Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids – Libraries

July 25th, 2014 4 comments

Libraries were a place of dread going up. I didn’t come from a family of readers, we watched TV. When I was young my future sister-in-law came into the picture and would say “Don’t you want to read a good book?” I’d laugh and reply “Why, when I have cable with a gajillion channels?”.

Doug Kids Homebrewing

Quality time reading with the kids

Reading seemed like a chore to me because I did a ton of it in catholic school so why would I want to do it in my spare time? The problem was I didn’t have anyone saying “Hey there’s something cool to discover.”

Erie then built, at the time, the state-of-the-art Blasco Library. I was getting into computers and picked up loads of programming books. I would spend time in the computer center working on code and sending emails because I didn’t have a machine of my own.

When I moved to Pittsburgh I had my own computer and only used the Hillman for hoarding blazing net speeds. Years would pass before I stepped back into a library and, thanks to my kids, I’ve rediscovered how great we have it in Pittsburgh!

Carnegie Library (Oakland)
My wife has always been a big reader and when she was the one staying home, would take the kids to the library constantly. When it was my turn, the kids would tell me how much fun it really was. At the urging of my wife we went as a family and it changed me forever. I fell in love with the library.

The kids section of this library is exceptional. Bright colors, computer stations, play area, and of course books galore. I figured it would be chaos with kids running around but  the children are mindful of their surroundings and there are designated reading areas for the kids to chill with a book. The librarians are polite and understanding to the children and as a parent, felt very comfortable. They have programs for reading time and other creative development which is a perk to your free membership.

Return Of Marriage

Doc found at Carnegie Library for my great-grandparents

My favorite section is the genealogy department on the 3rd floor. I was intimidated at first because as someone getting into research, I walked into a huge room feeling overwhelmed with no idea where to start. The staff is unbelievable with helping and explaining how everything works and where to look for information. Without them I wouldn’t have made so many advances on my family tree. I am absolutely addicted to spending time there and discovering more about this city I now call home.

They also have access to Ancestry.com world records. While you can’t save to your account, you can write down the info you need. Accessing local records via microfilm is a snap and you can make copies for $.10 each. Bring some dimes.

What surprised me most was the amount of programs the library offers so check out the website for a listing of current events. I know there are others like me who were “eh, its just a place of books. boring. whatever.” but you can see that, unlike other industries, they’re evolving and embracing technology instead of fighting it.

Easter Bunny at Greentree Library

Easter Bunny at Greentree Library

Greentree Library
Being home with the boys all day I’m always looking for something to do with them and Ms. Shannon at Greentree is without a doubt the best librarian in Pittsburgh. Her reading time with the kids is very hands on and my boys rave about it all the time. During the holidays she brings in Mrs. Claus to read to the kids, there are Easter egg hunts and other holiday themed events. As a parent the kids thirst for learning makes me proud.

Following the reading adventures, kids are invited to play in the community gym (when available) which is located in the same building.

Hanging out in the kids section

Hanging out in the kids section

Mt. Lebanon Library
I’m a South Hills guy now so this is my go-to library. I use the Dormont library quite a bit also but this is the one I call home. The kids section is HUGE and complete with computer center, creative play area, hearty supply of DVDs/video games to rent and access to the outdoor reading garden.  They’ve also embraced digital audio books, have a very easy book check in/out system and have events such as a chili tasting and beer sampling. Mt.Lebo does a great job making it a community gathering spot.

Pittsburgh has an incredible library system that I would have never discovered without the quality programs offered to bring my kids in.

Pittsburgh libraries aren’t the dull, out-of-date, old lady behind the desk yelling at you for breathing too loud experience many of us grew up with. They’re relaxing, fun, educational and make you want to visit.

Genealogy research and historical societies seem to have a reputation as being for the older generations. If there is anyone interested in making it appeal to all generations, maybe we can do something about it.

Obviously this is a short list of the places I go. What is your favorite library and why?

This is the 2nd in a 3 part series on how, after living here for 16 years, I’m discovering Pittsburgh with the help of my little boys.

Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids – Museums

July 24th, 2014 4 comments

I’m a history junkie. Most of my friends know this and if you didn’t, now you do also. I love historical events and stories more than saaaay art.

trex

Growing up I dragged my family to Gettysburg roughly 18 times while dad was on his business trips for the state. Something about the Civil War sucked me in (ask me about General Lee being a midget some day) but I had zero interest in the history of my hometown of Erie.

Looking back we never learned about the War of 1812 even though we’re the home of the Flagship Niagara and the only reason why I liked going to the Erie Historical Museum was to touch the kettle Mad Anthony Wayne had his bones boiled in. What adolescent boy wouldn’t love that!

I loved the Carnegie Museum of Natural History when we would visit Pittsburgh because they had a T-Rex and dinosaur bones galore. I had the shirts, posters, heck I WAS Dino Dan… err Doug.  Beyond that though most museums were kinda boring to a kid. Technology wasn’t like it is today and honestly you can only look at so many pieces of paper, clay figurines and touch a piece of wood that was on something famous before you get bored.

Today is different and Pittsburgh makes learning fun.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Locals already know how cool this place is but if you’re new to the area, grew up with experiences such as mine, or are parents, let me explain.

This museum is tricked out. There are interactive screens and movies that can suck you in. The displays are filed with color and excitement and my kids LOVE that they can be hands on with many of the items. Gone are the days of walking in line and getting yelled at if you touch something. OK within reason touching something. Don’t take selfies with the bears.

Derda Boys Carnegie Museum

My kids love the excavation site where they can get down and dirty “unearthing” remains with their picks, goggles and brushes. Every weekend we’ve attended there has been something hands on so they can feel the science. Not everything has gone to the kids so don’t get the impression that it’s getting cartoonish. The museum has made the experience interactive so you feel like you’re a part of it. They made history fun!

It is also attached to the Carnegie Library, which has made an impact on me, and I’ll touch on it tomorrow.

Membership information can be found here. Join and you also get admission into Carnegie Museum of Art, The Andy Warhol Museum, and Carnegie Science Center (including Highmark SportsWorks®) This is seriously a great deal even if you only visit a couple of places. Parking is relatively cheap also at around $5.

Carnegie Science Center
The science center isn’t a museum but is part of the membership you can purchase here so I wanted to make sure it gets a mention. I love it for the submarine, planetarium and omnimax theater. Kids love the Highmark SportsWorks because they can get tossed and thrown around by science.

DerdaBoysScienceCenter

Its a win-win for all families and deserves a post of it’s own on here down the road. With 20 breweries in the SWPA area I hope to one day see a small segment dedicated to the brewing process. Give me a call people, we’ll make it work.

Children’s Museum
This isn’t your traditional museum and is more of a creative playhouse for all ages. I’ve learned a lot about my boys from spending the past 7.5 months home with them but the Children’s Museum taught me so much more. My 3yr old is very much into electronics and building. I’m not talking about video games but he loves building with different materials and also completing circuits to make things move.

TeaspoonChildrensMuseumHighlight is the 3rd floor, or as my kids call it, Water World.

Waterplay is a place where children can experience nearly 20 different new exhibit components that let them pump, move, channel and dam the flow of water, and experience rain, spray and ice.  Have fun with hands-on activities highlighting water texture, flow, reflection and tension, and learn about the principles of buoyancy, hydraulics and conservation.

My kids have learned about teamwork in managing water flow, how water can create power and how to make any adult soaked with little effort. Don’t worry, they have dryers.

You can easily spend 3-4 hours in there without realizing it and no two trips are ever the same. To find out more and join, visit them at pittsburghkids.org

Those are the 3 that we hit up quite frequently. On our list to visit in the area also are the Roberto Clemente Museum, Andy Warhol MuseumWestern Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum and Senator John Heinz History Center.

Do you have suggestions on places to check out?

This is the 1st in a 3 part series on how, after living here for 16 years, I’m discovering Pittsburgh with the help of my little boys.

