Society of Cartographers Plymouth

A couple of weeks ago I was in Plymouth for the Society of Cartographers Annual Conference. Lots of interesting talks and a fun and friendly atmosphere, particularly during the evening entertainment: pub quiz, boat trip and rum cocktails. [update: forgot to say my photos from the conference are here]

I came across a strange new breed of people who knew all about making maps using only adobe illustrator. That’s a side of “cartography” which rarely surfaces at the geo events I’ve been to before (and I’ve been to quite a few now), but this seems like a rather interesting artistic end of a map-making spectrum. I didn’t come across anyone who had tried out OpenStreetMaps options for exporting to Illustrator. This probably needs to be made easier, but I suspect Maperative might be a kick ass tool in this arena. I don’t have illustrator myself, so I’d be interested to know how well it works.

I gave a talk on a blend of topics to do with transport and open data and some of my experience of mobile geo development. I talked through some stuff I’ve been working on at The UK Travel Options iPhone app, and the more recent mobile website. Then I gave a few more nice bits of bus route related technology (and cartography) coming out of OpenStreetMap.

The slides and notes (approximately what I said in the talk) are included with the presentation on slideshare, or OpenOffice download, or PowerPoint download …or here it all is in good old pictures & text:

Slide 0

I’ve got four different things I want to talk about.

I want to talk about Open Data, and specifically Open Transport Data. And I want to talk about the work I’ve been doing at, and finally my hobby and passion OpenStreetMap.

Lots to cover, but fortunately they’re all wonderfully interrelated, so it’s really just one big topic.

Continue reading “Society of Cartographers Plymouth”

32nd Birthday

A few years ago I had thought (with some sadness) that I didn’t really know how to get completely drunk any more. I could tolerate quite a lot of beer, and I formed a very grown up and very boring habit of slowing down when I felt myself getting drunk (or full of bubbles). Lately I have an even more boring habit of drinking less often. But on the plus side this has turned me into a total lightweight, so happily on my 32nd birthday party I was able to get utterly sozzled again, just like the old days.

32nd birthday

Thanks to everyone who came along to my birthday BBQ last weekend.

Bloody Valentines Fancy Dress

Flour Fancy DressThere was another amazing fancy dress party round Ana’s house. This time it was on Valentines day, with a bloody valentines theme. I did the old flour-on-the-face trick and put on a suite and bow tie, while Francine dressed in a scraggly wedding dress. Then we both applied fake blood liberally.

Our blood recipe was scarlet food colouring with water and cornflour stirred in to thicken it a little, but then to make it less vibrant pink we added a dash of soy sauce!

It turned out pretty well. We felt compelled to spend some time coming up with a decent effort for fancy dress to try and live up to our robot costumes at last year’s party and awesome 80s look the year before that (you may have seen pics on facebook)

Passing out at work

I clocked up another passing out incident on Wednesday. Over the years I have passed out on two and half previous occasions. Wednesday’s was the weirdest yet given that it came more or less out of the blue while I was in the office sat at my desk. I felt a strange chest pain, and then started feeling dizzy, and that was it.

It was also strange to pass out in front of the boss. He was just over from the U.S. so I hadn’t seen him in a while. As usual I came to with a curious feeling as if I was coming out of a long dream. …and there was my boss talking to me. I sat myself up and then promptly passed out again. Then I remember dreaming about this weird situation where I had passed out in the office in front of my boss, and I came out of the dream and realised it was true. This time he told me to stay lying down until the ambulance arrived.

The ambulance crew reminded me that raising your legs above your head makes you feel a lot better when feeling faint (The same trick worked well on the ski-lift occasion)   When I got to A&E they probed and poked me, and measured my blood pressure many times. Chest x-rays and heart scans all showed up normal, so it all remains unexplained.

Rather worryingly though, I still have a painful tightness in my chest which gets worse during exercise or exertion. Age 29, a heart problem seems unlikely. Hopefully it will turn out to be some kind of temporary digestion or breathing problem.

Pumpkin Party

We had a little “pumpkin party” on Halloween. This involved no dressing up whatsoever, but cracking open a bottle of wine and trying out some pumpkin recipes. Very civilised.

So using the orange gack from the brains of the pumpkin, we had a Brazilian pumpkin coconut concoction which was intense but yummy. We roasted the pumpkin seeds, which was …well I burnt them. And finally we made a pumpkin pie, which was surprisingly good. That’s following this pumpkin pie recipe (pants website alert) ….evaporated milk being the most awkward ingredient, but happily our friendly local Indian/Turkish/Caribbean/weird-jars-of-stuff corner shop had it.

Then we carved a silly face of course.

pumpkin pie pumpkin

Even our American friend was impressed by the pumpkin pie, and she should know a good pumpkin pie (thanksgiving?) Halloween is a pretty American thing of course, but she told me it’s from Ireland actually. ….”Origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain” according to the all knowing one.

Future of the internet and how to stop it

Future of the Internet book coverI finished reading The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it a couple of days ago, but previously (having read most of it) I went along to the Innovation Reading Circle where seven or eight people sat around discussing the book.

