About Me

Currently a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, I study urban sociology and inequality. Originally from Western Pennsylvania, I am particularly interested in how changes in regional economic structures effect stratification and mobility opportunities, particularly for the working class. I also participate in the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Some Interesting Links, 11/7/11

So, I spent some time over the weekend re-working the format on the Postcards of Place blog. The blog now highlights the postcards of certain regular contributors.  I'm preparing to add a few other things, too, because a special collection will soon be coming to Postcards of Place...

Speaking of the mail, a friend of mine shared this article with me about how the USPS deals with bad penmanship. Apparently Salt Lake City and Wichita are home to two "Remote Encoding Centers" where the deciphering is done. Also, there are folks who's job title is "peak-and-poke clerk" which is fun.

This is a really compelling article about the future of competition between Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. It looks like it's going to be more complex and more intense than you might guess.

Speaking of large corporations, I stopped by and talked with the Occupy Columbia folks a bit last week.  Thinking about the distribution of food at the protest, I wondered if these protests were becoming soup kitchens for food insecure and homeless populations.  I mentioned this on Twitter/Facebook and a couple of friends shared links to news stories about  how Occupy protesters and the homeless have developed a variety of relationships in different settings.  Some positive, some not so much.  Of course, there are obvious reasons for these two populations to align.  At the same time, it's a shame that in many of these cities there is so much need that protests movements are taking up the task.

Speaking of Occupy, Kyle Cassidy spent a week with the folks at Occupy Philadelphia.  He encourages you to go meet the Occupy folks in your city.  He encourages you to talk with them, find out why you agree or disagree with them, and tell them your story.  Meeting new people and talking with them sounds like a quality afternoon to me.

My colleague Matt and I went to see the documentary World's Largest over the weekend.  It is a great documentary about fading small towns attempting to use their World's Largest sculptures to lure tourists.  It is folksy, quirky, heart-wrenching, and real.  I may have more to say about the movie in the future. And, this movie may or may not have something to do with the special collection coming soon to Postcards of Place.

It looks like Buffalo is working to be the next Pittsburgh.  But while these cities are seeing improvements, Youngstown, OH is really struggling, and now has the nation's highest concentrated poverty rate. Cleveland barely seems relevant to this discussion, but I wanted to share that Anthony Bourdain has plenty of positive things to say about Cleveland.  This frustrates me because he doesn't seem to find anything particularly interesting about Pittsburgh. If you can find Cleveland interesting, it should be pretty easy to be enthralled with Pittsburgh.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, I like that the city is using local jargon like "redd up" to encourage folks to participate in local clean up initiatives.

This defense of subsidies for arts majors was an interesting read. I appreciated most this paragraph:
"What is economic growth for, anyway? It's for expanding our choices and making life better. Is it really so surprising that, as we grow wealthier as a society, more and more of our young people, when amazing resources of he modern university are put at their disposal, choose to use them learning something satisfying and enriching and not for anything except cherishing the est of their lives? Is it really so surprising that taxpayers are not in revolt over the existence of poetry professors?"
I'll add that the poetry professors that I happen to know are among the most interesting people I have come in contact with, and they have each had a distinct, and positive, impact on my life.


Bobby McFerrin is good at having fun with music.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Some Interesting Links, 11/1/11

The CBO released a report recently on trends in US household income from 1979 to 2007.  Here is a thoughtful summary and response to that report, and a quick, thoughtful blog post about the report with informative graphics.  Both response articles probe the data to ask why and how the income gap has increased so much over these years.

National data shows that the recession has slowed internal US migration, with many sun belt destinations now losing population.  At the same time, evidence is showing that Pittsburgh has reversed its brain drain, with the metro area getting younger and smarter.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, folks from the NHL really seem to want to spend time in the Steel City, as they have announced the 2012 NHL draft will be held there.  Local reports suggest this will bring about 17,000 people, and of course their wallets, to the city.


National Geographic Traveler Magazine recently ranked Pittsburgh among the top destinations in the world in 2012.  Among several exotic locations, the city is listed as an "Extreme Metropolitan Makeover."  Also on this list is cottage country in Ontario, Canada, which is a beautiful area of the world, especially in late July and early August.

I don't always read The Onion, but when I do, I prefer the articles that make jokes about the rust belt.  "One of its most bizarre customs involved workers being employed at the same job at the same location day in and day out for their entire adult lives."

Among other things, Justin Timberlake says, "Let's be clear, no one walks around Los Angeles. We all drive. It's ridiculous."

The drug war in Mexico is bad.

If you've ever wanted to drink George Washington's whiskey, now you can.

Halloween is an interesting holiday.  STARS students at Ohio University want their peers to rethink costumes which function as caricatures of race or ethnicity.

My brother's senior art show will open Monday, November 21st at the AABC Art Center in Butler, PA.

"No real than you are."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #8 - Housing and the Rust Belt

“People pay what the landlord demands, not because the housing unit is worth it, but because the property is held to have idiosyncratic locational benefits. Access to resources like friends, jobs, and schools is so important that residents (as continuous consumer-buyers) are willing to resort to all sorts of ‘extramarket’ mechanisms to fight for their right to keep locational relations intact” (19).
     -Logan and Molotch in Urban Fortunes, 1987

“But there is one force that helps explain why most [rust belt residents] stay – cheap, durable housing. Any area’s population is linked closely to the number of homes in that area, and homes don’t disappear overnight” (63). 
     -Glaeser in Triumph of the City, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Interesting Links, 10/18/2011

Here is a good overview of U.S. economic inequality.  Here is another good overview by the sociologist Domhoff. I understand that this is much of what is motivating the Occupy Wall Street protestors. Speaking of, I have heard good stuff about the Occupy Pittsburgh events this past week. Pittsburgh made it into this NPR story which documents the events over the weekend all over the country.  I visited with the Occupy Columbia folks a bit yesterday evening. They were friendly.  Here is some photos of them. They marched through USC's campus yesterday afternoon. Here is video of that.  I like this story from a local newspaper on the Occupy Columbia folks because it ends with the ominous line that "Protesters said they plan to stay 'indefinitely.'"


Here is an editorial by Nouriel Roubini on the instability of inequality.


Another thing concerning me is this interview with Jane Mayer on Fresh Air about how efforts by Art Pope in North Carolina have dramatically changed the state's politics. Here is the original article by Mayer. 


Also, I really enjoyed the recent 10 Questions interview with George Clooney in Time Magazine. Asked if he follows Twitter, he said, "No, because I drink in the evening and I don't want anything I write at midnight to end my career." That's funny, but it's a real concern, too.  It is difficult, wanting to engage in social and public online forums, but also being unsure of how much of yourself it is appropriate to share.

An Amish man's beard is important to him.


For the urban sociologists out there, this is some interesting work on how industry sectors define metro areas.

In this interesting post, with maps, Jim Russell argues that "The rust belt is culturally and politically complicated." I agree.

What does the Sociological Imagination mean in today's society?  If you have something to say about it, the folks at the Sociological Imagination blog are looking for submissions.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Interesting Links, 10/1/11

So, the Occupy Wall Street thing is happening. I've seen lots of Occupy groups forming on facebook, organizing events in various cities.  Let's personalize the protesters a bit by looking at these portraits.

I will be interested to see how this project in Columbia, SC will progress. I will probably be using this in my urban sociology class next spring.  Thanks to Matt Cazessus for sharing this with me.

Also, thanks to him for sharing this collection of maps of Pittsburgh with me.  I think 1980 is my favorite.

I had no idea idea Lancaster, PA had been the U.S. capital for a day. That is fun.

Education is an important determinant of earnings.  And Pittsburgh is 8th on the list of cities with the largest growth in proportion of the population with a college degree.

So, since it launched a couple of weeks ago I have found myself spending a lot of time reading The Atlantic Cities.  Here is an article on how folks are creating better measures of poverty.  Here is an article on how geography is a major factor in the outcomes for those who are unemployed.  As a third example, here is a list of 9 cool projects built or being built under highway overpasses.

Speaking of enjoying the great outdoors within cities, kayakers are now enjoying the Los Angeles River.  Along these lines, I am also working on a little article about mountain biking destinations in cities. I will share that when it comes out.

This is old, but I just found it. A great interactive tool to explore how class works in the U.S.

Baseball is awesome, and awesome baseball happened this past week.  It may have been the best day of baseball ever.

Rock and Roll.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #7 - Quotes on Social Connection

"The connections we make in the course of a life - maybe that's what heaven is." 
     -Fred Rogers


"Awesome people hanging out together." 
     -The creator of this blog, which shares photos of important or interesting folks spending time with one another. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some Interesting Links, 9/18/2011

Before we start, let's set the mood.  Follow this link and learn about the first release by friend Justin Chesarek's jazz quintet.  You can purchase the music for a small price. If you do you'll hear great music and be supporting some awesome musicians.

Got the music playing?  Ok, let's do some fun articles first:


Here is an interesting place to find high urban density. (Hint: You might find T-Pain singing about being there.)

This is a fun story with good pictures about folks building community and creating shared, if not public, space by showing movies in a residential alleyway.

Imagine you are the person who designed the airplane emergency evacuation shutes, and you wake up one morning to hear this story about an aging Supreme Court Justice testing your design.  That is an exciting day.


Photos of prehistoric feathers, including dinosaur protofeathers in amber are really cool.

With more than half of the world's population now living in cities, it seems over the last few months every news program has done at least one story on cities.  CBS Sunday Morning is one of my favorite news programs, as I watched it most weekends with my Dad.  Here is their story "American Cities on the Rebound", which includes a convo with Edward Glaeser.

Now for some more serious stuff...

While some U.S. cities may be on the rebound, struggles continue in Detroit.  So, some wonder, is it pornographic to document Detroit's decline?

There are some pretty cool looking post offices around the U.S., and we may lose some of them as a result of the postal services struggles.


While there were a lot of news stories about unemployment and joblessness over the summer, I felt that I wasn't seeing as many stories about inequality in the news as there probably should be.  I saw articles about the difficulties folks were having finding jobs, or even the high demand for food stamps, but not many news articles about stratification in the U.S.  From my perspective, that all seemed to change this past week.

Basically, what happened was that the Census released an income and poverty report.  In it we learn that the median household now earns less than it did a decade ago.  Here is a list of 5 other notable trends found in that report.  Some troublesome findings, for sure.  The decline in median household earnings may be tied to the fact that many men are earning less than they did 40 years ago.  Also, the typical white family has 20 times the wealth of the median black family, which is the largest gap in 25 years.  For those with a rust belt interest, here are some maps of changes in concentrated poverty and concentrated wealth in Cleveland, OH.

While it may be sadly obvious, sometimes it needs to be restated with links to evidence: Being poor as a child strongly predicts poverty and poor outcomes later in life.  In the land of opportunity, not every gets the same opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about inequality in the United States, the Stanford Center has provided a starting place, delineating 20 facts about U.S. Inequality that they argue everyone should know.

To end with a little bit of hope, those who do have the opportunity to go to college and find a student job can end up with some valuable, if also unusual, experiences.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #6 - Urban Politics and Class Struggle

“Instead a uniquely working-class strategy for survival relies on creating social and symbolic distances between themselves and the dispossessed as the working class deny their own marginality. The politics of working-class resentment charges that disadvantaged groups manipulate and overstate the significance of racism, discrimination, poverty, unjust treatment under the law, and unequal law enforcement. In a striking and inconsistent blend of entitlement and self-congratulatory individualism, Beltwayites manage a delicate balance of believing in the power of self-interest and more superiority, all the while insisting that the very same self-interest, individualism, and moral superiority earn them the right to use government programs when the need arises. It is almost as if they’re saying, “I don’t need anybody, just make sure you don’t touch my Social Security, Medicare, and don’t make me pay more taxes for the programs I have earned” (156). 
     -Kefalas in Working Class Heroes, 2003.

"Urban politics then appear as the powerful and often innovative but in the end disciplining arm of uneven accumulation and uneven class struggle in geographic space” (127). 
     -Harvey in The Urbanization of Capital, 1985.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Interesting Links, 9/7/2011

I am a big fan of sending mail.  There is something great about being able to send something real and tangible to a friend or family member a long ways away. Plus I run the coolest postcard blog on the internet.  So, I worry about the financial health of the Postal Service.  This article explores five things the postal service could do to improve it's bottom line.  I think #5, "increase retail" is a great idea that needs to be explored more.  First of all, public space is terribly limited in many urban areas.  For example, we have town centers that really are neither.  So, why not allow Starbucks to set up a coffee shop and offer free internet access at the post office?  Turn it into a public space that offers a diversity of services.  Maybe food trucks could stop by, which could reduce food deserts in some neighborhoods.  If there is not already a public park nearby, perhaps a small park could roll up for a couple of hours, giving post office customers a space in which to take a break. Doesn't this sound like a post office you would be more likely to visit?

