Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The states (and district) with the lowest drunk driving fatalities are the District of Columbia, Utah, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. These states (and district where NO ONE has a car) either have a good public transit operation (and largest numbers keep the per capita down) or a strong religious tradition against drinking.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
TDAXP has sent me an interesting article on optical telegraphs (semaphore). The semaphore was a device which allowed messages to be sent by flag combinations.
The original idea for the semaphore was thought up in the 1600s but it was not until the late 1700s when a system was actually put into place. France was the first country to use the tool and used it for republican communications during the revolution. The first message was a coded one between Paris and Lille.
Other countries used the system as well including Sweden (who independently invented their own system), the British (who used their system for naval/coastal communications), Prussia, Russia, and the United States.
Geography proved to be the systems done fall, though. While ports in the United States used flag communications, the sheer size and variety of terrain obsticals made the optical telegraph inefficent for long distance communication. The need for a better system led to the creation of the electric telegraph we all know of.
For some maps and more information (in French) on the optical telgraph click here.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The above is a map of the cosmos according to the Ancient Hebrews (from the Saint Joseph Edition of The New American Bible). The map, while a modern creation, teaches one much about the cosmoslogical/geographical outlook of long ago.
The first striking thing I noticed was the lay of the land was not of primary importance. What mattered was the heavens and the underworld's relationship to the earth. Water encompassed everything (water being the "end" of everything for non-sea fearing people).
The Universe from Top-down goes:
- The highest point of the universe is the divine seat (Heaven) where God lives.
- Below that is an ocean where precipitation falls while being controlled by floodgates. The gates are connected to walls which connect to the earth by a mountainous wall.
- In the middle is the earth.
- Below the earth is Sheol. Sheol is the home of the dead both righteous and wicked.
- The world is supporting by pillars which sit upon the abyss.
- The abyss has had several interpretations. It has been viewed as the ocean the earth emerged from, the original choas before God created order, and even Hell (the Book of Relevation tells the Beast will come from the Abyss). What ever it is in cosmology one thing is certain - you do not want to go down there!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
From the Book of Luke:
1And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled.
2This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.
3And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city.
5To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.
6And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered.
7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.
9And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.
10And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
11For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
12And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
Monday, December 24, 2007
The Long War Journal (part of Catholicgauze Reads) has a flash map of Iraq which contains information on CLC development and strength per province.
Most of the CLCs are located in Sunni areas (central Iraq). The north has few CLCs expect for around the Mosul area (a partially "Arabized" city where Kurd and Arab do not mix well) and the lands near Baghdad. Shiites in the south are beginning to form their own CLCs to protect against Mahdi Army and other groups. However, Sadr and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council with its Badr Brigade are doing what they can to stop the formation of such groups. These elements fear CLCs would empower people and eliminate the need for militias and the "protection" they provide.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
- Contours - National Geographic Maps Blog: The maps division has gone NeoGeo
- My Wonderful World Blog: National Geographic wants to teach the world
- Google Maps Hacks and Digital Earth Blog: By reading Digital Earth blog and using the tools found in Google Maps Hacks one can hack into NORAD and view the missile flights in real time 3D! (Not really but I expect that post any day)
- Foreign Policy Passport - From Foreign Policy Journal. Imagine if the Economist and Coming Anarchy had a child.
I cannot fully tie this picture in but somehow, someway it is relevant. AFP
The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (GOCJ) owns the land of the Knesset and the Israeli prime minister's residence is on. Like all Orthodox churches it has been allied/tied with the political regime whether it be Christian, other Abrahamic, or even hostile atheist. The GOCJ continues this relationship by having its leaders being approved by the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis.
A rumbling is going on right now in Israel over these ties. The previous GOCJ, Irenaios I, rented and selling church property to Jewish Israeli developers. Depending on who side you take in the argument Irenaios is either a friend to all or a lying Zionist spy. Add on the facts that most Orthodox in the area are Palestinian Christians and the modern Orthodox hierarchy has an "interesting" relationship with Jews. In 2005 the Orthodox churches agreed to impeach Irenaios and replace him with Theophilos III.
Irenaios is not going down without a fight. Recently the Israeli government refused to recognize the switch and still considers Irenaios the lawful Patriarch. The Israelis are also declined to renew visas for the Greek Orthodox church (most of the clergy is of Greek citizenship). For now the GOCJ is refusing to budge but is powerless to do anything as the Israelis treat Irenaios as the true patriarch.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
The king has started a website from his home in Maryland and seems to be buying into the idea he is royality. While he supports AIDS relief there is still no news on whether David plans to merge the isle with the United Kingdomor join the European Union or the United Nations. There is also no tax plans or international peace pushes. What is a king good for if not these issues?
