Practical Applications for Google Earth

GoogleEarthIntroduced in 2005, Google Earth is a three-dimensional virtual globe overlaid with dynamic data layers that let you explore land, oceans, moon and stars. There’s even a tour guide option that will give you historical information about significant places and events.

TrafficDataViewerGovernments and businesses are using it to make decision for location based projects by analyzing geospatial information layered by topographic, demographic, traffic data, and the like.  For example, the New York State Department of Transportation has developed a Traffic Data Viewer that uses data from the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) Database (a google earth application) to display published traffic data graphically. County administrators can use this resource to plan repaving efforts or an entrepreneur could use local traffic patterns to determine the best location to open up their new start-up.

everest-googleearthEducators are using it extensively in many different disciplines and ways, such as understanding global development, selecting and visualizing field study sites, studying land-use law and to depict the locations of many of the disputes, visualizing historical events and issues like the Trans-Atlantic slave trade routes, the underground railroad, the abolishment of slavery in Great Britain, mapping field trip routes, analyzing communication systems and so much more.

Plus, the Google Earth community is a great place to find data and can be used to explore historic grave sites, findoverlays and place-marks related to Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding in New Orleans, study locations of large airliner accidentsshipwrecksWorld War I & II, and more.

Finding statistics during the government shut-down…


photo credit: flickr user Nick Papakyriazis

On October 1, 2013 The government shut down (again).

I’ve been working with students to two sociology classes who’s assignments were to gather statistics on a country or state assigned to them. Of course, a good deal of the statistics they need to gather come from government websites like the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, whose websites now post shutdown notices rather than providing access to the data usually available.

Frantic students in those classes are now looking for help finding alternative sources for the information they need.  Here are a few suggestions for students:

1. Try using government sites that appear unaffected (at least so far) by the shutdown (i.e. and are both still accessible at the time of this posting).

2.  Search for state government sites that contain federal data (,, or might be good places to start).

3. Try a Google search for the state and statistic for which you are looking (ie. GDP and California).  Look for state websites among the results.  If your professor will not allow you to use wikipedia, you may wish to see if wikipedia cites a source you CAN use.

4. Try finding an article (scholarly or news) that incorporate the statistics you seek.

And hopes of open access recede farther into the darkness

grumpycloudI just got some discouraging news about Harvard Business Review this week and have been struggling with how to share it with the faculty on campus (HBR is available in our subscription of EBSCOhosts’ Business Source Complete).

But let me back up and start from the beginning…  Harvard Business Publishing has decided to add another level of purchasing permissions in addition to what we pay for the database for their most popular 500 articles and case studies from HBR.

These articles (which evidently will change every year based on popularity/demand) can still be found by searching for them in the database using the citation or through a topical searches, but as of August 1, 2013 can only be viewed as read-only material, which means they cannot be printed, downloaded, shared, linked to, or used in the classroom in any way!  Just in case you think I’m exaggerating, here is the complete notice of restriction for usage:

“Harvard Business Review Notice of Use Restrictions, Harvard Business Review and Harvard Business Publishing Newsletter content on EBSCOhost is licensed for the private individual use of authorized EBSCOhost users. It is not intended for use as assigned course material in academic institutions nor as corporate learning or training materials in businesses. Academic licensees may not use this content in electronic reserves, electronic course packs, persistent linking from syllabi or by any other means of incorporating the content into course resources. Business licensees may not host this content on learning management systems or use persistent linking or other means to incorporate the content into learning management systems. Harvard Business Publishing will be pleased to grant permission to make this content available through such means. For rates and permission, contact”

 I know trying for tact is the best modus operandi.  Though I’d really just like to offer my help finding alternative articles and case studies, so our entire campus can thumb its metaphorical nose at Harvard Business Publishing.  Melodramatic, but tis how I feel.

Now that I’ve had my rant, my first step will be to gauge impact from HBR usage and then compose a tactful, yet informative email to faculty.  <sigh>


Ousting wiki from Wikipedia…

Wikipedia-WTFI just read a disturbing article in the Economist about Wikipedia that makes me wonder just how much the content is really “crowd sourced.”  Essentially, the administrators of said site were quietly changing the categories (and then later the entry of the author who brought the changes to light by removing the link to her New York Times article which pointed out the changes they were making) so that all American female authors were shifted into a separate sub-category called American Women Authors, leaving only male authors in the American Authors category. Evidently, it’s stirred up quite the controversy at Wikipedia.

