Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fool’s Gold in the Data Mine

“America’s Taste in Beer, in Five Maps” baited me into clicking today. This kind of analysis is a cheaper way to feed the content monster than actual journalism, but it can be fun.

county map of USA beer or church

Beer and Church tweets

This county map compiled geotagged tweets that referred to either “beer” or “church.”  One glance confirmed what everyone already knows, that the Bible Belt remains in full effect.  Next I looked at where I live.  Hey, that tiny red speck looks to be Providence County! Huh?  Then I saw that another of only three red specks in New England is Chittenden County, Vermont.  There, Burlington is home to University of Vermont where the heart of downtown nightlife is a place called Church Street.  New Haven is another red speck.  I think a Church Street is prominent there too.

College students in Providence drink as much beer as anyone, but the only thing on Church Street here is a church. Now this is a puzzle.


Technology Revolution spinning in place

The technology revolution that surrounds us has long become like the Cuban Revolution, or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. (Is that still officially underway?) At some point they were indeed revolutionary, but decades on? Please.

With my back to the obsolescence wall, I have once again begun the task of getting new computers, upgrading software, migrating data and rebuilding the Map Center webstore. This will be time consuming, frustrating and expensive, but unavoidable if I want to stay in business.

In 1990, before some of you can remember, I implemented the first computer system to run The Map Center. It was a big expense and lot of work. Once up and running, it instantly shortened my workweek by 10 hours. That is what you call a productive investment. Several times since, I have had to spend again as much money and time on computers and software. If each of those so-called investments were half as productive as the first, I would be saving so many hours per week that I should be watching time run backwards by now. I count those subsequent outlays not as investments, but mostly as forced transfer of wealth, a fancy term for robbery.

The system requirements for, say, the software I use to print shipping labels now rival the computational power at NASA’s disposal before the first moon landing. Is that progress or a just a form of rot? For my money, the revolutionary part of the high tech revolution has come and gone.

And get off my lawn.

Must you have a favorite?

Thank a reader for waking up “Why Read Maps” by sending a link to this:

What your favorite map projection says about you

What is MY favorite map projection? I should have tried to say before I read the strip. Now it is impossible to make a decision uninfluenced by the comic.

Come to think of it, those “What is your favorite…?” questions are useless, especially as security questions for password retrieval. Favorite color, movie, teacher, performer, vacation spot? My answer changes every time! Pesky Influences everywhere.

If I have to say, I go with Globe.

source: xkcd

Why Read Music?

There is nothing new about technology changing the patterns of how people develop their brains, for better or for worse. Written language, the printing press, and the clock are some examples. Wondering about case studies that resonate with what is happening to spatial intelligence I found where I myself am stone guilty of taking the lazy way out: What happened to musical intelligence?

In times before the radio and phonograph, almost everyone sang or played an instrument in family and social settings. That seems so much healthier than sitting around watching TV or listening to recorded music. If I lived then, I think I would certainly have continued to play piano, guitar or bass through the years. But I dropped the instruments. I play the radio. I know it is not too late to change my habits and improve my relationship with the universe of music. We’ll see.

The Mysterious Bench

And the even more mysterious tree!

Bench and tree beside The Map Center, North Main St. Providence

Bench and tree beside The Map Center, North Main St. Providence

This is a fairly busy bus stop. The bench appeared about a month ago. The tree and the traffic cone have been there a few days. I assumed one of the many construction workers who have been renovating the building was responsible. (See the new stucco?) Turns out, the workers and the neighbors I have spoken to assumed the Map Center guy put it there. I am glad they think I could be so nice. So far, the real benefactor has not made him or herself known.

Bus bench rear view

Bus bench rear view

That design does not look like it came out of a book. I am afraid the roof will not bear up under a heavy snow. But the effort and workmanship are quite impressive. The tree roots are still in burlap inside that box. I have been watering it and am considering putting it into a proper container.

The inbound stop across the street has an official shelter with advertising. You can get out of the rain but you will not be charmed.

Thank you, street furniture folk artist, whoever you are!

Map Reader in Chief

Just posing or actually reading?

presidents new map

I think both!

I hope they hang it where it will do some good.  Even if you can ace a geography quiz, when thinking about world affairs you can always benefit from having the map before you.

Mapless hiker confesses

From my business point of view, a story with the line “…when you’re in the middle of the forest and you don’t have a very good map” is a teachable moment.  It is not clear from the blogger’s tale whether he had some crummy map or no map at all, but there is no mention of a compass and I just have to assume he did not have one of these. Had I made available these excellent maps from Great Swamp Press on sooner, Mr. Black might have run across them in time, and his day at Arcadia Management Area may not have turned out as misadventurous as it did.  He did, for the most part enjoy a delightful day.

I was struck by his readiness to post a such an open confession of map unpreparedness on the internet for all to see.  This is in stark contrast to my own inclinations.  I have had misadventures of my own that could have been easily prevented had I brought a map and compass along, but I will not be recounting them here.  Yes I too learned the hard way.  If you must have the details you will have to ask one of my sons who take greater pleasure than I in recounting those follies.

A Walk in the Park

How did anyone manage a walk in the park before GPS was invented?

I am intrigued by the contrast between Letterboxing and Geocaching. tells us that

Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher can place a geocache in the world, pinpoint its location using GPS technology and then share the geocache’s existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache.

People love their high tech toys; I certainly approve of outdoor family adventures and online communities; and hey, the official Getting Started page does advise “Bring both a map and a compass.”  But it seems kinda thin.’s FAQ page goes on forever. For starters,

Letterboxing is an intriguing mix of treasure hunting, art, navigation, and exploring interesting, scenic, and sometimes remote places…
Someone hides a waterproof box somewhere (in a beautiful, interesting, or remote location) containing at least a logbook and a carved rubber stamp, and perhaps other goodies. The hider then usually writes directions to the box (called “clues” or “the map”), which can be straightforward, cryptic, or any degree in between. Often the clues involve map coordinates or compass bearings from landmarks, but they don’t have to. Selecting a location and writing the clues is one aspect of the art.

Before you seek out a letterbox, you should carve your own rubber stamp to stamp in the cached logbook.  Not cool to buy one, unless you have a really good reason why that store-bought rubber stamp is simply perfect for you.

Who needs cryptic clues when you can just enter the coordinates in your GPS?

I confess that I have never participated in either of these sports. So far, a walk in the woods or park has always been its own justification.  But I deeply admire the work some letterboxers put into their clues.

It did not take long to find this masterpiece of the genre.  GretchenF’s opus is a playful tribute to twelve beloved children’s books.  Plus, in a two hour, stroller friendly 2 mile walk you will be compelled to reflect upon nearly every statue and point of interest in Providence’s beautiful Roger Williams Park.  Such nice work I am posting about it even though you do not even need a map.

Map Store in the News!

There are but a few dozen map stores in the country.  You are now paying a virtual visit to the most obscure  corner of the entire commercial landscape.

I have daydreamed of how the biggest stroke of luck my store and its dwindling cohort could enjoy would be to have a popular character in a sitcom or the like work in a map store.  Then I would never again have to meet someone and hear them say “You mean there is such a thing as a map store?”

This is no sitcom (whatever the NY Post thinks).  Improved perspective courtesy of Streetsblog

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