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Opinion

The Bionic Entrepreneur?

For me, fall marks not only the return of autumn leaves, cider and football, but returning to my role as a college entrepreneurship instructor. Despite this being my third year teaching this subject, I’m still troubled by a gnawing, fundamental question: Can you actually teach someone to be an entrepreneur? Is it a trait you’re …

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From the Publisher, Fall 2007

I grew up on what had been an old apple orchard, and fall meant turning the crank of our oak-and-iron cider press. It meant picking up apples from the grass and quickly unhanding those whose undersides had rotted and were crawling with yellowjackets. After a strong rain, it meant the inevitable loss of old trees …

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No regrets

When I drove my 22-year-old son from our home in Los Angeles to his new life in San Francisco, I didn’t realize I, too, was starting off on a new road. I used the six-hour drive to deliver last-minute motherly advice. He wanted to talk about his dream of becoming a musician. For him, the …

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Cut Me, Mick!

Right about when I purchased new 36-inch-waist pants and my self-loathing reached a peak, the new Sylvester Stallone film, “Rocky Balboa” opened. As I shaved the morning after seeing the movie, I wore my towel up high to cover my Dunlop’s disease — when your belly done lops over your belt. With a half-lathered face, …

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From the Publisher, Summer 2007

If all goes as planned this summer, my family and I will sail the waters of the remote North Channel between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Canada in a 28-foot sloop. I’ve sailed a lot on Lake Huron but have never skippered a longer voyage on open waters. It’ll mean preparation in navigation and emergency procedures …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Summer 2007

It took a little doing — the blacksmith had to add a few links in the chains — but we’ve put obesity in the public stockade. It’s often said that in many cultures being corpulent is a sign of wealth and even beauty. In ours, being obese is neither. Some see it as a natural …

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The Revelation of China

To be in China now must be like witnessing the construction of the pyramids. In Beijing, the world’s most powerful totalitarian regime is preparing for next year’s Olympics. Shanghai, a garden of skyscrapers, is getting ready for the 2010 World’s Fair. New highways, airports, power plants, dams and towers are fueled by China’s $1 trillion-plus …

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The Chair, the Blow-Dryer and the Bombshelter

The world, my father liked to say, is a dangerous place. “Just when you think you’re clear,” he’d say. “It sneaks up and bites you.” Which might explain how I ended up on the bathroom floor, my ankle twisted, my hairdryer whirring in the sink. There’d been no warning, other than the one on the hairdryer that …

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Get Some Sleep with SOX

For managers of public companies and their shareholders, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has done for business what the Department of Homeland Security has done for air travel. It’s a necessary work in progress that makes us feel more secure. But for frequent fliers, such as CEOs, CFOs and their audit firms, taking your shoes …

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From the Publisher, Spring 2007

One day at work a few years ago, I asked a colleague, “Do you ever have the feeling you’re living the same day over and over again?” She told me I ought to see “Groundhog Day.” I’d heard of the movie, and even though an old family friend has a memorable, small role in it, …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Spring 2007

What a year for college basketball in Pittsburgh! Regardless what happens in March, could there have been a more interesting and exciting hoops season anywhere in the country? First, there’s Pitt. Their defense and passing have been a treat to watch since the Ben Howland days, and that’s continued, as has their great record, under …

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Training women for office

An observer of the Legislature might conclude there’s something rotten in Harrisburg. Whether it’s the middle-of-the night pay raise in 2005 or recent revelations about the legislators’ fatuous bonus expenses, it’s clear where their interests lie. And with 253 of them, we have the most state legislators in the nation (except for New Hampshire’s anomalous, …

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Hold That Thought—Now’s the Time to Act

“Things do not change; we change.”—Henry David Thoreau Soon you will be asked to choose the purpose, shape, size and basic character of your local government. Fellow citizens are organizing now to ask you whether to reorganize the many layers and types of local government that have defined Allegheny County for almost 250 years. The …

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Reading Between the Lines

In September, Block Communications announced that if it’s unable to reach satisfactory agreements with its unions by Dec. 31, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette may be sold. News outlets reported it as a provocative salvo in stalled negotiations, but it would be a mistake to view the release as posturing. Several facts shed light on the situation …

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From the Publisher, Winter 2007

Eight years ago, working at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I suggested that the city editor have someone check the number of sunny days we’d seen, or rather the lack of them. Weather stories tend to bore journalists, and no one checked. When I finally did, it turned out we’d had four sunny days in four months. …

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Stocks & Pedestal, Winter 2007

Mayor Tom Murphy used to decry the lack of risk-tolerant Pittsburgh developers willing to invest in the city. In Damian Soffer, the city found the perfect partner. Together, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Soffer turned blight into beauty and created the dynamic Southside Works. The URA bought and remediated the land, and Soffer brought the …

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The Life of an Ex-CEO

Leaving a job after 10 or 15 years is more like mourning the loss of a close friend than it is a career change. Think about it. You spend 20 years of your life sleeping, five years going the bathroom and 80 percent of what’s left working. So your job is a big part of …

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The Sword Over the City

There is a problem in the center of our region that almost defies description in one peculiar aspect.  Somehow, the larger it gets, the more invisible it becomes. The problem is debt. The City of Pittsburgh owes almost $1.2 billion, most of it borrowed over the last 15 years. It must pay another $400 million …

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The RSVP: An Art Lost?

Many years ago, when Sam Menefee was a student at Oxford, he would arrange to meet a friend for dinner by leaving a handwritten note in the pigeonhole, or mailbox, of his friend. The friend would respond by leaving a note in Sam’s pigeonhole. The charming and humorous notes were part of a wonderful tradition …

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Capital ideas

Currents in the nation’s philanthropic world continue to take their lead from Western Pennsylvania patterns and people. In May, the Council on Foundations held its annual meeting in Pittsburgh, co-hosted by the Heinz Endowments and the Pittsburgh Foundation. At the meeting, the Council chose Heinz’s Max King as its new chairman. The other major national …

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Pittsburgh Roars & the Pirates

On a pedestal: Pittsburgh roars ahead Western Pennsylvania has never been a place where marketing held much sway.  The companies that supplied the oil, steel, glass, aluminum and money for America’s expansion didn’t need to market. America called on them. Marketing may even have been somewhat distasteful in Pittsburgh, where understatement is a virtue. Times …

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Say What?

If you think it’s hard understanding a George Will editorial, you ought to spend time with the technology intelligentsia as they evaluate a prospective investment in a start-up company. Every industry has its own vernacular, but this gang can befuddle the most erudite among us. Show me the money: names for start-up investors In the …

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