Monday, June 30, 2008

Over Reliance on Data Leading to Bad Cartography

A group of high-ranking policy and State Department-like officials are gathered around a table. Everyone has their own copy of a government map showing proposed plans in Europe. Everyone makes plans and moves assets according to the data shown on the map. Their ideas are good but there is one key flaw. The map shows two Germanys, one Czechoslovakia, and a pre-2006 Yugoslavia. A number of assets per country are thrown off because of the errors and future operations are a mess.

The above story is fictional but points out a real problem. New software advances in cartographic tools have allowed anyone to make a reasonable map. Companies and newspapers tend to give cartographic jobs to a graphic designer or editor who can make a pretty map but does not know if the cartographic shape files are accurate or not. Take for example the US News and World Report map of the food crisis that has a pre-2006 Serbia or the academically published map of happiness with numerous errors. While these maps may just be "your map is wrong!" quality, bad maps showing contested borders, nonexistent towns on a road map, anything below sea level being shown as underwater, or policy maps that do not show accurate zones of control can serious impact judgement calls and lead to disaster... or just make the map designer and publish look like fools.

So to anyone out there who publishes maps: cartographers may be a tad bit more pricey than the average graphic designer but cartographers are worth the extra cost. Map users want accuracy with readability in an attractive map. Sacrificing a cartographer for a few dollars will cause knowledgeable people to recommend against your map and choose another company.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Anglicans All But in Schism

The Church of Henry VIII is now in its deepest crisis. The Global Anglican Future Conference has spawned the GAFCON movement which, while formally not schismatic, is the Anglican version of the Society of Saint Pius X.

The GAFCON meeting was called a month before the official ten-year meeting of Anglican bishops. GAFCON was convened by conservative members, mostly on the evangelical protestant side of Anglicanism ,who were upset by the English, American, and Canadian churches turn towards liberalism. The first-world churches acceptance of things such as homosexuality and women bishops among others have divided the Anglican communion.

Now GAFCON is fighting back. The Jerusalem Declaration calls for "unity" under the basis of like-minded churches, calls for bishops who recognize the fellowship, and allows for a GAFCON church in North America. While GAFCON says it is not leaving the Anglican communion and claims it recognizes the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury; GAFCON claims to be Anglican one does not have to recognize Canterbury and GAFCON's action of establishing a new church is a sign of non-recognition of the liberal churches.

Dread is the best way to describe the response from the liberal churches. The Episcopal Church has already lost millions of dollars in church property to conservative parishes who are now under the Church of Nigeria's care. Expect more law suits and accusation of stolen property soon.

GAFCON is a sign of the post-colonial world. Besides conservative churches in North America, most of its members are in Africa, South America, and Australia. These former colonies seek to bring the faith back to its original home. Do not be surprised to see the black bishop as head of a GAFCOM communion or hearing Americans complaining about African missionaries trying to impose the Bible on them.

Notes: Depending on how one counts members, GAFCON may have more members than the regular Anglican Communion. Debate over this is can lead to the question of who is the true Anglican Church.

If GAFCON does breakaway then the Anglican Communion would then be surpassed in members by the Assembly of God and the Coptic Communion.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sarajevo: The Key Place of the 20th Century

Ninety-four years ago today the Archduke of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo. His assassination was a product of Serbian nationalists who sought to expand Serbia into the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

The actions of the Black Hand terrorist group not only brought down their own rival but the whole world. The Europe kingdoms and empires were destroyed in World War I. The idea of monarchies being the standard form of government went out the window. The United States rose to international power because its lack of causalities. American President Woodrow Wilson pressed republican ideals on Europe. The Communists saw their opportunity to after the war. Sometimes they succeeded with the rise of the Soviet Union, fall of Ukraine; while other times they failed like in Poland, various German states, and Ireland.

Reactionaries and regressive progressives (fascists who sought to move Europe forward while glorifying some idealized past) tried to fight the political-cultural tied. They fought World War II and failed, taking fifty million lives with them. Afterwards the two successful ideologies out of World War I (Republicanism and Communism) fought their own Cold War. Republicanism finally won out for the most part.

