Iowa City standoff: Nitpicking numbers

City High

Recently, an online conversation I participated in turned to differences between City High and West High. The discussion reflected assumptions about the two schools that are ingrained in many locals’ minds: City is preferable because it has greater diversity, and West is a more homogeneous school largely due to alleged “white flight” from the east to the west side of Iowa City. […]

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Mapping the middle: What delineates the heartland


I’m a lifelong Midwesterner and a devotee to and student of the region. But I’m usually left stammering when it comes to defining the human culture of these middle lands. The U.S. Census Bureau’s definition of the Midwest includes over 65 million people. Can there really be a set of common characteristics among such a […]

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UR Here: Rethinking the gnat

Gnats, oh gnats

Those pesky clouds of airborne annoyance come around every spring, but they’ve been especially bad this year. Chalk it up to this year’s cool spring and heavy rains, says Patrick O’Malley from the Iowa State University Extension. Mother Nature’s vichyssoise stewed up an extra-heaping helping of the buggers, and then the sudden heat of late May shot them out of our backyard swamps, all at once, faster than you can say “Anton Arcane” (an arcane reference for the Swamp Thing fans out there).

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UR Here: Noxious nostalgia

UR Here

Summer is here, and those distinctive smells of the hot season abound: trees and flowers in bloom, humidity in the air, the ozone before a late-afternoon thunderstorm, your fired-up backyard grill, the chlorine in a refreshing pool. Many of these smells no doubt spark pleasant memories of childhood—those lazy summer days when time felt endless […]

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UR Here: Where is the wonder?

Neil Degrasse Tyson

When astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke to a capacity crowd at The University of Iowa in April, he said that through his teaching of the marvels of the universe he tries “to reignite some sense of wonder.” He went on to say that if you’re not wondering “you’re not fully embracing all that it is […]

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UR Here: Home is where the hygge is


Hygge (roughly pronounced hö-geh, though with a little more “oo” on that umlauted o) is a Danish word that defies English translation. Its closest Anglo analogue is probably cozy, but that doesn’t fully capture what hygge is all about. Hygge is a feeling, a condition, but Danes tend to define it more by action and situation than abstractions. […]

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UR Here: There’s something a little bit extra about Eble Music

Eble Music

Last week at Eble Music, I picked up the next piece my daughter, Sylvia, will be working on for her saxophone lessons, Alfred Desenclos’s “Prélude, cadence, et finale.” As I walked down Linn Street after my purchase, I said to myself, “You know, I think Eble Music may just be the best local business in town.” I don’t mean to diminish any of our other marvelous local retailers in any way, but, in my experience, there’s something a little bit extra about Eble Music.

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UR Here: Valuing the Faraway

I like to think of this time of year as “in deep.” As I write in late January, no snow is on the ground, and we have had our share of warmth this year. Yet, even though the winter of 2013 has so far been relatively mild, spring and summer still seem far away. I […]

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UR Here: Objects of my Admiration

I went to Wisconsin, and all I brought back were a bunch of bark shavings from a red pine tree. This fall, I attended a “Land Ethic Leader” workshop at the Aldo Leopold Center near Baraboo, Wisconsin. If you don’t know, Aldo Leopold—born and raised in Burlington, Iowa—is arguably the twentieth century’s greatest conservationist. He authored […]

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UR Here: Open Spaces

In the days when prairies stretched from river to river across the expanse of what we now call Iowa, bison disturbance was essential to the health of the ecosystem. As the herds thundered across the grasslands and created wallows—depressions in the ground in which the animals rolled to cover themselves in mud and dirt—like a […]

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