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99 problems but a parking spot ain't one

Finding parking before Pirates games may seem to require as much luck and skill as winning the game itself, but Parking Panda can help, according to spokesman Bryan Lozano.

Lozano said the company, which recently expanded into Pittsburgh, uses aggregated data from different parking garages across the city to allow users to find the most convenient and cheapest parking spots. The company also allows drivers to reserve guaranteed spaces before Pirates games, so you can roll up to the game as late or as early as you want without fear. "We are trying to make the experience seamless," Lozano said, "one of our tag lines is we want to make parking painless and that’s because it’s a pain."

As far as parking goes, in Pittsburgh we have it pretty good comparatively. In some cities, on street parking is so hard to find that an app called MonkeyParking allows drivers to sell public spots to each other! Thankfully we haven't reached that level (barring outrageous meter rates), but it would be nice if Parking Panda worked with the city or Google Maps (or a wizard?) to show drivers daily and monthly street parking regulations. Currently, the service only works with garages, but you can try your luck with street parking, then if you don't see any, you can use Parking Panda's iPhone or Android app to find the best deal in your area. "If a garage is sold out it will say that on the website, so you don't have to drive around in circles," Lozano said.

The service is also available in other cities including parking nightmare Philly and nearby cities like Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati, so do your research before you drive into a downtown death trap aka Philly! "The hardest part is the behavioral change—getting people to realize this is even an option," Lozano said, "parking is often the last thing you do and many people don't put much thought into it until they can't find a spot." Don't be that person!

Lozano said that since Parking Panda allows garages to see the prices of competitors and reach out directly to customers, it may lead to more competitive garage pricing. "I think it’s also about pushing cities to examine how they do their parking," Lozano said.

But, if you are a neophyte or don't want to reserve a spot with Parking Panda, there's always the good ole Pittsburgh parking chair.
 

Lyft gets lift-off from PUC, but where will ride sharing take us?

After much battling, taxi service Lyft has received reprieve and will be temporarily allowed to operate in Pittsburgh, while competitor Uber is expected to receive results from its hearings with the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission this week.

Mayor Bill Peduto has spoken out in favor of the ride sharing services, and residents of Pittsburgh, who previously had difficulty finding cabs are in love with it. Patron Jess Netto used pink-mustachioed Lyft to pick her up from the bus station late at night, and was impressed with the driver's swift arrival and with her ability to see her ride approaching.

"Once you request a ride and a driver accepts, the app shows you a picture of your driver and a picture of the car they will be driving," Netto says.

She rode from Oakland to Lawrenceville and paid $10 plus tip.

"You can get anyone to say it's a simple process, but I don't think that's the unique part of it," Netto says. "I think that it's a very communal process. It allows you to get to know your neighbors, they are all about asking you to sit up front, its not about this service-client relationship," she adds.

The service is also donation based, with a suggested amount that may be raised or lower at customer's discretion.


Individuals using personal vehicles to tote passengers around is not a new thing. Jitney service still abounds, with ride share posters on craigslist claiming they will take passengers anywhere they need to go. However unlike Lyft drivers, who undergo strict background checks, you never know who you are going to get when you call a jitney. Similarly, jitney drivers take a risk with passengers, especially after ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber snatch up customers and use passenger rating systems to safeguard drivers. Jitney driving, which once was a possibly dangerous but thriving business may have arguably become more dangerous and less thriving.

However, in addition to providing a valuable service, Lyft and Uber provide valuable jobs. The companies work by allowing car owners with newer, four-door vehicles to sign up to be drivers. Drivers work on their own schedules and use the company's app to find and accept riders. However, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times, fighting for passengers has already started between the companies. Allegations of competing drivers creating false ride requests to divert each other abound. And local cab companies are none too happy about the appearance of ride sharing services, claiming it cuts in to their business. But Netto says her driver was a former cabbie and was happy to be working for the company.

"He told me it was nice to work for a place that cared as much about its passengers as its drivers," Netto says.

Right now, Lyft and Uber may be just what Pittsburgh needs.

"I remain thankful to Gov. Tom Corbett for standing with me and others in support of these innovative 21st Century businesses," Peduto said in a statement in support of the companies.

"We look forward to continuing to work with the PUC and state legislature on a permanent solution for community-powered transportation in Pennsylvania," said Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson, following news of her company's temporary license.

