Wednesday, April 30, 2008

USGS Topographic Maps on GeoPDF

The United States Geological Survery allows one to download topographic maps of the United States in GeoPDF format. These files can be viewed in Abode's standard Acrobat Reader.

The Map Locator and Downloader uses a Google Earth interface to find location. Once a location is located one has the option to order or download the topographic maps. This is a wonderful tool for those who wish to print out these coveted maps.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Study: Geography Affects One-Third of Human Genes

Here is something TDAXP may enjoy. According to a new study up to third of human genes are affected by location and lifestyle. The study examined how different populations of related Berbers in Morocco differed genetically. Factors such as pollution, survival rate, and food intake all play a role.

One reason why this matters is disease. Certain disease occur because of the various settings genes can be on. Understanding geography's link to genes can better allow one to plan and prevent genetically caused disease and save offspring from disabilities.

Catholicgauze wonders if the rise of villages during the dawn of civilization started any major genetic evolutions that benefited us back then or even today.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fundamentalist Geography: Mecca Time and Other Misadventures

At a conference a group of Muslim clerics and scientists declared that Greenwich Mean Time was forced upon the world by the British (not quite true but an understandable point-of-view) and therefore Mecca should be declared the international time standard.

The group claims Mecca is the center of the Earth. One of the few "proofs" published is the claim Mecca aligns with the magnetic North Pole. However, 1) right now it does not and 2) the magnetic North Pole moves around.

Islam is a religion historically open to science. Many Muslims and non-Muslim look back to periods of the Islamic past as a golden age of knowledge. The Koran even teaches one to investigate and have an open mind. However, certain scientifically wrong passages and false teachings by Muhammad have led to fundamentalist scientists to teach errors whether it is making up joints in the body to prove their prophet correct or teaching Mecca's God-produced radition has been noticed by NASA or the Earth is a flat disk larger than the flat disc Sun.

Islam is not the only religion to have bad geography. Interpretation can lead Mormons to believe in Latin American Hebrew Indians, Christians believing in a flat earth with four corners, and Hindus believing in monkey-made land bridges.

Some may say why not change to Mecca time or why not let Muslim countries use it? The simple answer is standards are standards. The whole point of setting one time as key was to avoid confusion internationally. A person is free to think and use whatever he wants; however, in a globalized world comprehension is needed by all. Remember the Tower of Babel...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia head Towards War

Russia claims it did not shoot down the UAV. However, only footage of the pilot waving the Russian flag and saying "You've been pawned" in Russian would be more indicting.

Fallout from Kosovo's independence combined with Russian probing of their limits has pushed Georgia, the de facto independent state of Abkhazia, and Russia to the brink of war.

The reason for the possible conflict is Russia's unofficial recognition of the breakaway republic. Russia is setting up diplomatic facilities that would function like embassies, recognizing Abkhazia legal documents, and lifting of Commonwealth of Independent States sanctions. Georgia views these as all but recognizing the breakaway republic. If United Nations negotiations fail as expected because of Russia's veto power, Georgia is planning a blitz war to reclaim Abkhazia before the Russians can reinforce the rebels.

Abkhazia broke away during a war after the fall of the Soviet Union. Abkhazia won by using ethnic cleansing against almost half of the population of the region (that was Georgian). Russian military help also aided the separatists. Georgia holds onto a sparsely populated region in the north but most of the people there are Georgian refugees.

Russian President Putin sees Abkhazia as a test. If he can unofficially, then officially recognize the breakaway republic he may be able to even annex the region. If he can do that with the Kosovo justification he can also pick away South Ossetia from Georgia. Serbia then could justify reclaiming northern Kosovo. The end game may end with Transnistria joining Russia and a new non-communist Russian empire a la the Soviet Union.

