Sword-wielding robber finds that store clerk also has sword

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[From 2015]: En garde!

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Annual trashing of Pittsburgh by Kenny Chesney fans breaks tonnage record

Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

More than 48 tons of trash were left by fans of Kenny Chesney attending a concert this week in Pittsburgh—something of a tradition for the country singer. The piles are staggering, the smell appalling: an aftermath so disgusting it has some speculating on how it's even possible to generate so much trash in such a short amount of time. It's almost as if it was trucked in and left there to make a point...

As the concert let out around 10:30 p.m. and cars began to clear from the parking lots, a reeking, hulking mass of garbage leftover from the day’s earlier festivities began to appear behind the exodus of country music fans.

Pickup trucks crunched glass bottles underneath tires; fluid from portable toilets overflowed into the street; people covered their noses with their shirts to escape the stench.

"You're just walking around on a carpet of garbage." Dozens of drunks were hospitalized and several people arrested, reports the Post-Gazette.

The tonnage is a record, apparently; a Billy Joel concert was attended last weekend by a similarly-sized crowd without event. Read the rest

Pittsburgh police chief wants to fire cop who beat up teen

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Last year, Pittsburgh Police officer Sgt. Stephen Matakovich was captured on camera beating up a 19-year-old outside Heinz Field. After lying about the circumstances, he was charged with assault—only to find the charges dismissed last week by a judge.

When video of the attack found its way to the media, however, the story changed: police chief Cameron McLay has now suspended Matakovich and says he will fire him, while prosecutors are planning to refile charges against the officer.

WPXI 11 reports that it'll be hard to make it stick: Matakovich can appeal the decision to city executives who can overrule McLay, then take it to an arbitration panel, where he can select one of the three people tasked with the final decision.

Deja vu: in 2003, Matakovich was recorded threatening to assault a superior officer, but was let off the hook over his own supervisor's objections. Read the rest

Video emerges of Pittsburgh cop beating up teen

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Only after assault charges against Pittsburgh police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich were dropped did the public get to see the video of him beating up a teenager.

The off-duty cop, working as a security guard, claimed that 19-year-old Gabriel Despres kept his hands in his pockets after being ordered to remove them and was therefore a "threat."

A judge agreed Monday that Despres was the aggressor and dismissed the charges against Matakovich, reportedly to cheers among police gathered in the courtroom.

But now the FBI plans to review the case after the video of the Nov. 28, 2015 incident outside Heinz Field was posted online.

Though Matakovich also maintained that Despres lunged at and punched him, the video shows otherwise. The grainy footage depicts Matakovich shoving Despres to the ground and launching a series of punches to his head. Despres lifts his arm at one point to shield himself from the blows, but does not appear to retaliate or resist.

It's not Matakovich's first time in the news: in 2003, he was videotaped threatening to beat up a superior officer on the Pittsburgh Police force, but was let off the hook despite protests from his own commander.

Word of the review came a day after a district judge dismissed charges against Sgt. Stephen Matakovich, a 22-year veteran, who had been accused of using unnecessary force in taking down Gabriel Despres, 20, of South Park.… District Justice Robert Ravenstahl’s decision Monday to dismiss charges of simple assault and official oppression against Sgt.

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Kickstarting The Origami, a new kind of portable laser-cutter

Created by a team from Pittsburgh's Techshop makerspace, the Origami uses a novel, fold-out arm that lets you laser-etch and -cut much larger designs than you could get into a normal, enclosed cutter. Read the rest

Storm approaches Pittsburgh

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The Black Forest: the darker side of Pittsburgh's underground art scene

Unicorn Mountain is a collective of Pittsburgh artists that publishes anthologies of local art, comics, music and literature. Their third anthology, The Black Forest, takes a different tack from their previous collections by exploring much darker, stranger themes. My friend Tara Helfer did the layout and supplementary illustrations for The Black Forest and sent me a copy to check out.

The collection covers a broad range of styles, and is packed with more than twenty different artists' work. Some parts are creepy and scribbly. Others are intricate and mysterious. I've picked some samples of a few of my favorites here.

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Cow sex halts traffic

This weekend, state police in Pennsylvania State Police reported that cows "having relations in the road" brought traffic to a standstill near Kittanning, PA. "The bull rebuffed any notion of interruptus and police had to summon Pennsylvania Farm Bureau personnel," writes Jon Schmitz of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Photo via Sean Bonner) Read the rest

Using gestures to interact with surfaces that don't have screens

A joint Disney Research and CMU team have produced a demo showing gesture controls on a variety of everyday, non-computer objects. The system, called Touché, uses capacitive coupling to infer things about what your hands are doing. It can determine which utensil you're eating your food with, or how you're grasping a doorknob, or even whether you're touching one finger to another or clasping your hands together. It's a pretty exciting demo, and the user interface possibilities are certainly provocative. Here's some commentary from Wired UK's Mark Brown:

Some of the proof-of-concept applications in the lab include a smart doorknob that knows whether it has been grasped, touched, or pinched; a chair that dims the lights when you recline into it; a table that knows if you're resting one hand, two hands, or your elbows on it; and a tablet that can be pinched from back to front to open an on-screen menu.

The technology can also be shoved in wristbands, so you can make sign-language-style gestures to control the phone in your pocket—two fingers on your palm to change a song, say, or a clap to stop the music. It can also go in liquids, to detect when fingers and hands are submerged in water.

"In our laboratory experiments, Touché demonstrated recognition rates approaching 100 percent," claims Ivan Poupyrev, senior research scientist at Disney Research in Pittsburgh. "That suggests it could immediately be used to create new and exciting ways for people to interact with objects and the world at large."

Disney researchers put gesture recognition in door knobs, chairs, fish tanks Read the rest

Collared carjacker claims to be part of movie shoot

When a Pittsburgh man tried to carjack a plain-clothed police officer's car and got immediately collared, he claimed to be shooting a scene from The Dark Knight Rises, currently shooting in the city. From MSNBC:
[Detective] DiGiacomo said he was able to pull out his gun and arrest Micah Calamosca, 21, of Shadyside, after Calamosca tried to order him out of his vehicle on Ivy Street. Calamosca "said he was just filming the movie 'Batman,' and that him taking my vehicle was part of the script," according to the criminal complaint filed by DiGiacomo.
For reference, Ivy Street is like four miles out of downtown (embatsignalled above) and about as Gotham as a Jane Austen novel. However, the idea of Batman recklessly pursuing Bane through a synagogue brunch or independent arts festival is quite exciting. Photo: Lightwave International. Read the rest

Pittsburgh Signs Project: appreciation of the glorious signage of Pittsburgh

Earlier this summer, a nice group of people approached me at my signing at the CMU bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA and handed me a copy of Pittsburgh Signs Project, a photography book that features glorious photos of Pittsburgh's beautiful vintage signs. It turns out that two of the people giving me the book were among its editors, and they'd come by especially because I'd played an unwitting role in the project's genesis. Back in 2003, I blogged a set of photos of I'd snapped of Denver's signs (I'd been there for a conference and after a couple days I was so overwhelmed by the signs I kept seeing in passing that I jumped in my rental car and spent the afternoon shooting), and this, in turn, had inspired the founding of the Pittsburgh Signs Project, which invited the pittsburghese to send in their favorite images. Before long, they had a book's worth of astounding signs from many eras and of many genres, from every county in the area.

The editors -- Jennifer Baron, Greg Langel, Elizabeth Perry and Mark Stroup -- then gathered up their favorites and arranged them thematically, with brief essays and short snips of text from the photographers. But the words aren't the important bit, the photos are, and they're really something. The layout of the book hints at the lineage of the signs; of rival liquor store owners who duelled with typography; of peeling hand-painted ancestors from the dawn of commercial advertising; of careful, handmade steel typography over a metal-shop's awning. Read the rest