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Round-Up: Worldbike, Ecodensity, Easy Ubuntu and Black Swans
Alex Steffen, 28 May 07
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A few things I've been meaning to blog:

The Worldbike is a cargo-carrying bicycle designed for Africa, where the vast majority of bicycles are used as cargo-carrying vehicles, many of them for small entrepreneurs making a living by transporting goods. Several years ago, our own Jer helped Paul Freedman's team design the Worldbike. Now the bike has appeared in the Cooper-Hewitt design museum's exhibit, "Design for the Other 90%".

Vancouver's planning model is one we've long admired. Now, however, they're pushing the boundaries even farther with their new plan for ecodensity. As the Vancouver Sun puts it, "Vancouver should put high-density housing next to its major parks and along every one of its major streets, suggests the first draft of Vancouver's ecodensity charter... The city should also close down some roads to cars and require developers to include solar power, rainwater collection, and laundry drying facilities in any new project." Indeed, Vancouver's plan is explicitly aimed at reducing that city's ecological footprint.

Ubuntu is a popular Linux distribution that has gained a terrific reputation among geeks I know based on its stability and grace. That hasn't kept people (including myself) from wondering whether the hassle of installing it is worth the benefits we'd gain. Worldchanging friend (and celebrity librarian) Jessamyn West, having receieved a donation of two machines lacking an operating system, decides to find out, and learns she can install Ubuntu and get it up and running in less than hour. Better yet, she made a fun little video of the process

Meanwhile, ally Garry Peterson posts a terrific blog entry about "black swans" -- rare events that demonstrate to us, often in catastrophic ways, that the models of the world we've been using to make decisions are profoundly flawed. He draws our attention to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who coined the term, and quotes at length from several stories about Taleb's work: "We know from chaos theory that even if you had a perfect model of the world, you’d need infinite precision in order to predict future events. With sociopolitical or economic phenomena, we don’t have anything like that. And things are getting worse, not better, because the growing complexity of the world dwarfs any improvement in sophistication or computational power."

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When I lived in Denmark in the 60's there were still a few "Long John" freight carrying bicycles being used around the city of Copenhagen, and perhpas in other towns in the country. They had a low slung carrying tray at the front and a smaller front wheel to keep its center of gravity low. It was more stable than the bicycle in the article here that seems to look top heavy.

Posted by: Alan Scott on 29 May 07

Thanks for this WorldBike info. I'd love to see it in use in the US. Weight loss, fitness, quieter world, all in one vehicle. I've linked to your post on my blog at Mother Jones' The Blue Marble.
--julia whitty

Posted by: julia whitty on 30 May 07



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