Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009: Recap and Saint Christopher

Happy Halloween! National Geographic has a short recap on the history while the Catholicgauze Classics of geography of vampires and New England vampires are a fun read.

While Catholicgauze wishes everyone a happy, safe night of harmless and healthy fun, the international backlash against the American holiday of Halloween is now being fought not by the French who gave up and now are co-opted but by the British, the semi-official newspaper of the Holy See, and Russia.

The old Catholic tradition for Halloween was/is to dress up as one's favorite saint. For those who want to combine old and new or just be really retro then they should consider dressing up as Saint Christopher for Halloween.

Saint Christopher is consider the patron saint for travelers and is best known for the medallion of his some people wear on trips. However, in some ancient depictions he is shown with a dog head. The dog head stories are based on the origin story that has Christopher being a warrior from the outskirts of the Middle East. Ancient Greek tradition held that those on the rims of the world were barbarians who talked like sheep and dogs making a "bar bar" sound. Add the European imagination and these barbarians were given dog heads. One legend has Christopher converting and then God making him fully human by giving him a normal head.

The legend of dog heads was adopted into the Christian cosmological world view. Even in the age of Marco Polo many Christians thought the ungospelized world was filled with quasi-humans with faces on their backs, dog heads, and other weird traits.

Today Saint Christopher's existence is disputed and the Catholic Church is playing it safe with toning down but not stopping the cult of Saint Christopher.

Or, one can go as the badass Saint Michael the Archangel

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Opening of the European Front as Seen by Life Magainze

Proposed thrusts to save the Second Polish Republic

Browsing Google Books' selection of Life magazine revealed a series of articles and maps that offer insight into how the European Front of the Second World War was "suppose to" have been fought. The magazine articles from September 1939 reveal two key errors. First was the assumption that France and the United Kingdom would actively try to save Poland. Second, Life committed the same judgment error that many generals did in thinking the war would be defensive a la World War I and not the lightening war the German's had planned.

The whole thesis of "Europe: Could Poland's friends break Axis wall in time to save her?", written right before the start of the war, is that the Western European Allies would struggle to open up a new front to save Poland. This theme is continued "War Plans in Mediterranean" which touches on a proposed British plan to go through the Black Sea and into Romania to reach Poland. Instead, after a brief raid into the Saarland, both Western Allies and Axis powers sat facing each other in what was known as the Phoney War. Unwillingness to fight combined with the shock of Soviet involvement in the invasion of Poland paralyzed the Allies into the sitting out their commitments and therefore allow Hitler to build up for the Blitzkrieg.

A mighty defense... if one ignores going around and above it

The other misconception was that World War II was going to be defensive, trench-like warfare in the mold of World War I. The Life quote says it best "the two fundamental facts of the situation are... 2) modern warfare gives a great advantage to the defense." The thought of mobile warfare, blitzkrieg, which targets not sitting locations but instead values movement, striking deeper targets, and collapsing the enemy from the rear had yet to become a reality on the strategic battlefield. Instead, maps of the Maginot and Siegfried lines reinforced the idea of juggernauts keeping each other in check. The maps' caption sums up the upcoming believed battle plan as such, ""Instead, they [the French] appeared to be getting into position for a long siege, an artillery-hammering war of attrition in which Allied superior material resources would eventually wear down the Germans' resistance." Instead the French waited and later the Germans used geography to go around and over the Maginot Line and crush France.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Geography: Werewolves

Whether it be in a giant wolf form or a eight-foot tall bipedal walking tank of death, werewolves are a staple of traditional myths and modern horror. These types of stories are very old but just how old are they?

Paranormal Podcast recently had an episode about werewolves. I agree with most of what is said on the show. The basis of these stories seem to lie with early homo sapiens who had to compete with wolves and other wild animals for survival. As with most enemies, humans had some respect/envy for their animal rivals. Spiritualism and the desire to be like the animal seem to have been the basis for rituals to hunt/be like the animals.

