When March arrives in Alaska, there are two things on everyone’s mind: The sun is back (and out until 10 p.m.). The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is on. To celebrate this year, I built a project that fuses a map of high resolution satellite imagery with an enormous amount of checkpoint data and a few 3D effects. Ultimately a proof-of-concept that got far out of hand. I have covered the race for Alaska public radio a couple times by travelling from checkpoint to checkpoint in a a small two-person airplane, a 50-year-old Piper Supercub.
My name is Ben Matheson. I build web and data projects to solve problems and bring about clarity.
The government spends billions of dollars per year on a dizzying array of gear and specialized services: office furniture, cloud computing, breakfast cereal, and advanced weapons systems are among destinations of taxpayer funds. I created a project to explore how a half-trillion dollars of federal funds go to Washington D.C. contractors and competitors in 50 states. This analysis, based on data published on Enigma Public, explores the geography of this contract spending among beltway firms and the thousands of regional and small-town competitors.
Like any government bureaucracy, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Detention Compliance and Removals Office buys a a variety of supplies to run their detention facilities and maintain their offices. In light of public attention on the agency, I built a small tool to explore the millions of dollars in contracts. In addition to office essentials like copy paper and housekeeping services, the agency has contracts on the books for items like “alien meals,” “Cuffs/Belly Chains/ Shackles” (Galls, Inc), and a “database For Use By Fugops And Lear Teams To Assist In Apprehension Of Absconders And Criminal Illegal Aliens.
I recently took part in Launch Alaska’s Renewable Energy Reverse Hack-a-thon. The “reverse” part comes into play in that there are a handful of signifincatly-baked ideas sketched out by industry and user experts presented to each team. I worked with Nigel Kibodeaux and Jazon Burnell to create a small web app that compares your real-time natural gas usage with your neighbors. Your utility isn’t giving you the data, however. They only check once a month to see how much to bill you.
Fire season in Alaska moves fast. When temperatures reach the 70s during the endless summer days, the spruce trees in the boreal forest are ready to light up when thunderstorms strike. I’ve always kept up with fires for work at KYUK in Bethel and out of sheer interest. The Alaska Fire Service does a super job of publishing data in a timely manner for the managers who are dispatching millions of dollars of aircraft across the state and the broader group of homeowners, ecologists, land owners and other.