These are some of the things I’ve been up to lately, while the blog has been quiet:
At work, I’ve continued delving into BigQuery. Our FME jobs are running like clockwork and I’ve been spending a lot of time writing queries and doing analysis for various stakeholders across the company. The next phase of the project is to expose a BI infrastructure to make the data a little more self-service. That will most likely start out in Google Data Studio and then we’ll assess from there. We also have a few more systems to integrate, but the ease of data fusion across the ones we have so far is already paying dividends.
One particular analysis required some geoIP lookup. I’ll spare you the boring details but it was related to financial regulatory reporting and IP address location was one of the few methods allowed under the rules. This led me to building a simple command-line utility to do lookups against the free version of the MaxMind GeoLite City database.
I find myself continually drawn back to the CLI as the most efficient way to get things done. As open-source tools have continue break up previously monolithic geospatial platforms into bite-sized chunks, it become easier to create focused tools to do just what you need. This is why I keep coming back to the CLI. Often, I just don’t need the added weight of a GUI or a web app to get my answer and the CLI offers a lot of flexibility.
In this case, I generated a bash script directly from a BigQuery SQL query of IP addresses, ran the script with output redirected to a CSV, which I uploaded back into BigQuery and produced my report. Simple and all I needed. As an aside, I also took time to publish my first package to NPM, so that was fun, too.
Outside of work, the most time-consuming thing over the past couple of months has been training for, and running, the 2020 Marine Corps Marathon. As with most races this year, it was a virtual event, so I chose my own route and ran it alone. My family met me at pre-selected stops along the way to act as a mobile aid station. The run itself was a mental challenge as much as a physical one. I definitely missed the crowd of other runners and spectators that keep long races interesting over the course, but I loved having my family so directly involved in my run so it was great experience.
I ran from my house to the visitor’s center at Historic St. Mary’s City. That’s a museum and active archaeological site at the location of Maryland’s first capital and the fourth oldest permanent English settlement in the US. In addition to the museum, there is a series of wooded trails that become a respite for our family during the pandemic. As such, the site has become more meaningful to me and I wanted it to be the endpoint of my run. Several friends and family were there to greet me at the end and give me the finish line experience.
A few months ago, I decided to finally go to grad school and get an MBA. I chose the online program through the University of Maryland Global Campus, which has been doing remote learning for various scenarios for a couple of decades now. The first class in that program started a couple of weeks ago, so I am re-orienting to academia.
The first assignment was simple one to get our feet wet with the process of working, submitting materials, and interacting with students and the professor online. It was a short essay outlining a professional belief. I wrote that I believe the primary purpose of technology is to make the lives of people measurably better. This may seem obvious, but recent experience has shown me that technology is seen by many as a commodity that is a mechanism for investment. Given the enormous amount of resources and talent required to build technology well, I believe we should strive for something more meaningful.
I am now working on a research paper examining the privacy issues surrounding geospatial artificial intelligence. This is a topic that has become of greater interest to me over the past couple of years.
I started this blog nearly 14 years ago during a time where my project work was not particularly focused on geospatial. This blog gave me a mechanism to stay in the geo world by documenting side projects. I am in a similar period right now and find myself missing geospatial a little. I plan to, as much as is appropriate, try to use my MBA work to keep myself connected to it. There’s a lot to learn in the things that I’m doing now that will make me a lot better, but geo is in my blood and I’m not finished with it yet.