Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Governor's Run/Walk

ReadyI took part today in the Governor's Run/Walk event in Dover. This is part of the push to get state employees to live healthier lifestyles. It makes sense from a budgetary standpoint; healthier employees cost less in the long run in health insurance payments.

The event featured health-related displays, a station for getting your blood-pressure checked, and things like that. after very brief remarks from the Governor, there was a 5K run, a 5-K walk and a 1-mile fun-walk.

We started at a point on Kings Highway. Our route wound down several back streets and an alley and through Silver Lake Park. It was twice around a course to make the 5 kilometers.

I was among the walkers. At a point on our first circuit, the lead runner came through us, preceded by a motorcycle policeman.

I was not sure I would do the whole walk today. I spent the long week-end and Tuesday with a virus and a moderately high temperature. It seemed wise to start from the back and go easy. In the end, I did finish, and I enjoyed the walk.

My time (55:56, unofficially) was not great, but I was happy to have been able to take the walk.

At the end, there were oranges and bananas. We heard the winners honored. Then headed back to the office for one of the sweatier afternoons in recent state government history.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Restaurant Recommendation Chain-Post

I'm home sitting out a virus today, so it seems a good time to respond to NPR Junky's having tagged me for a "Best Places to Eat" meme. There are three steps.

1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you’re in.
nicole (sydney, australia)
velverse (kuala lumpur, malaysia)
lb (san giovanni in marignano, italy)
selba (jakarta, indonesia)
olivia (london, england)
ml (utah, usa)
lotus (toronto, canada)
tanabata (saitama, japan)
andi (dallas [ish], texas, united states)
todd (louisville, kentucky, united states)
miss kendra (los angeles, california, u.s.a)
jiggs casey (berkeley, ca, usa! usa! usa!)
tits mcgee (new england, usa)
joe (ne tennessee, usa)
10k monkeys (chattanooga, tennessee, usa)
big stupid tommy (athens, tennessee, usa)
newscoma (weakley county, tennessee, usa)
russ mcbee (knoxville, tennessee, usa)
atomictumor mrs eaves (oak ridge, tennessee, usa)
oh really? lissakay (oak ridge, tn, usa)
mark steel (knoxville, tn, usa)
swanky the swank pad (knoxville, tn, usa)
johnny dollar’s vault (baltimore, maryland, us of a)
NPR Junky (Wilmington, Delaware, USA)
Mike's Musings (Lewes, Delaware, USA)
2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.
Big Fish Grill is just outside of Rehoboth Beach. It is a simple place; bustling, friendly, comfortable with large portions of simple, well-prepared and fresh seafood and other dishes. They don't take reservations and by 5:30 on a typical Saturday afternoon, there are dozens of folks waiting outside. It is well worth the wait.

Striper Bites is in downtown Lewes. It is a small place, part bar and part restaurant with a short menu of great dishes. It is in an old and well-refurbished building that feels just right for a beach town.

The La Tolteca on Route 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth is a favorite place for comfort food. We know we can always get good Mexican food, inexpensively, from a friendly staff. Every time we eat there, we see people we know.

Tokyo Steakhouse is on Route 1 just south of Five Points. It is a traditional Hibachi-style restaurant but done to perfection. The building itself is so perfectly crafted that it stands out and stands for the craft of the chefs within. And it is great fun.

Nicola Pizza in downtown Rehoboth Beach is a part of that resort town's history at this point. Grotto Pizza may get more press coverage, but that's at least in part because it is a corporate entity. Nicola Pizza is still a family-run small-town pizzeria. And it has better pizza. And the Nicaboli.
3. Tag 5 others. This is the part I'm always a little bit uncomfortable about, but what the hey....
Chaplain Sam, a minister in Smyrna who also works in Elkton, MD. His should be a different perspective from mine.

Howard, of Delmar Dustpan, should be able to shed some light on a part of Sussex County I've not dined-out in.

Elbert (That’s Elbert With An “E”) is another western Sussex Countian who may also have some good western Sussex restaurant ideas.

Now, let us head out of state.

Tara Lynn Johnson is a writer in Pennsylvania, a place I may need to find a restaurant someday.

And Jon Mahaffie is a young man way out in Washington State who may or may not be a very distant cousin. In any case, he's the most distant blogger I could think of for this meme-tagging thing.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Half a Century Later...

The first digital image was created 50 years ago this spring at the National Bureau of Standards (now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST). It was a very small scanned photo of researcher Russell Kirsch's 3-month-old son Walden.

That was the first step in a journey that has led to on-line photo-sharing sites like flickr and to high-resolution aerial photography and to citizen journalism and an on-line explosion in the arts.

Of course, it also led to pervasive digital pornography and photo-shopped political frame-jobs.

But you take the good with the bad.

Lewes' Silent Protests are Heard in the New York Times

Those of us who live in Lewes have gotten used to the weekly silent protests that take place each Sunday afternoon at the intersection of Kings Highway and Savannah Road. Today, there's a New York Times article about them: Silence Speaks Volumes at Intersection of Views on Iraq War. (Reg. Req.)

Anti-war protesters began gathering for a silent vigil each week back in 2004. Eventually pro-war demonstrators started to counter them and, for a time, things were fairly ugly.
After the peace vigil began in 2004, a group of counterprotesters began convening across the street. Some of the younger members of that group brought a radio and blared John Philip Sousa marching songs and patriotic music like “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Occasionally they yelled unkind things through a megaphone. At one point, fish guts and manure were strewn along the grass where the peace vigil meets.
Eventually, though, the pro-war side thinned out to one very faithful, but very polite gentleman. He is occasionally joined by others, but the ugliness is gone.

Tommywonk has picked up on one of the central points about this story; that it is possible to disagree civilly with each other about this war. I think that when you find someone on the other side of the question whose beliefs are deeply held, and honestly tested, you generally find the ability to disagree with grace.

I was struck by another aspect of the story. The Times noted that it is appropriate for this sort of protest to take place in a small town, since, it says, small towns have borne the brunt of war casualties.
About half of American military casualties in Iraq have come from towns with fewer than 25,000 residents. Among rural states, Delaware has the second-highest death rate, with 60 deaths per million military-age people, according to an analysis by William O’Hare of the Carsey Institute, a rural research center based at the University of New Hampshire, which has studied the demographics of soldiers fighting in the war.
Of course, we need to bear in mind that this is a rate of deaths, and not an actual number. Delaware's population is still less than million. Still, it is sobering and it led to me to a little searching to see how many Delawareans have lost their lives in this war. According to a casualty database from (I think) the AP and linked from the News Journal Site, 14 men and women who called Delaware home have died. I'm sure there are others whose home state was no loner Delaware, but who have family and friends here.

And this is a good say to point out that even though I oppose this foolish war, and think we were wrong to invade Iraq, I honor these men and women and all the men and women who serve our nation. That our President has made a terrible mistake is not their fault; in fact they suffer the consequences of that mistake and do their best every day to make it right.

Today, as every day, they will be in my thoughts.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Two Good Ideas in One in Wilmington

The City of Wilmington is starting a pilot program to reduce the number of cars in their "city car" inventory and to reduce the environmental impact of those cars that city employees do drive.

According to a story in the News Journal yesterday, the city will replace a number of the cars in its fleet with hybrid ride-share vehicles. They'll use cars from PhillyCarShare, one of a number of ride-sharing businesses that have popped up in cities in the last few years. My eye is always drawn to the ZipCar ads when I ride the Washington Metro.

It's not an approach to transportation that is likely to work where I live (small-town, long commute), but if I ever get myself settled in a city somewhere, I'll hope to take part in a ride-share program.

I think this makes great sense for government agencies in which staff don't have to have a car or truck available on-call at all times. Most of us government workers can plan any trips we must make far enough in advance that shared transportation works well.

The other part of this story, of course, touches close to home. For six years now I've been a proud Prius driver. And I take this opportunity to repeat that it is not to save money on gasoline that I drive a Prius; I want to reduce the emissions I cause. My Prius helps me do that.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Here's a Movie I'd Really Like to See

A new documentary about the life of Joe Strummer has opened over in England. I'm not sure if it is out yet here in the US. The film is called The Future is Unwritten, and it looks fascinating.

