Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Catholicgauze Going to the Middle East

I will resume blogging in a few days. By the time I blog next I should be in the Middle East. I will be in the region for about two weeks. Stay tunned for my thoughts on the physical and cultural geography of Southwest Asia.

And no, I am not returning to Iraq.

Map of Abortion Providers versus Abortion Alternatives in the United States

Blue dots represent more abortion alternatives while green represent more abortion providers. Click image to Enlarge. Map by Floating Sheep

The geography blog Floating Sheep has created a map comparing the presence of abortion providers to abortion alternatives. The map shows that the vast majority of the country has more abortion alternatives to abortion providers. The a few urban centers along the Pacific Coast, Gulf of Mexico's coast, and the northern half of the Atlantic Coast. An odd outlier is western Iowa where there seems to an even mix of abortion providers and abortion alternatives.

The bloggers have good analysis at the end of their post "Overall, the blue coverage across the United States shows that, in a vast majority of the country, abortion alternatives are much easier to find than abortion providers. So while the "pro-life" camp ended up on the wrong side of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, they have built a significant organizational infrastructure which can be leveraged to promote their cause, while "pro-choice" advocates remain concentrated primarily in the nation's more politically progressive urban centers."

Hat Tip: American Papist

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fayum Mummy Portraits: A Window into the Eastern Roman World

The eastern half of the Roman Empire was a rich melting pot of cultures. Native cultures had long experienced the ebb and flow of both Greek and Persian cultures and adopted certain traits accordingly. The conquering peoples tended to blend into the conquered people. From 300 BC to 30 BC Egypt was ruled by the Greek-Egyptians of the Ptolemaic dynasty. When the Romans conquered Egypt they added a new layer creating a Greco-Roman-Coptic culture which was Greek in thought, Roman in government, and Egyptian in religion.

One of the main locations of the Greco-Roman-Coptic culture was the Fayum Basin area south of present-day Cairo, Egypt. From around A.D. 1 to 350, a popular practice in the culture was to draw portraits of those who passed away and place the portrait next to the mummified body. The portraits show the intermixing of Egyptians and Greeks while also showing how Roman fashion and hair styles influenced the people.

Because of the dry air in the basin the portraits survive today. They are a rich artistic treasure that offer a window into the world of the rich of the Greco-Roman-Coptic world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Robert Kaplan: "For Greece’s Economy, Geography Was Destiny "

Robert Kaplan has an article entitled "For Greece’s Economy, Geography Was Destiny." In it Kaplan, a man I well respect for his military reporting and the job he has done bringing geography back into public discussion of global events, begins the article talking about how the poor soil of the Mediterranean coastal countries led to a culture of powerful, corrupt landowners. Meanwhile, Kaplan praises Northern Europe with its dark soil and its inland water ways as being the lands where liberalism was born thus giving the world the enlightenment, global trade, and movement. He uses these geographic factors to state Greece was doomed economically.

Kaplan sees the geographic trends but attributes it to the wrong factor. Yes, physical environments do shape cultures but culture's can adapt to environments in order to advance and improve. In a class I taught I pointed out how soil environmental determinism can be disproven by looking at chernozem. Chernozem, literally meaning black earth, is arguably the best agricultural soil in the world. It is found primarily in the Great Plains of Canada-United States and Ukraine. The Kievan Rus of Ukraine were only a minor European power (they became powerful when they shifted into modern-day Russia. Meanwhile, the Great Plains Indians were much less advanced than Woodlands Indians who built cities like Cahokia and formed political alliances like the Iroquois Confederacy.

In the case of Europe one should think of the Italian city-states like the Most Serene Republic of Venice and the Republic of Genoa which were world players. Civil law, descended from Roman law, is the world's most used legal system. Meanwhile Ireland, with good soil in the south and eastern parts of the island, has long been a background. In the case of Ireland, the Celtic Tiger seems to be a historical oddity as Ireland is one of the PIIGS which is drowning in debt. Also, Iceland has completely melted down and countries like the United Kingdom and Norway are experiencing their own economic troubles.

Kaplan has reminded some that geography is important and, yes, environment does play a roll. However, one needs to avoid the disproven thoughts that environment alone plays such a powerful role.

