Friday, November 30, 2007

New High-Detail Map of Antarctica

NASA has released the most detailed imagery of Antarctica yet. Landsat technology was used to create a detailed mosaic of the southern continent which is ten times more detailed than anything else before.

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


Geonames is an online geographical tool which defies simple labeling. It is a search engine which allows one to locate towns, cities, infrastructure like cemeteries, churches, and roads; and even physical geographical features. Results from searches are displayed on a Google Maps mashup.

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

Seven Incredible Natural Phenomenons

The world is such a unique and fascinating place. Besides the "everyday" natural wonders which can impress anyone there are unique spots in the world. Some places though are so rare that their physical geographical traits are either unbelievable even with proof or remind one of the bad parts of the Bible.

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

New Terrain Feature on Google Maps

Cartography is an art at Google.

Google Maps takes on'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's.

Riots in the Suburbs of France Again

On Sunday two youths stole a moped and killed themselves by crashing it into a police car. The neighborhood of Villiers le Bel promptly then went into a full scale riot which is now slowly spreading outside to other neighborhoods.

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

Photo Gallery of What the World Eats has a photo essay showing the weekly food consumption of various families around the world. A short text blurb lists the price and main components of a week's intake. Catholicgauze points out that Coca-Cola and Pepsi appear in about half of the photos. Way to go carbonated water! (Hat tip: Coming Anarchy)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Postal Restrictions Around the World has an interesting article about postal restrictions around the world. Some make sense in a dictatorial-mindset like no "seditious" literature while others make one's head scratch. Some good examples in general are

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

Atlas of Australian English Regionalism

Catholicgauze has had the opportunity to meet Australians at his work. In a normal they sound like Crocodile Dundee but if two Aussies meet up a strange collection of words are used.

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?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

North Central

The Midland


The South

The Inland North


The Northeast

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

Happy Thanksgiving

A thanksgiving holiday is a celebration unto the divine. A variety of thanksgiving events have collimated in what Americans know as Thanksgiving.

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.

Giving Thanks

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
  • KA

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

al Qaeda's Map of Baghdad Winning the War

Zarqawi's Map of Baghdad (From Fox News)

The above is a map made by former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The map shows al Qaeda's control of Baghdad and the divisioning of the city into various belts controlled by various lieutantants.
The map fell into Coalition hands in December 2006 and was used by the Coalition to plan the "surge" in Baghdad. American, Iraqi, and other allied forces focused on each belt by cutting them off from one another and putting pressure on at the right time.

Access Denied Map: Mapping Internet Censorship

Internet censorship is the latest international freedom concern. Technological tools allow the free flow of information and ideas (and time wasters and YouTube videos). Dictatorships and regimes which want greater control over their people seek to limits access to these tools.

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 2007 Presidential Election Spells Trouble

Trouble is on the horizon in Lebanon. Sometime between now and November 24th the parliament is suppose to elect a new president to replace the pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud. The parliament is just barely pro-West, anti-Syrian but probable election fraud, assassinations, and "stunts" have all taken their toll on the March 14th Coalition. March 14th can elect their own candidate but Hezbollah and their ilk have vowed violence if a "consensus candidate" (read: one who will let the terrorist organization operate freely and not harm Syrian interests) is not chosen.

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.

Megacity Geography: The Future of Military Geography

I once posed the question, "Would we know a war if we saw one?" at work. A handful of people pondered the question while most ignored it. It is in the best interests of all though to seriously think of the question.

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

Chocolate: The Byproduct of Beer

The Indians of ancient Central America really knew how to have a good time. Central American Indians were developing cities and complex agricultural which allowed them to have the time and resources to develop products for the greater enjoyment of life.

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

Drinking, Driving, and Living State and City Comparisons

TIME Magazine recently had an issue entitled "United Stats of America." The issue looked at the United States numerically and geographically to identify trends.

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

The Ancient Asian Faiths: Assyrians

Because of a LONG night the Ancient Faiths of Asia post will be broken up into several. The extra posts will complement the normal daily post.

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

Catholicgauze Can't Blog, at War

With promises/threats of staying late, I am realizing why my division is called Joint Warfare Support. Asia Week will wrap up Saturday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Wonderful World's Passport to Asia

In celebration of Geography Awareness Week 2007: Asia, My Wonderful World has an excellent educational resource titled Passport to Asia. The site consists of KML files which are viewable in ArcGIS and Google Earth. Art, physical environment, holidays and more are discussed. Also on the site is a short video on how GIS is being used as a tool (yay!) to teach Asian geography. Hat tip to Sarah Jane.

Stalin's Zion - Jewish Autonomous Region

Joseph Stalin believed in the Soviet ideal that every national group should have a homeland where they could practice communism by themselves while being under his oversight. The Armenians, Azeris, Ukrainians, etc. received their own homelands under the USSR. One group; however, was a bit more difficult in locating a homeland: the Jews.

