Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Year in Maps (Part 4)

The Year in Maps (part 4)
35.)    The Road Map to Success (thanks, Amy Trexler, for sending)

In that strange maps site, I found this one, one of my all-time faves. I probably have told you this story once or twice, but if you don't remember, this map figured large in my life at a certain point.  I worked for an odious architectural firm where all the key employees were pressured by the firm's owner, the big boss, into going to EST training.  If you don't know what EST is, google it, it's still around and still weird as ever, but basically it is one of those brain-washing self-improvement cult-like groups that substituted for religious fanatacism back in the 70's.
Anyway, my boss, (the little boss) who was a young hipster-ish fellow, Oxford-educated, but who had fallen under the sway of the big boss and his EST system, had this very same map hanging in his office.  And every time I would be in his office for one reason or another (several times a day, often!) he would point to the map and show me where he was on the road to success.  (somewhere trudging up the hill towards the tunnel of True Knowledge!) and he would intone: "And where are you, Juliana?" very sorrowfully.  and I would gleefully point to the Bohemians dancing on the tables in the lower part of the map (I hadn't even started up the trail in the least little bit!).  Now, of course, I think I've moved on up to the Hotel Know-it-All!  But I've still been side-tracked on the Road to Success!  I'll NEVER get there, at this rate! 
Oh, this map brings back some not-so-fond memories!  What a nut house that place was!  The EST credo was something about "Who's responsible?" which the big boss would bellow out at least once per day to the quaking minions, while stalking through the cubicles in a rage about something or other.   I can't believe I lasted there three whole years!  The only thing that saved me were my partners in crime - I had a whole cadre of lunch buddies, other project managers and project designers like me, and we would go out to lunch almost every day together to bitch and moan over a very large liquid lunch, and then the rest of the day would be bearable. Oh, the good old days!  HA HA.  JAM

36.)    The Vanishing City

The vanishing city - check out the video, too.  Over-development, abuse of eminent domain, loss of historic resources and cultural diversity, etc.

37.)    Visit 1924 NYC from above

Thought you might get a kick out of this.  Some of my students wrote back to me and yelled that it kept them up all night paging around the maps, researching old ships docked in the harbor, and looking at the Polo Grounds, etc. (which they somehow never realized were directly across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium!) JAM
PS check out the area in Forest Hills in 1924 - if you type in the exact address, the (future) house is outlined in red, in the middle of a cornfield or something!  The house was built in 1929. 

Visit 1924 NYC from above:

The NYC DoITT has created an interactive map (historic and current aerial views of NYC - all of it!) Very nice.  (Wish there were more years available!)

Above the Past

Published: February 21, 2010
From time to time, New Yorkers are reminded of the age of this city and the way the past penetrates the present. You see it in the grid of streets, the fabric of buildings — especially the oldest buildings that, for a moment, seem to loom out of some distant year and then recede into the light of the day you’re rushing through.
We cannot return to some former year, but we can at least get an interactive glimpse of one. Thanks to the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications — and its innovative NYCityMap — it is now possible to revisit 1924 from above.
Just follow these simple instructions: At the NYCityMap Web site, click on the camera at the top of the page and move the slider beneath it back to 1924. The interactive city of 2010 fades away to reveal an aerial view of the five boroughs assembled from photographs that have been digitally stitched together.
The effect is not as simple as it sounds. The old city doesn’t merely replace the new one. It seems to resurface from within it. Gone are Manhattan’s perimeter highways — the F.D.R. and the West Side Highway. On the east, the blocks run right up to the water’s edge, and on the west, they terminate in a hardworking dockside, with ships at berth where Battery Park City now stands.
But the real fun begins as you zoom in, descending to a helicopter’s height above the streets. Begin in the now — zooming in to the block-level view on Madison Square Garden — and then slide back to 1924. Out of the rubble of its own destruction rises the old Penn Station, only 14 years old, just coming into its stride.
Alas, we cannot zoom any closer than that rooftop view, or we might be able to look down onto the sidewalks themselves and catch a glimpse of those former New Yorkers, all caught up in the vividness, the newness of their vanished present.

38.)    The Sound of Winning (by a fraction of a second)

For all you Olympic watchers out there, here is what the difference in times of the winners sounds like in musical notes.  None of these guys and gals are slouches! 

Check out the Men's super-G - the second, third, fourth, and fifth place skiers are hardly distinguishable - the notes all run together in extreme allegrissimo. I can't even hear the difference - never mind see it!  Unbelievable!  I'm sure in the old days, such small differences in time were not detectable by the most accurate stop watches. 

39.)    Black Sea Alphabet
OK, I don't have THAT much time on my hands, but I was curious about the question you all raised when we were sitting in my office a week or so ago, looking at the Black Sea Environmental Programme poster on my wall.   So I investigated and found out all the countries that surrounded the Black Sea, and realized that Georgia might be the only country whose alphabet I wasn't familiar with, and they are indeed the ones to have that beautiful and strange looking alphabet.  Here it is: 

(Check out some of the other alphabets at the bottom of the web page - very fascinating!  and lest you think that Hebrew and Arabic are missing from this list, you have to look for them under the heading up top of "abjads" - apparently they are considered "consonant alphabets" because they omit most vowels except as diacritical markings. Bengali, etc. are considered syllabic alphabets, and Chinese is a semanto-phonetic alphabet.  So interesting!) 

