90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
  • Hosted by Paul Guggenheimer

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA featuring community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, government and education.

  • Call (412) 246-2002 from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays to participate in the discussion.  
  • Tweet your question to @esspgh
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 
Wikipedia

 

Mood rings were a popular fad in the 1970’s. Flash forward and the concept of gaging our mood via a color is being applied to the Gulf Tower downtown.

An upcoming exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art will use the Gulf Tower Beacon to reflect the city’s mood.

We talk with Divya Rao Heffley, program manager for the Hillman Photography Initiative and Brad Stephenson, director of marketing for the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Traditionally, the color of a mood ring was said to change determining your mood at a given time.

In the past, the Gulf Tower beacon has displayed weather prediction lighting. Each tier signified with temperature or humidity levels. This week, the beacon will tell the people of Pittsburgh the mood of the city with two colors, red as negative and green as positive.

Stephenson simplifies the new project for the Gulf Tower:

“We're taking all of the Instagram images being posted in Pittsburgh and we are using these sentiment analysis tools to measure the attitude of the commentary on the Instagram photos. Then we are taking those and applying a score that will then say more green is positive and more red is negative. We are taking two sides of the tower and applying the green and two sides and applying the red so essentially its a bar chart that shows Pittsburgh commentary on Instagram more positive or more negative in real time at any given moment.”

The idea of the beacon is a lead up to an art show this Saturday, February 14, at the Carnegie Museum of Art called Antoine Catala: Distant Feel.

Ways to Combat Underage Drinking on College Campuses

Feb 9, 2015
Thai Nguyen / Flickr

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is working with four universities to combat underage drinking. One of the schools taking part is Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

We’ll find out what the university is doing to address this problem with Ann Sesti, Assistant director for IUP's alcohol, tobacco and other drugs program in the Center for Health and Well-Being.

Also taking part in the conversation is Ken Healy, alcohol education specialist with the PA Liquor Control Board Education Office.

Ken Healy responds to a listener’s tweet, which adds a new layer to our discussion:

Dawn Biery

Aileen Owens is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the South Fayette School District. Last year she was the recipient of two national awards for Digital Innovation in Learning.

As part of 90.5 WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative, Ms. Owens joins us to discuss her approach to teaching technology. 

Ms. Owens tells us more about the work she did with teaching technologies for k-12 education:

Thai Nguyen / Flickr

These topics air Monday February 9, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Combating Underage Drinking

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is working with four universities to combat underage drinking. One of the schools taking part is Indiana University of Pennsylvania. We’ll find out what the university is doing to address this problem with Ann Sesti, Assistant director for IUP's alcohol, tobacco and other drugs program in the Center for Health and Well-Being. Also taking part in the conversation is Ken Healy, alcohol education specialist with the PA Liquor Control Board Education Office.

Teaching Innovation and Technology

Aileen Owens is the Director of Technology and Innovation for the South Fayette School District. Last year she was the recipient of two national awards for Digital Innovation in Learning As part of 90.5 WESA’s Life of Learning Initiative, Ms. Owens joins us to discuss her approach to teaching technology.

Pittsburgh's Mood

Mood rings were a popular fad in the 1970’s. Flash forward and the concept of gaging our moods via a color is being applied to the Gulf Tower downtown. We’ll discover how an upcoming exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art will use the Gulf Tower Beacon to reflect the city’s mood. Joining us with a preview are Divya Rao Heffley, program manager for the Hillman Photography Initiative and Brad Stephenson, director of marketing for the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Gift of the Estate of Richard M. Scaife / Westmoreland Museum of American Art

A new exhibit spotlighting the work of folk artist John Kane has opened at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. We’ll rediscover the artist whose paintings celebrate Pittsburgh with Judith Hansen O’Toole, director and CEO of the museum and Jane Kallir, co-director of Galerie St. Etienne in New York City.

According to Hansen, Kane's rediscovery can be attributed to a sea change in the greater museum environment. 

"Museums now are much more willing to put on the walls works by artists who are lesser known and who the public might not recognize as 'great,'" she says.

Kallir believes Kane's work has endured due to his unique perspective, saying he painted from the point of view of the working class.

"[His work] proves that you don't have to go to art school to be a great artist," says Kallir. "It can be freer and truer and more spontaneous."

Carl Van Vechten / Wikipedia

In his latest novel "West of Sunset," author Stewart O’Nan chronicles F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final years as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Pittsburgh author Stewart O’Nan joins us in Studio A to discuss his work.

