10 Questions: Dr. James Mower

Dr. James Mower is a familiar face across the New York State GIS landscape.  Having started at SUNY Albany almost thirty years ago, he has mentored hundreds of geography and GIS students whom have gone on to work in a wide range of government and industry positions across the state.  Over the past two decades, Westchester County GIS has employed at least six of his students as full-time employees and numerous summer interns.  His teachings have contributed significantly to the continued development of the Westchester County GIS program.

eSpatiallynewyork:  You’ve been at SUNY Albany for a while now – how long?

Mower: I started in the fall of 1987.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Take us back to your  doctoral work. Your PhD came from the University of Buffalo– one of the early most recognized centers of GIS research in the United States – in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Who was your mentor at Buffalo?

Mower:  My mentor was David Mark who recently retired (from teaching, anyway). Dave was a great mentor—he let me run with some unusual but ultimately successful projects.

eSpatiallynewyork: What classes are you teaching these days? 

Mower:  I have focused more on programming courses recently. I have a 2-course Java programming sequence that has become a lot more interesting with the exploding interest in open source GIS. I’m retooling my courses to focus more on mapping libraries like the GeoTools package from OSGeo  (the program that also supervises GRASS, QGIS, GDAL, and other great tools). I also teach a Python course aimed at ArcGIS scripting (at least for now).

eSpatiallynewyork:  How has teaching GIS/geospatial at the university level changed over the last 5-10 years?

Mower:  The biggest changes are yet to come. Cartography and GIS are learning how to embrace mobile platforms with smaller screen space. Generalization issues in mapping have never been more important. Along with mobile mapping has also come global navigation satellite system position finding and its use in almost every cell phone app out there. Also, the coming revolution in autonomous vehicles will impact our field in many unforeseeable ways. Continue reading

10 Questions: Steve Romalewski

Steven Romalewski is currently director of the Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center / CUNY.  During his 32-year career he has helped hundreds of nonprofit groups across the country leverage the power of GIS; helped develop more than two-dozen online mapping services analyzing environmental issues, social services, transit routing, demographic trends, voting behavior, and legislative representation.  He has also coordinated the work of community groups and others across New York to advocate for sensible environmental policies at the local, state, and federal levels.  For the past 10 years, he has taught students at Pratt Institute how to use GIS in their urban planning careers, and helped educate many others through presentations about the value of GIS.  He lives in Manhattan.

eSpatiallynewyork:  How did you end up in your current position at Center for Urban Research?  

Romalewski:  Before joining CUNY I ran the Community Mapping Assistance Project (CMAP) at NYPIRG for about eight years, providing mapping services to nonprofit organizations across the country.  (Before that I was an environmental researcher and advocate at NYPIRG.)  By 2004 or so, CMAP’s work had started to outgrow our advocacy-oriented parent organization. Internally we discussed options of spinning off CMAP as a social business venture, merging it with another organization, or launching it as its own nonprofit.

At the same time we were going through a strategic planning effort for the OASIS project, and one of the key findings was that OASIS would benefit from an institutional setting such as academia where the OASIS website would be able to leverage more stable technology resources and organizational support.

One of the academic programs we talked with was the Center for Urban Research (CUR) at the CUNY Graduate Center.  I had worked on projects over the years with CUR’s director John Mollenkopf, and he was a big fan of our work. It seemed like a great fit, and in January 2006  I moved to CUNY.

eSpatiallynewyork:  How do CUR projects come to be or developed?

Romalewski:  We’re fortunate to have a good amount of leeway in deciding on projects.  Generally CUR engages in applied research projects in the areas of neighborhood change, immigration, and urban development broadly speaking. Within those areas, we look for mapping projects where we can have an impact, where we can leverage CUR’s mapping skills and expertise in analyzing urban trends, and that come with funding support so we can cover staff time and related expenses.

We’re especially interested in working with our colleagues throughout CUNY, as well as within city government (since CUNY has a close relationship with New York City agencies), but we also take on projects with a wide array of partners.

