Tagged: maps

The beautiful road not yet taken

Remember when, before pervasive phone GPS, you actually asked for directions? You know, stopping a stranger on the street or pulling into a gas station and asking somebody working there and trying to write it down on a mapkin? If you’re not an american male, that is. Maybe it was awkward or ineffective, but the directions were personalized, and you could ask for all sorts of things not precisely shown on maps.

Via The Atlantic’s CityLab blog, I just learned that Yahoo! labs (!) has released a paper exploring “how mapping apps could theoretically generate short walking routes that are more beautiful or quiet than standard offerings.” Color me intrigued, and also excited about mapping that’s pedestrian based. Could a future mapping app plot me a course that optimized not for shortest distance or quickest time but for maximum beauty, minimum chance of an accident, or maybe even one that only uses the shady side of the street?

Yahoo! maps. Who knew?

The sub-head, “In the future, GPS directions may not always be destination-driven.” might be the most interestingly subversive idea in the piece. Who even says that a trip has to have a destination? Maybe the journey is the destination. Maybe you want your GPS to give you a scenic drive or walk of some duration or level of beauty. Maybe you want to explore Somerville and see as many Bathtub Marys as possible along the way.

Who knows when or if such things will ever become available, but I’m excited by the possibilities.  Until then, I recommend taking random walks when you can and also checking out some maps of imaginary places.

This weekend in wooden maps

While hanging out on the LES with the young lions of fintech, I stayed at the newly soft opened Ludlow Hotel and was enchanted by this coffee table in the shape of Manhattan with the street grid incised in it. It sort of reminds me of Max Becher’s Chocolate Broadway.

Manhattan coffee table at the Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side

It’s made of wood and it’s a map, what more could I ask for? How about a Central Park filled with actual plants? Done! Sure, you could argue that other parks are not given this treatment or that the reservoir or other major bodies of water are missing, but hey, it’s a coffee table, not google earth.

Manhattan in wood, Central Park in moss

I didn’t have a chance to ask the hotel staff where they got this wonderful thing and the closest I’ve been able to find online is the superficially similar (and unavailable) Manhattan Coffee Table by Doug Edge of (California-based) Galerie Sommerlath.

Manhattan Coffee Table by Doug Edge

I give Edge much credit for including the transit lines, but I prefer the darker finish – and distinctive Central Park treatment – of the hotel’s version. I wonder if the concierge uses it to give directions.

Three and a half hours in a single step, more at the pole

We all know that parallel lines never meet, and it’s convenient to think of the lines of longitude and timezones as parallel, but they really aren’t. The former because they’re inscribed on the (more or less) spherical Earth, and the latter because they’re entirely made up, a construct of how we measure time. This trippy insight, acquired whilst contemplating the stunning entirely of Bruce Myren’s 40th Parallel project at Gallery Kayafas, led me to some interesting trivia about time zones.

Also, I was trying to sort out lead assignment for various shifts of telesales reps, but that’s a lot less interesting.

Leaving aside the puzzlement that is the International Date Line, it turns out there are places where you can travel more than one timezone at once, and relatedly, places where three timezones converge at a single point.

Take for example the convergence of Norway, Finland, and Russia. At that point you can hop from UTC +1 in Norway, UTC +2 in Finland, and UTC +3 in Russia, if the border guards let you. There are some similar spots in the middle of Russia, if you want to do the Time Warp without crossing international boundaries. The CIA has an awesome timezone map available in PDF, from which these are clipped:

Three timezones in the North Lots of timezones to the West of China

China has just one time zone from end to end, even though in neighboring counties, that span covers several time zones. So when leaving China to the West, you can go jump back two hours to Kazakstan, three to Kyrgyz-, Tajiki- and/or Pakistan, or even three and a half hours, to Afghanistan via the treacherous Wakhjir Pass. The web of timezones that are more or less than a whole hour from their neighbors make South and Central Asia even more confusing.

I thought that 3.5 hours was the biggest jump possible, and wikipedia says it is in the above linked article, but I think it’s more complicated that that. Around the South pole, in Antarctica, in theory all time zones would converge on that point, but that would be very tricky on a practical level.

It turns out that various parts of Antarctica observe a range of time zones from UTC -6 through UTC +12, and the borders of these zones could cause some even bigger jumps in time for people there, if they were ever to traverse those frozen boundaries.

Time in Antarctica, via Wikipedia

I got a headache (and maybe brain freeze) looking at this, but I think you can gain or lose at least ten hours going in and out of the inland zone, which is oddly labeled “Vostok” which I’m pretty sure means “East” in Russian (Восток). Which way is East at the South pole?? Without even opening the can of worms that is Daylight Saving Time, let’s just say you’re going to need more watches than you wore back in the 80s.

Not confused enough? Check out the largest island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island. If you’re already there, please send me a postcard!

All candy should come with technical cross-section diagrams

While snagging a fresh Mozart Kugel from the snack table at the office I noticed this informative diagram inside the box. Behold the majesty of two different kinds of marzipan on one chocolate ball.  What really drove the Salieri Kugel to madness was how easy the Mozart Kugel made it look.

Inside the Mozart Kugel

Now that’s my kind of infographic. It’s too bad you typically only get this sort of diagram with German or Japanese candy. To my mind, it should be as required as the nutrition information or the candy guide for the perplexed. Via Steve Almond’s CandyFreak, you can also test your ability to identify candy bars by their cross sections, and there’s a whole load of cross-sectional chocolate fun at Edible Cartography. It should go without saying that I really like that name.

The most uptowniest Starbucks in Manhattan is not on the island of Manhattan

I thought I was so edgy, I checked in at the Starbucks on 181st street in Washington Heights and noted that I was at the northernmost Starbucks in the borough of Manhattan. How wrong I was, by two coffee shops and an interesting carto-historical technicality.

Like many Manhattanites, I was guilty of conflating the island of Manhattan, the borough of Manhattan, and the civilized world. Understandable, I’m sure you’ll agree.  But what gives about the most uptowniest Starbucks? Well, it turns out there are two Starbucks establishments in Marble Hill, a chunk of political Manhattan physically embedded in the Bronx thanks to the motion of history and the Harlem river.

If you look at maps closely, you’ll see the border line. Marble Hill has a Bronx zip code and Bronx school district, but Manhattan representation. It used to be part of the island of Manhattan but was made an island by a canal and later joined to the Bronx by the infilling of the original course of the Harlem river. The more you know.

For extra credit, check out the excellently named Spuyten Duyvil Creek, anagrammed subway station maps (Damn Tyck Trees!), and Vanshnookenraggen’s excellent subway map poster showing the Marble Hill stop on the 1.