Friday, April 23, 2010

American Cities' GDP Compared to Foreign Countries' GDP

Source: US Conference of Mayors

India is know worldwide for its rapidly growing economy. With a GDP over one trillion dollars it ranks at/around the twelfth biggest economy in the world. However, this giant, soon to be the most populated country on the globe, has an economy smaller than the greater New York City region. The once roaring Celtic Tiger of Ireland has a GDP lower than Atlanta. In a huge surprise to me, the greater Washington D.C. area, which does not produce anything, has a bigger economy than Venezuela which is a member of OPEC! (Hat tip: DC.Streets.Blog)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mitteleuropa: The German Plan Before Lebensraum

Those interested in early geopolitics and World War II are very well familiar with Lebensraum. Lebensraum literally translated means "living space." The theory, advanced by the Nazis, stated Germans needed to ethnically cleanse and colonize Eastern Europe. In the grandest effort of environmental determinism put into action, the virgin, hearty land was, in theory, going to help the German race continue to grow strong.

Lebensraum was the Germans largest racial geographical plan but it was not their first geographical plan to remake Eastern Europe. In 1915 geographer Friedrich Naumann wrote a book entitled Mitteleuropa (Middle or Central Europe). The plan called for the establishment of German-dominated states, German-dependent states, and German-colonized zones. Germany was to instantly annex more of Russian-controlled Poland while much of the western Russian Empire was to be fragmented into various into ethnic states in various stages of German control/influence.

Naumann's idea was put into practice, much more than Lebensraum as the latter theory was stuck in the first stage of "indiscriminate slaughter of anyone not ethnic German." The collapse of the Russian Empire and the victory of the German Empire on the Eastern Front allowed for the creation of ethnic states that were under various degrees of German control.
  • The last Kingdom of Poland was declared though never fully implemented. Though never fully demarked the kingdom was to be located around Warsaw and the lands to the northeast of Warsaw.
  • The Kingdom of Lithuania was an established kingdom formed by Germany. It lasted until the collapse of the German Empire at the end of World War I.
  • The United Baltic Duchy and the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia were to occupy present-day Estonia and Latvia. It was going to be a German-run state. This was plausible because there was a strong German presence in the Baltics until the end of World War II. Though the idea of the Duchy died with the end of the German Empire many German soldiers continued to fight in Latvia and Estonia against the original Soviet invasion.
  • The Belarusian People’s Republic was established not by Germans, who initially resisted the state, but by Belarusians. The Germans quickly realized though that a Belarusian state would be a good buffer against the Russians/Soviets. The republic lasted until 1919 when it was overrun by the advancing Soviet Red Army. The republic lives on today as a government-in-exile and acts as a democratic counterweight to dictator Alexander Lukashenko's Republic of Belarus.
  • In Finland the Germans were involved supporting the anti-communist White Guards against the Red Forces during the Finish Civil War. Finland was the greatest Mitteleuropa success. German support paid off with the Winter War which curtailed Stalin's expansionism before the Germans could open up the Eastern Front.
Mitteleuropa failed in the end. Germany, punished after World War I to the brink of collapse, remained (justifiably) paranoid and insecure along its eastern border. This fear aided the rise of Hitler who was determined to solve the threat with his own geopolitical plan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

AAG 2010 Interview: Dr. Carol Harden

Dr. Carol Harden is a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee and President of the Association of American Geographers.

During the AAG 2010 convention I was fortunate to spend thirty minutes with Dr. Harden about her background, thoughts on blogs, and geography in general.


Like many geographers Dr. Harden’s path to the field was not a straight one. She originally was involved in environmental studies until she worked with past AAG President Melvin Marcus who told her how her work was geographical in nature.

Dr. Harden became a self-identified geographer after discovering that she was “very, very comfortable” in geography and that the field was welcoming. Her work is more physical geography, geomorphology, but she has also looked at how physical and cultural landscapes affect each other like in the papers Interrelationships between land abandonment and land degradation: A case from the Ecuadorian Andes and Geomorphic response of an Appalachian Valley and Ridge stream to urbanization.

