31 January 2010

Stone House East Price Hill

I've been exploring a bit on the near west side and this is the second house I have seen made wholly from found limestone. This one is on very high ground, up behind the Cincinnati Christian University and is obviously older than everything else around it. It has ugly replacement windows and is chopped up into apartments.

The side has these buttresses, which I suppose were added when the wall started bulging or cracking. They give it a medieval feel:  

[where: 2935 Lehman Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45208]

29 January 2010

Chris Henry OTR


Contemporary culture meets 19th century ironwork. My son says: "R-I-P, Rest in Peace... did Chris Henry live here?"

27 January 2010

Cincinnati Bricks

Cincinnati Bricks is a 5-year old Internet sales company specializing in Lego sets and parts. Their "pick-a-brick" vastly exceeds what's up for sale at the LEGO store.

Above is a picture of their model of the Cincinnati Observatory, which is currently on display at The LEGO Store in Kenwood.

More Teens Waiting to Drive

In the Washington Post Sunday:

...The quest to get a driver's license at 16 -- long an American rite of passage-- is on the wane among the digital generation, which no longer sees the family car as the end-all of social life...

...Focused on tough classes, the debate team, dance and color guard... "It just wasn't a priority,...It was just never the next thing that needed to get done in my life."...

...a striking national shift: 30.7 percent of 16-year-olds got their licenses in 2008, compared with 44.7 percent in 1988...

..."In this economy, if my daughter were to drive, just the insurance would be $1,200 a year or more, and that's a lot of money," ...

...Johnson notes that his college-age children still don't have licenses. "Neither one has risen to the occasion," he said. "Both have decided that Washington, D.C., is a great place to use their 'BMW' -- bus, Metro, walk."

...Plenty of parents don't want their children driving at 16, given the congestion and peril of the Washington area's roads and the fact that car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths...

24 January 2010

Curious George Revisited

"Curious George, as it might sound if read by eccentric, dark and strangely literal German director Werner Herzog":

23 January 2010

Nopales in Price Hill Kroger

Sign of demographic shift on westside:

Children Unrepentant Sociopaths

New Study Reveals Most Children Unrepentant Sociopaths

MINNEAPOLIS—A study published Monday in The Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry has concluded that an estimated 98 percent of children under the age of 10 are remorseless sociopaths with little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasure...

22 January 2010

iPhone = Car Keys

A London based company has introduced an application for the iPhone that allows members to locate the nearest zipcar type rental auto, unlock it, and drive away.

20 January 2010

Views From Trinity Flats

I got inside the new building at Mercer and Vine a few days ago and snapped a couple pictures. The condos are nicely organized around a circular lobby on each floor, eliminating the long corridors that are in other buildings (for example Gateway I). I really like when I get a new view that I have never seen before, like the one looking West down 14th Street towards Music Hall:

4th Grade Boy in NYC 1971

... I live at 25 W 68th Street. It's an old apartment building. But it's got one of the best elevators in NYC. ...Our apartment is on the 12th floor...

... We live near Central Park. On nice days I like to play there after school. I'm allowed to walk over by myself as long as I'm going to be with friends. My mother doesn't want me hanging around the park alone.

For one thing, Jimmy Fargo has been mugged three times - twice for his bicycle and once for his money. Only he didn't have any to give the muggers.

I've never been mugged. But sooner or later I probably will be. My father's told me what to do. Give the muggers whatever they want and try not to get hit on the head.

Sometimes after you're mugged, you get to go to police headquarters. You look at a bunch of pictures of crooks to see if you can recognise the guys that mugged you.

I think it would be neat to look at all those pictures. It's not that I want to get mugged, because that could be really scary. It's just that Jimmy Fargo's always talking about his visit to police headquarters.

My father got mugged once in a subway by two girls and a guy. They took his wallet and his briefcase. He still travels around by subways but my mother doesn't. She sticks to buses and taxis.

Both my mother and father are always warning me not to talk to strangers in the park. Because a lot of dope-pushers hang around there. But taking dope is even dumber than smoking, so nobody's gong to hook me!

We live on the west side of the park. If I want to get to the zoo and the pony carts I have to walk all the way through to the east side. ....

On Sundays the park is closed to traffic and you can ride your bicycle all over without worrying about being run down by some crazy driver...

Me and Jimmy have this special group of rocks where we like to play when we're in the park. We play secret agent up there....

-Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Judy Blume 1971

I wondered about her description of the family's life in New York, and was surprised to see this quote from her on her website:

Though I still lived in suburban New Jersey, I set the book in New York City, in the building where my best friend, Mary Weaver, lived with her family. I changed the address but the elevator I describe in the book with its mirrored wall and upholstered bench is exactly as it was, and still is, in Mary’s building.

18 January 2010

John Lally of Boston

This is a test to see if I can successfully attach a music clip to a post. I'm not really sure of the best way, but this one is thru "esnips".

The music is a project I have been working on for a while. The musician is Bob Schmertz, an architect from Pittsburgh who recorded four albums from 1949-1960. The recording below is from the 1960 album "Ladies Beware of an Architect". I cannot find this album anywhere, so this is digitized from an old cassette tape I copied off my partner years ago. The song is about how a plain "concrete filled pipe... a column without any clothes" has replaced the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite classical columns.

