29 July 2010

Hedeke Misery

Hanging on the roof of Clifton Natural Foods:

Einstein on Destructive Schooling

"...It is little short of a miracle that modern methods if instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry, because what this delicate little plant needs most, apart from initial stimulation, is freedom: without that it is destroyed. ... I believe that one could even deprive a healthy beast of prey of it's voraciousness, if one could force it with a whip to eat continuously whether it were hungry or not...". - Albert Einstein as quoted by Carl Sagan in "Broca's Brain" pg 25

27 July 2010

Yurt Compared to Longhouse

A picture of a yurt from the 1915 color photos of Russia:

yurt close girl on carpet


Compared to the Algonquian longhouse reconstruction seen at Jamestown:
YOu ave to wonder if the reconstruction is made to look especially shabby, ie authentic. I mean we don't have any actual photos of Powhatan architecture, right? These are American reconstructions based on 500 year old European descriptions. I wonder if we had color photography in 1607, if the longhouse would have looked even more like the yurt?

longhouse reconstruction phot of the interior:

26 July 2010

Costs of Washington Park (ing)

Cars are a twentieth century reality, and so far, they continue to be a reality in this century. And as long as personal autos are the dominant form of transportation, then we must have places to park them. In the city, this often results in demolition for surface lots or construction of ugly garages.

And in any form, parking spaces are expensive. The expense is two fold: first is the actual money required to build and maintain parking spaces, and the other is the waste of land. In order to avoid the latter (the creation of huge wastelands of parking around places of public assembly such as sports stadia or places like Music Hall), garages are required.

A simple suburban asphalt parking lot is more expensive than many people think. First there is the cost of the land itself. Then the preparation of the land, the gravel base and the asphalt and lighting. Also there is the drainage. Large parking lots require lots of collection and detention of stormwater, and this system requires design and maintenance. The result is that suburban surface parking lots often end up costing $5,000 per parking space.

But when garages are required, then the numbers really start to get high. $30,000 is a standard quoted amount.

So all of this has been in my mind as I was hearing about the development of underground parking at Washington Park. The area that will get the underground parking was the location of Washington Park Elementary. It now is a large gravel lot and our local swimming pool, which sits empty this year.

At Washington Park, they are building 450 parking spaces for a cost of 27 million. The park itself is estimated to cost 20 million more, with a total of $47 million. But look at that number for the underground parking. If my math is right, that is $60,000 per parking space. Think about the numbers for a minute. At that rate, the cost of the Cincinnati Streetcar is equal to about 2,000 parking spaces!

I am not saying parking under Washington Park is a bad idea. I'm certainly not saying the streetcar is too expensive, but just look at the comparison. Cars are very expensive, and in this discussion we are just talking about the spaces to park them when they are not in use! Nevermind the insurance, gas, environmental destruction, the wars for oil etc etc. This is just parking them somewhere!

My only point is that parking is not free. Someone pays for it. In the city, users must pay for it by paying a usage fee. In the suburbs, it is paid for by the stores owners. But who pays for the sheer ugliness of a 10 acre parking lot? There are many parking spaces at shopping malls that only get used once a year. But the land is ruined for all 365.

I read somewhere recently that "the cost of all parking spaces in the U.S. exceeds the value of all cars and may even exceed the value of all roads."

Parking costs billions of dollars a year.

And all we want is an option. An option to walk and an option to for transit that supports walking and biking.

On a related note, click here to view an expensive underground car park in Budapest.

25 July 2010

From the Mouths of Babes

Like any parent, I think my kids are very keen. I have resisted putting much info about them mostly because readers might find their quirks less interesting than I do. However I thought I'd try posting some interesting quotes. Here is the first:

This happened a few weeks ago as we were driving up Colerain Avenue to go to a little girl birthday party at Chuck E Cheese:
Son: Dad, there are lots of businesses here! (he likes places with lots of businesses)
Me: Well, yeah, lots of big signs too.
Son: Do you think it would be better to live here by all these businesses. (he's been thinking lately that he wants to have a shop himself)
Me: Maybe, but you can't really walk here easily, there's no sidewalks.
Son: Some people are walking Dad. (there's a guy trying to cross at the Cross-County freeway exit ramp as he says this, and we have seen a few others struggling along)
5yr old Daughter: Only people with brown skin walk here.
Me: Only people who don't have cars, dear.

