It’s all about the ribs at The Smokehouse Bar & Grill

December 10th, 2014 No comments

Smokehouse Bar and GrillPittsburgh has a BBQ boom to match the craft beer explosion so we are living in a very delicious time. I was told about this place from a trusted BBQ friend and they did not let me down. The ownership had just changed so there were a few kinks to work out but you would never know that with the food. LOVED IT!

I had an order of garlic parm wings that were amazing. Hard to believed they were fried. Slight crisp and flavorful but not greasy.

1/2 slab of St Louis style ribs were meaty, perfectly cooked (unlike others I’ve had who cook the meat and leave it in warming pans so its a mess) and the coleslaw side was fantastic.

Bartender was very pleasant and the patrons were very friendly as well. It felt like I was hanging out with friends and that is what really drove it home for me on having a quality experience.

Beer selection wasn’t bad and prices were very reasonable. I stopped in on a Sunday afternoon and would easily go back to catch a Steelers game. $2.50 you call it drinks  and $.35 wings make the day even better.

 

Keep up with the specials online and the events they have planned for you:
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Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights

December 9th, 2014 No comments

Oglebay Lights When it was first suggested we go check out the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay a few weeks ago I was against it. I didn’t want to spend my Saturday night loading up the family, driving to West Virginia to look at Christmas lights and then driving back a car of people snoring. As the nights came and went we would drive around the South Hills and my kids would gawk at the lights on houses. Yeah, you can see where this was leading. Either they really loved the lights or mommy bribed their butts.

Last week while picking up my youngest from preschool he asked me if we could go look at lights some night because they really make him happy. Looking at the calendar the only date we had open that would work was December 6, my dad’s 8th anniversary. I felt a blanket of peace come over me and knew this would be a fitting tribute since the man was crazy obsessed with Christmas lights and going all out to decorate. He was the Clark Griswold of Erie.

The drive felt faster than I expected and while the wait in the car might seem long (see the list below) what you’re going to experience is worth it. Oglebay does a great job of traffic control and making sure you don’t have many bottlenecks along the way once you’re in the park. The use of LED lights over the old bulbs when I was growing up made the designs brighter but also helped the displays with moving parts appearing more lively.

It’s hard for me to talk about what I loved without ruining the trip for you so I’ll leave you with this. The glow on my kids faces were the brightest I have ever seen. Every turn was “WHOA! LOOK!” and at the end Teaspoon said thanks for taking him because it was really cool.

Here are a few thoughts.

Know Before You Go
This isn’t just a quick “wham-bam-nice lights ma’am” kinda trip, it’s an adventure and you need to be ready for it especially if you’re taking kids.

  1. Easy drive – From Greentree to the exit right off I-70 was approximately 1 hour. All you need to know is I-79 to I-70 and be able to read signs. It really is THAT easy to get to. Once you exit and turn right onto National Rd/rt40 stay in the left lane. You turn at Sheetz unless…
  2. OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC! – Here’s how you get around the first wave of cars. Weekday nights won’t be as bad but Fri/Sat/Sunday is a mess. Stay in the right lane and pass Sheetz. You can turn around at the plaza a block away and then when you come back you’ll have the right turn on red.
  3. OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC pt 2 – If traffic is backed up at Sheetz you will wait for at least 75 minutes in traffic. Traffic moves at a crawl and there are very few places to pull over on the way. Plan ahead for road trip food.
  4. Bring your wallet – Suggested donation is $20 per car (great price!) and there is a DVD for $5 which is worth it. The kids have played it to death plus we got to learn more about the resort. There is also a cool gift shop and activities for families.
  5. Christmas Jams – They have a radio station to tune in to for music while you’re touring the area along with info breaks to tell you more about the displays.
  6. Bring a camera but don’t stress over pics – Unless you’re stopping for pics don’t sweat it if you can’t get that perfect blurry picture of lights. Enjoy the moment with the people you’re with.
  7. Beer in Sheetz – It’s mostly macros but if you want to feel what it’s like to live in just about every other state in the U.S. and buy beer at a convenience store, this is your chance. There’s also a Kroger’s at the exit but their selection is really weak.
  8. Drive back is really fast – We had no idea how close Wheeling really was. I mean we KNEW it was a short distance but if you haven’t been there, you need to experience it.

