Human Connection

Have you ever noticed the joy that comes when you spend time with your closest family and friends? Those closest relationships that are immune to the effects of distance, separation, or a ticking clock. Perhaps you’ve even felt that same connection to a beloved pet or a particular part of the world: a grandmother’s house, a nearby pond, or perhaps the hum of a bustling city. In this age of increasing technology many have suggested that our ability to relate is deteriorating. What I find interesting is that our greatest technological innovations are created to improve communication. The telegraph, the internet, the cell phone; all of these were invented so that we could stay in touch. Our society is becoming increasingly mobile as many of us move around the world to find jobs and a purpose far from our birthplace. These technologies exists to prevent the fraying or cessation of our relational bonds. I am inclined to disagree with the belief that our relationships are worth less than they used to be. I admit that I have several tertiary friendships as a result of technology, but I think I have many closer friends as a result of our technology than I ever would have made without it.

e·ther, noun
archaic definition:
a very rarefied and highly elastic substance believed to permeate all space.

I just finished reading Margaret Wheatley’s book Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. I believe most of the book reflects a heartfelt desire on the part of the author to encourage her readers to connect with those around them. She presents a view that we are all connected, that this connection is built in our relationships, and that our relationships are what enable us to change the world for good and protect it from evil. I was recently asked to help my church plan out its future. The method of church is changing because many people don’t feel connected to it. I have also had many discussions with friends that have suggested that our existing church model isn’t working to connect congregants in a spiritual sense.

What might the future church look like?
          What might the future of christendom look like?
What about simple spirituality?

Connections imply linkages between two objects that do not inhabit the same space. Each of us as humans occupy a different space. All of our perspectives are slightly different. None of us can see the world exactly as any other one of us can. In this sense we are all unique, different, and possess a perspective on life than no other human can have. We will not always agree and the point of conversation isn’t to agree, it’s to convey learning. We are ultimately diverse and intricately connected. Each of us has a view to share and each of us has a duty to listen.

-Austin
32.3° N by 90.8° W

American Dream

Earlier this week my wife and I went refrigerator shopping. It felt like a very adult thing to do. My co-worker said I wasn’t a senior citizen yet, because that happens when you go shopping for refrigerator parts. This very adult activity led me to wonder if I’ve arrived yet. Have I made it? The answer to this question is related to defining what the it is. Just because I can name it the “American Dream”, doesn’t mean I have a clue what that’s supposed to mean.

What is the American Dream? Own a house? Own a car? Live care-free as a trust-fund baby? Run a boutique shop in a quaint downtown?

Perhaps a better question is: what is the real America? This question was asked and investigated from a spatial perspective by Kevin Kelly. His thesis is an interesting look at the discrepancy between the society, culture, and place we live; and the way we think it should be–or are told it should be. The American Dream is barely more than a continuation of what the Real America is. It is the culmination of political puffery designed to encourage belief in our collective identity. This in and of itself may seem cynical or apathetic; but in fact, it is vitally important we believe it. It is important we believe in a dream, it is a unifying ideal that defines what we hope for our nation. The puffery matters…so, no matter what, We Win!.

The American Dream is the dream of an individual, a single solitary individual with an idea. The dream is an idea of her future life, his future success, or their collective wellbeing. It is really just the wish of the one. So many things are done in the name of this vague dream. There is a collective idea of what the Dream entails; generally all the good things about life, none of the bad. Included in the roots of our dream are the last vestiges of Manifest Destiny, that we are the Chosen Ones, the City on a Shining Hill, the Greatest Nation on Earth. The dream is the drive to be as excellent as we can be, despite ourselves. It is the wish we have for our children, our own lives, and our friendships. It is the unshakable belief that when I buy a refrigerator I can stock it full of BBQ and Beer. It is coming to terms with who you are now and where you want to be, living with a refrigerator you can depend on.

Pax Americana

-Austin
32.3° N by 90.8° W

The Cajun Night Before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas… These are the famous words that begin a story almost every child is familiar with. It tells of a great man who travels in a sleigh pulled by majestic reindeer and brings gifts and presents to billions of children around the world. There are many adaptations of the story as well. One of my favorites is the Cajun adaptation, authored by J. B. Kling, Jr. It captures both the stereotypical cajun culture and the dialect in the way it’s written. Instead of reindeer, Santa is pulled by Alligators. Instead of a red suit and a sleigh, Santa flies in a brown suit and a skiff. These cultural adaptations are interesting because each showcases a part of the vast diversity of cultures that call the United States home. Some cultures are more wealthy than others, some more expressive, but all of our cultures contribute an important thread in the cultural tapestry of America. As we approach the Christmas Celebration and the coming New Year, I encourage you to reflect on the people who are different from you. These people could be your neighbors locally, regionally, or nationally. They could be your friends, acquaintances, or otherwise, but regardless of their station each person is valuable. This time of year is a time of forgiveness and hope; a time for brotherhood and love. I encourage my readers and followers to share the Joy of this season with those around them; especially those from cultures we struggle to understand.