20 July 2010

Waste to Send Fire Trucks to 911 Calls

Greg Harris calls it, I've been thinking this for years:
Former Cincinnati lawmaker Greg Harris said the fire union is 'playing the politics of fear-mongering' by using brownouts to keep budgets in check. Harris maintains the fire budget is about $20 million beyond what it should be anyway. He said it's a colossal waste of money to send a fire truck and an ambulance to virtually every 911 medical call." - WLWT Story

Smiley Cookies

Is the word inanity or insanity?
From Graeter's on Fountain Square

18 July 2010

Baseball: Show or Game?

We went to the Reds game on Friday, and when we left our senses were numb. Sometime over the past 25 years baseball changed from a slow paced game in which the sounds were the crack of the bat and the cheering of the crowd to one of sound systems, jumbotrons and fireworks. I really don't think it is necessary to have fireworks every time the Reds score. And I think the kids enjoy the video in which you have to guess which dish of chili hides the baseball, but do we need a kiss-cam, dance-cam and a muscle cam? Are we all little kids, needing constant circus entertainment? Is not baseball an adult game?

a packed house

And then to top it all off Friday, they had MC Hammer there to put on an act. Now this is a guy who has absolutely no talent, and who sang the most pathetic interpretation of "Take me out to the ballgame", but when he sang his 3 hit songs after the game, he had all the middle aged mothers and their kids dancing in the aisles. What does a farmer from Indiana, in his plaid shirt think of this spectacle? Well, they seemed to be enjoying it too. Sometimes I don't feel like I am part of this society. I just could not relate. I just saw a bunch of lumpy Midwesterners trying to copy the dance moves of Hammer's dancers, and instead of enjoying it, I thought it felt like the end-times. The whole experience was too excessive. When I go to a ballgame, I want to sit with my son and watch the game, maybe keep score, and have some peanuts and a beer while son has that ice-cream in a cup with the wooden spoon.

If you could focus on the game, though, it was good. It was close, but the Reds won. Bronson Arroyo was excellent for seven or so innings, then the backup guy closed it. The Rockies put up a good fight, even having the bases loaded with no outs at one point in the 8th.

This would be better than the MC Hammer version, at least he has the tune right:

16 July 2010

What Happened to US Transit?

From Huffiungton Post:

...The (anti-transit) bias is built into our language. We speak of "investing" in highways and "investing" in freeways and parking spaces. But we "subsidize" trains and buses. Of´Čücials criticize bus, rail, and other public transportation alternatives for "losing money." Lost in this language is the fact that public transit is a civic necessity. Buses, railroads, and other forms of public transportation can no more "lose money" than roads and highways.

...Governments at every level have required businesses, as a condition of their licenses and permits, to provide ample parking spaces. What if instead local zoning ordinances required workplaces to be located within walking distance of public transit? -John Robbins
Interestingly, this is developing somewhat in a voluntary way. For example if you want to build a "green" building, part of the LEED analysis will give credit for being within walking distance of different transit options.

15 July 2010

Return Manufacturing to Midwest

An article about small scale manufacturing in Brooklyn is optimistic:
.... The Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center started rescuing and rehabilitating factories in 1992. The center is a cluster of five old industrial buildings, housing more than 100 businesses and about 500 workers, including furniture makers, fish processors, and a guy who fabricates dinosaur armatures for the American Museum of Natural History...

..... “The cost of doing business is going up in China,” he says. “Shipping costs are rising. There is nothing remotely green about buying anything made overseas. Prices will not stay low indefinitely. This country has an opportunity to regain some of its manufacturing base, using cutting-edge technology and a new generation of interested youth.”

...Maybe Richard Florida has promoted the wrong creative class. In his model, artists beget coffee bars that make formerly dreary neighborhoods attractive to real estate developers, who lure lawyers and accountants into luxury loft buildings with names like “the Shoe Factory.” Maybe there’s another model, one that sucks a little of the class bias out of the formula and privileges artisans over artists, blue-collar jobs over white-collar ones. Give enough people who are passionate about making things the stability to invest in equipment and hire workers, and you might slow, or even reverse, the death spiral.

As a contrast, some people think that we should not worry about manufacturing so much.

Murdock casting, once a vibrant Cincinnati manufacturer, now vacant. What could be made here?:

14 July 2010

James Brown - It's A Mother

I picked up this album many years ago at Ferguson Flea market. There was a drive-in theater on Ferguson Avenue, and on Saturdays in the summer they would have flea markets. There is a Walmart there now.

With song titles like Mother Popcorn Part I, Mother Popcorn Part II, Mashed Potato Popcorn how could you go wrong? This record rocks. And it was all recorded at Cincinnati's own King Records.


