Presenting 'Pittsburgh Explainer' With Liz Reid

Life is busy, and it can be hard to keep up with the news. That's why 90.5 WESA is launching a new podcast called Pittsburgh Explainer. Every Friday morning, we'll bring you the biggest news stories of the week in 20 minutes. Hosted by WESA editor Liz Reid, you'll hear from the reporters who cover politics, education, tech, health, arts and more, and get the real stories behind the headlines. It's the news you need, in the time you have. Pittsburgh Explainer launches Feb. 7.

A Late-Blooming Love For The Game Of Golf

Retired pediatric nephrologist Dr. Demetrius Ellis has played sports his entire life: soccer, racquetball, tennis. But a sudden onset of tennis elbow in his 60s prompted his neighbor to introduce Ellis to golf. "I thought it was an extremely expensive sport for rich people who were very compulsive," Greece-born Ellis laughs. Ellis plays nearly every day at the public course, the Bob O'Connor Golf Course, in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park.

Looking For Work Is Tough On Even The Most Positive People

Shikha Goodwin moved to Pittsburgh last year with her husband, two small children, two cats, and all of her hopes and dreams to start a new job. The city has dealt her some tough blows and she is now looking for work. Even in the midst of her uncertainty and doubt, however, Goodwin says Pittsburgh has grown on her, thanks to moments like driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel early in the morning.

The Antics Of A Red Squirrel On The Loose

Mary Sprajcar has volunteered at the Humane Animal Rescue Wildlife Center for nearly 10 years. In that time, she's seen her share of escape attempts. Volunteers spend a lot of time cleaning the temporary habitats of their patients, and doing so requires extra vigilance, as Sprajcar experienced two summers ago.

The Shoes Get Celebrity Treatment, But It Can Be Tough On The Body

Mario Ulizzi started training as a shoemaker in 1991. His then-girlfriend, now wife, Carla, came from a family of shoemakers, and her father suggested he try it. "It just became a part-time job and then a passion and a career," he says. But sometimes he worries about what the constant exposure to glue, shoe polish, and dust means for his health.

The Trouble With Ideals Of Appearance

Sadly, fitness does not work by the property of osmosis. Sitting next to an Adonis on the bus does not turn us all into museum-worthy Greek statues. It is a tough reality that means there is plenty of work out there for personal trainers. Still, the osmosis theory dies hard: personal trainers often face "pressure to look as fit as ... clients hope to be," says Nkem Chikwendu, a trainer at the JCC in Squirrel Hill.

Starting A Business Feels Like Sink Or Swim

Mobility researcher Brandon Daveler has spent years learning how to design and build better powered wheelchairs. But starting a company to sell the first model that can be fully submerged in water required a whole new education. "Business owners are the only people that will work an 80-hour week to avoid working 40 hours a week for somebody else," he laughs.

This Is Not A Pizza And Beer Operation

Moving can really test a friendship. (Why, dearest pal, am I carrying dozens of boxes filled, it seems, with bricks, to a third story walk-up on the hottest day of the year?) Such discomfort is traditionally smoothed over by food and drink. But professionals have a different approach, as Anthony Turner learned when he began working for a moving company more than seven years ago. Moving is "more than just putting stuff in a truck," he says.

Not All Syrup Has To Be Maple, But 'I Am Partial To It'

For sugarmaker Matthew Emerick there are few things more lovely than maple syrup on pancakes. He's a third-generation producer and can't imagine spring without tapping the maple trees in the family woods. But he acknowledges the attributes of other tree syrups, even if they're not for him.

'Moving Is Essential To Life'

Helping someone move is often a favor done for a friend in a jam. By seemingly universal custom, the reward for this assistance is pizza and beer. But for some western Pennsylvanians moving is no favor; it's part of the job. Personal trainer Nkem Chikwendu keeps other people fit. Mover Tony Turner makes sure clients' possessions make it from point A to point B safely. Shoemaker Mario Ulizzi rebuilds and maintains quality footwear. And mobility researcher Brandon Daveler develops new wheelchair

New Humans Need Food To Grow, And That Can Be A Lot Of Pressure

Andrea Slozna is a guidance counselor at the Environmental Charter School in Regent Square, as well as a mom to two tiny people. Both her 3-year-old daughter and 10-month-old son required intensive medical attention after their births, but she was able to nurse both of them. It can be a bumpy road, feeding a new person with one's body, especially when there's so much pressure in the first few months of a baby's life to ensure he or she gains weight, Slozna says.

'I'm A People Pleaser ... Food Is My Forte'

Carly Penn left the stress and late hours of restaurant kitchens behind when she became a chef at UMPC's Strabane Woods assisted living facility near Washington, Pa. At Strabane Woods, Penn works regular hours and knows well in advance what her menu is and how many portions she'll prepare. But once a week, she relives her restaurant days with a Friday morning treat: made-to-order eggs.

'We Call Ourselves Sugar Makers'

When maple sap emerges from a tree, it's a long way from its prized place at the breakfast table. Sap has a disappointing sugar content, just 1 or 2 percent, and doesn't taste sweet. Syrup-making hinges on removing most of the water in the sap, traditionally by boiling.

You Don't Have To Be A Famous Chef To Be A Food Star

The production and distribution of food in the U.S. is a lot of work. The industry employed more than one in 10 Americans in 2017, the most recent year for which data were available. The statistical umbrella includes everyone from waiters and truck drivers to farmers and ranchers, but doesn't count volunteers at food pantries and soup kitchens. Still Working wades into this diverse field, meeting a maple syrup producer in Somerset County, a nursing mother and school counselor in Pittsburgh, and

Cars, They Don't Break Like They Used To

Mike Kirsch has been working at Brunner's Garage on the South Side for more than 43 years. Over his career, car repair has changed quite a bit, he says. Even smaller jobs, like replacing headlight bulbs or rearview mirrors, have become more time consuming and expensive. But it is not all bad. "New cars ... don't break like they used to."

I Remembered You The Minute I Saw Your Molars

Dentist Lorraine Callen sees a lot of patients at Allegheny General Hospital. Using special magnifying lenses, called loupes, she is able to see their teeth much better. It has also played havoc with her memory. She can't always remember a patient by their name, but when she sees their teeth or an x-ray, "I can remember people's stories about their grandkids."

The Right Tool For The Job

The English language is loaded with idioms related to tools: tightening the screws, burying the hatchet, and hitting the nail on the head, to name just a few. But for automotive technician Andrew McHaney having the right tool for the job is much more than a metaphor.

Caution: Floor Slippery When Frozen

Gordon Nolan spends a lot of time on the ice, but rarely on skates. As the head of maintenance at Alpha Ice Complex in Harmar, it is his job to keep three ice rinks ready for hockey teams, figure skaters, and the public. In more than a decade of working on the ice, he has only fallen twice. "That's pretty good, I think."

Move Over Disruptors, Meet Pittsburgh's Maintainers

They're everywhere — creators, innovators, mavericks — and they sure do know how to suck all the air out of a room. But most of the world's work isn't making the newest technology or shaking up an entire industry, it's shepherding the things that already exist. The falls a figure skater won't take because the ice is perfect; the angst a patient won't feel because a dentist helps care for her teeth; the hours not spent roadside thanks to an automotive technician: this is the fruit the maintainers