Q: What’s better than winning the Superbowl as a Steeler?

4 February 2009

A: Not living in Pittsburgh.   Zing! That’s right, faithful readers: it’s been a long time coming, but the much anticipated and long overdue “Pittsburgh post” has finally arrived.  Before I tear this city a new goatse-sized asshole, however, I will acknowledge some of its virtues.  First and foremost, the cost of living is very low.  I couldn’t even rent a broom closet in Manhattan for what I pay for my three bedroom here.  Of course, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, but Pittsburgh certainly is a good place to be a poor graduate student.  Second, for a city its size, Pittsburgh has a fairly vibrant cultural scene.  It has a symphony, an opera, and several art museums, as well as a number of attractions that can be enjoyed by heterosexuals.  Finally, it must be said that there are many worse places to live, such as Beirut, the Sudan, and Detroit.

But people don’t read Moral Hazard for some bullshit hippie love fest; in fact, they don’t read it at all. But if they did, it would be for bristling, over-the-top negativity, which I shall now deliver.  Without further ado, I present four reasons Pittsburgh should be swallowed up into the fiery bowls of hell.


Far and away the worst thing about Pittsburgh is the weather, which is, as Mike so eloquently put it, dog shit. To put it another way, the weather alone is sufficient reason to qualify Pittsburgh as a bona fide shithole.  Winter starts in mid-November and extends into April (yes, I know it technically starts in December and ends in March, go fuck yourself).  These months are bitter cold, but this is typical north of the Mason-Dixon line; what makes Pittsburgh winters particularly abominable is the constant precipitation.  It’s usually snow, which, though it does fuck up the roads, at least leaves you dry.  Often, however, it rains – even when the temperature is well below freezing, which leads me to believe that Pittsburgh is under some sort of gypsy curse.  In such cases you wind up soaked and shivering, and the rain mixes with the snow on the ground to form a disgusting slush that makes walking an utterly miserable ordeal.

Summer is not quite as bad as winter, but it’s no picnic either.  From late June through early September it’s as hot and moist as Satan’s nutsack.  The humidity is what really kills; you can’t so much as walk to your car without needing a change of shirt.  On top of that, there’s the frequent rain and electrical storms.

Thus, there are only two genuinely pleasant months in Pittsburgh (May and October), and even then the sky tends to be overcast.  Weather is a major component of quality of life, and Pittsburgh’s is so bad that one might be happier on death row in San Quentin.

The Case Law

Pittsburgh’s alcohol laws defy comprehension.  In a shrewd move to discourage entrepreneurship, the city makes liquor licenses expensive and difficult to obtain.  Many restaurants are therefore B.Y.O.B.; I actually like this, since it’s a lot cheaper, but it sure does suck for the business owner.  Throughout Pennsylvania, liquor and wine are only sold at state-run stores, often at high prices.  This is annoying, but I’m more of a beer drinker, and the beer situation is absolutely infuriating.  If you want to buy beer at a reasonable price, you must go to a “beer distributor” and buy a case.  For some bizarre reason I can’t even fathom, you can’t buy single bottles or six-packs.  Actually, it is possible to buy a six-pack from a bar or pizza parlor if you’re willing to pay $11 for a six of Yuengling.  I’ve resorted to this a few times, and in the process discovered yet another absurd rule: you can’t buy more than two six-packs at a time.  The clerk told me to buy two, leave, then come right back in and buy the third.  What.  The.  Fuck.

While I disagree with prohibiting supermarkets from selling alcohol, at least there’s a reason for such a policy: to protect small businesses who sell booze.  But I have yet to hear a single legitimate reason for the case law.  The only explanation I’ve been offered is that it protects bars and other purveyors of overpriced six-packs, but since when is it the role of legislation to create an artificially restricted and inflated market?

The Pittsburgh Accent

Before I came to Pittsburgh, I wasn’t even aware that there was a Pittsburgh accent.  Indeed there is, and it’s the only accent that makes southerners sound sophisticated by comparison.  Here’s a taste:

This is a parody, but people really do talk like that here.   In case you were wondering, “yinz” is a contraction of “you ones,” and serves as the second person plural.   “N’at” is a contraction of “and that,” and means absolutely nothing; yinzers just stick it at the end of sentences for no apparent reason.  It’s hard to believe that the English language could be so thoroughly mangled, but there you have it.

The Pirates

The Steelers are a model sports franchise; congratulations to them on their sixth Superbowl championship.  The Penguins are also a fine team who made it to the Stanley Cup finals just last year.  These successes, however, are canceled out by the embarrassment that is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Guess when the Pirates last had a winning record.

1992.  Nineteen-ninety motherfucking two.  That’s 16 straight losing seasons, including 8 last-place finishes, and no signs that this streak is going to end anytime soon.   But since poor finishes lead to high draft picks, the Pirates’ minor league teams should be flourishing, right?  Wrong; incompetent management has squandered these draft picks time and again and left the farm system barren.

It’s really a shame the Pirates are such a disgrace, since they play in one of the nicest parks in all of baseball.  PNC Park opened just seven years ago, but now only draws more than 10,000 fans when the Cubs are in town.  What a fucking joke.


Cold is now an objective thing

27 January 2009

I haven’t written in a while, so I’m going to start off this post with a PSA.

To the readers of Moral Hazard,

It’s important that you read to the end of the post and see who the post is by.  It’s listed at the end of each and every post, and should tell you whether the reprehensible opinions expressed within are authored by Dan, Patricia, or myself.  This is important!  It was brought to my attention the other day that people thought I (Mike) wrote all of the posts on this site.  Furthermore, some people thought I was actually in possession of the picture of Dan with chocolate all over his partially-covered form.

