31 January 2011




27 January 2011

Can We Still Build Infrastructure?

The American notion of the open road is something we don't want to think about the details of.. we don't want to think about the real costs of it. We want to pretend that our gas taxes pay for our roads in full and that they should never have tolls on them and that raising the gas tax is unnecessary. But we haven't raised the gas tax since 1991 or 2 and it wasn't pegged to inflation or the price of gas, it was just a certain number of pennies per gallon. That money has become worth less even as the cost of construction has gone up and even as our roads are aging and the maintenance costs are going up so we're in a real pickle. The roads never paid for themselves really, because of the external costs, but we're in a position now where the notion that I can get in our car and drive wherever I want for free needs to go away...."

...I did get to interview the guy who was the head of Cintra operations in America, his name is Jose Maria Lopez Defuentes, and... he's coming from Europe, where there are tons of privatized toll roads, its normal there and nobody fights them. And he is trying to build them in Canada and the US, and I said "what were you surprised about as far as our culture and the way we see our infrastructure?', and he says: "You are all riding around, you're living in a house your grandparents built and you think it is free, but now the roof is leaking, and now you have to fix the floors and there's all this maintenance that you weren't really expecting.." and its a real culture shock. We're not in the frame of mind to build anything or even fix anything on a big scale...
-Matt Dellinger, on JH Kunstler's latest podcast
They are discussing Matt's new book, Interstate 69.

22 January 2011

Found In Alley

Really wish I had my good camera with me today instead of just the cell phone. Could have had some great shots.
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I Love Mt Storm

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Ohio Demolitions 2010

The video could be much much longer if it showed all the Cincinnati demolitions this year:

Sickly Fascinated

"Having Palin in office would be like a four year long whitewater rafting trip, it might kill us but if it doesn't we'll end up with a lot of crazy-assed photos"-Mitch McConnell

Morbid Curiosity Leading Many Voters To Support Palin

20 January 2011

Dusting + Cars = Miserable

Unfortunately, I could not stay home or walk to work today, but had to drive to a morning meeting. What a miserable mess:

14 January 2011

Sidewalk Gas Pumps

This photo is of a common gas pump configuration found in some European cities. Compare this to the typical gas station which is hazardous to pedestrians.



I got this photo off of an email listserve last year and I cannot remember who took the photo or even what city it was taken in.

13 January 2011

Sandwiches Made to Order

Court Street. Meat and cheese counters were common at corner stores. Bangs even did this not too long ago.
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12 January 2011

US Parents Too Soft?

If you are a new parent and want to be freaked-out about the competitive nature of parenting, read this essay from the Wall Street Journal:
...A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover,• have a playdate• be in a school play• complain about not being in a school play• watch TV or play computer games• choose their own extracurricular activities• get any grade less than an A• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama• play any instrument other than the piano or violin• not play the piano or violin.

... when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.

.... rote repetition is underrated in America.

...I once (called my daughter) garbage ... when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early....

...Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." ...

...Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child....

... the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

-This essay is excerpted from "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua

In response to this on their parenting blog:

....My parents... were very low pressure. There were few mandates to do homework, get As, or practice our instruments for my brother, sister and me. ...we were in school plays, were allowed to watch TV until we “were blue in the face,” my mom jokes, and we attended plenty of sleepovers and playdates. Our kitchen was so stocked with junk food (and our TV had so many cable channels) that some of our friends preferred to hang out in our basement as we were considered a “fun house.”

So how did my parents’ laissez-faire parenting style turn out? My brother, sister and I all enjoyed school, got top grades and went to Harvard or Yale. Although I was never great at music, my brother and sister became top-notch musicians, and my sister even sings professionally. The three of us are doing just fine career-wise in financial services, journalism, education and music....

Toronto Public Toilet

This blog has touched on the public toilet problem a few times. Necessary facilities like this are important if you want your parks, streets and transit to be successful. The private businesses cannot always provide this service to the public, and the city park toilets are often closed, unusable, unsanitary or unsafe; and both private and public toilets have limited hours. Twenty-some years ago, I was in Paris and saw self cleaning public toilets that cost the equivalent of 25 cents per use. They were located in places with high tourist foot traffic. A quarter century later they have made it to this continent. How long until they make it to the Midwest? Note that in this case, an advertising company installs them in return for 20 years of advertising space:

Toronto’s first automated public toilet is now a top tourist photo destination.