The anti-democratic, pro-imperialist trend in Russia is frightening. A storm may be required to curb it, but the fact blood spilling is almost a certainty (I hope I am work) is even more frightening.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Geographical Boundaries in a Cyberworld

If a country launches a rocket against another country that is an act of war. If a well organized group does a raid against a country that is still an act of war a la the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel War. But what if a group of individuals, allied with a government in some form, did damage online or against individuals of a foreign country? These are questions being posed by a small but growing number of people. It is time geographers also take a side interest in this debate.

International online interaction started off slowly in the virtual world. Different servers for the United States, Europe, Japan, Korea, and China kept users separate. The rise of massive servers in Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and virtual worlds like Second Life have allowed people to interact with thousands of foreigners (countries even have embassies in Second Life!). The globalized communications arena has made data transfers easier as well.

Many have used these new abilities to have fun and drive markets but there has been evil done as well. Hacking has cost millions. Hate has spread easier free of geographical limits to speech.

Loyal citizens like the Red Hacker Alliance attack foreign websites when their country is "attacked" by "foes." In the game Lineage, South Korean and Japanese mobs would attack each other and even lynch virtual characters. Terrorist groups have created virtual worlds for fund raising and training purposes. Countries have been involved in international attacks. During the Bronze Statue controversy, it is alleged Russian-government officials in the breakaway region of Transnistria hacked critical Estonian telecommunications.

Is the Bronze Statue a cause of a country's sovereignty being violated? If Hezbollah does a virtual nuclear bomb on the Swedish embassy in Second Life, destroying not only the visual setting but also data, is that an attack on Sweden? If the Chinese government continues to turn a blind eye to hackers attacking pro-Tibetan separatists (hat tip to TDXAP) is China permitting a crime equal to piracy?

The answer to these countries lies on the premise of whether or not geographical sovereignty extends into cyberspace. Even then it is a matter of scale. If an attack does damage on the real world through a cyber attack then it is much more of a crime compared to a no "real world" damage hacking attack defacing informative websites. Those probably will probably be regarded as mere annoyances or harassment. However, laws continue to spread in the online world and this is one thing geographers should keep their eyes on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cities from Space During Night

La Cartoteca links to a neat gallery by NASA showing cities at night. The images are beautiful. For generations man has sought to control the night and turn it from a time of fear to just another time period. Through energy consumption, economic, political, and demographic growth the Western world has succeeded and the rest of the Earth is on its way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How to be a (School of Catholicgauze) Geographer

I was pondering what a good geographer needs besides spatial thinking. I then composed a list of things that a (Catholicgauze-style) geographer should know/have.

1. Knowledge of a foreign language: It is really hard to understand a culture if you do not know their language even if it is only a different dialect than your own native tongue. The way a culture forms their thoughts into processes reveals how they envision the world. "Language is the blood of culture -Catholicgauze."

2. Knowledge of the Environment: The world is the stage for humanity. It impacts the physical, environmental, and cultural landscapes completely. Without environmental geography you will not be able to tell the difference between the biome where poison ivy is found and where the Cloverfield monster lives.

3. Related Sciences and Arts: Economics, computers, history, art, music, geology, astronomy, political science, and more are must haves. Try taking a course in anything you can. These fields of study will enrich your study of the world with added perspectives. All these interrelated fields will add allow you to holistically understand geography.

4. Remember the Purpose of Geography: Geographers study the world and turn facts into knowledge. If only fellow academics understand your work then you have failed. Geography is so important that everyone should be able to understand the vast majority of your work. If your work can improve the world or lives of others then you have done well. (This does not refute theorists. Good theorists will create ideas that can be applied.)

5. Always Have Something to Come Home To: Too often geographers will lose perspective and allow themselves to be swallowed into their studies. Remember who you are and why you are studying your zone of geography. Having someone/something to come back to will allow be an independent observer. All the above will allow you not to lose sight of the greater picture.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Moderate" Left wins in Paraguay

Former bishop Fernando Lugo has apparently won the presidency of Paraguay. Lugo ends sixty plus years of the conservative Coloardo Party that sometimes ruled the country like a dictatorship.