All is not well on Man though. The Manx are loyal to their Lord, Elizabeth II. David plans to visit his "kingdom" next year; Catholicgauze hopes for an army of angry peasant to drive him off.
Catholicgauze's king is William IV.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The overall safest place to live is Corvallis, Oregon with its whopping population of 53,900 people. However, the study then proceeds to break down cities by size. The winners are
- Largest: San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
- Medium: Olympia, Washington
- Smallest: Corvallis, Oregon
The West Coast and certainly California are well represented on the list. A not so surpring second is the western half of the Midwest (North Central). Cities like Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Ames, Iowa; and others are found on the list.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Traveler IQ Challenge games is a fun site with a variety of fast moving geographical challenges. There is a wide selection of games have one locate capitals, major cities, popular sites, UNESCO sites, and more. Other boards to play on besides the world include the various continents. To achieve a high score one must be as accurate as possible while being fast as well. Good luck and have fun!
Monday, December 17, 2007
For Columbus Day week I looked at the geohistory of the settlement of the
The short version is that a first wave of colonization by the Jaredites came from
The Book of Mormon’s proposed Indian-origin story is similar to other theories from the early nineteenth century. There were a wide range of theories on Indian origins and ancient Hebrews was one of them. People then and even today seek to map out the proposed geography of the epic.
Most limited geography models have the story taking place in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The book describes a lush land with warm climate with earthquakes, mountains, and volcanoes. The land is also described as being in between two massive bodies of waters. Some Mormon geographers take this to be the isthmus.
While the vast majority of geohistorians see no proof of the tale there are those who seek to explain despite a mountain of evidence. When I was at National Geographic we received some hate mail from a few fundamentalists who were angered that we depicted paleo-Indians coming from eastern
For more limited geography model information check out
Supporting View: Meridian Magazine: Mormon's Map Puzzle Solved
Opposing View: Does Archaeology Support The Book Of Mormon?
Saturday, December 15, 2007
As any sort of posts dealing with borders of Europe changing, here is the Catholicgauze favorite: the closing credits of Last Express
Friday, December 14, 2007
Many Sri Lankans have taken this cartographic work to be an endorsement of the Tamil Tigers by The Economist. Some equate this to a major magazine showing Islamic State of Iraq, Aztlan, or Islamic Emirate of Waziristan in a standard map.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The pro-West March 14 Coalition was torn between electing a strong leader and electing a weak one in order not to upset the March 8 Coalition (Hezbollah, Amal, Michel Aoun, Syria). The weaker side prevailed and currently the coalition is working on changing the constitution so that the commander of the army, the Catholic Michel Sulaiman, could be president. Sulaiman in the past has wavered from slightly pro-Syria to neutral. March 7 has proceeded to issue demands in exchange for their "support" (i.e. not blowing people up) of Sulaiman including he resign 18 months into his six year term.
The negotiations have not stopped the terror campaign. A probable replacement for Sulaiman's post in the armed forces, Catholic Francois El-Hajj, was assassinated in a car bomb attack. The bomb went off in a Christian neighborhood with many government and international buildings. Gateway Pundit has a round-up of more detailed news with a hit list of previously murdered March 14 members.
Hezbollah, a group by international law was ordered to disarm, and Syria continue a terrorism campaign against pro-freedom groups while the United Nations et al do nothing. A tragedy continues.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Catholicgauze thinks Santa would enjoy the company of the Muslim Turkic people and may feel an affinity with the Yurt dwelling semi-nomads. However, mountain winters of the Tian Shan are different from those of the North Pole.
Monday, December 10, 2007
By studying the map one can tell the battle for Iowa is focusing on the capital city of Des Moines. The southwest is being ignored and the eastern Mississippi River coast is only receiving nominal attention
Sunday, December 09, 2007
The first question after Kosovo's independence is what will happen to the ethnic Serbian minority. After the war there were reprisal attacks and most of the Serbs who stayed moved to the northern part of the country to be close to Serbia proper. These Serbs refuse to participate with the ethnic Albanian government and want to remain in Serbia. Serbia and Russia will probably push for either an autonomous zone or secession to Serbia for the Serbian zone.
