Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bloop: The Mystery Underneath the Waves

Back in the summer of 1997 NOAA repeatedly recorded a mysterious sound coming from about 50° South and 100° West. The sound was heard by various recording equipment thousands of miles apart and appeared to be organic. However, the strength of the sound would make it the by far the largest animal in the world.

The microphone system that NOAA used is known as the Sound Surveillance System or SOSUS. It was first designed to monitor Soviet submarines around the world. It works by listening into the deep sound channel, which is a level of the ocean where sound can travel thousands of miles without being dispersed or distorted.

The exact nature of Bloop is a mystery. Some scientists will suggest things like really giant squid or even really big ice sheet breaking. However, the fact nothing like it has been heard since 1997 is mind boggling. An probably unrelated sound, Slow Down, was heard 2,500 miles away at 15° South and 115° West.

The site Bloop Watch links to a NOAA page where one can compare Bloop and Slow Down to other known sounds.

While some geographers and nay sayers may complain that the world has already been explored and that there are no more "white spots" left on the map, just remember that there are plenty of blue spaces that need filling in.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Marree Man: World's Biggest Geoglyph Mystery

Geoglyphs have an aurora of mystery around them. The wondering of who and why some were built has been a riddle for many. The fact that many can only be viewed from the air have only added to the mystery of the geoglyphs.

Marree Man is the world's biggest geoglyph and one of the newest. Discovered in 1998 in Australia's Outback its origin is a mystery. At two-and-a-half miles (four kilometers) long the massive geoglyph accurately depicts Aboriginal hunters using sticks as weapons. Investigation of the lines showed how it was created by a tractor plow.

Now for the weird part. No one claims authorship of the geoglyph. The lead suspect died without claiming it as his. An anonymous press release used American terminology but it is undecided if the press release is a clue or a false flag meant to through investigators off track. Later, an anonymous fax from an English hotel revealed a location of a plaque buried underneath the geoglyph. The fax and plaque indicated that this was to be dug up by Americans during the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.

At first local government officials and Aborigine organizations were very upset. The Marree Man was called environmental vandalism and disrespectful to Aborigines. An investigation was launched to find out who made it but the case went cold.

Today the geoglyph is fading back into the earth (view it in Google Maps). There is no effort to save the geoglyph. It suddenly appeared and now is slowly disappearing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Atlas of True Borders: Now in Google Maps

View Larger Map

The Atlas of True Borders, the project which shows de facto independent states and sovereign bases in Google's mapping programs, is now available for viewing in Google Maps. One can also view the atlas above.

Arctic Conflict, Open Source Cartography of North Korea, and GPS Sanity

Lexington Green has forwarded on an interesting describing the geopoliticization of the Arctic. Since the rise of modern geopolitics both poles have been apolitical and mostly set apart from the rest of the world. Sure several countries have laid competing claims to Antarctica but international pressure has prevented states from taking any real measures to act on these claims.

Today, though, the world has change, at least for the Arctic. Climate change and technology allowing for easier mineral extraction has made the Arctic regions even more valuable. Now everything from arguing over what if any continental shelf the north pole lies on top of to Inuits reasserting their political rights are now geopolitical issues. This piece published by the Naval Postgraduate School will inform one of the on going situations.

Goethe Girl sent me a Wall Street Journal news story about North Korea Uncovered. The Google Earth file is the fruit of open source geographers, cartographers, and others who teamed up to map the Hermit Communist Kingdom. This is a prime example of the power of motivated individuals using the latest geotechnology to do what was previously impossible. Great work, guys!

Finally, The Map Room has an update piece on the potential GPS downfall. The short answer: Chicken Little is wrong yet again.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

British MPs Expenses on Google Maps

The biggest scandal right now in the United Kingdom is about members of Parliament expenses being charged to the tax payer. At already astronomical levels of taxation with more on the way, British citizens are enraged over finding out that their representatives are billing the public for daughters' apartments, moat cleanings, and much more.

