Downtown Duke Energy Holiday Train Display

Made it down to the long-running CG&E Cinergy Duke Energy Holiday Train Display this year.  Of course, the one day we went was just about the single coldest day this fall/winter yet.  I swear I left part of my face on 4th St. after it froze and fell off.  The winds howled through the streets and between the buildings, making what was 30 deg F. feel more like -5 deg F.  What is this, Chicago?  We made a quick pass of Fountain Square before settling in at the real downtown holiday destination: Starbucks.

Speaking of wind, check out the new-this-year Duke sustainable energy windmill farm in the last picture.





Downtown Child Care?

Seeing this blog about a new child care center opening up downtown got me thinking.  The city may finally be starting to regain population, depending on whom you ask (but at least you can ask!)  But I wonder how the 18-and-under population as been trending.  I could not find any demographic trends for just children after some quick searching.  My feeling is that the trend has been going down.  One obvious sign is the growing list of vacant CPS buildings.

My feeling is that most of the people moving into the city are childless.  When they become not childless, they move outside the city limits.  Looking forward to starting my own family, the thoughts about raising a child in either the CBD or OTR that enter my mind are interesting.

Will there be same-aged kids on our street to play with?  Where will our kid go to school?  When I think about how I grew up in a subdivision, surrounded by kids my age, and spending hours of summertime wandering around in the woods, it takes a giant mental leap to imagine how it would be in the city.  I know that people are doing it (cf. CityKin).  Would we be capable of doing the same?

Would I be comfortable with sending our kid to a CPS elementary school, which will be mostly African-American (it's hard to be a minority in any situation), and likely underperforming on state standards.  There are only three elementary/middle schools in CPS with the highest state rating that I'm aware of, and there is only one high school.   That's a small basket to put all your eggs in, if you care about such things.

So another child care center opening up downtown encourages me.  Now, it probably has been long overdue just because of all the workers downtown.  But now, if you live downtown, and work downtown, and have a family downtown, you don't have to leave downtown before work just to take your child to daycare.

Who Says Twitter Isn't Useful?

Lighting The Tree

I attended the Fountain Square Tree Lighting several years ago.  That year, the tree had about 8 lights on it, and the square was maybe half-full.

Last Friday, Sarah and I went to see the Tree Lighting again.  It was quite different this time around.





I Hate Mike Brown

Hate is a strong word. Which is why I use it here.

Photo by David Kohl/AP

This post was originally only about Willie Anderson in his new starting role with Baltimore. But as I dug deeper, and clicked from Bengals story to Bengals story, I grew angrier. I have been boycotting the Bengals this entire season, refusing to waste any part of my Sunday on Bengals TV, radio, and certainly not tickets. (On Mondays, sometimes I read the recaps.) But first, back to Willie.

If you need further evidence of what ails this team, look no further (emphasis mine):

Anderson resisted throwing jabs at the Bengals. But he did say the same pipeline that he said fed Brown bad information about him has been feeding him inaccurate information about players for many years.

"People in the organization continue to mislead him about players," Anderson said, though he would not elaborate.

Another comparison: The Ravens have their personnel and personal issues, too, Anderson said, but the situation in Baltimore is nothing like it is in Cincinnati.

"We have our issues; every organization does," he said. "But here it's all about football. You can concentrate on football here. There are not nearly as many non-football issues here as there were in Cincinnati."

I wish Willie had not been so coy. I wish he had held up a loud, blinking sign that said: "Mike Brown is the problem."

Then, this very morning came a story about a class-action suit against the Bengals by fans who bought season tickets before PBS was built. They thought they were buying Charter Ownership Agreements at $150 per seat per year for 10 years. The Bengals contend they're on the hook for the full seat price per seat per year for 10 years. That's the difference between hundreds of dollars and tens of thousands of dollars, depending on when a season ticket holder attempted to cancel their tickets. I don't know which is worse. Is it worse that the Bengals are once-again saying "fuck you" to some of their most loyal, longest-season-ticket-holding fans, including one guy who has held four season ticket seats every year the Bengals have been in existence up until 2003. Or is it worse that the Bengals in cowardly fashion, are not even fighting the suit, but trying to run out the clock by delaying the case in court until the contracts expire in 2009 anyway. Pathetic.

On a Bengals-bashing roll, I found my way over to WhoDeyRevolution, a blog I've been following for a while. (See their take on the same Willie Anderson story and class-action lawsuit story.) I have glanced at many Bengals blogs in the past couple years, and while many of them have been critical, they all lack that visceral, scathing contempt for Mike Brown. WhoDeyRevolution has that contempt, and more. It's the only blog that focuses more on the real problems of this team, and not just who they're going to draft next year.

So I read this post about the non-Bengals side of Mike Brown:

The plans to build the stadium were underway in 1996, over 12 years ago, for example. And the plan to develop the Banks seems to just now be gaining traction. While many parties are at fault here, it is not like you ever heard of the Bengals being a proactive force. Nope, from what I have heard they were mostly unhelpful and satisfied to earn parking revenue rather than encouraging development that would likely make them more wealthy, successful and popular in the long term.

The post also contains a quote from an apparent source in-the-know that Mike Brown has zero involvement in any local business, charitable, or civic causes. Nice.

Digging further, I was reminded of the original sweetheart stadium lease, "one of the most generous to a team in the NFL," that continues to pay the Bengals dividends for producing one playoff season in nearly two decades:

The team gets all income from concessions and advertising in the stadium.

The team can refuse to let the stadium be used for events it feels could damage the field.

The team pays game-day expenses only; the county pays all other maintenance costs.

The team pays $1.7 million in rent in 2000 - an amount that drops by $100,000 each year until 2009, when it drops to zero.

...Development of county-owned land around Paul Brown Stadium is restricted based on height, appearance and other factors. For instance, the lease forbids an auditorium seating 3,000 or more people from being built just east of the stadium.

The team and the county split the revenue from all non-Bengals-related events 50-50.


Just leave As I said at the beginning, this post was originally about Willie and the on-field performance of the Bengals. But it turned into more. Not only has Mike Brown poorly influenced football decisions that have led to one good season in nearly two decades of ownership. Not only has Mike Brown repeatedly given the middle finger to fans who have been season-ticket holders longer than I've been alive. Not only has Mike Brown enjoyed a stadium lease that is so one-sided it is nearly criminal and probably is, Mike Brown has also shown to be a disruptive force in the progress of our city.

At a time when the city of Cincinnati is struggling to distinguish itself from similar cities as a destination, as a place young people want to live, as a place entrepreneurs want to start businesses, as a place where families do not hesitate to send their kids to the public schools, as a place where nearly everyone who cares about where they live agree we need a strong downtown; at this time, Mike Brown is becoming a dead weight. Mike Brown is like the kid on the block with the rich parents and the nice toys, who doesn't play with anyone else. Sure, he's a nice kid, but when the other kids see his toys and want to play too, he just takes his toys inside.

At the risk of sounding cliché, Mike Brown does not realize that everything is connected. Everything is connected. When he forces the county pay for artificial turf, after he insisted on building the stadium with real grass because "football should be played on grass," it leaves less money for a new small business. When he puts such a piss-poor product on the field, less people will come downtown before and after the game. When he spends more time reminding everyone involved with the Banks that he has veto powers and less time actually coming up with ideas, he only increases the wait before anything but a hole in the ground is built around his stadium.

The Bengals are doing more harm than good. As a football fan, I wish they would just leave.

Bearcats Take Control Of Big East

UC defeated #20-ranked Pitt last Saturday taking sole control of 1st place in the Big East conference - and we were there!  It was freakin' freezing Saturday night, but losing my toes was worth it to see the athletic dept. assistants scramble to pick up all the oranges thrown onto the field after every big UC play.  It was worth it to see Tony Pike master the Pitt defense with an almost perfect performance.  It was worth it to see the student section rush the field before the game actually ended - not once, but twice. (Once, before the last play of the game, and once during the last play of the game.)

When I was a student at UC, going to the football game was an afterthought, something fun to watch if nothing else was going on that Saturday night.  You would nod to the ushers who were supposed to check your student ID as you strolled in.

But now:

How impossibly surreal was the scene at The Nip Saturday night? The place was decked out in red-clad fans, as if someone had opened a vein in the South end zone. Traffic was backed up on Taft Road a few minutes before kickoff.

Kelly is the subject of rumors sending him to Tennessee. Local sports agent Richard Katz suggests eight or nine Bearcats will go in the NFL Draft next spring.

These are the Bearcats?

Bearcats enter the field amidst the band.


Bearcats before an imminent touchdown.


This guy was dressed up as an orange (bowl)!


Athletic dept. staff race to clear the field of oranges.


UC called for a Ring of Red for the game.


Fans rush the field.  Maybe a bit early.



Blogger Tour Of Living Photos

These photos are from the Blogger Tour Of Living back in September.  The event is pretty far past now for commentary, and others have already blogged about it far more effectively anyway.  It was a decent day and I had a lot of fun meeting a few more bloggers in person.

See the full Tour Of Living album.








Made it down to the OTRTweetup last night at Below Zero lounge. I stayed for a couple hours but unfortunately could not continue the party at Lav-o-matic and then Twist (seriously, don't these people have day jobs :) ).

There's a lot of overlap between the local Twitter crowd and the local blogging crowd, so it was good to see some of those folks again. And of course it was good to meet some new tweeps!

I totally did not even think about bringing my camera, which is unusual. I guess it's been a tough week. But there are pictures out there if you look hard enough. Thanks to @kate_the_great and @AmyInOhio for organizing.

See some OTRTweetup and #cincitweetup tweets.

Bikers Descend Upon City Hall

Last month, I took it upon myself to attend a rally for bicycle issues down at City Hall during a meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee.  It was pretty interesting hearing statements from the other bikers in attendance, especially the lady who had not ridden a bike since childhood, but abruptly took up bicycling to work everyday this year.

There were a lot of different types of argument, from the infrastructure-oriented requests for more signage and bike lanes, to more passionate pleas calling for an improved bike culture as a way to attract talented young people to the region.

There were lots of types of people too.  There were the bike geeks, resplendent in their bike pants, reflective outwear, and aerodynamic helmets complete with rear-view mirror.  There were the bike hipsters who look they just re-fitted an entire bike and rode to the meeting before washing the grease off. 

As for my accessories, I use a velcro strap to keep my pant-leg out of the gears, and riding gloves since a raccoon chewed off my handlebars.





Bellevue-Dayton In Autumn

I didn't get to take a photo from the office deck last fall, so I had to wait a whole year before I got another chance.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out the way I had hoped.  I guess there's always next year.


Recycle That Computer (And Paint, Fertilizer, Anti-Freeze, etc.)

The other day I loaded up my car with 2 desktop computers, 1 laptop, 1 CRT monitor, a random RF converter, an assortment of cables, keyboards, and mice, 3 cans of paint, 1 can of paint thinner, and 1 half-full bottle of anti-freeze.

I was headed to the Hamilton County Computer Recycling Drop-Off to drop off all the old electronics, and then to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection drop-off to drop off the paint and other assorted poisons.

Whenever I see a big CRT monitor in a trash can, I always frown a little bit. If I were to dump a big monitor in the curbside trash, it just wouldn't feel right. A big block of metal, glass, PCB, and chemicals taking up all this space. And you can't flatten it like paper or cardboard. I guess that's just me.

Computer Trash
Photo by mebajason/Flickr

It's Not Really "Insurance"

Someone once pointed out to me that health insurance is not really "insurance." Unlike auto insurance or home insurance that actually insures against something which may or may not occur, there is really nothing potential about health care - everyone will get sick and old and need health care at some point. The only question is when. It should not be called "insurance." It is simply health care.

With that in mind, someone else mentioned to me the other day that health care companies do not provide health care, they only answer phones. Sarah and I have been fighting our insurance to pay for a prescription, even though the doctor has ordered the prescription several times already. Lots of phone calls.

So I was amused at the following series of headlines I saw the other day.

Fidelity, Mattel, Macy's, GM, Ford - everyone - is getting battered by the economy. Well, not everyone.

...everyone, but Humana, apparently, who's opening a new 300-person office, with at least part of that manning a new call center.

(See Trends In The City also.)

Traveling To Chicago? Try Megabus.

