28 February 2007

Student opportunities at ESRI conference

Wanna' spend a few days in San Diego and watch the sun fall into the ocean at the end of each day?

ESRI has a student assistantship program as a way for students to get a foot in the door with their human resources department while getting free admission to the ESRI User Conference in San Diego. Seniors and grad students are eligible and will get to spend their week at the UC meeting people behind the scenes while helping make this HUGE conference go.
If you are a graduate student or fourth-year undergraduate student who is currently enrolled in an accredited college or university in the United States and who uses GIS software, you may apply for the student assistantship program.
I will admit to being an alum of the program, so I am a bit biased. But, for a student interested specifically in GIS this is an unique opportunity. The application deadline is April 13th.
(The photo is from La Jolla, CA taken during the 2005 UC)

27 February 2007

Steve Strom Memorial Lecture

Thursday evening, March 1st, Kenny Helphand is delivering the first annual Steve Strom Memorial Lecture. It is at 7pm in Trayes Hall at the Douglass Campus Center. You can read more at an earlier posting.


The new monitors in our teaching lab are big and cool, but now I want something bigger. The folks at Pruned pulled together some examples of very large monitors. Now we are shopping around for a Smart board where we can look and touch with our fingers. Pruned recenly looked at some interactive boards that are VERY cool too. The link to the Jeff Han video is great and quick.

And here is an example of an interactive display where multiple people can walk on the display board while the computer draws voronoi polygons around them - live. That is very cool.

26 February 2007

Its all downhill now

Don't let the snow and the studying stress you out. Take a few minutes for linerider.
I know you've probably played it before. After all, the game will be 6 months old in March.

There is something therapeutic about helping the little guy have a safe and uneventful trip down a hill of your making. Well, maybe not all that safe.

25 February 2007

Making a bad situation worse

It turns out that in their rush to assemble those FEMA trailers, that they a) built them poorly and b) used toxic materials. A recent report detailed problems, particularly wood that emits formaldehyde, that have led to significant illnesses.

Last summer FEMA began distributing a leaflet to trailer residents explaining that the materials used in the interiors can release toxic vapors. The agency suggests residents keep windows and doors open and the air conditioner on, yet reduce heat and humidity. (The Gulf's hot, humid climate increases the rate at which materials release formaldehyde.)

But they still have people living in them with no end in sight. Congress has been aware of the situation for a while but hasn't decided whethe ror not to investigate. It is hard to imagine that this is the best that the richest nation in the world can do for citizens who were insured and lived in places that their Federal government told them were above the floodplain.

And the residents usually have to park the trailers right next to the ruins of their former home so they can hook up to power and water (a FEMA requirement).

Caffeinate your garden?

The EnvPLan exam may have you mixing your soils learning with coffee dosing. What would happen if you added coffee grounds to the soils in your garden?

Starbucks says: Well, it adds organic matter that is rich with nutrients, especially nitrogen. The only downside is that it is pretty acidic so you you want to mix it with other organic matter (like leaves) or use it in places where you need the acid.

They were even giving away the grounds in Hawaii for a little while.

24 February 2007

Winning costs

Now that Rutgers has a winning football team, they are enforcing a rules system that awards better season tickets to those who donate money to the school. Someone who has held their season tickets for 8 years might suddenly need to donate $300 to keep their seats if they are in prime territory.

"We went through all those losing seasons," said the East Brunswick resident, who spent the bulk of his career in the business of printing words on canned goods. "They win a couple of games, and now they're throwing me out."

Well, this is just one cost of winning. But I don't understand how folks
how've been attending Div-IA games all of these years can be so surprised. The football team has been costing the school tons of cash over the years with the promise that a winning team would suddenly bring in money. Even last year, we lost $3 or 4 million on football. But that is less than we used to lose ($5 million).

If you were cheering for them to become a big-time, ranked program surely you understood that it meant that the coach would become less accessible, the tickets would cost more, more players would be academically marginal, and more opponents would accuse RU of cheating. You did know that, right?