Lugo is a bit of a mystery because though he has voice support of Chavez he claims to look towards Brazil's center-left as inspiration and is backed by anti-regime pro-business conservatives. The United States will have to deal carefully with Lugo if it wishes to continue anti-al Qaeda and anti-Hezbollah operations in the infamous tri-border region.

The odd bit of the election is the failures of the ruling Colorado Party. Their candidate, Blanca Ovelar, was hand picked by the president because she had no personal support base and would in effect be another term for the president. She defeated the vice-president in a primary by oddly claiming he was in America's pocket (thus ensuring little United States support for the party). Also, the government supported the release of a very pro-Chavez ex-army officer to divide the Left's vote. Apparently it failed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Map of Drunkenness in the United States

Fantom Planet links to a Men's Health map showing the drunkenness in American cities (including Alaska and Hawaii!). The higher the number the more drunk a city is.

The interior of the country is a mixed bag. Places like Sioux Falls, South Dakota have low DUI rates and low fatal crashes but high binge drinking and lose laws. Denver on the other hand is rated the most drunk city. California is a large gathering of drunk cities but apparently laws being pushed to punish drunkenness lower its numbers. The Baptist south gives southern cities a very good ranking along with Mormon Utah.

In a huh moment: The places with the highest DUI ranking is Washington D.C. Do you know what your representative in the House or Senate is doing?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Earth Day 2008: Saving the Louisiana Coastline

Happy American (but not international) Earth Day! To celebrate this day here is a blog post on a very important issue: the possible saving of Louisiana's coastline.

The Times-Picayune has an article that proposes a natural solution to save the coastline. Water diversion projects can possibly redirect sediment back into the marshlands and save the valuable ecosystem that doubles as a hurricane buffer.

National Geographic has a great article on the value of the wetlands. So, for Earth Day one does not need to save the world all at once, but instead teach and educate others on supporting initiatives which save the Earth and people.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Right Surges Back in Italy

An upset of sorts occurred in Italy with the recent election. The center-right coalition of People of Freedom combined with the North League and Movement for Autonomy to defeat the leftward coalition of the Democratic Party and the anti-corruption Italy of Values Party. This election allows Silvio Berlusconi to reclaim his spot as Prime Minister after losing a very close election in 2006.

The election is big for a variety of reasons.

First, the Italian Communist Party is gone. It was the most powerful Communist party outside the soviet bloc. While it always lost to the Christian Democrats it formed a sort of spoils system with them. The Communist almost always had some sway in the government. The 2008 election; however, denies the Communists any seats along with their Green allies. The party has been losing support to other smaller hard-left and left parties. Expect the Communist Party to slowly splinter into nothing.

Second, the Left lost again. The left has lost every post-World War II election sans 1996 and 2006. This is in part due to bad governance and part due to a weird voting system which favors smaller parties that can easily rock the boat of stability.

Finally, the new government of Berlusconi will return to a more pro-American alliance while still remaining a supportive leader of the European Union. Italy may join France in reformatting European policy towards America.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Judeo-Christian Outlook on Geography: Part 2

Part 1 of this series looked at the interior of the Earth being far away from God. Part 2 looks at Mountains as monuments of God and places close to Him.

Mountains as Monuments
Mountains are big. They inspire awe in man. Since man's time on Earth is not even a blip on the geological timescale, mountains seem eternal. The term "everlasting hills" are meant to mean that mountains are monuments of God's eternal presence. Mountains as such are meant to be praised as signs of God's wonders.

"With the finest gifts of the age-old mountains and the best from the timeless hills" Deuteronomy 33:15

Mountains Close to God
Mountains are the highest land features on Earth. Their physical location close to the sky in turn becomes closeness to Heaven and God. God frequently calls man to mountains for communication.

The Old Testament is filled with mountains being close to God. Just take these two examples. God's pact with Noah (God's promises never to kill humanity on a large scale again) was formed on Mount Ararat in Genesis 8. Moses received the Ten Commandments (the basis for much of The Law) on Mount Sinai. The meeting was so important Mount Sinai was the middle point because both God and Moses travelled there "When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai, he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up to him." Exodus 19:20.

