31 March 2008



Above is a photo of another underground parking garage being built, this one in Savannah, GA. At great expense, this city is rebuilding Ellis Square. I think the sentiment of this graffiti is a serious concern in a beautiful but somewhat earthy city like Savannah. The riverfront and market area has turned totally touristy and tacky, and they risk losing their authenticity IMO.

I drove hundreds of miles over Easter break, and was surprised that Starbucks is so prevalent at freeway exits. I had my first Starbucks' experience ever last week, and it was in a Kroger store. The $3.00 cappuccino was of low to average quality, and I really don't see why they are so popular or why they are considered to be the preeminent sign of urban gentrification. I wonder what percentage of total Starbucks stores are urban vs. those that are suburban in another store or in a strip mall vs. those that are stand alone with drive-through.

I can only think of two Starbucks in Cincinnati, one downtown and one in Clifton, but I'm sure there are dozens in the neaby suburbs.

25 March 2008

Dont' Foget the Parade

The suresest sign of Spring, the Reds Opening Day Parade, this Monday, 11am. No more computing until then...

21 March 2008

Obama on Public Transit

At the Overhead Wire Blog.

Shaker Sacred Drawing

A nice weekend or day trip for the family is to Shaker Village, just west of Lexington. I was reminded of it when on a random site, someone posted the following picture of a Shaker Sacred Drawing.

Officer Quarters

Five years on, a relative in Iraq sends pictures of living quarters.

Quanset huts had more style.

20 March 2008

Saddest Sidewalks

Here is an outsider's view of Cincinnati. He thinks downtown Cincinnati has the "saddest sidewalkds in the world." A bit over dramatic if you ask me, but that was his view as a visitor. He was in town for a wedding, and he only spent a day or two here, and he gets many facts wrong, but I think his perspective is noteworthy, and probably typical.

18 March 2008

Blog Break and Opening Day

Despite having a backlog of things I want to write about, but because of work deadlines, Easter break and my mounting distraction by Obama/Clinton; I am cutting myself off from the internet for the rest of the month. I may have an odd post or two, but probably not.

But before I go:
Monday, March 31st is Reds Opening Day, and my family and I will host our annual Open House for Opening Day parade. Cincinnati Public Schools have no classes that day, so it should be a great crowd. Any reader of this blog is welcome to visit and watch the parade with us. If you don't know who I am and where I live, just send me an email, and I will give you the details in an invite later this week. Otherwise, just show up.

Obama's Speech Today

The Full Text:
A More Perfect Union

17 March 2008

The Point

An innocent little movie from 1971, narrated by Ringo Starr, with music by Harry Nilsson, about a little boy, Oblio, and his dog Arrow, who are outcast. The movie is about acceptance and the inherent value in each person. The best part is the sweetness shown between boy and dog to the tune "Me and My Arrow". I liked it, but was a bit suprised that the kids liked it as much as they did. They keep wanting to re-watch it.

Place Food Here


16 March 2008

Fasching at Fairview

I wish I was a better photographer. Sure, in bright daylight I can take nice shots of buildings. But inside, low light, moving faces I haven't yet figured out with a digital camera. Lots of opportunities for good people shots yesterday at the school festival, but all I got was a fuzzy mess:

Figuring out what to spend their tickets on:

Ball Game:

Line for game:

I wanted to get a shot of these four girls so bad. They each had one of the following words painted on their head: "best friends 4 life". Probably in their last weeks of elementary school, heading to 7th grade and a new school next fall:

15 March 2008

Little Girl Dress-up

I would have never thought that I would be fighting a three-year old about what clothes she can and cannot wear out.

This causes me some trepidation about her teenage years.

Buddy Rogers Hays Elementary

Found Item. I think this is a tag that goes on a rental musical instrument:

Beanbag Quote

Only a masochist or castrate would want to be Hillary's V.P. anyhow, since Bill would sit on him like a beanbag. -Camille Paglia
(requires registration)

14 March 2008

Complete Streets Article

I thought this first paragraph was relevant to the Edison film I posted a couple of days ago. In the film, the sidewalks were extremely wide. I'm sure if you went to that street today, you would see a standard 12' sidewalk with metered parking on both sides and the rest given to auto traffic speeding from stoplight to stoplight.

