Monday, September 1, 2014

Fayette County among hardest places to live in the country

Thanks to a reader for alerting me to this on Facebook! Remember, if you want me to write about something, send it my way. I make no promises, but my readers tend to send me really interesting stuff. And I am but one expat with a day job and other writing ventures.

According to a new study, Fayette County is one of the hardest places to live in the country. After measuring six data points--education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor's degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy, and obesity--things aren't looking so great for us.

The numbers are pretty interesting--median income of about $38,000, 14% are college educated, 9.3% are unemployed, 4.4% are on disability, and 42% are obese. The full study, as linked above, goes into more of the comparisons and such.

Interestingly, comparable counties are mostly in the south. Although for some local perspective, Westmoreland County--where my boyfriend lives--is closer to the best, and Washington County--where I live--is more in the middle. Now, I've always held the theory that people from the Nam who do get college educations or generally do pretty well for themselves ultimately leave for a better area, and so far, that's anecdotally true. My boyfriend and I both took our degrees and went to neighboring counties, while I know of others who left for different states entirely. And for a quick numbers comparison for how things go when you cross those county lines, Washington County has a median income of $53,000, 25% are college educated, 7.3% are unemployed, 1.7% are on disability, and 39% are obese. Westmoreland County has a median income of $49,000, 24.7% are college educated, 7.4% are unemployed, 1.6% are on disability, and 36% obese.

Fayettenam, maybe we can look to our neighbors for ideas on how to boost ourselves up a bit.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Nam to be featured on "Finding Bigfoot"

First "Treehouse Masters," now the greatest TV show of all time--"Finding Bigfoot," thus fulfilling all my dreams.

Cast and crew was in Uniontown last week filming. Based on her Facebook posts, we'll likely see Geibel teacher (and one of my favorites, and not just because she has awesome hair or because I think she should start selling Bigfoot jewelry in her Etsy shop) Julie Yankovich featured in the crowd. She also informed me that to attend the meeting, you had to get an invite through the show's unsung hero Ranae Holland's Facebook page, which taught me a very valuable lesson--like every single Facebook page related to my interests so I don't miss any cool opportunities, like being in the same room as national treasure Bobo. Hell, because I now live in Washington, I wasn't even in the same county as Bobo.
“This is the best town hall meeting we’ve ever had — the sheer amount of stories we had — we literally did not have enough time before we had to start wrapping things up,” said one of the show’s producers, Sean Mantooth.
I'm not surprised, being that I'm still praying that someone still has a copy of the Bigfoot eyewitness sketch the Herald Standard ran many summers ago. Like, the "Finding Bigfoot" crew coming here was probably my #1 dream for us, and getting that sketch is #2.

Anyway, they filmed in the State Theatre, which I'm hoping leads to some other Discovery-owned TV show dealing with the paranormal to do an episode there, like "When Ghosts Attack." We need the curse of Ernie and his band on national TV.
“So far, it’s been good. We just had one of the best town hall meetings we’ve ever had,” said Bobo. “We’ve had a lot of great witnesses. This is good territory with lots of food, sustenance, water, cover woods, and caves, so people shouldn’t be surprised — they’ve got Squatches here.”
Yes, Bobo, I do believe there's a 'Squatch in the Nam! Please, do your best to lure it out and capture it on film. Throw a rave. Cook it bacon. Host a Clarks concert.

The cast also stayed for a meet and greet, which is pretty cool.

The episode will air sometime next year as part of the show's sixth season, which will start airing in November. Liveblog, anyone?

Friday, August 22, 2014

SPCA's license revoked

Anyone else find it ironic that "SPCA" stands for "Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals"?
More than 50 dogs and cats were removed from a Fayette County animal shelter just days after state officials revoked its license after allegedly finding numerous sick dogs and multiple health violations.

