State Of Technology In Cincinnati

Bob Coy over at CincyTech presented at the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association on the state of the Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurial ecosystem. It was CincyTech's first year as a state-chartered Entrepreneurial Signature Program for southwest Ohio.

Pay close attention to slide 13.

Capture Cincinnati 2008

Capture Cincinnati is back again! Unfortunately, I did not make the book last year, but at least this year I don't have to sign up for a new account.

I've uploaded a set of photos. Most of them have appeared at one time or another on this very blog. So are they going to do this every year?

Memorial Day Weekend

I had a great 3-day weekend. I managed to stay away from my computer for the most part, but the time to catch up starts right now, starting with this blog post.

On Friday, we went down to Sully's. I'm not a big fan of Sully's, but I usually just follow the crowd. Sully's had some deal that was $10, all you can drink from 9pm-11pm, well drinks and domestic drafts. As is the case many times, "domestic" translates as "cheap beer of our choosing" - evidently, Christian Moerlein does not count as a domestic beer even though it is brewed in Cincinnati. So I forgoed the crappy drink deal and just paid for my OTR Ales.

On Saturday, we rode our bikes down to the river and biked up and down the Ohio and Kentucky sides. We had a blast, but getting back was not fun. What we need is one of these things up to Mt. Adams.

We hit the Taste on Saturday night. I started with a BBQ sandwich from Pit-to-Plate, and finished with a Reuben and a couple potato pancakes from Izzy's. Sandwiched in-between those was a gyro from Mythos. Along with a couple of Warsteiners. In retrospect, I probably did not need the second potato pancake.

Posted by Picasa

ZZ's Pizza Re-Opening!

As mentioned in CityBeat a while back, ZZ's Pizza in Walnut Hills is re-opening after a 3-year hiatus! I can't wait. Now I have a place to find good pizzas, hoagies, and grinders within walking distance.

This is good news for the neighborhood, and for all the workers in the Baldwin Building, LAGA, and up and down Gilbert Ave. I was walking by yesterday and caught the new owner, Ben, sweeping up outside. He said the grand opening is slated for late June. As you can see, a lot of work has already been done on the inside, including new paint and a new bar.

Posted by Picasa


Sarah and I made a trip up to Akron, OH, where her sister was graduating from law school. Akron seems like a nice little town, past its prime as the home of Goodyear and Quaker, like many other Ohio cities. It has a lot of populated surrounding areas that blend in with Cleveland suburbs, but downtown itself is pretty small and not very trafficked. Fortunately, it borders the U. of Akron campus so as a whole there are a lot of things to see and do.

Here are a couple non-graduation photos. The first is from the west edge of campus - the edge that borders downtown - looking east. The big glass building is the Goodyear Polymer Research building. The second is simply 180 degrees the other direction, looking west, of St. Bernard Catholic church. It was gorgeous weather for a graduation!

Posted by Picasa

A Midwest Conundrum

CityKin finds another great post from an out-of-town visitor to Cincinnati, this time from Indianapolis (see previous post from an MSP resident).

I'll paraphrase from the blog post a little bit to forge a message that I like.

What is so great about Cincinnati? Let's list some of the things:
  • The fabulous geography.
  • Spectacular, dense urban neighborhoods with wonderful architecture.
  • Innovative new architecture.
  • The patchwork quilt of towns.
  • Top notch cultural institutions.
  • Many major corporate headquarters.
  • A genuine regional culture.
  • Major regional assets (e.g. Kings Island, CVG)
Yet, I'm always befuddled as well as I puzzle a great conundrum: if Cincinnati is so great, how come it isn't the San Francisco of the Midwest instead of a typical, modestly stagnated Midwestern city?

It just goes to show that what I said in my pecha kucha presentation was true: cities are about people, not just buildings. All the great geography, architecture, etc. in the world isn't a sufficient condition to create a thriving, dynamic city.
One interesting thing is that the author seemed to have made it out the first-and-second suburbs during his visit. He includes some lovely pictures of the likes of downtown Montgomery, Hamilton, and Lebanon. I've always thought that these old town centers - not in the city, but an inseparable part of the metro - were great assets to the region as a whole, and I think this is the first time I've read thoughts along the same lines.

The blog's 21 (at this time) comments debate a number of issues and merit reading too. One midwest hater transplant in particular laments about everyone introducing themselves as a Christian (huh?), and also the bad pollution in the area. I think I've met maybe one person here who quickly proclaimed himself as Christian in all my time here, so I don't know what that's about. Maybe the commenter has just spent too much time around the mega-churches. The air quality could be better, but I know Cincinnati's geography is no help. It also sounds like the commenter is originally from the East Coast, and may dismiss the Midwest as fly-over land.

Startup Weekend Cincy, Episode III: A New Hope

When last we left Startup Weekend, Cincinnati was trying to get to the top of the city vote leaderboard (which had no input validation). Since then, a lot has happened.

Startup Weekend organizers sent Cincinnati voters an email stating that the first steps of planning were under way. In the same week, sprang up: an almost identical event, started by locals.

Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde was miffed, and I haven't heard from any of them since.

Dave Menninger has a great summary of the whole saga on his blog, including links to relevant blog attacks, articles, and more.

As I commented on Andrew Hyde's post that started it all, it seemed like the issue was with where credit was due (and not given). I can understand that. But having rectified that, we should all be able to move forward, in the interest of entrepreneurship.

In the comments of Dave's post, IOW's founder Elizabeth Edwards says that IOW will happen and fills us in on the latest news, such as registration opening up on Sunday. Mr. Hyde has not returned her phone calls, so maybe he's still upset. That's too bad, honestly, but I'm not sure it matters anymore.

BTW, the Startup Weekend folks have spun off Startup Drinks.

Trends In The City

The Enquirer Politics blog reports on Cincinnati Public Schools' annual financial audit from the state, released a couple weeks ago (PDF). I'll repeat their point that CPS has been fairly responsible financially, but the audit also contains some interesting data from the last 10 years about CPS and the city as a whole, which may reflect regional and national trends. Here are some I found interesting.

Population of city (S.30):
1997: 364,040
2006: 331,285

Per-capita income in city (S.30):
1997: $29,395
2006: $40,828

Unemployment rate in county (S.30):
1997: 3.6%
2006: 5.0%

Types of business of top 10 employers in city (S.33):
Government (3)
Consumer Goods (2)
Education (2)
Communication (1)
Public Utility (1)
Jet Engines (1)

Health Care (4)
Consumer Goods (2)
Education (2)
Financial (1)
Government (1)

CPS Enrollment in K-8 (S.30):
1997: 37,611
2006: 23,140

CPS Enrollment in 9-12 (S.30):
1997: 10,444
2006: 11,089

CPS Number of classroom teachers (S.34):
1998: 3,326.52
2007: 2,480.04

CPS Number of social workers (S.34):
1998: 28.50
2007: 40.68

CPS Number of psychologists (S.34):
1998: 53.38
2007: 72.85

CPS Number of librarians (S.34):
1998: 76.43
2007: 28.90

CPS Cost per pupil (S.48)*:
2002: $9,983
2007: $12,025

CPS (State) Pupil-to-teacher ratio (S.36):
2000: 13.9 (18.1)
2007: 14.3 (19.6)

CPS Students with disabilities (S.39):
2007: 20.5%

CPS Students with ESL (S.39):
2007: 3.2%

CPS Students on free and reduced lunch (S.39):
2007: 86.49%

CPS Average teacher salary (S.40):
1998: $46,695
2007: $62,760

CPS Attendance rate (S.48):
2002: 91.1%
2007: 94.7%

CPS Graduation rate (S.48):
2002: 60.2%
2007: 77.2%

* Updated: there were three figures for Cost-Per-Pupil - I was unsure of why they were different - so I just picked one.

By "Bodies", Maybe She Meant Young People

I'll start off with this incredible story told by Mark Mallory:

“I stopped at a car wash out in Colerain Township and a woman out there told me that maybe she would come downtown if there weren’t so many bodies piled up in the streets. And I thought she was joking, but she was absolutely serious,” Mallory said. The woman later told him she hadn’t been downtown in 17 years.
First of all, WTF? Second, I really hope that this woman represents a minority of suburbanites and that, while many may not patronize downtown, they do not believe there are bodies piled in the streets. (C), I've got news for you lady, Colerain ain't exactly Shangri-la. Once you get over the fact that you have to drive on this everyday:

Photo by Angel Franco/New York Times

on your way to the highway, realize that as more subsidized housing gets sent out your way, crime will be soon to follow.

(BTW, the picture above, found through Building Cincinnati, is not Colerain Ave. Did you think it was?)

The quote eventually made its way into a story about a new advertising campaign promoting downtown and downtown safety, which also included these stats about downtown in 2007:
  1. $110 million in completed construction and renovations.
  2. $243 million in ongoing projects.
  3. 26 new retail/restaurant/entertainment venues.
  4. Available retail space to a five-year low.
  5. 100+ new and renovated housing units.
  6. 8,000 residents in downtown and its surrounding areas.
  7. 94 percent occupancy rates for apartments.
  8. 8 percent growth over last year in the economic impact of hotel room bookings.
  9. 74 percent of respondents said they felt safe downtown, according to a 2007 DCI survey.
  10. 80 percent of respondents rated downtown as clean.
So, Colerain lady, don't come downtown for another 17 years. We ought to have cleaned up the bodies by then.

It's A Wonderful Light Rail System

In It's A Wonderful Life, George Bailey got to see an alternate world where he had never existed. A couple weeks ago, Kevin Osborne over at CityBeat blogged about the 2002 Metro Moves regional transit plan that overwhelmingly failed at the ballot. He offers a glimpse of what could have been.

