Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cleveland RTA: Please Gain Control Over Anti-Social Goings-On!

Regarding the RTA bus driver punching a rider, both individuals involved were wrong. It was inappropriate for the rider to continually provoke the driver. The driver was wrong to lose composure by punching her. An unruly customer should be immediately reported to transit security so that he/she may be escorted off the vehicle. I do not understand why the rider had to continually behave in such an in-your-face obnoxious manner instead of diffusing the confrontation and later consult with RTA of any grievance.

A driver who is placed in a position to be pushed over the edge should not be the only person punished. Beyond the debate that justifies the driver's actions lies a broader revelation that RTA needs to do something to prevent such incidents from happening. Maybe the RTA uppercrust needs a scorning too. Neither an RTA employee or other passengers should be placed in a position to witness or deal with anti-social behavior.

RTA needs to exercise 0 tolerance for any such activity on their vehicles by passengers or operators. Such inappropriate behavior--which can be frequent on RTA vehicles and around stations--is a reason potential peaceful riders will chose to not support riding RTA. That behavior was simply unacceptable.

By the way, the video can be seen on You Tube or a host of other media sources just by searching "Cleveland Bus Driver Punches Woman"

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Time To CLOSE The OPEN Signs!

Has anyone take notice lately of a phenomenon in storefront/business-front windows that features one of the several styles--but very similar--models of these "OPEN" signs? When I first noticed these signs, I thought they were actually unique until their popularity exploded and has made them every bit as tacky, yet not nearly iconic as the Parma pink lawn flamingo of the late 50's through early 70's, or more recently, that silly talking fish featured on a series McDonald's Filet-O-Fish commercials aired during sporting events a few years back.

I wonder if businesses, which perhaps thought they were being different and standing out by hanging one in their windows, have taken notice to their counterparts and neighbors all showcasing the same thing in their windows! I wonder if their was some kind of mass mailing of catalogs all featuring these signs, OR, did buyers all rush off to Sam's Club to get one?

Whatever the case, the cheaply foreign made sings are nothing clever, unique, or even attractive...OR stand out, when they are everywhere within eye shot. I think their presence has to rival the obesity plague in numbers. Yes, this surely is a peeve, but the signs are just downright tacky (not even in a kitschy original way) and bordering UGLY! Uhhh, hey businesses.....we KNOW you are likely OPEN if your lights are on, people can be seen in your establishment, and it is usual business hours. We do not need to have "OPEN" flashed in our faces with cheesy imitation neon signs.

Alternatively... Business owners, if you really want to be unique, stand out, be original, not be a part of the clone zone....and insist on hanging something like this in your windows to let customers who already KNOW you are open, that you are "OPEN"-- Then why not find a REAL vintage neon sign at a local re-sale store, or from a local neon vendor or sign expert. Yes indeed, they were in existence long before these tacky over played "OPEN" sings arrived! You will stand out and at the same time, help support a local business and local independent economy, instead of helping to build China's by being a sucker for purchasing these crummy signs!

Friday, May 25, 2012

ENOUGH LOUD IN OHIO CITY

After attending the May, 2012 Franklin/Clinton Block Meeting with the featured issue of a variance request by the Harp establishment to host outdoor live music, I have the following comments and thoughts to share and strongly suggest that those who ultimately make a decision on granting a variance, DO NOT do so, for many reasons which will be outlined below.

At the meeting, I was not surprised to experience the indifference, dismissive, smug, arrogant, and entitlement attitudes of some of the persons attending in favor of this variance. Some were musicians, another a bar owner, I believe. I have been dealing with and have been pro-active with quality of life issues, noise being a number one, for several years, and what I have learned is that those who make the most noise, seldom act any other way, and because they're used to living loud all the time, simply cannot understand how loud their establishments can be to others. They are often wrapped up in their own little world of deafening themselves without regard to anyone else outside their music zone--where such sound encroaches on private property--and hence becomes NOISE to someone else who does not wish to be forced to hear it.

Today's ultra loud high technology that amplifies this "music" denies such a person the right to enjoyment and  reasonable peace in their own home. It can be very damaging to the body as it is very unnatural to be exposed to today's amplified sounds. The body was simply not designed to be subjected to this kind of noise. Excessive noise exposure has many adverse health affects. Additionally, it is linked to many social, economic, and environmental negatives. I will not use this letter to prove nitty gritty facts, but invite anyone to do their own research. But, in short,exposure to excessive highly amplified sound is a public health issue, and NOT a mere nuisance. It can contribute to hearing loss, learning disabilities, sleep deprivation, nausea, anxiety, headache, hyper-tension, aggressive indifferent behavior, rapid heart beat, and even aggravate post traumatic stress disorders. It results in what audiologists refer to as "Flight or Fight" responses.

According to the US Census Information, it is among the number one reason peaceful law abiding citizens move out of a given area. Cleveland, like many other cities across the nation, have their fill of an already overly-noisy sound scape. Granting Harp a variance simply adds to this already full quota of noise pollution emissions.With regard to existing noise levels in the city, why add more to creating an eventual acoustic sewer? Even in tough times, the least we can have is a good night's sleep.