The podcast's guest, Dr. Bob Curran, makes the claim that the desire to be like animals went from good to different to evil because of the spread of Christianity. However, a global look at stories of people who can turn into animals are almost always horror-like. American Indian legends found throughout the United States contain numerous mentions of skin walkers. The Anicent Greeks had King Lycaon who was turned into wolfman as punishment. Same thing for the various werecreatures in Africa.

Werewolves and the other werecreatures seem to be instead the manifestation of fear of an enemy within. Their is an English-legend that really backs this assessment up. A fox had the ability to turn itself into a human. It would use this ability to trick travellers into following it into the woods where the fox-man would eat the people. It took a wise old woman to lure the fox into a pub where the truth was revealed to finally kill the fox-man. Paranoia and fear of a fifth column have allowed a natural, ancient rivalry of animals to become horror stories of beast hiding in men.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Catholicgauze will be at AAG 2010!

This upcoming year's American Association of Geographers convention will be held in Washington D.C., Catholicgauze's main base. As such, I will be at the convention! Be sure to drop me a line at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com or comment if you will be there!

At the convention I will present the following:

Title:Geography of Religious Wars
Keywords:Religion, War, Conflict, Islam, Christianity
Abstract:Religion has long been a both a primary and side factor in why wars are fought. Most of the time religion is more of a national identifier rather than the primary cause of conflict though cases do exist where religion is the main basis of war.

Comparing the wars of today to the last 200 years of conflict reveal that religious conflict has gone through cycles of frequency. The two separate causes of religious strife are puritanical wars against intra-religious sects and "holy war" against another religious group. Spatial, both "bloody borders" and interior conflicts appear to ebb and flow in cycles as well.

In terms of religious group violence, Christianity-caused conflicts have long been contained to nominal sects while Islamic-based jihad has been used more against fellow Muslims than non-Muslims. As for non-Abrahamic religions, there is a small yet recently revived trend where religion has gone from merely an identifier to driver for conflict, especially in Asia.

Maps of Foreign-Born in the United States

The vast majority of Americans have a least one branch of their family that immigrated into the United States since the 1880s. Whether by Eilis Island or crossing the Canadian border over the prairie, the wonder and fascination of those new Americans still exists in modern-day Americans' minds.

The New York Times has a really neat interactive map which shows dominate immigrant group by county. The data can be viewed by decade from 1880 to 2000 and is based on the census.

One interesting thing to see is the new wave of immigration, primarily from Latin America, that only got started in the 1970s and made a huge jump in the 1990s. Another interesting thing is that the collapse in immigration from Europe in terms of percentage is only a recent phenomenon. Finally, look at how soon immigration trails off in the South. An isolationist culture combined with little industry kept the American South from booming in ways the rest of America did.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stalin's Exclaves and Enclaves of the Post-Soviet Union

Exclaves and Enclaves are geographical oddities that sometimes matter and sometimes do not. Most of the time they are along the lines of Carter Lake, Iowa: made by physical geographic changes and have little to moderate impact in the grand scheme of things. However, sometimes exclaves and enclaves are made by human forces and designed to divide and conquer. Such is the case with Joseph Stalin's designs in both the Caucasus and Central Asia. Little pockets of land were transferred under the fake claim that they would protect national minorities. These pockets of land have managed to tie down international relations to varying degrees with pain, strife, and war merging from them.

Armenia and Azerbaijan

What the map says

Post-ethnic cleansing map with true borders

One look at the complex series of exclaves and enclaves in the Caucasus may lead one to ask: how does this work? The answer is simple: it doesn't. Years of ethnic tension, Soviet oppression, and population mass-exiles and resettlements resulted in the bloody Nagorno-Karabakh War from 1988 to 1994. While the war is most well known for the de facto independence of Nagorno-Karabakh and occupation of the part of Azeribajian between the two Armenian states, there were other long changes as well. The little Armenian enclave of Artsvashen fell into Azeri control while Azeribajian lost all three of enclaves to the Armenians. Ethnic cleansing was conducted to ensure control.

Armenian territory in Azerbaijan (Azerbaijian occupied)

Azerbaijani territory in Armenia (Armenian occupied)

Azerbaijani territory between Armenia, Turkey, and Iran
Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic

De Facto Armenian territory in Azerbaijan
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

The enclaves are smaller pawns with Nagorno-Karabakh's status diplomatic war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, most likely these smaller regions, except for undisputed Nakchivan Autonomous Republic, will go from de facto occupied to de jure annexed in any peace deal.

Central Asia

Unlike the Caucasus, Central Asia's geopolitical cartographic Stalinist game has not lead to overt violence, just pointless moves by governments over small tracts of land. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan were given a landscape of confusion that only the mad mind of Stalin that could come up with.

Coming Anarchy's map of Central Asian exclaves

Uzbek territory in Kyrgyzstan

Tajik territory in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz territory inside Uzbekistan

Tajik territory in Uzbekistan

These exclaves and enclaves will most likely will not switch control. Lack of any real ethnic complaints combined with limited resources to fight over and Russian oversight will ensure violence will not appear any time soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Google Earth Map of Taliban Control in Afghanistan and Afghanistan compared to NATO Deployments

View Larger Map

I have made a Google Earth map combining maps from Reuters, the always great Long War Journal, and ISAF/NATO troop deployments in Afghanistan from here. The map shows Taliban controlled areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan compared to NATO troop deployments.

The map is best viewed in Google Earth (file on Google Earth board) but can be previewed above or viewed via Google Maps.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Official Time

The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) has been one of the premier scientific entities for the United States. Commissioned by President John Q. Adams, tracking the stars and setting the time have been the main priority for the USNO. The USNO has about forty atomic clocks that it averages to create one time and this is known as the reference standard for Precise Time and Time Interval (PTTI). Further, the USNO has aligned itself with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) atomic clock to create the official time for the United States.

The USNO and NIST are just two of many clocks (see map for full picture) that contribute to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). UTC is considered the de facto international time. UTC is controlled by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) which also controls International System of Units (SI), the modern form of the metric system.

Friday, October 23, 2009

American Professional Sports Teams Who Play Somewhere Else

Edit: New Jersey Nets.... not New York. Thanks!

Hometown pride for the local sports team can be a very strong feeling. Some people stick with their native sports team all they're life because of the ties associated with their original home. However, modern expansion and cheaper land in the suburbs has lead some sports teams to play somewhere else rather than where they say they are. Here's a list for the major sports leagues in America.

National Football League
Buffalo Bills play in Orchard Park, New York
New York Jets play in East Rutherford, New Jersey
New York Giants play in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Miami Dolphins play in Miami Gardens, Florida
Dallas Cowboys play in Arlington, Texas
Washington, Redskins play in Landover, Maryland

Major League Baseball
MLB has no misnamed teams ever since the Angles became the oddly named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

National Basketball Association
Detroit Pistons play in Auburn Hills, Michigan

Major League Soccer
Chicago Fire play in Bridgeview, Illinois
New York Redbulls play in East Rutherford, New Jersey
FD Dallas plays in Frisco, Texas
Los Angeles Galaxy play in Carson, California
Real Salt Lake plays in Sandy, Utah
San Jose Earthquakes play in Santa Clara, California
The upcoming Philadelphia Union will play in Chester, Pennsylvania

National Hockey League
Phoenix Coyotes play in Glendale, Arizona

Women's National Basketball League
Chicago Sky play in Rosemont, Illinois

New York City is the biggest loser with three out of eight teams playing somewhere else.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Jerusalem Cross: A Geography of Jesus and the World

The Jerusalem Cross was the cross of the Crusaders, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, is on the flag of the Franciscan Order, and a variation of it is on the Georgian flag. The emphasis on the cross, it shows up five times(!), led Catholicgauze to wonder why there are so many crosses on the symbol. For the longest time I thought it was merely to push the Christian nature. This past weekend I found out that the five crosses represent the spatial layout of Christ on the Cross and the geography of the world.

The Jerusalem Cross Representing Jesus on the Cross

In this context the Jerusalem cross represents the five wounds of Christ. The large, main cross shows Christ's pierced side while the other four crosses symbolizes the crucifixion.

The Jerusalem Cross as Geography

The Jerusalem Cross also represents the spread of Christianity. The main cross is supposed to be centered on Jerusalem which was considered the center of the world. The four smaller crosses represent the message of the four gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke, John) spreading throughout the world. Four is also used to symbolize the four corners of the world which the Bible makes reference to several times.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Catholic Church Opens Up to Anglicans, the Geography of Who Will Join, and the Shift to the Global Perspective

Catholics and Anglicans, both lay and major leaders, woke up to quite a shock: Pope Benedict XVI has authorized a "personal ordinariate" which Anglicans, whether in the Anglican Communion or an Anglican breakaway body, can join. The effort is aimed primarily Anglicans (including the willing to join breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion) who have long fought the losing battle of keeping the traditions of catholicism (seven sacraments, male leadership, communion) in the Anglican church against more protestant and liberal tendencies. For more be sure to check out Holy Smoke, American Papist, and First Things.

The primary group of Anglicans who will use this opportunity are politically conservative, religiously traditional, and found in the White, Anglo world of the England, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. This is where Anglican Catholics are found. Most of these have their roots in the educated Oxford Movement of the 1800s. Some commentators have wondered if the Anglicans churches in Africa, primarily the Church of Nigeria and its anti-(American) Episcopal leader Peter Akinola will lead the bulk of Anglicanism into Catholicism through the personal ordinariate. The answer is a strong NO. The Anglicans in the Global South (Africa, Asia, and the most of the Americas) tend to be conservative politically but low church, evangelical protestants and not catholic. Some Anglican churches like Brazil's have mostly women priests (a Catholic no-no) to boot. Low Church protestantism took hold in the Global South because the evangelicals did more in missionary efforts then the Anglican Catholics.

The personal ordinariate will be on a global level. This shows the shift of the Catholic Church from being the "Western Church" to considering itself the global church. Before the Islamic conquest of Constantinople, the Catholic Church was the Western European church and no one thought any other way. The schism with the Orthodox was thought temporary and more of a personal feud and had happened before on smaller levels. Several attempts at reunion were tried with the last one working until the Ottoman Sultan appointed an anti-Roman bishop as the new patriarch.

It was after the fall of Constantinople that the Catholic Church in Rome began efforts to create more Eastern Rite churches. From Hungary to India down to Ethiopia various Orthodox groups aligned themselves with Rome. Up until the 20th century and well into it these rites were redistricted mostly to their homelands. American Eastern Rite Catholics had some troubles having their right to have their own rite recognized by American Roman Catholic leadership. After Vatican II the process of expanding rites into new territories was made easier. Also, in 1982 Pope John Paul II made Opus Dei a personal prelature which changed its bishop structure from territorial control to global control over members. Finally, in 2006 the current pope dropped the term "Patriarch of the West" as one of the papal titles. The process of being solely the Western Church to becoming the catholic church was complete. Now efforts are done on a global level reflecting the global mission the Catholic Church has.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stimulus Map of the United States is the official website of the stimulus bill in the United States. One the main page is a map showing where the stimulus money has been allocated, how much has already been given, and how many jobs have been claimed to be stimulus-created/saved jobs.

Washington, Pennsylvania, California, and Tennessee have been granted the most money. The Northern Marianas Islands has received the least if American Samoa and a few others who have not been granted any money are not counted. Connecticut has benefited the least with 20.15 jobs saved/created(?).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Columbus and Copernicus: The Hidden Relationship

Most people know of Galileo and his death related to the heliocentric argument. Many, but not all, are further aware that Nicolaus Copernicus who first came out with the theory that the sun is the center of the universe. That revelation is typically given as the start of modern astronomy and its divorce from geography.

Few relize that it was Christopher Columbus' opening up of the New World that helped fuel Copernicus' discovery. The Boston Globe has a great article which discusses just that. Columbus' discovery shattered the Christian idea that there could be no lands that had not heard the Gospel and Greek-thought that the Earth sphere floated on water. The realization that these ideas were false and that the model of a balanced Earth medieval scholars made was also wrong allowed Copernicus to rethink the universe.

The relationship between Columbus and Copernicus is proof once again that geography is a key competent with understanding not only the Earth but its place in the universe.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nazi Propaganda Use of a Map Projection

TDAXP links to a collection of LIFE magazine photographs of Nazi Germany. One of the images in the collection is a map used by the Nazis to give the impression of a looming Soviet threat. The map shows the Soviets' western portion as newly occupied implying (somewhat accurately) that the Reds were on the march west. The biggest use of a map technique as propaganda, though, is making west the top of the map. This gives the impression that the Soviet Union was likely to invade Europe as if it were being pulled by gravity. The map makes one think that Communist invasion was natural and controlled by things like the geological force of continental drip.

The Soviet Union's place in geography has made map use by propagandists easy. It has been said Americans used the Mercator Map projection to over-enlarge the Soviet Union. The Chinese used maps showing the distance between Moscow and the Russian Far East to imply that the Far East deserved to belong to China.

The end of the Cold War and the use of "new" map projection has greatly curbed map projection as propaganda by the various powers. Now maps propaganda is mostly reduced to data display and cartographic artistic-style.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Egypt Asks for the Rosetta Stone Back and What This Means

The archaeological world was somewhat surprised when the Louvre Museum agreed to hand over anicent Egyptian fresco pieces over to Egypt. The pieces were bought by the Louvre, however, it was later revealed the pieces were originally stolen. 


Egypt threatened to stop working with the Louvre unless the fresco parts were returned.  This has been the standard way Middle East countries have been able to have national artifacts returned from former colonial overlords.  Now Egypt is hoping on ridding the wave of success and have the British (temporally) return the Rosetta Stone.


Right now observers are watching to see what Egypt does to get the stone back.  If it merely asks then nothing is new.  However, if Egypt threatens to cut off cooperation and follows through then the archaeological world will enter a new realm of interstate relations.  This would become the first incident where great damage is done between states because of a fight over a long-ago taken item.  Recent stolen items are expected to be returned but so far there seems to be a statue of limitations on artifacts taken before the late 1800s.


Right now everyone must wait and see.  The fate of countless public and private European (and some American) collections hang in a balance.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Halloween Geography: Catholic Supermen of America and Great Britain

Part of a series of fun Halloween posts and by no means comprehensive
Setting: the United States of America
Problem: Haunted House with the normal bleeding walls, mysterious hostile voice saying "get out," and the usual poltergeist

The above is a standard set up for ghost haunting stories in the United States. Whether it be in movies or urban myths many Americans are familiar with this backdrop. When supernatural evil is the enemy, only the power of God can be trusted to combat this dire threat. But in American culture not any power of God can be trusted. No one would think about consulting the local Baptist youth minister or the post-Methodist preacher at the local post-Presbyterian church. No, the only logical choice for battling Beelzebub and his minions would be a Catholic priest. The stereotype of a Catholic priest armed with sacraments and years of underground exorcism training is the cultural default character for this type of situation.

Some may wonder why a Catholic priest, the representation of a faith long viewed negatively in most of America, is the standard fighter of evil in American culture. It is surprising therefore for many to learn it is because of past anti-Catholic biases that the Catholic faith and members are viewed in this regard. The Catholic religion was viewed by most Americans as a combination of Christianity and weird superstitions. The first use of Catholics fighting evil in popular American stories came into being at the start of the 20th century. This is the time of a great rise of Catholic Americans and a slight acceptance of them by Protestants. As Americans became more scientific-minded, ghosts and demons were pushed to the side. However, when these spirits were needed for stories, Americans combined ghost legends with the stereotypes of Catholics.

The appearance of Catholic priests as supernatural warriors took a decline after Vatican II in the 1960s. The use of English in mass and doing away with many traditions made Catholics look less foreign and even less mysterious... and less likely to have years of super secret demon fighting training. New Age psychics and bastardization of old American Indian shamans began to appear in evil battling tales. However, Catholic priests still fight evil in modern stories like Constantine, The Order, and various exorcism movies.

In the United Kingdom Catholics do not appear in almost any ghost stories. In older tales high church, catholic, Anglicanism is used to combat evil like in Dracula. Low church protestantism was not used because most of the original fundamentalist/revisionist movements like the Puritans had burned themselves out in England by the 1800s. The second wave of English protestantism was more focused on social issues rather than defeating Satan. Most modern British ghost combating tales are New Age. The best example is the Highgate Vampire where two New Agers, one involved in magic and the other a New Age Old Catholic, claimed to have defeated a demon.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Catholicgauze versus Bad Maps (Part 4,593)

Catholicgauze is jumping mad and ranting at the world which continues to create bad maps

Neogeography, GIS, and image editing software has made it easy for anyone to create a map. However, the over reliance on base maps (the basic country outline which people then edit to create their own maps) and geographic illiteracy has map the appearance of bad maps more common.

Two examples this past week pushed me over the edge.
  1. At a meeting of independent and government analysts discussing the outlook of the South China Sea a government-made map labeled the island of Hainan "Taiwan." When I discussed this error with the cartographer he/she shrugged it off and replied "I'm not a geographer." If it were just a labelling error that would be one thing but the mislabelling also effected the data displayed on the map. Readers of the map were given the wrong information because of the geographic error.
  2. The second error is a popular online map making the rounds (featured at Coming Anarchy). The map uses an old base map and ignores country winners because of the bad base data. Also, the probable use of data from the Guardian makes any United Nations wins show up as victories for the United States.

I know this is a rant but bad maps can lead to serious problems. This is more than a "hey, let us laugh at the Weather Channel for using map data that went out of date in 1990 by showing two Yemens." Bad maps are a sign geographic illiteracy. The use of bad maps in understanding business and political situation can lead to disaster. Whether knowing if a valley village is Pashtun or Dari to knowing what the zoning law states, good maps are needed to succeed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Taking the Weekend Off

Have a Happy Columbus Day weekend. For maps of Columbus' journeys see the 2006 post, to see how he changed the world read the 2007 post, and for a short defense of the man checkout my 2008 post.

So let us toast those who have discovered America
  • Huzzah for Columbus who proved to Europe the New World!
  • Huzzah for John Cabot who probably proved continental North America to Europe!
  • Huzzah for the Basque fishermen who made Europeans curious of wealth beyond the western horizon!
  • Huzzah for the Vikings for tried!
  • Huzzah for the Indians who gave the Americas at least 13,500 years of human history!
  • Huzzah for the others who were in stone age America but have gone into the mists of history!
  • Huzzah for all those we do not remember!
  • Huzzah for all those who came afterwards bringing ideals and hard work which made the New World a land of opportunity!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Maps of Muslims Around the World

Muslim Population Cartogram. Click to enlarge to see how small Arabs are as a percentage

A new Pew Study has been released claiming nearly one in four of the world's population is Muslim for comparison about one in three is Christian). While Muslims are not a singular solitary bloc and have thousands of divisions both stated and unstated, it is undeniable the Islam is big.

The report has several maps. The worldwide cartogram (above) clearly shows just how small of a percentage Arabs are compared to the overall Muslim population. The report has interactive maps showing the Muslim population in the Middle East and North Africa, the rest of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe (where one can see how immigration has made Western Europe the new home of European Islam instead of the Turkish-converted Eastern Europe), and North and South America. There is also a map of Shia population numbers in the Middle East.

An interesting table shows the population numbers of the largest Muslim minorities by country. The top five Muslim minority countries are India, Ethiopia, People's Republic of China, Russia, and Tanzania.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Challenger Map being used in planning the Winter Olympics

There is something cool about giant, giant maps. Whether they be Chinese maps of the Indian controlled mountains or something the Allies used to plan World War II, giant maps allow people to plan and discuss spatial patterns in a way nothing else can.

The famous Challenger Map of British Columbia, or at least part of it, is being used to plan out security and other logistics for the 2010 Winter Olympics. A GIS program or other virtual map could contain a database and create models based on different scenarios, only a giant map can give a holistically God's-eye-view that allows one to see the complete picture at once.

This cool map is a neat thing that I hope will be open to the public. Sadly, I missed my chance to attend the Winter Olympics in British Columbia by one digit.

