Columbus is fortunate to be the state capital of the Buckeye State. That means our city not only gets to be home to the Greek Revival-style Ohio Statehouse building, where Abraham Lincoln once spoke, but also the Ohio Statehouse grounds, which provide plenty of green space for downtown workers and residents to enjoy.
The Statehouse grounds occupy an entire city block and include just about every feature you would want in connection with a state capitol building. There is a large plaza that serves as a kind of public forum and is a traditional site for mass protests–there was a large Roe v. Wade protest there recently, for example–but also some beautiful lawns and scenic seating areas that are popular spots for downtown workers to plop down and enjoy lunch on a sunny spring or summer day. You can sit on the wide lawn itself, or on one of the benches near some of the statues, like the classic “These Are My Jewels” piece commemorating Ohioans who served so memorably during the Civil War.
As the photo above reflects, the Statehouse lawns are a beautiful, rich green this time of year, when everything is growing. And when the temperatures climb and the summer heat reaches the “beastly” range, the Statehouse green space offers something that the Columbus Commons doesn’t: lots of mature trees that provide lots of shade.
Who was the greatest motivational speaker of all time? With all due respect to Knute Rockne and Matt Foley, it has to be Shakespeare’s Henry V in the play of the same name. For Henry V gives not one, but two, of the most rousing speeches in the history of the English language as he urges his men forward against the French. And Henry also shows that his eloquence can be employed in furtherance of less martial goals, too.
There is not much of a trace of the rascally, irresponsible, reckless Prince Hal of Henry IV, Parts i and II in the new king we see in Henry V. From the very first scenes, where he quizzes legal experts on Salic law and its impact on his claim to the French throne, Henry V is presented as a smart, careful, sober leader, capable of ferreting out traitors and calmly dealing with ambassadors and envoys, with nary a cup of sack about him. Indeed, his quiet and determined response to the goading and dismissive gift of tennis balls from the French Dauphin shows that he is embarrassed by his former antics and resolved to overcome them. Shakespeare further emphasizes the change in character by having Sir John Falstaff, the rogue who influenced Prince Hal when we first met him, die offstage.
Henry V is a martial play, with lots of action–more than could easily be shown on an Elizabethan stage. Shakespeare solves that dilemma by making liberal use of a narrator, who repeatedly urges the audience members to use their imaginations as the actors portray scenes in the faraway fields of France:
But his speech at the gates of Harfleur is only a hint of Harry’s full motivational gifts, shown as the English prepare for the battle of Agincourt. The English forces have taken Harfleur but are ravaged by illness and lack of food, and we see that the French forces, led by the hopelessly arrogant Dauphin, expect to inflict a crushing defeat. During the pre-dawn hours Henry disguises himself and goes among his men, to learn what his soldiers are thinking, and when they wonder at what the king might be doing, Henry responds: ““I think the king is but a man, as I am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me.” As he moves on, Henry again reflects on the weight of kingship, as his father did before him.
But when the battle nears, and his men wish they had more soldiers, Henry’s blood is up, and he rises to the occasion to deliver his greatest speech of all, which is worth reprinting in full:
Inspired by Henry’s speech, the English go on to inflict a crushing defeat on the French. The French sue for peace, and Henry must discard his martial aspect and woo the French princess, Katharine, who speaks only a little English while Henry speaks only a little French. She is suspicious–remarking that “the tongues of pen are full of deceits”–but a humble, self-deprecating, awkward Henry wins her over, steals a kiss that seals the courtship, and remarks:
As Henry and Kate prepare for marriage, he stands as the ultimate victor, knowing that their child will inherit the throne of both England and France. But when the chorus enters again, it is to let us know that the moment of triumph is fleeting indeed. When we turn next to Henry VI, hard times lay ahead for the English.
The other day the Long-Haired Red Sox Fan asked if I’d like to drive with him to lunch. I agreed, not knowing that I would be experiencing doorless downtown driving as a result.
The LHRSF has a new Ford Bronco that he is quite proud of, and his Ford Bronco, like all of the new Broncos, allows the owner to fully remove the doors–and roof. The Bronco is designed to be an off-road vehicle, and apparently driving around in the Great Outdoors with the doors off is what you are supposed to do to increase the off-roading fun factor. (Perhaps they should call it the “Great Nodoors” in recognition of that.) Of course, we weren’t going to be driving around the rugged landscape in, say, New Mexico, but instead venturing a mile or so through downtown Columbus. Nevertheless, the LHRSF thinks driving around with no doors enhances the fun factor wherever you are. He had removed the doors (he reports that it’s a cinch) and left them in his garage, although he had thoughtfully kept the roof attached.
It’s weird driving around in a vehicle with no doors. You’re totally exposed to the outside, and secured to your ride only by a seat belt. Being exposed might add to the fun when you’re off-roading through the elements, but in the city it basically means anyone can look in and get a full body view of everyone in the car. Until you drive around in a doorless Bronco, you don’t fully appreciate how much privacy is provided by car doors–and just how welcome that privacy is. And, with the asphalt perfectly visible and whizzing by only a few inches from your feet, you’ll never care more about the strength and quality of your seat belt.
We drove about a mile or so, from downtown to the Brewery District, without incident, and when we parked and went to our restaurant, no passerby used the open Bronco as a trash receptacle. Fortunately, we didn’t experience any unexpected cloudbursts. And the doorless ride back was uneventful, too.
I don’t think I would ever buy a vehicle that had a doorless option. I’m just too conventional, and I would always be tortured by thoughts of drivers and passengers being jettisoned from the vehicle and rolling along the roadway. But life is all about trying new things, and now–thanks to the LHRSF–I can say that I’ve driven in a doorless car. Another item on the bucket list has officially been checked.
The Voyager 1 probe, like the crew of the starship Enterprise, has literally gone where no one–or at least no person or machine associated with the planet Earth–has gone before. It is 14.5 billion miles from its home planet, which it left in 1977. Voyager 1 has traveled beyond the orbit of Pluto and is now out in interstellar space. It is so far away that it takes two full days for a message sent by the spacecraft to reach NASA on Earth.
Apparently, things are weird out in the interstellar void, because Voyager 1 has started behaving . . . strangely.
What’s up with Voyager 1? NASA’s project manager for the probe notes that it is 45 years old, which is far beyond its anticipated lifespan, and the interstellar space that Voyager 1 is now traveling through is high radiation territory, which could be messing with the probe’s systems. So maybe Voyager‘s random or impossible data transmissions are just a glitch from an aging machine. But isn’t it curious that Voyager‘s issues came to light at the same time Congress was holding its first, highly publicized hearings into UFOs in decades?
We had some friends over last Saturday night for a raucous evening. Kish bought some flower arrangements for the occasion. Last Sunday, I moved the flowers from the dining room table to the kitchen island, just above the sink, so I can enjoy their pretty colors from my seat at the island, which is my home workspace.
As the days have passed, however, some of the flowers have sadly started to droop and lose their petals, as shown in the photo above. Other flowers, however, seem to be hardier and were still hanging in there. So this morning I decided to conduct some triage on the floral arrangements by carefully removing some of the wilted and dead plants, repositioning others, and emptying their vases of the old water and refilling them with fresh, cool water. The result are shown below.
I’m not sure this will work, but I’m hoping to get a few more days of enjoyment from the flowers before they go into the wastebasket. If that happens, the investment of time in helping some old flowers display their colors for just a short while longer will be worth it.
When you walk around town, you never quite know what you might encounter. On today’s walk I passed by a perfectly good, but nevertheless apparently abandoned, mannequin leg next to the sidewalk. Torso, arms, head, and the other leg were nowhere in sight.
What could explain the presence of a mannequin’s right leg in the ground cover next to a sidewalk in Columbus, Ohio? I’m not creative enough to come up with a plausible scenario, although I suspect that the true back story somehow involves the fact that the leg was found close to a row of High Street taverns. All I can say is that it was weird to see this lonely leg, and wonder how it got there.
If you’re looking for a lost leg, you can find it across the street from the High Beck tavern.
We’re just about at the time of year when American families normally would pile into their Family Truckster, hit the open road, and head west, or east, or south, or north for their magical summer family driving vacation. But in Ohio, and elsewhere, gas prices are continuing to climb–raising the question of whether, this year, the Griswold clans throughout the country will be forced to conclude that they just cannot afford those hours in the car.
That’s the kind of news that makes me glad I walk to work. But the fuel price increases also make you wonder whether many families will be able to afford the classic American driving trip this year. The CBS News article reports that the average American family now pays about $4,800 a year for gas, which is a 70 percent increase from a year ago. How many household budgets can accommodate another 37 percent jump in gas prices, at the same time that costs for food and other staples also are climbing?
At some point that driving trip just becomes unaffordable, and a stay-at-home summer is the only realistic option. That means some American families will miss out on the kids poking and prodding each other in the back seat as the long freeway hours roll by, paying visits to roadside hotels, and seeing cheesy “attractions” like the Corn Palace or Wall Drug. That’s too bad, because it means they will be missing out on a classic American experience and a chance to savor the freedom to roam and see different parts of the country at ground level. As the Griswold clan can attest, those traditional family driving trips can be the stuff of which lasting memories are made.
Our firm had a party tonight at the Columbus Museum of Art. It’s a great venue for a party. We started outside in the garden, where we got to enjoy vistas like that shown in the photo above, then we moved inside for food, drinks and karaoke. Who would have thought that our law firm had so many singers? After midnight the staff had to kick us out.