If the project involves an online mapping component we try to structure it so we can incorporate the latest and greatest interactive web and mapping techniques and technologies. Continue reading

10 Questions: Dale Morris

Dale Morris is one of New York State’s most recognized and senior GIS statesmen.  With a distinguished civil service career spanning 38 years, he has contributed significantly to the NYS GIS community in many capacities to say the least of directing one of the most established GIS programs in the state at Erie County – and its far reaching influence in western New York.  Ten questions seemed like a slight to an individual with such a body of professional work, so the eSpatiallyNewYork editorial team gave him permission to push it to 15 questions. Or something like that.  Enjoy.

eSpatiallynewyork:  How long have you been with Erie County?

Morris:  I’ve been in the Department of Environment and Planning since 1981. Prior to this I worked as a Planner for the Town of Amherst, NY and before that the Erie and Niagara Counties Regional Planning Board. I graduated from Cornell University with a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning in 1977.

eSpatiallynewyork:  When did you start doing GIS work?

Morris:   Working initially as a Planner for Erie County presented  many opportunities for making and using maps. In the 1980s we were still using Mylar, zipatone, and Leroy Lettering Sets for making maps, which is tedious, time consuming, and not easy to change. I began to investigate the world of digital mapping, which was still in its beginnings as a desktop product. I started with the DOS version of MapInfo. I recall how amazed we all were that we could do something as simple as draw the County and municipal boundaries on-screen. Looking back on it now it all seems so rudimentary!  Regardless of how basic it was, my Division became known for our ability to make computer drawn maps. At that time there wasn’t much concern about the database behind the maps- it was enough to be able to draw and edit maps digitally rather than by hand.

As desktop mapping grew in popularity through the 1990s a number of County departments began independently looking into it. This usually resulted in them calling me to ask for advice or data. Of course, this also meant that everyone was using different systems, and at that time it made exchanging data between systems very difficult or impossible. It was a classic case of disjointed silos of data and applications.

A change in County administration in the late 1990s brought new management in our department, and I was challenged to prepare a white paper for moving the County further forward into the digital mapping world. I proposed creating a new County Division that would be empowered to centralize decisions relating to geospatial technology (by then we could use terms like “geospatial” without getting blank stares!). The Office of Geographic Information Services (OGIS) was born in 2001, and I have been the Director since then. So for me personally, my career started with both feet in the urban planning field, then a gradual shift to one foot in planning and one in digital mapping, and then finally both feet in GIS. I do very little “typical” planning anymore, even though OGIS is part of the Planning Division.

While OGIS is an Office within the Department of Environment and Planning, only a portion of our work is related to this department. We work very closely with our IT shop to maintain and operate the County’s GIS technology infrastructure, and with other departments and outside agencies who either use our enterprise GIS technology or who need direct assistance with their mapping needs.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What’s the relationship between your office and Niagara County?

Morris:  We have a formal Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) with Niagara County for GIS Services. The agreement is for a five year period and we are well into the second of these five-year agreements. Erie County hosts Niagara County’s geospatial data and provides on-line mapping services to Niagara County. The two counties are connected by a high-speed microwave link, which operates very well. In essence, Niagara County is simply like any other Erie County department that taps into the Erie County enterprise GIS network. In addition to providing Niagara County this service for a fee, the IMA provides a framework for backup of GIS data between the two counties, and as well defines a GIS “mutual aid” protocol for sharing of GIS resources and staff in the event of an emergency.
Continue reading

10 Questions: David Bubniak

I’ve been going back and forth with David Bubniak for several months on doing a piece on his geospatial work and efforts with the Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STC) where he has worked for over a decade.  Covering three counties – Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben – David’s GIS work with STC covers many program areas. A lifelong Southern Tier resident, he and his wife and their two sons live in Waverly,  New York.  David can contacted at gisstc@stny.rr.com.

eSpatiallynewyork:  How long have you been with Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board (STC)?

Bubniak:  I   started at STC in 2005 and worked here for a year. I left and went to work for James Sewall in the Elmira office (formally Weiler Mapping). I then returned to STC in 2008 and have been here since. Prior to STC, I worked for the Chemung County Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO)  in the early 90’s as a transportation GIS analyst. I then became the General Manager of Chemung County Transit. I then went back to doing GIS in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania for Northern Tier Regional Planning.  A good friend of mine is a surveyor and I worked with him on the side periodically over the years doing property surveys, deed research and construction layouts.  Those experiences have helped me significantly over the years understanding how to assist people with GIS. I am the only designated GIS person in STC office though we do have planners that use it often.

eSpatiallynewyork:  When did you start doing GIS work?

