Tagged: Columbus

Not thirty yet

So I’m sitting at the Caribou Coffee, here to do some writing and thinking. There’s an incredibly bad guitar singer here with an amp — which never happens. I’m trying to work, but the old man is cranking out bad renditions of the Beatles and the Monkees. (Come on man, pick one and get good at it!)

I am grateful, then, that I at least have my laptop with me so I can listen to my own music. But there’s some terrible problem, and I can’t get the music working! Windows Media Player says it can’t access all of my files, which is bizarre. So I download WinAmp, copy the music to other locations, try Yahoo Radio, reboot multiple times — anything to drown this guy out, but nothing works. It’s a travesty and I can’t think!

Finally, after half an hour of screwing around and NOT writing, I figure out the driver problem, and I crank up the first song that plays: Sedated, by the Ramones. Ahh, sweet blessed peace. I start jamming along, banging my head and really being happy.

And that’s when I notice them. A group of four ‘tweenies, sitting in front of me, giggling. And one of them has a camera phone and is trying to casually hold it over the shoulder so he can video my inspired Ramones performance. The others are dying laughing and trying to discreetly help him point it the right way.

Not wanting to wind up on YouTube, I stop chair-dancing and just stare at the phone intensely. They quit taping me and act like it never happened.

That’s when I turn on the flashlight on my phone, lean over, and take this picture of the little bastards:

Four punks at Caribou

(Perpetrator in blue hoodie.) They immediately melt in mortified embarrassment. Giggling stops, whispering starts. Nobody can stand to look at me after that.

Suck on it, punks. I’m not thirty yet.

“Your rent is 78 months overdue”

I’ve decided that when food rots in the fridge, it’s very psychically damaging. When food goes bad, for me it’s more like a betrayal. I look in there, I see a never-touched bag of salad greens or box of strawberries that one time held such promise — I feel such disappointment, like my children, they desert me. It hurts. It also doesn’t help that we continue to buy these items, thusly compounding my sorrow and anguish. There are two walleye filets in there. The walleye lie there, stillborn, markers of what never would be.

Fortunately we are seeing “eye” to “eye” on other issues — take the Pet Shop Boys, for example. So I happen to think Fundamental (and remix album Fundamentalism!) are some of the best CDs ever released in the last hundred years. I purchased about $100 of import singles through the mail — some new stuff, some old stuff. Arnie liked Flamboyant so much he had to hear it twice! Fundamental is quite the album. The first single was I’m With Stupid, about the love relationship between G. W. Bush and Tony Blair; “No one understands me / where I’m coming from / why would I be with someone who’s obviously so dumb?” The other great lines are “fly across the ocean / just to let you get your way” and “Do we really have a relationship so special in your heart?” Everything on the album is good. Buy it.

In other news, I guess I realize what a computer dork I still am, and I like it. Just today I ran into somebody in the hallway who wanted to know if I still liked IT as much as law, and I wound up teaching her AJAX in a nutshell, and actually got all excited! I also ran across an old 3.2 GB drive and thought I’d put it into my ancient Pentium II Linux beater box, Passaic. (All my hardware is named after Jersey places.) Well it turned out to be the hard drive I used in college, and I found all this awesome Win98 stuff on it. “You last defragmented this drive 2,528 day(s) ago.” It has the NeoPlanet browser installed and I’ve got the horrible “Active Desktop” running now. I’m using the old “baseball” theme with the swinging bat instead of the hourglass. After I upgraded it to IE 6 I was able to run Windows Update. I need to run 25 critical updates and there are 40 more patches!

This is nothing. Last week I also decided to drag the old beloved TRS-80 Model III out of the basement and I found some of the old programs — Android Nim, computer bridge, and even CompuServe, that you had to use with the 300 baud external modem (in ANS or ORIG mode, please). Even ORCH-90 is there. It is so awesome.

Happy Greek again!

