Thursday, April 30, 2009

Catholicgauze on Twitter

Like everyone else: Catholicgauze is now on Twitter. Track Catholicgauze as I post up links to neat geography stories that I might also over look. Also, it is a great network device and way to communicate with one of your favorite geographers!

Palestinian Sentenced to Death Because of Selling Geography

Thomas Friedman once remarked how odd the globalized world is. In some places international corporations have car factories that use modern technology while in other places people will kill each other over olive trees. This split between cores and gaps sadly exists today.

A Palestinian man was sentenced to death by a Palestinian (Fatah-run) military court. His crime was selling land to an Israeli (Hat tip: Elder of Ziyon). To his fellow Palestinians who condemned him to die his crime was much more. He was guilty of selling geography. One of the main points which prevent the Palestinians and Israelis reaching accord is where exactly the border will be between Palestine and Israel. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas claims only the pre-Six Day War border will do. However, many in Israel do not wish to give up West Bank settlements. Some are connected to Israel-proper and some are like islands in the West Bank sea. To the military court, the "guilty" party sold hard kept land and turned it into an Israeli negotiation chip.

Land means everything. Land ownership allowed for cities and civilization to grow out of humanities past. It also gives people a government and protects them from the outside world. For some it is to die for, for others it is enough to kill for.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Olympus Inferno

Olympus Inferno is the latest and hottest movie in Russia. Almost twenty-five percent of all Russians tuned in to watch it, according to Russian Channel One. It is also a prime example of Russian propaganda. Even so, Olympus Inferno is required watching for anyone wishing to see the Russian point-of-view of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.


The movie features two main characters: an American male of Russian descent and a Russian female. The two are studying a rare butterfly when they accidentally witness and film the Georgian military invading South Ossetia. After being left to die by American peacekeepers and chased by a Georgian supercommando, both finally make it to safety by being rescued by the advancing Russian military. At the end of the film, the American decides not to return to "materialistic and empty" America but instead begin a new life with the Russian woman who he falls in love with.

The film definitely hat tips recent western films. I noticed action sequences and pans that borrow heavily from films like Behind Enemy Lines and the Bourne movies. Moscow accepts Western film schools now, unlike in the Cold War.

That's where the Western perspective of the movie ends. The film is clearly pro-Russian and anti-everything else.
  • The film has Russian president Dmitriy Medvedev as the voice of reason. Putin is no where to be seen.
  • The film starts with Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili promising peace. When the American character sees he believes Saakashvili the female makes fun of the American's ignorance and warns that Saakashvili is not to be believed.
  • Georgian military equipment purposefully attacks civilian targets while waving massive Georgian flags.
  • US peacekeepers refuse to help the heroes and American media tell the Georgians where the two are hiding. Never mind there were no American military personnel in Georgia except embassy guards.
  • Even Ossetians come across in a not so positive light. They are shown as badly clothed, bumpkins without a government, who fight with old weaponry, and will turn on each other with minimal prompting. An Ossetian blogger denounced the colonial attitude which the film depicts South Ossetians. The film probably shows Ossetians this way in order to imply that they were completely helpless and needed the Russians to save them.

The Russian film industry has benefited from Russia's resurgence and government funding. Watching Russian films like Olympus Inferno offer a window into their world. Right now it is a world full of incompetent yet shady Americans, evil American allies, loyal Russians trapped in the Near Aboard, and heroic Russians. With films coming out later this year dealing with Ukraine it will be interesting to see how the Russian worldview sees its western border.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thule: The First Conquerors of America

The common perception of invasion on the American continent by outsiders involves Indians versus Europeans. While this conquest history (1492 to 1890) is the one that changed the history of the continent the most it was not the first. About 500 years before Christopher Columbus introduced the New World to the Europeans, an Asiatic horde swept across the northern rim of present-day Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

There is a reason why many references, including the United States Census, refer to "American Indian and Alaskan Native." This is because there is a difference between those commonly referred to as American Indians, those found between northern Canada and the tip of South America, and the Eskimo and related nations. These nations descend from the Thule, a culture of eastern Siberian natives who spread from Alaska to Greenland like wildfire.

The Thule people started off in Siberia. Groups like the Siberian Yupik are the descendants of those who remained. The period around AD 1000 was one of global warmth and allowed Thule who had settlements along the very coastal edge of Alaska to begin their march into North America.

At this time the coastal lands around the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Coast of Newfoundland was dominated by Dorset, Innu, and a form of Beothuk. It is believed either the Dorset or Beothuk were the first Indians to encounter and fight Europeans. After a series of land and sea battles the Vikings were forced to abandon their North American colony in the early eleventh century. The Vikings described the natives they fought as Skraelings, an at first peaceful race that becomes fierce fighters.

Eskimo legends describing their advancement tell of stronger giants who lived on the land now known to be inhabited by Dorset peoples. The myths go further in telling how the giants would flee from the Thule. Exactly why this once fierce people fled is unknown. However, the rapid advancement of Thule leads one to believe there were conflicts combined with a fall in strength of the Dorset.

The Thules did not stop in northern Canada. They continued on to Greenland. During the warmth period it is commonly accepted that Vikings had colonized the south of Greenland (it was green at the time) while the Dorset had settlements elsewhere in the northwest of the island. During the start of the Little Ice Age the Dorset had been replaced by the Thule. The Thule adapted to the climate change by fishing, whaling, and remaining a mobile-capable culture. The Vikings meanwhile continued to try to practice European-style land agriculture on the freezing island. The Viking were forced to abandon Greenland while the Thule thrived.

Today the Thule descendants, primarily Eskimos, are (perhaps) the most politically successful of the pre-Colombian American nations. The Inuit have a Canadian territory, Nunavut, established as a sort of homeland. Nunavut was specifically designed to be a territory and not a reservation; however, demographics and the design of government give the Inuit large sway over the province. Nunavut even means "Our Land" in the local Inuit language. Another political success story for the Inuit is Greenland. Though eventually claimed and partially colonized by Denmark, Greenland has been gaining sovereignty and almost ninety percent of Greenland is Inuit. In late 2008, three-fourths of Greenlanders voted in favor of greater home rule. The vote was non-binding but Denmark vowed to enact requested changes including removing Danish as an official language in Greenland thus making Greenlandic, an Inuit language of the Eskimo-Aleut family, the sole official tongue. It is believed by many that Greenland will eventually declare independence. While it is questionable if Greenland can survive on its own, it would be the first case of pre-Colombians regaining independence from an European power.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Geography of the Seven Deadly Sins

During the recent meeting of the Association of American Geographers, several graduate students from Kansas State University displayed a very popular poster concerning the seven deadly sins in America. The Las Vegas Sun features a great article on the poster and it also includes the maps used to display the spatial distribution of the results.

Surprisingly, the Las Vegas region is not the most sinful place in the United States. There seems to be a heavy concentration in the American Southeast and Eastern Seaboard. The Midwest comes across well on the other end of the spectrum. Many of the maps show the Midwest as having less sin per capita. Perphaps showing the strong wholesome values still vibrates in many.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Maps of Swine Flu (H1N1)

The news right now is full of stories about the latest outbreak of Swine Flu aka Pig Flu. The disease appears to have started with Mexico and now has jumped into all of North America and into parts of Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.

A biomedical researcher has created a map of the outbreak so far. His website, PigFluMap, has a map of the outbreak (shown below) that is frequently updated. News post below provide further details and give sourcing. Be sure to check out his website for more information.

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Also on Google Maps is an open, collaborative map.

View H1N1 Swine Flu Outbreak in a larger map

Another website, HealthMap, gathers news stories and press release from credible sources around the world and places them on a Google Maps mashup.

For more updated information check out The Mexican Flu blog and HealthMap's Twitter alerts.

Institute of Nautical Archaeology's Virtual Museum

The Institute of Nautical Archaeology is a branch of Texas A&M University. The institute is dedicated to the study of humanity's past that has submerged into changing coast lines, rivers, and other bodies of water.

The institutes' website has a virtual museum that documents many of the missions and finds the organization has taken part in. Sites from the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and more are featured. This is a interesting site for anyone who wants to read about sunken ships, lost cities, and ancient trade goods on the sea floor.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Technobureaucracy Reshaping Chinese Names

Names have long been effected by governments. The Norman census of England, the Doomsday Book, help to enforce the requirement of last names among British upper class. A unified naming system helped the Normans better tax and govern the various lands under their control.

Today bureaucratic regimes continue to effect naming conventions. The police-state bureaucracy of the People's Republic of China is requiring a changing of names for many Chinese. Some Chinese characters cannot be read by the current technology and therefore many identification cards must be made by hand. This has put a burden on the system which the government no longer desires.