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

The Geographical Oddity of the Dead Sea

Asia is a continent of extremes. Not only does it have the highest mountain but the lowest surface point. That point of 1,316 feet below sea level is the Dead Sea. The sea is well known for its saltiness and its medical benefits. As part of Geography Awareness Week 2007: Asia, let us take a quick look at this geographical marvel.

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

Where is Asia? A look at the physical and cultural boundaries

A part of a series on Geography Awareness Week 2007: Asia

Asia? Asia proper in red. Mixing zones in blue.

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.
Asia's eastern borders are a little easier to determine. Japan, Korea, and China always have had a bound which makes them their own branch of Asian culture. An interesting side note: Taiwan was once more culturally Pacific with native Taiwanese being an Austronesian people.

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.
The last thing to determine is the western border. While many people seem to stop at Israel, what we consider Africa must be debated. Many people think of the Pyramids as purely Africa but that can be contested. Egypt has always looked not at its African neighbors but elsewhere. The Ancient Egyptians contested the Greeks and Romans and the last few rulers laid claim to the Pharoship via their heritage to Alexander the Great. Coptic Egypt rivaled Rome and Constantinople for dogmatic control of the Christian Church. Under Islam Egypt fought for control of the Middle East. Egypt then tried to be the united of all Arabs, an Asian people, with Nasser and his United Arab Republic. Today Egypt is a religious-political and sometimes violent battle ground between the Arab dictatorship and those who favor either the Muslim Brotherhood or the Saudi Wahhabis.

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

Geography Awareness Week 2007: Asia Introduction

November 11 through 17 is Geography Awareness Week with this year's theme being Asia.

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

Veteran's Day 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

Los Angeles Police to Map Muslims

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has announced plans to map Los Angeles' Muslim community. In this age of fear and terrorism, the police want to spatially keep track of the second largest Muslim concentration in the United States.

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

Giant Wave on its Way to England

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

Review of Oxford Atlas of the World: 14th Edition

Full Discloser: Oxford Press has decided this blog is important enough to send a free copy of their new atlas in exchange for a review of their new atlas. I agreed but promised them I would write an honest review with pluses and minuses. Here is the said objective review delivered to my readers.

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.

Three Pluses
  • 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.

Three Minuses
  • 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

Venezuela Goes Further into the Night

A student protest against giving Chavez unlimited terms to be "reelected" was crushed by National Guard soldiers and the police.

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.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

English Newspapers Around the World

International newspapers are an excellent geographical teaching resource. They allow one to see what is going on around the world and see new viewpoints.

Earlier Catholicgauze linked to the Newseum's flash page of newspaper front covers. The one drawback was only seeing the front page. World Newspapers and Magazines makes up for this. This site links to English language newspapers and magazines around the world. One can sort through by country, region, or magazine topic. Three random sources to start off with are the Cook Islands News; the Cape Argus from Cape Town, South Africa; and The Irish News from Northern Ireland.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Italy Expels Roma (Gypsies)

Europe is no stranger to expulsions, just ask anyone who knows European Jewish history. However, since the end of World War II and the rise of European supernationalism one would think the days of expulsion were over. The European Union allows citizens to move freely from country to country.

That law is being put to the test in Italy. Romania joined the European Union this year and so far over half a million Romanians, mostly Roma (Gypsies), have migrated to Italy. While some Roma are trying to intergrate into the popular culture, there is a visible element engaged in various crimes. Recently a navy officer's wife was killed by a Romanian Roma and this has provided the match for a long set fuse against an immigrant group which refuses to assimilate. Italy has begun expeling the European citizen Roma and is pushing for greater legal authority.

The move by the Democratic Party (the ruling socialist party newly formed by the Democrats of the Left and their allies) followes other European leftist and center-left parties becoming tougher on crime. However, this is the first time a major left party has threatened the supremeacy of the European Union.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Martial Law in Pakistan

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf stated he cannot let his country commit suicide has declared martial law in Pakistan. Telephone lines are cut, dissidents are being detained, television channels shut down, and Pakistan and now even deeper in its dark age.

There are two reasons for the martial law: an immediate and a more long term problem. The immediate issue at hand is the presidential election and the supreme court. Musharraf won the election, boycott by most of the opposition, but the Supreme Court has been threatening to void his election because Musharraf holding both the presidency and his army post. This continues a long feud between the court and presidency. When martial law was declared, the court called on the army to resist. Only to have Musharraf go one step beyond Abraham Lincoln and lock the court justices in the Supreme Court building.