Back, with comments by Hal Neely, President of King records. Click on photo for larger version:

King Records, Brewster Ave.:

13 July 2010

SCPA Suburban Landscape

I don't like being so negative, but this one aspect of the new SCPA just bugs the hell out of me. The building is barely completed, has yet to welcome it's first student, and the weeds are already taking over the landscaping.
weeds growing where parking lot meets Race Street sidewalk:
The question needs to be asked: Why build an urban school, in the most urban environment in Ohio, with mulch beds, ten foot fenced lawns and landscaped drainage swales on one of Cincinnati's most important streets? (Actually three of Cincinnati's most important streets and one of Cincinnati's most important and historic urban parks ie Washington Park.)
Did the archtects never design a truly urban building? In the past architects have complained that the State of Ohio has too many rules for new schools that hamstring their designs. But I really don't think that the State has any rule that prohibits your school from being built right up to the sidewalk, proud like a real building, not hiding behind a grassy swale.

BTW, it's hard to see in this photo, but a neighborhood kid got inside the fence to shoot some hoops. Is this going to be allowed once school starts?:

How the school / parking lot faces historic Washington Park, a tight row of fast growing trees and a metal utility box:

I don't mind the front so much, but CPS is notoriously bad at maintenance. Can you imagine them upkeeping this already weedy landscape strip?
There is a similar new landscape strip on 12th Street, and I've noticed that rats love to dig burrows in this kind of landscaping.

Did the architects look around the neighborhood and see what precedents there were for how a school might meet the sidewalk? If so, they might have noticed Elm Street Health Clinic, which was a school that still is functioning well, with handicapped access and a courtyard type fron entry. Or they might have looked at Rothenberg, or even the old SCPA (old Woodward), or maybe they could have lookded at this building at Vine at Liberty, St Francis school:

12 July 2010

Gas Taxes Lowest in History

The subsidy of the driver continues. In USA Today:

....drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation's roads — just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, a USA TODAY analysis finds. That's a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975.

....Americans spent just 46 cents on gas taxes for every $100 of income in the first quarter of 2010. That's the lowest rate since the government began keeping track in 1929. By comparison, Americans spent $1.18 in 1970 on gas taxes out of every $100 earned.

Although the federal gas tax — 18.4 cents per gallon — hasn't changed since 1993, tax collections are down because today's vehicles go farther on a gallon of gas, cutting tax collections while increasing wear and tear on highways. Inflation since 1993 has eroded the value of the tax to maintain roads.

"The gas tax isn't going to work as the user fee to finance the highway system in the 21st century," says Robert Poole, transportation policy director at the free-market Reason Foundation...

11 July 2010

The City is Family

... and Fountain Square is the Living Room.
I just returned from an outing with family and friends on Fountain Square. It was movie night and after the first movie, I sat and just watched all the interactions happening. It truly is beautiful to see such a wide range of people come and enjoy each other's company. I saw many people greeting each other, some hugging and some sharing a beer. Saw a grampa scolding boys, saw spilt ice-cream, saw girls playing with dolls, saw a dad giving a bottle to his new infant, saw old people falling asleep, saw kids splashing in the water, and much more. There were people coming for the movie, but also many people just passing through from the monster truck show, or heading to a wedding reception.

Every time I go on a Saturday, my kids accidentally meet up with friends, or they make new ones. There were kids everywhere, running around and weaving through the chairs. Off to the side some boys started a ball game:
I saw many familiar faces. Some I just saw across the way but for a few we got together and talked. One family I know that was there have a lot of kids. I'm not even really sure how many but they are probably approaching double digits. A free movie for them could save them a lot of money.

The majority of the crowd come for the event, but I really don't think the free movie is the real reason they come. I know it isn't for me. I mean you can get air conditioning and a better view at a multiplex. Rather it is the chance to come and be amongst your very extended family and relax together. It is just a great thing to have an enjoyable summer evening with a bunch of friends, strangers and fellow citizens. It is reassuring in a time of unemployment and ecological disasters that so many people can come together and have a peaceful time. I mean if you just get your information from the media or from the internet, you might get a pretty pessimistic view of your fellow man.

I've thought about this kind of communal experience a lot. I've experience it in other cities and there was a time when I thought you couldn't really have those kind of relaxed gatherings in downtown Cincinnati. I've been going to Fountain Square regularly for many years, and a lot of those times, say in the 90s, it was pretty empty in the evenings. I can remember many times going to the fountain on a Saturday night and there would be maybe a dozen people, a couple of cops and no open restaurants. It seemed more like a place where you were not allowed to do things. I remember being told several times that bikes were not allowed on the square. Today, they still are not allowed, but why would you even try when it is so crowded?