I believe the other alphabets on the poster were all identified correctly by us.  Don't you just hate to have a question hanging around that you don't know the answer to?  Thank g-d for Google!   Cheers!  JAM

40.)    Human Mobility Mapping

Study Makes It Official: People Are So Predictable
Gregory Mone

BOSTON (Feb. 18) -- Physicist Albert-László Barabási can guess where you will be tomorrow at 3 p.m. And where you'll be Saturday night at 8. In fact, given enough data, he can predict your location at any time, with an average 93 percent accuracy. But don't worry. He's not watching you. In fact, his work shouldn't be cause for alarm so much as existential distress.

In a new paper published in the Feb. 19 issue of Science, the Northeastern University physicist and his colleagues describe how they used data from 50,000 anonymous cell phone users to study human mobility, or where we are and when. Their work reveals that our movements follow a pattern, whether we are homebodies or frequent fliers.

These diagrams represent the movements of two mobile phone users. The one on the left shows that the person moved between 22 different cell towers during a three-month period, and placed 52 percent of his calls from one area; the other subject hit 76 spots, and was much less rooted.
"The surprise was that we couldn't find unpredictable people," Barabási says. "We are all boring."

Barabási, who also explores these ideas in his forthcoming book, "Bursts," is a pioneer in the field of network science, which is effectively the academic version of the Kevin Bacon game -- it describes how seemingly disparate systems or entities are connected.

Naturally, then, his latest paper isn't merely concerned with illuminating the mundane nature of modern life. Studying human mobility on a large scale could improve urban planning and traffic engineering while also enabling scientists to predict the spread of viruses and disease down to the neighborhood level. (The link to this last example is simple, he explains. "How we move affects how diseases spread.") Though scientists have tried to apply similar ideas in the past, Barabási and his team say their techniques are far more accurate.

But let's get back to the tedium. Barabási first used himself as a test subject: He wore a GPS-enabled watch that repeatedly recorded his position from July 2007 to August 2008. As a popular academic, he attended conferences and meetings all over the world, yet most of the time he merely hopped between his home and his office. Even those long trips fell into a groove. "I was terribly boring," he says.

The real surprises came when Barabási and his group began applying data-mining algorithms and advanced mathematics to a much larger set of people. A European mobile phone carrier -- they won't disclose which one -- granted the scientists access to portions of the anonymous records of 50,000 mobile phone users, each of whom made, on average, at least one call every two hours. Chaoming Song, a co-author of the paper, says that because the data are made anonymous, the people the study tracked are effectively like particles in a gas that move and interact.

The carrier filed the location of the closest mobile tower whenever one of the individuals used the phone. From this, Barabási and his group could extract roughly -- within a square mile or so -- where a given phone and, by extension, its associated user were at a given time.

They found that most people stay close to home and, more intriguingly, that even the frequent travelers were no less predictable than the homebodies. Furthermore, they discovered that this phenomenon didn't merely stem from the workweek -- the fact that so many of us spend Monday to Friday in the same office. Weekend movements were no more random.

In effect, we are predictable even when we don't have to be. A summary of the findings puts it this way: "Spontaneous individuals are largely absent from the population."

This doesn't bother Barabási, who says he hasn't tried to spice up his own life with more peregrination. "Some people may worry," he says. "Not me. If somebody wants me, they know where to find me."

41.)    World's Tallest Eucalyptus Tree Found with Lidar and GIS  (thanks for sending, Holly Porter-Morgan)

This is an interesting article about how GIS and LIDAR were used to find the tallest hardwood tree in the world (announced last year).

42.)    Slumburbia and Prison Gerrymandering

Greetings, everyone, and Happy Day-After-the-Snow-Day! 
There were two interesting articles today in the NY Times.  The first was about the new "Slumburbias" - places with extremely high foreclosure rates and housing abandonment, and how many of these places most affected by the bursting housing bubble were developer's dreams turned into homeowner nightmares.  It concludes with a lesson for urban planners that the older cities with strict development codes are the ones to have suffered least in this housing crisis, in terms of holding their value, lower foreclosure rates, etc..  WELL!  As an urban planner, I can attest to the fact that THIS is not new news!  Yeah. We kinda have known this for, umm, maybe a century or so?  (No body listens to us!)
The second article is about how the 2010 census is finally trying to bring attention to the fact that places with large prison populations (like parts of upstate NY) should not be including these population for political representation, since the prison populations do not have the right to vote (the prime reason behind doing the census in the first place: to redistrict for Congress based on population) nor are these populations stable over time, and the places where the prisoners come from are then denied being able to include them in THEIR counts. So it totally skews political representation not only in the big prison areas, but in the big urban areas, too.  HMM.  Sounds like a great GISc project for someone! 