A lousy way to stop mowing

How lazy are Americans getting? Instead of mowing their lawns they are paving them. If you really hate the land that mouch, why not just move into a condo?
Lawn and garden sales have been declining for the past three years, according to the group. Sales totaled $35.2 billion in 2005, down 4% from the year before. And it's not just the wiggy weather: Many homeowners are aging, says Butterfield, or are simply wearying of maintaining elaborate plantings or competing with the neighbors for the showiest roses.
Of course, this cause more flooding downstream and contributes to the heat island effect. Some towns have talked about an impervious surface tax that would at least cover the costs that this behaviour passes on to the town and neighbors. Would a mowing service be cheaper than that? Probably. But the resistance would be fierce in the same communtites where the impacts are the greatest.

Beavers are back

It is surprising to see how widespread the media coverage is on this one, but everyon is talking about the fact that there is a beaver lodge on the Bronx River. That means that after 200 year, New York City has some beavers living within City limits by choice.

Rhodia to clean up in New Brunswick

Cranbury-based Rhodia is being forced to clean up its contaminated site in New Brunswick after two years of legal wrangling.

The brook's steep banks contain above-regulation levels of arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), a chemical by-product that can cause cancer. Rhodia was challenging a decision by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection that would require the soil to be "capped," or covered with buffer material.
It doesn't change the fact that they legally released other interesting compunds that aren't part of the lawsuit. You could learn more by checking out the Right-to-Know Network's Toxic Release inventory (TRI) links.

22 February 2007

Planning Board UPDATE!

The original time was incomplete!!

The meeting is at 7 on Thursday, February 22nd at the Highland Park Senior/Recreation Center -- 220 South 6th Avenue. The part about the Y begins at 8.

21 February 2007

Web Resources

As you get ready for that exam you might look over some of the web-based Resources of the Day.

20 February 2007

Planning Board Meeting

This one could even feature fireworks! Lots of folks in Highland Park are planning to attend a heated debate on the redevelopment of the Y property along the river at Raritan Ave and South Adelaide. On group started an online petition. Another sent out postcards.

The meeting is at 8 on Thursday, February 22nd at the Highland PArk Senior/Recreation Center -- 220 South 6th Avenue.

Useless Arithmetic

Today's New York Times includes a science section Book Review of Orrin Pilkey's new book on models. This fits our last Fundamentals lecture so well, that I can't help but get excited.

When coastal engineers decide whether to dredge sand and pump it onto an eroded beach, they use mathematical models to predict how much sand they will need, when and where they must apply it, the rate it will move and how long the project will survive in the face of coastal storms and erosion.

Orrin H. Pilkey, a coastal geologist and emeritus professor at Duke, recommends another approach: just dredge up a lot of sand and dump it on the beach willy-nilly. This “kamikaze engineering” might not last very long, he says, but projects built according to models do not usually last very long either, and at least his approach would not lull anyone into false mathematical certitude.

It isn't that he entirely opposes modeling, but he is clearly concerned that it is being overused and under-understood. The publisher has up some comments too.

19 February 2007

Garden Show redux

As a follow-up to Friday's note about the Garden Show, today's HN&T reports that Rutgers' students took third place in the competition. Red team, upstream!

Hand Drafting

Faculty and Students are invited:

Hand Drafting: A lifetime of landscape architecture
Featuring the work of Arnold Associates Landscape Architecture and Urban Design

The Princeton Senior Resource Center will host a show of hand-drawn landscape architecture drawings from Arnold Associates. There will be an opening reception on Friday February 23 from 4-7 pm at the Suzanne Patterson Building, 45 Stockton St. (behind Borough Hall) in Princeton, with a brief talk by Mr. Arnold.

Arnold Associates is a landscape architecture firm founded by Henry Arnold in Princeton, NJ in 1971. The office is now a partnership with Stephen Lederach. In the thirty-five years since its inception, the firm has worked on a range of different commissions from Singapore to Salt Lake City, including several sites in and around Princeton. Some of the more well-known sites include the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC and the Art Institute in Chicago. Henry Arnold has a particular passion for creating inviting living spaces in urban settings, a vision he has pursued actively for several decades.

