the map maker
Life in General

Another Change

By on 21/07/2020

I have had this website now for ten years, purchased initially to blog about mapping things I was doing or attending, and maybe getting my name as a GIS Specialist a bit more out there in the Ottawa area.

Fast forward ten years and I am still working with GIS, but in Germany. The tools I am working with have changed from QGIS to ArcGIS to FME, with QGIS and ArcGIS mixed in. Programming, if you aren’t counting FME, has completely vanished from my daily work load, and my job description is more cartographer with GIS focus, than just straight GIS.

A lot has changed.

This is, of course, emphasized by the current pandemic situation, where working from home for four months has given me a lot of time to think about what hobbies I have and which ones I would really like to persue.

I have a lot of hobbies that I dabble in, from photography to knitting, writing and language learning to hiking. Some of them go together quite well and some feel a bit eccentric, but writing and photography will likely be the focus of this site for the next bit. I have taken loads of photos over the past few years and have never really known where to put them online. Websites like flickr have come and gone with limited success, instagram is too bright and cheerful and my family in Canada isn’t on it. The nice thing with having my own blog is I can also put recipes on it, gluten free restaurant reviews, hotel reviews. Maybe I’ll even write about my attempts to be minimalistic, despite too many hobbies, health concerns and impulsiveness near shops. Generally whatever I want to write or post, I can do that here.

So that’s what I am going to do.

This may not work as much as I want it to, due to lots of different circumstances. I have the last term paper of my master’s program due in two months, and then I’ll start working on a research paper before doing my master’s thesis. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. I am working mostly from home, but have to travel a few hours to check out my apartment in Stuttgart every so often. We will see how well this works out. I am also doing this as a kind of a therapy, a way to sit myself down and write for a bit, or think about my photos more. And I think right now, everyone could use a little bit of therapy.

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Food | Geography | Travel

Missing Catalonia

By on 13/03/2018

I am a celiac. This means that I have to eat gluten-free food, without any traces of wheat or gluten. This also means that moving to Germany was one of the sillier choices when it came to food accessibility – as almost everything has wheat, modified starch, glucose syrup, glucose-fructose syrup or dextrose. Candy like Haribo is off-limits, as they coat their molds in wheat starch in order to make the gummy bears come out easier. One could argue that it means you have to eat well here, because there is so little processed food without some sort of wheat or gluten in it. (Don’t even get me started on gluten-free wheat starch, that is another post.) Unfortunately, when you are low on energy, it makes it very difficult to simply find anything to snack on.

This is why I miss Catalonia, or all of Spain, really.

Going to Spain means going to an entire country that understands what disease I have, what steps they need to go in order to accomodate that, meanwhile treat me completely normally. No one thinks it is a trend, rarely do you find someone who thinks it’s annoying, and good food is everywhere – particularly if you like seafood. Me, I’m partial to baked goods.

Between this grey weather and no gluten-free bakeries, I am really dreaming of Catalonia.

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Life in General

Return of the Words

By on 13/07/2014

You change, you move, you see things one way, then another. You cry, you scream, you kiss the world goodbye for an instant. You think, you consider, and consider and consider. You make your move. You hope you’re right. You scramble, you feint left, you faint right. You try and outstep your opponent, try to step away from the fight. You shift your mind to the world outside your doorway, you send your thoughts careening down subway tunnels on fast moving rickety trains. You see the world as it is for an instant, all blurs and colours and illusions, until it too is gone.

My creativity, long kept tucked away by school books, brain fog and mental health problems, has resurfaced. I grew up with words, with books, with an entire library at my fingertips, then two, then three libraries. I devoured books faster than the librarians ever expected. I devoured the other worlds that they showed me. And then somehow, things faded. The fiction got replaced with text books, the poetry could never be replaced by anything, plays disappeared behind the lights of the movies. It all just faded away for years.

Strength is where you find it, and it is often found in the most unlikely places.

The fiction arrived back first, in the form of the eBook reader that allowed me hundreds of out of copyright books free and instant. I found that even this Tolkien fan could definitely appreciate Jane Austen and that suddenly I had even more topics of conversation with my parents.

The poetry was always there, just hiding in music lyrics, tucked in the soft folds of the sheet music. It graced my lips while reading the inscriptions of poets, of kings, of fools. It couldn’t bear to leave and I couldn’t let it.

The plays have yet to return, but I think they are there, just biding their time until I am ready to receive them. They too will come.

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Geography | Germany | Life in General

A New Definition of Local

By on 08/10/2013

What is local to you?

Local is an extremely subjective idea that differs from person to person, from moment to moment. The same person searching for a grocery store with a car will have a different definition of local when looking for a store while on foot.

It’s all relative.

I grew up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, which is more accessible than Siberia but not by much. It’s a farming area, with a very low population density that goes lower as one goes north, approximately half of the world’s potash and 260,000 kilometer of road – mostly gravel. When I needed to pick up milk, I went to the corner store that was a few blocks away. That was my local source when I needed just to pick up one or two items. When I needed to pick up something like lettuce or onions, I went in a different direction to a much larger grocery store, the local Co-op or local Safeway. (They are practically neighbours in Moose Jaw, so the geographical difference was irrelevant.)

Later on, the locavore movement started with the 100 Mile Diet. In Moose Jaw, this is ridiculous. You would find wheat, barley, some vegetables, occasionally saskatoons, raspberries and strawberries, milk and beef. Except, I don’t actually know if there is a place where you can purchase that all and know that it is coming within a 100 miles. There is, however, a restaurant in Regina that does source everything from Saskatchewan. (Note: there used to be a restaurant in Ottawa that sourced everything from the Ottawa area, but it unfortunately closed.)

While I lived in Saskatchewan, I would try and purchase fruit from British Columbia. I then moved to Ottawa, and started wondering. Was Florida closer to Ottawa than the fruit valleys of British Columbia? Which was better for the environment? To be trucked through Canada or trucked through the US? The main environmental cost of many fruit and vegetables is the transportation. Bananas are easily the best, as they can be put on a ship weeks before they need to reach their destination. If you consider how many bananas can be placed on a ship, the environmental impact of one banana – or even a bunch – is relatively low. It is the cost of the truck from the ship to the warehouse, from the warehouse to the grocery store.

Now I am in Germany. Local food can come from Thuringia (the state where I live) or Germany, but of course from all over Europe and beyond as well. It seems that it is mostly European produce that we get in the shops, but I don’t go to every shop so I’m not sure if that’s always the case. One thing is I realized is that, coming from North America and growing up on the Internet, I’m willing to purchase items from around the world. Bento box? Japan. Wool? England. Shoes? Portugal. Cute little stuffed polar bear? Latvia. I keep trying to purchase within Europe (so I haven’t ordered anything from Japan since I’ve been here) but even that seems far away to the Europeans. ‘Why order shoes from Portugal? Is there nothing in Germany?’  So I looked on the map. From Portugal to Erfurt, it is approximately the same distance from Toronto to Moose Jaw. To me, it’s local. To the Europeans, it’s ridiculous.

What is your definition of local for food? for other things?


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Geography | GIS | Technology

How To Cut Polygons in ArcGIS

By on 05/09/2013


This may seem counter-intuitive, but it seems like the best option for simply cutting a hole in a polygon (aka make a donut) would be to use any other software other than ArcGIS. Although I may be biased, and grumpy.

All I wanted to do was to make a donut in the green space. Hole hole2 hole3

Shouldn’t be too hard, right? Simply start an edit session, select the area to be cut out, select cut out (in my German ArcGIS ‘ausschneiden’) and tell it which part you want to throw away. In this case, I selected the lower option, which throws away the part you just cut. Makes sense.


Double checking it….

Hm. Seems to have made a hole in the blue polygon as well. I tried to select it to delete it, but that didn’t work.



It had hole4cut the same shape hole in all four polygons, which is absolutely not what I had expected.



Unfortunately, it also tried to cut into my raster that was below the polygons and I ended up with this.




Moral of the story, when editing a single file like this, don’t have a single other file in your ArcGIS instance or you may end up with too many donuts. 2nd moral: make backups. I’m glad I did.

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