Once upon a time in high school, a buddy of mine and I took a Greyhound bus down to Florida for spring break. It was the thankfully the last Greyhound experience I ever had. The bus ride itself was long and uncomfortable, and the ridership that frequents Greyhound bus travel is interesting to say the least. It was just too much for a 9th grader.

In an earlier post I mentioned visiting Chicago and didn't even mention the bus option. Well, I had known about Megabus, having seen one of them on the road a few times, but forgot about it — I must have blocked it from my mind due to my Greyhound experience — until I read this Megabus review.

I was still really skeptical. Why am I considering taking the bus? A lot of times buses between large cities, at least here in the states, are for people who cannot afford other methods of transportation. There's a social stigma the industry HAS earned. You know what, I'm a little guilty of that thought and wanted to beat it out of me. So I decided to be logical, figure out dollars and time considerations. There is a bit of an emotional reason as well: I want to believe that travel in our country can be accomplished on a bus. I want to believe there are great and greener alternatives to flying or driving. Outside of the US it's pretty common to take buses or rails around a country.
Read the rest.

Twist on 4th St.

Went to Twist for a birthday party last week. Somehow ended up ordering Sarah a $12 glass of wine. Dammit. C'est la vie.

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What Message Does Cincinnati Send?

I've linked to Paul Graham before. In Cities and Ambition, he says:

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

How much does it matter what message a city sends? Empirically, the answer seems to be: a lot. You might think that if you had enough strength of mind to do great things, you'd be able to transcend your environment. Where you live should make at most a couple percent difference. But if you look at the historical evidence, it seems to matter more than that. Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time.

No matter how determined you are, it's hard not to be influenced by the people around you. It's not so much that you do whatever a city expects of you, but that you get discouraged when no one around you cares about the same things you do.
I wonder what message Cincinnati sends?

No Dial-Up For You

From CityBeat:

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Web site has experienced a double-digit drop in traffic since its parent company recently forced a format change that many users have complained is slow and cumbersome.
Slow and cumbersome? Really? I think people are being unreasonable in demanding a website that is not a mile long, does not scroll on forever, and contains less than a whopping 1.1MB of files [YSlow on]. Seriously, people. That's what broadband is for.

In any case, I do not envy print media like Gannett these days. They have their work cut out for them. I believe that "newspapers" will thrive and succeed in the Internet age, but the profits will definitely never be as big, and the newsrooms never be as crowded as they once were. The heyday of newspapers as we are familiar with them are long gone.

But at least they are trying to change, rather than just suing and charging everyone to keep things the same like some industries.

Who... Dey...

The head coach is under attack for some questionable decisions and clock management. The star wide receiver has as many drops as catches. The high-powered offense has scored one touchdown in eight quarters. The defense just lost another starter to a serious injury.
Sound familiar? At first I thought that was about the Bengals, but it's from a story about the Browns. The state of parity in Ohio pro football is strong!

I had a serious post about the Bengals in mind, but really, what's the point?

Mad Max Beyond Walnut Hills

In Mad Max, Mel Gibson wanders a war-ravaged future where fuel has become the only thing of value. Seeing all the long lines at gas stations on the news today sort of reminded me of that. Sort of.

Anyway, since everyone else has been posting their storm photos, I may as well too. We were fortunate enough to not have been affected at all really by the storm. Our cable and internet went out in the early afternoon, and was restored in the late evening. But power never went out. Incredible, considering both streets on either side of us lost their power. And a giant motherf'in tree fell down right in front of our building:

Park Ave. and Victory Pkwy.

Wm. Howard Taft and Park Ave.

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Everyone's Famous! Blogger Bash 2008

It was the second blogger event IRL in almost as many months. Or as Bob put it, Blogger Bash 2008 at AVS ART downtown was another chance for all of us local bloggers to meet and be socially awkward together. This time, Sarah accompanied me.

It was a blast. The keg of Stella didn't hurt either.

There were plenty of people there that I met at the Blogger Convention in July. Chatting with some of them for a second time somehow made a big difference. It was as if now it was confirmed that they were real people, and that the first time was not some huge internet prank on me. So, yeah, it was great to see Dan, Kevin, Shannan, Brian, and of course Bob, who put it all together, again.