The first drivers in New York City found themselves in an unfriendly landscape. Cobbled streets, narrow roadbeds and a lack of traffic controls weren’t suited to expeditious movement by automobile. For a time, drivers contented themselves with carving out small niches in the urban fabric, but with money, political muscle and an aura of inevitability, the automobile lobby eventually brought about a program of wholesale curb-to-curb reconstruction. Up came the trolley tacks, down came the elevated trains, gone were the broad sidewalks of a great city of walkers — all in the name of a grand design. It was this street-by-street repurposing, just as much as the construction of highways, that reshaped New York’s streets around the car.
For four decades, activists for greener, safer NYC streets have scrounged at the margins of this automobilized streetscape. A few feet of traffic lanes converted to bike lanes, the occasional sidewalk extended to relieve a dangerous intersection — all important changes, but all within the context of streets that serve cars, first and foremost. But what would our streets look like if they were redesigned, building-to-building, to first accommodate walkers, bicyclists, the disabled and surface transit? The days of living at the margins are over: the Complete Streets revolution has begun.
A Complete Street is foremost a reapportioning of road space. Other than restrictions requiring 20 feet of roadbed for fire trucks, the space between buildings is malleable. At present, we give over the lion’s share to cars, usually with parking along either side and one or more lanes for travel in the center.
Today’s “incomplete” streets serve essentially one purpose: the expeditious movement of cars.
Understanding car traffic as part of a streetscape, and not its sole function, is the foundation of a Complete Street.
This type of design first serves the most vulnerable populations like seniors and children, and then builds the street from their needs up. Once a design has cultivated space where walkers and other non-drivers can move, it is time to create space for them to linger and interact.

....Returning the public space currently resting under parked cars and snarled traffic to the of service pedestrians, to walk or linger, is the last piece of the puzzle to making streets whole.

.... Sidewalks must be about more than moving pedestrians; they require space to sit, to comfortably walk side by side and to accommodate the disabled.

Read the whole Brooklyn Paper Editorial

Don't Lie to Your Wife

Odd advertisement found in an attic:

13 March 2008

Public Transport at a 50yr High

Public transportation use is up 32% since 1995, a figure that is more than double the growth rate of the population (15%) and up substantially over the growth rate for the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on US highways (24%) for that same period.

Light rail (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) had the highest percentage of ridership increase among all modes, with a 6.1% increase in 2007. Light rail systems showed double digit increases in the following areas: New Orleans (128.6%); Denver (66.2 %); Saint Louis (27.0%); Philadelphia (26.2%); Kenosha (18.5 %); the state of New Jersey (14.7%); and Memphis (11.3%).

Correction: the link to the article.

12 March 2008

City Residents Crave Grocery Stores

An article in the Washingtong Post about the dissapearance of grocery stores from New York City. Not totally relevant to Cincy, but there are some interesting ideas in the article:

(Corner stores or bodegas)often offer little in terms of nutritious food, with shelves carrying little more than hamburger mix, white bread, canned pasta and peanut butter, generally at higher prices than a supermarket charges.
One project is the return of the greengrocer pushcart, an effective and low-cost way to get fresh produce in certain neighborhoods, Bloomberg said. The city plans to license 1,500 street vendors to sell fruits and vegetables in the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Another program encourages bodegas to carry low-fat milk and to sell fruits and vegetables in single-serving bags.
"As we do new housing developments, we should think about how to structure space on the ground floor" and "make plans to incorporate street-level retail," said Linda Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services.

Alicia Glen, the managing director of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, brings investment capital to underserved neighborhoods to stimulate economic development, including grocery stores. She said it is difficult to convince national supermarket chains "that even though people's incomes may be low, they still shop."

"I think you could characterize it as redlining," she said. "There's a real sense that there's certain places they won't go."

She said investors have been slow to realize that grocery stores can anchor neighborhood development. "How are you going to have million-dollar condos if there's no place to buy bok choy?" she asked.

A study by the Reinvestment Fund, a development finance corporation in Pennsylvania, found that every $1 spent on supermarket construction and operation generates $1.50 in additional economic activity.

The rationale for the vanishing grocery stores is clear: Grocers traditionally make profit margins of only 1 to 2 percent, while skyrocketing rent prices in recent years have outstripped the stores' income, industry experts said.
High-end grocers are doing well, such as Whole Foods Market. It recently opened the largest grocery store in the city, at 71,000 square feet, including a sushi bar, an ice cream bar and a fromagerie. FreshDirect, an online grocer that delivers to certain neighborhoods, has so transformed food shopping that many new residential buildings include a refrigerated room off the lobby for food deliveries.
"Traditionally people went to their neighborhood stores to buy their needs," he said. "They won't be able to do that. It's not just grocery stores."