Recently the Telegraph has created a slide show based on Google Maps images of claims MPs have filed. I present this as a gift to all my British readers. (Hat tip: Oogle Earth)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Atlas of True Borders: De Facto Independent Countries on Google Earth

The spoof article featuring Catholicgauze talking about how fake borders on maps are has a point. Many places exist while not on a map. De facto independent countries may show up as part of another country on a map yet be completely different and separate.

I created an atlas that shows de facto independent countries and sovereign base areas in Cyprus that do not appear in Google Earth. Included are Transnistria, Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Somaliland, Puntland, Gaza Strip, Palestinian National Authority A Areas.

The file for Google Earth can be downloaded off the Google Earth message board or downloaded directly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Downfall of GPS and eLORAN backup

There are plenty of news stories going around talking about the possible failure of GPS due to loss of satellites. The failure of the United States Air Force has worried many because of GPS wide-range of use in aeronautics, business transactions, and personal navigation.

One gap-stop backup in case of GPS failure is the LORAN system. Popular Mechanics has a short introduction to the LORAN system which uses ground stations to geolocate targets. However, the LORAN system is being cut out of the new Obama budget.

While the threat of losing GPS in 2010 is receiving more attention than the actual threat there are plenty of things which could cause GPS failure. One would hope something so critical to keeping the geoeconomy running would be in a relatively stable situation with backups.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day

Catholicgauze is traveling and will return on Tuesday. Until then here is the 2007 post on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is an American holiday dedicated to those who have died while in the armed forces. Its equivalent is Remembrance Day on November 11th. The United States uses November 11th to honor those who survived their service to the country. Memorial Day is for the dead.

Memorial Day has its genesis from several sources. The primary one was General Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic who called for a day where all Union dead would be honored. May 30th was chosen because it was not an anniversary of a major battle. At first the day was known as "Decoration Day" because graves would be decorated.

Memorial Day slowly became more and more popular in the northern states. The South; however, was much less enthusiastic about honoring those who died bringing the southern states back into the Union. Some of the states had their own Confederate Memorial Day. The tradition for this began before the end of the Civil War. War widows would gather in small groups and go around decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers. It was only until World War I when Memorial Day became a truly national holiday. Men from all over the country died in one of the shortest and bloodiest American wars.

In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of May. Veteran and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has led a decade long effort to return Memorial Day to May 30th.

Recently Memorial Day is being used to honor all dead, both military and civilian. In the South, Decoration Day is an unofficial holiday which is on the day before Memorial Day. Decoration Day is the day when dead family members (military and non-military) are remembered.

NATO Does Poor Cartography (Let Us Hope Their Geography is Better)

NATO must worry about the Taliban coming into Afghanistan from China. Also, Global Warming apparently has flooded Cambodia, the Koreas, and Japan.

NATO is making the rounds of various blogs notifying us about their updated map game. Sadly the map errors from their previous version have not been fixed. Missing countries and blatant errors like Pakistan's frontier being part of the People's Republic of China remain.

NATO, as well as other important government and academic organizations, is not immune from making horrible cartographic errors. Many times the errors are made by graphic designers who do not know geography. The fact that these errors have not been caught makes one realize the lack of geographic knowledge by editors and others in the organization. Further, one wonders what errors exist on official, classified documents and how these errors influence life and death decisions. A jump yes, but not a big one.

I pointed these errors out to the NATO representative and the person claim NATO would fix the problem. After no changes, an extended period of time, and a continued campaign to advertise the game we have decided to point out NATO's errors. NATO is a great institution but right now its opponents are laughing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Great 2009 Sea Grab

Economist Map of New Continental Sea Floor Claims

Countries trying to claim continental sea floors is not new. It has been becoming more common though. Better technology allows use to explore and exploit vast natural resources that were once unknown and inaccessible. A recent surge in continental sea floor claims has just concluded because of the ten year deadline set by the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Countries must prove their claim by showing how it is connected via continental shelf if they wish to be granted sole access to the resources below. Some countries like France, Spain, and the United Kingdom have filed joint claims and will share resource access. Others like Russia and the other Arctic countries will continue to bicker over the North Pole. Some old disputes are about to be reborn: Argentina has claimed the sea surrounding the Falkland Islands. Last time that argument got hot a war broke out.