Spreading of violence is another concern. Already Albanian terrorist groups have waged war against Macedonia and sought to annex part of Serbia proper. On the flip side there is rising fear of Russians using shadowy means to do hit-and-run attacks for the Serbs against the Albanians.
Geopolitically there is a question of precedence. If it is okay for Kosovo to unilaterally declare independence then what is stopping the Serbian political entity in Bosnia, the Republika Srpska. Russia may then push South Ossetia and Abkhazia into formalizing their independence and into Russia's geopolitical orbit. Elsewhere there are also concerns. While the drive for Kurdish independence from Iraq has tapered off as of late there will always be the Kosovo model to look at.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Not discussed in most of the media are three things. The first is the environmental damage being done. The relocation of government officials and environmentalists is outputting the equivalent of 20,000 cars. Sure one has to burn carbon credits to save carbon credits (?) but couldn't we have a teleconference instead? Secondly, some dissenters are not allowed to present or be in the press. Thirdly, the blame game. The People's Republic of China, the biggest polluter of CO2 in the world, wants other countries to pay up and not itself.
A world problem should rationally be handled by the world.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Click to Enlarge. From United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
One thing needed to be a tax haven is stability. No one wants to invest their money in a kleptocracy. That is the primary reason Africa has so few tax havens. The Caribbean and Central America have the most established, trusted tax havens because of stability in the countries and the strong ties to their former European colonial masters.
My brother and I waited at the door and called our sleeping mother to open the door. She was not expecting me so when she saw me the surprised worked.
But now I am tired and will take today off from blogging. Merry Christmas everyone!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
A new United Nations map shows the rise of violence in
Compare the violence map to that of Pashtuns and Baluchis. (From Captain's Quarters)
The south of
While much of the world is focusing on
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
For more Northern Ireland stuff check out my posts of the Murals of Northern Ireland.
Monday, December 03, 2007
In the past I have stressed the importance of knowing cultural intelligence and its role as a force multiplier. However, not all want this to be. Academic leftists have fought tooth-and-nail to prevent the project. Their hatred of the “military system” is shown by their argument anthropologists should not work with the military. Even the executive board of the American Anthropology Association has officially expressed "its disapproval of the HTS program." The association just released a report which recommends members cooperate, but then uses weasel words to beg against working with the HTS program.
The nay-sayers are wrong. HTS and other programs are great opportunities to serve one’s country, study different cultures, and prevent greater violence by cooperating and other standing others. Part of “the surge” strategy in Iraq was understanding the Sunni tribes and getting them to work with the Coalition. So far it has been an outstanding success and death rates are down.
The association has started a blog to further discussion. I will be there commenting, feel free to join in the melee.
Be Patriotic, Understand Cultures, Saves Lives
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Besides geopolitical concerns about instability one must be primarily worried about the sheer lose of life. Catholicgauze marks those who have died and suffered directly and indirectly due to AIDS.
Global Health Facts has a series of maps displaying AIDS data via country. Southern Africa is being hit hard.
In the United States AIDS is outrageously high in Washington D.C. with 1 in 50 having AIDS and 1 in 20 having HIV (that is five percent!). The disease in prominent in the big cities. The CDC has a map of AIDS in the United States.
India is facing a crisis in the southern rural areas which has now spread to some big cities. The disease primarily affects the super poor and follows them around from rural misery to urban misery.
Europe has declining death rate but AIDS is still spreading. Once only located in the West, the collapse of the Soviet Union brought down the Iron Curtain and AIDS quickly spread in part due to the depression Russia was going through (drugs seemed popular when all else failed). A map shows the damage.
I wish to thank Nat the Dem for reminding me about World AIDS Day.
Friday, November 30, 2007
The mosaic can be viewed online at the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica website. (Hat tip: Every Catholicgauze reader, ever. Special nods to the first two Eddie and Natalie)
Thursday, November 29, 2007
At this stage Geonames morphs into a GIS program. The “Features” sidebar allows one to toggle various different layers of data. The wealth of data makes Geonames a sort of mashup/GIS program/gazetteer. Be sure to try it out today!
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
7 Incredible Natural Phenomena you've never seen is an amazing web find. The page lists, has photos of, and sometimes video of the world's longest wave, fire rainbows of Idaho, tree-climbing goats in the olive oil business, fish falling from the sky, and everlasting thunderstorm in Venezuela.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Google Maps takes on Ask.com's Physical feature (without drowning out everything below sea level) by adding the Terrain Option (Hybrid is now an option under Satellite). Google wins because of more detail, better zoom, and down right prettiness. Just compare Denver in Google Maps (above) to Ask.com's.
