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!

The four days of holiday gifts

It is that time of year again, Black Friday is behind us and Cyber Monday is here and everyone is thinking of the holidays to come that get us in the giving mood. To honor this time of year, and to talk about some cool stuff, we will spend this week talking about some of the geotoys we like and may even have. I, clearly, am starting things off with my Jacob Marley impersonation and Barb, Frank and Sue will each take a turn through the week. I am going to harken back to our first holiday gift guide episode of VerySpatialTV and break my selections into three tiers: Stocking stuffer, in a box, and in a big box.

Stocking stuffers

Affordable is good in the current monetary reality, whether because of general economic conditions or trying to dig your way out of grad school debt, so I have a few choices in this category. The first geotoy is the Hugg-A-Planet series that started out with the great plush globe and has extended to include other celestial bodies (Mars, Moon, etc), a plush map of the US, and other great options. For that person in your life that needs a map on the wall, desk, cufflinks…you get the idea, you may want to look at some of the handmade options at etsy. These great gift options are dangerous though because while you start looking for others you will invariably end up with more in your cart for yourself than for others.

In a box

The last couple of years have seen the rise of the in-car nav system, the question of whether they would be replaced by smart phones, and resounding answer of ‘no’. It is clear that, for the majority of folks, a simple interface that lives in their vehicle is the better option. It used to be that when you gave a GPS you were giving a gift that had to be paid for again by the recipient when the maps grew out of date, luckily those days are drawing to a close. TomTom, Garmin, and other manufacturers are now offering units that come with lifetime map updates and traffic updates, just make sure to look for product names that include M or T for maps or traffic.

The big box

This is more of a ‘for us all’ holiday wish. While the Landsat Data Continuity Mission is ongoing with the satellite launching in late 2012 or so, let’s start the discussion of Landsat 9 right now. It would be great (in my opinion) to see the program achieve redundancy so that we wouldn’t be faced daily with concerns of an aged constellation and issues with sensors. If we start the discussion and planning now, by the time it gets to the engineering phase the economy will probably have righted itself.

So those are my thoughts on some of the toys out there that might make the location aware person on your gift list happy. What are you giving this holiday season?

Multi-Touch Spherical Display DIY

I want one!  It’s a multi-touch spherical display that you can make for around $1,000.  Oddly enough for such a high tech device, it’s got a bit of a steampunk vibe to it.  The first example they use is the obvious Google Earth example, but they do show using it in other contexts.  I’m not convinced the photo viewer or music making device really needs a globe surface.  If you’re interested in making your own, the directions for building one can be found here.  WARNING: The directions aren’t exactly the simplest to follow and I’d imagine there’s a lot of winging it involved.

ESRI Map Books

A recent post on the GIS and Science blog noted that submissions are being accepted for the 26th volume of the ESRI Map Book. If you have a map made with ESRI products then you can submit your map for consideration by the end of Geography Awareness Week, Friday, November 19 at 5:00PM PST.

If you have attended the ESRI International User Conference then you probably have a copy of one of the Map Books gracing your shelf, and it is (in my opinion) the best part of the SWAG bag that you get with your registration. If you have not had a chance to check out one of the hard copies, however, you can access volumes 1 and 20-25 online. The online version provides descriptions of maps along with full views of the maps along with PDF versions of the pages from the map book. I have been using the Map Books as examples in my Intro to Cartography class to show the wide range of design approaches.

Episode 1 of the Geospatial Revolution Project is now out!

It’s a project we’ve been excited for ever since we first heard about it, and was great to be able to interview some of the Geospatial Revolution Project team, so it’s great to be able to post that Episode 1 is now live on the Geospatial Revolution Project website!

The full episode is jut over 13 minutes, but it’s also broken up into smaller videos via YouTube for those who can’t stream the whole thing. The team have also made the episode video shareable, so spread the word and to get you started, here’s Chapter 1 of Episode 1:

Google Earth goes steampunk

I admit it, I love steampunk mods. If I had lots of spare time, and a little cash, I’d love to try my hand at creating a few cool gadgets myself. But in the meantime, I will have to be content to admire the handiwork of others, like the project John Knight is showing off at Maker Faire Detroit. Dubbed the “Electromagnetic Geospatial Globe and Remote View with Obligatory Goggles”, it’s Google Earth meets steampunk, with Google Earth running on a tablet, and controlled by the cool brass globe outfitted with RFID tags. Better than me trying to describe it, check out this video:

Via Gizmodo

Heavy metal…not just for the 80’s

BBC News has a great graphic showing the fastest supercomputers around the world, sorting them by Country (where they are located), speed, OS (Linux in a landslide), application, processor manufacturer, and system manufacturer (IBM has more but Cray has faster). It is pretty interesting to see all of this information, though I would like to see a comparison between these supercomputer numbers and the total computing power behind a Google, Amazon, or Microsoft cloud system. In the geospatial arena, while it is nice to have the supercomputing muscle behind global, 3D, or large network models, most of our daily activities take place on a smaller scale that can run locally or across copper and still perform admirably. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to have a supercomputer in the closet for those special occasions.

IBM’s CityOne – Gaming to solve our cities’ problems

While I continue my research in the area of immersive virtual worlds and serious gaming, I have also been doing a lot of work recently in the area of digital cities, and trying to implement the idea of a “smart” 3D city or town landscape that can be used as a visualization and collaboration tool for municipal management and planning. Once again, an IBM project has grabbed my attention by combining serious gaming and digital cities into one cool project: CityOne. Today I saw a press release announcing the CityOne project, a SimCity-like game using real world data that will be designed to bring together players of the game to help work through and solve real problems facing cities around the world. IBM will be introducing CityOne at Agility@Work Zone at Impact2010 in Las Vegas this week (this is the IBM software conference for business and IT, not to be confused with another conference called IMPACT 2010, which some blogs and sites have linked to by mistake)

Check out the CityOne preview:

Via Gizmodo