O'Nan says that, despite Fitzgerald's fame and the spectacle of Hollywood in the 1930s, we don't know very much about the author's time as a screenwriter.

"He's a legendary character and he's in a legendary time and place," O'Nan says. "We don't really know a whole lot about it."

O'Nan uses the real facts and timeline of Fitzgerald's life in Hollywood as a frame for the story, filling in the scenes himself. He says that adapting Fitzgerald's sensibility provided a greater opportunity to understand what it was like to be the famed writer.

"The biographies can't take you close enough," O'Nan says. "Only fiction can take you close enough."

Comedian Lee Camp Performs in Pittsburgh

Feb 6, 2015
Lee Camp / Facebook

Comedian Lee Camp’s writing credits include "The Huffington Post" and "The Onion." He also hosts the television program "Redacted Tonight" and the YouTube series "Moment of Clarity." Inspired by the comic stylings of George Carlin and Chris Rock, we’ll meet Lee Camp who's performing in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

Camp says that although not all of his humor is political, he tries to go after both political parties with his social commentary. He generally leans left, but according to Camp his work attracts many libertarian fans.

"Democrats and Republicans are not speaking to the issues that a lot of people care about," he says. 

Friday Rundown: Moments of Clarity from Lee Camp

Feb 6, 2015
Lee Camp / Facebook

These topics air Friday February 6, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Lee Camp

Comedian Lee Camp’s writing credits include "The Huffington Post" and "The Onion." He also hosts the television program "Redacted Tonight" and the YouTube series "Moment of Clarity." Inspired by the comic stylings of George Carlin and Chris Rock, we’ll meet Lee Camp who's performing in Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

West of Sunset

In his latest novel "West of Sunset," author Stewart O’Nan chronicles F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final years as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Pittsburgh author Stewart O’Nan joins us in Studio A to discuss his work.

Rediscovering America’s First Folk Artist

A new exhibit spotlighting the work of folk artist John Kane has opened at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. We’ll rediscover the artist whose paintings celebrate Pittsburgh with Judith Hansen O’Toole, director and CEO of the museum and Jane Kallir, co-director of Galerie St. Etienne in New York City.

Clyde Robinson / Flickr

Music can soothe you, make you cry, get you pumped up for a workout, or make you tap your feet. And to Brian O’Roark, professor of economics at Robert Morris University, music is also a great way teach economics.

For his efforts, O’Roark was recently recognized by the Middle Atlantic Association of Colleges of Business Administration, which bestowed upon him an Undergraduate Teaching Innovation Award.

O’Roark says that his interest in using music to teach was inspired, in part, by the 1990s VH1 music video series “Pop-Up Video,” which showed music videos and added jokes and anecdotes about the artist in pop-up text that would flash on the screen.

He realized that this combination of music with storytelling could also be used in teaching.

Nursing Home Overtime May Impact Quality of Care

Feb 5, 2015
:23: / Flickr

 WESA content partner Public Source is reporting a problem in the nursing-home industry. Experts say frequent overtime is common and it has the potential to compromise the quality of care, leaving fatigued caregivers in situations that could have serious consequences.

We talk with guest Halle Stockton, a reporter for Public Source, Dennis Biondo, Director of County-owned Kane Regional Centers and Joe Angelelli, a gerontologist and assistant professor at Robert Morris University.

Stockton explains that her story emerged from a right-to-know request, which revealed that the Kane Regional Centers have the highest amount of overtime payouts and employees in the county. Some health care providers, Stockton found, work an average of 80 hours a week for 50 weeks or more.

Thursday Rundown: Nursing Home Caregivers Working Overtime

Feb 4, 2015
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

These topics air Thursday, February 5, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

County-owned Nursing Homes Working Overtime

WESA content partner Public Source is reporting a problem in the nursing-home industry. Experts say frequent overtime is common and it has the potential to compromise the quality of care, leaving fatigued caregivers in situations that could have serious consequences. We'll discuss the issue with guest Halle Stockton, a reporter for Public Source. Also taking part in the conversation are Dennis Biondo, Director of County-owned nursing homes, the Kane Regional Centers and Joe Angelelli, a gerontologist and assistant professor at Robert Morris University.

Teaching Economics

Our guest, Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark uses pop music to make the subject more accessible to his students. He joins us in Studio A to discuss this innovative approach to teaching. 

Questions Raised About Pittsburgh Zoo's Treatment of Elephants

Feb 4, 2015
Alanak / Flickr

 

Following complaints from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection has called into question the Pittsburgh Zoo's practice of using dogs to control elephants.

The USDA report indicated dogs showing aggressive behavior that caused the elephants distress. We talk with Margaret Whittaker, Director of Elephant Care for The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants.

Whittaker refers to the Pittsburgh Zoo’s situation as unique since dogs are commonly used to control domestic animals while elephants are classified as wild animals. However, there is history of elephants being afraid of dogs and also some who do not seem to mind dogs.

Purposefully using dogs as a control mechanism for elephants is related to the dog’s representation of aversive training techniques for elephants, says Whittaker. Positive re-enforcement training is known to be very effective in controlling animal behavior.

The Role of the Attorney General

Feb 4, 2015
The US Department of Justice

Last week Senate confirmation hearings began for Loretta Lynch. She's President Obama’s nominee to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. In light of the hearings, Pitt Law Professor David Harris talks about the role and responsibilities of the office of the Attorney General.

Harris first explains that the Attorney General is the top lawyer for the US government. Their role is to advise all of the departments of the executive branch, including the office of the President. He or she is also the administrator and chief of the US Justice Department. Harris says while the AG serves as a lawyer for the office of the President, it's not the same as representing the President. He offers Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon as examples.

"There has to be, there should be a separation between the white house and the political interests of the president," says Harris, which is why Janet Reno did not represent Bill Clinton in his impeachment hearing.

Harris says the office of the Attorney General has existed pretty much from the start of the nation in 1789, and the Justice Department was created in 1870. Read more at the Department of Justice website.

Wednesday Rundown: Doing What's Best for Elephants in Captivity

Feb 3, 2015
Alanak / Flickr

These topics air Wednesday February 4, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

The Attorney General

Last week Senate confirmation hearings began for Loretta Lynch. President Obama’s nominee to replace outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. If confirmed, Ms. Lynch could become the nation’s first African American female attorney general. Joining us for a look at the role and responsibilities of the office is Pitt Law Professor David Harris.

Zoo to Review Use of Dogs to Control Elephants

Following complaints from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection has called into question the Pittsburgh Zoo's practice of using dogs to control elephants. The USDA report indicated dogs showing aggressive behavior that caused the elephants distress. We'll talk with Margaret Whittaker, Director of Elephant Care for The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, the nation's largest natural-habitat refuge developed specifically to meet the needs of endangered elephants. She will share her insights about how elephants should be cared for. 

Neighborhood Business: The Mexican War Streets

Feb 3, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Cities are made up of a collection of neighborhoods with unique features and characteristics. On the first Tuesday of the month, business contributor Rebecca Harris will focus on one of the city’s neighborhoods. Today's focus is on the Mexican War Streets.

Broadly speaking, Harris explains, the North Side consists of 18 different neighborhoods. The district that makes up the Mexican War Streets was laid out in the middle of the 19th century by Alexander Hays, who named the streets after famous figures and battles in the Mexican-American war. The area now holds city and federal designations as a historic district.

Today’s Mexican War Streets district doesn’t really have any central business district; businesses are more spread out instead. Some highlights are the Inn on the Mexican War Streets and the Allegheny City Market, which has been a corner grocery store since 1825.

Ever Wonder What’s Behind Closed Captioning?

Feb 3, 2015
Daniel Olnes / Flickr

When working out at the gym or sitting at a noisy bar, you’ve probably watched the scrolling text on the nearby TV screen to find out what’s being said. Closed captions have been available for TV since the early days of Julia Child.

McCord Resigns Amid Extortion Scandal

Feb 3, 2015
Rob McCord website

Now that former Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord has admitted using the influence of his office to get money from prospective donors to his gubernatorial campaign, what happens next? And what does his resignation mean for the future of the state? Capitol correspondent Mary Wilson provides her analysis and her forecast for Harrisburg’s political climate to come.

Cheltenham Democrats / Flickr

These topics air Tuesday February 3, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

McCord Charged

Now that former Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord has admitted using the influence of his office to get money from prospective donors to his gubernatorial campaign, what happens next? And what does his resignation mean for the future of the state? We'll get the latest from capitol correspondent Mary Wilson.