This and other efforts by the People's Republic of China is creating yet another divide in the Chinese cultural sphere. In the People's Republic Simplified Chinese is used while Traditional Chinese is found in the established Chinese communities of the Republic of China, South Asia, and the United States. However, new emigrants leaving the People's Republic are slowly infusing simplified characters into traditional expat communities. The changing of names may eventually have impact elsewhere but for a while, the Chinese community outside the mainland will continue to be separated more and more from the cultural changes on the mainland.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Canada Expands Citizenship to Their Lost

Canada spreads news about its new citizenship law in this video

On April 17th Canada restored citizenship to those who renounced it from 1947 to 1977 and their children. Canada is spread the news far and wide via news stories and Youtube.

The change is designed to restore citizenship to those Canada feels it has lost. There were hundreds of thousands of Canadians who left for the United States who renounced citizenship to become Americans, some World War II soldiers emigrated and had children elsewhere, religious groups in the prairie provinces moved to Latin America, and some were born in American hospitals and failed to become citizens because of a loop hole. All those who left and their children are automatically Canadian citizens; however, they must claim their citizenship.

Catholicgauzes maternal side has some Canadian heritage. Part of my mom's branch was from Scotland but was impressed into the British army to fight against the American revolution. That branch later moved between Ontario and New York several times. Another branch of my mother's immigrated from Saskatchewan in the late 1800s. But none of this grants me Canadian citizenship under the new rules.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buffalo Returning to Russia

Back in 2006 buffalo were delivered from Canada to Russia. The beasts first came over from Asia into North America but died out in the Eastern Hemisphere around 5000 years ago. The reason for the return is because of conservationists efforts to ensure the buffalo survival. So far the effort has been a success.

Recently a new effort is being launched to promote buffalo tourism in Russia. I personally wonder how successful a "come see the buffalo" campaign would be when it would involve traveling thousands of miles for the average Russian. The only real tourist success I see would have to tie into bring back the Wooly Mammoth.

However, if buffalo can breed well in Russia then Siberia can have another meat staple crop or big game hunting could be introduced.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009: Honey Bee Collapse Cause Found?

Happy American, not International, Earth Day! Spanish scientists who have been investigating the collapse of Eurasian honey bee colonies think they found the cause. It appears that the fungus Nosema ceranae is to blame. Almost all of the colonies which suffered from collapse show signs of being infected by the fungus. The fungus focuses on the Eurasian honey bee and there is little cross over to other bee species. This mirrors the fungus which caused the Irish potato famine: it only infected one species of potato... the one everyone preferred to plant. The scientists are now working on applying what they believe to be a cure for the fungus infection. If successful, farmers and others who depend on bee pollination for their crops can rest easy once again.

Previous: Earth Day 2007: Saving the Louisiana Coast Line

Monday, April 20, 2009

Robert Kaplan's "Revenge of Geography"

9/11/2012:  Be sure to read the blog's short interview with Kaplan.

Robert Kaplan is a well known author in the geopolitical world (and the geopolitical blog Coming Anarchy has its genesis with his article "Coming Anarchy"). His latest piece has recently been published in Foreign Policy and it applies directly to geographers. The eight page opus is entitled "The Revenge of Geography."

A paragraph line on the first page sums up why geography is still important in an era where geography and history were previously declared dead.

"And yet, to embrace geography is not to accept it as an implacable force against which humankind is powerless. Rather, it serves to qualify human freedom and choice with a modest acceptance of fate. This is all the more important today, because rather than eliminating the relevance of geography, globalization is reinforcing it. Mass communications and economic integration are weakening many states, exposing a Hobbesian world of small, fractious regions. Within them, local, ethnic, and religious sources of identity are reasserting themselves, and because they are anchored to specific terrains, they are best explained by reference to geography. Like the faults that determine earthquakes, the political future will be defined by conflict and instability with a similar geographic logic. The upheaval spawned by the ongoing economic crisis is increasing the relevance of geography even further, by weakening social orders and other creations of humankind, leaving the natural frontiers of the globe as the only restraint."

Are You Smarter in Geography Than an Eighth Grader from 1895

LiveLeak features test questions for eighth graders from Salina, Kansas. It is shocking how far America's geographical education has collapsed. I bet many of the college students I taught could not answer all these questions. Catholicgauze is currently thinking through an idea to help curb the downfall of geographic literacy. More on that later.

