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A T-Rex Google Map On My Neighborhood Via Twitter
|| 3/15/2010 || 11:23 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

The other day I allowed Twitter to track my location. Much to my chagrin, the map that was created looks awful. At first I thought it looked like PacMan and now I’ve come to the conclusion that it looks like T-Rex, and that ‘T’ stands for Twitter.



Washington Monument Quilt #2
|| 10/22/2009 || 5:22 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

: rendered at 9,000 X 6,000 :
Washington Monument Quilt #2 by Nikolas Schiller

When the 2005 USGS aerial photography was released to the public in the spring of 2007 there were a few places that were censored through pixilation. On this blog I documented how the White House was censored. I documented how the U.S. Capitol was censored. And I even experimented with a QR-Code to show that the Washington Monument was censored. After doing some exploration within the newly obtained 2008 Washington, DC orthophotography, I discovered that the White House and the U.S. Capitol are STILL censored.

However, now that the construction of the new visitors center at the Washington Monument has been completed, which is the reason, I am told, why the Washington Monument was originally censored in the 2005 imagery, the imagery of the monument is now available without pixilation. Moreover, its the exact same imagery that is being used on Google Maps. While I expect to showcase the censorship of the White House & U.S. Capitol in some future entries, I decided to make make my first map of this new dataset of the Washington Monument because I wasn’t able to make it using the last batch of imagery.

To construct this map, I first rendered a full-size Hexagon Quilt Projection map using the original imagery, then sampled a portion of the resulting map, and used the sampled portion to create this derivative map. I chose to sample the portion in the first map because of two underlying aspects of the map. First, I really liked the way the shadows of the Washington Monument combined together. Secondly, I liked the way the apex of the Washington Monument was combined (see detail below) to create a pyramid. Over the years I have enjoyed playing with the notion of aerial & architectural chiaroscuro, as in, using shadows generated by buildings within the original aerial photography to create a new, larger shadow. This map embodies this ongoing design element perfectly.

View the Google Map of the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

: detail :

View the rest of the details:

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Google Maps: Add the Contour Interval to the Legend of your Terrain maps
|| 8/6/2009 || 3:56 pm || 5 Comments Rendered || ||

Nearly every printed topographic map I’ve ever looked at has the contour interval, otherwise known as the distance between contour lines, listed in the legend. Depending on the scale of the map, the contour interval ranges from 1 foot to hundreds of feet between each successive contour line. The contour interval allows the map reader to instantly know the relative steepness & flatness of the topography in the map at one quick glance. Because of this crucial information, a topographic map is considered incomplete when it does not disclose this information to the reader.

Enter the Terrain feature of Google Maps. Released to the public in November of 2007, the contour lines were subsequently added in April of 2008. I hadn’t really given the feature much use until last week when I was planning my weekend excursion to the Shenandoah mountains. I was trying to figure out the altitude variation on my friends property by finding where their property line started & ended and calculating the elevation change. Since their property lies on the side of a mountain, I wanted to know the altitude at the bottom of the property and the altitude of the highest portion of the property, and subtract the difference to find the total elevation variance.

What I found out instead was that Terrain function of Google Maps was lacking the contour interval declaration in the legend. As with all their maps, the lower left-hand corner showed the units of distance on the map, but was missing the topographical information provided by the contour interval declaration.

In lieu of ever getting a response from Google Maps after previous queries, I decided to send a tweet to Google Maps:

Screen grab of my tweet to Google Maps

I wasn’t really expecting a response, but a couple hours later I received this response on Twitter:

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Before & After Aerial Photographs of Ground Zero in Nagasaki, Japan
|| 7/19/2009 || 8:15 pm || + Render A Comment || ||

I was looking at the Wikipedia entry on Aerial Bombing of Cities and came across the World War Two aerial photograph above. It shows the absolute destruction of the Nagasaki, Japan after the atomic bomb known as “Fat Man” was dropped from the sky and detonated in the heart of the city. Below is a screen grab from Google Maps showing a contemporary view of ground zero:

…from life to death to life… Its rather amazing how much development has taken place since the war ended over 60 years ago. I just hope this type of bombing never happens again.



