Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween...

Trick or Treat is catching on in the UK. We had a few lucky kids frequent our house for an unhealthy share of treats.

Monday, October 30, 2006

In support of COSI

I've added a temporary banner to my page in support of COSI issue 11. I feel this is of great importance to the medium-long term success of Northwest Ohio as a technology corridor.

Every couple of years we hear of some administrator (e.g. superintendents, board members, mayors) getting lambasted on the perceived lack of short term success and brain drain of our population. However, children are raised and educated over decades, not 24 month cycles. To build a creative young and vibrant community, we should continue enriching schools and attractions for children, adolescents, teenagers, and young adults. The benefits from an institution like COSI are not easily quantified and will not see results overnight. Likewise the damage of its removal will not be seen overnight. But it will have serious negative consequences for the following reasons:

1) Loss of a local, highly fun and anticipated, destination for school age children to learn about science.

2) Loss of an excellent tourist destination for families both living in the region and passing through.

3) Moral loss of another downtown Toledo venture

4) Loss of huge prior investments of time and money, getting another science museum opened would require the same large start up costs in dollars and manpower.

5) Additional disused building in downtown Toledo.

6) Positive economic impacts diverted to other science centers such as Ann Arbor, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Fort Wayne.

7) Moral loss to a generation of children who are already seeing large battles about redevelopment of schools and continuous closings of schools.

I won't try and pad out my list to try and get to a magic number 10. These are negative aspects regarding the loss of COSI. What do I see as positive aspects? Some are just the flip side of issues already listed. Here are some more positives:

1) COSI is a good place for families to hang out - it is a safe, fun environment for families of all backgrounds.

2) COSI has value for children - obviously they learn about science in fun ways.

3) COSI has value for adults - they spend time with their children and grand children learning and nurturing.

4) COSI has value for employees - a creative job in a town considered by many to be dull.

5) COSI has value for people who have never even gone through its doors - it improves our economy directly by attracting people to downtown, and indirectly by fostering our next generation of citizens, employees, and entrepreneurs.

I feel I've become somewhat of a science museum aficionado, having seen about a dozen around the US and half dozen in Europe. Most recent was the 10 year old Scientastic in Brussels. It is a nice museum supported 95% by admissions, but too tight on space, located in a dark area underground. I've seen from a customer side, the whole range of science museums; free to the public, to being completely supported by admissions. It is a difficult balance, but an important one. Tipped to much towards independence and you end up with run down facilities and not much great content. Too heavily supported by taxes creates a heavy burden on the community and a place not focused on its customers.

I think $5 year per average homeowner is probably too small an amount for COSI to be asking, but they may be fearful of even this amount getting passed. I don't understand this mentality when I consider community support for some other organizations that are great successes (Zoo, metroparks, museum, libraries). Look at the comparative age of these organizations; COSI is still an infant. I believe we should bring it along for another generation by supporting this levy. Vote yes on Issue 11.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Here is an attempt at a panoramic shot of the main square in Brussels. I'll add a viewer control once I figure out Blogger's rules on javascript...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Fall 06 Roadtrip - Day 6 - Luzern

Today we headed to the Transport Museum in Luzern, which is a very massive museum reminding me of the trains at Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, and parts of the Smithonian in Washington DC.

There are some great features for kids, like free razor scooters to travel around between the buildings, or on this special track to help learn traffic patterns.

There is an outdoor construction yard where they can sort, transport, and build with these resin bricks.

We stayed here about 4 hours, but I think you could spend about 3 days to truly go through and read everything.

Later we walked the streets of the city, visited the Library, browsed some shops, ate some nice foods.

This is a town I could definately see myself coming back to someday.It is very pedestrian friendly, and I've never seen so many bikes and scooters in my life. Check out the vintage bike in this photo...notice the lever brake that pushes directly against the tire.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fall 06 Roadtrip - Day 5 - Luzern

We had a good breakfast at Rotberg, walked some trails, and then were on our way.