In the meantime try to see if you are geographical smarter than an eighth grader from 1895:

1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Indiemapper: The Upcoming Great Hope for Amateur Cartographers

Cartography for today's amateur mapmaker is both easy and incredibly hard. Google Earth et al have allowed for neogeography to take off. Everything from car directions to citizens working together online to create war maps is now possible. However, in this great leap forward those who wish to make standard "static" maps are still stuck searching online for a blank outline map (and then one has to hope it is a crisp map and not a pixelated jpg).

There is hope now that the static cartographer will not be left behind. Indiemapper is in development. Indiemapper will be an online tool that will allow one to upload GIS shape files (.shp) and then do cartographic editing like coloring and labelling. This could save many from being forced to use clunky and sometimes expensive GIS programs with steep learning curves. Let us hope this works! (Hat tip: Cartogrammar)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

State Magazine Features the Office of the Geographer

Office of the Geographer is located in the United States State Department. Originally the office was created after World War I in order to help the United States better understand and comprehend the way borders and geopolitical changes impact diplomacy. Well known government geographers like Isaiah Bowman later became involved and helped design the globe after World War II. In the 1980s the office expanded from purely diplomatic matters by looking at refugee and liberalization issues.

The official State Department magazine, State, has a short but good feature on the Office of the Geographer starting on page 30 (PDF). It is a nice introduction to anyone who wants to know one way how geographers help the world.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Texas Cannot Leave the United States

Texas governor Rick Perry claimed Texas can secede from the United States during an anti-tax/anti-deficit spending rally. Perry's comment comes from the strong Texas nationalism which many Texans have. While Texas was not the only American state which was once a country it seems to be the only one that loves to rub it into other people's faces.

Sadly for Texans, even though the do live in a great and special state, it is not that special. The Texas Revolution was a combined effort by those who supported the reform of the Mexican government and those who favored union with the United States. After the revolution; however, politicians such as President Martin Van Buren opposed annexation due to fears of war with Mexico and knowing Texas would upset the slave state/free state balance. Finally, in 1845 the State of Texas was established under the Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States and Ordinance of Annexation. The resolution allowed Texas to split into four additional states. There is no right to secession mentioned; the claim that the Texas is the only state allowed to fly their flag at the same level as the United States flag is a myth. Any state can do that.

Finally, legal scholars will point to the Supreme Court case of Texas v. White to show secession is illegal and the southern states secession to form the Confederate State of America was therefore invalid. Catholicgauze, on the other hand, likes to state Southern States v. Lincoln to prove Governor Perry's claim is wrong.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

State Flag versus Civil Flag versus Battle Flag

Once when I was real young I had a rather heated argument with my brother. We argued over if the coat of arms was on Poland’s flag. Little did we understand that many countries have at least two flags, civil and state.

State flags are flags that are reserved for use by the government. Most of the time state flags feature the coat of arms. Civil flags are for general, public, use and most lack the coat of arms. The reason for having a separate civil flag dates back to the past when European sea trade was becoming huge. Both states and merchants wished to identify themselves yet show they were not a military or government entity. This allowed for an operating environment to be created with little confusion on whether the upcoming vessel was hostile or a mere trade competitor.

Today there is less distinction between state and civil flags. Part of the reason is cost. In the past cloth flags with the added complex coat of arms cost more money. This limited use to primarily the government. Today, nylon flags are much cheaper and coat of arms can be printed onto the fabric. Most civil and state flags are the same. However, Latin America and many European nations still have separate flags for tradition reasons.

Many countries also have naval ensigns and battle flags. These flags are used by navies and armies. The most well known battle flag has to be that of the Confederate States of America. The well known flag was also the jack for two of the national flags but was never the national flag for the Confederacy. However, its use in battle and reuse in reenactments has embedded it as the symbol of rebellion in many people's mind. This has led to the confusion over its historical meaning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

American Anti-Tax "Tea Party" Map

April 15th is a date ingrained into most Americans' minds. On that day taxes are required to be post marked to the government in order to avoid paying the huge fees. The date is hated by many no matter one's political persuasion. In the past Americans hate taxes so much that we threw tea into Boston Harbor and later on declared the first income tax unconstitutional.

This year the Tea Party movement has become a huge hit with some Americans. The loose movement is upset over a variety of things including tax hikes, trade deficit, and the deficit caused by government spending.