Dear Yahoo! & Navteq, it’s not the National Msm of the American Indian!
|| 7/13/2009 || 3:49 pm || 1 Comment Rendered || ||

Back in March of 2008 I discovered that Google Maps was incorrectly displaying the official title of the National Museum of the American Indian on their maps. They had truncated the word museum to MSM. A friend of mine who works at Navteq, the supplier of the data, confirmed that the length of the title was too long, so they shaved off a few characters by truncating the word museum to msm. This lexical error was eventually corrected on Google Maps….

However, last night I had someone in India do a Yahoo! search for National Msm of the American Indian and ended up visiting my page. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Yahoo! Maps was also doing the same type of truncation with Navteq’s data. I think NavTeq should to change it’s dataset so all the museums names are spelled correctly.

Note: the links in the images in this entry go to the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden because it was the closest result for my query “National Msm of the American Indian”



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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Google FINALLY updates the imagery of Washington, DC and now you can kinda see the message on my rooftop
|| 1/21/2009 || 4:30 pm || Comments Off on Google FINALLY updates the imagery of Washington, DC and now you can kinda see the message on my rooftop || ||

Back in July of 2007 I found that Google was censoring the imagery of downtown Washington, DC. This discovery lead to an article that was featured on the front page of the Metro section of the Washington Post. In the time since, Google has not updated the imagery, even after the release of Street View for Washington, DC.

The other day they finally decided to update the imagery of Washington, DC. I believe they did this because there were millions of people coming to Washington for the inauguration and they would have been showing them outdated imagery on their maps. Now that the imagery has been updated, you can almost see the message on my rooftop that I installed in the summer of 2006. Since the imagery has a somewhat low spatial resolution, its slightly difficult to make out the words “No War,” and it kinda looks like “No W@R.” Below is the photograph that appeared on the front page of the Style Section of the Washington Post in March of 2007 which shows me standing next to the now-visible rooftop sign.


“The mapmaker on his Washington roof with a message that he hopes will someday be reflected in both government aerial photography and the art he creates from that imagery.” (Photo by Michael Williamson — The Washington Post)


Wasilla, Alaska is literally off the map, the Google Map that is
|| 9/4/2008 || 8:34 pm || Comments Off on Wasilla, Alaska is literally off the map, the Google Map that is || ||

The Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Tonight this website had a visitor from Wasilla, Alaska who looked at this statehood-related map. Upon looking at the city on Google Maps, I found out that Wasilla is a border city where the imagery of the geography shows only a portion of the city using new high-resolution imagery. In some ways, this map proves that Republican Party’s vice-presidential choice was literally off the map.



UPDATE – Due to the presidential election, Google has updated their imagery of Wasilla, Alaska.


Related Google Map Entries:

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One year later and Google Maps has still not updated DC
|| 7/23/2008 || 1:41 pm || Comments Off on One year later and Google Maps has still not updated DC || ||

One of the little plugins I installed on this WordPress blog was a link at the bottom of each post which shows what I had posted the year before. The other day I noticed that my research related to censorship of Washington, DC on Google Maps, which culminated into the lead article in the Metro section of the Washington Post had appeared. I decided to check out Google Maps to see if there had been any updates and to my non-surprise, there hadn’t been. All I can say is: “what gives?” DC residents are still looking at downtown Washington, DC from 6 years ago. People visiting the MSM of the American Indian are still seeing it under construction, the newly built dorms on GWU‘s campus are still not being shown, and the list goes on….. So when will the imagery be updated? When will DC residents get to enjoy the benefits of Street View? Google has office in DC to lobby elected officials, but they’ve chosen to keep imagery of their own office outdated. This doesn’t make sense to me.

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What the Artomatic 2008 venue looked like in March of 2005
|| 5/6/2008 || 4:34 pm || Comments Off on What the Artomatic 2008 venue looked like in March of 2005 || ||

My next map will feature the area around the 2008 Artomatic venue. On Google Maps, which currently shows the geography in April of 2002, the location is still a parking lot. Since the venue is located within the 12 mile perimeter of passive censorship on Google Maps you don’t see the construction or completion of the office building.





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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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  • thank you,
    come again!