GPS Based Tax

Hot Hardware (a most excellent computer/techie site, by the way) is reporting an interesting proposition by the Governor of Oregon. Apparently Oregon is having a bit of financial difficulty, what with all the people trying to save on gas and the associated decline in gas tax revenues. Governor Kulongoski’s proposal is fairly simple – let’s tax based upon how many miles driven rather than how many gallons of gas purchased. It’s not a new idea per se, but it’s a new application of technology to help with the idea. The notion is to fit cars with GPS units which record the number of miles traveled since the last fill-up. When you go to the gas station, a reader will automatically read the number of miles, calculate the tax, and add the appropriate amount to your bill. This won’t replace the gas tax – at least not at first – because it will take some time to fit all the cars in Oregon with the necessary equipment. As the article points out, the idea is just something the Governor is suggesting. It’s up to the legislature to make it happen.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure tax payers are going to get on board. You also have to wonder about the people traveling from other states and are unlikely to have the GPS system installed. It will get people to focus on driving less distance (as opposed to consuming less gas), which would seem to be counter to environmental concerns. All in all, it is a pretty radical experiment. We’ll have to keep watch to see if its ultimately implemented.

Krugman Predicts End of US Auto Industry

Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winning economist, has predicted the end of the US auto industry. Although this has been widely reported elsewhere, I think it’s interesting to note the reason Krugman quotes: “It will do so because of the geographical forces that me and my colleagues have discussed…” So if anyone gives you flak for geography, tell’em geography matters. Nobel prize winners say so!

UPDATE – Apparently there was a misquote at Huffington Post, but the geography parts are still important 🙂

US Census Bureau beginning to hire for 2010 census workers

I just saw last night that the Census Bureau is gearing up the hiring process for workers here in West Virginia, and I am sure the process is also starting up in other states as well. There will be several waves of hiring, from office workers and support staff, to the actual census takers. Hiring for workers at the state and local level is done through regional offices, and you can find the list at the Census Bureau’s website here. There are a number of jobs for Geographers and Cartographers, and GIS people. They’re usually only for a year or two, but are great experience. So, if you are out there on the job market, or will be soon, you should definitely check out the Jobs At Census website!

Crime Tracking in the 21st Century

Ars Technica has a pretty nice summary article on a few crime mapping and mashup sites around the web. We’ve reported one or two of these in the past, but there are a few I hadn’t heard about. It’s interesting to see Toronto releasing all if its homicide information on the web for all to see. It isn’t real accessible for sucking up into a subsequent mashup, but it would be interesting to see someone do the translation. London did a better job this summer by going ahead and linking crime data to the map. This type of stuff is full of potential for participatory GIS type work and more responsive government. If anyone know of any others like this (crime or otherwise), please make note in the comments, as its a particular interest of mine!

Using Remote Sensing to Spot Cholera Outbreaks

Scientists have figured out how to predict cholera outbreaks by looking at sea life. The idea pioneered at the University of Maryland is a rise in sea temperatures lead to the production of Phytoplankton, which are the root cause of cholera. As these phytoplankton get into the water supply, cholera pathogens are released and can lead to outbreaks. Obviously fore warned is fore armed, so this is will certainly help public health officials cope with these devastating outbreaks.

Via BBC News

‘New pathway’ for African exodus

You may remember back to our earliest episodes of VerySpatial TV where we each took part in the Genographic project and talked about our results. We may (or may not) have mentioned that the “Out of Africa” theory has been the predominate view for our (humans or Homo sapiens sapiens) distribution around the globe. Apparently researchers have found evidence that the route assumed by most researchers may not have been the only route through northern Africa, but there have been waterways that existed 100,000 years ago that have left channels in the bedrock under the Sahara. Early humans could have taken advantage of these waterways, which would have of course provided not only water, but would have been surrounded by vegetation and would have attracted game animals.

Stories like this always excite me as they connect my two degree areas of Anthropology and Geography. Be sure to check out the BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | ‘New pathway’ for African exodus article to read more

Make Your Own Electorial Map

This is a great tool for those interested in the US Presidential Election – make your own electoral map! The idea is that pundits tells us over and over why they think a certain state might lean a certain way. You’ve undoubtedly got your own theories about how, say, Wisconsin is going to vote. Well now you can click right on Wisconsin and change whether the state is strongly one way or the other, leaning one way or the other, or just a flat out toss-up. It’s a fun exercise and gets you thinking about the electoral college.

Also, head over to google maps voting registration page to see if your state’s registration deadline has passed. Just type in your address, and Google will let you know if your deadline has passed or not and how you can get registered in your state. If you haven’t registered, make sure you get out and register to vote before the deadline!

Where does your name live?

If you have any mild interest in genealogy, then check out this name checker application. You enter in your surname and it reports back to you the places in the world where your last name is most popular. Mine showed some surprising results – for a French last name, there aren’t any listed in any French speaking places! The US has the lion’s share, which wasn’t exactly unexpected. However, apparently there are a lot in the UK and Argentina. Who knew? If you click on the map and drill down, you can ultimately get to county level data (or equivalent) for much of the world.

Be warned, however, their data is questionable. They say the data comes from telephone directories or election registers from 2000-2005. However, there are no people listed with my last name living in the place I’ve lived for the last 8 years! So at least one data point is missing!

And you thought you were an adventurer…

I was catching up on the day’s news, and saw this cool post at GOOD Magazine’s site called Wanderlust, which features an interactive map and multimedia about great journeys that have been undertaken throughout history, from real-life journeys like Magellan’s trip around the world to fictional adventures like Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. All of these journeys are amazing in their own way, and I think this site is a cool way to present these stories.

The Journey is the Reward

At least the good people at Wanderlust would say. That site shows you the travels of famous journeys throughout the world. It’s kinda fun to trace the routes of, say, Amelia Earhart or Marco Polo and see where they overlapped. The site traces the routes at the world level, then allows you to zoom in for deeper views of specific places around the world. Its a nice flashy interface and a good way to explore geography and history and the journeys those created.

And it was really, really, really, really hard for me to NOT put a Journey song quote as the title instead of the Chinees proverb I chose.