2013 in the Rear View

The year in numbers with 2012 values in parentheses:

  • 0 (5) = Oddment pages posted
  • 6 (8) = Road trips reported
  • 77 (77) = Blog posts
  • 57 (76) = Days on the road
  • 1437 (2254) = Pictures posted — 406 (388) in the blog, 0 (131) in Oddments, and 1031 (1735) in Road Trips

jch_revClearly, I was quite the slacker last year. It didn’t feel like it but there’s the proof. Less of almost everything. Oddments were added in 2004 as a way to post non-road trip stuff. They felt a little redundant from the minute the blog was added in 2011 and I finally stopped doing them in 2013. There would not, apparently, have been many of them anyway since turning them into blog posts sure didn’t make the number of those shoot up. Total blog posts stayed exactly the same with regular weekly posts accounting for 52, reviews accounting for 12, and the remaining 13 coming from road trips and other asynchronous events. The 2011 and 2012 Rear Views contained rants about how crummy blog traffic statistics are. I’ll skip the rant this year and move onto the top five lists.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    A 2012 article on an endangered historic building that ranked number one last year, too. This year’s attention was no doubt due to the building being leveled in April. An article on the demolition, Roadhouse Down, actually came in fourth for 2013 but I’m referencing it here rather than as a list entry.
  2. My Wheels – Chapter 1 1960 J. C. Higgins Flightliner
    In 2013, I started a series of articles on all the vehicles I’ve owned and the first post in the series became the most popular new post of the year.
  3. Route 66 Attractions
    This 2012 review of a GPS based product for tracing Route 66 moved to third after ranking fifth last year.
  4. Ohio’s Revolutionary War Battle
    The popularity of this article on the Battle of Picawey probably comes from mentioning George Rogers Clark, Tecumseh, and the War of 1812 all on the same page.
  5. Chili All Week and It’s Cold, Too.
    A report on eating at a different Cincinnati chili parlor each day for a week. A subsequent article, 5 More 4s, covered five additional parlors though those visits were not on consecutive days. Note that this post would have been bumped from the top five if I had allowed both Twenty Mile House items to claim a place. That’s why I did what I did, of course. I like this article and, in this teeny tiny bit of cyberspace, I’m the boss.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Tadmor
    Oddment page on a 2006 visit to the site of the town of Tadmor that also ranked first in 2011 and second in 2012. I believe traffic is largely from a Wikipedia article on ghost towns but a mention and link on Jim Grey’s Down the Road blog also accounts for quite a few visitors..
  2. Cincinnati Summer of Love Reunion
    Oddment page on a 2007 concert featuring area performers from 1967. The Lemon Pipers, Sacred Mushroom, Tony and the Bandits, and Haymarket Riot were all represented and I suspect each accounts for some of the traffic as do some of the individuals mentioned.
  3. The 2010 Fair at New Boston
    Oddment page on the 2010 version of an annual recreation of the 1790s. It is held at the same site talked about in Ohio’s Revolutionary War Battle, the fourth ranking blog post and the two probably share visitors.
  4. Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour
    The highest ranking non-blog and non-oddment (pseudo-blog) page was the base page for the year’s biggest trip, the 35 day coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway drive. This is also the only item in the non-blog list that was a new post this year.
  5. High Speed Privies
    Oddment page on the 2004 running of the Great Outhouse Race at Penn’s Store in Kentucky. It once contained a clear nude photo taken at the store for Playboy that generated some traffic. The photo has long been obscured but searches related to it are clearly what brought the visitors. I have no idea what triggered the renewed interest.

Visits to the website increased to 170,809 from 91,233 last year and page views rose to 467,084 from 337,996. WordPress’ Jetpack reports 6,863 views (up from 5,965) for the blog in 2013.

I ended last year’s Rear View with a prediction that I would not “get very jiggy in 2013” then proceeded to make the prediction come true. The closest thing to a website change last year was the decision to not add any more Oddment entries and that did not result in any actual alterations. What’s there will remain and it’s possible I could turn to that method again someday if something comes along that doesn’t fit the blog format. .

Meeting Mister Mallory

wlmalloryTwo judges, a state lottery sales representative, a former mayor, a former vice mayor, and a state representative all lost their father recently. William L. Mallory, Sr., died on December 10. The one time high school dropout had an extremely successful career in politics and was obviously pretty good at parenting, too. I met him once.

It was Reds Opening Day in 2004. It was also my birthday. As is my habit, I headed downtown for the parade. My friend John came down later to meet me and go to the game. I don’t remember much about the game but know that the Reds lost it to the Chicago Cubs. Afterwards, we found ourselves in La Normandie, the classy but easy going tavern and restaurant beneath the perennial 5-star Maisonette.

