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A New Vermont Geology Map

Categories: GIS, Midd Blogosphere

I’m a sucker for blogs and websites that send me scrambling to a dictionary, and recently I’ve come across a good one. Here’s your word for the day-odonatist. I’ll wait here while you look it up.

Back? Good. The site was The Daily Wing, an outdoor blog focusing on winged creatures, such as birds and dragonflies. (that’s an odonatist, if you were lazy and not terribly curious, a person interested in dragonflies, of the Odonata group. Good luck using that in your next conversation.) Bryan Pfeiffer, the author, writes all of the posts, and shows some of his amazing photography. It’s a gorgeous blog.

And like my blog, it seems like many things interest him. (Unlike my blog, he updates his more frequently. No excuses here-I got my house painted this summer.) What caught my eye was a post on the new Vermont Geological survey map, with the awesome title of “A History Expressed in Stone”.  The map, published by the state Vermont Geological Survey, is over 30 years of work, and shows major bedrock formations across the entire state. I want to get the paper copy, but our house lacks wall space for the 3 6 foot by 5 foot sheets, and my cave of an office wouldn’t even fit one.

So I’ve downloaded it, and the three PDF’s would blow my entire Papercut budget for the year, so I’m holding off on that. I’ve also download the shapefiles for Google Earth and ArcGIS, but am waiting to really delve into that this winter.

As a landscaper, something I’ve learned the hard way is that you just can’t fight geology. I’ve tried over and over to grow rhododendrons, holly, and other ericaceous plants on the MIddlebury campus, but our high pH soils just won’t let me. And the reason for that? The bedrock.

Black Male Incarceration and the Environment

Categories: GIS, Midd Blogosphere

Keith Reeves chats with a student before his talk.

Keith W. Reeves, a public policy expert from Swarthmore College, was at Middlebury for two days as the guest of the Howard E. Woodin Environmental Studies Colloquium and the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity.

Reeves grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, an industrial city just outside Philadelphia, and opened his talk on “The Problem of Proximity: Black Male Incarceration and the Urban Environment” with a touch of irony.  Chester was highly regarded for generations as the city where Martin Luther King Jr. attended Crozer Theological Seminary in the early 1950s, and yet today it is known for the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Chester that opened in 1998 and houses thousands of black male prisoners, Reeves said.

Chester’s transition from a “major, bustling economic engine” of the mid-20th century to an impoverished city of crime and empty storefronts has Reeves, an associate professor, “worried, stressed, and struggling for years.” The decline of Chester, he said, was a key factor in his decision to leave the faculty at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1999 and accept an appointment in the political science department at Swarthmore. Now that he teaches just five miles from downtown Chester, he directs a number of Swarthmore-based initiatives—including his own research that combines department of corrections statistics with GIS mapping—to revitalize his home city.

Keith Reeves spoke rapid fire for 45 minutes on October 13 to a crowd of about 75 students, faculty, and staff gathered in The Orchard at Franklin Environmental Center.

He said, “Incarceration in the urban environment has grown to the point that it now produces the very social problems on which it feeds, which also explains the enormous recidivism rate we see in these communities.”

Black males returning home from prison today face the same problems and challenges that caused them to be in jail in the first place, he said. “Neighborhoods plagued by family trauma, stress, high drop-out rates, interpersonal violence, drug and alcohol abuse, drug dealing, gangs, hunger, and social isolation provide a context that puts [black males] on a trajectory in which they are making very problematic decisions” that lead to arrest, conviction, and re-incarceration.

To start reversing this trend in American society would cost $17 billion dollars a year, Reeves estimated. He advocates for national policy reforms that would: 1) reverse the high drop-out rate in urban areas, 2) create a dependable “job engine” in America, 3) reduce the number of prison admissions annually, 4) reduce prisoners’ length of stay, 5) provide effective mentoring, case management, and support services to ex-convicts, 6) “ban the box,” and 7) make military service a viable option for Americans who have served time in prison.

Reeves’s campaign to “ban the box” seeks to eliminate the check box on job applications that asks, “Have you ever been arrested or served time in prison?” That question creates “a barrier that often prevents a wonderfully bright guy from getting connected to work [because he] happened to have made a serious error in misjudgment that landed him in prison.”

The guest lecturer’s final point about offering military service to convicted felons is a source of controversy among his Swarthmore students. “My students hate this,” he said, “but I refuse to put it away. We should allow the military to recruit formerly incarcerated black males.” Reeves (left) advocates for this because, in his interviews with incarcerated black males, between one-third and one-half of them say they would join the military upon release from prison if the option were open to them.

“The military would have saved them from the streets,” Reeves believes. “It would have given them a bit of discipline, it would have given them an opportunity for education, it would have given them a chance to work and aim toward something bigger than themselves. And we also know from African-American history, that the military is an enormous avenue for social mobility, i.e., Colin Powell.”

While Reeves’ first book focused on racial politics in America, his second book—not yet published—called “The Declining Significance of Black Males” will examine the “alarming” incarceration rate among black men and the impact of their return on inner-city families and neighborhoods.