Closed Captioning

When working out at the gym or sitting at a noisy bar, you’ve probably watched the scrolling text on the nearby TV screen to find out what’s being said. Closed captions have been available for TV since the early days of Julia Child. While the service caters to people with impaired hearing, it can be useful for anyone in any number of situations. Online, captions are mandated for some videos and you can even add captions when posting your own Facebook videos. But how does closed captioning work? Who or what brings the words to our screens? VITAC, a Pittsburgh based company, is responsible for at least half of the captions on the air nationwide, and a growing amount of our on-demand streaming. VITAC Chief Operations Officer Chuck Karlovits gives us a look inside the world of closed captioning.

WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh

The Fort Pitt Block House, located in Point State Park, is the oldest building in Pittsburgh. In more than 250 years of existence it’s weathered natural disasters, urban expansion and industrial growth. But it owes its survival mostly to a group of women who refused to yield.

Business Segment - Mexican War Streets

Cities are made up of a collection of neighborhoods with unique features and characteristics. On the first Tuesday of the month, business contributor Rebecca Harris will focus on one of the city’s neighborhoods. Today's focus is on the Mexican War Streets.

"Protect Our Parks" Fights Fracking in Allegheny County Parks

Feb 2, 2015
Marcellus Protest / Flickr

This Tuesday, the Allegheny County Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to put a 2-year moratorium on further fracking in county parks.

The ordinance was introduced by the volunteer organization Protect Our Parks. Joining us in Studio A are Joni Rabinowitz and John Detwiler, volunteers with the organization.

The office of Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald said that he would veto any legislation related to a moratorium on fracking in county parks.

His office issued the following statement:

"The effort being led by Protect Our Parks is similar to legislation that was voted on previously and was defeated by Council. If such legislation were to pass, the Executive would veto it. He believes that blanket legislation sends a bad message to the industry and is a bad precedent. Each opportunity should be considered on a case by case basis. In the case of the Deer Lakes Park proposal, we were able to enter a lease that extends environmental protections to those communities that would not have been possible otherwise. That being said, the Executive has indicated that he has no intent of considering other drilling opportunities in the county at this time. He wants to see how the two current drilling operations will play out before moving forward with anything else." 

John Detwiler talks about why Protect Our Parks wants to do away with fracking in the county parks: 

How Do We Decide What's Trending?

Feb 2, 2015
Tessa Horehled / Flickr

 

You can’t look at a website or magazine where they don’t address what’s trending. But, who are the trendsetters who determines what’s trending?

And, how does a trend differ from a fad? We posed these questions to Marty McGough, Vice President for market insights at Campos Research Strategy.

A trend is the general direction behavior is moving towards that develops over time and is either increasing or decreasing, says McGough. In comparison with a fad, trends have the ability to make a lasting influence on people's behavior, while fads are short lived.

He says there are people known as trend spotters who specialize in this action by roaming the streets in major cities, listening, watching and observing people's behaviors to find trends.

Monday Rundown: Is Fracking Going to Stop in Our County Parks?

Feb 2, 2015
Marcellus Protest / Flickr

These topics air Monday February 2, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Protect Our Parks

Tuesday, the Allegheny County Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to put a 2-year moratorium on further fracking in or under county parks. The ordinance was introduced by the volunteer organization Protect Our Parks. Joining us in Studio A are Joni Rabinowitz and John Detwiler, volunteers with the organization.

What’s Trending?

You can’t look at a website or magazine where they don’t address what’s trending. But, who are the trendsetters who determines what’s trending? And, how does a trend differ from a fad? We’ll pose those questions to Marty McGough, Vice President for market insights at Campos Research Strategy

Is This Year's Super Bowl Worth Watching Just for the Ads?

Jan 30, 2015
ThisIsNotApril / Flickr

This year a 30-second Super Bowl spot sells for $4.5 million dollars.

With so much money on the line, which advertising strategies are the most effective? How are advertisers changing tactics to get people's attention? And who are they targeting?

We discuss this with Bob Gilbert, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz School of Business.

Throughout the segment, Professor Gilbert provides insight on the goals of branding and the tactics used in Super Bowl advertising.

“What we are trying to do is find the right combination of generating awareness and attention, but also generating comprehension… that’s hard to do at the same time. I think Super Bowl advertisers have therefore aired on the side of attention. If you look at a lot of Super Bowl events you’ll find that there’s not as much information about the brand as much as it is a statement about the character about the brand .”

Also be sure to listen out for Gilbert's opinion of the latest controversial commercial from the internet domain registrar company, GoDaddy.com. The ad was originally intended for this year's Super Bowl, but pulled in response to the social media backlash.