We sat at the bar and before long were engaged in conversation with a well dressed fellow sitting just around the bar’s corner. That fellow was, of course, William Mallory. John had met him once at a fundraiser but I had no idea who he was. Even after learning his name and realizing or being told that he had been a state representative, I was ignorant of the full stature of the man I was talking with. I did not and, perhaps to my shame, still do not, follow state politics very closely. Even if I connected the name with the Ohio congress without being told (which may not be the case) that was the extent of my recognition. I see that as a good thing. While it is unlikely that knowing I was chatting with Ohio’s longest serving House of Representatives Majority Leader and the first African-American to hold that position would have turned me into an overawed blatherer, it probably would have made things a lot less natural and casual.

Although I’m not sure it was our intent when we entered, at some point John decided he should buy me dinner for my birthday and I thought that a fine idea. He asked Mr. Mallory to join us and the former congressman graciously accepted. The three of us moved to a booth.

I recall nothing specific about our conversation. I do recall that it was friendly and easy flowing. If there was anything at all political in the conversation, it was light. I’m sure we talked about the Reds and we probably talked about some current events and our families and jobs. We neither solved problems nor created any. High-caliber small-talk seems a pretty good description. I can’t recall whether Mr. Mallory had walked downtown or ridden a Metro bus. It could easily have been either. I would later learn that, as co-chairman of the Citizen’s Transportation Committee, he had been instrumental in the formation of the publicly owned Metro. He accepted our offer of a ride home and, possibly because mine was the closer of our two cars, I was chosen as “chauffeur”. We chatted easily as we walked to my car. The red Corvette convertible I was driving was not the most dignified of vehicles but it did not bother the congressman in the slightest. He settled into the seat and directed me to his home with easy to follow instructions. Once there, he thanked me and headed into the house.

It was the next morning before the internet let me know just who it was that John had bought dinner for and I had driven home. A newspaper article announcing his death and a 2008 Greatest Living Cincinnatians citation contain what are no doubt incomplete lists of his accomplishments and awards. A wonderful StoryCore interview is here. Southwest Ohio lost a great and caring man this month but he left behind a generation of Mallorys well prepared to at least try filling the gap. The memory of that nearly ten year old meeting is one that I am truly fond of and thankful for.

wlmallory_clIn addition to an earlier private service for the family, a public Celebration of Life took place in the rotunda of Union Terminal (a.k.a. Cincinnati Museum Center) on Sunday, December 22. A report of the celebration is here. This building and Mr. Mallory were very important to each other. It was a prominent landmark in the west end neighborhood of his youth and a place where he worked shining shoes and busing tables among other things. When demolition threatened in the 1980s, he played a key role in securing state funding that helped enable the conversion to the museum center and actually delivered the multi-million dollar check to the museum himself. “I often reflect on a shoe shine boy becoming the delivery man for $8 million”, he has said. That’s just one of many things about William L. Mallory, Sr., that’s worth reflecting on.


This Was the Walk That Was…

TW3-1I once rode my bicycle through this intersection. Twice, technically, because I had to return, but never again. My bicycle’s power plant is not the sort that delivers instant acceleration or quick sprints and it seemed that about the only thing in question was whether I got run over before or after I collapsed. Walking through it would have been even worse but I did manage to get to the “land beyond” on a few occasions by crossing each road at some distance from the intersection and being very patient. That changed this summer when pedestrian signals were installed here and at other nearby locations.

The photo shows the intersection of Mason Montgomery Road and Fields Ertel Road with I-71 overpasses in the background. I-71 exits onto Mason Montgomery Road and entry is from Fields Ertel which help make this intersection quite busy. A major project is underway to improve the flow of traffic getting on and off of the expressway at this point. It has its own website, AdvancingFieldsErtel, which tells not only about the project’s components and progress but what led to it. Few, if any, of the new pedestrian signals I mentioned have anything to do with the highway project. I believe that people really are trying to make this area walkable.

TW3-2I live north of Cincinnati inside the triangle bounded by Mason Montgomery Road, Fields Ertel Road, and Montgomery Road (a.k.a. US-22/OH-3). I-71 misses the northwest corner of this triangle by roughly a hundred yards. An overhead view of the triangle can be had by clicking on the small map at left. Some signs and maps refer to Mason Montgomery Road as simply Mason Road and that is what I’m going to do in the remainder of this article.

