Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Six-Month Mark of the Geographer-at-Large

Visualization of World Population on the Globe

So, I am now at the end of the first six months of my blog, and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what’s happened so far, and what the future might bring.  And, being a certain type of geographer, I love to quantify things!  Below is a little status report with some vital stats. 

Page Views
I don’t know too much about other people’s success stories with their blogs, so have no real basis for comparison, but I feel pretty positive about the number of people who have viewed at least a post or two.  I have two different stats tracking programs on the blog: one keeps track of the number of individual page views, (by day, week, month, and “all time”) and the other totals the actual viewers (on a weekly basis, non-cumulative).  As of today, I have had over 22,000 page views during the six months the blog has been in existence, with a high of 5,500 in one month (May).  The daily high was 333 page views (June 26th).  Generally, page views hover around 150-200 per day.  Of course, many of these “viewers” are one-timers, coming in just to grab maps and other images from the blog.  Oh, well. 

Blog Followers and "Top Visitors"
I have 38 people who have registered as “followers,” although I’m not sure if most of them actually read the blog on a regular basis (there’s no way to track the viewing activity of followers).  On the other hand, there are some viewers who read the blog on a regular basis but are not “followers,” so go figure.  The geographic locations of the “Top Visitors,” in terms of number of times they have returned to the site, (the highest was 139 visits) are as follows:
Brooklyn, NY
New York City, NY
Mountainview, CA
Barcelona, Spain
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Mesa, AZ
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Emerson, NJ
Forest Hills, NY
Ossining, NY
Cairo, Egypt
Gdansk, Poland
Cape Town, South Africa
Tea Tree, Tasmania, Australia
Pondicherry, India

Geographic Distribution of Viewers
People from 125 different countries have looked at my blog, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.  These places are all listed on the right side of the page, underneath the world maps.  Of course, the U.S. tops the list with over 15,000 page views, and some other Anglophone countries are next: the U.K., Canada, Australia, India, Egypt.  Then comes Germany, Netherlands, France, and Spain.  Singapore, Indonesia, Italy, and the Philippines are consistently in the top 10 on a weekly and monthly basis, they just didn’t make the “All Time” top 10. 
Naturally, it was exciting to get viewers from the “big” nations (big in terms of both areal extent as well as population) – China, India, Russia, Brazil.  But equally, if differently, fun was seeing viewers pop up from less-well-known and less populated places like Jersey, Malta, Brunei, Greenland, Fiji, Palau, Moldova, Maldives, Qatar, Macau, Micronesia, Montenegro, Nepal, Macedonia, Mongolia. 
There are still some large gaps in the blog viewers world map, though – Where’s someone in Kazakhstan?  Ethiopia?  Most of central Africa?  Iceland?  Antarctica?  Cuba?  Maybe in the next 6 months some of these blank spots on the map will be filled in! 

Favorite Posts:
The 10 all-time favorite posts (meaning they have received the most “page views” of all 78 of the posts) are:
1.   100 years later – The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire {*} with >1,500 page views
2.   Freedom Riders 1961 
3.   Re-discovering African Geographies {*}
4.   WTF is This? Bad Maps!
5.   Kodachrome and the Great Depression {*}
6.   Re-Regionalizing the American Continent {*}
7.   Mapping Urban Inequality” Using the Gini Coefficient {*}
8.   Anthropomorphic and Zoomorphic Maps, Part 3
9.   Greetings From Seattle!
10.Population and Climate Change

Although some of these above are my favorite posts, too, as indicated by the{*}, I have a few others that would have made my personal top post list, including:

§  The African Burial Grounds- An Update and Reflections
§  Freedomland USA: A Theme park shaped like a map (in da Bronx!)
§  Leo Africanus: 15th century geographer extraordinaire
§  Small Island Nations: Contested and complicated places
§  Bursting with Pride: U.S. Geography Textbooks, 1814-1898
§  Global Peace Indices: Can “peacefulness” be mapped?
§  Tuva or Bust! The last journey of a genius
§  Method of Loci – The Memory Palace
§  St.Patrick’s Great Equinox Journey
§  Bogus Art Maps
§  A Most Remarkable Creature!
§  Megaregions! Is this our future?

As most of you have realized by this time, and as evidenced by the topics of my postings, I have very varied interests, mainly focusing on environmental geography, urbanization, demography, and cartography, but I definitely have a soft spot for topics at the intersection of history and geography. 
As John Smith, the renowned cartographer, explorer, and founder of Jamestown, VA, one of the first English settlements in the New World, said in 1624, “As Geography without History seemeth as a carkasse without motion, so History without Geography wandereth as a vagrant without a certaine habitation.”  I couldn't have said it better, myself!

