Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A trek down memory lane

McDONALD, Pa. - My heart raced and legs burned the faster I peddled down the Montour Trail in Washington County. I wanted to see more of the countryside the farther I biked down the trail, although I had no clue where it would take me. By the time my trip had reached nine miles, I began to see familiar sites, beginning with a trestle bridge near this quaint borough that straddles Washington and Allegheny counties. Just down the road, I could see the Robinson Township Municipal Building where I covered numerous meetings and broke a few stories.

As I rolled farther down the trail, I came upon the putrid smell emanating from the Reaxis chemical plant off Route 980. Local residents were concerned that the plant could expel dangerous chemicals into the community -- it did during one leak several years ago that caused a few problems -- and they wanted warning sirens to alert them in case of another emergency.

A couple miles more and I could see the towering coal refuse dump owned by the Bologna family. Robinson Power Company, which is operated by the Bologna's, plans to build a mid-sized power plant using the thousands of tons of waste-coal dumped on the site over the years. It has been met by major resistance from local residents, although the township supervisors approved the power plant in 2006. The project has been bogged down in permit challenges with the state Department of Environmental Protection since and the future of the power plant is in question as financial backers hedge due to the economy.

This area is still beautiful, however, and the crisp autumn afternoon made it better. I went a little farther to U.S. Route 22 to mark the end my journey. The path re-entered Allegheny County in North Fayette and it felt like it was time to return home. The excursion was fun and challenging, but I should have been thinking ahead a little bit before enduring the 14 miles back to my car. That one hurt, just a little bit. From now on, I'll leave the 28-mile bike rides to Lance Armstrong and Greg Tarr.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Returning to the scene

We sometimes hear stories about laid off workers being paid a few extra bucks to dismantle their factory equipment and ship it to China. Or about the people whose homes are being foreclosed and they're paid a small stipend to clean out their own furniture and take it to the dump. Well, this wasn't the same, but it was bizarre nonetheless.

I returned to the scene of the crime - so to speak - by offering to freelance for the Observer-Reporter sports department and writing a high school football story Friday night. Covering sports is something I always wanted to do, although I got a little sidetracked in college while just trying to get column inches and experience at The Daily Athenaeum. After a couple years at the college newspaper, I realized I liked writing news and was good at doing it.

But my heart is in sports. So I spent my Friday night at Fort Cherry High School in Mt. Pleasant Township. The Rangers took on the Burgettstown Blue Devils (a school board I covered in my past profession) and won 21-19 in a great back-and-forth game. It was fun, and I felt the rush trying to beat the 11 p.m. deadline (made it by two minutes, by the way). And I received a lot of enjoyment reading my new byline, M. Alan Jones, on the sports section. It's a new phase in my life, right? Maybe it's time for a different pen name, too.

Friday, October 23, 2009

One if by mail, two if by e-mail...

"Don't waste yourself in rejection." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Amanda Gillooly
BLB Guest Blogger

The rejection came three-fold. The first came by e-mail, the second via the U.S. Postal Service and the last through no communication at all. I had tried not to get my hopes up (or allow them to stay there long if they drifted skyward) but that’s just not my style. I don’t do chill, calm or collected. I get carried away with big, lofty dreams and I crash hard when I get shot down.

Those of you who know me can imagine the spectrum of emotions. They’ve seen that movie. I get devastated, I bemoan myself, I consider plans for revenge (My name is Amanda Blu Gillooly… you killed my dream. Prepare to die!), then I sulk and then I get over myself.

It was harder to get to the “over it” part this time, though. I attribute it to the blow in self-confidence that comes free with walking papers. While the rational part of me (that little, tiny section) knows that it was dollars and cents, when has rational ever won? When it does, it always seems to be a fourth-quarter victory – and a close one, too.

But I did. After I bitched to my sister, complained to my BFFF Scott and broadcasted my angst over several social networking sites, I started to come around. And for the first time since rejection struck, I was able to see things from a more balanced state of mind.

Job #1, the managing editor position, was out of my experience range. A professor at the college I applied to e-mailed to let me know how much competition there had been for the position – with applicants who had ample magazine production experience on their resumes.

Job #2 was a freelance marketing gig I was recruited for, only to be unceremoniously cast off. Not only did I have absolutely no experience in marketing, but as it turns out, no interest in it, either. So why was I so upset? I guess once I get in a tizzy I roll with it.

Job #3? Well, that was a communications manager position I still think I’d be well-suited for. Requiring strong writing, editing and interpersonal skills, it was one I was pumped for, too. But I haven’t heard back. And it has been three weeks. So, while there may be hope for a second interview, I’m not holding my breath.

The rejection felt different this time, but it was essentially the same song and dance. What matters, as always, is what you do after getting the shaft. I asked myself: Are you going to sit and complain and binge drink or are you going to get back to the keyboard, send out some more query letters all the while working to re-inflate your own ego?

I know I should have answered: “Get back to the keyboard!” but I had already bought a case of Blue Moon and it seemed silly not to drink a few. So I cracked one open and began my story – and rejection was the last thing on my mind.

Amanda Gillooly previously worked for the Observer-Reporter and now freelances for The Innocence Institute of Point Park University and PittsburghMom.com. She can be reached by e-mail at amandabgillooly@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yinz going Dahntahn n'at?

Early followers of this blog will remember my entry shredding our neighbors to the northwest in Cleveland with a couple hilarious videos. Well, I think it's only fair to reciprocate with a yinzer video of our own that made me laugh just as hard as the YouTubes in which Cleveland proudly proclaims that "At least we're not Detroit!" The video below is a take on Petula Clark's classic "Downtown." Anyway, here's a quick tutorial on Pittsburguese. I mean, we should laugh at ourselves and not be jagoffs, n'at.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The whim of a traitor

Although I have reserved "whim of a madman" for everyone's favorite shock jock, Glenn Beck, I think a new phrase - "The whim of a traitor" - should now be placed on another right-wing nutjob. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has gone off his rocker (again) by issuing a terse e-mail to a group of military veterans touring 21 states and warning of climate change. Now, before anyone goes off about the "Cap and Trade" legislation or its ramifications, I first would like to say that I, too, am unsure whether the proposal makes sense. But that's not the issue here. In Metcalfe's statement, he calls these veterans "traitors" and likens them to Benedict Arnold. Here's what he said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette...

"As a veteran, I believe that any veteran lending their name, to promote the leftist propaganda of global warming and climate change, in an effort to control more of the wealth created in our economy, through cap and tax type policies, all in the name of national security, is a traitor to the oath he or she took to defend the Constitution of our great nation! Remember Benedict Arnold before giving credibility to a veteran who uses their service as a means to promote a leftist agenda. Drill Baby Drill!!!"

Now, technically Rep. Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, is an Army veteran. I spoke to a polite receptionist at his district office this afternoon and she said he served during the early 1980s in the dangerous battle zone of Germany. She couldn't tell me his rank when he retired in 1984. However, when I pushed the woman on the "traitor" issue, she agreed that these veterans are indeed traitors to the United States because they are endorsing legislation that could restrict coal mining. WOW. She offered a caveat that this is a free country and people can say anything they wish. You're right. That's why I'm writing on my blog that your boss is a flaming idiot.

Well, what if these veterans were touting pro-choice rights, I asked her. Anyone pushing a leftist agenda is a traitor, she responded. WOW.

Metcalfe, of course, is the same bonehead who opposed legislation to promote a Domestic Violence Month in the state because he was concerned that the resolution also recognized abused men. He assumed that meant it covered homosexual men, and that just wouldn't fly with him. WOW. This guy can't honestly believe half of what he says... right?

Although I doubt many who read this blog are in Metcalfe's district, I'll offer a couple of phone numbers for anyone else offended by this idiot's tired act. The Cranberry office is (724) 772-3110 and Harrisburg office is (717) 783-1707, or you can e-mail him directly at dmetcalf@pahousegop.com. The stupidity in this country is increasing each day, and it shouldn't be surprising when we elect ignorant morons like Metcalfe to represent us.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Greeted by a hissing stove

I returned back to my house Saturday evening to catch a pungent whiff of natural gas settling in the front hallway. The stench was unmistakable, so I walked to the road and made a quick phone call to 911. As a police reporter, I called emergency dispatchers hundreds of times to ask them questions. Now I was asking them for help.

Luckily, the local fire department is just a half-mile away, so emergency responders were there in less than 10 minutes. They entered my townhouse and quickly determined the stove was spewing natural gas for unknown reasons. I'm sure they get some minor cases, but the first firefighter who entered made it clear this was the real deal. "Oh yeah!" the assistant chief shouted before retreating to his truck for more equipment. They clamped the connection and opened the windows. Within 15 minutes, the natural gas had dissipated and we were back in the house.

So today I went out in search of a new gas stove from The Home Depot. That's the funny thing about not having a job. Your income might be reduced, but the bills keep on rolling. As I swiped my credit card to drop $575 for the GE oven, I thought it might be wise to ask for a job application, as well. With the economy slogging along through Bush's Recession, I wonder if that potential part-time job might come in handy in the very near future. Especially after I receive this month's gas bill.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Maz-ificent game

It's getting harder and harder to imagine the Pittsburgh Pirates as a championship caliber (or even a major league) team, but the 1960 roster shocked the world 49 years ago today. It still is amazing that team, which won Game 7 against the feared New York Yankees, doesn't get the historical credit it deserves. Although the Yankees had outscored the Pirates by a score of 46-17 during the first six games, the series was tied heading back to Pittsburgh for Game 7. The Pirates blew a 9-7 lead in the ninth, but they had final ups in the bottom half of the inning. And there was scrawny Bill Mazeroski standing at the plate - a player known more for his glove than his bat - cracking the winning run over the center field wall.

While most of the country doesn't even remember this game, a group of Buccos fans and former players still gather at the outfield wall in Oakland to listen to the radio call and commemorate this amazing feat. In a city that has seen 17 years of abysmal baseball, Oct. 13 is recognized as a local holiday for a city starving for meaningful baseball.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

War is over!!!!

Congrats to our state Legislature for passing the budget! Pay raises and Pink Pigs for EVERYONE!! Thank you, state legislators, for performing your state-mandated duty 101 days late. If I did my job as poorly as all of you did yours, I'd lose my job... Oh wait!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A personal rejection

This time, the rejection letter was personal. Not only did it dash any hopes of working for a major newspaper, but it also was delivered in the mail and actually signed by hand. In an era of rapid-fire e-mails, the signature made the rejection by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor David Shribman somewhat personal.

The Post-Gazette was the first job I applied to after getting my walking papers June 24. Expecting the demise of the Observer-Reporter earlier this year, I compiled my favorite clips - newspaper jargon for stories - and placed them in a manila folder. They sat there untouched for about four months until I pulled them out again and mailed them to the P-G on June 25. This was my opportunity, I thought, to work for a major newspaper and remain in my hometown. But with newspapers across the country slashing payroll, it shouldn't have been a surprise that there are no positions available at the paper. Shribman told me exactly that in his letter.

But the thing that caught me is he actually signed the letter. It wasn't written with the typical printed fake signature most companies use. I could see the divots in the blue ink he used to scrawl his name. That made me wonder: Did he actually review my clips? Did he personally reject me? Does he know my name? I don't need answers to any of those questions. Rather, they were just thoughts that rattled around my head for a few minutes.

The question now, though, is where am I going to apply to next?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


This may be casting the net too wide, but Gov. Ed Rendell and every state legislator should be fired. Sure, I realize that some of our elected representatives and senators are on board with the current budget proposal, but that isn't enough. There still is no budget and many of us are starting to pick out Halloween jack-o-lanterns. We have waited three months for approval of the budget - the state constitution dictates it be passed by June 30 - and yet we still have nothing to show for it. Real people are hurting, and your partisan bickering is crushing us.

I challenge each elected official working in Harrisburg to forgo his/her per diem until the budget is actually passed, and pay back your previous expense checks. If this is unacceptable, then I ask you to resign. There are plenty of Pennsylvanians who would gladly do your job and earn your paychecks (including many of us breadliners). It's becoming more and more obviously you are unable to perform the most basic duty expected of America's Largest and Most Expensive Full-Time State Legislature.

The time for games is over. Republicans and Democrats, do your job or get out. Otherwise, everyone's favorite Pink Pig will return during your 2010 re-election campaigns to sling (or roll in) some mud.