More holiday treats for the geographer in your life

I know I have been scarce on the blog recently while I try to balance the whole new professor thing with all the other fun stuff in my life, but I had to add my picks for your holiday shopping this year.

My first pick is a great resource that I have already used to get some cool gifts this year – Zazzle’s Library of Congress collection. This is an amazing collaboration between the Library of Congress, who have made parts of their digital collections of historical photographs, maps, and other documents available, and Zazzle, which is an online retail site that lets you custom-design your own t-shirts, mugs, posters, ties, sneakers and tons of other products using images available on the site or your own. For my own gifts, I created posters from Civil War photographs that I’ve previously only seen in books, and they turned out beautifully. There are also tons of maps that are crying out to be made into posters, iPhone and iPad case, aprons, mugs, you name it. If you’d like to make your own stuff, you can upload any kind of image and customize it on Zazzle’s products. It’s pretty inexpensive, too, so check it out!

My second pick is a cool product that I found out about from a recent Facebook post by James Fee, so thanks to James! It’s Pistil SF’s Map Styles map blankets, cool fleece blankets with prints of city maps using OSM data, in collaboration with CloudMade and Stamen Design. The two styles, Midnight Commander and Candymaps are both cool, but I definitely prefer the dark blue look of Midnight Commander. You can get them customized to any address, and you just specify what you need during the order process. They’ll even send you a jpeg of your chosen location for final approval. The only possible negative to these beautiful blankets is their price, which is a hefty $175 for a 62×50 lightweight fleece blanket. They’re amazing, though, so if price is no issue for you, definitely snap one up!

My third recommendation is to check out cool map and geography-themed gifts from a number of online retailers. For example, Uncommon Goods has about 30 map-themed products that are reasonably priced, including a scratch-off map that shows where you’ve visited, a necklace of the world’s continents and other map jewelry, and city and country themed pillows. Cafepress, which is like Zazzle and offers personalized products like t-shirts, hats, mugs and other goodies, also has lots of fun geography-themed merchandise. My favorites – the Eat, Sleep, Geography t-shirt and I have to throw in our very own Got Map? wall clock

There are also great geography themed gifts out there in cool little shops, so venture out beyond the interwebs and the malls, and who knows what you’ll find!

Day 2: Sneaky Geography Gifts

There are some cool GEOGRAPHY gifts like map jigsaw puzzles, cool Harry Potter marauder map pillows, or antique maps and reproductions. Then there are some gifts that scream, YOU like geography. Here’s a globe!, like an etched glass globe fish bowl, Earth globes, and even snow globes. However, if you are looking for a less geograph-y geography gift there are some good books written by geographers such as one of my favorite fantasy books, Across the Face of the World , or kid’s books like The Lighthouse of Mr. Tinfish, or even cookbooks like The Art of Scottish-American Cooking. They bring the expertise and enjoyment of geo-spatial concepts without the word geography in the title.

I think the sneakiest geography gift of all is one that can’t be wrapped in a box -travel. It doesn’t have to be Disney’s It’s a Small World exhibit but a geographic destination. National Geographic has a list of top ten places to visit far away and probably close to home. According to The Happiness Project memories of special locations make people happy like visiting grandparents, a hometown, or other special place. If you can’t go to a special place, why not bring it closer to home by subscribing to a hometown paper, or some virtual armchair traveling.

Old Map Making Shortcuts Still Used Today

Map making used to be an arduous, time-consuming, and often dangerous process. Although modern map-making is often still an arduous, time-consuming, and in some instances, dangerous process, new technologies are continually invented that make it easier. Modern Mechanix from July 1946 features a Coe-graph invented by Australian Lt. Col. H. J. F. Coe. It is a calibrated ground wheel attached to a paper roller and pencil. The design is still around in the form of digital rolling measurement wheels. It made me think of how technology and tools often remain the same, even when alternative technologies are available. A 2004 ESRI presentation by GeoSpatial Innovations compared the use of GPS versus measurement wheels for rural line design. A Civil Engineering Group posted a recent article on all of the methods for measuring area of land and a brief history of technology including GPS, measurement wheels, planimeters, and graph paper.

Save a (Geography Related) Word

The Oxford Dictionary is launching a campaign to save words that are being dropped from the English Language. According to their website, 90% of everything we write is communicated by a 7,000 word vocabulary. The Save The Words website, which allows you to “adopt” a word and keep it in use, has a hodge-podge collage of words to choose from many of them geography or location related. I located bimarian (relating to two seas), poliadic (of the nature of a local god), telligraph (charter outlining boundaries of landholdings),montivagant (wandering hills and mountains), cosmogyral (whirling round the universe), and ruricolous (living in the country or field). It an be argued that some words are just not used as often, such as ten-cent store, but it seems sad to lose them. The British Council asked “7,000 learners in 46 countries what they considered to be the most beautiful words in the English language.” The top five words were Mother, Passion, Smile, Love, and Eternity. I haven’t chosen the word I want to save yet, but I will in order to demonstrate my sodalitious (adj. belonging to society or fellowship) nature. (Wait — spell check don’t change it to seditious nature that isn’t what I meant.)

The music of geography

One of my favorite geography related songs is “Yakko’s World” from the Animaniacs Cartoon Series. When I went to find they lyrics recently, I was surprised to find that there was a Facebook page devoted to “I know all the lyrics to Yakko’s World” and a spirited debate about the countries referenced in the song. Obviously, song is a time-honored way to learn countries, planets, presidents, and even U.S. States. Erik Ribak is the goldmine of geography related songs up until 2009. National Geographic Xpeditions has a wonderful “geography and history through music” lesson plan. NatGeo Music also has an “aural tour” of the world through music which is frequently updated.

Virtual Veteran’s Sites

The Guardian UK interviews volunteers and family members who have used an digital library of war graves around the world in their article, “How to visit a virtual grave: A digital photography project allows families to see the final resting place of relatives who died in battle for the first time.” The War Graves Photographic Project (TWGPP), is an online “library” of war grave photos documented by volunteers worldwide. The mission of The War Graves Photographic Project is to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, MoD grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel to the present day and make these available within a searchable database. They accept images from anywhere in the world where military personnel were based or conflicts occurred. Other on-line war data searches include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall website and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Many countries have online databases of war memorials including the U.K. National Inventory, which includes all memorials including bus shelters, sundials, park benches; Queensland War Memorial Directory, Australian War Memorial Directory including war diaries; and Canada’s Virtual War Memorial Directory.

Sherlock Holmes and GIS

If Sherlock Holmes was alive today, like he is in the modern day Sherlock TV Show, he would use geospatial technologies and extensive closed circuit camera systems (CCTV) to solve crime. This isn’t purely speculation, because as co-creator of the tv series Steve Moffat points out, Sherlock Holmes was a modern detective during his time. In today’s world, law enforcement face cuts and are looking for solutions such as London’s Metropolitan Police Service using special or volunteer constables to cut costs. It provides hands-on training for volunteers who might later decide to pursue it full time. The London Metropolitan Police Department or “Scotland Yard” invented the crime analysis pin map in the 1820’s and continue to utilize the most updated GIS technologies. Internet Eyes is a controversial effort to allow the public to “to monitor live CCTV feed from our Business Customers, and notify them the instant a crime is observed” for a reward. It’s not difficult to imagine Sherlock Holmes using modern day geospatial technologies to solve crimes. As Holmes cried in the Adventure of the Copper Beeches, “Data! Data! Data!” he cried impatiently. “I can’t make bricks without clay.” — a true geospatial analyst at heart.