30 July 2008

CVG, Delta: Need Some Time Apart?

Four items regarding the CVG airfare situation. Last year it was reported that CVG is the nation's most expensive airport.

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: (via)

Cincinnati, Ohio... remains one of the airline industry's most glaring examples of legacy airline price domination.

If the city would open itself to more low-cost airline service, prices will tumble and remain low with all players holding a tight competition to attract customers.

From the Dayton Business Journal:

The Dayton International Airport saw passenger totals increase by about 3,000 people in June, compared to the same month last year...

Airport director Iftikar Ahmad has attributed airport increases to lower fares than other airports...

And also from the DBJ:

Delta to increase baggage fees.

And from this very blog, about two years ago:

County commissioner Todd Portune and Hamilton County auditor Dusty Rhodes want the county to study the idea of a luxury bus service to take people to the airports in Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis and Louisville.

But the two other county commissioners, Pat DeWine and Phil Heimlich, rejected spending any public money on it, saying it's not for the government to decide.

Cincinnati History Moment: Hog Days of Summer

An excerpt from Frances Trollope's book, The Domestic Manners of the Americans. She emigrated from England to Cincinnati in 1828 and returned back in 1831.

I am sure I should have liked Cincinnati much better if the people had not dealt so very largely in hogs. The immense quantity of business done in this line would hardly be believed by those who had not witnessed it. I never saw a newspaper without remarking such advertisements as the following:

"Wanted, immediately, 4,000 fat hogs"

"For sale, 2,000 barrels of prime pork"

But the annoyance came nearer than this; if I determined upon a walk up Main-street, the chances were five hundred to one against my reaching the shady side without brushing by a snout fresh dripping from the kennel; when we had screwed our courage to the enterprise of mounting a certain noble-looking sugar-loaf hill, that promised pure air and a fine view, we found the brook we had to cross, at its foot, red with the stream from a pig slaughter-house; while our noses, instead of meeting "the thyme that loves the green hill's breast," were greeted by odours that I will not describe, and which I heartily hope my readers cannot imagine; our feet, that on leaving the city had expected to press the flowery sod, literally got entangled in pigs'-tails and jaw bones: and thus the prettiest walk in the neighbourhood was interdicted forever.

(From Cincinnati: The Queen City)

28 July 2008

The WestEnder Sandwich

I like sandwiches. All kinds. In my opinion the sandwich is a highly underrated food item.

I have two basic principles that guide my sandwichery: high quality ingredients and something on the side. Chips, potato salad, soup, pickle, whatever-- I can't eat a sandwich without a sidekick. I've been known to put sandwiches back in the fridge because I didn't have anything to go with it. Yes, it's a little eccentric but why don't you just shut the hell up.

I will now share my current favorite sandwich recipe. To be honest, it takes a while to prepare so in a sense it kind of defeats the purpose of a sandwich but it's worth it.

First, toast the bread. While this is happening, doctor the mayo by adding curry powder and squeezing half a lemon.

Spread the mayo on one slice, dijon mustard on the other. Now go back and add more mayo because chances are you didn't use enough the first time.

1st layer: smoked turkey.
2nd layer: salami.
3rd layer: smoked gouda cheese.
4th layer: one slice of smoked braunschweiger liverwurst.
5th layer: tomato.

Now that I think about it I guess I have a third principle which is that everything is better smoked. By the way, all the ingredients are conveniently available in Findlay Market and yes, the liverwurst is necessary to make this sandwich fully functional. It's also a good source of iron and vitamins A and B-12.

I am going to give the recipe to Silverglade's and ask them to add it to their menu. I will explain that I have so little in my life and if they could grant me this one thing it would mean oh so much.

26 July 2008

Best Financial Advice They Ever Got

Great minds share the best money lessons they ever learned.

I'm not sure they're all great minds (c'mon, Derek Jeter?) but there's some good stuff. I like Robert Schiller's.

I think the best advice I got was to start investing when I was still in college. When you're young you can afford to learn from mistakes. As you get older you have more obligations and more to lose so it's a bad time to start.

