31 December 2011

Texting vs Radio = Transit vs Cars

Texting while driving is, in essence, a wake-up call to America. It illustrates our real, and bigger, predicament: The country is currently better suited to cars than to communication. This is completely bonkers. By all means, we should ban texting while driving, or at least try. But we need to work urgently on making driving less necessary in the first place. Let’s get our hands off the wheel and onto the keypad — where they belong.
-Clive Thompson

24 December 2011

Not Back Yet

Seen near Hartke Hardware yesterday:
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01 December 2011

On Hiatus

Hope to return soon

23 November 2011

Mayberry Growing and Moving to OTR

My favorite restaurant, Mayberry, which has been in a very small space at 915 Vine for several years is expanding and moving to 1211 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, which was the Couryard Cafe.  Best of luck to the chef and owner, Josh Campbell. Before he opened at 915 Vine, this was there:

22 November 2011

Hide Freeways


21 November 2011

More Highway Waste

Unfortunately, I recently drove most of the eastern portions of I-275.  I noticed that miles and miles of precast concrete sound barrier has been installed and continues to be installed.  A quick internet search shows that these walls cost in the range of $3 million per mile, and effectively reduce the sound by 4 decibels within a few hundred feet of the walls.  But the walls also sometimes bounce sound and have negative effects further out.

I understand that living near a interstate sucks and that they REDUCE property value, so I can understand the lobbying to mitigate the hazard.   But no walls are proposed to help residents anywhere near downtown.

I once considered living on historic Dayton Street in the West End.  But the house was on the western end of the street, and the highway noise was oppressive.  I've never seen sound barriers on any of the western half of I-275.  Just wondering.. Why would  Milford, Loveland, Indian Hill, Blue Ash and Springdale get more attention than say Colerain, Harrison, Mt Airy and Northside?  Gee I couldn't begin to guess...

But despite the inequity of the chosen locations, is this really an important priority for transportation dollars? Seems extremely wasteful to me.

Also related, vehicle miles traveled  (VMT) is decreasing for the first time in the history of the automobile, and Millennials have less interest in cars than previous generations.

Also, car / truck oil consumption graphs here. And why we should dismantle freeways here.

20 November 2011

High Security

Security camera with antennae at corner of 13th and Vine.

Ugliest on Upper Main

Yes, it is green. Real green.
[where: 1722 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]
I have no idea who Michael Chambers is, but he owns some ugly stuff.

19 November 2011

Coptor Video Warsaw

Apparently there were some riots in Poland :

"Several thousand right-wing nationalists and football fans were opposed by about nearly 2000 anarchists, anti-Nazi and gay-rights activists as they tried to stage a march in central Warsaw."

I would love to figure out how to make videos like this.  another coptor video

Afganistan Video

Wow.  Watch on a full size screen if possible:

Afghanistan – touch down in flight from Augustin Pictures on Vimeo.

08 November 2011

American Quirks

Things foreigners find strange when visiting the US:.
Those yellow school buses from the movies are everywhere! 
Windows that only open straight up (and not in/out)
Cities where streets follow a grid. And almost all streets allow cars. As a European I'm accustomed to look for the city center; a place where there are no cars, where streets are meandering, where there are terraces to sit outside and have a coffee. A place that's amenable to walking, to hanging out and enjoying the atmosphere. I did not find such a space in the american cities I've been to. And it prevented me from enjoying the place. 
Riding a bike is dangerous and an enterprise, not a mindless means of transport. 
Working people are afraid of medical bills. 
Catching the bus seems to be an activity reserved exclusively for disabled and poor people. 
The surbuban parking lots! Yeah everyone's heard of them, but nothing will prepare you for the overwhelming size and quantity 
The importance of team sports in American schools is surprising. My friends' children were involved in football, wrestling (unheard of in British schools), football, basketball, baseball ... with coaches for all those sports and a massive amount of parental involvement. 
The lack of pedestrians. A couple of weeks ago I got off the bus in Worthington, OH and walked about a mile up High St and then down some residential streets back to a friend's house and I did not see another pedestrian - this was at 5pm on a weekday, on a street with wide, wide sidewalks. When I told my friend where I'd walked from, she was truly shocked. She thought I was weird to get the bus downtown in the first place because only poor people take buses 
American drivers are far more likely to stop and let a pedestrian cross the road, even when there is no marked crossing. Possibly due to the novelty of seeing someone on foot. 
Unless you live in a big metro area, if you don't drive or at least have a car, you'll be hard put to get food or other necessities 
The huge amount of text-based road signs we have in the U.S. Every mile or so you're barraged with information about the speed limit, the next exit, the name or route number of the road you're on, and other miscellaneous information. In the UK you can drive for miles with no signs at all, and when you do see them they're likely to just be symbols of some sort. 
Walking across the road in the wrong place can be a crime. 
Stores have their own parking lot and you cannot run errands in medium towns without driving between different shops.  
Lawyers have much more cultural cachet than in almost any other country. The idea that lawyers are on a par with doctors as far as people with high-class occupations. Note the perennial appeal of law school, or of lawyer shows on television. Also, a majority of elected officials have at least graduated from law school, whether or not they actually practiced as a lawyer for any significant amount of time. (Compare this to the number of engineers in power in China.) 
Power lines above ground. 
People look at you weirdly if you tell them you walk to work.

01 November 2011

Homemaking as Art

While folding laundry I was thinking about how to build some shelves for the towels. Then I imagined all the different nooks and crannies in which I could build some custom shelves, And I start to imagine the whole house fitted with structures to hold all of the physical memories of our growing children; clay sculptures, pinewood derby cars, soccer trophies, class photos, valentines day cards, favorite sea shells, etc... and in the kids room, shelves everywhere filled with toys, books, puzzles. What a wonderful place this house could be if I could just start adding some shelving.. Sometimes you visit a house, and it really has that lived-in beautiful family feel. It may not be the cleanest place, but it is full of life, happening now. Happening every moment it is filled with growing children. There are pets, toys, and half-completed projects all over the place. The kitchen is like a big pantry, full of stuff at arms-reach for the cook of the house. And sets are gathered around the kitchen with homework books on the counter with the splattered cookbooks. Recently, a former classmate had his house published in an architectural magazine, and when my wife and I saw this, we laughed, because in our mixed up confused life, it seems so empty it was absurd:
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I may not want a house that is spare and white as this, but I do think it can be purposely built and continually improved much more than we have done so far. Our house now is more of a jumble of backround thoughts that were never completed. I want to do better in this regard. I think a good home, whether an apartment, a condor or a house, needs constant attention. Never-ending repair, rebuilding, and improving, similar to the constant attention a child demands... or your spouse. And I guess what I am making peace with is that this is a worthy project. Worthy of just as much attention and respect as a career. Home-making is an art, like any other. So give it the attention and hard work that it deserves. That is why,even though it has just turned midnight, and I could expand on these thoughts for another hour, I will now stop this writing and go give some love and attention to some shelves in the bathroom. BTW; below are two images of the Soane Museum in London. This was the personal house of Sir John Soane. He was an avid collector of antiquities and he was continually rebuilding and improving his house to display his incredible collection:  
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31 October 2011

Slow Cars When Near People

It’s a sad fact that you have to get out of your car, occasionally, and at those times you’re vulnerable if you’re anywhere near a street. -Michael van Baker

Popsicle Test and Halloween in OTR

"A neighborhood works if it is possible for an 8-year-old kid to get a Popsicle on his or her own and return before it has completely melted." - Scott Doyon, more here

There has been some discussion on urban parenting blogs about the above described popsicle test. I have to admit that we thought 8 was too young for our son, at least in OTR, to walk to the corner store. One of the bloggers also brought up the issue of Halloween. It seems to me that a good neighborhood for Halloween is a neighborhood with mostly single family houses relatively close together, with sidewalks, lampposts and trees with freshly fallen leaves etc.

I was talking today to a friend who grew up on Republic Street in the 50s. He said back then there were a lot more small shops on Vine Street and that they would dress up and walk around to all the different stores. He said the church/school organized a kind of parade too in the daytime. In the 90s, before we had kids, when we lived on Elm Street, my wife used to sit out on the front stoop and hand out raisins and peanuts to kids. There were more kids than you might think venturing up and down OTR streets. But many of the buildings are apartment buildings without easy access, and there are fewer stores than there were 50 years ago. That combined with the abundance of vacant buildings, this is not a great place for Halloween. Tonight, we are headed up the hill to Fairview Avenue. We have friends there and it was a lot of fun last year. But next year we may try to stick it out here. 

This blurry photo is from Halloween last year on Fairview Avenue. Some people in that neighborhood really make an effort to give the kids a treat.

30 October 2011

Looking in Junky Store

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26 October 2011

Building Types That Caused the Recession

“We built the wrong product in the wrong location, and nobody wants it any more, that’s the reason for the housing crisis, and therefore the mortgage crisis, and therefore the Great Recession.”

“A number of things are positive about recessions – and this is for all recessions – and one is that it gives businesses a chance to rethink their strategy, they’re forced to rethink their strategy,” he says. “That’s a very positive thing. Now will those old dogs learn new tricks? Some have, some won’t. And those that don’t will go bankrupt after their federal stimulus money runs out.”

