Geographic Midpoint

I was trying to figure out the most geographicly convenient place to have an off-site staff meeting and got distracted trying to find the temporally adjusted geographic midpoint for my life. GeoMidPoint gives you a nice Google maps API interface to add locations and time spent to calculate. I’ve been moving west consistently since I was born, and it appears that the geographic midpoint, weighted by time, is in the Salmon River north of White Bird, Idaho.

Geographic Midpoint of my life  (roughly White Bird, ID)

To sum things up

This is excerpted from the concluding remarks in my thesis:

Lastly, I postulate that if this research was repeated using a tool like Google Earth instead of a non-interactive web map that was specifically designed for children, the results would be different. The map and layers used in this test were designed to complement each other when combined. In a tool like Google Earth, the individual data layers come from a variety of sources and are not prepared with combinations in mind. I predict that maps in Google Earth would become more challenging to use, and response times would increase as layers were added. I suspect that this would be the case for adult map-users as well. Since there is currently no cartographer or designer curating the combination of layers, the haphazard symbology, changes in scale, differences in data quality, a poorly designed key, a mish-mash collection of data provider logos, and the scourge of auto-label placement would result in a map equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, not in a learning and exploration tool.

Yeah, i’m getting a little tired.

Early Results at Oregon Academy of Science

This past Saturday morning I presented the early findings of my thesis work at the Oregon Academy of Science annual meeting. Despite the 8am presentation, the whole thing went well. My advisor encouraged me to do the presentation, not because he’s the section chair, but to give me an opportunity to practice for my coming defense this Spring. Also, it forced me to prepare a consumable explanation of what I’ve been doing the last couple years.

The presentation was a quick 15 minutes, but I think I was able to distill the results so far in to something that made sense to the audience. I received a number of great followup questions, and was happily able to respond to all of them. My advisor later said he was impressed at the presentation which in some way could be taken as a jab, but he’s not seen my findings yet. The draft I have now (and should be working on) is rather crude. But I should get back to that.

Geographically revealing tattoos

I really enjoy tattoos that reveal geographic information about people. Just this morning when I was getting more coffee next door at New Seasons, the sales clerk had a walleye tattoo on her forearm (the image is not of the clerk). I engaged her in conversation about the tatoo:

me: Is that a Walleye on your forearm?
her: Yes! Where are you from?!?
me: Uh…. Wyoming or Nebraska, technicaly. But I know a walleye.. Where are you from, Minnesota?
her: Yes. Of course. But did you know they catch Walleye on the Columbia?
me: Yes, world record fish even.
her: I didn’t know they could live in rivers.
me: The Columbia is more of a lake anyway.
her: true.
receipt printer:’re done, next customer…

I have to admit I was caught off-guard when she immediately asked me where I was from given that I knew it was a walleye, but it’s not illegal to know a little about fish.

This is now the second conversation I’ve had that was geographical and tattoo related with a New Seasons clerk. The other case was when I noticed the southern tip of what looked like Illinois poking out from under a clerk’s sleeve, and below that, what I now know is an “L” train car. The clerk said she was working on getting something inked for Portland, but said she’s drifting towards Cali before she figures out where she wants to be permanently.

In a way, these are just pictograms describing one’s personal history, but in the other, they do serve as a mental map to help the wearer find their way back home. The outline of a state is a given, but things like a state bird, fish, flag, etc.; that’s just nerdy. And I appreciate that.

Day 2 of fieldwork

Wednesday I drove south to McMinville’s Newby Elementary School to have a class of 5th graders run through my maps. Overall, the experience went well, though there were a few hiccups when some students tried to save a few questions, and many of the screens were 15″ rather than the desired 17″, but 23 students were able to complete the test with only a few bumps. It was a lot of time in the car for about 30 minutes of testing, but such fieldwork (I suspect.)