The $400,000 Harbourfront street potty proved so popular since May, “we’ll soon pick the next three locations,” said Kyp Perikleous, manager of the street furniture division of the city’s transportation department.

“It’s quite an attraction,” he said. “There are people standing in front having their photos taken ... some on the inside.”

As of Dec. 17, with 8,200 door-openings — some for diaper-equipped families — Perikleous said the three-metre-square stainless steel bunker-like biffy “exceeds” customer expectations.

It was built 35% larger than those in U.S. and European cities to provide wheelchair access.

“It’s the best I’ve seen,” Leaside resident Dave Darnell said recently.

“And it doesn’t smell,” the 60-year-old globe-trotter said, comparing the Rees Ave.-Queen’s Quay facility to ones in New York, Rome, Paris and Germany.

The 25¢ fee wasn’t intended to leave the supplier flush with cash, Perikleous said.

Instead, the deal with Montreal-based Astral Out-of-Home for up to 20 over 20 years lets it advertise on transit shelters plus 120 city information pillars.

The lone loo was part of a $1-billion contract that includes the former Astral Media Outdoor firm providing waste bins, transit shelters, benches and bike posts.

After 2017, the city will own all 25,000 pieces of street furniture and will consider more pay-to-pee permanent potties.

Sensors keep officials privy to the potty’s popularity.

The coin slot will accept anything up to a Twonie, but doesn’t make change.

The door operates automatically, Perikleous said, toilet paper supplies remain constant, air is vented in summer, warmed in winter, and patrons receive audible warnings. Lights flash before the door pops opens after 20 minutes.

There is even soft music and an emergency escape hatch.

When vacated at the push of a button, the toilet seat retracts for heat mist cleaning, and after three uses, water sluices the interior, draining through the porous, non-slip floor.

It malfunctioned once, when the retractor failed in July, Perikleous said.

That “minor glitch” lasted 40 minutes, until repairs were completed.

-Toronto Sun

11 January 2011

Deepest Winter

The dark and cold of January is most difficult at the mornings and evenings. When dusk comes at late afternoon. At our house we have a recurring, never fruitful discussion about possibly going south for a vacation in January.

There is a good book, Frederick, by Leo Lionni, in which a lazy mouse, instead of gathering food, gathers summer memories. Then in the depth of winter he releases these memories to warm his friends. For some reason kids especially enjoy winter themed books.

I find that memories of hot summers don't do much for me this time of year, except increase the longing for winter to end. Better to accept the pleasures of winter: beautiful quiet snow, hot cocoa, soup and warm bread, clothes warm out of the dryer, candle light, reading books under covers or finding camaraderie in a warm watering hole:

09 January 2011

28th District School

I was thankful for this comment on a recent post:
"You were correct about the large institutional building at the Klotter Park. It was the location for the old 28th District School.Built in 1880 with an addition in 1887. There is a book "A History Of The Schools Of Cincinnati" by John Brough Shotwell.Look it up on Google books. It has a pic on pg 308. It was on Browne St.(guess it was a street back then,not an alley) west of Baymiller."

So I looked up the book, and for the public record here is the sketch and description:
18 rooms x 55 pupils each = 990 students!

And here is a Sanborn Map showing the School:

Street Photography

If you have some time, these are really worth viewing: Photographs by Vivian Maier:

04 January 2011

Seymour Nature Preserve

About a week ago my son and I took another hike. I randomly picked a green spot on the map that we haven't visited before and set off. The chosen site was Seymour Creek Nature Preserve. At first we couldn't figure out how to access the site and weren't even sure if there were trails at all. Eventually we parked in a private parking lot at 6250 Este Avenue 45232. From this spot you can easily access a paved trail either downstream to the Millcreek River or upstream to a steep valley. This area is mostly reclaimed industrial or military land. It is apparent that someone has been stabilizing the area, clearing honeysuckle and making trails. The lower trail connects with the in-progress Millcreek trail that the Millcreek Restoration Project is developing in sections along the whole length. It now connects upstream to the nearby Caldwell Park , which is a more established park with a nature center, more mature trees and a playground and pool.