Bubniak: I started using GIS in 1993. I attended Mansfield University and graduated with a Geography degree with an emphasis in Planning. We used Atlas GIS for projects. I worked part time at the Chemung County Planning department right after I graduated in December 1994.  My first project was mapping senior citizen migration from rural areas back into the City of Elmira for the Department of Aging. When I started at the Executive Transportation Committee for Chemung County (Chemung County MPO) in 1995 I used Unix based  pcARC/INFO and AutoCad. I taught myself how to use both just by studying the manuals and using them for projects. I then started to use ArcView when it was released.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What GIS products do you now use/promote? 

Bubniak:  I use both web and desktop applications. I use ArcGIS server as well as ArcGIS online for my web apps. I do promote both web and desktop apps. I have people using ArcView, ArcReader and ArcGIS Explorer.  I have the Elmira Water Board using ArcGIS desktop with several departments accessing data over their network using ArcGIS Explorer (desktop). The Chemung County Stormwater Coalition uses a combination of ArcGIS online, local data, and data through ArcGIS server.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What agencies/organizations do you work with most closely?

Bubniak:  I do a lot of work for Chemung County departments and towns. I do get involved with the state from time to time. I function sort of as the GIS coordinator for Chemung County but not on formal basis. I work with the Stormwater Coalition, public works, Elmira Water Board, Real Property. I do work and assist several of the bigger towns in the county.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Tell us about the “Southern Tier Central Mapping Application for Local Governments”

Bubniak:  I have four basic parcel viewers. I have one for each county then one for the whole region. They all run the same data from a SQL database.  Chemung and Schuyler Counties connect their county sites to their SDG Imagemate Online application.  I have a Chemung County site tailored to soil and water, Public works and local code officials.  Many county departments and officials use it for their GIS. I have a bunch of project specific web apps I built using ArcGIS for Flash and Silverlight including one for the Keuka Lake Watershed,  a planning tool, and the Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan.  Those apps utilize other public services and data to cover the whole area. It really depends on the application and the need.

eSpatiallynewyork:  In your capacity with STC, what professions do you work with the most on a day-to-day basis? 

Bubniak:  In addition to my daily responsibilities with TC, I work with several other (government, county, local governments, nonprofits, what?) disciplines including engineering, public works, planning/economic development,  transportation, code enforcement and emergency services.   In many respects and functions I serve as a GIS consultant (though not paid as one) to many organizations and governments across the three county region.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Making maps anymore or is everything online now?

Bubniak:  Mostly everything has gone online, though I still make maps from time to time.  Well designed hard copy maps are always still needed for meetings and discussions.  There is no substitute.

eSpatiallynewyork: From your perspective and experience in the Southern Tier, do you think decision makers and elected officials value GIS technology as a necessity or a “nice to have”?

Bubniak:  For many years it was a “nice to have” and called a cool technology toy.   Though more recently the culture and understanding of geospatial technology has changed within government and among elected officials to considering it much more as a “necessary” tool.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Assuming money and administrative support were in place, what are a couple cost effective (and needed) geospatial applications which you feel STC could develop and available for the three county area?

I would like to have an application or applications similar to how the Town of Southampton, NY is making GIS services available on their website.  They have a fee-based viewer (ePortal).   for Land Manger GIS that was presented at the last New York State GIS Conference.

eSpatiallynewyork:  So what’s next?  What are you working on now?

Bubniak:  Chemung County has just purchased an ELA license from ESRI. I am going to be designing, building multi-user databases and setting up applications for the county. We are going to be implementing a true enterprise system and get away from our current departmentalized GIS systems.

I am currently working on an application to allow  Elmira City Council members to report issues they want resolved. This will be done on tablets and cut out a huge amount of paper work and will bring in a geospatial component at the same time.

Eventually we plan on getting social services involved.   Once we get this off the ground and get things going we are going to look how to improve services in this area of government.  While at Sewall we designed a web application for social services to locate day cares, employers, transit routes and client locations which I believe has potential for regional and county governments.

 eSpatiallynewyork:  So what are you doing when you are not working?