The right-libertarian website FreedomWorks has created a Google Map of the protests they support to mark April 15.

It will be interesting to see how the protests turn out. Conservatives tend to have smaller protests (everything from "lack of passion" to "we have jobs while hippie protesters do not" have been blamed) but so far Tea Party protests have been successful. If they are, I wonder how much Web 2.0 and neogeography can be credited for organizing protesters.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

People's Mujahedin of Iran

Communist and Islamist

The group People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) can be consider the prime example of Middle East weirdness and a strong lesson on the value of choosing friends wisely. The group right now is in international legal limbo stuck between the United States, the Republic of Iraq, and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

MEK is a weird combination of Communism, Islamism, North Korean-style personality cult, and dominated by female leadership. The group started off as an anti-monarchist organization in Iran. It quickly turned to terrorist actions including the assassination of several American military attaches. After the fall of the Shah, MEK tried to wage war against before Iranian republicans and Islamists. MEK lost, but not before they managed to take out the chief justice, president, and prime minister of the new Islamic Republic. Iran has never forgiven MEK.

MEK, being led by intelligentsia, fled to France and mixed in with the rest of the educated Persian community. MEK continued to plot attacks against Iran. However, the Iranian-proxy force Lebanese Hezbollah managed to kidnap several French citizens. In exchange for their citizens, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac agreed to exile MEK for the hostages release.

MEK, an Iranian-Communist-Shia-Personality Cult, then made an alliance with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi-National Socialist-Sunni-Personality Cultist. MEK helped Saddam win some of the final battles of the Iraq-Iran War and crush the Shia/Kurd revolt of 1991. The Shia and Kurds have not forgotten this. Meanwhile, their support of Saddam has cost MEK significant support from anti-mullah Iranians.

The 1990s and 2000s have been ones of setbacks for MEK. Most Western nations declared MEK a terrorist group in an effort to rebuild relations with Iran and their main sponsor Saddam lost power in the Coalition invasion. MEK was under the custody of the United States until early 2009 when their detainment camps were transferred over to Iraqi control.

Today MEK is in a full scale publicity campaign that can be best described as "please don't turn us over to the Iranian to be tortured and killed." The Iranian government is promising aid to the Iraqis in exchange for MEK but Baghdad wants Iran to end its funding of various insurgent groups. The Shia and Kurds hate MEK for 1991 while the Sunnis do not like MEK because they are Persians. A major success for MEK was having the European Union delist them as a terrorist group. Right now MEK front groups like National Council of Resistance of Iran is competing for President Obama's attention. Besides a busy schedule, NCRI also has to worry about Obama listening to pro-regime elements who wish to keep MEK on the terrorist list.

One may be conflicted about MEK. They are anti-mullah and wish (at least publicly) for a pluralistic Iran but they have long been involved in terrorism. An Iraqi who I asked summed up everything I was thinking about when it came to MEK. He looked down, shook his head, and walked away.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Anicent Hermit Crabs-like Animals May Have Been First to Walk the Earth

Many people, including Catholicgauze, know hermit crabs as lovable, easily cared for pets. Whether these crabs live on water or land it is fun to watch them switch shells and interact with their environment.

Few realize though that the process of living in old shells to survive may have its genesis half a billion years ago and led to the first invasion of air-exposed land by animals. Way back 500 million years ago the seas were full of life while land was bare sans patches of algae along the shore. Scientists looking at old sandstone notice what appear to be shell patterns. They propose that shallow water living animals used shells to keep their gills moist as they walked on land to consume algae free of any predator threat. While no fossils have been found of these animals on what is believed to be ancient shore, the scientists continue to research and promote their theory based on shell tracks.

Today hermit crabs continue the process. The species of Caribbean and Ecuadorian hermit crabs (the two most popular hermit crabs used as pets in America) begin their life in the sea but through a process of molting gain the ability to become terrestrial animals. They continue on the old tradition keeping most in shells while also using them as physical protection. Little do they know the role their ancient ancestors played in the epic that is Earth's history.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

USArray Uses Ultrasound to Map and Understand American Underworld

New Scientist has an interesting article on USArray's mission to map the geology of the United States. USArray is a seismic observatory which seeks to monitor seismic activity and map an geologic activity. The hope is scientists will be able to apply gained knowledge to not only understand the geologic underworld of the United States but aide in predicting earthquakes even better.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Geography: Stations of the Cross of Jesus' Passion along the Via Dolorosa on Google Earth

For this Good Friday I have created a Google Earth file (can be download off the Google Earth board) that geolocates the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa. Data included are station number, station name, and where the station can be found. Data is very close to accurate but not always precise.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Moldovan Spring and Changes to the Fight for Ungoverned Spaces

The book Geography of Happiness describes the European republic of Moldova as the saddest place on Earth. Considering everything that can and does go wrong on this planet that is quite an achievement. Right now the depression is being channelled into rage as Moldova may or may not be experiencing a revolution.

