Sand Storm

Even as the latest satellite images and high-powered computers track and forecast Isabel, the day really belongs to centuries-old technology: the sandbag. As Margaret Martin, public works director in Annapolis, one of the cities quivering in the path of the storm, attests, “The humble sandbag can save your business.”

Plenty of people in the mid-Atlantic region are counting on these dense bags to hold back the expected flood waters just as American and Iraqi troops relied on them to stop bullets during the war. “It is an object of engineering haiku,” waxes David Montgomery in the Washington Post. “It is perfectly designed to fulfill its large purpose with a minimum of resources.”

If only I could say the same about my cell phone.