30 November 2008

Lustron Home

I spotted this yesterday, in Danville, OH, which is a very small town near Hillsboro. Lustron was a prefabricated steel home with enameled panels that was made in Columbus in 1949 and 1950. I've personally only seen two of them, and they seem to have held up remarkably well, even with no maintenance (as advertised). I would very much like to see the original interior, which was also 100% enameled. Instead of nails, you would use magnets to hang pictures. This one appears to have been fitted with a wood burning stove, but is otherwise unadulterated.

UPDATE: A good story on Lustron here

Santa on Wheels


29 November 2008

Jupiter Venus and a New Moon

A good chance to try to introduce some astronomy concepts to kids:

Despite the light pollution, Venus and Jupiter have been extremely easy to see the past few nights. They are getting closer and closer to each other and they will be joined by a cresent moon later this week. From downtown look towards Price Hill between 5 and 7pm and watch them set on the western horizon. Venus is the first starlike object visible in the sky while the sunset is still glowing.

27 November 2008

"God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

They can, actually, but not very well. The wild ones can fly just enough to get up into a tree at night to avoid nocturnal predators. In daytime they mostly forage for food on foot. Farm-raised turkeys are engineered for bulk, and can't get their fat asses off the ground at all. Perhaps Ben Franklin was right about nominating it to be the national bird.

Some of you are too young to remember WKRP. Back in the early 80's, before Cincinnati was nationally known for race riots, it was known for this silly sitcom. And there was no episode more famous than this Thanksgiving thriller. Anyone you know who's in their late thirties or early forties will remember this vividly. Enjoy.

Smell of Turkey means WEBN

The smell of turkey cooking triggers a pavlonian response to tune into 102.7 to hear Alice's Restaurant. I can't stand the station except for a few moments here and there, and this is one of those moments.

It should be on any minute now.

26 November 2008

Flatiron Building Still Vacant

While going through old photos, I happened upon this ten year-old picture of a vacant building on Vine Street. Today the building looks much the same. I seem to remember that the owner, Sachdev Navneet, has been prosecuted, and I believe even jailed by the City Building Department for failure to improve his properties. Too bad, it is a neat building. I'm posting it now, because it is apparently slated for demolition:

[Where: 1914 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

25 November 2008

Gig Pig Music

New store opening on Court Street: Guitars Amps Drums opens Dec 1st:

St Boniface Northside

Very nice church, very well kept:

Inside the school gymnasium, a nice fall festival fundraiser:

A City Cannot Be A Work of Art

Like many utopian visions that someone is crazy enough to attempt to realize, modernist architecture has always contained an element of fascism. It wasn’t just that a cuckoo notion like Le Corbusier’s “radiant city,” those celery stalks of lone skyscrapers surrounded by a verdant wasteland, was meant to simplify life, but that it was in some basic sense meant to replace it.
“Modernist architecture began with social aims as strong as its aesthetic orientation, or stronger, but social objectives and interests have fallen away almost entirely, and aesthetic interests and judgment, ever more sophisticated and theory-based, have become predominant.”
...urban planners looked at the variety and busyness of city life and saw chaos and confusion and ugliness. Jacobs argued that alleged chaos was the essence of the mixed use that neighborhoods needed to flourish. It was she who declared, “When we deal with cities we are dealing with life at its most complex and intense. Because this is so, there is a basic esthetic limitation on what can be done with cities. A city cannot be a work of art.”

Review of: From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City, By Charles Taylor in Dissent Magazine

24 November 2008

13th and Republic Construction

Hard to believe condos at this corner. Still drug dealers at this corner often. The rear wall, which was solid a month ago is not almost all glass:

There is steel cantilevered out at the second floor level for balconies:

Balluminaria 2008

At the risk of looking like I am rubbing it in to CityKin, we managed to make it to Balluminaria Saturday. It was very cold, but enjoyable. We cruised in a little after 5:00 pm (how sad is it that I checked my Twitter feed to confirm the time) and scored parking on Gilbert right next to the park entrance.

It was just me, the wife and the boy, but the boy was excited to see the ballons, even if he looked like Randy from A Christmas Story. I tried my best with the pictures, and learned fast and wide lenses are the way to go.

I was most impressed by the Brass Quartet that played. It was cold. Cold + metal instruments is not a particulary good time, but they gutted it out till after 5:30, and I think they closed shop because of the PA system firing up to coordinate things rather than give up because of the cold.

Choosing to cruise over to Pomi's was a less ideal choice. See, there was this little football game going on at Nippert. We will definitely go again, but I think an event let that screams group outing.

Apple Carrot Juice Blend is Genius

The kids love drinking their carrots this way:

Autism Not Caused by Vaccines

Paul Offit’s new book, as readable as a good detective novel, tells the story of how autism, a disorder of psychological development, came falsely to be blamed first on the MMR vaccine and then on thimerosal, a preservative found in several vaccines. It is a tale about bad science, worse journalism, unscrupulous political populism, and profiteering litigation lawyers. - article in City Journal

Washington Park Yesterday


22 November 2008

Old Photos, History, Inspiration, and Loving Cincy

I just spent half an hour looking back at some old posts. I don't feel that I've had a really good post for at least a few weeks, and re-reading some old ones was a good inspiration.

