Archive for September, 2007

Dexter and Pittsburgh

Last week I was telling a friend about the fact that two women had been found cut in half in garbage bags in Homewood. He response was “that sounds very Dexter.” Honestly, I had no idea what she was talking about – I assumed it was some reference to the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory. Not wanting to admit to cultural naivety, I just changed the conversation. In the past few days I have seen some promos and now understand that Dexter is a show on Showtime. The show is about to start it’s second season and the first season received some great reviews.
According to Wikipedia – Dexter is “serial killer Dexter Morgan, who works as a forensics analyst specializing in bloodstain pattern analysis for the Miami-Dade Police Department.” The series is based on the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.

Some Dexter Trivia:
Jeff Lindsay is married to Ernest Hemingway’s niece.
– Dexter’s girlfriend is played by Julie Benz who was born in Pittsburgh and attended Franklin Regional High School.

So it was serendipitous timing that I received an email today from someone at Showtime (who also has a fondness for Pittsburgh). There is going to be a promotion of sorts for Dexter in Pittsburgh (and in 14 other cities ) tomorrow.

Area fans can meet us at PPG Place, Downtown to pick up Dexter goodies
including a preview DVD with the first episode of Dexter season 2.
I suggest you bring your camera to capture the scene ­ should be pretty

We¹ve created a Flickr group so anyone who stops by can share their photos
with Dexter fans around the country.

All they would tell me is that something will be happening between 11am and 5pm tomorrow. I will stop by and try to take some pictures. If you are in the area snap some pictures and send them over to the Flickr group.

Propelling Pittsburgh

Like another erstwhile Burgh blogger, I was appointed a month or two ago as a member of the Mayor’s Propel Pittsburgh Commission. Today, we had our first meeting for about 1.75 hours Downtown. The official bylaws of the Commission say that we’re not supposed to reveal Commission business to the media without the Chair’s permission (that’d be the Mayor), so I’m going to confine myself to vague generalities. Suffice it to say that like all first meetings of task forces, this one was mostly administrivia. We introduced ourselves, adopted bylaws, reviewed a bit of preliminary data, and spent a lot of time debating what subcommittees we should have.

That aside, I will say that today’s meeting leaves me with some cautious optimism. Mayor Ravenstahl opened the meeting and moderated a lot of the discussion, and he didn’t appear to be playing politics with it. He came in with no preconceived notions about what we should/shouldn’t do, made no mention of his rivals or of elections in general, and did not toss around rhetoric. He could easily have been just another City staffer instead of our chief executive, and generally made himself very low-key and approachable. Your humble correspondent was duly impressed, and takes from this the message that Mr. Ravenstahl is serious about soliciting ideas and following through on them. It’s a good group for generating ideas, too. We’re definitely heavy on the professional class (law, business, nonprofit, social studies, a few engineers), but they did a good job with diversity — my guess is that the room was only about 50% white, and it wasn’t confined to the usual suspects from the East End. By my recollection, at least half the people were involved in some kind of neighborhood improvement initiative, and almost all of us served on some kind of board or were running a business in the City.

Now, it’s a government advisory commission, and like all such creatures, Propel Pittsburgh may end up just producing reports that sit on a shelf. On the other hand, the people in that room represent a lot of connections. Moreover, there’s one person on there from each City Council member, so we’ve at least got the start of an ability to lobby Council for the changes we might find necessary. Keep your fingers crossed, and watch this space for updates; I intend to seek as much community input as possible once we start considering major questions.

A Professor’s Dreams

Randy Pausch is a computer science professor at CMU. While this alone would be no small feat, he has also been integral in the creation and development of virtual reality and landmark educational initiatives. He has three young children, a wife and inoperable pancreatic cancer.

While the greatest burden of sadness lies with those who know him best, I can’t help but feel moved by his story, which you can read at the PPG site. The world is most certainly a better place having had him in it.

Though I never had Dr. Pausch as a professor, I think he still has something to teach me, and maybe something that we can all learn. The guy who cuts you off on the parkway, the screaming children in Giant Eagle, the snotty people at work – these and so many other struggles are such brief, meaningless trifles. You think you have problems?

Dr. Pausch had a handful of dreams as a child; if you exclude the dreams most marked by childhood longing (being Captain Kirk and playing in the NFL), he accomplished every single one of them.

The lesson I learn, and the most valuable lesson to those of us who only know him from the news, is that life is too short to let fear of failure or the appearance of daunting obstacles prevent us from achieving our own dreams. The fear that prevents us from acting can be controlled, cast aside, ignored. Dr. Pausch may not have been able to accomplish everything he wanted to, but at least he tried.

If you knew you had only months to live, could you say the same?

Whether you say yes or no, there’s no rush – you have the rest of your life to change your answer.

(thanks go to PittGirl for writing about this first)

Happy Birthday


Emoticons were first used twenty-five years ago – on September 19, 1982 – in Pittsburgh.

See, we’re not just about steel and football.

Help Us Mr. Rogers

Looks like a lot of people should have watched Mr. Rogers.

Symposium On Church & State @ Duquesne University

Kudos to the Catholic, Duquesne University for hosting a symposium on the separation of church and state this Thursday. The event is free but registration is required.

“On Thursday, to explore the issues associated with religion in today’s world, Duquesne University will host its third symposium on Faith and Politics. This year’s theme: “Freedom of — or from — Religion: Understanding the Separation of Church and State.”