Discovering Pittsburgh through my kids

July 24th, 2014 No comments

When I write on the topic of cool things I discover about Pittsburgh I’ll always get a few “I can’t believe you’ve never been there before!” comments. Funny coming from people afraid to cross a bridge or go through a tunnel but it’s true.

Teaspoon with Mr. Rogers

Teaspoon with Mr. Rogers

I moved here in my early 20′s for work and, while I knew attractions were around, I had little interest in Pittsburgh besides sports and beer. I was a closet history nerd but my friends at the time were all about the bar scene. Social media wasn’t even a star in Zuck’s eye yet for people socializing online as we know it and I fell into the pattern I had in Erie. You go to the same bar, with the same people and do it all over again the next day. “It’s taco night and $.25 drafts. Why wouldn’t you go there? We always go there!” It’s not crazy to think that I could still be working at Staples and going to Andy’s Pub on Saturday nights for billiards and then midnight bowling. Not that I didn’t enjoy it when I was 21, I really did, it’s just that’s what you do.

My brother and his family would get me out to explore Pittsburgh after my move but the thought of returning never crossed my mind for a lot of these places. I wasn’t programmed to think of finding the best burger, pizza or best anything like we are now. There was no passion to have a “best” place like so many Pittsburghers boast. We didn’t have that local pride or attachment in Erie.

My world was my work for years and it wasn’t until I had kids that I started to look at Pittsburgh, and my life, in a new way. Since last summer we’ve been on a mission to find out what makes Pittsburgh great and this year we went all in with memberships to the zoo, children’s museum and anything with the name Carnegie in it. We’ve been hitting up parks I never knew existed and have taken advantage of whatever cool things I can find on blogs such as The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and WQED’s Smartparent.

I’m kicking off a small series later today “Discovering Pittsburgh through my Kids”. Maybe it’s with my kids? Eh we’ll see.

We’ll start today with museums, move to libraries on Friday and then parks the following week. Those are 3 categories I feel best sum up why I love Pittsburgh and raising my family here. The people and traditions will come later this year once festival season wraps up. If you have any suggestions please let me know!

Cheers n’at!

 

I can’t believe you did that

July 23rd, 2014 No comments

Last week I made a post about deleting the website by mistake. Or was it? I had a few reasons for the post which I’ll share with you since I’ve received mixed feedback on why I did it.

HAHAHA YOU DELETED YOUR SITE!

HAHAHA YOU DELETED YOUR SITE!

Yinz are all reactionary n’at
A few years ago my podcampy friend Chris Brogan removed all of his Twitter followers to see if people would react by freaking out instead of finding out why and they didn’t let him down. Some people lost their minds even though Chris said he was doing it. The point was that on social media, instinct is to react and flip instead of finding out why something happened and checking the source (Chris, if I’m wrong let me know but that’s how I remember it *ha*).

Anyway, after a few readers told me recently they didn’t like reading a summary and then having to click “read more”, they would rather have all the content in the feed. I started to think about how my site was being consumed and started throwing around some ideas. The event in the post took place and not only wanted to share it but also have some fun.

The post was going to be 2 part. One was reading the text to tease what happened and two was finding out the details by watching the short video. I was curious if people actually read what I write or just skim and leave.

If you watched the video you would have found out that everything was fine. It always was. I was worried that the site wouldn’t come back up because this was my first site-wide blow up on production instead of a dev server but in 5 minutes it was fine. Later that night, friends on various networks asked questions about the site. So did I really delete SIDT? Yes. Did I freak out? Kinda. Was it like the video? You may never know. For a few minutes I wondered if I should even bring it back up but that’s another discussion.

Making videos with the kids
I could have let the whole situation go, add it to my log and joke with my IT friends about what happened. In fact if you ask any seasoned web guy, most will have a story about a time something similar happened. Instead I thought it would be fun to make a video with Teaspoon since I’m teaching him basic editing and how to layout video shoots. Little Thor was going to be in it but his current protest on wearing pants played a factor in limiting his role.