However, as we become increasingly dependent upon technology created in Silicon Valley to provide us daily services and act as a go-between for more and more of life's social and business interactions, we should think about the line between consumer and dependent and make sure to safeguard our autonomy. We should think not only about what these companies are providing to us, but about what we are providing to them, and set up agreements that will be beneficial to Pittsburgh's growth for years to come.

Pittsburgh Brewing Company pouring on new label

Are you over 21? If so, then keep reading because Pittsburgh Brewing Company just introduced a new brand seeking to appeal to craft beer drinkers and rolled out a Pumpkin Ale that will be available until October. The Block House brand is headquartered in Lawrenceville, with brewing operations taking place in Latrobe.

The beverage represents what Pittsburgh Brewing Company CEO Brian Walsh called an admittedly late foray into Pittsburgh's thriving craft beer scene in an interview with Pittsburgh Business Times. Walsh told the Times a double chocolate bock will be coming out in October, and another spring and summer product will round out the collection, providing a year round offering from the label available for purchase in stores.

Though we have yet to taste the Block House Brewing Pumpkin Ale here at Pop City, Beer Advocate gives the 7.00 ABV beverage 75 out of 100 possible points, which is a much higher score than Pittsburgh Brewing Company's flagship brand Iron City beer received. The beer is described as a medium-body ale in a glowing golden-orange color with subtle reddish shading. In a press release, the company says the beverage "enchants the nose with a wallop of graham cracker crust, ginger snap cookies, and subtle notes of brown sugar." The alcohol content isn't super high for a craft beer, but is above that of the brewing company's other products.

"The boldness of the 7.0% ABV is hidden beneath layers of creamy vanilla, hearty nutmeg and a hint of caramel that when blended together creates a homemade pumpkin pie taste," the press release states.

Though Walsh is late to the craft beer party, Pittsburgh Brewing Company has been around for a VERY long time. The regional brewery started in 1861, giving it over 150 years of experience making various beers in various cans as well as various amazing commercials for them. I just spent WAY too much time on their website watching their amazing oeuvre and have selected several vintage ads for your viewing pleasure. If you don't get a jingle in your head or a sense of Pittsburgh pride in your heart, check your pluse. We can only hope commercials for the Pumpkin Ale will be as inspiring.

Pittsburgh Brewing Company Commercial Oeuvre

Workin' on a Cold Iron presents a unique view of the city: 
 

But check out the rich history of the brewing company: 
 
And the song that will absolutely stay in your head, "The Pumper":
Another extremely catchy jingle aka my new favorite dance song:
#PittsburghPride :

And the strangest commercial, which I call "elevator music": 
Tell me which was your favorite commercial @fakepretty because I want to know I am not alone in my old ad #PittsburghPride obsession.

Mall at Robinson leads the charge for the electric car

On a roof across from Houlihan’s, The Mall at Robinson in Pittsburgh has a hidden surprise: solar panels that will power free electric car charging stations the shopping center unveiled last week.

Though the effort may seem small, it could make a difference to forward-thinking car buyers seeking to purchase eco-friendly vehicles including hybrids and electric cars. These cars once cost significantly more than projected savings, but as Chevy, Ford and Mitsubishi roll out lower-end consumer models, owning an electric vehicle is possible for more people. The government has also extended rebates to consumers who buy these cars new. 

However, in order to sell electric vehicles, charging stations need to be readily accessible. Right now, they are not as common as gas stations and take more time to utilize, since electric cars are like phones and don’t get juiced up with a single jolt. “We have a mall walker who comes in every day and charges his car in the morning while he walks,” says Shema Krinsky, spokeswoman for the shopping center.

While malls are not usually the first places that come to mind for sustainability initiatives, this mall has been working for years to reduce its carbon footprint and wants to offer visitors a little education along with their consumerism. A kiosk installed in the food court this week will let shoppers monitor energy created by the solar panels and see the impact of the shopping center’s progress first hand

It's mall manager Beth Edwards' hope that upon seeing the energy savings, visitors will be inspired to examine the impact of their own personal choices on the environment.
 
Over the past eight years, the mall has reduced its kilowatt usage by 43 percent by switching to LED holiday lights among other things, according to its website. Between 2008 and 2013, the mall reduced water usage by 54 percent by switching to low-flow toilets along with other efforts.

