Friday, October 21, 2011

On the Grid (nonfiction)

Look around your house, apartment, or dorm on this Fun Friday.
Do you know the exact route that water takes to get to your faucet?
Where does it all go when you flush?
How do phone signals follow your cellphone as you travel?
What are all those lines up on your utility poles?

Scott Huler, the 2011 Piedmont Laureate for Creative Non-Fiction, wondered about all that, too. His curiosity about the many infrastructure systems that keep our towns and cities running became this interesting and easy-reading book.

Travel around Huler's hometown as you educate yourself about the grids and services that keep our level of civilization...civilized. (and watch what you flush!)

Book info: On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work / Scott Huler. Rodale Books, 2010 (paperback 2011). [author's website] [publisher site] [author interview]

Recommendation: What's under those manhole covers? Why are there so many different wires on the utility poles? How do cities get drinking water to every faucet?

Looking around his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, Scott Huler decided to trace all the service grids that bring safe drinking water and reliable electricity, take away unwanted stormwater and wastes, provide communication and entertainment and transportation.

Investigating one system at a time, Huler discusses land surveying, the water cycle (raincloud to river to raincloud), drinking water delivery and wastewater treatment, roads for vehicles and pedestrians, electricity generation and transmission, landline and cellular telephone services, cable and internet, garbage and recycling, and mass transit.

It takes lots of engineers, planning, technicians, and maintenance to keep these essential infrastructure services going. This raises questions about supply and demand, capacity and upgrades, and how everything gets paid for.

An interesting book that will have readers looking appreciatively at the services and utilities they use every day - and being more careful about what goes into their wastewater and stormwater systems!
(Looked intriguing, so I bought it - I was right!)

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