Hat tip: This post was made possible by an e-mail from loyal reader Levi.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

General McChrystal a "Prisoner of Geography"

The 60 Minutes interview with General McChrystal about the situation in Afghanistan (hyperlinked) has been generating much discussion. Besides the general discussion about McChrystal's plan, one line should jump out: the general is described as a "prisoner of geography." Understanding that point is key to better understanding the situation of Afghanistan.

Comparing Afghanistan with the previous American war, the one in Iraq, that is successfully being transferred from Coalition combat activities to Iraqi martial policing after a near defeat:

Population: 28.4 million
Area: 251,827 square miles (652,230 square kilometers) - 48% bigger than Iraq
Physical-Political Zones: Flat, void deserts in the south, middle highland section enclosed via mountains, the north is a collection of mountains, hills, and valleys. Rugged terrain in the east makes the nominal border with Pakistan hard to control. Controlled borders with the former Soviet states to the north. Hostile Iran to the west.

Population: 28.9 million
Area: 169,235 square miles (438,317 square kilometers)
Physical-Political Zones: Population lives primarily in the central-to-eastern core running north and south. Physical geography here is flat, wide, and green. Deserts to the west and south offer pros and cons for securing the border. Hostile Iran to the east. Mountains in north but these are inhabited primarily by friendly Kurds with a few Communist rebels tied down by Turkey.

Another factor to remember is the amount of troops the Coalition has compared to the Soviet Invasion. The Soviet Invasion topped out at around 120,000 soldiers while top commanders said they would need 300,000 to control the countryside. Right now there are 64,500 Coalition troops (not all in combat roles) as of July 2009.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Online Interactive Maps of the Appalachian Trail

One of the many beautiful sites [source: Catholicgauzette]

Catholicgauze and I love the Appalachian Trail (AT). We’ve had wonderful weather and torrential downpours hiking along it. I have met life-long friends on the AT. I encourage you to spend some time on any hiking trail, and if you happen to be near the AT, spend some quality time on it. You’ll be sure to see amazing views and meet a wide range of friendly people.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has an interactive map of the entire 2,100 mile trail. I really like the feature, as you can check out where parking locations are, as well as shelters for those wishing to have a longer experience along the Trail.

Also, Backpacker magazine has over 100 AT Trips already planned out for you! You can sort and search by such features as distance and difficulty level. [Backpacker also lists many other hiking trails besides the AT]

Trying to figure out how to get to the AT? The Conservancy has information on Shuttles, Airports, Public Transit Options and Cars. (I often take Amtrak and/or a Commuter Train called the MARC from Washington, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV.)

If you’re interested in learning the conception of the trail, see Catholicgauze’s initial post.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Geography of the Summer and Winter Olympics

First off, congratulations to Rio de Janeiro for winning the ability to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. This makes the XXXI Olympic Games the first one to be hosted in South America. This fact made Catholicgauze interested in other geographic breakdowns of the games.

Here is a breakdown of countries that have hosted the games, as well as continental, hemispherical, and cultural breakdowns from 1896 to 2016:

Countries and Frequency of Hosting the Summer Olympic Games

United States


United Kingdom




























South Korea








List does not count the canceled 1916 Berlin, 1940 Tokyo/Helsinki, and 1944 London Games. Also, 1906 Athens Games not counted as well.

Continental, Hemispherical, and Cultural Realms



Western Hemisphere


Non-Europe/European Cultural Realm


Southern Hemisphere


*Non-European/European Cultural Realm are People's Republic of China, Japan, and South Korea

Just for fun I decided to look at the winter games, too:

Countries and Frequency of Hosting the Winter Olympic Games























Continental, Hemispherical, and Cultural Realms



Western Hemisphere


Non-Europe/European Cultural Realm


Southern Hemisphere


Two things are clear when looking at the statistical geography.

First, there have been no Winter Games in the Southern Hemisphere. While the Southern Hemisphere is warmer overall, there are areas in South America and Australia/New Zealand where the climate can support the games.

Second, Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia have yet to host the games at all. While the Middle East has its own problems that need to be solved before games can even be considered there, South Africa is hosting the World Cup and success here could prove that Africa is ready for hosting the games. As for Asia, India may one day join China and Japan in hosting games.

Until then, let us all unite in the spirit of competition (hey, what the?!) and may the best men and women win!