The Future
            What’s in store for the future?  Well, I am pretty sure I will continue the blog, although I will definitely slow down for the next month or so, since I will be in the UK for a major part of July, and then I have tons of deadlines in August.  But I will continue to write about things that I find fascinating dealing with place-based issues.  I would love to hear from any of you about what you find most interesting (or not) and/or what you think works/doesn’t work in the Geographer-at-Large blog.  Please leave a comment with any suggestions or critiques you have.  I would love the feedback.  Writing a blog without getting feedback or reader responses is like writing in a vacuum.  You’re just throwing it all out there into the ether, never too sure what the reaction is. I would like to thank everybody who has written a comment or sent me an e-mail about a post.   In any event, it's lots of fun for me to write, I am enjoying the blog tremendously, and it is one of the world's best procrastinational methods ever devised to avoid doing actual work! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

GPS:"A device that records relentlessly your every movement in time and space"

 "A device that records relentlessly your every movement in time and space."
This is how a Supreme Court Justice described GPS in a landmark ruling last August, which will have huge ramifications going forward for how GPS data can be used in legal cases. 

Supreme Court to Decide Legality of GPS Tracking Without Warrant
The U.S. Supreme Court today said it would decide whether law enforcement authorities must get a warrant to use GPS tracking equipment. In its term that starts next October, the high court will review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., that said the federal government violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a former night club owner, Antoine Jones, by attaching a GPS device to his vehicle in a case of suspected drug trafficking without first obtaining a warrant.
Legal Times reported at least two other federal appellate circuits have found that the use of GPS tracking over a long period of time is not a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. Federal prosecutors argued the police did not need a warrant to track Jones' travels because he was moving freely on public roads in the District of Columbia and in Maryland. The authorities initially had a warrant, but it expired. "It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work," said Judge Douglas Ginsburg. "It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person's hitherto private routine."
Here is a link to the original article / criminal case. 
Thanks, Chris Herrmann, for the story and the link. 

Google Earth Guys (Animated Cartoon)

This is a humorous animated cartoon about the Google Earth guys, you know, those people who go around everywhere with their special equipment and photograph everything IN THE ENTIRE WORLD!!!!!
This video shows you, once and for all, how the Google Earth guys do it!  The cartoon is by my new favorite cartoonist, Dan Meth, but be forewarned!  It is not politically correct (may cause offense to North Koreans - any Asian people, actually - British people, and Al Qaeda fans, among others!), and has some very juvenile frat-boy humor (e.g. poop humor).  To prevent any possible offense to those with delicate sensibilities, and to give you an idea of the content, the tags that Dan has given to this video are as follows: danmeth, osama bin laden, haha, fuck you asshole, axis of assholes.  If any of those topics shock you, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO!  It’s actually pretty benign, in my opinion, but I don’t want to get any hate mail! 
Check out the part where they fall asleep in the balloon, and just at that moment, Superman, a Pterodactyl, and a hot air balloon made up of multi-colored party balloons waft past.  Just goes to show, those Google Earth guys don’t catch every single little thing! 


Here's one of Dan's static cartoons, from an upcoming book on "How Things Work."  Should be interesting!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Unconventional (yet informative!) Maps of the Big Apple

Here are some cool maps on New York City (and yes, I am aware that for the most part, this means Manhattan below 96th Street! But what can one do?).  Ahhh....New York City, aka The Big Apple.  Or “the big stinky apple,” as one of my nephews calls it (btw, he’s NOT a New Yorker, obvio!).  With a few exceptions, they are all relatively recent maps.  I couldn’t resist adding in a couple of vintage examples, such as the Beerdom Map of the Lower East Side (1885).  And some of them, strictly speaking, are not maps at all, but are geographic representations in one way or another.  Some of the maps are funny, some are interesting, some are really, really cool, and some are just downright weird.  That about sums up NYC, as well – funny, interesting, cool, and weird.  And maybe stinky, especially if we have a garbage strike this summer!

Maps Showing Basic Facts about NYC

3-D Map of Lower Manhattan, overlain on an historic map
Google Earth has added part of the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection to their software.  That means you can now generate cool images like this one, with modern day NYC buildings superimposed on the old maps.  Neat!