A good blog post takes either time or inspiration. Inspiration in writing an essay only comes once in a while, and for me, cannot be forced ...at least while keeping this whole enterprise enjoyable. Without inspiration, a good post can also be made by doing some research and getting some information out there. Often this involves photos, either new ones, or better yet, old ones. And the older the better. My favorite posts are when I find some obscure old photo or artifact, and scan it for posterity. I'm always keeping my eyes open for that kind of stuff and love to happen across such finds while walking through town.

Today it was cold, but clear and bright. My wife was sleeping after working 3rd shift last night. So as is often the case, the kids and I spent the day out of the house tramping from place to place. It is days like this when I feel like we own this town. We met a few friends along the way, saw some culture, found some nature, and got some exercise. One neighbor said that our neighboring pastor, Fred got held up at gunpoint last night. I'm not sure that is true, but unfortunately it is definitely believable. But it seems like it's getting less likely to hear such stories. Maybe, but it still happens. I hope he is ok.

Anyway, the kids were in a wonderful mood today, mostly because we were out with no real agenda, and basically if a kid is outside, with no agenda, they are happy. We stopped in at Park + Vine and chatted, and bought some vegan chapsick. (I really didn't know vegans were anti-beeswax). Then we went to that fantastic Just Crepes for lunch. I try to support the places that are open on Saturdays. Daughter had the PBJ Crepe, and she loved it. The coffee was excellent. Then we met happened to meet our father-son neighbors who then accompanied us to the Natural History Museum. Daughter loved the Panamanian dancers in pretty white dresses in the rotunda. Son liked the different animal teeth/jawbones.

Then we went on a expedition to find a certain video and ended up in the Corryville Public Library, which is such a beautiful classical Carnegie library. We had a great experience there, as the librarian was very helpful and daughter found lots of books she liked about monsters. When we left this library we found a huge tailgate party going on for a UC game. Lots of joviality.

The last rays of the sun were shining on us, even though it was only 5pm. Looking at my happy kids and the library columns orange with sunlight and then taking a gliding ride home down Sycamore hill, the city, our home right in front of us, it felt like we were the center of this town, and that we owned it. But it was good, not like we owned it like we control it, but like we had ownership, like we helped make it and it helped make us. Then after being out in the cold most of the day we come home to our place, and we all snuggle down with homemade soup, books a video and hot cocoa. Life is good. And we are thankful.

New Dinosaurs at Museum Center


Hissing Cockroach at Natural History Museum:

21 November 2008

Restaurants in Cincy Parks

I took the survey and found the questions about a potential restaurant in Burnet Woods interesting. Of course this is all hypothetical and such, but it is fun to dream, and fun to see how people are thinking about this. In my opinion, most of the parks should already have some kind of concession stand similar to #5:

The Cincinnati Park Board is considering whether or not to license a restaurant to be built on the Clifton Avenue edge of Burnet Woods (much like Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park). We’d like your reaction to several possibilities they are considering.

1. The Burnet Woods Organic Cafe will feature organic and all natural burgers, free range poultry, Smoothie Bar with fresh seasonal fruits, as well as many vegetarian options. All fruits and vegetables will be locally grown when possible, organic when not local (such as bananas and oranges). An herb garden in the restaurant will supply much of the herbs and spices needed for the food. Local micro-brews will be on tap as well as bottles of local wines in the cellar to celebrate Cincinnati's creative juices. It's like your local bar and grill, but more environmentally responsible. The building will be a green, LEED certified building using only sustainable materials. Solar panels will line the roof to supply it's own energy. The building and the furniture will appear to have sprung from Burnet Woods itself. Wooden tables and chairs, soft neutrals, fresh flowers, and stone fireplace all decorate the inside. Local artists share their work on the walls. Outdoor seating available in spring through early fall to enjoy the beauty of the woods. On Friday and Saturday evenings, local musical acts take the stage to entertain diners and guests late into the evening.
Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

2. Uptown Live is a unique theater dining experience located in scenic Burnet Woods near the Gas Light District of Clifton. The performances offered will vary from comedy to cabaret to live plays. The menu will be in the vein of a traditional American steak house that also features other types of cuisine such as seafood and vegetarian dishes. Our extensive wine list will feature exclusive wines from around the world. During the lunch hours live music will be played ranging from light jazz to classical and feature a lighter fare menu. This unparalleled experience will attract those seeking to enjoy both good theater and fine dining. Premium pricing will reflect the distinct ambiance and atmosphere of Uptown Live.

