Goodbye AAG

Dear AAG,

It’s not you, it’s me…

For the first time in eight years I will not be renewing my membership to the AAG.  It’s not that I’m moving away from my roots as a geographer, it’s that I really have no use for being a member of the AAG.  I’m no longer an academic geographer and I can’t justify paying for the general services they provide.  I haven’t attended an annual conference in a couple years, I barely skim the PG and Annals when I get my copy, and their jobs section leans heavily towards academic searches.  At this point I don’t have an active membership with GITA or URISA, my membership to AAG will expire soon, and I haven’t paid my dues to GTU in 7ish years…

Now, this brings up a larger question.  What is the point of being a member of these professional geo-societies?

Traditionally these organizations have provided a variety of “perks” to their members such as job listings, publications, the latest industry news, and hosting regional and annual conferences.  They also lobby on a number of topics (remember MAPPS), for their members and the greater industry.  However, I never find myself  going to these organizations for the latest news and industry trends, the best job listings, or attending their conferences.

So, what can a geo-professional do to stay “in the loop”, while saving a few hundred bucks?

  • Where do I go for my latest industry news?  I follow a number of these organizations on twitter and I read the industry blogs.  This avenue is much more active than the monthly newsletter.
  • What do I do for conferences?  Well, I go to the Esri User Conference, but I have found more value in attending a number of local GIS/spatial/technology conferences and meet-ups.  I tend to believe that smaller conferences and meet-ups have a much larger impact on their participants, as people tend to participate and contribute more in smaller, more focused groups. Side not: I know it’s larger than what I am talking about here but I’d like to go to FOSS4G someday.
  • If I need a job, where do I go to for the best listings?  Well, I’ve been out of the job search game for about two years now, but when I was searching, and when my friends are searching they are using Linkedin, following the GIS listserves (which seems a little old school now-a-days), and following the social networks.  Also, making those personal connections at the smaller conferences and meet-ups can’t hurt!
  • What about publications? As a reformed academic, part of me still wants to publish some of my more technical work (papers are coming in 2012!).  But, with many researchers having their own blogs and websites, much of the research is becoming freely available.  Even though many sites (including this one) may contain non-refereed material, more people have read through these websites than will ever read an academic journal.

The question still remains.  What is the the point of being a member of these organizations, or any geo-spatial industry group?  At this point I don’t believe any of them carry any weight.  Does being a member of these groups mean anything anymore?  Is there an organization worth being a member of that will actually help me professionally?

If you have the answer let me know (post a comment or retweet!).  I want to know!  These organizations may be great for many, but unless I’m convinced otherwise, I’ll be a geospatial free agent this year.


In Memoriam: Dr. A

It is with a heavy heart with which I write today’s post.  My mentor, as well as mentor and friend to many other geographers and educators, Dr. Kristi Alvarez, passed away on January 26th, 2012.  Dr. A, as she was affectionately known, had more influence on my education than any other teacher I ever had.  Not only was she was an expert in geography, geography education, GIS education, and spatial literacy, she was a great friend and mentor to countless people.

Her enthusiasm for geography, GIS, and education was contagious.  She literally opened up the world to her students.  During her time at Keene State she was well respected by her students as well as by faculty and staff. No, scratch that, her students loved her.   Her classes were always popular with both geography and non-geography majors and, as an award winning advisor to the Keene State geography club, she helped develop a tight-knit community of students who shared her passion for geography.  She was proud of her students and all of their accomplishments.  I think it is safe to say that we were all proud of her too.

I was fortunate to have several classes with Dr. A at Keene State, where she was also my teacher education advisor.  Late in the fall semester of my senior year I told her I didn’t want to student teach so that I could focus on becoming a geographer.  She sat me down in her office and we talked about this major decision well into the night.  I remember that she didn’t try to sway my opinion one way or the other.  She wanted me to do what was best and she was going to support my decision either way.  Once it was clear that I wasn’t going to student teach, she made sure my grad school applications got in the mail.  Six years later I completed my Ph.D. in geography and I credit her for helping me find out who I wanted to become.  To this day I have a picture of her and I from my graduation on a bookshelf in my office.  Without her guidance and wisdom I don’t know if I’d be where I am today.

We stayed in touch after I graduated, often going out to lunch or dinner at conferences.  I last saw Dr. A at the 2011 Esri User Conference.  We went out to dinner and we talked about life and geography.  She was excited about her work at the University of Redlands and all of the projects she was working on.  We talked about project ideas and future plans. As always she asked about my wife and invited us to come out and stay with her and her husband if we were to make it out to the west coast.  It was a good visit and now that I look back I’m glad it happened.

I was fortunate to have been her student and her friend.  Thank you, Dr. A.  We will all miss you.


For more info:
National Council of Geographic Education  – Remembering Kristi Alvarez
Keene State College Newsline – In Memoriam: Professor Kristi Alvarez





Map Geek Gifts!

Well, many of you may be like myself and have done little-to-no holiday shopping for your map enthusiast friends and family members.  Don’t worry, there still is time and there are plenty of great gifts out there to be had!  Here are a few recommendations for those easy-to-buy-for map geeks.

Visit a Map Store! If you are in the Boston area, check out WardMaps in Cambridge’s Porter Square.  They have an awesome selection of historical maps, map souvenirs, map coasters (my favorite) and T memorabilia.  They also have framing services as well for when you buy that historical map.

Giant Wall Maps are awesome – Whenever I fly this is always my favorite item in SkyMall.  I like to think of these as map FatHeads.  Oh wait, they have map FatHeads!

-Need some flexibility in buying a giant wall map?  Well, check out  Lots of cool maps are available and the buyer can select the size.  Take note, there is some installation required and they are not cheap.

Atlases are old school cool – Don’t have space for a giant wall map?  Tired of online mapping?  How about a huge atlas or a nerd atlas?

Globes are classy because they have no distortion- Not in the market for a giant map?  How about some mini-globes that would look great on a desk or bookcase?

Books – Does your map geek like to read (probably)?  How to Lie with Maps is on the shelves of many cartographers, geographers, and map enthusiasts.  Why Geography Matters is a great read, and for the collector, they would love an early edition of Arthur Robinson’s Elements of Cartography.

Strange Maps, the Book!  A collection of maps from the blog, Strange Maps.

Specialty maps, my favorite type of art – Does your map friendly friend have some empty space on their walls?  How about a unique wall map?  Check out my friend Jeff’s post on Very Spatial on some really awesome typographic maps from Axis Maps.

Puzzles!  L.L. Bean offers a hometown puzzle based on topo maps.  If you live in a topographically boring area this might not be a great puzzle, but the map geek would appreciate it.

Wear your maps – Tiestshirtssocks.  All the latest fashions!

Well, those ideas should get you started.  There are plenty of other map gifts out there, so if you know of any others post them in the comments section!  Happy holidays!

Site Updates

For those of you who visit my site regularly (who aren’t my mom) you will notice a few changes were made over the weekend:

  • Some of the appearances have changed, including new header images!  Exciting!
  • I fixed a couple broken data links on the mashup pages.  I moved data to my server, which might be slow at times.  I’ll rework the examples at some point to improve performance.
  • The GIS help page has been updated to include links to help pages that are on the site.
  • I removed a few mash-up example from the mash-up examples page  for a couple of reasons explained on the page.  I have a few new examples that will be published soon!
Be on the watch for more updates.  With the holidays coming up and a number of days off I’ll have some time to add new content!

Thanks and Good Luck, Map Room

For those of you who regularly read the Map Room you’ll notice that the blog is coming to an end.  I have been reading the Map Room blog for a few years and I have enjoyed the variety of topics covered, especially the book reviews, the blogs on maps from fiction, and maps as art.  In fact, I’ve made decisions on book purchases based on their book reviews.