So, in Pittsburgh and the world, Carnegie Mellon University is kinda a big deal.  It seems a donation by businessman and philanthropist is going to ensure that CMU becomes an even bigger deal, as the donation is among the top 15 donations to higher education worldwide.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is really white.  Most residents realize this, some rightfully complain about it.  The thing that this demonstrates to me, though, is how stable the labor force is.  And on balance, that is probably a bad thing, as the city needs to attract skilled talent from other places, in addition to cultivating skilled talent that will stay.  Hopefully the donation mentioned above can help on both sides of that agenda.

Speaking of being white, sometimes white folks encounter great difficulties, and seem to lose perspective.  Here is a blog working to bring some "first world" problems back into perspective.

We may want to have a real conversation about limiting the number of offspring a single sperm donor can contribute toward.  150 is a lot.

Ever feel like the return trip goes faster?  I do. Whether mountain biking or on a road trip, it always seems faster to come home then to go whereever I am going.  Here is a consideration of that phenomena.  I will say, sometimes the return trip seems awfully slow. For me, this has happened late at night on the way home from a concert out of town, and sometimes on the way back from PA to SC. But that might just be because PA still feels like home in my heart, or because as I'm heading toward SC a new semester looms over the destination.  These thoughts, and a few other sources of inspiration, have me putting together a mix of songs about driving and road trips.

On the topic of leaving town, the Hollowing Out the Middle project is good work.  I have heard and seen the sentiment over and over in small towns - folks there give their best to the young people who are going to leave town.  Often, the ones who stick around are the ones who received the least attention as children and students.  The drive to move toward densely populated urban areas is certainly understandable, championed by proponents of the city like Edward Glaeser.  But, like the STAY project in Appalachia which I have blogged about before, we may need to rethink how we invest in our smaller communities.

Finally, and on this theme, here is a 90's rock song that laments someone leaving a small town, rather than the typical trope of celebrating the freedom of escaping a small town:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interesting Links, 9/2/11

When I see things like this, I realize how desperately many of us want more art in our worlds.

I am disappointed Slippery Rock, PA is not on this list.

Suburban sprawl is still ugly.

Oh, hey! It is Labor Day weekend...
...Literally following in the footsteps of union officials in Wisconsin, union leaders in my favorite city are making a political statement with their Labor Day parade.  They are not inviting and refusing to allow politicians who are perceived to work against the labor movement to participate in the parade.  Despite this decision's potential political ramifications, I believe this other thing they are doing to underscore the unemployed has a stronger potential symbolic impact:
"Marks said that while the Labor Day event always features unemployed workers marching with their affiliated unions, this is the first year there will be a special place for the unemployed in the parade to emphasize the need for job creation."
We need to find a way to invest in people.

Speaking of work, while we say we value the individual work ethic in the U.S., I sometimes wonder if we should re-evaluate the extent to which we value some work over other kinds of work.

Sticking with the Labor Day theme, I read this intersting blog post about the young generation of workers and their use of the internet.  As Horning writes in this post, young workers:
"may self-brand as neoliberalism forces them to -- they may participate in that indirectly productive institutionalized narcissism on Facebook and elsewhere -- but they also extract the cultural surplus and engage in forms of collaborative production that promise to elude capital while remaining socially useful."
I suppose that is what I am doing with this blog - self-branding as neo-liberalism has encouraged me to.

Speaking of academics blogging, here is a good blog post considering debates about academic blogging, including issues of authority and visibility.

College continues to become more expensive, and is too expensive for too many kids.  As this columnist argues, it is "No surprise, we rank 15th among 29 nations in the number of entering students who complete college. We are (similar to health statistics) just ahead of Mexico and Turkey."

If you are considering taking on student loan debt to go to graduate school, consider if you could work in this environment for five to seven years.  The graduate school experience is often not dissimilar to what is depicted in the video. (Thanks to Rocco DeMaro for recently causing me to be aware of this video, by way of his excellent blog).

As uncomfortable as some sociologists seemed to be about having the annual meeting in Las Vegas, folks are still talking about it.

The Pirates have had an awful week on the field, but 40 years ago they did something socially important.

On the theme of Labor Day, here is one of my favorite paintings, "Work" by Ford Madox Brown:


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interesting Links, 8/30/11

Well, I have been busy.  A week in Las Vegas spent mostly conferencing, then coming back to campus and jumping straight into a very busy semester has meant less time for the blog than I might like.  But, I have still gathered up a few interesting links to share...

Here is a relatively thorough article about sociologists' reactions to having a conference in Las Vegas, along with some video.  While I was there, it was interesting listen to folks discuss and debate the city as a venue for an academic gathering.  Hanging out in Las Vegas certainly stimulated conversations about gender performance, conspicuous consumption, and inequality.

This would have been a fun way to tour around Las Vegas last week.

If someone writes that "academic blogging is an important new outlet for demonstrating impact," then they have got my attention.

Here are two stories about surprisingly positive things happening in U.S. cities.  First, the arenas recently built in Kansas City, MO and Tulsa, OK seem to be doing better than expected during the recession.  Next here is an article from Scientific American with Edward Glaeser writing about how some cities have bounced back from adversity, often by right-sizing, and others have not.  Though right-sizing might be a good idea, making it work isn't always easy.  While urban farming could be an important part of the right-sizing process, it can also lead to difficulties in local neighborhoods.

Speaking of the Midwest, how about a video showing US expansion through post offices? Manifest Destiny!

This fall I am teaching a Sociology of Childhood class. Sadly, child poverty is up in at least 38 states, and about 20% of America's juvenile population was living in poverty in 2009.  Meanwhile, the benefits available to severely disabled children are being scrutinized.

Just like the author of this blog, I am always learning something new about Pittsburgh, like the fact that Pittsburgh has a Bible Lands museum.