3. Nestled into a hillside of Burnet Woods is Le Jardin. This new restaurant invites people to escape the noise and speed of the surrounding area to enjoy a healthy, organic and ultra fresh dining experience. Displayed at the entrance is a garden full of vegetables and herbs which are cut in front of you to prepare your soups, salads and meats. You can even pick out your own vegetables! While you are waiting for your food, you take in the wonderful view of the park through the glass ceiling and glass walls of this LEED certified building. The menu rotates based on seasons and harvest times always bringing you something new and fresh. Every other weekend, the restaurant hosts an educational series on composting and gardening sponsored by the Cincinnati Parks. The atmosphere of Le Jardin is very organic and relaxed, as if everything moves a little more naturally in this part of the city.
Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

4. The Tree House CafĂ© is centered around the nature philosophy of Burnet Woods. Its purpose is to immerse the customers in the beauty of nature. The physical design will resemble a tree house, or simulate the feel of a tree house. It features open-air dining with removable glass panels to adapt to winter conditions. It will be a place where customers can observe and enjoy nature while they dine. It will be a unique structure that people from Cincinnati as well as tourists will want to experience. The outside appearance should also avoid detracting from the natural beauty in which it is set. The first floor will feature a trendy bar area for mingling while the second floor will feature casual indoor dining as well as an outside patio area. The restaurant will have a wide variety of menu options priced around $7 - $20. It will feature vegetarian offerings, classic American fare, pastas, seafood, kids’ food, etc. The restaurant will also have a "park food" menu, which means easy to carry and eat on-the-run.
Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.

5. A stop by the Picnic Source is an essential part of any day in Burnet Woods. The Picnic Source is located in a small stone building and serves up authentic picnic food to the people in Burnet Woods. If you are just passing through the park by yourself, stop by and grab a sandwich, wrap, or salad and head out to any part of the park to enjoy the food and take in the scenery. After a jog or a round of disc golf, stop by to power up on a smoothie or just grab a Gatorade-to-go out of the cooler. You can also call ahead on the weekend and place a Picnic Order and bring the whole family out. With the Picnic Order you can choose from an assortment of “Baskets” to take anywhere in the park. The “Classic Basket” has your choice of sandwiches, pasta salads, fruits, and snacks included. It also comes with a big Cincinnati Parks canvas blanket for the family to share. The “Grillin’ Out Basket” has your choice of packages of hot dogs or ground beef, baked beans, potato chips, and a small bag of charcoal to use in the grills located around the park. Let the Picnic Source help you create unforgettable experiences in Burnet Woods for family outings, dates, or even personal retreats from the hectic urban life.

5 Innocent Bosnians Ordered Released

I haven't written about Bush's torture and detention policy, because that is not what this blog is about. However, it is a slow news day locally, and I thought this was significant:
The five men ordered released today have been imprisoned in a cage by the Bush administration for 7 straight years without being charged with any crimes and without there being any credible evidence that they did anything wrong. If the members of Congress who voted for the Military Commissions Act had their way ...or if the four Supreme Court Justices in the Boumediene minority had theirs, the Bush administration would nonetheless have been empowered to keep them encaged indefinitely...

....in 2001 ... the Bosnian Government succumbed to the pressure of the Bush administration and turned them over to the U.S. as they were being released ("hooded, shackled, and packed into waiting cars while their horrified families watched"), after which they were shipped to Guantanamo.

One of the detainees ordered released today had a wife who was pregnant at the time he was shipped to Guantanamo, who then gave birth to a daughter, now 6, whom he has never met. Another of the Bosnian-Algerians had an infant daughter at the time he was put in Guantanamo who died last year of congenital heart disease at the age of 6. ...

20 November 2008

Lytle Park Master Plan Mtg Tonight

I just found out about this meeting and I cannot attend. I would appreciate hearing what the masterplan looks like from anyone who attends. I hear that this is one of the parks in which they may want to build a restaurant,... and that it may involve removing the playground, modest as it is.

9 Pools May Not Reopen

According to the Enquirer politics blog:
...There are nine pools that are recommended for closing, but these are recommended by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission in keeping with their capital strategy for the development of spraygrounds in the city. In addition the pools slated to be closed have been impacted by deferred maintenance and repairs that the General Fund has not been able to support. Admittedly, there will be a gap between the closing of the pools and the opening of the new spray features. Those pools affected by this decision include: Ziegler, Washington Park, Caldwell, Fairview, South Fairmont, North Fairmont, Inwood, Mount Adams, and Filson. Additionally when you compare the cost to operate and maintain these facilities in relation to the numbers of people that use them it is hard to justify leaving them open...
"...when you compare the cost to operate and maintain these facilities in relation to the numbers of people that use them it is hard to justify leaving them open." Who is saying this? The Mt. Adams Pool is totally packed every time I go there. Really you couldn't comfortably fit more users in that small pool. Most of the days I go to the Washington Park Pool, there are over 50 people there, even though the hours are restricted and the immediate neighborhood is half vacant. The demand is there and even growing.

See, when we opposed the removal of Washington Park pool, people responded: "hey you still have Ziegler, Inwood, Fairview, Mt. Adams nearby". None of those had deepwater or diving boards, but now we see that really all the pools are at best, headed the way of the failed Dyer Sprayground on Freeman Ave... desolate sprinklers over rubberized surface with still limited hours.