The United States has not rush to claim any additional continental sea floor because it has not ratified the treaty.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Native Lands - Reservations, Home Lands, and Republics (Part 2)

Part 2 of 2. Part 1 looked at nominal independence and autonomous republics

Sovereign Nation on Reserved Land

American Indian Reservations: The first British colonists in the New World made peace treaties with local Indians. The treaties gave colonists land while the Indians usually received trade goods in return. Two key themes in these treaties were 1) the Indian tribes were sovereign and treated like an independent power and 2) the land was recognized as their’s.

In 1763, King George III of the United Kingdom created the Indian Reserve from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. While this made the land British it was reserved for Indian tribes as long as they stayed loyal. Settlement by American and already-established French colonists was forbidden in the giant reservation though not truly enforced.

The first treaty between an Indian tribe and the United States of America involved the Delaware Indians. The plan was for the Delaware to support American in its war for independence and the Delaware would be given their own land for the establishment of a future member state in the Union. The treaty lasted less than two years. The primary effort after the American Revolution was to westernize the Indians. Successes like those of the Six Civilized Nations and the Potawatomi were overlooked and the process of moving Indians further west became the norm. When Americans firmly settled on both coasts and began the process of moving toward the central region, the brutal Indian Wars began. The United States fought and forced tribes to move onto reservations out of the path of industrial/agricultural settlers.

Today, there are over three hundred Indian reservations in the United States. The land is held in trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs but managed by individual tribal nations. The reservations are outside state law though federal authorities to operate on reservations. Primary law enforcement and governance is done by the tribal government which combines American democracy with local tribal customs. There are radical activist and former terrorist groups which oppose Indian reservation governments, these are out of the mainstream and have limited following.

Rights to Land

Australia’s Land Councils and Native Title: The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 established Aborigine councils to govern swaths of land in Australia’s Northern Territory which the Aborigines could claim traditional ownership of. This was the first case of Australia allowing separate, native governance.

In 1993 the Native Title Act was passed. Native Title can be a hard concept for many Australians and non-Australians to comprehend. Native Title was established in 1993 to give Australian Aborigines rights to formerly controlled lands. Unlike other cases where an ethnic-government is granted lands, native title can range from sole ownership of land to merely the right to access the land. Therefore property owned by others could be claimed via Native Title and rights to the land would be shared between owner and claimer. These overlap and the vagueness of traditional claim has led much of Australia to be claimed via Native Title (4MB PDF map of claims). Judgment of Native Title claims is handled by the Federal Court of Australia though a National Native Title Tribunal exists to handle negotiations outside of court.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 Geography Bee

My good friends at National Geographic have reminded me that Wednesday is the 21st Annual National Geographic Bee final round. The competition will in Washington, District of Columbia. Catholicgauze wishes everyone good luck!

In the meantime I recommend two great resources to practice or entertain oneself. National Geographic has their official online game/training tool. Another great resource are past questions from the Australian Geography Competition. The AGC is sponsored in part by the National Geographic Channel and has a wide range of geography questions (not just the standard "what country is this?"). Another great resource are the many available past questions from The Great Canadian Geographical Challenge.

Once again, good luck to all!

Previous Geography Bee post

Monday, May 18, 2009

Native Lands - Reservations, Home Lands, and Republics (Part 1)

Nearly every country on Earth has expanded or changed its borders since its founding. Some of the larger and more expansive states, including liberal democracies, have therefore absorbed territory that was populated by another ethnic group. This leads to a variety or combination of outcomes including ethnic cleansing, relocation, and assimilation. Another possible outcome is land being given to the "native" ethnic group. These lands can range from nominal complete independence to merely property ownership exchanges. The history behind these lands can be peaceful to tragic.

Nominal Independence

South Africa's Bantustans: Since the early 1900s the Afrikaners (Africans of Dutch descent) had used British democracy to peacefully retake South Africa from the ruling English/Scottish elite. Once the Afrikaners retook the political scene they set out to separate the various races. Earlier in the 1920s reserves were created for Black South Africans. The 1950s saw the establishment of Bantustan or homelands. These homelands were meant to be the dumping ground for Blacks, lands that would provide Afrikaner-ruled South Africa with resources while also giving Afrikaners the excuse not to spend resources on development of Black-populated lands.