It looked like it would be a nice day, so we decided to drive right past Luzern to Alpnaschtadt. This is at the base of Mt Pilatus where you can catch a cogwheel train up to the top. Considering my wife is mildly clausterphobic, and the kids might freak out with the cable cars as well, we decided this train would be the best route. It took about 30 minutes to reach the top, and 4 tickets cost about $130 for the round trip, but the views were amazing.

Later we checked into our hotel, and walked the streets of Luzern, what a beautiful city! Here it is looking down from Pilatus.

Here it is looking back at the mountain a few hours later, overlooking the mill bridge. This bridge has these old paintings in the rafters depecting death coming for various people.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fall 06 Roadtrip - Day 4 - Mulhouse / Basel

Today we got up and moved out of the Luxembourg Hostel. We drove through the Alsace area of France to the city of Mulhouse. This region is where France, Germany, and Switzerland meet, mostly German speaking. I've since found out Mulhouse was a German city before WWII. We visited one of the largest Zoo and botanical gardens in Europe. Check out those exotic north american bison...

For a time I was off the TomTom maps lost in Basel. This was a harrowing experience, because after cutting down a couple of side streets looking for a place to turn around, I found myself in the middle of this pedestranized triangular shaped intersection, with light rail trains coming / going in 3 directions, hundreds of people, bikes, construction workers pointing me to drive in a direction that was even more full of people. Ugh, somehow got turned around and back out of that place.

We were getting hungry, it was getting dark, went to a MacDonalds and they had no cash point, didn't take any form of credit or Euro, and didn't know where we could find a cash point. For the record, it can be very difficult to pay by credit card and to find a cash point/ATM in Switzerland! People knew what we were looking for, just didn't know where to find one. Do people work on a cash basis in this country?

At 7:00 it was dark and we were searching for our hostel. Our GPS took us to an intersection where we should find a small driveway. We followed this up the side of a large hill. We found the parking area we needed, but only a farmhouse nearby, no sign of the castle. After calling Thomas, the hostel keeper, he told us to search around for a small orange lit button. We found this button and it illuminated a path going up the hill through the forest. He assured me it was only 150 stairs and will see me in a little while, but first warned me to not bring too much luggage. Due to Megan's planning we had this night's clothes / supplies already packed into 1 duffel, so we started the ascent. About halfway up, the lights went out. We were in a pretty thick forest at this point, and there was no light. My daughter started flipping out but Megan soothed her with the glow of her mobile phone. The boy and I forged forward to the top of the hill, where we found another glowing orange button. Pushing this lit the way for another 10 minutes, plenty of time for the girls to finish the hike. Now we could see this old fortress, it was so cool! The kids were pretty sure this place was haunted, but they weren't too keen about going back into the forest either. So we entered through these thick, meideval looking doors, climed some more stairs, and were finally greeted by Thomas. He looked like he was in his mid-30's, shaved head, one of those evil looking goatees...but very nice and helpful. He took us up to the 3rd floor for our room. We settled in and made the beds, and then went back down to the dining hall to play some games and have a snack. You can see the scale of the main support timber to the left of Megan in this photo.

Eventually we settled in for bed. For some reason I woke up at about 3AM and walked over to one of the windows. There was not a cloud in the sky and I could see so many stars. I just looked and thought about things until I got too cold and went back to bed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fall 06 Roadtrip - Day 3 - Luxembourg

Here are some pictures from Luxembourg. The day was overcast so I didn't get great photos. Luxembourg was originally built as a fortress city, and has this cool laberinth of caves beneath a section of the city that they call the "casemates". In this picture you can see part of the old fortifications and the entrance to the caves is nearby.

This is a cool bridge near the casemates. The lower bridge connects two parts of the tunnel system.

Cool fountain, the city center is very walkable.

