Cherry Blossom Season 2014

japanese_cherryblossomsOne of the heralds of spring in our region is the arrival of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.  In the past, it was difficult to time visits just right in time to see them in bloom. The Washington Post has made a crowd sourced map for Cherry Blossom Season 2014 all around the DC area.

The Washington Post make it easy to post geotagged #DCblooms photos via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Phoebe Connelly, one of the map creators, created easy to follow instructions on “How to geotag Cherry Blossom Festival photos and videos on Twitter, Instagram“.  A nice service that many media sites leave out of their crowd sourcing events, which makes crowd sourcing more accessible to the general population and useful as a collaborative learning tool.

The Technical Services Department at Casey Trees, a tree preservation non-profit in Washington D.C. created a  “Mapping the Blossoms” tool which identifies each individual cherry tree in the D.C. Tidal Basin along with its background information who it was planted by and its geographic coordinates. 

Japan’s National Tourism Site has a beautiful “The Bloom of Cherry Blossoms 2014” interactive map which combines usefulness with beautiful cartography. The most amazing Cherry Blossom Season map is Google Street View Guide to Japan: Sakura Edition.

 

Pins on the Map: George Washington Slept Here

As you shiver in the cold today during what The Weather Channel is predicting could be the coldest winter on record for decades in North America, reflect on the 1780 snowstorm that hit George Washington’s army at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ, now a National Park that commemorates the Continental Army’s winter encampment (December 1779 – June 1780). Here the soldiers survived the tail end of what historians and paleoclimatologists dub, “the little ice age”.   Continue reading “Pins on the Map: George Washington Slept Here”

A Review of Apps and Maps

We downloaded several apps for our Very Spatial Road Trip that were recommended by friends, online reviews, and VerySpatial podcasts. Since she was acting as navigator, Barbara insisted on stopping at AAA and picking up a stack of paper maps for back up.  We found that there is no better crucible for  road testing a travel app than a lengthy trip into the unknown under sometimes stressful and time imperative conditions. We felt like the explorers in Dava Sobel‘s book “Longitude” who were sent to sea with new technologies that we hoped would live up to their claims. It wasn’t until after our trip that we heard more honest opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the apps we packed.  A friend, who is a global traveler, told us that it is good travel etiquette to leave our own input on any crowd-sourced apps as our “payment” for using it and to “pass it on” to other travelers. In that spirit, we have written a review of the apps that we used on our road trip from WV to CA.

Continue reading “A Review of Apps and Maps”

Scaling Up for Tourism

It isn’t often in geography that you are able to get a 1:1 ratio on anything but a post this week by Luke Y. Thompson about the classic table top game The game of LIFE shows that Yoron Island in Japan is going to give it a try or “Super Terrific Japanese Thing: Yoron Island to become Real-Scale Game of Life.”   The post references news by RocketNews24 and Yoron Island Tourism.   The shape of Yoron Island mirrors the shape of the game board in the The Game of LIFE.  The Yoron Town Chamber of Commerce youth were brainstorming ways to increase tourism, since the island is still in reconstruction following typhoons last year. At the same time,  Hasbro’s game of The Game of LIFE is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year and is enjoyed by families across Japan and the world. Therefore, they decided to create a real life –  “Game of Life Island, Yoron.” Visitors to the island will be able to play LIFE in real scale from July 20, 2013 – September 16, 2013.  Yoron Island is part of the Amani Islands Quasi- National Park and is located in the Kagoshima prefecture. Kagoshima is home to Kagoshima University and the Kagoshima Institute of GIS and GPS Technology.

The question of what size would a game environment be to scale in the real world is one that gamers and artists often ask themselves. In 2011, artist Aram Bartholl provided a good background essay on why he wanted to build a full-sized Counter-Strike game map in the Game Informer Show. In his proposal, he says that games are a form of cultural heritage because millions of people have a shared spatial memory of the game space. While he was talking about 3D game environments, this is could possibly be even more true of older board games such as LIFE.

Epidemiology, GIS, and Portwenn

I only recently started to watch reruns of Doc Martin on Hulu. The show is about a gruff London surgeon who relocates to the picture book seaside village of Portwenn, Cornwall. Like many seaside towns, the fictional village relies on tourism and fishing for most of its revenue, which makes its reliance on a single doctor to handle track down health outbreaks on a fairly regular basis surprising. In one specific episode (Season 1, Episode 3) entitled “Sh*t Happens” a virus hits Portwenn that the doctor assumes is caused by the community swimming pool, which he announces on the radio and tries to close down before finding out that it originates from someone selling contaminated bottled water. Considering how many outbreaks of various ailments happen on the show, it is surprising that even after this event he never calls a public health official or has an epidemiologist on speed dial.

Anyone who has worked in local government, public health, or other fields that interact with the public will recognize the realistic situation of dealing with a virus or other event that impacts the public health. These situations usually must be handled quickly with a lack of information that makes analyzing the situation difficult. However, they are usually addressed collaboratively with the help of medical staff, state and local government, public health officials, and schools, many times using GIS.

I was therefore relieved to find that in the real world setting of Port Isaac (Port Wenn) there is more than one doctor to handle emergencies. In fact, the Port Isaac Practice, which has been in existence since the 1940’s,  has a Primary Care Health Team including seven doctors, practice nurses, community nurses and other vital personnel.  The South West Peninsula Health Protection Unit, Cornwall Council and the Environment Agency have worked together to create handbooks such as the “Viral Gastroenteritis (Norovirus) Outbreak Guidance for Caravan and Campsites“. While the Combined Universities in Cornwall has several epidemiology professors on staff.

The “Sh*t Happens”  episode would be a great one to use in a geography, geospatial, or public health class when covering the work of John Snow. It demonstrates that because of the work of epidemiologists and other geospatial analysts, doctors no longer have to tackle community outbreaks alone. Doc Martin is enjoyable and it is good that he isn’t  portrayed as a super star epidemiologist. It would be nice for the fictional Portwenn, and the doctor himself, if he had as much support as the real life Port Isaac.

 

NPR Laments the Death of Paper Road Maps

Paper road maps are becoming obsolete, claims a NPR report. Well, not completely obsolete, but less and less used by daily drivers as GPS and SatNav have taken over. A spokesperson for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials believes map printing may be one place state transportation departments cut to ease budgetary issues. Apparently Washington state got rid of printing them complete in 2009! I understand the view completely as technological has taken over. That being said, even this techno-gadget junkie will miss the days the paper map. There’s something to be said for a product you can toss in the back, or stick in your back pocket, or fold over the wrong way, or write all over willy-nilly because you don’t care what happens to it. Oh paper road map your dad yelled at you for ‘folding it wrong’, how you will be missed!

U.K. and the summer of GIS

The U.K. is experiencing a summer of GIS with several overlapping large and unique events taking place that use geospatial tools for planning, management, analysis and public outreach. Like many instances of GIS integration for event planning, it might seem as if it happened overnight but in fact took more than five and in some cases ten years of planning and cooperation between many different organizations and agencies.

Olympic Torch and the 2012 Olympics

According to Public Service UK,  The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) Learning Strategy Department has trained all 250,000 police officers and staff in the UK to use geospatial tools for safety operations for the London Olympics and Paralympics. This would be a big enough job, if the London Olympics only took place in London. However, the Olympic Torch Relay travels within an hour of 95% of people in the UK. The training was available through a GIS e-learning module and provides maps and plans of venues and locations for use in operational planning, briefings and deployments.

Transportation is another big area of concern for the upcoming Olympics. The interactive map website, Get Ahead of the Games, is a collaboration between the Mayor of London, National Rail, Department for Transport, Highways Agency, and Transport for London to make planning and travel easier during the Olympics and Paralympics. It includes travel by public transport, National Rail, road and river services.

The Ordnance Survey has documented the creation of the 2012 Olympics siteusing detailed ariel imagery from 2001 through to 2010.  The planning and construction of the London 2012 Games was funded by the National Lottery, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Mayor of London and the London Development Agency. They presented about the “Learning Legacy: Lessons Learned from the London 2012 Games construction project“. A web-based GIS viewer and spatial visualization tool was created to all contractors to access and share information. Over 2 million individual pieces of data were created and are part of the infrastructure planning and continued venue management.

The Queens Diamond Jubilee

The Olympics aren’t the only event that has had an impact on geospatial awareness in the U.K.  this summer. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) also had to prepare for The Queens Diamond Jubilee, along with routine events such as Wimbledon Tennis, Notting Hill Carnival, and football. According to a presentation entitled “Securing the 2012 Olympics: A Milestone in the UK Policing Improvement Programme”  geospatial planning and integrated situational awareness has been happening behind the scenes for years before being implemented in time for the U.K.’s summer of GIS.

ESRI UK have created interactive map of the over 41,000 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons being lit on Monday, June 4th, throughout the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, along with Commonwealth and UK territories overseas. The beacon chain itself has been used for communication and celebration for hundreds of years making it a very old form of geospatial communication.

Revival of Airship Travel?

I remember reading a science fiction book in the mid-80’s that featured airship transportation on away planets. I had done a report about the Hindenburg a few years before that and thought the idea was daft. Turns out (perhaps unsurprisingly) apparently I’m the daft one, as NASA has begun constructing transportation airships for use right here on Earth! The ships are very different beasts than the old Hindenburg models. They feature more aerodynamic designs and high tech structures that make them safer to use. They also have better controlled ballast systems so they can land, take off, and maintain altitudes much easier than models from 70 years ago. One of the neater more immediate usages of the airships is use in remote areas like Alaska where airplanes simply can’t reach. NASA estimates moving to air travel for our cargo transportation needs could save a great deal of unnecessary fossil fuel expense currently spent on trucking and the like. Other improvements could be made to the systems, including the addition of solar cells and the ability to lift incredibly heavy loads – up to 1,000 tons of cargo!

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?