Joe Strummer was a guitarist and front man for one of my all-time favorite rock bands, the Clash, who helped me define my youth.

As I have written before, I remain a Strummer fan. He was at the heart of the great Punk Rock explosion of the 1970s, but he transcended that genre; he was a classic rock rebel and cultural revolutionary.

I think it is telling that one of his last recordings was a duet with Johnny Cash, singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

I still carry Joe Strummer's voice in my head. It seems comfortable there with Jerry's guitar sound.

Will we see this film down at Movies at Midway? Or will there remain three screens of Spiderman 3?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Birds In Dover

Hit the BricksWalking in downtown Dover today, I came upon a tiny bird sitting quite still and all alone on the brick sidewalk of Loockerman Street -- at the quiet end, where there is less foot traffic.

It looked like this bird had just taken its first flutter out of the nest and failed to take flight. It seemed stunned.

In the tree above, an adult bird was squawking away on a lower branch. I assume that that was a parent, trying to distract me away from the young bird.

I thought it best to give them space, so I cannot report to you what the outcome was.

Donuts and DucksOn a more positive note, I found a pair of ducks a few days ago taking full advantage of human activity.

This pair was hanging out beneath the drive-though window of a Dover Dunkin' Donuts.

This isn't where I would have expected a lot of crumbs to fall, but they must know what they are about; the young woman selling coffee and donuts told me that they are often around.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Views From an Observation Tower

Created with Paul's flickrSLiDR.

Yesterday I climbed the Observation Tower at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park and took a 360-degree set of views from the top.

The tower is one of a network that stood sentry along Delaware's Atlantic coastline during World War II. They were used to watch for enemy warships and direct coastal defense battery fire should an enemy appear. The system was never called into action, though I believe at least one German U-Boat surrendered at Lewes at the end of the war.

This is the only tower that is still open to the public.

I started facing more or less west and took a photo through an opening in the chain-link fencing that keeps people from going over the edge of the tower. I took a wide side-step to my right and took another. Took another step and another picture. And so on, around the tower.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I Doubt This Will Surprise Those Who Know Me...

...But it appears that I am an "Information Technology Omnivore," according to an on-line tech-use survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The survey is part of a Pew study, A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users, which attempts to describe the many different ways that we use our suite of information technology tools. According to the Pew study, "85% of American adults use the Internet or cell phones – and most use both." On the other hand, about half of Americans "have a more distant or non-existent relationship to modern information technology."

In other words, many have the tools and many use them, but only a small percentage are really comfortable in an on-line world.

It looks like I am one of this group, about 8% of the American public. The Omnivorous Tech Users are described as embracing the connectivity provided by technology to enhance their work lives and personal lives:
Members of this group use their extensive suite of technology tools to do an enormous range of things online, on the go, and with their cell phones. Omnivores are highly engaged with video online and digital content. Between blogging, maintaining their Web pages, remixing digital content, or posting their creations to their websites, they are creative participants in cyberspace.
I don't exhibit all of the characteristics of this group. I don't create video content very much and I don't IM or text message beyond what is required to keep tabs on a teen-age child. And I am well outside one of the key demographic characteristics: "The median age is 28; just more than half of them are under age 30."

I do feel old some days.

Ironically, two co-workers and I explored this same territory in a slightly different way yesterday. We had all heard keynote speaker Don Cooke talking about Second Life at the recent Delaware GIS Conference. That led to a discussion of on-line communities and some of the skills needed to maintain and grow them. I've been thinking about this a fair amount lately, in relation to my work with Delaware's GIS Community, and the National GIS Coordinators group (NSGIC) both of which are partly on-line.

Dave wondered aloud which world, the physical or the on-line, was, in fact, reality. We briefly considered the theory proposed in the film The Matrix (the first one), that what we perceive as reality is in fact a simulated, virtual reality dream world constructed and maintained to keep the entire human population in a state of subjugated sleep.