Deflate-Gate: A Footall Who Done It

Jan 30, 2015
Keith Allison / Flickr

Did the New England Patriots make it to the Super Bowl by taking air out of footballs in the AFC Championship game?

Are NFL executives dragging out the investigation to avoid having anything come out during Super Bowl week? Have the Steelers ever cheated? We'll put these questions and more to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter emeritus Bob Dvorchak. 

Dvorchak offers light-hearted commentary about all of the media attention for the deflate-gate scandal.

"When the national discussion for the last two weeks is the air pressure inside a football, I think we’ve turned the corner as far as our priorities of a nation go.” 

Michael B. / Flickr

In case you haven’t heard, the Super Bowl will be played this Sunday. 

While area football fans may have little interest in a game that doesn’t feature the Steelers our guest, Ronald Dick, associate professor of sports marketing at Duquesne University, offers some reasons for tuning in to the big game.

According to Dick, viewers often tune in for reasons other than the actual game.

Friday Rundown: Getting Set for Super Bowl Sunday

Jan 30, 2015
camknows / flickr

These topics air Friday January 30, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Super Bowl Sunday

In case you haven’t heard, the Super Bowl will be played this Sunday. While area football fans may have little interest in a game that doesn’t feature the Steelers our guest, Ron Dick, associate professor of sports marketing at Duquesne University, offers some reasons for tuning in to the big game.

Super Bowl Commercials

This year a 30-second Super Bowl spot sells for $4.5 million dollars. With so much money on the line, which advertising strategies are the most effective? How are advertisers changing tactics to get people's attention? And who are they targeting? We'll discuss this with Bob Gilbert, Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Pittsburgh's Katz School of Business.

Deflategate

Did the New England Patriots make it to the Super Bowl by taking air out of footballs in the AFC Championship game? Are NFL executives dragging out the investigation to avoid having anything come out during Super Bowl week? Have the Steelers ever cheated? We'll put these questions and more to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sportswriter emeritus Bob Dvorchak. 

Is Medical Marijuana Coming to PA?

Jan 29, 2015
Dank Depot / Flickr

Efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in Pennsylvania have received a boost with the election of a new governor.

But how can marijuana advocates sway skeptical House members who sat on the legislation last year?

Patrick Nightingale of the Pittsburgh office of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws talks about his work as part of a years-long public education program on marijuana decriminalization.

On the Job: Procrastination as a Positive Habit

Jan 29, 2015
Kristy Arnold / Flickr

"Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today" is an apt quote, warning against procrastination. However, in this month’s On the Job segment, independent career consultant Sasha King addresses why procrastination might not be such a bad thing.

King says procrastination has increased since 1978 due to information overload with the examples of technological advancements and distractions. But she also tells us how procrastination can be positive in today's society.

The New Girl's Favorite Places to Visit in Phoenix, Arizona

Jan 29, 2015
Ted Eytan / Flickr

 

This year’s Super Bowl will be played in Phoenix. If you can’t make it to the big game travel contributor Elaine Labalme still recommends a visit to the Valley of the Sun.

She tells us her food and travel recommendations for Arizona’s capital city:

David Trawin / Flickr

These topics air Thursday January 29, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Medical Marijuana in PA

Efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill in Pennsylvania have received a boost with the election of a new governor. But how can marijuana advocates sway skeptical House members who sat on the legislation last year? We'll talk with Patrick Nightingale of the Pittsburgh office of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws who says he's been engaged in a years long public education program.

On the Job - Procrastination

"Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today" is an apt quote, warning against procrastination. However, in this month’s On the Job segment, independent career consultant Sasha King addresses why procrastination might not be such a bad thing.

Travel Segment - Phoenix

This year’s Super Bowl will be played in Phoenix. If you can’t make it to the big game travel contributor Elaine Labalme still recommends a visit to the Valley of the Sun. She’ll fill us in on her food and travel recommendations for Arizona’s capital city. 

National Digital Library of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikipedia

In 2012 a symposium was held in Pittsburgh, at Chatham University and the National Aviary, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s ground breaking book "Silent Spring."

Out of that symposium came the idea to develop a documentary about the late environmentalist-author’s life and humanitarian efforts, in a film called "The Power of One Voice." 

Producer/director Mark Dixon and Patricia DeMarco, former executive director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University teamed up with the Steeltown Entertainment Project, Carson's biographer Linda Lear and Carson's adopted son Roger Christie. 

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