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of a certain age may have felt something like nostalgia when they saw Post-Gazette reporter Dennis Roddy's account last Monday of the latest transformation of someone who once made headlines in Pittsburgh regularly: former city Councilwoman Michelle Madoff. To hear about Ms. Madoff now is to be reminded not of the good old days exactly but the days when council was "the circus," a place of continuing uproar and silliness, much of it involving Ms. Madoff and her nemesis, Eugene "Jeep" DePasquale. Ms. Madoff herself is going strong at 78, as Mr. Roddy reported. After moving away after her defeat in 1993, she lived in a couple of places around the country and is now in Surprise, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, where she has gone back to her roots as an environmental activist by battling dust pollution from a gravel mine (it was with the Group Against Smog and Pollution that she first made her name in Pittsburgh). Good luck to Ms. Madoff and perhaps to the people of Surprise, who may be surprised by her style.

LINDA A. DICKERSON, the well-known and respected local businesswoman, sprung her own surprise last week when she was announced as the new chief executive officer of the National Aviary on the North Side, to succeed Dayton Baker, who is returning to conservation field work after 15 years in the job. No bird-brain, Ms. Dickerson, 46, is an excellent choice for the aviary. She has been very active in the community, serving on various boards including both the aviary and the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. (She has dabbled in politics, too, having run unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for county commissioner in 1995.) As a self-described animal lover and conservationist, she will be in the thick of her interests. As an accomplished entrepreneur, who was publisher of a business magazine and has lately had a consulting firm with nonprofit clients, she should have the right skills to help the National Aviary, which is currently halfway through a $22.5 million capital campaign. May her new career take flight.

TALKING ABOUT critters in general, that Punxsutawney Phil has a lot of explaining to do. Back on Feb. 2, he came out of his burrow and predicted an early spring by failing to see his shadow. That was a lot of winter ago. On Tuesday, people in the Pittsburgh area awoke to a couple of inches of snow and many school districts announced delays. However, some of them, at the unusually late hour of 8 a.m., changed their two-hour delays into full cancellations, ruffling the feathers of working parents who were trying to manage the schedules of their broods. It's hard to second-guess school officials, however, because it's hard to predict what the weather will do -- ask any groundhog -- and how it will affect the roads. By week's end, the weather seemed almost springlike, suggesting that winter was finally on the wing. If not, it's a move to the groundhog retirement home for Phil.


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