It amazes me at how many businesses, as did spokespeople for Harp,  attempt to argue about "all the wonderful things" they brought to the neighborhood, or even how well they keep their property maintained. Wait a minute! This should be expected anyway when you maintain a curb front business and should not be rewarded extra kudos, or met with an attitude that suggests that because a bar or club keeps up their property they should be given some special pass to be extra loud! Such to me simply demonstrates how low standards/expectations have sunk.

It amazes me how often, in Cleveland the last few years, that a neighborhood's taxpaying stakeholders, seem to be held in less regard than loud establishments. When I kept hearing how much Harp contributes to the neighborhood, I had to ask, "What about the neighbors?" Don't they ALSO pay taxes and contribute to the fabric of the neighborhood? 
It amazes me that some who operate or are associated with places that feature live music, seem to think that just because they pitch in some money into the hat of benevolence/charity, that it somehow relives them of their personal responsibility to respect and obey noise ordinances and therefore can be as loud as they wish and for as long as they wish!

It amazes me at how many times I have witnessed establishments being granted variances for such outdoor music, and then over time, abuse their privilege. One's so called right to be loud, should never supersede another person's basic human right to domestic peace and tranquility in their own home. Even the constitution is supposed to assure that right.

I wonder how many bar or club owners take the time to consider the fact that people who live in the neighborhood, have children, jobs, and responsibilities that require a healthy living environment for them to perform their duties well, just how much noise can affect them from doing their best? They have a livelihood to uphold as well, just like musicians who lament they're living is being affected!

At the meeting, I was not moved by Harp's, or other associates attempts to gloss over the pointed issue of noise encroachment by offering a palette full of all the good things they have done for the neighborhood. I viewed this as the pointed issue being twisted into a "the people are picking on us and we are victims" thing.

I hope many who attended that meeting supporting this variance are reading this and hear this well, that is, if their hearing is not already damaged! (I will comment on that as well in a moment) This is NOT and NEVER was an "anti-music/musician" thing. I heard one ridiculous rationale from one woman at the meeting that suggested something to the nature that because she now hears music from Harp, she no longer hears other crime related noises/sounds. Uhhhh... that's just great.. Let's just cover the noise the real crimes are making, right? Let's do the individual trying to break in a house a favor by covering the noise he makes! Nonsense to say the least! Her testament should in NO way help a cause for granting a variance.

Only an irrational non-critically thinking selfish fool would twist this whole topic into such "anti-music" directions as above. I repeat: The subject is as mentioned above... excessive noise emanating off a given premisses and violating the rights of others peace in their own home. It is a simple common sense and courtesy issue that should not take mountains of debating to understand. I also witnessed attempts to stray off the topic of the particular kind of noise at hand, to point out a host of other noises in society. Again, ridiculous. The point of the meeting was to address one issue at a time, and this issue at hand happened to be this particular kind of noise and granting Harp a variance.

Other excessive noises are also not good and have their own negative contributions, but this was not the forum for such discussion. The attitude of those who attempted to articulate that, was one of "Oh, well they make this noise over there.....so I can make my own noise over here" That attitude also reaffirmed my belief they they knew very little about the ill-effects of particular kinds of noises and most importantly, the differences! It suggested to me they, like most people, knew little if anything about the psychology of noise. I would suggest the well crafted book.. "WHY NOISE MATTERS".

In an attempt to compromise, I attempted to suggest that establishments stop jumping on the bandwagon of louder and bigger is better with this cookie cutter approach to music delivery in a venue, that simply follows a "blast it as loud as you can" game plan--AND,  instead, why not tailor the sound for the particular size of the venue? Too often these days, in bars or clubs, you cannot decipher instruments in music, ups and downs, because it is so loud that it is all jumbled together and simply becomes unidentifiable--and NOISE.

Now I want to get back to my mention of hearing loss as stated earlier. It is important to note that those who are exposed to loud music or any noise long enough, cannot hear as well as someone who has not, and therefore really cannot fathom how loud they are really being! They often speak very loudly as well because their hearing has been temporarily disabled to a degree where they cannot even hear themselves speak.

With respect to hearing loss or damage, the following information is from Dr. Louis Hagler. This portion is taken from a  summary, prepared by Louis Hagler, MD, and taken from a 100+ page World Health Organization Guideline (Guideline for Community Noise) that provides information about the harmful effects of noise on human health. This document can be seen in its entirety at:

 http://www.who.int/environmental_information/Noise

"Given the importance of the problem, occupational noise exposure is fairly well regulated and controlled worldwide. Environmental noise exposure, especially that related to leisure-time activities, has not been controlled in the same way. Given both the increasing number of noisy activities and the increasing exposure duration (such as in loud cars) regulatory activities are to be encouraged. Whereas dose-response data are lacking, based on the limited data that are available, there appears to be no risk to hearing with exposures to 70 dB or less. Daily l hour exposure levels should not exceed 85 dB. It is recommended that exposure to sound levels greater than 100 dB should be limited to a 4-hour period and should not occur more than four times per year. Exposure to higher sound pressure levels and greater duration of exposure are significant risk factors. To avoid hearing impairment, impulse noise exposure should never exceed 140 dB peak sound pressure in adults and 120 dB peak sound pressure in children."

