Portland has been on my must visit list for quite a while, so I was delighted to learn that coordinators were 'putting a bird on it' and holding this year's FOSS4G in PDX! Last year's FOSS4GNA in Minneapolis was a great experience, so I applied for a scholarship and hoped I could make it happen. The scholarship didn't pan out, but I was generously given a place on the team of conference volunteers, and a friend offered his place to me for the week. I also found RT airfare for under $300 ... Rose City here I come! I flew out early to meet my cheerful host & attend a Timbers soccer match with fellow conference goers. I was blown away by the number of fans and the infectious enthusiasm of the Timber Army - such fun! Each time the Timbers scored a goal, the lumberjack would saw a piece of the Timber log. It was the first time I have seen a chainsaw at a soccer match! The chant sheets brought it to the next level! It was a fun crew, and we enjoyed a long day of Timber magic, local beers, and dinner at Deschutes Brewery.
The conference was preceded by two days of workshops (at $150 a session), so instead I rented a Brompton fold-up bike and explored the City. It's a bike-friendly place, particularly the trails along the Wilamette River. Tuesday was the JS.Geo conference, so I biked over to Portland State to check it out. On the way, I got my bike tire caught in the trolley tracks and had an ugly spill - I showed up in torn pants, covered in blood... Highlights of the day were the fun, witty crowd, the future of Leaflet, and mapping in 3D with Cesium. And not spilling the contents of my skull onto the streets of Portland...
The next 3 days was the annaul FOSS4G - “the world’s premier open source geospatial conference” - at the Convention Center. It was an easy bike ride over one of the many bridges from the Pearl neighborhood. Over the past year I have become more comfortable as an amateur developer, met a few more people in the geo community, and moved forward with Boomerang, so I was excited to find new challenges and meet more of the community. Keynote Mike Bostock was an inspiration to the 900 attendees, and set a high bar for the rest of the week. It was an international group, with approximately 13% women. There were 8 simultaneous tracks, and I had a difficult time choosing!
I began my first day as a volunteer, which was a wonderful way to meet people and get the lay of the land. The conference was very well run, and each talk was recorded so you could feel free to linger in conversation or try something new. I leaned towards the education-related talks, and drew inspiration from quite a few people. Talks on drones/UAVs, offline mapping, and vector tiling seemed to draw large crowds, and projection jokes were en vogue. I heard fewer "simples" than last year and took away quite a to-do list. Despite a few instances of gender bias, I felt like I am definitely becoming a part of the global geo-community.
There was no shortage of things to do outside of the conference as well. With field trips, a code sprint, a welcome party, maptime party, and a gala to attend there were sufficient opportunities to make connections and discuss all things geo. Or, you could just relax and sample the many great beers and delectable treats Portland has to offer! The food truck pods certainly won me over, as did the live music, friendly people, and delightful 80 degree weather!
Saturday I enjoyed a hike in Forest Park (which I'd highly recommend) and dinner in the City with a new friend from the conference. Sunday included a drive to the Columbia River Gorge to hike and have brunch with a friend who flew in from Seattle. I even snuck in a drive to the coast and dinner with relatives down in Salem. It's a gorgeous area, and Portland was a difficult place to leave. It has moved up on my list of livable places!
Couldn't make it? Watch the sessions here. Other blogs about the conference include Mapbrief & Boundlessgeo. Want to go next year? FOSS4G 2015 will be in Seoul, South Korea!
Last July, I had the honor of introducing 12 high school students in Parks and People's Branches program to geospatial technology. The program went well, the students each made maps after just 1 week, and I truly enjoyed working with some of Baltimore's youth. In May, I learned that Parks and People wanted Boomerang back for a second summer and this became a great incentive to return to the US.
BRANCHES had grown, so I had 15 students (4 teams) and two weeks to get them thinking spatially. Having smaller teams allowed for personalized instruction and a great student/teacher ratio. Spatial thinking, the way we navigate the world and manipulate the space around us, is crucial to problem solving. My goal was to impart a basic understanding of data collection and Quantum GIS - chosen in this case for its low barrier to entry and compatibility with the Garmin units on hand at Parks and People. Open source software also allows the students to use it on their own, for free, after our training. End goal? Each student would finish a map, with data they collected, by the final day... and remember what GIS and GPS stood for at their presentations!
Last year the 12 students worked together to map the Star Spangled Banner Trail, but this year they decided to develop unique projects. Each team received instruction in QGIS, collecting data with a Garmin, and navigating to Open Data repositories on the net. The next step was to go into the field and collect some of their own data!
The first group ventured into Hampden to collect data along the Avenue, with a hike along the Gwynns Falls on the way. Each students was armed with a Garmin GPS, a notebook, and a pen to record attribute information about their waypoints. They mapped shops, amenities, points along the trail, and anything that piqued their interest. After data collection, we went back to the classroom and they learned how to transfer waypoints, add additional data layers, and compose a printed map. Symbology was a favorite skill to practice, and the color combinations were creative & eye-popping! The students shocked me with their attention to detail and spatial awareness - they were much better at direction than some of my colleagues!
The second group was interested in mapping the trees they had been pruning in East Baltimore, along Fayette Street. We headed out into Baltimore summer and the students mapped trees they had pruned, trees that needed pruning, and empty tree wells. Back in the classroom, they were able to see all of the progress they had made along Fayette, and where they could focus future efforts.
The third group had been building bioswales in West Baltimore all year, and were interested in mapping these & vacant lots. It was a hectic day spent jumping in and out of the work trucks, pulling some weeds in the bioswales, and still managing to get back to the classroom to create the final maps. Luckily, I had these same students last year and they remembered some of the tricks of the trade. Dream team!
My final team had many ideas and too little time. They wanted to map all kinds of things about their neighborhoods, and I hope to have more time to work with them next year. We decided on mapping vacant buildings in Reservoir Hill near the Whitelock Community Farm where they had worked all summer. This was quite a feat, and the students were also able to map their homes and some additional points of interest like the neighborhood candy store.
It was another successful year with BRANCHES. Many students wish to continue to map their neighborhoods, and have already begun to think about projects for next summer. Each group presented their final maps at the graduation, and one group even explained to the audience what GIS and GPS meant - I was beyond thrilled!
Next year I hope to continue building on QGIS, and bring some coding and web mapping into the curriculum. Boomerang's engaging, STEM-focused programs immerse students in spatial technologies with hands-on, project based instruction. Due to a lack of funding we still rely on partner organizations to provide computers and GPS units, which results in a few technical hurdles and plenty of troubleshooting. But Boomerang is seeking funding, and hopes to be able to provide students with great tools in the future! Hope to see you next year BRANCHES!
Despite a desire to continue my travels, I convinced myself that Antarctica & South America would still be around in a year or so and decided to head back to the US from Europe to grow my business, see friends and family, and catch my breath. Inspiration propelled me during my entire journey, and my entrepreneurial drive was in full gear. After a successful 2013 session, Parks and People hired me back for the month of July to teach their students GIS so I headed back to Baltimore to pick up where I left off. I was graciously given a room in Hampden and it was a great new perspective of the City. For the previous 5 years I lived in Federal Hill, and welcomed the differences I found in this northern neighborhood: forested running paths along Gwenns Falls, quirky shops, hipsters, and delicious food choices on the Avenue. The neighborhood felt more isolated than my previous residence, but I was lucky that the current client was located withing walking distance. Plus, with a bike and the bus line you could be right back downtown. It almost felt as if I had never left.
