I spent most of my weekend doing much the same thing I spent last week doing. I decided it might be easier to create Excel spreadsheets with the information I needed for my work with Google Earth and ArcGIS and then use those to create the map files with which I wanted to work. Turned out I was right. Almost.
It’s fairly easy to create a list of town names that are associated in a spreadsheet with the names of the politicians that were either born in those places or represented them in Congress. It’s also fairly easy to then upload that list onto a web service that will use Google Maps to find the coordinates of that location so that Google Earth and ArcGIS can find them. It is then also fairly easy to use those coordinates to create a spreadsheet with all the information you need to create a Google Earth file and then convert it into a file format that ArcGIS can recognize.
When I discovered all this, I was fairly excited. I was able to create a Google Earth map showing all of the birthplaces of the members of the 21st Congress that voted on the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and all of the districts they represented. I was even able to put a link in the location marker description back to each of their individual biographies in the Congressional Biographical Directory, many of which contain portraits of the men in question. I’m hoping I can include this map on my website to help visitors to the site visualize the individuals with which I’m dealing.
Again, all that was fairly easy. A bit time-consuming and mind-numbing, but easy. What was not easy was when all of the coordinates in my map of the congressmen’s district towns who voted against the Indian Removal Act somehow switched to the coordinates for their birthplaces. It was also not easy when that somehow became the case for every single file and every single copy of those files that contained the information I needed. Somehow, every version of every file I had that contained the coordinates for the districts of the congressmen who voted against the Indian Removal Act switched to the coordinates for their birthplaces. Everything else stayed the same and was correct. For no reason. I had done nothing to prompt this course of events.
It was at this moment that I decided technology is black magic.