And don't get credit card debt. That will kill you. I had a neighbor who took several years to get out of debt. One day she came home from work ecstatic that she was finally out of debt. She wanted to celebrate so we went to Redfish. I orderd the chicken-fried steak and it was awful. Then I got the bread pudding, hoping that would turn things around. It did not.

Eventually I came to understand that Redfish was the southern restaurant for people who didn't want southern food.

25 July 2008

Inaugural Blogger Convention Review

Much thanks to the Mercantile Library for engendering the idea and hosting the event. There were about two dozen of Cincinnati's most important and influential cognoscenti. Fortunately they let me in anyway.

Noted & Observed:

The Mercantile is an impressive entity. They don't have your favorite TV shows on DVD but they do have lots of books for those into the reading thing. And they have two incredible grandfather clocks among their many "art & antiquities" holdings. Odds are they'll get a few new members from last night's event.

The current issue of "Poets & Writers" magazine features a photo of Marilyn Monroe on the cover sitting in a park and reading Ulysses.

Julie looks good in a dress. You know exactly what I mean. And she accessorizes well with the boyfriend (they're a nice couple, that's what that means). And of course, they went out to eat afterwards and so did everyone within ten feet of them.

Kate has a nice smile so, Kate, maybe it's okay if you laugh at the wrong moments. You can probably get away with it better than the rest :) Also there was consensus that she had nice shoes.

Matt is a talker! But he's a lot of fun and he can say things about your mother in several languages so this is definitely a guy to have at the party.

Mr. 5chw4r7z forwarded a secret tip to fix hard drives: take it out, freeze it, and then put it back in and see if it works. I've never heard that and I think he might be confusing it with some questionable sexual advice.

I had a delicious "Bourbonzola" burger at Rock Bottom afterwards. When I got home I wanted another one. And a pint.

Speaking of pints, somebody at the table had too many and came up with the idea of going to the Horseshit Creation Museum. I think the rest of us had too many because it seemed like a good idea. Holy crap.

Summation: good event, good time, good new friends. Hope to do it again soon.

23 July 2008

The Leis-Streicher Budget Solution

Si Leis, the power-mad sheriff who thinks only other people are crybabies when they complain, apparently has an easy plan to solve his budget woes.

If you drive on I-71 then you've seen it. Almost every few miles there is a police vehicle aiming a radar gun. Unlike other departments that actually have to deal with less funding, the sheriff can go out and pull over motorists when his pockets are a bit too light for his taste.

And Leis has the gall to threaten to remove courthouse security while at the same time complain about not having money for "the Harvest Home Parade, an annual event in Cheviot for which Leis rolls out all of the tools in his arsenal. Last year's parade featured two helicopters, a tank, a patrol boat and more than a dozen trucks, vans, Hummers and buses."

This bozo is little more than a weaponized adolescent with a trust fund, which, now that I think about it, is kinda what many Americans seem to like in their elected officials.

Anyway, check your tags and watch your speed as you approach (heading northbound) the Madison Rd. overpass, the Smith/Edwards exit and the Red Bank exit.

22 July 2008

Bad Breath, Musical Dissonance and Human Health

The Freshmaker!

Israeli biotech firm Exalenz has just received FDA approval for phase III testing of its "BreathID System." This device diagnoses liver and GI disease by testing-- you guessed it-- breath.

It tests the ratio of C-13 to C-12. I don't know how that works but apparently it does. And 4 out of 5 dentists agree that sitting in a chair and breathing for an hour is better than having a piece of your liver taken out. The fifth dentist is an Arab.

Molto Mutations

This guy (also a Jew but I swear it's just coincidence) was in real danger of the "too much free time" label but then it worked out:

Using data collected from a study of protein expression in colon cancer, Alterovitz analyzed more than three thousand related proteins involved in the disease. He whittled down the thousands of proteins to four key networks, using various genetic databases that catalog relationships between genes and proteins. He then assigned a note to each network, and together, these notes formed a harmonic chord. He compared the "music" of normal, healthy human data sets to that of the colon-cancer samples and found that, according to his model, colon cancer sounded "inharmonious."

