Odds and Ends 13

On June 4, 2017 · 0 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle occasionally features topics that don’t warrant an entire article. I collect these items in a spreadsheet and present them all together every once in awhile. However I hadn’t done one of those in awhile and the topics began to pile-up on my list. Odds and Ends 12 appeared all the way back in March 2016! That surprised me a little. I needed to do some spring cleaning so I hopped to it.

An Island Apart

Malabo. Photo by Embassy of Equatorial Guinea on Flickr (cc)

The small African nation of Equatorial Guinea featured an odd geographic arrangement. Most of the nation occupied a rectangle of land bordering the western continental coastline. As well, it included an island quite a bit removed towards the northwest, directly off of the coast of Cameroon. Yet, Equatorial Guinea placed its capital on that island and not on the mainland. The island went by the name of Bioko and the city Malabo (map).

That arrangement existed as a relic of colonialism. Europeans first encountered this corner of Africa when Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó landed on Bioko in 1472. That effort didn’t stick so Portugal traded the island to Spain in 1777. Spain didn’t do much with it either so the British came along and squatted on it in the 1820’s when they found nobody from Spain occupying it. Spain got around to reasserting sovereignty in 1844 and the island remained in Spanish control until Equatorial Guinea gained its independence in 1968. Malabo became the capital by default because it was the oldest and most developed city in the new nation.

Malobo won’t be the capital much longer, however. Equatorial Guinea plans a new capital deep within its mainland jungle interior. Construction began several years ago and government function started moving to the new city, Oyala (map), in February 2017. This completely planned community may someday hold up to two hundred thousand residents, nearly a quarter of the nation’s population. The BBC explained at least one motivation. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema survived several coup attempts and he wanted a more secure location. Oil revenues fund its construction.

What a Mistake

Rainy Lake. Photo by d Wang on Flickr (cc)

An oddly named geographic feature appeared as I researched the Pub with No Beer. There, just to the northwest of Taylors Arm, I spotted Mistake State Forest (map). I never did find the mistake that led to its name. However, I did learn that it covered 5,638 hectares (~14,000 acres) managed by the Forestry Corporation of New South Wales. I think I made a mistake when I tried to investigate Mistake State Forest.

Fortunately I ran across something completely unexpected and infinitely more interesting. Minnesota’s Star Tribune covered a situation where an 80-year-old error in land records wiped out a popular state trail. Minnesota sold some surplus acreage to a private landowner near International Falls in 1935 and forgot to record its sale. "And the buyer, a prominent International Falls businessman, apparently lost track of the purchase amid all his wheeling and dealing." The spot subsequently became a popular recreational area (map) on Rainy Lake. It might have a generally happy ending though. The heirs seemed willing to gift much of the land back to the state, although retaining acreage with prime views.

A Literal Name

Colstrip Montana
Colstrip Montana. Photo by Spot Us on Flickr (cc)

I noticed that a user landed on 12MC from a remote corner of Montana, so I took a closer look. The spot said Colstrip (map), which I considered a rather strange name. Wouldn’t it be funny, I though, if the name came from an actual strip of coal. Well it did actually, as the city confirmed.

Colstrip was established by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1924 as a company town to provide coal for their steam locomotives. The mining is open pit strip mining, where draglines remove soil above the layer of bituminous coal from the Fort Union Formation.

The coal mining tradition continued to the present day, with the nearby Rosebud mine being one of the largest in the state. Later, a large power plant opened up nearby to generate electricity for a huge territory surrounding it. However, Colstrip residents face an uncertain future as pressures build on coal. Nearly everyone in town worked either at the mine or at the power plant. Meanwhile coal begins to fall out of favor. It probably won’t be worth renovating the plant to make it more efficient. It’s too outdated. The plant was built forty years ago and is now considered "the nation’s 15th-largest producer of greenhouse gases."

First Name, Last Name

Welcome to Clinton, Iowa
Welcome to Clinton, Iowa. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

I discovered an additional example of First Name, Surname Symmetry recently. This one involved an historical figure named DeWitt Clinton. He dominated New York politics during the early part of the Nineteenth Century. His service included mayor of New York City and multiple terms as Governor. He nearly became President of the United States with a respectable showing against the eventual winner, James Madison. Clinton’s crowning achievement may have been his pivotal role in promoting and building the Erie Canal. This opened a vitally important trade route to the growing interior of the nation. This singular achievement led to dozens of places named in his honor throughout the American Midwest.

They must have really loved DeWitt Clinton in Iowa, though. The state (then a territory) named one of its counties Clinton in 1837 (map). However the county took it one step further. Two of the towns that formed within its boundaries became DeWitt and Clinton, located about 20 miles (32 kilometres) apart (map). That formed an excellent First Name, Surname Symmetry.

Some astute readers may have already figured out how I discovered this happy confluence, especially the people who follow my 12MC Twitter account. I was in Clinton, Iowa three days ago although I’m back home now. Take that as a little foreshadowing of articles soon to come.

Major Basilicas

On June 1, 2017 · 2 Comments

The Basilica of Sacré-Cœur sat high atop Montmartre, as noted recently in Select City Highpoints, becoming a memorable landmark on the Parisian skyline. Setting that aside, I wondered what made a church a basilica. In the course of investigating that I learned that a basilica could be classified into one of several levels of significance within the Roman Catholic Church. I also pondered the plural of basilica. Should it be Basilicae (Latin) or Basilicas (Italian). Basilicas seemed fine. However only four structures fit within the highest category of Major Basilicas so I decided to focus on them exclusively. Four seemed a manageable number. I thought a limited set would make for an easy article. Nope.

It dawned on my that the sheer level of complexity would undoubtedly result in me messing up the details somewhere. I apologize in advance if I misinterpreted or simplified things to the point of annoying any of 12MC’s Roman Catholic readers. That wasn’t my intent.

Only the Pope could decree that something should qualify as a basilica. He can bestow the title for reasons of "antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as centres of worship." Many hundreds of sites earned this honor. The vast preponderance qualified as straight-up Minor Basilicas, with a tiny handful recognized either as Papal or Pontifical Minor Basilicas. As noted, only four qualified as Major Basilicas, with all four located inside the diocese of Rome. Penitents that visited each of the Major Basilicas during a declared year of Jubilee gained additional absolution of sins. Special doors — sealed at all other times — were used during those particularly holy periods.

Papal Archbasilica of St. John in the Lateran

St. John Lateran - 1
St. John Lateran. Photo by Grant Bishop on Flickr (cc)

Even within Major Basilicas, one stood above the rest. I would have assumed St. Peter’s located in the Vatican would have been the one, and I would have been wrong. The honor actually went to the only one of the bunch with "arch" affixed to its name, the Archbasilica of St. John in the Lateran (map). The Bishop of Rome kept his cathedra (Latin for "seat") there. The bishop went by another name too, the universally-recognized title of Pope. Thus, St. John in the Lateran served as the Pope’s cathedral. That made it the mother church for the entire Roman Catholic religion. It was also the oldest of all Roman Catholic churches. St. John in the Lateran dated back to the early 4th Century, albeit renovated and reconstructed several times since them.

The Lateran part of the name referred to a time before the basilica existed. A wealthy and influential Roman family, the Laternos, owned the site for generations during pre-Christian times. Its patriarch angered Emperor Nero in the first century and he seized it from them. Much later, Emperor Constantine the Great converted to Christianity and gifted the property to the Bishop of Rome sometime around the year 313.

Interesting relics within the archbasilica included a cedar table claimed to have been used at the Last Supper, and Holy Stairs reputed to have been walked by Jesus during the Passion on his way to be tried by Pontius Pilate.

Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican

Italy-0177 - St. Peter's Square
St. Peter's Square. Photo by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr (cc)

While the Basilica of St. Peter (map) didn’t qualify as an Archbasilica, it certainly ranked as one of the holiest of all Catholic sites. St. Peter, the apostle and first Pope, became a martyr at this location sometime around the year 64. Nero used the pretext of the Great Fire of Rome to blame and persecute Christians. He ordered Peter crucified. Constantine the Great authorized the building of a church on the spot of St. Peter’s martyrdom centuries later, and its consecration occurred in 329. The basilica’s high alter was built directly above the tomb of St. Peter.

The Basilica of St. Peter occupied a central position within Vatican City. The personal residence of the Pope also fell within the Vatican boundaries. However, no bishop maintained a cathedra at St. Peter’s so it didn’t qualify as a cathedral. That didn’t diminish either its religious or historical significance in any way.

Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Saint Paul's Basilica
Saint Paul's Basilica. Photo by Lawrence OP on Flickr (cc)

The emperors Nero and Constantine the Great also figured in the history of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (map). Nero ordered the execution of the St. Paul the Apostle. The history was a little sketchy although St. Paul was probably beheaded sometime around the years 65-57. His burial, according to tradition, took place on the second mile of the Via Ostiensis, a major road between Rome and the sea. People began to venerate the spot over time. Constantine, after he relaxed restrictions on Christian worship, authorized construction of a church above the tomb. Its consecration took place in the year 324.

"Outside the Walls" referred to the Aurelian Walls, a new set of perimeter walls built around a growing Rome circa the year 272. The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls fell, as the name implied, outside of the Aurelian Walls.

Basilica of St. Mary Major

Day 2- Rome. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Photo by april on Flickr (cc)

The Basilica of St. Mary Major came a little later than the others (map). The Council of Ephesus of 431 declared the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God. In commemoration, the Pope ordered the construction of one of the first churches dedicated to Mary, and in honor of the recent declaration. The photograph shows the original Paleo-Christian portion of the structure that was preserved since the 5th Century (the middle section). This was the only one of the Major Basilicas to retain a significant part of its original design.