- The Atlantic Cities

25 October 2011

36 Years Ago

On October 25, 1975, Evel Knievel successfully jumped fourteen Greyhound buses at the Kings Island theme park in Ohio. Although Knievel landed on the safety deck above the 14th bus, his landing was successful and he held the record for jumping the most buses on a Harley-Davidson for 24 years. The Kings Island event scored the highest viewer ratings in the history of ABC's Wide World of Sports and would serve as Knievel's longest successful jump at 133 feet (although the Caesars Palace jump was longer, it ended in a crash). After the Kings Island jump, Knievel again announced his retirement. -Wikipedia

In 1975, I was the age my son is now. Back then it seems like we were immersed in a burst of cultural consumerism. I'm not sure if it is gone in general, or just from our family because of our lack of TV, but I wonder what references will remind them of 2011. Will it be anything like Mork and Mindy, Idi Amin, Love American Style, Dean Martin roasts, streaking, dead baby jokes, wacky packages, the Ohio Players? Or will it be more wholesome and serious pursuits like protests in Piatt Park, the Choir Games and Middle Eastern revolts on YouTube?

19 October 2011

Occupy to Rebuild Downtown

....In recent years, complete idiots became respected developers overnight and were making millions doing, mindless assembly line development. It was not hard for some of the brightest among us to be caught up in this....

That's not where the future lies.... the city can be built starting with the building and the street, assembling into blocks, growing into neighborhoods and then connecting into an ecosystem of a city.

... a DoTank, which is like a think tank except, instead of wasting time talking about what should be done, they get out and do it. Every city -- every neighborhood -- needs a DoTank.

... Something's not working on your block? Fix it. Need to make change in your neighborhood? Do it. The fractal nature of it means that we don't need to wait for the government or for some well-funded developer to come in and transform everything...

This was the approach we used when we were a much poorer country. It is an approach that allowed us to build some of the most beautiful places the United States has ever seen, places we destroyed with the heavy-handed approach we've used in the auto era. And it was a financially-resilient system...

"It used to be build it and they will come. Now it is occupy it and it will be rebuilt."

We have a lot to rebuild. If we embrace the financial implications of this transition, it will no doubt be scary, but we can put ourselves in position -- nationwide with a loose coalition of doers -- to start repairing the individual lots, buildings, streets and blocks that will ultimately form the neighborhoods that will make this country truly strong... -Charles Marohn, Engineer

17 October 2011

Obesogenic Motorgenic Cincinnati

I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. - Romans 7:19

I believe this newly invented word obesogenic is helpful in thinking about how our environment and culture affect our individual bodies. I have had times in my life in which my environment was much healthier, and as a result I was physically much healthier.

For example, in 1986 (I think), I lived for a few months in Spain. While I was there, I had no access to fast food, junk food or even any dairy products. However, I ate whenever I wanted and drank whatever I wanted. I found when I returned home that my clothes were all loose and I felt fantastic. My tastes in food had even changed. Since then, I have tried to recreate that diet, but it is difficult because diet is so integrated into our culture and lifestyle.

I find more and more that the idea that we are all independent and that we are each as individuals totally responsible for our well-being to be false. Yes of course I am responsible for my own actions, but it is an acutely American way of thinking that disallows common action for improvement.

For example, I hate bike riding,... at least in Cincinnati. Yes the hills are one reason, but mostly I ride in the basin, so that is not the main reason. It is just way too dangerous, especially with children. And to take two kids with me on bikes is a huge ordeal. Just getting 3 bikes out the door with 3 helmets and bike locks and lights if it is dark, is just ridiculous. And downtown is not much different than many suburban areas (except that you have a garage to keep all the bikes). I really don't see that many suburban kids out riding beyond their cul-de-sac... because cars rule and it is too dangerous. Nothing like this.

I saw an item a few weeks ago a woman was prosecuted after her son was killed by a car while jaywalking. Frankly, I don't think jaywalking should even be a crime on any residential street. The prosecution of this poor woman is just an indication of how backwards American thinking is about walking vs cars. Cars rule, period.

We live in a motorgenic environment. Motorized vehicles rule our public streets and pedestrians and bicyclists are scared and pushed to the fringes. This attitude ruins cities. It destroys shopping streets, public spaces, streets and sidewalks.

Cars and walkers can only successfully mix if the actions of the car are restrained and the actions of the walkers and bikers are liberated.

We need to change from a motorgenic environment to a muscle-powered, socially oriented, pedestrian friendly environment.