In November 2002 voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposed $2.6 billion light rail system for Hamilton County. The measure to increase the county’s sales tax by a half-cent was rejected 68-32 percent.
Perhaps the timing of the issue was not the best, occurring only a few years after the sales tax increase to build the stadiums. But moving on, what's this about streetcars (emphasis mine)?
A little-known aspect of the Metro Moves plan called for implementing a streetcar system downtown and in the uptown area around the University of Cincinnati and area hospitals. That system would’ve become operational in 2006 — two years ago.
Further into the crystal ball, CityKin has posted an email from John Schneider's pro-transit email list along these same lines.
At $126, a barrel of oil now costs $100 more than it cost on November 5, 2002 when Hamilton County voters defeated an extensive plan for transportation choices here. Economists hired to study the plan concluded that it would cost an average Hamilton County family $68 per year, about what I paid for a tank of gas last week.

The plan defeated in 2002 would have built sixty miles of light rail in five corridors: along I-74 to Green Township; I-75 to Tri-County; I-71 to Blue Ash; and a line from Uptown through Hyde Park to Newtown. Another rail line would have enabled Cincinnatians to travel across the county without having to go downtown and transfer. There were two streetcar lines, a 25% increase in the bus fleet, new bus routes and neighborhood hubs and more hours of bus service. When the plan was fully built-out by 2030, 95% of Hamilton County residents would have transit within a mile of their homes. It would be nice to have that option now.
Oh well.

Back in reality, one might figure that the cost of gas will continue to rise, with oil being a finite resource and all. One might also figure that this means a rail system will happen some day - maybe not in our lifetimes, but some day.
With gasoline prices moving ever upward, some urban planners think it’s inevitable that some sort of commuter rail system will be built here someday. If true, the 2002 sales tax defeat only means the completion date is even further off and the total cost will be higher, due to inflation.

Most Entertaining 28 Seconds I've Had Today

Mr. Redlegs falls! Good thing that dude's got all that padding around his head.

via OMGreds.

Software As Art

I firmly believe software is an art. (And the product owners who realize that will be the most successful.) In fact, I hate using the title "software engineer". Besides, programming has never felt like engineering to me, maybe because there's no calculus involved (usually). "Software artisan" is closer, but does not sound any less pretentious. I've even seen "Code Samurai" which gets points for creativity, but not sure if I could call myself that with a straight face. I prefer "developer" if I'm in the company of those who know what that means, and for everyone else, "programmer" will do.

They say that artists will destroy the first 100 pieces that they do. In the same way, many programmers fight the urge to rewrite something they've written, almost immediately after it's completed.

Anyway, I was just reminded of this after coming across "The human programmer."

Maybe programmers are just like the 1950s musicians that lacked ... confidence, snatching desperately for public nobility. Thus far our attempts at title theft have been less successful than theirs, though not for lack of trying (e.g. software developer / architect / engineer). Like musicians, our work requires not only talent but years of practice, and we see ourselves as “different.” The average person cannot walk up to a piano, or a computer keyboard, and produce anything of value. Writers? Throw them in here too, certainly. Are reporters not a little too serious about being called “journalists”? Of course, this line of thought would annoy both of those professions, them being old, established, and respected compared to programming. How pathetic.

Information Overlord

Definitely been feeling the information overload lately. Between keeping up with all the local blogs, the technology blogs, the programming blogs, Facebook updates, LinkedIn updates, Twitter, and of course email, it's like I forget what I was working on in the first place. Lately, I've been trying to put as much into my feed reader as possible, and taking the attitude of, "if it's not in Google Reader, then it doesn't exist."

This has helped, but it's still no good. By the time I finish getting through a round of new content and hit refresh, there's always something even newer that appears. And it doesn't include Facebook updates other than status updates, and it certainly doesn't work with Twitter.

I've been trying out some aggregators, but I haven't fallen in love with any of them yet.

Is anyone else feeling it?

I have to agree with Techcrunch: Web 3.0 will be about reducing the noise. Or put another way, personalization, recommendation, personalization. I don't really know what that means, but I wish someone would start working on it.

Re: Chad Johnson

Sherry Brabham, mother of two sons, 17 and 12, summed it up best in this Paul Daugherty column:

"All of us, at some point, would like to be someplace else," Brabham said. "But there's a process. It's how you do things. Chad wasn't crying when he signed that contract for all those cool millions."

Soapbox Cincinnati

I've paid attention to Soapbox Cincinnati for several weeks now, so it's safe to say that I think it's a great thing. The development and innovation news always have the scoops, and do a great job of summarizing the story in a paragraph or less. (I find myself unable to read more than a paragraph of anything these days. Hmmm.) And the first ever feature story mentioned Zipscene.

But the best part of the whole site are the blogs. Every week, a local guest blogger writes 2-3 posts about the city. The posts vary, but they all share a common trait: optimism.

Some of my favorite blog posts are this very optimistic post, this post focusing on technology as a growth engine, and this tale about a fictional business traveler visiting Cincinnati.

I try to be judicious in cluttering up my sidebar with links, but I've added Soapbox Cincinnati.