TW3-3The Mason and Fields Ertel intersection is the busiest corner of the triangle but the Fields Ertel and Montgomery intersection is not far behind. That’s it on the right. I once spent many minutes trying to cross Fields Ertel there before walking far from the intersection and crossing at a slightly narrower point. Mason Road essentially ends at Montgomery Road (It changes name and enters a residential area.) so that corner of the triangle isn’t particularly troublesome but it does have considerable traffic as do all three of the triangle’s sides.

I like to eat and I like to walk. I don’t like to cook. That means that an attractive meal for me is one that I didn’t cook and which, at least in fair weather, I walked to. There are several decent eateries (Fridays, Frisch’s, Golden Corral, Honey Baked Ham, Pizza Tower, etc.) inside the triangle so I could somewhat satisfy my walk-to-dinner proclivities without risking life and limb but other restaurants beckoned just beyond the lines of cars.

TW3-3TW3-4And now my walking world has exploded. I am able to escape the triangle on foot with some sense of safety. The first picture is of the Mason and Fields Ertel intersection with the new “WALK” signals circled in red. The second was taken as I began to walk across Mason Road while keeping a watchful eye on every car I passed. I can now safely reach the area northwest of the triangle where numerous restaurants, quite a few stores, and a 16 screen movie theater await. The intersection at Fields Ertel and Montgomery road can also be crossed safely and there are attractions in that direction, too. There are also crossing signals at several locations along Fields Ertel and Montgomery Roads and to help with crossing Mason Road north of Fields Ertel but none where it borders the triangle. More on that later.

TW3-6TW3-5Sidewalks help increase an area’s walkability almost as much as pedestrian signals. The west side of Mason Road has long had a sidewalk north  of I-71. Montgomery Road got one on its north side, in the area of the triangle, this summer. It is a fact that the sidewalk on Montgomery Road was an afterthought and it sometimes shows. The need to curve around existing infrastructure, as in the first picture is easily understood. The reason behind the long bulge around the fire hydrant, or maybe the drain, is much less clear. It doesn’t matter, though, whether they curve, bulge, or run perfectly straight, I really appreciate the sidewalks. A map at the end of the Symmes Township Sidewalk Plan shows that sidewalks have been proposed but not funded for parts of Mason and Fields Ertel Roads. I’ll be very happy when that happens.

Incidentally, although it isn’t precisely true, the northern boundary of Hamilton County is often considered to be Fields Ertel Road. That means that all these improvements are split between two counties. The local entities responsible are Symmes Township in Hamilton County and Deerfield Township in Warren County. I suppose that makes things more difficult in some ways but it may also make things more evenhanded.

TW3-7TW3-8As things now stand, only two danger zones remain along my various popular paths. One is on Mason Road beneath the I-71 overpasses. It seems to never drain completely and there is no sidewalk. Although I almost never see vehicles there, the pattern of ruts in the mud is constantly changing. Maybe people pull over there every night while I sleep. Because of the standing water and squishy mud, walking in the roadway is more or less required here. Synchronizing the dash to the next dry spot with an empty curb lane helps but is challenging. I’m hoping that this gets improved somehow when the nearby ramp project is completed. The other danger zone is where I cross Mason Road to reach the building in the second picture. The line of cars in the picture have come from an office park and are waiting to turn left. Because of the traffic on Mason road, turning left can take a long time and the line rarely goes empty. This means that anyone attempting to cross the road in front of the building will very likely have to deal with a car from the side street whenever there is an opening in the Mason Road traffic. I handle the problem by crossing at about the point where the picture was taken so that those left turning cars are not an issue. Why would I go to this much trouble to reach that building? It’s called Flippdaddy’s with the subtitle “Burgers & Beer”. Any other questions?

I’ve Caught Up
(with a tiny piece of my world)

Feedly screen shotI subscribe to more than seventy blogs. Most are very quiet and some are probably dead. Only a half dozen or so actually publish much of anything on a regular basis. When I’m at home, leisurely sipping coffee, keeping up with them is simple and not a problem. When I’m traveling, it is simply not possible,

On a road trip where I’m maintaining a journal, my computer time is used for writing and editing photos not reading. I try to keep up with email and I do occasionally read a blog post but mostly they just pile up. When I got home from the recent Lincoln Highway trip, the unread pile contained nearly 800 items. I’ve been nibbling away at it and shortly before 7:00 on Thursday morning, I cleared the pile. I did it with my phone and captured the moment with the screen shot at right.

Using the phone helped and I suppose I should thank Google for that. I used to use a product called Google Reader for reading blogs. I actually used it for all RSS feeds but most of those come from blogs. A few months back, Google announced that they were dropping Reader on July 1, 2013. There was much alarm and a fair amount of anger but there were alternatives so things eventually settled down. Google giveth and Google taketh away.