Press reports state these riots are more intense than the 2005 riots. So far seventy-seven police have been wounded with rioters engaging them with petrol bombs and shotguns.
The dead were African Muslims who lived in Villiers le Bel. The neighborhood were the violence started was the center of North African French Jews but is no ethnically mixed. There are reports of increased antisemitism fueled by Islamism. Unlike the 2005 riots; however, there does not appear to be even a shadow of networking involved in the attacks. The motive seems to be general discontent with the French system, lack of assimilation, lack of jobs, with the Muslim faith acting as an identity.
The French have failed making the immigrants, sons of immigrants, and grandsons of immigrants French. The blog has warned about this before. For the good of all of France and all the people who live in it, President Sarkozy must adopt not only a tough on crime approach but also make sure France's citizens can enjoy benefits of citizenship. If not, Paris will continue to burn.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Afghanistan - No chess boards (It is an "unislamic" game)
Australia - Goods made in prisons or by prisoners (They do not want to break their monopoly)
France - No rulers or other measurement tools using the English system
Iceland - Toys made with lead (There goes trade with the People's Republic of China)
Israel - Used Beehives (New ones still okay)
United Kingdom - Horror comics (No word yet on graphic novels)
Saturday, November 24, 2007
These words and their uses are regionalisms to different parts of Australia. The Australian Broadcast company has created an atlas of these regionalism. The Australian Word Map allows viewers to learn these regionalisms, comment, and even offer new ones. So now you will know that when a person from Perth calls someone a bag of doghnuts you know it is a fat joke; or when a person from Melbourne says someone stole their Americans you will know that someone stole their multicolored marbles.
Friday, November 23, 2007
|What American accent do you have? |
Your Result: The West
|The Inland North|
|What American accent do you have?|
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
Another online quiz to test your American accent. This one is short and seems pretty accurate. Catholicgauze has spent most of my life near the border of the Midwest (North Central) and the Old West. Meanwhile, I do have difficulty sometimes understanding a coworker from Brooklyn.
For a future post I will see if I can find some foreign English accent quizzes. Do I sound more like someone from Sydney or Perth? Time may tell.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The First Thanksgivings
The first thanksgiving in the present-day United States on September, 8 1565. Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés ordered a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the safe arrival of his army and civilians to what would become Saint Augustine, Florida.
The first annual thanksgiving celebration was in Jamestown, Virginia Colony. The safe arrival of colonist in December was celebrated by the proclamation "We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god."
The most famous thanksgiving was a harvest festival celebrated by fifty Puritans and ninety Indians. The New England cultural and historical dominance of the American epic early on ensured that this story would be the founding for the Thanksgiving "myth" in the United States.
Thanksgivings became periodic celebrations later on in history. Various presidents would issue a proclamation giving thanks while other would not. The first president to issue an United States thanksgiving was Washington. In 1863 the tide of the Civil War was turning and President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday which fell on the last Thursday of November. The holiday was moved to the fourth Thursday of November during the Great Depression in order to expand the Christmas shopping season. Capitalism and God: It has got to be America!
The only other country in the world to officially celebrate a thanksgiving is Canada. Since 1957 the reason has been "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed" but before that each year had its own individual reason. The first Thanksgiving in Canada was in 1578 when Martin Frobisher held a one in Newfoundland to give thanks for a safe arrival. Cross pollination has occurred from the colonial times and continues today. The turkey is a mainstay in both Thanksgivings.
Well, that ends the brief geohistory of Thanksgiving. Here is Catholicgauze's List:
- Family who has always been there for me
- God who allowed me to know my father
- Fellow geographers both in the real world and online: you guys enrich the world
- Friends who have been there for me
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Access Denied Map is a project to map and follow internet censorship with a focus on Web 2.0. There is a Google Maps mashup of countries which ban specific tools and sometimes links to groups which are helping others to bypass the censorship.
News stories are constantly updated about web censorship. For example, Syria has banned Facebook. Catholicgauze doubts the Baathists want to improve the efficiency of Syrian college students. (Hat tip: Reader Meegan via Google Maps Mania)
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Lebanon's religious leaders and foreign players are trying to avoid conflict by giving into the demands for a consensus candidate but an old personal friend in the know tells me everyone is preparing for violence. We should know the outcome in a week.
Recently the German intelligence service stated its fear of civil collapse in megacities (Hat tip: Coming Anarchy). The Germans point out how areas of these cities have been ungovernable. The primary way (wealthy) people are combating the lawlessness is private security companies is worrisome because of legal issues and more importantly their presence shows the legitimate government as ineffective.
The opening question plays a major role in the decay of megacities. Already the police have waged war in Sao Paulo against a criminal gang and over two thousand people have died in violence between drug cartels and the Mexican government. The Mexican military is now involved in holding territory which the cartels once controlled as their own little microstates. Geographers and the military all must realize this upcoming era will be one of non-state actors who blur the lines between criminality and warfare. Other examples like the Mahdi Army of Iraq have shown the damage gangs can do if order is lost.
In the next fifty years over ninety percent of urbanization will occur in Asia and Africa's "Gap" zone. These cities will grow much faster than most governments can manage. Urban geographers and military geographers must take in consideration solutions to megacity problems in order to prevent or contain the troubles to come.
Be sure to check out Street Smart for military urban geography reading.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Over 3,000 years ago the Indians apparently invented chocolate while brewing beer. Archaeologists discovered cacao traces in old pottery in Honduras. The cacao was used by Indians to make their beers but eventually they discovered a bitter byproduct, chocolate. I guess vices come in pairs.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
The highlights online include:
Maps of Alcohol consumption in the United States (but in bad cartographic style of poor coloring choices). The average citizen of New Hampshire drinks forty gallons of alcohol of year leading the nation but Utahans only drink fourteen. Washington D.C. leads the country in wine consumption. Why? Because all those political and embassy parties. Catholicgauze does not drink so I have stories to tell of racist congressional aides and embassy staff who waddle out of their country's turf drunk only to harass/flirt(?) with me.
Maps of Commuting Time from home to work. Not only are there commuting times but also traffic delays. The neatest series of maps are the day/night population shift maps for Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Dallas, and Atlanta. No one lives in DC expect me.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Christianity has its origins in Asia. The faith was actually stronger in Asia than most of Europe up until the Islamic conquests of the 600s. While struggling today, the unique and sometimes independent ancient churches of Asia offer a counterpart/complement to the ancient faiths of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
Assyrian Church of the East
Assyrian Icon of Christmas from Christians in Iraq
The Assyrian Church of the East has its start with St. Thomas the Apostle. His established the church, headquartered in Babylon, on his journey to India. Before Islam Babylon became a Christian city and the ruling Persian Empire, while Zoroastrian, had a growing Christian minority. The Assyrian Church of the East was part of the "one holy catholic and apostolic Church" along with Rome and Constantinople until 431 over the exact human/divine nature of Jesus. The split was supported by the pagan Persian Empire who sought to divide its Christian subjects from the Church and therefore the Eastern Roman Empire.
There was oppression by the Islamic rulers after the conquest but Sunni versus Shiite battles in present-day Iraq and Iran and rules on "people of the Book" allowed Christians to be ghettoized and left to their own devices. The Assyrian Church expanded into India, Tibet, and China. One of the patriarchs (leader) of the church was Mar Yaballaha III who was a Uyghur born near Beijing. Several attempts to unite with the Catholic Church were made but these deals were either rejected by the bishops or the patriarch was murdered and replaced by the Muslim ruler of the land.
The twentieth-century was one of extremes for the church. Assyrian cooperated with the British during the occupation and paid for it when the nominal pro-British Hashemite monarchy took over Iraq. The situation got so bad that the Patriarch of Babylon was forced to move the churches headquarters to Chicago. The 1990s saw the Roman Church sign agreements with the Assyrians stating the split was over a misunderstanding.
Islamic terrorists have been entering Iraq and a side effect of the violence is that attacks against Christians have increased. Today only about twenty percent of all Assyrians live in their ancient homeland of Iraq.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Some of the most prominent communists were secular, ethnic Jews. This did not stop antisemitism from remaining in the former Russian empire or even prevented it from showing up in the Communist Party. Added on to the antisemitism was fear of religious Jews (religion contrasted with atheistic communism) and Zionism (which contrasted with Soviet nationalism). It was decided to give the Jews their own homeland in order to ensure secular communist principles and offer an alternative to Zionism. No established homeland wanted to give up a piece of their territory to the Jews, though. Western Russia and Ukraine were the centers of Judaism in the USSR but no where did they make a majority. No Orthodox peasant town and no secular city wanted to be given to a Jewish homeland. So in 1934 in the Far East along the Chinese border the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) was established as an outpost of European communism in an Asian land.
