East Side vs. West Side

The East Side-West Side debate only encourages Cincinnati's parochialism. That said, this reason from this week's CiNWeekly feature story on why the East Side is better is freakin' hilarious!

8. "You drive with the sun behind you at all times. The West Side drives into the sun both ways." - Erik C., Anderson Twp.

Cincinnati Metro Interactive Map

Sweet Google Maps mashup of Metro bus routes, found via this post from 5chw4r7z. A quick search revealed lots of similar efforts, and makes me wonder that if these have been around for so long, why doesn't SORTA have anything like this here already?

Talk About Telescopic Views

A letter to the editor in the Enquirer today from West Side civic leader and former city council candidate Pete Witte brings into sharp relief why streetcar opponents have it wrong. The letter is not long, so I'll just quote the entire thing.

Hey City Council how do the other 50 neighborhoods in the city benefit from the Streetcars? Will Bond Hill benefit? How about Mount Washington, Westwood, Price Hill, etc?

City Hall needs a telescope to see beyond the blocks outside their windows.

Why would this city support $100 million effort to shuffle a couple hundred people a day around Over-the-Rhine and Downtown? We need to link Westwood to Mount Washington and Bond Hill to Uptown, not make it easier for bar hoppers to hit OTR and Fountain Square. Maybe a thoughtful council member will encourage a referendum so that citizens can vote on this expenditure. A referendum will force them to think about a comprehensive plan benefiting many, not the few.

Pete Witte, West Price Hill

*golf clap* What Witte and so many suburbanites who disregard the central city do not realize is that the area between and including Uptown and the CBD form the heart and soul of the entire region. They don't realize that the success or failure of Greater Cincinnati will always begin with the CBD, OTR, the area around UC and the hospitals, and all the areas in-between. They don't realize that if these areas founder, then the entire region will founder. They don't realize that without the core, there would be no Westwood, Mt. Washington, or Bond Hill.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh on Mr. Witte and his ilk. He doesn't actually say he's against streetcars, only that any proposal should include more neighborhoods. Well if that's the case I must ask, how else would you start a plan to link and spur growth in all the neighborhoods with fixed line transportation? Would you build a line from Westwood to Bond Hill, and then extend it downtown? That doen't make any sense. Oh, and there was a referendum on a comprehensive regional transporation system several years ago which was soundly defeated. I wonder what Mr. Witte's vote was then? I know that was light rail, and this is not, but I doubt the average person knows the difference and that the general attitude would prevail again if this was put to a vote.

Nobody Is Really Smart Enough To Program Computers

"Fully understanding an average program requires an almost limitless capacity to absorb details and an equal capacity to comprehend them all at the same time. The way you focus your intelligence is more important than how much intelligence you have.

"At the 1972 Turing Award lecture, Edsger Dijkstra delivered a paper titled "The Humble Programmer." He argued that most of programming is an attempt to compensate for the strictly limited size of our skulls. The people who are best at programming are the people who realize how small their brains are. They are humble. The people who are the worst at programming are the people who refuse to accept the fact that their brains aren't equal to the task.

"The purpose of many good programming practices is to reduce the load on your gray cells. You might think that the high road would be to develop better mental abilities so you wouldn't need these programming crutches. You might think that a programmer who uses mental crutches is taking the low road. Empirically, however, it's been shown that humble programmers who compensate for their fallibilities write code that's easier for themselves and others to understand and that has fewer errors."

from a blog quoting a blog quoting a book

If you go on to read the paper, he says that programming will never fulfill its capacity, because the hardware keeps growing more and more powerful, and the demand is growing even faster. And that was in 1972.

Reminds me of another Dijkstra quote from "The Structure of the T-H-E Multiprogramming System," wherein he describes the design of one of the first multitasking systems. But in the introduction he gives props to his students:
"The other remark is that the members of the group have previously enjoyed as good students a university training of five to eight years and
are of Master's or Ph.D. level. I mention this explicitly because at least in my country the intellectual level needed for system design is in general grossly underestimated. I am convinced more than ever that this type of work is very difficult, and that every effort to do it with other than the best people is doomed to either failure or moderate success at enormous expense."

We're Not The Only Ones Who Ask The High School Question

So I was reading my feeds and spotted "An Outsider's Flawed View Of Silicon Valley," a post defending Silicon Valley from the negative claims in this post, "How Green Was My Valley," a post distinguishing Seattle from the Valley, controverting the claims in this NY Times article, "Seattle Taps Its Inner Silicon Valley," about how Seattle is becoming the next Silicon Valley.