I was alarmed and angry with everyone else but it didn’t last long. I tried a couple of the suggested alternatives and quickly settled on a product called Feedly. It was different and, of course, I didn’t like it being different but that didn’t last too long either. I accepted some things and Feedly, finding hordes of Google Reader refugees beating a path to their door, made some adjustments. I got all of my feeds switched over and even succeeded — eventually — in adding a few. Within a couple weeks of Google’s announcement, I was a happy Feedly user. Die, Google Reader, die. I care not a bit.

Then I made a wonderful discovery. I had Google Reader on my phone but almost never used it. There were problems. Sure, some of those problems may have been with the user but it never seemed to synchronize things quite right. An article read on the phone might show up as unread on the PC or vice versa and I swear that articles disappeared on their own now and then. That sort of thing did not happen without the phone app in the picture so I essentially quit using it.

Not surprisingly, after I’d installed Feedly on my PC, I was invited to put it on my phone and I did. I even used it a few time. Nothing bad happened. I used it some more and still nothing bad happened. Articles read on one platform showed up as read on the other and articles not read on either stayed unread on both. I was an even happier Feedly user and tried to convince myself that it was OK that Google Reader was allowed to live several more weeks.

I eat out frequently and I usually have a book or magazine next to my meal. With a back log of several hundred posts, I started reading my phone instead of a printed page. It took me thirty days to catch up after a thirty-five day trip. That means I was reading, or pretending to read, about twice as many articles per day as usual. I still read many at home on my PC but I probably read just as many on the phone. If I really did read half of the articles on the phone, then the phone was entirely responsible for the doubling and Google’s dropping of Google Reader is entirely responsible for me finding an application that allowed me to reliably read RSS feeds on my phone. Thanks Google. What’s next?

Butt Weight, There’s Less

19-Jan-2013The title of this post is how I imagine Ron Popeil hawking some magic weight loss device on a late night infomercial.
I already have such a device. Well, it’s not really magic and it won’t work for everybody but my smartphone did actually help me lose a few pounds.

First off let me say that I have not tried every weight loss trick in the world.
I have, in fact, tried almost none. I’ve weighed far too much for far too long but sugar and cholesterol and other levels have been fine so my doctor hasn’t beaten me up about it. I didn’t, and still don’t, beat myself up about it either even though I wasn’t happy about it. Every now and then I might scan an article on weight loss but they tend to be about various diets to follow, groups to join, or people to pay to tell you what to eat. Then, somewhere along the way, I saw an article claiming that simply tracking consumption was one of the most effective aids to losing weight and that clicked with the geek buried — ever deeper — inside me.

In my head, I somehow managed to relate computerized calorie counting with Quicken. I’ve been a Quicken user since about 1994. Entering numbers into a computer program felt natural to me and sometimes even fun. I’ve never used Quicken’s budget management features though I’ve no doubt they are wonderful. Simply tracking my money helped me get most of my bills paid on time and allowed me to see when a tight spot was approaching. That “tracking helps lose weight” claim seemed perfectly legit to me.

That getting my phone involved made sense was no doubt due in part to a recent addition I’d made to my money tools. I try to track cash expenditures but I’m not terribly good at it and have learned to accept a fair sized miscellaneous expense at the end of each month. Not long ago I installed a free app, Cash2QIF, that lets me enter the cost of my breakfast while I’m still sipping coffee then electronically transfer the data to Quicken later. The miscellaneous expenses have not gone to zero but they’re smaller. Entering calories at the same time seemed like something that might work.

So I picked up a free “calorie counter” app and set out to track what I ate. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious to me that things would have fallen apart rather quickly if, as was my assumption, I really had to determine and enter a bunch of numeric values. Fortunately the app provided access to a database of foods so it was easy to determine the calories in the three 16 ounce glasses of carrot juice I was drinking everyday. Just kidding. Carrot juice can indeed be found (I just checked) but so can things like Smithwick’s and half pound ‘burgers. Find the food, tap to enter, and the appropriate calories are recorded along with other nutritional data like fat, carbs, vitamins, etc.

Even better is the app’s use of the phone’s camera to read bar codes. As a kitchen challenged single male, I eat a goodly amount of packaged foods. With dinner in the microwave, I can point the phone at the package before pitching it and the calories, carbs, and calcium I am about to consume are instantly recorded. I also eat out a lot and menu items from many restaurants are available in the database.

My rate of reduction is a long way from remarkable. Twenty-two pounds in twenty-weeks. Barely a pound a week. A friend who went on a low-carb diet a while after I started recording calories has lost more than twice that in less time. I like his results but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t stick to that or any other real diet. I haven’t really cut out anything in particular. I have a target number of calories per day. I don’t panic if I miss it but I’m aware of it and try to do better the next day or the next one or the one after that. Most, but not all, weekly totals have been below the target.

5-Jun-2013The number on that scale is significant for a couple of reasons. First off, I think it may be the first time I’ve been below 200 this century. Secondly, it’s near a halfway point of sorts. The most generous of guidelines puts my “ideal weight” around 175 pounds. When I started counting calories on January 19, I was 47 over. Half of 47 is 23.5 and the 22 pounds that I’ve lost is within a large smidgen of that. I don’t know that I’ll ever make it to that “ideal” but it no longer seems completely impossible.

The app I’m using is the Android version of MyFitnessPal. I didn’t do much research so I don’t know that it’s the best available. I do know that it has the features I was looking for plus some I wasn’t but which have proven key to my continued use. It also has features, such as counting vitamins and connecting to scales, armbands, and other devices, that I doubt I’ll ever use.

A significant boundary was crossed about halfway between the two pictures. During the middle of some night in April, I went from being officially obese to being officially overweight. Yeah, that’s a lot like learning that your checking account isn’t overdrawn as much this month as last but I’ll take it.

2012 in the Rear View

The year in numbers (2011 values in parentheses):

  • 5 (8) = Oddment pages posted
  • 8 (9) = Road trips reported
  • 52 (21) = Weeks of regularly scheduled Sunday blog posts
  • 77 (31) = Total blog posts
  • 76 (69) = Days on the road
  • 2254 (2058) = Pictures posted — 388 (96) in the blog, 131 (141) in Oddments, and 1735 (1821) in Road Trips

Twenty Mile Stand in the Rear ViewAvailable blog statistics kind of suck. At least they do for WordPress Jetpack statistics on a self hosted blog that is only a portion of a website. One issue is that the most popular “page” is almost certain to be something called “Home page / Archives” which is a swirling mix of the multiple pages displayed at the blog’s root or the multiple pages that satisfy a search. I have AWStats generated numbers for the entire site, including the blog, but those have some problems, too. For one thing, counts include all of the individual pages appearing in the previously mentioned “Home page / Archives” many of which are not actually viewed. For another, AWStats numbers include blog page references that I’ve made myself in creating and maintaining the blog. I try to keep these to a minimum but eliminating them completely is not possible. In the end, though, I do believe the relationship of the numbers is meaningful even if the numbers themselves aren’t all that precise. So here are the top five blog and non-blog entries and I’ll follow the lists with some overall numbers.

Top Blog Posts:

  1. Twenty Mile’s Last Stand
    Article on an endangered historic building that drew some interest locally.
  2. The World is Singing in Cincy
    Report of my one day visit to the 2012 World Choir Games held in Cincinnati.
  3. The Long Drive
    Book review posted in November of 2011 that was 2011’s top post.
  4. Scoring the Dixie
    Discussion of my own attempts to keep track of what parts of the Dixie Highway I have driven.
  5. Route 66 Attractions
    Review of a GPS based product for tracing Route 66.

Top Non-Blog Posts:

  1. Sixty-Six: E2E and F2F
    Trip journal for Route 66 End-to-End & Friend-to-Friend trip to the festival in Victorville, CA.
  2. Tadmor
    Oddment page on a 2006 visit to the ghost town of Tadmor. I believe traffic is largely from Wikipedia.
  3. American Sign Museum Opening
    Oddment page on the 2005 opening of the American Sign Museum. Traffic almost certainly due the the museum’s reopening at a new location this year. A blog entry on the reopening ranked eighth.
  4. Sixty-Six the Hard Way
    Trip journal for drive on US-44 and US-22.
  5. Lincoln Highway Conference 2012
    Journal for trip to the 2012 Lincoln Highway Conference in Canton, Ohio.

The entire website had 91,233 visits and 337,996 page views last year which is a goodly increase from the 43,213 visits and 227,060 page views of 2011. Jetpack tells me the blog had 5,965 views in 2012 though I’m not sure if those those views and AWStats’ page views are the same.

When I reviewed 2011, I had just completed my 100th documented road trip and had made a clickable collage of the teaser images. In that post, I waffled on whether or not I would extend the collage with subsequent trips. I decided it was a good idea and completed trips are now added to the collage when they’re added to the Trip List. This is just one of the things covered in an FAQ page that was added last year. Yep, extending a collage and adding an FAQ page were the big changes for 2012. And I’m probably not going to get very jiggy in 2013 either.