I think it goes to show that public spaces, especially urban ones, need to be managed. You cannot just pave a square in the center of town, put in a fountain and expect much. People need a reason to come. Make no mistake. People already want to come, but they need that reason, some event that gives them that excuse to come out and gather. And then you need the ambassadors, and the concessions and all the other stuff that makes it possible, down to the clean toilets.

Another great night to come is salsa night. If you haven't been on Fountain Square on salsa night, do yourself a favor and try it. It is amazing, all the laughing and dancing.

10 July 2010

Paddock and Vine

Posted by Picasa

07 July 2010

Our Summer Soundtrack

06 July 2010

TED Talk - Retrofitting Suburbia

Thought for the Day

“In San Francisco, a home becomes your bedroom, the city is where you live.”

--Planning Commission President Ron Miguel, SF Chronicle, 6/27/10

Bike Rental Spreading

Montreal's Bixi system is successful and is expanding. Recently launched in Minneapolis, with plans for Washington, Boston, Melbourne, London...

05 July 2010

Work an End Inself

"...He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man's work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life. Silas's hand satisfied itself with throwing the shuttle, and his eye with seeing the little squares in the cloth complete themselves under his effort. Then there were the calls of hunger: and Silas , in his solitude, had to provide his own breakfast, dinner and supper, to fetch his own water from the well, and put his own kettle on the fire; and all these immediate promptings helped, along with the weaving to reduce his life to the unquestioning activity of a spinning insect. He hated the thought of the past ..."
- Silas Marner, George Elliot, chapter 2

04 July 2010

03 July 2010

Cone Hole

Happy Independence Day.

Maybe some cornhole this holiday weekend?
Seen at the Ferguson Road Graeters.

02 July 2010

HUD's New Direction

Found in the American Prospect:

The Reverse Commute

... Shelley Poticha, a small woman with a big assignment. As director of HUD's new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, Poticha is working to encourage a suburban nation to live in ways that make it feasible to walk, take public transit, and bike. Her goal is to make suburban sprawl a thing of the past by equipping local governments with the tools to build neighborhoods centered on public transit and walking.

....housing will no longer be classified as "affordable" based on the rent or mortgage alone; under a new system in development, financing formulas will factor in residents' transportation and utility costs, too.

....New measures to reverse the march of spraw may be too little, too late. It took seven decades and trillions in federal investment to create the sprawl that the Obama administration is now moving to brake. The first interstate highways rolled out in the 1950s with the present-day equivalent of $300 billion in federal funds. The suburban home industry was fueled by subsidies that today amount each year to almost twice HUD's entire budget.


"The risk is that the culture war ... will spill over into this field," .... "What should be a bipartisan, economic, and environmental quality-of-life issue becomes, 'Everyone who owns a car is the devil and is going to drive us off a cliff,' versus, 'The other side wants to take our cars away from me, and you're going to rip my hands off my steering wheel when I'm dead and cold.' ...

...A household with access to transit spends 9 percent of its income on transportation, compared with 25 percent for the car-dependent. Making households conscious of the true expense of car dependency is an important part of the Obama administration's sustainability project. ...

...In the stimulus, most transportation spending went to roads and highways because state agencies already had plans ready. But for the first time, a single program, called Transportation Investments for Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), supported any mode of travel a local government cared to pursue, from rapid bus transit to bike lanes. Its $1.5 billion in grants lured proposals from unlikely places...

But mostly the administration is moving to do things for which it doesn't have to ask Congress to pay, such as influencing consumer choices through devices like the location-efficient mortgage, which gives homebuyers who settle near mass transit more borrowing power. The Obama administration is betting that such gestures can influence individual decision-making on a large scale by tilting economics to favor certain geographic choices over others.

History suggests that the landscape changes when economic habits become cultural ones, so ingrained that most of us don't realize why we act as we do. ...

"In my mind there's just a big myth that we can't change," Poticha says. "That isn't true. If we give people better information about making choices and then we deliver some options for them, there are just a lot more ways that we can grow our communities."

01 July 2010

Russian Photos Picking Berries

I happened upon this online magazine that has a series of color photographs of Russia from years 1909-1915. It is fascinating to see color photos from this era and is definitely worth browsing if you have a few minutes. One of them was of some girls offering berries to visitors:

As comparison, I had just taken this picture of kids picking Mulberries in OTR: