Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Israel Hamas War on Google Earth

Online geographers are keeping busy as yet another war in the Middle East breaks out. A Google Earth user only known as "IsraelForiegnMinistry" has released a KML file that shows Hamas rocket impact sites in Israel around the Gaza Strip. The file can be viewed on Google Maps or the KML can be downloaded for Google Earth. Date is appears up to date as of December 31, 2008.

While the Israeli Defense Force has started their own YouTube channel I doubt this is a public release from the Israeli government. However, it is a sign of the times how neogeography is using the tools of the information age to quickly convey geographic data. This reminds me of my Russia-Georgia War maps for Google Earth and Google Maps.

In the future I hope for better sourcing of data (something I am guilty of) and a community effort to perfect products. Anyone who is interested in something like this feel free to contact me so we can work together.

Kunyas: Nicknames that are Names

Catholicgauze writes in and discusses the lack of a proper naming system in the Middle East.

You may or may not know the word "kunya" but in one way or another you probably have already heard of a kunya. Educational materials on Arab culture or the Middle East will teach you that kunyas are honorific names/titles used by Arabs. What is generally taught is that someone named "Abu Umar" is the father of a child named Umar. "Umm Umar" would be the mother of Umar. Meanwhile an Ibn Thahr is the son of a Thahr.

All Catholicgauze can say is that is how the system was meant to work but no longer does (or in my sleep-deprived thinking, "Lies! Horrible Lies!). In today's modern Middle East the kunya has devolved into nicknames that can be used in place of true birth names on almost anything expect official government documents. People will take a kunya to tie themselves with popular historical figures, their profession, even favorite sports stars.

What is truly something else is one can have a kunya for certain situations. For instance, your friends may know you as "Abu Ahmad" after your son but your your co-workers may know you as "Abu Jindal" after the local soccer star. Surprisingly your family may not know you use the kunya Abu Jindal. So a co-worker could call your home, ask for an "Abu Jindal," and be told no one by that name lives there. Your co-workers may not know your true name so any attempts to reach you would end in vain right then and there.

Catholicgauze has encountered this problem already and plans on many more name searches. I can only imagine how people who live in the Middle East manage to work around this kunya problem.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Classic Gauze: Mormon Geography Battle

Nothing can make control of place more heated then when religion is involved. When people believe God tells them that the land is there. Look at the battle over Jerusalem in general or Eastern Orthodox versus Armenian Orthodox over who can lite candals at the Church of the Holy Sepulcure.

A low-intensity, realitively unknown religious place battle currently goes on in Independence, Missouri. Three branches of Mormonizism fight for control of the Temple Lot, a place where they believe the Garden of Eden was and where Jesus will return.
Originally published September 20, 2007

Top left of the intersection: Community of Christ Temple
Top right of the intersection: Latter Day Saint Museum
Bottom right of the intersection: Community of Christ auditorium of Community of Christ
Bottom right: House is the headquarters of Church of Christ Temple Lot

Geography plays a big role in religion. The whole concept of a "holy land" brings the cosmos onto Earth. For many the holy land is the land in and around the country of Israel. For others the holy land extends down into Saudi Arabia. For Mormons there is another holy land. This one is located in Independence, Missouri and known as the Temple Lot.

The Temple Lot is a hill to the west of downtown Independence (presently a eastern suburb of Kansas City, Missouri). It is here where Mormon founder Joseph Smith Jr. declared the spot of the Garden of Eden and where a temple would stand that Jesus Christ would visit during his second coming.

Smith intended western Missouri to be the home for Mormonism. However, the New England "bloc" living Mormons were outcasts in an individualistic, slave-owning Missouri. Tick-for-tat terrorist raids on both sides followed up by an extermination order from the governor of Missouri forced the Mormons out and into Illinois.

The importance of the Temple Lot was not lost; however. Mormon theology still teaches Jesus will visit a temple on the grounds. Therefore a temple must be built. Splits in Mormonism have complicated this. Three branches of the religion claim property on or near the lot.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Days Saints (LDS aka Utah Mormons aka the biggest branch of Mormonism) have a visitor center for historical tourists and the headquarters for their local bishops. The LDS does a good job keeping the history of itself in people's minds and on the landscape.

The Community of Christ (CoC) has its own temple. The CoC's presence is reflective of its relationship to LDS. The CoC split off from LDS after the death of Joseph Smith Jr. The CoC rejected what they claim were inventions by Brigham Young and brought the church closer in line with mainline Protestantism. The temple is open to all (unlike LDS temples) and dedicated to peace throughout the world. Inside everyone is welcomed to take a self-guided tour which one symbolically receives all the CoC's sacraments.

The final player is the Church of Christ Temple Lot. Temple Lot believes that towards the end Jospeh Smith lost his way and his last prophesies were false. This group has tried repeatedly to build a temple but has been delayed because of economical downturns, legal challenges, and arson. The Church is small in membership and does not have relations with any other off-shoot. There small building is a monument to their isolation.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Socio-Economic Hierarchy of Iraqi Salesmen

Catholicgauze writes from Iraqi describing his thoughts on salesmanship

"Hello my friend!" "Yes, yes, yes." "Please come in."

Those words I hear often. Fortunately for me I now have a good reputation so the words now have meaning behind them, but every American who visits an Iraqi shop is likely to hear that. After hearing these words and seeing the various shops many times, I noticed there is a hierarchy of salesmen. This hierarchy correlates with the status of the Iraqi and reflects how the average American will view the seller.

Common Iraqi
Who: Anyone but tendency towards older couple, sometimes women
Goods: General, things found in the household
Where: Anywhere, sometimes along roads

Common Iraqis were the first to sell to Americans. These people simply set up a table and displayed all their stuff on a blanket. They offer nothing fancy but in their supply of plates, homemade blankets, etc. are a few pieces of gold jewelry, small handmade furniture, and old Iraqi army equipment. Common Iraqis speak little to no English but can communicate the necessary "ten dollars" and "thank you."

Iraqi Salesman
Who: Moderately educated person with a supply chain
Goods: Things like flags, blade weaponry, electronics, and ornamental goods.
Where: The skillful ones are found on American bases

The Iraqi salesman has thousands of years of Arab trader culture in his blood, a good supply chain, and a decent command of English. They can be very talkative and friendly if one wants to start a conversation. Iraqi salesmen frequently go on month long trips to American bases and send the money back home. Many have worked with both the American military and Iraqi government to allow shops to be placed on bases. Unfortunately, groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq hate these people as collaborators and I have heard of a few who were murdered in the past.

Iraqi DVD Pirate
Who: Younger males with Internet access and a DVD burner
Goods: DVDs of movies, television shows, and documentaries
Where: American bases

Want to see Twilight but you are over 1,000 miles away from an English movie theater? Need a 2001 National Geographic documentary? Well, if the Iraqi DVD Pirate does not have it, he can go online and burn you a copy for five dollars. These pirates work in groups and will live on bases like Iraqi salesmen. Most have a fair understanding of English but have a great knowledge of [American] pop culture. Trustworthiness is determined by Americans by the basis of the DVD's quality. Some are poor video camera feed while others were produced by professional equipment in a movie theater. The best quality is the straight DVD rip. There are legitimate American DVDs for sale on base but those are full price. The Iraqi DVD pirate is the unchallenged master of his field.

Iraqi Seamster [tailor]
Who: Iraqi (and some Indian) men with knowledge of the sewing machine
Goods: Anything that can be sewn
Where: American bases

Iraqi sewers have broad appeal with a higher priced product. Want an Iraqi flag with your name and dates of service on it? Sure thing! Want backpack with military camouflage and your favorite football team's logo on it? No problem. These men show that there is profit and no shame in male sewing. They work in groups with only one person who needs to know English. Some Indians have come over as well to earn money with their skills. Officers, group leaders, and the memento seeking enlisted man are all primary customers of the Iraqi seamster.

The Turks
Who: Turkish traders
Goods: If it is expensive, they have it
Where: American bases

The Turks are an outsider but they are on top of the hierarchy. Leather coats; $500 handmade marble chess sets; jewelry; and fine carpets are their goods. The Turks occupy a sort of mixed ground. They have the Middle Eastern background but many would be best defined as European based on their clothing (especially the liberated women). Some Turkish stories have Iraqis who help the customers look for things while the Turks handle the money. Every American who is on a base knows that when one goes shopping at the Turkish store, one wants to buy some fine gifts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

I may be in Iraq but that does not mean I miss my father's Nativity set now by the fireplace

Unto us a child was born who would redeem and save humanity. Let us remember his life and his many messages. Peace be upon you and the world.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Czarists v. Kaiserites!

Via Strange Maps, this incredible electoral map of Poland superimposed on the 1914 borders of Imperial Germany and Imperial Russia


The gnxp thread has some good observations. Anyone know how this map squares with post-WWII resettlement patterns?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rat Map of New York City

The interface seems designed to frustrate me, but Eddie points me to New York City's rat map, along with an article in Time describing it.

Personally, I think rabbit is the most delicious rodent.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow Rollers!

The Keloland blog has a post about snow rollers in South Dakota.

Some more info on snow rollers, from Wikipedia:
A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made.

Unlike snowballs made by people, snow rollers are typically cylindrical in shape, and are often hollow since the inner layers, which are the first layers to form, are weak and thin compared to the outer layers and can easily be blown away, leaving what looks like a doughnut or jelly roll. Snow rollers have been seen to grow as large as two feet in diameter.

At least they weren't making mysterious quacking sounds!

Classic Gauze: Geography Books of Evil

Reading geography books is fun. One not only knows about the world but also can use the book as a looking glass into the world view of the author and the author's culture. American textbooks relate things to the United States while Nigerian geography books focus on Africa and the influence of Europeans.

The Nazi and East German books featured in Geography Books of Evil not only teach geography but focus on the superiority of their systems. The Nazis killed eleven million in their camps (not to mention the millions on the battlefield) while Communism is well into the 100+ million. Examine the worldviews and compare it to yourself.

In research class yesterday I read social geographers criticisms of GIS. One of the charges was that GIS is "evil" because it was "partly funded by the military." I'll put up a scan latter. I was floored by this claim of "evilness" in Geography. The fact that the claim came from a field of geography infested by Marxists only made me more dumbfounded.

So I wondered if I could find any really evil Geography. Then, like a sign from above, the German Propaganda Archive from Calvin College provided everything I needed.

First up are excerpts from a Nazi Geography book. The book rants on how Germans "need more space." The classic Nazism in this book is:

  • Our development into an industrial state dependent on world markets was intensified by the economic losses resulting from the dictates of Versailles. The dependence on world capital, controlled by Jewry, became intolerable.

The second evil book is a civics book from the Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany). I recommend reading it to laugh at the claims of peaceful socialism and the three imperial, capitalist powers- the USA, Japan, and EC.

Maybe the East Germans weren't completely evil. The third book explains why it was good for Germany to give land to Poland. At least the East Germans understood this point while West Germany continued to make road maps of Imperial Germany.

Category: Books

Friday, December 12, 2008

Under the Full Moon

[Editor's note: Catholicgauze emails from Iraq...]

The moon is closer than it has been in the last fifteen years due to its elliptical orbit. Combining this with the fact that it is full and the sands of Iraq here are white makes tonight a very bright one. I have done a bit of walking in between briefings and it is the first night here that I have not needed a flashlight. Usually the dead of night is pitch black, truly black. However, now I have a long range of sight and can even make out a few colors that are usually lost to night's overriding hue. Many stars are also blocked out in the moon's light pollution. Orion is still visible as he crosses the night sky and so are a few meteorites. It is very still out here. Almost no sounds what so ever. Just me and the wind in the leaves of the tropical trees.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Unemployment rate by US State

Screen Shot of MSNBC's Interactive Unemployment Rate Map
September 2007-present

MSNBC has an interactive map displaying the unemployment rate by month for each State, starting with September 2007 up to present day. You can scroll around, or let it play, to see the timeline progress.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas 2008: Why It Did Not Happen Now

Arab Tribesman: **Arabic**

Translator: He says some camelmen came across the border and are
eating his sheep's grass.

Field Analyst: I better alert the task force. (Grabs Radio) Task
Force, this is ground. Got some fast movers coming across my grid.

Task Force: Roger, sending up a Predator UAV now.

(In Task Force HQ - Giant TV screen shows Predator feed)

Analyst 1: Sir, looks like we got a camel convoy coming across the Euphrates
Commander: Better send a ground assault force.

(Later an assault force meets up with the convoy)

Soldier 1: Halt, identify yourself.

Wise Man: We are Wise Men from the East.

Soldier 2: What are you doing here?

Wise Man: We are on our way to meet our Savior.

Soldier 1: Better get on the horn, we got some Mahdi freaks. What do
you have here?

Wise Man: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh

Soldier 2: Where are you going with these goods?

Wise Man: To Bethlehem.

Solider 1: (On the radio) Command, we got some Iranian Mahdits on
their way to give supplies to Palestinians. Request orders.

Radio: Detain them.

Biking in Iraq

Problem: There is point A where I am at. Then there is point B which is too far to walk.
Solution: Bike it.

I got a bike and now I can go on the hardened sand surfaces of Iraq. The thin, white layer of powdery sand is not a problem as long as I go fast enough. I was so excited when I got the bike because I love cycling so much and its a great chance to see the outdoors. Nature on the other hand was not so cooperative. First it started to rain in the desert. Not too hard but the white powder became a thin layer of mud. However, it was still ridable and the bike has mud guards over the wheels. Then, a cold front with wind came. It is a cold night in the lower fifties with the possibility of upper forties. Good thing there was rain otherwise I could be outside in a cold duststorm.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Corruption Perceptions Index 2008

CPI 2008

Today is International Anti-Corruption Day.
Every year the NGO Transparency International (TI), releases their Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that measures the perceived levels of public-sector corruption.

While you can take a look at their handy chart, their CPI world map (above) is likewise also very useful.

Some findings include:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Geography at the Nobel Prize Ceremony

There is a firestorm over comments made by Paul Krugman (this year's Nobel Prize winner in Economics, a New York Times writer, and normally a reliable liberal) that the the US automakers will disappear:

"It will do so because of the geographical forces that me and my colleagues have discussed," the Princeton University professor and New York Times columnist told reporters in Stockholm. "It is no longer sustained by the current economy."

Krugman won the 10 million kronor (US$1.4 million) Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for his work on international trade patterns. Some of his research on economic geography seeks to explain why production resources are concentrated in certain locations.

On his blog, Krugman clarifies that he means the Detroit auto industry will disappear -- it will be just fine in other partys of the country.

Krugman's remarks were not off-the-cuff, but come from his presentation that discusses economic geography - here are two of his slides (links from Krugman's blog and Marginal Revolution):

Over at tdaxp, I note Krugman's argument that higher oil prices can decrease oil supply, as well as Krugman's call for public investment.

Classic Gauze: International Baseball Realms

Baseball is an American game that has spread throughout different regions of the world. Each realm has its own history and style. The hybridization of baseball mirrors the hybridization, or "corruption", of universals in the process of globalization

Originally published June 28, 2007

The Cores and Peripheries of World Baseball

Professional baseball has expanded into Israel. The Israel Baseball League hosted its first game as the Modi'in Miracle crushed the Petach Tikva Pioneers nine to one. Israel joins the international baseball community with this modern reintroduction of the sport. Baseball was frequently played in Old Testament Israel but lost favor with Saint Paul's career in NASCAR.

Israel now joins the international world of baseball. Baseball's distribution can be broken down into three core and three periphery zones.

The historic home of baseball is the American Core. Baseball evolved from the British game of rounders. Throughout the 1700 and 1800s the game was played with a variety of rules until "Knickerbocker Rules" became the basis of the modern game. Today the American core is comprised of the United States and southern Canada. Baseball once was the major national sport in America but has lost out to football.

The Hispano Core has historic ties with the American Core. Cubans played baseball as early as the 1860s. The game was played by American sailors and Cubans who were schooled in the United States. Baseball was even viewed as a threat by Spanish authorities who viewed it as a protest against Spanish cultural traditions like bull fights. Emigration from Cuba during its revolution brought the game to the Dominican Republic. Cultural interaction with the United States brought the sport to Panama, Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico. Many Major Leagues play in the Hispano Core's winter leagues. Recruiting by the Major Leagues is heavy in the Hispano Core.

The Far East Core has a history as long as the Hispano Core. Professor Horace Wilson brought Baseball to Japan in the 1870s. The game slowly gained popularity. Before World War II, Major League Baseball players traveled to Japan in order to play in exhibition games and operate sports clinics. Baseball was viewed negatively in Korea because of its Japanese popularity. The permanent stationing of American military reintroduced the game. Today Japan and South Korea are bitter rivals whose players are being scouted by the Major Leagues. The Far East Core proved its worth with Japan's victory over Cuba in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

The Far East Periphery is an area where baseball is growing in popularity. Taiwan received baseball from Japan but the game was long viewed as a child's activity. Taiwan is a major player in the Little League World Series. Professional baseball started in the 1980s but has been greatly damaged by game fixing scandals. The People's Republic of China has recently picked up baseball. This is partially due to China's effort to dominate sports.

The European Periphery got its start from American military after World War II. Many of the first teams were actually formed by Americans who recruited locals to fill in spots. Russian soldiers have recently begun their own minor leagues with slight expansion into the general public. Italy and the Netherlands are so far the only countries of note. However, there are efforts to improve European baseball in time for the next World Baseball Classic. Wales is an active center of "British Baseball" which can be thought of as 75% baseball 25% cricket.

The Down Under Periphery comprises both Australia and New Zealand. Baseball is weak here but there are efforts to reestablish a league. Cricket is viewed as the proper sport and has so far been successful in keeping baseball minor. However, the success of the Australian women's softball team in the Olympics has increased interest with women. Australia now has a woman's baseball team which has earned respect in international competitions.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Attackers used Geography tools; technology to disguise geographic orgins

On Wednesday, the front page of the Washington Post published a story, "Gunmen used technology as a tactical tool: Mumbai attackers had GPS units, satellite maps."

The author writes that the attackers set sail from Karachi, Pakistan to Mumbai, India using GPS navigation tools and detailed maps, as they were not experienced sailors. They also used high-resolution satellite maps to understand the city's layout and buildings before they arrived there.

Something else that I find interesting is that the organization claiming responsibility produced the email (their announcement) used a Urdu voice-recognition software to '"anonymatize" regional spelling and accents so police would be unable to identify their ethnic or geographic origins.'

While these terrorists used common technology tools that are easily available, India's police still use World War II-era rifles and Indian security forces lag technologically behind.

This continues the trend of geographic technology being used for the wrong reasons.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Indiana Jones Denied Tenure

Something to break up Classic Gauze

A dream of all geographers is to travel for academic research or job-related reasons on someone else's bill. Academic geographers, especially the ones at richer schools, can pull this off via grants. Another dream is to be the geography-equivalent of Indian Jones. Finding Nazi gold with lost maps, getting the girl, and adventure all are embedded in our DNA. Combine these two dreams together and one has a bad case of day dreaming Catholicgauze-style.

Well, this can come at a cost. Indiana Jones was denied tenure.