Cyber law expert, Jonathan Zittrain, argues in this book, that that the internet’s future could be bleak, as we see it become more locked-down, less free and open and less inviting of innovation. He uses the term “generativity” to describe technologies which provide open platforms for tinkering and unexpected invention. The internet itself is generative at various layers, and our “end-point” PCs are also built to be generative, but new devices are less so. Tethered to their supplier and restricted in their programmability, these otherwise highly capable web-enabled devices represent a shift towards an undesirable future for the internet. Problems like spam and viruses, the downside of open generativity, may drive change through market forces, or ill-conceived legal interventions which fail to take account of the value of generativity.

The book’s title is obviously deliberately provocative, and in our discussions we were largely trying to decide whether he was overstating the doom and gloom. On the whole I felt that he constructed a detailed end-to-end argument and unlike the title, he didn’t really push an overly alarmist message that disaster is inevitable. Nonetheless I did find myself convinced that there is a problem with the way the internet is going, and whilst we can surely rely on market forces to keep us from some kind of total internet lock-down, the pendulum could still swing quite heavily in that direction if the consuming public and the law-makers do not grasp the issues.

And perhaps the most disturbing thing about the book, was that it did need a whole book (or at least the first two thirds of the book) to explain the issues from top-to-bottom. The merits and abuses of generativity ripple up and down the full technology stack, presenting recurring legal and technical cat and mouse games at every level. Take a narrow viewpoint, and the solutions seem simple.

Pharmaceutical wrinkles

I generally dislike pharmaceutical companies, especially cosmetics companies. I could pretend that I have strong ethical, ecological, political rational reasoning behind this. There’s so much to dislike about them. But really I just instinctively dislike them. In a chemist I find the air choking with all the smelly overpriced beauty products. I grab my 55p litre bottle of apple flavoured shampoo and get out as quickly as possible.

But right now I’m particularly thinking about the TV adverts. Cosmetic TV adverts are certainly among the worst kind (well the worst kind generally allowed on british TV, which thankfully has some fairly strict vetting) Do they think we don’t notice the ludicrously bad lip-synching? L’Oreal have always advertised a lot on TV. Their latest ad has that woman from four weddings and funeral, talking about wrinkles. She says:

“…I call them my life story lines”

Why?? No you don’t! Nobody has a special name for their wrinkles! Shut up!

Cant wait to be… in Northampton

Went to visit Nick in Northampton the other day. We went paintballing and then had a look around Northampton the next day.

Paintballing was a lot of fun. It’s the second time I’ve done it, but the previous occasion was an indoor place in a dark warehouse somewhere near Kings Cross. This time it was the proper outdoor stuff. We drove over to Cambridgeshire to apocalypse paintball . I found paintballing gave me a good adrenaline rush. More than I expected. It was also quite scary at times, crouching behind a log as gunshots pelted the trees above me. The last game was a “free for all” in quite a confined area, which was comical. Maybe I should have moral objections to running around with guns simulating war… but it’s fun. I also thought that the stories of paintballs being very painful, is a bit over-egged. You certainly feel it when you’re hit, but it’s not agonising or anything. Maybe only if you cop one at point blank range. They were pretty careful about safety, bollocking people for removing their masks etc, unlike the experience Stuart had doing 4×4 driving

Northampton was… interesting. We visited the bus station, which was voted one of the worst pieces of architecture in the country. And we visited the Northampton museum, which was all about shoes, but also featured a video display with hilariously cheesy opening music. The only line I could remember was “Cant wait to be… in Northampton”, so it took me a while to find what this was, but actually I need look no further than the wikipedia Northampton article “The Northampton Development Corporation produced a single that was released nationally by EMI, entitled 60 Miles by Road or Rail, by Linda Jardim”. So now you know.

Google Streetview

Well “explore holmfirth” has been offline for years now. Me and beezly started thinking about how we could bring it back in form of a dynamic community driven photo navigation system, …but never quite got round to it.

For a long time Geograph has been the closest anyone has come to my idea (Well that’s the most impressive UK example of photo-location tagging at least)

But the big G has just launched a new extension to their maps…

Google Streetview

Takes a while for all the fancy javascript to load, but give it a try. Cool hey? Might have to wait for a while before they add Holmfirth coverage though!


Munkyfest was excellent again!

Although I’ve only been to it twice, I again woke up on the Sunday with a hangover and a feeling I had been part of something quite special. And on the train on the way home, I read through the full ‘social and economic history of Munkyfest’. Quite a journey those guys have been on. I feel sad that it’s all over, so I guess Matt, Clare, Beezly and all the ‘crew’ must be feeling that way too… Or maybe they’re still sleeping on it.

Anyway I was a bit lazy about sharing photos last year (have lots from then too) but here’s a selection from last weekend:

beez on the bassviolinistsnutterscheesey grinbeezlys tea breakswigging beersguitar chicksurprising warm sunme and Francinebandstand crowdpersilbuddle chucklingmany tentsbbqbandstand laptopclare campsite carnage