Geography Blogs

Dr. Harden and the geographic blogosphere’s first encounter was not as good as it could have been. She wrote in the November 2009 edition of the AAG newsletter that “[t]he media are changing. Now we have wikis, twitters, and blogs as well as OpEds and classic journalism. Is blogging an effective way to launch your research results into the public domain? My informants prefer up-to-date websites and personal contacts. And, compared to a blog, a good website is more visible to internet searches.”

The statement certainly is not hostile to blogs and when compared to other things said to me because of Geographic Travels [with Catholicgauze!] like me being a monster or Zionist agent it comes across as nearly nothing. However, many in the geoblogosphere (which include geography, geospatial, geopolitical, and cartographic blogs) felt that our researched and well read work was being ignored by the greater geographic community. I contacted Dr. Harden stating my concerns and she was gracious in her reply and promised to give the topic more thought.

During the interview Dr. Harden stated she appreciates the “inviting and open” atmosphere of blogs. She realizes that blogs are a key part of the online media suite which knowledge and opinions are shared within the discipline and public. She also mentioned that blogs do a great job pulling lots of information together. Blogs are a “tremendously useful” tool that can open doors to future research.

However, she still has some valid concerns. The wide range of style from academic to pure opinion with the added element of anonymity has made the blogosphere hit or miss when it comes to credibility (though there are excellent quasi-anonymous blogs out there like Coming Anarchy).

The Fight to Advance Geography

When talking both about the AAG 2010 convention and the state of geography in the United States Dr. Harden stated the need for geography to be relevant and visible. From a top-down approach she discussed the renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act and the hope that geographers can work with congress to make sure somesort of geographical education is mandated. However, she believes geographers need to look past No Child Left Behind and work on relevant projects that can inform the public about important things. Climate Change was explicitly brought up with at least one session (four to five presentations) being conducted at the convention from Wednesday morning to Sunday afternoon. Climate change sessions ran throughout the meeting--over 50 sessions in two continuous tracks.

She offered these key steps to advance geography: work on “real world problems,” make work visible to the public and power makers, and conduct outreach to schools, alliances, etc.

The Best Point

Dr. Harden said that geography is big and it has successfully shed its inferiority complex. We geographers must get out there and make our work visible. And yes, blogs are a valid way to make our work more visible.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

al Qaeda in Iraq Leaders Dead

AAG blogging will continue tomorrow...

The Iraqi Prime Minister has announced and the United States military has confirmed that Abu Ayyub al-Masri (AAM) and Abu Umar al Baghdadi (AUAB) are dead. AAM was the replacement leader for al Qaeda in Iraq after the death of the founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (AMZ). Abu Umar al-Baghdadi was the face of the al Qaeda umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq.

Both AAM and AUAB are big catches. AAM was an Egyptian who served as the primary link between al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda. Meanwhile AUAB was an ex-Saddam era cop who rose quickly in the insurgency leadership by being one of the first Islamist Iraqi to fight the new government and the foreign Coalition. AUAB became the de facto caliph of the Islamic state centered in the Middle East because AAM realized that a Jordanian/Egyptian lead group killing Iraqis was not going to win the support of the Iraqi people, Sunni or otherwise.

According to reports both AAM and AUAB were killed at a meeting house near Lake Tharthar. The area around the eastern shore of the lake has long been an uncontrolled space. The United States Marine Corps was arrived in area in late 2008 to route out any insurgents. However, there was very little hostile activity so the Marines left. Smuggling from the lake continued and insurrgents continued to use the shore as a cease-fire, lying low zone. AAM and AUAB must have thought this area would be a safe place to meet. However, both Iraqi and American forces were able to hunt them down much like AMZ.

Lake Tharthar lies between Haditha, Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad, and Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit

AUAB was the big one that got away for me. While I was doing geography/sleeping during Thanksgiving he was probably no more than a dozen miles away for me. This songs for all those terrorists who hunt on the innocent...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Notes of a Few AAG 2010 Papers: Part 1

Don't let them know my Name!: Being an Armenian in Istanbul by Alpan Risvanoglu of University of South Carolina

Alpan Risvanoglu explored the new position ethnic Armenians in Istanbul, Turkey have found themselves in.