19 July 2008

WLW: McCain is a Muslim

Heard Friday morning on WLW:

John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live are afraid to lampoon the presidential candidates because they're afraid of being labeled anti-Muslim.

There you go. WLW thinks McCain is Muslim.

17 July 2008

Demolishing a Building Without Demolition

You'll appreciate this if you're a tech geek. Video of a new razing technique from Japan:

The support pillars on the bottom floor are replaced with jacks which are then lowered, bringing the building down by one level. Then the process is repeated, floor by floor, until the whole thing comes down.

16 July 2008

Grilled Chicken the Semi-Homemade Way

I hope the title is worth a chuckle to some of you. You know who you are.

Fortunately I am not going to tell you how to make grilled chicken with astronaut food and a slow cooker like Sandra Dee would. Or Sandra Lee, whatever. This actually works:

You will need:

Chicken breasts or thighs, whatever you like
Thai green or red curry paste ($1 per can at Saigon Market)
Plain yogurt

Put some yogurt in a container.
Squeeze 1 lime per chicken piece into the yogurt.
Spoon 2 tsp of the curry paste per chicken piece into the yogurt.
Mix it up.
Now prick the chicken all over with a fork.
Put the chicken pieces into the container and coat with the marinade.
Refrigerate overnight.

That's it. You're done. Come back tomorrow and cook it. It will take longer to cook it than to prepare it.

It's mildly spicy. If you want it spicier, mash up some chilies into a paste and mix that into the yogurt, too.

Prisons and Mental Illness

This post yesterday at the Cincinnati Blog called attention to the serious problem of using prisons as de facto holding facilities for the mentally ill. It also pointed out Peter Bronson's intractable commitment to hypocrisy and ignorance but that can hardly be considered a revelation at this point.

By total coincidence, I came across this short film (about 6 min.) made by Ohio University student Jenn Ackerman:

Trapped: Mental Illness in America's Prisons

Ackerman was granted access to the Kentucky State Reformatory. She didn't have the funds to do a 60-min Frontline documentary but the film does provide insight into a flawed system. Worth a look if you're interested in the issue.

She answered some questions about making the film on her blog.

15 July 2008

Why It's Hard to Say Goodbye

Research investigates the question of why some people never seem to be able to let go and move on:

...why do some people have so much trouble letting go of their grief? In an ironic twist, new research shows that the brain's pleasure center may be to blame.

Most people, when confronted with the death of a loved one, mourn intensely for a few weeks or months and then gradually manage to move on. A small percentage, however, become debilitated by the loss and can't resume their normal lives; they experience what psychologists call complicated grief.

The findings could mean that the brains of women with complicated grief have not properly adjusted to the fact that their loved ones are gone, O'Connor speculates. When humans become attached to someone, they derive pleasure from the attachment, and their nucleus accumbens activate, she notes. And because that area is also active when women with complicated grief see reminders of a dead relative, it may signal that these women have a harder time accepting the death of a loved one than noncomplicated grievers do.

Obama in da 'Nati

First of all, I can't believe I saw only one familiar face. And she was going into McCormick's to drink and watch the speech on TV and DIDN'T EVEN INVITE ME. What the hell did I shave for?

The Square was packed. A mix of ages, races, and ethnicities. The energy was palpable. I estimate the crowd at about 25,000 (I have a method).

I saw one man with a Clinton t-shirt. I saw one young woman with a t-shirt that said "I'm here, what are your other 2 wishes?"

Other shirts in force: Wulsin, Driehaus, Obama.

Victoria Wulsin spoke very well, which was nice to see. In the past it hasn't been her forte.

On the way back home I passed a young brotha who had his pants fastened halfway up his thigh. That's the lowest I've seen, about 6 inches from being socks with pockets.

Oh yeah, Obama... he said a bunch of stuff people liked. To be honest, I didn't pay much attention. Did I miss anything? I doubt it. Prove that I did and I'll buy you lunch.

14 July 2008

Ohio Still Has an Oil & Gas Lobby

When you think of the oil & gas lobby you probably think of Texas, Louisiana and Alaska. You probably don't think of Ohio unless you read my post last December, Ohio Has an Oil & Gas Lobby?

It sure does. And last week's Columbus Business First paper reported that it's still trying to get legislators to approve drilling on state parks, state forests, and state nature preserves.

Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, comprehensively summed up the energy situation by insightfully noting "the whole energy thing is getting spooky," adding "I'm shocked by it."

Pardon my snark but I think everyone on the planet who doesn't work in the oil & gas industry and/or listen to the petulant bloviating of a certain overweight, impotent drug addict knows that drilling on state lands will do zip for energy prices. What it will do is help the oil & gas industry pump out a few more dollars, some of which will end up in legislators' re-election funds and help them keep their jobs.

And so the cycle continues.

If this actually had a snowball's chance then it might be worth considering. But it's just another example of special interest politics. It's far more sensible to position Ohio to capitalize on long-term energy solutions and that requires R&D investment into alternative energy technology. If we don't, it will be yet another thing we export from Asia.

12 July 2008

Ideas for a World-Class City, no. 8

Asphalt Alternatives

There are three problems with asphalt in urban areas:

1) Asphalt has poor reflectivity. It absorbs daytime heat and releases it back into the air. While this may have the benefit of inspiring new dance moves for barefoot people on driveways, it contributes to higher cooling costs and, in places like the Ohio Valley, the higher temperatures translate to worse air quality.

2) Asphalt is non-porous. There is nowhere for rainwater to go except storm drains.

3) Asphalt is a petrochemical product. Asphalt is way down on the list of reasons for high oil prices but any non-petro alternative is a welcome part of the overall attempt to reduce dependence on foreign oil and oil in general.

While looking for information about a related topic I found two companies that provide intriguing alternatives to asphalt paving.

TerraFirm Enterprises
Invisible Structures, Inc.

Both companies make a similar product which is basically a modular plastic grid that covers the ground. The spaces in the grid can be filled with grass or gravel. The result is a porous, reflective surface made out of recycled plastic and earth. ISI has a very good product information video on their site.

As I've opined before, parking lots are a poor use of land where real estate is at a premium (as in the urban core) but in the outlying areas and 'burbs this could be an excellent idea for lots, driveways and side streets.

A possible application downtown might as a replacement material for streets in the business district where traffic doesn't move fast. It's fiscally advantageous because the grid doesn't have to be resurfaced regularly like asphalt (no labor cost, no materials cost, no lane closings). And if the city is crazy enough it can even fill the grid with grass and have streets made of backyard.

Now that's nuts. But hey, why not? It's not like people have sentimentality for asphalt.

10 July 2008

Cincinnati History Moment: Breweries Go Bust

From Timothy J. Holian's Over the Barrel: The Brewing History and Beer Culture of Cincinnati, Volume One: 1800-Prohibition:

The story of the Cincinnati brewing industry is a bittersweet tale. It is at once a chronicle of a fabulous rise to wealth and success by local breweries, under the leadership of the most prominent ethnic group of the community. Yet it is also a regrettable saga of the demise of a local industry, as a result of laws that relatively few people wanted; and-- upon its return after the repeal of Prohibition-- its virtual extinction by national brewers which penetrated the local market and used massive advertising campaigns to win over Cincinnati beer consumers...

Prohibition laws, foisted upon the public by fanatical activists and spineless legislators, wiped out with a single stroke many of the greatest local manufacturing concerns... Less pleasant still is the story of post-Prohibition breweries in Cincinnati and their rapid demise. Regional loyalties were forgotten quickly when nationally prominent brewers targeted the Cincinnati market from the mid-1930s onward... Long-time workers lost jobs, communities were deprived of vital business and tax revenues, and consumers were denied choices at the point of purchase.

Lost on few was the irony that Cincinnati brewery owners-- once poor and of low social standing-- had become some of the most influential economic, social, and even political figures... It was a classic fulfillment of the American dream.

09 July 2008

Baseball Better than Politics for Lefties

Only 10% of humans in the general population are left-handed but among baseball players it is 25%. David A. Peters of the Washington University School of Engineering explains why:

For starters, take seeing the ball.

"A right-handed batter facing a right-handed pitcher actually has to pick up the ball visually as it comes from behind his (the batter's) left shoulder. The left-handed batter facing the right-handed pitcher has the ball coming to him, so he has a much clearer view of pitches."

Then, Peters says, consider the batter's box. After a right-hander connects with a ball, his momentum spins him toward the third-base side and he must regroup to take even his first step toward first base. In contrast, the left-hander's momentum carries him directly toward first.

"The left-handed batter has a five-foot advantage over the right-handed batter," says Peters. "And that means the lefty travels the 90 feet to first roughly one-sixth of a second faster than the righty.


08 July 2008

Local Freakonomics

Let me direct your attention to an informative op-ed by Kevin Osborne in the current CityBeat. Excerpts:

Hamilton County's newest Republican Party chairman must think voters have short memories or don't understand county government. Or both.

On his blog last week, GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou dusted off tired old cliches to warn his fellow true believers that the Democrat-controlled Hamilton County Board of Commissioners was going to raise taxes sometime soon.

When it comes to taxes, it was Republicans -- not Democrats -- who pushed two of the last three sales tax increases proposed by elected officials in Hamilton County... The local Republican Party endorsed all three tax proposals.

Let's remind ourselves of some other basic facts.

...Democrats hadn't controlled the commission since a brief four-year period, from 1958 to 1962. For decades before and after, it's been strictly GOP.

In fact, no Democrat has been elected treasurer, recorder or engineer since 1936. A Republican has been prosecutor since 1932. Not counting Pepper and Portune, just four Democrats have been elected to county office in the past 35 years.

What's the Republican stranglehold on county offices given the public? Hamilton County has the second-highest property tax rate among Ohio's 88 counties.

Hamilton County's budget crisis is caused by decades of bad policies that were shaped and pushed by Republicans. Now that tough choices are needed, Triantafilou is acting like a toddler caught by a parent standing over a broken cookie jar, pleading, "I didn't do it."

Given the chairman's dislike for new taxes, we expect a list of proposed cuts from the GOP's elected officials to flood the commissioners' mailboxes starting any day now.

Ha, fat chance. As long as the public keeps lining up at the trough oinking for more of what they like to hear, the GOP will keep feeding them. And yes, the same thing goes for the Dems and their acolytes. But, as Osborne is pointing out, the Dems haven't been the ones in the driver's seat around here.

Cincinnati History Moment: William Henry Harrison

From Cincinnati: The Queen City:

Born on a Virginia plantation, young Harrison came to Fort Washington in 1791. Here he served as commandant and as an aide-de-camp to Gen. Anthony Wayne. In 1795 Harrison married Anna Symmes, daughter of John Cleves Symmes, resigned from the Army and moved to the village of North Bend...

Harrison embarked upon a long and successful political career in 1798 when President John Adams appointed him secretary of the Northwest Territory and subsequently governor of the Indiana Territory. As governor, Harrison worked aggressively to remove Indians through treaties and wars... In 1813, as commander of the Army of the Northwest during the War of 1812, Harrison defeated the Indians and their British allies in the Battle of the Thames. Tecumseh was killed, and the dream of a great Indian confederacy died with him.

During the next two decades, the "Farmer of North Bend" ran for various political offices... He served briefly in the state legislature, House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. During the Jacksonian era, he was forced to accept the comparatively humble office of clerk of court for Hamilton County.

Cincinnati was political headquarters for Harrison's five-year campaign for the presidency... engaging in a campaign which brought a new, carnival-like style to American politics. Although Harrison was manor-born, incumbent president Martin Van Buren's aristocratic affectations allowed Old Tippecanoe to appear the homespun candidate of the common man.