Two legends existed at the site. The first one involved the location, supposedly designated by Mary herself in a dream that came to the Pope. The second involved a relic. The faithful believed that St. Mary Major contained a piece of Jesus’ crib from the time of his birth, kept in a special crypt below the high altar.

Recent NIMBY

On May 28, 2017 · 4 Comments

The topic became my white whale. I came close to conquering it when I wrote Nimby Lane in 2015. Even then I joked about my problem, my seeming inability to write an article about the NIMBY phenomenon even after several attempts. NIMBY stood for "not in my back yard." In that earlier article we established that the acronym even appeared outside of the United States. Subsequent research also showed that it seemed to be transitioning from an all-caps NIMBY to a lowercase nimby. I think I’ll make that adjustment too.

It might be worth repeating the definition as listed in Dictionary.com. That could be helpful to readers who don’t speak English natively. It’s used to describe:

… opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project, as a jail, garbage dump, or drug rehabilitation center, that, though needed by the larger community, is considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values.

Anyway, the day finally arrived! Today I offer my nimby article at long last. The solution, once I discovered it, came easy. I simply typed nimby into Google and selected news. I chose examples only from the initial page of results as they appeared in front of me. Your results will vary.

I don’t mean to imply that any of these stories actually qualified as examples of nimby behavior. I’m not making value judgments. However, somebody though they did or the news articles never would have been published.

Falls Church, Virginia

Railroad Cottages
No to Railroad Cottages. My own photo.

Actually I noticed the first example in person before I ever saw it online. I spotted little placards stuck along the side of the Washington & Old Dominion trail as I biked through Falls Church a few days ago. They read, "No to Railroad Cottages." I didn’t give them another thought until my recent search results popped-up some commentary about them, Cottage Criticism is Just More NIMBY Opposition. I think Google fed it to me because of my geographic proximity.

The City of Falls Church provided more detail about the Railroad Cottages Project. Ten small standalone houses would cluster closely together around common open space and a social interaction building. It would cater to residents aged 55 years and older. The 1.3 acre triangular lot sat at the eastern end of Railroad Avenue, hugging the W&OD trail (map). Supporters cited it as an example of smart growth that also allowed city residents to downsize as they aged. Opponents worried about traffic, parking, density, noise, emergency response, displacement of flora and fauna, and diminished property values.

The lot also hid an interesting history. An African-American family purchased it just after the Civil War and retained ownership for the next 150 years. The man who sold the lot to developers was the great-great-great grandson of the person who first bought it for $75 in 1865.

Snow River, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Moose Pass
Moose Pass. My own photo.

Next I came across The NIMBY state on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Twelve Mile Circle visited the area back in 2010 so I paid particular attention. Huge numbers of people traveled down to the Kenai each summer for salmon fishing. Fishermen needed guides, equipment, food and places to stay, so tourism dollars fueled a huge part of the local economy.

People got angry when they heard that the Chugach Electric Association wanted to consider damming the Snow River (map) near Moose Pass. As the article noted, "Dam is a four-letter word worse than the f-word in that community." This one would reach 300 feet high and 700 feet across, too. Chugach Electric hoped to figure out whether a dam might actually increase salmon along the Snow River. Theoretically a better controlled river could improve spawning channels. However, that question will always remain a mystery. The public outcry forced Chugach Electric to abandon its effort. Citizens felt the risk to the local economy was too great.

Rainford, St Helens, Merseyside, England

Rainford - farm in the snow
Rainford – farm in the snow. Photo by Ian McFegan on Flickr (cc)

One person at least proclaimed she was Proud to be a Nimby in Rainford, England (map). This came in response to social media statements made by a member of the St. Helens Council. The Councillor remarked, "As I say you are nimby’s," referring to members of the Rainford Action Group. The group opposed turning over some of the village’s green belt to developers to build more than a thousand homes. It cited loss of agricultural land and jobs, as well as "extra pressure on our roads, surgeries, dentists, drains, or schools." The battle raged on.

Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

Aukland from Across the Bay
Auckland seen from Devonport. Photo by Jeremy Oakley on Flickr (cc)

The nimby phenomenon existed in New Zealand too. There I found Nimby wars: everyone’s a winner in Devonport, or are they? Ryman Healthcare wanted to build a retirement village on a vacant parcel in suburban Aukland, along the scenic Ngataringa Bay (map). Opponents didn’t so much care for the design aesthetics, and they also feared the impact on endangered plants. Plus they claimed it would cut the neighborhood in half. This situation seemed to have resulted in a happier ending than most. Ryman Healthcare agreed to a number of design changes that pleased most, although not all local residents.

Maybe I’ll run this experiment again in a few months and see how much the results change. Maybe I won’t.

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