11 March 2008

County Should Not Sell Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall was given to Hamilton County as a gift from Soldiers and Sailors. It is a beautiful public amenity. I took the picture below during a concert offered by the Queen City Concert Band for Veterans Day. It is serving it's purpose, as a public gathering place for public and patriotic events. In addition, they have expanded it's use by allowing it to be rented for weddings and receptions.

Should the county only own buildings that are functional for the Courts, Auditor, Engineer and the Sheriff, but nothing else? Should the County to own a building like this? I think so. Its not like the County owns many buildings like this. It is unique:

Who would buy it anyway? I think this article is a non-story, unless there is some plot to sell it to 3CDC to help with their parking garage problem.

Rothenberg Meeting Thursday

There will be a Rothenberg School Community Engagement Meeting this Thursday, March 13th at 5 pm. It will be held at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center at 215 East 14th Street. Everyone is welcome and we hope that you all can attend. Please email Liz Colombo, Community Building Institute (colombo dot liz at gmail dot com) if you have any questions.

Streetcar Crash

I found this interesting photo at a Fire Department history website. The description follows:
9.27.1945: This accident occurred on Vine Street at Clifton Avenue. A streetcar that was southbound on Vine from Mulberry Street was struck in the rear by an automobile. Moments later, another streetcar hit the automobile, sandwiching the vehicle between the two trolleys. The driver of the car was killed and 40 passengers of the streetcars were injured.
Photograph - Dennis Maag Collection

Contrast to the film below, where trolleys, horse carts and pedestrians mix it up peacefully. Cars have been turning our public streets into dangerous auto sewers for too long.

Busy City Street 107 Years Ago

Thomas Edison Film: What Happened on 23rd Street, NYC, August 21, 1901. I thought the way pedestrians owned the street was interesting. There are horses with carts and streetcars, mixing with jay-walking pedestrians.

Republicans for Obama

I heard this guy on the radio, and he is a sincere Republican, not a pretender.

Also here is a petition asking the Clintons to release their tax returns.

Snow Play in Street

Once the storm died-down Saturday, we took the sled out for a walk-around:

Pulling sled in Washington Park:

Sledding on Pleasant Street:

Old neighborhood garden, soon to be replaced with new townhouses:

A big fat guy, named Walt, used to run a corner store here. It was a bad hang out for a while, now pieces are falling off the building:

1500 block of Elm, looking north:

West 15th Street looking toward Vine:

Looking south on Elm Street:

I did NOT put this sticker on the canon in the park:


View over pool to Pleasant Street:

Snow on rear of new Elm (Correction 1100 block of Race) Street condos:

1300 block of Vine:

West 13th Street:

Sun comes out right before setting:

First English Lutheran:

10 March 2008

Snowman Family


08 March 2008

Homeowner Equity Drops

For the first time ever, American Homeowners owe more than the equity they have on their homes. Additionally, 10% are "upside down", meaning their house is worth less than what they owe.

I have been mulling this housing issue lately, and I have realized something that now seems very obvious. Government subsidy of mortgages, roads and oil helped some poor renters become homeowners and is sold as such to the taxpayer. However, many, many more modest homeowners were also helped. They were subsidized into larger and more distant homes.

Perhaps this housing "crisis" is not going to be short. Maybe it is a sign of some fundamental shift to homes that are more energy and space efficient. In effect it may be the end of sprawl, at least in the form we have known it for the last 50 years. I think this kind of shift is very hard for most people to see or even to believe. But just like the frontier, which has long since disappeared, the bucolic residential suburb has been fully exploited. Long after the frontier was gone, the frontier attitude continued to damage this country.

How long will we hold on to the suburban dream?

07 March 2008

Good Living Downtown in Snowstorm

A great benefit to city life, is the ability to live your life without a car during a snowstorm. I love the deep snow. The city becomes quiet and beautiful. Snow is only a headache when you must drive in it.

I cannot understand why Cincinnati Public Schools did not cancel classes today. Last year during a mid-day storm like this it was very difficult getting the kids home from school.

This is also a good time to note that streetcars could provide a warm extension to our walkable area.