“These issues impact on everyone because religion is imbued in our culture and society,” said Mr. Labriola, the acting dean of the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts.”

There are four primary speakers

Bishop Thomas J. Curry has authored two books on the separation of church and state, both published by Oxford University Press. In Farewell to Christendom: The Future of Church and State in America (2001)

John L. Allen, Jr., is probably best known for “The Word from Rome,” his weekly column in National Catholic Reporter, inprint and online. Mr. Allen has also written for The New York Times, The Nation, The Tablet, and Miami Herald.

Professor Daniel L. Dreisbach specializes in U.S. constitutional law and history, First Amendment law and Church-State relations. He has authored monographs and co-authored, co-edited and contributed to several multiauthor collections. Among his most renowned works are Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State (New York University Press, 2002), Religion and Politics in the Early Republic (University Press of Kentucky, 1996) and Real Threat and Mere Shadow: Religious Liberty and the First Amendment (Crossway Books, 1987).

Professor Frank S. Ravitch specializes in constitutional law and law and religion. At present, he is investigating the topic of the treatment of religious objects as legal subjects. His books include Masters of Illusion: The Supreme Court and the Religion Clauses (NYU Press, 2007), etc…

More info here.

Want’s Work

More proof the Steelers blew it with their mascot.

Wilmerding, PA 1904

Thanks to the Pittsburgh Elder’s Guild, I found this great little film from Wilmerding in 1904. I always take the train when I travel to New York, and the view from the train seems very much the same today.

“In 1904, filmmaker G.W. “Billy” Bitzer of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company came to Westinghouse Works to document the innovators of the day (and be one himself with his camera). My great-grandfather worked at Westinghouse Air Brake in Wilmerding at the time. Wilmerding had a population of 5,000 back then. In the 2000 census there were just over 2,000 residents.”

Find out more about it here.

How Much Is The Right To Blackmail And Steal Worth??

Forbes Magazine, is out with it’s list of the estimated values of the various pro football franchises. (which I actually can’t get at to easily today cause I am working right now off a little low speed mooched wireless.) According to the Post’s story, the Cowboys hold the top spot with a value of $1.5 Billion, with second and third held by the Patriots, and Redskins. Pittsburgh comes in at #16 with a value of only $929 million. Five teams have estimated franchise values over 1 Billion, but one can see from the list that a lot of teams are in that zone. Forbes is guessing that only Cleveland’s franchise may have slipped in value.

A big factor in changes in team value seemed to relate to new stadiums which I am just sort of guessing that few of these teams paid for on their own. The value of both the Jet’s and Giant’s rose due to plans for a new stadium.

“Thanks to a new $1 billion stadium set to open in 2009, the Cowboys’ value increased by 28 percent — by far the largest jump among NFL teams this year — to $1.5 billion. They bumped the Redskins off the top spot for the first time in the past eight years. The Cowboys climbed from third to first in the rankings, leapfrogging the Redskins ($1.467 billion) and the New England Patriots ($1.199 billion).

The new stadium added about $350 million to the Cowboys’ value. Jerry Jones can now boast that he owns the world’s most valuable sports franchise, according to Forbes.”

The normal value of businesses, (in a free market) relates to their projected future ability to please customers and includes factors like “brand value”, employee relations, skill of management and valuations of hard assets like plant, equipment and real estate. However in a market that is not free, a number of other factors play a big role, like relationships with politicians and insiders. In the case of major sports franchises, a large amount of equity value seems to come from the ability to blackmail taxpayers into giving them stadiums and all kinds of other stolen goods. I think this is a major reason that it’s almost unheard of for any team to decrease in value over time.

How much is your safety worth?

I had the opportunity this past Wednesday afternoon to just sit down and shoot the breeze over coffee with a local politically-involved friend; it’s a pasttime I don’t get much of in these fine days of clinical rotations. At any rate, this friend has done some work with the Braddock municipal government, and passed on a scary tidbit of knowledge. (Note: not personally verified; take with grain of salt.) The entry-level wage for a Braddock police officer is, allegedly, $7.50 per hour. The wage for an experienced officer is $10 per hour.

Now. We can argue about overtime, benefits, low cost of living in the area, etc., but the fact of the matter is that we’re talking about $10/hour for a job where you A) need to get and maintain specialized training and B) are 100% guaranteed to get your ass shot at. This is, for comparison, about what one could make as a retail store clerk or a pizza delivery dude. Is it any wonder that it’s hard to get adequate policing going in the Mon Valley communities?

Now, consolidating some of those municipalities and maybe even merging them into the county or the city could provide the money they need to get adequately-paid police in sufficient numbers. That money, of course, would be coming from the tax dollars paid by those of us living in somewhat more gentrified neighborhoods. Before you spill your latte in horror, take a moment to remember that there are these things called “cars”. I see patients from our outlying economically depressed communities every day in my Shadyside clinic. If they think it’s worthwhile to drive in for medical care, you can bet that others in those same neighborhoods are perfectly happy to drive on in for some theft, violence, drug dealing, and general unsociability.

It’s not just the City of Pittsburgh that’s being hurt by the short-sightedness of a few affluent suburban communities. It’s municipalities throughout Allegheny County, and we’re all paying the price.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.