Moldova is a former Soviet state and is the poorest country in Europe. It is populated by ethnic Romanians. Shortly after independence, the Moldovan government lost a war to its eastern section, Transnistria. The much smaller Transnistria is populated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians (Transnistria was a retirement home for many Soviet World War II veterans) and had the 14th Soviet Army stationed in it. The war was not even close. Today the retro-Soviet state of Transnistria keeps Soviet symbols and titles alive as it continually tries to convince Russia to recognize it. Russia meanwhile is content to use the threat of recognition to keep Moldova neutral and out of NATO.

The 1990s saw several attempts by Moldova and Romania to reunite. However, in 2001 Moldova elected an economically mixed, mostly pro-market, and pro-European Union Communist Party into power. The Communist at first were popular because they fixed some corruption, made progress on Transnistrian reunification, and played up a new Moldovan nationalism against Romania. However, change stagnated and corruption has once again flourished as Transnistria remains de facto independent.

So when the Communist Party won once again via possible vote stealing and gerrymandering, the opposition had enough. Calls for protests against the government quickly morphed into riots. Riot police have so far recovered the president's office building from rioters but roaming bands still protest on the streets. The Communists meanwhile blame Romania for trying to attempt a coup.

The opposition claims term limited President Vladimir Voronin wants to become the "next Putin" by holding onto power by becoming Prime Minister. The opposition differs from the Communists by being more pro-European Union, open to the idea of NATO, favors reunification with Romania (some protesters are waving the EU, Moldovan, and Romanian flags), and support market reforms.

Some commentators have remarked that these protests resemble the color revolutions of Ukraine and Georgia which ushered in pro-Western governments. The same is possible here but the opposition is divided deeply by rival personalities.

An interesting thing is how the protesters and rioters have coordinated. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have been used to communicate and focus on targets. Web 2.0 have allowed for these protests to occur so quickly and degrade into riots quickly as well. In order to curb unrest the government cut internet access.

This is the opposite effect of traditional battles for spaces turned ungovernable between governments and insurgents. In the cases of the 1863 Five Points Riot in New York or 2004 Fallujah, insurgents sought to cut the location and those owning the space off from the outside world by removing communication abilities. The goal in these cases is use choas and momentum to overrun the battlespace owner. Back then in these locations the battlespace owner controlled the communication infrastructure.

Today in the wired world, communication abilities have been democratized. Technology has greatly eased the pains of coordinating large masses. As such, the Moldovan protesters/rioters have shown the usefulness of keeping communication infrastructure intact. This is not total new as French rioters have been known to use cell phones to coordinate in attacks against police. It would be fascinating to see a study which compares the advance of communication tools in the ability of insurgents to make a space ungovernable.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How to Create a Legend in Google Earth

Update August 7, 2010:  Now with easy copy and paste text of the code!

For my Russia-Georgia War maps I had a fixed non-movable legend in the bottom left corner of the screen. I preferred the legend because it provided a solid reminder of what date was being shown and it promoted the blog.

I have received several requests for the code to create the legend so below is the code.

First, create a legend in an image editing software and save as an image file like .jpg, .bmp, or .gif. Second, open Notepad. Then type/copy in the code below into Notepad.
Only the name, description, and icon data need to be changed. The icon path should be something like "c:\maps\russiageorgia\legend.jpg

<ScreenOverlay id="legend">
<name>Give the file a display name</name>
<description>Write what you want displayed in the properties textbox</description>
<Icon><href>Write the path to the legend image</href></icon>
<overlayXY  x="0" y=".055" xunits="fraction" yunits="fraction"/>
<screenXY  x="0" y=".055" xunits="fraction" yunits="fraction"/>
<rotation>0</rotation><size x="0" y="0" xunits="pixels" yunits="pixels"/>

When the text is inserted save the file as something like "legend.kml". Make sure the file is not saved as a text file. Now go into Google Earth and open the saved kml file. Your legend should be displayed. Using Google Earth you can make it change how opaque it is.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Easter Geography 2009: Virtually Visiting Second Temple Mount

The Second Temple plays a large role in early Christianity. It was there where Jesus made his stand against the Temple Priests and their interpretation of God's words and laws. It was near the temple where Pentecost occurred and the missionary zeal of Christianity was first realized.