 Rich Guy Map
“Where are all the rich, single guys in Manhattan?  Why, the East Side and Chelsea, of course. We figured that out using GeoIQ’s heatmap technology, which displays information using futuristic gradient shading.”

NYC Photo-taking maps
Taking city maps and overlaying them with the frequency of photo taken and posted to Flickr by local residents as compared to tourists.
Blue pictures are by locals. Red pictures are by tourists. Yellow pictures might be by either.

NYC Play Around Map
PlayaroundNYC map, which aims to help New Yorkers identify areas that are well supported by playgrounds and have suitable conditions nearby (ie. not underneath a highway overpass, as some of our “playgrounds” up in the Bronx are located).

Transparent NYC
This very cool website has interactive mapping capabilities that allows one to look at multiple layers of information “transparently” for several time periods.  Check it out.

NYC Buzz Maps
Above “are maps from a study, called ‘The Geography of Buzz.’  The authors, Elizabeth Currid, an assistant professor in the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and Sarah Williams, the director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University‘s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, mined thousands of photographs from Getty Images that chronicled flashy parties and smaller affairs on both coasts for a year, beginning in March 2006. The maps show the density of different types of cultural events in New York.”

 Property prices per square foot in NYC
“Notice that three-fourths of Manhattan is essentially uninhabitable by any sort of normal person. Note too, though, that these prices are from 2006, before the real estate bubble popped.  And Wall Street bankers are not doing quite so well these days. It'd be interesting to see what the map would look like today.”

 Value of Land, Manhattan
This one is price per square foot of actual land, whereas the one above is price per square foot of building space.

Graffiti on NYC Subway Map
“Thanks to Kid Lew for giving me the chance to hit up this NYC subway map with artists like David Choe, Mad, Andrew Bell and many others.  Enjoy. 9.” 

Eminent Domain Map of Manhattan
This map illustrates the use of eminent domain, which is the right of a government to seize property, ostensibly for public use and benefit, but often for private profit.  “The sites of eminent domain range from the early condemnations for public parks and streets in the 19th century to the vast condemnations during the Robert Moses era for highways, railways, parks, office buildings, universities, cultural and convention centers, and public and private housing projects to contemporary sites, such as the New York Times building, the Atlantic Yards project, Willets Point, and the Columbia University expansion.”
From: Eminent domain map by Bettina Johae

Ethnicity and Race and Place in NYC

 Race maps of NYC
New York City is still an extremely segregated city, as is vividly demonstrated in this dot density map.  This is one in a very good collection of dot density maps of various US cities/urban areas.  The maps are by Eric Fischer, and you can see the whole collection (108 cities) at

Bill Rankin, at Radical Cartography, developed this particular format of dot density mapping the various racial and ethnic groups, with Chicago, IL, and he has a wonderful explanation of the use of dot density maps to show urban transitions, on his blog at
More on these maps:

 NYC Ethnic Strongholds Map
Ethnic Concentrations based on International Telephone Calling Patterns
This is way cool!  And probably a better indicator than the census regarding the concentrations of ethnic communities and immigrants.  Researchers from the “senseable city laboratory” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a novel project that reveals the complex dynamics of talk that exist between New York and other cities around the globe.  The project, called New York Talk Exchange, is based around an analysis of telecommunications traffic flowing to and from New York City.  From:

Jewish New York: A History & Heritage Map from:
You can also find other maps in a similar vein for the East Village punk rock scene and earlier genres of music and art, (complete with little caricatures of the Ramones, Talking Heads, CBGBs, Jean-Michel Basquiat, etc.) as well as one for the Harlem Renaissance, the Queens Jazz Trail, and Lower Manhattan, at Ephemera Press

NYC Principal Nationalities Map, 1895
Based on 1890 Census data.  Each pattern reflects a different ethnicity.
This is a fascinating look at where various foreign-born populations settled in NYC back in the end of the 19th century. 
 Legend of the NYC Principal Nationalities Map

 A Map of Beerdom, 1885
This map of the 11th Ward in lower Manhattan was published by the Christian Union newspaper, along with an article lamenting the fact that in this one neighborhood which was surveyed by temperance supporters, there were only 19 churches and synagogues, but over 340 saloons, catering to the mostly German population, who, according to the article, used to drink themselves blind every night.  I used to live in this neighborhood, and I can attest to the fact that there are STILL many more watering holes than places of worship!

