Monthly Archives: November 2011

Introduction to Cartographic Design 12/2

Next Friday 12/2 between 10:30am- 12:30pm, EDS will offer the Introduction to Cartographic Design a workshop led by Eric Glass GIS/Metadata Librarian.   This workshop is geared towards students taking introductory GIS courses who are in the process of producing project presentations and papers as the end of the semester approaches.  The two hour workshop will give an overview of some major cartographic concepts, including:

–        Communicating your message effectively
–        Creating clear, balanced layouts
–        Symbolization
–        Labeling
–        Use of color
–        Map elements

Registration is not limited to current students in GIS courses.  However, there is an expectation that attendees have had some level of exposure to GIS software, specifically the basics of working within the layout view in ArcMap as there will be a hands-on component working with ArcMap.

Registration is on the DSSC workshops page

Converting Shapefiles to Google Fusion Tables using shpEscape

For anyone who’s tried to go from shapefile to kml and then upload that kml to Google Fusion tables, you’ve likely experienced the problem of all of your attribute fields being merged into one field or losing many of your fields altogether. 

My workaround for a while was to export, if a point file, the table to csv with x,y fields. For polygons, the process involved exporting a kmz, converting to kml with Google Earth, uploading to fusion, downloading csv, merging with attribute data in excel or back in ArcGIS and then uploading a csv. I’m sure that wasn’t the most efficient or only way to do it but at least now I know how painful it was to fully appreciate how nice it is to have a full-on shapefile to kml convertor.

So while watching Google’s Mano Marks talk about Fusion Tables in a video and then again in a video from Google’s I/O 2011: Managing and visualizing your geospatial data with Fusion Tables I heard about a tool called Shape Escape or ShpEscape. ShpEscape converts a zipped up shapefile into a Google Fusion table with Geometry column that allows you to overlay it over Google Maps like a kml.

I’ve been using Google Fusion for a few months now so I’m by no means an expert but if you have any questions feel free to hit me up at dms2203 at columbia dot edu

I Didn’t Really Care About Climate Change Until …


I knew that there was this whole climate change thing going on, but I thought it was news from the past and was more about other countries — you know , the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, etc. I even got a little worried when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund got on board with it — I mean, those guys care about money! And too bad about those small island states which will disappear with the rising ocean levels, but that’s not my problem.


It’s not like New York City is going to be flooded, or hit with an earthquake, or anything, right? Then we had Hurricane Irene and that quake last month, and now the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and CIESIN have published this new report, "Responding to Climate Change in New York State" and it has me really worried. If both New York State and Columbia University scientists agree, it must be serious. So this weekend I’m off to Home Depot to buy some survival gear.

Celebrating GIS Day @Columbia event Friday 11/18

Join CIESIN and the Columbia Libraries in Celebrating GIS Day @Columbia on Friday November 18, from 1-4:30p in Butler Library, Room 203.

Celebrating GIS Day @Columbia is an afternoon of engaging GIS presentations and activities to help CU students, academics, and staff discover the possibilities of GIS for their own work. Light refreshments will be served.

The agenda includes presentations of the latest GIS projects at SIDL, a rundown of GIS resources available at the Columbia Libraries, a map gallery, and a geocaching activity.

Happy Geography Awareness Week!

Digitizing, georeferencing, and creating new spatial layers workshop 11/11


This Friday 11/11 Eric Glass will lead a workshop on digitizing, georeferencing, and creating new spatial layers. 

He’ll give an introduction to techniques for creating new spatial layers from various sources, particularly georeferencing and digitizing from paper and imagery.

This will be a very practical, ArcGIS-centric workshop and will consist of a short lecture followed by individual hands-on exercises using ArcMap in the Data Service lab (215 Lehman Library).

An introductory level knowledge of ArcMap is required to attend.

Register for the workshop.

“Person of Interest” Uses Real NYC Database


The new CBS show "Person of Interest" is set in New York  City and involves a "software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes. Using state-of-the-art surveillance technology, the two work outside of the law, using Reese’s adept skills and Finch’s unlimited wealth to unravel the mystery of the "person of interest" and stop the crime before it happens. With infinite crimes to investigate, Reese and Finch find that the right person, with the right information, at the right time, can change everything." So true — however, in most TV shows and movies a character sits down at a computer terminal for 2 minute, types in a few search words, and retrieves tons of detailed information. It doesn’t really work that way. 

But in last week’s episode, "Witness," Finch needs information about a particular building in Manhattan. For a brief moment on his computer screen, you see him accessing the NYC Buildings Information System (BIS) to get the information he needs. To use the BIS, just enter the borough and street address — you then retrieve a Property Profile Overview, with a wealth of information about that building, including zoning documents, certificates of occupancy, complaints and violations, elevator records, electrical applications, permits in process/issued, and much more. You can expand your search to adjacent buildings on the block, or search by Community Board to find out about new buildings, alterations and demolitions in your neighborhood.


Visit the NYC Department of Buildings to find this type of information, but please — no vigilante justice.

NYC Election Research

Looking for research on NYC elections and campaign finance information?  Try these sites!

New York City Board of Elections website provides:

New York City Campaign Finance Board website provides:

  • CFB Searchable Database that allows you to search by election cycle, candidate, contributor name, amount of contribution, date of contribution, contributor employer
  • campaign finance summaries for citywide elections
  • press tools, including calendar of scheduled board meetings, campaign finance law, enforcement information

OK, I Know That I’m Not the 1%, but What About That Guy Down the Street …


The Occupy Wall Street movement has directed a lot of attention to income variation in the United States. Is it all posturing? What does the data actually indicate? To answer that question, we can look at several different sources of information. First, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued a new report, Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007.

CBO’s mandate is "to provide the Congress with objective, nonpartisan, and timely analyses to aid in economic and budgetary decisions on the wide array of programs covered by the federal budget …" so the charts and data provided there should be reliable and unbiased. It shows that from 1979 to 2007 average real after-tax household income grew by 275% for the top 1% of Americans. For the rest of the population: top 20% – a 65 % increase, for the 60% in the middle – just under 40%, for the 20% with the lowest income – just an 18% increase.

The Social Explorer database has an interesting post on their blog, "A Look at the Nation’s Most Affluent," which looks at data from the American Community Survey and maps households with incomes over $200,000 to New York City census tracts. In three Manhattan neighborhoods, the Upper East and Upper West Sides and Greenwich Village, more than 11 percent of the households make enough to qualify for the top 1 percent. 



Back on the national level, the U.S. Census Bureau last month issued a report, U.S. Neighborhood Income Inequality in the 2005-2009 Period, which examines the same ACS data and compares income inequality between the states, between large metropolitan areas, and between selected census tracts.


And finally, the non-profit Citizens for Tax Justice reports on the tax contributions of the 280 most profitable corporations in the U.S. in Corporate Taxpayers & Corporate Tax Dodgers, 2008-2010.