Bubniak:  For many years I competed in power lifting but hurt my shoulder and don’t participate anymore.   I enjoy the outdoors and hunt.    We bought a starter home  many years ago and since then I’ve completely redone the house doing all of the plumbing, electrical, drywall, flooring, etc., myself.    It’s a great location on a dead end road and we own 40 acres.

Both of our boys – ages 9 and 14 – are involved in travel sports (baseball, track/cross country, Tae Kwon Do) so following them around to games and practices is one of our main “hobbies” now – which is all worth it.

10 Questions:  Star Carter

Star Carter is a GIS Analyst with the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC) located in Watertown, New York. Her life and career path read somewhat like a bucket list covering work as an oiled wildlife responder, aseptic laboratory tech, wrangler on a Wyoming horse ranch, federal law enforcement officer, ophthalmic assistant, naturalist tour guide and now knee deep in the geospatial world.

I started a conversation with Star at the 2015 NYGeoCon talking about work and ended up finding out a lot about how one originally from Hawaii ends up living in the snow belt of New York State…..

eSpatiallynewyork:  How long have you been with the Development Authority of the North Country (DANC)? What brought you here? Where did you go to school?

Star:  I was hired at the Authority in 2011 as a temporary GIS technician.  Thanks to a mixture of good timing and hard work, I’m now the GIS Analyst in a team of three GIS professionals at the Authority.  I’m from Hawaii, but I met my husband in Washington, DC.  He is from Watertown, and after a few years in DC, we moved to the North Country.  I have a BS in Animal Science from the University of Hawaii and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in GIS from Penn State.  I found GIS while working at a land trust after moving to Watertown. I was hooked from my first map project.  I enrolled in the online GIS program at Penn State and soon after landed my position at the Authority.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Tell us a couple of your most favorite examples of how GIS is used at DANC?

Star:  GIS has become a tool used by all of the Authority divisions, so I have many projects that keep me busy.  The Telecom Division is our largest internal GIS user, with more than 1,400 miles of fiber optic cable mapped in GIS.  The regional landfill and our regional water and wastewater lines are also mapped and updated regularly.  My team is increasingly involved in other less obvious GIS-related projects.  We are supporting two local government consolidation and dissolution studies right now.  When a Village is considering dissolving, or a Town is looking at consolidation with another Town, GIS is the spatial information Holy Grail.  For example, it is used to identify municipal infrastructure systems which need to be turned over to another entity, calculate the total number acres in the municipality, or in determining fire district boundaries.  GIS can help answer many of the tough questions that will inform voters who are making the ultimate decision.

eSpatiallynewyork: DANC represents a regional approach to GIS development.  What makes it successful?  Do you think it can be applied elsewhere across the state?  If so, why? 

Star:  DANC’s mission as a public authority is to provide technical services and infrastructure to enhance economic opportunities in the North Country region.  We exist to make local municipalities’ jobs easier, and GIS is a fast growing part of that challenge.  Many smaller municipalities want GIS, but their limited budgets, staff, equipment, and capacity are barriers to acquiring it in a traditional desktop setup.  The Authority’s shared services GIS model bridges those barriers and allows these communities to enjoy all the benefits of GIS without having to invest in the software and staff to run it.  The Authority has offered GIS hosting services on our web-based GIS application since 2011 (new.dancgis.org).  By June 2016, we will host GIS data for 56 municipal customers in four Counties.  People can access data from any computer or mobile device with an internet connection – that’s all it takes.  Suddenly, all of the infrastructure is at their fingertips and they have tools to interact with it.

I believe the DANC model can be replicated in other areas of the State.  I don’t think every municipality needs its own map viewer. So much money and time is spent on redundant viewers and software that could be better spent developing richer data.  In my experience, consolidating map viewers doesn’t mean that less GIS work is being done – it gives GIS staff more time and funds to work on the data.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Biggest professional accomplishment to date?

Star:  I’m very proud of my participation in the growth of GIS in the North Country and my work on the Authority’s Internet Mapping Application (IMA).  However, two summers ago, I mapped a utility pole line that went up the side of Whiteface Mountain.  Climbing to the top with 15 pounds of computer and GPS equipment was pretty cool and the view at the top was amazing.  I’ve since climbed 2 other mountains in the name of GIS field work – my goal is 46 peaks all on official GIS business!

eSpatiallynewyork:   From your perspective how important is the private sector (business and industry) in building GIS across the state? 

