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Archive for December, 2007

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I enjoy self-indulgent games played within every-day activities. For example, collecting rain water off of my shed to use on the garden during the summer months means I have to draw less from the tap. I collect the initial water from the shower (while it’s warming) and use it around the house later in the day. I drop the heat in the house below 60F at night and only heat the bedroom. I find it amusing to see how much less I have to shell out to the utility companies.

For the month of January, I’ll be doing this: Putting $15 from each paycheck into gas for the car. I’ll buy a $45 COTA pass, as well. Total transportation costs for the month will be $75, and I’ll get where I need to within that budget. The goal will to be to have gas left in the car at the end of the month.

Getting to and from work will require the use of the car at least a couple days per week. However, on some days, I’ll be able to take the bus. I’ve charted my work schedule and included bus pick-up and drop-off times. If it’s on the calendar, it’ll be planned for. If it’s not, I tend to say “to hell with it”.

On my days off, most everything I need is within walking distance, but for those trips to the Short North, Campus Gateway, Tuttle Mall (should I have the need to go “malling”) I’ll take the bus. I can even grab the bus to Blockbuster if I don’t feel like walking. I’ll also be charting the extracted costs from the COTA bus pass to determine the investment benefits.

I’ve ordered some books from the library so I’ll get some valuable reading time in, and all I have to do is transfer downtown when it’s time to return them, drop ‘em off, and walk the rest of the way home.

The fact of the matter is that I hate driving. I grew up taking buses, and frankly, prefer it. To this day, I forget where I park the car, because as a bus rider, I only ever had to stand on the corner and wait for it to pick me up and drop me off. The challenge with parking is that I get out of the car and assume a bus-rider mentality. I just walk away from it, forgetting that I’ll have to find it later.

The first bus-to-work day is January 4th. I’ll keep you posted as the month progresses and together, we’ll see just how well I fare.

 

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Columbus Makes the Top Five

Budapest, Ontario, Venice, New Orleans, Columbus. These are the five most memorable trips of 2007 for New York Post writer David Landsel. Columbus finds itself in some pretty good company.

There’s a reason why travel is so great. Never was that so clear as the steamy mid-summer evening spent wandering in Columbus’ German Village.

The name warns of kitsch around the corner, but this actually turns out to be one of the most atmospheric old city neighborhoods in North America. Coastal types pay good money to live in districts that only come close to approaching the charm and scale of this elegant neighborhood crowded with red brick row houses along impossibly well-kept streets.

Mr. Landsel’s comments about German Village, the North Market, Worthington and of course, the Short North in the complete article.

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Re-Cycled, Locally Made

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If you’re interested in spending some of your Christmas money, and prefer to keep those dollars circulating around town, rather than sending them to an overseas venture, consider Octopus Incorporated.

Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or not, Octopus Incorporated offers wool caps that are downright nifty. Just right for cool winter weather, they’re hand made of recycled textiles. The one I bought is made of wool. It’ll keep you warm, or simply keep that bad-hair-day-hair from inhibiting your social interactions. A tiny pocket inside if perfect of stashing your COTA pass and a few bills for that impromptu latte’.

They also have some cool t-shirts and items that’ll help protect your bike. Pure, simple and created in Columbus.

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Christmas Wishes

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One Christmas morning I received a “Lite Bright”. As for fond memories of Christmas, that’s about it. More often than not, Christmas meant standing in the return line on December 26th at either Sears or JCPenney.

My parent’s employers were the two largest retailers at the time and consequently, our gifts came from one of these two places. I recall a lot of ugly sweaters made of synthetic fibers. Boots, scarves, hats and mittens were usually part of the package. No matter how ugly, these things were a must in Minnesota. One year I got a pair of walkie-talkies. Those were pretty cool.

In retrospect, it was all about practicality, and I’d have rather been raised with that than excess. I guess a Lite Bright and walkie-talkies, over a childhood, is damn good.

These days I see kids getting pissed off if they’re not getting a $200 phone or a $2,000 gaming console. Neither, of which, by the way, will be all that helpful during a blizzard. Worse yet, however, are the parents who think that loading their kids with fancy shit is actually going to make them happy. Things like that don’t get returned anymore. They are disposed of and, by late March, are likely in the county land-fill.

And what’s up with, in this day and age, cutting down a tree? Hasn’t anyone provided an environmental impact statement on the detrimental effects of Christmas?

It’s with all this in mind that I use the holidays as a time to remind myself that modesty is more important than materialism. New flannel shirts from the thrift store cost less than a latte’, and an ugly sweater is still a warm sweater! And for lands sake, how about ditching those cards with men riding camels through a snowy desert. Put on a pot of coffee and invite your friends over for some bars. They’ll enjoy the conversation much more than a fake-ass , once-a-year holiday greeting.

Peace!

Grandma’s House…
She’d bake up dozens of Christmas cookies and keep them in tins on the attic stairs, thus keeping them cool, but not frozen.

Say Cheese…
My mother’s insistence that my sister and I sit in front of the fake Christmas tree every year for the same boring picture.

Aunt Eleanor’s…
My aunt lived across the street. We’d usually end up over there on Christmas day, envious of the gifts our cousins received, while listing to my uncle Fritz tell some bull-shit story.

