This is Ligonier's friendly neighborhood blog and an attempt to recapture our lively opinionated debates in a free speech zone.

Please join our conversations. Contributors welcome.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


I don't know how the roads are, but

I must say it's beautiful out there today. ;)

Ligonier Valley Endowment grants

The Ligonier Valley Endowment, celebrating its 40th year of community-focused philanthropy, has awarded grants for the first quarter.
The Ligonier Valley Rotary Club, the United Methodist Church of Rector and the Outside In received grants for projects all related to the renovation of facilities in the area.
The rotary club received $20,000 for refurbishing Friendship Park.
The club took on the fundraising for the project last year, and the endowment's contribution is its first major donation.

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youth chess

The Ligonier Valley Library is accepting registration for a children's chess tournament at 10:30 a.m. March 14.
First- and second-place winners at the tournament will move on to participate in the Westmoreland County System Chess Tournament being held at the Country System Center in Greensburg March 28.
“Chess is a great game that stresses the importance of critical thinking and thinking outside the box,” said Linda Norris children's librarian. “Offering activities like this are just part of what libraries are, used to be and will continue to be.”

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bigger Than Science, Bigger Than Religion

Science and technology are not the problem. Our misuse of them is.

"(Father Thomas) Berry cited the teaching in Genesis that humans should “subdue the Earth … and have dominion over every living thing.” But if religion provided the outline for the story, science wrote it large—developing a mind-boggling mastery of the natural world. Indeed, science over time became the new religion, said Berry, an idolatrous worship of our own human prowess. Like true believers, many today are convinced that, however bad things might seem, science and technology will eventually solve all of our problems and fulfill all of our needs. Berry acknowledged that this naive belief in science served a useful purpose during the formative era when we were still building the modern world and becoming aware of our immense power to transform things. The time has come to leave this adolescent stage behind, said Berry, and develop a new, mature relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants. [...]

We’ll need to approach this crucial transition on many different fronts. Scientific research has too frequently become the willing handmaiden of what Berry called “the extractive economy,” an economic system that treats our fellow creatures as objects to be exploited rather than as living beings with their own awareness and rights. Moreover, technology, in Berry’s view, potentially separates us from intimacy with life. We flee into “cyberspace”— spending more time on smart phones, iPods, and video games than communing with the real world."

even in winter, compost happens...

                                      Compost Still Life

evacuations due to flooding

"We've got a jam in the middle of Four Mile Run, and it has pushed the water out of the creek and onto the property.  We need pressure behind it to push this ice out," said McDowell. "Best case scenario is that the ice jam takes off and goes down."
No one was forced out of their homes. All evacuations were voluntary, but Lynn said she had no choice.
"I think we're going to stay at the fire department for a while, but they said we probably won't even be able to go back tomorrow. We don't have anything. We didn't bring anything with us," said Lynn.

rt 30 closed at top of mountain

Just got a report from the road on top of Laurel Mountain that Route 30 is closed.

"Sexually Oriented Businesses" - coming to Ligonier Township?

A friend pointed out the contents of the LIGONIER TOWNSHIP 2015 ZONINGORDINANCE – THIRD DRAFT is available online.  Lots of reading there, but there is a new section (§ 20-7. Specific Conditions of Conditional Use) that seems ill-advised, as it creates zoning for sexually-oriented businesses to operate within Ligonier Township.

Zoning for sexually-oriented businesses in the township doesn't sound like a good idea to me.  Have the Township officials checked into the Meadville, PA Town Code Article 325 on sexually oriented business regulations?  The first section, 325.01 Findings., begins with the statement: "Sexually oriented businesses have adverse secondary effects which are detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare. Such adverse secondary effects include, but are not limited to, increased incidence of sexual harassment, obscenity, prostitution and other illegal sexual activities, spread of communicable diseases, public exposure to sexual acts in public places, crime, decreased property values and neighborhood deterioration."

Seems to me that those secondary effects are contrary to section 1-4. Interpretation and Intent of the draft Township Ordinance itself: "In interpreting and applying the provisions of this chapter, it shall be held to be the minimum requirements for the promotion of the health, safety, morals and general welfare of Ligonier Township."  Is the intent of the Township is to set a very low minimum requirement for promoting health, safety, morals, etc.?  The inclusion of sexually-oriented businesses in the township mocks the stated objectives of the proposed Zoning as stated in section 1-5: 

A.     ... to preserve rural and suburban residential character and quality of life, ....
C.   To ensure ... new development minimizes negative impacts ....
D.   To encourage development of ... safe and affordable neighborhoods ....
E.   To support a healthy and aesthetically pleasing environment .... 