Star:  I collaborate with many private sector engineering firms and other businesses for my projects.  I’ve noticed a positive shift towards GIS technology, where previously the predominate software for engineers I was working with was CAD and they wanted little to do with GIS.  The two technologies can play together very well, and I hope that trend will continue.  The private sector often has the funds/ability/staff to create great data, and there is so much data out there being stored in CAD that would be wonderful to have in GIS.  Someone just needs to do the conversion, which can be time consuming.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What do you think of GISP certification?

Star:  It is something that I’d like to acquire, but so far it has not been a priority.  In my position at the Authority, the GISP is not required for advancement; experience and job performance are more valuable.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Anybody talking “Open Data” in the North Country?

Star:  “Open Data” has become a trigger word for me – bring out the soap box!  All data developed by the Authority is publically available.  We encourage all of our customers to make data public, but it is their choice – about half of them do.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What’s the next big geospatial “thing” for DANC?

We just completed an upgrade to the IMA to make it compatible with mobile devices and more functional.  Like most everyone else in the State, we are looking for user-friendly mobile apps for data collection, both for internal use and for our GIS hosting customers.

eSpatiallynewyork:  If you had an extra $50K in your budget, what would you spend it on?

Star:  I’d spend it on more training opportunities for our GIS staff.  GIS evolves so quickly and it’s too easy to get stuck in your current work flow.  We’re so busy that it’s difficult to take the time to learn about new technology and software, but I think formal training and exposure to new ideas at conferences is important.  And I’d spend it on more equipment – everyone knows that GPS units are like shoes: you need one in every color and style (oooh, this one works under tree cover!).

eSpatiallynewyork: What was the last presentation you made at a GIS conference or meeting?

Star:  I presented at the St. Lawrence County Local Government Conference in 2015.  DANC prepared an all-day track of sessions specifically about GIS – including an Intro to GIS, hands-on training with GPS equipment, and case studies showing how municipalities are using GIS.  I really enjoyed teaching.

eSpatiallynewyork:  So you are up in the pulpit and preaching to the NYS GIS community.  What would the sermon be entitled? 

Star:  “Sharing is Caring for GIS”.  I think the future of GIS includes better data sharing, the application of more shared resources, and more streamlined and standard processes. There are already great strides in this direction. We recently discovered all the amazing data easily accessible from the APA.  I would like to see us implementing more programs that are organized by regions, with GIS staff pushing local data up to shared resources that can broadcast the data to everyone who needs it.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What would you be doing if you weren’t working with DANC?

Star:  I would be back in Wyoming on the horse ranch; mending fences, oiling saddles, and riding through the mountains.

eSpatiallynewyork:  You gotta love snow to live in the North Country.  Cross country or downhill skier? 

Star:  Ha!  Being a surfer girl from Hawaii, the snow is the most difficult part of living here. I survive thanks to an understanding husband who lets me set the thermostat. I like to downhill ski, but last winter we skied Whiteface, which really pushed me to the limits of my skills.  It was terrifying, but fun, in that “I’m glad I did it but I’ll never do it again” kind of way.

10 (Almost) Questions: Todd Fabozzi

Todd Fabozzi is an urbanist, writer, teacher and drummer. During his twenty-two-year career as a regional planner he has been an advocate for cities and sustainable design. He has lectured extensively on suburban sprawl and its consequences and has been involved in numerous urban planning, climate action planning, and watershed protection studies. Todd is an expert on the use of Geographic Information Systems and has taught a course on GIS at UAlbany for the past thirteen years. Todd has also published two books of poems and anti-poems. He lives in the city of Saratoga Springs, NY.

I caught up with Todd at NYGeoCon for a short discussion on life and GIS….

eSpatiallynewyork:  How long have you been with the Capital District Regional Planning Commission (CDRPC)?

Todd:  I’ve been a professional urbanist for the past twenty-two years, twenty of which have been with CDRPC.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What’s one of the best examples of how GIS is used in your organization?

Todd:  I was charged with building the Commission’s GIS back in 1996. One of the first products from that effort was a regional atlas, which we published in oversized hard copy format (this was still pretty much pre-internet). The maps portrayed a whole variety of characteristics at the regional scale, giving the public a bird’s eye view of the spatial patterns of the Capital District for the first time. In addition to applying GIS in most of our program areas, I continue to create, update and publish regional maps (see www.cdrpc.org). I think understanding regional demographic, environmental and land use patterns is central to regional planning and GIS is the best tool for doing so.

eSpatiallynewyork: What professional associations or groups are you affiliated with?

Todd: Over the years I’ve tried out the American Planning Association, the Association of American Geographers, Progressive Planners Network, Congress for New Urbanism, and the NYS GIS Association. I also served for nine years on the NYS GeoSpatial Advisory Council. While for the most part I support the work of these groups, I’m currently unaffiliated (though with CNU and NYSGISA, it’s simply because I haven’t gotten around to renewing). I have to say though that in general I’m not a joiner, perhaps the anarchist in me keeps me at arm’s length from groups and group think.

eSpatiallynewyork:  If you had an extra $50K in your budget, what would you do with it?

Todd:  If it was a yearly allocation I would establish two part-time paid internship positions. CDRPC has been working on a climate and energy issues over the past few years and there are some interesting ways that GIS can be applied. So for example, a good intern project might be to identify (by analyzing the utility zones, solar orientation, area requirements, land uses and zoning laws) the places where community distributed solar might be feasible (community distributed solar allows one to receive solar energy from an offsite location).

eSpatiallynewyork:  Biggest professional accomplishment?

Todd:  Using GIS, imagery analysis and photography to document and portray sprawl and urban decline in the Capital District and through over two hundred presentations inciting a regional conversation on these issues back when it was politically and professionally risky to do so. This was the same presentation I made at the first NYS GeoSpatial Summit in 2006. http://www.nysgis.net/nygeosummit/year/2006/speakers.htm

eSpatiallynewyork:  What do you think of GISP certification?

Todd:  I don’t. I’m not concerned with merit badges. I’d rather let mapping do the talking.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Open Source or ESRI?

Todd:  We’re an ESRI shop but I’m open to whatever works best in a given situation…and the lower the cost the better.

eSpatiallynewyork:   If you could change one thing here in New York that you feel would make GIS more widely used, or more appreciated and understood – what would that be?

Todd:  Start teaching kids how to use GIS as part of the middle and high school curriculum.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What advice would you give to the next generation of individuals starting a career in GIS here in New York State?

Todd:  I’ve been teaching an Intro to GIS course at UAlbany for the past thirteen years and I think I counted seven different people at the most recent NYGeoCon that had taken my course and were now working professionally in NYS using GIS, which is satisfying. I reinforce to my students that GIS is a tool for something else, so get knowledgeable about something else, and then use GIS to help.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Any thoughts on the future of government GIS in the State of New York?

Todd:  There’s not much that state and local governments do that doesn’t have a spatial component, so the more we integrate GIS into government operations the more efficient those operations will be. I’ve heard you sing the gospel of web services for data delivery and I get that and think that is largely the direction things will head. Web-accessible GIS for basic tasks will also continue to proliferate, though there will still be a role for the desktop user with the full suite of tools at their disposal. I saw a presentation at the recent NYGeoCon about the City of Rochester’s various GIS applications that I found quite inspiring and think they’re setting an example of how GIS can be used in local government.

eSpatiallynewyork:  What would you be doing if you weren’t working with CDRPC?

Todd:  Assuming I was retired and didn’t have to earn a living I’d be playing my drums, writing, and traveling.

eSpatiallynewyork:  Your band is in the studio working on its 11th album – what can you tell us about it? 

Todd: Well, as some of my planning and GIS colleagues know, I’m also a professional drummer, and over the past eighteen years I’ve been the conga player for a twelve-piece original salsa band called Alex Torres and His Latin Orchestra. It’s a fun alternative to the office. We get to make people smile and dance, which isn’t something urban planning usually accomplishes. We did a ten-day tour of Shanghai, China this past March, which was a high point for us. And as you noted, we are currently in the studio working on our 11th album. We’ve been in the early rounds of the Latin Grammy’s with a few of our past records. Maybe this will be the one in which we nail it? For anyone interested in the band see: www.alextorres.com.