Month: December 2010


Cheese! In! Space!

I love anything space travel related.  I love Monty Python.  And anyone who’s seen me should find it self evident that I love cheese.  This little news item about cheese in space naturally caught my eye and had to be passed on to our good readers.  This week’s podcast features a news item concerning the recent wonderful accomplishment of SpaceX and their successful launch and return of a payload into space.  What was that payload, you might ask?  One wheel of cheese.  Why a wheel of cheese?  Because of Monty Python’s famous (and delightfully hilarious) The Cheese Shop sketch.  Space Travel + Cheese + Monty Python = EPIC WIN!

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!

A VerySpatial Podcast – Episode 282

A VerySpatial Podcast

Shownotes – Episode 282
December 12, 2010

Main Topic: Our conversation with Max Baber of USGIF

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    New York Times: At this time and place

    The New-York Historical Society (N-YHS) is attempting to document Times Square at this moment and time and space by requesting photos from anyone in the public. According to the NY Historical Society guidelines, “The original digital photographs of contemporary Times Square in New York City (from West 42nd to 47th Streets at Broadway or Seventh Avenue) taken between November 21, 2010 and March 31, 2011. Digital photographs must be e-mailed to in either GIF, JPG or PNG format. N-YHS is interested in exterior architectural photographs, outdoor portraits, group snapshots, photographs depicting billboards and advertisements, and interior images of notable area buildings. Images should be at least 1,200 X 1,500 pixels (or 8″ by 10″). Minor color correction and/or cropping is acceptable as long as the original subject matter of the photograph remains in tact.”

    If you are looking for inspiration there are many books such as On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square by Marshall Berman, and Where the Ball Drops: Days and Nights in Times Square by Daniel Makagon, which document Time Square through words and photographs. If you can’t get to Times Square to take photos, but want to see what all the fuss is about, EarthCam has a Times Square webcam set up.

    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 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

    A VerySpatial Podcast – Episode 281

    A VerySpatial Podcast

    Shownotes – Episode 281
    December 5, 2010

    Main Topic: Conversations with Clark Selby of PCI Geomatics and Michael Quan of Tactical VR

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    Pluto, revisited

    The news that NASA discovered a new type of microorganism has overshadowed new findings on Pluto. The Christian Science Monitor presents both sides of the debate, “Should Pluto be Restored as a Planet?” According to Mike Wall from, Pluto was found to be slightly larger than Eris, the entity that supplanted it, re-opening the debate if it should be restored as a full-fledged planet. Discovery News details the method used to compare the size of Eris and Pluto. In several articles Mike Brown, who discovered Eris and wrote the appropriately titled book, “How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming” states that the most important part of the discovery isn’t about size but the fact that Eris is much denser than Pluto and thus a totally different composition and origin. In his posts on Mike Brown’s Planets he describes the Skymapper project to survey the whole southern skies by Australian National University.

    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.

    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!

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