I am not a lawyer, but a quick read of this zoning ordinance implies that the township is opening the back door to allow sexually oriented businesses into the township without adhering to State Title 68 regulating Adult-oriented establishments.  The zoning provisions for sexually oriented businesses do not provide common sense oversight for client sanitation and worker protections.  You can look to Hempfield Township right here in Westmoreland County for rational guidance on how to implement an ordinance on Sexually-oriented businesses (Chapter68).

In addition to my objection to sexually-oriented businesses, I am appalled that the distances from schools, places of worship, etc. to such businesses would be allowed within just 600 or 800 feet.  That's barely one city block (580 feet)!  Why would our zoning ordinance measure distances as though we are a city with extremely limited space?  Why wouldn't we be putting miles between places where children gather and places that are not suitable for them?

Finally, the definitions of sexually-oriented businesses provided in the Township's ordinance are outdated and broad to the point of including illegal activities.  Fair disclosure: I am married to a Pennsylvania State Licensed Massage Therapist.  The Pennsylvania State Title 68 definitions of Adult-oriented establishments would provide a better list of categories for what the township calls Sexually-Oriented Businesses.  I suggest that list is better because it identifies activities that are legal in the state  The obsolete term "Massage  Parlors", with it's connotations to bordellos, belongs to a century long-passed.  The state of Pennsylvania now licenses Massage Therapists  and recognizes legitimate massage therapists as useful contributors to the health industry.  To my knowledge, there are no licensing requirements for bordellos in Pennsylvania, possibly because they are illegal in this state.  Why would we zone for them?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Flavorful Fresh Locally Made Hummus

If you enjoyed Flavors Cafe's hummus at the Ligonier Country Market last year, it's now available at Giant Eagle in Ligonier. Handcrafted in small batches with no artificial ingredients and no preservatives, its healthy and delicious.

Try some of our creative flavors:

Cilantro Lime
Black Bean
Roasted Garlic Kale
Italian White Bean
Spicy Roasted Pepper
Spicy Southwestern Chipolte

Look for it in the gourmet dip and spread cooler in the deli department.

it's Mellow Mike night!

MELLOW MIKEmellow mikemellow mikemellow mikemellow mikeMELLOW MIKEmellow mike

tonight at the Ligonier Tavern 6:30 to 8:30

Kitchen closes at 8pm tonight due to cold weather.

You want reliable clean energy and don't want nuclear, better start liking pipelines.

When one talks of pipelines in recent days one hears nearly an incessant buzz about Keystone XL, as if that is where the real action is. But it isn't, notwithstanding the histrionics over President Obama's veto of S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act. The real action lies not with an 850,000 barrel per day oil pipeline, but instead with the natural gas pipelines that are needed to supply the natural gas electricity generating plants that will be required to replace, in part, 103 gigawatts of coal powered generation.
What are we talking about? Building Block 2 of EPA's Clean Power Plan posits the replacement of coal-fired generation with cleaner natural gas-fired plants. Natural gas plants are also part of the solution to compliance with the strict Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are also driving coal plants off the grid.
But to get and keep those natural gas plants on-line, the natural gas needs to get there and to do that it needs a means of transportation, which for natural gas, means pipelines.

drones have a future in farming

Several precision agriculture companies have already received authorization from the FAA to use unmanned aircraft prior to the announcement of the proposed rule through a lengthy petition process. Those companies employ unmanned aircraft to conduct precision photogrammetry and crop scouting. The data collected from the UAS can direct variable seeding rates as well as the precise application of fertilizer and chemicals which allows farmers to maximize crop yield while reducing costs.
If the UAS will weigh more than 55 pounds, such as a UAS that would be used for crop spraying, a variance from the rules will remain necessary.

Wow, we're going into the 40s today.

Let's hope the ice melts!

zoning news

The Ligonier Valley's many clean streams and unbroken forests are unique, said Cynthia Walter, a biology professor and researcher for 30 years. The township's distinctive geology makes it “extremely susceptible to any industry that would leak on the surface or the subsurface any toxic materials that came from humans or came from toxic sources deep below the earth,” she said.
Planning Commission Chairman Mark Spitzer said he is concerned about the region and is an advocate for property owners' rights.
Spitzer said the township will continue to take public input on the proposed ordinance and address residents' concerns in the final law.
“We're trying to be very sensitive to retain the quality of Ligonier's aesthetics,” he said.
Mike Kuzemchak is Laurel Highlands program director for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, which has helped placed more than 3,300 acres in the township into various conservation easements over the last four decades.
“We're in fact-finding mode,” said Kuzemchak, who planned to meet with township officials.

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Thursday, March 19th, 630pm, Triple Divide

"Triple Divide is said to be the only documentary of its kind on the controversial subject of fracking capable of speaking to all sides, with exclusive interviews from the industry, experts, and Americans suffering in the wake of shale gas development. Academy Award nominated actor Mark Ruffalo co-narrates the film. The film is co-directed by journalists Joshua Pribanic & Melissa Troutman. The 90-minute documentary is a project by, a Pennsylvania based nonprofit organization. Triple Divide is built on evidence from cradle-to-grave investigations that attempt to answer the question, “How are state regulations and industry handling impacts from fracking?”"

Thursday, March 19th, 630pm, Community Room, Ligonier Town Hall.
120 East Main Street, Ligonier.
Q&A with the directors of the film.
Free pizza and limited seating available.
Sponsored by Citizens to Preserve Ligonier Valley

Monday, March 2, 2015

Responsible Drilling Alliance

Short and sweet:

Stories by Dr. Seuss.

I'm happy to say Happy Birthday to Dr. Seuss but I confess I never read the books as a child. I don't recall the children in my neighborhood reading them either.  I first saw Dr. Seuss books in the home of family friends who lived across town. The books didn't interest me.  They seemed odd.

I know children love them and I do love the story of the Grinch.
Today would have been the 111th birthday for Theodore Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.
While his legacy is written in both books and the hearts of children of all ages worldwide, it’s also enshrined in a home in Willow, Alaska.
The “Dr. Seuss” house has about 12 stories, it was built and left unfinished for the almost 10 years, and just completed in 2012.
The house was dubbed with the name “Dr. Seuss” house by the local people of Willow. 

a short piece on wars, flame wars

A flame war is the internet term for a war of words exchanged in an online venue (usually a blog, forum, or wiki, although flame wars can happen anywhere people can post their comments) that defies most of the rules of civilized society. As more and more people "join" the internet, the amount of potential flame wars seems to erupt exponentially. Triggers for a flame war A flame war can be explained in much the same way as a fire can be explained. First, a fire needs a source to burn, in the case of the internet, a controversial issue such as politics, religion, or even a YouTube video. Once the fire has a source, it needs something to catalyze the reaction with, usually oxygen. The "oxygen" in a flame war consists of two (or more!) people taking sides on the issue. Finally, once the fuel and catalyst are in place, all that is needed is heat to start the reaction, in this case, is a willing user posting a comment found offensive by the "other" side. 

Welcome to Connections Cafe

Welcome to Connections Cafѐ, Ligonier’s favorite lunch spot “Voted Best Lunch in Ligonier” by the Tribune Review.

Come to Connections for our ever-changing menu of healthy lunches.  We serve fresh salads such as Curry Chicken w/grapes & red pepper, and Tuna & Red Bean w/blue cheese.  All of our salads are served over mixed greens. Frittats, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches and homemade soups can always warm you up on a chilly day.  We offer delicious desserts daily like our White Chocolate Raspberry Tart. Finish your meal with locally roasted Old Linn Run or Zeke's coffee.  We also have a wide selection of organic loose teas to choose from.  

Every Saturday we feature a light breakfast such as scones, frittatas, waffles or 7-grain hot cereal.  Enjoy summer evenings at the Cafѐ on Thursdays for Grilled Pizza (5pm-9pm) on the porch, and Mexican Night on Fridays (5pm-9pm).  These evenings are BYOB events and last from May-Oct each year.  

While you are at the Cafe, take a look around at our unique fair trade gifts from around the world. We have beautiful handmade jewelry, hats, bags, bowls, mugs and more!

January - March : Mon - Sat, 9am - 3pm
April - December : Mon - Sat, 9am - 5pm 
Summer Evenings, May - October : Thurs & Fri, 5pm - 9pm 

Heads up......... I used to edit the length of posts and got away from it.

As I have time, if I think a post is too long in length, I will edit.  This way folks can more easily see the posts of others.

events by Ligonier Radio

  • MARCH 3: The Powdermill Sunday Lecture series continues on March 8th at 1 PM with the program…Into the Sugarbush—Explore the process of making maple syrup, including why the sap flows and why some trees are better than others for syrup production.
  • MARCH 22: The Ligonier Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Soups On on Saturday, March 22nd from 11 AM- 4 PM. Sample over 20 delicious soups from local restaurants and vote for your favorite. Various Ligonier shops will have the best soup from a particular restaurant available to taste. Tickets can be purchased at the Chamber Office for $10 per person and are only sold in advance. No tickets will be sold on the day of the event. There are limited tickets available so get your ticket soon.
  • MARCH 29: The Rotary Club will hold its annual Palm Sunday Pancake Breakfast on Sunday, March 29 th in Town Hall. Enjoy a hearty breakfast and fellowship with family, friends and members of the community. Tickets are available at the door. Proceeds benefit the Rotary’s Scholarship Fund.
  • APRIL 18: The Youngstown Volunteer Fire Department is holding a Cash Bash on Saturday April 18th at St. Marys Dome Admission is $20/ticket and includes a Buffet Style Dinner & Beverages. Doors open at 4PM. Drawings start at 5PM. Dinner at 6PM. Call 724-539-9938 for more information. The Cash Bash benefits the Youngstown Volunteer Fire Department’s Truck Fund.

I observe....

...that Ligonier Living has become a boring place to visit due to the extreme overload of fracking related posts.  Selfish over-posting in a way that inhibits the ability of others to get their thoughts out is something to ponder.

I had never considered making a rule about how many posts one party could put on this site, but I confess, I am considering it now.

Shale Revolution Did Not Pay Investors Well

"In short the shale revolution has not produced the types of returns that one would expect. In fact, returns have been marginal for most of the “best” companies. This would seem a curious irony. And yet, perhaps it is not so curious after all. Interesting dynamics are occurring in the energy markets and old paradigms are being challenged. Given the markets role as a leading indicator, the trend that is emerging appears to be that investors see more potential in clean energy companies within the entire energy sector than the tried and true oil and gas vehicles of old. Solar stocks in some cases have outperformed their oil and gas counterparts by multiples. And all during the “shale revolution”. During this same time, investment banks have made extraordinary statements to their most sophisticated clients about hydrocarbons becoming “extinct” within the next decade, a notion which was virtually unthinkable less than five years ago. And in another almost unbelievable example the automobile manufacturer, BMW, has announced that they will no longer make an internal combustion engine by 2022. That is only 7 years away. But all of this is another story.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Two more gifts from the oil and gas industry: Ammonium and *your* water

"Two hazardous chemicals never before known as oil and gas industry pollutants—ammonium and iodide—are being released and spilled into Pennsylvania and West Virginia waterways from the booming energy operations of the Marcellus shale, a new study shows. The toxic substances, which can have a devastating impact on fish, ecosystems, and potentially, human health, are extracted from geological formations along with natural gas and oil during both hydraulic fracturing and conventional drilling operations, said Duke University scientists in a study published today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The chemicals then are making their way into streams and rivers, both accidentally and through deliberate release from treatment plants that were never designed to handle these contaminants, the researchers said. The findings have major implications for whether stronger regulations are needed to curb water pollution from fracking and other oil and gas industry operations. Over the years, the industry has faced questions about unsafe well design that allows methane to seep into drinking water, and about lubricants and other chemicals it adds to frack water. Duke researchers have conducted a number of studies on these problems.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

KDKA-TV, Sunday, 1130am...water contamination with fracking activity

Dr. John Stolz of Duquesne University will appear in an interview with Stacey Smith on KDKA-TV Channel 2/CBS on Sunday at 11:30am. Dr. Stolz has done extensive research on water contamination related to drilling and fracking in ‘The Woodlands’ north of Pittsburgh near Evans City, as well as many other places. 

**For background on what happened when fracking destroyed the Woodlands' water, how the residents dealt with water buffaloes and the water assessment questionnaire Dr. Stolz compiled:

Today's special at Ligonier Tavern

Today's special grilled chicken, cheese and bacon with a Cajun mayo on a new homemade pretzel bun! Yum.

Friday, February 27, 2015

runaway hashtag...and llamas!!

''(At this week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAQ), the organizers' invitation to ordinary Americans for sample questions for CPAQ speakers went) horribly, gleefully, predictably awry. Sample questions that came in at hashtag : Which leading Republican will be indicted next? Since you insist it's safe, may we frack in your backyard? Will Obamacare make me gay marry ISIS? I've heard people will not be allowed to drink their coffee black at the conference - is this true? Since I'm only a woman, can you explain what being pregnant means?

Ahh, entertaining.

Egg Plant, Potato & Ground Beef with Rice

Mountain Palace weekly special is:

Egg Plant, Potato & Ground Beef with Rice

Friday 6 to 9, Saturday 12 to 9 and Sunday 12 to 6

Traditional Chinese Exercise Class will be 11:00 Sunday rather than Saturday for the next three weeks.

Eleven miles north of Ligonier left off of Route 711 onto Creek Road directly across from Mirror Lake.
724 717-8614

anti-fracking faction wins concession from planners in new ordinance

Ligonier Township's planning commission is suggesting to the supervisors several changes to the proposed zoning ordinance.
During its meeting on Thursday, the board voted to recommend increasing the 200-foot buffer zone around unnamed perennial streams to 325 feet, increasing the setback from a well site to a protected structure from 650 feet to 750 feet and removing cell phone towers as a conditional use in the R-1 residential zone.
Board members Scott Gongaware and Eric Schreiber were absent.
Township manager Terry Carcella and solicitor Michael Korns outlined changes that had been made to the ordinance and map since a meeting for public comment on the ordinance was held Feb. 17. Carcella said an area previously zoned industrial across from the Sheetz along Route 271 was changed to C-2 highway commercial and the R-1 residential zones in Waterford and near the Valley School of Ligonier were expanded. The Ligonier Valley High School and Valley School of Ligonier now have a half-mile “no-drill zone” around them. The natural resource protection overlay has been expanded by Laurel Ridge State Park and Laurel Mountain ski area. He said the permitted width of billboard signs has been decreased from 700 feet to 250 feet.
Korns said the unconventional drilling provisions are now included in the body of the ordinance under conditional uses. It was previously a separate section of the ordinance.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

archaic laws and dinosaur politicians...and feats of magic!

Out of an abundance of caution around potential sensitivities to certain words and topics, I refrain from posting what could be excerpted in this space. But don't miss this piece about "the fairy tales conservatives have told themselves about women’s bodies and abilities''. It is truly a winner.

on neutrality...

End the chokehold, stop the erosion of democracy

 "As a matter of basic democratic principle, we need to make clear that We the People have the authority to set the rules for election spending as we see fit. We must overturn the Supreme Court-created doctrines that “money is speech” and “corporations are people.”

"The American political system is facing an existential crisis. Do we aim to be a democracy – meaning a system of rule by the people – or do Americans stand down and permit a very narrow elite class to operate a functioning oligarchy? Our Constitution begins with the powerful words “We the People” and elaborates a political system in which the people are sovereign. Yet in a series of decisions, of which Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the most notorious, the US Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment of that document so as to erode our democracy. Now it’s time to amend the great document to re-establish democratic principles.

Man wise-wise...really?

"Even though people keep using the famous simile — “the fatally slow human response to climate change makes us like a slowly boiling frog” — it is not quite right. As Wikipedia puts it, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz “demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but his intact frogs attempted to escape the water.” Other 19th Century studies appeared to have different results, but modern experiments (!) show that frogs with brains are in fact smart enough to leap out of water as it is heated up. James Fallows of The Atlantic, who I am quite certain holds the world record for boiling frog posts, has one from Michael Jones who cites “Sensation in the Spinal Cord” from Nature, Dec. 4, 1873: “Goltz observed that a frog, when placed in water the temperature of which is slowly raised towards boiling, manifests uneasiness as soon as the temperature reaches 25° C., and becomes more and more agitated as the heat increases, vainly struggling to get out, and finally at 42° C., dies in a state of rigid tetanus. The evidence of feeling being thus manifested when the frog has its brain, what is the case with a brainless frog? It is absolutely the reverse. Quietly the animal sits through all successions of temperature, never once manifesting uneasiness or pain, never once attempting to escape the impending death.

Even so, I am inclined to agree with Jones that this should not be fatal to the metaphor.  It just needs to be tweaked. Technically, we are the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, as I’ve said before (see “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?“).  Such are the privileges of being the only species that gets to name all the species, so we can call ourselves “wise” twice! But given how we have been destroying the planet’s livability, I think at the very least we should drop one of the “sapiens.” And, perhaps provisionally, we should put the other one in quotes, so we are Homo “sapiens” sapiens at least until we see whether we are smart enough to save ourselves from ourselves. If we destroy a livable climate, which means “billions of people will be condemned to poverty and much of civilisation will collapse” and are renamed just plain Homo, then in fact we will  have demonstrated we are dumber than frogs (who were, after all, doing just fine until we came along).

At that point, we will be brainless frogs."