We are considering giving up on CRC pools, their non-maintenance, their minimal and inconvenient hours, rules about food and constant threats to close more pools. We may go private next summer so our kids can get some serious swim lessons with a serious swim and diving team. Unfortunately we will be driving a lot more to get there.

Sorry poor kids, next summer you will bake. If you're lucky sometime in the next few years CRC may see fit to set up a sprinkler for you. Maybe.

Auto Bailout, Rail and Gas Taxes

Should GM build trains?

The federal government is giving General Motors, Ford and Chrysler $25 billion in low-interest loans, and the companies are asking for up to $25 billion more....

The Obama administration should ask the companies, as a condition of financial assistance, to begin shifting from being just automakers to becoming innovative “transportmakers.” ...

As transportmakers, the companies could produce vehicles for high-speed train and bus systems that would improve our travel options, reduce global warming, conserve energy, minimize accidents and generally improve the way we live.

... As part of its loan package, the government should insist on the development of “transportmaker business plans” from the car companies, with specific timelines for developing more fuel-efficient cars. The companies should also provide detailed plans to transform some of their factories into research and manufacturing centers for the development of light-rail cars and high-speed trains and buses. (In some cases, these could run on existing tracks and on the median strips of Interstate highways; in others, entirely new lanes and tracks would be built.)

.... In the early 1930s, G.M. joined with other companies to develop the Burlington Zephyr, a radically innovative train that broke world speed records and cut train travel times in half. During World War II, the auto companies converted their factories to build not only military trucks and jeeps, but also airplanes, weapons, tanks and other vehicles. Ford’s Willow Run plant built thousands of B-24 bombers, becoming the world’s biggest bomber plant....

This will never happen, but probably should:
A price floor for gasoline would ease the bailout’s burden on taxpayers. At current prices, a floor of $3.50 per gallon would generate more than $17 billion in one month — a big chunk of a $25 billion bailout. If, without the floor, gasoline averaged $2.50 per gallon over the next year, revenues would amount to $140 billion. That money could pay for a sound transportation policy agenda beyond the bailout.

C. F. Payne, Illustrator

We recieved this book as a gift last year, and the kids really like it. The illustrator, CF Payne is a Miami Grad, and a Cincinnati resident:


CF Payne website. He teaches at the Ringling College of Art and Design, Illustration Academy. His Wikepedia page. List of his books at Amazon.

19 November 2008

Street Food - It's What's for Breakfast!

A cross-cultural urban adaptation of the ubiquitous food cart. It's the ultimate Rube Goldberg device.

The board of health will likely have something to say about the proximity of live poultry in an open cage to the food prep area, the lack of sanitization and hand wash provisions, and BATF will have an issue with the barrel length of the shotguns, so these waffles will be available for a limited time only.

Get yours today!

18 November 2008

Act Early on Autism

Some children do lose their Autism or PDD-NoS diagnosis. There is a good article in the Washington Post today by a woman who just finished many years of expensive ABA therapies with her son. The boy reminds me a lot of my own son.

17 November 2008

It's Not Always Easy Being Green

It seems that every time you try to do the right thing green-wise you find out you're accomplishing nothing, or making matters worse. Recently a British study found that disposable diapers were better for the environment. I'm sure it's just a matter of time until another study finds the opposite. Some folks go with CFLs to save energy, but they may be doing more damage if they are not disposing of them properly, since they contain mercury.

Well, luckily you can have your CFL and save the planet at the same time. Every year (I think) Hamilton County runs the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program to collect a lot of stuff you shouldn't be throwing away, like fluorescent lights. See the site for the complete list. Thanks to someone on the Prospect Hill mailing list, I was reminded the program is coming to end for this year on Saturday. So I can finally rid our house of the burned out CFLs that have been cluttering up the place. It's also a great place to get rid of all that old paint and other household chemicals.

This program is paid for by Hamilton County, so you need to bring proof of Hamilton County Residency.

Don't Camp Out

The CPS Magnet School sign-up was out of control last year. This year, applications will be accepted beginning tomorrow evening. Hopefully the lines won't start until Tuesday morning, at the earliest. According to the Enquirer, at the end of the application deadline last year, Fairview had 67 students on the waiting list for kindergarten and first grade. But keep in mind that by the time school started in the fall, only 10 were left on the list. This is because some kids get on the list, but they decide to go somewhere else, or the family moves etc...

Even last year with the 3 days of camping out, most people who showed-up to wait in line during the last hours got into the school of their choice.

Sweet Juniper

Interesting blog similar interests as this one, but out of Detroit. Posts consist of cute kids photos, vacant buildings, essays, coloring books, historic photos etc...

http://www.sweet-juniper.com/ It's worth checking out if you have the time.