The long term reason for martial law is the rise of Islamism in nuclear Pakistan. The Swat Valley is now a Taliban/al Qaeda stronghold as is the greater area, North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Al Qaeda is waging a civil war against Musharraf with hopes of getting its hands on nuclear weapons. Pakistan's military is demoralized because of a series of loses to the militant thugs. The militant also have a large backing from the general public. Musharraf hopes he can use his new powers to crush any opposition.

From The Long War Journal: Red equals Taliban control, purple equals de facto Taliban control, yellow under threat

So in short: Military thug versus Evil.

The wild card in the picture is Benazir Bhutto and her center-left (socialist but very anti-Taliban) Pakistan People's Party. Bhutto stood on the sidelines in an agreement with Musharraf which allowed him to be reelected president. However, after the election Musharraf tried to delay Bhutto's return and al Qaeda attempted an assassination on her (it is unclear how much Pakistani police did to stop the attack). Bhutto is returning from a foreign trip and may be so tired with Musharraf she could lead a popular revolt. She has enough support to greatly damage Musharraf's standing. However, if Musharraf falls there is no guarantee Bhutto could hold power. The Taliban and their al Qaeda friends would certainly see it as a time to strike.

Pakistan is certainly a place to be watching in the next couple of days.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Short History of Cartography in China

Cartography is naturally an ancient art in China. However, it has gone through numerous changes and has experienced ancient and modern high points.

The first "great" Chinese cartographer/geographer was Zhang Heng. Zhang made a series of star maps, understood the world was round, and the Earth revolved around the Sun. For physical geographers he is known for His most important contribution to cartography was the invention of the grid system. The grid system introduced mathematical precision which made cartography a science.

The golden age of Chinese cartography has its genesis from Pei Xiu. Pei (AD 244-271) worked for the Kingdom of Wei and the Jin Dynasty and while at these posts he standardized Chinese map making. Pei's cartographic style called for standard symbolizations and extremely high detail. But the key signature of ancient Chinese cartography was the grid system it was based on. Each map specified length of sides of squares thus establishing a scale. In turn Pei designed maps which could be combined to create larger maps. Right angles were used constantly in maps to make them orthogonal.

For a long time the Chinese led the way cartography making star maps, maps made by govenors for tax purposes, and navigational maps. Ancient China was much more advanced than the Roman Empire and Persia at the time. Sadly many of the Chinese's regional and "world" maps were lost during the isolationist time. The Emperor's then thought there was no need to concern themselves with the barbarian world. Collections of ancient Chinese maps do exist though and some are online. For a more detailed history of pre and post-Pei cartography one can read the article The Han Maps and Early Chinese Cartography (JSTOR access required).

Today is another high point of map creation in China but to call it another golden age is extremely controversial. The People's Republic of China is leading the pack with GIS technicians creating maps for engineering, construction, and military purposes. The artistic side is gone with very few conventional maps coming out of China. The humanistic geographer Yi-Fu Tuan has blasted the Chinese educational and geographical system for creating engineers who do not understand things spatially (thoughts that mirror Catholicgauze's).

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Electoral Map: An American Political Geography Blog

A great find indeed for some of Catholicgauze's oldest readers. The Electoral Map is a blog which looks at the geography behind American politics. The blog is less than a month old but already it has some great posts. Be sure to check it out today!

GPS and Google Fight for the Little Guy Against the System

Some people dislike geotechnology for reasons ranging from "ruining" quiet streets, to helping terrorists, to wanting you dead. The reason for the hatred is in part due to the liberty and egalitarian nature of all technology (sometimes provding bad geographical driving directions comes into play though). Great power can be used for good or ill.

The power offered by geotechnology has been in the news lately. GPS units are now used by those who wish to fight speeding tickets. Previously any court dispute over a speeding ticket ended by being the cop's word (backed up by a radar reading which only the cop saw) versus the driver's word. Now drivers can use GPS unit printouts to show that they could have not possibly been speeding because of the lack of distance covered. Google Maps has also helped fight the law. A blogger used Google Maps to show a police officer's memory was "faulty" when it came to one-way streets.

The future of geotechnology is one of innovation and information. Let us all hope for more stories like this and not of driver's suddenly doing U-turns into corn fields because their little black box with the English-voice told them so.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Catholicgauze Open Fourm

Well, I am almost done with a huge project which has been eating up much of my time. Sorry about the blog suffering but starting VERY soon post quality will be back up. In the mean time feel free to ask questions, give comments, vent about anything! Want a topic covered? Want more posts of a subfield of geography? Want a new subfield added? Let me know!

Atlas of Anicent and Classic Cartography

Now that Catholicgauze readers have a gazetteer of the ancient and classical world they need an atlas! The great Hipkiss has just the thing! Maps from the 1912 edition of JM Dent and Sons' Atlas of Ancient Geography have been scanned high-res and are available for viewing. The only "fault" is the use of Latin. It is like the treated Latin as somesort of "universal" language, where would they get that idea?