Shapefile, the vinyl of geo

So I made this t-shirt to celebrate my love for the shapefile — the vinyl of geo. I was promptly labeled a luddite.

I am not a luddite. Far from it. I store all my data in PostgreSQL, and use PostGIS and QGIS like any self-respecting geohipster. I dabble in Python and JavaScript. I write SQL queries.

But I also live in the real world. I make maps and print them. I export them to PDF. I exchange data with other users and organizations — most of them casual GIS users. And these users (and their applications) only know and understand the shapefile.

Casual GIS users will continue to use the shapefile because it is simple, convenient, and universally supported. It just works. To call for the abolition of the shapefile is akin to calling for the abolition of the .xls(x) format on the grounds that people erroneously use it in lieu of “legitimate” databases. Millions of people.

Let’s be real and call off the shapefile vendetta. There is room (and need) in the geoverse for both PostGIS and shapefile. Why not just buy yourself a “Postgres is my databae” or “I ❤ .SHP” t-shirt to show where you stand? You’ll look hip, whichever you choose.



Thirteen years on social media is enough

In the beginning there was Flickr. The year was 2004, and there weren’t too many people online, and Flickr would crash daily around 5pm Pacific, and it was an intimate and beautiful experience.

Then came the trolls, and the marketers, and Yahoo! came knocking, and Yahoo! bought Flickr, and ruined it. And I moved on.

On to Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn, and Google+, and Instagram, and Reddit, and Ello, and Mastodon…


Social media has given me countless hours of enjoyment, broadened my horizons, helped me make many new friends. For all this I am grateful. Yet, after thirteen years of very active (excessive, according to family and friends) participation, I am ready to scale back. I am ready to reenter the analog world, eager to rediscover its beauty.

I am not unplugging; email still works on all my devices. But I look forward to spending a lot less time online.

See you IRL.

On the Staten Island Ferry
On the Staten Island Ferry

I was phished

[UPDATE April 9, 2017] No response from Google, so I will provide a general description of what happened and close this incident in my book.

Someone was able to post a fake job opening for my company on two of the major job sites. Unclear to what end. I realized what was happening when I began receiving hundreds of job applications. I saw the posting — it was very well, professionally written. I reached out to both job sites. One responded immediately, took the posting down, and helped mitigate the impact. The other gave me a canned response two days later, saying they are investigating.

For this posting to have happened someone must have gained control of my company’s general email account. I suspect that this may have happened via a feature in Gmail, which is why I reached out to Google.

Case closed as unresolved.


I was phished, successfully, even though I thought I was impervious to such things. In my defense I will say that I didn’t do anything wrong (I think), and I followed all the rules (I think). It appears that my attackers’ deed was facilitated (unintentionally and unknowingly, I’m sure) by Google.

I have alerted Google to the incident. I will post further details if and when Google assures me that it is safe to do so.

Soviet KGB joke

I remember my father telling this joke in the late 1970s. It is currently on Wikipedia (not my contribution).


A hotel. A room for four with four strangers. Three of them soon open a bottle of vodka and proceed to get acquainted, then drunk, then noisy, singing, and telling political jokes. The fourth man desperately tries to get some sleep; finally, in frustration he surreptitiously leaves the room, goes downstairs, and asks the lady concierge to bring tea to Room 67 in ten minutes. Then he returns and joins the party. Five minutes later, he bends to a power outlet: “Comrade Major, some tea to Room 67, please.” In a few minutes, there’s a knock at the door, and in comes the lady concierge with a tea tray. The room falls silent; the party dies a sudden death, and the prankster finally gets to sleep. The next morning he wakes up alone in the room. Surprised, he runs downstairs and asks the concierge what happened to his companions. “You don’t need to know!” she answers. “B-but… but what about me?” asks the terrified fellow. “Oh, you… well… Comrade Major liked your tea gag a lot.”