I want to make it explicitly clear that I am not in possession of the photograph, and quite honestly, it bothers me that it even exists.  I could take it off of this website but really, I know a copy of the bits exist out there somewhere.  Failing that, they existed at some point in time.  Really there’s no way to win here.  The crime against nature has been perpetrated and will continue for all of time.

Sincerely yours,


Now, on to the meat of my post.  I talk a lot of shit about the south, but let’s be honest: I kind of like it there.  Really the south has no more problems than any other part of the country.  Sure, it has backwards racists but let’s not lie: so does the north.  At least the south has the distinct advantage of being warm, scenic, and pleasant.  In other words: I don’t feel like killing myself every single day of the winter, and North Carolina winters are beautiful compared to Pittsburgh.

Dog shit.

Dog shit.

It really bothers me when spoiled babies whine about “cold weather” when it’s in the 60’s, especially when I’m freezing my ass off in a frozen tundra.  I also realize that “cold” is a subjective notion; if you’re used to warm days all the time, then even a moderately unpleasant day is gonna make baby weal upset.

To prevent further misunderstandings, I’ve developed an “objective cold chart.”  It’s based around the following metric: freezing weather sucks, regardless of how used you are to it.  I can walk around in 20 degree weather without gloves because I’m used to it and I’m not a chump — but that doesn’t mean it’s not cold.  Referal to this chart is really simple; if you find yourself whining about the temperature, consult the chart.  The chart will tell you what you are, given the temperature.

Sub-zero: justified.

Sub-freezing: justified.  It’s worse closer to 0, obviously.  Around 32 isn’t so bad, and anything about 20 isn’t so bad IN MY OPINION, but I’m willing to concede that anything below freezing is terrible.

32-40:  Buck up and zip up your coat.  It’s chilly but it’s not that bad.

40-50: Poor baby.  This is sheer luxury in the winter.  If you find yourself whining about temperature in the 40’s you need a reality check.

50-60: Whiny baby.  If you’re whining about temperature in the 50’s, you need the taste slapped out of your mouth.

60 and up:  You deserve death.  Some real Al-Qaeda, Viet-Cong stuff too.

Why Wet Feet Indicate Good Fortune

16 November 2008

It has been raining for a few days now in Pittsburgh, and I anticipate a lot of complaining from the writers of Moral Hazard as a result, replete with insults directed at the city and those who voluntarily live here.

I could make a very long list of reasons why rain is terrific.  I could make an even longer list of reasons why even if it’s not so great, it’s not so bad either.  Most of these reasons, however, provide little in-the-moment consolation to the walker with soggy feet, wet and tangled hair, damp clothes and clammy hands.

One of these reasons is different though.  There is one feature of rainy days that makes me feel completely elated, so much so that I would forgo dry feet on many a day in favor of rain.  This special advantage is the extra concealment afforded by the darkened skies which accompany rain.  Think about this a little bit before you decide that only creeps and criminals would take this line of reasoning.

I really enjoy walking; the fresh air, extra exercise, leisure, solitude, and thinking time I experience every day as I travel are an essential part of my life.  As much as anyone else, I find it easier to think and relax while I walk when I’m relatively dry and relatively comfortable temperature-wise.  There is one thing, however, that ruins my walks far more than rain ever does.  That thing is intrusive exposure and attention, and it seems that rain is the only thing to completely eliminate it.

During the day, on any busy street I have to walk around other people, watch turn-signals on cars, watch street lights, and basically pay attention.  This isn’t necessarily annoying; think of it as a neutral scenario.  For a more relaxing and solitary walk, I just take a different path.  Through the park, perhaps.  The problem is that as the number of fellow walkers decreases, my own weight on the scene seems to increase.  Perhaps I imagine much of this phenomenon, but I can’t help feeling exposed when I’m the only person walking down a road in broad daylight, sun over me, and no cover.  It certainly increases the chances that I’ll be noticed, which puts a damper on my walk.

The obvious solution is to travel at night.  Fewer people are out at 4 a.m., so there are fewer people to take notice.  The darkness provides shelter; it should be the opposite of the maximum exposure of the sun reaching into every corner.

Should be.  Except that every car that does happen to pass shines its bright headlights right into my eyes.  I am invariably startled, usually jump, and feel far more exposed in the light of headlights than in ordinary light.  In the same way that a smaller number of pedestrians focuses more attention on each individual walker, fewer cars on the road means that the ones that do pass pay more attention to the people they pass.  This causes the horrible habit of late-night drivers to offer rides.  This is the most clear-cut intrusion of solitude possible.  Not only is it a major nuisance, it makes me jumpier than do headlights alone, since it’s generally a creepy thing to do.

Rainstorms offer the best of night and day walks, without any of the major drawbacks.  These are the rare times when it is possible to walk without feeling exposed and without having any internal dialog interrupted.  When it’s raining, I can walk down the street in the middle of the day and it’s dark enough that I can blend in with trees and fences.  The heavier the rain and the thicker the fog, the more concealment the pedestrian has.  There are enough cars on the road and just enough people out that nobody has any particular reason to notice me, especially at such an unexceptional hour as two in the afternoon.  If cars have their headlights on, there is enough light from the sky and enough moisture in the air that I don’t feel blinded or jump off the sidewalk every time a car passes.  These are perfect walking conditions; walk when it’s raining, and you’ll feel fairly invisible – free to enjoy the air and the solitude and the thinking-time, with nobody to bother you, for once.  Whether you’re a fan of rain in general or not, a good walk is worth wet feet once in a while.

After all, as a previous post seems to indicate, too much sunshine and cheery weather is linked to stupidity.  Maybe it’s because people don’t get as many chances to think in places where it doesn’t rain much.  You might be less likely to smile when you’ve just walked in from the rain, but at least nobody will mistake you for a happy dumbass.