Sustainable Yada Yada Yada

This is a blog about sustainability, urban design, scientific and technological progress, and what the future may hold. As well as interesting or random stuff on occasion. I'll try my best to avoid politics!

falling fruit

This website, called Falling Fruit: Mapping the urban harvest, is attempting to be a worldwide map of harvestable food in urban areas.

EU considering ban on gasoline and diesel powered cars

According to Wired, the EU is floating the idea of a complete ban on gasoline and diesel powered cars in European city centers by 2050.

biophilic cities

Recently I mentioned Blue Urbanism by Timothy Beatley. An earlier book of his was called Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning.


I just got back from the beach, where I rekindled my boyhood fascination with waves.

When the storm passes, you’d think the water would calm, settle and return to a quiet equilibrium, but the energy, oddly, doesn’t dissipate. The storm has become a wave that now lives in a patch of sea, moving along with no need for a push from above. It is, says Pretor-Pinney, what scientists call a “free wave,” no longer driven by wind (those are “forced waves”). Now it is a moving bit of history, an old sea storm moving on, free to roam. It has become a “swell.”

The astonishing thing is, you’d think it would bump into a million other waves that are coming at it from every direction; that it would pass through other storms, spreading, bumping, traveling, that all this travel would sap its momentum. But, as Walter Munk would discover, that’s not what happens.

When two different swells approach each other, instead of, “Uh oh, there’s going to be a crash” …

… “they simply pass through each other, like friendly ghosts, before continuing on their way without having experienced any lasting interference,” writes Pretor-Pinney. “The sea surface can look confused as the two swells cross, but they emerge on the other side, unaffected by the encounter.”


Just for a random topic, here are some recipes for making your own drinks from garden- or farm-fresh ingredients.

constitutional amendment

Going back to my recent suggestion of a constitutional amendment to clarify that corporations deserve some but not all the protections of “persons”, that actually is being proposed.

“blue urbanism”

Blue Urbanism by Timothy Beatley is about building awareness among people in cities about their impacts on the oceans.

California by Edan Lepucki

Here’s a new entry in the apocalyptic fiction genre: California by Edan Lepucki. I haven’t read the book yet, only a review in the New York Times.

the urban carbon cycle

This article from Landscape and Urban Planning looks at carbon emissions and carbon sequestration in Beijing.

fish passage on the Mekong

According to NPR, Laos is building several dams on the Mekong and there’s an argument about whether the fish passage systems that have been designed will be effective.

idea of the month for June

I never picked my idea of the month from June. Okay, here are some nominees:

  1. the 1913 version of Webster’s dictionary as an aid to beautiful writing
  2. how to derive probabilities in a sports tournament from bookmakers odds
  3. grid parity and the downward spiral of the traditional electric utility
  4. car share, the first and last mile problem, and the swinging vine
  5. the “authenticity” of Game of Thrones on the poor, nasty, brutish, and short nature of medieval feudal life
  6. the belated, but real, arrival of the smart home
  7. not-so-ecological economics: Herman Daly on why markets do not put a price on critical but abundant resources; the ongoing debate between "secular" and "stagnation" explanations for low economic growth; Robert Skidelski on topics that should be taught in economics class, including inequality, the role of ethics and fairness in economics (as opposed to the prevailing focus on profit maximization), and the economic consequences of climate change
  8. a “new model for longer life" where we transition between various mixes of work, family, and leisure time at various stages of life
  9. better urban design: floodplain parks and protected intersections for bikes; also on the topic of urban flooding, a useful source of flood damage functions from FEMA
  10. a new version of R Markdown

Hmm…there are a lot of interesting ideas here. The one that really jumps out at me is that there are several technologies that have been a long time coming, but are finally here: solar photovoltaics, affordable home-scale batteries, car share and other alternative transportation technologies, and the smart home. The same people who have been skeptical of these for decades will continue to deny them for awhile, then finally shrug and forget that they have not always been here. And they will change the world in the next ten years, a lot!

Idea of the month for June 2014: the long-awaited commercial arrival of several fabulous science fiction future technologies - solar panels, battery storage, and the smart home - that are going to rock the world

corporations are people, too

It seems pretty obvious to me that the number one thing we could do to fine-tune the U.S. democracy is to clarify the definition of a “person” to refer to a human being. To have a stable business climate, we do indeed need to give corporations some of the rights of “persons”. They need access to the courts, private property protections, enforcement of contracts, possible protection against unlawful search and seizure (my jury is still out on this one - “seizure” certainly, “search” I am not so sure). But what they do not need is a right to unlimited political speech. In other words, the individual people who make up corporations should have First Amendment Protections, but corporations should not! A constitutional amendment could make this distinction.

Future Yada Yada Yada

So I have come across this new blog called Future Yada Yada Yada. It looks as though after using Tumblr for awhile, maybe somebody is experimenting with Wordpress. It seems to have some themes in common with this blog, but looks to be more squeaky-clean, apolitical and family-friendly. In fact, I don’t see any profanity-laced tirades at all. I will neither confirm nor deny any links between that blog and this one.


It turns out there is a mathematical theory of knots. To study it, people put strings and cords in tumblers and study the results.

I am somewhat relieved to hear that the tangled headphone thing is common to a lot of people and not just me. I have had particular trouble though because, for exercising, I like the ones with the clips that go over your ears. That way you don’t have to jam the ear buds so far into your ears and I am convinced it should easier on your hearing. But the combination of the cords and those clips is just a nightmare for knots.

The science of knots doesn’t seem to have come up with any fantastic breakthroughs, but stiffer cords and small boxes and bags should help at least a little bit.