The long-time Kemalist rule in Turkey forced Armenians to publicly hide their "Armenianess" as the soft fascist state forced "Turkishness" on all citizens of Turkey. With the change in government many thought the position of minorities would change as well. Ethnic Armenians supported the new Islamist party rule because its claimed to embrace an openness to minorities. However, recent statements by the government concerning the Armenian genocide and the guest status that ethnic minorities still have in Turkey has shown that even the supposed minority-friendly government will defend Turkishness and punish those who are not ethnic Turks because of the actions of outsiders.

The real tragedy is that field research has shown that ethnic Armenians and other minorities support the Turkish constitution's requirement that all citizens of Turkey are to be considered Turks. Sadly, this definition is only applied to ethnic Turks by the government.

Ethno-territoriality, conflict and commemoration by Adam Moore of University of Wisconsin-Madison

Adam Moore expanded on monuments and memorials as being cultural dominance declarers on the landscape. Moore created four categories of landscape claiming by conflicting groups. 1) Discursive is based on social-narratives like mapping claims in a biased presentation and renaming of towns, roads, etc. to advance one's cause. 2) Material are monuments or memorials that propagate the groups' social narrative. 3) Embody is done by rituals like martyrology or politicization of dead landscapes like cemeteries. 4) Institutionalization are the politics of commemoration like taking over established ceremonies or holidays to fit into the social narrative of the group.

Urban Space, Political Theater, and the Nazi Building Program: Munich as the Capital of the Movement by Joshua Hagen of Marshall University

The Königsplatz is a square in Munich, Germany commissioned by the Bavarian Ludwig I to celebrate the Greek victory over the Turks and give the city of Munich a nice public gathering location. The architecture was classical in design and played by a Greek heritage in German high culture.

The square was the site of the first major Nazi architecture program. The grass lawn was replaced by concrete to allow for mass rallies. Additional buildings were built, two temples for Nazi martyrs of the 1920s and offices both for the Nazi party and Hitler. The design was the cold, geometric modern style that the Nazis preferred. However, the existing layout of the square prevented massive rallies and there was no logical focal point for a rally leader.

The next major Nazi architecture design, the Nuremberg rally site, was made with the lessons learned from the Königsplatz. The cold geometric modernism stayed while the open field was changed to fit the demand that there needed to be a prime focal point for all attention to be directed to.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Eyjafjallajökull Ash Cloud Map Roundups

First a time lapse of what is coming out of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland

The Map Room Blog uploaded the Norwegian Meteorological Office's map of the ash cloud's spread across Europe.

Google Maps Mania and Mapperz linked to RadarVirtuel which is mapping the ash clouds and any flights over Europe.

Google Maps Mania also linked
to the British Met Office maps of the ash cloud and its level over the United Kingdom.

The Map Room Blog also linked to NASA's updating page of satellite imagery and maps of the ash cloud.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

British and European Geographers Stuck at AAG 2010

British and European geographers who are attending the Association of American Geographers 2010 convention are about to get more familiar with Washington D.C. Because of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption all flights to Great Britain and many to Europe have been canceled. AAG2010 attender Alan Lew declared "Brits at #AAG2010 in Wash DC will not be able to return to the UK until April 30 (2 weeks) due to volcano and backlogged flights."

For those looking for housing options there is Craigslist and the DCpages. Those British and European geographers stuck in Washington, DC can contact Geographic Travels at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com if they want to meet local geographers or do anything during the next two weeks.

For up to date information on the AAG and the fallout around world events track Twitter at #AAG2010 and #AAG. There is also the official twitter feed of the AAG which is trying to organize geographers to help out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

AAG 2010 Interview: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is a doctoral student in the geography department of Kent State University. He is presenting on Saturday with Infrastructure as Discourse: The "Safety" of New Orleans and Resulting Environmental Injustice. This interview is designed to give an insight into Andrew's background, his paper's talk, and his thoughts on geography.


Geography can be seen as Andrew's destiny. His mother was a geomorphologist and he was fortunate enough to go to field camps with her. Many family trips were tied into her work. During his teenage years a sort of rebellion took over Andrew with him trying to avoid geography at all cost. However, he must have been wired for geography because after trying out a few other fields Andrew came back to geography. "Everything made sense [with geography]," Andrew told me.

Katrina, New Orleans, and a Call to Action

Besides being possibly predestined for geography, one thing that attracted Andrew to the field was the desire to "try to make the world better." He views geography as a way to study problems, make the problems noticeable, and find solutions.

The cosmos aligned once again for Andrew and his socially responsible view of geography with Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans days after he started his graduate program. At first Andrew sought to avoid Katrina because it was a field everyone was rushing into and he did not "want to be lost in the shuffle." However, after studying the how and why of both the physical and man-aided disaster he could ignore Katrina's impact any longer.

"What was 'Unsaid'"

One thing that struck me was Andrew saying that, from a capitalistic perspective, New Orleans should not exist. The vast majority of cities exist because their location was good for somesort of business and New Orleans was no different (being a port city along the Mississippi River). However, continued sinking into a depression between a large river and a lake, canals that bypassed the city, and the sheer cost of keeping the city dry had made New Orleans a physically risky place to be in that lost its original purpose of being a port city.

However, Andrew pointed out that continued investment into infrastructures gave many people the impression that the city was safe despite it being below a river and lake. However, when Katrina hit the levee system was so poorly designed against a big storm that the levees were easily compromised by the incoming water and the canal system actually made the situation worse. "It is like letting the enemy come in from behind the line" and wrecking havoc, Andrew told me.

The real tragedy was afterwards with FEMA. Andrew said that people were use to seeing FEMA come to the aid after other emergencies. It was unsaid but there was the strong impression that no matter what happened FEMA would be there to save the day after the storm. Sadly, rescue was late for many due to the utter devastation done by the flood water.

How to Improve Geography

I asked Andrew how geography's status in the United States could be improved. His first answer came quickly off his tongue: get rid of social studies. Too often schools only require a social studies course that is a mishmash of history, economics, government, and sometimes geography. A second answer came after that: make sure that the geography teacher is not named "Coach."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

AAG 2010: Day 1 "I spoke up for geography"

The Association of American Geographers convention has begun. I have seen several old friends, recent friends, and coworkers so far. So far a great convention filled with friendship, geography, and geographic nerd fights.

By the registration table is another table plastered with signs challenging convention goers to "Stand up for Geography!" Intrigued, I approached the table and struck up a conversation with one of the men who was manning it. Little did I know that this one talk would show major issues with geographers and our plans to advance geographic education.

"So how can I stand up for geography?" I asked.

"It's easy," he replied, "sign these postcards and we will give them to your congressman and Senators. The postcards will tell them that you support including geographic education education in the No Child Left Behind programs."

"Oh, can you tell me more?"

"Well, we feel that geography is such a key subject that any federal educational standard needs
to include geographic education. Math, biology, and history are included but not geography. That is why we are supporting Senate Bill S. 749 and the related House bill. Already 127 representatives and 23 senators have sponsored this bill."

"That's great! But I know that similar bills have been sponsored in the past but nothing has been done. What are we doing to ensure that the educational committees take up the cause?"

"Um.." the man started, "we have more sponsors than ever before."

Discouraged with that line I followed up with another question, "What sort of geography are we campaigning for? Regional geography, technical GIS, physical geography, environmental?"

The man dropped the ball again with "Interrelationships. You know, since geography can complement everything."

I was crushed by the inability of geographers to formulate a real plan to advance geographic education. We preach to ourselves why geography matters but few (noted exception Harm de Blij and others) have taken the time to communicate what geography is, why it is important, and figure out how to implement an educational plan.

I signed the postcards but I fear they will do no good.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Catholicgauze's Presentation for the 2010 AAG: Geography of Religious Wars

Today is the beginning of the 2010 Association of American Geographers convention in Washington DC. For this year's convention I am presenting the Geography of Religious Wars. My interests in religions, wars, and geography merged for this project. My notes for each slide are below the respective slide.

Though many religions preach peace, either amongst themselves or towards all humanity, the major religions of the world are filled with calls to arms. Some holy texts' calls to arms, like the in Bible, are usually reserved for particular divine-called wars while others, legalistic religions, can issue universal demands for violence in certain situations.

Religion has been the cause of wars, been used as a tool to unite forces, and replaced original causes to turn a secular war into a religious war. It also has been wrongly attributed to conflicts. Northern Ireland has seen Protestant Irish nationalists and atheist Unionists.

