Quick Thoughts

  1. The intersection of the north-end bike path (north of Gateway) with 1) North Washington Street and 2) Mill Road are especially bad.
  2. There is no official way to cross the English Coulee on the north side of Gateway, but there is a desire line, which can even be seen in the satellite photo.
  3. Crossing 42nd Street is hard, too.
  4. It would be sweet if there were a pedestrian connection across 42nd St from 11th Ave S to the Alerus Center.

Database Frontiers

They aren’t really frontiers anymore, but I’m learning more about NoSQL databases and use cases–specifically, what the best way to create a better fossil specimen database is.  The use case would be a simple “what do we have and where is it” database for the University of North Dakota paleo collections.

Ideal features are

  • Easy replication or download, in case someone wants to run an analysis on all or part of the database.
  • Easy and or flexible query capabilities.  I’m getting the impression I get one or the other.
  • Easy import.
  • Versioning would be nice.
  • Scalability (in the end, 500,000 specimens).

So far CouchDB and MongoDB are my frontrunners, and even though I think CouchDB has more of the features I’d like to use, the supposedly easier querying in MongoDB has me intrigued.  This is definitely not going to be a post comparing the two.  It’s possible that MySQL is the right choice, and I am re-exploring that possibility.  I’m beginning to shy away from NodakPaleo as it exists right now, because Drupal adds a layer of complexity between researchers and the data.  Sure, it’s nice to have all the extras and be able to build a View that you can query a certain way via GUI, but ideally the databse would have an API that could be used by researchers for more interesting things–mapping exercises, mashups with different datasets, etc.  For that to happen, I think a JSON/BSON/XML document database may be the best choice in the end.  

I just want people to be able to talk to it and use it in a way that makes sense to them.  Continuing on, I hope to add more comprehensible thoughts about each option and how I am learning (because I know very little about these systems).

Finally, if you want to see where my free time went during 2007, check out SpecimenDB, the PHP/MySQL version I created.  Much of the backend I scraped from ‘PHP and MySQL for Dummies,’ but apparently I learned a lot that summer.  This is a new installation, so it obviously doesn’t have any information in it.


Question: Do Charity Bicycle Rides Work?

I’m not talking about mass gran fondo-style rides like MS150, but the smaller “a few of us are going to ride from X to Y and raise money along the way” type of rides.  I’m genuinely curious: do they raise money?  I can understand “awareness” as a goal (some of my friends are running across North Dakota this summer), but can riding from North Dakota to Florida really raise $500,000?

Here’s an opportunity for someone to do some Googling and make some graphs comparing how much money can be raised by different charity strategies.  I’d be interested in knowing.

In the Snow

Life is like a field full of snow…or a campus quad.  The deeper the snow, the fewer paths there will be.  Most people are content to walk around the snow on paved paths.  Some people will follow paths trodden by others.  Only a few will create new paths across the field, either to go to new places or create quicker routes than those that have been established.  It’s up to us how much snow we’re willing to walk through, and who we’re willing to follow.