And like your hippie friend who wanted to convert an old Mercedes into an eco vehicle, the mall collects used vegetable oil from its restaurants and makes biodiesel, which is distributed for commercial and residential use. Guests drop off used books in a collection bin in the parking lot near JCPenney and Macy's to benefit Robinson Township Library as part of Better World Books, and energy efficient hand dryers installed in all public restrooms have eliminated paper towel waste. The Mall recycles cardboard, metal, plastic, paper, cell phones, printer cartridges and wood pallets. Guests may drop off phones and ink and toner cartridges at each entrance to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and paper in the Abitibi container in Service Court 3 to benefit the American Heart Association.

According to Edwards, The Mall at Robinson has been committed to sustainability since day one. In the past nine years, the mall reports it has saved timber resources equal to 21,893 mature trees, 4,732 cubic yards of landfill airspace, 596,397 gallons of oil, 9,014,600 gallons of water and enough electric power to supply more than 466 homes for an entire year.

What have you done lately? Maybe its time to look into that electric car. 

Red Star Kombucha, the brewed in Pittsburgh glob to love

Pittsburgh has a kombucha to call its own.
 
Red Star is a local version of the fermented tea beverage and the first licensed kombucha brewery in Pennsylvania. The company is expanding to new digs in Pittsburgh and adding a second location in Philadelphia.
 
Founded by Joe Reichenbacher and Naomi Auth, business partners and brewers, Red Star opened last year on Lowrie Street in the Pig Hill Café, starting out as a growler filling station for kombucha drinkers.
 
Auth developed the recipe, three flavors: Zingerbuch, Green and 1877, the latter a robust black tea with lemon notes. Reichenbacher had the bar business know-how to get the venture up and running.
 
The brewery is relocating to Dallas Avenue in Point Breeze; the growler shop will reopen early next year in the Artisan Café, 5001 Penn Ave.
 
“There’s a pretty good kombucha base in Pittsburgh,” Reichenbacher reports, “although it will never be as popular here as beer.”
 
Kombucha, pronounced kom-boo-cha, is a fermented fungus that is gaining in popularity, especially on the West Coast in health-conscious and hippie circles. China, Japan, Korea and Russia stake claims to being early brewers.
 
Many believe Kombucha has health-boosting properties, although it has not been scientifically proven. It should be noted that others, namely health experts, warn against the home brewing of non-pasturized kombucha due to the risk of contamination.
 
The tea is brewed using a culture of bacteria and yeast, called the “scoby,” a process that takes place in large glass bottles. It’s similar to sourdough, Reichenbacher says, and "the glob" can be eaten or removed. Hence the company’s motto “in glob we trust.”
 
The final product is mildly alcoholic, .5 to 1 percent, giving it a place in several Pittsburgh bars where it is sold on tap or used as a mixer. (Beer contains 5% alcohol.)
 
Reichenbacher agrees it can be an acquired taste, generally resembling a light brown carbonated, slightly bitter tea-like cider.
 
“I believe if it makes you feel good, you should keep doing it,” he adds, noting that he has found it to be the perfect midday pickup. “It makes me feel good so I keep drinking it.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Joe Reichenbacher, RedStar Kombucha
 
 

Living the life of a Pittsburgh child is one Wonderaddo day after another

Want to travel the world with your family on a small budget?
 
Wonderaddo is a new website that highlights global opportunities and activities for children right in our own backyard.
 
The site was created by Mandy Yokim, a native of Virginia and graduate of both University of Virginia and Duquesne. Yokim describes herself as a geekie mom who prefers to take her children places where they can learn more about diverse cultures and global issues. 
 
“Parents are so busy these days, they need a resource that spells it all out for them,” she says.
 
Wonderaddo, as the name suggests—addo means inspire in Latin—aims to instill a sense of wonder about the world through opportunities and events, whether its a trip to the World Launch Event at Pittsburgh Public Market or the Ukranian Festival in McKees Rocks.
 
The website is visually appealing, clean and easy to use. The calendar offers  events at a glance being held throughout the year. Specific topics are organized on tabs. A map of the world encourages parents and children to make the connection from a geographic perspective.
 
Yokim’s colleague and mom-friend Cassie Brkich of Brkich Design designed the site.
 
The easiest way to engage a child’s interest is by presenting opportunities that already interest them, be it languages, music or art, says Yokim. Pittsburgh is so diverse, that makes it easy.
 