See also recent blog posting on the topic of ethnic enclaves in NYC at
NYC Tourism Maps and Maps Showing Places of Interest

 NYC Tourism Map from New York State Tourism Brochure
What is up with this map?  Why are the five boroughs of NYC superimposed in an incorrect location on the map of New York State?  Why are the boroughs shown so generalized that they are almost unrecognizable?  Why are they in a totally different scale than the state map?  What kind of useful information does this give the tourist, who is likely to think that NYC is in the middle of the upstate New York, and taking up more than half the size of the state, and is amongst the strangest and most amorphously-shaped geographical features ever seen.  Boo to whoever put this atrocity together! 

NYC Safety Map for Tourists
Here’s another objectionable one – this one is quite nice cartographically, but what is up with telling tourists that the only safe areas in NYC are the white people zones? 

Manhattan Movie Icons Map
Ok, this one was featured in an earlier blog posting, but I liked it so much, I’m posting it again!  See how many of the movies you can name. See

NYC SitCom Map
One darned funny cartoonist!
NYC Rock ‘n Roll Map

 NYC Superheroes Map

NYC Landmarks Map
See how many you can identify.  The landmark names are written beneath each landmark, but they are a little difficult to read.  See how many you can name without cheating!
NYC Literary Map

Bad Stuff in NYC
 Oh, and it’s not all fun and games, movie stars, rock and rollers, and beautiful landmarks!  We have our share of troubles, too: RATS!  BED BUGS!  FORECLOSURES!  HURRICANES!  Potential Terrorist Attacks!

 NYC Rat Map (partial, showing Upper East Side of Manhattan, one of the more "posh" neighborhoods)

 NYC Bedbug Map

NYC Hurricane Evacuation Map - Most of the city is just above sea level, after all! For more complete and up-to-date information about Hurricane Irene and NYC evacuation zones, see August 25, 2011 posting

NYC Foreclosure Map

Detonation Effects Map

Typographical and other Specialty Maps of NYC
And here we have a sub-category of maps made from Typography and other clever methods

Manhattan Map with Neighborhoods Delineated by Type

Typographical Green Spaces Map

Random Typography Map of Manhattan

NYC Cut-out Map (scherenschnitte - scissor cutting style)

Map of the Design Formed by NYC Street Grid, with Interstitial spaces between the streets (the property lots, more or less) re-arranged in a series
«Anagrammes graphiques de plans de villes» by Armelle Caron
OK, you just have to look at this to really figure out what it is.  Pretty interesting and clever.  Check out link below to see other cities: Istanbul, Paris, Berlin, etc.

And here we have a sub-category of Mental Maps of NYC

 This is the famous New Yorker magazine cover, by Steinberg, from 1976, showing a New Yorker’s view of the world.  This cover has been parodied extensively over the years, and has spawned versions purporting to be the view of the world from Irkutsk, for instance. 

This is a recent New Yorker magazine cover, 35 years after the original one, showing New Yorkistan and all the little stans within it.  In the months after 9/11, Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz's ethnic breakdown of the boroughs sold more New Yorker magazines than any other cover in history.

Mental Map of New York, from a native Montanan’s perspective.

Car Tow Story
This is every New Yorker’s nightmare, and even worse for visitors to the city: what happens when your car is towed. It's the 9th Circle of Hell......

Welcome to New York City – a map for some kind of game based on the subway system. 

1950’s embroidered cartoon map showing NYC landmarks.  The attractions outside of Manhattan (Coney Island, Yankee Stadium, Bronx Zoo, LaGuardia Field) are just kind of floating in the East River, and the disembodied bridges go from Manhattan directly into the water..... But hey, at least the map shows Washington Heights and The Cloisters, for a change!

Neighborhoods/Places of Interest Map of (part of) Manhattan
I truly don’t really understand this map.  What are the little faces supposed to denote?  Why are many things in the wrong place?  Why does Manhattan not include Washington Heights and Inwood?  Nevertheless, it is somehow pleasing, graphically. I wonder if the expressions on the little faces are supposed to indicate anything about the areas they are in, like those maps that use Chernoff faces as symbols to depict socio-demographic characteristics.  

Unconventional Maps Exhibit
There was a recent exhibit called “Unconventional Maps” at Pratt Gallery.  You can see some more of the entries at: 
Two examples from the exhibit:

 "The Wonderfulness of Downtown," by Jane Hammond, highlights everyday moments and unnamed streets.

 Artist Liz Hickok, a full-time assistant and several work-study students worked morning til late-evening for 10 days to build "Fugitive Topography: Jelly NYC, View From the Staten Island Ferry."