At the end of the Cold War many thought we had finally broken away from history. Sarajevo helped bring us back to history though. A civil war in Yugoslavia and the siege of Sarajevo made people realize war is still possible in the "civilized" world. NATO had to be activated to stop the fighting. Before NATO's entry people wondered if the alliance was needed any more and should be done away with. The war proved the continued importance of the international coalition which is fighting in Afghanistan today.

The assassination of the archduke outside a cafe started the geopolitical trend of the twentieth-century. The fall of Yugoslavia showed how things change, how things stay the same. While there are many important historical places of the twentieth-century, Sarajevo though is the key landmark of the time.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Geography of American Societies in Politics

Geography convert Eddie has sent me a link to Christian Science Monitor’s Patchwork Nation. The feature maps out the eleven different types of counties in America ranging from Evangelical Epicenters to Boom Towns to Minority Central. Besides the simple cultural geography of America, the feature ties it into the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Readers can compare where the candidates are reaching out and how.

It is interesting to see how the various societies unite in common cause for their candidate (Does the religious right really care about the death tax? Do heavy-democratic voting blacks really care about abortion rights).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Great Cartographers

Seeing a classic map can bring to mind the era depicted, the tools to make the map, and even the adventure of discovering the newly-filled in regions. One; however, rarely thinks of the cartographer who makes them. It is a sad fact that except for maybe one, Martin Waldseem├╝ller, the names of cartographers are unknown.

Legendary Map Makers of the World seeks to change that. The site breaks down the various eras of cartography of the ancient world up till today. Each era has articles describing the lives of cartographers who changed the science.

Anaximander, Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed, Philip W. Arnold Sr., and Embassy World await your history of cartography adventure!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fighting in Lebanon Continues

Pro-West, Sunni Future Movement milita members fight in the streets of Tripoli

Lebanon finally has a president; as predicted, Michel Sulaiman, former head of the army, is now president. The controversial Doha Agreement put Sulaiman in power though things are not as good as they could be. Though the pro-West March 14th Alliance originally nominated him, Sulaiman is now trying to please the Hezbollah-led opposition and Hezbollah has a veto on any government decisions.

The agreement has not gone over well with the main Sunni bloc of March 14, the Future Movement. The movement is still fuming at its defeat by Hezbollah in the recent war flare-up and is seeking revenge. In the majority Sunni city of Tripoli Future Movement militias took on Hezbollah-auxiliaries (possibly supported by Syrian officers) and Alawite citizens. The same is going on in the Beqaa Valley were minor gun battles broke out at random encounters. The army is currently doing its best to keep the peace but its reputation has been damaged since its inability to curb Hezbollah’s spring offensive.

While all sides are still aiming to avoid greater violence, “low level” battles will continue to take lives as Lebanese society merely treads above the abyss.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Will Space Do to Geography?

The recent news about water ice on Mars is a neat scientific discovery. The geographer in me is thrilled at the new opportunities for study. This brave new frontier (space) is slowly becoming more and more of interest to scientists. As science and people reach out into the heavens, geographers must think about where their place is among the stars. If they do not then geography will forever be imprisoned on Earth.

Geographers must ask themselves how will space impact geography.

Geotechnology Adjusts to New Mapping Demands

For millennium people have been mapping the Earth's surface. For the last one hundred years or so humans have been travelling in the air and under the sea while the charts they used merely added new data layers to old maps. Space travel past the solar system will require three-dimensional maps to be used since travel will be in volumetric space. Star Trek-style paper star charts will not do. Computers and handheld devices will be able to compute travel and display data on maps. Right now GPS units form the foundation of what is needed to be developed.

Physical Geographers Need to Be Appreciated Or They Will Leave

For the decades there have been those who constantly mention the importance of physical geographers. Environmental issues have helped boost the prominence of physical geographers but still the human and technical geographers do not give fair representation to their physical brethren at geography conferences and meetings.

Meanwhile those studying the landforms of other planets are geologists. Geological groups have space branches that encourage and fund studies. Sometimes geomorphologists (physical geographers) get involved with these studies but they are quickly absorbed into the geology lobby. Unless geographers appreciate physical geographers and groups like the Association of American Geographers feature space studies then geography will be forever imprisoned on Earth without the best and brightest physical geographers.

New Terminology Is Needed

Geographers will use terms like "earth and "terra" to convey the ground or features on the ground. These words will be used less and less in geographical studies as extraterrestrial studies become more common. The word "Geography" meaning "to write about the Earth" will likely remain because of tradition though there will always be a place for "selenography" and "areography."

Before Copernicus proved the Earth was not the center of everything astronomy was a subfield of geography. Since then there has been a noticeable spilt with the two fields going their separate ways. There will always be things worthy of study here on planet Earth. Yet, if geography wishes to grow and learn new things then it must prepare for the next age of exploration and discovery.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cultural Geography of Technological Adaptation

Map of rate at which technology adoption exceeds (or falls below) expectations for the country’s level of GDP. The Core/Gap Model does not apply.

We all have heard the jokes about Japanese and new technological toys. Something along the lines of teenage school girls wasting money the latest digital pet or networking device. Meanwhile Americans wait five years and pick up what they once mocked. Well, Intel Corporation decided to look into the stereotypes and see why certain cultures adopt technology faster than others. The results are somewhat surprising.

The research showed countries with agile governments willing to implement new ideas, cultures with "offline" networks already established, and a bad past all aid in technological adaptation. So being brave, wanting to improve what one already has, and wanting to be new and different are all elements of success. Meanwhile, subsidized societies (foreign aid, welfare-like mentally) have less motivation to adapt to the rapidly changing technological landscape. These slowly fall behind and are less competitive in the world. Old stovepipe cultures like governments agencies and authoritative regimes would do well to loosen their tight control on innovation. Look at the People's Republic of China's lightning quick rise to world power.

For a higher quaility map click here (PDF).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Map of the Political Terror in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has been a hell hole the last few years. Rigged elections, archbishops asking for invasions, and bad government all have plagued the land. Now, as predicted when I discussed the rigged elections, government terrorism French Revolution-style is occurring. The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front militia, army, Central Intelligence Organization, and even war veterans (nominally members of the race war between black Africans and white Africans who broke away from the United Kingdom; however many members are too young) have all attacked those who they think voted against President-dictator Mugabe.

Now This is Zimbabwe has a Google Maps mash-up of political violence cases. So far they have over 1,300 incidents mapped with information on who did it and how. The site also features video and photographs.

Sadly like Lebanon there is political violence on yet no one seems to care. Post-colonial African pride is preventing other African leaders from asking for outside help while the other African governments themselves are mixed on opinion of what to do. The violence will go on and on, the election may or may not happen and will not be valid either way, and people will die will everyone shrugs and continues on their day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ice on Mars Celebration

Due to the lack of atmospheric moderation, ice will turn directly into gas instead of a solid on Mars. Earlier, the Mars Phoenix Lander discovered a strange white substance underneath the surface. There was a debate over whether it was ice or salt. Scientists decided to wait a few days; if it was ice it would melt while salt would just stay there. It began to melt.

So there is water ice on the surface. NASA even believes up to a quarter of Mars has ice a few inches below. So what one may ask. Well, the ice would probably be the remains of the ocean system that most likely was on Mars before. While some get excited about the possibility of life (though water does not necessarily equal life), more immediate uses of Mars ice include using it for drinking water instead of shipping it along with Astronauts to the Red Planet.

To celebrate such a discovery Very Spatial links to a collection of high quality images of Mars from space, its sky, and surface. Included are stunning views of a sunset, animated storms, and a look back home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cultural Geography of Washington DC Neighborhoods

The Washington City Paper Map of DC Neighborhoods

The Washington City Paper is a free weekly that always features a great main article (like radical Blacks who think themselves the true Jews or a case example of American turf war), great local political news, great events list, and the rest is so horrible that one is damned to Hell for reading it.

This week's primary article is not just great but is a thermal nuclear blast of geographical joy. The Washington D.C. Neighborhood Guide breaks down D.C. into neighborhood groupings with names like C-SPANistan (Capitol Hill-area), Banana Republic Republic (Georgetown named after all its yuppie stores), Sacramento (the Catholic area of Brookland, get it... Sacrament-o), and many others.

Each neighborhood section gives census information, cultural background, a little history, and a good description of the activities to do there. The paper does not hold back any punches when it discusses the problem neighborhoods of Washington but it also shows the good each one has to offer, thus avoiding the stereotypes that blind many. Even the "good" neighborhoods recieve their just fill of faults. Where else could one read about the African-American Black versus African Black battle going on at Liquorridor or why Catholicgauze wants to live so badly at C-SPANistan.

I cannot possibly describe how great this is for anyone who wishes to know about all of Washington. In the print edition business ads for the neighborhood are grouped with the article adding an extra umph of geographical evidence. For the heavily blue blood, liberal Episcopal part of town there is an advertisement for a church whose masses are "pet friendly." Catholicgauze's head nearly exploded when seeing that. The bursting occurred five minutes later when I overloaded on joy from the article!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Oil Geopolitics Part II: The Rise of Petrolstates

Of all the sources out there, Mother Jones has a very thoughtful piece on the fall of oil multinationals and the rise of the state-owned oil companies. The author correctly points out that while the normal Mother Jones audience will probably clap at oil companies downfalls, the reader should fear the geopolitical consequences. Now, freedom-minded share holders can no longer force companies to pressure undemocratic countries to induce reforms for oil deals. The juntas, dictatorships, and all around mean governments can do as they please because high revenue gives government leverage over oil multinationals. In the past, governments would allow for-profit multinational companies to set-up shop, put in their drilling rigs, hire their own employees for a certain cut, or percentage, of the revenues. Now that drilling is more lucrative governments are willing to force-out the private sector completely and reap all of the benefits (case study Venezuela). And, Catholicgauzette is quick to point out that government-owned companies tend to be riddled with inefficiencies.

The Economist points out that national oil companies (NOCs) manage over 90% of the world's oil. The largest oil companies, according to Wikipedia, are all government-owned and in places where freedom is suppressed at best and non-existent at worst. The list rated by oil reserves owned follows:

  • Saudi Arabian Oil Company
  • National Iranian Oil Company
  • Qatar Petroleum
  • Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (United Arab Emirates)
  • Iraq National Oil Company
  • Gazprom (Russia)
  • Kuwait Petroleum Corporation
  • Venezuela Petroleum (owner of Citgo)
  • Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
  • National Oil Corporation (Libya)
  • Sonatrach (Algeria)
  • Rosenft (Russia again)

The Petrolstates have already used oil to sway things their way. Russia has used Gazprom to pressure Ukraine not to drift to far West, to press reforms in Transnistria, and keep Germany supporting Russian foreign policy goals. Domestically petrol dollars are used for infrastructure improvements but can also be used for ill. Venezuela's oil money is financing social relief programs (good) but also Chavez's police state and funding FARC's terrorism and drug running. PetroChina's parent, the state-owned CNPC, is in bed with the Sudanese government (such as killing in Darfur and funding terrorism).

History in a way is repeating itself. In the 1980s the high price of oil extended the life span of the Soviet Union and blinded many observers to its imminent collapse. Some world watchers state that if oil were to "collapse" back to pre-2004 prices (~$35) countries like Venezuela and Iran would face economic ruin and civil unrest.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oil Geopolitics Part I: U.S. Reserves

A big political question now is whether or not to drill for oil in regions previously declared off limits by congress. John McCain has switched sides in the debate, now favoring drilling, while Barack Obama remains against drilling in prohibited spots.

The major prohibited regions are the West Coast, the Eastern Coast plus western Florida, and ANWAR. Both Republicans and Democrats from the coastal states prefer having the no-drilling zones because it protects the local environmental and helps out tourism. Most Alaskans on the other hand favor drilling in ANWAR because much of it is frozen tundra and only a portion of it is the beautiful part shown on television. They counter the environmental damage claims by showing how the Alaskan Oil pipeline has helped caribou rather than hurt it. Environmentalist claim drilling and having a pipeline are different.

The lack of new drilling zones has hampered U.S. domestic production. The amount of environment saved is debatable with foreign countries like Spain, China, and Cuba drilling in international waters nearby. Currently American oil policy is clearly helping competitor countries.
Right now Brazil is drilling in its new found off shore reserves. A different culture, one of government ownership and economic interests is propelling the drive. However, Brazil is also famous for its ethanol law mandating fuel integration. Brazil has found a balance needed to transition from purely oil to more sustainable resources while lessening the blow of oil withdrawal. The United States must learn this lesson too if it wishes to be more environmentally friendly and stop funding hostel (or nominally friendly) oil regimes.
America needs new drilling, new refineries (South Dakota is building the first one in thirty years!), along with new fuel technology to steam the rising price of energy. Putting most of the eggs in the oil basket is bad policy.
Next Post: Part II: The Rise of the State Oil Firm and the Downfall of the Multinational
Maps courtesy of Gateway Pundit

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

National Identity and Sports in a Globalized World

National identity and sports have collided head on in this area of multinationalism. The Polish-born, German soccer player Lukas Podolski has been threatened with loss of citizenship because of his role in defeating Poland in the Euro Cup, American Becky Hammon has gone mercenary and accepted Russian citizenship so she can play in the Olympics, and FIFA has instituted requirements that enforce teams to be representative of their country.

A commonly praised thing about globalization is that it allows for much more freedom of movement and personal liberty. However, sports is one area where even the most internationalist of people can beat their chest and cheer on the home team. Questions of identity can become questions of loyalty when one leaves the national "family" for another (especially in the case of the Olympics where it is suppose to be non-professionals having fun for the good of the game and the world).

While this may seem to be a blimp in the progress of globalization, sports troubles can aggravate problems and become flash points ala the Soccer War. Countries who feel they have been betrayed by emigrant players or have lost their best in a sports brain drain can be pushed into rash decisions by sports embarrassments. The globalized world has made international sports possible but has also raised the stakes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Free Online Journal: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine

Ethnobiology comprises biology and cultural studies. The science focuses on how cultures interact, use, and are impacted by biology. It is a very interesting subject that Catholicgauze does not excel in.

The Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine is an open-access journal that does excel; however. It is meant for academics but the articles can still be read by people who are use to such writing style.

A good introduction to the science can be found in this paper about rituals involving sacred trees in the Middle East. The article shows how environmental geography and culture geography, while usually not studied together, mix well.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Ballad of Catholicgauze

My first Humvee convoy ride is going smoothly. Knife 7 is composed of four Humvees doing a routine trip from our base to headquarters. My job is a chimera of things. Man the radio, do the geospatial data, and be map reader. I am right next to our commander.

Over the radio there is chatter here and there.

Voodoo 7 to Blackjack 6, we are passed checkpoint one, over
Voodoo 2 to Blackjack 6, holding up for resupply, over

All is well. The sun is out and it is not as hot as yesterday. I am setting in back with the commander, John. He had my position in the past. We also talk about his experience during the start of the Iraq War. He fought at Saddam's presidential palace and described the combat to me. Too many good men were wounded. When he was done he turned to the stories of captured Sudanese, Yemenis, and even a French jihadist who Saddam invited over to defend Baathist Iraq against the Coalition invasion.

Voodoo 7 to Blackjack 6, we are crossing checkpoint two, over

I go on the radio and say:

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, passing Voodoo 2, over.

As I finish the radio loading static comes through. In between the digital sounds I hear gunfire and Voodoo 7 announcing an ambush. The word I dread is announced: causalities. Then silence.

Blackjack 6 to Knife 7, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Blackjack 6 to Knife 7, over

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Blackjack 6 to Knife 7, if you can hear me respond, over

Blackjack 6 does not hear me. I bang the radio and jam the buttons. They hear me now as I yell the response.

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, I read you, over
Blackjack 6 to Knife 7. Knife 7, go to WB 1234 4321 and provide cover and aid for Voodoo 7, over.

A quick adjustment and we are on our way. John tells me to stay close to him. All I can think of are the stories of how insurgents aim for medics then radio guys. Dang.

The convoy roles up to a burnt Humvee with fortunately no one in it. John and I jump out and begin assessing the causalities. Five total and with us running around there is much confusion. Blood, guts, and bones are everywhere. I get out the list of codes and listen to John give the orders. I prepare my list so I can just yell out the medivac instructions. Our convoy badges people up and prepares them for evac.

Blackjack 6 repeatedly calls for more information on the scene. I have to yell "Wait out!" to be me time to get an accurate read. All the sudden another convoy jumps in our frequency with the most banal chatter about breakfast.

BREAK BREAK BREAK! I tell them to shut up. Lives our in our, my, hands.

Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over
Knife 7 to Blackjack 6, over

Blackjack 6 cannot receive.

Knife 7 to any listening station, over!
Knife 7 to any listening station, over!


Voodoo 2 to Knife 7, we hear you. Give use your list and we will relay to Blackjack 6, over.

A stream of Whiskey Bravos, alphas, charlies, five, six, 1, deltas come streaming out.

Voodoo 2 to Knife 7, we received your communication and will relay, over.

John orders me to begin policing the area to make sure we leave nothing behind. We cannot let equipment be used against us or the civilian population. What a day for a geographer!

Voodoo 2 to Knife 7, Blackjack 6 has received. Get to point WB 2345 5432 and await chopper.

John is standing away from me on the other side of the area the order to leave. Our Humvee begins to pull off before I can reach it. Fortunately they spot me running and let me get in. We leave the area and head out.

Blackjack 6 to Knife 7. Good job. Training is over. Head back to base to be debriefed, out.

The day is ending where we are in Maryland. I am sick in my stomach.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ireland Rejects the Lisbon Treaty and Deals Blow to Europe

The people of Ireland have rejected the Lisbon Treaty in the only referendum on the subject. Concerns about Ireland losing soverignty over its ban on abortion and labor union rights lead to the No vote.

The referendum on the treaty is the only one in the entire European Union. All other countries' ratification will be handled by the government and not the people. But since the treaty needs ratification by all members, the treaty is for all and intensive purposes dead.

Now after the rejection of the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty, efforts to solidify the European Union once again will temporally stop. Political elections in Europe will continue to be based more and more on superstate integration and the question of nationalism.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Jerusalem Panorama in "3D"

The openly political blog One Jerusalem has an "interactive 3D" panorama of Jerusalem that labels the various sites of the Old City. Check it out today!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mad Koreans Mad About Mad Cows

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak won election by the largest margin in a Korean presidential election (in a truly free South Korean election, anyways). He was extremely popular with his conservative policies and promised to be tough on North Korea while friendly with the United States.

Towards the end of his first one hundred days President Lee announced he was going to resume American beef imports that were stopped when two cows, one American, were declared to be suffering from Mad Cow disease back in 2003. Then all hell broke loose. Massive protests are being held, Lee's popularity is now in the teens, and his entire cabinet has offered to resign. Dang.

At first science was the cause of concern (never mind according to the World Organization for Animal Health, the United States is currently recognized as a BSE-controlled country) but the well documented anti-American, pro-North Korean machine has taken over the protests and turn them into hate America rallies.

The protests have greatly harmed President Lee and any efforts to curb North Korea's mad drive as a rogue nation. What a bunch of bull.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Judeo-Christian Outlook on Geography: Part 3

The underworld was an unknown scary and mountains were monuments to God. However, it was the heavens that were the awe-inducers in the ancient Judeo-Christian world. The sky served as God's home and was very exclusive.

The Obvious Factor

There is a certain obvious factor with the heavens. The sky is needed for everything. It is from the sky the Sun's light reaches the earth and rain falls onto the Earth. Another obvious factor with the heaven's awe inspiring ability is its inaccessibility. Caves are explorable and mountains are climbable. But no matter how high you climb or build you cannot reach the heavens.

God Lives Up There

The word "Heaven" comes from the Old English word "heofen" meaning "place where God lives." Back in the days of the story Beowulf it also meant "sky." The idea of God living in the sky was well ingrained in Judeo-Christian thought with passage like Jacob seeing the gate of heaven as the gate to God's home (Genesis 28:17) and God saying he is speaking from Heaven (Exodus 20:22).

No Access

Ancient man did not have the ability to fly so the sky and heavens were seen as unattainable. To attempt to gain access by oneself and not via God was seen as a prime example of man's vanity. The Tower of Babel, E-sag-ila, was meant to be a monument to man's conquest of the heavens according to Genesis 11:1-9. The pseudepigrapha Book of 3 Baruch (3:5-8) tells of how the builders pondered about the very substance of the universe and wanted to see for themselves. God shut down the building fast. Combining this with the hardness of salvation and the sky became a very exclusive club.

The massive sky served as the throne of God. The heavens majesty and inaccessibility awed humans and reminded them of their puniness in the universe. Truly the geography of the cosmos played roles in the Judeo-Christian outlook.

This series will continue in more dispersed, minor posts.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sim City Classic, the Planner's Game, Playable Online

Sim City Classic (or a slightly watered down version of it) is playable online from an Electronic Arts' website (Hat tip Catholicgauzette).

The game is well known to many computer gamers of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Many people look back at it as a fun game played on a map but nothing more. Sim City its successors should be remembered as a serious game for introduction to city planning and even an introduction to GIS.

The game had users design a city by zoning off land, building infrastructure, and keeping the people happy. No one wants to live next to an industrial park, water pipes and power lines are a must, no police equals no peace. My geographical mind loved the fact traffic conditions impacted the virtual people. Want to know if your kid has a future in planning? See how they take to Sim City.

The GIS nature may seem like a stretch but when you think about it makes sense. In Sim City 2000 one had to flip through various views (data layers) to see underground construction and above ground. The two layers were interconnected and impacted each other's development. One could also click on squares and see a data report on property value, location, connectivity, the works. Sounds like Sim Arc to me!

So remember your youth (or at least a younger age) and play Sim City today!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bolivia Slowly Decentralizing

The cultural battle between lowlands and highlands in Bolivia is slowly moving along but making waves. The pro-capitalism, center-right departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando have voted for autonomy and other eastern provinces are weighing the pluses and minuses of a vote.

This is an effort by the culturally Spanish Bolivians to preserve their economic freedoms against the currently more culturally Indian and socialist federal government. The eastern departments due not want independence, they claim they just want to protect themselves in a time of concern.

President Morales has declared the referendums and illegal and vows to preserve the government's rights to rule the departments. For their part the eastern provinces are vowing to push a recall of Morales but any effort will fail due lack of support in the mountainous west.

While their is potential for low level violence with gangs on both sides the military will probably keep order. The military's background is mixed, some have American training in democratic government, and all of the officer's view themselves as protectors of the just constitution. The army will preserve the peace and not interfere unless it feels one side has over stepped the constitution. If that happens, there will be a winner in this cultural battle real quick.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Last night Catholicgauze watched a massive thunderstorm rock Washington D.C. The storm sent lighting to the ground and lit up the night sky. The event inspired today's post.

The formation of the thunderstorm is explained simply yet well done by The Canadian Atlas Online. Warm air rises forming moisture which then turns into clouds. So much moisture is formed that the cloud becomes huge and eventually is shaped into an anvil-shape by the jet stream. The first wave of air becomes cold and falls back to earth with rain. The cold air statically reacts with more rising hot air and lightning is formed.

The storms are more than just "pretty" things in the sky. They create economic benefits (more nitrogen in the ground helps crops grow) and negatives (destroying things). NOAA has a great site that examines lightning from an economic perspective.

In the last 100 years or so a new thing has been noticed with lightning storms. Sometimes after a strike there is a strange green glow from the surface. These are known as "power flashes" and are caused by lightning hitting electrical equipment. They last until before circuit breakers trip and turn off power to the line.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Falling Rain: The Gazetteer

Need to find a place and have the important geographic information? Well then look no further than Falling Rain. The labor of love has not been updated since 2006 but the level of detail practically make that a non-issue. Starting with the country one slowly starts spelling out the place they want to find. Once they do they get a result page like this. Everything from population to cloud cover. Check it out today!

Friday, June 06, 2008

D-Day 2008

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

D-Day, the liberation of Northern France, occurred today sixty-four years ago today. Over 150,000 British, American, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, Belgian, Czech, French, New Zealander, Norwegian, Polish, and others worked together to forge victory against German tyranny.

Catholicgauze salutes all those who fought, and those who died, in their struggle to ensure liberty. God bless you.

2006 D-Day post
2007 D-Day post

Thursday, June 05, 2008

LORAN Being Revamped

The old navigation system LORAN is being brought back in a (mostly) big way. The Department of Homeland Security plans to revamp the old aerial and sea radio navigation system in case GPS goes out. The fear of losing GPS is a real one in our time. Everything from urban jungle, to solar storms, to countries taking out GPS satellites (cough People's Republic of China) could cause outages.

LORAN has its roots in World War II and it is always something to see old technology back up new.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Geography of Denial of Movement

In today’s DC Examiner there is an article about police plans to seal off neighborhoods in an effort to curb crime. The plan is to have police quarantine areas, set up checkpoints, and chase away outsiders. The police then should be able to control the area.

All this is an effort to finally bring order to some of the worst parts of the nation’s capital. The plan has some recent precedents supporting it. Walls in Baghdad have managed to keep fighting neighboring ethnic groups separate. The walls, especially those keeping back Sadr’s Mahdi Army, have been credited in lowering the level of violence. The Israeli government is building barriers between Israel-proper and the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The West Bank Wall is praised by some for preventing infiltration by suicide bombers.

The way denial of movement works is 1) it is harder for an outsider to enter another neighborhood and cause trouble (people usually do not wage violence near their homes) 2) law enforcement has greater ground knowledge of what is going on (it is much easier to control a smaller area than a larger area) and 3) increased police presences acts as a signal showing who is in control.

Civil libertarians are obviously upset at Washington’s plans for neighborhood denial of movement. They are claiming the plan is unconstitutional. Others claim that denial of movement only isolates neighborhoods and makes residents bitterer. They cite the French suburbs where Muslim youth feel abandoned by the state and embrace anti-establishment ideas and violence. Some go further to claim Israel’s defensive walls are actually feeding into the violence.

History has shown denial of movement can be effective if done right. The crackdown must focus on criminals while allowing law-abiding citizens to remain connected to the outside world. Easier said than done. If DC fails to bring peace to the zones it will only breed no-go areas for citizens.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Australian Broadcasting Corporation hates me

%$#@ YOU ABC!

At least Robert Christopherson does not want me dead! ABC has a website that allows kids to rate their CO2 footprint with a twist. The website tells kids when they should die. Wow. TDAXP looks right on the money.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Eurovision as Cultural Geography and the Russia Bloc

Radical Geography points out something interesting about Russia’s Believe Eurovision victory. Apparently Russia won solely because of bloc voting.

All the countries that voted for Russia (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, and Israel) either have large Russian populations left over from the Soviet Union or experienced major Russian immigration.

So what does this mean? Well, on the face of it nothing much. But some observers are wary with the ties ethnic Russians have with the old country. Some fear where the ethnic loyalties lie – something made evident during the Estonian Bronze Soldier Statue War. While this may be making a mountain out of a mole hill – major problems start when cultures do not integrate well and blocs form.

The bloc is not representative of current political feelings towards Russia but clearly indicates pro-Russian cultural leanings. Many feel cultural feelings should be monitored in a time where Russia is pushing movements aboard like "sovereign democracy" and Nashi-style organizations that appear to be fronts for Kremlin activity.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Visit Appalachia gets Neogeography, Cultural Appeal

A news story on how Appalachia is using maps and neogeography to help out with tourism got my attention yesterday. Appalachia has long been viewed by outsiders as a place to avoid; however, during my training experience a few weeks ago I discovered just how rich and diverse the culture is. The new mapping effort is designed to spread the richness of the region to potential tourist. The Visit Appalachia website features online maps that have driving routes that empathize things like music, religion, and nature. The site also makes it easy to print out the routes making it easy to plan.

The effort seems to be on the wave of a new push to combine tourism with easily accessible geography. The big tourism packet with tons of info is expensive and drowns the reader in too much information. New efforts like the above capitalize on customizable maps to present user-selected information on a readable form of media.

Anyone who wants to help their tourism industry should look at the use of maps and neogeography to raise interest in their region.