There has been a shift in religious control from conservative forces to revolutionary groups in the past decades. Highly motivated actors and groups are no longer satisfied with a traditional status quo but instead they want to establish "God's Kingdom on Earth." The decentralization of warfare has given these groups the ability to cause great harm.

The term "bloody borders of Islam" is only partially true. Jihadist groups not only fight secularists, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhist but also Muslims. The vast majority of those killed by Islamic terrorists are in fact Muslim.

The anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan was fought by Islamists, royalists, republicans, and non-Marxist socialists. International funding of religious groups gave Jihadists the edge. Foreign fighters also helped to turn the war into a holy one. After the 1992 fall of the Communist regime the war turned into a political one for control of the country. It was not until 1993/94 and the foundation of the Taliban that a group sought to implement religious value to impose peace.

The Jihadist movement is truly a network war of national groups in a loosely organized international system. While they all treat al Qaeda proper and bin Laden with respect, they are primarily concerned with their own region. "Jihad in one country" is the best analogy I can think of but they can also be compared to the national churches of the Eastern Orthodox Communion with one "first amongst equals" who can advise and end disputes.

Somalia has seen the second emergence of a holy war for peace. The Islamic Court Union and al-Shabaab originally were formed to implement Islam as a unifier of a war torn country. However, there efforts to impose their version of Islam, a puritanical one, has run afoul of Sufis, who are mystics and followers of tradition, who are well armed.

Align Center(Clockwise from upper right: Islamic rioter in Indonesia, Lord's Resistance Army in the Congo, ELN soldiers in Colombia, Islamic Jihad members in Egypt)
Feel free to comment

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: GeoMexico

Earlier we featured the great blog, that is still active, Geo-Mexico. The blog Geo-Mexico is a promotion blog for the book, also called Geo-Mexico. We received a review copy of the book and can honestly say the book more than lives up to the blog.

As a child growing up in the center of the United States I knew Mexico was 1) the source of many immigrants 2) the land of tacos and 3) home of advanced American Indian nations. Later on I became more and more interested in Mexico because of its advancement into multiparty democracy, its rich Catholic tradition, and complex mixture of cultures. Because of my growing interest the book Geo-Mexico was a great read for me.

The book is authored by Dr. Richard Rhoda and Tony Burton. Both of these men are experts on Mexico. Their book proves their expertise. Written in textbook form Geo-Mexico covers the whole range of the geography of Mexico. The chapters covers Poctepec ("hill that smokes" or physical geography), Michmaloyan ("place to fish" or economic geography), and Teocalcingo ("where the temple is" or human geography). Thirty-one chapters cover the full range included in these three subfields. Whether one wants to read about the rise of Protestantism in Mexico, the stark north-south political divide between Right and Left, or water issues throughout the country this is the book to read.

Catholicgauzette greatly appreciated the professional, easy-to-read maps. Though the maps are in black and white this is not an issue because of the smart use of different fill designs.

Geo-Mexico is fragmented into a text book style which allows one to jump to the chapter of interest without fear of missing out. However, it does help if you read related chapters like "Migration to the USA" and "Mexicans in the USA."

Geo-Mexico is a great read. To quote myself during the first day of high school Spanish, Me Gusta

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Michael Jones' "The New Meaning of Mapping" Which Is Actually the Old Meaning but Just More User Friendly

Michael Jones of Google Maps gave a speech at Where 2.0 on "The New Meaning of Mapping." Jones states that his Google products are allowing people to use maps to explore places and create "placesites" instead of websites. He gives the impression that these new maps, with the ability to overlay data in a GIS format that is easy to use, is a new way to allow people to gain location-information on a place.

Jones is both right and wrong. He is correct when he discusses how many people are using these tools for the first time to gain location awareness. However, he is mistaken in his implication that this is all new. Maps from the beginning of time have given information on the places they depict. It is just that only a limited amount of people knew how to read maps to gain the complete picture. My saying of "if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a map is worth a million" stresses the the knowledge that can be gained from a map. Each symbol displayed, and the spatial relationship between objects tells a story of landscape modification.

But Jones is right. Google Maps and neogeography in general has opened up maps to an audience that has otherwise ignored or used maps to less than their full potential. (Hat tip: Geoshunter)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Getting Ready for the AAG

The Association of American Geographers is coming up this week. We here at Geographic Travels are working at fever pitch to make sure we have the best coverage of the event available. We are going to have conference reports, interviews, and meet-ups.