I Surrender

When I started this blog I committed to a post every Sunday. I’m currently on a road trip and when I left home I knew that maintaining the trip journal would take most of my time but that I would have to fill at least three Sundays before the trip ended. I had two posts ready and a couple more that were maybe 75% done. I hoped to find time to complete one of those before week three came around. What was I thinking? Not only didn’t I finish another blog post, I’ve been as many as three days behind in maintaining the journal. I’m currently about two days behind. So this is all I got. It is, technically, a blog post so I have, in a weasely sort of way, kept my commitment. But it is entirely content free and represents not success but surrender.

I give up on making a meaningful Sunday post this week. I hope to do better next week.

Spam, Spam, Eggs, and Spam

Monty Python spam skitA 2005 survey reported that people were spending an average of 2.8 minutes a day deleting email spam. Whether that was for the entire US population, the 75% of internet users they reported receiving spam messages daily, or some other group is unclear. Regardless of who was doing the deleting, the survey went on to state that the resulting loss in productivity was costing $21.6 billion dollars a year. My search failed to turn up more recent statistics although I imagine they’re out there. Or maybe not. Maybe the statisticians are now too busy deleting spam to conduct surveys.

I believe I’ve deleted my share. There have been times when, between work and personal email, I’ve had 200+ spam messages to deal with each day. Of course I had some filtering in place but the fear of having a critical communique erroneously identified as spam meant scanning the junk folder for messages from colleagues or customers. Eventually, as the quality of and my confidence in anti-spam software increased, I was able to configure things so that the vast majority of those messages were quietly and automatically done in by the software without me hearing the screams or needing to move the bodies. I know the amount of spam email pointed my way didn’t actually decrease but I was protected from the bad-guy software by some good-guy software.

I’m now at a similar point in dealing with comment spam. Comment spam doesn’t come through an email account. It comes, as the name indicates, through comments on blogs and forums and such. Much email spam is just silly but some of it is truly malicious or criminal; intent on doing damage or stealing something. Same thing with comment spam with one big twist. Reader comments can actually become part of the content of the site on which they are entered. This means that any malicious or criminal links contained in the comment are now available to the whole world wide web. They are usually surrounded by such inane drivel that it’s hard to imagine anyone ever clicking on them but I suppose it happens. I’ve little sympathy for any English speaker who clicks on a link surrounded by Russian or Portuguese or even the broken English gibberish that seems to be the norm.

Comment spam, at least in theory, can have value to its producer even if no one ever clicks on embedded links. Search engines do consider links to a website in establishing that site’s rank. Apparently lots of spammers believe that getting a pointer to some site on a blog with absolutely no other connection to the site will boost its rank. I feel that’s pretty much a myth though I don’t really know that. I do know that search engines are not dumb. Spammers, it seems, are.

To date, no comment spam has actually appeared on this blog. It has appeared briefly in the site’s guestbook and in the now deceased forum. In the case of the guestbook, I get email notification and it’s so infrequent that I simply manually delete it ASAP. That is usually within a few hours; Often within a few minutes. With the forum, I initially allowed comments by guests but switched that to members only when spam started to appear. Of course, with the forum completely removed, that’s all just history.

From the blog’s beginning, I’ve employed the simple but effective technique of requiring everyone’s first post to be approved by me. That keeps the spam from appearing on the blog without hampering folks I trust. I recently went one step further by installing the AntispamBee plugin. Without this, I had to manually mark each qualifying post as spam. Not a big job but one I could avoid and avoiding work is always attractive. At present, all suspicious comments are placed in a folder where I can look them over before dumping them down the cyberdrain. The big plus is that my email is not cluttered with requests to moderate every piece of crap that this way comes. It has been in place for about a week and hasn’t misidentified anything so far. Assuming that continues, I’ll probably turn on the automatic disposal in another week or two.

My blog spam snapshotIt was the pending “loss” of these comments that prompted this post. Most are just aggravating but a few are hilarious. They are almost always filled with praise in hopes, I assume, of winning my approval but the typical message is such a jumble that I can’t imagine even the most desperate ego succumbing. Like newspaper horoscopes, the messages never mention anything specific about the post they are supposedly responding to. The majority appear to be from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Brazil. There have been a few bulk posts. A bunch once showed up pushing a particular brand of shoe and there were a couple bursts touting some dress label. At one point I received quite a few from someone in Brazil saying they would “adore to reveal” something (a Portuguese word I’ve yet to find a translation for) “in web cam”.

I’m closing with three of my favorites:

Among the finest to tell a person that i’m simply brand new in order to blogging and definitely liked you are web site. Probably I will save your website . You certainly have outstanding articles. Kudos with regard to sharing around your blog.

