PG&E providing shapefiles, instead of a working map for shutoffs

Here in northern California, PG&E is shutting off power to thousands of households in efforts to prevent wildfires. Luckily, the area I live is just outside of the shutoff areas, but for others, a map of what’s up would be useful, right?

However, instead of a map, which is “temporarily unavailable” at the time of this writing, PG&E is providing shapefiles. I mean, that’s kind of nice for people who like to make maps, but it’s not so great for the rest. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

At least you can keep track with the San Francisco Chronicle:

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Millions of dollars in tax breaks — because of a mapping error

A small discrepancy in a couple of shapefiles led to a misclassification of land. Wealthy investors are taking advantage. For ProPublica, Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott:

They have President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul law to thank. The new law has a provision meant to spur investment into underdeveloped areas, called “opportunity zones.” The idea is to grant lucrative tax breaks to encourage new investment in poor areas around the country, carefully selected by each state’s governor.

But Port Covington, an ambitious development geared to millennials to feature offices, a hotel, apartments, and shopping, is not in a census tract that is poor. It’s not a new investment. And the census tract only became eligible to be an opportunity zone thanks to a mapping error.

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Adjusting map data with Mapshaper


Map making is a finicky challenge where oftentimes your map data — points, lines, and polygons — must align just right with your external data that exists as a CSV file or related. Mapshaper is an online tool that helps you massage your geographic data to where it needs to be.

The online application has been around for a while, but I only recently used it, and it’s kind of magical. It’s one of those things where you half expect the whole thing to fail, and then when it seems to be working you still expect there to be some wrinkle that makes using the tool a pain. Not so with Mapshaper.

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Convert geographic data to 3-D models for printing

3d printed map data

This seems like fun. The NodeJS package shp2stl by Doug McCune lets you convert a shapefile to a 3-D model, which can then send to your favorite 3-D printer (because you know we all have at least two of them lying around). Assuming you have NodeJS setup, simply point the package to your shapefile, specify which attribute to use for height, and presto changeo there's your 3-D model.

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