Dear Australian Census Designers

Firstly, congrats on our first online census. That was awesome. I’ve heard there’s been some moaning but, humans + change = complaining, so no surprises there really! Being able to complete my submission on my phone after getting home from work filled me with respect for all the peeps involved.

There was just this one question, and maybe it’s a legacy issue, though I note you seem to have been able to squiffle with the professions category /categorisations problem this year – I await with interest the results of these changes by the way!

My problem is with the pesky issue of faith. Seriously, that question was all kinds of brokenūüė¶

You do know that you can have “No Religion” AND ” believe in god(s) / be spiritual”; yeah?

And that;¬†Atheism is specifically the lack of belief in god(s) and NOT a “belief framework’?

And should not, therefor,¬†have been classed as “Beliefs-Other”?


What’s an atheist to do? Hmm? Lower the number of people recording as ¬†‘atheist’ ¬†in the census by claiming ‘No Religion’ (which is true, but not the whole story) or fight every screaming logic circuit in their wetware and type “atheism” in the “beliefs” section¬†as suggested in the ‘help’ (implying they are part of some community that does not exist)?

Even when your an agnostic, your an agnostic-something. There is usually a particular faith tradition you’re uncertain about! We atheist types don’t tend to congregate based on our atheism. There is no atheist handshake or secret wink. We don’t have monthly meetings. We just tend to think that there is no evidence supporting the existence of a “higher being”. That’s it. We are not “a belief group” and there are many people who are spiritual / believe there is a “higher power” who are also not part of a “belief group”… And you missed us all, forced us into boxes we don’t fit in and/or actively resent.

i see what you were trying to do and applaud leading with “No Religion” but suggest that this is only part of the picture. If someone answers “no religion” and you want to know if they believe in spirituality / god(s) of any flavour – THAT NEEDS TO BE AN ADDITIONAL QUESTION!

How does the structure of the question in this years census shed light on anything other than your bog standard mainstream religious categories?

Not cool ABS, not cool. I am disappointūüė¶img_0246

It’s been awhile…

Posting has always been sparse here, but this year has been utterly ridiculous due to the onset of a chronic migraine early this year that is only now being gotten under some level of control thanks to the tireless efforts of my amazing doctors. And the infinite patience of both my awesome bf & kitteh overlord: It would have been infinitely harder without any of them.

My employer, work team & colleagues deserve special mention too. Since my quietly dramatic, ambulance-requiring departure from work for Emergency in early March, everyone has been really supportive and understanding. It has taken several months to rule out some rather nasty alternatives and come to the conclusion that I have chronic, complex migraine. On one level the whole thing has totally sucked, but on another, I have been overwhelmed by the concern, compassion and consideration I have received. I had no idea…

One (photographable) example, is these flowers I received from colleagues I work with on a voluntary committee. From their perspective, I fell off the earth months ago with no explanation and when they found out why, these arrived.

When I started this blog, it was just going to be ‘spatial stuff’. Being taken down by my own body for almost six months has resulted in some reevaluating though. One of the outcomes of which is that there will be other stuff that interests me posted here from now on. So, from here on in, there will not only be more geospatial (with any luck) but also more kittehs, more absurdities and anything else that tickles my fancyūüôā

In parting and toward the new spirit of ‘more kitteh’! Because, CATS!

See you in the next post!

NSW State Library #DigitiseMySuburb

The NSW State Library is digitising their historic subdivision plans!

image: Vertical Map Cabinet

A news release posted yesterday has invited people to use social media to get their suburb to the top of the list by tweeting @StateLibraryNSW using  #DigitiseMySuburb

Over 250 NSW towns and suburbs are included in the collection and the most tweeted suburb over the period 6th Jan to 17th Feb 2015 will move to the next in line for digitisation.

Subdivision plans from Alexandria are already available online if you are interested in that neck of Sydney.

Need some Button Clicking monkeys? Anyone?

There’s a great post (My GIS is Better Than Yours (and other Lies)) by John G. Van Hoesen yesterday over at the Directions Magazine website. He has hit upon a topic close to my own heart, which is this:

  • The Geographic Information Software product(s) you use are not an indication of your knowledge and ability in the arts of Geographic Information Science

It’s really very unfortunate that ‘science’, ‘systems’ and ‘software’ all start with an S!

In an article that is filled with sentiments I, unashamedly, share, two particular quotes stood out:

“The¬†GIS&T¬†doesn’t specify software, the¬†GISP¬†certification doesn’t specify software, and the Geospatial Competency Model (GCM) doesn’t specify software… So let’s be honest and admit your GIS isn’t better than mine (or theirs). You might be more comfortable using a certain suite (life-long learning anyone?), you may have written special scripts (pssst, you migrated from AML – Avenue – VB – Python,¬†you will be OK), and you might enjoy a semi-seamless integration between various products (I get it, I do) but it doesn’t make one version, suite or option better.”


“…should I be making decisions based on software or what is necessary to understand how to create and query a database (no, I didn’t specify a geodatabase) to produce a cartographically accurate and aesthetically pleasing visualization?”

The answer to this question should be obvious, but it seems to me that the battle has always been to differentiate the science from the tools. And its one we as a profession seem not to be winning…

Technology changes, always will. Teaching a strong core of disciplinary foundations and discipline-based problem solving and critical thinking skills enables students to adapt and grow as the type of problems they are working on and the tools they have available constantly morph around them.

Above average across the continent…

As reported in enGuage – Sept 2013,


In addition to the warmest 12-month period on record for Australia, the past
12 months have also seen:

  • hottest summer day on record (7 January)

  • warmest winter day on record (31 August)

  • warmest month on record (January)

  • warmest summer on record (summer 2012‚Äď13).

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Why ARE you working on that?

I’ve followed Dangerously Irrelevant for a while now and, as I work through my Cert IV TAE, this post really struck a chord.cat_has_question

I’m astounded at how often my children do things for class without understanding the bigger reasons behind WHY they’re doing those things.

I always have questions as a student and suspect I’ve driven a couple of teachers/instructors a bit crazy over the years with my need to understand why something was important, or needs to be done this way, rather than that. In developing training materials, I need to remember that not everyone is going to let me know they don’t know why we are doing what we are doing. I am as astounded as Scott that anyone works hard on something if they aren’t sure why they’re doing what they’re doing – but need to remember that this does happen.

If we can’t explain it as the instructors, what hope have the students got of understanding what we want them to learn?

Undiscovering an Island

Hat Tip to arstechnica for this article

This is a classic example of why we need to question where our data comes from. Once you stop to think about it, there are a number of possible explanations as to how this island came to be on charts and maps when it most likely never was. Effective spatial data analysis needs people’s brains to actually check out any anomalies thrown up when combining datasets. Algorithms can alert us to there being something that ‘needs a closer look’ but the actual looking is probably best done by someone who understands geographic information.

oceanSimilarly, any response to a spatial data anomaly must be informed by a number of factors, including things such as:

  • where the data was sourced from
  • who collected it and why
  • what we are using it to do

In some instances a conservative response is the best way to go, in others, we may get away with ignoring the fact that an anomaly was even found. What we shouldn’t do is assume that there is a “correct response” that will then apply for all possible instances – real life just doesn’t work that way.

Unless you happened to be, or know, an oceanic vulcanologist, ‘floating pumice islands‘ are probably not the explanation that comes to mind!