07 August 2007

Alexandre Verdier's redesign of the Westfalia

Sorry I couldn't in good conscience miss posting this thing. It's beautiful. I now renounce my goals of owning a home and aspire to own this.

04 August 2007

Use the sun as your pen

I ran across a post on Instructables that was well worth repeating. There is always a focus on how the sun and solar energy can help mankind do more work and be more productive, but what about fun in the sun.
The instructions give step by step detail on using the sun to engrave images into wood using items you probably have lying around the house. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks to provide a humane alternative to popping ants with a magnifying glass.

Carbon Conscious Consumer launches campaign to slow carbon emmissions

Carbon Conscious Consumer

Carbon Conscious Consumer has taken advantage of Web 2.0 social technologies and is seeking to affect reductions in carbon emissions through actions of individual consumers. Users can pledge to not drive for one day each week and can earn rewards by encouraging others to sign the pledge.

read more | digg story

Carbon Conscious Consumer launches campaign to slow carbon emmissions

Carbon Conscious Consumer has taken advantage of Web 2.0 social technologies and is seeking to affect reductions in carbon emissions through actions of individual consumers. Users can pledge to not drive for one day each week and can earn rewards by encouraging others to sign the pledge.

read more | digg story

03 August 2007

Green Base Jumping! Just cool.


Sent to you by Josh via Google Reader:


via EQUITY GREEN by Garrett on Aug 03, 2007

This video is crazy...base jumping off the blade of a giant wind turbine. Now we're talking sustainability!


Things you can do from here:


02 August 2007

The Greening of Computing

You may notice that I tend to post a lot on computing and computer related things (i.e. Google Maps). Well it might be because I am a nerd and I seek justification for my love of computers. Thankfully for my interests the recent "Green revolution" spawned by threats of global warming also extends to the technology industry.

, a recent entry to the blogosphere, did an excellent writeup today on the importance of green data centers. We all tend to focus on greening the devices and commodities that we see everyday, but what about those hidden computing centers from which we retrieve our information services such as e-mail and online documents. The article states that energy costs are approaching costs greater than 30% of the informational technology total. If you ponder it, these are systems that are always on and due to the global nature of the internet there isn't really a time when power demands can be scaled back. Hey, people across the international date line need MySpace too. The industry have every reason to focus on longterm investments in alternative localized energy sources as the cost of their energy needs begin to approach equipment cost.

Help is on the way for the conscientious, tech-savy consumer, enter Zonbu. Zonbu is lower-end computer device that uses 1/3 as much power as a standard light-bulb. The device is intended to use with your daily tech gadgets (cameras and iPods) and to provide access to internet based computing needs. It's Linux based and not really intended as a full fledged computer for gaming or power hungry applications, but lets be honest how many of us are really using our computers other than the internet, device management, and productivity applications. The pricepoint is reasonable at $99, though it does require a subscription service ($12.95/mo) for data storage. EcoGeek claims that you can make up for the subscription fees in utility savings. You can also purchase it straight out for $249. The subscription service includes support and firmware upgrades as well as centralized back up on the Zonbu servers. It's an excellent idea and I might be sold on the subscription based on the simplicity of such a device. Check out further information on EcoGeek and MetaEfficient. I wonder how energy efficient the Zonbu data center is.

In further green computing news, Inhabitat pointed out that Western Digital has begun releasing harddrives with energy efficiency in mind. Western Digital claims that these drives will save 13.8kg CO2 annually when compared with similar drives. If manufacturers continue on this trend then data centers may be able to quickly take advantage of economic savings through energy conservation.

Bike Sharing Goes Hi-Tech

I've seen a lot of information lately about bike-sharing programs being implemented throughout Europe and even select locations in the states. I personally love this idea as I can see definite need for multi-modal transportation that is flexible and doesn't require the immense forethought that our current transit systems are sometimes associated with. Maybe you missed your normal bus and need a quick way to cut accross a few blocks to catch an alternate route. Perhaps you can ditch your car for your in-town errands following a lengthy commute.

Streetsblog had a pretty interesting post on a program in Berlin that uses cell phone technology to lock and unlock the bike. The program does away with the need for bike lockers or designated racks through its innovative self locking mechanism. A user who wished to check out the bike simply calls the number on the bike and the rear-wheel locking mechanism is released. When the user is done with there errands they call the number again to re-lock the bike leaving where it sits. The service charges about 6 cent a minute and is administered by the government. Check out the full post.

01 August 2007

Oh God No! Not The Nalgene

Treehugger (who incidentally was purchased by Discovery today) featured a rather disturbing article on the iconic accessory of the outdoorsy environmentalist. It turns out that the rumors floating around about Nalgene bottles and hormone disruptors might have some ground. Check out the full post for more information.

Whatever shall we switch to? Glass? I think not. I can't chuck a glass bottle in my pack and ride the bike wherever without risking loss of limb or at a minimum digits. I checked out Sigg bottles, but I seemed to remember some scare about Alzheimer's and aluminum as kid. It must have been big as I have no such cookware in my kitchen (suggesting that the metal was somehow subconsciously stigmatized at my hands). A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that the research on the Alzheimer's/Aluminum link is inconclusive at this point, so who knows if they are entirely safe.

