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Fair Political District Maps for Illinois

logo for the Illinois Fair Map InitiativeMaps are powerful and important!  That's the caption of a slide in my standard "GIS for nonprofits" presentation, right around the part where I'm trying to teach why nonprofit organizations should care about maps.  Maps aren't always used just to illustrate historical statistics or last year's data - they can also be used to visualize future plans and activities for our communities and our world... with both positive and negative implications.  That's why I think the Illinois Fair Map Initiative's Fair Map Amendment is such an important issue.

Accommodating Color-blind Viewers When Creating Maps

A blog article with a collection of examples of map color schemes viewed through filters simulating various types of color-blindness.  In addition, various useful links to other simulators and color scheme generators are included.

Seven Taverns For Each Playground: Fantastic Bunge Bio from

Zachary Johnson, the cartographer/geographer behind, wrote up a fascinating bio/review of William Bunge, a prominent social geographer from the times before mashups and slippy maps.  The images in this post are excerpted from the Bunge-created maps on and I believe they all first appeared in Wiliam Bunge's "Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution," 1971, Schenkman Pub. Co.

map showing a neighborhood with more taverns than playgrounds

Nonprofit mapping thoughts about Census 2010

map generated using census bureau data and toolsEvery ten years, the United States embarks on a census to count every person in the country.  The 2010 census date of counting is only a couple of weeks away (April 1st, 2010) so there has been a lot of census talk in the media recently.

Using maps in Literature class?! Take a Lit Trip!

A "Lit Trip" is a digital tour of the places and settings in a work of literature - think of it like a mashup of Google Maps and your favorite novel!  Lit trips can combine images, text, multimedia, and background information concerning a work of literature, and it can put these elements in their geographically-appropriate places.  Imagine seeing background context for The Odyssey superimposed over a map of the hero's travels, or following along with the Joads as they travel west from Oklahoma to California.

The Google Lit Trips site contains Google Earth based lit trip downloads, divided into age-appropriate groups for children and adults.

Planning the most efficient route with Optimap

Does your organization provide services in the community regularly?  Do you have regular routes of sites to visit: neighborhood elderly, community centers, or even regular errand runs?  There are many situations when a local nonprofit or community organization needs to plan a logical route between multiple locations in a city or region.  But what's the most efficient route when you have several - or a dozen - sites to visit?

In the computer science world, this is a classic computational challenge that programmers have long studied, referred to as the "traveling salesman problem" because of its original context: given the distances between each city, what is the most efficient route between a number of cities, so that you visit each city once and only once?