· Urbanism

Better Urban Living

I made these 2 stories to reflect some of the things we worry about when living in cities.

The Story Of No Car

I cannot afford a car.  Don't have a license to drive one.  No fan of air pollution - in the cities. Do not enjoy the noise. Like cars though. But wish they were zero-emission, and silent.

I do enjoy driving.

We never had a car and no-one in my family drives.

I always lived in the center of the city. Walking distance.

Cities like StockholmBarcelonaParis have public bicycles. No need for parking space. Stuck in traffic? No.

Apparently ants never have traffic jams.

My office is wireless. I need my laptop and Wi-Fi. I live close to school. Like reading books in public transport. Like drinking, means no driving anyway.

Driving is dangerous. Terrorism which we spend lots of money on, is less common than traffic accidents.

But maybe I buy a car. Once I can afford one. When cars have become tech-advanced. Flying cars.

Noise Pollution is everywhere.

Imagine walking to work a smelling the flowers and hearing the birds vs. hearing car noise and smelling petrol.

In Lisbon I cannot hear my ipod in the metro. Sound level too high in holmes place (my gym) is too high, so I cannot hear ipod.

I love both rock concerts and the singing of birds. Studies show I am likely to experience heavy hearing loss by the time I am 30. I have already had 2 instances where my hearing has been gone for a prolonger period of days after going to a club. So what am I supposed to do? What is a good compromise between them? Can’t I have both. I’m certainly not going to sacrifice my hearing in order to go to parties but why should I?

Bicing: Public Bike Usability in Barcelona

Bicing public bikes in Barcelona. Photo by Gill Rickson

A CouchSurfer in Barcelona showed me how I can rent a bicycle from any of the 400 station spread around the city. He pays a monthly fee of 30 Euros for the privilege.

The system is smart.. Broken bicycles are detected (those taken out, and immediately returned). The locals love it. It is easy to use, and probably the simplest way to get around the city. Barcelona has Bicing, the public bicycle transport system. Paris has Velib. So what is Tallinn doing?

On a larger note, how come there is still not wireless in the city buses, the metro, the trams and the trolleybuses? Wireless internet in public transport should be a right.

Tracking My Sleep

To feel well you need to sleep well. I recently started tracking my sleep using YawnLog. It has been surprising how well I sleep. But also how few dreams I can remember. There are only a few days in a month where I really remember what I'd dreamed.

What if I could track everything? Imagine knowing exactly all the products you own or have ever owned, all the services you have consumed, you current health up to the minute. Lets take for example clothes. I could share on Facebook where I bought it, what did it cost, who else has it, how many are there (= how unique my shirt is). Here's an overview of the service by LifeHacker and ReadWriteWeb. Plus other (more advanced) sleep tracking services.

What could we track?

Update: This thing I'm talking about here now has a popular name: "Quantified Self".

What Makes It Nice To Live In A City?

I was born in Viljandi, started school in Tartu, was an exchange student in Parana & Salta, worked in Sao Tome, but the two cities where I've lived the longest are Tallinn and Lisbon.

What Do I Love in Tallinn?

There's quite a few reasons Estonia is cool, but here's three.

  1. I like the technological mindset. There is free Wi-Fi in most places, I can use my ID Card to buy tickets, vote and travel, plus people are thinking about new services or I can create my own if it doesn't exist.

  2. Value in easy bureaucracy. Estonia is very entrepreneur friendly. There's a simple flat tax system. People are modern, youthful and open-minded. Everybody seems to have a knack for innovation.

  3. The environment is clean. There's beautiful wild nature to enjoy. Green fields and clean air. Can't count the times I've pitched my  tent somewhere on public land without worries. Enjoy the quiet peaceful silence.

What Do I Love In Lisbon?

Early morning walk on the beach in Caparica.

I could imagine living here for a summer.

Longer, and I believe I might get bored.

Kairit had this experimental art project she was doing. So we get up  6 in the morning. Go for a walk in the harbor. You can see in the video what happened. Music rights: Buraka Sound System.

I liked some of the music and sounds in Bairro Alto and around in June 2009.

Enough to try to record it.

Obviously I didn't have a camera or were to busy to capture the best moments. But you can get at least an idea what's here.

June 13

This is some unknown bar in Bairro Alto.

June 18

Festival do Silêncio at Musicbox Lisbon: Cais do Sodre Funk Connection

June 6

SOU is the Fado place I discovered today. Rua Maria 73 (in Anjos). They also have a monthly Mercado Urbano where you can buy clothes and jewelry made by local fashion students.

Rokia Traore

What makes a space special is the culture. My friends Mele Pesti and Kristjan Jansen wrote a travel book about their experience in South America. In English, the book title "Mate Ja Miljon Mahla" translates roughly to "Mate And Million Juices".

I remember writing a devastating review at the time, saying the travel part is unimaginatively written, location descriptions are frankly a bore. And while I understood the difficulty of writing about things you've seen only briefly, it was still a disappointement.

But I found the discussions of culture interesting and insightful. The books, films, musicians as a separate index at the end of the book (and on the blog). I've seen some of the films: Cidade de Deus, Noticias de uma Guerra Particular, Favela rising. However, many I have not and going hunting for the names inside the text is a pain. The authors have depth of knowledge in this area and I would love to learn more.

A great urban space is kind of the same way. You feel there's so much more to explore and learn from the people there and you can do that by living there.

I've found that the media I consume influences how I experience the city. I love listening to podcasts and they make a usually boring train-ride sunny and exciting. And I might even remember that particular place in connectin with the story I was listening to. Also works great work going running and learning at the same time.

Inspiring Lectures & Podcasts

July 2, 2009.

I thought I'd post some of the podcasts I've been following over the years (warning - iTunes links).

Short list of what I regularly listen to.

Berkman center medos library podcast


BBC Documentaries

ABC Documentaries

CBC Documentaries

UCLA class podcasts


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