Stalin's Zion was to be a beacon of ethnic Jewish communism. Yiddish was declared the offical language and the government started a massive propaganda campaign to convince Jews to move to the JAR. Cities like Valdeym and Amurzet were founded while the preexisting settlement Birobidzhan became the capital. Newspapers, preforming arts, and a university were established to create a new culture.
At the high point Jews made up only a third of the population in JAR. Stalin's purges, World War II, and just not wanting to live in a place which is swampy in the summer and is Siberia in the winter prevented the large Jewish migration that was hoped for. In 1948 (between two of Stalin pruges) Israel was established and Zionism defeated Communism in appealing to the Jewish masses. The second purge in the 1950s destroyed many of the Yiddish landmarks and most of the Jews fled or were "dealt" with.
Today the Jewish population of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast is less than two percent officially (some estimates have it up to fifteen percent with people hiding their Jewish identities). The region is mixed with Russians making an overwhelming majority but the rest is a mixture of former Soviet subjects and Chinese. A sort of revival is going on with the Jewish population there as a new synagogue built in 2004 and schools are offering Yiddish again. The Israeli government is even offering cultural aide to help the revival.
It is questionable whether or not the Jewish Autonomous Region stood a chance. The success of Israel, physical geography, and Stalin's monstrous nature doomed it. It is an oddity today but it is a part of history and should not be forgotten.
For more information check out the official English-language website of the Jewish Autonomous Region.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
What is now the Dead Sea was once connected to the Red Sea starting around three million years ago. Around two million years ago the land arose significantly enough to cut off the interior body of water from the Red Sea. The Dead Sea's predecessor, Lake Gomorrah, was larger than the sea today but as the climate changed the lake became smaller and smaller. The salt had no where to go and the lake became saltier.
Today the Dead Sea about thirty-five percent salt (about nine times more than the ocean). Salt is so prevenlant that no complex life can live in the sea and the nearby landforms are formed from halite. The sheer amount of salinity allows for people to float on the surface.
The sea air, mineral water, and low ultraviolet radiation among other factors allows the Dead Sea to be a health retreat. King Herod the Older made a health spa along the shores for his benefit.
History has many sites along the coast. David hid from Saul here, Cleopatra had cosmetic factories nearby, Egyptians obtained embalming chemicals for their mummies from the sea, Masada and the cell of John the Baptist are close as well. And who can forget the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The Dead Sea has been shrinking lately. In the past few decades the sea has dropped more than seventy feet. The reason is because the only feeder, the Jordan River, is being irrigated for drinking, economical, and agricultural purposes. The Dead Sea Canal project has been proposed to stem the drop and hopefully refill the Dead Sea. However, geopolitics, economics, and chemistry are obstacles in the projects way.
The Dead Sea has survived millions of years of geological and climate change. Simple chemistry will prevent it from completely evaporating even if more water is pumped from the Jordan. However, environmental planning should be done to save this historical and geographical marvel.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Asia is a construction of man. One must understand this if they seek to know where Asia begins/ends. The continent Asia is the greater half of the "super continent" Eurasia which in turn is part of the "omega continent" (Catholicgauze's own term) whose name no one can quite seem to agree one. The geological boundaries of Asia do not match what we consider to be Asia. The Eurasian Tectonic Plate includes most of Asia and Europe but not the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula, half of Japan, nor Far East Russia.
So why have an Asian continent? The idea of Asia was created in the classical world to differentiate Greece from the various other cultures to their east. As Europe became cultural closer with Greek, Roman, and Christian ideals being united concepts, the lands east seemed more and more exotic. The concept of Asia being "the other" was also reinforced by the Crusades with relevant Africa being ruled by the cultural Asian Muslims. Finally, general stubbornness to change and pride led early-modern geographers to keep Europe and Asia separate. When thinking of Asia we must always remember it is a human realm and not a physical one.
So where is Asia? One positive definition (Asia is...) will not do because there are too many unique, radically different subrealms of Asia: Arabia, the Stans, the Far East, Southeast, and Indonesia just to name a few. So I propose for this blog post a mixed definition: Asia is on the Eurasia-Africa omega continent and is not cultural Europe nor is it culturally Pacific.
A big hurrdle for mapping Asia is telling where Europe begins/ends. Most defintions use the Ural and Caucasus Mountains as the boundary. However, this is a physical rule-of-thumb and therefore improper when dealing with a cultural zone. Culturally European Russians are found as far as Vladivostok, the Caucsasus are populated by both culturally European and Asians, and Turkey is... well.. Turkey. So for the sake of coming to a quick decision here is Catholicgauze's line in the sand:
- Georgia and Armenia are European due to their ties to Greece and Russia through religion, customs, and law.
