By now, almost everyone has seen the cool You Tube video of the Japanese students fake skydiving using a projector and Google Earth. However, all the posts and comments focus on the skydiving part and how realistic, non-realistic, or just plain awesome it is. When I watched it my first thought was, “that is a really cool way to build a cheap, portable virtual environment.” The closest approximation I could find to what they did are electronic art canvases which cost about $3,000. They are used at the really cool Collaborative Advanced Navigation Virtual Art Studio at the Krannert Art Museum/University of Illinois, Champaign. To do truly immersive research and projects, virtual environments such as the EON Icube cost upwards of $50,000 to over $1 million dollars. Which brings me to the other thought I had while watching the Google Skydiving video, “There is no way anyone would let you do that in a commercial virtual environment, especially if there is a chance someone would get motion sick or worse bring down a sensor or mirror.” But I can add this to my list of things I would do if I had my own CAVE, along with play massive multi-player online video games and make my own music video.
Mapping social networks isn’t anything new, but I find this lovely map of Facebook users in the BBC to be incredibly striking. First, because it’s obviously beautiful. Second, because you can use it as a proxy for the digital divide. The map details connections between friends on Facebook with the bright points at the end being conjoined pairs of friends. The spidery lines are the connections between those pairs. It’s pretty striking that it creates a pretty good replica of a map of the Earth. However, there are clear missing points, most notably lower population and lower wealth places. China is the really interesting hole because of their restrictions and not because of wealth or population. It would be really interesting to look at a finer scale map with some demographic data on top of it. Are there places in even populated areas, such as the US, where Facebook just isn’t that popular?
I love anything space travel related. I love Monty Python. And anyone who’s seen me should find it self evident that I love cheese. This little news item about cheese in space naturally caught my eye and had to be passed on to our good readers. This week’s podcast features a news item concerning the recent wonderful accomplishment of SpaceX and their successful launch and return of a payload into space. What was that payload, you might ask? One wheel of cheese. Why a wheel of cheese? Because of Monty Python’s famous (and delightfully hilarious) The Cheese Shop sketch. Space Travel + Cheese + Monty Python = EPIC WIN!
When you travel around the US there are lots of interesting landmarks to see. Unfortunately, only a few get the top billing. Not to disparage the Grand Canyon’s and Jamestown’s of the country, but there are some great places to see that get lost in the limelight. Checkout this list from Matador Trips of the 20 Overlooked National Landmarks in the US. For anyone attending AAG in Seattle this year, note the Seattle Underground if you’re looking for something neat to see while you’re in the city!
I imagine other countries must have similar ‘hidden’ or ‘forgotten’ landmarks. Put any suggestions in the comments section and I’ll be happy to add them to this post!
The New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) is attempting to document Times Square at this moment and time and space by requesting photos from anyone in the public. According to the NY Historical Society guidelines, “The original digital photographs of contemporary Times Square in New York City (from West 42nd to 47th Streets at Broadway or Seventh Avenue) taken between November 21, 2010 and March 31, 2011. Digital photographs must be e-mailed to email@example.com in either GIF, JPG or PNG format. N-YHS is interested in exterior architectural photographs, outdoor portraits, group snapshots, photographs depicting billboards and advertisements, and interior images of notable area buildings. Images should be at least 1,200 X 1,500 pixels (or 8″ by 10″). Minor color correction and/or cropping is acceptable as long as the original subject matter of the photograph remains in tact.”
If you are looking for inspiration there are many books such as On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square by Marshall Berman, and Where the Ball Drops: Days and Nights in Times Square by Daniel Makagon, which document Time Square through words and photographs. If you can’t get to Times Square to take photos, but want to see what all the fuss is about, EarthCam has a Times Square webcam set up.
As most people are painfully aware, the economy isn’t exactly hoping right now. My gifts for geographers is designed to be easier on the wallet for those looking to keep their expenses to a minimum.
Let me just say I hate ties. Can’t stand’em. Unfortunately social conventions dictates they’re necessary from time to time. If I have to wear a tie, I make sure it’s something I really like. Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont have some great ties, but their ties of maps and subway lines are particularly handsome. The quality of their products are top notch. If you’re looking for something a tad cheaper or a little more historic, you can head over to What Did You Bring Me’s Historic and Geography collection of ties.
Geographers get into the field for all sorts of reason and motivations. I haven’t met a geographer yet that doesn’t think at least wistfully from time to time about traveling the world and seeing the sites. While finding the time and the money to travel the world may be prohibitive for most of us, there are a lot of amazing adventures that can be found in your local or regional area. Check out local travel guides, like this one for West Virginia. Don’t forget to bring something to document your travels, like the ever popular Moleskin line of journals and notebooks. They’re a great way to keep a record of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen!
Finally, if you’ve got the means, there’s not much that will excite the average geographer more than having their own personalized Atlas. A personalized National Geographic’s 9th annual atlas is a great way to make a family gift potentially last a lifetime. The book isn’t cheap, but it’s a nice tomb for the money.
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!
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.