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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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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Fairest of Them All?

Following the results of the historic November 2018 midterm elections, I found myself, at times, both amazed and appalled. My reaction was not as a result of the outcome of the midterm elections. Rather, it was the increasingly sharp divisions between the Republican and Democratic parties, which became even more strident over the next several …

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Job Losses Mount

The Pittsburgh region shed more jobs in December, offering further evidence that the local economy’s recovery from the coronavirus recession has slowed. The seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area lost 5,300 jobs from November to December last year, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. And employers shed 86,300 workers from their payrolls in November …

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The Real Lessons of the Iraq Wars

“If someone is victorious in battle and succeeds in attack but does not exploit the achievement, it is disastrous.” — Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 12 As we approach the end of this long series on The Art of Peace, let’s take a look at America’s adventures in Iraq. Iraq I Since the …

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A Reflection on the Life of Dick Thornburgh

Written by his son David Bradford Thornburgh, read by his granddaughter Blair Elizabeth Thornburgh at Shadyside Presbyterian Church on Jan. 16, 2021. It’s my great honor to read the following reflection about the life of my grandfather, as written by my father, David. In my dad’s words, about his: I’m sure all of us have …

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Eleven Mile Farm

“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose, under heaven.” So says the book of Ecclesiastes, pirated by Pete Seeger for a song recorded by the Byrds. Those words come to mind when visiting Eleven Mile Farm, an old sheep farm in Indiana Township that has found new life with new …

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Just Askin’… Anne Kraybill

Q: What’s the most interesting thing about your job? A: Meeting artists! I love going to artists’ studios and learning about their process and background. This region has such a rich history of creativity that persists today. Q: What’s the best advice anybody ever gave you? A: It is not about where you are, but …

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Why We Ended the Program That Worked

“There is nothing more difficult than military combat.” — Sun Tzu, “The Art of War,” Chapter 7 In 1966, roughly 6,000 people lived in the village of Binh Nghia, a series of hamlets strung out along the Tra Bong River in far northern Vietnam, near the coast of the South China Sea, a mere 40 …

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How Can I Improve My Flexibility?

Question: “I am becoming less flexible as I get older. Simple tasks such as bending over to pick up a bag of groceries have become more difficult. What can I do to improve, or at least maintain, my flexibility?” Your situation is not unusual as most people become increasingly less flexible as they get older. …

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Tap Tap Tap

Set aside that steaming cup of cocoa and watch. Your bird feeders, flecked with last night’s early snow, beckon. That black and white blur is the first downy woodpecker of the day. There is a red streak on the head: the male. He’s a regular. The chickadees and titmice are his winter companions. They flock …

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