The Fear of Making Nothing

Don’t be afraid of making something bad.

Be afraid of making nothing at all.

Jolie Guillebeau

The above quote really hit me. I’m guilty of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good all the time. I’ll sit down to sketch something or write something and five minutes into it I’m already judging it for not being good enough. It’s not exactly how I’d envisioned it or it doesn’t compare to someone elses work. So I end up quitting or starting over.

Instead I should simply be creating. The editing, the correction and the reworking comes later. It’s a lesson I have to keep teaching myself.

If you have a few minutes, watch Jolie’s TEDx talk below. She’s not only a great artist but an inspiring speaker too.

Custom Color Ramps For ArcGIS

Back in 2012 I wrote a post about loading custom color ramps into ArcGIS. It’s been a consistently popular post but is very outdated. In that post I suggested downloading and installing ESRI’s ColorRamps2.o package. ColorRamps2.0 was replaced with ColorRamps3.0 around the time I wrote the post. Today, although there’s a link to download ColorRamps3.0 it doesn’t seem to be functioning.

Instead of simply updating an old blog post, I thought it would be helpful to write an updated post. I’ll show you how to create color ramps on the fly in ArcGIS and how to import custom color ramps into ArcGIS 10.5. I’ll also provide a list of color ramp creation and download sources.

If you already have a color ramp .style file, you can follow the steps below to add them into ArcMap:

  1. Copy the .style files to C:\Program Files (x86)\ArcGIS\Desktop10.5\Styles. Your Styles will be different depending on your operating system and version of ArcGIS.
  2. Open ArcMap.
  3. Click the customize dropdown and select Style Manager.
  4. On the right side of the Style Manager click on the Styles… button. At this point your custom style name should just show up in your style manager. However, if it doesn’t because you put your style file in a different directory or some other reason, you need to follow two more steps. First, click Add Style to List. Navigate to the directory where you placed the .style files and select your custom file. Highlight the file and click Open. You will have to do this for each .style file you want to add.
  5. After all of the styles are shown in the Style References list, make sure they are check marked and click the Set as Default List button.
  6. Click OK and you should see your styles on the left side of the Style Manager. Close the style manager. At this point you can go to the symbology tab of your Layer Properties for a given raster and select one of the new color ramps. If you want to see the text descriptions of the ramps, click on the color ramp dropdown and uncheck ‘Graphic View’.

So where can you find alternative .style files with color ramps? It seems to be getting harder to find them these days. As I mentioned above, you used to be able to get them from the ESRI mapping center but that resource seems to be abandoned. Let me know if you know where to find ColorRamps3.0 or 2.0 today. used to be another good resource but the site has removed the option to download ramps in the .style format. Fortunately, you can still access them by going to and downloading the zip file.

You can check out Fred Lott’s color ramps on GitHub too. Of course, if you aren’t finding quite the ramp for your needs and you’re trying to show quantities, you could always build your own.

To set your own quantities ramp for your layer, follow these steps:

  1. Right click on your layer and go to the symbology tab.
  2. Click on Show Quantities and select Graduated Colors.
  3. Choose your field’s value and normalization and how many classes you want your data broken into. Your classes will already have a color ramp assigned
  4. Double click on the first class symbol color. Choose another color that you want for the start of your custom ramp.
  5. Next, double click on the last class symbol color and choose the last color in your ramp.
  6. Right click on any of the symbols and select Ramp Colors. This will generate the color ramp between the top and bottom colors you chose.


So there you have it. If you’re not happy with what ESRI has already provided you for styles you have a few options for customization. If you know of any other style resources I didn’t mention, please feel free to let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.


Escorted Home By Birds

A few weeks ago I wrote about a nest of Plover eggs that I had been watching for a while. I just happened upon it one day while I was taking one of my early morning walks in the neighborhood. The male and female parents would throw a fit every time I walked by. When I started stopping to take close up pictures of the eggs, they got even crazier. It got  to the point where I thought they were going to come try and peck at me.

Every time I came by, one of the birds would fly in front of me and squawk loudly while leading me away. Even after the eggs hatched they’ve kept up this practice. Sometimes, they continue walking with me for about a quarter of a mile until I reach my house. And yes, they seem to know where I live.

