Thursday, November 14, 2019

GIS For Everyone

Yesterday was GIS Day. For those who don't know, GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems. And if you don't know what that is, you probably don't know what GIS Day is. Well, I'm here to tell you.

GIS Day is a day focused around getting the word out about GIS, what it is, what it can do and why we need it. The running joke is that it is an ESRI sanctioned holiday. ESRI is the company that makes the most-used GIS software in the world. They are based in Redlands California and I actually have a niece and nephew that work for ESRI out there. 

The owner of the company is Jack Dangermond, a  Forbes billionaire who is as down-to-earth as they come. I've had the opportunity to meet and talk to him on a few occasions. In the GIS circles, he has a cult-like following and he makes it a point to meet as many users as he can at their annual Users Conference in San Diego. He's a big deal - at least to us GIS folks.

Anyway, I decided we should do something in recognition of GIS Day at work. Sometimes people remind me that we are a little known entity at the county, so I wanted to make a point of getting the word out. So, my team and I put together a weeklong event called GIS Awareness Week. It features daily presentations on a variety of topics and is aimed at getting the word out about some of what we do in the Land Information Office. The presentations showcase applications, maps and data. 

So far we've had a great week of interacting with other GIS users at every level. I have said it before, but I LOVE my job. I love telling people about GIS and using it to help people do their jobs better. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to say I have spent my entire career in mapping and GIS. I have met a ton of great colleagues, smart folks who love the business as much as I do.

So, Happy GIS Day/GIS Awareness Week! 

Hug a GIS professional today!

Blogging off... 





Sunday, November 10, 2019

Figuring It Out

A few things have become apparent during these four days alone in my house. They are things that I might have already known in the back of my mind, but they became clearer as the weekend went along. Some are a-ha moments, others are just petty observations that bubbled up during my moments of painting or in the quiet where all I could hear was my tinnitus.

Some of the things that I've found.

1. Getting unlimited free time does not mean I'll finish my book, write 10,000 words or seven new poems. As much as I would like to devote eight hours of each of these days to writing, it just never seems to happen. My writing coach once said that life tends to get in the way with writing more often than not. In this instance, I had a painting project that beckoned me away after my morning write session. Sometimes I got back to writing, other times not.

2. Regarding that painting project, I realized that, like my mother, I get fairly obsessed with a project once its started. It is a bit of our work-ethic at play, but also some sort of weird OCD-manic-wet-paintbrush syndrome. As long as there is good music on the wireless speaker, it's hard to make myself stop.

3. I miss my kids. I was blessed to have Sarah and her boyfriend Sam come down and stay with me a couple of nights on their way to Chicago. I don't often get time alone with either of my kids, so it was a nice chance to hear what's going on in her life. Having them in the house took away some of my loneliness that usually sets in after my wife being away for 2 days or so.


4. I am fortunate to have an outstanding friend and colleague network. I spent Saturday night at a poetry reading of three poets who I highly respect, Cristina Norcross, Stephen Anderson and Dewitt Clinton. Though I only know them through my writing/poetry channels, they feel like old friends to me. They ask about my wife, kids, writing and even my fishing. We are a tribe of creatives, and we support one another when sometimes it seems like no one else does.

5. My house stays incredibly clean when I'm the only one here. Nothing moves out of its place. It's magical.

6. I miss laughing with my wife. We've had some serious changes to adapt to with having the kids move out, and one nice change is our ability to laugh with one another about our crazy day. We've rediscovered what brought us together and it has been all good.

So, these weekends alone are good for more than just projects and writing time. They remind me of who I am, how much I am loved and what a great network of people I've surrounded myself with. I am a lucky man.

Blogging off...

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Paint and Pablum

My wife went home to New York with her brother today. They are going to visit their mom who is suffering from dementia, as well as to see her dad, sister and brother in-law.

Meanwhile I have been tasked with painting the bedroom the two of us will be moving into this winter. When our daughter went to college, we decided we wanted the "big bedroom" she was in, because we thought it would be an upgrade. It's funny because over the past six or seven years we've been in it, we've never really taken to it. I guess we got used to the smaller bedroom and in a way it will always be our bedroom. So, we decided to go back to it.

Before we do, we are giving it a coat of fresh paint. I've lamented in the past how much I hate painting and it still stands. I might qualify it with not hating interior painting as much as exterior, but it's still not a favorite activity of mine. Some people say they love the fresh look, etc., that a coat of paint provides. Well, you know what? So do I. I just hate what it takes to get there.

But I realize it has to come from somewhere, so I paint.

As part of my prep for painting the ceiling, I put down tarps all across the floor. These are the plastic, crinkly kind that you get at Menards.

So, last night I was sitting downstairs and I kept hearing this crashing type sound, and I had no idea what it was. It came and went, wasn't consistent, so I wrote it off to the neighbors being noisy. I'm half deaf without my hearing aids, so I thought nothing of it.

Tonight as I was waiting for my dinner to cook, I heard a crashing again. I followed the noise up to the bedroom and saw a lump under the tarps. After a few seconds, out popped Isabelle the cat. She looked right at me like she'd been caught doing something horrible. If cats can look guilty, she was doing it.

I don't know what the point of all of this is. I do know that my house takes on a weird vibe when my wife goes away. The animals get all moody, I get manic after a couple of days and, well, it's just different, and not all in good ways. I always look forward to alone time, but after day two, I'm about ready to have her back on the loveseat across from where I sit every night.

29 years of marriage will do that I guess. You get to a point where you can't imagine life without someone in it. I guess that's what love does. I'm not going to fight it. I can be as happy alone as anyone, but we all have our limits. Talk to me in a couple of days and I'll let you know how it's going.

Until then, I'll paint to pass the time.

Blogging off...

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Festival Of The Bookish

Yesterday was day 2 of the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, arguably one of my favorite days of the year. This was the 10th year of the festival and it featured over seventy authors presenting about their work, the writing process and what's next.

This festival always starts on Friday by hosting a series called Authors in the Schools. It features sending over a dozen authors into area high schools to talk to students about writing.

I've been a part of this for about four years now and have come to really enjoy it, despite my loathing of the spotlight. It's become clear to me that if you do enough of this you can achieve a comfortable level of discomfort in front of a crowd.

Laughter from the crowd helps.

This year I spoke to 55+ students from an AP Composition class at New Berlin Eisenhower High School. The talk went very well. I spoke for 55 minutes and took questions for 5 minutes. Students were courteous and engaged and none fell asleep, a plus for sure. The coordinator was kind enough to treat me to lunch as well. Perhaps the coolest part of it all though was the fact that they bought 5 of my books and put them into the library system.

Then, Friday evening and yesterday, I spend the day with colleagues, friends, authors and poets from all around Wisconsin at the book festival. Friday night featured Andre Dubuus III, author of House of Sand and Fog. He was an incredible speaker and I really enjoyed his keynote. He talked about how his tough upbringing in a violent, poor, lower middle class area of Massachusetts turned him to writing. He also described how he has a soundproof studio where he goes to write for 3-4 hours a day and starts every session by reading a poem to get his creative juices flowing.

Saturday was a full day for me. I started at a session on memoir by Lila Schwenk, Julie Beekman and Nancy and Liz Jorgensen, mother and sister of Gwen Jorgensen, the US Olympic Gold Medalist at Rio in 2016. It was fun listening to the struggles of other memoir/nonfiction writers. It's good to know I'm not alone out there struggling to tell the story correctly without offending family and friends. I also bought Go, Gwen, Go, the book about the Gold Medalist because the story sounds so compelling.

The rest of the day was filled with words and friends. I had the privilege of moderating three accomplished poets, Angie Trudell Vasquez, Fabu, and Drew Blanchard, who read from their books and talked about their inspiration.

It was interesting to hear their stylistic differences. The poem that hit me hardest was by Fabu and repeated the line about an "Unnamed negro from Green Bay..." that spoke about the death of one of the first black residents in Wisconsin. She spoke about the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves on American soil from Africa. Some tragic visualizations and powerful words.

The day was filled from end to end. The last session myself and others read from the Bards Against Hunger poetry anthology put together by Ed Werstein. Again, some heart wrenching poems about hunger and poverty at the local level. Poetry speaking the truth and seeking social change.

A lot of thanks goes out to the many organizers, sponsors and volunteers of this great festival. I sat on the program committee and saw firsthand the amount of planning that goes into it. It is a credit to Barry Wightman and the rest for putting on a first class festival.

I can't wait for next year.


Blogging off...