Assorted Links (Fall 2019)

A couple of times per year, I like to share some links I've collected—especially if they relate to topics I've blogged about. It seemed like a decent way to (try) getting back into posting.

There are a lot of lists on Wikipedia. To organize them, there are lists of lists on certain topics. Going up yet another level, here's a list of lists of lists.

If you're in the eastern US and looking to fit in a short hike (a situation I find myself in not infrequently), a good option is often to look for a nearby stretch of the Appalachian Trail with suitable access. This page has some suggestions. In another region, I found the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie to be a nice spot to stop for a walk in the Chicago area.

This is an interesting environmental idea from The Nature Conservancy: Blue Bonds. They have a plan to refinance the debt of island nations at favourable terms in exchange for protecting important ocean habitat.

The Ganges River in India is notoriously polluted, but not far away is another one that is significantly cleaner:

The difference is rooted in thousands of years of stigma. Unlike the sacred Ganges, the Chambal and surrounding land are traditionally regarded as cursed and dangerous badlands.
But that notorious past may just have proved the Chambal river’s saving grace. It limited the growth of cities and polluting factories on its banks, while local wheat farmers and cattle herders have used its resources cautiously.

On the subject of water resources in India, I recently heard about stepwells. I'm surprised they weren't mentioned in books I've read about the history of water resources management such as Thirst. A more cutting edge strategy is industrial water reuse.

The Hokou system of local registration in China means that people who migrate to big cities for work often don't have the same level of access to services as the people who were born in those cities.

One of the books on my reading list for 2020 is The City of God by St. Augustine, so I looked up a reading plan for it.

Back in the summer, I made cold brew coffee that turned out pretty well. I think these were the instructions that I basically followed.

Play this game to see how well you are at guessing about recent trends in the world.

I found a forum thread about construction projects in my hometown that's been kept going for over a decade!

Some insightful thoughts about rules and compliance costs:

Rules, of course, are often necessary, but always impose some difficulty or inconvenience on those who have to follow them.
The burden of a rule can be separated into (at least) two components.
First, there’s the direct opportunity cost of not being allowed to do the things the rule forbids. (We can include here the penalties for violating the rule.)
Second, there’s the “cost of compliance”, the effort spent on finding out what is permitted vs. forbidden and demonstrating that you are only doing the permitted things.
Separating these is useful. You can, at least in principle, aim to reduce the compliance costs of a rule without making it less stringent.

As the article goes on to discuss, sometimes inhibiting action-taking is a desirable effect, but sometimes it's better to have very little friction for things that no one objects to. Thinking about such side effects of the way rules and permissions are structured could help various organizations run more effectively.

This urban planner has had an interesting life that informs the less-rigid approach to housing and transportation policy that he advocates.

Something I've been trying to learn more about this year (since writing this post) is boat wakes.

Finally, here's Ian McKellen reading one of my favourite poems: