My new home - 46L Osprey.
In 2 days I'll be moved completely out of my 600SF apartment into my 46L backpack... my new home, complete with compression straps! In order to bring Maggie Maps and Boomerang along, I'm throwing in a 14L sling pack to carry a GPS, small computer, odds & ends. In total, 60L about 35lbs of stuff. This bootstrap startup is going on the road!
What a journey already...
We all know that cleaning out any home after years of dwelling is usually a back-breaking affair - there's heavy furniture to move, ancient sugar & flour to throw away, that T-shirt you worn in the 90s to him and haw over keeping... add in meetings with random strangers from Craigslist who might want to buy your electronics and you've got a full week. And this time it's not a move from one place to another, but an extreme downsize. In full disclosure, I'm not ridding myself of ALL belongings - it's probably a 70/30 split. Keep 30%, and liquidate the remaining 70% by any means possible. And that has been more difficult than I imagined - we really are weighed down by all of our 'stuff'! As an example, this morning I'm trying to use up all my baking supplies in one batch of muffins to throw away as little as possible. Super muffins!
But in 2 days time, this process will be over and it'll be on to the fun stuff.... The trip starts in South Africa, then its SE Asia, and finally off to S. America for a while. I'll be mapping along the way, and looking to help out local organizations in any way possible. There are a few leads out there, but I'll be networking as much as I can! On the blog I'll be sharing stories, maps, and photos for those who might be interested. Any tips, advice, comments, questions, favorite places on the route? Let me know!
In a normal month, I send a few thank you cards, birthday cards, bills, and postcards through the US Postal Service. Sixty percent of the time, I drop my mail into the post box around the corner, but 40% of the time I happen to run into my friendly postman and hand him my letters. This is one of my favorite neighborhood interactions.
Today, I walked out of my front door and the postman happened to be taking lunch in the mail van on my block. As I walked past (to the humdrum mailbox), he rolled down his window to smile and say hello. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about the weather, and as I started off I realized I had that card to mom in my hand. I tracked back a few steps and handed it over, mentioning that I seem to always have a card for him to mail. In response, I received encouragement to 'keep it up!' and never stop sending mail. I smiled all the way back to my house.
My penchant for postage is probably abnormal, and I see that sinister character stage right nodding in agreement. Upon returning home, I thought I'd look to see if there are any projections... In March 2010, the Boston Consulting Group wrote a report projecting mail volumes through 2020. Here is an excerpt:
"The U.S. Postal Service will experience profound declines in its volumes of mail and its net "
income over the next decade under its current business model, presenting a grave threat
to its viability. Massive structural changes are required to avoid this outcome.
We forecast U.S. postal volumes to decrease from 177B pieces in 2009 to around 150B
pieces in 2020 under business-as-usual assumptions."
CNN also chimed in:
"... There is no reason why the U.S. Postal Service cannot also become a leader in the global delivery sector. It already has a far-flung network of sorting centers and letter carriers that allows it to deliver physical documents to every U.S. address six days every week..."
Visual.ly had a graphic of this decline:
Yes, technology has reduced the amount of mail out there, but it's exciting to see it also making USPS use easier... Need to find a mailbox? Mail Box Map can help. Want to see closed post offices in your area? Check out Save The Post Office.
It seems the message is mixed - the amount of mail is declining (not a surprise), but there are ways to keep the post office alive. I hope so, even if the act of going to the post office doesn't make me smile. It's open at odd hours, there are usually long lines, and 9 times out of 10 I didn't do something correct and I have to get back in line. But the act of sending gifts, the joy in finding a personal card or letter in the mail, and my interactions with my postman are all extremely positive and definitely win this fight.
The advent of e-commerce was a wonderful thing - I no longer get 5 pieces of paper just to find out my bank balance, my neighbor doesn't get to accidentally open my credit card bill, and I just deposited a check without leaving my desk. I'm hoping we can enjoy these conveniences and preserve interactions with a neighborhood postman whose job depends on us sending mail. There is much more to all of this, of course, but I will happily do my part and continue walking out the door - cards in hand. An e-card just isn't quite the same.
Vines have killed these trees and are hungry for more...
Back in May, I got a phone call that encouraged me to found Boom Geo.... it went a bit like this: "Hi Maggie! Friends of Leakin Park is applying for a Hack the Parks grant to make a map of the invasive vines in Leakin Park. I remember that you were starting a mapping company - would you be interested in being a part of this effort?" I pause, just briefly (don't want to sound too desperate) before saying, yes, of course, I'd love to! Let's face it - I had no income, hadn't yet filed my LLC papers, and was so busy "getting things done" I hadn't looked up. Yes, of course I'll help! So we wrote the grant & crossed our fingers. I was even motivated to write a second proposal for Baltimore Tree Map.
The grid system we used to collect data. Half-way point.
Six weeks later, MOIT & gb.tc announced the winners - Friends of Leakin Park & Baltimore Tree Map were both among the chosen 7! Awesome. Let's celebrate and take some time to assess: Leakin Park is a 1,200 acre park and I was going to be collecting data for every acre.... When I signed up for the job, it did sound like a huge area to cover, but really, I had no comparisons. Summer just got busy...
Now, at first I thought this sounded like a wonderful way to spend my day - walk through a park with a smart phone and rate the invasives? Fresh air, birds singing, great exercise - yes! Goodbye desk! Carpal tunnel - look out! I was happy to accept the challenge and get outside for a change. But isn't the grass is always greener? There are also thickets, holes, mosquitoes, mud slides, downed trees, falling trees, ticks, trash, thorny bushes, and spider webs. Lots and lots of spider webs. And acres of invasive vines. It is sad to see such a beautiful forest being consumed by English Ivy - & it's happening at an alarming rate.
Relatively healthy forest with no sign of vines on the trees.
Data collection is the first step in a larger Park Plan, and will also help to increase awareness of the problem. The Friends of Leakin Park have their work cut out for them, but this map will allow them to focus efforts and allocate vine-removal resources a bit more efficiently. Knowing our efforts will help save the forest makes dodging spider webs bearable, and will motivate us to map the final 750 acres. Leakin Park is one of the places you can find true solitude in Baltimore. The forest is full of pleasant surprises, and reminds me to open my eyes to my surroundings, and breathe. I have a feeling mapping that last acre will be bittersweet.
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference and a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born. A place to share stories, resources, and a way to inspire and support others in realizing their individual travel dreams.
WYPR: Interview on 'Baltimore's Future' with David Warnock
Baltimore Social Innovation Journal - Winter 2015
OpenStreetMap US: "Say Hello to Our Argentina Scholars"
Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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