43.)    Mapping Netflix Rental Patterns

This is interesting, especially as it comes on the heels of a report about a woman suing Netflix for "outing" her as a Lesbian, because of some individual information given out about thousands of people as part of a contest as to who could come up with the best algorithm for figuring out what movies people were likely to rent.  Netflix already has such an algorithm, but the contest was to come up with a better one, based on all sorts of personal information about specific customers.  The woman suing Netflix claims that the information they gave out to the contestants about her (past movie rentals, home zip code,  etc.) pin-pointed her identity and revealed her sexual preferences, which she says were up to that time unknown to others (she is married to a man and has children) and would cause her irreparable harm in her small conservative community. I don't know, but somehow I think that her bringing a nationally-reported lawsuit would have an even stronger impact in terms of sheer number of people knowing she is gay! 
But in principle, I agree that these marketing companies are playing fast and loose with people's right to privacy.  Welcome to the information age!  - where issues of privacy, public rights of access to information, geo-spatial surveillance of civilians by corporations and Big Brother (one and the same?), and the ethics of capitalizing on public and private data are all in a jumble. 
Anyway, check out the spatial distribution of rentals of Mad Men!  All the NYC hipster neighborhoods! 
And then there are, always, the anomalous people that Netflix won't be able to fit into any preconceived demographic profile: like one of my friends, who is a uber-macho dude, loves hunting, fishing, and all those manly-man things that involve the out-of-doors, but only seems to rent chick flicks (Four Christmases, the Proposal, etc., ad nauseum) from Netflix.  And he seems to really enjoy them!  Hmmm….

44.)      Jesus Knows You’re Here (courtesy of my Uncle Brucie)

A burglar broke into a house one night.  He shined his flashlight around, looking for valuables when a voice in the dark said, 'Jesus knows you're here.'  He nearly jumped out of his skin, clicked his flashlight off, and froze. 
When he heard nothing more, after a bit, he shook his head and continued.  Just as he pulled the stereo out so he could disconnect the wires, clear as a bell he heard 'Jesus is watching you.'  
Freaked out, he shined his light round frantically, looking for the source of the voice.  Finally, in the corner of the room, his flashlight beam came to rest on a parrot.  
'Did you say that?' he hissed at the parrot.  
'Yep', the parrot confessed, then squawked, 'I'm just trying to warn you that he is watching you.'  
The burglar relaxed.  'Warn me, huh?  Who in the world are you?'  
Moses,'  replied the bird.  
'Moses?' the burglar laughed.  What kind of people would name a bird Moses?'  
'The kind of people that would name a Rottweiler ‘Jesus.'

45.)    The Loss of Place – There is no “there” there.

The loss of the sense of "place" in America - something to think about as we ring in the New Year and new decade. The end of "nostalgia"?  Wishing you all a safe and healthy New Year. JAM
Op-Ed Contributor
Times to Remember, Places to Forget
Published: December 30, 2009
Cambridge, Mass.
TONIGHT, millions of Americans will raise a glass, sing the only three Scottish words they know and remember the past with an ineffable blend of sadness and delight. Nostalgia has all the hallmarks of a universal emotion, and it is only natural to assume that the yearning for “auld lang syne” that was shared by our grandparents will someday be shared by our grandchildren.
But maybe we’ve reached nostalgia’s end. “Nostalgia” — made up of the Greek roots for “suffering” and “return” — is literally a longing for the places of one’s past. And lately, it has become harder and harder to find things to miss about America’s places.
Downtowns were once collections of local businesses that lured us with claims of uniqueness: “Try our homemade pies,” their signs read, or “Best jazz selection in town.” Today, those signs have been replaced by familiar corporate logos that make precisely the opposite claim, promising us the same goods arranged in the same way as they are in every other place. The banks and burritos and baristas on one city block are replicated on the next — and in all the malls, in all the cities, in all the states. Americans can drive from one ocean to the other, stopping every day for the same hamburger and every evening at the same hotel. Traveling in a straight line is no longer much different than traveling in a circle.
When the industrial smoothing of our nation’s once-variegated edges has been fully accomplished, Americans may no longer need to gather at midnight on the last day of the year to yearn for their yesterdays, because wherever they are they will see the landscapes of their youths.
When they remember the Starbucks where they met the one they married or the Gap where they lost the one they didn’t, they will be marinating in memories that happened everywhere but not somewhere, reliving experiences that are located in time but dislocated in space. And when they return to the places where they grew up, or went to school, or fell in love, they may not even notice that the Old Navy has been replaced by an Abercrombie, the Fridays by an Olive Garden and the once-fleeting past by an endless present.
Ours may be the last generation of Americans to suffer for return — to remember events that took place when place still mattered. So tonight let us revel in our nostalgia, and long for the days when longing was easy.
Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, is the host of the forthcoming television series “This Emotional Life.”

No comments:

Post a Comment