Read more: http://www.wtae.com/news/state-revokes-license-of-troubled-animal-shelter/27487402#ixzz3BAlwT3p5
More than two dozen citations were filed against the SPCA, including ones for failing to maintain sanitary conditions and vaccinate dogs within 10 days.
Inspectors who visited the Uniontown shelter on July 16 and Aug. 7 found sick dogs, piles of feces and an insect infestation.
The animals have been moved to Animal Friends of Westmoreland. They're still under quarantine, meaning they can't be adopted out, but when they're cleared, I strongly suggest our friends (and expats?) in Westmoreland County who are looking to add a pet to their family to consider Animal Friends--or any shelter, really. In the meantime, the animals will fortunately finally be getting the care they deserve, with costs estimated to be around $20,000. So I'm sure Animal Friends would love monetary donations and volunteers, as well. And if you have a smartphone, download the free app Walk for a Dog--it donates money to a shelter of your choice for every mile you walk, and I've let Fayette Friends of Animals know so they can look into it and hopefully get on the list.
"It's heartbreaking. There are a lot of good dogs here. They didn't ask for this," said Tammy McGregor, who had worked at the Fayette SPCA for nearly five years. "We've passed every other inspection up until recently."
Look, I'm sure they have passed inspection until recently, but this is a pretty damn huge way to fail an inspection. Beyond that, I've heard that they've had troubles in the past, and when I discussed the issue with someone I know who works with a local vet, she said, "This was a long time coming." Someone dropped the ball, and I don't mean literally so a dog could play with it. The dogs were probably all too sick to play, anyway.
Fayette SPCA president Sam Hunt says the facility has spent $15,000 since July 16 to clean the building and make repairs. The shelter had a week to appeal the revocation, but McGregor said at this point, the SPCA board did not plan to reopen the shelter.
Keeping it closed is probably for the best at this point, but way to give a shit, SPCA board!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Laurel Caverns rappelling

Until yesterday, I'd only been to Laurel Caverns once, and it was when my parents took my brother and I when we were pretty young. But I remember getting to see a bat up close and an optical illusion where a hill is so steep, it looks like a golf ball on a rail actually rolls uphill. This steep hill is also the reason why my legs are still sore. Anyway, I remember it was a pretty cool place, too, because duh, it's a big-ass cave.

After a trip to the movies last weekend, my boyfriend's college roommate was like, "Next weekend, rappelling at Laurel Caverns." Now, there was a time when I would've refused or needed lots of coercing, and while I wasn't really crazy about the idea of rappelling until I actually did it, I somehow went along with this pretty easily.

And I actually highly recommend it for something fun to do!

They recommend you get there early, although horrible fog meant my boyfriend and I made it just in time, and the rappelling instructors tell you and show you everything you need to know. This is entirely beginner-friendly--most of us in the group had never rappelled before. And it's pretty straightforward, and it's also super safe. As they tell you in your instructions, they've had rescue dogs in training do this.

Once you get strapped into your harness, helmet, and gloves, you get a little mini tour of the caverns, and you get to gaze up at the rock wall you'll be rappelling down. And honestly, it actually calmed my nerves a little bit to actually see it in person. It's a 40-foot rappel, but it doesn't look intimidating at all.

Until you're 40 feet up on the platform, of course, waiting for your turn--and in my case, insisting to go neither first nor last but either before or after my boyfriend. The scariest part, though, is the first rappel--it felt strange to sit back into the harness and let it support me. Not because I didn't trust that the equipment was safe--I actually trusted the equipment immensely, as well as one of the instructors who operates the safety line in case something does go awry--but just because it's a bizarre physical feeling. And then comes the awkward first step off the edge.

But after that, it's fun. The first rappel is awkward and a little scary as you get used to the sensations and the actual process of the rappel. But fortunately, you actually get three rappels, and even after our first one, we were joking about using the other two to race each other--although you descend one at a time, we were talking about timing each other. That said, I was still a little nervous going down, though I did go faster and faster each time. My problem was going too fast felt weird, although some of the rappellers in our group had no problem coming down in seconds. Some of us even had an audience, as the regular tour groups pass by and stop to watch and occasionally applaud.

All in all, the hardest part is climbing up that damn hill three times to rappel down then finish the cave tour. When you're all done, you get a certificate. And we also have video and photo proof that we actually did it.

So for something fun and a little adventurous, definitely go for rappelling at Laurel Caverns. It costs 35 bucks, which gets you three rappels and a little tour, which lasted about three hours total. Granted, that also depends some on how fast everyone does their rappels.