While we are on Pittsburgh, stories like this one, about a family moving to Pittsburgh after living in places like D.C. and Boston, and underscoring how much they feel like part of the community in Pittsburgh keep popping up on my radar.  Seems that Pittsburgh is a great location for family's that want to right-size their lifestyle. And the couple states that while Pittsburgh is "not perfect," they feel that "things are getting better" and that they believe "Pittsburgh will do better in the coming decades." Good stuff.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #5, ASA 2011 Meeting Edition

Well, I just returned from Las Vegas where I attended the 2011 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. I thought for this set of du[a]ling quotes I would share two of my favorite comments I heard during the conference. Here they are:

"Questions are good things. Comments are welcome."
     - Diane Pike, beginning her opening discussion at the ASA Section on Teaching Learning Pre-Conference Workshop "The Best Teachers We Can Be: Learning Scholarly Teaching."

"We all have limitations, that is why we are here. ... Economists have more limitations."
     - Remark by a session presider, discussing "limitation" slides in presentations.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Interesting Links, 8/18/11

I am about to head to the airport, on my way to Las Vegas for the 2011 American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. I am participating in the Section on Teaching and Learning's Pre-Conference workshop and I am presenting a research paper.  This will be my first visit to Las Vegas, and my third ASA annual meeting. Very excited.

Here are some links before I go...

First a bit of an update: Here is a great reflection on the UK riots and the academic and media responses by a sociologist with working class roots who is originally from London.

Very interesting story on "social engineering," or a form of low-tech hacking, performed in front of a group of peers.

Scientific American just released an issue on cities. Good stuff.

Here are three sociology related links I found first on Twitter. The first is about inequality and let's you ask how well you are doing.  The next is a a suggestion from a sociology professor on how to turn Grandmother's "passing away" on exam day as a teaching moment.  Finally, as the tweet that linked to this story suggested, food deserts don't exist only in urban areas, they also exist in rural areas..

I am all about government efficiency, but I worry about what the future reduction in jobs and services from the Postal Service will mean for America.

Here is a fun story about how the Bat Signal came to shine over the city of Pittsburgh.  Also fun is the idea of a food fight between Detroit and Flint.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #4 - Two perspectives on Race and Inequality

“What is commonly called ‘race relations’ does not consist of relationships among men who are genetically different” (54).
   -from Ethnic Stratification, Shibutani and Kwan, 1965.


“Communities such as Beltway ... remind us how class and inequality are at the center of many of the complex problems we often subsume under the category of race” (161).
   -from Working Class Heroes by Kefalas, 2003.




Monday, August 15, 2011

The Paris of Appalachia - Book Reviews in 10 sentences or less, #1

This post will be the first in a series of 10-sentence-or-less book reviews on this blog.


The Paris of Appalachia: Pittsburgh in the Twenty-first Century by Brian O'Neill.

Raised in the suburbs of New York City the author, Brian O'Neill, has been a news reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for several years.  In this book he describes the culture and politics of Pittsburgh as an honest observer and participant and like any good Pittsburgher he is quick with both praise and critiques.  This book is surprisingly broad in scope, discussing everything from O'Neill's habit of visiting random bars and barber shops to get to know the locals, to the politics of township or city-county mergers, to the sports culture of the City of Champions, to old ladies making pierogies in church basements.  Defending his decision to live in a older downtown neighborhood, he shrugs off a mugging he experienced, suggesting it was only as serious as a fender bender he could have experienced in suburbia if he lived there instead, and then he describes the virtues of accidentally locking yourself out of your house as an excuse to spend an evening visiting with neighbors.  He discusses the Pittsburgh diaspora and then relates specific stories of individuals moving back to a region that has seen so much population loss, concluding that "Life is too short to spend it someplace you no longer want to be" (108).  Moving from vivid ethnography in the first half of the book, to an on-the-ground analysis of the the political and economic difficulties the city continues to struggle with, O'Neill maintains an engaging tone, filled with substantial detail and a realistic assessment of the challenges the city faces.  The chapter on Pittsburgh sports culture is a appropriately rowdy, and the chapters on Pittsburgh's density and the landslide in Kilbuck are engaging for anyone interested in regional development, planning, or politics.  This is the most entertaining and interesting book I have read yet on the city of Pittsburgh.



Here is an interview with the author.  Here is the website for the book.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Interesting Links, 8/14/11

A few weeks ago the Pittsburgh Pirates lost a 19-inning game.  I stayed up late watching that game.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the experience was following other Pirates fans on Twitter, reading their reactions to the game.  Although I have had a twitter account for a couple of years I didn't begin using it regularly until about a month ago.  Because you can choose who you follow, and because there's a real limit to the links of posts, it can be a great resource for information and links.  So, I appreciated Pittsburgh sports reporter Joe Starkey relaying his experience of Twitter that night, which was similar to mine.  (I also owe a thank you to Twitter use @rtjr for helping me find the link weeks later.)

In addition to Pittsburgh sports coverage on Twitter, I have been following sociologists, organizations concerned with urban issues, and news outlets.  Since I began following these twitter users, it has been much easier for me to find  information and news stories that I am interested in.  Here are a few examples of things I found on Twitter first:

Sociologists have been weighing in on the riots in the UK.  Here is David Harvey.  Here is Sennett and Sassen.

Here is a blog with pictures of old mill towns in the southern New England.

Moving on, as I am preparing to teach Sociology of Childhood this fall, a friend suggested this link to me.  Incredible to see the contrasts across the different places children sleep across the world.

Speaking of all over the world, how about the last man on a mountain in West Virgina?
""Jimmy was the only thing standing between Arch Coal and probably some of the best reserves in this state," Lovett remembers. "There's no question they could have sold that land for a lot of money, but he and Sibby stood up to a mining company in a way that no one really had before and said, 'We're not leaving here and you can't make us.' "

Finally, ever since I was a child and my dad watched the show every weekend, I have been a fan of CBS Sunday Morning.  Their reports are not the most investigative, but often they are interesting and good conversation starters.  This morning I saw a story that encourages the viewer to consider if internships are opportunities or exploitation? While internships offer opportunities for many young people, what about those individuals who could use the opportunity an internship would provide, but cannot afford to work for free?  As this story underscores, it is often individuals from the wealthiest of backgrounds who are most able to take advantage of internship opportunities.