Daughter Role Model

I was thinking how Wonder Woman was a pretty good role model for girls, when I was a kid. I can't really think of a similar role model today, though they must exist. I guess I got on this track because I am a little worried about my daughter's attraction to the Disney Princess stuff.

Wonder Woman

Hanna Montana? Dora?

Stephanie, Lazytown:

Bockfest Parade

This is kind of an adult themed parade, but we always go and have a good time. I wonder what will happen though with all the projected snow. Will the show go on, or will it be cancelled?


Friday, March 7th at 6pm
Starting at Arnold's Bar & Grill
210 East 8th Street
Admission is Free
Best Parade entry wins a HUGE, one-of-a-kind beer stein handcrafted by the Art Academy
The Bockfest Parade is Cincinnati's most bohemian parade!
Best entries are determined by originality, Bockfest themes (Bock Beer, Goats, German Renaissance), and general funkiness!
Visit www.bockfest.com for more details!


Young Naturalist Meeting Cancelled

This Saturday's (topmorrow, March, 8) meeting of the Young Naturalists at the Lloyd Library had been cancelled.

06 March 2008

Gay Marriage Ceremony Cancelled at NKU

Gay people have families too, and this blog supports their right to marry and raise children. In that vein, I found this article from the NKU Northerner relevant to this blog.

Basically, NKU administrators stopped a gay marriage event because they are worried that the publicity of such an event would energize opponents in the State Legislature with the end result being a loss of their ability to provide benefits to gay faculty members and their families.

Minister bails on ceremony
University's concerns prompt Lapin to rescind offer to officiate same-sex marriage
By: Jesse Call Posted: 3/5/08

One day prior to scheduled same-sex marriage ceremonies being held on campus, the ordained minister chosen to officiate over the ceremony, who also happens to be a Northern Kentucky University faculty member, got cold feet.
Sam Lapin, a communication arts lecturer at the Grant County Center and a minister ordained through the Universal Life Church, an interfaith religious organization, had originally agreed to conduct the wedding services of same-sex couples on the main campus at a celebration of Freedom to Marry Day, organized by Common Ground, a student organization supporting the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community, Feb. 19. Lapin said he was asked to participate in the event after the group, unaware of his ties to NKU, found his Web site. However, he said he ultimately decided not to participate because he had some of the concerns as the administration and his supervisors had.

... e-mails revealed Lapin and others were concerned that he was being intimidated and that he was questioned about the event's legality.
In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, neither same-sex marriages nor civil unions are legally recognized. Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.
"This incident is exactly the sort to reinforce cynicism in our students about political activism and the importance of free expression in a democratic society," Alberti said in his e-mail to the administrators. "The students involved are among the most idealistic and committed on our campus, and they deserve better than to have their event undermined through the inappropriate pressure placed on a faculty member."
According to Common Ground Ambassador, Maggie Lewis, the group is still planning to have a marriage event, but are working out the details and taking more time to plan the event. She declined to name specifics until the planning was complete.
The proposed state legislation said to be behind the concerns of the supervisors, administration, and Lapin is Senate Bill 112. That bill simply adds a few definitions within state law relating to health benefits for public employees. The definitional changes would define spouse as "a person to whom the employee is legally married pursuant to Kentucky state law." In addition, it excludes domestic partners from the definition of a "family member."

The Full Article is here.

Vacant Race Street

Two weeks ago, Sunday morning walk. 1500 block of Race is vacant:

Snowy parking lot in front of Music Hall:

Body Tire Service Sign on long-vacant building:

The rear of some buildings on Republic Street.

Rexall Prescription Drugstore in old Paulus Kirche:

Hart Realty Inc, the company that used to own many of these buildings:

1419 Race, a sturdy townhouse, now in the hands of the City:

A Level Playing Field for Cities

If you are on a certain email list, you have already read this editorial:

No region should receive special favors from the ...government... But our cities deserve a level playing field. A level playing field requires that urbanites should not bear an undue burden of caring for the poor and that suburbanites should pay for the environmental costs of energy-intensive lifestyles.

Edward L. Glaeser, a professor economics at Harvard University, is director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston.

Read the entire editorial here.

05 March 2008

Hayes Porter School

As I write this post, the CPS levy is passing 51 to 49%. I am thankful that this passed so that our son can continue to have Art and Music teachers. I have had nothing but positive experiences with my child in the Cincinnati Public School system. The thing that matters most, the teachers, have exceeded my expectations on all levels.