We skipped the obvious contemporary political implications of this thought and turned briefly to Plato's allegory of the cave in which what humans perceive as reality is in fact only the shadows of a puppet show cast on the wall of a cave in which they are prisoners (/oversimplification of complex philosophical thought).

At that point we realized that once you've pursued a thought back to Plato's cave, it's probably time to move on to something else.

As I write this blog entry, it occurs to me that one could rewrite Plato's allegory in modern terms with the Internet as the cave and blogs and web 2.0 things creating the shadows.

But there is a sunny Saturday morning outside and the grass needs to be cut. The library needs to be walked to. The state park is hosting a kayak expo.

I may be an Information Technology Omnivore, but I know when it is time to shut down the laptop and head outside.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More Bragging About My Niece(s and Nephews)

Back in January I did a little bragging about Jenna, my brother Jim's eldest. She's a swimmer, and a good one.

This week, she was exhibiting some of her art work at the Arts Festival at Walt Whitman High School. It looks like she's a pretty good artist too.

Jenna's Mom is an artist and Jim, who now makes his living as a writer, was also a pretty good graphics guy in high school. I have a memory of going to see his work at the same school some 25 years ago.

Most of my large family was able to attend the arts festival this week (I'm the only one who has moved out of state). My mother tells me that a friend of Jenna's asked her the other night if she had much family at the festival. Jenna reportedly just gestured at the large crowd that was gathered around.

Jenna is part of the latest generation of Mahaffies on the east coast. There are 17 of them, ranging in age from 4 to 32 years old. They are talented baseball players, lacrosse players and swimmers, musicians and singers, writers, horse riders, and dancers. The few that are already adults are a writer, an actor, an activist and a museum curator.

My brother-in-law Lou took this picture (I'd asked Jenna to send us a photo). I'm hoping Jenna will share some of her titles with us in the comments.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Examples of Grace #32

I saw a note on-line about a woman who has died and who wanted no funeral or memorial service. She asked only that her obituary should suggest that people "take a friend to lunch."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Millsboro's Quiet Place

WelcomeI found a peaceful spot in downtown Millsboro this evening. St. Mark's Episcopal Church, at State and Ellis Streets, has a lovely labyrinth and garden.

It is a nice spot. Just off the main drag through town and quiet enough, but with a hint of the sound of kids playing a block or so away at the Little League park.

I've also walked the labyrinth at Old Christ Church, in Dover. I think that St. Peter's, here in Lewes, has a portable labyrinth that they put out from time to time. I'm sure there are others.

A labyrinth is a fine aid to meditation and prayer. It helps focus the mind. I was impressed by the surrounding garden at St Mark's, which added a touch of natural reverence to the experience.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

For Karen, Mom, Baba, My Sisters, My Sisters-in-Law and Moms Everywhere


Happy Mother's Day!

I was trying to think what to do for a Mother's Day post. I toyed with presenting facts for the day from the US Census Bureau. Or a collection of photos tagged with "mom" from flickr. But it seems best to simply talk about some of the moms I know.

My mom is Judy Mahaffie. She was born Judith Farrar, one of three children of Roberta Farrar, the daughter of Susan Becker.

I never knew Susan Becker. But I remember my Granny, as we knew Roberta Farrar, teaching me card games as a child. She moved to live near us towards the end of her life and was a part of activities with my mother when we were small.

I also remember being taken to lunch by both of my grandmothers at that time. I remember my brother Matt and I riding in the back of Granny's car with Grandma, my father's mother, in the passenger seat.

Grandma was born Isabel Cooper, daughter of James Cooper and Honora Cooper (born Honora Henry) in Seattle Washington. She was raised in New York City and worked as an artist starting in the 1920s (or maybe earlier). She traveled with scientific expeditions painting watercolor pictures of their finds. This was before color photography.

My father has collected and published her letters to and from my Grandfather, who lived in Washington DC, over the several years of their courtship. But that's a story for another day.

Grandma was known in our neighborhood as "Groovy Granny." She always had cool cars and dressed with style. Her home was filled with art and inspiration. Her baby grand piano now sits here in my home.

