Thinking Spatial

Thinking Spatial

Spatial analysis has come of ageAs time goes on, our world becomes more and more global.  We also capture more and more data as each day goes by.  Linking the location of this data with time and other attributes, can reveal very profound patterns; patterns at various scales like community to global.

We can answer numerous questions about a lot of different things using GIS software like ArcGIS.  Using the concept of data layers, we can start to analyze data in exponential ways.  We can go beyond statistics on a data table and evaluate changes over geographic space.  We can also use GIS to find the best locations and features with certain characteristics.

For example, Whole Foods uses many different data layers to identify the best locations for their store fronts.  They want the best location which has a population of 200,000 within 20-minutes. They also look for locations with at least 20,000 sq ft, a decent sized parking lot and ease of access along with highly visible (source).

Thinking spatial about some of my own interests, I have come up with two focus areas. The first being related to the “walkabout” I have been on over the past few years.  Where do I want to live as my forever place?  This GIS would take into account numerous data layers such as population, elevation, incomes, education, and access to parks and rivers. Using these data layers, and a few more, I can begin to scientifically hone down where I could settle down.

The second spatial project centers around my love of history.  I am currently reading a book about Red Cloud titled, “The Heart of Everything That Is.”  What piqued my interest was the impact of European Settlers had on the spatial and temporal changes in the new world.  With the arrival of settlers in the east, drove waves of Native Americans west as they fled.  But they fled with muskets, blades and disease.   As the book described this change, I was mesmerized trying to visualize this on a map and in the context of the time.  Throw in some explorers, desperadoes, and outlaws and you have quite a story. But I want to build an interactive story map to illustrate these profound changes.

To think spatial opens the mind, builds the curiosity and becomes a book of its own right. What ways can spatial analysis impact your life? Your curiosity?

 

A Pending Economic Shift

Climate change is here. The Federal Government is corrupt and politicians are out of tune with their constituents.  Corporate America cares far more about profit than well-being for their country or their employee.  Our economy is breaking and we are heading toward a major economic shift.

Why is our economy breaking?

  • The fossil fuel based economy is a primary driver of climate change.
  • The economic gap is the widest it has ever been in modern times.
  • It is harder than ever for a citizen of the US to start their own business.
  • Lawyers outnumber doctors in the US.
  • The economic conditions favor stockpiling cash.
  • Competition is squashed by buyouts due to stockpiled cash.
  • The tech industry is automating everything, increasing unemployment and creating a society of lazy, dumb people. (We don’t want to be an idiocracy.)
  • How we measure economic health is flat-out wrong.
  • Everything, housing, internet, healthcare, has become a privilege.
  • Poor mental health is on the rise, suicides are up
  • General happiness is at an all-time low.
  • Innovation and manufacturing in the US has stopped growing.
  • A mad-man sits in the oval office who doesn’t know what he is doing.
  • The global economy matters more than ever. Nationalism is suicide.

I don’t mean to paint a picture of doom, but we are heading for a shift in our economy.  The economy we have today can’t keep going the way it is.  We must solve the economic gap, we must make sure everyone has access to housing, to healthcare, and equal access to basic needs.

What sort of an economy do we need?  We need an economy that flips the power of money on its head.  We need the concept of worker co-ops, where businesses can be managed by employees and those employees reap the rewards of the business.  Currently we have too many 1%-ers reaping the rewards of the work of millions of employees.  That is wrong.

We also need an economy which respects our need for a health environment to survive.  We must move away from fossil fuels and long commutes to one of the renewable energy, self-sufficiency, and walk-able commutes.  We must reorganize our society to align with a healthier environment.

The economy must represent the global needs.  Nationalism must take a back seat to global well-being.  What happens in China and Japan, for instance, has consequences for those living in the US and Brazil.  The new economy must connect local communities across the globe and respect local solutions.  National and Global legislation can be detrimental to local economies.  We need an economy which favors environmental responsibility and general well-being for all above all else.

Economies do not change overnight.  Unless we are invaded or a government coup occurs, we are unlikely to wake up tomorrow into a totally new economy.  We must take one step at a time and move toward a more favorable, happy economy for all.

 

Do Not Let Technology Take Your Life

Technology has been on a path of freeing individuals from repetitive work, making our lives safer, and opening up a new world of connectivity to us.  Tech, has turned poor college students into billionaires.  Tech is on a rat race to automate as much of our world as possible while making as much money possible.  This race is a good thing for everyone.

Find Moderation

No Tech Zone for sanityHowever, we can’t let Tech push us aside. we cannot let Tech increase the income gap.  We can’t spend our lives living behind a computer. We can’t spend our days a slave to our smartphones and notifications.

My friends think I am weird.  I have turned off all notifications on my phone.  I have deleted numerous social media accounts.  I rarely do anything with Facebook these days. I don’t play games.  I do use my phone to glance at email. I do use my phone to make phone calls.  I do all of my planning in my own version of a Bullet Journal.

Time Slips By

About a year ago, I realized how much of my life was spent behind a computer. You wake up, go to work and spend the day behind a computer in the name of accomplishing something.  Then you commute home and find myself again behind a computer for a few hours to accomplish the personal stuff.  Before you know it, the neighbors have moved out, Donald Trump is President, and my awesome car has hit nearly 130,000 miles.

Life can get away from you.  You can watch it from behind a computer melting your eyes or you participate in it in real life.  Find a balance. The real world isn’t for everyone.  Actually talking to people outside work is a scary thing.

Your Challenge

I challenge you to do one or more of the following at least one per week:

  • Turn your phone off for 24-hours – it is hard, but I assure you the world will not end
  • Go for a long hike – Vitamin N is a mineral we don’t get enough of, so get more of it
  • Have a picnic in a park – Sure, there are scary homeless people at the park, but a picnic can be a peaceful, sublime experience
  • Drive to a new town and explore it – A change of scenery is good for the soul
  • Paint, doodle, dance, or just observe – all of these can meditative and help to rebuild the soul

Try it out and report back what you did and how you felt.  We can’t let technology steal our lives from us.  There is an analog world out there to enjoy.

Perspectives in Analytics

Implementing Analytics is a lot like making pizza.   The end result is fabulous, a very yummy pizza with our favorite toppings.  But how we make that pizza, can vary quite wildly.  Even the ingredients we use can vary as do the toppings.

If the goal is our favorite yummy pizza, businesses have the goal of building an analytics program which represents their business model and their strategy.  These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can vary wildly, even for businesses operating in a similar market.  The KPIs are our toppings.  Pepperoni for some and others avoid the anchovies.

How we support those KPIs can be vary as well.  What type of dough do you like?  Do you make the dough from scratch or buy a premade dough?  What do we add to the dough for interest?  Basil?  The dough is our technology stack.  You can build something completely custom with anjular.js and d3.js or you can buy something off the shelf, like Google Data Studio or implement Alteryx and Tableau.  There are no right or wrong answers, just the best decision for the needs of your business.  Low-budget frozen pizza to high-end gourmet pizza cooked in a pizza oven, the flavors vary.

The best advice I can give is to consider the sustainability of any stack before implementing.  Knowing the complexity and amount of data will ever increase is crucial. Being able to modify reports and deploy new ones fast is key to success.  Don’t forget KPIs can evolve as well and need to be reviewed regularly.

Happy Pizza Making! Er… happy analytics developing?

 

 

The Power of Mini Habit

I’ll just suck it up and admit it. I have no other choice. I am a life long learner. Whether it is a new restaurant, a new programming language, or a new data visualization tool, I am a sponge and want to know all about it. Maybe it is an addiction, maybe it is just curiosity, but either way, it is my passion.

How do I do it? Well, with baby steps. You never want to bite off more than you can chew. This is where the power of the mini habit comes in. Taking a small amount of time every day to focus on one thing even for a few minutes leads to profound productivity in the long run.

The idea is to spend about 10 minutes every day learning something new. You could learn how to paint, you could read a white paper, or you could even write a novel. Yes you can write a novel in 10 minutes a day! Whatever your goal may be many habits can lead to profound returns.

Some of my daily habits include;

1) do. 15 push-ups

2) read one white paper or 10 pages

3) write for 10 minutes

4) sketch, paint or draw

5) walk or drive down a new street

If you are creative with your mini habits, they will easily compound into achieving your goals. If you practiced the piano for 10 minutes every day and then in one year you will be a respectable piano player.

So start compounding those mini habits today. Write out your long-term goals and think about different things you can do every day to work towards those goals. Don’t forget to have a little bit of fun. Don’t forget about creativity. And don’t forget that it’s OK to be a lifelong learner.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin N?

Coal Creak Trail and Falls in Lafayette, ColoradoVitamin N.  You may not have heard of it.  In fact, if you go to your local drug store, you won’t find a bottle of it on the shelf.   That’s because vitamin N is something we get for free just by going outside and admiring the grass, the trees, the clouds, and the sun.

Vitamin N is nature.  With more and more of the population living in cities and high-density apartment/condo buildings, nature is becoming more and more distant in our daily lives.  While humans have dominated the earth and learned to control fire, extract resources from the planet and make some pretty incredible things with those resources, we must not forget that we are part of nature.

Just like we bring plants into our shelters, we must also make it a point to step out into nature itself.  Here is how:

  • Seek out parks.  While hiking isn’t available, you can still sit under a tree and take in the sunshine, the rustle of the leaves, and the wind in your hair.
  • In the urban environment, seek out well landscaped areas.  Newer shopping areas typically have streets lined with trees.
  • Do a Google Search for trails near your house.  Even in urban areas like Denver, more natural recreation paths are available like the Speer Blvd aqueduct.
  • Plan a weekend in the mountains.  Get out and explore areas within a half day drive to a day’s drive from home.  Plan time hiking and exploring the area.
  • Sign up for a community garden plot.  Sites like Growing Gardens might have a plot in your area.  There is nothing like dirt under the fingernails and a fresh tomato!

Getting your vitamin N fix is easier than you think.  Experience the birds, the leaves, and the sun.  They are all a part of your soul.