15 November 2008

Roald Dahl Funny Prize

Winners of the inaugural Roald Dahl Funny Prize were named at an awards ceremony in London yesterday. The two books honored were:

For Kids 6 and Under: The Witch's Children Go to School, by Ursula Jones, illustrated by Russell Ayto

For Kids 7-14: Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, illustrated by David Tazzyman

Michael Rosen, who chaired a panel of five judges that included Sophie Dahl--granddaughter of the legendary author--said, "Children love funny books but when adults draw up lists of the best books they nearly always leave the funny ones out. When I became the Children's Laureate, I said that my job should be as an ambassador for fun. That's why I came up with the idea of this funny prize, all part of the job!

Neither of the books mentioned above are available in the US yet, but older books are:

The Witch's Children Jones, Ursula (Author), Ayto, Russell (Illustrator)
Andy Stanton has written a number of Mr. Gum books.

14 November 2008

Yma Sumac Gone

Yma Sumac, the subject of some album cover posts on this blog recently died. Here is what Camille Paglia says about her:
... I was startled to read of the death last week of Yma Sumac, the virtuoso five-octave Peruvian singer who seems like a legendary figure of the misty past. Sumac's 1950 debut album, "Voice of the Xtabay," made a tremendous impact on me as a child. My family attended her performance (with her company of 20 artists) at the Binghamton Theatre in what was probably 1951. I still have the yellowed clippings and program, which lists songs eerily mimicking the sound of the Andean winds and earthquakes. The cover image of "Voice of the Xtabay" with a glamorous Sumac in the pose of a prophesying priestess against a background of fierce sculptures and an erupting volcano, contains the entire pagan worldview and nature cult of what would become my first book, "Sexual Personae," published 40 years later. Thank you, Yma!

Peter Schiff was Right

For the past 2 years or longer this guy has been saying the same thing and being laughed at. Unfortunately he was right. We have had too much borrowing and not enough production and saving. When our economy is 70% consumption it's obvious that our disease is debt. I especially like his quote, that "...we should embrace recession because the disease is all this debt finance consumption... The cure is that we stop the spending and start saving and producing ... sometimes the medicine is bitter but needed"

Video Here

PS: just because Peter is the son of jailed Tax Evader, Irwin Schiff, does not make his views incorrect or less prescient.

Toys for Budding Young Builders

Gift season is coming up and I'm seeking worthwhile toys for the pile of young kids in our extended family. When I was little my favorite toys were always things to build with. I did an informal survey of classmates back in engineering school, and most (like me) still had their Legos stashed away somewhere, ostensibly for their future kids, but really because they were still cool to play with. Here are some of my favorites:

5. Tonka Diggers - But only the metal ones that actually move dirt. You have to be able to stand on the heel of the shovel bucket to split sod, and then use the handle to scrape soil without it breaking. Bending is OK, because then you have an excuse to borrow Dad's pliers and bend it back. Eventually it looks like this, and then it's time to beg Mom for a can of spray paint to refurbish it. Of course moms always know better, so it'll look this way forever.

4. Lincoln Logs - Great starter toy because they're hard to break and can be knocked together quickly. You get visible progress in minimal time. You can also rearrange them easily to turn a simple box building into an elaborate cottage if you have enough parts. This is especially good after you've done site-prep with the Tonka diggers. Friends build theirs nearby, you carve out a little road, and cut up some of Mom's bushes to simulate a tree-lined street. They bounce apart real nice too when you use a basketball to do a pretend meteor strike.

3. Legos - Practically the definition of modular building toys. A starter set is just that; you can never have enough. You might build the thing pictured on the box once, but after that your buddys will all bring their sets over and the whole group concocts something that no toy designer ever imagined. Nobody ever has enough of the textured-top slanty pieces to do a proper roof, so we always used the Lincoln Log parts for that. Definitely an indoor toy though; once you get the little cavities full of mud, they're gritty and messy forever.

2. Erector Set - This vintage toy was an assortment of metal bars & plates full of holes, threaded fasteners, shafts, pulleys, string and battery powered motor making it a dream for creative kids. The sharp edges and small pieces would be nirvana for product liability lawyers today. Perhaps that had something to do with it now being marketed under the name "Meccano". Definitely not a starter toy. You need to plan your project and have a lot of patience to tweak the design over many days. But the best part is that it's designed for motion. Add enough rubber bands and few acorns and you can make a wicked catapult to lay siege to your little brother's Lincoln Log neighborhood.

1. "Real Tools" - I got a set like this when Dad got sick of me using his. I still have nearly all of them, except for the box which was sawed up to become part of some long-forgotten project. I'm still amazed at how many things got fully taken apart and almost reassembled with it. It was really more useful for being "mommy's little handy man" by hanging pictures, unsticking the door to the garage, and fixing my own bike. I still had to raid Dad's toolbox when I needed an adjustable wrench, vise-grips or a bigger hammer.

I've since graduated to bigger, more expensive toys and now I'm not really up on the latest and greatest kid technologies. I'd appreciate any suggestions along these lines from playful readers.

12 November 2008

I'm not Anti-Downtown, I'm Pro-Urban-Neighborhood

I guess that's what you call the Hyde Park triangle (Edwards, Madison, Observatory). It's not quite city life the way downtown-proper or OTR is, but it's also nothing at all like suburban Delhi where I grew up.

