On The Line

I’ve been fortunate enough to look over the shoulders of  a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The project titled “On The Line” is an online, interactive history of schooling, housing and civil rights in the city of Hartford, Connecticut that was created by Jack Dougherty of Trinity College.  What makes this online text ‘spatial’ is the series of interactive Google Maps linked to historical redlining documents, as well as view historical photos in Historypin,  and examine historical data in linked map viewers.

The site also provides a series of excellent lesson plans ready for educators to use in the classroom.

Getting rid of all Left Turns

Some transportation engineers at NS State University have published a new study that shows left turns aren’t needed.  We can create what are called “superstreets” that allow only right hand turns.  This improves both travel times and safety, not to mention fuel economy.  This isn’t exactly a new idea.  Michigan already has this type of system (hence the “Michigan left” nickname) and it seems to invoke a love/hate relationship with drivers.  UPS implemented a virtual system of no left turns years ago to save fuel and increase safety.  There are a couple of things left out of the news reports on this, however.  A system like this would take more land for roads, not less.  Also, crossing 2-3 lanes of traffic to get to the U-turn can be problematic, I’d imagine, especially in rush hour.  I’d also imagine the British would suggest this problem can be fixed with a good old ’round about’, although they’ve not really caught on in the US.

What do you guys think?  Should left turns be a thing of the past we tell our grandkids about, like Atari and TV tubes, or do left turns make the most sense if you’re going left?

Mapping Facebook

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?

The Best Landmarks in the US Nobody Visits

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!

Powerpoints to help you get started

While I was looking around for general World Regional Geography materials to talk about in honor of the end of the semester I came across pppst.com or Pete’s PowerPoint Station. Pete’s is a filled with free presentations in PowerPoint format about a ton of topics from math to history to (you guessed it) geography. There are presentations for maps, human geography, physical geography and any region you can think of. These might be of use if you need to give a quick presentation or want some interesting images to include in your work. Check it out

To round out our holiday gift ideas….

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.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and GIS

Fifty million people are expected to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade tomorrow. If you can’t be there in person, you can join the on-line Thanksgiving Day Parade community and experience the parade route through the Macy’s website. I have fond memories of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade route. Digg, of course, has already posted a Product Reviews Google Earth Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route. However, I really like all of the walks included in the “Walk the Big Apple” site including their Autumn walks for the unofficial parade route and the ” An Advanced Self-Guided Walk into the New York Holiday Vortex“. At Daggle, Danny Sullivan has updated his article on how to watch the parade from outside the United States. He says your best bet is Earthcam’s live streaming broadcast,which gives you a “feel” for what is happening. If you are wondering how the parade and other huge crowd events are handled each year, ESRI has an article on how the FDNY GIS Unit get organized before events such as parades. New York City also has a Thanksgiving Day Task Force which among it many duties, “Developed a wind testing system that provides wind speed measurements from anemometers at key points along the parade route and transmits the information to balloon operators who adjust the flight heights of their balloons accordingly.”

Google Funds Offsite Windfarms on East Coast

Any of our long-time readers/listeners can tell you I’m a HUGE fan of offshore windfarms.  I think they flat out just make the most sense for sustainable energy production.  Apparently Google agrees with me.  Google is funding a windfarm that is supposed to stretch from New Jersey to Virginia and generate enough power to light two million homes.  They put up a bit over 1/3 the costs, but the article doesn’t say where the other 2/3rds of the money is coming.  The power will be transmitted onshore via underwater cables.  No word as of yet when it will go live.