The New Testament divine mission both begins and ends on mountains. The Transfiguration, where Jesus is instructed on His mission, occurs on a mountain in Mathew 17:1-9. New Jerusalem, the church triumphant, is "seen" by Saint John while he is on a high mountain top in Revelation 21. Man sees the starting and ending process of the redemption of the world from mountains.

As the interior of the Earth is away from God, mountains are clearly close to him. Their majesty in physical form has been carried over into the divine.

The next blog post in this series will examine the Heavens.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tax Geography

To celebrate freedom from taxes here is a gathering of old Catholicgauze tax postings:

Tax Burdens Around the World
- Remember and give praise everyday you do not live in Belgium!
Tax Burdens by State - It is high time to move from Vermont to South Dakota
Tax Havens - Cayman Islands vacation anyone?

Aztec Geographic Tax Math Discovered

A new discovery reveals that the Aztec had a heartless, cold government. The discovery is none other than using geography for tax purposes! This post is dedicated to all of you in the United States that are done with your taxes (or filing for an extension).

The tax math decoded reveals family lands and what type soil the land was on. Land was measured in relation to body parts in a way like the English Measurement System. The five different math systems were used to figure out taxes owed. For more information be sure to read this combination of articles and remember, "how things change, how things stay the same.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Papal Visit Maps

If you are like Catholicgauze then you are thrilled at the Papal Visit of Benedict XVI to the United States. What else can make this trip better? Of course the answer is geography!

American Papist has created Google Maps of the Popemobile route for both Washington and New York City. USA Today has a neat interactive map showing information about the various days and places.

If one can see the Pope be sure to do so (or e-mail Catholicgauze and tell him you have a ticket to the Nationals Mass for him!)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections Set Stage for Disaster

Zimbabwe's election result has been released and President-dictator Robert Mugabe has stepped down. Just kidding. Mugabe has refused to release results. Most polling shows the opposition (a combination of everything from rich white African farmers to poor black unionists) easily defeating the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front.

There are currently calls for strikes against Mugabe. The situation with record high inflation threatens to make the Kenyan violence look like nothing. Three million refugees are feeling pressure to leave South Africa, food is hard to come by, and everyone cares a gun or machete.

Zimbabwe is one of Africa's sadder stories. The country was once ruled by white Africans who broke away from the United Kingdom. After diplomatic pressure the relatively moderate Mugabe took power and promised a civil and just government. That quickly became a farce. It got so bad that a sexoholic Catholic archbishop threatened to led a revolution. What makes things truly horrible in a geopolitical sense is that fellow African governments turn a willing blind eye to the horrors in Zimbabwe with countries like Iran, Venezuela, and the People's Republic of China uphold Mugabe. May justice return to Zimbabwe.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paleobiological and Geological Timeline

MSNBC has a neat interactive timeline showing the geological makeup of the Earth along with the biological goings-on. The timeline ranges from Hadean Time (the beginning) to the Holocene (today). The timeline does not have much detail but it is a neat and interesting tool for those who have little knowledge of Earth's continuing geological and biological evolution.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is Tibet Chinese?

The short answer: "Nes." A video, below, is making its rounds on the internet. The video claims that Tibet was, is, always will be part of China. TDAXP does a good job breaking down the video's claims showing how they are half truths.

The short geopolitical history is this: Tibet had an history independent of China up until the end of the first millennium. A few conflicts were waged, including a Muslim/Tibetan alliance against the Han. Unification (in a way) came under the reign of the Mongol Hordes. Both China Proper and Tibet were under the Khans' thumb. Since then Tibet has been a nominal possession with waxing and waning Chinese influence. The early 20th century saw a British invasion which evicted the last few Chinese overlords in Tibet. Tibet may have changed nominal leadership but the geopolitical ground truth stayed the same: feudalistic with large ungoverned spaces featuring roaming bands of thieves. When the People's Republic of China was founded, one of its goals was reunification with Tibet. A quick invasion forced Tibet to accept Communist rule. A failed uprising led to even greater repression.

