorded by Technorati for Sully's Stuff -- and our Google PageRank is zero. More on my relative internet obscurity later.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

1776

In a comment to a previous post Gretchen mentioned that she finished 1776 by David McCollough believing that it was a book that every American should read. After finishing the book myself, I can only agree. History books and newspaper timelines almost make the events seem dry, pre-ordained, and inevitable. McCollough’s strength is approaching original source material and weaving it together in ways that bring the players, places and events to remarkable life.

At a time when the U.S. seems so firmly established, if not permanent, it is remarkable to think about the precariousness – even the unlikelihood that the Continental Army survived 1776.

The heroes of 1776 included men with no military training, who left family behind to fight for a cause for which there was no guarantee of success and uncertain (and often zero) pay. They were lead by General that had never led an army of any kind in battle. At the start, their cause was uncertain even ambiguous, as the commitment to Independence was not firmly established until the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4.

For the Continental Army, success, and ultimately the existence of the United States seemed to come from unlikely sources even coincidence:

  • Henry Knox, a bookseller, whose scheme to march the abandoned guns from Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York to Boston in winter chased the British out of Boston.
  • A fortuitous fog gave the Continental Army precious extra time to evacuate Brooklyn.
  • A mysterious fire that virtually destroyed New York City after it had been abandoned for the British.
  • A British Army, perhaps gun shy from Bunker Hill, that always seemed to let up when an extra small push might have meant the end of the Continental Army.

I also had fun reading the descriptions of the places, particularly those in and around New York City. It’s fun to think that some of the place names like “Throgs Neck” have survived to this day. It’s downright difficult to imagine the area as anything other than the massive city that it is today and I look forward to looking for some of the landmarks in the book on my next visit to NYC.

Finally, it was also fun to try and spot threads from the book that carry down to American life in the present day. Easy to spot is the divisiveness and distrust between the New Englanders and the Southerners that already foreshadowed the Civil War and carries through to the politics of today. Some of the success of the Continental Army was built on the type of entrepreneurial behavior and independent thinking that has become part of the American myth. The Continental Army was always concerned that the Continental Congress was not providing them with enough supplies. George Washington seems like a guy who would have really liked The Home Depot.

I think the thing that stays with me the most from this book, however, is the “wow” of seeing how easily the Americans could have lost and the incredible persistence of George Washington and the Continental Army. Whether you believe in fate, luck or divine providence, victory seems like it was one of the least likely outcomes, and makes the success of the US that followed all the more astonishing.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Russ Goes Camping...In The Backyard


Gretchen's e-mail to the family summed it up perfectly...so here it is...

Poor Justin agreed to "camp" with Russ in his child-size tent, thinking he'd probably decide to come inside when it got dark, but not wanting to discourage him when he decided it was pretty cool to sleep outside. At first Russ was nervous about not having his Blue's Clue's music, but then decided that the bugs made great music. He fell asleep by 9 pm and would have stayed their all night, but it was hot and cramped for Justin, so he carried him inside at about 10 pm. In the morning, Russ was so disappointed not to wake up in the tent that we wound up lying and telling him it started to rain so we brought him in. He was so proud and can't wait to do it again. Anyone know where we can get a cheap tent big enough for Justin's feet?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Imagine Losing 19 Years Of Freedom

This article by Bill Moushey from the Post-Gazette covers the release of Thomas Doswell who was released from prison yesterday after serving 19 years for a rape he did not commit.

Imagine for a moment spending 19 years confined to prison for a crime you didn't commit. While you know you are innocent, courts have found otherwise, shaking the faith of your family and friends. While your children were growing up, you were biding your time, writing letters and accepting visitors. You missed birthdays, and scraped knees, weddings and funerals. You never had to go to the grocery store and complain about the quality of produce or stop for an ice cream cone on the way home. When he was convicted, Thomas Doswell was 25 years old, and when he was released he was 44.

Since 1992, Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck (of the O.J. Simpson dream team), have worked on The Innocence Project, to exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing. Thomas Doswell is the 106th person and 6th this year to be exonerated with the assistance of this program -- which often faces police, victim, and community opposition to reopening the cases for DNA testing.

It's very disturbing to think that the justice system can get thigs so wrong and scary to imagine being wrongfully imprisoned, sacrificing your life as punishment for the crimes of others. It definately made me pause and think about the most basic freedom that we enjoy.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Here We Go (To A Supermarket In Pittsburgh, July 31, 2005)


This black and gold greeter welcomed shoppers at the Giant Eagle at the Edgewood Towne Centre (hardly a town center) July 31...the 1st day of training camp.