It’s always fun when you get a chance to interact with wild animals. It’s almost as if these birds have been scolding me for intruding on their day. They’re telling me they don’t trust me and to show it, they chaperone me to my house, ensuring I don’t make trouble.

When this first started happening, my kids were convinced I was in the middle of a fantasy story. They told me to follow the Plover wherever it went because it could lead to a magical portal into a different dimension or world. So far, I haven’t seen any portals appearing before me. But I still keep my eyes open.

Personal Growth By Avoiding Comfort

I watched a TEDx talk yesterday called Why Comfort will Ruin Your Life, by Bill Eckstrom. Bill’s central point was that only through the discomfort of complexity in our lives can we grow.

It got me thinking about my own life and  how many years I wasted seeking out comfort. Instead of achieving growth, I was largely stagnant. We seek out comfort because it feels good. Sometimes we seek it out because we fear the unknown and the unpredictable. In a comfortable state, everything is in order and can be anticipated. In a state of disorder, we don’t always know outcomes.

I remember once in college my professor encouraged us to take a summer internship that promised to teach certain technology skills that could lead to a high paying career. But out of fear, I didn’t even bother applying.

I was workng at a textile factory and using it to pay my way through school. I was afraid that if I gave it up, I wouldn’t have a job after the summer. In reality, the company probably would have been happy to bring me back. But even if they hadn’t, I would have found something else. It wasn’t the only job around. Or the internship might have led to a much better job.

I let the comfort of a low end job keep me from something much better. Looking back on my life I can identify other times when I actually chose stagnation over growth. But, instead of brooding over my past mistakes, I use these observations to challenge myself today, right now.

There’s nothing I can do about the past. And I can’t predict or control what happens in the future. But I do have influence over what I choose to do right now. I can choose to be comfortable and watch time pass. Or I can choose the road less traveled by, which might be longer and harder but will bring me to new places.

The great thing about only being able to influence the present is that if you fail to choose growth, You’ve only failed in that moment. The very next moment is like a life reset. That realization takes off a lot of pressure. You don’t have to look at your entire past and pick out the successes and failures. You only have to observe this moment and challenge yourself to complicate life for a moment for the sake of growth.

Alternative Means of Gardening

I’ve only ever owned one house with land that gave me a really great garden. There have been some that would grow a few things and others that even had unhealthy weeds. But the one I’m in now doesn’t even have a good space for an in ground garden. 

So far, I’ve been successful growing a handful of herbs and flowers in pots. Pots are one of those great small space garden alternatives that even add a beauty of their own. They also allow for moving plants around so you can customize your layout for asthetics, water or sun.

But as usual, I want more. I want a place where I can grow enough vegetables to eat well for part of the year at least. But because of my space constraints and lack of garden soil, I’m forced to turn to alternative means of growing. 

I decided to build a small, raised garden bed. It was a very simple project that I hope will yield a lot of food for the little work that went into it. I went down to Home Depot and bought a 2 x 12 x 16, several bags of garden soil and that was about it. I cut the lumber into 2 two foot lengths and two six foot lengths. Then I fastened them together with deck screws. This gave me twelve square feet of garden space which should be plenty for what I want to do this year.

I positioned the raised bed along the south side of my house where there was a dead patch of the lawn. This location gets amazing sun exposure throughout the day. I just need to remember to keep it watered.

So far, the only seeds I’ve planted are pumpkin, zucchini, watermelon, yellow summer squash, spaghetti squash and golden wax beans. I have high hopes for these plants this year. 

Never Just Try to Get Through Your Day

Anything you prepare for and anticipate will be more satisfying than something mundane that you take for granted. You can put significance on anything in your life to make it more meaningful. Rather than going through your day on autopilot, try making each event in your day noteworthy.

Don’t just brush your teeth because you have to. Turn it into a cleansing ritual and expect that when you’re finished you’ll feel better and have a better outlook on your day. You’ll be surprised how this really does work. Your day can be changed entirely by such simple things.