Four of the Bantustans were given independence (not recognized by any other country). One, Transkei, even became hostile towards South Africa. The Bantustans were ruled by local elite whose self-interest was tied into the continuation of Apartheid. At their height the Bantustans covered about twelve percent of South Africa and held about half the population. The Bantustans were abolished in 1994 and reintegrated into South Africa.


Soviet/Russian Republics and Oblasts: The medeval Russian response to constant invasion threats from the east was to conquer everything until the reached the end of Asia and then keep on creating trade posts all the way down into California. This rapid territorial expansion gave the Russian Empire a realm full of Tatars, Poles, Finns, Tajiks, and many more. The policy of the Tsar for the various ethnic groups was the same as the policy towards ethnic Russians: tax and crush any rebellion. When the empire collapsed and the Soviets took a policy of national autonomy was implemented allowing for the various nations to be given their own republics. The idea was to allow each ethnic nation to develop its own culture freely in the confines of communism.

The larger ethnic groups like Georgians and Kazakhs were given their own republics that in theory were on par (but in reality were still treated like colonies of Russia) with the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic. Other smaller groups like Ossetians, Volga Germans, and Karakalpak were given "autonomous republics" which were part of a greater Soviet Socialist Republic. Finally, other groups like the Jews were given their own autonomous oblasts.

The fall of the Soviet Union saw massive change in the various republics. The major ones declared independence. Most autonomous republics went with the flow and allowed independence while others experienced violent war. Georgia continues on-again/off-again wars with its former autonomous republic and autonomous oblast of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Meanwhile Armenia backed the autonomous oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh in its war against Azerbaijan. Russia went to war twice against Chechnya to preserve the union of the Russian Federation. Today Russia is returning to the age of the Tsar and more direct rule over the republics and oblasts. Former president Putin ended the election of presidents of the republic to allow for direct appointment.

Coming Wednesday: Part 2

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tamil Tiger War Enters the Final Stage

The Sri Lankan-Tamil Tiger War has entered the end stage with the rebels cut off from the sea and the final push has the terrorist rebels ready to lay down arms. With this war wrapping up there are two primary concerns.

First, there is a horrible refugee situation with the Tamil Tigers using the local Tamil as human shields and the Sri Lankan military using heavy artillery ignoring human shields. The United Nations and the West is decrying the situation to the Sri Lankan government while the Chinese continue to offer support of all kinds. Expect the Sri Lankan government to favor the East over the West for quite sometime.

Secondly, there is concern about winning the pace. Sri Lankan Tamil refugees are being put into camps. Depending on who you ask these are either temporary relocation camps or concentration camps. There are also fears, being spread by Tamil Tigers supporters, that the camps could become permanent. The Sri Lankan government may move Sinhalese into the area so their presence can calm the region down. However, mistreatment of Tamil will only breed hatred and plant the seeds of a new generation of Tigers.

For war progress be sure to check the Sri Lankan government's interactive map.

Pray for peace

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spatial Chart of Recent Euro Vision Winners

The Economist features a spatial chart showing the longitude of the capitals of the last 20 Eurovision winners. It is clear that the downfall of Communism and the expansion of Eurovision into the former Soviet States has changed the geography of winners. There are complaints that this is because the Eastern European states vote in a bloc supporting each other. Some see a political conspriacy; however, after looking at voting patterns it appears that it is less political than cultural. States that hate each other (Russia/Georgia, Russian/most of its neighbors) tend to vote for each other. I conclude that this is because the cultures are similiar to one another in their taste of pop music. That and recent submissions from countries like the United Kingdom has been really bad lately.

Catholicgauze hopes everyone in the concert hall in Moscow and watching have a good time. Personally I am cheering for the Israeli peace song There Must Be Another Way but I do enjoy the Georgian entry that was kicked out, We Don't Wanna Put In.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wisconsin Court Allows GPS Tracking Without Warrant; Only Possible in a Post-9/11 World?

GPS tracking has allowed police to track a number of suspects and solve crimes. The surveillance involves technology and is similar to phone tapping and Internet monitoring. Sectors of the American public initially reacted with outrage when it discovered President Bush's administration authorized warrantless technological surveillance of terrorist suspects. Much to the chagrin of civil libertarians there is less outrage over warrantless technological surveillance of terrorists.

Today there seems to be little to no outrage over a Wisconsin's court decision that allows GPS tracking of any suspect in any case without a warrant. With this GPS tracking leaves other warrant-required surveillances and joins plain view searches.

Without getting into the politics of right and wrong, this court decision seems only possible in a post-9/11 world. The public and courts realize questionable measures within a grey zone have stopped attacks and kept people safe. Because of this the public is more likely to be willing to sacrifice some liberties in exchange for safety. Without 9/11 and its fallout I would expect there to be alot more outrage. It will be interesting to see if there is an effort later on to pass laws to prevent this as well as other grey matters the more the domestic front of the War on Terror fads in the public's mind.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Online Navigation Course

There is something nostalgic about naval navigation. I guess it is a combination of exploration and old school geography. It took great skill in the age of exploration to travel across open water with only (and sometimes without) a map.

Sadly, navigation skills and map reading are slowly being lost. Geography teachers only have so much time in the good ones use it to teach about countries, physical environment, and hopefully spatial relationships. Many, even the good ones, lack the resources and skill to teach navigation.

Thankful there is a great online resource to teach navigation. The website Sailing Issues has an indepth, online class that goes into positioning, tides, nautical charts, and so much more. Even if one does not want to teach all of this there is more than enough to pick and choose from. So take a good look and imagine captaining your own HMS Geography!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Politics of Geoengineering

Slate has an article on the politics of geoengineering. The idea behind it raises some key thoughts. Geoengineering can range from minor things from seeding clouds for rain to grandiose efforts to alter global climate patterns. It has long been thought that any major efforts would be done jointly or via an international body like the United Nations.

But what if Saudi Arabia decides to become an agricultural power house at the expense of the climate system which waters India and Pakistan? Sure, countries in the core like the European Union, United States, and Canada are likely to work together but whose knows about other states. Russia will punish all of Europe with drastic oil cuts when it feels Ukraine gets too pro-West. Geoengineering is likely to become the next weapon of mass destruction if the technology is not controlled.

All this can become real in time. Getting nuclear technology went from requiring the most elite minds to bribing the right Pakistani scientist. As more countries advance scientifically their ability to obtain and use climate changing technology will become easier.

Countries could do great harms with malice or good intentions. Many will argue that only a special group should have access to geoengineering. Then the question is raised, "Who watches them?"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Normalization of Nazism in the First and Third World

When discussing the historiography (how history is written) of World War II there are those who claim that the war has been overemphasized as a "black and white" fight where all Nazis are portrayed as the living embodiment of evil and the Allies can do no wrong. The reputation for evil is certainly well earned with the various Holocausts, general war killings, and the starting of the European front of World War II. While the argument carries some weight (look at the over reaction against Tom Cruse's good film Valkyrie where some people went nuts over a German Imperialist/nominal Nazi was the hero of the story) there is an overall agreement that Nazis and Nazism were very bad, to say the least.

Sadly this agreement is only held in most of the First World. In the Third World there are countless examples of Nazism not being the taboo that it is in developed countries. Mein Kampf is a popular book for Indian business students who want inspiration on how to succeed against the system. National socialism is a popular ideology that has followers in the Baath Party, Syrian Social Nationalist Party (the even have a swastika in their flag), and for a while facists in Latin America look to Franco while housing former Nazis. Images of Hitler are used to sell products in Japan (but usually taken down after outrage). Then there is the odd use of Hitler and Nazism in anti-Israel Arab circles. The Israelis are equated to Nazis (Nazis = bad), then the Holocaust is denied (Nazis = not that bad), finally everything is wrapped up with the claims that the Arabs will finish what Hilter started (Nazis = heroes).

Geography plays a big role in why the Nais are being normalized in the Third World. Places like Africa and Asia did not face the direct wrath of Hitler unlike Europe. There is the thought of "what did Hitler do to us" in some. This is compounded on the fact Hitler waged war against France and the United Kingdom. These were the two main colonial powers who ruled much of the Third World. Many of the colonies faced harsh persecutions by French and British. People today can view Nazi Germany as no worse a power. Finally, hatred of Israel can lead to hatred of Jews. Especially in the Muslim world there are those who see the Nazis as an "enemy of my enemy."

Nazism in the Europe and the United States is still taboo. There is a generation; albeit a dying one, that still remembers fighting against the Nazis. However, time has oh so slightly curbed Nazism. The 1960s movie The Producers edge transformed the Nazis from an unjokable, Satanic evil to an evil that can be mocked. Today, humorous condom ads feature Hitler as an evil to be averted. Many still think these advertisements are in poor taste. It seems that a line is holding in the First World when it comes to Nazis. Goodwin Law states being called a Nazi is the worst insult.

There are two trouble spots in the First World when it comes to normalization of Nazism in specific and fascism in general. Facisits were used in post-World War II Italy to help the Christian Democratic Party defeat the Italian Communist Party in election after election. The fall of the two major parties has lead to coalition building around poles. Only recently did the National Alliance shed its "post-facist" background while some of its major members have questionable tendencies. In eastern Germany, the victim of Communist destruction of the middle class and moderatism, the neo-facicst National Democratic Party has been gaining votes in regional elections.

Hopefully the West's moderating effect on politics can keep neo-fascism and normalization of Nazism at bay in the First World. As for the Third World... that is a cultural battle they must fight.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ruamahanga Skull: The Kennewick Man of New Zealand

The Kennewick Man is the remains of a Caucasian-like person who died 9,000 years ago in North America. The very possibility that a non-Paleo-Indian living in North America that long ago quickly became a political archaeological issue. Some scientists see it as a lost Ainu, others see it a deformed Indian, while activists claim it is an American Indian, period. While the consensus goes closer and closer to somesort of early Caucasian American, the close minded science of archaeology is dragging its feet.

Sadly, there is another heritage battle over bones going on the North Island of New Zealand. In October 2004, the spring flood of the Ruamahanga River unveiled part of a skull. After a police investigation and scientific test it looked like the skull belong to a woman of European origin who died around 300 years ago.

This is where the debate starts. The agreed upon history does not make match. The first New Zealanders, the Maori, came from the Pacific and began colonization around AD 1300. The first European to discover New Zealand was Abel Tasman. Tasman encountered the Southern Island in 1642 and left after a naval battle against the Maori. It is disputed whether or not any sailors landed on New Zealand's South Island. The first European to land on the North Island without a doubt is James Cook who came in 1769.

So how could a European woman be on the North Island? There was established European trading in India, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia but the closest historical trade port was approximately 4,500 miles (7,500 kilometers) away (and that's a direct path through the heart of Australia. If it was the skull belonged to an European woman she was a) lost or b) part of a expedition that ended horribly.

Not everyone agrees that it was a European. Some state the skull dating is wrong or the skull belongs to a Maori. There is a legitimate debate because the history does not work out. Unfortunately there are those who argue it must be Maori so the investigation should be closed. The former point is legitimate and must be weighed while the later is the politicization of science.

Time may tell who the skull belong to. Until then, all everyone can agree on is that history is still an open book.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Jupiter's Great Red Spot Calming Down

Jupiter's Great Red Spot, a storm with speeds up to four hundred miles per hour and three times the size of the Earth, is slowly becoming smaller. The storm has been active for at very least 300 years, it was big enough to be noticed when humans built the first telescopes to be powerful enough to notice. Because we lack information on the storm we do not know if this is a normal cycle or if the storm is very, very slowly ending.

The non-Earth planets with atmosphere in the solar system are known for their horrible storms. Even the rock planet Venus has steady, powerful storms near the poles. Meanwhile Neptune is lucky with only having a Great Dark Spot half of the time. Makes one lucky to be living on Earth.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

GeoTube: Youtube for Geography

Reader David has pointed out his website GeoTube. GeoTube first started out as a service for British teachers who were unable to access YouTube because of internet firewalls. It has expanded to be an easy, one stop shop for those who wish to have easy access to geography videos. The website is student-friendly (all videos are moderated) and it contains no advertising. Like YouTube, one can sign up and submit geography videos for uploading.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Why Geography Matters: The Onion Videos

For a fun Friday post here are two videos from The Onion which show why geography matters.

Without geography one looks like an idiot when it comes to important world affairs.

In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

Without geography one cannot tell what is going on

Breaking News: Series Of Concentric Circles Emanating From Glowing Red Dot

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Location of Minarets Sometimes Play into Geography of Power

Many times the location of a religious site is a key part in a battle over geography. The religious site can be a group's stake in society. Paris has the Catholic versus Republican battle over the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Montmarte while the Mormon civil war plays out in Independence, Missouri. Sometimes the conflict can be passive like the God, government, republic competition in Washington DC.

Geography Ph.D. student Seth Frantzman has also worked on the theme of landmarks battling over the geography of power. He has authored the article More than a coincidence: Minarets, geography and power which is a brief survey of minarets in non-Muslim and contested places. The article covers the rise of minarets to placement on old Christian and Jewish sites. The central point Frantzman makes is that minarets' height and instant recognition have been used sometimes to show Muslim dominance in a region.

Religious landmarks being used as cultural tools for landscape dominance is old. The Roman's built a temple to Jupiter and the Spanish built churches on American Indian temples in present-day Mexico. However, it is also interesting to see how this geographic tactic remains unchanged from ancient times. The plays may change but the game stays the same.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Neogeography Digging Up Japan's Painful Past

This post was also described by reader and blogger FantomPlanet as "Google Earth now a harbinger of Japanese sectarian hatred"

One of the neat things Google Earth can do is overlay old maps on the globe. There are many academic and regular benefits to being to easily overlay old maps on top of each other and current spatial data. However, like elsewhere, Google Earth's overlaying ability has great potential to be misused.

Maps are a window into the cartographer's worldview and the cartographer's culture. What a map shows, ignores, and labels says much about what a culture values. Feudal Japanese maps (now available for overlay) map sure to mark where "Eta" lived. The Eta (aka
Burakumin) were social outcasts because they did the dirty work for society. They were the undertakers, executioners, etc. The cultural stain of these people have become sins of the father and is passed down generation to generation. Over time many people became to forgot about who were Eta or where the Eta lived. However, today there is fear that mass releasing maps showing where the Eta lived will revive old bigotries.

Some are calling for removing these old maps so no one can know about the location of Eta. This is not what should be done. The culture needs to rise above and realize 1) sins of father do not apply and 2) there is no shame in doing the dirty work of the feudal society. Instead of worrying about people misusing Google Earth one should worry about what is wrong with one's culture and how to fix the problem.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cinco De Mayo: The American Holiday

A repost from 2007

Today is Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May). Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla. The various on-going parties, which the majority are not even celebrations of the victory, are a product of American cultural forces.

Short History

In late 1861 and early 1862m France, Spain, and the United Kingdom invaded Mexico over debts (The British and Spanish quickly left when they realized French imperialist goals). After a series of easy victories and non-confrontations, the French military encountered an outnumbered garrison at Puebla. The French launched a poorly supported assault against Mexican fortifications on hills north of the town. The Mexicans lost 83 men while the French suffered over 400 loses.

The loss convinced the French that a quick military victory was impossible. So by 1863 French Emperor Napoleon III sent reinforcements. The newly boosted French army quickly seized Mexico City. Until 1867, the French and Conservative Party of Mexico backed government was in power of much of the country. Their unity government was known as the Second Mexican Empire.

However, the victory at Puebla was remembered locally and nationally at first. Mexican President Beneito Juarez wanted the day to be a federal holiday. However, memory faded and most Mexicans have the big celebrations on September 16 which is Mexico's Independence Day (if you want to see Mexicans celebrate then watch El Grito de Dolores).

