Short Takes: “Further News of Defeat,” “Hallelujah Station and Other Stories”

When Autumn House Press began in 1998, they published poetry. In 2008, the Pittsburgh-based press expanded its offerings to fiction, and over the past decade, few small presses can claim to have published a catalog of work as reliably entertaining and artful. In the fall, Autumn House Press published two new story collections from up …

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Intersections: Poetry, Photography and Pittsburgh

In a 2006 lecture at Scripps College, art critic and L.A. Times reviewer Leah Ollman spoke on the overlapping aesthetic qualities used in photography and poetry, stating that “Each has a multiplicitous nature, and like any medium, resists a singular definition. Photography is said to be a slice of reality, a distortion of reality; a …

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Baron Rothschild and Me

I had passed the bar exam and was working for a very large law firm in Pittsburgh. I was still so new I would get lost on my way to the men’s room. But it was wildly exciting for a working class kid from a dying mill town to be associated with such a prestigious …

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Finding Jakie Lerner

“805 was a burner. where the hell is Jakie Lerner?” That was former racketeer Sam Solomon’s recollection of Aug. 5, 1930, the day when seemingly all of Pittsburgh bet on a single number: 805. When 805 hit, the city’s numbers bankers scrambled to pay the winnings. Many simply didn’t, and some skipped town to avoid …

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The Importance of the Warmup and Cooldown

Question: “I fit my aerobic workouts into a very tight schedule. How important is it to spend time warming up before and cooling down after exercising? I often do neither.” Warming up prior to engaging in more vigorous exercise serves several important functions. From both a mental and physiological standpoint, it prepares the body for …

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Pandemic Saps Confidence in Jobs Outlook, Economy

Concern about their jobs and the local and national economies is widespread among people in southwestern Pennsylvania as the COVID-19 pandemic drags into its second year. In January, their confidence in all three fell to some of the lowest levels since the region’s first case of the coronavirus was reported 11 months ago, a new …

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It’s Hard to Eat Healthy

“Ba da ba ba ba.” in 2003, faced with slumping sales, McDonald’s commissioned a jingle. The fast-food giant recruited the era’s biggest music producer, Pharrell Williams, and pop icon Justin Timberlake to create “I’m Lovin’ It.”  The catchy hook became the heart of McDonald’s first worldwide campaign. It was sung in 20 languages throughout 120 …

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Getting Vaccinated Gains Popularity

Supplies are short and the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine is slow, but the willingness to get the shots is sharply rising across southwestern Pennsylvania, a new survey suggests. And hesitancy over getting vaccinated is fading the most among non-whites. Some 60 percent of southwestern Pennsylvanians said they were ready to get the shot in …

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How Sharpe Is Your Ratio?

“The Sharpe ratio is oversold.” — William F. Sharpe If the Sharpe ratio didn’t exist, I swear the financial industry would have to shut down. Originally developed by William F. Sharpe in the 1960s, he called it the “reward-to-variability ratio.” Sharpe first described the ratio in a paper published in the Journal of Business in …

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Rethinking Obesity

Tammy Dolan had always been a “heavy kid.” Still, she never considered herself “really big.” Then came college and weight gain. She graduated and was ready to face the world. But, “I wasn’t happy with myself,” said the 39-year-old from Centerville, Crawford County. She tried dieting and exercise but couldn’t lose the pounds. After consulting …

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Pittsburgh’s First Great Boxing Rivalries and the One-Punch Wonder

While the Pirates may have given Pittsburgh its first major sports championship when they defeated the Detroit Tigers in the 1909 World Series, its boxers gave Pittsburgh its first claim to the title City of Champions. In the first half of the 20th century, there were nine boxing champions with ties to Pittsburgh and the …

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Exploring the Appalachian Shale Barren

An interesting, out-of-the-way place to explore in western Pennsylvania is the Sideling Hill Creek area. The Sideling Hill Creek valley is located in southeastern Bedford County and southwestern Fulton County, about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Its watershed is framed by the sandstone-capped Town Hill mountain to the east, and Big Mountain to the west. …

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Mysteries of the Porcupine

This is how a porcupine attacks. It turns its back, displays the black line running down the middle of its tail, edged with white quills visible in the dark. Its body shivers. The jaw clenches, incisors vibrate, and the teeth clatter. It emits an odor. Quills become erect. These are mere warnings. If not enough …

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Letting Go

It was bound to happen sooner or later—Joe’s going off to college. I got a stay of execution for five months, given that his university didn’t open up campus for the first semester. You’d think I would have been ready. He was chomping at the bit to leave and kept himself busy for the past …

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Harness the Power of Habit to Achieve Fitness Goals

Question: “One of my 2021 goals is to lose a few pounds and get in better shape. However, I am hesitant to go to a gym because of the pandemic, and I am simply not into exercise classes. What is the solution?” The process of changing outcomes begins with changing habits. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines …

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China Proves the Point

“The founding of the People’s Republic of China marked the end of the humiliation and misery the country has suffered.” — Chinese President Xi Jinping Most people who advocate pacifism do so out of revulsion against the horrors of war, certainly an understandable, if utopian, position. But China’s Neo-Confucians adopted their anti-military stance mainly for …

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Lee Gutkind on Writing His Memoir, “My Last Eight Thousand Days”

My memoir, “My Last Eight Thousand Days,” published in October 2020, had been a work in progress for at least 10 years—just as my life had been a work in progress for 70-plus. I think of the book and the process of writing it, digging deeply into my life, as a bridge from the Lee …

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Real Estate Trends

As we enter a new calendar year, the pandemic continues to impact real estate in multiple ways. The primary thesis is that for some real estate sectors, the pandemic has only been a temporary disruption, while for others, it has accelerated preexisting conditions. But even within those premises, there are also sectors that have been …

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Workers Lose Jobs, Labor Force Shrinks

Thousands of workers continued to exit the southwestern Pennsylvania labor force, and the local unemployment rate ticked upward as the pandemic year of 2020 drew to a close. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 6.7 percent in November to 6.8 percent in December 2020, according to the Pennsylvania Department …

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Local COVID Cases Trail Benchmark Regions

COVID-19 infections slowed last month in Allegheny County, keeping the rate of new cases of the coronavirus below the national average and lower than most metropolitan counties. But the encouraging drop in new infections following the New Year holiday is tempered by frustration over a slow roll-out of the two available vaccines and concern over …

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China’s De-Militarization

“To enjoy peace, citizens must be ready for war.” — Plato, The Laws, fourth century B.C. “If you want peace, prepare for war.” — Sima Qian in the Shiji, or Records of the Grand Historian, China, 94 B.C. “Si vis pacem, para bellum [If you want peace, prepare for war].” — Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, …

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The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht

Stepping into his office to interview Cyril Wecht for a profile I had been commissioned to write for Pittsburgh Quarterly, I expected to encounter the intense, blustering and contentious person who had so often been depicted on the evening news. To me, at the time, Cyril was just another loud-mouthed local public official who had …

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