Carnival-like campaigning? An aristocrat passing himself off as the common man? Man, those must have been strange times.

04 July 2008

Happy Birthday, America!

It might be too rainy to celebrate outside and grill burgers but you can do the next best thing and celebrate the glory of two things that made America great, burgers and haikus:

First bite, juice trickles
beef, bacon, swiss, tastes explode
US burgers rock!

Fresh from the butcher,
When almost rare, good moist beef,
Seasoned, stands alone

The most perfect food
And then I add the bacon
A pig improved you

kobe beef burger
i couldn't tell except that
you cost this month's rent

You, you stole my heart.
Hamburger, you’re beautiful.
Not food, you are art.

You once were a cow
Now you are a burger
Tasty little cow

this is McNuggets
i said i want a Big Mac
fix your intercom

I've spent my Independence Day morning watching the maddeningly frustrating Wimbledon coverage. If you've been watching this week then you know how they prioritize coverage:

Williams sisters' matches
Interviews with Williams sisters
Commentary re: Williams sisters
Updates of Williams sisters
Williams sisters matches (replay)
Williams sisters interviews (replay)
More Commentary re: Williams sisters
Williams sisters matches (repeat replay)
Other Wimbledon coverage (time permitting)

It looks like my dream of tennis coverage being overseen by tennis fans instead of 3rd class marketing consultants shall remain unrequited. These are the people who think there's a "t" in "Wimbledon." I curse them.

02 July 2008

Revisiting the Issue of Food Irradiation

Yesterday's Dayton Business Journal reported a lawsuit filed against Kroger by a woman who became sick from E. Coli- contaminated ground beef.

Two points: First, I think this falls under the caveat emptor rule. If you're gonna make burgers then it is your responsibility to make sure you know how to do it right. In this case, one should know that unless you're grinding your own meat, you risk having contaminated beef. A small risk, yes, but small is not zero. The USDA has investigated the matter and put the information on the label of the product. It is neither their job nor Kroger's to send a representative to your house and give you a slide presentation and follow-up quiz to make sure you understand.

Second, it is worth reconsidering the use of pasteurization by irradiation. Food irradiation is NOT dangerous. It is, however, a classic example of science-related public policy being steered by non-scientific special interest groups. Radiation does not make food radioactive. As one person noted, such thinking is analogous to saying that luggage becomes radioactive after being scanned at the airport.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, physician and epidemiologist Dennis Maki wrote:

The efficacy and safety of food irradiation have been established through extensive research, which has demonstrated that irradiation kills or markedly reduces counts of food pathogens without impairing the nutritional value of the food or making it toxic, carcinogenic, or radioactive. Irradiation of food is already approved in the United States for most perishable foods and has been endorsed by the World Health Organization, CDC, FDA, USDA, American Medical Association, and European Commission Scientific Committee on Food. Unfortunately, because of a widespread lack of understanding of the risks and sequelae of foodborne disease and of the effectiveness and safety of irradiation — and because of intense opposition from antinuclear activists and other interest groups — irradiation of food as a public health measure has not yet achieved widespread acceptance.

Furthermore, irradiation is already used in certain circumstances, as Osterholm and Norgan write in this article, also published in the NEJM:

Hospitals and long-term care facilities have used sterilization by irradiation on a limited basis to provide immunocompromised patients with microbiologically safe meals that are more varied and higher in quality than meals prepared with the use of thermal sterilization alone. [NASA] has used irradiation to sterilize astronauts' meals, and this method of sterilization has also been used to provide foods with an extended shelf life to the military and outdoor enthusiasts.

Most healthy adults, like the woman filing the lawsuit, will recover from food-borne illnesses. But certain segments are at increased risk and, to diminish their risk, the scientific evidence suggests that it would be prudent "to recommend irradiated foods, particularly for immunocompromised people, pregnant women, children, and the elderly... and to support the use of irradiated beef in school lunch programs."