The 1960s and Today

Some Mexicans and Americans of Mexican-descent celebrated Cinco de Mayo but it was never a truly big thing. Most celebrations were either in Puebla or in parts of Mexico City where those originally from Puebla lived. Then the 1960s something happened. No one can quite agree on what exactly occurred but what is agreed on is that Latino activists wanted a holiday for Mexican-Americans to be proud of. Couple with this is the story of Coors Beer and boycotts against them by Latinos and a possible origin point is located. Americans along the border started to have festivities on Cinco de Mayo slowly at first but soon the celebrations quickly gained in number and intensity.

Even though the "why" is still ambiguous one thing is clear: Cinco de Mayo as we know it today is an American celebration. In the border region of the United States, Mexican heritage celebrations occur in great numbers. Many Latino-activist groups also use the day to teach about Latino heritage (but not necessarily about the battle). The only reason most non-Hispanos in America know about the day is because of the aggressive market campaign by beer companies and restaurants. The day is now of general Mexican-pride for some and drinking for others (A Mexican-themed Saint Patrick's Day).

It has long been said that Saint Patrick's Day is the one day where everybody is Irish. It would be fascinating to see a study of identity and Cinco de Mayo. Do non-Hispanos go through the pretense of celebrating as if they were Mexicans or is just purely a drinking day for them?

What ever the case: HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Virtually Exploring the Battle of Gallipoli

The Battle of Gallipoli was a massive battle with repercussions that were even larger. The campaign gave Australians their own identity via their first baptism by fire, it allowed Mustafa Kemal to become a national hero enabling him to form modern Turkey, and it nearly ended the political career of Winston Churchill.

One of the reasons the battle was so horrible was because the lack of geographical knowledge by the Allied forces. Poor maps, charging in and out of steep ravines, and incompetency when it came to understanding the effects of tides and full moons led to horrible massacres.

Now one can fully understand the military geography of the battle with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Gallipoli: The First Day. The feature provides a timeline, weapon catalogue, and personality page of those who fought the battle. The main jewel though is the interactive, 3D map that depicts key even of the first few hours. The ability to see near eye level the various spots like ANZAC Cove and The Sphinx. The map turns this web feature into an online museum using the best neogeography tools available.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Geography Blog: Twelve Mile Circle

Twelve Mile Circle is an easy read geography blog I have stumbled upon. The blog is "dedicated to the many unusual places that can be found on maps that just don’t seem to make sense. State highpoints, non-contiguous boundaries, latitude/longitude confluences, and other trivial geographic facts are all fair game" on the blog. Be sure to check it out.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Embassy Open House in DC

Today Catholicgauze will be enjoying the embassy open houses in Washington DC. The open houses are part of PassportDC's efforts to create positive cross-national experiences. For more information including a list and map of embassy's that are taking part check out PassportDC's webpage.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Republic of China (in a way) Returning to the United Nations (in a way)

In 2007 the Republic of China (aka Taiwan aka ROC) pushed for its return to the United Nations. The issue quickly became a sore spot for People's Republic of China (PRC)-ROC relations. It also became a intra-state issue with the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) demanding "Taiwan" join the United Nations while the Kuomintang (KMT), a party that believes the ROC should still be part of a future China, called for membership under the title of the Republic of China. Both efforts failed.

Change is occurring though. ROC President Ma Ying-jeou (KMT) announced the PRC will no longer stand in the way of ROC having observer status in the World Health Assembly, which is a branch of the United Nations. The catch is the ROC will have to use its Olympic Gamesname of Chinese Taipei. (Hat tip: Weekly Standard)

The gesture is the PRC's way of allowing the KMT to show cross-straight talks between the two governments work. This should give the KMT more respect when it comes to elections. The PRC wants the KMT to stay in power because the KMT is willing to negotiate into somesort of union/confederacy with the PRC. These efforts have been successful to the point of joint-military talks between the two Chinas.

The PRC fears Taiwanese voters will become tired of the KMT and vote the DPP back into power. This would lead to renew tensions between ROC and PRC. The PRC wants the Taiwan/ROC issue settled. Too much time and resources are put into the issue, Beijing thinks. Once it is resolved the PRC can shift attention into expanding its sphere of influence in Asia and Africa more.

Meanwhile, the ROC is content in returning to the United Nations since its exile in whatever form it is allowed to.