To hell in a hand basket…

For some reason, the phrase “going to hell in a hand basket” came to mind as I was riding the escalator down to my afternoon sessions at the CIL Conference. Hmmm…
I was thinking, why a hand basket? Why? So, I looked it up and according the phrase finder it may be similar to going to hell in a hand-cart meaning life is easier (and probably more fun, just sayin’…) to be carried off to hell than to work hard for a place in heaven.
Or, it may relate to the imagery of heads collected and carried in a hand basket post-guillotining. Well, so much for associating hand baskets with bunnies and Easter candy ever again.
You’re very welcome for this bit of useless info!

Standing at a place from history

So I’m in Washington D.C. for the second time in almost as many years. The first time for ALA 2010 and now for Computers in Libraries. The last time I was here, my “must see” was the Lincoln Memorial. We started at the Washington Monument and hiked our way down beside the reflecting pool. Me being the geek that I am, I was quoting lines from that war protest scene in Forrest Gump the whole way… When we got to the Lincoln Monument and trudged up those stairs to that larger than life effigy, I was totally at a loss for words. I stood there and looked back the way we had come and was suddenly struck by the place from history in which I stood. It was a moment in time that I’ll never forget.

It’s two years later I’m back again in the capital district that’s suddenly crawling with librarians of every shape, size and background imaginable. This time I didn’t have to go far to be transported back in time. As it turns out, we’re staying at the Washington Hilton where in March of 1981 (incidentally the day before my birthday…) an assassination attempt was made on President Ronald Reagan.

I was only 7 years old at the time of the shooting, but remember the flurry it caused even in the little backwater town where I grew up.So as it turns out, the assassination attempt occurred at the back door of this very hotel, my hotel… Being the librarian I am, I looked up the incident on Wikipedia (hey, I was only 7 when it happened and a reference librarian is a reference librarian-we look stuff up!) then went around back to see the spot for myself. Again, I found myself standing in a place out of history.

Online storage options

In just a handful of decades, technology has come a long way in terms of computing storage. There were the punch cards in the 1960s, cassette tapes in the 1970s, floppy disks in the 1980s, CD-R and RW discs in the 1990s, and the 2000s saw the advent of thumb drives and SD cards.

Today, there are a number of storage options are available for students on most campuses, including jump drives, CD-R & RW, DVD-R and file space on campus servers. Your ipod can also be used just like a thumb drive, provided you haven’t packed it to it’s limit with music… And don’t forget that you can store your files in the “cloud.” For instance, many colleges have obtained Google Enterprise accounts and offer students free accounts. Using such an account, you can create an unlimited number of google documents, presentations and spreadsheets. Additionally, you can upload up to 1 GB of word, pdf, and power point, and excel files to your google docs account. Once you do so, you can access them from any computer with internet access.
There are a number of other online storage services for which you can take advantage, most of which offer 1 or 2 GB of free storage. Dropbox is an online storage service that allows you to store/share up to 2GB of files. You have to install a small program on your computer to run it, but it allows you to upload any type of file as long as it is under 350MB. Similar services include ElephantDrive (2GB free), FilesAnywhere (1 GB free), and FlipDrive (1 GB free) to name a few. (LiveMesh is a similar service that allows you to store up to 5GB for free, but only works for PC users running Vista or Windows 7).
For storing photos and videos, there are a number of options available. Google’s Picasa Web Album is accessible through your Geneseo Google Apps account. Picasa allows you to store (and share if you wish) up to 1 GB of video and photo files. An alternative to Picasa is Flickr, which allows you to upload up to 300 MB of photos and 2 videos per month.
Do you have a favorite storage/sharing service not mentioned above?  Leave a comment below to let me know about it!

Facebook Gestures and privacy

The newly announced Facebook Gestures feature is being added to websites all over the net (ie. The Huffington Post Connect feature or sharing music on Spotify). Gestures is an opt-in feature that allows you to share content from a website directly to your Facebook timeline by clicking the “Add to Timeline” button.

What many Facebook users might not be aware of, is the price for all this one-click convenience. Once you add the app to your timeline it will auto-share ALL your activity to your Facebook friends unless you manually change the settings to turn the feature off. It’s all well and good when the latest tech article I’ve read at the Huffington Post is sent to my Facebook profile, but do I really want my friends and colleagues on Facebook to know that I also had a peek at the latest celebrity gossip while I was there? Hmmmm, that’s a lot of privacy to give up for convenience…

Tools for organizing research

If you’re like most students at this point in the semester, you are probably juggling multiple research papers or projects. Keeping track of your research from all those various places you have to look (book catalogs, journal databases, and websites) can sometimes be challenging.

There are a number of free citation management tools on the market that can help you get organized. These tools will help you save and organize all of your research in one place, in much the same way that iTunes does for your music files. Some of them will even insert citations and bibliographies into your paper for you. Check out this library guide to explore some of the more popular tools available.