Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So...what do you do for a living?

Otherwise known as the "cocktail" question.  I'm sure you've been to a social gathering where you're familiar with some individuals, less so with others.  During the course of the evening, eventually "the question" is asked what one does for a career.  For many, it's an easy answer - I'm a doctor/lawyer/engineer/etc...  For me, my response is generally met with a blank stare of confusion.

Me:  "I'm a Instructor for a GIS company."
Other person:  "GIS what?"
Me:  "I work for a Mapping Software company."
Other person:  "What's that?"
Me:  "It's a company that writes software to work with maps and the data behind maps."
Other person:  "Uh....."
Me:  "Have you seen Google Earth?"
Other person:  "Oh yes, I've used that many times - is that what you do?"
Me:  "No, not really.  Google Earth is just the beginning of what one can do with imagery and maps."
Other person:  "Excuse me for a moment...honey can I get another drink."

In reality, it's not that blunt but most individuals do not understand that most if not all mapping, whether it's for climbing, navigating, a pretty wall map, is created using software that is designed for designing maps.  Of course, the map is the front end that people see but the reality is that there's a lot more going on behind the scene of the map.  The attributes of the data - thinks roads or lakes for example.  The coordinates of the data - GPS units collect point or line data using a Geographic Coordinate System called WGS84.  The maps designed for the Internet all require software to visualize and analyze the vast amount of data out there.

But why talk about it when I can show you.  Below is a map that I quickly created from http://www.arcgis.com/ and then shared out as a bit of code to imbed into my blog.  It's a map of Quandary Peak - one of the many 14ers that I've climbed.

View Larger Map

Of course, this is but one small example of the infinite number of Geographic Information System (GIS) maps that have been created over the years whether with our software or the host of other software's on the market.  For additional information about the company, please visit http://www.esri.com/

But back to the "cocktail question" - what do you do for a living?  I teach cartography, database design, software extensions, parcel management, basic introductory classes and more to people from all disciplines of life.  Whether you work for the public sector or the private sector, the military or the non-profits, the K-12 teacher or the university professor, the person who wants to save the world or the person trying to determine where vital natural resources are located - your path may cross mine and we'll chat about how GIS can be that tool to aid your job.  It's a rewarding profession and I'm pleased to be involved with GIS for 18+ years now.

Climb On my friends...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Lucky 7...

Happy New Year everyone!  First I must apologize for being extremely tardy in my blog postings after my Qatar trip in September 2010.  As I look out the window on this very cold night, I realized that it has been nearly 4 months since I posted anything.  No time like the present.

The beginning of a new year is like any other for the most part.  It's a renewing of the calendar year, a reset switch for individuals to make personal goals that they may or may not meet, an expectation that this year will be better than the last.  As most of you know, I don't necessarily subscribe to "traditional" New Year's resolutions of any sort.  Why?  What's the point?  Rather I set goals for the new year as something to work towards.  My outdoor goal this year is to complete the 54 summits over 14,0000' in Colorado.  Currently, I sit at 47 completed peaks with 7 remaining.  Some of these remaining 7 peaks will be challenging from a mountaineering perspective while others less so.

So a bit of a preview of each one broken down by the two mountain ranges that these airy summits belong.

The Elk Range - known as some of Colorado's most rugged and beautiful peaks.  The rock in this range is considered "rotten" in the sense that its crumbling, red sedimentary rock.  I've climbed a few in this range already and can testify that these are mountains to approach with respect.

  • Capitol Peak (14,130') - among 14er aficionado's, this singular peak has been considered to be one of the hardest peaks in the state due to it's infamous 100' knife edge.  My climbing partners and I attempted this in 2010 but turned back due to rain and freezing conditions.  The picture above is a 40' knife edge called Kelso Ridge on approach to Torrey's Peak.  Good practice for this one!
  • Snowmass Peak (14.092') - another rugged 14er that is considered fairly remote while being north of the glitzy Aspen community.  Not as difficult as Capitol Peak, it has a long approach and a "namesake" snowfield that lasts well into summer making the trip up a little easier through the scree/talus fields.
  • Maroon Peak (14,156') - perhaps one of the most photographed peaks in Colorado and perhaps the West.  This peak and it's sibling, North Maroon Peak, are collectively known as the "Deadly Bells" and for good reason.  The rock is poor and route finding a challenge.  I climbed it's neighbor, Pyramid Peak, in the summer of 2009 and can testify that one should carefully study the route and minimize the risks.
The San Juans - this mountain range is simply the most beautiful part of the state.  Remote, rugged peaks far from the Front Range with amazing backpacking opportunities for the climber and non-climber alike.
  • Wetterhorn Peak (14,015') - this mountain is named after the more famous Wetterhorn rising above Grindelwald in Switzerland's Bernese Alps.  For language fans, Wetternhorn loosely translated means "weather peak" in German.  I attempted this peak in 2008 but did not have the necessary rock skills to comfortably summit this peak. After two years of rock climbing and classes, I look forward to this one quite a bit.
  • Handies Peak (14,048') - this is my 14er finisher!  It's a Class 1 walk-up so hikers and climbers alike can walk up the trail to the rarefied air of 14k.  The plan is to summit this in August 2011 if you're interested - please let me know.  Details to follow in the summer.
  • Sunlight Peak (14,059') - another one of the 14ers spoken in reverence due to its "leap of fate" off the summit block.  Most hikers/climbers don't stand on the small summit block.  It's a bit exposed and requires a jump down to a angled rock block.  On one side - safety and camp.  On the other - a several hundred foot fall.  I'm okay with reaching my hand up to touch the summit...
  • Mount Sneffels (14,150') - located 7 miles west of Ouray, CO.  Ouray is home to the Ouray Ice Festival and is often called the "little Switzerland" of North America.  If you've ever been there, you'd agree.  This mountain serves as a good warm-up for aspiring mountaineers that have finished the "walk-up" 14ers and want to try something a bit harder.  Should be great fun!
So that's it.  The remaining 14ers that I have left to climb.  To be honest with you, when I first started hiking the 14ers in 1998 I never really gave it much thought that I would complete "the list."  But this year, if all goes well, "the list" will be completed and I will join about 1200-1300 people who have completed the 14ers.  I look forward to the challenge...Climb On my friends!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another 24 hours...the Doha Sequel...