The demographics of Tibet make it Chinese, in a way. According to the self-declared Government-in-Exile, the Communist government has been involved in population transfers making the demographic makeup more Hai Muslim and Han than Tibetan. This makes Tibet like China as well; multiethnic but ruled by Han. The recent protest in San Francisco showed how many ethnic groups have complaints against Han Communist rule.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Selective Mexican Cartographic Nationalism

By now all of you probably have heard of the Absolut vodka ad that features the southwestern United States as part of Mexico. The ad claims a perfect world would feature a Mexico with lands ceded to the Republic of Texas and the United States. The lands were transfered under both war treaties and the peaceful Gadsden Purchase.

The First Mexican Empire

Some have brought up how this ad is offensive and compared it to hypothetical ads that feature "lost" Germanys or Russias. There is another factor. The racist-factor of the radical Mexican-coined "reconquista" that focuses solely on American gains. The First Mexican Empire won its expanded all the way to the present-day Panamanian border. When the now-day republics left Mexico to attempt their own federal republic Mexico was too corrupt to stop them. There has been no effort by Mexico to reclaim the lost southern lands. In fact, Mexico is notorious for its brutal treatment of Guatemalan and other Central American illegal immigrants it finds. There is no concern in Mexico about families being destroyed or immigrant rights. The only historical and racial prejudices are turned solely to the north.

Every nation has won and lost lands including the United States. Some schools still teach how the United States stole the present-day American Southwest. Sadly this claim and the many others like it focus on one history while ignoring others (Spain had a claim on all of Mexico and I am sure the American Indians have a valid one too). When a country focuses on the past they are stuck in it. Mexico needs to look forward and realize the future is in global collaboration. By looking in the past the world will continued to be host to hate.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Studying Geography Through Paint Color and Vice Versa

An old geography article and a trip to the fort's hardware shop has got Catholicgauze thinking. Many of the paint samples have place names. The naming is not random but instead is meant to enhance the "feel" of the color.

For instance
  • The Western Mediterranean region is depicted with earthy tones such as Basque Brown, Pompeii Orange, and Mediterranean Sun.
  • The Roman Empire's classical look is embodied with Roman Marble.
  • San Juan Sand gives a hot and pale look for Caribbean.
  • The Orient is exotic and bold colors like Bangkok Rust.
  • Even general geographical features like glaciers are envisioned by a very pale blue, sea breezes are shown by a bluish green.
The colors may seem obvious but studying why is a good geography project for students. Obviously "green equals Ireland because Ireland is green" is well established but there is more. Colors make one "feel" a certain way. The color association can reveal the culture's thoughts. A golden color is entitled Gypsy Gold. Old stereotypes of Gypsy's wearing gold are alive and well in the target culture.

Try an experiments with yourself, others, or a class. Hold up colors and ask people what geographical feature or place they think of and then ask why. The answers help understand one's geographical bias just as mental maps do.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Map of Carbon Dioxide Releases in the United States

A new map and the accompanying data is available for all those interested in the geography of American carbon dioxide. The results show the area between Boston and Washington is the worst with urban centers extending to the Mississippi River and into Texas forming an archipelago of CO2 releases. The Interior West, lacking in major cities for the most part, has low amounts of the greenhouse gas. Despite the efforts of California to stem its pollution, high levels are found in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Below is a YouTube on making the map

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Somalia Pirate Map

Adrian sends me a collection of piracy maps off the coast of Somalia. The map shows much more detail and information concerning the rash of piracy off the Horn of Africa. For more piracy geography information be sure to check out the International Piracy Map.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Nonprime Mortgage Maps

Very Spatial links to a Federal Reserve map of nonprime mortgage conditions in the United States. The map is interactive allowing one to search down to the township level while displaying a variety of data.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Practical Geography in a Phone Book

I am currently recovering in my hotel room from a billion vaccine shots. In a desperate attempt to entertain my aching, drugged self I browsed through the phone book and found an interesting way to teach practical geography.