Downtown Columbus has a lot of good party spots. The Art Museum is one of them.
Several years ago, our office went from the old-fashioned Bunn coffee maker that made entire pots of coffee to Flavia coffee machines that make one cup of joe. The Flavia machines use little packets of coffee, like those pictured above, that you insert into the machine to get your brew. My coffee of choice is the Pike Place roast. It’s a medium roast coffee that Starbuck’s describes as follows: “A smooth, well-rounded blend of Latin American coffees with subtly rich notes of cocoa and toasted nuts, it’s perfect for every day.”
And I do, in fact, drink it every day when I’m in the office. Multiple times every day, in fact.
Yesterday we ran out of the Pike Place, which caused me to experience a momentary flutter of disquiet. Later in the day, the guy who fills our coffee stopped by to refill the supply of our Flavia coffee packets. I was relieved to see him and told him I was sorry I had guzzled so much of the Pike Place. He shook his head sadly and explained that there was no Pike Place to replenish the supply on our floor. He noted that our firm was totally out of the Pike Place, and when he called the warehouse to see why our order of Pike Place wasn’t delivered, he was told that the local warehouse was totally out of it, too. He then put up a hand-lettered sign above the coffee machine to explain the situation in hopes that it would prevent Pike Place drinkers from rioting in the hallways.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things a shortage in one particular coffee packet isn’t the end of the world; I can just shift to Cafe Verona or even (horrors!) decaf in a pinch. (There always seems to be a very ample supply of decaf, doesn’t there?) But the tale of Pike Place coffee packets in one office in one city shows just how precarious the supply chain can be.
Musk’s decision to put a proposed billion-dollar acquisition “on hold” raises a key question: just how many Twitter users are actual, physically existing human beings who might respond to advertising on the social media platform and thus are “monetizable,” and how many are fakes that exist only in a computer, ready to artificially boost tweets and accounts with followings and retweets? And a related, and even more difficult, question is: how do you figure out who is real and who is fake in the Twitter world, where everything is done electronically? Wired has an interesting story about just how tough it is to separate the real from the fake in the Twitterverse, noting that looking at potential indicia of phoniness necessarily involves both subjectivity and uncertainty.
I don’t do Twitter or pay much attention to it because the Twitterverse seems like a strange, mean-spirited place that doesn’t bear much relation to real life as I know it. The kinds of “audit” results reported above raise still more questions about the reality of the Twitter world, and whether those raw numbers about Twitter followers and retweets should be viewed with some healthy, human, non-bot skepticism.
When you live in a downtown space, you inevitably see a lot of steel and concrete. Green spaces are therefore a welcome sight, just to inject a little color variety into the urban landscape. But green spaces also are essential if you hope to encourage people to live downtown, which is an obvious goal of Columbus city planners.
People need green spaces to romp around with their dogs, as a woman in the far distance was doing when I took the picture above, to sit on the grass on a warm, sunny day, eat a carryout or food truck lunch, and just stop for a minute and take in their surroundings. Green spaces can go a long way toward improving the urban dweller’s mood. And, if planning is done well, green spaces also can serve as performance venues, gathering spots, and impressive photo backdrops.
This summer I’m going to be checking out some of the parks and green spaces in the downtown Columbus area. A good starting point is the Columbus Commons, shown above, just south of the Statehouse in the center of downtown. When the Columbus City Center mall failed years ago, city planners could have developed the space into another downtown building. Fortunately, they had the foresight to turn the sprawling property into a park that is bordered by residential and commercial buildings. The wide, deep, and very lush green lawns are beautiful from spring to fall, and they serve as a performance venue for Picnic with the Pops and other concerts, the site for open “workout Wednesday” yoga and exercise groups, and a food truck destination.
Plus–and this is an important point–the vista of the green lawns against the backdrop of the surrounding buildings just looks cool. Columbus Commons is a green space done well.
When I was a kid, it seemed like every visit to the doctor’s office was an occasion for getting some kind of shot. Mom was a fiend for making sure that her kids had every form of inoculation and immunization known to medical science, and she kept careful track of each one on individualized cards that she took to our appointments.
Smallpox, polio, MMR — all were reason enough for a Webner kid to have to drop drawers and Fruit of the Looms and get stuck in the butt by the needle-wielding family doctor. Often, the shots were accompanied by the kind of brook-no-argument statement that only mothers can plausibly deliver. My favorite bit of motherly injection-rationalizing wisdom came when I got my first tetanus shot: “You don’t want to get bitten by a rabid dog and get lockjaw, do you?” It was phrased as a question, but it clearly wasn’t an honest inquiry that you could answer in the negative. I didn’t know exactly what “lockjaw” was, but it sure sounded bad–and if Mom thought I needed to get the shot to prevent it, that was good enough for me.