The mom at the center of my life now, of course, is the lovely Karen, mother of my daughters and sometimes den mother to the younger teachers she works with. Karen is patient and inspiring. Though neither she nor they will readily admit it, she is doing a wonderful job raising two delightful, bright and creative young ladies.

Karen's mom is Christina Hudack. She raised three girls and serves as Baba to six grandchildren. She was born Christina Stongosky, daughter of another Christina Strongosky, who came to this country from eastern Europe and made a strong impression on her grandchildren as a determined little woman.

She also left us a smattering of Slavic language that still crops up in this otherwise Irish household.

Moms are important. They are the strongest links in the chains of parenting that connect us with our past.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Boat Rowed Around It

A fellow affiliated with the Delaware Museum of Natural History is about to start on an intriguing adventure. John Wik plans to row a small rowboat around the Delmarva Peninsula as an educational adventure and to raise awareness about the museum.

It is called A Delmarva Odyssey (WARNING: embedded and apparently unstoppable video).

Mr. Wik will leave from the City of New Castle this week and row down the Delaware River, through the Delaware Bay, around Cape Henlopen, down the Atlantic Coast, around Cape Charles, up the Chesapeake Bay, through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, and back to New Castle.

Not all in one go. He plans to do a few days a week, stopping along the way to record video lessons about the region and its ecology for school children. The Delmarva Odyssey site already has a few videos up detailing plans for the trip, the equipment, and some basic information about the region.

I'm ashamed to say I missed Molly Murray's story on this trip from a few days ago (A Delmarva trek, from bay to bay). I learned about the Odyssey from the Delmarva blog Shore Things (which I only just discovered).

According to Molly's story, the trip was to have started tomorrow, Mother's Day. The Odyssey web site, however, gives Tuesday, May 15 as the starting date. I imagine it may have been changed for various logistical reasons in the nearly two weeks since Molly's story came out. I know the last thing I would want to do on Mother's Day is start a major me-centric adventure. Better to wait a few days.

I hope to track this trip. The News Journal appears poised to offer regular updates, and I will return to the Odyssey web site from time to time. It would be helpful if there were regular text updates from the Odyssey site, and not just the collections of videos that appear planned. An RSS feed would be helpful, as would a schedule of whens and wheres so those of us inclined to could go on-site for a look.

When, for example, will Mr. Wik be passing my town of Lewes?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Sometimes I Like to Join the Crowd

Originally uploaded by murf_90I joined in a worldwide "all take a photo at the same time" event today.

The project, ShutterClock, was the brainchild of Ronan Murphy, who is finishing his college career (I think somewhere in the UK).

That's Ronan on the left there, in his entry into his own project, which he describes fairly simply:
We want people to come together as a simple community divided only by distance to globally capture their world at an organised time. In return we will see galleries of images from all over the world, taken at the same moment but from their point of view.
I learned about this idea from the flickr blog this morning. It sounded like fun. All I really had to do was keep my camera by me at the end of the afternoon and keep an eye on the clock. The project was set for people to take their photos at 8:00 p.m. GMT (4:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time).

As it turned out, my photo was of a prosaic "afternoon in the office" sort of moment.

Almost the End of the Work Day

That's my keyboard and screen, with the agenda for a meeting I'm hosting on Monday morning on the left.

I uploaded my photo to the ShutterClock group at flickr. Some folks sent pictures directly to the ShutterClock site, where there are a selection of the photos. There was even a phone number to facilitate submission directly from camera phones.

Sometimes it's fun to be a small part of something larger.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Simple Rule

Two stories on the News Journal web site this morning crystallized a thought that's been taking shape in my mind for a while now: Don't be a Jackass.

In the first story, a group of University of Delaware students are in some trouble for dressing up in costumes for a Cinco de Mayo party that seem to have been inspired by the worst possible racist stereotypes of Latinos. Photographs ended up, as they tend to do, on-line. Local Latino groups were not amused.

To their credit, the students appear to realize that they were being jerks, and have apologized.