I be aware like Im constantly looking by cause associated with inviting things to pore more than close by a number of subjects, but I be successful to include your own set up among my personal reads each and every life time since you give delivery in order to compelling records that I appear forth to.

Thanks for the information, I rarely like it.

Twenty Mile’s Last Stand

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioThe first time I entered the Twenty Mile House it was smaller and younger and so was I. I was in my twenties so perhaps could even be considered young in absolute terms. Not so the building. The part on the right was built in 1822. Some or all of a building that stood here in 1804 might even be included in there somewhere. The road was smaller then too. It was small enough that cars parked between it and the building where those shrubs are now. The main entrance was through a street facing door that has long been locked and sealed. Some details of the first time I stepped through that door remain clear. The bar was against the far wall. I’m not entirely sure what was to my left; Probably some tables and chairs. I don’t recall the huge fireplace that I now know fills the east wall so am guessing that it was covered at the time. To my right was a jukebox and a hardwood dance floor that sat on top of the “normal” floor. Les Paul & Mary Ford’s version of How High the Moon was playing. That recording is almost as old as me.

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioThe building started out as an inn and stagecoach stop some twenty miles from the center of Cincinnati. It seems to have been successful in that role. And it must have been somewhat successful as some sort of road side stop as the stage route became Montgomery Road and Ohio Route 3 and the 3C Highway and US Route 22. I don’t really know whether the outside of the building changed much during its first century and a half. I do know it hasn’t changed in any material way in the many years since. The inside, however, has changed considerably and additions have been made until the structure I remember from the early 1970s makes up maybe a third of the total. A recent sales flyer includes a diagram of the building in which I believe the area labeled “Bar & Lounge” is the original structure. Perhaps there is a version of the “Peter Principle” that applies to restaurants. Something like: “A successful eating establishment will expand to a size just beyond what the customer base can support.” This was an extremely successful restaurant and night spot through the seventies and eighties. That’s when the additions were made and every occupant since then has had that huge capacity — and overhead — to deal with.

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioIn my mind, the sprawling additions have been a factor in the failure of various restaurants to make a go of it but it’s hard to say just how big a factor. The most recent tenant may have actually found all that space attractive. That was a business called Red Rock Tavern and it advertised itself more as a music venue than as a restaurant. It didn’t last long but it left its mark. They painted the building red. Some previous tenant had mounted a scrolling electric sign board on the corner of the building. It’s still there in the picture in the real estate flyer. The Red Rock folks painted around it so that removing it left a scar like stripe. Rumor has it that the kitchen was pretty much stripped at the same time.

The red paint and the grey “scar” provide an ugly building to go along with an ugly situation. Speedway, the gas station chain, found the location, if not the building, attractive. They want to demolish the building and put in a gas station and convenience store. An offer was made but there was a hitch. The property is at the corner of Columbia Road and US 22. There is an entrance on both roads but Speedway stated that it needed an entrance from Columbia much closer to the corner than the existing one. That would be a violation of Warren County access management regulations. The existing entrance is, in fact, closer than current regulations permit but was grandfathered in. This is truly a safety concern in the minds of many and the county engineer has refused to grant an exception.

Beyond this it gets pretty muddled. Apparently the county commissioners and possibly even the Deerfield Township commissioners have the power to overrule the engineer. They haven’t done so and have become the target of a lawsuit by Jeff Black, the building’s owner. They have also become the target of many local residents who feel they should buy the building to preserve it or somehow otherwise firmly block the development. I have no idea how all this fits with the fact that, late last year, Speedway submitted plans that omitted the entrance change.

I’ve come to the game embarrassingly and frighteningly late. I heard of the situation months ago but did nothing other than sign an electronic petition. I marked my calendar for a zoning committee meeting a couple of weeks ago but blew it off for something else. On Tuesday I did attend a township commissioner meeting but it was almost immediately apparent that the meeting was rather meaningless in regards to the fate of the Twenty Mile House. It was a chance for residents to relate how much they liked the old building and tell how its destruction would be a great loss but the commissioners had already come out firmly against buying the property which seemed to be the only method available to them to actually prevent the proposed demolition. For the record, I am not a resident of the county or township involved. I live at the edge of Hamilton County. Warren County and Deerfield Township are two streets and 300 yards from my front door.