Just thought I would inform everyone that The Happy Greek, Columbus’ 2nd-best hummus provider, has again taken the prize for slowest possible hummus sale.  A phone call to that jocular Mediterranean to order the famous food yielded no clue that the order was going to take a record 26 minutes to be prepared.  Allegedly, the hummus is made while you wait.  Oddly, though, when you order it at the dinner table it comes almost immediately.  Why does this restaurant hate its loyal call-ahead customers, who don’t tie up the limited table space or bother the help?

Take the hummus challenge

As you may know, I recently had a few people around for a party and decided it would be a good idea to settle the question: who makes the best hummus in Columbus?  Over twenty people voted and I tabulated the results.  There’s something for everyone.  Go to my Columbus hummus challenge page and see the results.

Boldface names II

Special thanks to Ben and Nathan for another “fabulous” 918 Christmas party.  This year I did not embarrass myself and incur the substantial wrath of Matt Brown; rather, I behaved according to the reasonable person standard and we can all be grateful for that.

I did have the jarring experience of meeting a hair-wax-loving chap called Bill Couch, which was very disturbing, since the other guests were getting us confused.  And I thought I was so original.  So I talked to him and told him that he would have to change both his first and last names for party purposes, which he agreed to do: he said, “Tell you what, you can have Bill, I’ll take BC3.”  Whereupon, poooof! my head exploded, because of course, I invented BC3.  I almost slapped him, but he was straight, and that would only deepen the divide.  So I just sort of walked away and bitterly complained to everyone else.

In other news, I now have a new pet.  My cat enjoys dusting under my bed with his body, drinking out of the toilet, and, inexplicably, soft-sided luggage.  Yes, I actually got his favorite suitcase out and am leaving around the house so he can lie on it.  It’s been an interesting experience so far; I never thought I would be a cat person, but it’s one of those things: when you live in the city, you don’t have a choice.

Finally, I have to suggest for anyone interested in the Supreme Court to check out The Brethren, a book by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong.  OK, it’s real old, but it’s a “tell-all” that discusses events and cases during the first several years of the Burger Supreme Court.  I just ran across it and it’s hard to put down.

…and who NOT to vote for!

Every year, it falls to me to grouse and complain about the abuse of the public trust practiced by certain local candidates who seem to think they own the whole damn road.  I’m not talking about the driving, I’m talking about their signs in the public right-of-way.

This year on May 23rd, I wrote to City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer to complain about violations of the Columbus City Code.  The relevant section of code is 902.02 (a).

902.02 Obstructing sidewalks or streets.
(a) No person, regardless of intent, shall place, deposit, maintain, or use, or cause or permit to be placed, deposited, maintained, or used upon any street, alley, sidewalk, highway, or right-of-way any materials, containers, vending equipment, structures, appliances, furniture, merchandise, bench, stand, sign, or advertising of any kind, or any other similar device or obstruction except as authorized by the transportation administrator, as required by Chapter 903 of the Columbus City Code.

I did get a very nice and considerate voice mail, along with a suggestion to forward my letter to Public Safety Directory Henry Guzman, but neither of these guys has completely solved the problem.

I don’t drive very often, but I did happen to drive down Olentangy to dinner tonight and in a half-mile stretch, I saw signs from five different candidates!  The offenders cluttering the public landscape were:

  • Phill Harmon, unendorsed Republican
  • Mary Jo Hudson, endorsed Democrat
  • Jay Perez, endorsed Democrat
  • Mike Rankin, endorsed Democrat
  • Amy Salerno, endorsed Republican (Ms. Salerno is the winner of this tacky contest, having staked out seven signs on every corner of the intersection of Goodale and Olentangy River Road)

These signs collect all month, blowing all over the street, and then no one takes them down after the election.  Public land belongs to everyone, and is not to be used to one candidate’s personal benefit.  And may I remind my readers of the irony here, three of the above candidates openly violating city law and the public trust are running for judge?

Party and qualifications be damned.  If you put up a sign on public property, you lose my vote.  Let’s have a little dignity and respect for the process.

Winds of change

Last night right after class, I came home and crept into bed.  It was the cap on a very draining week, which is what every week winds up being these days.  I lay there for a few minutes, then got back out and dragged myself into the shower so I could go out to Plank’s and have free pizza courtesy of the Student Bar Association and the Public Interest and Government Law group.  PI-Gov, as they call it, is affectionately known to me as “PIGLaw.”

Aside from the always-jarring experience of venturing into any part of Straightland (is that a real woman? what’s with all the braided leather belts? I paid to be here?), the night was reasonably pleasurable.  We stood around gossiping about people we know, some of whom we’d just been sitting next to in class not an hour before.  Did you know so-and-so pretended to be absent when he was called on in class because he didn’t have the guts to admit he hadn’t done the reading?  Is it true that a certain military figure has dropped out?  Did you make the National Moot Court Team?  And lurking under all these, my favorite obsession: so who’s number one in the class?

Alcohol is always such a great social lubricant, isn’t it?  I didn’t drink because I wanted to sleep when I got home, but I had a good time teasing the woman who has been named the Blonde Tornado.  (Not by me, I hasten to add, and not an unironic choice on the part of the namer, either.)  She teased me about my appalling clothes — T-shirt, jeans, and rubber sandals — then made a sweeping gesture that caused her to dump her own beer onto the very same sandals.  It was even funnier the second time she did that.  She’s a good girl and I do wish her the best.  She’s just so easy to talk to (“it’s my own fault, I shit where I eat”).

Why are we all chasing after this law degree?  Sometimes I see the students as satellites orbiting the decidedly un-Heavenly body that is CULS.  Some of them are in regular, close orbits, passing over the books and the library each week like clockwork.  Others, like that big liar from Con Law, are erratic comets that grow brighter and dimmer with no discernible pattern.  Yet all of us are going to be launched out in a different direction some day — or crash onto the surface.  Why are we doing it?  From this vantage point, it’s hard to envision ever getting out or using this stuff.  Some days it feels like I’m still not a grown-up.  I hate wearing the backpack.  Will wearing the suit and, sadly, the occasional braided leather belt, feel any better?

Buzzings from the hive

I’ve been spending time in Plaza One, whereas I usually work in Plaza Three. Although they are only a couple of hundred feet away, it is another world over there. There are a lot more suits and a lot fewer Indians. I like to think that I’ve time-traveled into the seventies when I go over there. All the executives have pompous nameplates with their title and last name only — “Mr. Slevenly.” They sit in these little rooms with glass front doors and a secretary guarding them. Sometimes the secretary’s nameplate will only have her first name on it. It’s so weird.

Elevator ettiquette is odd. It is all about chivalry over there, to the point where a man in the front of the elevator will usually manuever so that a woman in the back of the elevator can get off first. I have seen men, in an attempt not to exit first, actually block the woman’s path and make it harder for her to squeeze by. The other odd part of chivalry, which is like reverse-age-chivalry, is that I get those kindly smiles from older women all the time — you know, the kind that say, What a nice young man you are. (The cattle here in Plaza Three don’t do that, probably because I shove past them on my way out of the elevator.)

Also, because they are so much stodgier, Plaza One people make the corniest of elevator jokes. If you carry food on the elevator, you are bound to get someone looking over at you with exaggerated eyes saying, “Mmmmmm! That looks gooooood! Hey, Bob, don’t you think this guy should give us some of his rutabaga?” or “What a nice guy! Turnips are my favorite! Thank you!!!”  You could walk onto the elevator carrying a steaming bag of horse shit and they would say, “You bring enough for everyone???”

My dad warned me about these people, but I didn’t listen.

What’s wrong with people? II

A word of caution about the Happy Greek. A couple months ago, I got home late on a Sunday night and wanted to buy hummus. Unfortunately, I got to the restaurant about half an hour late, and even though they still had customers in there, the mean woman at the bar yelled at me and told me they were closed. She knew I wanted to buy the hummus! It’s $8.50 a pint! Take my money, please!

Tonight I bought some during dinner for take-away. Not only was I taxed on it, when the waitress brought it out, each pint was only about 2/3 full. Well, at these disgustingly high prices, I just had to send it back. When she came back (it certainly wasn’t her fault) she told me that the owner said it was correct, but he went ahead and added some more anyway.

Excuse me, but at $68 a gallon, you would think I could get the damn containers full, without the attitude and without the tax. I mean, it’s very good, but come on! Anyone else got a horror story?

Recent events and COTA observations

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been over the last several months, I’m still here.  Moving downtown has had the effect of joining the witness protection program.  Add to that the fact that I now have a new Rival brand Crock-Pot Slow Cooker and I couldn’t be more home-bound.  So here’s an update from Bill.

I got a parking ticket last week from the good folks at the City of Columbus Parking Violations Bureau. I realize I’m ruining any future political aspirations by admitting this in such a public forum, but I have to explain how it happened.  The short version of this story is, the meters on the new 670 cap are enforced from 7am until 10pm on Saturdays, except for the fact that they’re not enforced from 4pm to 6pm.  (Logical for a day that doesn’t have a rush hour, isn’t it?) Anyway, I tried to get out of it because I didn’t bother to read the sticker carefully and because the meters just a hundred feet away shut off at six, but it didn’t work and they sent me a nice all-caps letter telling me to pay up.  Oh well — it was my mistake.  Anyway, gentle reader, be careful parking on that bridge.

I have to give a shout out to the good people at the Mozilla Organization.  I got their new Firefox browser and it is really good.  In fact, it is the first web browser since Netscape 2.0 I’ve liked better than Internet Explorer.  It’s based on the old Netscape code, in fact, so it’s nice to come full circle.  They’re pitching it as a good alternative to the security nightmare that is Internet Explorer.  Even if you don’t worry about that, though, it’s really fast, and it has tabbed browsing, great keyboard shortcuts, and this wicked cool orange fire logo.  Best of all, Windows SP2 makes it pretty seamless to replace IE with Firefox.  So, click this button, and if you like it, then, all right.
Get Firefox!

I feel compelled to discuss the recent dust-up in the papers about COTA and its last-ditch attempt to save its light rail dreams.  This week, MORPC agreed to help COTA borrow $4 million for an environmental study on the line.  At the same time, the Federal Transit Administration reminded us that its support for the COTA rail plan came with an expiration date, and the support ends soon because COTA never came up with the local matching funds to build the line.

COTA is therefore taking one step forward and one step back.  Some of my friends, and some letter writers in the Dispatch, have suggested that we need to get this sales tax moving so that we can regain federal approval.  Faithful friends and readers of mine will know nobody likes the idea of urban rail transport — or anything that supplements the highway in our cities — more than I do.  But as I’ve been saying for years, COTA’s been so mismanaged that I just can’t support a tax increase until it cleans up its act.  Firing the censured manager Ron Barnes was a great first step, but the agency has a lot more to do to rebuild the public confidence.  How about starting with firing drivers who run red lights?  And fixing the signs that still don’t make sense?  How about a web site that works?  When COTA takes basic steps such as these and improves its existing operations, I’ll be able to push for the tax increase.  Until then, I vote no.

And finally, on a related issue, I believe it’s a mistake for COTA to depend on the sales tax to raise its revenues.  Because a light rail system is a fixed, physical infrastructure improvement, and it does primarily benefit those landowners in the region of the corridor, the economically optimal funding source would be a property tax — say on those landowners within two miles of the route plus all of Downtown.  This undercuts some of the legitimate argument of those who say they would never use the system and shouldn’t have to pay for it.  (However, any decreases in air pollution would benefit the region as a whole, so there should be some way to recover that benefit through a more broad-based tax.)  The other main argument I have with a sales tax is that it is regressive, which means the poor spend the largest share of their income meeting the burden of the tax, and the irony of that is that better transit service benefits the poor more than anyone else.  The sales tax giveth away and taketh back.

The last COTA levy, which was countywide, predictably had its greatest support along the North High Street corridor and lowest support in the low-density south.  The tax increase could have passed comfortably in certain quarters of the city.  COTA should explore a funding mechanism, some kind of special district, that would put the cost on those who would use the service and who demonstrably wanted it the most.

City gets cleaner

I just witnessed Columbus City Council pass ordinance 1095-2004, which bans smoking in all public places. Businesses permitting violations of the law are subject to a $150 fine per offense. It takes effect in 90 days.

I went with Marc, which was quite a thrill, since he seems to know everyone in city government. We sat in the front row of the balcony, where a restless, wheezing, crusty crowd of lovelies wore matching T-shirts reading “KEEP OUR BUTTS INSIDE.” The stagnant environment up there only reinforced my desire for cleaner air.

After what seemed like not too much boring utility stuff, the ordinance came up for discussion. Charleta Tavares was barely two or three minutes into the reading when a man ten feet away from me on the balcony raised his hand. “I have a question!” he yelled. Then he started a shouting match with President Habash. Pretty soon a beefy policeman came by to talk with him. This got rather a lot of my attention, but I think I got the gist of what Tavares was saying.

They added a number of amendments to the proposed ordinance, which were asked for by the Council members, including an exemption for private clubs. Marc and I were a little confused about that, because the ordinance was sold as a worker safety issue, and we thought that was a pretty significant loophole. It turns out this refers to non-profit clubs only.

I can’t bore you with all the details, but I will share some highlights. When Tavares announced that private collections of ashtrays would be allowed in public places, the audience troublemaker, apparently confused, yelled, “This is bullshit!” and “You gonna have to take me out of here!” Which, sadly, the comely policeman had to do.

When Sensenbrenner voted no, he got a weary round of applause from the “butts” people, who knew they were going to lose. When it was announced that the amendment passed five to one, there was a serious cheer from the audience, including yours truly, who couldn’t help jumping to his feet like it was some kind of awesome play.

On the way out, we got into an argument with a guy who had been at the meeting speaking on how the Near East Side was getting short shrift. “Black men get killed a lot more often by guns than smoking, but you don’t hear about that. It’s hypocrisy.” I couldn’t help pointing out that smoking and shooting people are now both illegal. Then he said it was hypocritical that we still allow smoking in private homes. “I agree! Let’s ban that, too!” I taunted. “Bring it on!” (I was embarrassed to have appropriated a John Kerry slogan, but I hear it so often.)

And finally, as we left the building, we marched through a cloud of secondhand smoke spitefully produced by the ordinance’s opponents. Marc cutely began hacking up a storm. Unfortunately, the only retort they could come up with is unprintable here (but George W. Bush used it on the campaign trail in 2000).

As we walked past the man from the Libertarian Party, who did not offer us a bumper sticker, and past the signs reading “Hitler / Stalin / Charleta Tavares”, I couldn’t help getting deep whiffs of the sweet smell of democracy and the sharp scent of common sense. I hope I witnessed lasting history and, if you’ll allow it, felt the healthy winds of change in my city.

(Excitingly, the City’s web site on the ordinance was already updated with the correct vote count by the time I got home.)

COTA fallout

I just read in the Dispatch that COTA has chosen not to go to the November ballot for more money. Ron Barnes is quoted as saying, “Let’s become efficient before we even talk about the levy.” This sounds good, and I’ve already been saying that if I had to vote on it today, I would oppose giving COTA any more money. That really hurts me to say, because I very strongly believe in the cities and in public transportation. But I have little confidence in the management today. They may say they need more money to do a better job, but there are plenty of free things they could be doing and they’re not.

Another letter from a COTA employee criticizing the management appeared this week in the paper also. I’ve been looking for a response to either letter, which I definitely welcome.

Also this week, one of my friends pointed out that not all of the maps were removed from the downtown bus shelters. Some stops, in fact, still have maps from 1998. That’s even worse than no map at all.

I feel bad, because I want this agency to succeed, so I’m uncomfortable being critical, but at the same time, I can’t very well just say that more money will solve everything.

COTA and self-aggrandizement

Sometimes complaining isn’t only fun, it actually could get a little attention. I read a column by a man who had been on a COTA citizens’ advisory committee, who was disillusioned by the closing of the committee, and also by his view of COTA’s apparent perception of itself as an agency that provides useful transportation only to the poor and the disabled, ignoring hundreds of thousands of average people.

So I wrote a letter to the editor in response, and today the Dispatch printed it, at the top of the page, next to a cute little picture of a bus I think they drew just for me! They did only a tiny bit of editing. For my out-of-town readers, here is the edited version:

I couldn’t agree more with Michael Meckler’s recent Forum column in The Dispatch about the failure of the Central Ohio Transit Authority to see the full potential of its service.

In 2000, COTA announced its new Commuter Check program, which let employees receive part of their pay as tax-free transit vouchers. It’s a great deal for employees, employers and COTA. But in four years, COTA has not managed to bring the program to Nationwide, where I work Downtown with 7,000 other employees.

Nationwide, Downtown’s largest employer, told me it was too expensive to participate. COTA should be stepping up and covering some of the cost if that’s what it takes to attract this kind of ridership, but you don’t see this kind of initiative on the part of COTA.

Recently, Nationwide announced it would move 480 suburban employees Downtown. COTA should be at the suburban location every day, forcing bus schedules into the hands of anyone who walks by. This is a golden chance for them to easily target hundreds of new commuters, many of whom will have no idea where to park. The agency should be getting them on board from the very start, and offer anybody moving Downtown free rides for a month.

But COTA doesn’t seem to care about attracting new riders.

  • Most buses seem to carry schedules for a route other than the one you’re on, or no schedules at all.
  • Its Web site, even after a much-trumpeted redesign, is still awkward and hard to use.  Try following its advice and typing “Broad and High” into the trip planner. You’ll get a list of 44 different choices; Broad and High is 11th on the list. And they finally added maps of all routes only recently.
  • They ripped out the maps from all of the Downtown bus stops years ago and replaced them with useless, broken digital displays.

I know that some people, against all odds, do take the initiative to track down maps and schedules, find their bus stop and become regular riders. But it’s too rare. More often, I hear stories like Meckler’s, that he tried to stick with it for years but finally gave up.

COTA is like a cult in reverse: Nobody can come in and everybody leaves.

Baldwin Tower is imploded

Grant Hospital's Baldwin Tower (before implosion)

Grant Hospital’s Baldwin Tower (before implosion)

Even though I hate getting up early at weekends, I decided to drag myself out of bed so I could watch Baldwin Tower be imploded this morning.

My youthful pal A.J. and I biked up to the top story of the giant parking ramp on Capital Street. (It takes up an entire quarter-block and it’s about twelve stories tall. Quite a building itself.) There were about eighty people on the top floor of the garage with us, including two policemen with their cars.

A number of dorks with Yashica cameras showed up and attempted to set up their equipment in varying configurations.

It was a nice day, a little humid, and it was early enough that the sun slanted through the building in a pleasing way. You could see where the glass in certain parts of the stairwell had been cut away—afterward I read these were the floors with the explosives. The antennae on the roof seemed to waver lazily, maybe due to the humidity. I was surprised no one had taken those. Our view was great—because we were northwest of the building and it had been built diagonally to the street, we could see the entire building square on, almost down to the bottom.

Then, at ten seconds after nine, BANG BANG BANG BANG. The glass heaved and flexed, but didn’t seem to shatter. I saw the building turn red very briefly—I don’t know if this was explosives or some trick of the sun—and then it quickly fell into itself. It was like the building were a cereal box being crushed by a giant foot. Left to right, cell by cell, the windows and floors dumped down, down, like a good game of Connect Four when you pull the lever and all the checkers come clattering out the bottom of the game.

A cheer went up from the assembled crowd. The cameramen complained that it didn’t take the twelve seconds they were promised and they’d had no time to prepare. A huge cloud of dust more than twice the height of the building rushed up, nearly enveloping some people who’d somehow sneaked onto the roof of the neighboring building. The cloud slowly drifted north. (More than five minutes later, you could barely see Columbus State from where we were. It was a great deal of dust and who knows what was in it.)

I watched the cloud for some time. I thought about the insurance implications. I thought about how it’s sad to see any building go, even one that was apparently unloved enough to be pulled down.

What is it in human nature that brought all of us there on that early morning? A.J. said I just like destruction, but I’m not sure (I replied I would also come to watch a building get built in twelve seconds). Although there was indeed a cheer from the crowd, I was vaguely discomforted by hearing those bangs and seeing that thing fall on itself. It has been hard to think about any building imploding in a long time. And my conservative nature wants things to stay the same, not to die or to be destroyed. Maybe I needed to stand by and watch destruction in honor of creation itself. It’s futility, but I want there to be permanence in life.

Eventually, the dust dissipated, but I didn’t care to watch it settle completely. We biked down through the garage and headed away.

Now we can breathe

So, they arrested our highway shooter suspect. (I want to say “the sniper,” but I always felt like the sheriffs never really wanted us to use that term. Maybe some opportunist cop will have a book coming out with “highway shooter” in the title.) I personally never worried too much, except for one very recent trip back to the city on I-70. I hope that justice will be served and that we might be able to make some sense of this awful experience.

Now, for the usual round of complaints and cynicism! There was certainly some bad reporting coming out of this thing. In yet another Times slight to Ohio geography, repeated articles stated that I-270 carried 77,000 vehicles a day and “most truckers and suburban commuters must use it.” The traffic count is low; the statement is inaccurate. It makes us look like a piddly little town if we only have 77,000 vehicles on the “must-use” freeway. At least the Times didn’t identify it as “two and a half hours south of Cleveland” the way they referred to New Albany a few years ago.

I’d like to turn my attentions to the father of the alleged shooter. According to the papers, he took guns and ammunition away from his son in the middle of February, but didn’t show them to the police until March 12th. Let’s think about this… Your son is a “paranoid schizophrenic” who told you not to use electrical appliances because they allowed the government to spy on him. His girlfriend believed cameras were in the walls. There were at least 24 shootings, centered on the south side. You live on the south side. You took away four of his guns, for some reason, can’t imagine why that would be, and then you waited a month to tip off the cops? Thanks, dad! I don’t care how much you would want to protect your kid (and he definitely needs help — and will need protection from some of the victims): not sharing this evidence was grossly irresponsible.

In another disturbing story, the Dispatch commented on the fact that McCoy Jr.’s mental illness wouldn’t have prevented him from getting a gun. Not only did he not have a court finding against him, even if he did, Ohio is not one of the 17 states that electronically captures these judgments. The story failed to mention the gun-show loophole, which would have allowed McCoy to buy a used weapon with absolutely no background check. Now, having come through this experience as a community, with weeks and weeks of citizens worrying about being targets, with over four thousand leads coming in on the tip line, you would think we would be a little more interested in protecting ourselves from gun violence. Is it so much to ask that, at a minimum, we try not to give the mentally ill legal ways to buy weapons? I’d like to believe we’ll be a little more cautious in the future. I won’t wish too hard.

And finally, I’ll be checking up on that Wal-Mart from a previous entry, to see if they’re going to resume selling that scary video game, or if they’re still selling, you know, guns.

In other news: in my online poll on whether vacuumed ants can escape, there were three votes for “no,” one vote for “yes,” and one non-countable vote linking to a site recommending to vacuum the ants but to plug the hose afterward. (Sorry, but I can’t plug the hose, so that didn’t answer the question.) However, careful observation of my now only slightly infested kitchen shows that vacuuming was indeed a success.

Updated in 2016: Here is a 2013 news story on the shooter.