Through computer technology and researching primary and secondary sources, it is now possible to view what Jesus, the Apostles, Priests, and others saw. The Jerusalem Archaeological Park has some panoramic views and so does The Israel Museum Jerusalem.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Descent into a Black Hole

Astronomers have created a video that shows what one would see if they fell into a Black Hole. It is facsincating to see how light is bent as one goes closer and closer to the event horizon.

These all consuming beasts are truly an anomoly. What happends to the matter that enters in the black hole since we believe matter cannot be created nor destroyed? Can one truly enter a black hole because using the theory of realitivity one could never reach the event horizon because time would stop for that individual?

In the anicent days there were monsters, ends of the earth, and neither regions of the world where the impossible happened. Now we know there are no places like that on earth... they are out in space.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Easter Geography 2009: The Orthodox/Eastern Rite Spatiality of Heaven on Earth

And the Lord Saideth, "More Icons"

The story goes that when Vladimir of Rus was looking for a religion for his pagan kingdom he sent emissaries out to the Jews, Muslims, and Christians. The ones that traveled to Constantinople reported they attended the Divine Liturgy in Haga Sophia. They further stated that during the service they could not tell if they were in on Earth or in Heaven. The emissaries witness the cosmographic design of the Divine Liturgy whose purpose is to bring a taste of heaven unto the Earth.
The Divine Liturgy is how Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics conduct worship services. In Western rite churches the services is the equivalent to a mass. Unlike modern Western church masses that focus on recreating the feel of the Last Supper, Eastern services combine the Lord's Supper with bringing the feeling of Heaven unto the Earth. A microgeography is used to create this feeling.

A well laid plan

Attendees of the Divine Liturgy enter through the narthex or lobby. The narthex serves a part in the liturgy unlike Western churches that tend just to have a lobby to separate the church proper and the outside It is here where confessions are heard. Eastern churches continually stress that confessions need to be the last part of preparation before one can fully take part in the service by taking communion. Prayer and fasting are the first two steps. Once these preparations are complete then one can enter the church proper. I have been told that the narthex should become smaller and smaller as one approaches its end. This represents the narrow path to Heaven.
People gather and witness the Divine Liturgy in the nave or church proper. The older or more traditional the church the more likely the nave will be completely covered icons. Also, chairs tend to be hard to come by depending on the priest's preference. During service most of the lights are to be turned off in the nave. Candelas are traditionally used to give a glow of faith/love/grace in the darkness.
The people in the nave are witnesses with their ears and eyes to what goes on behind the icon screen. Behind this obstruction the priest conducts most of the service with the deacon. Depending on what denomination, the icon screen can be fully obstructing or only partially. This represents the division between man and God. At other points in the service a choir will sing behind the screen too.

It is behind the icon where the alter, the holy of holies, is located. This represents the closest heaven ever comes to Earth. Access to the holy of holies is strictly regulated. Once the Eucharist is blessed the priest takes it out of the alter into the nave and dispenses it to the people. This represents the priest's role as intermediate between God/Heaven and the people/Earth.

While there is still a bit more service to go after communion the micrography of the church reaches its climax here. The design of the church has successfully brought Heaven to Earth for the faithful.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Guns into Mexico

The Mexican Drug War continues to wage on as Felipe Calderón continues to mount pressure on the nacro-terrorists who prospered in the ungoverned spaces of northern Mexico. One of the biggest concerns in the international arena with the war is where are the drug cartels getting their weaponry.

The issue has been highly politicized in the United States. Proponents of more gun control contend that most of the weapons come from the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Barbra Boxer claim as much as ninety percent of all the firearms come from the United States. Some others have gone as far to claim these weapons are bought from gun stores and gun shows directly.

The claim is alarming. It indicates a new stage in irregular warfare. Instead of relying on black market arms runners, it seems possible for Mexican anti-government forces to purchase openly and directly in the open market. This; however, does not appear to be the case.