Then again with cities beginning to ban bottled water (due to litter though the disposable plastic bottles are linked with the same horomone disrupting problem as the Nalgenes) the race to find a new, rugged container is one. Anyone have suggestions?

Map where your meat comes from..

Just to meld the whole herbivore slant of this blog along with the posts on information systems and mapping, I decided to post on Factory Farm Map. Factory Farm Map allows users to examine the geographic distribution of factory meat farms around the U.S. The data is broken down to the county level and is intended to show where the highest levels of animal farming associated pollution would be found. I wish there was a similar interface for veggies so that people could understand the importance of recruiting local foods to combat centralized food production.

31 July 2007

New domain name

So for anyone that has visited this blog before you may have noticed a new domain name. I am still not sure why I decided to register for a domain name other than it was cheap and that I had the "Trigger Hippie" idea floating around in my head after hearing it in a song the other night. It stems from a certain duality that I find in my life stemming from a devotion to my military career and subsequently my little family within the military that means so much to me combined with my passion for our natural world. I have been pondering a set of tatoos on my calves and have been stuck on the idea of a tree of life on one calf and a fallen soldiers memorial on the other. So since I am sort of a nerd, I ended up with a domain as an attempt to hold off on blowing my money on a tat. Check out GoDaddy for cheap domains if you are looking to disguise your frugality and want to get some flair for your blog and your e-mail.

Rockin New Shirt

So normally I don't sport shirts displaying my non-meat eating preferences as to avoid being accosted by those attempting to justify why they chose to adhere to certain dietary patterns in a seeming effort to compensate for some feelings of guilt.

I am not judging. Trust me. I find myself very defensive of any action that I feel guilty about (i.e. needlessly driving my car) and at times I find that guilt compels me into an almost offensive state.

Like I have mentioned in earlier posts, I am working on re-gaining my vegan footing after a rather extensive hiatus. I am vegan for a variety of reasons, mostly for environmental reasons, but also because I have issues regarding needlessly depriving something of life. Anyway, back to the shirt. I found it. I thought it was fun. AND it was on clearance. Here's a picture. If you like it, I suggest you visit the site soon as they are closing down the e-commerce site soon.

Down with plastic bags! And paper too!

I know most everyone out there understands the evils of the plastic bag, but this video from GOOD Magazine provides some figures to shock you into remembering your reusable tote bags.

24 July 2007

More Details on Carbon Neutral PC

In February, PC World announced that they were working on a carbon neutral PC. Since then, there has been little news. Last week when the Independent ran a story on it with some new information, which CNet has summarized nicely.

read more | digg story

21 July 2007

On Vacation in Savannah

Well, no interesting things to post at the moment as I am on a short vacation to Savannah, GA. If anyone wants to see some examples of how transit, open space, and just a generally liveable downtown can be done correctly this is the place to visit. An interesting trivia fact is that Savannah managed to escape the wrath of the Civil War so it has a surprising amount of its original architecture still intact. The worst part about the trip has been trying to find vegan-friendly foods. I have to say as far as the vegeterian options on the menu, this is no Asheville,NC.

18 July 2007

Google Earth... Now more than just seeing your house from space

There has been incredible development in the types of models created for Google Earth. Now you can visualize not only the earth but all of the components of our solar system (including the sun) in the correct spatial scale.

read more | digg story

17 July 2007

A Random Conglomeration of Green Things

First off there has been a decent amount of press on the net about attempts to get a "bike sharing" project of the ground in NYC. I guess that's the downside of living in the southeast... we have to wait until all the progressive ideas to migrate from up North and out West. Check out the program details here.

The Google Earth Blog showed off some more of the capabilities of the Google Earth platform. As web developers and businesses get behind the application, more and more ways of porting large and complex datasets are starting to surface. The blog features information about an GE overlay filled with power production locations for the western United States.

Headway came up with an interesting idea in terms of increasing transit ridership. Create your own signage and spread the gospel of transit guerrilla style. Rather than depending on your local transit authority to provide route schedules on each individual sign (my relatively small town of ~100,000 people has 900+ officially registered stops), find the schedule for the stops that you use most often and take responsibility for maintaining a route schedule (replacing it when it weathers and keeping it up to date). Also on Headway more on the iPhone and its transit uses as programs such as "MuniTime" make real-time transit information available showing when a bus or train will arrive at a particular stop.

Some minor waves have surfaced in legislative circles over the past few weeks concerning the concept of hot gas. R-Squared Energy Blog has done a couple of interesting write-ups to despute media claims (which for the most part have stated that due to the chemical properties of gasoline, consumers are being sold less energy per gallon of gas during hot summer days because gas expands in volume when it is heated). I have to wonder that if the media claims hold any water, aren't gas stations purchasing hot gas (since I don't think that gas tankers are regrigorated) and then turning around and selling that gas to consumers? In fact isn't everyone in the gas industry exposed to the higher temperatures? Maybe the summer price of gas should be higher as the cost of storage and transportation goes up for the sales side of the industry.

