Category Archives: geography

Tiny Homes Are Baby Steps Toward Reversing the Housing Crisis

Among the first things you notice when driving eastward into Baltimore are the blocks of decrepit row houses. The city claims that only 16,000 row houses in Baltimore are vacant. Skeptics say the real number is closer to 46,000, or 16 percent of the city’s housing stock.

Baltimore certainly isn’t the only city experiencing a housing crisis: The U.S. as a whole can’t seem to keep up with the growing numbers of very low-income households. In response, a handful of cities, from Nashville to Dallas, Detroit, and Seattle, have launched programs to build tiny houses for folks priced out of their homes.

One nonprofit is positioning tiny houses as one immediate intervention against Baltimore’s housing crisis. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Baltimore has piloted one, … Read the rest

Poverty Still Isn’t As Suburban As You Think

There’s a growing chorus about the so-called suburbanization of poverty. A couple of years ago, Alan Ehrenhalt’s Great Inversion argued that the wealthy and well-educated are moving to cities and the poor are being displaced to suburbs, in essence reversing the historical pattern of urban settlement in the U.S. The Brookings Institution has issued a series of reports noting that the number of poor persons living in suburbs has increased faster than in cities. A new book from the University of Washington’s Scott Allard is the latest in a series of reports.

There’s a political subtext to all of these arguments: You can’t escape or ignore poverty simply by moving to the suburbs. As a result, the argument goes, you’ve got to be a supporter of … Read the rest

There Was a Massive, Gross Slime Eel Spill in Oregon

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Oregon’s Highway 101 is a beautiful drive along the coast, but for some drivers yesterday, it was a little more slimy than scenic. The Oregonian reports that a truck carrying 7,500 pounds of hagfish overturned two miles south of the town of Depoe Bay, causing a five-car crash and covering two sedans and the highway in goo and fish. It required a bulldozer and fire hoses to clean it all up.

Hagfish are about one to two feet long, and while they have a skull, they lack a spinal column. They’re sometimes called slime eels because they ooze goo–up to four cups in less than a second–when they’re distressed. When combined with water, that goo expands. Slime from just one hagfish can grow to five gallons, … Read the rest

The Worst Freelance Gig in History Was Being the Village Sin Eater

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When a loved one died in parts of England, Scotland, or Wales in the 18th and 19th centuries, the family grieved, placed bread on the chest of the deceased, and called for a man to sit in front of the body. The family of the deceased watched as this man, the local professional sin eater, absorbed the sins of the departed’s soul.

The family who hired the sin eater believed that the bread literally soaked up their loved one’s sins; once it had been eaten, all the misdeeds were passed on to the hired hand. The sin eater’s own soul was heavy with the ill deeds of countless men and women from his village or town—he paid a high spiritual price for little worldly return. The … Read the rest

Lake Kavicsos, Hungary

Kavicsos Lake, or “pebble lake” in Hungarian, is a scenic lake about 2 km across located south of Budapest, just a 30-minute ride away from the city center. The lake sits at the site of a former pebble quarry, and hence its name.

About twenty years ago, the quarry closed and the excavated pits filled with rainwater creating the lake. Since then nature has reclaimed the area and rich wildlife has taken root in and around the lake. In 1996, the lake was sold to a private organization but there are still some unspecified legal battles among the parties involved.

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One of the numerous islands in Lake Kavicsos. Photo credit: Alexander H. Szabo / Aerial National Police

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Canal du Midi, France

The Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa isn’t the only waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. A thousand kilometer north lies another connecting route. This route connects the French city of Bordeaux, near the Atlantic ocean, to the Mediterranean port of Sète through a series of canals collectively called Canal des Deux Mers, or the “canal of the two seas.” Lying entirely in Southern France this man-made canal is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering carried out in the 17th century.

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Photo credit: Gemma Llorensí Torrent/Flickr

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Where the Dogs Are in New York

It’s often claimed that in New York you’re never less than six feet from a rat. But what about a dog—is it always a matter of taking a few paces to pat a tongue-lolling, tail-wagging good boy?

In many parts of the city, that certainly seems the case. “I have often thought that my neighborhood had to be disproportionately overpopulated with dogs,” says the East Village’s Nate Rattner. “At times it feels like the streets are just dominated by them.”

So Rattner, a 24-year-old tech worker and former professional dog-walker, conducted an experiment to test his suspicion of living in the center of the pooch universe. Inspired by WNYC’s 2013 “Dogs of NYC” project, he dove into the extensive public database of licensed … Read the rest

Planning the Transit Hubs of the Future

What does the train station of the future look like? It’s a question that architects and urban planners must at least try to answer whenever they design new transit networks or terminals. Railway stations of the past are often beautiful (and occasionally loathed), but in a world where transit patterns and technology change rapidly, time is not typically kind to these expensive and inflexible pieces of infrastructure. The United States is littered with discarded rail and bus stations as architecturally charming as they are useless; even relatively recent cases such as that of Tel Aviv’s massive and famously misbegotten bus station, which opened in the 1990s, show we still haven’t learned our lesson.

In seeking an answer, Caroline Bos, architect and co-founder of Dutch … Read the rest

Hunting for Treasure in Brooklyn’s Coolest Prop House

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Walking into Brooklyn’s ACME Studio you have to pass a TV—displaying static and embellished with disco balls—that is half-hidden under faux-jungle underbrush that also drapes over a giant wooden skull, next to a pristine vintage motorcycle. And that’s all before you’re greeted by the bright green plastic horse.

ACME Studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn calls itself a prop house or a photo studio, but its space is more like a modern cabinet of curiosities, the walls filled with oddities and artifacts accumulated from years of careful (and not so careful) collecting.


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“This horse of a different color was gifted to us, oddly enough, and has been a staple of our studio ever since! Even when wrapped up in bubble wrap and packing blankets, this unmissable shape always

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Found: A Purse Hidden in the Library Walls Since 1966

A librarian on Chicago’s North Shore was presented with a mystery, found in the building’s walls. When a crew was renovated the HVAC system, they found a black purse, the Daily North Shore reports.

Inside, there were a few objects—a lipstick, an earring, a pencil, two photos, and a reservation ticket for the dentist’s office, on a Tuesday, October 11.

The photos showed a younger girl and an older woman, but most helpful clue so far was the ticket for the dentist’s. It turns out that there was only one Tuesday, October 11 in history when dentist Arthur S. Dunn was at the number listed on the card. That was in 1966.

The card also had a name—Ellen Pritikin. Between the photos and that … Read the rest

The Humongous Fungus

Beneath the soil in the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon, the United States, lurks a very large fungus that has been slowly weaving its way through the roots of trees for centuries to become the single largest living organism known to humans.

The fungus, Armillaria solidipes, remains mostly underground, hidden from sight, but every autumn just after the rains it sends up clusters of small yellow-brown mushrooms from the bases of trees it has infected. These mushrooms, commonly called “honey mushrooms”, are the most visible part of the fungus seen by the casual observer. The bulk of the fungus lies underneath the forest floor—a vast network of black filament-like structures called rhizomorphs, that creep through the soil, feeling out new root systems to colonize. The … Read the rest