While ninety-percent of weapons sent to the United States for tracing are from the United States; only a small percentage are sent to America for tracing. It appears only seventeen percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico's gun war are from the United States.

So where are the weapons coming from? According to the Fox News article:

  • The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.
  • Russian crime organizations. Interpol says Russian Mafia groups such as Poldolskaya and Moscow-based Solntsevskaya are actively trafficking drugs and arms in Mexico.
  • South America. During the late 1990s, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) established a clandestine arms smuggling and drug trafficking partnership with the Tijuana cartel, according to the Federal Research Division report from the Library of Congress.
  • Asia. According to a 2006 Amnesty International Report, China has provided arms to countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Chinese assault weapons and Korean explosives have been recovered in Mexico.
  • The Mexican Army. More than 150,000 soldiers deserted in the last six years, according to Mexican Congressman Robert Badillo. Many took their weapons with them, including the standard issue M-16 assault rifle made in Belgium.
  • Guatemala. U.S. intelligence agencies say traffickers move immigrants, stolen cars, guns and drugs, including most of America's cocaine, along the porous Mexican-Guatemalan border. On March 27, La Hora, a Guatemalan newspaper, reported that police seized 500 grenades and a load of AK-47s on the border. Police say the cache was transported by a Mexican drug cartel operating out of Ixcan, a border town.

In the past Latin American insurgencies relied on Soviet or American direct arms supplies, supplies from supportive neighboring regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua, or the black market. The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War led many to hope that the high point of Latin American insurgencies was over. The thought was that the black market was too expensive for anything more than city-level gangsters. However, the American taste for narcotics allowed for drug groups to afford a wide range of weaponry. This was first proved by Pablo Escobar and continues to be proved by nacro-terrorists groups today.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Notes on the State of Virginia: America's First Geographic Epic

Thomas Jefferson is known for many things: the Declaration of Independence, his presidency, his love of science, and other positive and negative traits of his life. Geographers mostly look back and consider Jefferson's role with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. However, Jefferson should also be remembered for creating the first American geographical textbook entitled Notes on the State of Virginia.

Notes was made in reply to a request by French diplomatic officials who wished to have a better understanding of the newly independent United States. In Notes, Jefferson goes into detail describing the physical and human geography of Virgina. There was much to write about because his definition of Virginia included present-day Virginia, the Northwest Territories, and much of everything extending from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River. Everything from rivers to mountains to animals to religion to currency is detailed by Jefferson.

One can buy Notes on the State of Virginia at bookstores or one can go through chapter by chapter online. The University of Virginia features Notes on the State of Virginia for free viewing.

The book reads like a textbook; however, for anyone who is interested in learning about the historical background of early Virginia or is a fan of Jefferson it is worthy a read.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

United Nations Human Rights Council Votes to Ban Religious Defamation; Ignores Human Rights

Earlier I wrote about my lack of faith in the United Nations Human Rights Council to support human rights because of the geography of membership. I pointed out how too much membership is given to the "gap" countries which are not part of the world's "core" (liberal states that work together, promote liberties, and function best in cooperation). Sadly, I have been proven correct.

Instead on focusing efforts to decriminalize homosexuality (note to readers: I am not referring to whether homosexuality is considered right or wrong but instead focusing on the effort to stop jailing/executing gays) the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has voted to call on nations to criminalize defamation of religions. The UNHRC has now turned its focus from human rights to giving religions rights. The right of a religion not to be offended trumps a person's right to free speech.

The vote was proposed by Pakistan, a UNHRC member, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic States.

Gap countries are too narcissistic sometimes and world leadership tends to blend these states. Problems are blamed on colonial legacies and not cultural differences, dictatorship, or poor governance. Take this bill for example. Pakistan and the OIS only mention Islam in particular in the bill. Pakistan and other countries blasphemy other religious groups, as documented by Amnesty International. Ahmadiyyas (sort of Mormon-like Muslims) are prevented by Pakistani law to call themselves Muslims or express beliefs that they share with orthodox Islam. Malaysian Christians are fighting for their right to use the term "Allah" for services even though Allah is not a proper name but literally means "God" because the Muslim rulers feel Christians and other groups cannot properly worship God.

I await the day when the countries who supported this bill will end their apostate laws and all freedom of religion. Until then the United Nations, founded as the hope for world peace, will continue to fiddle as freedom is crushed and individuals are killed by their own state.