The trip was a great experience for the family and next year I think we may make a full weekend out of it. There was so much to do we didn’t know about and next year I think getting a group of us together would be a blast.

Categories: Family, Fatherhood

Podcamp Pittsburgh 9 – Ignite n’at

November 29th, 2014 No comments

Podcamp Pittsburgh 9Podcamp Pittsburgh is something I can’t let go of. Every year I look forward to this one weekend where I can kick back and geek out over creating content, networking, and sharing my knowledge with others. It’s a retreat for geek time.

I started with Podcamp 1 as an attendee with a shiny new podcast and then became a presenter for the next few years with stints as an organizer. When I found out this past September that Podcamp wasn’t planned I couldn’t let it go down like that since it is the longest running Podcamp in the world. I NEEDED this event to happen. I sent the call out to Twitter and thanks to Missy for rounding up the troops, we pulled it off in 6 weeks. Yes 6 weeks.

Podcamp 9 showed me what I already knew but at a higher level. My friends kick ass.

If we wanted to pull this off we needed a venue first and trying to find one for 150-200 people on short notice plus during the school year is not an easy accomplishment. Thankfully the fine folks at Point Park University stepped in and helped us out and the only weekend available was also a Steelers bye week which in Pittsburgh is like a Double Rainbow for an event.

pcpgh9 organizersI think part of what made this happen so quickly too was the core group of organizers. 6 people with a mission and volunteers who busted their asses to make sure the dream stayed alive. If you want a fast turnaround this is the way to go but thinking ahead to Podcamp 10 we’re going to need a bigger boat.

The overall weekend went well. Our numbers were down in part to Light Up Night weekend festivities and an unexpected ice storm Saturday morning which left many people home. The nice thing with Podcamp though is all sessions were streamed via YouTube/Google Hangouts so we still have to factor in those viewers.

Meet n Greet

A staple of Podcamp Meet & Greet events since Podcamp 2 has been the presence of “Should I Drink That?“. We provide the beer and serve it up with a little bit of craft beer knowledge for your soul. IKEA played host to the event this year and did a fantastic job of making everyone feel welcome. They provided several tasty vodka drinks while SIDT supplied offerings from local brewer Rivertowne (Babbling Blonde, RT Lager, & Old Wylie’s IPA). What did I learn from the event? IKEA food is more than meatballs. The chicken wings were meaty and tasty and spring rolls plus other apps were a great discovery also. Good food. Good times. Consider hosting your next meet up with them!

Day 1

I was pulling double duty today. While helping out wherever needed around Podcamp I was also monitoring the social chatter for a conference where one of my teams were for my day job. Myself and others would bounce in between sessions to make sure everything was flowing smoothly and then I would find a corner to jump on Twitter and see what was going on thousands of miles away. Hallway conversations and meeting new people make Podcamp an excellent networking opportunity and when your butt is planted out there you end up meeting a lot of people.

Afterparty

The after party turned into a well deserved time out and a chance to hang with some new friends. After quick stints at Diamond Market and Grit & Grace, we descended on Redbeard’s downtown. Since I don’t get downtown often I’ve only heard of these places so I also take Podcamp weekend as a time for myself to find out more about Pittsburgh after dark.

The 649 ShotWe’ve had a tradition since Podcamp 2 where everyone gathers after the Saturday sessions and partake in the ritual 6-4-9 shot. This is a shot not for the faint of heart and most times an iron stomach is required. In a glass you mix a shot of the 6th bottle from the left, 4th bottle from the right and 9th bottle from the left. I believe you have to toast Canada also but that’s out of respect for giving us this treat. The 2014 edition gave us 1800/Captain Morgan Black/Dewar’s Highlander Honey. It was surprisingly amazing and I have to thank the bartender upstairs of Redbeard’s for making that happen.