I like that walkability isn't just a theoretical concept...people actually do it. We walk to the bank, post office, video store, liquor store, dentist, orthodontist, and playground. We walk 5 blocks to church, and have half a dozen places to eat brunch on the way back, after buying a paper from the street-vendor on the square. The kids walk to the bus, work, Graeter's for ice cream, GameStop, LaRosa's, Busken's, or just walk up to the square to hang out with friends.

I like that our firemen grill out in front of the firehouse and chat with passers-by. They always put out a bowl full of water, and buy dog treats to hand out. They aren't supposed to let kids sit in the trucks (wink). Pets and kids are everywhere. Couples walk their dogs hand in hand, families take turns pushing the stroller, and joggers go by 24/7. When we moved here in the late 80's our pastor used to quip that he did a dozen baptisms a year and almost a hundred funerals. Today those numbers are reversed.

I like that our shops can't be found anywhere else. I like our gas-lit streets, huge trees, and turn-of-the-century houses with stained glass and fireplaces, and that no two look alike. I like that everybody plants things out front, and that people wave to each other and say "Hi", whether they already know each other or not. I like that our street has it's own email list and "citizens on patrol", all run by concerned neighbors; and that every few years we block off the street and have a neighborhood cookout just to get acquainted with the newcomers. I like that Rookwood shopping center has a fireworks display at dusk on Friday after Thanksgiving to kickoff the shopping season.

I like that about half the houses display political signs during election season, and that none of them are messed with. We had roughly even numbers of Obama and McCain signs, indiating a healthy diversity of opinions, and nobody has any hard feelings over it.

I like that our location makes the greater Cincinnati area as drivable as our neighborhood is walkable. The most distant spot in the I-275 beltway is only 30 minutes away, most of our trips take between 10 and 20 minutes because we're only 3 traffic lights from 4 interstate ramps. My wife's hospital job is 10 minutes away by car, my office is a 15 minute drive (20 minutes in rush hour) and the kids pickup the Metro to school at the end of our street.

Downtown and OTR are already that convenient, and are now heading toward the same social status, becoming more friendly to families, couples and singles, and less friendly to those who mooch off of or prey upon them. I'm looking forward to the same variety of entertainment and fellowship in OTR that we currently have in Hyde Park, Oakley, Mt Lookout, Mt Adams and Clifton.

Cities are more expensive, busier, noisier, and less predictable when it comes to the kind of people you wind up bumping into. But that's what makes them such a rush to live in. And why we couldn't imagine living anywhere else.

Norman Vincent Peale

The Christmas Tree was jsut delivered to Fountain Square, and the skating rink is being put together this week. This reminded me of a post I've been meaning to make about Norman Vincent Peale, Cincinnati Christmas Memories. He was born in a small town, near Xenia, but lived in Cincinnati during some of his formative years.

I have searched in vain for an article that I read maybe 20 years ago in a dentist office waiting room. It was a Home and Garden Magazine and the article was of his Christmas memories. I cannot find the story, but my recollection is this:
Norman and his childhood friends in Over-the-Rhine, would call out and tease a dirty man, whose job was to oil the streetcar. They would call him "greasy Joe" or some such name. Then on Christmas Eve, he went with his father to visit sick people in the hospital, and there in one of the beds was greasy Joe. It was then that he realized that this was a poor but proud man, with a family that depended on him.

Instead of that memory, I did find this one. Does anyone know in which house on Liberty St he lived?:

Some of my most impressionable years were spent in Cincinnati. I still remember the huge Christmas tree in Fountain Square--the gleaming decorations, the streets ringing with the sound of carols. Up on East Liberty Street where we lived, my mother always had a Christmas tree with real candles on it, magical candles which, combined with the fir tree, gave off a forest aroma, unique and unforgettable.
One Christmas Eve when I was 12, I was out with my minister father doing some late Christmas shopping. He had me loaded down with packages and I was tired and cross. I was thinking how good it would be to get home when a beggar--a bleary-eyed, unshaven, dirty old man--came up to me, touched my arm with a hand like a claw, and asked for money. He was so repulsive that instinctively I recoiled.
Softly my father said, “Norman, it's Christmas Eve. You shouldn't treat a man that way.”
I was unrepentant. “Dad,” I said, “he's nothing but a bum.”
My father stopped. “Maybe he hasn't made much of himself, but he's still a child of God.” He then handed me a dollar--a lot of money for those days and for a preacher's income. “I want you to take this and give it to that man,” he said. “Speak to him respectfully. Tell him you are giving it to him in Christ's name.”
“Oh, Dad!” I protested. “I can't do anything like that.”
My father's voice was firm. “Go and do as I tell you.”
So, reluctant and resisting, I ran after the old man and said, “Excuse me, sir. I give you this money in the name of Christ.”
He stared at the dollar bill, then looked at me in utter amazement. A wonderful smile came to his face, a smile so full of life and beauty that I forgot that he was dirty and unshaven. I forgot that he was ragged and old. With a gesture that was almost courtly, he took off his hat. Graciously he said, “And I thank you, young sir, in the name of Christ.”
All my irritation, all my annoyance faded away. The street, the houses, everything around me suddenly seemed beautiful because I had been part of a miracle that I have seen many times since--the transformation that comes over people when you think of them as children of God, when you offer them love in the name of a Baby born two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem, a Person who still lives and walks with us and makes His presence known.
That was my Christmas discovery that year--the gold of human dignity that lies hidden in every living soul, waiting to shine through if only we'll give it a chance.

