I just read a weird article about “Some Ways to Make Children Think Santa Exists” that includes children follow Santa’s journey on Norad all the way up to a voice transmorgified phone call from Santa. Like “How to Lie With Maps“, it unitentionally raises some questions about how kids are influenced by technology. I would consider kids today to be more savvy than 1897 “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” or the kids (and adults) who believed in the Cottingly Fairies that were created using the new “photograph” technology. I think that GIS can enhance holiday experienes by tracking Santa, making family trees, showing hometowns, and generally intergrating it into everyday life. I am not so sure about voice changers.
When the main focus of your work is historical landscapes, like mine is, your biggest obstacles is finding good data about what that landscape looked like. I know I would do almost anything to find a source for my project like this amazing film footage of Market Street in San Francisco in 1905, before the huge 1906 earthquake. The footage was taken from a camera in the front of a streetcar moving down Market Street toward what looks to be the Embarqadero. Besides providing a great look at a typical day in a bustling city, you can see all kinds of cool things, including how nonchalant everyone is about the streetcars, horse-drawn carriages and wagons, and even automobiles coming at them from every direction.
This version of the footage is being used as a music video for an instrumental group called Air, but you can also download the video from the Library of Congress American Memory site
Ars Technica is reporting that the Obama administration has decided to ramp up the broadband stimulus money outlays into one more round instead of the planned two. The monies appear to be a different pool than what is funding the broadband mapping work, but the article is a tad unclear on that point. All in all around seven billion dollars are being invested, largely to tackle the “last mile” issue in US broadband. Interestingly enough, I think, most of the project seem to be focused upon projects that will help stimulate private companies toward developing that last mile, not so much making the last mile itself. I guess time will tell if this is a good strategy or not.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation had an interesting piece about two weeks ago that I just ran across. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that it is against their state constitution for the police to track a vehicle using GPS without court approval. The interesting thing here is that the crux of their rationale is that the scale of GPS is too great that it interferes with the owner’s “possessory interest”. To be honest, my understanding of the law is weak enough that I’m not sure what “possessory interest” means and why GPS violates it. However, older US Supreme Court cases from the ’70′s ruled that beepers were permissible by the police without owner permission. Basically because GPS is more powerful and more exactly, it is a bigger threat. New York has similarly ruled that as well.
All in all, the case only has jurisdiction in Massachusetts, but it might set a precedent that Federal courts could follow.
In case you haven’t seen this around, BoingBoing.net has a nice link round up for NASA’s photos of the current California fires as seen from space. The smoke cloud is impressive in the most depressing way possible. The BoingBoing link has links to NASA’s original image and large version, a NYT piece on the fires featuring the image, and some detailed information about the fires from the JPL at NASA.
If danger is your middle name and you like to eat, breath, and sleep in danger, then you might want to check out this Popular Mechanics article. Whether you like the extreme cold, fiery mountains, potentially getting drowned by global warming, living in the eye of hurricanes, there’s a place here for you. I’m no expert in real estate, but I have to imagine at least a couple of these places would be housing bargains. I can’t imagine, “Scenic views of lovely lake housing billions of cubic feet of methane and carbon dioxide that can potentially be released and kill you with a toxic cloud” is a big selling point in most “For Sale” ads. Then again, I’m not in marketing, so I could be wrong.
Here’s an interesting bit of geographic news from the USDA – rural counties with broadband tend to have more jobs and those jobs are better paying. Another fascinating finding is that households above the same income level tend to have broadband. Rural-urban differences become non-existant above a certain level. There are also some regional differences, with the south east unsuprisingly being behind the times relative to the rest of the US. The article contains a link to the full report if you want to check the nitty gritty. To me the whole report highlights the critical importance of our rural areas adopting broadband and doing so quickly.
Really, what CAN’T geospatial do? Researchers out of University of Padua in Italy took aerial photos of an area just north of Venice and discovered what used to be Altinum, a thriving city that existed before Venice. The site is fairly unique in that it’s one of the few places that haven’t been built upon by later generations, thus making it ripe for study. The team intends to continue their work using LiDAR and other techniques to help archeologists figure out the best places to continue their work excavating this important site.
Google labs has launched a neat new feature called City Tours. The idea is similar to other sites (like Microsoft’s BING!) in that you can enter in a destination and the site will give you a bunch of things to do there. What’s nice is you get it all laid out on Google Maps, with travel times by foot and the estimated visit time. The site tries to give you a couple of days worth of stuff, but it only has so much material in its databases. That’s why the feature includes some crowd sourcing so the public can add more attractions. I punched in San Diego for our upcoming UC trip and found a couple of places that might be worth checking out!
As many long-time listeners will know, I exceptionally intersted in broadband adoption world-wide. The US has long been behind the ball on broadband adoption and this latest report does nothing to reverse that trend. The US is ranked 20th, behind even places like Singapore, Denmark, and even Estonia, all places I’m sure most Americans wouldn’t peg as being so technologically advanced relative to the US. What is exceptionally intersting about this study is that they claim past reports have been using the wrong metric; that in fact the household is the better study unit rather than per capita.