Day 2

My plan was to sit back and watch some really cool sessions, instead I ended up speaking in 3 (SEO 101, Longevity in Podcasting, and a live broadcast of the Awesomecast). What I love about Podcamp is having the opportunity to jump in and help out when needed and partake in sessions created on the fly based on needs of the audience. I was a little shaky at first but once I got back in my comfort zone I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Shocker eh?

The weekend ended more rewarding than I anticipated and plans are underway for Podcamp 10. I’m hoping we can bring back a few of the greats who graced our presence over the years and make Podcamp Pittsburgh X our biggest to date. Who would you like to see and what do you want to learn more about?

 

Categories: pcpgh9, Podcamp Pittsburgh

The Day I Played Chicken with a MACK Truck

November 23rd, 2014 2 comments

2 inches more inches and I wouldn’t be writing this post.

I shouldn’t be here.

20 years ago today I was in accident which if the MACK truck hit me any harder I would have had a part of my car through my head.

Me inside the 1981 Monte Carlo

My 18th birthday and the new ride

The year was 1994, I was a freshman at UPT and it was the day before Thanksgiving break. I told my friend Kristi that I would drive her home so her parents wouldn’t have to come get her. It wasn’t really on the route that I would normally drive home but it wasn’t too far out of the way either and I like driving through PA in the fall. What we didn’t expect was the amount of snow that would fall while we were sleeping.

My car was a gem. Near mint condition Midnight Blue 1981 Monte Carlo. FAT wheels on the back and the car could haul some serious ass. It was a present from my parents for my 18th birthday and I loved this car. I was never a car guy growing up but this beast was amazing. It was fast, powerful and turned heads everywhere I went. I can still feel the steering wheel grip in my hands and myself sitting in it. The car was my baby.

When we woke on the morning of November 23rd, the ground was covered in white. We heard there might be snow but this was more than a dusting. We got slammed. Growing up in Erie, driving in the snow is like any other day so I didn’t think twice about it. I loaded up the car with my clothes, an N64 I rented from the local video store and her luggage. No sweat. This drive will be longer but easy.

We were just outside of Spartansburg when the snow was starting to let up but all cars were taking it slow as we were starting to come down a hill. As we approached a bend I saw a MACK truck was coming up the hill but something was off. He was driving in the middle of the road! With the roads covered in snow there wasn’t much to do but hold on. I tried to move the car off to the side of the road but it was too late. My focus went from the whole road to zooming in on the point of impact.

BOOM! CRASH! KABLAM!

The car is thrown partially into a ditch and someone’s front yard plus I’m knocked out. Kristi shakes me to wake me up and all I see is a mangled hood through my windshield and the engine on fire. People from the house came out to check on me and phoned 911 but they were Amish (I was told) so they had to run to a nearby building which had a phone. Medics arrive on the scene and load me into the ambulance. State police arrive and start grilling me on what happened. I’m barely functional and this guy wont let up to get me to say I caused the accident. What I didn’t know at the time was that the car behind me was my English professor and saw the whole thing. I would find out later that she confirmed my story but that apparently wasn’t enough for the trooper.

I’m rushed to the hospital in nearby Corry where Kristi’s mom happens to work. I’m in and out of consciousness and recall my trip to get scanned but not much more. I can hear the doctors talking but I can’t open my eyes. I was freaking out and relaxed at the same time. Was I dead?

By the grace of God the only injuries I had were a banged up knee that smashed into the dashboard and a concussion from my head hitting the steering wheel since cars weren’t made with airbags back then. The medics apparently waited around to see if I was OK and handed me the hood ornament from my car which I still have today. The doctors tell me that one of the medics said that if I was hit any harder or moved in the slightest, a piece of the frame would have shot up through the floor and killed me instantly.

