Monday, October 29, 2012

The ECP Plants Mt. Washington

ECP Plants Mt. Washington

(Pictures will enlarge when clicked!)
                The rain woke me up on Sunday morning.  Looking out the window showed me the lights on the roads below my house as smears of color.  It looked nice but it didn't seem like a very good day to go climbing.   By the time I made coffee and fed the dog, the rain had slowed down to a cold mist.  The temperature was hovering right over 40 degrees, a place where it would stay most of the day.

                The drive towards Pittsburgh required my windshield wipers but by the time I got to Mt. Washington, it was just fog.  The backside of the city was hidden from us by the clouds.   There were about 12-15 Explorers Club of Pittsburgh (ECP) members who braved the elements to help plant trees and shrubs on the hillside facing the city.  The club members were helping the Mount Washington Community Development Cooperation (MWCDC) and the Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. (CEC) to do the job.   600 plants were waiting to be placed in the dirt below the overlook, a combination of dogwoods, hazelnuts and bayberry.  The purpose of these plants was to strengthen and beautify the hillside without blocking the view from above.
Group shot
After setting the ropes and listening to a short description of how and where to plant, we headed over the railings. There were about 6 or 7 people over the edge at any time, with the same amount on top helping with the topside chores.


    When the G20 visited Pittsburgh in 2009, the city chopped down a bunch of trees to allow a better view of the city. The trees being put in today will replace those trees and will also prevent erosion. They were planted in a way that will also prevent them from “overgrowing” and from blocking the view in the future. There were dogwoods, hazelnuts and bayberry plants in the mix.






The weather cleared up a bit as the planting progressed and then, after a lunch of pizza, the fog returned.  Not long after, the rain came back again.  We started pulling up the ropes and putting away the gear a bit after 1PM.  The conditions were a bit tough, the wet grass was very slippery! The Steeler fans in Heinz Field could be heard cheering as we were finishing up the day and the Steeler game was beginning. 

                The rain returned as a slight drizzle as I got in my car to go home, by the time I made it home, it was coming down pretty hard.  The effects of Hurricane Sandy was starting to increase.  We had a good stretch of "fair" weather for most of the time we were there.  The majority of the plants were put in the dirt (aprox. 600) and we had a great time playing (?)  on the hillside!  Good job team!!!  The temperature was still hovering a bit over 40 when I got home, but that just made the hot shower feel that much better!
Me, just doing my part to make the hillside look nice for my daughters upcoming wedding!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The PA QSO Party

The PA QSO Party


The "shack", ready to go
                Early in the  morning, I took a visit to the store, then raked the leaves in the front yard, I baked some cookies and then set up the radio station. I needed to clear off the desk and set up the laptop. Even more importantly, I needed to fill the coffee cup!   Now, with 4 minutes to go... I wait.
                4:00 PM  4 hours into the contest...2  1/2 hours of operating time, the day is going well.  I've made 45 contacts in 27 different counties and 6 states.  It seems a little slower than last year.   People have been talking about a solar storm that might be messing up the airwaves.   When I started out, it  was mostly people on the eastern side of the state I was making contacts with, and now, the local stations are getting clearer.  I have been operating for a bit, then taking a breather outside with a book and the dog, I take a bathroom break or two, get a fresh cup of coffee or sometimes just go for a brief walk around the house to stretch.  Time to get back again...
Red, slept through all the excitement
                7:25 PM  After a 2 1/2 hour break for Church, I'm back again.  The bands should have moved to the 80 meter band from the 40 meter bandwidths.  I am right on the cusp of passing the halfway point in contacting all the counties.  I have 33 of them, only 34 more to go to get a clean I go again.
                9:49 PM   The 80 meter band has quieted down a bit, I keep running across Hams I've already contacted.  I think it's time for another break...  94 contacts so far, 41 counties and 9 different states.  Next time on, I should break the 100 barrier.
                11:00 PM  Time to call it a night.  I have made 108 contacts so far.  Time to watch Saturday Night Live, or maybe to fall asleep in front of the TV.
                Sunday 8:59 we go again.
Ready to start contacting again....
                My equipment for the contest is a Kenwood TS-570D hooked up to a wire "G5RV" antenna, strung up in a tree about 20-30 feet at its highest.  A Heil headset along with a foot switch make things a lot easier.
                As my afternoon wore on, I made occasional contacts, most of the people I heard were repeats.  I tended to take a lot more breaks today as compared to Saturday.  I am down to 14 counties to go, but I really doubt if I'll get many more of them.  A "clean sweep" is not in the cards for me this year.   I've been sitting here reading a book while I slowly spin the tuning knob on the radio.  When-ever I come to a loud station or what sounds like a possible new station, I stop and concentrate on the radio again. Then I return to my book and the slow scan...
                6:26 PM  The contest is over, my last contact was with N3CBD who was working out of Blair County.   I ended up with 174 contacts, I managed to get  54 out of the 67 counties and I was contacted by 16 different states.  Most of the 13 counties I missed were in the central northern part of the state.  According to the logging program, I came up with a total of 26,110 points. (This is still a preliminary score, I haven't checked it completely!) I spent approximately 9-9 1/2 hours on the radio.  The vast majority of my contacts were on 40 meters with a few on 80 Saturday night.  Only 1 contact was made on 20 meters.
Contest graph
State county Map:  Counties colored white were not contacted
Though I didn't do quite as well as last year's contest,  I still had a great time.  Once again, it proved itself to be,
"The Friendly QSO Party!"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mayview State Hospital Going...Going...Going...

Mayview State Hospital



Broken window at the guard shack
(Pictures  will enlarge when clicked) 

                Back in "the day",  about 120 years ago, a plot of ground in South Fayette Township was set aside to eventually become known as Mayview.  The city bought the George Neal Farm and set up a rail station. The land spread out over 243 acres.  In 1892 construction on a new hospital named Marshalsea began. A separate building for the insane was erected, and in 1899, and a physician was assigned to the insane department.  In the 1890's, there were about 340 patients there.   A mine operated there, manned by patients, to provide coal for heat and power, along with a farm that provided food for the facility.  In 1916, a contest was held and the name was changed to Mayview.  By the 1930's, there were over 4200 patients in this hospital and it had expanded to around 335 acres with 39 buildings.  In 2007, it was announced that the hospital would be closing down.  It officially closed in December of 2008.


RR Tracks leading into Mayview

            A railroad station was built along the PA Railroad tracks to bring the patients and their visitors to the facility.  In those days, the roads were dirt and the mode of transportation was horse and buggy.  The tracks are still there, now owned by the Pittsburgh Terminal Railroad.  They are used a couple times a week now days, freight being transported instead of people.  The station is long gone, the train now just passes by derelict buildings and rubble.
Overgrown Building
            On a recent foggy morning, I was startled to see what looked like an older person walking alongside the road, past the fenced in buildings.  I was surprised since there are no homes or stores near-by, the person was carrying a plastic bag and was dressed in dark clothing.  The only thing that went against him (or her) being a mere spirit was that they carried a flashlight to warn the cars of their presence.  When I looked in the rear view mirrors, I couldn't see them...  It was rather spooky, driving along in the dark only to see this person appear where I least expected to see anyone!

            In the mornings as I pass the once bustling facility, there are only a few lights lit and the buildings are all dark, just silhouettes against the background.  They sure look as if they might be haunted, especially as I pass them in October!  Who knows what atrocities might have been committed inside these grounds.  The knowledge of mental illness was nothing like what is known today.  Electro-shock therapy, icy and hot water hydrotherapy and probably also lobotomies, not to mention the abuse between the patients...if these walls could only talk.  Chances are, I wouldn't want to hear what they have to say!

            So, is it haunted?  A couple blogs I've read suggest it might be, but I really can't say.  I guess all old buildings are haunted, you just have to have the right people visit them, at the right time.  Your chances of visiting these buildings are rapidly coming to an end.  Also, I wouldn't suggest visiting them, the guards are still around.  Seems they don't like people taking pictures, though I really don't see why.  Soon the buildings will be gone, eventually replaced by a business park or some other "essential" thing like a plan of "McMansions".  We shall see...meanwhile, if you happen to be driving past in the early evening, keep an eye out for those strange road walkers.   Maybe they are patients looking for a way back in...or maybe they are the spirits of the patients from long, long ago...getting out!
Empty Building
Remnants of the power plant
Turning to rubble
Dentist Office
Medication Room
Hydro-therapy room
Beautiful Buildings, soon to be gone
Close tell me...!

Happy Halloween!

Two of the pictures in this blog were gotten from this blog:

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's PA QSO Party time again!

It is almost time for the PA QSO Party once again...tomorrow is the start....
If you try to call me by phone...I might not be available, if you call me by radio...I'll be there for ya!
"73" my friends, talk to ya later...
Last years contest...

Monday, October 8, 2012

It Was a Cold and Rainy Afternoon

It Was a Cold and Rainy Afternoon...

(pictures will enlarge when clicked)
              This afternoon, while the Steelers were on most of the TV sets in the city of Pittsburgh, I spent an hour with a little over 60 people who quietly made a statement of their beliefs.   The afternoon was cool and as the hour worked its way through, a rain started falling, making it seem even colder.

                For the 10th year in a row,  parishioners of St. Bonaventure Parish stood in silence along Mt. Royal Boulevard to pray for the end of abortion.  They silently held signs. They prayed the rosary.  They  prayed for the men and women who have been effected by abortions.   They prayed for the tiny human beings who will never see all the wonders of our world, because of abortions.  They  prayed that our government would change the laws of our nation dealing with abortion.  They didn't chant or shout or sing out loud, they quietly stood alongside the roadway.   Hopefully, their presence might change someone's ideas or their future plans.  Hopefully, another life will be saved because of this small sacrifice they did this afternoon.
        This was originally done in Yuba California, twenty five years ago.    Today, these people of Glenshaw were joining thousands of others in the United States and Canada, all doing the same thing.  Silently praying for life.  Respecting life.  October is Respect Life Month, what a fine way to start it off.  Hopefully, you will agree with my ideas on the subject, and I'd be happy to talk about these ideas with you, but if not, I am not going to argue with you about it, but I will say another prayer.   Because I believe that prayer can do things, prayer is a positive force, prayer can change things. 