Take time to prepare your meals. Look at chopping vegetables as an art form rather than a task you would like to avoid. Cook slowly and deliberately. Smell the ingredients you’re using before you use them and then try to differentiate those smells as you cook.

Whatever work you do, approach it as a master craftsman. Whether you’re a clerk, a programmer, a supervisor or a salesman, ask yourself how you can be better today. What can you bring to your job or profession that no one else can or will do?  Whatever your job is, it’s significant and you can be significant in it if you’re willing.

When you drive, don’t think of your trip as a way to get from point A to point B. Instead, plan to take a different route (maybe shorter or maybe longer) so you can see a beautiful landmark or observe an event. And consider it a challenge to give grace to the other unfortunate drivers who are in such a hurry to get somewhere that they’re yelling at you to get out of the way.  

Never just try to get through your day. You only get so many of them. Have no zero days.

Old Mapping Site Reviews

Back in 2012 I put together a list of five mapping/GIS sites and apps that I thought were interesting. I typed them up, posted them and then forgot about them. Now, six years later I found them and checked to see what their status is. Amazingly, most of the sites are still up and running in one form or another.

I guess I feel a little validated that the sites I thought were of high enough quality to share back then turned out to be high enough quality to last as long as they have. It’s not uncommon for projects like these to start off with promise only to soon be relegated to the internet archive. You can check out the original post 5 Nifty Maps from StumbleUpon and see the screenshots as they were when I took them in 2012. Otherwise, here is the list, updated six years later.

The Maps

ZoomEarth – Here is a nifty little satellite imagery viewing application. When I first found this site, Zoom Earth was called Flash Earth. Its claim to fame was that it was a Flash based alternative to Google Earth. Of course Flash has gone the way of the Dodo across most parts of the internet so at some point the app was changed to Zoom Earth. It now claims to have new satellite imagery every day. It’s cool to zoom into an area and scroll through different dates of imagery for the place. However, if you get in close enough to actually see anything useful, the option to change the date goes away. 

Wikimapia – Wikimapia is a weird entity somewhere between Google Maps and OpenStreetMap. You can upload your own information about geographic places and objects. It’s been around since 2006 but it still has a 2012 copyright. I’m thinking the site doesn’t get much love except a yearly domain renewal.


Maps Of War – This site doesn’t seem to have change much since I first looked at it. Half of the maps deal with the Middle East and the Iraq War. The maps are still flash based so it looks like nothing is really updated. But, at least it still exists. 

IRIS Seismic Monitor – The Seismic Monitor is the graphic interface for seismological data from The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology consortium. It’s an interesting app if you’re into earthquakes. Even if you aren’t excited by shaking dirt, the colored map markers are pretty. – Not too long ago, this site was up. Now it’s not. If you still want to check out some of the old flash based maps from the site you can see them over on the Internet Archive. Hey, four out of five still isn’t bad.




30 Day Photo Challenge Wrap Up

From desert badlands to Rocky Mountain meadows I’ve incorporated a lot of different themes, styles and subjects into last month’s 30 day photo-a-day challenge. As it went along I noticed I was having to really consider what it was I wanted to shoot that day. Sometimes I would just snap a picture of whatever happened to be lying on the counter. Other days I was more deliberate about what I wanted to capture.

Subject, perspective and composition have all been areas I’ve had to really think hard about and try to improve. Some days I did better than others. Thirty days was a good amount of time to do something like this. It’s enough time to go through the stages of seeing the obvious, then getting frustrated at the lack of obvious subjects and finally, forcing the mind and eyes to work and observe what’s really around us.

I went through a few days when I was wishing I had never started the challenge. But now that it’s over, I just want it to keep going. However, I do want to post other things than pictures each day so I’ll call it officially over. I’m sure many more photos will grace these pages into the future though.


Photo Challenge Day 30 – Bugging Out

For my last day of my photo challenge I spied this little guy on a strawberry plant in my back yard. It’s amazing how many things you can find to photograph right in and around your house. Once the obvious subjects are out of the way, you’re forced to pay attention to the details of your surroundings. Different weather, times of day and perspectives can all lead to more interesting and creative pictures.

30 Days of Photos – Day 29

Day 30 – Bugging Out