I’m discharged and spend time back at Kristi’s house while we wait for my parent’s to arrive. I’m sure that wasn’t a pleasant phone call to my parents to let them know their son was in an accident with a MACK truck. We meet at a McDonald’s in town and then made the tough trip to the junk yard where my car was towed. I do a quick job cleaning out my personal materials out of the car and say goodbye. If I was driving any other car my family had at the time I know I wouldn’t be writing this now.

I was lucky. No, I was DAMN lucky.

It would take me a few years before I was back to 100%. My headaches were severe for a few months following and what  a lot of people don’t know is that I was a distance runner for years. After that wreck I wouldn’t even attempt to run again for 20 years.

I have never gone back to the site of the accident after we took pictures to have on record but thanks to Google Maps and Photoshop here is the location with a little from 1994 and 20 years later and a very young version of me.

The accident 1994 and 2014

This is a collection of all of the photos of the car after the accident when we visited the junkyard to collect the rest of my personal items.

 

Categories: Erie, Family, Misc.

When we were Napster. Downloaded – the movie.

November 20th, 2014 No comments

Downloaded The MovieI’ve been on a Netflix binge lately and it’s not just TV shows but also ALL Netflix media. This past Saturday while my wife was on a trip, my boys were being full-blown jagoffs. Since I wasn’t going to have my day ruined while waiting for her to return, I decided to get creative. I fired up Netflix and made them sit through 2 episodes of Ken Burns 18 1/2hr series “Baseball”. I enjoyed it being taken back to the early gritty days of my favorite sport. The kids were bored to death and took a nap. Life was good.

Over the weekend I ended up watching several documentaries but one really sucked me in. It was one I felt I was a part of because like many college kids at the time, we were all users. It was Downloaded, the story of Napster.

Quick overview:
The movie touched on the founding of Napster, the people behind the scenes you never heard about, the rise and fall of one of the most popular internet companies of all time, and how they reshaped the way we consume music today.

If I had known then what I know now (Pearl Jam – Red Mosquito)
The summer after I moved to Pittsburgh is when I learned about Napster. I moved here to work at a big tech company and every day I would come home to my small 1BR apartment with a box of wine or cheap case of beer to meet my best friend. We would spend the rest of the night writing code, geeking out, hanging in MUDs and IRC, playing with webcams, building computers, fixing what we broke and downloading as much as my 56K modem could handle. I was in the butter zone baby!

It was a great time to be alive and online. We knew something big was about to happen with the Internet and we crammed as much knowledge as we could into our heads in order to be ready for it. We could see the future in online media and had the vision but couldn’t get over the hump to make it happen. We were poor college kids living off ramen noodle & cheap booze, there was no way we were starting a business. My generation thrived on bootleg CDs and tapes so it made perfect sense that we would be the ones leading the online music revolution.

What amazed me with the story of Napster was how fast everything came together and also crashed. Thinking about how close in age Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker were to me when it happened blew my mind. I know at that age I was in no mental position to run a company, let alone deal with the music monsters wanting my head, yet they kept going until the end.

Watching the artists freak out over downloading digital music for free seems pretty extreme today given how many resources we have to listen to the music we want and when we want it (I’m listening to Pearl Jam on Spotify as I’m writing this.). We didn’t have mp3 players and smart phones like we do now. We’d still have to burn CDs and store music on computers so while we obtained music for free, enjoying those tunes was a pain in the ass.

Fast forward to 2014 and the way I consume music has changed. I barely have any mp3 files that aren’t digital downloads of concerts and I’ve never paid for music on iTunes. The only music I listen to is from streaming services and honestly I still have hundreds of CDs and some vinyl. When my work time drives were longer I subscribed to Sirius/XM and today I listen to podcasts or local radio.

Looking back on my 20s I don’t know if I would have the same curiosity and excitement as a student today as I did then. There was something special about creating for the future and now the pursuit of innovation has been replaced with a culture of Mean Girls and glorified high school experiences.

Categories: Movies, Pittsburgh