                I am extremely pleased to know these people, I consider myself a much better person by knowing them.  I can't help but look up to them.  They set a fine example for me.  Tonight, I'll include them in my prayers, and I have a feeling that they just might be saying one for me also. At least I hope so!
               So, even as the rain was falling on us, and the chill was settling in our bones, I felt quite warm, seeing these people expressing their love for others.  It was a fine afternoon!  It is the start to a fine month.  The Respect Life Month.  God bless us all........ We need it!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Meet George Jetson...

Meet George Jetson....

(pictures thanks to Google Images)
     Pods of lights, eight or more to the group, hover in the morning air.  A slim pole disappears below them into the darkness, the light and the height making the pole appear to taper off into a point.  The lights are gathered like a halo around the top of the pole.  They hover in the darkness around the exits on the interstate highway.  Groups of them, floating in space, dimly illuminating the ground below with a pale yellowish light.  They look almost like flying saucers, waiting to land and to invade the earth.

     Billboards line the roads.  Like the lights, they float in the darkness, appearing to be drifting in space.   The darkness hides their supports.  They show a constantly changing electronic message.   Every 15-20 seconds it changes to another ad, if you miss it, don't worry, you will be able to see it a little further down the road.

      I would guess they are all programmed from a central location.  There no longer are the needs for the men in the trucks who would put their ladders against the billboards and climb up to change the signs.  No more paper and pasting.  No more signs with the paper peeling off, hanging down to expose the signs below.  Now they can have six or seven different customers paying for space on each board.  They can change them weekly, or even daily if so desired.   I hate to say it...but they aren't a beautiful sight.  What would Lady Bird Johnson think?  I know what I think about them...

     Technology is hard at work along our roads.  Cameras are strategically situated  to allow "someone" to monitor the highways.  Red light cameras are being installed to protect us from ourselves, or maybe to help raise the income of the townships.  Newscasters have access to the highway cameras, it allows them to give up to the minute reports on the roadways.  TV stations can show live feeds on their morning shows.  The weathermen can use them to help with their daily forecasts.  Signs hang above the road to tell you what the traffic ahead will be like.  To let you know how soon you will be coming to a stop.  Unfortunately, they can't control the speed of the cars and trucks, to keep them at a constant speed to avoid those stops.

     Yes, the future is here, present on our highways.  It does help us out!  In some ways, I expect that a flying car will be passing me soon.   There it went!!  No, that was just one of the many speeders out there.  Maybe the technologies will be cracking down on that soon.  So, in my "backwards" way of looking at things...while typing away on my new laptop, I still like the good old days.  Give me that peeling billboard! (and a typewriter)

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Foggy Morning Drive

A Foggy Morning Drive

10/1/12 (6:35AM)
(picture from Google images)
                Another Monday morning drive to work.  The fun of the weekend is over and it's time once again to get serious and get down to business.  My mind is like the outside air, a bit foggy.  The radio announcer is telling about the fog and the upcoming weather for the 5th or 6th time.  I'll hear this spiel a few more times before my drive is finished.

                Outside the warm interior of the Jeep, fog covers most everything.  There is no scenery to be appreciated today.   The occasional sign illuminates the backs of the trees, creating  dark silhouettes along the edges of the road.  The overhead lights that shine on the roadway are just bright glowing spots in  the air, their capes of light never make it to the ground.  The glow of the lights just hovers in the air, equally spaced as I travel towards work.

                The exits disappear into the fog.  The roads have no visible destinations, they are only quick exits into the netherworld.  The exit signs appear out of nowhere, only to disappear just as quickly as I pass by.  The cars approaching me on the other side of the medial strip form a chain of white pearls, diffused by the mist and the moisture on the sides of my windshield.  Everything is softened, nothing is sharp, distinct or clear.

                The lights of the Bridgeville exit are unlit for some reason.  The billboards are likewise dark.  I slow down, using my headlights to illuminate the white lines on the edges of the road.  Once on the back roads,  I pass the abandoned Mayview State Hospital.  There are only a couple lights behind the chain link fence.  The fog hides the darkened buildings, exposing only dark shadows against the dim background luminescence.  Mist moves slowly past the lights scattered around the complex.  Perfect weather for the ghosts of the patients who used to live here.

                Dropping down a slight hill, all of a sudden I am in a clear spot.  I can see the trees across the field, I can see houses and buildings.  The doors and windows are sharp against their walls.  The full moon does a great job of lighting up the area.

                 Just as quickly, I am back in the fog.  Ahead I can see flashing lights, perhaps an accident at the traffic light.  Moving closer, I can see my fears are unfounded.  it is only a pair of bicyclists waiting for the light to change.  Their flashing taillights created the impression of police lights.   They will surely need this protection today!

                Passing the cyclists, I pull into the parking lot and turn off the engine.  It is now time to head inside and start my Monday.  Time to get my head out of the clouds!