However, something is wrong at CPS. I am not knowledgeable about the details enough to say what exactly is wrong, but they cannot seem to build a decent building. As a prime example look at the new Hayes Porter in the West End.

Debacle. That is the only way to describe this 12 million dollar conglomeration of bricks, aluminum glazing systems, vents and downspouts.

There is a commenter on this site who has mentioned this school once or twice. I had seen it under construction, and knew it was pretty ugly, but I had never really paid much attention to it. Saturday we walked a different way than usual to the Museum Center, and we passed this building. It is disgusting.

The drudgery of the the design committee is clearly exemplified in the final product.

The backside, was the first part I saw. It kinda looked like a jail or a warehouse from this approach.

Corner windows and corner vents are an important design feature:

How could anyone look at this during the design process and say, "yeah, thats what we want for our kids, banal boxes with minimal windows". They didn't. No one thought about this project from a student or a neighborhood perspective. Heck, from what I can tell, no one thought about this project at all.

Parking lot entry, south elevation:

Grand front Entry:

Right half of building, front elevation. Notice the historic church next door, and the three downspouts as the primary design feature:

From corner, across the street:

The old building :
Hays-Porter is located on an eight-acre site with very little greenspace, in the center of an urban environment. The property is partially fenced for security. Access onto the site is somewhat restricted due to roads on three sides of the building. Site circulation is somewhat congestion but is controlled by signals. There is no designated space for school buses to load and unload on the site. Most of the site is paved asphalt, and no playground equipment is provided.

The old building being demolished:

The architect's website.

The people responsible.

04 March 2008

Cincy Dayton Toledo and Columbus with Obama

...Southeast Ohio, Cleveland and the rest can suck eggs.

I cannot believe that Democrats, when able to vote for the next JFK or FDR, would instead choose the Democratic equivalent of RMN.

Voting Today

It was very busy at my polling place this morning, which should be good for my candidate (fingers crossed).

Again though I must ask, why are so many of the races uncontested? Can't the Democrats run someone, anyone, for Sheriff, County Engineer or one of the dozen uncontested judicial positions? I wonder if I could run for engineer? Do you have to be a PE?

Udate: darn, you must be an engineer and a surveyor:
Each of Ohio's 88 counties elects a County Engineer. Only persons who hold registration certificates form the State of Ohio as both Registered Professional Engineer (P.E.) and Registered Professional Surveyor (P.S.) may hold the office of County Engineer. To achieve both accreditations requires a minimum of a college degree in engineering and surveying, four years of experience in engineering and surveying, and 16 hours of testing for each license. Ohio has the most rigorous standards in the United States for qualifying its County Engineers.

Underground Parking

3CDC is investigating the possibility of underground parking at Washington Park instead of a new parking garage to the south of Music Hall that was to be called Music Hall Square. I think there are several reasons for this, including the constricted site south of Music Hall, the required purchase of property south of Music Hall, the mis-alignment of the garage floors with Music Hall floors, and the fact that fewer and fewer people enter Music Hall from the front anymore. Also many people questioned the modern design of the proposed parking structure.

There also may be some benefits to underground parking in Washington Park such as: a place to put pumps for fountains and other equipment and people will then enter the front of Music Hall. The negatives would be the costs of going underground (added ventilation and sprinklers), the entrances could look ugly and mess up the park design, and it would limit the trees allowed in this part of the park.

I'm undecided whether going underground is the best choice. I will be interested in seeing the proposed entrance locations and design.

Not to keep bringing Portland up, but when there, I saw an underground parking lot being constructed, and a park was being built on top. A developer we met with said that underground parking like this cost them $50k per parking space!

Banner reads: "Build paradise, tear up a parking lot":



Bruce and Hamilton Playground

Sunday the weather finally broke warm, and on the way home from canvassing, we stopped at this peaceful playground in Northside. The play equipment is so-so, but the site is nice with trees and a nice perimeter fence. Lots of kids out as the sun was setting.

03 March 2008

Pony on Tether

I thought this was fun:

Wacky Packages

Do you remember these things? When I was 9 years old (mid 70's), I thought this was the funniest thing ever:

It was about the same time I was into baseball cards and Hot Wheels. Its fun to see my son doing some of the same stuff.