There were some folks at the Convention that I did not get to meet then. But recognizing them at least made it easier to introduce myself this time. So I'm sure I'll run into Julie, Kate, and Sean again.

There were some folks from Talked to Polly Campbell for a while about - not dining, but - education and the Enquirer. And met Alex, who just moved to Cincy, and whose blog I just found right now as I type this (yes, it's a skill). His blog is hilarious, though I noticed he hasn't updated lately, unfortunately. Alex: welcome to our fair city, try not to compare it to Boston because Boston is dumb. And I recognized this chick, but I didn't actually talk to her.

And I met some completely new people! Like Kasmira and Laura. And Sarah (who I'd actually met before) and Megan from the Know Theatre.

At this point, you may have thought the same thing Sarah thought last night as we left: "Wow, lots of women bloggers." Indeed.

More coverage (BTW, the best Blogger Bash recap most definitely goes to Kate):

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All Aboard

Over on Cinplify, I found a story on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about rail travel in the United States. I started quoting from the story, but I ended up copying nearly the entire thing. So just go and read it right now. It's not that long.

Okay, so here's one quote:

But as Amtrak's national ridership soars in spite of its flaws -- increasing now for the sixth year in a row, with 2 million more riders than last year -- it's time to ask: Can a better rail system fill in the gaps that airlines are leaving behind?
And I believe the answer is a firm: HELL YES.


Airline passengers now have to pay for every piece of luggage, every drink, snack, and bathroom break (okay, maybe not that last one) taken. Customer service goes down while prices go up (I realize that fuel is costly). Less flights mean more crowds, and more stopovers. But people take it anyway.

Flying becomes more and more of a pain in the ass as time goes on. Airlines have started to capitalize on a reality that has existed for decades: air travel is the best way to travel long distances, and there is no alternative that even comes close.

But what if there was an alternative?


We traveled to Milwaukee this past weekend for a wedding. Before the weekend, I had to figure out how to get there.

  1. Plane: I honestly didn't look into the flying option. Assuredly quicker, but assuredly hundreds of dollars for a single, round-trip ticket from CVG, unless I had bought the tickets months ago.
  2. Train: If you go to Amtrak's website now and search, you'll find that the train leaves Union Terminal at 1:10 AM, and arrives in Milwaukee some 13 hrs. later. Coming back is a bit faster at 12 hrs., as long as you don't mind arriving at 3:17 in the morning. Cost of ticket: not expensive, but not cheap, at $140 round-trip for one person.. Being able to do things on the train like sleep, etc. is nice, but those hours are just not friendly.
  3. Automobile: Google Maps pins it at about 6.5 hrs and 380 miles driving. I can get that far in just over a tank of gas. Rounding down, that's two tanks of gas at about $90 for 1-4 people, and 13 hours of time, round-trip.
Balancing all the factors, you just can't beat driving.

Residents of the East Coast between Boston and Washington D.C. will rave about the train systems. (Just ask Joe Biden.) Then, when you get to your destination, there's often the local subway or train to get you to your final destination. But us in the Midwest apparently lose out.

A Man's Home Is His Castle

Putting on my libertarian (small 'L') hat on for a second, I have no problem with the $1.25 million selling price for Joe Horney's property at the infamous Rookwood Exchange site. More power to him.

To the owners who sold - that was of course their right to sell their property in exchange for what they considered a fair price. Good for them. But nobody should begrudge any homeowner from asking for a higher price, or not wanting to sell at all, just so that an office/shopping center that will probably be out of style in 10 years anyway can be built. This was not a road or bridge or power plant to be built on that site.

I believe the Ohio Supreme Court case was an important one, but at what cost for the three original holdouts? What did they pay in money (even though they were represented pro bono), stress, energy, and years of life. I believe the man from the older couple has passed away. There was a couple that ran a franchise math and reading center - one less small business in the city of Norwood. Good one.

As for Horney, IIRC, he did not actually live in his property, but rented it out. Nonetheless, he bought the property and paid the mortgage, and I'm sure he didn't have any tenants when they started bulldozing the neighborhood.

Now, with the last holdout gone, I'm looking forward to having more retail options in the area!