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On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work

Overview

Turn on a switch and from the nearest bulb out pours light from . . . somewhere; turn on a faucet and

water appears. Wires, pipes, and roads support the lives we lead, but the average person doesn’t know where they go or even how they work. In On the Grid, Scott Huler takes the time to understand the systems that sustain our way of life, starting from his own quarter of an acre in North Carolina and traveling ...

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On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work

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Overview

Turn on a switch and from the nearest bulb out pours light from . . . somewhere; turn on a faucet and

water appears. Wires, pipes, and roads support the lives we lead, but the average person doesn’t know where they go or even how they work. In On the Grid, Scott Huler takes the time to understand the systems that sustain our way of life, starting from his own quarter of an acre in North Carolina and traveling as far as ancient Rome.

 

Each chapter follows one element of infrastructure back to its source. Huler visits power plants,

watches new asphalt pavement being laid, and traces a drop of water backward from the faucet to the

Gulf of Mexico. He reaches out to guides along the way, both the workers who operate these systems

and the people who plan them.

 

On the Grid brings infrastructure to life and details the ins and outs of our civilization with fascinating,

back-to-basics information about the systems we all depend on.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Terrific new book . . . a fascinating read.” Robin Young, host of NPR’s Here and Now

 

“Scott Huler’s fascinating account of his trips through the mesmerizingly crafted infrastructure that

sustains our modern american lives gets us toward an understanding of a system that ought to be

celebrated.”  Robert Sullivan, author of The Thoreau You Don’t Know

Publishers Weekly
Inquisitive everyman Huler takes an obsessively detailed behind the scenes look at wires, water pipes, and other typically ignored but terribly important pathways that lie beneath our feet. He puts himself front-and-center for his subjects, watching the laying of asphalt in his own neighborhood, following a recycling truck to the facility, or dropping in on his local power plant. Investigations unfold via a pleasant, relatable approach based on the everyday experiences that Huler and his family have had ("I know from my son's delighted cries every morning that the recycling truck usually comes by before 10:00..."). The frequent adoption of a high-school science teacher tone ("The last thing you need to know about electricity...") becomes grating, but overall there's enough well-reported, thoughtfully observed analysis to satisfy inquisitive minds.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609611385
  • Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 997,219
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Huler is the author of six books including Defining the Wind and No Man’s Lands. His essays and stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and other newspapers nationwide.  He has been a staff writer for the Philadelphia Daily News and the Raleigh News & Observer and a staff reporter and producer for Nashville Public Radio.  His award-winning radio work has been heard on "All Things Considered" and "Day to Day" on National Public Radio and on "Marketplace" and "Splendid Table" on American Public Media. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife, the writer June Spence; they have a son and another child on the way.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Raleigh Versus the Garbage Disposal 1

1 The Lay of the Land 11

2 The Pig and the Crab 29

3 A Chess Game You Never Win 51

4 What a River Would Do 73

5 The Asphalt Ballet 95

6 The Blue Glow 117

7 The Big Ravioli 147

8 Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, All the Time 167

9 Annihilating Both Time and Space 193

The Virtue of Necessity 215

Bibliography 227

Acknowledgments 235

Index 237

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