Google Maps and Geographical Education

When I was a young lad, I read everything that Tom Clancy had to write. One book in particular was Red Storm Rising which was a door-stop of a novel envisioning what a Cold War turned Hot War European conflict would look like. It had many settings ranging from Germany (land invasion of NATO by USSR), to the arctic regions of Russia/USSR (naval conflict) to Iceland to the Atlantic Ocean.

During my initial read and subsequent re-reads of this novel I often wished I had a good map and globe so that I could see the geography described and understand the distances and geogrpahic barriers. I didn’t know where Keflavik was, or Murmansk, or any of the small German (then West German) towns where fighting was envisioned; I had to just move on in my head an concentrate on the story.

Now we have Google Maps. Which is wunderbar! Now you can zoom to any particular level to envision the conflict. You can look at the roads leading into towns and understand why it was a problem that the Soviets broke through there. You can see the distance from the north coast of Russia to Moscow. You can appreciate the Sea Lanes and why they’re important to a NATO task force escorting convoys. Google Maps allows for a geographic understanding that simply was not possible when I grew up in the 80′s.

I love it. Thank you Google.

Recently, I was reading the 1632 series by Eric Flint and Google Maps helped me to situate in my head the regions in Europe under discussion. Today, I was looking at Crimea because of the news from the Ukraine. Last week I was examining the route of the Iditarod. A few months ago I finally grokked the path that climbers use to ascend Mt. Everest. Last year I was reading about the Lewis and Clark expedition. Two years ago I was re-reading the Dies the Fire series by S.M. Stirling which has many important geographic components in the Pacific Northwest.

Google Maps has done more to increase my geographic sufficiency than pretty much anything, ever. I hope that schools are using these tools accordingly.

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Recipe Database App Wish

I have a dream. My dream is for a recipe database or app that lets you input ingredients, then spits out recipes based on those selections.

“Dummy! That’s what Google is for!” you exclaim.

Ah, but I want a bit more than that. I want it to give me recipes that only include those ingredients. Too many times I’ve gone to Google and typed in, “chicken breast, can of tomatos, celery” and gotten recipes that indeed use those ingredients…plus foie gras or something similarly not-in-my-cupboard. I want a database that helps me creatively use the items that are hanging in the pantry. I’m ok if it says, “By the way, if you happen to have green beans, you could make this!” but I want it to begin at the basics.

I could see some add-ons to this wish list such as you tell it the types of sundries that are always in your house. For example, the day we don’t have spaghetti around is the day we’re eating the neighbors. Similarly with a wide range of herbs and spices, flour, sugar, corn starch, etc.

I think this would be really useful to new cooks who need the assistance to get going and are uncomfortable just making shit up. I am very comfortable just making shit up, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something especially appealing that could be made with those ingredients that I’ve never considered.

So, somebody get on this. I’d pay for it.

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On the Go

I’m just going to leave this here and note that if you can’t find time to record at home, you’ll find time to record elsewhere. Thank god for portable digital recorders.

2014-02-04 12.33.31

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Kerfuffles at SFWA

There’s been two different, related, dramatic incidents going on recently dealing with people surrounding the science fiction/fantasy realm of fiction. I’m going to talk about only one of them. For the other, see here.

For the first, read this, so I don’t have to write a summary. I’ll wait.

When I first came across the Truesdale Petition, I skimmed it just to see what was going on, then I got to the bottom and found the list of co-signers (I’m assuming they’re approved names or by now they’d be off the list). Anyhow, I got to the list and was deeply disappointed to see some of the sci-fi and fantasy authors I most admire stuck on there. This made me think two things: 1) They just weren’t on board with the latest generation or 2) I didn’t fully understand the issues.

I think it’s a relevant observation, without over generalizing that (if you do some quick research) you find the average age of the identified participants on the Truesdale petition is 69, and the median age is 71. I couldn’t find ages for Cyd Athens or Lillian Csernica, and I suspect they would pull those numbers downward1.

And, I think it’s a relevant question to ask: Why does this group who is generally older2 than the average active SFWA member or former member oppose editorial review of a publicly accessible publication? They may have legitimate concerns about the path of the organization or the editorial process in question, but I question whether they actually read Truesdale’s petition thoroughly, or the response from Steven Gould, the president of the SFWA.

I am not a member of SFWA. I will doubtfully ever be a published fiction author, but I am a consumer of fantasy and science fiction and moreover I am a human person who respects that women and non-white-men have a good reason to feel marginalized inside the genre. It’s getting better, but it is not yet good. This is what makes me qualified to comment on this issue.

I think the SFWA is going through some serious, public, growing pains but the transparency of this argument speaks well of the process because at the end of the day, people will know who said what, and the ability of potential new members of the organization to evaluate whether it is a club, or a professional organization will only strengthen it. In the short therm, this may present a marketing problem to the officers and staff of SFWA, but I’m confident that the organization will end up in the right place.

Again I don’t want to over-generalize, or tar an entire age group with the same brush, but if a self-selected group is outside the average age range for a set of their peers, there’s something there. Call it generational, call it cultural, it’s still something.

  1. If we assume they’re both 40, the minimum age on that list, then the numbers are 67/70 []
  2. Huge assumption that I’m comfortable making. []
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The Progression of the Day

There was some Working from Home mixed in with all this. See last post.
Sleeping like a...well you know.
This is Fun!
Backyard
I'm not SLEEPY!