11 November 2008

Parkside Cafe on McMillan

Stopped at the Parkside Cafe in Walnut Hills last weekend for lunch. It is located in an old Frisch's restaurant. This is a breakfast and lunch place only. No Dinner. The positives: lots of parking, open weekends, very affordable and decent service. The negative: the food was just about as generic as could be. But sometimes that fits the bill.

One item on the menu diverged from the standard hamburger, chicken fingers or BLT, and that was the deep-fried green beans. Maybe next time.
[where: 1026 East McMillan, Cincinnati, OH 45206]

New Office of Urban Policy

Obama has announced he will establish an Office of Urban Policy. HUD (The Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) never quite filled the bill for addressing the holistic approach to city issues. It will be very interesting to see who is assigned to head this new office.

I'm not anti-Suburb, I'm pro-City

I thought of this topic looking at the latest "I'm a Mac" commercial. I've always found them somewhat entertaining (John Hodgman is brilliant) but was curious about the tenor of the campaign. What I mean by this is that (in my opinion) the Mac character reinforces the negative stereotypes that I would think Apple would want to leave behind. Am I the only one that wants to smack the Mac-guy upside the head? I imagine he plays well to the Mac faithful, but isn't the purpose of advertising to expand the audience, rather than pander to the converted?

This made me wonder about city-fans. Do we come off as smarmy as the Mac guy? In all honesty, I think we do. We can go on pandering to the faithful, or we can step out and try to communicate why anyone in their right mind would want to live and raise a family in the city. Comparisons are important, but my goal on this blog will be to give the positive reasons for the city, not the negative for the 'burbs.

For me, the three advantages to city-life are the three L's of Real Estate: location, location, location. I love living in the urban center of the area. It helps that my wife works downtown, and while I work from home, most of my client meetings occur downtown. But even when I have projects that take me out of the core, I get the advantage of going against traffic.

OK, so we learned I am lazy. How is this a family benefit? Our son's childcare is downtown (a couple blocks from my wife's work). He is a 5 minute commute from home (kid + lots of stuff makes the 20-minute walk less tenable). I know folks from the 'burbs that drop their kids off, then have a 45-minute to 1 hour commute. That gives us a minimum of an extra hour and twenty a day with our son. That is pretty priceless for us.

Since we are at the center of things, it also makes most places convenient. Besides all the great opportunities here, we are positioned to easily go to Montoya's on Buttermilk, Vincenzo's on Chester or back to Ruthai's in Mount Lookout if we want to. And it is really convenient to a number of kid-friendly venues like the Zoo, Museum Center, and Newport Aquarium.

Now it certainly depends on the family. We have good friends who live out in Loveland. Now to us that seems the ends of the earth. But since work for them is in Mason, as much as we would like to lure them down here, they are where it is most convenient for them. So I know the location thing won't work for everyone, but it works great for us.

What about you? Why do you live in the city, if you do?

10 November 2008

Preservation of Modernism

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting the architect of the Terrace Plaza Hotel. Natalie De Blois attended Miami's Western Program and then Columbia University to study architecture during WWII. She was able to do this because most men were drafted into the war at that time. There were only 18 students in her class at Columbia. After the war, she began working for Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM). She was quite young when she designed the Terrace Plaza for Thomas Emery. It was the first modernist building in Cincinnati, and it got a lot of good press at the time. The first 7 floors of the building were two department stores, Bonds (menswear) and JC Penny. The lobby for the hotel was on the 8th floor, along with a restaurant and outdoor plaza (with skating rink). The hotel rooms were in the upper half of the building, and on the top floor was the round Gourmet Room. See Queen City Survey for some photos and old postcards.

Readers know I am not a fan of modernism, so I found Ms De Blois more fascinating than her building. She was a rare woman in a male dominated field and rose to partner status in one of the most influential architectural firms of the 20th century. She met with and collaborated with many of the great names in architecture and the fine arts. She also worked with many UC graduates over the years and found them to be great apprentices. She later taught at the University of Texas, Austin, and was a much beloved professor. At 87 she is still a powerful presence and still swims daily in Lake Michigan, weather permitting I suppose.

Today before returning to Chicago, she is taking a tour of the recently vacated Terrace Plaza. The tour will be filmed. My understanding is that this effort is a collaboration between the Cincinnati 3F (modernism fans) and the Cincinnati Preservation Association. There is debate among preservationists about which modernist buildings are worth fighting to save. Buildings must be 50 years old to be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, and a lot of modernist work is beginning to be eligible.