The second story is that of attorney Richard Abbott, who has been reprimanded by the Delaware Supreme Court for "undignified or discourteous conduct." He submitted a brief in one of his many lawsuits comparing a board of appointed citizens to a group of monkeys:
"A citizen board does not mean that its members are given license to ignore the legal standards which govern their decisions. Otherwise the county would be permitted to appoint a group of monkeys . . . and simply allow the [county] attorney to interpret the grunts and groans of the ape members." (This quote from Mr. Abbott's brief is from the excellent Delaware Grapevine coverage of this story)
Attorney Abbott is loudly complaining the reprimand is a product of political correctness and violates his free speech rights. He says he broke no laws.

That's true, but he was being a jerk and I think that the court is within its rights to reprimand a member of the bar for being a jerk.

My new golden rule comes from a novel I read recently. I read widely and shallowly, for sheer pleasure, and so can't recall what the novel was, nor who the author. But I do remember that the novel was set in a small town that a sheriff had successfully policed for decades by holding everyone to one simple rule: Don't be a Jackass.

We all have free speech rights. But we also have a responsibility to not be jerks about it. We're not five-year olds, though we often sound like it.

There are, as I write this, about 100 reader comments on the UD/Cinco de Mayo story on the News Journal web site. I sampled a few earlier in the day. Based on the comments left on the News Journal web site -- on this story and on others I've read lately -- the readers of that paper, at least on-line, are mean, racist, xenophobic, and largely anonymous.

And, being anonymous, they feel free to violate that first principle of civilized society: Don't be a Jackass.

Now, That's an Alumnus

John Miner turned 100 years old this past Sunday. The Calais, Maine, resident is a retired dentist. He graduated from Colby College in 1929, two years before my father was born and 55 years before I graduated from Colby.

Dr. Miner was already wicked old (as we used to say) when I was a student at the small college in central Maine. Think of the changes he's seen.

As a boy he played with the young Prince who would some day be the King of Siam. He knew Roy Rogers. He only ever bought General Motors cars, starting with one he bought from one of the first auto dealerships in the state of Maine.

Right now he owns his 63rd and 64th GM cars.

What is his secret to long life?
"I never ever went on a diet in my life. I eat anything. I joke about it that it has to stand still long enough for me to take a bite, and as far as exercise, the only kind of exercise was when I had to attend gym classes at Colby College."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Karen Was Right

When we're out on the road, and some other driver is being an aggressive jerk, Karen always warns me against going macho/testosteronial with the admonition "you don't know; he may have a gun."

As it turns out, she is right. An aggressive jerk driver was arrested by state police today.
A loaded handgun and prescription drugs were found in his car, according to police.
The drugs were Valium. If only he'd had a few, he might not have been so aggressive.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Another Delaware Blogger in the News

Justin Kates, who blogs from the University of Delaware and about his avocation -- combining amateur radio and homeland security work -- is a subject of a story in the News Journal this morning.

The story, 19-year-old heads state's ham radio emergency corps, is part of a News Journal investigative series on Delaware's use of federal Homeland Security grants.

I am interested in this series. I do a fair amount of work with the state's Homeland Security agencies. Geospatial data is a key element in the information systems that support crime prevention and investigation, emergency management and Homeland Security. And it is the case that some of the federal grant funding that Delaware receives is helping to support the maintenance of important geospatial data sets.

In my view not enough federal Homeland Security grant funding is being used for geospatial data, of course, but that will be the subject for another day.

I was also interested in the story because I know Justin, not only as a fellow blogger but as a skinny, bright kid several years ahead of my eldest in school. I used to see him at school events and I still see his sister, who is between my two girls in age.

The News Journal questions why we have a 19-year old in charge of the Delaware Communications Corps. That may be a fair question. It is true that Justin Cates is a mature young man, and I have no doubt about his passion and intelligence. But it does seem unusual.

On the other hand, we do have a tradition of organizing ourselves on an ad-hoc basis. Our fire protection is handled (and very well) by a large number of mostly volunteer fire companies who carefully guard their autonomy, but generally work well together to help protect our safety.

My own Delaware Geographic Data Committee owes its existence in part to legislation that enables it, but more to the fact that I say, and a sufficient number of GIS leaders in state and local agencies say, that it exists.

This isn't necessarily a bad way to do some things. An informal, collegial organization can be quite effective. There does come a point, however, where that organization must become more formal in order to continue to be effective.

The question is: what parts of the Homeland Security effort have reached that point?

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A Road Runs Through It

There's a new study published in the journal Science that looks at roadless space in the continental United States. It finds the remarkable fact that no point in the continental US is more than 22 miles from some sort of road.

The Science magazine website is by subscription, but the abstract of the study, Roadless Space of the Conterminous United States, notes that the authors have created a new way to measure roadlessness:
We introduce a metric, roadless volume (RV), which is derived from the calculated distance to the nearest road. RV is useful and integrable over scales ranging from local to national. The 2.1 million cubic kilometers of RV in the conterminous United States are distributed with extreme inhomogeneity among its counties.
The map image above shows RV by County. The scale ranges from high RV areas, shown in blue, where there are more areas without roads, to low RV areas, in red, where there are more roads.

Discovery News presents a longer overview of the study (Roadless Space Uneven Across U.S.) which discusses the relationship between this new measure of roadlessness and habitat fragmentation, and notes that the study found that, in some areas, we seem to build roads in the wrong places:
And when the scientists compared the roadless space with the number of people in a given area, they sometimes found a mismatch: that is, too many roads for too few people.
The study's abstract, by the way, offers a lovely example of scientific obfuscation. That poetic phrase "distributed with extreme inhomogeneity" means, I think, "not in any regular way that this highly trained scientist can see."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Tom's Dark Epiphany

Tom's Dark MomentShortly after inventing his Edison Recording Machine, Tom sat listening to a wax cylinder of music.

All of a sudden, the years opened before him. He heard generations of recorded music: symphonic, impressionist, minstrel singers and crooners, blues both country and urban, worksongs, jazz, rock and roll, country pop, jam-bands and hiphop.

He heard and saw a musical future enabled by his own inspiration and work.

Then he saw a singing contest, judged by a strange trio: a clownish bear, a trained seal, and a dyspeptic clergyman. He saw democracy harnessed to this contest; its voter participation outstripping any actual election.

A title appeared in his mind's eye: American Idol. And he wept.

The Title Should Be Ours....

There is a National Chicken Cooking Contest. Delaware's entry is the author of the Wilmington food blog The Shell Pot; she is also a part of the life of Richard Koehler, our own Honest Hypocrite.

Watch Rich's blog for regular updates.

It seems evident to me that, if there is a national contest around the cooking of chicken, Delaware should always win. Otherwise, why am I eating chicken at every statewide event I attend?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Statewide GIS Conference

Coffee BreakWe are hosting a statewide conference for the users of GIS tools and geospatial data in Delaware this week. It is called Delaware GIS 2007: Serving Communities.

I should probably take a moment to explain GIS. The acronym stands for Geographic Information System, the combination of the map and the database. We use information about where things are to create what we refer to as "geospatially intelligent" information.

My job is to encourage the use and sharing of geospatial information in Delaware. The annual GIS conference is a big part of that.

Most of the credit for putting on this show, this year and every year, is due to the other folks on the Conference Planning Committee; but I get to play EmCee each year to all the state, local, academic, and private sector GIS folks in Delaware. It's a job I love.

The Conference started today with a series of technical workshops. While those were going on, we were getting ready for the main day of the conference and helping our exhibitors get set up. This evening, we hosted a social as a way of getting our exhibitors a bit more face-time with local GIS users.

Tomorrow we'll have about 200 attendees at the Dover Sheraton Inn. We start with a main session featuring awards and a Keynote address. We'll have workshops and presentations, a big lunch, more workshops and presentations, time with our exhibitors, and a closing session featuring another keynote and door prizes.

It will be exhausting, but during a long, long day I'll have a chance to catch-up with lots of folks doing great work. I'll see some of them honored by their peers. We'll inspire each other. We'll laugh and have fun.

I love my job sometimes.