Twenty Mile House, Cincinnati, OhioI can’t even guess at what might happen next. I only know that I’ll be watching. I suppose that part of the reason for making this post is the hope that it might get a few more people watching, too. Several articles here offer glimpses of what has already transpired and the post and replies here offer glimpses of what once was. The petition I mentioned is here though, like almost all online petitions, it has no legal standing. I am aware of two Facebook connections. One is a fan page which may signal its attitude in its title, Save 20 Mile House – Boycott Speedway. The fact that there has so far been only something to be against and nothing to be for can be seen in the name. The other is a group whose name, Friends of 20 mile house, is less abrasive. Fans of the page and members of the group overlap heavily. Hopefully someone will come up with a better plan than lying down in front of bulldozers. On the other hand, I attended that commission meeting with a sixty year old Deerfield Township resident whose mother, knowing his feelings on the matter, cautioned him to “not get arrested”. It could happen.

UPDATE: 27-Mar-2012 – As reported here, Speedway has withdrawn its offer to purchase the 20 Mile House. That is merely a short reprieve as the historic building is still for sale and financial pressures on the current owner have not gone away. Taking advantage of the breather, the previously mentioned Friends of 20 mile house Facebook group has formed a non-profit corporation using the name Friends of The Twenty Mile House. This will allow fund  raising and provide focus for locating and assisting preservation minded purchasers.

UPDATE: 1-May-2013 – Time ran out for the Twenty Mile House. The property was sold in March, a demolition permit issued, remaining fixtures were sold in an online auction, and, on April 16, the building was leveled. A blog entry on the demolition was posted here the next day. The order for destruction came from Henkle Schueler & Associates who plan to build a Big Mike’s Gas n Go at the location. In justifying the unpopular action, the company has used silly phrases like “its historical significance can be measured in the physical location, not in its structure” and referred to the gas station as “a place for those traveling through the area to refuel and gather provisions” and called this a continuation of past use. I think they may have invented the phrase “functionally demolished” to describe a building with furniture and fixtures removed. The idea that Henkle Schueler thinks people who cared about the place believe this is insulting. The idea that they may actually believe it themselves is frightening.

Scoring the Dixie

1923 Dixie Highway with my scoreTraveling a scenic old road is indeed its own reward but keeping track of which ones you’ve traveled is kind of fun, too. In most cases that’s pretty easy. Very easy, in fact, if you start at one end or the other. If you don’t make it all the way, just remember where you left the road and pick it up there next time. Starting your first drive in the middle complicates that just a bit as do alternate alignments but even piecemeal drives and multiple alignments seem rather simple when compared to the web that is the Dixie Highway.

The original idea may have been to connect Chicago and Miami but not much more than a month after the Dixie Highway Association’s first meeting, the route was split at Indianapolis and approval of a route connecting Detroit, Michigan, with Dayton, Ohio, soon followed. The “highway” had two mainlines essentially from the very beginning. Routes connecting the two mainlines also existed from the get go and more were added over time along with loop routes to pass though or attract traffic from cities not otherwise on the Dixie. Robert V Droz, whose excellent US Highways site I reference a lot and praise as much as I can, identifies ten connectors, four loops, and a bypass. By my count, the 1923 Dixie Highway Association map on the right (which I originally obtained from the Droz site but which appears elsewhere on the web including Wikipedia) shows just seven connectors and two loops.

This discrepancy somehow escaped me when I decided to use the map for score keeping. It slapped me in the face when I started planning my most recent road trip. That trip was to visit an uncle in Lake Alfred, Florida, and DeLorme identified a road a few hundred yards from his driveway as Old Dixie Highway. This was clearly part of the Tampa – Saint Petersburg Loop described by Droz but was just as clearly not shown on the 1923 map. That didn’t affect my trip taking but would affect my score keeping.

I plotted the entire loop before I left home but didn’t have much hope of driving any more of it than the section east of Tampa. As things turned out, I was able to drive the full loop on my way home but didn’t know how I was going to record this fact. On that map at the top of this article, sections of the Dixie Highway that I’ve driven are marked in green. It shows my “score” through the end of 2011. The section between Orlando and Haines City was new for me and I could mark it on the map but not the also new-to-me big loop between Haines City  and Ocala.

My Dixie Highway MapSo I abandoned my short lived experiment with score keeping via the old Dixie Highway Association map and, using DeLorme Street Atlas, drew up my own “map” of the Dixie. I put “map” in quotes because, although all the important connections are shown, there are a lot of straight lines and skipped cities. I believe the polite term is “streamlined”. This is what I now intend to use to record what portions of the Dixie Highway I’ve driven. As part of the journal for any trip involving some new-to-me Dixie Highway, I’ll include an updated version with all the sections I’ve driven shown in green. The current “score”, through the Lake Alfred trip, is here.

ADDENDUM 17-Nov-2015: On July 22, 2015, I wrapped up the described score keeping by completing at least one pass of all known segments. On November 5, I published a book chronicling those passes. A brief “review” of that book, A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, is here.