Kurt Menke, of Bird's Eye View, is contributing to a new FOSS4G related National Library of Medicine blog: Community Health Maps. The goal of the blog is to provide information about low cost mapping tools that can be used by community based public health organizations. Perhaps you’ve seen the potential uses of mapping in public health, but are overwhelmed by the technology and/or simply too busy to pursue it. I hope this blog will facilitate the use of GIS mapping for those that fall into this category. I also hope to support those already engaged in mapping and enhance their community mapping initiatives, even if they may be using other tools. The blog will be a mixture of mapping apps/software reviews, best practices, and the experiences of those who have successfully implemented a mapping workflow as part of their work. Training materials developed in 2013 are also available.
The Wildlands Network and friends met this last week in Salt Lake City to discuss TrekWest year 2. We were graciously hosted by Black Diamond Equipment. There were about 30 of us from 19 different organizations along the Western Wildway, aka the Spine of the Continent. John Davis was there to share his thoughts on his 10 month human powered journey to promote wildlife corridors. The focus was on protecting wildlife corridors. Stay tuned!
The summer and fall went by so quickly! Unfortunately this blog necessarily took a backseat to the actual work. Thankfully the holidays have given me time to reflect on 2013. Professionally it was a fantastic year filled with great projects. Below are some of the highlights, in no particular order.
- ~400 maps produced
- Modeled potential and suitable beaver habitat in New Mexico
- Traveled to Seattle, WA and Honolulu, HI to train people in an open source data collection workflow
- Taught the 5th installment of the Introduction to Open Source Software and Web Mapping at CNM...the best one yet!
- Attending FOSS4G NA in Minneapolis, MN
- Supporting the Wildlands Networks TrekWest with route maps
- Applied GIS to a wide variety of topics: wildfire, wildlife habitat protection, public health, wilderness proposals, travel management analysis, water rights, industrial noise, and parcel mapping.
I just returned from my favorite conference, The North American conference on Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G-NA). I know it's a mouthful. But it's a gathering of the brightest FOSS4G developers (aka geeks), and has a friendly atmosphere of collaboration and openness. It covered two and a half days and included: pre-conference workshops, multiple plenary sessions, five concurrent paper sessions, lightning talks, code sprints, a Gala Event, panel sessions, and birds of a feather sessions. It was my first time in Minneapolis since the inaugural 2003 Mapserver Users Meeting and it was nice being back.
One day standing in line for lunch I met two guys who were also in attendance 10 years ago, but we'd never met before. It was the guy in front of me and the guy directly behind me. We ended up eating together. What are the odds of that? It's those little moments of connection that make these events so much fun.
This year I noticed an even more distinct focus on web mapping technologies, and web development, than usual. With QGIS 2.0 just about to release it would have been great to hear a state of QGIS talk. I'd also really appreciate more sessions on spatial analysis. Maybe I'll need to sign up for one next time. After all there is more to geospatial than web development.
The opening plenary was one of the highlights. Erek Dyskant covered use of FOSS4G technologies behind the Democratic National Committee's recent presidential campaign. A stack of FOSS4G software was developed including PostGIS, QGIS and web services. This stack allowed access to current campaign related data in near real time to all nationwide staff. Field offices were then in a great position to prioritize door knocking and calling campaign, and maximize resources.
Another session of note had an educational focus with papers titled: The New Users, Adapting Web Mapping Curriculum to Open Source Technologies, and Building a Geospatially Competent Workforce with FOSS4G. This was especially interesting for me as I strive to keep my Introduction to Open Source GIS and Web Mapping course current in a rapidly changing field. I also heard valuable updates on MapServer, GeoServer, MapBox, OpenGeo, GDAL/OGR, Leaflet and OpenLayers 3.
The final session was a panel discussion on the use of FOSS4G in state and local governments. It was an interesting frank discussion. On one side it was about the political and bureaucratic hurdles in the way of organizations adopting FOSS4G. On the other were success stories of FOSS4G being utilized in state governments.
The Gala was held at the Mill City Museum in the ruins of the Gold Medal Flour mill on the Mississippi River. A gorgeous site. Seeing voluminous water is a treat coming from drought stricken New Mexico.
