An oasis and a bean-counter.

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The climate of the American high plains may not be completely desert-like, but the similarities are uncanny: relatively little rain or moisture in the air, a temperature that plunges at night throughout the year, considerable variation between summer and winter, but fiercely hot in the former. Many of these characteristics incidentally bespeak high altitudes more …Read more…

Electric neglected.

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On a serene stretch of Interstate 70 in western Maryland—west of Hagerstown but not yet to the point where the freeway veers sharply northward into Pennsylvania—it’s still possible in mid April to see some antiquated power lines that parallel the road, even as dusk approaches. The foliage isn’t yet thick enough, so there they are. …Read more…

A little piece of heaven—with all the bells and whistles.

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In this day and age, with throngs of Baby Boomers approaching and entering retirement, quite a few are inevitably seeking to downsize from the comfy, commodious single-family detached homes where they raised heir kids. Some have already scaled back, and the exodus will only continue in the years ahead, as this unusually large and influential …Read more…

Water tower repartee.

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Even if it’s not a commissioned piece like the mural from my previous post, the landscape of artistic expression in Detroit is rich.  Since such a huge portion of it comes in the form of graffiti—which is almost always by definition an act of vandalism—it’s understandable that my opening sentence might carry a whiff of …Read more…

One road—two bodies politic.

Inevitably, communities evolve to reflect the personalities of their inhabitants.  Such an assertion may come across as glib, and it probably is, but it’s far better than the opposite—when a character of its community seems at odds with its constituents’ goals.  A fundamental goal of an effective representative democracy is that local governments allow people …Read more…

Economizing and downsizing a city’s landmarks.

When navigating through an unfamiliar place, either urban or rural, we tend to seek visual points of reference to aid us in further wayfinding.  It is as instinctual of an action as folding the corner of a book.  Across the countryside, visual cues assume a variety of incarnations: a distinctive geological form, an unusual sign, …Read more…

Urbanism with blinders on.

When an instructor for a real estate and development class told his students, “You can’t own a view,” he said it with the nonchalance that suggested it should become a mantra.  What he was implying was that neither the developer nor the prospective property owner should stake all of an investment on the quality of …Read more…

Taking the sewer less traveled.

It probably doesn’t seem like the most savory topic, and it’s already my second blog post to reference the porcelain god. But wastewater removal is such a fundamental infrastructural component to sustaining dense developments that it is impossible to ignore or make light of it. For nascent settlements in resource-poor parts of the globe, it …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…

DUST: The shoe may fit, but does the foot fit the stair?

In planning, as in any undertaking, when a certain prevailing goal asserts itself as the principal one, other objectives and their respective goals all too frequently become subordinate—such is the nature of prioritization. A no-brainer. In a conflict zone, urgency often triumphs over pragmatism. In Afghanistan, a dozen different units can lay claim to territories …Read more…