“It’s a great visual representation of how Pittsburgh is connecting people and places all over the world,” she says.
 
Going forward, Yokim plans to collaborate with groups like Global Pittsburgh and the World Affairs Council to spread the world about the diverse cultural opportunities here.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Mandy Yokim, Wonderaddo

Style Truck, a mobile boutique for designer fashion, pulls up in Pittsburgh

Style Truck hit the road running this month, a boutique on wheels outfitted in adorable shades of lavender and pink. 
 
Just what is it? In my wildest dreams, Style Truck rescues me from my worst wardrobe malfunctions; unfortunately for me, that’s not the point. 
 
“It’s a good idea,” says Jackee Ging, owner and driver, pondering the idea. “If I knew that I could get a parking spot every Wednesday near Market Square, that would be great.”
 
An entrepreneur at heart, Ging started her business in response to a trend that puts mobile boutiques alongside food trucks as among the coolest up and coming businesses. Having worked in business and retail, it seemed a perfect fit, she says. Mobile boutiques are very popular in California, Minneapolis and Boston.
 
Style Truck offers designer fashion at affordable prices for professional women on the go, she explains. Ging is working with several small clothing designers and two local jewelry designers to convey a wide range of looks and an array of fabrics, including organic threads, bamboo and cotton.
 
Not all of it is professional wear, she admits. She couldn’t resist some funky tees.
 
Style Truck also carries accessories and handmade pieces by Honey In the Wood in Uniontown and Design by Samantha in Mt. Lebanon.
 
The boutique plans regular stops at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale, especially for their manicure martini ladies' nights, as well as Urban Cottage in Lawrenceville, a home décor boutique. She's also on tap as a judge for "Project Runway Unconventional Materials Challenge" and pulling in for the Yoga Fest in Point State Park.
 
Not everyone understands what she’s up to when she shows up, she admits.
 
“People look at me like I have 10 heads when I tell them it’s a food truck with clothes,” she says. “I don’t have my elevator pitch down yet.”
 
Ging is planning on teaming up with local boutiques and private individuals to offer wine and cheese parties, ladies’ nights and charity events.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jackee Ging, Style Truck
 

iTwixie. Empowering young women to hold companies accountable

When Rebecca Gaynier launched iTwixie, the mother of three girls hoped to create an online space where girls could confidently and honestly express themselves—and send a message to companies who cater to tween-age girls.

The social media partnership is taking off. Now in its fourth year, iTwixie has established itself as a positive voice in social media for young girls, ages 7-12. The firm recently relaunched its website, which is attracting10,000 unique views a month.  Substantial growth in the next three years is projected, says Gaynier.

For the AlphaLab startup company, the measure of success is about engaging young girls who come to the colorful website and stay for a solid period, long enough to post comments and vote on pressing issues of the day. On average, girls spend at least 10 minutes on iTwixie, which may not sound like much but is actually a lifetime for girls this age.

“It’s a new era for clients in this marketplace,” Gaynier explains. “Kids today are looking at three screens at the same time. We’re getting comments and feedback, which shows they are captivated. That’s what we’re really looking for.”

The power of the iTwixie platform is the candid feedback that young girls offer to companies and services that want to know what they’re thinking. Many of the products out there for tween girls really stink, says Gaynier. As a business, we’re empowering girls to send a message to companies that says this is what we want.

For example, when Abercrombie began selling pushup bikini bras targeted for seven-year-olds, iTwixie girls expressed their disapproval. When asked what kind of bathing they prefer to wear, they confirmed they preferred bathing suits that stay on in the pool and are brightly colored to one that makes them look like a teenager.

“It’s not what girls want,” says Gaynier.

Companies engage iTwixie because they want to send young girls a message and hear back from them. Robert Morris, for example, recently hired iTwixie to organize a series that would send a message that RMU is a magnet school for girls empowerment.

We only work with organizations, businesses or brands who share our mission to empower girls, says Gaynier. Actually, there's quite a few out there.

“There’s a payoff in this,” she says.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Rebecca Gaynier, iTwixie

The Motherhood revisited. Tapping the power of mommy bloggers as social media influencers

Since its inception as a website in 2006, The Motherhood has celebrated the power of women to change the world and make it a better place for children.
 
This week the award-winning mega-blog for mothers, based in Aspinwall, launched a new website that has cemented its position as a for-profit social media marketing company. 
 
With a completely new website, and an assist from Pittsburgh-based Fireman Creative and University of Pittsburgh’s Instutute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE), The Motherhood hopes to achieve what few in the marketing business have done successfully to date: harness the power of social media influencers, in this case mommy bloggers, to promote national brands.
 
The Motherhood was founded by longtime friends Cooper Munroe of Fox Chapel and Emily McKhann of New York City. They created the site in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helping to bring a virtual community of mothers together who were united in their desire to assist families hit hardest by the storm.  
 
“The power of women drove the entire thing,” Munroe told Pop City in 2009. “We saw the power of the web for good and how, by doing our little bit with the website, we were able to make a difference.”
 
Savvy marketing women— they met each other in 1988 working for a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.—they had a long range plan from the start: to nurture a community of woman who would become the social media influencers in their future marketing business.
 
That day has come.
 
“It has been a wonderful journey,” says Munroe. “We work with organizations (and corporations) that really want to reach moms who are social media influencers with a deep and loyal readership. The word of mouth impact is unparalleled, women talking to women about what they care about.”
 
As a marketing company, The Motherhood organizes social campaigns and strategies for companies, promoting everything from the health and welfare of Sub-Saharan mothers to good hygiene, healthy pets and family fun.
 
For example, there’s the Listerine 21-Day Challenge to improve oral health. Merck for Mothers addresses maternal mortality rates in Uganda. The Hershey Camp Bondfire promotes s’mores in the summer.
 
The Motherhood connects the campaigns through thousands of blogger followers who push the stories out on their own blogs. Some of the bloggers, not all, are paid by The Motherhood for their service.
 
Their reach is tantalizing. The Motherhood has more than 14,000 followers--6,000 followers on Facebook alone--a core network of 3000 mommy bloggers and another 10,000 potential bloggers across the country. The company counts many Fortune 500 companies among its clients: Johnson&Johnson, Bayer, Verizon, ConAgra Foods, Frito Lay to name a few.
 
“The most exciting thing is how people in Pittsburgh came together and are reshaping the advertising industry,” says Paul Fireman. “Through the magic of the community they've built, they only need to grab the ticket and take the bus.”
 
“It's not a mommy blog. It’s a whole new marketing channel, a sophisticated business that connects influencers to brands,” adds Bob Stein with Pitt’s IEE. 
 
There may be a question, for some, of corporate accountability. Do social media marketing companies like The Motherhood have a responsibility to ensure that companies are as altruistic as their campaigns claim?
 
Munroe and McKhann believe that is not their role. As a marketing firm, they create, package and deliver information on the campaigns and programs to bloggers who, in turn, spin it into prose on their own websites.

"We believe in the campaigns we work on and the clients projects we bring to bloggers. We take on campaigns that raise all boats," Munroe says.  
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, The Motherhood; Paul Fireman, Fireman Creative; Bob Stein, University of Pittsburgh
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Looking for a more meaningful job? ReWork takes on the purpose-driven career search

Landing a good job is one thing. But finding a career that is both meaningful and purpose-driven is another challenge altogether. 
 
ReWork is a Pittsburgh recruiting agency for the new economy, bringing talented people together with companies that offer rewarding careers, whether it means working for a social enterprise, a nonprofit or a company with the right mix of opportunities.
 
Take Katherine Camp, a Pittsburgh graduate with a master’s degree in international sustainable development. ReWork helped her realize her dream to work abroad by locating a position with a dairy company in India, explains Abe Taleb, ReWork founder.
 
ReWork evolved out of The Unreasonable Institute in Boulder, Colo, he explains. The program convinced him of the value in pivoting his former company, TerraShift, into a talent recruiting agency for social enterprise. 
 
“Most of the people we work with are not active job seekers,” he says. “Many (already) work full-time but want more meaningful opportunities. They want to utilize their skills and give their career a better focus.” 
 
Through an online service, ReWork matches talented individuals from all over the U.S. with national and international organizations committed to making the world a better place. The firm, which launched a year ago, employs 6 full-time people.
 
Rework is planning a series of forums to introduce entreprenuers and talented professionals to companies who are making a difference. The next Scrimmage in the Rust Belt, a day-long event, will be held on April 6th at Thrill Mill, 6024 Broad St., East Liberty from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.   