-Austin
32.3° N by 90.8° W

Small Towns

When I travel on the road, inevitably I pass through towns with catchy names. Mary Dell and Refroe, Mississippi are both small communities North East of Jackson. I used to pass the signs for both of these communities on every trip between home and Mississippi State. While my wife and I were honeymooning in California there was another town name I gravitated to, La Honda. La Honda is a quaint little town tucked into the hills south of San Francisco. We drove through the city on a round-a-bout drive to Half-Moon Bay. I know nothing about the community beyond what wikipedia has to say. For instance in the Cultural History section:

Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (pages of which were written all over the restroom wall of his La Honda residence) and other books, owned a home in La Honda, which served as the base of operations for The Merry Pranksters where they used LSD and other drugs.

-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Honda,_California

You see you can never really judge a place just by driving through it. There are thousands of small towns in this country, each with their own unique history. Some of this history is interesting, some is tragic, some is happy, and some is sad. A lot of times those of us who practice GIS will only see a city the way the census views a city; a population, a few demographic measurements, an approximate size. But a city is a community of relationships with a shared history, each with its own interesting story. As our population slowly migrates into larger metropolitan areas many of the smaller villages, towns, and communities are slowly being lost to time. Every community is special, some go by in the blink of an eye but they’re no less important.

-Austin
32.3° N by 90.8° W

Nonsense Poetry: Flood

In keeping with the theme of Place for this blog, and realizing that I like nonsense rhyme, I wrote this poem about the Mississippi River. The Mighty Mississippi plays a strong role in the cultural fabric of my part of the world and her floods are woven into our social history.

FLOOD

There’m he in the muck-muck row,
Push’n’plow with the farm man’s cow.
Hot he is the noon-time day,
Shimmer tremble upon yonder way.

There’m that river is here ago.
Where you’s have satten, her land you know.
Heave-Ho the water knows,
To push back all yebills below.

Build’n’pound the trac-jack goes,
Up, up high to the cumulowoe.
Symbol-drum and thimble-thumb,
The rainy hum on earthen plum.

There be she river all a flow.
Flat’n’glass on the shiny plain.
She fitter-futter the dust away.
River flush to full a show.
Where she go, no muck-muck row.

-Austin
32.3° N by 90.8° W

Engineering With Nature

Professionally I worked on a small project related to Engineering With Nature for a few weeks last year. I developed a simple Engineering With Nature viewer with basic filter and search functions using Flash. It’s nothing fancy by any means. I developed it entirely from scratch instead of using the out-of-the-box viewers from Esri. I wanted to use the opportunity to learn how the technology is coded and built. Filtering works by clicking on the legend items, and symbolization works by selecting the buttons on the Map Widget. The search bar is at the top of the Map Widget to search for a site (e.g. “galveston”). This is based on a dataset provided by the Engineering With Nature team. This was a small mapping effort that was originally setup for just the project manager’s use, but then we realized we needed to take it to the next level. In the coming weeks it will be transforming into something even better using ArcGIS Portal and an entire viewer redesign to support new capability and make it more collaborative. There is also a companion site on our internal network that uses the same spatial layer so that the project manager can moderate any new site submissions. I will also be migrating it from Flash to JavaScript to use the new features in HTML5. Check out the current Engineering With Nature homepage or the viewer here.

Autumnal Rain

Raymond Rd. MS
rain is coming ©2003

Does it rain where you live? It doesn’t everywhere, but it certainly does rain a lot here. It rains differently different times of the year. The summer has its afternoon thunder-showers. The spring has its severe thunderstorms. The winter; its long drizzle. The fall’s rains are unique as well; stiff winds, strong cold fronts, and hard long downpours–by far, my favorite. There will be a little ice on the ground tomorrow but it will disappear by mid-morning. The grass will become muddy from the soaking, the rivers will heave with run-off. I find myself waiting for the first fall rain each year. It’s as if my life is put on pause until it comes. A winter in the South is a bone drenching mess, but it’s a bone drenching mess I always look forward to.

-Austin
32.3° N by 90.8° W