October 9, 2008

township mapping

At the same time I was taking a great nature hike just before the start of FOSS4G, there was a mapping party in Houte Bay.  The party clearly came out a success, and thanks to Mikel for passing on the contact info of the gracious hosts at Tobi, I was invited out to the area today to continue the work that was started the other week.

This morning, Sebastian, Grant, Belinda, and I started out in Imizamu Yethu (sometimes called IY, or more recently Mandela Park), the local township.  With the excellent guidance of Afrika Mone, we got the main road and a few side streets, stopping by a few local spots, including a tavern, preschool, museum, community center, and a surprisingly nicely set up computer lab.  With a little luck and communication, I'm optimistic some of the kids taking courses there will continue our efforts and get the rest of the township mapped. 

As usual, the few folks I chatted with in the township were friendly, and did not seem to mind some tourists wandering around, though I did get a couple strange looks and shouts as I jogged up a few side streets to get some waypoints.

Leaving IY, we moved on to some decidedly more expensive neighborhoods.  Million dollar houses with fantastic views of both the bay and the township provided an interesting juxtaposition, and  a few more streets in the system.  Overall, it's been another great day in a series of many here in Cape Town.  I'm flying out Saturday morning to see some relatives in Joburg, leaving me with just one day left to find good enough weather for a short paragliding jaunt.

local hooks

The last couple of days have yet again highlighted for me the importance of trying to take advantage of locals and local knowledge.  A few days ago I met Chris -- a local geology/botany expert, and friend of a friend that I haven't seen in years -- for a hike up Lions Head.  It was a perfect evening, and the 360 views of Table Mountain, the Apostles, the Atlantic, the city and suburbs was almost overwhelming.  The perfect sunset didn't hurt either. 

Chris mentioned the local mountaineering club was hosting a slideshow/video, so last night we checked it out.  A couple guys who were part of a group that did a mission to climb the three towers in Southern Patagonia recounted a humerous, personable, and mindblowing story of their trip, bringing back for me good memories of (much easier) trips I've done in the past, and getting me quite excited to get back in shape and outdoors more in the future. 

After chatting with a few of the local mountaineer members, we hooked up with Mark, a friend of my cousin, who took us to see a local jazz band at the Asoka club up the road.  Excellent show, with energy and sounds similar to my recollections of some of Skerik's projects.  One of Mark's friends from LA showed up shortly after, and we had a highly entertaining discussion that reminded me why I love visiting LA, but would never live there.

October 3, 2008


The presentations for FOSS4G are over, and just a few workshops and the code sprint are left in the official conference.  This year I ran a workshop on GeoDjango with Chris Schmidt, and gave a presentation on the work I did recently with walkscore.com. 

The workshop had a few technical glitches (no power, internet, or projector for the first bit), and as Chris mentioned, we probably should have practiced together in a fully offline mode beforehand.  On that note, thanks a lot to Chris for agreeing to help out as a replacement at the last minute -- it would have been quite a struggle without him there.  Still, we got through most of the material, and participants ended up with working admin editing for points and polygons, and some public facing pages that showed a good hint of GeoDjango's possibilities.  I learned quite a lot from this workshop, and am looking forward to repeating it in the future.  After fixing up a few  bugs in docs and vmware image, I'll post the tutorial and links to the image somewhere online.

October 1, 2008


Yesterday Karen and Hanlie and I went on a nice walk down near Cape Point, with a group of local botany experts who meet once a month to wander around, rip out some invasive plants, and talk endlessly about the indigenous and endemic species.  It was a beautiful area, with views of the Atlantic and the bay, and I learned a lot about fynbos and local history.  I also saw a lot of tortoises, and these really fast caterpillers. 

One of the guys brought along his grandkids, Gabriel and Ruben.  These kids were amazing at finding animals or animal parts (numerous porcupine quills, tortoise shell segments, owl eggs, etc), and it was a lot of fun to jump around on some large rocks again with people who truly enjoy that activity. 

After the hike, I went got dropped off at the University of Cape Town campus, and headed to the Geomatics lab to help set up some of the workshops with the conference organizers.  A couple machines had mysterious issues installing vmware, but overall it went nicely.  I then got dropped off at my hotel, where I'm sharing a room with Andrew Turner.  Unfortunately they refused to let me into the room, despite him leaving them my name and the room key.  So I wandered away to go register for the conference, and met up with some old friends, most of whom I had not seen for a year, and some that I had never met in person.  For me, getting together with all these folks I converse with online is the nicest part of the conference.