I bought the rights to for ten years and if I can make it to five years and have a few hundred posts I’ll be really happy.  The Map Room existed for eight years and had over 4,000 posts!  Totally incredible!  I’m sure the map geek blogging world will miss the Map Room. Let’s hope that someone will step up to fill the void.  How about a new mapping blog called

Have fun at AAG!

The annual AAG meeting is being held this week in Seattle, Washington (April 12-16, 2011).  First of all, what is the AAG?  The AAG is the Association of American Geographers, an organization that represents both academic and professional (but mostly academic) geographers that has several thousand members from both the United States and abroad.

The annual AAG meeting is biggest geography meeting of the year, and I should know.  I have been an AAG member for close to ten years now, and I have presented at the AAG meeting several times.   The AAG meeting is like the discipline it represents; very diverse and multidisciplinary.  At the meeting you will have talks about feminist perspectives of geography, migration studies, land use/land cover analysis, environmental studies, qualitative analysis (I don’t go to those talks, I’m a numbers guy), location analysis, cartography, GIS and its thousand iterations, geomorphology, regional science,  radical geography (yes, that is a real sub-field of geography), geographic education, and much, much more.

Unnecessary side note: At the meeting in San Fransisco my friends and I saw a bait car get pulled over outside of our hotel.  It was like watching Cops, but from the fourth floor of a hotel.

Anyway, the AAG meeting is so big that people often get lost in the meeting schedule and end up missing out on some really good presentations.   At the meeting there are several thousand attendees, and thousands of presentations.  Why are there so many presentations?  Well, the AAG meeting is non-refereed, meaning that you submit a talk and in the inner workings of AAG someone will assign you to a time slot, hopefully in a session with somewhat related talks.  This process is aided by the many special interest groups that help organize the vast number of talks into a working schedule.

In my experience it is best to connect with other geographers (or interdisciplinary folks who secretly want to be geographers) who are in the same research field as you to form a session.  This method ensures that the people in the room during your talk know what you are discussing and hopefully find your work interesting.

Second unnecessary side note: At the Las Vegas meeting my friends and I went to Red Rock Canyon to watch the sunrise after a night a enjoying the town.  Definitely a place to visit when in Las Vegas.

It does takes some skill to navigate the schedule.  I believe you have to search the schedule for specific topics.  Using a general keyword like ‘GIS‘ will return a million different talks. Also, when searching for talks I would stick to sessions that are sponsored by the special interest groups you are a member of.  My biggest pet peeve about AAG (besides never having a place to sit in the lobby of the conference center) is to end up in a talk that has an awesome title and a good abstract but has painfully horrible content.

Alas, I will not be going to this year’s meeting.  Like many other geographers I will be attending a number of smaller and more technically specific meetings and one day conferences instead of the annual AAG meeting.  I tend to get more out of a smaller conference or one that is very technically oriented, rather than a large meeting where you are elbow-to-elbow with a 1000 undergrads in the book fair.

If you are in Seattle for the AAG meeting have fun.  While you are there check out the sites, catch up with some old friends and get a free drink at another school’s alumni party, get a good meal or two, and go watch a Mariners game. updated! is back up and running after a few technical difficulties (mostly me just messing around with the code). I’ve changed a few link names and reorganized some pages. I have also set the site up as a blog, which will enable me to update the site more frequently.

Let me know what you think. Comments are welcome.

Same site, new design, new content

Notice something new, and exciting?

You should!

If you have been to my site before you have either been looking for information regarding Google Map Mash-ups or information about earning a Ph.D. in a GIS related field. Well, you can see I changed things up a bit. I still have the information about GIS programing and a ton of code relating to Google Map Mash-ups, but I have incorporated the site as a blog. I feel this format will let me provide more information about a number of geospatially-related topics.

I’ll try to post once or twice a week. My posts will be on a number of topics that concern those of us who perform geospatial analysis day-to-day.