I remember walking through town up this street thinking, boy, I wouldn't want to drive through here. On our way out of the city I ended up having to drive up this hill through the arch...not on purpose ;-) ugh.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fall 06 Roadtrip - Day 2 - Lille France

Woke up and took our time with breakfast. Drove into Lille city centre to have a look around. They have really nice underground parking right in the middle of town, as we later found that many other cities do as well. Rarely do you see ugly above ground parking garages or huge expanses of blacktop surface lots in the old parts of towns.

As it turns out they were having a diwalli festival over a two week span, and really spruced up the main street of town with these huge elephant statues and lots of lights. We had some really nice pastries from a bakery, toured some indian exhibits (ancient arts, pop culture, labor in the textile industry, etc). They had an old open air market inside one of the buildings that had old books, coins, stamps, antiques. I bought an 1968 ed book by JP Sartre.

Eventually our legs got tired (Megan says full bellies) and we trooped back to the car. Next destination, Luxembourg City. Driving was pretty fast and easy on the way to Luxembourg. On the way we stopped this amazing rest area that was two large timberframe pyramids spanning the highway. but getting through the city in the dark with only vague directions was probably a bad idea. I had no clue how the roads emerge from cliffs, onto narrow bridges, and zig zag around in this city. It was amazing at night, and even more amazing the next morning when we could actually see what we drove through.

Fall 06 Roadtrip - Day 1

We set off from Widnes at 6:30am for the white cliffs of Dover. Driving went pretty smoothly, still getting accustomed to my new GPS (Mio p550). Arrived at ferry at 2:30pm including 2 stops along the way. The weather was a little harsh so the ferry bobbed around a little but the kids just thought it was fun.

After I drove off the ferry it was a little disorienting going on round abouts in the a clockwise direction and driving on the right side of the road again...but it soon became comfortable. We set off for our hotel just outside of Lille France, about an hour away. It really strikes me how similar the landscape of France is to northern Ohio. Lots of corn fields and barns, patches of trees and wildflowers, narrow country roads.

One particular corn field has been turned into a technology park, with lots of new office buildings. Here we found one of the coolest hotels I've ever stayed in. You walk in and see a coulple of NICE billiards tables, fooseball, a fully stocked bar, a cafe, plenty of lounge chairs and couches. The place is covered by a translucent roof to keep it bright inside, and all of the rooms look inward towards this atrium. For only 60 euros I got a room with two big beds, kitchenette, real art on the walls, a widescreen TV, and a dolby surround DVD player / music player (complete with subwoofer). This even included breakfast for all 4 of us! Really this apartment / hotel is geared towards young professionals who would come to work at this business park, but worked out perfectly for us.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

long time no blog...

Mailed off my absentee ballot request to good old Lucas County BOE this week. Have been having a great time with my new job and co-workers. Had a major episode of deja-vu on Wednesday. I distinctly remember waking up about 5 years ago and telling Megan that I saw myself surrounded by a bunch of co-workers that I didn't know. Well, now I know them! I saw the exact same windows, desks, and stairway, sitting from a place I've never sat at until that day. So creepy!

In other news, we've spent a lot of time planning out our Fall 06 European road trip. I'll be blogging and posting picks as soon as I can. We'll be covering about 1900 miles in 10 days, including a ferry trip across the channel. I've been talking to the kids about the trip and pointing out some of the countries on the map. Today my daughter brought me her scrap book from our Spring road trip to the Smokies and Orlando. She told me about each picture and told me how much she liked going to all those places. :-)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Weekend log

On Friday evening we had some friends over for some pizza.

Saturday we slept in then drove to Blackpool in the afternoon. It was too windy to make it to the top of tower. It is sort of England's equivalent to Vegas, but with no real comparison...closer resembling Niagra minus the falls.

Sunday we checked out Gulliver's world, which is a smallish sort of theme park about 10 minutes from the house. It is comparible in size to Waldameer in Erie PA. The kids had a blast and it was not crowded at all.