- Azerbaijan and the other Muslim Caucasus areas are Asia due to their cultural and demographic ties to Iran and the Muslim world.
- Turkey is a mixing area but the further southwest one goes the further they enter Asia.
- The isle of Cyprus is divided between European Greeks and Mixed Turks.
- Russia is European but the southeastern parts along China and Mongolia are and increasingly mixing zones with Asia. Siberia's natives are unique and there presence creates a European/Asian mixing zone.
Finding the southeastern boundary is an ugly affair. Austronesian people dominate places like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. However, other branches of this people are found in culturally Pacific Polynesia. So cultural ties must be used when drying a human line on a human concept (clearly a "soft" science).
- Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei long have had ties to western Asia through trade and Islam (the hajj kept the slightly above average person personally tied with Arabian Asia). Today economics has these countries in closer contact with China and the other Asian markets. This makes them Asian.
- East Timor is a Catholic country with historic ties to Portugal. It rebelled against its Indonesian overlords and today has a geopolitical relationship with Australia. Asian it is not.
- Papua New Guinea is a Pacific culture country, period. "They eat people there!" - A geographer
- The Philippines should not be considered Asian. Spanish rule made it Hispano and American rule kept it isolated from developments in Asia. The Japanese could not culturally understand it during World War II. The Philippines create its own subregion in the Pacific cultural realm.
Catholicgauze's idea of Egypt not being African is not his alone. The new United States military command, AFRICOM, does not include Egypt. Egypt is left to CENTCOM which also has the Middle East, Iran, and various Stans.
Egypt appears to be the end point for Asia. Sudan has always been much more influenced by other African events than Arab ones, Libya sees now sees itself as the leader of a future united Africa, and the former French North Africa is its own subregion of Africa though there is an effort to revive Islamic radicalism in this more moderate area.
Side note: A another debate is Israel. Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people who originally came from Mesopotamia. Diaspora however dispersed the Jewish people for two thousand years. However, the founding of Israel allowed for the mixture of culturally European (Ashkenazi), European but heavily Moorish influenced (Sephardi), and Middle Eastern (Mizrahi) Jews. Other groups such as Palestinian Arabs and Druze have made impacts on modern Israeli culture. Israel thus can be considered an Asian mixing area.
Well if you are done here you read probably Catholicgauze's longest post. Congratulations! Thoughts, comments on your idea of Asia?
Monday, November 12, 2007
Asia plays a massive role in the world due to its size and population. Here are just some facts about physical nature of Asia:
- Even though Asia expands less than nine percent of surface, that is slightly under thirty percent of Earth's dry land.
- The world's largest country, Russia with 6,592,812 square miles (17,075,400 km sq), is mostly in Asia.
- The world's two most populous countries are China and India.
- The Tokyo metropolitan area is the world's largest urban agglomeration with 30,724,000 people.
- Mount Everest is the highest sea level elevation in the world at 29,035 feet (8,850 m).
- The Dead Sea is the lowest surface elevation in the world at 1,316 feet (401 m) below sea level.
- The Caspian Sea is the largest lake, surface area of 142,000 square miles (367,000 km sq) in the world and currently at geopolitical hot spot due to its oil and natural gas wealth.
- Lake Baykal is the deepest lake in the world at 5,135 feet (1,620 m).
And on the human side:
- There are four billion people in Asia which is approximately sixty percent of the world's population.
- Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, and many other faiths all have their origin in Asia.
- About 7.5 million Asians have AIDS with more than 4.5 million infected living in India.
- The Gross Domestic Product of Asia is $18.077 trillion and per capita is $4,518 (the United States is $13.675 trillion/$43,444 and the European Union $13.08 trillion/$29,900)
Asia will play an increasingly daily role in people's lives with markets being globalized, jobs being outsourced and insourced, the rise of China, wars against extremism, and the spreading of new diseases.
To celebrate Geography Awareness Week 2007 Asia GTWC! will have a series of special posts.
- Tuesday: Where is Asia? A look at the physical and cultural boundaries
- Wednesday: The Geographical Oddity of the Dead Sea
- Thursday: Stalin's Zion - Jewish National District
- Friday: The Ancient Asian Faiths - A look at Orthodox/Catholic Rites of Asia
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Thank you to those who were members of the armed services of the United States of America.