I am in the opinion, despite the numbers above, that hearing damage can result over long periods of time to even lower decibel levels, much like eating marginally fatty and unhealthy foods may still result in a longer term or slower weight gain. If you have ever walked out of a concert and were temporarily affected in the hearing, you will understand what I am talking about. But, no worries because the deafer they become, let's just turn it up another notch until we are stone deaf by 40 and then need to go on some sort of public assistance! Indeed, that's where we're headed, folks, in the culture of loud.

In regard to the whining "But we might lose business" Another unsupported battle cry of the loud, I have to wonder, are venue owners so narrow dynamic in their creativity that the only thing they can come up with to offer a good time for patrons is to offer mega loud? This is not just happening in night clubs, it is happening in local pubs and eateries too. People are frequently assaulted with audio they did not ask for nor need. You would never hear of someone walking OUT of an establishment because it was NOT loud enough, but you likely WOULD hear about someone waking out because ambient sound levels are just to loud. So, I have to ask....Where are the places where the background music enticed you to want to hear more... and perhaps even buy the record somewhere as you listened closer? Where is the place you can have music playing, but still be able to have a dinner conversation with friends and family, instead of being acoustically assaulted by cacophony?

My concern for Ohio City, and because I have been considering investing in a home in the neighborhood after renting for so long, is that it is over-the-top catering to such uncreative overly-loud music venue types for the sake of quick money and a mostly non-resident party-type crowd between 21 and 34. Sure, there are many short term gains to be made for a few, and it is good to have a healthy scene for such a group, but short term gains is NOT how elected city leaders or neighborhood movers and shakers should be thinking.

They need to be thinking in long terms of creating a neighborhood environment conducive to people wanting to live in it, not just eat and party....then go back to a suburb. Let's also cater more to those who wish perhaps to raise a family----OR cater more to the age bracket that actually spends the most in the economy, between 35 to 55. This is a largely overlooked and ignored demographic. I do not want to see the neighborhood become mostly what are essentially glorified bars, but unfortunately, that seems to be where a lot of the agenda of OCI, the neighborhood's supposed premier development group, has ventured lately. Its seems they have become a marketing group for such establishments in question, rather than a community group that promotes healthy balance in the neighborhood with respect to quality of life issues such as noise. .

Granting of a variance sets a bad "we did it for them so we have to do it for everyone else" precedent. It should NOT be granted now...or at least until existing establishments have proven they can respect the existing rules/ordinances which govern noise. The burden of proof about what is overly loud should not be on residents shoulders....nor be left up to the hearing damaged bar owners or musicians to decide! Most of us know very well what too loud is and if we cannot exercise some common sense in this issue, then I shudder to think in what direction this neighborhood is going.

Afterall, we would not have had to craft new guidelines, rules, and ordinances to govern noise if not being too loud was being respected in the first place. And bar owners who testify that they are not really responsible for what happens outside their establishment: You most certainly are responsible for what goes on outside your premises when the origin of the issue is on yours and in this case we are talking about sound emanating from your property, that goes on for too long and is simply too loud.

At the meeting, I heard some pro-variance folks bemoan that if this "too loud" thing was a problem, why didn't they (residents) come to meetings, or call, or why they (bar owners) didn't get any complaints about it. Well, I have to answer that question by saying that just because no one may complain does not mean the problem does not exist. Second, you can easily say no one is complaining, but that does not make it true. I beg to differ because noise is among the top complaints the police receive.

Interestingly enough, their questions to such, in turn, beg the question from me....and so I ask, WHERE are the establishment owners at block meetings? I only see them there when they feel they are being picked on! Many have overstepped their boundaries and privileges in regard to offer live outdoor music, and then cry when new rules or stiffer ordinances need to be crafted to remind them that they need to exercise a little more personal responsibility and common sense, courtesy, and manners. Its really simple folks.... all the residents want is for you to respect their right to peace in their homes. Do you get it? Why is that so difficult to understand? Or does it take someone acoustically assaulting you when it is NOT convenient for you... to finally get it?

Finally... Be a good neighbor... and respecting basic rights to reasonable peace goes a long way, for no amount of charity, curb appeal and so on excuses obnoxiously and continual in-your-face loud that violates current laws and ordinances, and ultimately another's right to peaceful enjoyment of their own home. Your rights, END where theirs begin and this is about respecting that concept. Clearly many of you do not, or you would not be at such a meeting defending your sound invasions in other people's homes.Hey! I have an idea for a charity.... How about the right to peace, comfort, safety, and enjoyment of, in one's own home?!

No variance granting for Harp. Enough is enough. Its nothing personal.


I am amending this article with the following final thought......

I would like to note that much of this issue is about the amplified OUTDOOR music and its impact on the nearby residents in being intrusive and denying them the right to peace and enjoyment of their own home. It is about addressing the impact of the kind of outdoor "entertainment" that is so often offered at venues these days that have been gentrified away from the small neighborhood social clubs or bars they used to be when the loudest components were just a juke box, or an maybe an acoustic band.

These former venues shared neighborhoods with residents and were gathering places for locals, but were rarely as loud as these newly fashioned venues which may occupy these former social halls or neighborhood pubs. The technology just perhaps wasn't this loudly evolved or so often used. THAT'S the difference! This new sound we hear is NOT tailored with respect to proximity to residences. This is another part...and POINT which many who defend LOUD just seem to not get!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A New Casino?.... Or is it Wal-Mart?

Admittedly, I will probably not visit the new casino, nor view it as some kind of savior for anything. But having said this, I know many will and I do hope that it can add some positive component to downtown.

The renovation of the Higbee Building has brought back an historic gem with new opulence. It appears grand and exudes class.

It deserves to be visited by those who will make an effort to demonstrate a little self respect and pay homage to such a storied venue--and new event--in patronizing the casino--by not showing up looking like a complete slob.

I am not saying one needs to invest in a $1,000 suit, but how about at least making an attempt to look and smell as though you have not crawled out from under a rock?

I shudder to think of such a spectacular place, peopled with what looks more like a scene awaiting the opening of a new Wal-Mart!

Perhaps somewhat of a dress code might weed out some of the folks who probably cannot afford to be spending their last dime gambling in the first place. This is not about vanity, rather, about self respect.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

America, there is more to the world than Disney!

Uhhh...yes, a big problem with most Americans for too long is that they have little if any worldly sense. I mean.... our lifestyles have such a huge, and mostly negative impact on this world and each other, yet we know very little about the world in which we share and impact. As long as we GOT our cheap "STUFF", right? Sure, we want good neighbors living next to us, but we seldom seem to apply that logic on a global sense--as in being a good neighbor in the world community!

Far too many of us seem to think we're entitled to do as we wish as long as we can pay for it...and no matter who or what it offends or hurts. And so... while most of America knows little beyond the trailer park or outside the confines of Wal-Mart, our grand and austere east and west coasts are not exempt from this ideology either.

Its true...because eventhough their butt holes are indeed plated with gold.....If you live there as an outsider, you might find that many folks do not even fathom the idea of "the rest of their own country"...... let ALONE...the rest of the whole world! Yes, it is a very sad thought most Americans do not even posses a passport to the world in which their perverted version of capitalism so gravely impacts--and who's idea of "world travel" is riding the "ITS A SMALL WORLD" ride at Disney World! Even more a pity, most do not have the courage or humbleness to admit all of this and would rather go on fighting the good blind fight to defend stupidity. Heeeeee Haaaawwwww!!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

America--You are too loud, please quiet down, its simply obnoxious!

Please sign the petition in the link following this letter to re-instate ONAC! This is the body of the Federal EPA that regulates noise pollution.
Reagan killed funding for EPA's ONAC in the early 80's and now communities everywhere are experiencing the effects of what is essentially a kind of "acoustic assault" and "audio terrorism" via a virulent ongoing cacophony of illegally modified exhaust systems (also compromising clean air quality) boom cars, lawn equipment, low flying aircraft, and a host of other sources--all of which can and should be quieted.

Noise issues are affecting us more than many realize as I will note some effects in this letter. But to first address the environmentalists working hard on saving the environment: Isn't a better, cleaner, healthier environment also entitled to a quieter one? At least it was thought to be at one time when grass roots activists and politicians from both parties worked to create a system of standards for anything that created artificial noise.


Environmentally speaking it may surprise the green movement that noise is among the number one complaint in communities everywhere...and among the top reasons people will move away. So, it is easy to see how left unabated, it can also contribute to habitat and wildlife killing urban sprawl.


But wait...there's more!.....
Sadly... socially...The louder we become as a nation, the number and dumber we seem to become. So another obvious by product of noise is fostering an ultra numb and idiotic society where "loud" is good. Because of this , police respond to noise complaints daily. In the USA, each month, someone is usually shot, beaten or stabbed over a noise incident not taken seriously by law enforcement. Most of the time, someone tries to ask one who is making noise to "please turn it down... I have to work in the morning and my kids are trying to sleep"....then all of a sudden, the noise offender, says "BLEEP you I will do what the BLEEP I want!" and resorts to violence. Certain noises surely tap into the primal aggressiveness in all of us.
So, there is also worst case turn out crimes that can result from communities NOT taking noise as a serious issue. The pro-noise culture is brought to us by self serving, indulgent individuals who seem to feel they are entitled to use their freedoms any way they wish, no matter who or what it hurts. The collective result of corporate unaccountability paired with social ignorance is destroying citizens quality of life by stealing away the right to reasonable peace and tranquility in one's own home.

Want to be loud? Be loud on this issue! Keep reading.....

Economically speaking, there are many jobs--AND an economy to be created through achieving QUIET technology, just as their has been in doing the destructive former of imposing LOUD on a helpless population. Are we too stupid in the USA to develop more peaceful communities via quieting down all things mechanical? The obsessive lawn care nut playing with his loud leaf (I mean DIRT blower) for hours chasing a single leaf down the street while stirring a tornado of dust that includes mold, pollen, feces, and other nasties, should help you get the picture of why quiet is important at a neighborly level. (That's NOT paprika on your potato salad, folks!)
The obsession with loud has me ponder the question.... Have people forgotten the experience of the joy in peace? To think, listen to what the natural world really sounds like? Sadly, even in rural areas these days quite often one cannot escape excessive noise, as those areas are experiencing sources such as loud trucks, chainsaws, ATV's or even fireworks being =set off by morons who think the 4th of July is a year round event!

As I hinted above about an economy being created by quieting down communities, I feel it is important to mention because pro-noise lobbyists who represent industries such as electronics or after market exhaust companies have--and will do all in their power to thwart national and local efforts to quiet mechanical sources of noise and holding their companies accountable. They have no other function than to protect the corporate interest no matter the cost. The cost of your ignorance results in their profits. They will use the archaic, tired... and appealing-to-the-mental midget banter of "you are going to kill jobs...and deny people's rights"
Oh really? Meanwhile, they deny your right to peace in your own home and neighborhood! A helpless population most adversely affected by the noise (infants, elders, students needing to study, young and old) is often forced to just live with the noise as city councils and police departments are forced to spend time and money creating new ordinances and fielding a barrage of complaints. Mr. Noise Lobbyist is very effective in getting politicians to smell his ass--and even in convincing them to like it! Yeah, that's what we're up against, as crude as that may sound!


You can help!.....
Please help to take back our communities from socially irresponsible/unaccountable corporations and inconsiderate individuals unleashing a torrent of excessive and unregulated noise devices on our communities. Excessive noise, left unabated, contributes to hearing loss, learning disabilities, depression, and other physical ailments. It harms pets and wildlife, and even sets the stage for natural soundscapes we find peaceful like birds, breezes, waves and other calming sounds nature needs to communicate---to become extinct--drowned out by the din of the acoustic sewage!

Again, and lastly, I want to remind that I am hoping to tap into the interests of the the environmental and animal rights movements which have largely missed the boat on this issue and how important it is to creating a kinder, compassionate, and more peaceful society for all living things and the many benefits such can entail. Noise is a public health issue, NOT a mere nuisance. Since the EPA office on noise pollution regulation has virtually been absent since the early 80's, its little wonder why the public and law enforcement sector by and large lacks an understanding or education as to just how impacting noise is and how it adversely affects communities economically, socially, and environmentally. I call upon all the conscious people to take action.
Please learn more and read about the quiet communities act, or visit websites like Noiseoff Dot Org or Lower The Boom Dot Org to become educated and informed as to what a real problem noise is. You may also email me for a bounty of information sources about the negative impacts of noise. Thank You!

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/reinstate-onac.html

Friday, March 30, 2012

Start Earning Right NOW!

Earn Daily Rewards for Placing Ads Like This One!!

If you have a computer, you should be earning money while you sleep. Money should work for you instead of you always working for the money, and it has never been easier. Click on the banner and review the website. Then, to get started, or for more details, email me at riverlover33@yahoo.com to arrange a conference call. Or, sign up for more information from the website and I will contact you. This is no b.s. so quit thinking like the common 9 to 5 populace, complaining about your lack of time and money.... and let's get started to make the kinds of changes you need in life. -- Robert

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SLING YOUR BABY ROUND AND ROUND!

Every once in a while I find local or independently produced products, goods or services noteworthy of showcasing; those which we sometimes just cannot seem to find outside the door. Eventhough I do not have human children, today, I noticed the most handsome and best baby slings for those with tots!

The fun styles, shapes and colors will have you and junior the talk of your walk! Additionally, these slings also made of the finest quality, long lasting materials for the best babywearing safety and comfort design for both of you! So, play it safe, baby...stylish, fun and comfortable too...and sling your baby round and round!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Park Building--A Quality Address!

If you are considering a downtown resident Cleveland address that is situated within short walks of all the city has to offer, on all the main transit lines (inducing the FREE E and B-Line Trolley Buses!)--AND....even easy airport access at Terminal Tower's light rail stations that will connect you with the whole world--look no further than discovering the historic Park Building.

Built in 1905 in the Chicago style as a mixed-use office facility, The Park Building is now downtown's premier address, boasting ornate and quality detail in every custom designed condo unit... as well as enchanting views of the old square. The quality material in the building itself also assures the utmost in quiet from the bustle of the city in your very own sanctuary.

In addition, many amenities such as shopping, dining, entertainment, and all your business needs are at your doorstep. The Park Building itself features a bank and Cleveland's only downtown vegan food establishment, the decadent and popular "Flaming Ice Cube"

So, if you desire all this and more in a downtown address, discover The Park Building at 140 Public Square, in downtown Cleveland today!

Friday, February 10, 2012

PAYING BILLS!

Special Guest Post.....

Content by: Sol Rosales

My husband used to pay all of our bills by writing checks and mailing them. Finally, I was fed up with the slowness of the mail, so I decided that we needed internet at our house. I went to the library and did an online search for “Internet Adams” and found that we could get satellite internet at our house. After we got it set up, I took over the bills. I set up online bill pay for all of our bills and since then, life has been so much easier. It literally takes me five or ten minutes to pay all of the bills for the month. My husband was amazed the first time he watched me pay the bills. He said he had no idea that was even possible. I love online bill pay because I can set up automatic bill pay for payments that are the same each month. I can see exactly when each payment goes out and I know when the companies receive the payments. It is so much better than having checks floating around in the mail and never really knowing when and if the companies received them. I am so glad I took over paying the bills.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Greater OR..."Lesser" Cleveland Aquarium? You Decide!

Please see full review on Cool Cleveland website....

The Greater or “Lesser” Cleveland Aquarium?

A Naturalist’s View of the New Aquarium

By Robert Carillio

The title suggests a review of the new aquarium on the west bank of the Flats and that is exactly what this will be, with a focus on the Ohio exhibits. Keep in mind I’m not covering every aspect of the aquarium; however, I’ll focus mainly on feature exhibits.

Who am I to write a review?

Well, no one in particular except that I am no stranger to aquariums, having visited many and known quite a few associates in the field. In addition, I have owned and operated a custom aquarium design, installation and maintenance service for many years — once upon a time — with sizes up to a thousand gallons, with a specialty in replicating local stream habitats. I have also been a volunteer local contact for the Ohio region of The North American Native Fishes Association for nearly 10 years in the past and, through that time, I have been an advocate of raising awareness and appreciation for Ohio’s “lesser known” but no “less important” fishes for about 22 years. My inspiration began with the classic Trautman book The Fishes Of Ohio, hiking our woodlands and gazing into and wading in creeks seining for fishes. In fact, one of my first “crude” educational aquarium displays, believe it or not, was located in the former Gamekeepers Restaurant on the second level of the Powerhouse.

I know this reads like some touting resume, but that is not my intent at all; rather, it is to offer you some insight as to why I have formed my following evaluations of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. By no means have my services been geared toward the scale of the grander-scale aquariums; nonetheless, one grasps a very good understanding of many facets of the field in a scaled down model.

I actually welcome an aquarium to the Flats. It is something that can help promote a more family-oriented dynamic neighborhood instead of one solely built around stuffing one’s face and drinking to oblivion. Aquariums offer education about something that impacts each and every one of us — the health of the world’s waters!

Very First Impressions

Now, without further hesitation, I will describe my visit and offer letter grades for the various components of the aquarium, beginning with my phone call to the place. As a trained voiceover, I was not very impressed with the recording presented to the public. It sounded like the same girl in high school who used to read the morning announcements on the P.A. system. I know this may seem like nit picking, but I am someone who wants to make every detail count in presenting a product and am a little tired of Cleveland accepting mediocre standards as the norm. In an aquarium, or any public attraction for that matter, I feel a lot of it begins with the staff and people who greet us. I give the phone recording — the first voice of the aquarium presented to the public via phone — a grade D.

Now for the actual visit…

A public aquarium is — or at least should be — a place that educates the public about the importance of the global aquatic world and its relation to our own survival by featuring the aquatic habitat’s fishes (along with other animals from various parts of the world) beginning with our very own backyard. It should somewhat demonstrate how all waters tie together. Although I love the Powerhouse architecturally, I felt the surroundings looked somewhat unkempt, rather tired and littered around the perimeter of the property.

I hope the Aquarium can use this situation as a chance to educate the public about the importance of keeping litter off our streets and ultimately out of our local waters since litter, indeed, makes its way to our waters via storm drains. What gets pitched onto the street may end up polluting our lake. Litter prevention is a basic ABC of sustainability and conservation where, in my opinion, Cleveland/NEO severely lags behind. Please do the very least — keep all cigarette butts and other littler picked up from around the building. Your responsibility or not, GCA, it could reflect poorly in first impressions. The upkeep and immediate presentation of the venue from the outside gets a grade C-.

Stepping inside the venue, I was pleasantly surprised although confused as to exactly WHERE the entrance was. The signage, or lack thereof, was rather poor. I was impressed with the fact that the Aquarium was somehow made to adapt inside this building. I can only imagine the extreme challenges this presented designers! So, in terms of adaptive re-use and re-purposing of valued structures — and the benefits that has in promoting the “recycling” of buildings, the Aquarium gets an A+. Whether this example was the intent of the initiative or not, this is a good example of the re-use of buildings.

Making my way inside, I was helpfully greeted by very friendly staff members. This is an area — customer service and enthusiastic attitude — our city has needed to improve upon for a long time. I really felt the “Walt Disney” level of hospitality. The grade here? Solid B.

Now for the first series of exhibits: The lakes, rivers and streams of Ohio

Uh oh! (You will learn why I say this later… read on!) Again, I feel I must first offer a reminder that for many years, myself and many other nature nuts like me in the area have dedicated so much of our time to presenting these local aquatic habitats we take for granted every day — even see as rather mundane — in the best possible fashion through aquaria.

An aquarium is more than seeing fish in a tank, so my goal when presenting a native fishes exhibit was to, as much as possible, replicate the all encompassing and intertwined habitat to give the viewer a maximum appreciation of our local environments. The habitat is every bit as important as the fish and other animals. Without it, you do not have them, and without the fish, no habitat — and ultimately without both, you do not have us.

The purpose of my replicating habitats in presenting our local fish fauna was, in the first place, so that I could get people excited to understand and appreciate their function and importance to us. I felt this is so important in a region virtually devoid in the general public as to just how important these environments are to our own existence.

I tried to achieve the above by replicating the real lighting, the plants, riverbank overhangs, trees, leaves, rootwads, wood, rocks, pools, riffles, runs, preparing the right diet and water temperatures for fish and so on. The result was stunning. I heard people say, “That habitat exists HERE?! And those fish live HERE?!”

How can I say this… there is no easy way to put it. (Clears throat! Uhh humm!)

The local aquatic habitat presentation at this aquarium is the poorest representation I have ever seen in my whole life of such a subject theme. In every component of delivering a quality display as I mention above, it fails. It is bland, sterile and not even mediocre. Little to NO effort was made to attempt to achieve the above. I have actually seen better presentations of our native fishes in bait shops and simple state park nature centers. This one resembled more of the lure demonstration tanks at a Cabelas store or maybe the make-shift tanks at a sportsmen trade show.

The Aquarium has a chance to impress the largely devoid-of-knowledge, understanding, or appreciation segment in NEO. But, instead, visitors are left with the impression that all our native aquatic habitats are lifeless and boring; that we are “ecologically inferior” to all that colorful tropical stuff that is given so much attention to detail.

Displaying our native aquatic fauna is a detailed art in its own way

Displaying native North American fishes is an art unto itself. Unless we talk about fish in the darter family, they generally lack the kind of primary colors of the artists palette — the reds, yellows, and blues. But, at the same time, boast a myriad of iridescent and rustic colors of Autumn that compliment the woodland environments to which they’re native.

Knowing this, you must choose the right lighting, substrate, habitat (which is just as important as the fish… no habitat, no fish!), diet, water temperatures and even the right mix of fish, and aquarium sizes/styles to create the best possible viewer experience. The aquarium fails to demonstrate this in the least. Adding to this, we must realize that “bigger is not always better” and that, sometimes, smaller fishes such as those in the minnow family are better appreciated in smaller micro-habitat aquariums that feature a few select fishes from a given habitat along with replicating that habitat.

These micro-habitat-style of aquariums are much easier to see and make it much easier to decipher the differences between the fishes. They encourage, because of their smaller size, viewers to walk up and take a closer, more intimate look of their tiny world. On the other hand, as featured in the GCA, a tank full of various minnows that is too large has them all looking the same, and therefore there is not much incitement or “lure” to take a closer look. Instead, people think, “Oh, a big tank with minnows… ho hum… let’s move on.”

If you come to the Gardens Under Glass store in the Galleria in downtown Cleveland, you will see “The Watershed” exhibit. This display will speak mountains for what I am trying to articulate in words.

The only positive thing I can say about this part of the aquarium is that the interpretive texts were well done. As for the exhibits themselves? They leave much to be desired. The good news is that with a few small low cost adjustments many of these issues can be resolved. I can only hope they will be as time progresses.

That said, I invite the folks at the aquarium to please get in touch with myself and a group who is dedicated to presenting our fishes and their habitats in the most spectacular “wow effect” way. Please, GCA, this is an opportunity to get people to appreciate our local waters, habitats and aquatic life like they have never before, so please do not allow this current version of the Ohio lakes, rivers, and streams exhibit to be the best this gets. It really is a slap in the face to what others have tried to achieve for so long and just reaffirms that “ecological inferiority complex” I was alluding to earlier.

To summarize the native fishes exhibit…

The fishes, as I would have expected in their current presentation format, appeared poor. Many of their colors, patterns and tones were completely washed out and I do not feel time will remedy this, given the lack of habitat design and with the current displays and materials used. We’re left with an extremely inaccurate and poor representation of our fishes which leads to NOT commanding the respect they deserve. As I loosely stated earlier… It leaves folks with the mentality that suggests “all our fish must be ugly and the rest of the world’s fish must be pretty and colorful… so let’s protect them and the hell with the rest!” Sadly, this is the image it creates as we tend to be selective stewards of nature. We, who love these fish and environments, want nothing in return for simply helping you deliver a far better product. So, my overall experience with this first portion of the aquarium, being a native fishes a-fish-ionado, was an underwhelming disappointment. I give this portion a grade F-.

Now on to the freshwater tropical section

The species diversity in this section was fairly decent, interpretive texts concise and easy to understand for a public with an eroding attention span. The style of aquariums and displays were not too bad. I guess it is easy to overlook any lack in habitat replication here because the colorful fish seem to take our minds away from what the aquariums lack in habitat substance. The educational interpretive texts were decent and the displays many. I would have to give this section a space between a C+ or B-.