I especially love this stanza:
Its' sly self effacement that hid in each basement (but soon began gaining in status);
amongst wealth and passion it's now all the fashion and adds to artistic inflatus..

go to esnips | Track details |

He had one song: "Queen Ann Front and Mary Ann Behind" which became somewhat well known when Pete Seeger recorded it. There was a website up by an admirer, but it has been defunct for a few years.

I think he was a genius. I would like to make him more widely known, and this is my first attempt.

Any advice on how better to post music to a blog post would be appreciated. Also, please contact me if you have any of his albums.

15 January 2010

Late Night TV

OK, I know this is pretty irrelevant to this blog and to life in general, but I find the Conan/Leno debate kinda interesting. I never watch prime-time TV, but I often watch the late shows. That's when the kids are asleep and I have finished cleaning the kitchen and blogging etc. Personally, I prefer Jimmy Kimmel. His monologue sometime is hilarious. Craig Ferguson I also like. Conan is also good, but I never have liked Jay Leno. I can barely stand watching his show. You? Vote in my poll on the sidebar.

14 January 2010

Number of Cars in US Declines

The auto fleet in the United States shrank by an estimated 2 percent in 2009...

The decline – the first seen since World War II – was driven in large part by the recession, which sharply curbed new car sales. But broader social and economic forces were also at work, including the saturation of the American market and a declining interest in cars by the latest generation of young Americans...

Shrinking auto fleets are nothing new: in Japan and a number of European nations, the number of cars on the road either stabilized or declined years ago.

...a smaller fleet will lead to lower oil use and reduced spending on oil imports, which cost the United States an estimated $327 billion in 2007.

Fewer cars will decrease traffic congestion and reduce demand for road construction and repair, potentially freeing up billions of dollars for investment in public transportation projects...

FTA to Include Livability in Funding Decisions

Although this kind of policy decision is not very sexy and it will not make the evening news, it is a critical change to the way Federal Transportation dollars are allocated. Via tha FTA website:

Obama Administration Proposes Major Public Transportation Policy Shift to Highlight Livability
Changes Include Economic Development and Environmental Benefits

In a dramatic change from existing policy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today proposed that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria...

“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”

... “No longer will we ignore the many benefits that accrue to our environment and our communities when we build or expand rail and bus rapid transit systems.”...

Our Shrunken Thermal Comfort Zone

I feel like everything Steve Mouzon posts on his blog is something I have also been thinking about. For example, I notice that if I spend a whole winter day indoors I become colder and start pushing the thermostat upwards. But if I spend an hour outside walking, sledding or kicking the soccer ball then the house can be kept cooler.. a lot cooler. And there is a similar reverse effect in the summer if spending a lot of time at the pool or at the park. Read the entire article at The Original Green if you have time.

The human comfort range has shrunk to its smallest size in human history over the past half-century. Our ancestors had a comfort range of probably 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Near 90 degrees, they might cool themselves with a hand-held fan. Near 60 degrees, they would put on an extra layer of clothes. Today, however, there are Thermostat Wars all over the US over 2 degrees....

.... what’s the most effective way of assuring that people want to expand their comfort range?

The best known way is to entice them to go outdoors. As people spend more time outdoors, they become more acclimated to the local environment and need less full-body conditioning when they return indoors...

.... which is better: spending lots of money for slightly more efficient equipment that will have a small positive effect on energy use, or spending to create great outdoor public and private realms that will have a large positive effect on energy use, with the added bonus that people get great pleasure out of them?

Exurban Whitopias

"A disproportionate share of our government's tax income comes from diverse, urbanized economically powerful states, including California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. Meanwhile many of the states that gobble the most money from Uncle Sam are rural, homogenous, culturally conservative strongholds, such as Montana and the Dakotas."
-Rob Baedeker in SF Gate

...and they also hold disproportionate power in the US Senate. One of the key reasons our political system remains backwardly automobile focused.

12 January 2010

Washington Park Pool May not Reopen

I talked with one of our lifeguards last night and he reported that Washington Park Pool will not be opening this year. Apparently Ziegler is still going to be open, which to me doesn't make much sense as Washington Park is a much better pool, and from what I can tell, no construction is planned in the park this year.

08 January 2010

Out Sledding


gone sledding 2 

Atomic Bomb Survivor Dies at 93

A fascinating sample of the odd news I get in my email in-box because of my Google alerts set to notify me of streetcar news:

Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010 @09:48am CST

A man who survived both atomic blasts in Japan has died of stomach cancer.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was 93 when he died Monday in Nagasaki.

On August 6th, 1945 Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on a business trip when the first bomb was dropped.

He was getting off a streetcar two miles from ground zero when the "Little Boy" bomb detonated, killing 80-thousand people and destroying the city.

Yamaguchi was burned on the upper part of his body and his eardrums were ruptured.

He returned to his hometown of Nagasaki the next day.