In the Q&A that followed his talk, a student asked Reeves to define the target audience for his current research and impending book. “I am trying to get to the policy makers. I am trying to get to the governors who make appointments to judicial and correctional facility commissions. And I am trying to put a human face on the problem of black male incarceration and prisoner re-entry [because] not everyone who commits a crime is evil.”

Black males are going to prison, Reeves said, because they grow up in an environment where crime is the norm, where family support is minimal, where schools are lacking, where there’s no access to health care, and where peers and family members are part of the criminal justice system too.

“I have been blessed with wonderful educational opportunities, so I have to do something to change the world in my space.” For Keith Reeves, who has a PhD from Michigan, his “space” is Chester and all the other cities in America where black male incarceration is a fact of life today.


Rikert Ski Touring

Categories: GIS, Midd Blogosphere

I believe one of the greatest secrets at Middlebury College is the Rikert Ski Touring Center, located at Breadloaf Campus up in Ripton. Home to the Middlebury Nordic teams, as well as my daughter’s Middlebury High School team, this gem of a ski area has very well groomed trails, wonderful staff, and, this year, plenty of snow.

This coming weekend is the Bill Koch Ski Festival, so in honor of the weekend I’ve made something for the kids to play with, if yours are anything like mine. I’ve converted some Arc GIS files to a Google Earth File, so now you can fly around Rikert in Google Earth and see where you went skiing for the day. Chester Harvey in the Geography department has made a new trail map for Rikert based on this shapefile, and I’ve taken the trail names both off of that new map, as well as the older traditional map.  So the Google Earth file is still a rough draft, and some of the trail names may be a little off, but it’s still fun.

Right click here, and choose Save As, then don’t forget where that is. Clicking on that file should open it in the right program. Naturally, you will need Google Earth installed on your computer. I’ve been having bad blog luck, and just clicking on the file itself will probably lead to a page of gobbledigook.

A New Tree Map

Categories: GIS, Midd Blogosphere

Admittedly, the campus tree map posted on this site can be a little overwhelming, and almost too large to be useful. Google Earth is a wonderful program, but not everyone had access to it. Ben Meader, a digital media tutor from this past summer, toured the campus with me one day, and we picked the 99 must see trees on campus. This represents one of nearly every variety of tree on campus. He then took pictures, and put them all into a Google Maps file, viewable from any web browser, no Google Earth required. The link is also available on the campus tree map page. Enjoy!

Teaching with Technology Fair

Categories: GIS, Midd Blogosphere

It’s Commencement (literally, it’s about 9:30 Sunday morning, we’ve been at it since 5 Am, but now us landscapers are hiding around campus working where you can’t see us), hence the lack of any posts the last week or so. I’ve got a lot to write, but being a landscaper in spring has it’s disadvantages, time management being a one of them.  I just wanted to mention I’ll be at the Teaching with Technology Fair on Wednesday, in the Great Hall at Bicentennial Hall from 10-12, showing off the Campus Tree Map. If you’re curious as to the ArcGIS underpinnings of the map, or just want to drop by to talk plants, come on over.

Mapping in WordPress – GeoPress and GeoMashup

Categories: General, GIS

Robyn Tendai-Whyte and I just ran GeoPress and GeoMashup through the paces today. Both performed beautifully after a bit of massaging (and reading the directions!) Here are a few tips that we found helpful for anyone at Middlebury who would like to geo-locate their blog.

GeoPress

This plugin will allow you to take any post and add a Google map with a stick pin location. This is a nice feature for bloggers who are traveling, or who would like to give geographic location to a historical reference.

To use this plugin-

  1. Click on the “Plugins” link in the upper right hand corner of your blog’s Dashboard.
  2. Click the “Activate” link to the right of the GeoPress plugin.
  3. Click on the GeoPress tab, just under the name of your blog in the upper-left.
  4. Get a GoogleMaps Key and paste it next to GoogleMaps Key.
  5. Get a Yahoo AppID and paste it next to Yahoo AppID.
  6. Click on the UPDATE OPTIONS button.
  7. When you write a new post, scroll down to LOCATION.
  8. Type in an address and click on the “Geocode” link.
  9. Save and Publish your post.

The map will appear under your post with the location marked.

GeoMashup

GeoMashup works in a different way. It will take all posts that have a location added, and create one map on a single page with a stick pin for every location.

To use this plugin-

  1. Click on the “Plugins” link in the upper right hand corner of your blog’s Dashboard.
  2. Click the “Activate” link to the right of the GeoMashup plugin.
  3. Click on the Settings tab in the upper-right.
  4. Click on the “Geo Mashup” tab.
  5. Get a GoogleMaps Key and paste it next to GoogleMaps Key. If you are using GeoPress, you may use the same Key (NOTE: Your key needs to be registered to your blog site: http://sites.middlebury.edu/[name of my blog])
  6. Choose the page where you would like the map to appear.
  7. Click on the UPDATE OPTIONS button.
  8. In the page you selected, add <!--GeoMashup--> in the content.
  9. When you write a new post, scroll down to LOCATION. If GeoPress is activated, this will be the second map.
  10. Type in an address and hit return. You will see a pin with your location.
  11. Save and Publish your post.

The page you selected will now have one map with every location on it. Each location will be labeled with the name of the post.