“Brainbelt” cities

Source: amazon.com

Source: amazon.com

I recently completed reading an interested and insightful book entitled The Smartest Places on Earth. Written by Antoine Van Agtmael and Fred Bakker, the book identifies and concentrates on those Rustbelt cities in the North America and Europe that have become emerging hotspots of innovation. The book provides in-depth details on cities like Albany, New  York; Akron, Ohio; Eindhoven, Netherlands; Dresden, Germany; and Malmo-Lund, Sweden; but also identifies many more (see list below).

Dresden's Silicon Saxony - Source: sireselection.com

Dresden’s Silicon Saxony – Source: siteselection.com

Admittedly, some cities on the list below may not fit everyone’s definition as a former Rustbelt city – i.e. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill and Portland – though these two did go through a depressed economy phase. Raleigh-Durham from furniture and tobacco and Portland from forestry.

Below is the list of all Brainbelts (former Rustbelt cities or not) from the book, both identified in text and on maps. Some you may agree with, others you may not, but they provide the basis for an interesting discussion. To me, I questions how one plant can catapult tiny Batesville, Mississippi (<7,500 population) onto the list, especially since Mississippi State University is across the state in Starkville? I was also confused by the inclusion of Tel Aviv given the premise of the book was North America and Europe.

In terms of places left off the list, I think Albuquerque-Los Alamos, New Mexico; ; the Philadelphia-Princeton Region; Edinburgh, Scotland; Dublin, Ireland; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Lafayette-West Lafayette, Indiana; and Ottawa-Gatineau, Ontario/Quebec each certainly deserve consideration and/or inclusion.

I will say, that those cities in the book where the authors provide more detail, definitely presents a strong case. I was particularly impressed by the efforts in Albany and Akron. Furthermore, have been born, raised, and lived most of my life in the Great Lakes Region, the term/moniker “Brainbelt” is certainly more pleasing and inspiring than “Rustbelt.”

  • Aachen, Germany
  • Akron, Ohio
  • Albany, New York
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Batesville, Mississippi
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Boise, Idaho
  • Boston-Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Cambridge, UK
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Delft, Netherlands
  • Denver-Boulder, Colorado
  • Detroit-Troy, Michigan
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • Enschede, Netherlands
  • Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Grenoble, France
  • Heerlen, Netherlands
  • Heidelberg, Germany
  • Houston, Texas
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Kaiserslaut, Germany
  • Kansas City, Missouri-Kansas
  • Karlsruhe, Germany
  • Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Leiden, Netherlands
  • Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Los Angeles-Orange County, California
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Malaga, Spain
  • Malmo-Lund, Sweden
  • Mecklenburg, Germany
  • Melbourne-Palm Bay, Florida
  • Milan, Italy
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Monterrey, Mexico
  • Munich, Germany
  • New York City, New York
  • Oulu, Finland
  • Oxford, UK
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Rochester, Minnesota
  • Rochester, New York
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo, Utah
  • San Diego, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Palo Alto, California
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Seville, Spain
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Stuttgart, Germany
  • Tel Aviv, Israel
  • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Toulouse, France
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Wageningen, Netherlands
  • Warsaw, Indiana
  • Washington, DC Region
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Zurich, Switzerland

Source: The Smartest Places on Earth, pages 9-16.

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“Shakespearean” cities

Source: twitter.com

Below is a partial list of those cities that incorporate some aspect of Shakespearean lore in their name, either directly or indirectly, as well as by intention or accident. Names include, but are not limited to characters in his plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, King Richard, or King Lear; settings for plays like Venice or Verona; and/or locations where his plays were performed like the Globe Theater. For the sake of brevity, I decided not to include every North, South, East and West variation of those places listed below. 

Source: en.wikipedia.org

  • Globe, Arizona
  • Henrytown, Minnesota
  • Henryville, Indiana
  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania and Ohio
  • Juliette, Georgia
  • Kingsport, Tennessee
  • Kingston, Jamaica
  • Kingston, New York
  • Kingston, Ontario
  • Kingston upon Hull, UK
  • Kingsville, Texas
  • Loveland, Colorado and Ohio
  • Mt. Juliet, Tennessee 
  • Noblesville, Indiana
  • Othello, Washington
  • Princeton, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, and Wisconsin
  • Richardson, Texas
  • Romeo, Michigan
  • Romeoville, Illinois
  • Saint John, New Brunswick
  • St. Johns, Michigan
  • St. John’s Newfoundland
  • Shakespeare Ghost Town, New Mexico
  • Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont
  • Shrewsbury, UK
  • Stratford, Connecticut
  • Stratford, Ontario
  • Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
  • Tyre, Lebanon
  • Tyre, Michigan and New York
  • Van Lear, Kentucky
  • Venice, California and Florida
  • Venice, Italy
  • Verona, Italy
  • Verona, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin 
  • Windsor, California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin
  • Windsor, Ontario
  • Windsor Locks, Connecticut

Sources: en.wikipedia.org and personal knowledge

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IKEA’s North American distribution network

Perryville, Maryland – Source: mrnd.com

The following list identifies existing and planned IKEA distribution facilities in North America serving their retail outlets. They are listed from oldest to newest. A map of the locations is also provided via this ZeeMaps weblink.

  • Westampton (Philadelphia), New Jersey (1992) = 1,200,000 sq. ft.
  • Lebec (Bakersfield), California (2001) = 1,725,000 sq. ft.
  • Spanaway (Tacoma), Washington (2008) = 886,000 sq. ft.
  • Port Wentworth (Savannah), Georgia (2008) = 867,000 sq. ft.
  • Laval (Montreal), Quebec
  • Perryville (Baltimore), Maryland (2013)  = 769,000 sq. ft.
  • Mississauga (Toronto), Ontario (2016) = 397,000 sq. ft.
  • Joliet #1 (Chicago),Illinois (2017) = 1,400,000 sq. ft.
  • Joliet #2 (Chicago), Illinois (2018) = 1,250,000 sq. ft.
  • Houston, Texas = possible location (rumor stages)
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Rain shadow cities and planning

Source: en.wikipedia.org

The Rain Shadow Effect – Source: en.wikipedia.org

Rain shadows are a fascinating geological and meteorological phenomenon that results from moisture being squeezed out as weather systems pass over higher elevations on the windward side of the mountains, leaving the leeward side much drier, sometimes even with a desert climate.

For cities situated in rain shadows, there are a number of unique planning challenges to address. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Access and availability of water
  • Potential for wildfires
  • Potential for erosion
  • Need to use native vegetation
  • Need for irrigation for agriculture and landscaping
  • Potential for drought conditions
  • Limited topsoil
  • Potential for flash flooding from irregular storms
  • Potential for duststorms
  • Design which takes advantage of often sunnier and drier conditions
  • Need for sustainable planning
  • Delicate natural environment
Rain shadow created by Cascade Mountains in Eastern Wasington State - Source: sequim-web.net

Rain shadow created by Cascade Mountains in Washington State – Source: sequim-web.net

The following list identifies some of the cities worldwide which are situated in rain shadows. The list is not comprehensive, but meant to be representative of geographic diversity of this geological phenomenon.
  • Alicante, Spain
  • Almeria, Spain
  • Asti, Italy
  • Bakersfield, CA, USA
  • Bend, OR, USA
  • Boulder, CO, USA
  • Carson City, NV, USA
  • Cheyenne, WY, USA
  • Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Clermont-Ferrand, France
  • Colorado Springs, CO, USA
  • Denver, CO, USA
  • El Paso-Juarez, USA-Mexico
  • Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • Geelong, Australia
  • Greeley, CO, USA
  • Lancaster, CA, USA
  • La Rioja, Argentina
  • Las Cruces, NM, USA
  • Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • Lewiston, ID, USA
  • Lhasa, Tibet
  • Longmont, CO, USA
  • Loveland, CO, USA
  • Mendoza, Argentina
  • Murcia, Spain
  • Neuquen, Argentina
  • Palmdale, CA, USA
  • Palm Springs, CA, USA
  • Pueblo, CO, USA
  • Reno, NV, USA
  • San Jose, CA, USA
  • San Juan, Argentina
  • San Luis, Argentina
  • Sequim, WA, USA
  • Sheffield, England, UK
  • Spokane, WA, USA
  • Sterling, CO, USA
  • Tokyo, Japan (in winter months due to prevailing winds)
  • Toliara, Madagascar
  • Trelew, Argentina
  • Tri-Cities, WA, USA
  • Turin, Italy
  • Victorville, CA, USA
  • Walla-Walla, WA, USA
  • Wenatchee, WA, USA
  • Werribee, Australia
  • Worcester, South Africa
  • Yakima, WA, USA
  • Zahle, Lebanon


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Radiohead’s triumphant tour de force

Source: spin.com

I was going to write a review of Radiohead’s stunning new album entitled A Moon Shaped Pool. But, after reading the review by Chris Gerard on PopMatters, I realized there was no possible way to say it any better.  Here are my favorite parts of his review – please click on the link above to read the entire review.

“It  would have been difficult to envision back in 1992 when a young British band from Oxfordshire named after an obscure Talking Heads song released their breakthrough single “Creep” and its accompanying album ‘Pablo Honey’ that Radiohead would someday become far and away the most important band of their generation. Sure, there were flashes of brilliance on that album, like the unhinged eruption of self-loathing in “Creep” or the slow-boiling tension of “Lurgee”, but Radiohead had every appearance of being one of those countless ‘90s alternative rock bands that would make a quick splash and then just as quickly disappear into the ether.

Fast-forward 23 years, and Radiohead remains the world’s preeminent rock band. There is nobody else in rock—with the possible exception of U2—that can generate such a massive frenzy of excitement and speculation with the prospect of a new release as Radiohead. Their second album, 1995’s critically hailed ‘The Bends,’ was an artistic progression of leaps and bounds over their debut. At that point it became abundantly clear that Radiohead was not an ordinary rock band. Their stature has only grown over the years, as they’ve compiled the most groundbreaking and utterly essential body of work in the modern era of rock: their masterpiece of isolation and disillusionment, 1997’s ‘OK Computer,’ the fearless experimentalism of ‘Kid A’ (2000), and four spectacular albums spanning a decade—’Amnesiac’ (2001), ‘Hail to the Thief’ (2003), ‘In Rainbows’ (2007) and the gorgeously esoteric ‘The King of Limbs’ (2011)—are all groundbreaking works that eschew the old familiar conventions of rock and ascend to new heights of creativity and innovation.

Never content to repeat themselves or fall into a conventional lane that defines what they are supposed to be, Radiohead is constantly pushing forward with new sounds and ideas that challenge the notion of rock and roll’s limits. Turns out there are none, at least in the hands of Radiohead.

Radiohead operates in an entirely different dimension than anybody else in music. They don’t bother with arbitrary boundaries or definitions about what rock and roll should be. They are this generation’s version of a whole host of bands that other eras enjoyed and marveled over, and whose music continues to make a lasting impact—Pink Floyd, for instance. For those of us too young to remember Animals being released, being able to go to the store and buy it, unwrap it, gently lower it to the platter, place the needle and play it for the first time, it is difficult to imagine the wonder. That is how people will feel decades from now about ‘A Moon Shaped Pool,’ among other Radiohead albums. When we’re all gone, or getting there, young people emerging from the friendly cocoon of whatever is popular at the time will slowly discover Radiohead’s discography, read about it in some music book about must-have classic albums, and discover a musical universes that will blow them away, just like millions before them.

We are fortunate to see and hear it unfold before us, now. For only the ninth time in history, we have the opportunity to explore a new Radiohead album, and it’s worth the long five year wait. ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is gorgeously produced by the band’s usual collaborator, Nigel Godrich, and is as deep and thoroughly moving as one would expect from any Radiohead album. The long wait is over, folks. There are dark currents ahead so dive in with your mind open and don’t be afraid to release yourself to the sonic waves and evocative images, wherever they may end up carrying you.”

SOURCE: www.popmatters.com/review/radiohead-a-moon-shaped-pool/

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States with most quilt barn trails (by county)

Having begun just back in 2001, Quilt Barn Trails have certainly become popular in a number of states around the country. In particular, the following regions have seen the most trails development in the past 15 yearsbased on the number of counties with barn quilt trails.


  • Southeast (Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi) = 162 counties
  • Great Lakes (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, and Indiana) = 118 counties
  • Central Great Plains (Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado) = 96 counties 

Here are the rankings by state:

1. Kentucky = 84 counties

2. Tennessee = 51 counties

3. Iowa = 42 counties

4. Ohio = 34 counties

5. Kansas = 33 counties

6. Pennsylvania = 31 counties

7. Michigan = 18 counties

8. North Carolina = 17 counties

9. Wisconsin = 16 counties

10. Georgia = 15 counties

11. Mississippi = 12 counties

     Nebraska = 12 counties

13. New York = 10 counties

14. Colorado = 9 counties

      Indiana = 9 counties

Source:  barnquiltinfo.com

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Getting “reel” about our environment


After way too many years of using a gasoline powered lawn mower, my wife and I recently made the switch to a human-powered reel lawn mower. Once the standard for lawn care, these basic mowing machines have been long regulated to the shadows as gasoline and  more recently electric powered motors have been the primary methods for propelling lawn mowers.

Climate change and global warming have become an increasingly important issue for those of us who prefer to leave a smaller carbon footprint on our planet. Reel lawn mowers are becoming the choice du jour to address this concern, while also allowing us to get more exercise and creating less noise and air pollution.
Thankfully, there are an increasingly large number of reel mower design options our there for the environmentally conscious consumer, as I found them in stores or online at all the major big box and traditional hardware stores, as well as at discount retailers.
If you live on a smaller lot or in an urban environment, reel lawn mowers are a truly viable alternative to the run-of-the-mill gas-guzzling, air and noise polluting mowers on the market. Please consider kicking the gas can and getting “reel” about our environment. Peace!
Posted in Advocacy, civics, climate change, consumerism, energy, environment, health, history, nature, pollution, sustainability, Uncategorized, walking | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment