Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green and Red of Mayo

The song "Green and Red of Mayo" is preformed by the Saw Doctors. The song describes in beauty a county in Ireland and the longing people have had for it. The lyrics are below and an unofficial music video is above. After you listen to song, scroll down for a discussion on the meaning and place.

Oh the Green and Red of Mayo
I can see it still
It's soft and craggy bog lands
It's tall majestic hills
Where the ocean kisses Ireland
And the waves caress its shore
Oh the feeling it came over me
To stay forever more
Forever more

From its rolling coastal waters
I can see Croagh Patrick's peak
Where one Sunday every Summer
The pilgrims climb the reek
Where Saint Patrick in his solitude
Looked down across Clew Bay
And with a ringing of his bell
Called the faithful there to pray
There to pray

Oh take me to Clare Island
The home of Gráinne Mhaol
Its waters harbour fishes
From the herring to the whale
And now I must depart it
And reality is plain
May the time not pass so slowly
'fore I set sail again
Set sail again

The Green and Red of Mayo
I can see it still
Its soft and craggy bog lands
Its tall majestic hills
Where the ocean kisses Ireland
And the waves caress its shore
The feeling it came over me
To stay forever more
Forever more

County Mayo is in western Ireland along the coast of the Atlantic. Many of the former residents emigrated to England and the United States. Many songs of Mayo are nostalgic while taking pride in its wonders.

The geography of Mayo is filled with bogs, mountains, hills, and green landscape. The cultural landscape is Gaelic Catholic. The county is beautiful.

Croagh Patrick is a mountain in Mayo where legend has it Saint Patrick fasted for forty days. At the end of the fast he threw a bell down the hill and banished all snakes from the island. Today pilgrims climb the hill every summer solstice in honor of Saint Patrick.

Clare Island is along the Atlantic coast and is homed to the female pirate Grace O'Malley who remains one of the heroes of Ireland. The pirate led raids against the English occupation of the Ireland.

The Saw Doctors song ends with them leaving Mayo like the emigrants before. But like those of old, there is pride and the happy desire to return.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Department of Defense's Archaeology Playing Cards

When one, if one ever, thinks of how the War on Terrorism affected playing cards the likely sole answer is the Iraq most wanted cards. However, few know that the American Department of Defense also has created playing cards dealing with the archaeology of Iraq and Afghanistan. The moral of the cards can be summed up as "Don't blow things up and don't offend the locals."

The archaeology awareness playing cards (PDF of cards) seeks to impress the importance of archaeology on soldiers. The cards use language that impresses importance to the soldiers like the two of clubs that features the hill in Iraq where Jonah is believed to be buried or the three of diamonds which teaches insurgents sale artifacts, sometimes to soldiers, to finance terrorism.

The cards have limited distribution and hard to come by. However, the fact that soldiers are receiving them is evidence of the Defense Department understanding the correlation between good relations and cultural heritage preservation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

World Hunger Map

Click map to Enlarge
The United Nations Word Food Program created a map in 2006 of undernursument worldwide. The map reflects the common Core and Gap themes with central Africa suffering the worst. However, the second world has noticable problems nurishing their people so malnurishment is not solely a "African and Asian" problem.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Olympic Ad Show Unity, Not Patriotism and Globalization is Not to Blame

There has been some fuss made about some of the Olympic Games advertising done by business. Companies like Coca-Cola and VISA are going out of their way to emphasize themes of cooperation and global unity. The pop company is no longer offering its solely pro-U.S. cans in the United States but is selling pro-Ethiopian, Russian, Thai, and world unity cans as well. VISA has advertisements featuring athletes from various countries. Going back to Coke, they released an ad (below) showing unity between the U.S. and China.

Some will claim these advertisements reflect the globalized era where transnational companies is common and the desire for world unity is strong. These assessments are wrong. Two main factors are in play. Lack of nationalism/patriotism in some Americans who prefer see the Olympics as a world unity event rather than a competition between nations. The second equally important reason is the desire of American companies not to offend the People's Republic of China. The Olympics are P.R. China's coming out party and they take offense to any perceived slight; France is suffering from a massive travel boycott because the Olympic flame was mistreated in Paris over Tibet.

The feelings of "unity" are not universal. In the People's Republic the ads highly tout the Red Chinese team in their effort to dethrone the Americans for most gold. Just check out the ad below where all of China supports their stars.

For a person who grew up with the "American Dream Team" and strong patriotic displays this time is hard to bear. It could be worse though. The games could be tainted by government corruption resulting in disqualification, human rights abuses, banning baseball, and mascots who some believe are harbingers of Hell. Oh wait.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Korea's Second Division Fifty-fifth Anniversary

Hundreds of thousands died for such small geographical change

Fifty-five years ago today the Korean peninsula was divided two, again, in a cease-fire agreement between the United States led United Nations, the People's Republic of China, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK aka North Korea). The Republic of Korea (ROK aka South Korea) refused to sign the cease fire and considers itself still in a legal state of hostilities.

Before the First Korean War the Korean peninsula was divided along the 38th Parallel between American and Russian zones. Both countries agreed in World War II that Korea should form a free and independent buffer zone. However, after the war neither side could agree on a formula for unification. So in 1948 both sides created Korean governments in their zones: communist in the Soviet zone and officially capitalistic but in reality an anti-communist dictatorship in the American zone. Neither government recognized each other and both laid claim to represent all of Korea. This continues to this day.

After a few years of small scale battles the Communists invaded the south. A United States-led United Nations army achieved near victory until the non-UN member People's Republic of China intervened and nearly won a communist victory. Stalemate was achieved after two more years of bloody conflict. A routinely violated demilitarized zone, another war, and a nuclear crises have been the conflict's legacy.

The south has modernized, globalized, and democratized while the despotic north claims it is the champion of the Korean race and it must protect the race from unclean foreigners under a military-style government.

Today both countries (Government sites for South and North claims) think themselves as the Korean government. However, both sides are at opposite extremes of what they want. Little break through is seen until leadership change or collapse happens in the north. The quest for unity continues on the divided peninsula.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fantasy Cartography

Both La Cartoteca and The Map Room have linked to Fantasy Cartography, a blog/depository of maps from fantasy stories Maps of everything from computer games like World of Warcraft, twisted minds like H.P. Lovecraft, to required classics like Lord of the Rings can be found. Catholicgauze knows his women readers will swoon over The Princess Bride maps.

A map can be right up there with the book for those who can read maps. One can easily relive the story by looking at the map and remember the places where events occurred. It is also easy to imagine one's own adventures in these fantasy lands. May my readers get joy and indulge in a little guilty pleasure of part taking in some fantasy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Taliban Key to Victory is Pakistan

Red is where the Pakistani army will not go, purple is de facto Taliban control, and yellow shows Taliban influence in Pakistan. From Long War Journal.

Some have wondered why the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan is going so poorly (well, stagnate would be a better term) while the Iraq front has turned so well. The answer is Pakistan. Pakistan serves a base of operations, safe zone, and recurting ground for operations in the area.

The important thing to remember is the Taliban is not an Afghan insurgency but a Pashtun/Baluchi movement against whatever legal system they find themselves against. The legalities of Afghanistan-Pakistan mean nothing to the tribes. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan is an anything goes ungoverned territory where tribes are allowed to govern themselves.

Recently things have changed for the worse. Not only is FATA a base for operations against the Coalition in Afghanistan, it has become part of the new Pakistani Taliban state. Pakistan has tried several half-hearted attempts to curb the Islamists like in the Swat Valley but mostly the Pakistanis seek "peace treaties" which leave the Taliban in charge. The morale-boosting Taliban victories continues with Pakistan ceding control of Hangu.

It is hard to solve the Pakistan problem. The most obvious answer is to invade the FATA to deny the Taliban safe-heavens. This would follow the Iraq Surge strategy. However, an act like this may collapse the nominally helpful Pakistani government or lead to the rise of an Islamists government. At the very least Pakistani solders would rush to fight against us. So for now we must be content with raids against the Taliban in Pakistan. Hopefully one day we may be able to have Awakening movements against the Pakistani Taliban. But unlike in Iraq where the terrorists were outsiders, the Taliban is representative of the local groups.

The geopolitics and military hurdles of the Pakistani Taliban impose huge problems for the War on Terrorism. They must be solved or this war will only end when we decide to give up and leave.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy

Humans love to impress themselves on the landscape. Monuments have been built dedicated to great people, great events, and themes that can unite populations. But just as triumph is memorialized so is tragedy. Memorials to tragedies can offer lessons, unite people in common cause, or even offer regret for past sins. There is no one way to mark tragedy. Some wish to “make a big deal about it” with monuments ala Flight 93’s crash site while other times people just want to move on. Author and geographer Kenneth Foote describes in detail the four main ways something is marked on the landscape in Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy.

The first style is sanctification. These sites have a form of ceremony which makes them a national, secular scared site. Christening is critical to have a sanctified site. The effort to create and celebrate a sanctified site is part of the monument itself. These sites are considered part of the public domain and meant to be a messenger of a civil religion. The effort and building combined reinforces the values which the culture chooses to value. Sanctified sites are separated from the rest of the landscape. Memorial parks, statues, or buildings in which the purpose has been change to become part of the message, like Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C., are just some examples of sanctified sites.

The second style of memorialization on the landscape according to Foote is designation. Designated sites are deemed important to the culture but are not sanctified. These sites lack a heroic figure or extraordinary event which makes sanctified sites so unique. Like sanctified sites, designated sites tell of past happenings but are less likely to extol virtues of the past. Also, unlike sanctified sties, designated places are still part of the ordinary landscape. Typical examples of designated sites include roadside signs and plaques on side of buildings.

Both sanctification and designation create something on the landscape. Foote’s next two categories feature inaction or negative action. The third style is rectification. Rectification is when a site is put back to its previous use. With rectification there is no marker to tell of past events. The place is simply absorbed into the landscape with nothing to identify it. Rectification is the most common fate for sites of tragedy.

The fourth and final style of memorialization is obliteration. Obliteration is the opposite of sanctification. An intense, group effort is made to destroy a site because it represents the antithesis of what a culture values. Obliterated sites are marked on the landscape as noticeable gaps without official interpretation. When a culture chooses to forget an event by obliterating the site, it ironically keeps the memory alive on the landscape by doing such a rash and noticeable action.

Tragedy is a hard thing to deal with. Like the stages of death of a love one, emotions run high and are varied. Dr. Foote does an excellent job in his easy read yet academic book on how traedgy is marked on the landscape.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

RAND Corporation's Ungoverned Territories

The RAND corporation has been featured on this blog before. They have a wonderful series of reports which explain aspects of military geography. Even geographers who do not dabble in military geography can pick up useful research tips and knowledge.

Lately I have come a book available for order or free PDF download entitled Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks. Using case studies the book identifies "three types of ungoverned territories and their effects on U.S. security interests and develop strategies to improve the U.S. ability to mitigate these effects."

Right now the trend in warfare is smaller scale engagements against non-state actors. These groups cannot hold their own in battle and therefore must use unconventional tactics to attempt to level the playing field. Even more important, to military geographers at least, is that these non-state actors need zones free from government control (and responsibility on a world stage) to build up an organization. The Taliban and al Qaeda have pushed out any nominal Pakistani control in Waziristan, HAMAS forced internationally-recognized Fatah out of Gaza, and FARC had its demilitarized zone. Understanding these lawless lands is the first step in knowing how to end them and severely limit an insurgency’s chance at success.

The book is an easier read and can be picked up almost at any chapter. Educate yourself today on ungoverned territories and their impact on the world.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


We all do it. We all listen to someone else speak and try to pin down the person's background by the way they talk. The vocabulary and tone of one's speech can reveal their home region, their economic class, and even sometimes race.

The use of language as a tool to identify one's background is as old as the story of Shibboleth. In the Bible, two tribes of Israelites fought a war. Gileadites defeated the tribe of Ephraim. The Ephraimites tried to retreat back to their homeland and were stopped at the border. However, the Ephraimites tried to blend into the refugees. The Gileadites decided they would use language to catch the Ephraimites. A test composed of saying the word "Shibboleth" was made. Since the Ephraimites native dialect did not have the "sh" sound, they were easily discovered and killed (the people in the Old Testament did not have the Geneva Conventions).
  • Gilead then cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever Ephraimite fugitives said, 'Let me cross,' the men of Gilead would ask, 'Are you an Ephraimite?' If he said, 'No,' they then said, 'Very well, say Shibboleth.' If anyone said, 'Sibboleth', because he could not pronounce it, then they would seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites fell on this occasion. Judges 12:5-6 (New Jerusalem Bible)
Shibboleths today range from jokes, local phrases, to popular culture terms. Plenty of tests and mapping has been done on how the use of language in today's word can pin someone's home region.

Shibboleths are more than just innocent words that allow one to try to guess where someone lives. Some business travellers learn Shibboleths so they can "drop" them into a conversation at the right time and appear as one "in the know" and trustworthy. Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan listen have interpreters who listen for language use from Arabs, Pashtuns, Uzbeks and other groups looking for outsiders. While it is illegal to discriminate based on national origin, surprisingly it is legal to discriminate in the work force based on how someone talks whether it be vulgar or the person merely uses his native dialect.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Point of Conflict: Sheeba Farms

Map of the Sheeba Farms. Borders by Google recognized by the United Nations, Israel, and sometimes Syria. Borders disputed by Hezbollah and Lebanon.

Eighteen farms on the Golan Heights form the Sheeba farms. There is nothing particularly valuable about the farms or the land on which they sit on. However, the Sheeba farms continue to be the stated reason for conflict that has killed over a thousand and threatens the war in the Middle East.

The farms sit right along the Israeli Golan Heights border (or Israeli occupied Syria, depending on who one asks) and Lebanon. Israel claims since it is part of the Golan Heights conquered from Syria that it is unrelated to its withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah claims that the farms are part of occupied Lebanon and therefore justifies the terrorists group right to keep arms as a resistance organization. The whole "resistance" claim creates enough popular support so that Hezbollah and ignore United Nations resolutions calling it to disarm like the other militias after the Lebanese Civil War (though Hezbollah keeping arms and using it against other Lebanese groups has led to Sunnis in the Future Movement to rearm).

The United Nations considers the farms to be part of Syria occupied by Israel. Israel counts the UN's belief as a victory because the UN does not think the farms are part of Lebanon. Lebanon claims it has records from the 1940s which show the farms to be Lebanese even though government maps from the 1960s show the farms as Syrian. Meanwhile, Syria itself will claim the territory is either Syrian or Lebanese on any random moment. So with Syria fluctuating and Lebanon/Hezbollah's assistance, the issue will like remain contentious.

The Sheeba Farms are a classic case example that political geographic issues are not solved easily just because one side has greater legal geographic evidence.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Map of Governments' Reactions to Food Worries

Coming Anarchy features the above map, based on information from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, showing prohibiting exports and implementation of tariffs by countries in response to the global food crisis.
Right now there is plenty of food to go around. However, as with the food crisis in Africa of the 1980s and 1990s the problem is mostly in logistical distribution. Government interference on trade will artificially modify prices and make losers out of those who rely on trade to have adequate food stuffs.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Earth Broadcasts like a Beacon

Since the 1970s scientists have known the Earth broadcasts radio waves that bounce off the ionosphere. However, recent research has discovered the radio waves bounce off the ionosphere in a beam-like fashion making the Earth a location easier to listen to and better able to locate.

The discovery shows it is possible that other planets broadcast the same way making the discovery of Earth-sized objects, currently neigh-on-impossible with the "see if the star wobbles" method, much easier.

What does the Earth sound like? In one word: awful. Classical musicians like Gustav Holst made wonderful compositions inspired by the planets. Others have made songs of the planets with each planet representing moods: Earth being safe and calming, Mars sounding abandoned and scarred, ex-planet Pluto sounding soft and desolate. Count me as one who does not want to hear the radio soundtrack for the planets.

Space may be a vacuum where no "normal" sounds as we know them are heard but that does not mean it is silent. Radio waves from stars, pulsars, and bouncing off objects makes space a very noisy place. Maybe one day man will be able to navigate the heavens not only with star maps but also echolocation like sonar.

Friday, July 18, 2008


NATO has an online game that tests players ability to locate countries by flag, capital, and flag & capitals. Players have a choice of locating NATO members, NATO partners, or NATO Mediterrian Diaglouge members.

Sadly the game continues the pet peeve of bad cartography. At first I was willing to overlook the semi-submerged Azeribajian but then two glarring problems reared their ugly heads. Cambodia is completely underwater and the People's Republic of China has annexed the northeastern corner of Pakistan! Kosovo, East Timor, and the Koreas are also gone! What the heck sort of data are they using!

This is NATO for crying out loud!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Learn Geography with

Matt over at Geography at About has renovated and revitalized his free thirteen-week e-mail geography course. For anyone who wants to know the basics of geography this is a very good starting point. Home schoolers and parents should take special note.

Meanwhile Catholicgauze's online course would consist of Introduction to World Regions, Basic Overview of Physical Geography, Why Cultural Geography Matters, Learn Geography Before You Make Your Stupid Maps!, Catholicgauze's Grand Geopolitical Theories, How to Send Stuff to Catholicgauze while he is in Iraq, and last but not least Why Catholicgauze deserves an honorary Ph.D (because bad geo professors have the real thing).

That is why Catholicgauze will never have an online class (I was kept in check when I taught in person).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Standard of Living versus Scale of Living

Long time readers may have noted I never have used the term "standard of living." The reasoning behind the reason why I instead use the term "scale is living" is something all human geographers should understand.

The way "standard of living" is used is almost always in averages. People have 2.5 children, 1.4 televisions per household and other examples give a "standard" that people live under. While standard of living gives a nice benchmark for people or societies to aim for it is unrealistic. Almost rarely is anyone "average" in the sense they have the exact "standard" (who can have .5 kids?). The presence of outliers can spoil standards. If seven people make $10 a month but three people make $100 a month the standard of living is $37 a month. No one is close to the standard then.

Instead I use "scale of living." Scale of living creates a range which a majority, usually two-thirds but it can vary, can be expected to live in. For example, the average family will have between two and four kids or a dozen to sixteen paid vacation days gives a more accurate picture of quality of life enjoyed by most. It is much harder for outliers to skew data. Going back to the first example the scale would be "$10 to $100 a month." The large scale difference also class shows gaps better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oceandots: An Atlas of Islands

Great cartographic work and beautiful satellite imagoes are pieces of art to me. They rank right up there with the classics by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Poussin. Oceandots serves as a great example of such.

Oceandots is an atlas of images of various islands around the world. Each island page features various satellite images of the island along with information. It is a fascinating page for reference and enjoyment.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Kosovo Not on Online or Newspaper Maps

It has been almost five months since the Republic of Kosovo was declared and since recognized by a current total of 44 countries.

The mapping world is slow to recognize the change though. The big online three: Google Maps, Microsoft's Live Maps, Yahoo Maps; do not have a free Kosovo. National Geographic, MapQuest (has pre-2006 Serbia), and Maporama also have lack Kosovo. The Weather Channel gets the nod for the worst mapping with not only a pre-2006 Serbia (plus Montenegro) but for some reason West Berlin as well.

Newspapers such as USA Today, Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune all have Kosovo as part of Serbia both on their maps.

The only places to find Kosovo maps online are Geography at About and MultiMap. However, depending on the zoom there is a free Kosovo, no free Kosovo, or a pre-2006 Serbia and Montenegro!

So what is to blame for no Kosovo on maps? The still lacking neigh-on-universal recognition for the new state? Somesort of Serbian conspiracy that owns all popular mapping businesses? Or is it just computer jockeys using software with no knowledge of geography? I think it is ten percent of the first and ninety percent of the latter. Geographers and cartographers are desperately needed in today's world. It is no wonder why kids cannot find countries on the map if are educational tools are wrong.

Note: The Weather Channel's maps are really bad. Two Yemens: those united in 1990.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Geography of French Wines

Wine geography has been mentioned on this blog before but I have received requests for more information. The Ventura County Star does a much better job than a mere observer like me can do with its French wine geography story. The lesson points out that French wine is labelled by region unlike Californian wine that is labelled by grape type. There are six regions of France's wine making country and each one is unique. Check out the story to find out more.

Interesting note on Franco-American cooperation: The Great French Wine Blight nearly destroyed France's wine industry. In a last ditch effort to stop the blight French vines were grafted on America roots that were immune from the disease. It worked. So if you like wines drink French and enjoy the cross-Atlantic cooperation!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Return of Global Dimming

A while back the theory of global dimming made many afraid of pollution cloud caused global cooling. However, fears of global warming and the desire for clean, breathable skies have pushed global dimming out of mind. Well, its back.

The American Geophysical Union recently published Aerosol and cloud effects on solar brightening and the recent rapid warming. The paper uses evidence to theorize that the recent drive to clean our skies of pollution aerosols has increased the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth and has aided the greenhouse effect in warming the Earth.

This, if true, is a prime case of good intentions pave the road to Hell. No one can deny that the Earth is a massively complex system and ideas that tinker with processes like climate cycles need to be fully weighed before initiated. Clean skies seems like a simple, noncontroversial idea. However, it serves as a warning from jumping to conclusions.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Map of Income Spent on Fuel, Food, and Drink

Click to Enlarge

After seeing the above map from The Economist one must think the rest of the world views Western Europe and North America as a bunch of whiny babies. With gas prices so high there are news stories in the United States about people cutting back on vacations, luxury items, eating out, and even medicine to afford the high cost of fuel. It is hard to have much sympathy though when there are food riots around the world because people cannot afford to eat.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Baghdad's Landscape after the War

The War in Iraq is still on going but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. If the Iraqi government and allies manage to defeat al Qaeda's axis then the long road of recovery can finally be attended to with full attention. One question that, while on one hand seems trivial yet does have implication, is how Baghdad's landscape and "culturescape" memorialize the fighting. How it does will have an impact on future generations.

Before we continue on about Baghdad's path let us look at some possible routes.
  • Berlin and other West German cities: World War II was hard on German cities. Many of these cities suffered complete destruction. The Nazi Era was so shameful and the war so hard for Germans that the landscape was rebuilt pre-1933 (new building was modern, though) while the people became progressive, always trying to avoid the past.
  • Berlin and other East German cities: Cities in the east were destroyed too. Instead of looking back on the past the landscape was meant to bear the marks of the war. Old cathedrals were left damaged as monuments to Nazi/Ally aggression while monuments were dedicated to the common bond of the Russian and German worker. The people gobbled up a new propaganda looking to place blame on others. Eastern Germany remains a mess today.
  • Northern Ireland has a unique route. With the Troubles over the war landscape has become on of adaption, not avoidance or destruction. The Euro party scene has taken over the infrastructure of war and murals fight the battle between past and future.

Baghdad is not completely in ruins. There are some hard hit neighborhoods, the relatively untouched Green Zone, many places with some damage but not alot, then there are the outskirt slum shantytowns that are in need of basic infrastructure. Obviously modern-style, building up is in needed for a major capital city with so many people so keeping things the in ruble ala East Germany is a very unlikely possibly unless al Qaeda wins and wishes to make Baghdad an example of Western aggression against Islam. Going back to the past is not an option as neo-Babylonian style reminds the Shia and Kurds of its use by Saddam's Baathist Party.

The only real question left then is what to do with the walls. Walling off neighborhoods helped keep rival groups out of sight and mind. There presence has impacted how people get around the city and how they think of the city itself i.e. separate communities rather than one giant, collective mass. The walls may stay to serve as security, they may remain but become art pieces like the Berlin Wall, or they may remove as Baghdadis learn that they are all citizens.

Landscape of a city does not make culturescape but there is a interrelationship. If Baghdad improves to a good but not well state a Northern Ireland-style of adaptation but keeping walls in place "just in case" is probable. If things turn out well though the landscape and culturescape will be like West Germany where the war is over in all regards.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Has Chavez Created His Own Church?

Way back in 2006 this blogged looked at rumors that Hugo Chavez was plotting his own church to advance his socialist ideals. It now seems that the ball is in play with the establishment of the Reformed Catholic Church of Venezuela (RCCV).

The RCCV is a bit of a chimera. It uses Catholic titles, catholic sacraments, the Anglican Book of Common Prayers, and was established by rogue clergy of the Anglican, Lutheran, and Catholic Churches. While claiming to be free of politics, the group is openly pro-Chvaez, claims to support the poor, and has liberal views on divorce, celibacy, and homosexuality. Several bishops were ordained (unknown exactly how) in Ciudad Ojeda. It appears the group has about 3,000 members right now.

Meanwhile the Anglican Church denies it is involved in RCCV's founding while the Catholic Bishops of Venezuela have denounced it. Archbishop Roberto Luckert has gone as far as claiming President Chavez is funding the RCCV with oil money.

RCCV combines two legacies in Latin America: Liberation Theology and national governments trying to control the churches. RCCV is clearly an arm of Chavez's goals trying to combine all elements (including God) with remaking society in a communist image. With controlling the churches Chavez continues in the long line of both conservative and leftist governments trying to play politics with the church. Latin American governments have tried to disestablish churches, crush them completely, or use them for their own purposes.

In Venezuela the RCCV should have little impact in part because of the strong Catholic backlash and the fact the Church has played a smaller than Latin American-normal role in Venezuelan affairs in the past. Though if the RCCV plays missionary it could serve as another propaganda/spy arm for Chavez.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Harpers Ferry: Geography Matters

Catholicgauze spent his Fourth of July weekend hiking around Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The beautiful country side was as hilly as my homeland is flat. Trees covered the hills, small towns climbed with the trees, and roads travelled every which way seeking the path of least resistance. While hiking it came to mind how Harpers Ferry is a perfect example of why geography matters and how everything intertwines with the science.

The area has a rich geologic history (PDF map). Millions of years of water advances, retreats, and land uplift created mountains. The most important factor though to Harpers Ferry was the cutting of the rock by water. Both the present-day Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers managed to carve the landscape and meet up where the town is now located. The rivers were able to cut through most of the rock while harder rocks fell into the river.

The meeting of the two rivers created an prime place for settlement in the years right before the American Revolution. A ferry allowed land transport because while the rivers were still wide enough for boat travel rapids blocked access. The town was considered the last place of civilization before the great American wilderness.

George Washington scouted the area for canal improvements after the war and fell in love with Harpers Ferry. When Washington became president he saw a use for Harpers Ferry; the town was sixty miles away from the future capital and would provide a good fall back point in case of invasion. So Washington established a federal armory at Harpers Ferry. The armory contained over 10,000 guns and plenty of supplies to wage war.

The munitions at Harpers Ferry attracted interest. John Brown, the anti-slavery zealot wanted in Kansas for murder, decided to bring the fight for freedom to the east. Working with members of his Kansas militia Brown trained for a raid into the town to seize the armory in 1859. It failed. After the raid it was revealed Brown had financial backing from Northerners and plotted to start slave rebellions all throughout the South. What was most frightening was that the attacked happened in the east ("close to home" and not out in the wild country of Kansas). These facts scared almost every military-age Southerner into militia training. The training helped Southerners win battles and prolong the Civil War by years. Hundreds of thousands would die because of the skills Southerners learned because of the raid.

In a series of connections the millions of years of geomorphology helped start and prolong the Civil War. In geography, like Harpers Ferry, everything is interconnected.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Place Spotting: Playing Hide and Go Seek on Google Maps

Reader Martin sent me a link to his website Place Spotting. The website is a fun place to try out hide and go seek on Google Maps with friends and can even be used for educational purposes.

What one does is find a zoomed-in image on Google Maps, create hints on how to find it (i.e. in a Slavic country, capital building of President so-and-so), and then post it to the website. Anyone can try it out but there is also an option to e-mail friends the quiz.

According to Martin there are 6,638 different quizzes stored, 108274 quizzes were solved and 927,275 opened. The language of the users seems divided between English and German so some may be hard to solve but try out the English ones anyways.

For the first quiz try to see where Catholicgauze was Fourth of July weekend!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy July 4th!

God Bless America!
July 4th helped create a new world...
... and is my mom's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!)
Catholicgauze will be taking the weekend off and do a small adventure on the Appalachian Trail
Blogging to resume on Monday

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Foreign-Born Communities of America

A spat of recent news stories have documented immigration in the United States. Life experiences as well have confirmed the presence of large immigrant communities (in certain parts of the D.C. metro English is the foreign language).

Immigrants tend to live in enclaves that offer social support and ease (and sometimes stop) the process of assimilation into the home country. According to the U.S. Census’ 2006 data the metro areas with the largest percentage of foreign born are

Los Angeles, California – 34.2
El Centro, California – 32.6
San Francisco, California - 29.6
New York, New York and New Jersey – 28.2
El Paso, Texas – 27.5
Laredo, Texas
– 27.4
Merced, California – 26.4
Yuma, Arizona – 26.3
Washington, D.C. and Virginia – 20.1

While Los Angeles’ foreign-born population percentage may seem large it does not come close to what has been dubbed the most multinational city in the world: Toronto. For reference:

Toronto, Canada – 45
London, United Kingdom
– 27.1
– 17.6
Mexico City – 0.7

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Junky Heavens

Anyone flying by must think we are trashy. From the European Space Agency

Looking up at the night sky is an awe-inspiring thing. Seeing the wide open heavens with its stars makes one think of all the wonders floating in the vast nothingness. The view; though, is deceptive. About 13,000 pieces of man made objects orbit the Earth creating a ring and sphere of a junkyard. According to NASA about 95% of objects orbiting the Earth is junk.

There are some neat diagrams and informational sites about space junk. La Cartoteca links to the European Space Agency's website featuring three dimensional diagrams. NASA has a website dedicated to the space junk issue. And Space-Track tries to catalogue all the junk up there.

Space junk is way too small to affect tidal patterns; also since they are in semi-stable orbital patterns space craft and still fly around them with few concerns. However, whenever one falls to the ground there is a chance for damage to property and pollution by hazardous materials. Solving the space junk issue is on the back burner of many minds but still should be considered.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Is Beauty Foreign?

Beauty is a common goal of almost all yet no one can seem to agree on what exactly beauty is. A frequent point on beauty is that it is something only a few have. Because of that point beauty is something exotic. However, the geographer in me wonders if beauty is something foreign.

There are many cases of a culture admiring rare traits of a foreign group. Ancient Greeks believed the blackness of Ethiopians was a sign of the gods' favor. Slavs, especially Russian women, will dye their hair red in an effort to mimic redheads of Western Europe. Indians historically favor fair skin due to the Aryan invasion but the trend has been revised in part by upper caste/class India integration with Europeans and Americans. Surveys have shown Mexicans are attracted to lighter skin. Finally, Americans historically have tried to copy the latest fashion trends from Europe.

While none of this is conclusive it does seem that beauty can be a rare foreign trait. Rariety, exoticness, and sign of social status all seem to combine into a formula. This makes beauty something one can never truely have unless they cheat like dye their hair or adopt foriegn dress... or at least that is what people tell themselves. Being happy with what one has, their own cultural traits, appears hard to do when somebody else has something so "beautiful."

There is a dark side though. Sometimes traits can be viewed as repulsive like black skin to "Enlightened-age" Europeans, black skin to Indians, and too-many American Indian features to mixed-blood Mexicans. Sadly racism is easily tied into what is beautiful and what is not.