09 November 2008

Bad House, Bad House

Has anyone else ever noticed this little 1970 modular house in Corryville? It has hardly any windows and is completely out of place, especially since it occupies a corner.
I'd like to do a post about the church seen behind soon.

[Were: 232 Oak Street, Cincinnati, OH 45219] NE cor Oak and Bellevue

07 November 2008

FT Predicts $100 Oil

The Financial Times says that this low oil price is only a temporary lull until the economy recovers. They believe that $100/barrel oil will be the norm in the next decade, and that $200 oil will follow thereafter. It seems like now, when oil is cheap, would be a good time to prepare for this high oil future by developing the alternative sources of energy and means of transportation.


I had a post a few months ago about a new town Brandevoort. A similar planned traditional town Poundbury, by the same architect, Leon Krier was recently subject of a surprisingly positive article. Portions excerpted below touch on some of the issues, from traffic to the influence codes have on our everyday life:

...Poundbury was meant to be boring, as any urgent expedient for solving a world crisis in housing, building skills and natural resources needs to be.

...cars behave themselves, moving slowly in the virtual absence of signage; this is a small battle won against the traffic engineers...

People ...seem happy to live ... at relatively high densities, and are quick to defend mixed-income (housing).

...Poundbury has become the successful model for suburban development...for much of the south of England. And as one successful Poundbury builder told me: “We like it better, too. We can build a house for 10% more and sell it for 30% more.”

... the (building and zoning) codes do seem to have made bad architecture a bit less casually easy.

... what seems more interesting is the question the project raises about the real limits of the architect as auteur of social change.

...younger (architects) are at last producing housing ...that convince by their studied ordinariness and ...reticence of their designers. ...They ... rely on an understanding of space as a resource to be consumed frugally.

Petition For Transit

Petition Obama to invest in transportation alternatives. Here is the Vision.

Empty Avondale House

These are 8 year old pictures of a circa 1905 building I evaluated in Avondale. It was a sturdy but neglected brick structure. The owner had big dreams for the place, but nothing ever happened with the project, and I thought maybe it had been demolished. I was suprised to see that it has been rehabbed into a duplex.

How it looks today after CMHA rehabbed it, removing many beautiful architectural features:

[where: 600 Maple Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45229]

05 November 2008

Goodnight Opus

November 2, 2008 marked the last day of my 2nd all-time favorite comic character (Milo is the best) and pop culture icon. Berkeley Breathed published his final Opus cartoon and everybody's favourite penguin went out in a very "children's" literary tradition.

In cooperation with the Humane Society, Breathed published a final Sunday strip in newspapers with a link to see the last panel online at the Humane Society of the United States. Check the published strip via the link above, and then read the final panels.

Opus, the little penguin with the big beak and even bigger heart who sold more than 6 million books and had 70 million readers in the phenomenally popular comic strips, Bloom County (1980-1989) and Outland (1989-1995), graced the Sunday comics sections of nearly 200 newspapers. Opus got his break in cartooning when he popped up in Bloom County some 20 years ago and became an instant American icon.

Rest in peace, our small flightless waterfowl friend.

Maha Rushie The Man Whos Always Right

(Obama) is going to win, isn't he?
'No. I don't see it, Nigel. I think he's been dead in the water since the primaries. He is going to need to be up 10 to 12 points to win by three or four....-Rush Limbaugh last week in an interview with Nigel Farndale of the UK Independent

And from the Onion:
Citizens with eyes, ears, and the ability to wake up and realize what truly matters in the end are also believed to have played a crucial role in Tuesday's election.

04 November 2008

Update on Machine Gun

A short story on Channel 12 last night said police recovered an AK47 from nearby. I'm quite sure that is what I heard being shot last week. They also mention in the article, the grafitti I posted yesterday, as a possible list of street names of those involved.

Homeless on River

Flag staked on river:


post from the voting line

I've been voting at the same polling location for 19 years, and I've never missed an election. During all that time I have never had to wait behind more than one or two people. Today the line goes outnthe door and down the sidewalk. People in OTR are turning out li like never before. Comments by those in line are along the linesnof "this is a beautiful day", and it is!

03 November 2008

Lovely Building

[where: 823 Race Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202] The Phoenix

Saturday Walk

We are between seasons for Saturday sports for the kids and we unexpectedly had a Saturday with beautiful weather and nothing to do. So we took an aimless walk. We first went to run and errand or two downtown. Then we took the #1 bus to the Mt Adams, to see Visual Lingual and the Family Saturday fun stuff. The kids had a blast at the Art Museum doing the Scavenger hunt. Instead of taking the bus, though, we walked back and snapped a few photos:

Metro inclement weather notice:

Eve at the sound of God's voice:

Atman Sculpture. Mark Di Suvero I really don't like this sculpture, and the swing doesn't swing:

Steps down from Art Museum to Gilbert:

We happened upon a snake and osage oranges:


Teddy bear memorial:


Thirteenth Street:

Grafitti, list of names:

Beehive remnants:

Current SCPA, old Woodward:

The new SCPA: