28 August 2008

Ignorance on School Boards, Vol. XXIII

Mason BOE member Jennifer Miller is a good Christian. She knows that challenging young minds to think for themselves could have disastrous consequences, like leading them to think for themselves. She knows that Satan spreads his Muslim homosexual agenda by many means, but among the most insidious is that implacable scourge upon the minds of good folk: award-winning literature.

Board member Jennifer Miller challenged one of the books, The Kite Runner, because she said it includes a rape scene and she questioned how it would be used in class discussions about religion.

"I don't think this book is appropriate for our community," Miller argued, adding it would be irresponsible to add the selection.

Miller said she is concerned about how teachers would lead discussions about religion... she was concerned about questions that could arise concerning whose side God would take in the novel. "I just wonder how Christians are going to be portrayed in that setting,"


So she recommends lowering expectations and avoiding challenging the students in order to safeguard her own religious bias. WTF? If this woman wants to be involved in education it should be in her church's Bible study, not in public schools.

The other BOE members didn't buy her thinly veiled religiosity and overruled her, 4-1.

Streetcar Study: "Economically Worthwhile"

Reported in the Business Courier:

A plan for a four-mile streetcar loop in Cincinnati has been vindicated by University of Cincinnati researcher George Vredeveld and associates, the university said Wednesday.

“The proposed streetcar system is economically worthwhile,” Vredeveld said in a news release.

Vredeveld said [consulting firm] HDR was “in the ballpark” with its average estimate of a $315.8 million economic impact over 35 years, and a conservative estimate of $186.8 million over that period.

And from HDR's publication Trends in Transit Financing: Using Local Funds for Streetcars:

It's difficult for streetcar systems to qualify for Federal Transit Authority funding because the criteria are focused on travel time savings for suburban commuters, not the need for effective downtown circulation. As a result, sponsors increasingly look to alternative methods of financing using local resources.

A startup first-phase streetcar line two to three miles in length (four to six track miles) can be expected to cost between $50 million and $100 million. If the line is strategically located, it may be possible to raise this amount entirely from local resources due to the strong real estate, business, tax generation, cost avoidance/savings and other benefits that can accrue along the line.

Existing property will increase in value, and key destination points will provide more incentive for new development, particularly residential growth. Routing should also access potential redevelopment areas, where urban redevelopment can be unlocked or enhanced through good urban circulation.

The presence of the line can be conservatively anticipated to increase the value of [property within three blocks] by at least 10 percent, even before factoring in new development. The jump in valuation might be two to three times the original cost of the line. Over the course of a decade or more the streetcar could add billions of dollars worth of new development.

From the mixed news dept.: The FTA is reviewing its funding criteria to consider streetcar ("Small Starts") systems but the final rules are probably 3-5 years away. Should Cincy wait a few years for FTA funding or go it alone and start building asap?

26 August 2008

How to Impress (non-acrophobic) Clients

Take them "up" to dinner.

Poverty, Violence and Occam's Razor

This news is no surprise to anyone who reads the science page now and then. Sadly, that rarely includes politicians and the special interests that support them. Much of this could have been prevented if there was a social and political commitment to make decisions based on scientific evidence instead of back-and-forth bickering between liberals and conservatives over social services, taxes and individual responsibility.

After studying the effects of childhood lead exposure for nearly 30 years, a University of Cincinnati researcher has found a positive correlation to violent criminal behavior and a deterioration of brain cells.

"We started the study in 1979 and recruited women who were pregnant or living in areas of Cincinnati that have high incidents of lead poisoning such as Over- the-Rhine, the West End, Avondale and some parts of Price Hill,"

"I've been involved with these kids for three decades and they ask me 'Why can't I hold onto a job? Why can't I maintain a stable domestic relationship?'" Dietrich said. "The argument is over; it's important for society as a whole to clearly put lead on the table as the culprit for problem children in the inner city who have low academic achievement."

The members of the study also had MRIs taken of their brains. With these images, researchers found a loss of brain cells in the part of the brain that affects the central nervous system. The brain cells lost are associated with the part of the brain that controls impulsive behavior, aggression, judgment and emotional regulation...

22 August 2008

Gift for the Person Who Has Everything...

... including hemorrhoids:


Not a suppository...not an ointment...but a new, clinically tested method of treating hemorrhoids with cold therapy. Hemorr-Ice® has a special cooling liquid sealed inside so it acts like an ice pack on your hemorrhoid . Simply apply the chilled inserter for two to five minutes. Hemorr-Ice® shrinks the blood vessels... reduces bleeding... and promotes healing of inflamed tissues. Provides fast relief from pain, itching and bleeding. Safe to use, as often as desired.

You think the post title doesn't make sense but it does. Check the link, it's an online gift shop.

20 August 2008

Foods I Would Recommend to Space Aliens

After reading this post at Wine Me, Dine Me about one foodie's opinion of the 100 foods every omnivore should try, I thought: well, that's fun and definitely a much better way to say "Here's a list of foods that prove I'm cosmopolitan and sophisticated yet still able to relate to the common person."

While I was watching the Olympics at night I thought of a slightly different list. Suppose a space alien came to me and said, "Greetings, earthling. I am [alien's name] and I will be stuck on your planet for approximately one lunar cycle because my spaceship ran out of fuel because the liberals on my planet refuse to allow off-planet drilling. I would like to use the time to research human food. How shall I proceed?"

These are the foods I would recommend to a space alien visitor:

1. caviar
2. chhole
3. biryani
4. spam/potted meat
5. chicken feet
6. flan
7. 'sweetbread'
8. menudo
9. kielbasa w/ onions, sauerkraut & peppers
10. prosciutto
11. yak milk/butter
12. lobster
13. Kobe beef
14. anchovies
15. vegemite
16. scorpion on a stick (acceptable substitute: roasted insects)
17. lutefisk
18. the following fruits when they're not grown on corporate farms: mango, guava, papaya, passion fruit, pomegranate, banana.

19. Edwardo's [Chicago deep-dish] pizza
20. haggis
21. blood
22. fried turkey
23. BBQ ribs from somewhere below the Mason-Dixon
24. falafel
25. kimchi
26. apple pie a la mode
27. a selection of raw milk cheeses

It's an excellent list and sure to please the alien, thereby avoiding the dreaded abduction-probe scenario that has plagued so many of our small town brethren.

Unfortunately, the primo caviar isn't legal anymore because they killed too many sturgeons. But who's going to arrest an alien?

18 August 2008

Weekend in Cleveland

Disclaimer: reading this post is probably a waste of your time.

I've never been to Cleveland until this weekend when I went up for a friend's wedding. It was a catholic ceremony but get this: the chapel (a) had comfortable chairs instead of pews, (b) was air conditioned, and (c) was bright. Moreover, the ceremony was only 30 minutes.

So if you want a Catholic ceremony without the... you know, Catholicism, do it at John Carroll University (sort of a Xavier on steroids).

After the ceremony we went to Sammy's which is in the gi-normous Legacy Mall (sort of a Newport on the Levee on steroids). The reception was nice and the groom's sister (who was best woman) gave a hilarious yet touching powerpoint presentation/toast.

When we walked into Sammy's I saw some cards for the Saffron Patch restaurant. This was a coincidence since I saw a commercial for it back at the hotel room. I asked my cousin (who lives in Cleveland) about it and she talked about how it's great and she knows the owner and goes there all the time. I have no idea what that means because she's full of shit half the time but I was excited about the appetizers nonetheless: tandoori chicken pieces, tandoori shrimp, and samosas.

Sadly, they sucked. The chicken stood out by being nothing special but the shrimp was terrible and the samosa, which I didn't even finish, was just dough-wrapped mashed potatoes. If you've had samosas, you know they can be a whole lot of spicy goodness. Not this time.

Worse, the bartender apparently mistook the words "vodka tonic" for "tonic tonic." I learned my lesson and subsequently got the wine which was very good. The vodka was Grey Goose which would have also been very good if I got any of it.

The dinner, in stark contrast to the appetizers, was excellent. Featured in the buffet was tandoori lamb chops, a specialty of Saffron Patch. They were delicious and probably the tenderest meat I've ever eaten. I went back three times.

Later that night during the dancing phase, the ghost of Oktoberfest possessed the DJ and he spun up the chicken dance. No idea where that came from but everybody loved it.

Because of a lingering foot injury, I returned to the hotel early along with a few couples who had to put their young 'uns to bed. In the elevator we met an excited woman who was anxious to get back to her room and watch Michael Phelps go for his eighth medal. It was good we ran into her because I thought his final race was Sunday, not Saturday. So I went back, elevated my leg, and watched the historic moment. Great stuff.

If you want to try tandoori lamb chops in Cleveland, go to Saffron Patch. Other than that this post was probably a waste of your time but I warned you, didn't I?

15 August 2008

Zola's: Good Pub Grub

I went to Zola's last week and ordered the cordon bleu burger with fries. What the server brought was a chicken cordon bleu sandwich with fries. This made no sense since she wrote down my order, including how I wanted the burger cooked. Nobody gets a medium-rare chicken!

The mystery was solved when the woman at the table behind us, who got her food at the same time, asked why she got a hamburger with cole slaw when she ordered chicken cordon bleu with cole slaw. So we switched sandwiches, everything was fine and my hungry stomach did not have to wait another ten minutes for my burger.

I've been to Zola's (Covington, MainStrasse) several times now and I can say with confidence that they make juicy and delicious burgers. The fries and slaw are good, too.

They offer several different kinds of burgers. So far the cordon bleu, featuring swiss cheese and a slice of ham, is my favorite. It's a good combo. And it's only $5 on "burger madness" Wednesdays.

I also went to Zola's for lunch one time and ordered the daily special, a steak sandwich. It was delicious. Salty, but delicious.

Zola's isn't fancy; except for three TVs tuned in to ESPN, it's pretty sparse. But the totality of my experience with Zola's indicates that they pay attention to what they're doing in the kitchen. They also have clean bathrooms and the staff is professional and easy on the eyes to boot.

Seen Around Town this Week

1) Two guys in a convertible smart car. They were all smiles, backing up the theory that this is a fun way to get around.

2) A woman riding a unicycle in Clifton.

3) A woman in an obvious drug haze ambling in the middle of Linn St.

12 August 2008

Bob Ney Has Been Living in Cincinnati?

It's true. Bob Ney, a politician so corrupt he actually stood out in a field of corrupt politicians, was transferred to a halfway house in Cincinnati in February.

Ney, a Republican who served six House terms and served the Chillicothe area for about six years , has served nearly a year and a half of his original 2 1/2 years prison sentence. The sentence was reduced after he completed treatment for alcohol problems, and a federal prisons Web site shows Aug. 16 as his release date.

Ney, 54, was transferred in February from the Federal Corrections Institution in Morgantown, W.Va., to Cincinnati for placement in a halfway house as a transition to freedom. Prison authorities have declined to identify the halfway house.

Any Bob Ney sightings out there? On a golf course, perhaps? A bar? A GOP event?

I'll admit it-- there's a part of me (the evil part) that hopes to run into him somewhere.

From the Dept. of Good News, Meat-Eating Division

Mindful of your red meat consumption? Maybe the solution is to drink more red wine:

What hap­pens when red wine meets red meat? If that hap­pens in the stom­ach, wine’s health­ful chem­i­cals may thwart forma­t­ion of harm­ful sub­stances re­leased dur­ing di­ges­tion of fat in the meat, sci­en­tists re­port.

Wine con­cen­trate substan­ti­ally re­duced forma­t­ion of two byprod­ucts of fat di­ges­tion, mal­on­di­alde­hyde and hy­dro­per­ox­ide, which are tox­ic to cells, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

11 August 2008

Olympic Hero of the Day: Jason Lezak

I spent a good part of the weekend watching the Olympics, and it was fantastic. Thank god the Olympics happen every four years because if they didn't I would be stuck watching that other race, the one for President.

It's great to see sports that are rarely, if ever, shown on TV. Water polo, handball, badminton, table tennis, etc. And of course, swimming. Those who missed the men's 4 x 100 medley late last night missed a magic moment:

Lezak, the oldest man on the U.S. swimming team, pulled off one of the great comebacks in Olympic history Monday morning, hitting the wall barely ahead of Bernard in the 400 freestyle relay, a race so fast it actually erased two world records.

Few sporting events live up to the hype -- this one exceeded it. The 32-year-old Lezak was nearly a body length behind Bernard as they made the final turn, but the American hugged the lane rope and stunningly overtook him on the very last stroke.

The race was a huge thrill. The Frenchman was WAY ahead at the beginning of the final lap, and watching Lezak close the gap stroke by stroke was an awesome spectacle. As it turned out, his swim was the fastest of its kind in history, and he couldn't have picked a better time for it.

NBC is still covering the games from the "world revolves around America" mindset, but it's less over-the-top than 2004. And Bob Costas is less of a total dick this time. But the really great thing is that the games are televised on four networks: NBC, MSNBC, USA, and CNBC. There's usually at least one thing worth watching.

07 August 2008

The Brett Favre Lesson

Despite the perseverating babble among the sports punditry, I have not heard one person get to the fundamental issue involved in the Favre situation.

Let's back up. Last year, when Favre called it quits I believed him. He's had a Hall of Fame career, a championship ring, and got to leave the game on his own terms. You can't ask for more than that. And there's only a certain amount of physical punishment a body can take year after year.

But then he gave an interview in which he admitted having no idea what he was going to do from now on. He had no idea how he was going to spend his time. And that's when I figured he'd return to football. I didn't think it would be as a player, but someone who has spent his entire life doing pretty much nothing but football would probably find a way to be around it longer.

So it surprised me that he wants to play but it's no surprise that he needs to keep doing the only thing he knows: football.

And that's the fundamental issue: for most pro athletes, it takes a lifetime of commitment to one thing. When it's over, they have no idea what to do with themselves. It's like going into witness protection: one has to start all over with a new life. Pete Sampras has talked about the problem as well.

