2017 Fall

Give a Little Whistle

It’s not until chapter 10 of Harper Lee’s famous novel that we are told of the magic of mockingbirds. Atticus Finch, lawyer and father extraordinaire, says, “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Benevolent Miss Maudie explains, “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing …

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The Union Project

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.” –Studs Terkel When my friend Sara asks me to work a catering gig, a hipster-ish wedding in a rehabbed church called The Union Project, I say, “I am so in,” and she says, “Really?” as if she expected me to say no. …

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Cokeless Steel?

Power companies aren’t alone in their shift away from coal. Steelmakers, industry groups and the federal government are spending millions looking for a way to make steel without coke, the carbon-rich form of coal used to fuel blast furnaces. Like coal-fired power generation, coke production is a major source of air pollution, and its processing …

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Petrochemical Alley

Shell Chemical Appalachia’s petrochemical complex has begun to rise from a dusty Beaver County brownfield that follows a slow bend in the Ohio River near Monaca. It took hefty tax incentives to secure it. The nation’s largest zinc smelter was razed to make room for it. More than 7 million cubic feet of earth were …

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Energy’s Big Shift

A decade ago, as Consol Energy’s 150th anniversary drew near, top executives began to take stock in where the company stood as a leading producer of coal and where that path would take it. Coal was in what CEO Nicholas DeIuliis called a “supercycle.” It was the workhorse of the national power grid and less …

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The Fate of a Prison

For a sprawling building in an ambitious Romanesque style on a conspicuous riverfront site, Western Penitentiary has spent most of its life in architectural obscurity. After an auspicious start, it fell quickly from prominence. Now, it may soon fall to the wrecking ball. Begun in 1879 in Woods Run along the Ohio River and partially …

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Seeing Autumn Through a Spider’s Web

“I had never paid much attention to spiders until a few years ago. Once you begin watching spiders, you haven’t time for much else—the world is really loaded with them. I do not find them repulsive or revolting, any more than I find anything in nature repulsive or revolting, and I think it is too …

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Sepsis Alert

By the time Nancy Schollaert Nichol arrived to see her family doctor after experiencing abdominal pain for five days, the visit didn’t last long. She was immediately sent to the UPMC Northwest emergency department in Cranberry where she found out she’d need emergency gallbladder surgery. When doctors opened her up, they found gangrene and a …

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What Lies Beneath: The Frick Gets Undressed

It’s the first article of clothing you put on and the last one you take off. It comes in all shapes and sizes, colors and textures, ranging from exceedingly comfortable to helplessly imprisoned. It can be sporty, sultry, dull or disturbing, and is quite literally the foundation of the outfit we build onto ourselves. And …

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A Question of Leadership

Pittsburgh Quarterly asked three local leaders: “What’s the toughest leadership dilemma you’ve ever faced; how did you handle it; and what did you learn from it?” Grant Oliphant, President of the Heinz Endowments Shortly after I started as president & CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation in early 2008 the economy was hit by the Great …

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Drilling for Answers

Well pads, compressor stations, diesel truck traffic. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves many moving parts, some of which have the potential to vent pollutants into the air southwestern Pennsylvanians breathe. Fracking doesn’t consist of large, stationary pollution sources, like U.S. Steel’s metallurgical coke plant in Clairton, where emissions are monitored daily, the pollutants they contain …

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Living in Harm’s Way

Lynda Schuster has had quite a life. now safely squared away in Squirrel Hill, she spent the 1980s and ’90s in one danger zone after another. She reported on wars, insurrections and misery in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal and Christian Science Monitor. After marrying a U.S. diplomat …

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Golden Eagle: High, Wild and Here

Imagine the view from a thousand feet up. Snow-mantled ridges cloaked in barren forest, angling southwestward as far as an eagle can see. On the northwest horizon stands a crisp urban skyline above the glint from three rivers. That’s the view golden eagles survey as they soar along the Laurel Highlands to their wintering grounds …

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Beechwood School Garden, 1916

Over the past 10 years, school gardens have been cropping up across the Pittsburgh region. Spurred by chef-activist Alice Waters’ 1995 Edible School Yard, the school garden movement has been praised for yielding both a harvest bounty and hearty educational benefits. In these outdoor classrooms, students learn about everything from summer squash to science to …

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The Egg Route

My dad likes to reminisce, and after most of our 22 family members had moved to the living room after a holiday dinner to nap or watch sports, I learned how the desire for farm fresh eggs connected my parents to both the city of Pittsburgh and their rural roots in Tionesta, for their first …

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Short Takes: “Shopping Mall” “North and Central”

Matthew Newton lets you know by Page 10 that he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder as a teenager. These days, he’s a productive and well-adjusted married man and dad, doing great work at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and his skills as an inquisitive writer and thinker are evident from his latest work. But knowing …

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Stepping Back with Local Ciders and Meads

Pittsburgh has been recognized as a top city for discerning foodies, but there is also a robust adult beverage industry. In addition to microbreweries, wineries, and distilleries, there’s a growing niche for hard cider and mead. These local ciders, some still, others carbonated, tend to be less sweet than commercial ciders; and the meads run …

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Finding the Waterfalls of the Middle Allegheny

When the last Wisconsin glacial age reshaped North America more than 10,000 years ago, it excavated the Great Lakes and carved out the Middle Allegheny River Gorge southward from the current-day Allegheny Reservoir in Warren County down to Emlenton in southern Venango County. There, far above the river, the steep slopes send streams tumbling down …

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Ahmad Jamal, Jazz Master

I’ll bet that I’m the only musician ever to record a CD simply titled “Pittsburgh,” which is a tribute to my beloved hometown. It’s a “miracle city,” really. When it comes to industry, culture and the arts, Pittsburgh has contributed more to the world than most people can begin to imagine. Pittsburgh was once home …

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“And… Action!”

Editor’s note: Studies show that hundreds of thousands of people across southwestern Pennsylvania are nearing retirement or already have left the workforce. What the studies don’t tell us is how these new retirees will be spending their time and resources… and what impact those choices will have on the region. In this second installment of …

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Sept. 17, 1862—The Day Pittsburgh Exploded

“Tread softly, this is consecrated dust. Forty five pure patriotic victims lie here, a sacrifice to freedom and civil liberty. A horrid memento of a most wicked rebellion. Patriots! These are patriots’ graves.” –Inscription on the memorial at Allegheny Cemetery The only trouble with the inscription is that the people who rest here weren’t “planning …

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Breaking the Ice

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak takes the Carnegie Music Hall stage Oct. 10, it will mark the 10th anniversary of what started as the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute and has grown to become the American Middle East Institute. The brainchild of founder Simin Curtis, the Institute has become an important player in the region’s economic …

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