On August 9th Yamaguchi was in his office telling his boss about the Hiroshima blast when the second bomb called "Fat Man" detonated, killing 70-thousand people.

Yamaguchi later worked for the American occupational forces and became a teacher.

In later years he became an outspoken opponent of nuclear weapons.

Last June Yamaguchi said he wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to ban all nuclear arms.

Yamaguchi's funeral expenses will be paid for by the Japanese government.

07 January 2010

Glare vs Glow - Vine Street Too Bright

This time of year, we spend a lot of time outside in the dark. It is unavoidable when dusk is 5pm. And one of the things that makes this season bearable, even enjoyable is the lighting, things like candles, glowing windows and Christmas lights.

One of my favorite lights is the round window at Music Hall. Sometimes at night it looks like a giant full-moon rising over Washington Park:
I think that it is true that buildings lit from the inside glow and are therefore more beautiful that those lit with spotlights. However there is a place for spotlights too. Carew Tower is a beautiful example. Christ Hospital is extreme overkill, IMO.

In the suburbs, super-bright lights are common. There a strong belief that brightness = safety, and certainly dark streets are more dangerous. However, many commercial spaces go way overboard, especially gas stations:

But the real problem with the picture above isn't the level of brightness, it is the bare, exposed bulb/refractor that is so unpleasant to the eye. This is called glare. Here is another example of glare, from Dalton Street:

Compare the gas station above with this one from the LSI (a light fixture manufacturer) website. The bulbs are not directly hitting your eyes, but the area is still well lit:

Cities have bright lights. That is fine and even good. But people who install the street lighting, such as the City of Cincinnati Department of Public Works cannot seem to distinguish between the different purposes for light. There are two basic types of lighting: decorative and safety. The new lights in OTR try to be both, with disastrous results. Because they have a total glass globe enclosure, 90% of the light shines up into bedroom windows and into the sky. Yes, when you throw this much light out there, some of it will reach the sidewalk where it is needed, but so much is also wasted:
Vine Street Glare

Daytime picture of the new fixtures. Do these fixtures fit in OTR? Frankly, I think a modern fixture would be just as appropriate:

But there are fully shielded reproduction fixtures that would work too. See the Darksky website for a sample of shielded light fixtures. There are lots of options here.

I tried to find some examples of good night lighting, but it was hard. Here is what I came up with:

Washington Park light poles. These are older poles with visible refractors, but since the wattage is not too bright, the effect is OK.

The above lights mixed with holiday lights a few years ago:

The new 8th St Viaduct lighting is very high and mostly sheilded. While not appropriate for a pedestrian zone, it is a decent result for a high-car-traffic street:

The new suburban PNC branch banks are designed to a LEED standard, and get credit for using 100% shielded light fixtures:

Piatt Park, mixed decorative lights above, with area pole lights on side. This works pretty well:

Greenwich apartment entry, shielded area lighting with decorative holiday lights, good combo:

Paris night cafe, direct lighting, but not harsh. (Found this image on the web, but cannot remember where):

A Real Bearcat

Bearcat nameplate at zoo

Bearcat in nocturnal house

05 January 2010

Good Public Schools Get Overwhelmed

Even in parts of Manhattan parents buy condos in areas with a known "good" public school, and soon overwhelm the school. Now the school board is building more schools to handle all the kids:
...The building boom of the past half-dozen years has reshaped Tribeca, adding residential high-rises where once there were almost none, leading to an explosion of school-age kids. There's 200 Chambers Street, for example, a newer 30-story and 258-unit building located in the same complex as P.S. 234. Across the street from P.S. 234 is 101 Warren Street, another new 35-story building with 228 units. Both condo complexes pamper residents with hotel-like services.... Both have been advertised as "zoned for PS 234."

For upper-middle-class parents, the anxiety isn't manufactured, particularly in this economy. High-paying jobs are less secure — or, in some cases, gone — and private schools are more difficult to pull off. Tuition continues to rise despite the recession, and competition for the spots is ferocious. Many Tribeca residents who are wealthy on paper feel squeezed and more reliant than ever on quality public education, raising the stakes. "One reason we moved here was for 234,"...

So the city wants some students to attend P.S. 89, "a very good" school, as Department of Education official Rose puts it. (The city is also constructing two new elementary schools nearby, one close to Battery Park and the other closer to the Seaport.) ...

Nightime at the Zoo

Walkway across Vine Street to Zoo is fun:

Madcap Puppets always put on a great show. This one with black light on the puppets and the puppeteers all in black and invisible.


Old phone number on sign at cool building that was last used as Roth Furniture, 1423 Vine

02 January 2010

Return to Noplace

Times to Remember, Places to Forget

...maybe we’ve reached nostalgia’s end. “Nostalgia” ...is literally a longing for the places of one’s past. And lately, it has become harder and harder to find things to miss about America’s places.

Downtowns were once collections of local businesses...Today,... The banks and burritos and baristas on one city block are replicated on the next — and in all the malls, in all the cities, in all the states. Americans can drive from one ocean to the other, stopping every day for the same hamburger and every evening at the same hotel. Traveling in a straight line is no longer much different than traveling in a circle...