With my blockbuster post from 2 days ago, the director asked if I would write a sequel to my runaway hit.  I graciously agreed on the caveat that they do something about the heat and humidity.  Well, if 99 degrees and a heat index of 107 degrees is better, then life is good.  Surprisingly, the temperatures did feel a bit better on my return walk to the Movenpick Tower and Suites this afternoon...I only felt 3/4 drained more than Qatar normal.
As discussed in my last post, Saturday was my day of R&R from the long plane ride halfway around the world.  Sunday was my Monday as it were.  I have a class of 14-15 students in my class and the cultural differences are interesting to observe.  The males occupy the front of the classroom and are fairly active in discussions.  The women occupy the back of the classroom and "generally" not as active in discussions, but they will ask questions if I walk near or they quietly get my attention to assist them.  For cultural and/or religious beliefs, women in the Islamic world dress in an abayas - some veiled while others are not.  As described in my hotel magazine, women wear abayas "to shroud their identity from the outside world."  It's very effective...

One difficulty in teaching this particular class is the abbreviated Qatari work schedule.  It's common to begin one's day around 8 AM, have a 30-minute brunch from 9:30-10 AM, a call to prayers at 11:45-12:15 PM and then depart for one's home by 2 PM.  This class is designed around an 8 hour work day so losing nearly 4 hours a day to teach is problematic at best.  One has to speed up delivery of instruction and skip exercises in order to complete the required materials.  Even with that, I'm rushed to get done what I can.

Following class, my principle lead for CGIS and I discussed work details afterwards and then drove me to another part of Qatar for an Arabic sandwich - basically a falafel chicken sandwich - very tasty from the local falafel store.  The great thing about this trip is I saw yet more of Doha while traveling in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle.  Beats walking in the hot, humid sun - but....

Walk I did as the sun was setting yesterday.  The corniche is a many kilometer water promenade that goes around the Doha Bay.  From my hotel, I began my hours long walk past the newly constructed skyscrapers of West Bay taking many pictures.  I have to say, the architecture of these modern skyscrapers are unlike anything I've seen before.  For the most part, they're very sleek, very progressive, very modern, and very impressive.  Not knowing what to expect of Doha before my trip, I've been very impressed by the design of it's future and intrigue of it's past.  Doha is a very modern 21st century city with a centuries old past that is rapidly disappearing in the older areas of town to rubble and new construction.

After my return to the Movenpick, I ventured downstairs for dinner in the hotel restaurant.  Granted, in the US I would never do such a thing, but as I have no car and I was starving...so the Indian style buffet with amazing desserts had to suffice.  The prices are a bit much for such a meal so Monday night, I plan to return to the Souq Waqif via a taxi and enjoy an inexpensive and much more enjoyable night.

I wrapped up my day with a Skype video phone call to my girl and the boy.  First time I used this technology and it was great.  My day was nearing an end (9 PM Qatar time) and Karen's was just beginning (12 PM MST).  It was great to see her and the boy and get to talk to them - learned yet more about a new Beyblade that Ethan purchased - L-Drago!!!  Halfway around the world is a bit harder than 450 miles north of ABQ - but the result is still the same - not in the same town and missing each other.

Well, Tuesday is my last full day in Doha to conclude my 3-day class and then off to meet an ESRI colleague for dinner.  After that, get packed and ready to go for my return flight to the States - it will be a bit longer than the outbound flight due to going against the jet stream.  Gggggrrrreeeeeaaaaaaatttttttt....

Until then, climb on my friends!