The touch pool was functional and perfect for hands-on demonstration. In this exhibit, I have to give a grade B. The “Lobster Look-Up” display was rather interesting and I will give that one an “A” just for fun and creativity, as well as the space that allowed people to look up to the powerhouse smokestack and measure the height. This part reminded you how difficult and challenging it must have been to incorporate an aquarium into this building and offered a sublime message about how “cool” re-purposing buildings can be!

Now for the rest

I soon ventured into the caves and tunnels of the powerhouse and viewed many saltwater aquariums. While their sizes were fairly impressive for an aquarium in a building of this size, they lacked substance — again, in habitat replication. I was remembering my aquarium store I used to operate in this section and was thinking that the material used in the habitats looked more like inflated versions of the old Penn Plax aquarium decorations. I was wondering when I was going to see the little diver with bubbles coming out of his helmet! I honestly thought much of the materials used in these exhibits were rather cheaply looking. I would have suggested a company called “Signature Corals” for duplicating corals, but hey, I’m not the boss, am I? But, they would have looked much more realistic than what I saw. I give these various displays a grade C-.

Speaking of corals, I was expecting to see at least a couple exhibits with live coral demonstrations, but that was not the case. That would be important due to the fact that many people think corals are not actually living things, but more so some sort of rocks. The waters were cloudy in many of these systems — but this is probably due to “new tank syndrome” which happens in small home aquariums and can be an issue even in the new largest of aquariums, so this should improve over time.

The main attraction!

My last major observation of the day was the walk-through shark tunnel. It delivers in scale. Big, bold, mysterious, and a little scary… and amazing at the same time getting nose to nose with these ancient creatures as well as schools of many other species of fishes. It appears, however, that the sharks have little room to actually swim overhead. The water appears to be really shallow at the top, making it difficult for the sharks to actually swim over your head as one might be expecting. Nonetheless, cramped as it may seem, this exhibit basically saves this entire GCA attraction from being, overall, very average or even embarrassing. I give this exhibit a B+.

My overall opinion of GCA

In summary, I have not evaluated every exhibit here. Mainly I focused on most of the features. The diversity in species representation is fairly decent but nothing spectacular in an attraction of this size… and the educational opportunity is fair. The aquarium is possibly fun, especially I would think, for Moms and Dads bringing in the kids for something to do who are not true aquarium connoisseurs. But, by no means is it something that would keep me coming back again and again through the purchase of an annual pass. So, for a family-oriented activity it should do well… for a while. I do not feel it is worth the price of the admission.

From my observations, however, in order to remain viable in the long term GCA will need to improve the quality and presentation of its exhibits all around. In its current state it reminds me more of a giant quality aquarium store, rather than an iconic public aquarium museum type attraction. It is more so reflective of a new version of a roadside attraction on Rt. 66… or a disappointing sequel to a good movie.

The gift shop and overall final grade

Before I forget to mention, I will have to say the gift shop is a fun little place, but they could have added some fantastic “Fishes Of Cleveland” gifts like T-shirts to give this place a real fun local flair and to draw attention to our wonderful lesser known beautiful fishes (like how darters are supposed to look!). But, as poor as they are represented in the native Ohio fishes exhibit, I don’t know that a T-Shirt can redeem much. Gift Shop grade… B- But overall, I give the entire place as a whole, a C… and truthfully, that is being kind. But hey, this is me. If this mediocre food suits Clevelanders fine, then they can continue eating it. I think we should expect — and deserve — more with a higher standard and not just eat the bread and water we’re given and treated as though we have to like it. I have a concern that if this place does not do well, that it would possibly hinder future public support for a more world-class aquarium in the future — one in which all of Cleveland and N.E. Ohio can be proud. Meanwhile, I wonder how many people actually take note to the difference in quality right under our nose at our very own Zoo’s aquatic exhibits.

[Oh and one final note... at the top is a photo of what a Longear Sunfish should look like in an aquarium, and the bottom of a Rainbow Darter..... Just in case you didn't get the full effect of one in the aquarium.]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

M. LANG CLOTHING & COCKTAILS!

When you walk into M. Lang Clothing & Cocktails at 1275 Euclid Avenue, right on Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland, you are in for a unique experience! Mike Lang himself greets you with welcoming professional and personalized service. This place exudes the kind of class and quality which hints at the heyday of the grand retail stores along the avenue. The window displays pay homage to an era when droves of downtown pedestrians crammed the sidewalks, many which stopped to view quality merchandise such as the clothing available at M. Lang Clothing & Cocktails. Items such as shirts, coats, jackets, ties, and much more will have you looking your best--whether your ready for a new job, attending an unforgettable event, or just taking in a show at one of the nearby theaters!

And, when you stop by M. Lang Clothing & Cocktails, clothing is not all there is... They serve cocktails too! That's right, just as the name suggests... you can relax at the lounge bar and sip your favorite cocktail. Its like going back in time to the cocktail party era, when dressing up, was all part of the fun. So if you live downtown, walk over...OR, if you're near downtown, take the bus or E-Line Trolley that stops near M. Lang Clothing & Cocktails! If you're driving yourself and friends, parking is FREE! Remember the name: M. Lang Clothing & Cocktails, Playhouse Square, downtown Cleveland! Call for hours of operation or for appointment: 216-771-4197