Thank you to those who were members of armed services of any country which has dedicated itself to freedom.
Thank you to those who have suffered through the horrors of war to protect us. May your sacrifice not be in vain. May no one else suffer what you have.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The move is highly controversial. Some fear the map would serve as a database and could be quickly transformed into a tool for isolating areas or even population relocation (ala President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 which interned over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent as well as thousands of Americans of German and Italian descent into concentration camps).
Geographical mapping of groups is a very touchy issue. While doing college reports on ethnic groups of Europe, I discovered countries like France and Germany explicitly forbid the government from classifying and mapping people by race or religion. Though racial geospatial data has been available for a while in the United States, it has been used mostly in economic studies. Expect the judicial system to become involved with warfare becoming a domestic demographic geospatial matter.
Friday, November 09, 2007
While my English readers are probably asleep by now, any of them who live along the mouth of the Thames River probably want to leave. A tidal wave (not a tsunami) is headed straight towards England.
A storm in the North Sea is predicted to cause a sea surge of about ten feet (3.05 meters) which will threaten the coastline along the Thames. The tidal surge is being caused by fifty mile per hour winds, an unusually high tide, and a low pressure off the eastern coast of England.
London and areas further down stream are supposedly protected by the Thames Barrier which has been put into place to prevent major flooding damage.
Flooding is predicted to be along the lines of the 1953 flood, also caused by a tidal wave/storm surge. That flood killed well over two thousand people.
The surge is expected to range from the Thames area down to Belgium. This includes low lying Holland. Hopefully Dutch engineering of dams, dikes, and other structures will hold better than they did in 1953, otherwise the possibility of a Katrina on a Dutch scale exists.
Stay safe, high and dry Europe.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
First off, Catholicgauze has always enjoyed Oxford's products. The 14th Edition of the Oxford Atlas of the World continues the well known and respected line of atlases from the company.
- The Cartography: No one can deny Oxford's atlas is pretty. The shadding of elevations, environments, and bodies of waters creates a beautiful piece of art. Just look at one of the medium-low scale (closer up) maps of the European Alps or Japan to see what I am talking about.
- Detail: While not the highest detail atlas of the world, Oxford does a good job showing maps on a national level. Detail is expressed in all the new features on the maps with new islands because of glacier melt being shown and the addition of new finished railroads and parks also seen on the maps.
- The Extras: A deal breaker on atlases. Oxford has plenty of informative maps (economics, environmental quality, life expectancy, etc.). The gazetteer also stood up to Catholicgauze's rigorous test comparing locations to official American government data.
- The Price: At eighty dollars it is certainly not the most expensive atlas but it is up there. Many of Catholicgauze's original readers (students) will not be able to afford the eight pound giant. Maybe if Oxford could offer a condensed student edition it could attract a new market.
- Place Names: For some reason geographers and cartographers like to sound cosmopolitan at certain times. Some atlas' call the Ivory Coast "Cote d'Ivoire" and East Timor "Timor Leste" while calling Germany "Germany" and not "Deutschland" or Italy "Italy" and not "Repubblica Italiana." Oxford uses English for country names but will use the local language for city names (though English place names will appear in parentheses). We speak English so why do we not use English in our atlases?
- Size: With detail and all the extras, the atlas is a big boy. I have welded RPGs and MANDPADs which are more travel friendly. So one better have a large enough book shelf to store this beast.
If one can afford and properly store the 14th Edition of Oxford's Atlas of the World, then they will be set with a great atlas. All in all, Oxford has created a great medium-high level atlas.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Students began a peaceful protest and delivered a petition to lawmakers against amending the constitution to Chavez's favor. Once this one done; however, approximately four students chained themselves inside the National Assembly building and refused to leave. Police came and a scuffle incurred. What can be described as a "police riot" then broke outside the building with students combating police and military personnel.
The change in the constitution is just the latest event orchestrated by Chavez to revolutionize Venezuela. Chavez has order the closing down of opposition television stations, open socialist "reeducation" centers, created local party-controlled councils to replace the existing separation of powers/federal system, and even welcomed Hezbollah. The greatest coup Chavez succeeded with though is the elimination of the middle class. Aristotle wrote how the middle class will always be a moderating factor and the best leader of any political system. Chavez's Venezuela is different though. It is a political elite system with the backing of those who are dependant on it (and this class is growing larger everyday). Expect Venezuela to further drift of into the night.