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Be back in a bit…
|| 4/22/2009 || 4:26 pm || Comments Off on Be back in a bit… || ||

Taking a month long blogging break.
I’ll be back to regular postings around the end of May!
Follow me on Twitter for updates or subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed!



The Craig Retroazimuthal Projection aka the Mecca Projection
|| 4/21/2009 || 11:45 am || Comments Off on The Craig Retroazimuthal Projection aka the Mecca Projection || ||

The Craig retroazimuthal map projection was created by James Ireland Craig in 1909. It is a cylindrical projection preserving the direction from any place to another predetermined place, while avoiding some of the bizarre distortion of the Hammer retroazimuthal projection. It is sometimes known as the Mecca projection because Craig, who had worked in Egypt as a cartographer, created it to help Muslims find their Qibla. Check out the mathematical calculation used to create the map on Wikipedia.

I think it would be neat to use this cartographic projection technique to create a map that uses Washington, DC as the center.


Related Mecca Entries:

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Google Map Mashup: The Qibla Locator
|| 4/20/2009 || 10:54 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Following up on yesterday’s posting, I stumbled across this interesting Google Map mashup. The Qibla (or Kiblah or Qiblah or Quibla) is the Arabic word for the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays, otherwise known as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. For obedient muslims, the Salah, or formal prayer, is performed five times a day: at dawn (fajr), noon (dhuhr), in the afternoon (asr), at sunset (maghrib) and nightfall (isha’a). The Qibla Locator is a simple Google Map that is designed to automatically orient Muslims toward the direction of the Kaaba. Simply enter your location and the red line that is generated shows the shortest distance to the Kaaba. In the case of the screen grab above I decided to show what direction a Muslim would pray if they were in the White House in Washington, DC. I chose this location because I’ve read about some nutty folks who actually think president Barack Obama is a Muslim. Frankly, I don’t care what religion he practices and to take issue with anyone’s religion is a sign of intolerance and veiled ignorance. What I find most interesting about the Google Map is that the rhumb line toward the Kaaba can be somewhat deceiving. I’m not blaming the author of the mashup, rather, I think the nature of how the Quibla is found is unique. Since its based on the shortest distance to Mecca, sometimes the fastest way seems counter-intuitive, as in, I was thought the path from the White House (above) would be facing South-East instead of North-East. If you have a moment, try it out.


A couple interesting notes from the Wikipedia entry:

• The head of an animal that is slaughtered using Halal methods is aligned with the Qibla.
• Muslims are buried with their faces in the direction of the qiblah. Thus, archeology can indicate a Muslim necropolis if no other signs are present.

A short history of the Qibla:

Originally, the direction of the Qibla was toward Masjid al-Aqsa, Jerusalem (and it is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblahs). At least since Mishnaic times (AD200), Jews face the Temple Mount in Jerusalem while praying. The Mishnah speaks about this in Berakhot (Talmud) chapter 4, Mishnahs 5 and 6 and this practice is even found as early as I Kings 8:35-36. In Islam, this qiblat was used for over 13 years, from 610 CE until 623 CE. Seventeen months after Muhammad’s 622 CE arrival in Medina, the Qiblah became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to accounts from the prophet Muhammad’s companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer in Medina, in a mosque now known as Masjid al-Qiblatain (Mosque of the Two Qiblahs). Muhammad was leading the prayer when he received revelations from Allah instructing him to take the Kaaba as the Qiblah (literally, “turn your face towards the Masjid al Haram”). According to the historical accounts, Muhammad, who had been facing Jerusalem, upon receiving this revelation, immediately turned around to face Mecca, and those praying behind him also did so.


Related Mecca Entries:

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[Update] The Architectural Athan Drum & Bass Mashup via YouTube Doubler is now transcribed
|| 4/19/2009 || 10:36 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Click image to view the mashup on YouTube Doubler

Just under one year ago I created an interesting mashup using Brian Kane’s YouTube Doubler. Dubbed “the Athan Drum & Bass Mashup” (and since then I’ve added “architectural” to the title), the mashup features a slideshow of Islamic architecture on the left side and a stationary camera focused on a Drum & Bass DJ’s turntables on the right. Last night I revisited the original entry and discovered that whomever had uploaded the slideshow decided to transcribe the Athan using YouTube’s annotation feature. Now you can actually read the English translation of the morning call to prayer sung in Arabic.

#update – This iteration also automatically rewinds!


Related Interactive Entries:

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Obama can’t criticize Chavez on at least one issue
|| 4/18/2009 || 1:21 pm || Comments Off on Obama can’t criticize Chavez on at least one issue || ||

From Time Magazine:

Those same Chavistas add that the U.S. has scant right to criticize Venezuela’s policy on its national capital when residents of Washington, D.C., still aren’t allowed representation in Congress.

This sounds similar to what a senior official in Hong Kong said a few years ago to Representative Tom Davis: “Give your nation’s capital the right to vote and then come talk to us about democracy in Hong Kong.”



Fashion District Quilt #2
|| 4/17/2009 || 7:06 pm || Comments Off on Fashion District Quilt #2 || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Fashion District Quilt 2 by Nikolas R. Schiller

Using this portion of Fashion District Quilt, I composed this derivative map. I chose this layout because I liked the way the tessellation created almost-circular building clusters.


View the Google Map of the Fashion District in Los Angeles, California

: detail :

View the rest of the map details:

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Fashion District Quilt
|| 4/16/2009 || 6:25 pm || Comments Off on Fashion District Quilt || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Fashion District Quilt by Nikolas R. Schiller

As I was doing research for the upcoming exhibition in Los Angeles, I decided to map out the area around the Gallery 727. After consulting a few different maps, I found that the gallery is technically located in the area known as the Fashion District, albeit on the periphery. Google Maps lists the area as the Historic Core, but I don’t think “Historic Core Quilt” has a good ring to it. I chose the Octagon Quilt Projection because I like the way the shadows in the streets form a compass rose around the center of the map.


View the Google Map of the Fashion District in Los Angeles, California

: detail :

View the rest of the map details:

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|| Upcoming Exhibition || Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map
|| 4/14/2009 || 6:14 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map is a curatorial project materializing in multiple forms: an exhibition, a publication and a series of public programs.

Photography and cartography are entwined in similar processes of subject orientation that structure our experience of social, environmental and virtual landscapes. A map is not a representation so much as a system of propositions. This project reveals mapping itself as a generative process of knowledge creation, a liberatory method for re-imagining and re-imaging our world, its built and natural environments, and the relationship between space and place.

Maps are tied to a history of authority, scientific rationality and practical application, masking the underlying subjectivity and biases of their creation. Satellite-based navigation, the disciplines of geography and, more recently, urban planning, have popularized and proliferated map imagery while helping to cement an aura of unassailable cartographic objectivity. Maps have become ubiquitous tools in our daily lives, and are understandably identified in accordance with a few simple assumptions: they are graphic representations of spatial relations and their creators are technicians bound to graphic systems that reflect a physical reality. However, the true nature of maps is one of distortion, beginning with their projections of three-dimensional surfaces onto two-dimensional frames, and compounded by territorialization, a habit of identifying, naming and claiming. Maps are image-objects in which different conceptions and configurations of time and space are created, not just charted.

In 1858 Gaspard Felix Tournachon executed the first aerial photographs from a hot air balloon tethered above the Paris skyline. In turn, Baron Haussmann employed this omniscient view to redesign the city, combating its perceived disorder. Over the last 150 years, people have used zeppelins, airplanes, and satellites to photographically capture and archive every piece of our globe with increasing accuracy and frequency.

More recently, public access to maps, as well as the access to their means of production, have been greatly enabled by digital technologies—most notably tools such as Google Earth and freely accessible archives like those offered by the USGS. Borges’ story of mapping the entire Kingdom with exactitude may seem improbably complete. And yet, maps can never escape being part of the world their creators try to represent. Like the photographic image, “The map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious” by coding power, politics, and aesthetics. All maps are still projections, and all territories are maps.

Mapping and photography are conceptual frameworks, rather than methods, that inform this project. The exhibition features artwork from Anthony Auerbach, Katherine Bash, Charles Benton, Noah Beil, Mike Hernandez, David Horvitz, David Maisel, Adam Ryder, Oraib Toukan, Angie Waller, and Nikolas Schiller.

Exhibition Opening – May 16, 7:00-10:00
Exhibition @ Gallery 727
727 South Spring Street, downtown Los Angeles
www.TatteredFragments.info


If you are in the Los Angeles area please check out the exhibition! It will be up until July 3rd, 2009.


Click here to view photos from the gallery opening



Phoenix Quilt #2
|| 4/11/2009 || 6:24 pm || Comments Off on Phoenix Quilt #2 || ||

: rendered at 18,000 X 12,000 :
Phoenix Quilt 2 by Nikolas R. Schiller

Using this portion of Phoenix Quilt, I created this derivative map of downtown Phoenix, Arizona. For this map I decided to employ the Dodecagon Quilt Projection because its been a little while since I’ve used that projection. I also liked the way the rooftop of the Sandra Day O’Connor US District Court creates a nice design around the center.


View the Google Map of downtown Phoenix, Arizona

: detail :

View the rest of the map details:

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A Response to Doug Feaver’s “Listening to the Dot-Commenters”
|| 4/10/2009 || 8:01 am || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

In yesterday’s Opinions section in the Washington Post I came across Doug Feaver’s article called “Listening to the Dot-Commenters” and felt compelled to write this missive concerning his incomplete analysis of anonymous commenters on the Washington Post website.

He writes:

But the bigger problem with The Post’s comment policy, many in the newsroom have told me, is that the comments are anonymous. Anonymity is what gives cover to racists, sexists and others to say inappropriate things without having to say who they are.

He goes on to defend the commenters because they add dynamic content to an article, can be entertaining, act as a non-scientific survey on the topic de jour, and oftentimes show that the readers do not necessarily agree with the journalist who wrote the article. While these are all factual points, Feaver misses the larger issue. Comments are not completely anonymous.

Of the 330 comments that were generated by the article at the time of this posting, only one commenter addresses the larger point that I am attempting to make.

dlpetersdc wrote: Posts here are only anonymous to readers of these posts, not the WaPo’s staff. When you post, likely your IP address is recorded with the entry…[snip]… But anyone who thinks that you can remain anonymous on the Internet is fooling themselves.

Lets take this commenter’s summarized point one step further. Since all traffic on all websites leave a digital footprint that can be tracked back, in real time, to a unique IP address or Internet Service Provider, why does the Washington Post continue to shield it’s readers from one of the most important & least invasive aspects of this harvested data: the commenter’s geographic location??

Unlike the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or USA Today, as a newspaper of record that does not have nationwide circulation, the Washington Post’s existence and continued success is contingent upon a large local subscriber base and those living outside of the current distribution area reading articles on-line. Each month I pay to have the paper delivered to my house, but am essentially given no extra privileges when reading or commenting on an on-line article. Alternatively, each on-line article that non-subscribers read also helps the Washington Post’s bottom line through on-line advertising. Yet all commenters, paying subscribers and non-paying readers, are given the exact same treatment in the comments section of the Washington Post website. I feel this is unfair, unwise, and only perpetuates ignorant, racist, and bigoted remarks.

The incorporation of the geographic location of commenters might not seem significant, but the implications are quite important to the general discourse. When I read an article about the unconstitutional D.C. voting rights bill (aka the 1/3 Compromise), I sometimes like to see what comments are being left on-line or if someone expresses a legal opinion that I have not read yet. However after I have read what the different commenters have written, I am generally saddened that local opinions are sometimes lost in the clutter of non-local opinions. While the Washington Post knows the approximate location of each “anonymous” commenter, this information is not disclosed to other commenters, and it creates & perpetuates a vacuum of ignorance.

Moreover, sometimes the Washington Post will have a poll about an issue and many times I’ve found that the results are unbelievably skewed by those who do not live in the region. Why not add some basic geoscience to the poll by disclosing the difference between how readers from the Washington metropolitan region voted versus those who live in the rest of the world? This geographic data is already there waiting to be used, but sadly it is not.

But its not just an issue of liking or disliking comments; I can always choose not to read them. The root of the issue is that the Washington Post is perpetuating this type of ignorance by shielding their on-line readers from where a comment is originating. This data is collected the moment a user begins loading content from the website and it does not personally identify any readers. While an IP address can be spoofed, most people are not going to take the time to put forth the extra effort just so they can prevent their approximate location from being revealed.

Commenters can still be anonymous and have a geographic location attached to them. For example, my current IP address only shows that I am a Comcast subscriber based in Washington, DC. With thousands of other Comcast subscribers, I still retain a level of anonymity by creating an “anonymous” account using a different e-mail address and creating a screen name that only I know of.

Imagine for a moment that immediately after the commenters screen name there was the text “from [LOCATION]” or as it would read on the screen: ANONYMOUS COMMENTER from Memphis, Tennessee or Nik Schiller from Washington, DC. Who would you be more likely to read if the article was about something in Washington, DC? Or Memphis, Tennessee? Esssentially, what comments have more credibility? Those comments originating from the geographic location of the subject of the article? Or those that do not?

Well, of course, it depends on the context of their comments. If they were bashing the residents of Washington, DC and do not live here, I would most likely ignore them. But as it is now, even though the Washington Post knows where the commenter is from, all other commenters are denied this basic level of geographic understanding and it alienates readers who actually pay for the newspaper.

In conclusion, I believe a more civilized level of discourse can be established if the level of anonymity is slightly altered by providing the geographic location of all commenters. Its not so much about WHO the commenter is, but WHERE the commenter is from that is at the core my logic. Locals commenting about local affairs will be treated with more respect, while people who don’t pay for the paper, leave absurd, racist, or sexist comments, can & will be ignored more easily. As a paying subscriber, I feel it’s the least the Washington Post can do to encourage my on-line participation. The current model is a free for all that can be more civil, if, and only if, the Washington Post chooses to bring more sunshine to their paying & non-paying readers through the visible disclosure of the geographic information that each on-line reader already provides.





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Nikolas Schiller is a second-class American citizen living in America's last colony, Washington, DC. This blog is my on-line repository of what I have created or found on-line since May of 2004. If you have any questions or comments, please contact:

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