Opinion

Stocks & Pedestal, Spring 2013

This summer, when Jared Cohon retires from the presidency of Carnegie Mellon University, he will leave enormous shoes to fill. Since he took the helm in 1997, CMU has seen dramatic growth in the number of overall students—from 7,758 to 12,569—in programs across the globe; the endowment has risen from $592 million to $987 million, …

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In Jeopardy

The final Jeopardy category: Phrase Origins. My wager: $6,999—all I had. The clue: “This two-word adjective for going against accepted speech or conduct first appeared in a 1933 translation from Izvestia.” It wasn’t exactly my best subject—I would have felt more confident in, say, “The Beatles”—but phrase origins are the kind of English-major trivia on …

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You’re not the boss of me

The sweatshirt is off-pink. It has shoulder pads. “The shoulder pads make it slimming,” my mother says. “And it’s not pink. It’s burnt salmon.” We sit on my mother’s bed, two co-eds at a sleepover. My mother is just back from a vacation she wasn’t well enough to go on. She’s still dressed for the …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Winter 2013

There was a time when, if you said, “Pittsburgh is an insular city that’s not attractive to young people,” you would have been right. Not anymore. The city is actually getting younger, with more than 50 city neighborhoods increasing their population of young adults since 2000. More young people are moving here than leaving, and …

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E Pluribus Unum

This fall, Pittsburgh Quarterly had a subscription campaign. Along with many of the returned cards, a nice note accompanied the check. Three people, however, returned notes sans check, saying they wouldn’t subscribe to a magazine that supports Marcellus Shale drilling. One ended his letter: “You should be ashamed of yourself!” First, I considered the building …

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Billionaire by mistake

Thanks to a computer glitch in our online brokerage account, I knew what it felt like to be Mark Zuckerberg for a glorious few days. Last summer, my wife called to me from her den, “You’ve got to see this!” When I looked at our online brokerage account on her computer screen, the balance showed …

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The Sky Is Falling

In June I bowed to the demands of my three college-aged children and got the whole family smart phones. As I waited in line at the AT&T store, a guy behind me suggested I should get the “Siri” iPhone. “You can ask it anything, and it answers,” he said. Perhaps I should do that, I …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Fall 2012

Early four years ago, businessman and philanthropist Henry Hillman called Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon with an idea. With the wealth of information technology experts at CMU, why not apply some of that brainpower to regional transportation issues? Improving transportation-related technology could improve the lives of regional residents, build Pittsburgh’s reputation as a “knowledge” …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Summer 2012

Between Feb. 13 and April 21, 46 bomb threats struck the University of Pittsburgh. The anonymous emails closed buildings, forced middle-of-the-night dorm evacuations and cancelled classes. The threats targeted the heart of our city, taking aim at the region’s most important institution. They also bared a still-darker specter: Because of the anonymous nature of global …

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Changing the Cottage

In April, my wife and I made the 600-mile drive to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula unusually early. We went to meet with contractors to begin fixing up the old cottage. What we call “The Big Cottage” was completed for the summer of 1908, the first built on LaSalle Island along the northern shore of Lake Huron. …

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A Remarkable Time for the Region

Twenty years ago, when newspapers were strong, the coin of the realm for ambitious reporters was winning awards. A slightly caricatured general rule was: The more intractable, insoluble and depressing the issue you wrote about, the more awards you’d win. Newspapers were in the business of problems, not solutions. In 1995, I marked 10 years …

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Giving Footnotes the Boot

While I was reading an essay written half a century ago by the distinguished historian and long-ago colleague, Peter Gay, I got to thinking about footnotes. His illuminating piece turned out to be somewhat annoying to read because of all those footnotes! You get to the end of a sentence and that little superscript numeral …

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A Pittsburgh Original

At a civic event 11 years ago, I saw an unusually dapper fellow—navy pinstripe suit, rep tie and perfectly combed white hair. The fact is, I thought he was someone else. I went over and introduced myself, and he said, “Bill Dietrich.” The name meant nothing to me. But after chatting for a minute or …

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Neighborhood Academy / Saks Fifth Avenue

A calling made good slowly but surely, like the Little Engine That Could, something remarkable has been climbing and climbing in Pittsburgh’s East End. It started as a vision to help children for whom effective guidance and results had been wanting.  The Neighborhood Academy’s mission is to “break the cycle of generational poverty by preparing low-income …

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Into the Wild

What could be nicer than a family trip with all three kids just before they head off to college and my wife and I become empty nesters? This, at least, was my thinking when I signed up for a three-day, two-night pack trip into Yellowstone Park this summer. Ride in on horseback, do some fishing, …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Fall 2011

When your team’s winning, there’s nothing like baseball. Nothing like listening to the radio in the late innings of a close game. The pitcher waves off signals and finally goes into his motion. You hear the crack of the bat, followed by the announcer—“If it’s fair, it’s outta here—foul ball!” The din of the crowd …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Summer 2011

Last summer, Susan Crookston looked at the 8-acre Aspinwall Marina site on the Allegheny River, which was about to become a 650-car parking lot. When she saw it, the Aspinwall mother of three said, “If this plan falls through for some reason, we should try to buy this ourselves.” Laughter met her idea, but when …

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The New News

It’s said the stock market climbs a wall of worry. Equally so, society. And for the past several years, there’s been great concern about journalism. The common wisdom is that, with newspapers significantly weakened, citizens no longer get the information they need about their communities, and public officials who would be held accountable by the …

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Thoughts of Spring

It’s been another long winter in Pittsburgh. Snow, ice and cold, mixed with work, responsibility and deadlines. So what’s the best thing about a Pittsburgh winter and its low, gray skies? Perhaps that it makes the coming of spring a gift from God. In the spring, as Tennyson said, a young man turns his thoughts …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Spring 2011

Medrad: Top manufacturing, again If there is one economic sector that lives in the minds of Americans when they consider Pittsburgh, it’s manufacturing. And excellence in manufacturing is not just in the pages of the region’s history. For the second time in eight years, Medrad has won the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, given …

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Pittsburgh Quarterly—Five Years Old

On a frigid Saturday in Jan. 2006,  I packed my three children—ages 12, 14 and 15—into our family car, loaded to the axles with magazines. I’d mailed most of the 40,000 copies of our first issue, but to save money, I planned to distribute magazines door-to-door through Shadyside and Squirrel Hill. And so with the car …

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The Googling of Pittsburgh, Threats to Our Liberty

In the same day this fall, local headlines described three separate events that, taken together, should give all of us pause:       The state Office of Homeland Security issued security bulletins, warning of threats by various groups, including those planning peaceful protests and demonstrations, such as environmental groups concerned about the Marcellus Shale.  The Justice …

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