Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weather turned hot and so did the riding

This weekend we had two rides. The Saturday ride had a theme: Elliot's birthday. We knew he wanted a challenging ride and more miles; we gave him both with a little added surprise. Often times we ride through Millvale. If they are open I always insist on stopping at Jean-Marc Chatellier's Bakery. This is an amazing gem located in an unusual place. Millvale, although becoming a bit funky and artsy, is probably the last place you would expect to find a bakery like this. On the street you are in the ultimate Pittsburgh working class neighborhood. The store front, with the awning and French signage seems slightly out of place. Once you walk through the door you are no longer in Millvale, but you enter a classic gourmet bakery that should be located in a small town in the French country side. Posters honor the French World Cup team and cycling. There is also homage to one of the store's most famous patrons, Marc Andre Fluery, the Penguin French Canadian hockey great.

The pastries look like they could be in the finest shop in Paris, although the special Penguin pastries may be targeted for the local patrons. The wonderful smells and flavors draw me inside on every Saturday ride. Elliot, who is much more disciplined than me, tolerates my sweet tooth and normally patiently , waits outside while I buy my pastry and gorge myself.

On this day we turned the tables a bit. The ride first took us on the challenging rolling hills of Fox Chapel, through a nice stretch of Old Mill Road to Campbell's Lake and then to Dorseyville Road. The ride then went on Church Lane past farms and up a steep climb until we reached Middle Road, taking us past Hartwood Acres. After one more decent climb we were in Millvale. We stopped at the bakery. As usual Elliot waited outside, but we had a surprise. We brought birthday candles and ordered a large piece of the richest raspberry mouse cake known to man, lit the candles, and presented it to Elliot with a serenade of Happy Birthday. As soon as the cake was fully consumed we gave Elliot the rest of his present: a climb up the very tough Hoffman Road. Elliot, to his credit and my surprise, made the climb without puking. We finished the ride with an exhilarating descent down Spring Garden and then through town and the Jail Trail.

Sunday's Lou Crew ride was a different type of ride. We had a large turn out with several new riders. We did a fairly level city loop, through Hazelwood, across the river, along Carson to the West End Bridge. We continued past the ball parks, across the Mon and stopped for coffee at La Prima.

This year we have been trying to incorporate a latte stop in each ride. An a beautiful Sunday morning a stop in the Strip seemed appropriate. Just as the bakery in Millvale seemed to transform into France, la Prima is a bit of Italy in the Strip. Some how their drinks always seem perfect. It is a treat to drink a latte out of a glass mug instead of paper.

After the break, the ride continued through Lawrenceville, up past the zoo (which was the only real climb of this ride) and Highland Park, and back through East Liberty, Shadyside and ending at our weekly starting spot, Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill. We all sat at the outside tables and enjoyed a final drink. While sitting there we admired the new front of the store, which is almost complete. The main feature is a series of windows that open like bi-fold doors. I commented that it would be a nice day to use them. Fortunately, the contractor was riding with us. He agreed and for the first time the Squirrel Hill Coffee Tree was opened up to the outside. We all admired Will's handiwork and thanked him for giving us back our sidewalk cafe.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

14th Ward Independent Democratic Doters Club

The 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club really should change their name. The organization is not very connected to the 14th Ward anymore. Although its few remaining active members live in the Ward they certainly do not represent the Ward's demographics. They have no young people, despite the many students and young professionals living in Squirrel Hill. They have little diversity, despite the neighborhood being an ethnic melting pot.

The organization certainly is not independent. It is controlled by a small self-perpetuating group that historically has been the alter ego of the Ward Chair of the 14th Ward Democratic Committee. As members of the Committee the Ward must support the party's slate. Often the majority of the 14th Ward Committee Members support candidates who do not get the party endorsement. The Ward Chair is almost always a Board member of the club and thus is able to circumvent the County Democratic Party rules by pushing the unendorsed candidates through the Club. Their endorsement election has become somewhat of a sham. A small number of people vote in their endorsement election, primarily the board members, relatives and friends of board members, supporters and workers of candidates who joined the organization to participate in the endorsement and a few misfits looking for free and often delicious food.

The Club is no longer operated in a democratic fashion. It does not promote equality or openness at all. The Club is controlled by recycled board members living in the past. All efforts to appeal to a broader base of 14th Ward residents have been quashed by the rigid thinking of the long time board members. The board members agree in advance as to candidates they want to push. They create their own rules based upon race, sex, sexual orientation and religious beliefs in deciding which candidates should get their endorsements. Then they run an Animal Farm like election to assure the endorsement for these candidates. An example of their initiatives was a letter sent by a number of former Presidents to select members asking them to vote for a particular candidate at the recent endorsement of the Club. They failed to send the letter to certain members who they believed supported another candidate.