It would be great if they could all be like former Bengal Reggie Williams, a Dartmouth grad who served on City Council and is now an exec at Disney. He was prepared for a second life and when the time came, he was ready.

Favre can't play forever. Eventually he'll have to start a second life and the sooner he gets ready for it, the better off he'll be.

Local Execs Still Trying to Buy Government

From the Business Courier:

Three Cincinnati business leaders known for their financial support of Republican candidates and conservative causes are among the largest donors to a new political organization chaired by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Carl Lindner (American Financial), Dick Farmer (Cintas) and Bob Castellini (Reds) have given $800,000 total to the group American Solutions for Winning the Future.

The "solutions:" to defend America and our allies abroad and defeat our enemies, to strengthen and revitalize America’s core values, and to move government into the 21st Century.

Non-B.S. translation: Obama is kicking our ass. If we convince enough people that offshore drilling will lower gas prices they might forget we have no real energy policy and vote for us.

06 August 2008

The Homeless, Panhandling and Redevelopment

A good article in the Pulse on the issue:

Police and business owners agree, the benches along Fourth Street make it an attractive spot for the homeless. Says one businessman, "They're not benches. They're bunkbeds."

...developers have become increasingly savvy in recent years with respect to how they view the homeless.

"Some developers have become more educated over the last few years, and are advocating programs like DCI's intervention worker. That didn't exist several years ago."

...DCI employs a social worker to work with panhandlers and the homeless in an attempt to break their cycles of poverty and get them off the streets for good.

He adds though, that he is concerned by city ordinances that clear paths for development at the expense of low-income or transitional housing.

"I'm concerned about efforts that aren't aimed at reducing poverty, but zone it away and move it around.

Expanding DCI's system with a task force of social workers is surely a better plan than what we are getting with the current network of social service agencies.

About half of homeless individuals are schizophrenic and don't have the basic life skills the rest of us take for granted. They need the psychological equivalent of a parole officer. Once they have someone to hold their hand they can start working, pay rent, etc. and be productive tax-paying citizens.

04 August 2008

Pepper on Griffey

David Pepper gets it right with these comments on his blog:

In the end, much of the frustration came, ironically, from the fact that Griffey physically slowed and repeatedly injured himself over time, while other players in their late 30s seemed to bloom and stay as strong as ever. Well, now we know why! While he was aging naturally like most of us, the others of his caliber were cheating. And I hope Griffey's long-term legacy will be that he achieved greatness the right way.

If the White Sox make the playoffs and the Reds don't, I will be cheering for him to win his first World Series. And I know I won't be alone. He is, after all, a Cincinnatian.

I hope he gets his ring, he deserves one. This probably won't help, though...

Tough Times for Chain Restaurants

From the July 30 Wall St. Journal:

[The bankruptcy filing by Bennigan's and Steak and Ale] is the most extreme sign yet of how midprice, sit-down restaurants are undergoing one of their worst periods in decades...

High ingredient and labor costs are eating into profits, and several years of rapid expansion by bar and grill chains has left a glut of locations in the market. Pressures such as high gasoline prices and dwindling home values have prompted consumers to eat out less often or switch to cheaper fast-food meals.

The venerable chains weren't able to survive in part because their menus and atmosphere failed to set them apart from the pack...

"There's just too many stores in this category... most of these places aren't even that full on a Saturday night." Chains have already started slowing their expansion and shutting locations, and [restaurant consultant] Mr. Paul expects that will accelerate.

This news struck me in light of the announcement of the upcoming Chipotle on Fountain Square. Perhaps this trend favors places like Chipotle, one of the better fast food establishments (or at least it used to be, I haven't been in a while).

Employees of chains might find out the hard way [the Chicago Bennigan's was given only a few hours notice] if places like Max & Erma's, Lone Star Steaks, Olive Garden, etc. start closing around here. Old Country Buffet already filed for bankruptcy this year but plans to restructure and re-open.

02 August 2008

It's Funny Because They Were Serious

I laughed two times this week. The first time was while watching the Today show. The topic was how to have a good doctor-patient relationship. This was the exchange:

Lauer: Your first tip is "don't have a hidden agenda." What do you mean by that?

Guest: It means you should have an agenda, and it should not be hidden.

The second laugh came last night when I woke up to get a drink. I turned on the TV and saw the last segment of "Family Feud" when the family picks two people to go for the mother lode. One question was "Name a tree that streets are named after."

The first one said "eucalyptus." When the second person had her turn, she said the same thing, eucalyptus. I almost fell on the floor.

The #1 answer was "Elm," followed by probably every other kind of tree except eucalyptus.