Until the present generation, design professionals used hand methods to illustrate their designs with drafting tools such as the T-square, triangles, compass, pencils and pens. Most design professionals today produce drawings mechanically with the aid of a computer, plotters and printers. The drawings in this exhibit were selected from the archives of Arnold Associates with the idea of displaying some examples of a disappearing craft. The utilitarian purpose distinguishes this work from the drawings of most fine artists. The exhibit will be of special interest to students of urban design, design arts and others who appreciate illustrative drawing.

18 February 2007

Very tall mountains

For years geologists have wondered exactly why the Himalayan Mountains are so impressively tall. Recently they have discovered the reason. It is because of a massive plate that slid off of them so that they would rebound dramatically. OK, so maybe it is more complicated than that, with some controversy sprinkled in. The point is, geologists are still making discoveries about things as seemingly simple as why the biggest mountains in the world are big.

Landscape art

There are currently two art exhibits rolled into one in Newark looking at the landscape. Titled, Landscape Revisited: Fact and Metaphor, these exhibits present different perspectives on the landscape. And, although the NY Times describes the hall space at Seton Hall's Law School as being quite ungracious, the art sounds like it might be worth the trip despite its setting.

17 February 2007

Lincoln Memorial

In preparation for President's Day/Lincoln's Birthday, Studio 360 dedicated an entire show to the Lincoln Memorial. One guest called it the most sacred secular spot in the District. Another described the time when President Nixon visited it at 4am and talked for 45 minutes with protesters who were there.

The Lincoln Memorial is symbolic of America's promise. It is symbolic of America's vision, but it is also symbolic of America's contradictions and complexity.

Bird count weekend

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is a grassroots effort that enlists the help of thousands of birdwatchers who are asked mostly to just spend 15 minutes each day during this weekend counting birds at their feeder or in their yard. So far (Sat afternoon) they've had 12,328 tallies submitted.

Helping people survive

A story on the BBC this week is crediting Google Earth with helping Iraqis survive sectarian violence in Baghdad. Residents are using the technology to track different escape routes out of their neighborhood. They can also use it to plan which areas should be blocked during an emergency.

16 February 2007

Energy flow

I'm a sucker for a good graphic. This one is just complicated enough to really help see the ways that energy either gets used or lost.

New Jersey Flower and Garden Show

In what is looking increasingly like an annual tradition, our landscape industry students have designed and implemented a display at the New Jersey Flower and Garden Show. Today's Home News reports on the event with quite a few photos. The article quotes our own Matt Jamicky, "It was a little stressful toward the end, but it was an amazing experience." That's sure to get more students in there next year. Right?

15 February 2007

First Monday

The new issue of First Monday is out. First Monday is the Journal on the Internet by which they mean that it is both focused on the Internet and published exclusively on the Internet. Some of my favorite papers in the past have included an entire special issue on Virtual Architecture, a look at faculty use of the Internet, and children's digital photography.

If you already know of First Monday it might be because of the classic paper, The Cathedral and the Bazaar which helps establish the software development theories that made Linux such a strong solution.

But my new favorite is my own piece called, "Many, many maps: Empowerment and online participatory mapping."

Bent Skovmand

The newspapers report this week on the death of plant scientist Bent Skovmand. Many of the accounts focus on his efforts to save plant species in the Doomsday Vault as part of a larger effort to ensure that the Earth has a sufficient seed bank for its future food needs. He really saw himself not just preserving the natural heritage of plant species but helping cure hunger.

But the part of his career that sticks with me is his fight against patenting genes. The NY times quotes him as describing this as being "like copyrighting each and every word in 'Hamlet' and saying no one can use any word without paying the author."

14 February 2007

Ready for a hike?