Although the Club targets voters, they should seriously consider changing the name to include the word Doters. Read Merriam Webster's definition of the word "dote" and it fits this group perfectly:


intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s):
dot·ed; dot·ing
Middle English; akin to Middle Low German dotten to be foolish
13th century
1 : to exhibit mental decline of or like that of old age : be in one's dotage 2 : to be lavish or excessive in one's attention, fondness, or affection —usually used with on
dot·er noun
dot·ing·ly \ˈdō-tiŋ-\ adverb

This organization has become the Pittsburgh version of Swift Boaters. They are now a fringe group, using their finances to promote their candidates under the false pretenses of representing a larger independent group. The definition of the word "dote" certainly describes this group. The are "exhibiting as a group mental decline of or like that of old age". Rigid thinking by the "core" long time board members has sabotaged efforts to attract younger members and driven away any board members who were newer or younger (in this case between the ages of 30-50). Additionally they do "lavish attention, fondness and affection" on their pet candidates. They stack the deck at their endorsement election to assure that the Board's candidates win. Then they can print their mailing and send it to prospective voters, leading the voters, who don't throw out the mailing with other political junk mail, to think that their endorsement was some type of meaningful process. The total number of voters participating in their elections is a secret as closely guarded as the secret sauces in a Big Mac. Having counted votes at one of these elections, the total for certain offices is amazingly low i.e. less than 30 voters! When you consider that 19 of the voters are Board Members who solicit candidates, that leaves just a few other voters. Take away the relatives of the Board members and avid supporters of particular candidates who join and participate only to stuff the ballot for their candidate, and what are you left with? Also keep in mind that the candidates solicited by the Board make donations to the organization. So these people are certainly more doters than voters.
Fortunately the sham mailing is probably not read by many undecided voters. Also it is fortunate that the organization often supports worthy candidates, but perhaps not for the right reasons. A rigid thinking member stated at a recent political function that a particular candidate should not be considered for the position because of the color of her skin. When it was pointed out to the individual that her philosophy on the subject flies in the face of the recent Presidential election, the individual, who is quite influential in the Club, made a negative comment about the color of President Obama's skin. This individual is one of the long time leaders of the organization. Such actions and rigid thinking have made what once was a respected organization irrelevant.
From the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club website, the President states in his letter "The Club is the oldest continuously-operating independent Democratic club in the country." It is unclear whether or not this refers to the average age of the active members. Rumors suggest that they hold their meetings in the Express Line at the Murray Avenue Giant Eagle. Like many Pittsburgh icons: Menzie Dairy, Clark Bars, the Steel Industry, the Pittsburgh Condors, and Poli's, it appears their time and usefulness to our community has passed.
In today's world of social networking, the 14th Ward Independent Democratic Voters Club relies on the historic method of mailings. The Internet allows people to seek out information about candidates and interest groups that send out mailings. Hopefully this blog entry will be read by an equal number of potential voters as those who read the Club mailing so that people can make an independent and open minded choice, while understanding what the Club's Endorsed Slate really represents.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday Ride

If the last two weekends are any indication Lou's Crew is starting a new tradition for the 2009 cycling season. Coffee has always been a big part of the Crew, with rides generally starting and ending at Coffee Tree in Squirrel Hill. The last two Sundays we have stopped for mid-ride coffee breaks. Today everyone enjoyed very much the break for warm caffeinated treats on a sunny, but cold morning. For most of us it was the first time that we had sampled Big Dog Coffee. This is a really nice coffee house located just off of Carson Street on the Southside near Southside Works The address is 2717 Sarah Street.
Big Dog is located in an old restored house. In the front room there are comfortable over stuffed chairs. A back room has tables and chairs. A door off of the back room leads to a nice deck and a ramp to the back alley and Carson Street.

We parked our bikes on the back deck. I took a look at all the bikes on the deck and realized what an amazing turn out we had for an early season ride on cold holiday morning. Our ride roughly followed the old Pittsburgh marathon course.
We started at 5th and Beechwood which is roughly the 15 mile point of the marathon. We tooled through all the neighborhoods. Since there was no traffic on Sunday morning we were able to go through the normally busy streets without fear of bad drivers. Unfortunately it did not cover up the fact that our city streets are pothole riddled. As a follow up to yesterday's ride here is a link to the KDKA video and story on the cycling tribute to the fallen officers. Look carefully and you will see several Lou's Crew members:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Major Taylor Cycling Club

Pittsburghers are passionate about all things Pittsburgh. We are living through a tragedy that has had a tremendous impact on the entire community. Through bad times we see the good in people. Pittsburghers have come together to support and honor the three heroic officers who were senselessly murdered one week ago. The community also honored the victims families and fellow officers. We saw people lined up for hours at memorial services and funeral homes. At the Penguins game earlier in the week fans donated over $60,000 to the victims families and the Penguin players rounded that up to an even $100,000.