I appreciate all of the concern from friends as I’m on month 7 .5 of being a stay-at-home-dad and still job hunting. Don’t worry. Relax. Have a homebrew!  I know I did.

I guess I could make a batch called Overreaction Ale.

 

Categories: Friends, Misc., Social Media

What I learned from a night in the BEV Lounge

July 19th, 2014 No comments

Veronica (V-rock) left Pittsburgh for Cali awhile ago and this was the first time I’ve seen her since the move.  We met through Podcamp Pittsburgh and the Wrestling Mayhem guys back in the early days and found out we had 2 big things in common. A love of good beer and we’re both from Erie.

Men Of BEV Lounge

The BEV Lounge is named after my friend Hutch’s former podcast “Burgh’s Eye View” and is located in his basement. It’s 1/2 man cave with a bar and several taps, and 1/2 recording studio for his podcasts. Ideally it’s how I want my place set up when we buy our next house.

Friday night after a grueling game of 6-on-5 Yinz Team softball, I headed south to the BEV Lounge in Brookline for a party in her honor. It was this night that I came to realize a few things.

My friends know how to make good food and drink excellent beer.
Actually most of this I already knew. Uncle Crappy is the king of tailgating and posts pics all the time of food his making at home. Last night I finally had the chance to try some and WOW he makes the best sauerkraut balls. V-rock brought a Nelson by Alpine Beer CompanyFortunate Islands by Modern Times Beer and a 2011/12 Deliverance by The Lost Abbey. Oh and she also gave me a Pliny the Elder for home. I really need to do a beer tour of the west coast.

If you don’t watch the clock, the lounge will suck you in.
I arrived around 9:30pm, talked to a few people on the porch and then made my to the Lounge to say hi. Next thing I knew it was midnight and people were getting ready to leave but to me it felt like 20 minutes. This is a sign of not only a great place to hang out but great company also.

Most of my friends are from social networking.
I’ve been married for 8 years and the people I talk with daily now (the YinzTeamers) I didn’t know back then. It just isn’t an online thing either. I play sports with them. Our kids play together. We have fundraisers and we hang out. We’ve gone beyond tweets to personal relationships and that’s something I love about the Pittsburgh social community. There are some really great people out there and this platform is bringing us together.

Awesome content and I’m missing out on it.
Hutch had a show called Burgh’s Eye View that was about all things Pittsburgh. The good, the bad, the complete WTF IS THAT and everything in between. That spawned Steel City Resistance and, as I found out last night, he is working on shows 4 nights a week. Sorg (pronounced to Sorj in YinzTeam-ese) has a “podcast day” every Tuesday where he cranks out multiple shows in row for Sorgatron Media. No doubt the hardest working podcaster I know.

These guys are making shows and I can’t make time in my day to sit down and enjoy what others are doing let alone try to figure out what I’m going to do with “Should I Drink That?”. Then again the way I consume media now has changed. I listen to Marc Maron’s WTFpodcast on my phone when I work out. I try to watch the live stream of Awesomecast on Tuesday nights via Chromecast to my TV. I’d love to say that I listen to shows in my car but the trips are short and usually filled with kids screaming.

I would love to be able to turn out content like these guys but reality is that our current house won’t support a full time studio setup and dedicating a set time every week to record without being interrupted is next to impossible. I’d like to do more than just beer shows so who knows, maybe once the meatheads get a little older it will.

I need a nap.
After softball and hanging out for a few hours I was exhausted but wasn’t ready for bed. Does that make sense? In my head it does so let’s roll with it. I made it home around 12:30a and jumped online quick to check a few things that popped up on my phone. I picked up the house and sat down with a slice of left over pizza and a Golden Monkey to watch Netflix. Fell asleep around 2-3 and woke up at 6am to my wife leaving for work and kids in full blown jagoff mode. Great way to start a day after 4 hours of sleep eh?

One common thing that everyone last night talked about was taking time for themselves. That’s something I’ve been bad at and need to work on. Even if its a couple hours a week geeking out or reading, I need to sneak in some time for myself and for getting together with friends. It has been way too long since I’ve seen some of them.