While trapped indoors due to our snowstorm, I am finding the thought of hike to be particulalry appealing. So I couldn't help myself when I stumbled into PlanPutnam's outdoors guide to their stretch of the Highlands. For instance, this morning I can almost hear the warblers setling in on a warm May morning in the Hubbard Perkins Conservation Area and the climb up Mount Taurus sounds like a fun one to squezze in before it gets too hot.

13 February 2007

Where's Jack Bauer?

To help demonstrate the absurdity viewers follow the intricate geographies of "24", someone has created a Google Map hack called the JackTracker. That guy can really cover some ground in just 24 hours, huh?

12 February 2007

Odds of dying

All summed up as a very elegantly designed graphic.

Global Exploration Systems

In class 231 we talked about two different free examples of GES:
Download them and play around. Both are stable and easy to learn. One is popular and the other should be too.

Local Politics on the National Stage

NPR's All Things Considered ran a piece on a New Jersey group that is trying to help influence the outcome of the 2008 election.

Highland Park's mayor, Meryl Frank, explains why it is so hard for a candidate to get through to voters in the Garden State:
"You're in New Jersey now. Nobody believes in anything; they see politicians indicted every other week. We're asking people to believe in you. You need to inspire us. You need to tell us who you are, what's your story, what do you care about."
That pretty much sums up the impact of NJ politics on our perception of national candidates. It is a pretty high bar for them to get over.

11 February 2007

A Grand walk

I've walked on the glass floor at the CN Tower in Toronto where you are looking straight down for about 1,400 feet. It was startling how hard it was for my brain to handle that, even though I never usually have issues with heights.

So, this proposal for a glass walkway 4000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon sounds utterly exhilarating until you read about the 9,000 acre development coming on its heels and then maybe it is alittle more frightening. If you read this report from the LA TImes you'll see that it is more complicated than it sounds. The Hualapai Indian Reservation really needs to generate some income and share the wealth with the folks who've already dug in and had some impact in the area. The question they are grappling with is whether this is the way to do it.

Housing Scholars 2007

Here's a great opportunity to get a prestigous form of recognition, a paid internship, and make a little impact in this world all at once. The Wachovia Housing Scholars program is a great summer opportunity for students in Environemtnal Planning and Design. And as EP&D students you should be quite competitive, especially if you have GIS skills. If you are serious about it you should know that the deadline is coming fast. I'd be happy to share what I know if you have the time.

10 February 2007

Professionals and lawsuits

Those of you interested in the proper role for mapping and GIS professionals might want to keep on eye on a current lawsuit. The AAG has a website up about it where they say:
The case of MAPPS v. United States, currently pending in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, could have drastic consequences for the entire mapping community, including the GIS industry. Simply put, an adverse outcome could lead to the exclusion of everyone but licensed engineers and surveyors from federal government contracts for “mapping” services of every sort and description – not just those mapping services traditionally performed by surveyors.
They will add an update after the February 23rd hearing.

09 February 2007

Survey on architecture

What're the best example of architecture in America? Survey says:
Empire State Building

The AIA worked with Harris to conduct a poll of America's top architecture. The White House ranks high too. New York City and Washington DC absolutely clean up.

Of course, another survey shows that only 10% of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

GIS&T Body of Knowledge

What are all of the pieces of information that make up the total information base of geographic information science and technology? Well, the UCGIS has made a first effort at listing out all of concepts, ideas, and technologies that make up the field of GIS&T. The Body of Knowledge captures the breadth of the field in great detail in a new book published by AAG for UCGIS. It is cheap and very popular.

Even experts in the field won't be experts in all these areas, but all of these areas make up the field. How many do you know?

08 February 2007

Defiant Gardens' During Wartime

March 1st we are having a guest lecture by Kenny Helphand, an Oregon landscape architecture professor, as part of his book tour promoting Defiant Gardens. National Public Radio posted a great set of photos to accompany the "'Defiant Gardens' During Wartime" audio story that they ran last year on Memorial Day. You can read or listen. They also reprinted an excerpt from Helphand's book on the topic.