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Working from Home

Icy Driveway

As we are in the midst of Atlanta Snowpocalypse II: The Bride of Snowpocalypse, neither Jenn nor I have gone to work for two days. This was anticipated on both sides with Home Depot closing their offices yesterday and half of today and my work basically telling me to “be smart” and “work from home as much as possible.”

That work from home as much as possible has been interesting. You may recall that I no longer have an office and while the current arrangement sharing an office/guest room with Jenn works, it doesn’t work well when I need to spread out a bit and do, you know, actual work work. Work for which I am paid.

This wouldn’t be an issue in days past because I’d just set up in the living room or dining room and go to town. Alas, there’s this baby-sized distraction named Griffin who desires attention and care. It would be much easier if I could say, “Woman! Care for the bambino while I manfully earn our living!” Except her response would be, “Bastard! I earn half this living and get over here and change this diaper!” Then she would withhold marital relations for a month.

Suffice to say that while I am working these two snow days, I can’t call them exceptionally productive.

Besides, there’s an adorable baby.

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A Couple Quick Notes for Amazon

I have turned into an electronic reader. I almost exclusively read books on my iPhone and e-reader now1. I have a Kindle, therefore I use Amazon as my primary source for ebooks. Amazon makes it quick and easy2 to buy books and deliver them to your devices. But they’ve got some serious work to do if they want to be the leader in ebooks.

For one, here’s text from their help site, with my emphasis:

Loan a Kindle Book from Manage Your Kindle
You can loan eligible Kindle books to a friend from the Manage Your Kindle page.

In the Actions menu, select Loan this title. If Loan this title is not an option, lending is unavailable for the title.

So, I can loan books&ellip;unless I can’t.

That reminds me of this infographic about pirating movies vs. paying for them. If you don’t make it easy to use the property we just bought, we’ll just steal it.

So, instead of “loaning” this book through the Kindle library, I’ll probably strip the DRM from it and just email a mobi copy of the document to the friend to whom I want to loan it. Therefore you’re not doing your job, Amazon. Or, perhaps, you’re not doing your job, Random Publishers. This is my book and I will loan it to who I damn well please. By restricting my ability to do that, you’re just guaranteeing an additional uncontrolled electronic version out in the wild.

Another thing, Amazon, just as a quick improvement, please let us send the Kindle version of a purchased book to all devices with one button push. I hate having to do it three times for the iPhone, the Kindle, and the reader on my PC.

Thirdly, there’s a huge gap in the experience of readers that no one has addressed yet: The Browse.

I’m used to, and so is everyone else, going to a bookshelf and just running my eyes over the spines or covers and eventually selecting something. I do this at home, and at the bookstore3 but I can’t do it with my ebooks. The ability to do this would greatly enhance my ebook experience and I would pay for that. Off you go, whomever.

Anyway. Amazon, until you get your act together an put some usability analysis on your kindle site, I’ll keep using Calibre, and I think you know what that means.

  1. A few years ago I stated that I was making the transition but didn’t see me ending my paper book purchases. However having an entire library on my iPhone is just…awesome. There’s no other word for it. Whereever I go, I have books. []
  2. For some values of “easy” which I’m addressing here. []
  3. Although, see footnote 1 []
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First Food

Hello

Griffin got his first solid food tonight. By “got” I mean we pushed some into his mouth with a spoon whereupon he mostly mushed it around and spit a lot out. Perhaps some got swallowed.

I call it a good first attempt.

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Baby Proofing

Baby stuff is like Wedding stuff: it’s both expensive and marked up due to the specialized nature.

I'm Standing!

Griffin is standing himself up now by holding on to things and also crawling around like a maniac, therefore it’s time to make some things in the house less dangerous to his still clumsy self.

Things like the corners of our coffee table. Which are nasty enough for adults, much less small children.

Baby Proofing

But I mentioned that baby stuff is expensive. TOO expensive, to my taste. At least for things that can be made with a bit of ingenuity. For example, a visit to The Home Depot and wandering through the aisles can yield surprising brainstorms. Such as these:

Baby Proofing

From these less-than-a-dollar babies can come this!

Baby Proofing

Of course, I can’t promise that we’ll leave these on forever. They are a bit white-trashy. However, you can’t beat the price of a pack of sponges and some duct tape. And if we get sick of those, we can always go to Walmart and buy some hoity-toity edge cushioning (after I clean the duct tape residue off the coffee table.

That’s not the end of the baby treatment I got from The Home Depot. No, we also have a deathly stone hearth that is guaranteed to send a toppling baby to the ER for stitches. That was my primary reason for wandering Home Depot because they really don’t make things that would cover the edges and faces of the stone hearth in the manner I wanted. I came up with this:

Glorious Hearth Wrapping

That’s counter and/or shelf rubber matting and white duct tape. So far, it’s working pretty well. It won’t keep the kiddo from bonking himself hard, but it will keep him from rubbing the skin off his head or face if he comes tumbling down. That’s pretty much the goal.

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Welcome to Etiquette Hell!

I had a spike in viewership today, alerted by my stats facility, and I discovered that someone had linked yesterday’s post in the Etiquette Hell forums.

Welcome everyone! Enjoy the visit.

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