Then I reached adulthood, and the frequency of shots abated. I’m sure I received some stabs, but for the most part my 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s seemed to be largely needle-free. But when the calendar told the doctor I had hit 60, the syringe impalements resumed with a childhood-like frequency. Flu shots, multiple COVID shots, and pneumonia shots have all come my way in recent years, and today my doctor–who uses reason rather than the flat assertions of a decisive mother–strongly suggested that I should get another COVID booster, scheduled me for a shingles shot, and told me that when the autumn appointment rolls around it will be time for another tetanus shot, just in case I encounter a rabid coyote or scrape my hand on a rusty nail and need that protection against the dreaded lockjaw.
Somewhere, I am sure that my mother nodded approvingly.
So, I’m back to assuming the pincushion perspective on medical appointments. The only difference, for which I am supremely grateful, is that i have enough muscle tissue in my upper arm to allow the shots to be administered to a less embarrassing location.
“This is a character-based person, an entity that lives with you,” said Dor Skuler, Intuition’s chief executive and co-founder. “People who use ElliQ expect her to remember conversations, they expect her to hold context … to deal with the hard times and celebrate the great times. These are the things I think we’re on the frontier of.”
is humanity on the verge of a future where lonely humans find comfort in interaction with machines? Some would argue that that future is already here, with computers serving as the anti-isolation device, and that our increasing acclimation to smartphones, other smart devices, computers, and other electronica has created fertile ground for acceptance of robot companions. It’s an interesting question. Many elderly people who aren’t house-bound could increase their interaction with other humans by joining clubs, or churches, or support groups. If they don’t do that, will they respond to a robot? Or is a device like ElliQ a little easier, and less threatening, than putting yourself out there in a conscious effort to make friends? Could ElliQ and similar devices have the effect of promoting less human contact?
We’ll have to see about that, but I will say that the Post article’s description of ElliQ’s conversational gambits makes the device seem like a bit of a nag. If I’ve got to have a robot companion one of these days, I’d rather have one like Bender from Futurama. I suspect that Bender’s raucous approach to life would be a lot more likely to get me out and about.
The commercial market, however, is a different story. In particular, ground-floor retail space seems to be abundant, with lots of apparent vacancies. And the commercial market also features some “white elephant”-type properties, like the old bank building right across from the Ohio Statehouse shown in the photo below. It’s in prime territory in the heart of downtown Columbus, but it’s been vacant and for lease for decades. There’s a similar empty bank building a few blocks away on High Street. There’s only so much you can do with an empty bank building, with its columns and vaulted ceilings and other architectural features designed to convey the message that money deposited with the bank will be safe and secure. And the downtown area already features one old bank space that has been converted into a restaurant (Mitchell’s) and another that has been turned into a fine cocktail lounge (the Citizens Trust).
Another problem seems to be a narrowing range of retail businesses that could reasonably expect to succeed in the downtown area. Businesses like shoe stores and department stores and hat shops that once occupied downtown retail space aren’t coming back; the experience of the failed Columbus City Center mall demonstrated that sad reality. And if anything, the shift in shopping patterns to on-line buying makes the market for first-floor retail space in the downtown area even more challenging. Restaurants and bars seem to be doing well, but there aren’t many other retail business models that appear to be well-suited to occupying downtown space.
The disconnect between the thriving downtown residential market and the struggling commercial market raises a central question for Columbus developers who are creating “mixed-use” space: who is going to lease those ground-floor storefronts? Until that question gets answered, we’ll continue to see “for lease” signs in the downtown area.
I frankly don’t get the whole cryptocurrency concept. I don’t understand how it works, or how it can have value. It seems like the most volatile, unpredictable possible investment. And the fact that it is the preferred form of ransomware payment required by computer hackers doesn’t exactly give it a veneer of legitimacy, security, or credibility, either.
The abrupt valuation changes for some of the crypto firms is truly shocking. MarketWatch reports that one cryptocurrency, LUNA, was trading at about $80 in early May, only to fall “nearly to zero.” Another cryptocurrency that had been pegged at one to one with the U.S. dollar fell to as low as six cents. In all, it is estimated that the crypto market lost $400 billion in value over just seven days. Those are sudden and catastrophic losses on the same scale as the stock market crash in 1929. Imagine being one of the people who bought a cryptocurrency at $80, only to see their investment vanish within a week!
The crypto market has had some tough times before, but has rebounded. Will it bounce back this time–or will people begin to wonder whether getting into crypto is just too risky? One of the reasons the American stock market keeps its value, even during difficult economic times like the present, is that millions of American workers have a portion of their paychecks invested in the market through their employers’ 401k plans. That constant infusion of money is a nice little support mechanism that the crypto market just doesn’t have. When the big players decide that it’s time to get out of crypto–as they apparently did this past week–there is no safety net to absorb the shock.