Have a Good Weekend and Remember Atanas

I’m about to head out for the weekend. As we get ready to go about our weekend activities, let’s not forget that Atanas Entchev and his family are still being detained. If you have not yet donated to the Entchev legal fund, please take time to do so before you head out. Please keep them in your thoughts and take action on their behalf.

Geospatial professional Atanas Entchev

Support Atanas Entchev

UPDATE: Atanas’ daughter, Christina, is now using his Twitter account to get information out. In addition, she posted a message from Atanas on his blog. He and his son are currently being detained. Also, please see the comment stream to John’s post (link below) for additional information about sending letters of support. Letters that are not signed may no be considered so, if sending an e-mail, be sure to send a signed, scanned copy as an attachment.

John Reiser posted this piece on the situation of our colleague, Atanas Entchev. Atanas, a native of Bulgaria, came to the United States in 1991, followed soon thereafter by his family. They applied for asylum and have been in litigation regarding their status ever since. The latest opinion, filed on June 23, 2011 by the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals may be found here (.pdf). Says John:

After emigrating here with his family over twenty years ago to escape political persecution, the US Government is now planning to deport the Entchevs.

My dealings with Atanas have been almost exclusively through social media channels and I have never met him in person. Despite that, I feel I know him as a result of his open participation in those arenas. His knowledge of the applications of GIS, especially at the municipal level, is top-notch. His contributions to the GIS community, such as the publications listed in his LinkedIn profile, as well as his contributions to Directions Magazine and his blog demonstrate active engagement in his (our) professional community. He is also a small business owner, having founded his own GIS services company in 2005.

Of course, legal opinions are only meant to focus on relevant law. As a result, this tapestry of the Entchevs life in America becomes obscured. At one point, the opinion says (LPR = Legal Permanent Resident):

Although the daughter’s adjustment to LPR status may slightly strengthen Entchev’s ties to the community, and as a matter of discretion the Department of State may therefore be more inclined to grant a waiver, it is far from clear that the status of Entchev’s daughter as an LPR would result in a different outcome for a new waiver application.

Not being a lawyer, I can’t comment on the legal content but this is a very sterile reduction of the Entchevs’ life. Those of us who have been linked to Atanas through social media know of his love of sailing, tennis and biking and have seen photos of the Entchevs enjoying the arts around the New York region. So, during two decades of litigation, the legal merits of which have left the Third Circuit Court of Appeals unmoved, the Entchevs have built a rich, textured, wholly American life.

As Atanas’s wife Mayia says:

If you are willing and able to write a letter of recommendation, your contribution will be invaluable to our case, and would be greatly appreciated by our family.

If you know Atanas, please take time to write a letter in support of him and his family. Instructions are in John’s post.

Please also see posts from James Fee, Randal Hale and Caitlin Dempsey.

Prying Data Open

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, I was trying to get information from my local electric cooperative about outages. There were many (including my neighborhood) and I wanted to see the scale of the problem. It turns out, they have a page with a map that shows current outages by zip code.

Old school outage map

It’s pretty old-school as far as web maps go but it gets the job done. Their day job is making electricity, not web maps, so I won’t critique it too much. One thing I did notice is that the map seems to be dynamically generated (as do the tables on the page) from some inaccessible data source. I search and tried to find some kind of feed, to no avail.

Continue reading “Prying Data Open”

Critical Infrastructure?

A couple of weeks ago, I took some gentle razzing from some quarters for admitting I still have a land line:

This tweet was the result of yet another dropped call, which is annoying, but the unreliability of cellular networks can be more than just annoying, especially given the fact that they are now the primary communications medium for many people.

Almost ten years ago, on September 11, 2001, I was being evacuated from the building I was in and was trying reach my wife via cell phone. I heard a few garbled words about my parents and our dog before the line went dead. The mobile phone network was down for quite a while and my old analog cell phone was a paperweight during that time. We met up at my parents house later and she had our son and dog with her.

I went on to spend the next several years closely involved with critical infrastructure protection efforts and, specifically, the application of geospatial tools to those efforts. A lot of time, effort and money has been invested to make sure infrastructure works better in such situations.

Continue reading “Critical Infrastructure?”

Open Government, Open Data and Some Lessons from Arkansas

I was reading Brian Timoney’s excellent post “Open Government is a Slammed Door at the BLM,” when I encountered this line:

Top-down, large scale spatial-data-integration-by-directive simply doesn’t have the track record of success to justify the costs…

This resonates well with observations that I have made during the course of my recent work with the Arkansas GIO office. The immediate focus of that work was to help AGIO assess the current state of their GeoStor platform and gather data about current and emerging capabilities in order to support decision-making about whether to migrate to a hosted (cloud) environment. In the course of doing that work, I learned about the collaborative approach AGIO has taken with the cities and counties of Arkansas, which also informs some of the functional requirements of GeoStor.
Continue reading “Open Government, Open Data and Some Lessons from Arkansas”

Try Some Local Fare

A few days ago, Randal Hale posted an announcement about the upcoming Southern Appalachian Conference on GIS to be held at East Tennessee State University. I have never attended that conference and probably won’t this year but, if you live and work in that area, you may want to check it out. Continue reading “Try Some Local Fare”

AGIO Puts the Data First

I read Learon Dalby’s latest GISuser.com expert column (disclosure: I am a contributor there also) with great interest since it addresses an issue with which I have worked closely over the years: availability of GIS data in a time of crisis. Over the years, the proliferation of “operating pictures” (you’re not in style unless you have your own UDOP) and other systems has obscured the fact that the data is really what matters. Certain segments of the community, especially those more focused on man-made disasters rather than the natural variety, have gotten very good at putting multiple layers of technology, services, security, policy, etc. between GIS data and the people who need it. Continue reading “AGIO Puts the Data First”