I also learned from this episode of CBS Sunday Morning that corporations have a lot of cash on hand.

Earlier this week, NPR decided to have some fun with stock brokers.  Good demonstration of the concept of emotional labor, I suppose.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #3 - Justifying Inequality

“Social inequality is thus an unconsciously filled evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons” (243).
   - Davis and Moore in “Some Principles of Stratification,” 1945

“Deviations from economic equality must be shown to be beneficial, placing the burden of proof on those who advocate inequality” (32).
   - Lester Thurow in Generating Inequality, 1975.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Urban Excursions #2, Local Eats #3 - Rochester, NY

This post will be the second in the Urban Excursions series I am writing on this blog.  It will also be the third in the Local Eats Series on this blog.

First Impressions:

It may have been the overcast skies, but the city of Rochester seemed gloomy when I drove into town. My brother and I visited the city from about 1pm until 11pm on a weekday.  During our whole visit, it felt very rust belt.  The neighborhoods looked like flatter versions of the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, and in some places the city seemed a lot like a smaller version of Cleveland, OH.  One interesting thing I did not expect, but noticed was that folks around Rochester seemed to have an accent sounded to me like a mix of Canadian without the "eh" and midwestern.  With just a few hours in the city, we had some adventures, tried some new food, and took a few pictures. Rochester was not a bad place to visit. Here is what I thought of it.

Places I Visited:

When we arrived in town, my brother and I were hungry.  So I searched on my smart phone for the "best burrito in Rochester" and at the top of the search results was Sol Burito.  We both got the Fajita Burrito. It was good. Probably not the best burrito I have ever had. But it was large, reasonably priced, and good.  The chips were fresh and crunchy, the salsa as good, and the Saranac Root Beer, which is apparently the ubiquitous drink in Rochester, washed everything down well.


After lunch we decided to stop at a place several folks recommended to us - the House of Guitars.  The place is a mess, has lots of good music and equipment in stock, and the folks were friendly. Very rock and roll and certainly worth a visit for any music fan.



My brother and I had traveled to Rochester planning to ride some of the mountain bike trails near the city.  Whenever we travel to a new place planning to ride the trails, we try to stop by a local bike shop to make sure we have the best info on the trails we are going to ride. Trevor was also having shifter problems, so he was hoping to have that looked at.  So, we stopped in at the Tryon Bike Shop. The shop seemed a bit high-end, situated in a what looked like an old bank building, with most of the bikes in the shop being very expensive.  The guys working at the shop that day, though, were very informative. They gave us clear directions toward the trails we wanted to ride. They also fixed up my brother's bike for a very reasonable price.

While visiting the shop we learned about their interesting business model.  Compared with most bike shops I have visited, they had much less inventory in stock in the shop. I asked them about this.  They explained that their goal was to be competitive with internet pricing on most bike-related items.  Like book stores competing with online book retailers, many bike shops are struggling to be competitive with internet prices.  Customers want the convenience of trying on bikes and clothing in person, and having a relationship with the mechanics at a local shop, but often internet prices on things like bicycle frames or helmet lights are so much lower it is hard for a frugal customer to support the local business.  Tryon Bike Shop's answer is to meet internet prices.  By keeping their inventory low, and explaining to their customers that they will meet most internet pricing, they encourage customers to use the store to purchase bike accessories, rather than internet retailers.  With their Wrench Club, they also offer customers who purchase a membership the ability to rent time, space, and tools in their repair shop, so the customers may repair their own bike themselves.  It's a new business model, and I am interested to see how well they continue to do. I certainly realize that many bike shops are looking for new ideas to stay relevant to their customers and competitive in the market.

After our stop in the bike shop we set out to ride two sets of trails - the Tryon Park Trail and the Irondequoit Bay Park West Trail.  The trail maps can be found here.  These trails were interesting.  First, they were close the city and surrounded by residential areas, and in the case of the Tryon Park, a highway on one side.  The trails were smooth, well-sculpted single track.  They were fun trails to ride.  They were clearly made for mountain bikers and predominantly used by mountain bikers.  If I lived here, this would obviously be a fun, convenient place to ride.  The Tryon Park trail, though, was a bit confusing.  It seems that the locals had built several alternate and overlapping trails around the main trail. My brother and I spent much of the afternoon stopping just to make sense of which direction the trails were going, and we had some difficulty finding our way around.  Also, in some of the lower areas, there was a strong sewage smell.  Another problem was the occasional shattered glass we saw on and along the trail.  I suppose this is something unavoidable in an urban trail, and thankfully neither of us got a flat tire.  Neither trail was very rocky, but we did encounter the occasional cement slab.  The Irondequoit Bay Park West Trail was less confusing and more fun.  Both sets of trails seemed to crowd a lot of mileage into small areas.  The Tryon Park trail also had a fun set of whoops that passed through a bowl at the top of a hill, too, which we had fun riding through.  Here are some pictures:




After several hours of riding, my brother and I wanted to get some food before we headed back to our campsite, an hour south of the city.  Driving around the city, I had noticed signs for places selling "hots" all over the city.  So, I went back to my phone, searching the internet for "best places to get hots in Rochester."  Reading the information that came up aloud, I said something about a garbage plate.  This triggered my brother's memory, and he recalled seeing an episode of some travel food show covering garbage plates in Rochester.  It seemed the most famous garbage plate restaurant closed early that night, so we ventured to place called Dogtown.  Located close the same place we got our burritos earlier in the day, Dogtown is a very relaxed establishment with some outside seating.  Below is an overexposed picture of my junkyard plate.  If you're not sure what you're seeing that is macaroni salad and home fries burried under a burger and a split hot dog, which is covered with chili, mustard, and onions.  It was delicious and awful at the same time.  I immediately wanted to eat it again while I simultaneously regretted eating it.  Again, a Saranac Rootbeer washed it down well.




Lasting Impressions:

Overall, the visit to Rochester was a good one. In less than 12 hours we had met cool folks at an interesting bike shop, saw the incredible House of Guitars, ate some cheap but good food, and ridden some new trails.  The city was gloomy, but we had fun exploring it.  Later in the day, we drove out toward Lake Ontario to give it a look, and that drive took us past the Kodak factory, which was incredibly industrial looking with pipes that seemed to go in every direction into and out of the building.  I expect winters would be particularly long, cold, and dark, and difficult here, as it seemed gloomy in the summer and it sits on a great lake.  The trails were fun, if a bit cramped and dirty, but they were good trails for an urban setting.  The people were friendly and helpful.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interesting Links, 8/10/11

I have been travelling a lot recently, but have accumulated several interesting links the last couple of weeks. Let's get caught up a bit here...

Any effort involving bicycles, the rust belt, and art sounds cool to me. This one will be fun to follow.  Speaking of cool efforts, have you ever wondered about the color of your city?  And speaking of color, one assumes that greener cities are more pleasant to live in, but this article explains how a park helped stimulate private investment in Greenville, South Carolina.

Hosting the Olympics is an event that promises the host city a rebuilt infrastructure and a stimulated economy. Here is an article reflecting on the short and long term effects of hosting the Olympics in Atlanta, GA 15 years later.  Last year's ASA conference was in Atlanta, and I walked through the park.  It is nice.

Here are a couple of links about inequality. First, while the current economic situation may be a recession for whites, it has been effectively a depression for blacks and latinos.  Next, research by social scientist Dacher Keltner finds that lower class people are more empathetic, prosocial, and more compassionate than higher class folks.

Here are a few interesting articles on re-arranging, re-sizing, and re-purposing things in an urban context.  First, some folks are turning Hummers into Homes.  Next, there will be a lifesize boardgame at MoMA.  Finally, folks are repurposing empty shipping containers, turning them into retail stores and other business.

Finally, let's make a quick sports diversion - the Pittsburgh Pirates currently hold the record for the most consecutive losing seasons by a professional sports team in North America. They were playing very well this season, prompting NPR to ask Pittsburghers if the strong season would last.  Unfortunately, the Pirates went on a 10 game losing streak shortly after this story was published.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Heard on a Recent Road Trip through Appalachia

I have been travelling a lot the last few months. In addition to several conferences, I have made several trips by car between SC and PA, visiting friends and family at home over the summer.  One of the things I enjoy about this trips is the chance to listen to some good music and some good stories. To reflect on all the things I have been thinking about, and to learn knew things through the radio programs I enjoy.

On this recent trip on a Sunday afternoon, I listened to more live radio than I usually do as I traveled through the mountains of West Virginia.  Often I will listen to podcasts that I have already downloaded, but I this trip I gave the live broadcasts more of a chance.  And I am glad I did. I heard a lot of interesting things from programs I don't listen to as much as others.

One very interesting program is Inside Appalachia. It has a small town feel, but encompasses several states.  The episode I heard featured a great NIMBY story about folks struggling with coal ash.  Growing up on the edge of Appalachia, and having relatives who are truly Appalachian, I have always been interested in this program. But this particular episode was good.

I also heard this great interview with director Kevin MacDonald about his move Life in a Day, which is a cool project.  He crowd-sourced video from all over the world from one day, compiled it and edited it into a movie. I am excited to see the result.

And a trip through the mountains would not be complete without some music.  Mountain Stage is often a great live music program. On this trip I happened to hear a good chunk of this episode, most of the songs the Steeldrivers performed. Listening to their music as I drove through the mountains just made sense.

Of course, all of this was heard over public radio.  There's been some debate about the value of government funding of public radio.  Here is a video of Fred Rogers defending PBS.  I think he said about all that should need to be said in support of public broadcasting.  (BTW, Fred Rogers was from western PA and produced his show there, too).

Good stuff.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #2 - Cities in Competition

“Cities, like entrepreneurs, can lose out to their competition, go bankrupt, or simply be left behind in the race for economic advantage” (127). Harvey in The Urbanization of Capital, 1985.

“Cities, regions, and states do not compete to please people, they compete to please capital – and the two activities are fundamentally different” (42). Logan and Molotch in Urban Fortunes, 1987

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Leading the Rust Belt: Braddock and Mayor Fetterman

Well, I don't think I could claim to be blogging about the rust belt if I didn't have at least one post discussing Braddock and Mayor Fetterman.

For those that don't know, Braddock is a town along the Monongahela River, within the Pittsburgh MSA, which experienced substantial deindustrialization and population loss. In the 1950's almost 20,000 people lived in the town and now there's only about 2,000.  As much as you may here about Detroit's population loss, Braddock is a smaller scale version of the same extreme deindustrialization-population loss phenomena.

Mayor Fetterman moved to town and was elected in 2005. He looks like he can fix a Rust Belt town.  He is a character, and has demonstrated a commitment to finding unique ways of working to revitalize the community.

Here is a profile of the town and the new mayor. CBS Sunday Morning is one of my favorite news programs, by the way. My dad was a big fan, and watching this show has been a Sunday morning ritual as long as I remember.

Here is a conversation comparing some efforts in Braddock to those in a couple of other rust belt towns.

There are efforts underway to develop alternative fuel operations in the town.

There is also a mini-factory producing ceramic water filters to help developing countries.  One of the artists mentioned in this article, Richard Wukich, was a professor of my brother's.  He is passionate about ceramics, his students, and assisting both Braddock the folks who need clean water in poor countries.

Also, Braddock hosts a serious effort underway to develop a sustainable urban gardening program in the town.  The project also combines with a youth program, creating internships that give young adults hands on work experience.


Oh, and you may have seen these commercials:



Levi's has invested a lot in this campaign, including investing a lot in Braddock.  They have pledged to help build a new community center and give the community a million dollars over two years. Here is an article on the Levi's ad campaign made in Braddock, and the relationship between the town and Levi's.

There is some skepticism and criticism about this campaign.  But when they run ads like this about work, Pittsburghers (and many others) are going to identify with them.

Here is Fetterman on Colbert, discussing the ad campaign and changes to the town.


Interesting stuff for a town that may be the rustiest of rust belt towns.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interesting Links, 7/26/11

When the magazine was still being printed, I was a huge fan of SEED Magazine.  Unfortunately, since they stopped printing a paper copy, I have had difficulty motivating myself to follow their work as much.  It seems that their bloggers are still hard at work, and the magazine is generating interesting content, though.  For instance, there is this article from last January where Herbert Gans argues for a restructuring of the social sciences.  Interesting.


One of my favorite SEED articles, ever, though was Lehrer's article on applying the idea of metabolism to the metropolis.  Lehrer is the author of one of my favorite books - Proust was a Neuroscientist.  This article, like that book, brings disciplines together to examine what we know about something - in this case, how a city functions.  Similar to an article I linked to in a previous post, this one examines West's approach to understanding the physics of the city. This article specifically looks at how the idea of metabolism might help us understand the city.  Here's some of the interesting stuff in the article: 
"Cities are like elephants. They get more economical with size... every city is simply a scaled version of the same city. In metropolis after metropolis, the indicators of urban “metabolism”—like the per-capita consumption of gasoline or the surface area of roads or the total length of electrical cables—scaled to an exponent of (population)0.8, which is very similar to the biological equivalent of (mass)0.75. This means that a city can double its population without doubling its resource consumption."
Cool. 


Moving on, it seems that some of the current unemployment problem may be attributable to skills mismatch, even among folks who've had some schooling after high school. 


The hubbub about the temporary closing of the 405 in Los Angeles last week remind me of this article I saw a while ago about how some cities are moving away from building new highways, even occasionally tearing down freeways.  It seems that some cities are finding it more cost effective to close a freeway than to maintain it. And as the author of the article notes: 
"This is the city planner's dream: Take out an underused freeway, open up land for new businesses or parks and magically more workers will move back to the city and property values will soar. So far, though, the results have been mixed."


And here are two interesting articles that have something to do with housing.  First, there is a house at which 2,000 companies are registered.  A new kind of urban density, I suppose.  


Next, how many people do you know who have experienced homelessness?  What sense do you have of homelessness?  Have you ever volunteered at a shelter, or heard the story of a homeless person?  Here is a great article about a project to bring young adults into contact with ex-homeless individuals.  This is cool stuff.


Since becoming active on Twitter and following individuals and organizations doing work relevant to urban sociology, I have been seeing some interesting stuff.  A call center moving from a blogger's home city to another city has him wondering if people, particularly local politicians should be thinking in terms of a new regionalism.  I liked this quote:
"Also importantly, metro regions don't necessarily need to conceive of themselves as businesses trying to "steal" market shares away from other regions. Indeed, under constructive regionalism, our cities (and their hinterland) could aim to create (vs. attract) wealth and well-being using their own resources (human, natural, agricultural, technological, artistic, etc.) in a way that is ecologically responsible, socially beneficial and economically efficient. I hope you will excuse the use of this old cliché, but there's not reason why we can't make the pie bigger (as opposed to serving smaller and smaller portions of the same size pie)."


Also found on Twitter and relevant to regionalism is this post comparing the economies of metropolitan areas to countries of the world (there is a cool map, too).


Finally, several films have been filmed in Pittsburgh recently.  I saw this trailer before the midnight showing of Harry Potter I attended, and while the movie looks iffy, the parkour scenes filmed in PNC Park look awesome.  But as interesting as these movies being filmed in Pittsburgh is,  it is  this one that is kinda a big deal.



Monday, July 25, 2011

Local Eats #2 - Rivertowne Pub, Pittsburgh, PA

Though I am not a full on foodie, I do appreciate good local food.  I'm often taking pictures of the good food I've had and letting other folks know about places I recommend.  So, I am also starting a series on this blog I will call Local Eats. I will share some pictures of unique local food I have had in this series. This will be the first installment in this series.

I was recently home in Pittsburgh visiting family. We decided to meet for a late lunch at Rivertowne Pub and Grille in North Hungtingdon on Route 30.  

Pittsburghers are known for the eastern European inspirations of their fare.  This usually means lots of butter, onion, and potatoes, as well as kielbasa.  Everything is prepared in some way that seems as if it will intentionally clog your arteries.  Our lunch was no different.

Since I hadn't been home in a while I thought I would start with what the menu called a "Yinzer Salad." For those that don't know, Pittsburgh has it's own dialect, called Pittsburghese.  Folks are known for saying "yinz" when southerners would say "y'all," and so now we affectionately call the most Pittsburgh-ish of Pittsburghers Yinzers.  Anyway, where I come from a salad means a bed of lettuce, covered with grilled steak or chicken, french fries, shredded cheese, ranch dressing, and maybe some tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.  A more fancy salad would include a hard boiled egg and bacon, as well.

My dad and I split the Yinzer salad. This is what half of the Yinzer salad looked like:


With that refreshing appetizer out of the way, my dad and I moved on to something slightly more substantial.  We also split the Rivertowne Gambler. This is a burger topped with Pittsburgh's favorite, Kielbasa:


Both were delicious.  Both are great examples of how Pittsburgh does food.  

And, somehow, my heart continues to beat...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Some interesting links, baseball heavy, 7/22/11

If you're interested in place, All Things Considered's series "On Location" is pretty cool. This installment takes a look at the central Florida of The Yearling.


On the same day as the above article, All Things Considered ran this story about the old Tiger Stadium in Detroit.  It seems some fans and locals really want to maintain the place as a public park, but the city does not have the means to maintain or take on the liability.  People want public space.

Speaking of baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates are currently in first place.  While PNC Park is consistently ranked as the best stadium in MLB, this is the first season the park has consistently sold out for Pirate games.  Here is a good article about how the town has rallied around the Pirates.  While I have been a fan for the last few years, and I can forgive those fans who are just now joining the bandwagon.  I know they've been busy cheering the Stillers and the Pens, and their current fervor makes up for not being around the last few years.  Also, that article includes a quote that echoes a sentiment I have heard many times from older folks in Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh is a baseball town.  It's good to see quality baseball being played here.  Pittsburgh's sports culture is intense and it is fun to be a part of it.

PNC Park is a great stadium.  If you go, I recommend sitting on the 3rd base side, giving you a great view of the downtown skyline.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Urban Excursions #1, Local Eats #1 - New Orleans, LA

This will be the first in a series on this blog called City Reviews.  Because this one, like many city reviews, will also include discussion of local eats, this will also be the first in a series called Local Eats.  I will be discussing cities which I have visited for some length of time, sharing my overall impression of the city as well as some recommendations or things to see and things to avoid.

I have visited the city of New Orleans, LA twice. Both times for professional conferences.  My first visit to New Orleans was in the Spring of 2009 for the Southern Sociological Society meeting.  I drove to the city with a friend, stayed in a downtown hotel, and spent Thursday night through Sunday morning in the city. My second visit to the city was for the Urban Affairs Association annual meeting in the spring of 2011.  On this trip, I flew to the city with a research colleague, and again spent a long weekend in the city.  You can read a story about a specific adventure my colleague, a friend we met, and I had on the last evening of that trip here.

First impressions:
As we drove into the city on the first trip, about 30 minutes away from the hotel, I suddenly realized that I was going to see first hand the impact of Katrina and the effectiveness of the rebuilding efforts just a few years after the disaster.  After driving across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, moving closer to the city, we saw lots of lasting devastation.  Billboards and metal signs that had fallen were still laying across parking lots.  Buildings were dark and missing windows, and houses were boarded up.  It looked kind of like a zombie apocalypse movie.  I felt like we had showed up a little too early for a friend's party, and they were still attempting to clean the place before things got going.  Closer to the city, and in the better, or more economically important neighborhoods, things were much cleaner and more polished. It was clear, though, that the rebuilding efforts had not reached everyone everywhere.

Once in the downtown area, things were much less apocalyptic.  On both visits to New Orleans, I found some great food and great fun.  The simple rule seemed to be to follow the advice of locals, and avoid Bourbon Street.

Things I liked:
First off, the food was as amazing as promised.  The places that made the most lasting impressions on me were Coop's Place, the Bulldog, and Cafe Du Monde.

On my most recent visit, while standing in line at Coop's place at 9:30 pm on a Friday night, watching a parade pass by, a local told my colleague and I that Coop's Place is the only place they would stand in line for.  Their food is great.  I recommend the Rabbit and Sausage Jambalaya, but everything else is great.



The uptown location on Magazine Street is the location of the Bulldog I have visited twice.  The Bulldog is interesting because it is a hip bar in a gentrified neighborhood with a great patio.  I swear, the two old guys sitting in the patio smoking cigars were the same two old guys I saw on both trips.  Maybe you'll see them there when you visit. The Bulldog has great food, I recommend the waffle fries and a draft Abita Amber.

The best thing about the Bulldog may be in the past.  A sly visitor used to be able to sneak a few pounds of crawfish from The Big Fisherman and enjoy them with a few of the Bulldog's beers on the patio. From my last visit, it seems they may be cracking down on this, though, so don't assume you're going to be able to do this if you visit.



While Cafe Du Monde is the place everyone goes to, I want to mention it for a couple of reasons.  Yes, everyone goes to it, but if you visit it at the right time, the crowds are not too bad. Also, if you're looking to enjoy New Orleans on a budget, one of the cheapest tourist experiences in the city is a a plate of beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde. I recommend stopping here around 11pm on one of your more leisurely weekend nights, like we did on both of my visits. The coffee and beignets serve as a a great nightcap, and the experience is better than any late night visit to a diner I have had.

I know there is supposed to be an awesome burger joint in New Orleans, and I've failed to visit it on both trips. Hopefully, next time I will.

Also, I don't want to give too much away, but if you ask the right local, they will tell you there is a street that runs at an angle from the end of Bourbon that is worth a visit. This street hosts jazz clubs and a nightlife that is a more subdued, but also more interesting, than anything on Bourbon.

Overall, I really appreciated the "feel" of New Orleans. In my experiences the locals are very friendly and helpful.  The architecture and history is great.  Walking around narrow city streets is fun. You feel as if you've been transported to Europe.

Things I wished I had avoided:

Bourbon Street is loud and in your face. Bouncers stand outside of many of the bars on Bourbon Street, cajoling you to enter their place. They shout things like "No cover!" as if their place is any different than the next. House bands cover all the songs you hear at wedding receptions. And they commit what I believe is one of the most awful musical crimes - playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" before midnight.  Bourbon Street is worth seeing once, I suppose, but it's just not my thing.

Also, I have had a couple not so great but overpriced Po' Boys. You gotta be careful where you eat. There are great establishments everywhere, but there are also tourist traps.

Lasting impressions:
Perhaps because I flew into the city on the second visit rather than drove in, but probably because the rebuilding efforts have moved farther along, things looked much better this past spring.  New Orleans hosts all the things you want to see in a city you're travelling to for fun - great food, interesting culture, and friendly locals.  I have spent more time in New Orleans than most other cities I have traveled to, and I would visit it again any time I had the opportunity.

And here is a postcard I sent from New Orleans.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Du[a]ling Quotes #1 - Education and Life Chances in the City

This will be the first post in a series called Du[a]ling Quotes. I'll be posting two quotes that are related in some way. Sometimes they'll be very similar, sometimes they will contrast a bit.


“Cities within the United States and more radically across the world are highly unequal in the life chances they offer residents, which in turn shapes those residents’ capacities to participate in the surroundings systems of power and privilege. Although the numbers have changed since the 1980’s, inequality among places persists in radical degree” (xi).
   -in Urban Fortunes by Logan and Molotch, 1987.


“The recent shift to a knowledge-based information economy has further accelerated the rate of investment in post-graduate education, research, and lifetime training. In advanced market societies, a critical responsibility of government is to ensure levels of education and training that not only will permit citizens to participate effectively in a growing array of complex markets but also will promote the sustained growth of income and the continued creation of wealth in a competitive global economy” (25).
   -in Categorically Unequal by Massey, 2007

Urban Image #1

This will be the first in a series I am going to call "Urban Images." In this series I'll share a picture or two of something that relates to my interests and reflect on it a bit.


I took this photo when was driving around Butler, PA with my dad when I was home over winter break sometime around January 2011.  Butler is the county seat of Butler County.  It is an aging mill town. This is one corner of a neighborhood in Butler known as the Island, one of the poorest in town.

I like this image because it looks so very rust belt.  The trees are bare, the vegetation on the ground is orange and dry. You can tell its winter. The houses are built close together, and close to the street, and they are aging as well.  I did not plan to take this photo, but as we drove past, I had to get out of the car and try to capture what I was seeing.  It looks like a seen out of the movie North Country or something.  This image makes he terrain look a little too flat, though. It almost looks like you're in the Midwest, but really, you are not.

Also, I like this image because of where it's at. You can't tell, but behind me is the County Courthouse, and the Main Street downtown area. Maybe 3 or 4 blocks up the hill behind me.  The jail, which is attached to the Courhouse, was expanded just a couple of years ago, and the thing, built on the hill, sort of looms over this side of the Island.