Bondage…
My grandma usually gave us US Savings Bonds. They were the gift that kept on giving. Boring, but very practical. They’d arrive in the mail with a handwritten letter.

White Out…
During winter break, we’d always look forward to a blizzard. We’d bundle up in snowpants and parkas, and head down the street to the white stucco church, where, during wicked snow storms, everything would disappear behind a sheild of white.

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Its unlikely that one web site can fully demonstrate everything about a city. A large, three-dimensional city, with an engaging population, filled with uniqueness, history, and a wide array of just about anything one might want can be difficult to display on the two-dimensional web.

Still, it’s what cities do in an attempt to attract visitors, conventions and tourists. Experience Columbus launched it’s new web site just two days ago.
Big yawn.
Really big yawn.
The content is flat, bland and outside of the logo, has little that makes Columbus appear nothing more than a photo-bank of generic images.

Pictures of people eating dinner – stock photo – anywhere USA
Pictures of fans at a sporting event – stock photo – anywhere USA
Picture of a parade – stock photo – anywhere USA
Picture of a busy shopping street – stock photo – anywhere USA
PIcture of the ballet – stock photo – anywhere USA

Sure, the site highlights some of our local food and attractions, but those kinds of things are available on any visitor’s bureau site. Compare it to most cities CVB (convention and visitors bureau) sites, and you’ll find very similar content. Have a look at Kansas City’s site and you’ll see something VERY similar.

Experience Columbus has added information on multiculturalism with some stats surrounding the city’s demographics, as well as a page for gay and lesbian visitors. Some statistics that might generally be overlooked, but again, nothing all that unique.

The video, “The Streets Where I Live” by Donna Mogavero, as well as the Short North video by TurnHere.com (a California company) are the most unique parts of the site, though they are buried within links (try to find them) when perhaps, these original items could be prominent features. Both are far more engaging than any other part of the site.

Minneapolis’ site has some neat interviews with local trendsetters embedded into their site. That’s engaging and truly says something about the community. Salt Lake’s site has a unique front page that allows a potential visitor to do some virtual exploration. Even Detroit’s site makes an attempt to add “cool” for those having a look-see.

One would think that in a city that thrives on newness, that’s fairly hip and cool, and is the Indie Art Capital of the world, would have something unique to show it’s potential visitors and conventioneers. The fact that the convention center abuts two great neighborhoods is also unique. Most convention centers are built in sterile environs. Ours is not, and that should be celebrated.

Wouldn’t you agree that meeting the people of a city is always more interesting than a sight-seeing tour? For example, Experience Columbus could have a page on YouTube where locals post their own Columbus experiences and link it to their official site. They could even host a competition for the local arts community to create a unique web presence.

To their credit, Experience Columbus stacks up pretty well when it comes to “booking” the city’s convention and hotel space. Good people will always outshine a web site and selling a city is a very competitive, as they’re all trying to capture tourist and convention dollars. Showing potential clients snippets of content is what every other city is doing. Why not do something bold, edgy, memorable, innovative and fresh?

Creating portal is a logical place to start and it shouldn’t just demonstrate how much we’re alike, it should demonstrate our uniqueness and vitality, something that’s desperately missing on the “official” web site for Columbus visitors.

If you’re interested in what other cities are doing, use Google and search for “[city name] CVB” or “Visit [city name]”. The first hit is usually their official visitors site.

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I’ve weighed in on the transit situation on more than one occasion. There have been the discussions on it’s impact on traffic, pollution, land-use and so forth. I’ve been thinking about it again, wishing I could effectively get to and from work using public transit, especially with the weather conditions of the past couple days. Again, when I had to fill the gas tank last night.

A city such as Columbus (and many cities just like Columbus) are going to have a difficult time attracting and retaining population if adequate public transportation is not funded and built. The two largest segments of the US population will find automobile ownership more and more economically difficult, and may find, should Columbus continue to drag its feet in building a viable transit system, that other cities are a better place to hang their hat.

Seniors, who increasingly rely upon fixed incomes and failing pension plans will find that automobile ownership is too costly. Young professionals and the “arts” crowd, who are now faced with dozens of jobs within a life time, will likely feel that spending upwards of 25% of their income on transportation is too big of a price to pay to settle in Columbus.

The fact of the matter is, for the majority of people, owning a car is the price of admission to living in Columbus. Imagine hearing your realtor say this:

“The down-payment on your home will be $22,000. Your monthly mortgage payment will be $1,200. Heating and cooling costs are estimated at $110 per month, and you’ll need an initial $20,000 investment in transportation, plus an additional monthly payment of $200-400 for upkeep for that transportation”.

That’s roughly the difference between a $220,000 home and a $340,000 home. In other words, if you can’t afford a $340,000 home, there’s won’t be much of a future for you here.

Now, imagine your realtor telling you this:

“The down-payment on your home will be $22,000. Your monthly mortgage payment will be $1,200. Heating and cooling costs are estimated at $110 per month. Your transportation costs here will be $50 per month for an all-you-can-ride transit pass”.

These are also the kind of discussion that takes place in boardrooms, as companies look to relocate their offices and their employees.

Which conversation would you rather have?

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