Maybe I'll take on spelunking next.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fayette SPCA quarantined

From the Post-Gazette: 
An unknown infectious disease at the Fayette SPCA that has killed 10 dogs in as many days has caused the state Department of Agriculture to quarantine the shelter, a spokeswoman said.
Sigh.
The dogs, which were euthanized or died in their kennels, are suspected to have had parvovirus, distemper or intestinal worms, state department spokeswoman Samantha Krepp said. 
Most shelters will quarantine themselves, but the SPCA did not follow protocol, she said. "Our goal is to make sure these animals are safe, and our goal is to make sure no other dog gets sick," Ms. Krepps said.
As a result, no animals can go in or out for at least four to six weeks.

Frankly, any organization caring for and attempting to adopt out animals that fails to follow protocol, resulting in widespread illness and death of animals, should be shut down. Because this is the SPCA and they're basically the county's animal control, that's probably not going to happen. But any employees responsible should absolutely be sacked. There were clearly multiple failures here, and those responsible need to be held accountable.

That said, the most important thing now is to get the animals healthy, and the SPCA needs help doing that. They need bleach, Pinesol, dog food, deck rakes, garbage bags, and antibacterial dish soap. Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8 to 4 or Saturday until noon. Volunteers are also needed.

They're also in need of a veterinarian to vaccinate the dogs for kennel cough in case any kind, local souls are willing to do so at a low cost.

Now, in the meantime, this means that added strain will be put on other local shelters that are already full. Fayette Friends of Animals--the only no-kill shelter in the area that's also much cleaner and more reputable--is full and can't take in any more animals, so I'm sure that if you're looking for a pet right now, FFOA would be glad to see some of their animals adopted out into a loving forever home, and you can make that happen!

I've praised FFOA multiple times, but they truly are a great shelter--and shelter animals make great pets. My parents got my puppy brother there when I was in college.

I know what you're thinking--"But which one is the puppy brother!?"
Other than being a spoiled brat with very selective hearing, Duke is an awesome dog. He's so fun and lovable and affectionate, and after I went home after a recent road trip with him and my parents to Ohio for his post-cataract-surgery checkup, he put his paw on the door, looked for me, and whined. He is the cutest.

Check out FFOA and adopt, or donate supplies or time to the SPCA when they need it most--or both! I don't want to have to make this blog the equivalent of a sad commercial. I am not above changing the blog header to a slideshow of animals who need homes and setting to Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" to auto play when you visit the site.

Ironically, that song is used in ads for SPCA.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Golfers hospitalized after fight over rules

This is why we can't have nice things.
An argument about water hazard rules started on the fifth hole. The debate “escalated quickly” in the fairway of the seventh hole. 
“One of my pro shop employees got a call that someone got hurt on No. 7, got hit with a club, but thought it was a ball,” said golf course owner Joseph Gudac Jr.
I get arguing over rules. Fine. Anyone who has ever played a board game with a sibling has been there. But I like that they just kept going until they got physical, although that's obviously the only way we know how to solve our problems.
When he arrived, Gudac found a 43-year-old golfer who was seeing birdies of a different kind. 
“Symptoms of a concussion, says he was hit with a club,” Gudac said.
The golfers' names haven't been released, which leads me to believe they're well-known/reputable enough in the area that some reputations may be bruised and some people may be embarrassed--especially considering this was the Fayette County Open Championship. On second thought, that makes the violence all the more expected.

Both are being charged with assault.

And quite unsurprisingly, Gudac also said he was "embarrassed."

Friday, August 1, 2014

So, It Hasn't Been a Great Week for the Fair

I was just out of town with my parents and dog, lamenting the likelihood that I'd miss the fair festivities this year--but from the sounds of things, the fair was a bit rough this year.

The trouble started with the abysmal weather we've been having, which meant the fair's fireworks were postponed twice and other events got canceled.

Then a man was injured on an ATV during motocross events.

And then last night, a horse was killed in an accident involving two cars.
[A]n SUV was traveling northbound on Route 119 near Ranch Road in when it struck the horse at 9:56 p.m. A passenger in the SUV was flown to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries. 
The fair board has yet to comment, but the horse was involved in events at the fair. The Facebook theory is that the horse got spooked during the rescheduled fireworks. This hasn't been confirmed, but it does seem likely and fireworks while animals are out does seem unwise. I mean, my aforementioned dog is hard enough to wrangle during fireworks.

The good news is you can win a knife that says "SUPER BITCH."

UPDATE: So, a U-Haul overturned nearby Saturday night, so basically all emergency personnel is so done and glad the fair is over.