A topo map of area:
It doesn't look like you are in the middle of a heavy industrial area does it? This is the Millcreek!!
Looking downstream
"Rapids" of the Mill Creek, with stabilized and restored banks
The gravel along parts of the path are recycled materials, which son searched through
Seymour Creek full of snow melt as it enters the Mill Creek
typical second growth trees of the upper valley, with Seymour creek to left
mushrooms and moss
There are several bridges over the upper branch of creek:
deer skull?
Google Map of area:

View Larger Map

Overall it was an enjoyable trek. While in the woods you will hear trains and highway traffic sounds, but also water and birds. I cannot wait until they finish more sections of the bike trail along the Millcreek so that we can bike to places like this.

03 January 2011

An Urban Hike

It was exceptionally warm on New Years Eve and my son wanted to take a hike. We started at 14th and Race, went due north on Pleasant Street, through Findlay Market, up to McMicken and Mohawk to Fairview Park. Then we hiked east to Ohio Street and Bellevue park and then back down Race. It was as thoroughly enjoyable walk. I saw many houses and side streets that I hadn't even noticed before. It was a great way to end the year.

Here are some photos from along the journey:

Drilling piers for new underground parking garage at Washington Park:
North of the park at 14th and Race, and the almost completly renovated Bang's building. I really like how they rebuilt the porches and cleaned-up the crooked sidewalk:
1508 Pleasant. I remember when this building was occupied, at least partially.
Not looking so good, 118 West Fifteenth Street,
Brewery buildings on Mohawk. The Elm Street Bellevue Park incline passed the end of this street a century ago.
Round cobbled, Nagel Alley looking down from Mohawk to McMicken. I have met the Nagel family, they are still very active in the city, own Brighton Mills and contribute to the arts. This northwestern most reach of OTR is in the most dire condition. Many vacant buildings, some in danger of collapse. If I was looking for a cheap building to rehab, I would look here...before they are all demolished that is. This area needs investment badly.
The "renovated" end of Mohawk Street, near Ravine
Strange narrow steps up to very old wooden house that is set way back from the road and is abandoned. I expect this to burn down some day. [where: 430 W. McMicken Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45214}
Juxtaposition Bookstore. Long closed. Interior smells of many cats.
One of many interesting buildings on W McMicken
The first of 3 sets of steps that once connected W McMicken to Klotter. All of them are now blocked. Arghh! These are the Baymiller Street Steps that just recently went all the way from Brighton Corner in the West End, up through Conroy. They included a nice pedestrian bridge over Central Parkway that was just removed last year.
View through McMicken/Klotter Playground to solid line of buildings on W Mickmicken. There is evidence that there was once a large institutional building on this lot. If anyone knows what it was I would love to know.
first time I ever walked on Atlas Alley. Nothing to write home about.
Building on Atlas Alley
Freeman Steps still in place, but behind a fence. We needed to get up to Klotter, so we went around the fence.
Freeman Avenue Steps go up to west Klotter
Steps that once connected McMicken to West Klotter and Conroy.
Warner Street steps, lots of them from W. McMicken up to the Fairview Park, ...looking down
the remains of the Warner Street steps up to Fairview Avenue. We climbed these almost to the top, just for fun:
view of the rail yards and the river in the distance from western end of Fairview park
View from Fairview Park towards our destination, Bellevue Park
The corner of Fox and Coon Streets. Never even heard of these alleys before, so took a photo of the street sign. Lame I know.
Flora, modest but nice and quiet
Public walkway between Flora and Emming. I had never been on this before
Steps from City View Place (at Ravine Street) up to Emming
Interesting doorway, I believe on Stratford?
Perhaps a place where steps once descended to McMicken? Or maybe just an informal trail?
Famous circular shelter
One of many beautiful houses on Klotter. I really gained a new appreciation for this part of town on our walk:
Steps in Bellevue Park that lead down to the end of Ohio Street:
House accessed by public steps:
Un-named steps that go from Van Lear Street down to Vine. We didn't take this route. BTW, the residents at the dead end of Van Lear act like moonshiners and DO NOT LIKE VISITORS, even on the public street, which they think they own, so if you find yourself here, turn down the steps.
Ohio Street Steps, down to McMillan and the top of Race Street:
Another alley I had never noticed: Rowan Court, almost to Findlay Market and back home.

UPDATE: A friend sent me to a link about the bookstore on McMicken.