The mentors will include Donna Myers of TowerCare Technology, Mike Woycheck of AlphaLab and John Cilli of BHiveLab (part of Brunner Works). The cost is $50 to attend and includes breakfast and lunch.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Abe Taleb, ReWork
 

Pittsburgh fitness entrepreneurs raise the (heavy) bar on CrossFit with social media (hubba, hubba)

Social media is proving an effective tool in building a robust fitness business, especially when it comes to CrossFit training.
 
Jim Crowell and Josh Bobrowsky, who graduated together from Upper St. Clair High School in the South Hills, opened Integrated Fitness in 2010, first in Bethel Park and then on the South Side.

Jim was working with a hedge fund company in Austin, Texas at the time. Josh, who studied social media at CMU, was going to law school at Case Western.
 
Both athletes, they loved the passion and drive of CrossFit, an intense conditioning regimen that started in California and has swept the country, bringing serious fitness seekers together for short training sessions that demand all-out physical exertion. Pittsburgh is home to a handful of CrossFit certified gyms. 
 
The fast-paced sessions are held in the gym and change daily, combining movements such as weightlifting, kettlebells, jumping rope, sprinting and jumping and climbing rope. There’s CrossFit Games as well, competitions that bring athletes together from around the region for intense day-long gameplay.
 
“CrossFit was a perfect fit for us,” says Crowell. “We’re both passionate about helping people. It's about getting someone in the best shape of their lives, from former athletes to those who’ve never been athletic.”
 
What makes CrossFit unique is the way it builds community, adds Bobrowsky. To that extent, Integrated Fitness has successfully grown the business with the help of social media, especially YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
 
The Pittsburgh gym has achieved the distinction of having the most views per month of workout videos of any CrossFit gym in the country. YouTube videos are averaging 700,00 hits a month, boosted by world record lift videos and celebrity interviews at the gym. Bobrowsky, who handles the gyms' social media, has 43,000+ followers on Twitter. 

Social media is a way for people to share with others online and interact with people from the gym, he says. People enjoy sharing their CrossFit scores, posting them on Facebook.
 
“Not everyone initially wants to share,” he adds. “But as time goes by, almost every person in the gym has at least one workout of exercise that they’re very proud of and they want their picture up there.”
 
“It’s not about being great CrossFit champions, but creating an atmosphere that creates an engaged community that helps individuals to reach their goals,” Crowell adds.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jim Crowell and Josh Bobrowsky, Integrated Fitness
 

Obscure Games’ City of Play Festival kicks off on the North Side this Saturday

Imagine the city as your personal playground. Three point lines around trash cans. Tether balls swinging overhead, inviting gameplay, with the goal of bringing people together and making the city a place of wonder and fun.
 
Obscure Games is back, bringing with it the best new urban games in the world for The City of Play Festival on October 13, noon to midnight. Sponsored by South Side game studio Schell Games, the festival is changing the way we see the city, says Adam Nelson, the master gamer behind it all. 
 
Since its inception in 2009, Obscure Games has been playing around Pittsburgh with live gaming events. (You may recall the Steel City Games Fest and Human Curling Tournament.)
 
Urban gameplay acts as a social glue that connects people through the environment, reinforcing the idea that players have ownership of the city, says Nelson.
 
The festival will feature about 15 game installations with streets, parks and public spaces as the backdrop. Games will be located on the North Side and around the Allegheny Center and Buhl Park. Play is open to the first 100 players with a ticket, but anyone of any age can play for free in Buhl Park.
 
Among the games is Circle Rules Football and Nelson’s own game called Nashville, which involves wandering the city and giving secret signals to others in a sort of old west showdown.
 
“Pittsburgh has an opportunity to use play to convey itself as an interesting and exciting, progressive city for young people to live,” says Nelson. “The fact that we’re a smaller city is a strength. It’s who we are and easier to build a community around this.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Adam Nelson, Obscure Games

Meditation is a tranquil cure for loneliness and inflammation, says CMU study

Mindfulness meditation is proving a good way to ease two debilitating human conditions, loneliness and inflammation, according to a study published in ScienceDirect led by Carnegie Mellon University.
 
J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology within the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and his team of researchers found that resting in the present moment on a regular basis, an ancient practice dating back to the days of Buddha, actually lowered inflammation levels, a condition thought to be a precursor of many diseases.
 
Meditation has long been considered valuable in alleviating disease, but this is the first study to confirm it as an approach in reducing loneliness and the risk of disease and older adults, says Creswell.
 
For the study, the team recruited 40 healthy adults ages 55 to 85. One group undertook a regular practice of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, a structured program that consisted of weekly two-hour meetings in which participants learned body awareness techniques. The meditating group also meditated privately 30 minutes a day for eight weeks.
 
Each person was assessed at the beginning and end of the study using an established loneliness scale; blood samples were also collected.
 
“We always tell people to quit smoking for health reasons, but rarely do we think about loneliness in the same way,” says Creswell. “This research suggests that mindfulness meditation training is a promising intervention for improving the health of older adults.”

While the research suggests a promising new approach for treating loneliness and inflammatory disease risk in older adults, more work needs to be done, notes Creswell.
 
“It’s important to train your mind like you train your biceps in the gym,” he says.

The team included researchers in UCLA as well.

Writer: Debra Smit
Source: J. David Creswell, CMU
 

What's next for Yinztagram? The Pittsburgh parking chair perhaps?

Unless you’ve been under a wireless rock for the past week, you’ve probably snapped multiple  pictures of yourself and friends heaving giant Primanti sandwiches over your head--or juggling Rick Sebak’s (like Mitt Romney).
 
The opportunities to add local color to your life are endless with Yinztagram.
 
“I really didn't see it becoming as popular as it has become, I thought it would remain an inside joke,” admits Colin Miller who created the app with Deeplocal colleague Matthew Pegula based on a funny idea suggested by friend Drew at Commonplace Coffee. “It’s nice to see that the community has a sense of humor when it comes to the Pittsburgh culture.”
 
Based on the reactions of friends to the beta version, I knew people would love it but didn't think it would be spread beyond my immediate friends, says Pegula.
 
The photo app that allows users to juxtapose iconic local images—from Green Belt signs to our own golden arches—on top of personal snapshots has taken Twitter and Facebook by storm. (See the best of pics in this weeks Buzz section.) The Primanti’s sandwich, in particular, has found its way into some rather hilarious situations.
 
Miller and Pegula sat they've enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame. Stay tuned. The duo has been taking requests and additional photo ops are in progress. Not wanting to give away too much, they revealed the possibility of the classic Pittsburgh parking chair, or perhaps an angle on the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
 
"We hope to release a version that lets us easily push out new content without having to go through the Apple review process,” Pegula says. “We’ve gotten lots of suggestions and additions and are always looking for more.”

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Colin Miller and Matt Pegula, Deeplocal

Image of Colin and Rick courtesy Deeplocal

Pitt study confirms what we already knew about the social benefits of drinking together

In a not-so-surprising finding, a University of Pittsburgh study has confirmed that moderate amounts of alcohol—consumed in a social setting—can not only enhance positive emotions and social bonding but relieve negative emotions amongst those drinking together.
 
The study breaks new ground because methodological factors may have led to earlier findings that downplayed the benefts of social drinking. Previous research on the subject has often considered only the emotional effects of drinking alone.
 
Group drinking, whether with friends or strangers, may be a positive, stimulating social bonding experience, researchers say. 
 
“Those studies may have failed to create realistic conditions for studying this highly social drug,” said Michael A. Sayette, lead author and professor of psychology in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “In our study, we felt we had put in place an experimental procedure and a set of measures that might better capture the expected effects.”
 
Sayette and his colleagues assembled three-person groups using 720 male and female participants, a larger sample than in previous alcohol studies. Researchers assessed individual and group interactions using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and the Grouptalk model for speech behavior, an accepted measure for facial coding developed in the 1970’s. 
 
Each participant was randomly assigned to a group of unacquainted “strangers” and instructed to drink three alcoholic, non-alcoholic or placebo drinks during a 36-minute period.  
 
Results showed that alcohol not only increased the frequency of “true” smiles, but also enhanced the coordination of these smiles, creating the likelihood of “golden moments,” defined as moments when all group members were simultaneously expressing “true” as opposed to “social” smiles.
 
Participants in alcohol-drinking groups also reported greater social bonding than did the nonalcohol-drinking groups and were more likely to have all three members stay involved in the discussion.
 
“One aim of this research is to validate a laboratory test that might be able to help identify who is especially vulnerable to alcohol use disorders, as a function of their experiences drinking in social settings,” noted Sayette.
 
The study is published online in the journal Psychological Science.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dr. Michael Sayette, University of Pittsburgh
 
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