During my few weeks back in Baltimore, I attended a wedding at the Museum of Industry (a very cool space), I caught the Mike Dillon Band show at the 8x10 (scared that date away!), attended Baltimore Data Day (many smart people in this City!), enjoyed the Believe in Music Festival in Oregon Ridge Park (amazing music, great cause), rode a borrowed bike in the epic Baltimore Bike Party (bike party!), caught up with friends, and enjoyed great training sessions with 22 of Baltimore's youth. Baltimore had so much going on in both the social and entrepreneurial scene that I never had a free moment. I was even invited to sit in on a great new Hack Baltimore radio show called All The Pieces Matter. A great month for sure, and probably the best I could ask for to start to transition back to this lifestyle.
Many people have asked - "What's it like being back?". I have to admit, it has been quite a transition... I was used to showing up in a place - unsure of language, culture & location of a warm bed - and just figuring it out a day at a time. I went from living out of a backpack, putting on my 'go-to' dress and going, to opening a dresser and thinking "what do I want to wear today?" I went from not knowing where I would find breakfast to walking into a grocery store and being baffled by all of my options - I could put food in a refrigerator and it'd be there in 2 days! Drinking water was safe, yet there was still a filtrated pitcher of clean, cool water in the fridge should I chose to partake. There was an air conditioning unit in my bedroom, a door that closed, a double bed that did not deflate. I was not afraid of bed bugs or scorpions. There were no elephants, no roadside noodle stands, no high speed trains, and no smooth talking Mauritian musicians. I set an alarm on my teaching days, showered in the morning, and wore clean clothes every day. I felt spoiled and lucky. My sense of place and person was so upside down that jumping back on the road seemed like a great option.
There was little mystery to it all, yet everything seemed slightly different. Cars drove on the right side of the road. I did not fall asleep worried about the history of the guy in the room next to mine, and whether I should barrier the door. There was a dog in the house, but she did not have rabies... Weirdest of all? People knew who I was - no more incognito. I walked into the restaurant of a friend, and it was all hugs and catching up. I ran into former colleagues at coffee shops and on the street. I saw old friends at music shows. I didn't say "Where are you from?" to anyone for an entire week! It was incredible, and after missing this for nearly a year it made me realize how very special community can be. My levels of gratitude for life and notably the people I came back to are flying high, and my biggest hope is that I can maintain a predominate attitude of appreciation in my life. Charm City, thank you for a warm welcome! It was a great July, and I have a feeling our relationship is not quite over. Next stop? The City of Brotherly Love... there's a room in Philadelphia calling my name!
Since I've been back, I get asked... What was your favorite spot? Where would you return? A difficult question to answer; each time I consider anew. One place that I can say without a doubt is New Orleans, Louisiana. I have a massive crush on the Crescent City, and it has only grown over the years. My first trip to the Big Easy was in 2008 after the passing of a favorite Uncle. He organized trips every other year to the New Orleans Jazz Fest for the Penrose Ferry Men's Association, a social club he helped found. My cousins suggested we go in his memory, and a great group of women came together to make it happen. We had an amazing trip, and I promised to try my best to return every year to that special place.
Six years later I have been six times, missing only 1 year. Needless to say, when I made the decision to come back to the US my timing was dependent upon 3 main events: my cousin's wedding, my college roommate's wedding, and Jazz Fest. Lucky for me, the timing couldn't have been better. I could fly LAX to Boston for wedding #1, Boston to New Orleans for the 2nd weekend of Jazz Fest, and still get back to Philadelphia in time for wedding #2. My travels were far from over!
For those of you who haven't been to New Orleans, I urge you - GO! Those music lovers who haven't been? Go during Jazz Fest! You can enjoy music nearly 24 hours a day during Jazz Fest and many international acts are in town. I tend to spend a great deal of time hanging out on Frenchman Street as well, home to many of the city's live music venues and where you can usually find a brass band performing on the street.
This was my first year traveling solo to Jazz Fest, but I was excited to have the freedom to wander a bit. I flew in and took the public bus down to the Convention Center, where I switched buses and headed towards my AirBNB. I got off bus #2 around dusk and headed up the street with my pack when a tall, intimidating man stops me and says "What are you doing around here? You shouldn't be here - it's a dangerous neighborhood!" Not the start I was hoping for! I make my way up the street and find the key waiting for me, as promised. I enter the home of my host and no one is there. I was a bit shaken by the man, and did not get the best of vibes in my newest home. It was a messy shotgun house, and the bed was in the middle room with no privacy. My gut said - leave! I called a friend in Baton Rouge to ask his advice, and within a few minutes he hooked me up with 2 of his friends that were willing to host me for the week. I hopped in a taxi and headed to the Chart Room in the French Quarter to meet them. A smiling New Orleanian #1 greeted me and handed me an Abita, and New Orleanian #2 introduced me to everyone at his table. Life had gotten exponentially better! They both lived Uptown in great places. Over that week I was shown the best hospitality and welcomed into their lives with open arms. I will be forever grateful!
Wednesday night there was music on the square, this year featuring Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormans. I ran into some of the Baltimore music crew here, and then headed off to a private party to hear Trombone Shorty. My night continued with Honey Island Swamp Band, Cris Jacobs Band, and DJ Williams Projekt at the Little Gem Saloon - what a night. I met R#2, someone I would be lucky to reconnect with throughout the week, and hung out with a big crew of music friends. I ended the night at One Eyed Jacks, but Checkpoint Charlies is also a good option :) A great start to a music-filled weekend!
The 2nd weekend of Jazz Fest is 4 days of music that can last from 11am until 6am (if you have the stamina!). Perma-grin starts as soon as you walk through the gates - there is nothing that compares to that Jazz Fest vibe! Each day was full of great music. Thursday I rode bikes to the Fairgrounds with my new friends - a gorgeous day. We heard Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Wailers, String Cheese Incident, and wonderful sounds just walking around the track. I ran into R#2, and met his three other wonderful friends who welcomed me into their JF camp with open arms. Festival day was followed by the 10th Anniversary party for Krewe De Blender - a fun group of fest goers that carry a disco blender flag. Costumes were encouraged, and my new group of friends did not disappoint!
Friday New Oreleanians #1 & #3 and I biked over to Fiya Fest - music festival / crawfish boil / benefit for the Roots of Music. We feasted on crawfish & local beer by the river and heard great music. Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon Band, DJ Logic, a local marching band, and even more. Part 2 was a riverboat cruise with even more music. This City doesn't stop!!
Saturday was a day at the Fairgrounds (did I mention you need stamina for this?!). I headed over with my friend (and recent savior) from Baton Rouge. We began the day in the Gospel tent, and it just got better from there. Fais Do Do, Head and the Heart, and a long set from Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band with a visit from John Fogarty- a definite highlight of my Jazz Fest. I was once again welcomed in by R#1, R#2 and crew, where I was spoiled with plenty of dancing room most of the day. Very important with those guys! R#1 also took me to the First Aid tent to tend to my busted big toe, and held my hand while the doctors "operated". So nice, and it turned out to be a great move before dancing in all of that dust!! I cannot wait to see this group again next year. An early night ensured a little stamina for the rest of my stay!
Baton Rouge and I started our Sunday early, and had time to enjoy a bloody mary at Liuzza's. YUM! Once inside we began with the Gospel Tent, a lemonade, and crawfish ettouffe. The food at the Fairgrounds is amazing, and I suggest trying it all - especially if the word 'crawfish' is involved! We followed that with Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes (featuring John Gros on french horn?!), George Porter, Jr., Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Arcade Fire, & John Fogarty - of course with some parades, snacks, and sounds sprinkled in. I filled my soul with music nearly 24/7, and it was magic. That night I ended up at DBA for Stanton Moore, where I ran into more old friends and also met Alabama #1 - another musical soul I have a feeling I'll see next year at the Fest! Be forewarned - 6 days in Nola feels like a month, and you likely trade a year of your life, but it is totally worth it and you will return home with a smile in your heart! I cannot wait to go back, and hope to be able to return all of the love and hospitality I was shown by new friends and old. I love you New Orleans :)
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.
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Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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