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!