Today there was a really neat show of support by the Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club and the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen. About 200 cyclist met at Highland Park and rode together to the Zone 5 Police Station, the home station of the three victim officers. Each of the cyclists donated money that was given to support the families. The cyclists were lead by a police escort and joined by bike cops. Some "bikers" (motorcyclists) misunderstood. They showed up on their bikes but were a bit surprised to see the event was for bicycles. Those bikers were meant to feel welcome and joined in.

The Major Taylor Cycling Club is a really cool group. I've met up with them many times during rides. The club was an offshoot of the Center for Minority Health. Originally the Center for Minority Health was asked to help Adventure Outdoors with a project to create an Underground Railroad Cycling Route. Ultimately a cycling club was started. Although the club is open to all, many of the members are African American. Like my club, Lou's Crew, Major Taylor provides a vehicle to promote a healthy life style for middle aged people in the city. Concerned about health risks to African Americans caused by a sedentary life style, the club provides a vehicle to get people back into cycling, meet new people, have fun and feel good about themselves. In addition Major Taylor has undertaken efforts to promote cycling to inner city kids. This has included overnight trips along the Great Allegheny Passage.

We have invited the Major Taylor Club to join Lou's Crew any Sunday for on of our group rides. We have a lot in common and I think it would be great fun. I have also joined the Major Taylor Cycling Club and hope to have enough time to ride with both groups. Here is a link to the Major Taylor website:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Police Shooting Tragedy

There are not appropriate words for me to express how horrible I feel about this tragedy and how it is going to impact the families and co-workers of these three police officers. The event reminds me that police are taken for granted. Everyday, every call, they are putting their lives on the line for us.

What is especially horrific is the warped thinking of the crazed murderer. Unfortunately his thinking was not so far off from what we heard during the recent Presidential election. Here is a quote from his best friend

"He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment. One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples' right to defend themselves."

These comments certainly sound familiar to some of the public interest/anti-Obama ads that ran during the election.

Then this quote from the Post-Gazette:

"Another friend, Aaron Vire, 23, said Mr. Poplawski strongly opposed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's candidacy.

He'd had "very spirited debates" with Mr. Vire, who is black and an Obama supporter.

He wasn't a racist. He was a cool person. He thought he was losing some of his rights," said Mr. Vire. He said he knew Mr. Poplawski owned an AK-47 assault-type rifle, a .357 Magnum revolver, a .380-caliber handgun and a .45-caliber handgun."

Mr. Vire has an unusual definition of the word "cool" apparently. This suggests that Poplawski believed that Obama was going to eliminate the right to bear arms. Many out and out fictional rumors were started and perpetuated during the election campaign. It was as if these public interest groups didn't care about the harm and damage that their spin could cause, especially to people on the fringe.

" Richard Andrew Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry."

Now Mr. Vire might not believe that his friend is a racist, but there is absolutely no question that he is an anti-Semite.

" A discharged Marine, he adhered to a number of right-wing conspiracy theories and expressed fears of a "Zionist nation" revoking his right to own guns."

"Mr. Poplawski's view of guns and personal freedom took a turn toward the fringes of American politics. With Mr. Perkovic, he appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country."

"We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty," said Mr. Perkovic, who lives in Lawrenceville. "One of his concerns was why were these major events in America not being reported to the public."

Where did these thoughts come from and why would this drive him to open fire on police officers and aim for their heads? The other scary thing is that apparently his best friend Mr. Perkovic shares these thoughts and Mr. Perkovic lives among us in the Pittsburgh community.

Although the Second Amendment of the Constitution clearly gives Americans the right to bear arms, why do people believe that it provides the right to bear any type of weapon: assault weapons and concealable hand guns. What possible good can be provided to society by allowing these types of arms in peoples' homes? If Pittsburgh had more stringent laws regarding weapons, like New York and other cities, perhaps the families of Officers Kelly, Mayhle and Sciullo would not be grieving today and be facing a lifetime of having a cold, empty feeling regarding the senseless passing of their loved one.