The Times article rightly finds Seattle following in Silicon Valley's footsteps, with its influx of venture capital and transformation from timber and aerospace to internet, based around U-Dub and of course Microsoft and Amazon:

"A start-up ecosystem needs social networks, support businesses and a business culture that views failure as a badge of honor, not shame. All of that is in place in Seattle."
Glenn Kelman's blog takes issue with the comparison, and points out why Seattle is indubitably not Silicon Valley, and never will be, thankfully:
"My first roommate spent four years building a company in San Francisco without ever buying furniture. When his startup went bust, he packed for the trip home to Toronto the same day. Seattle is different. People live in Seattle because they love Seattle."
And, finally, if not arrogantly, Michael Arrington's blog basically proclaims Silicon Valley as the supreme center of all things internet entrepreneurship, and anyone claiming that it's better to start a tech company anywhere else is delusional. I wouldn't disagree, I guess (emphasis his):
"But the best of the best come to Silicon Valley to see if they’re as good as the legends that came before them. It’s a competitive advantage to be here. And if you aren’t willing to take advantage of every possible advantage to make your crazy startup idea work, perhaps you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur... Making lifestyle choices is fine, but don’t delude yourself into thinking those choices are anything but a tradeoff. If staring at lakes and skiing after work are important to you, don’t pretend to be surprised when your startup doesn’t cut it."
They're all well-written, and you can read them and maybe gain insight on what it takes to be a technology hub, but I want to focus on one thing Kelman says in promoting Seattle (emphasis mine):
"In reality, most places don’t even want to try to be like the Valley. Seattle has become unrecognizably wealthier in the past decade, yet is oddly unhappy about it. Many Seattleites wish we were still a modest boreal town rather than a Microsoft-Amazon megapolis. The question I am most often asked here is where I went to high school — twenty years ago — not what I’m doing next."
See? We're not the only ones.

Cradle Of Brands

There are very few Enquirer articles, aside from sports, that I read entirely, word-for-word. But for some reason, I read this one about Cincinnati as the Cradle of Brands. For all the talk about Cincinnati losing young people moving away in droves - what is this they are saying?

"...experts say more than half the people involved in the advertising and marketing industry in the nation work and live in this region.

'You cannot walk down a grocery store aisle anyplace in the world and not see one product branded by a design firm in Cincinnati,' said Doug Moormann, vice president of economic development for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

'That's the scale of the business.'"

I always knew that advertising and marketing, mostly driven by P&G, was big in this town, but I did not know how big it really was. From the sound of the article, anyone interested in an advertising or marketing career must consider living in Cincinnati. The only other place mentioned in the story is Minneapolis, home of Target. Now, I've heard many times that Minneapolis is a nice place to live, but seriously does the average young person in this country think Minneapolis is cooler than Cincinnati?

This is a tremendous thing. But how long has this been known? It seems like something really valuable could be done with this information, but what? The only parallels I can draw are from the tech industry because that is what I know best. In the way that Silicon Valley markets itself, cannot we do the same as the ground zero for graphic/industrial design, branding, marketing? Where are the national conferences and design expos? Where are the Bar Camps and Coffee Clubs and Meetups? Or maybe these things occur but I just don't know about them because I'm not in the industry.

Silicon Valley is inexplicable, a phenomenon unto itself. You can start a company anywhere, but your experience starting one in the Valley will be remarkably different from starting one elsewhere. The Valley's perfect blend of support (funding, legal, news coverage and social) plus an inexhaustible talent pool makes it hard to replicate. Does that support for design companies exists here? I don't know.

There are hundreds (thousands?) of startup companies in the Valley. There are hundreds of small design firms in greater Cincinnati, employing on average less than 10 people. While technology companies may command more capital, what we have here is nothing to sneeze at. As I said before, it seems like we have something really valuable here, but the question remains: what is it?

Growing Inward

The Queen City Survey has a very thoughtful, nigh impassioned post about how to grow our fair city. I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety. To answer his question - "What are those things – projects or otherwise – that will grow this city inward and what will get us moving in a positive direction quickly?" - my thoughts on the matter (in no particular order):

  1. The streetcar proposal is the single most important big ticket/development issue. While it may not be the best deal economically at this time, we must strike while the political iron is hot. Despite the valid arguments that Cincinnati is not Portland, the car is king here, etc. I firmly believe that someday - someday - this type of mass transit will be at the national forefront again, as we run into imminent transportation and energy issues. Importantly, the streetcar must link uptown to downtown, with OTR in-between, to link two of the largest residential/employee bases in the city.
  2. Over-the-Rhine must be developed, as it can be and has been, as long as the city and the naysayers stay out of the way. IIRC, OTR used to be home to over 50,000 people back in the day. Today less than 10,000 call it home. OTR can accomodate many more residents and can add 40,000 to the city's population if it lives up to its potential. (I would say, let's build a ballpark in OTR, but we know how that turned out.)
  3. Apart from development-type issues, education stands at the forefront. Cincinnati Public Schools must be successful and families must not hesitate to send their children there if Cincinnati is to thrive. Interestingly, if #1 and #2 above succeed, and the demographics of the city change, CPS may improve simply by having better raw materials to teach. That said, it is the children in CPS today who will become Cincinnati's residents tomorrow, and they deserve the best chances to be productive citizens.