Found on Google Street View

Last November, while the girls and I were hobbling barefoot to the beach, we encountered a Google Street View car making it’s rounds. The car is odd enough looking that the girls were curious about it. When I explained what it was doing, and that in roughly a year, we’d be able to see ourselves on the internet, they didn’t quite get it. Well, the photos finally went live, and there are several different views of us as we meander down the street while the car tries to capture the awkward dead end street.

View Larger Map

This was the first time that these streets had been mapped, so I suspect that we’ll be there for a while. Regardless, I screen-capped a few different shots to show the girls later. It might be one of those “and this was the first time you encountered the robots” kinds of talks.

It’s the layers

Wednesday’s theme was layers. And the significance that comes from the interaction between them. And I suppose the effect that the combination of layers has on people.

First, I defended my master’s thesis. The topic was “The Effects of Multiple Thematic Layers on Web Map Use by Middle School Students.” Kind of boring, yeah, but I’ve grown fond of the topic, and I’d say given the response from my committee, they find now faults in my research. To sum it up in a sentence: “Combining multiple thematic layers on a web map will not negatively impact a middle school student’s ability to accurately answer questions with the map, nor negatively impact the response time in answering.”
Illustrating the combination of layers on a thematic map

Ditto with adding a hillshade layer for terrain portrayal. The defense is over and now I’m left to make some surprisingly minor edits to the document before giving it to the school.

But layers can manifest in many ways. The next way can be summed up in this title: “The effects of multiple layers of awesomeness on my victory sandwich.” Yeah. Sesame bagel, some sort of cream cheese, course mustard, swiss, lettuce, tomato and turkey pastrami. I ate it out in the sun, hardly believing that I’d come to the conclusion of my graduate work. Barley got none.

Lastly, I went to see Battles (the band) at the Doug Fir lounge with my neighbor Eric. I was really happy to take Eric (when Scott bailed (boohoo, i tore the tendons off my finger and don’t want to drive 4 hours on a weeknight. Really though, thanks for the beer)) because he’d allowed me to pilot my thesis fieldwork in his classroom and he loves music. Plus, he’s just a fun dude.

The last manifestation of layers was in the music. In a somewhat awkward to see live way, the musicians recreated the fruits of their studio work for us to enjoy. I freely admit that most people won’t like the music – I’m sure it seems like absurd noise to most. But the show was fantastic, and the music can be described as somewhat accurately by the interaction of multiple layers of sound and timings to quite an excellent end. Plus, John Stainer is awesome. They all were.

It’s been really interesting to watch the appearance and now in many ways generally accepted practice of using samplers with live music. It’s a great tool in building and composing complex layers of sound, but it can often prove to be challenge to the in-person experience if the musician is not sure how to engage the audience and the music comfortably. It’s like being with someone who is constantly checking his phone through your conversation. The upside is that instead of another conversation, you get sweet, sweet music.

Did I mention I successfully defended my thesis? Yeah? Ok.

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.

Fieldwork, day 3

On Monday, I hit the road again back to McMinville for another data collection trip to another 5th grade class. Despite how attractive Yamhill County is, I am glad that I won’t be spending another 2 hours in the car for 20 minutes of fieldwork. I’m very appreciative of the teacher and her students though, and of the lab manager at both schools in McMinville for helping me overcome some of the IE-based problems with the testing apparatus (read; Blackboard)

Upon arriving at Columbus Elementary, I was momentarily mortified when the woman in the head office said the teacher wasn’t in today. I assumed she meant that the teacher was at one of the other 2 schools where she teaches. Luckily, she simply meant that the teacher had a sub who was informed of what we were doing.

The class piled in to the lab after I’d logged all the machines in, we did the intro, and they took off. There was a noticeable difference between the early and late finishers, time wise. The last two sessions didn’t have such a long span between the first and last student. I’ll be interested to see both the biographical and the times in the results.

Again, after thanking all the students, I rewarded them with giant pretzels (many of the students had never seen such a thing) and peppermint candies. Then I excused myself to drive back to work. In the car I enjoyed a few pretzels myself, but then realized I didn’t have any water to help wash them down. This is when I started getting calls from work. I frantically tried to swallow the crumbs and not sound like a buffoon.

Note to self – check out one of the alternate questions on question set 7. The map didn’t come up for everyone.

First official field work

This morning I visited Tualatin Valley Academy where a class of 7th graders took my thesis maps for a spin. After the revisions I made following the pilot, I was curious to see how long the tests took, and if any other problems arose. I got to the school rather early, logged in to all the workstations, and set up an example on the projector. The students filed in after a period change and automatically separated themselves by gender (it was rather comical to see girls in one corner, boys in the other). The introduction was quick, organized, and done in about 3 minutes. Then, the students started, quickly and quietly moved through each of the questions, finishing in less than 13 minutes.

When I thanked them and said that I was astonished how quick it went, several said they’d be happy to hang out in the lab longer so they didn’t have to go back to class (classic teen). I pointed out that they’d probably be more eager to go back to their classroom since they couldn’t (pulling a box from underneath my coat) eat these donuts in the computer lab.

I have to admit, I was a little shocked at how quickly it went (and how positive and complete the results are). Whether the difference has to do with changes I made to the quiz, to the introduction, or if it was simply the age and understanding of the students will have to shake out over the next couple tests. The next is tomorrow in Newberg.

Verizon has “a map for that”

AT&T is suing Verizon over their there’s a map for that ads. AT&T is of course reacting poorly to a clever and powerful advertisement, but I understand their concern.

Verizon's 3G map
Verizon's 3G map

This is an intentionally misleading use of a map. Not only did Verizon pick a color for AT&T that’s difficult to see compared to the background, they are emphasizing total area covered, not total population covered. This is the same travesty you get when you look at 2004 election maps of red vs. blue states where it seems like the entire country is red when in fact it’s not the land that’s voting but the population.

Compare AT&T’s map to a map of population density:

US Population density
US Population density

Notice how AT&T has service wherever there is any significant amount of population? They retort that they have 3G service available for 296 million customers. So they’re claiming they offer 3G service to 96% of Americans. I suppose the obvious question for Verizon is why are they spending so much time and money extending a 3G network to that remaining 4% of the population that is geographically dispersed, and where they’ll get such little return on their investment? Verizon isn’t in the game for community service, they’re in it to make money. If I were a shareholder, I’d be rather concerned, especially considering that Verizon will have to update their network. And that they have crappy phones.

Gearing up. Again

I’m well sick of my thesis by now, but seeing as it’s year 3 of the slog, I’ve got to wrap things up. Well, it’s year 5 of all of it, but the first 3 were awesome, so they don’t really count. I took the summer off from my thesis because I wasn’t able to accomplish anything useful while school was out and one of my committee members was on sabbatical. Summer is over, so I’m back to looking for a replacement committee member (sabbatical was extended) and trying to present my topic, get human subject approval from the graduate office, and get in to the field to try some layer maps on 5th graders.

Luckily, I still enjoy the topic.

Student Atlas of Oregon is alive

I just got word from one of my instructors and the head of the Student Atlas of Oregon project that our work is now online. As always, it is satisfying to see your work, even if someone did make some changes to it. The final product is pretty nifty, and I suspect it will be much more useful to middle school students than any other current collections of maps of Oregon.

I posted a work in progress view of the cross section map, but here’s the final product. I’d originally made it as a two-page spread, but the format of the atlas changed, and someone else merged the content for the final version.