Plus I met a bunch of new folks! Kudos to the organizers for putting on another great show. It was a great conference!
END NOTE: If you're a geo-geek and into exercise you've got to get a Suunto Ambit. Here is the data from my walk back to the conference hotel from the Gala Event. I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor, but it still collects elevation, barometric pressure, GPS, elevation, speed, temperature etc., and allows export to KML. Oh and you can navigate with it and it has a compass.
The past week was spent conducting training sessions on how to use a low cost workflow for public health mapping in minority communities. Trainings were conducted at two sites. The first site was the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle, Washington. They are monitoring noise pollution in urban indian populations. The other Papa Ola Lokahi in Honolulu, Hawai'i. They are working on a community public health assessment. The workflow starts with data collection using iPhones/iPads, moves into working with the the data in QGIS and finally data presentation via GIS Cloud.
There is an ever expanding ecosystem of geospatial apps for iOS. For this project we are evaluating EPICollect and GIS Pro. EPICollect is a free app designed to collect point data with a custom form. GIS Pro is a very expesive app. However, with the price comes a very intuitive and robust data collection system.
Once data is collected QGIS is used to combine the data with other organizational datasets, conduct spatial analyses and prepare maps. GIS Cloud is being used for final online presentation.
One of the best parts of my job is working at home. This allows me to cook and eat whatever I need to, anytime I need to, take breaks etc... For this I am eternally grateful. However, like most GIS folks, I also work at a computer 40-50 hours a week. I've been doing this type of work for 15 years now and it has taken a toll on me physically. In fact the side effects of working at a computer all these years is a big part of why I made the change and adopted the Paleo lifestyle two years ago. I experienced a very gradual physical decline, with a suite of evolving and nagging aches and pains. Tennis elbow, stiff neck, sore wrists, numb fingers, tight shoulders became my everyday reality. I feel significantly better these days as a result of eliminating grains, legumes, dairy, sugar and industrial seed oils from my diet, and following Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint workout plan. The diet has reduced inflammation and the workouts have me moving again and getting stronger.
I'm still always looking for ways to improve my work space. I've used an ergonomic keyboard/ mouse tray for the last 4 years. I try and get up and walk around frequently too. Two years ago, I read this article in the New York Times. I've wanted an adjustable height desk ever since. I then started hearing all the news reports about how unhealthy it is to sit all day. For example, this piece aired on NPR and this blog post came up on Mark's Daily Apple. It's certainly not shocking news. However, it got me thinking about how much sitting I do between work all day, and lounging in the living room at night. I started realizing I not only want, but need, a desk that would allow me to stand at least part of the day.
I felt almost immediately that the GeekDesk would be the perfect fit. It was at the right price and it matches my existing office furniture. Just before the holidays I ordered my GeekDesk figuring I could use the break to get it set up, and tear the old one down. Originally, I ordered the GeekDesk v3 in the 47" width. I then realized the GeekDesk Max had a nice feature, it comes with a control pad that allows you to preset four desk heights. That same afternoon I changed my order to the GeekDesk Max in the same size. Once it arrived I realized that the wider one would work better taking into account my CPU hangar and my space. The folks at GeekDesk were very accommodating with all these changes to my order. In fact they have some of the best customer service I've ever encountered. In the end, they let me exchange just the parts that differed between the small and large desks - the table top and some braces.
I also purchased a CPU hangar to hold my computer underneath the desk. This keeps the computer with the desk as it raises and lowers. It was easy to install and works great with my HP workstation. I still need to either buy a new human scale keyboard tray or cut my existing keyboard track because it is too long to fit under the desk. Aside from that, my GeekDesk is now completely set up and works great. It will adjust from 23" to 48". I absolutely love it! It's been a seamless transition and it feels very natural to stand. I haven't gotten into any routine yet. I noticed though, that I seem to prefer standing in the morning while I'm reading and returning emails and surfing the web. Then while I'm working on more challenging tasks I tend to sit or use a stool. I now change the height of my desk half a dozen times a day!