When steeples compete with summits.

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The river-to-rail city of Cumberland, nestled between the prodigious hills that dominate western Maryland, may not be thriving, but it sure offers some charming, timeless vistas.   As is too often the case, this photo only partially captures its objective: the Cumberland skyline—a city of churches. It isn’t a big city at all, so the …Read more…

Potty protections.

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We’ve come to expect a certain iconography at our airports: restrooms, baggage claims, handicapped access, information centers, baby-changing stations, cabs. Less common: subways, light rail, prayer rooms, and, in this day and age, a smoker refuge. Perhaps I’m revealing my East Coast bias—or at least my tendency to orient myself in terms of where I …Read more…

Biblical Flooding on a Biblical Floodplain, Part I – The recipe for natural disaster.

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Whether wildfires, tornadoes, power plant meltdowns, explosions, epidemics, bankruptcies, school shootings, Godzilla invasions, or roving bands of undomesticated alpacas on the loose, the essential agreement for a disaster to capture the public eye is magnitude. This isn’t brain surgery. Size is generally the variable that semantically distinguishes disaster from catastrophe, or separates predicament from setback. …Read more…

Modulars get modern.

Work commitments yet again prevent me from devoting time to lengthy blog posts the way I often would like, but maybe this is a godsend for my readers. My previous post on condo(m)s in Dayton managed to arouse more interest than I’ve achieved in some time. One topic from which I have shied for the …Read more…

Dressing the wounds with paint.

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My suspicion is that the majority of the readers here have at least a vague knowledge of the Broken Windows Theory, and how it can apply across a variety of social contexts. For the unacquainted, it’s simple: an inanimate object showing signs of neglect or a general lack of maintenance invites the further degeneration of …Read more…

DUST: Pedology 101, Part II – Just add water.

In the first half of this post, I explored my limited familiarity of Afghanistan’s pedology—the physical characteristics of the soil that allow scientists to place regions into different taxonomies, governed at least in part by a variety of temperature and moisture regimes. Without using any more terms that strain my word processor’s spell check feature, …Read more…

The hood is well-paved with good intentions.

As I keep my blog on life support while I remain in the Afghan theater, I hope—more or less—to alternate posts with observations on life here behind the wire with more of my conventional posts, featuring photos taken from this past summer and earlier. Today’s post has been surprisingly difficult for which to gather information, …Read more…

REWIND: From Silos to Steeples, Painting the Town Green.

Several months ago, I featured two examples of integrating sustainability and conservation into the built environment through civic participation in a blog post. The Greensburg, KS example that I featured has been relatively high profile. By most measurements, it remains the most ecologically friendly small town in America: since recovering from a catastrophic tornado, it …Read more…

A view of the slump. . .from within.

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It’s not just the domain of rambling old men in seersuckers on front porches. Everyone knows that New Orleans is sinking. The Tragically Hip even wrote a song about it. The idea of a post-apocalyptic New Orleans submerged in the Gulf of Mexico entered folk parlance long before Hurricane Katrina. But is it really doomed …Read more…