The phone book contains a page of information discussing hurricanes and has a map of the North Atlantic and Caribbean featuring a dot-point latitude and longitude grid. The map (I'll post a facsimile later) is for people to chart an incoming hurricane. The hope is one will be able to self-predict landfall and leave before the official evacuation rush begins.

This has me thinking. Geographical knowledge campaigns usually focus on schools to reach the public. A section in the phone book with very practical, life-saving geographical knowledge is a great way to reach people. What other efforts exist to reach people this way? I can think of a few examples. The process of sink holes and how flood plains work can be placed in real estate guides (people want to know if their investment is on solid ground). Interesting trivia features can be placed in news articles explaining how globalization effects everyday things (the Washington Post had a great feature describing the origins of the various things that went into the new Nationals ballpark).

People are not opposed to geography; the science has just been taught wrong. It is not just countries and capitals but useful and fascinating things.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Geography of the Battle of Basra

Pieced together from news reports, the above map shows zones of control in Basra. Blue is Iraqi Security Forces, red is territory controlled by Mahdi Army, and purple is still contested.

The Second Battle of Basra is winding to a close with no clear winner. The Iranian-backed Mahdi Army remains in control of much of Basra while the Iraqi government has fortifed control in the government buildings district and airport. Mahdi Army has taken significant causalities.

The battle and others in the Shia south were a test of the Iraqi government's will to crush the Shia militia. It is safe to say the government has failed to show it will be as tough as it has been against the Sunni insurgency. Sadr has shown he can survive his rebellions. Though this time he has cost himself political points with the government.

The government surprisingly has more control in Basra then it has since the British pulled out in late 2007. When that event occured the city was de facto divided between the Mahdi Army and the slightly more pro-government, Iranian-back Badr Corp militia.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

NATO to Expand

The 20th NATO summit is being held in Romania. The meeting has the potential of advancing the Western alliance and/or appease the Russian anti-Western juggernaut.

What's Almost Certain
Albania and Croatia, once seen as the backwaters of the Communist world, have made remarkable improvements from their Maoist and post-Communist fascist recent histories. Political reforms have taken place with liberal democracies now flourishing. Both countries have troops in Afghanistan and Albania has soldiers in Iraq. These countries will probably be given invitations to join NATO without any objections.

What's Somewhat Likely
Macedonia has also made improvements with their politics and military. Its military is in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The one thing in its way of becoming a NATO member its name. The region of Macedonia has Greek roots and the Greeks have not appreciated earlier efforts of the Republic of Macedonia claiming parts of Greece. Greece and Macedonia are negotiating a compromise like using Macedonia in internal affairs and Upper Macedonia for international affairs, but only time will tale if ongoing talks will prevent Greece

May Not Happen But Should
The main drama at the summit will be whether or not Georgia and Ukraine will be given NATO Membership Action Plans (MAP). MAPs are outlines to reform the politics of a country to a Western liberal democracy and streamline the military to make it like other NATO forces. MAPs are a key requirement in joining NATO.

Ukraine and Georgia see their future in the West. Russia; however, wants these two countries back in its orbit. Russia has interfered with Ukraine elections in the past and is currently reinforcing pro-Russian separatists in Georgia.

Some European NATO members are warry of offending Russia. Others wonder if Georgia has liberalized its democracy. Both countries need improvement and NATO MAPs will spur the last needed changes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Catholicgauze Gets Military Training

Catholicgauze will be at a fort getting joint forces training for my Iraq "adventure." I should have internet access so posting should be normal. Besides learning skills such as not dying, I hope to get tips on how to appear like a good looking commando such as now dead East Timorese rebel, Alfredo Reinado.