A/C comes to the London Underground
Some trains on London's Underground will soon be cooling off a bit as the Tube adds new, air-conditioned trains to its lines. The new models, unfortunately, are too large to fit some of the deeper routes, so blessed A/C is coming to only about 40 percent of the total network.
In a separate chilling initiative, London is looking into using underground rivers and other water sources that may help cool the air in overheated stations — this method is already being used at Victoria Station.
Rating cities by their effect on the environment
For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population now lives in cities. This accelerating urbanization raises serious concerns about how cities will thrive and accommodate newcomers’ needs. (Consider that by 2015, there will be 23 mega-cities of more than 10 million people, according to the U.N.) Researchers at SustainLane, a community devoted to sustainable living, began evaluating U.S. cities back in 2005 to determine which are best prepared to meet such 21st-century challenges—and which policies are most effective. This year, Portland, Ore., again ranks as the greenest of the 50 largest U.S. cities (determined by 2004 census data). Atlanta gets a most-improved nod for jumping up to #19 from #38 in 2006, thanks primarily to a boom in LEED-certified buildings. It’s encouraging to note that the median and average scores of all 50 cities have increased over the past three years. How do other cities rank and why? SustainLane’s methodology takes into account air and water quality, parks, public transportation networks, green building, renewable and alternative energy, and farmers markets. The 2008 rankings say a lot about a given city’s quality of life and reveal some national trends: more cycling (Portland, New York City, D.C., Minneapolis); revitalized downtowns (Columbus, Philadelphia); investment in public transportation (Phoenix, Charlotte, Seattle); growth of wind and solar energy production (San Francisco, Houston, Sacramento); and more community groups (Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago.) SustainLane’s results will be showcased at the first global Sustainable Cities and Communities conference held this week in Geneva, Switzerland. In other news, Japan has begun using the organization’s methodology to rank its own cities; SustainLane hopes more copycats will follow. 15 greenest U.S. cities: 1 Portland 2 San Francisco 3 Seattle 4 Chicago 5 New York 6 Boston 7 Minneapolis 8 Philadelphia 9 Oakland 10 Baltimore 11 Denver 12 Milwaukee 13 Austin 14 Sacramento 15 Washington
It's BBQ Heaven at this weekend's Mid-Missouri's Roots 'N Blues
The streets of Columbia, Mo., will be smokin' this weekend for the second annual Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ Festival, which kicks off Friday night. The free event celebrates the region's roots with two days of nonstop music and meat. I was in the college town of Columbia for last year's inaugural festival, which drew more than 65,000 visitors. Nothing could top chowing down on a sauce-smothered, pulled-pork sandwich while a member of the Blind Boys of Alabama weaved through the crowd at Peace Park during the encore. After that, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars got all of downtown dancing. Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy headlines this year's lineup, which features 28 musical acts, including bluegrass rocker Jerry Douglas and local favorite The Henry Clay Band. Event planners anticipate a crowd of 100,000, so stake out a spot at one of the three stages early, and kill time by feasting on the festivals other offerings: More than 57 BBQ aficionados will be vying for accolades in the Kansas City Barbeque Society State Champion BBQ Contest. The perfect place to celebrate BBQ and blues alike, Columbia is sandwiched between Kansas City and St. Louis, and it's an easy drive from either side of I-70. The festival kicks off Friday at 5 p.m., and continues through Saturday night. rootsnbluesnbbq.com
A new way to get to the art of San Francisco
Last month the city of San Francisco began running a special bus line that connects many of its art galleries and museums. This Culturebus, which runs in a loop between downtown San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, cost $7 (cash only), and that gets you unlimited on-and-off service; the bus runs daily from roughly 9 to 6. At the San Francisco Citizen you can get a long list of links to all the places you can reach: They include SFMOMA, the new Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the California Academy of Sciences.
Shopping: Get a taste of Tokyo when visiting New York
On your next trip to New York City, consider spending a vicarious day in Tokyo by visiting the following three no-frills Japanese retailers. Muji (pronounced moo-jeh) carries housewares, office supplies, and some clothing, including the city's best values in stylish slippers. In Japan, there about 300 Muji stores and kiosks, but the New York branches are among the chain's first outposts in the U.S. Muji's name comes from: Mujirushi Ryohin, which I'm told translates as "brandless quality goods." The stores have a simple design that's very monochromatic, minimalist, and eco-friendly. You can't leave without checking out: New York in a Bag ($14) A set of small wooden blocks lets you build a mini-Manhattan. The Muji Chronotebook ($5) This planner has a non-linear approach to scheduling. With just a clock face to plan your day, the design of each page gives you a little more flexibility for writing long or short notes. Uniqlo (pronounced U-nee-clo) is a Japanese clothing giant known most recently for their successful launch of the UT (Uniqlo T-shirt) Project, which invited famous designers and artists to create tees for the store. In mid-September, Uniqlo Soho started an innovative project with Wakamuru, a high-tech Japanese robot. Designed by Toshiyuki Kita from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Japan, Wakamaru is in the U.S. to practice English, or so the story goes. (Think Rosie of the Jetsons come to life.) Wakamaru can walk around a given area, make eye contact with you, and chat about various topics, such as which cashmere sweater you might like more. Wakamaru is expected to be in the store until December. You can't leave without checking out: Uniqlo's 26ct, 2 ply v-neck cashmere sweaters for men and women, which come in a variety of colors ($99.50) Selvage denim jeans, available for both men and women with free same-day alterations (typically $79). Kinokuniya (pronounced ki-no-koo-nee-yah) is a Japanese store that focuses on Japanese books and magazines, including manga and anime, stationery, and some books in English about Japan. This three-story bookstore is a place where you could spend hours browsing. Although Café Zaiya on the third floor might be misleading (it serves miso soup right next to tiramisu), the aisles and aisles of manga and anime will make any tourist-san feel right at home. You can't leave without checking out: The stationery section on the bottom floor will fulfill any childhood desires for school supplies. The store also carries every possible color and style of oil and gel based pens ($1.85-$12.95). DETAILS Muji Times Square 620 8th Ave. and W. 40th St. 212/382-2300 Soho 455 Broadway between Grand and Howard Streets 212/334-2002 Hours at both locations: Monday-Saturday 11a.m.-9p.m.; Sundays 11a.m.-8p.m. JetBlue's new Terminal 5 at J.F.K. airport will also have a Muji. muji.com Uniqlo Soho 546 Broadway between Spring and Prince St. 917/237-8800 Monday-Saturday 10a.m.-9p.m; Sunday 11a.m.-8p.m. uniqlo.com Kinokuniya 1073 Ave. of the Americas between 40th and 41st Streets. 212/869-1700 Monday-Saturday 10a.m.-9:30p.m.; Sunday 11a.m.-7p.m. kinokuniya.com —Katie Jakub