Sidewalk Chalk Art

Sidewalk chalk art in Dupont Circle, Wshington DC (Washington, DC) In looking through some files of photos I took during my last trip to Washington, DC I came across this sidewalk chalk artwork.

The location of this beautiful work of art was in the park in the middle of Dupont Circle.

The park is better known for the dozens of chess games that are played continuously on the permanent stone chessboards throughout the grounds.

The artist took a lot of time to develop this colorful cascade of geometric figures; I wonder if the person decided to check the weather forecast before beginning this ephemeral materpiece.

On Cheap Gloves

Cheap brown work gloves, guaranteed to be ignored by my children (Toledo, OH) My children have an annoying habit of swiping the nearest pair of gloves they can find on their way out the door on cold winter mornings.

Unfortunately for me, I often take my gloves off right by the door, and my dear progeny have lost countless pairs of my gloves.

I thus vow to never buy myself a pair of gloves costing more than $2 until my children all leave home. It is nothing but cheap brown or yellow work gloves for me until further notice.

Sure, they are ugly, and they offer less protection from the cold than did my expensive Thermalite gloves, but I figure my fashion-conscious kids would rather freeze than to wear something as uncool as these gloves.


The Joys of Snow Days

View of snowfall in Toledo, Ohio (Toledo, OH) Several inches of snow have already fallen in my neighborhood, adding to the snow that fell over the past week. Many area schools closed, leading to a series of happy exclamations from my children.

Some of my children, that is. Two of my brood attend schools that did not close.

"We didn't even get a two-hour delay," commented my youngest son, dejectedly watching the last additions to the televised closing list before he had to walk out the door at 7:05 am. He atends a school that follows the lead of Toledo Public Schools, which elected to remain open today.

For parents, snow days are a mixed blessing at best. Life goes on for the rest of the world and - while I enjoy spending time with my family - snow days mean a lot of schedule juggling, since few employers join the schools in closing due to the weather.

I am lucky in one sense that I have a flexible schedule, but the University of Toledo rarely closes. The only time I can remember an official closing was on September 11, 2001, when the administration closed the school at noon after the terror attacks. Fortunately, I have no pressing reasons to go out today, and I plan to stay home and catch up on some work amidst the jubilant chaos of my weatherman-loving kids.


Toledo Skylines

(Toledo, OH) What a difference the weather makes. To the left is the Toleod skyline in a photo taken on a sunny day during the fall. The colors of the trees, buildings, and sky are quite vibrant in this image.

This picture was taken from International Park, near the end of the Docks. Unfortunately the O-I Building is not visible in this picture; I am not sure why I decided to leave out one of Toledo's signature skyscrapers when I took this photo.

The next picture was taken last weekend from roughly the same vantage point near the Docks. The weather was dreary, with a light snow falling during my trip along the river.

I was surprised at the difference in the colors of the buildings under the grey January skies. I intuitively knew, of course, that sunlight brings out the colors, but comparing these pictures helps drive that point home.

In the first picture Toledo looks bright and inviting, but the second picture makes the city seem pretty drab.

I'll also have to make a note to myself to bring the wide angle lens downtown some day this spring to catch the whole of Toledo's skyline on a sunny day that will do justice to the subject.

Snow-Covered Pine Tree

(Toledo, OH) The snow on this pine tree in my backyard looks as thick as cake icing today, weighing down the branches in the January chill.

The cold winds, with gusts up to 20 mph, are bringing the wind chill factor down to the single digits today in Northwest Ohio. On my few forays into the blustery cold today, the wind cut right through my clothes.

My daughter left her headlights on at school today, and I had to venture out to give her car a jump start. While the battery only took a few minutes to charge, in that period of time my hands and face became frozen.

I gave her the cables with the admonishment that I am not an emergency roadside service, but I suspect that this will not be the last time my services will be called upon.

Fathers know how this works: "Da-a-a-a-d, can you come get me?" in voices geared to manipulate even the toughest of exteriors.

On Messy Desks and Cluttered Shelves

My extremely messy desk (Toledo, OH) My desks function as both work spaces and as junk collection zones. Pictured at your left is my desk at UT, which - I should add - is the most organized it has been since last summer.

I store important papers in piles until I file them, or until they are no longer important. Books get stacked until they are properly shelved, or until I get around to reading them.

My file cabinets, truth be told, are more like containers of stacked papers.

Cluttered shelves in my office I approach books shelves with good intentions, labeling the shelves with helpful tags like "Middle East History" and "European History" and "Language Dictionaries," but books rarely wind up in the correct place on the shelves.

I think desks and shelves say something about the people that use them, but I am not sure exactly what they say. I like to think mine work areas say "this is a busy person with varied interests," but I fear that my work space says "this guy is disorganized and a slob."

Yet, like all who proudly wear the mantle of "Messy Desk Person," I can almost always find that for which I am looking.


Dude - Where's My 7-Eleven?

(Toledo, OH) At some point in the last few days my neighborhood 7-Eleven disappeared. Every sign, the dumpster, even the gas pumps simply evaporated.

Nothing but an empty building remains of what once was a thriving business.

None of the employees at the remaining Toledo 7-Elevens I called knew the reasons why the store closed. While it is just another piece of commercial property, you do grow a little attached to a place, and the managers and employees were generally a friendly bunch.

Perhaps this store closing is just another mini-commentary on the economic struggles in the middle of the Rust Belt.

Toledo Snowstorm

(Toledo, OH) We are in the middle of a significant snowfall today. Weather reports initially called for 1"-2" of new accumulation, but we have already exceeded those projections in my neighborhood.

My dogs looked outside with some disdain when I opened the door to let them out. They show greater common sense than my 12-year-old, who chose to shovel snow sans gloves and hat.

Temperatures this evening are expected to drop into the single digits, so be sure to bundle up if you live anywhere near me.


Seagulls on the Maumee River

Seagulls resting along the Maumee River (Toledo, OH) I spent a few minutes gazing at these seagulls resting on a section of ice in the Maumee River today. There were at least 200 of the water birds, most of whom were trying to shelter themselves from the bitter winds by tucking their heads under their wings.

Some of the gulls have pinkish legs, while other possess legs more yellow in color. There was also a smattering of dark-colored gulls, and birds with splotches.

These pcitures were taken in International Park, which was almost completely devoid of traffic this afternoon. It is an odd sensation to walk alone in a place that is normally busy.

Seagull resting along the Maumee RIver This gull, sitting on a piece of driftwood, appears to be searching for something to eat in the murky waters of the Maumee.

I suspect that whatever it finds to eat must be pretty unappetizing, but then again - I'm not a seagull.

Seagulls are among the hardiest, resourceful, and intelligent of birds, and have learned to coexist with humans. Some varieties of the Herring gull have even learned simple tool use behavior.


People Used to Live Here

Three Oaks Apartments (Toledo, OH) The efforts by the owners of Westfield Franklin Park mall to expand and compete with newer shopping centers meant the sounding of the death knell for Three Oaks, an apartment complex on Sylvania Avenue.

The apartments were not exactly the height of urban living, and I am not necessarily sad to see them razed. Still, it is odd to see the once-thriving community stand silent in the dead of winter.

The complex has been sealed off by a cyclone fence, probably to keep scavengers from rifling through the buildings for scrap metal. It is evident, though, that people have been entering the units, as boards have been pried off in some spots.

Three Oaks Apartments Some of the balconies still contain items left behind by the residents. This unit has some cookout supplies, children's toys, and furniture strewn about the small balcony.

It's almost as if people had to quickly grab everything and run, as though there were an approaching enemy army or a hurricane that would cause people to flee.

Or like a scene out of some film about a massive plague, like The Omega Man. Wind blew a few pieces of paper around the complex, but there was no one around to pick them up besides me.

And I was on the outside of the fence looking in.


The Moon in First Quarter Phase

(Toledo, OH) The moon, which is currently in the first quarter, was at its zenith during daylight hours today.

I had some trouble getting a decent picture, despite the presence of extra light. My fingers did not seem to want to function in the cold, and after about 40 snapshots with the tripod, I decided to settle for this one. It has decent definition of the craters, but I had to touch it up using the smudge function to get rid of some of the reflection bleeding over into the sky.

If you stare at it long enough, you'll see my lame touch ups.

In this picture I did not use a zoom lens, but instead just used the point-and-click automatic mode. There is less definition of the moon's features, but the colors look more vivid, and there are no annoying smudges.

Sometimes the best photos are the result of nothing more than sheer luck. If you snap long enough, you'll wind up with something worth keeping.

I had more trouble getting a decent picture with the moon during daylight than I have had at night, but the -2 degree windchill outside might have something to do with my photographic ineptitude.

Cumulus Clouds

(Toledo, OH) Although it is too cold today to spend much time being lost in the clouds, I did take a few minutes to look skyward at the passing cumulus clouds.

I sometimes stare at clouds as a method of relaxation. Some people look for shapes in the clouds, but I prefer to left them float by without affixing a label, using their silent passage instead to calm my mind.

I think the end of the day, though, is the best time to look at the clouds, because the setting sun will sometimes combine with the clouds to create some incredible arrays of color beyond the simple blue-and-white hues of the midday clouds.

Toledo Sunrise

Toledo sunrise (Toledo, OH) Despite a lack of sleep last night, I was sufficiently impressed with the brilliance of the morning sun to take a few pictures.

There is something mystical about watching the sun climb from the horizon, something that resonates in our souls. The night has passed, and the first morning rays bring with them glimmers of hope.

Until you hit eastbound I-475 near Jackman Road. That is the beginning of a stretch of road where the blinding morning sun streaks in from the east. When the pavement is wet - like today - it is difficult to see more than 30 feet in front of your car.


History Geeks Win UT College Bowl Again

University of Toledo teams squaring off in a 2007 College Bowl preliminary round

(Toledo, OH) For the second year in a row, members of the History Department at the University of Toledo won the College Bowl runoff.

They will travel to Athens, Ohio in February for the College Bowl Regional Championships.

The team is hoping to give a better showing than its 3-8 record in Region 7 competition last year. In particular, the UT team hopes to avenge a brutal beating suffered at the hands of Michigan State last year, whose captain - Jason Ardanowski - makes Jeopardy's Ken Jennings look like a drooling imbecile.


Light Attendance

(Toledo, OH) A combination of snowfall, post-football blues, and basic slackery led to a light turnout in this University of Toledo class today.

Of the 160 or so students in the class in which I am a graduate assistant, less than a third made it in. Luckily for them this is not a class that takes attendance.

Those who attended also seemed a bit subdued; perhaps they are all Patriots and Saints fans.


Snowfall at Night

(Toledo, OH) I took this picture without a flash during a light snowstorm in Toledo this evening.

The slower shutter speed helped capture some of the ambient light radiating back down off the clouds above. This helped create an image that looks more like sepia tone.

The 1"-2" of snow we are supposed to receive will be the largest snowfall of the season, and Toledo has received slightly over 2" of snow for the entire winter until now. The winter of 2006-2007 may end up with lowest snowfall on record for this area.


Immaculate Conception Church, Toledo

Immaculate Conception Church, Toledo (Toledo, OH) One of the most beautiful old churches in this city - in my opinion - is Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, which is located at the intersection of Broadway, Eastern, and Maumee in Toledo's Old South End.

Built in 1892, Immaculate Conception towers over the surrounding buildings, a relic of a time when neighborhood churches were the center of human activity. The church's neo-gothic style, all the rage in the nineteenth century, is especially evident in the exterior towers and spires.

The church survived an extensive fire in 1920; follow this link to see a picture of the damage in the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's "Images in Time" collection.

Oak Trees and Squirrels

(Toledo, OH) The brilliant blue skies over Northwest Ohio created a colorful backdrop for these oak trees, which look dead against the vibrant hues of the atmosphere above.

I know that my oak neighbors are resting for the winter, but their lifeless-looking frames creak in the winter wind with a forlorn rasp that belies their dormant vivacity.

The oaks stand as wizened markers of the passing of seasons, resolutely refusing to quit but waiting for the return of warm weather. There is an inspirational message about patience and perseverance somewhere in the ability of oak trees to survive hundreds of winters, but my coffee-deprived brain can only think of clichéd, Hallmark-like verses.

Life, however, continues around the sleeping giants, as these particular trees are home to several dozen squirrels. This particular squirrel, safely ensconced in a crook about thirty feet in the air, looked at me with an expression that is equal parts curiosity and amusement.

"What - pray tell, fool - are you doing outside in 19-degree weather without wearing a coat?" the squirrel might have asked of me, were it capable of both speech and inductive reasoning.

I didn't have an answer for this hypothetical question from this member of the family Sciuridae, and I returned to the warmth of my house, enjoying my brief respite from a writing project I have been putting off.


Toledo's Cherry Street Mission

Cherry Street Mission (Toledo, OH) Founded in 1947 the Cherry Street Mission provides shelter, meals, and services to hundreds of Toledo’s homeless men and women. The 52-bed facility for women that the Mission operates is called the Sparrow’s Nest.

The Mission served over 80,000 meals in 2006, and has 110 beds for men.

I have spent quite a few hours in the Mission, interviewing residents and administrators for articles. I am impressed with the dedication of the staff and volunteers, but I cannot help but be discouraged when I see the large numbers of Toledo citizens who struggle to succeed in mainstream America.

Some of the problem, to be sure, can be attributed to the effects of drug addiction, but many homeless people get caught in downward spirals of poverty without the aid of a drug habit. There are larger socioeconomic forces - such as globalization and urban decay, to name two - that affect the lives of simple people who lack the knowledge or skills necessary to thrive in a hyper-capitalist world.>.

Cloudy Day on the Ottawa River

(Toledo, OH) I took this photograph while on the pedestrian near Carlson Library at the University of Toledo, looking westward.

A snow squall was just beginning, temporarily darkening the skies above. Cold winds from the northwest are bringing down the temperature in this part of the country today.

The river has receded from the high waters of the last few weeks, but it is still deeper than normal for this time of year.

Might Be Winter 'Round Here

(Toledo, OH) That strange-looking white stuff, friends, is "snow," and it is a rare commodity in Northwest Ohio this year.

We received perhaps a half-inch of fluffy white snow last night, a little more than a light dusting in a winter season almost devoid of frozen precipitation.

As my son said, though: "There's not even enough to make a decent snowball."


Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge, Toledo The King Bridge connects East Toledo to the rest of the city, and is a fully-functional drawbridge that raises to accommodate freighter traffic on the Maumee River.

Bridge construction began in 1910 and was opened to traffic in 1914 as the Cherry Street Bridge. The bridge was renamed in 1988 and dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Currently in the second phase of a five-year rehabilitation project, construction on the King Bridge is scheduled to be completed in June 2007.

The city of Toledo estimates that nearly 40,000 vehicles and 100-150 pedestrians travel over the bridge each day.

Neighborhood Incident

The sirens seemed awfully close to my house last night, and when I stepped outside to see what was happening, my neighborhood was lit up with the blue-and-red lights of police and emergency vehicles.

Five patrol cars, one of those unmarked special tactics squads, a fire engine, and an ambulance converged at the house of one of my neighbors. Police with shotguns stood outside, talking quietly among themselves.

A neighbor walked up and told me that someone had overdosed on pain medication, and had been stumbling around outside. Perhaps the 911 caller thought the over-medicated person was a threat, or perhaps there was something said to indicate the person might bring harm to himself.

I realized as I stood there with my camera that my neighbors thought I was a member of the media (which, of course, I am), and that was the reason they shied away. I wanted to say something like: "No, I'm not one of those media people."

But there I was standing with a camera and a tripod, taking pictures of a mini-drama in West Toledo.

It's a lot easier to report about a tragedy when it does not involve people you know.


Cold January Sun

Cold January sun through oak trees (Toledo, OH) After almost five days of clouds and rain, the sun reappeared in Northwest Ohio today. Temperatures are quite cold, with a high expected to reach only 25 degrees, and a low tonight around 14 degrees.

Winter has finally arrived in the area after at least a one-month delay. My fingers were numb this morning when I stopped to add some air to a troublesome tire on my car.

Still, the sun shining through my windows brings a bit of warmth, and there is little doubt that my mood noticeably improves when skies are clear.

Tucker Hall, University of Toledo

(Toledo, OH) To the left is Tucker Hall, a building that houses the History department of the University of Toledo.

The building - as well as its next-door neighbor Scott Hall - used to serve as faculty housing many decades ago. The basement of these buildings was once a garage in which professors could park their cars, but this area now contains the offices of graduate assistants and a computer lab.

Part of Tucker Hall was also used to accommodate the Catherine S. Eberly Center for Women, which advocates for women’s equity in education, work, and health.


Another Rainy Day

Puddle in Toledo lawn (Toledo, OH) The promised cold snap has not yet hit Northwest Ohio, and it continues to rain here for the fourth straight day.

The low-lying portions of my 0.32 acres are a bit flooded today, as the ground will only absord so much moisture.

It's a good to catch up on some reading and writing.


Sacked Out

(Toledo, OH) My Westie mix Candy has the right idea on a dreary Sunday afternoon. I took this picture with her lying on my chest, holding the camera over my head.

This dog likes to climb on top of you, as if she were a housecat. This is quite a contrast to my Sheltie Jimmy, who is much less inclined to invade your space.

Looking Out My Back Door

(Toledo, OH) Or, more precisely, looking out one of the second-story windows of my house onto the trees in my yard.

The rain of the past few days will be changing over to snow tonight, but the falling temperatures have frozen the branches on my trees. It looks like Northwest Ohio will be finally getting a dose of winter after several months that have looked more like spring.


Toledo Hospital's Renaissance Project

(Toledo, OH) I took a quick picture of the ongoing construction at Toledo Hospital the other day.

When the project is completed, the hospital campus will feature a new bed tower with private patient rooms, separate entrances for The Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children’s Hospital, and a long-overdue boulevard that will provide access to the city’s interstate highway loop via I-475.

As anyone who has had to navigate the current road maze near the Colony can attest, the connections to the freeway will make Toledo Hospital much more accessible.


A Trip to the Canine Beauty Parlor

Westie mix (Toledo, OH) I have never owned a dog that needed much in the way of grooming before, as all of my previous dogs were of the short-haired variety. Moreover, most were of the rough-and-tumble outdoor sort, for whom a trip to the beauty parlor might seem, well, a bit too foo-fooey.

To the left is Candy, our Westie mix, just prior to visiting the doggie salon at PetCo. Her hair was so long that you could hardly see her face, and it hung down in raggedy patches all over. She was beginning to look more like a small sheepdog than a Westie.

This is the new-and-improved Candy, who sat still long enough for me to snap a slightly blurry picture. She was overjoyed to see me when I came back to get her after her "session," as she has not been away from the family since we adopted her in October.

There is still hope for her as a roughneck, though. Within seconds of leaving the salon, she was digging to get at the pink bows that the foo-fooey stylists added on. She may be a smaller dog, and she might be a lady, but there is no way Candy will allow herself to sink to the level of show dog.

True to form, she stomped in the puddles on the way out of the store. For five minutes, at least, she was a supermodel; still, we love her just the way she already is.


O-I Building: Toledo, Ohio

The fate of One SeaGate (locally known as the O-I Building) is uncertain; the building's owner announced last summer that there is a strong possibility the Toledo landmark might go into foreclosure. Owens-Illinois, the building's biggest tenant, moved to a $20 million facility in Perrysburg's Levis Development Park.

Toledo mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced in October that a total of six companies have committed to either stay downtown or move downtown. This was supposed to include four companies signing new leases in the O-I building - three law firms and a computer software company.

The building, which opened for business in 1981, is Toledo’s tallest skyscraper. It is 411 feet tall, and has a real estate valuation of more than $45.5 million. The shuttering of the O-I building gave Toledo its second vacant "signature" building; the 30-story Fiberglas Tower, which once housed Owens-Corning, is the other glaring real estate void on the Toledo skyline.

Looking to relocate your corporate headquarters? Toledo would love to have you, and we could certainly use the jobs.


High Level Bridge: Toledo, OH

High Level Bridge, Toledo Ohio(Toledo, OH) I drove to downtown Toledo to take some pictures of the High Level Bridge, which connects East Toledo to the rest of the city by spanning the Maumee River.

The formal name of this span is the Anthony Wayne Suspension Bridge, but no one besides a few local engineers refers to the bridge by that name. This gravity-anchored bridge was built in 1931 by John A. Roebling's Sons Company, was designed by Waddell and Hardesty, and it spans 3,215 in length.

From Ottawa Street the High Level Bridge rises majestically above the Maumee River, and remains one of Toledo's most important visual landmarks. A jogger ran along the edge of the well-manicured Owens-Corning property, less than a hundred yards but seemingly worlds away from life under the High Level.

Under the bridge, though, there are different views to be seen, not all of which city leaders might want broadcasted. Still, this is a small slice of life in the middle of the Rust Belt, and I ambled through this blighted world on a cold December morning, finding myself alone along the riverbank.


The Flooding Ottawa River

Ottawa RiverLeft: Ottawa River, Toledo Ohio

(Toledo, OH) When I drove past Ottawa Park Monday evening, the Ottawa River had completely flooded the lower ground. The footbridge was all but invisible, with only the top of the handrail visible.

The waters have receded today, although they are still above their normal levels. Massive sections of tree trunks were strewn along the banks, and one particularly large tree was wedged under the bridge.

Ottawa River The water rushed through the park with an audible roar; the Ottawa, a normally placid river, is still a raging torrent of boiling water even though its level is falling. Being caught in its rapids or undertows would be dangerous today.

Workers were busy in the park this morning, picking up debris and marking off dangerous areas with yellow caution tape. The floodplain of the river in Ottawa Park is also part of the golf course, and the warm weather is sure to bring out the duffers in the next few days.

For the park's waterfowl, today was just another day of doing whatever it is that ducks do all day.

These Mallards were swimming in the park pond, seemingly unaware of the damage wrought along the Ottawa River. Shouts from a group of nearby kids caused them to take flight, wings flapping over my head like helicopter blades.

City parks are like oases in the middle of urban sprawl, places where weary travelers can drink from the refreshing spiritual waters to quench their thirst for nature.

It's too bad the water itself is not fit to drink, but that is another story altogether.