‘We live in an obesogenic environment – a plethora of fast food outlets, reliance on cars, and offers enticing us to eat larger portions …’Professor Mike Kelly – as quoted in the Telegraph 8th October 2003

Join the movement to move your feet

16 October 2011

Mr Rogers at Congress

Fascinating clip

15 October 2011

Jaques Tati

Never saw any of Jaques Tati's movies, but he was referenced in some article I was reading, and found some youtube clips interesting. One of his themes seems to be disorientation in buildings, especially modern buildings:

modern buildings



Play Time (1967), shot in 70mm, was the most risky and expensive work of Tati's career, and it bankrupted him. It took nine years to make and he had to borrow heavily from his own resources to complete the picture. ForPlaytime, Tati fabricated a set (dubbed "Tativille") on the outskirts of Paris that emulated an entire modern city. In the film, Tati and a group of American tourists lose themselves in the futuristic glass-and-steel of the Parisian suburbs, where only human nature and a few views of the city of Paris itself still emerge to breathe life into the city. Playtime had even less of a plot than his earlier films, and Tati endeavored to make his characters, including Hulot, almost incidental to his portrayal of a modernist and robotic Paris - Notes for Class Discussion

14 October 2011

Keller's IGA Reconstruction

In Progress

The floor plans posted outside had a couple interesting features: a beer cave in the back and a cafe type sitting area at the front entry.

Will Sprawl Recommence?

“What were seeing right now is an inability to look at how we live and how it relates to our problems, and financial problems,” said Kunstler Tuesday during a speaking engagement with the Congress for the New Urbanism. “Production homebuilders, mortgage lenders, real estate agents, they are all sitting back now waiting for the, quote, bottom of the housing market to come with the expectation that things will go back to the way they were in 2005.”

But despite massive government expenditures to restart the old economic engine driven by suburban homebuilding, recovery is elusive, Kunstler said. The author of “The Geography of Nowhere” and “The Long Emergency” argues that suburbanization has been a multi-decade American experiment, and a failed one. - Streetsblog

11 October 2011

Photos from another Walk

Scene on lower Ohio Avenue, in OTR

if you want to buy one of the junkiest buildings in the city, call this number.

[where: 2012 Ohio Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

Interesting pink building, I think for sale

[1808 Republic Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

steps from Ohio, Van Lear to Vine


Anton and George Zimmerman, 1883

Once the corner of Poplar and Buckeye, now the corner of Frintz and E. Clifton

Frintz was Poplar 

short little basement entry

Buck Rogers type lintels

Believe it or not, this beauty is on Peete Street

The lower half

[where: 102 Peete Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

09 October 2011

A Conservative on Streetcars

...the ripping up of streetcar lines and their replacement with buses also ripped the urban fabric. Most people like riding streetcars, but almost no one likes riding a bus. The substitution of buses for electric streetcars drove most former streetcar riders to drive.

When people took the streetcar to town — and every American city or town with 5,000 or more people once had streetcars — they also spent a lot of time on Jane Jacobs’ all-important sidewalks. There, they performed multiple functions: eyes on the street, office worker, restaurant diner, shopper, theater-goer and more.

Once they drove into the city, their time on sidewalks dropped and with it shrank the number of roles they filled. They drove as close to their (usually single) destination as they could, parked, and walked only as far as necessary. When their business was done, their car drew them like a magnet and as soon as they could press the starter pedal they were gone. Stores, restaurants, and theaters moved to the suburbs where parking was easier. In time offices followed, and the city’s sidewalks emptied except for the occasional beggar or wino. My home city, Cleveland, lost its streetcars in 1953, and the downtown’s decline began. If Ohio had tumbleweeds, they would now blow down Euclid Avenue.

Cities such as Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin that have brought streetcars back have found the sidewalks come to life again. So have shops, theaters and restaurants. Streetcars are pedestrian facilitators, more so than subways. People walk, take the streetcar, then get off and walk some more.

Cities need streetcars. They are not a cure-all; if people do not feel safe on city sidewalks, nothing will move them to walk there. But if a city can restore order, streetcars are more likely to fill its sidewalks with people than anything else.

- William Lind is director of The American Conservative Center for Public Transportation.

03 October 2011

Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

great little film by urbanist William H. Whyte:

02 October 2011

Up and Down Entry

I love this kind of dual entry. You see them around OTR here and there. This one is on Mulberry


Visualingual thought of the above as a moat. This reminded me of the invention below:
Steven M. Johnson has a few books, and I got one for myself, and the kids have a lot of fun looking through the ideas. Very cool.

28 September 2011

Density Increases Wealth

....We’re both happier and more productive when we’re interacting with other people in person. And so high-density development patterns have the same kind of productivity-enhancing benefits that free trade does. Tall buildings, walkable neighborhoods, and a good transit system reduce the average cost of face-to-face interaction in exactly the same way that steam ships and low tariffs reduced the average costs of shipping goods to the other side of the world. In both cases, the result is greater wealth, on a per-capita basis.

....we’re just coming out of a half-century in which the benefits of density were severely underestimated. For decades, urban planners pursued policies that systematically undermined our cities. Limits on density destroy wealth in exactly the same way that limits on free trade do. There’s a lot of work to be done to allow cities to reach their full wealth-creating potential.
-in Forbes

Music Hall this Morning

I'm not posting much, but I am still here, plugging away...
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27 September 2011

19 September 2011

Mr Rogers

I loved this anectdote, but the whole article is worth reading for sure:
...a boy, no longer little, told his friends to watch out, that he was going to do something "really big" the next day at school, and the next day at school he took his gun and his ammo and his earplugs and shot eight classmates who had clustered for a prayer meeting. Three died, and they were still children, almost. The shootings took place in West Paducah, Kentucky, and when Mister Rogers heard about them, he said, "Oh, wouldn't the world be a different place if he had said, 'I'm going to do something really little tomorrow,'" and he decided to dedicate a week of the Neighborhood to the theme "Little and Big." He wanted to tell children that what starts out little can sometimes become big, and so that could devote themselves to little dreams without feeling bad about them...
more Mr Rogers here

14 September 2011

Street Artist Ron English

Ron English can often be found sitting on a stoop on Main Street, sketching on cardboard or writing his thoughts on a sheaf of paper. For this post, I googled his name and came up with a great post about him. If you see him, say hi, and if you like what you see, buy a drawing.

I like his art quite a bit, but this is not the best example:


13 September 2011

The High Bridge on Cincinnati Southern RR

I had a post a few years back about Shaker Village near Lexington.

The Cincinnati Southern Railroad passes near Shaker Village, and there is this incredible bridge over the Kentucky river gorge that we have seen it often from below. This past weekend, we took a detour and went to the top of the far side and saw this:


high bridge 

Description front 

plaque back 


11 September 2011


09 September 2011

Sunday Walk

View Sun Walk in a larger map

A couple weeks ago, on a warm Sunday afternoon, we had nothing to do, so we explored a bit. We first headed up Vine and then turned up some steps by Smiling Sams Furniture and ended up above Mulberry Street in a quiet valley. I don't know if this area has a name, but it is a nice quiet area with lots of potential. Then we continued on through the edges of Mt Auburn and circled back down to Pendleton and OTR:

Vine and McMillan

Peete Street, end closest to Vine

steps from Peete dead-end to Mulberry

Rice Street forgotten home

Looking up Winkler with Christ Hospital parking garage on top of the hill

116 Winkler forgotten and overgrown

120 aqnd 122 Winkler Street

136 Gage Street

Looking back over quiet valley of houses tucked behind Vine Street Elementary (currently Rothenberg)
Dramatic Gage Street steps with tall stone retaining wall connect to Mt Auburn behind Christ Hospital
Along our walk we met some people and talked with some, but generally it was quiet and not many people around. Every time I take a walk like this I am also amazed at how many vacant buildings are sitting there waiting to be rehabbed.

path to Jackson Hill overlook

view from Jackson Hill is not kept trim like Ohio Street and Fairview and Eden Park overlooks

there is a sharp cliff on either side of this grassy path in this rarely travelled section of Jackson Hill park. There are remnants of a asphalt path and stone steps down the hill to Rice Street, but it is totally overgrown.

grassy knoll in Jackson Hill park

hacking through the thicket 
We hack our way through the weeds and came out in someone's backyard on Dorsey Street. I wouldn't recommend others take this route, but we were exploring and sometimes things like this happen.

Dorsey St, insular IMO

heading back up to Mt Auburn

steps from Mt Auburn to Goethe in OTR

this horribly ugly modern house at the end of Eleanor Place has moss on flat roof and needs maintenance all around, but has a Jaguar parked in the driveway.

ugly house again

path from Walker Street to Filson Pool

not a kid in sight

pool building Mt Auburn

steps down from Mt Auburn to Prospect Hill


Neighbors in Liberty Hill take care of the spaces along the steps

down steep hills of Liberty Hill

stone stoops on steep hill

raised stone stoops

last set of steps down from Liberty to Pendleton

Krohn-Fechheimer Co

13th and Broadway, what a pitiful building

Positively no Loafing Ms Sophie says

No Loitering