It is great to see landscape architecture getting that sort of visibility. It is especially great to have someone like Kenny Helphand coming to Rutgers to share these stories with us. Jean Marie and I saw him present a small part of this material in Vancouver last summer and it was truly moving.

07 February 2007

An Early Birthday Present

President Bush released his new budget this week and it included a nice birthday gift for the National Parks. In preparation for the NPS' 100th birthday he is giving them what is being reported as their biggest budget increase ever. Or, at least, his hypothetical balenced budget does that and now Congress has to sort through all of the other issues and see if they can preserve that reality.

06 February 2007

Unassigned Reading: Metropolis

Although Metropolis Magazine is considered a print medium, their web presence is great. Their recent feature on the Greening of the Ivory Tower was a great call to those of us at the U to clean up our acts some. And they currently have two top structural engineers' picks for the Top Ten structural acheivements of all time.

We subscribe to the hard copies and keep them in the LA Reading Room. Stop by and absorb.

05 February 2007

Does it matter when it is 10 degrees?

Washington DC is pushing forward a plan to make the city more pedestrian friendly. Not that it seems to matter on a day like today, but safer streets and better crossings always fit the bill. And a city worth exploring on feet sounds like a solid plan.

Kids With Cameras


Showing once again how many different ways there are to change the world.

Transit mapping

Sure, you can use MapQuest to find the fastest driving route from the casino in Atlantic City to the poorhouse on Baltic Ave. But can you find the fastest transit-based route across Eugene, OR? Yes, with Google Transit you can. I know that many will complain since our major cities (NY, Philly, DC) aren't included. But play around with Seattle (which has a pretty dense transit infrastructure) and you can see the potential.

When this thing learns to help you jump from city to city (even within a region) it could really start to get some people riding the rails. For my geomatics students, what sort of information do you think is required to make this thing work? What do you imagine the algorithm looks like?

04 February 2007

Free Games

Maybe one of you can tell me how many of these are fun. As for me, I don't even have fun to download and play any of the top 101 free computer games online. I certainly don't have time to clean up my hard drive if they have virsues. Maybe late this summer...

The new Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi appears set to become the new design center of the Middle East. Especially as they work to turn Saayidet Island into a cultural Zanadu. As I read about the city, it is amazing to hear how quickly it is changing. One description said that there is no point in buying a map of the city, because none of them keep up.

Frank Gehry is going to build a 300,000 sq ft Guggenheim there.

Jean Nouvel has designed a museum to house art from the Lourve.

Zaha Hadid has designed a bridge connecting the city's island with the mainland. She has also designed a Performing Arts Center for Saayidet.

The NY Times lays out some of the details in "A Vision in the Desert". And Gridskipper provides some commentary.

03 February 2007

Let the weekend begin

Personally, the photography and imagery on the 'net is one of the great benefits of the World Wide Web. Here's a great set of photos from a professional photographer named Ned Kahn. It is a nice way to start the weekend.

A different spin on global warming

This weekend the media has ramped up their stories on global warming in the wake of the recent report by the world's top climate scientists reporting the certainty that global warming is caused by man. While the implications are many, here's one our remote sensing fans haven't braced for: Satellites are going to be speeding up. See, the changing outer reaches of the atmosphere will get just a little bit thinner. And without as many air particles in the way, those satellites will orbit a little faster. I assume that for some of them this will be a major issue and that for others it just means that their imagery or radio or TV connections will require some changes in programming.

Of the Top 10 Surprising Results of Global Warming, people will probably feel some (like increased hay fever and forest fires) more than others. But if this messes up GPS or Satellite TV broadcasts, well, you can bet that its impacts will be felt.

The Great Park of Orange County

While Ken Smith's winning entry on the Great Park of Orange County isn't as newsworthy anymore, the stories along the way are revealing about the landscape architect who some critics worried was too small time for such a large project.

Anyway, this weekend the NYTimes Real Estate Section ran a full half page story on the impact of Ken Smith and the park. The conversion of the old Marine base (where my brother-in-law spent a few years) has already led a developer to spend nearly $1 billion for land and infrastructure and Habitat for Humanity is reclaiming materials from the old military buildings that are being razed. Aside from impacting property values and new development, the park is clearly going to help create more public open space for Southern California.

The plan is quite urban for Orange County, which a generation ago was largely rural. Now, with more than three million people, it is the fifth most populous county in the United States.

These days, Mr. Smith said, everyone he meets in Orange County talks about the loss of open space. The great park, he said, is “a chance to give people back a chunk of what they’ve lost.”

And if that requires significant development around the park, Mr. Smith, a Manhattanite, isn’t complaining. “Having a little more density around the park,” he said, “means there will be more people to use it.”

In their preparation for one of the major parks of the world, the Great Park Conservancy has assembled short studies of many other parks and gardens. It is a nice list. For full disclosure, we should also mention that Rutgers' own Steve Handel is on the project team.

As an aside, a few years back we Ken Smith in as a guest speaker in the Speaker Series. The talk was great. Even though he was well known within LA, he wasn't nearly as widely known at the time. But the students who saw his talk could tell that this was a particularly special designer who just hadn't found that special job that would carry his reputation across disciplinary boundaries around the world. During his visit, we asked (of course) the 3 landscapes and his answers were:
Vaux le Vicomte,
Daitokuji, and
The Times also said somthing about the Earth heating up. Sort of a Good news, Bad News type day I suppose.

02 February 2007

Saying No! to McMansions in Edison

I don't know whether it will help with the teardowns or whether it will even hold up in court, but our nextdoor neighbor, Edison, NJ, has passed an ordinance limiting the size of new homes based on the lot size, reports the HNT. The problem is that floor area ratios often result in MORE suburban-looking developments, not less. Real cities like Hoboken and New Brunswick have homes that take up a significant portion of the lot without looking like a Vinyl Village. This will encourage evenly spaced houses with lots of extra lawn around them. The article includes some explanatory language that makes it clear what they were trying to do. They even limited height as part of the ordinance.

The ordinance also keeps tabs on the height of a house, restricting it to 35 feet from the original lot grade to the highest point of the structure.

"It's going to ensure we don't have any towering homes in a neighborhood of modest houses anymore," Tomaro said.

Edison is terribly close to New York's city limits, so maybe its time to consider a denser City-style model that lives up to the locale. But I applaud the effort to try a different approach than they were trying. The problem they are addressing is real, the solution just might not fit.

UPDATE: The Home News followed up with an editorial supporting the zoning change.

Sea Level Rise

Wow. The Star-Ledger ran a graphic today that shows areas of New Jersey that would be most impacted by sea level rise. It isn't clearly sourced, but I am assuming that their own mapping staff ran the analysis by taking a DEM and reclassifying those areas below the usual predictions of new levels.

Sure, the beach communities are going to get wet. I hear that it floods in Monmouth beach everytime it gets cloudy. And Atlantic City will be "elevation challenged". But look how far inland the impacts are on the Raritan. And Middlesex County is spending all that money on its new marina!

01 February 2007

The Public Health Movement

One of the key turning points in the public health movement came when London was suffering from deadly outbreaks of cholera. When cholera would hit a neighborhood, people would start dying within 48 hours of when they contracted the disease. But no one knew that the disease was waterbourne and coming from their wells. Dr. Snow was writing papers and using numbers to track the disease and show how it spread, but no one was listening. Then, one day, he used a map to tell the story of one specific neighborhood's outbreak. That map changed London's response to the disease and is still held up today as one of the more imporant maps (especially in lives saved and civilization changed) in the history of the world.

Stephen Johnson, author of Ghost Map, tells the story in just 10 lively minutes as a TED Talk. I've used Dr. Snow's map in my geomatics lectures for years, but have never told the story like this. The talk is especially fun since he tells his yarns of water-bourne intestinal diseases while his audience eats a lunch.