WorldChanging found a program in India that helps its customers eliminate waste. Consumers apparently pick a container for waste to use within their home or office and the service helps to sort the waste (i.e. recycling, composting, etc.) in order to help the customer to understand how to reduce their "trash".

I'll try to do another run down of items I have "starred" in my Google Reader (a terrific program for staying on top of the current events or blogs that you find of particular interest) within the next couple of days. Please feel free to leave comments on any items that you would like to see me cover more often.

World Wide Wind Turbine Shortage

"A worldwide shortage of wind-turbines has been caused by a sudden surge in demand and the frenzied industrial growth of China creating delivery delays that could take years to rectify.

read more | digg story

16 July 2007

The economic and political foolishness of paying for carbon reduction

Consistently saying that we have to pay to reduce carbon (or the inverse, that we can't afford not to reduce carbon) may be morally appealing, but it is politically -- and environmentally -- toxic, because it reinforces precisely those beliefs that are preventing us from implementing laws that would actually start to reduce carbon emissions.

read more | digg story

More Note on Being Vegan...

As I am I running through the blogs I frequent. I am realizing how often I find inspiration from the blogs of my fellow vegans for menu ideas. Even if you're not vegan and your just looking for exciting new meal ideas, blogs provide a wonderful opportunity to get an idea of what normal people cook and how those recipes that you've always been afraid to attempt actually turn out. Here's a few of my top links:
  1. What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway
  2. Walking the Vegan Line
  3. Urban Vegan
  4. Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen
  5. Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log
  6. Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan!
I am sorry if I left anyone out and please feel free to leave comments with your favorite vegan site or blog. So far I have been able to "toe the line" of veganism and haven't caught myself trying to cheat. The only problem I have had is that I keep ending up with vanilla soy milk rather than regular, which results in some interesting variations on recipes.

15 July 2007

Bob Geldof Slams Live Earth

Sir Bob Geldof is ragging on Al Gore. The Irish musician, who organized the Live Aid and Live 8 multi-venue rock concerts for famine and debt relief in 1985 and 2005, respectively—is apparently "furious" to be linked to Gore's Live Earth event, calling it a "waste of time."

read more | digg story

13 July 2007

Quote of the Week

"Only religious fanatics and totalitarian states equate morality with legality," Linus Torvalds (Mastermind behind Linux)

11 July 2007

Free transit for everyone

I ran across this post on TreeHugger and couldn't help but agree with it completely. Although I currently receive free bus fare through my employer (and former school), I would love to see some relief on those that can't afford another option other than mass transit as well as those who chose to act more responsibly in their transportation choices. Get the full text of the article here, but a few of my favorite suggestions for improvement of the transit system were:
  • a barrier-free transportation option to every member of the community (no more worries about exact change, expiring transfers, or embarrassment about how to pay)
  • reducing, and in some cases eliminating, the need for private motorized vehicle parking
  • contributing significantly to the local economy by keeping our money in our communities
  • allowing all bus doors to be used to load passengers, making service faster and more efficient
  • giving operators more time to answer questions

10 July 2007

The Redemption of the iPhone

With all the hype about the iPhone, I have to say that I have been more than skeptical. I have never been a fan of Apple's tendency toward an overly proprietary platform or the way that they strong-armed the use of particular applications (Safari for the iPhone's browser and iTunes for managing your iPod's music). While there are many arguments to be had about Microsoft's practices of strong-arming its users, Microsoft users remain jaded about the limitations and evils behind their choice of operating system where Apple users seem to be a bit more loyalist.

All this aside, I have developed a bit of respect for the iPod as I see its potential as a platform for on-the-fly transit information (such as that available through Google Transit). This is not something entirely new as Google mobile has made such applications available for web-enabled phones and PDAs for quite a while. The unique spin that the iPhone provides however is Apple's potential to make web-enabled phones an everyday device. Until the advent of the iPod, portable MP3 players were somewhat of a luxury item reserved largely for techies or those with excess funds. The iPhone stands to make accessing realtime information the standard and will probably push content providers to produce more information catered specifically for the format.

Headway has a pretty interesting summary of accessing transit information on the iPhone. I anxiously await further development in this arena and I also like that such mobile computing formats eliminate the need for devices that utilize more energy (i.e. laptops and desktops). I won't be purchasing an iPhone within the near future and will probably hold out to see if the rumors of the iPhone Nano pan out to be true (and hope that it branches out beyond ATT).

Progress on my re-Vegan experiment

So things have been going well in my experiment to re-vegan myself. I can't say that I have completely avoided animal products as I have yet to purge my food stocks of all non-vegan foods. I decided that I was not going to waste food in the process, but would instead transition into a vegan diet. It seemed a bit hypocritical to throw away perfectly good food in order to adopt which is intended to lessen environmental impacts. I have enjoyed re-engineering recipes and creating new foods and I think I am headed along a better path as far as keeping nutritional value and cost in check than I was the last time.

Anyway I ran across this vegan food pyramid on a webpage of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and thought it worth reposting as it gives a pretty good framework for beginner vegans. It definitely helps show that my habit of chowing down on vegan cupcakes is still not nutritious.

09 July 2007

An example of what happens when governments intervene in gas pricing

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Long fuel queues have resurfaced in Zimbabwe as filling stations ran out of petrol following a government directive to reduce prices by up to 60 percent, APA observed here.

read more | digg story

New York Crime Dropped Because of Decreased Lead Exposure, Not Giuliani

An economist has linked already known evidence about the connection between childhood lead exposure and later criminal activity with crime rate fluctuations and environmental policies.

read more | digg story


Putting our own house in order is a good first first step in the long path towards sustainability, so it was great to hear that the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to become carbon neutral by the end of its current term.

read more | digg story

08 July 2007

The Wind makes a friend

Now don't you feel bad about not embracing alternative energy. I can't wait to see the rebuttals with a dejected coal or crude oil.

Glamming up cycling

Another well put together cycling promotion video.

Break down difficult topics with WikiMindMap

So I am a huge Wikipedia fan, but I find that sometimes some of the articles can be a little heady for me to understand. I ran accross the site WikiMindMap which will allow you to visualize how your topic relates to other topics. Although it might not grant you the understanding that you seek, it does help provide visual hints.

I find the Mind Map format to be useful when attempting to flesh out a thought. You can pick up FreeMind, an open source version of mind mapping software. The software is capable of exporting to a variety of formats including CAD.

Sorry I realize this has nothing to do with my blog, but its hard for me to stay on topic. I was going to draw out a mind map of my mind put there were far to many squiggles and loops.

07 July 2007

Another worthwhile cartoon

I couldn't avoid posting this cartoon as I find it to be an excellent summation of the current rush of consumerism toward any thing "eco" or "green".

BOEING DREAMLINER: A More Sustainable Aircraft

Air travel can be the bane of any well-meaning environmentalist. One flight can spew tons of carbon and other pollution into the air, but let’s face it, there are few reasonable alternatives for jetsetters. So it’s great to hear that when Boeing set out to design their new airplane, the 787 Dreamliner they had a more sustainable focus in mind.

read more | digg story

05 July 2007

China: Food Versus Fuel Wars Just Beginning

As everyone in China knows, food prices have risen sharply over the past year. If it gives any comfort to anyone, China is not the only country. Rising food prices are a worldwide phenomenon.As a consequence of cheap oil, the society that developed was based on the internal combustion engine - the motor car.

read more | digg story

The rise of the bike "kitchen"

National ridership figures may be down, but grassroots collectives are thriving.

read more | digg story

New and Improved LEED Rating System Underway

The U.S. Green Building Council will tweak the rating system to align LEED credits across the board and allow for greater adaptability overall.

read more | digg story

More on My Google Transit Ideas

Just a quick PowerPoint of my proposed ideas for porting my city's transit information into Google services.

04 July 2007

Going vegan again... I hope.

So after a considerable thought and a little inspiration from Jufran Banana Sauce, I have decided to attempt being vegan again. I originally stopped being vegan after venturing out into the world on my own and quickly finding that I was unable to afford faux-foods (such as soy cheese). I was vegan for about 2 years for my first stint and have been a vegetarian since (aside from time spent on Army deployments where its more or less impossible to be vegetarian).

I have decided this time to rely on a wider range of international foods and hope to not get stuck with the American idea that every meal some how requires meat, cheese, butter, or some type of dairy product (or the appropriate substitute in the case of vegans). So hopefully I can post some good recipes in the coming days.

In case you were wondering, I am vegetarian/hopefully vegan for a variety of reasons.
  1. Animal products cause considerably higher levels of energy to produce (popular belief holds that 1000 calories of an animal product would require 10,000 calories of plant products as foods). I feel that a lot of arable land could be better used to meet worldwide food demands in a sustainable manner rather than for meat production.
  2. I have issues with the idea of raising an animal solely for the purpose of slaughtering and eating them. I manage to maintain a feeling that animals have some knowledge of their own existence as they attempt to avoid death.

Two really good books on the subject are The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal Liberation (I swear it's not as leftist as it sounds). More to come about my attempt to kick the egg and dairy habit in the coming weeks. Oh and in case you want to see what vegan food looks like check out Urban Vegan and Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log.

03 July 2007

Funny Stuff

Baldo 2-Dec-2006

I ran across this comic and felt obligated to post it. Also for those interested in hybrids and the "greening" of the automotive industry cruise on over to http://hybridblog.typepad.com/.

Just Random Thoughts...

So I attended a discussion/presentation today about transportation and planning in the Asheville area, the dialog that took place was rather interesting and a few of the key things I took away were:
  1. Asheville needs to take steps to rid itself of its pedestrian hostility (being someone who bikes or walks for large portion of my transportation needs, I have long felt that pedestrians are treated as lesser citizens to those who utilize automobiles).
  2. Infrastructure needs to be implaced to decrease automobile usage and to make made multi-modal transportation methods feasible (in Asheville this is somewhat difficult due to an aging transportation network).
  3. Attention needs to be devoted to ridership demographics and focus needs to be directed toward attracting a more diverse socio-economic crowd in order to make mass-transit "cool" again.
  4. Options such as park-to-ride lots need to be implemented to decrease the amount of parking space and traffic utilized in the city center.
  5. Efforts can be directed toward the entire greater Asheville area and its more problematic corridors rather than just the city center.
  6. Proper planning will require efforts from a number of organizations included NGOs, government entities, business interests, and true citizen involvement.
Some of these conclusions were derived from direct statements within the talk and others were pieced together from the discussion. I believe that much of the dialog today can be extended to other cities and I learned that quite a number of other cities have technologies and ideas that Asheville needs to examine.

02 July 2007

Hawth's Tools

So this is probably not new and exciting to everyone else, but I recently ran across the Hawth's Analysis Tool Set available at http://www.spatialecology.com/. This is an extremely useful set of tools for anyone doing any type of ecology work with ArcMap as it expands Arc's functionality in this area.

So far the features that I have found most useful and the biggest time savers are the ability to generate random points and the ability to create evenly spaced grid shapefiles. It also has other features which I have yet to exploit including animal movement simulation.

Perhaps the most attractive part of this tool is that it is completely free and it easily installs and integrates with the Arc products. Please don't let me limited review deter you, this is definitely something worth checking out.

Google Maps API for Asheville Transit System

I just wanted to make a quick post to show a API I am working on to port the Asheville City (North Carolina) transit system into a Google Map API. Hopefully I will continue work on this project to include detailed information on all routes. The overlay works as a link to an existing Google map I have created and will be updated as I make updates to the maps. I believe that this provides map information to users in a more tangible and easily accessible format. The long term goals I envision for this project will include detailed information on each route stop including bus arrival times and a picture of the stop in case users are unfamiliar with the area.

I believe that if resources are invested to expand the information about the Asheville transit into existing more trendy technologies, ridership demographics will also expand.

This format also lends to make the information available on portable technologies such as mobile phones and PDAs. Public Transit needs to be made to look and feel cool in order for it to shed the stigma that currently plagues it.

01 July 2007

More Points for Linux

Well to add even more "cool" points to Ubuntu and Linux as a whole, I discovered recordMyDesktop today. With this easily installed program you can create live screen captures of your desktop as a video. This is especially useful for say recording a specific process you would like to show as an instructional piece, porting a "PowerPoint" to video, or in my case creating a time lapse effect for GIS applications. Below you'll find a simple screen capture example.

For those Linux users who would like to check the software out, simply enter this command into Terminal.
sudo apt-get install recordmydesktop gtk-recordmydesktop

For more specifics check out http://recordmydesktop.sourceforge.net/.

OpenSource Software and the Environment

While their is an increasing focus on the need for computer hardware manufacturers to "green" the design of their products, it seems that we already have an infrastructure present for sustainability in the software market.

Recently I switched one of my home computers over to the Ubuntu operating system just as an experiment. The only actual media necessary for the conversion was a single CD-R which came from a bulk packaged spindle (and to be quite honest I could have installed the entire package from a thumbdrive). Though software installation on this machine is an ongoing process, I still have used only a single CD-R to make this a functional machine catered to what I intend to use it for. I have yet to find a task that I wasn't able to find software suited for on my Ubuntu box. The software packages so far include:
  • OpenOffice (Office Productivity software, parallels MS Office)
  • Quantum GIS (Offers minor GIS functionality)
  • Automatix (Automated software update and install features)
  • GIMP (Photo-manipulation software, parallels Adobe Photoshop)
  • Firefox (of course)
  • Various utilities
If I were trying to assemble such a software suite based on mass-market software packages, I believe the associated media and packaging materials would be considerably more expansive. Not to mention negative environmental implications associated with my having to earn all of the money to purchase those products.

I will try to get into more specifics in later posts, but their are several positive aspects of open source software based on the fact that its infrastructure for support and distribution is based less on warehouse-type operations and is to a certain degree spread across its user base and existing academic institutions.

Open source software can also be catered to rescue hardware that would be considered obsolete by more conventional terms. I am successfully running Ubuntu on a Gateway 733mhz machine with 384mb of RAM that was previously considered to be trash. Instead of tossing our old machines to the landfills or running them through "recycling" programs, computers can be redeemed and can contribute to meeting the informational needs of developing countries.

Although this post is a glowing endorsement of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, there are several other packages that are worth checking out (I also like the Slax distribution as it can easily be ported to a thumbdrive and can become your computer independent operating system). Suse and Freespire are also fun to play with. I'll add more in the coming weeks on useful open source software. Computing can play an extremely powerful role in mitigating developing environmental problems as they provide a flexible venue for processing and disseminating information. After all, remember that GI Joe taught us all that "...knowing is half the battle."

11 June 2007

CommunityViz - A decision making framework

I thought I would post some information on the CommunityViz software package and some of its more useful features. The package functions as an extension for the ArcGIS products. It allows for the creation of dynamic data that allows for scenarios to be created in a sort of "What if?" analysis.

I have just been toying with it a little over a week and I intend to use to construct some data correlating Hemlock die back with stream temperature increases. The program seems to be primarily designed to use in community planning operations but can be extended for more ecological centered uses.

In order to learn the basics of the program I began toying around with average parcel slope data in Buncombe county. I then set a dynamic threshold on allowable slope percentage within the parcels (so that it would be easy to understand the volume of parcels that would be affected by various limitations on development in sloped areas). The first map is set with a maximum allowable slope of somewhere around 20% (yes, low, I know). Using the slider bar with the variable constructed in CommunityViz, the map can be updated dynamically to show what would happen should an ordinance be proposed that barred development on in parcels with slopes that are greater than 45%.

In order to understand how CommunityViz could perform with weighing two variables within a single map I constructed a similar analysis that factored in parcel slope and distance to a city. Say in case a developer was looking for a location to build a retirement community and wanted to select land that wouldn't be too steep, thus deterring older occupants; at the same time this developer would want to build within reasonable proximity to the cities of Flat Rock or Hendersonville because of their notoriety among retirees. The first map shows both factors with equal weight. The second shows what would occur if the developer became less concerned with parcel slope but really wanted to cash in on people heading toward Flat Rock or Hendersonville.

One last feature worth noting is the seamless integration with the Google Earth platform. Following the analysis of the Buncombe County slopes, I exported the data to Google Earth so that it could be made accessible to a wider user base (this is with the data with maximum slope set at 20%).

Clicking on the thumbnails will yield better pictures and I will post more as I play with the program more.

05 June 2007

Support Our Soldiers, Save Some Energy

So in light of Memorial Day and the controversy surrounding the war in Iraq, I found a bumper sticker that points out a fact that we should all take to heart.

Many have pointed out that the U.S. interest in maintaining a stable Mid-Eastern political climate is necessary for continuation of the American economic Status Quo. With the cost of the current war, both financially and in terms of the lives of soldiers it seems that our politicians might be willing to explore alternatives to current methods of energy production.

An article floating around Digg shows that we are instead set in maintaining our current energy production patterns, even at the expense of legislatively alienating developing technologies.

I understand that coal and oil are not the same source, but both are the type of non-renewable fossil based fuels that contribute to both environmental degradation and political instability. Perhaps rather than fighting the fight against terrorism or a stable world political climate on the battlefield, we should all examine where our energy comes from and the totality of its price. Rather than spewing a rhetoric of supporting our troops while demanding that they come home, we should show our true support for our troops through demanding clean energy and reducing our personal dependence on fossil-based fuels.

04 June 2007

A margarita made with ethanol

OK, now this biofuel thing has gone too far. Reuters is reporting that Mexican farmers are burning down fields of blue agave -- the main ingredient in tequila -- and replanting them with corn. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Associated Press warns that the price of beer is set to rise, because barley

read more | digg story

01 June 2007

Marketing Design: Green Modern Prefab Meets Google

The dynamic duo of SketchUp and Google Earth is being utilized by green home designer Michelle Kaufmann to allow prospective buyers to sample her wares without so much as a consultation.

read more | digg story

29 May 2007

Green roof gets no takers

ASHEVILLE, NC — A dearth of proposals could put in jeopardy an environmentally friendly design for the new Civic Center roof that was to feature plants to absorb water and lessen heat.

read more | digg story

25 May 2007

A Shift in Focus

I have decided after days on end with nothing spectacularly interesting to blog about that I need to shift the focus of my blog just a little. While I am still extremely interested in developing a systems approach to urban greening, I think that I would actually update my blog and focus some of my thoughts if I posted more often (because the biggest reason I blog is to have a reason to write down and clarify the things floating around in my head). That all being said for the most part my I am going to start incorporating little snippets of attempting live a more environmentally conscious.

On that note here is a clip that I ran accross mention on Salon.com concerning marketing bicycles as an environmental and social mitigation technique. View the article here.

21 May 2007

San Francisco Urban Forest Mapping

So unfortunately the Army gig has kept me away from toying around with my Urban Greening/Systems Approach ideas. I did run across some information concerning San Francisco's Urban Forest Mapping Project that I found pretty interesting. Apparently the project is built on Open Source software and allows citizens to document trees that they are adding to the city's urban forest.

Check out the project here.

13 May 2007

Why a Systems Approach is So Important

While riding on the bus home from work the other day, I kept trying to think of a way to convey the importance of employing a systems-based approach to urban greening. It finally dawned on me as the bus pulled into its stop at the local Super-Wal-Mart. As you can see from the picture, some of the "greening" projects used to satisfy the city planning authorities were carried out in a less than ideal manner. Without a system-based approach to provide a framework for greening projects, projects can quickly turn into the simple insertion of trees for aesthetic effect.

On another note, I ran across another blog on urban greening worth checking out.

Also there has been another article published in the Mountain Xpress concerning logging on the Shope Creek site in Asheville, NC.

08 May 2007

Yet Another Update to Urban Greening via a Systems Approach

After playing with the Landscape Management System (LMS), I decided to check out other Forest Service research to find information that could easily be extended to Urban Greening projects. I ran across an article entitled Dimensions of Ecosystem Management: A Systems Approach to Policy Formulation. As the title might suggest the article provided some excellent insights into the necessity for using a systems-based approach to guide policy making decisions. If we accept that we have indeed approached the limits of sustainable throughout growth (i.e., we have no new land area to exploit), then we are faced with three challenges: reduce population growth, revise standards of living (consumption-to-waste ratios), and increase development technologically (sustain the production of all goods and services through increasingly sophisticated intervention)... The status quo is not sustainable. Given marked uncertainty in outcomes based on the sciences economics, ecology, and sociology, apparently the only frameworks available to policy makers are intentionality and adaptive management.

The article goes to point out further that environmental sustainability does not permit economic growth, but instead promotes economic development. The author maintains that understanding the limitations and synergistics of the human environmental interaction necessitate that we adopt a model that allows us to move up and down and back and forth in a hierarchy composed of functional relationship units (individual humans to society; individual organisms to ecosystems, ecology to sociology, past to future) that interact to form larger wholes and the properties unique to these wholes that emerge through synergy. This is a systems approach to ecosystem management that recognizes that management is but part of a much larger system.

How humanity became an urban species

Sometime this year the world will pass a landmark as over half the global population will now live in cities - and the trend is accelerating.

read more | digg story

07 May 2007

More on Urban Greening Through a Systems Approach

While floating around the internet looking for more information on designing a Systems Approach to Urban Greening I ran across the University of Washington Center for Forest Resources website. The site contained a rather tangible breakdown of how systems theory can be applied in an ecological setting and broke the systems approach into four major concepts.
  • Specialization: A system is divided into smaller components allowing more specialized concentration on each component.
  • Grouping: To avoid generating greater complexity with increasing specialization, it becomes necessary to group related disciplines or sub-disciplines.
  • Coordination: As the components and subcomponents of a system are grouped, it is necessary to coordinate the interactions among groups.
  • Emergent properties: Dividing a system into subsystems (groups of component parts within the system), requires recognizing and understanding the "emergent properties" of a system; that is, recognizing why the system as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. For example, two forest stands may contain the same tree species, but the spatial arrangement and size structure of the individual trees will create different habitats for wildlife species. In this case, an emergent property of each stand is the wildlife habitat.
There was also a Landscape Management System (LMS) which I will be testing out over the next few days to see what applications it might have to Urban Greening.

Digg Story: McCain Claims to Live Energy Policy

"McCain Claims to Live Energy Policy"
Presidential hopeful John McCain spoke out against the Bush administration's energy policy and spoke about his use of solar panels and plans to purchase his daughter a hybrid car in order to mitigate his carbon footprint.


Eco-Extremist Wants World Population to Drop below 1 Billion

Paul Watson, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society advocates killing off over 5 billion humans and forcing those left to live in isolated communities no larger than 20,000 people.

read more | digg story

06 May 2007

An Update to Open Source GIS (qGIS) and the Army and LEED

Okay, so due to a busy weekend I am going to keep this brief. In addition to the last stuff I posted about qGIS, I discovered that it integrates with GPS straight out of the box (some additional function require plugin downloads). The program is designed with rather simplistic two-way communication features catered to the *.GPX file format. In addition to handling *.GPX file formats, qGIS can be integrated with GPSBabel so that non-native formats can be easily converted within qGIS. The GPX information is imported as an overlay layer and can be updated within qGIS and exported back into the memory of the GPS device.

On another topic completely, I have been hearing a lot of buzz lately about more and more cities implementing LEED building requirements on any construction of new city-owned buildings. Asheville city recently set standards on what level of LEED requirements they would be adhering to (more info). What I find most inspiring however is that the Army agreed to embrace the LEED standard over a year ago (more info). The news about Asheville setting their standard just reminded my of the Army and LEED and I just wanted to post it as I think it provides hope that people in all sectors of society are finally starting to get things.

02 May 2007

Using Open Source Software in a GIS setting

Just wanted to post a quick note about an application of Open Source software in a GIS setting. I often have to plan training simulations for my Army Reserve unit. One of the largest problems when designing these simulations is map information. The army provides rather large scale topographic maps that are more or less useless in the tight urban settings that military units so often find themselves in today.

In order to combat these problems when creating training simulations I have been using qGIS to create simple mockups from Orthographic photographs. Although qGIS doesn't yet offer the power of an ESRI product it does a pretty good job of creating a simple easy to interpret map that I can distribute to each soldier for use in a mock combat situation. This picture shows the first map I created for this context, and in the training I have coming up this weekend I hope to create a map with some sort of grid reference system. This map worked out great in giving the individual soldiers an easy to interpret reference that they could communicate about over a radio system. Also I have to throw in a shameless plug for OpenOffice, which I used to create the layout pictured.

01 May 2007

Maps in 3-D

After playing around with different mapping formats and using DEMs and hillshades, I tried porting the campus mapping project I am working on into ArcGlobe. For the most part the transition went rather smoothly. The biggest problem I has was that features that were not extruded came out blurry on the map. I fixed this by making the flat features somewhat transparent. I also had a lot of quirky issues with ArcGlobe not wanting to render the data. In the next few days I will be labeling the map and make it look more like the 2-D version of the map.

30 April 2007

Resources on Urban Greening

Okay so... due to my exam schedule and what not, I haven't really been able to get to trying to flesh out my research idea yet. I guess I can go ahead and lay down some sort of outline and add more detail a little at a time until I get a chance to run with it.

I. Introduction
1. Systems Approach defined
2. Urban Greening Defined

II. Modern Applications of Urban Greening
1. Current Design and Planning Processes for Urban Greening
2. Case Studies of Successfully Planned Projects
3. Case Studies of Failed Planned Projects

III. Factors important to the development of an Urban Greening Model
1. Economic Valuation
2. Assessment of Environmental Factors
3. Role of Geography/Topography in Design
4. Need for Information Systems and Databases

IV. Development of an Urban Greening Model
1. Proposed Model
2. Input Requirements for Proposed Model
3. Limitations of Proposed Model
4. Future Uses of Proposed Model

V. Summary and Conclusion
Hopefully I will be adding more in the next couple of days. I will post my research proposal as I finish writing it.

29 April 2007

Best Solar Energy Commercial Ever

Just a random video I came across on YouTube this morning while looking for some information on energy. Its an interesting way to look at solar energy for sure.

28 April 2007

Update to Shope Creek Logging Post

After reviewing the plan set forth by the U.S. Forest Service, it seems like the plan is something larger than just logging on public lands.  The management principles included in the plan seem to have some foundation though I have several questions about the plant species in the proposed areas and the expansion of road and open areas within the forest. Here is the contact information need to make comments on the plan:
Feel free to contact Paul Gilliland, Project Leader; Michael Hutchins, Team Leader; or me at 828-682-6146 if you have questions or need additional information regarding this proposal. Comments may be mailed to: Appalachian Ranger District, ATTN: District Ranger, P.O. Box 128, Burnsville, North Carolina 28714 or e-mailed to: comments-southern-north-carolina-pisgahappalachian@

Logging in the Shope Creek Forest

This is sort of an aside from the general focus of what I intended my blog to be about, but perhaps this marks a shift in the focus I intend to take with my blog. Some of the National Forest lands down the street from my parents house in Asheville, NC are under review for logging by the U.S. Forest Service.

I understand that due to overconsumption of wood products, logging in federally owned lands is more or less unavoidable at this point. I also understand that just because an area is important to me, I shouldn't try to push resource extraction onto lands that other people hold dear.

That all being said, I believe this area to contain some rather important ecological features and perhaps other areas might be better suited. For now I will post some links about the plans and in the future I hope to add some information about the ecology of the area and possible negative impacts of the plans (aside from those that are already documented).

For more information about these plans check out:
The actual U.S. Forest Service write-up
The Asheville Citizen-Times article
The Mountain Xpress article

27 April 2007

Systems Approach to Urban Greening

So even though I'm not sure any one really reads this, but I am looking to begin some research on creating or at least consolidating a Systems Based Approach to Urban Greening Projects. I see a lot of non-profits, RPOs, and MPOs working to implement greening projects, but I am wondering what model they are using to design them.

Ideally I am looking to work on a research project that could lead to the development of open source informational resources that could be used in designing urban greening projects. These resources would help account for the economic, social, environmental, and aesthetic variables within greening projects. I believe that a Systems Based Approach could be a valuable tool in creating projects that result in more than simple green vegetation in an otherwise anthropogenic landscape.

If anyone has an where I could begin looking for this information or would be interested in possible collaboration just leave a comment on the blog. I intend to use this blog to show what I have found out and give links to other individuals working on similar projects.

20 April 2007

UNCA Campus Mapping Project

Hi, I'm Josh O'Conner a student of UNCA/NEMAC and Haywood Community College. I
just wanted to make a quick post about the Campus Mapping Project at UNCA being conducted by the UNCA Transportation Department and NEMAC.
The original maps used by the campus were incorrectly oriented and weren't spatially accurate. The intent behind the project was to be able to offer maps that were spatially accurate as well as providing the framework for GIS data that could benefit the UNCA transportation department. The hope was to be able to provide a GIS solution that would not only produce the map needed currently, but would allow the transportation department to be able to generate maps independently for specific needs.

The map was created using existing data available in CAD formats and then digitizing missing information from the 2002 orthographic photos. Due to the evolution of the campus from 2002 to present additional orthos were integrated by georeferencing some of the Google Earth imagery. The framework of the map is very near completion and ideally we will be able to offer the map to UNCA faculty and staff through the ArcReader software. The ArcReader application will include certain attribute information useful to the campus staff. Other plans for the map include web applications for visitors and a possible overlay for Google Earth.