I'm tapping out these words on my laptop while sitting on my front porch and watching the world go by. I love our front porch; time spent hanging out here is a mini-vacation from the stresses and worries of life — not to mention a welcome break from the damn telephone.

But not all front porches work as well as they could. I'm lucky to live in an older neighborhood full of wonderful front porches, but many new houses have porches that seem to have been built purely for their marketing value. As long as the real estate agent or sales department can point out that the house has a porch, the reasoning seems to go,...

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