Blogging will resume Monday with a long over due book review and Tuesday will begin the AAG Week posts.

If you are going to be at the AAG convention in Washington, DC drop us a line because we would love to feature your report or poster or interview with you and your thoughts about the Geography Complex that is the AAG.

Friday, April 09, 2010

USAID Field Reports of Helmand Valley 1950-2010

The Helmand Valley is a major region in southern Afghanistan. The valley is important because within it is the Helmand River. The river serves as the life source for Helmand province and parts of Uruzgan, Kandahar, and Nimroz provinces. Besides water for people the river also is the main source of water for agriculture including poppy production. Because of the presence of drugs, agriculture, and people in the valley around the river the valley is an important battleground in the War in Afghanistan.

The valley, along with much of southern Afghanistan, has been the site of many American-led development projects during the Cold War and post 9/11-era. These projects have mostly been managed by USAID.

USAID's reports from the various decades create a historical geography of Afghanistan. These reports can be fun to read when one reads them for the historic geographic picture they paint. Fortunately, Richard Scott, a former USAID official who was in Helmand during the 1970s, has a large collection of original documents from USAID's efforts dating from the 1950s to the present. The website has economics of agriculture production, surveys of land and people, opium production information, and so much more.

If one is interested in learning about an area of Afghanistan where much of the action is then these field reports can give important background information for one to better understand the present situation.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ordnance Survey Releases Data for Free

Back in November I wrote about Free Our Data's fight to have the United Kingdom's Ordnance Survey (OS) release government generated geospatial data. Well, victory has been declared. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has authroized OS is give away much of their data. OS OpenData Supply is OS' main database website where one can download most of the United Kingdom geospatial data needs.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

United Kingdom Parliamentary Election Voters' Guide and Map

There is less than one month to go before the elections for the House of Commons in the United Kingdom occur.  A now-centrist Conservative Party seeks to return to power after over a decade of "New" Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.  Meanwhile, the pro-market, socially liberal Liberal Democrats seek continue their advance towards making the United Kingdom have a national three-party system.  Finally, the Labour Party faces a public weary of the rise of the nanny state, two wars, and a sluggish economy.

The Daily Telegraph has excellent resources, both political and geopolitical, for the election.  Vote Match quizzes users over one's political beliefs and attempts to match the voter with a political party.  Trying it out, Vote Match recommended either the Conservative or United Kingdom Independence Party but only at a lukewarm level.  A neat thing about Vote Match is that it is customized for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (coming soon).  There is also the General Election Political Map which maps out representatives seats and gives 2005 election results.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

European Union School Map Renames the English Channel "the Anglo-French Pond" or "Le Pond"

When I was young I remember looking at the first few pages of a history book of the British Isles. The first text in the book was a line referencing a satellite image of the British Isles. The caption was something along the lines of "These islands, separated thousands of years ago from Europe, are about to return to the continent." At the time I did not understand the statement but I do now. It refers to the uniqueness of Great Britain and the United Kingdom which separates it from the rest of Europe. Centralizing European movements like the Counter-Reformation, Revolutionary Republicanism, Fascism, Communism, and the Euro have threatened England/the United Kingdom but have never been able to take the islands like the rest of Europe.

The one geographical barrier preventing the waves of European fads from reaching Great Britain is the English Channel. The channel has long been associated with being a divide from the rest of Europe. The geographer Ptolemy called the channel Oceanus Britannicus around AD 120. Most geographers since have identified the waters with Britain.

The European Union wants to change the identity of the channel. The idea of a divide between the isle and the rest of Europe is harmful for the one Europe worldview. The European Union's geographer cartographers are creating new maps for schools and organization which rename the channel to "the Anglo-French Pond" and "Le Pond." The very notion of a pond, a small contained body of water, is meant to understate the importance of the channel. Naturally, the anti-European Union United Kingdom Independence Party has denounced this effort by the Europeanists.

The English Channel has protected Great Britain from Europe time and time again. But can it withstand Europe while being just a pond? Probably not. However, there is enough nationalism in all of the main British parties to protect their channel's name for the time being.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Convert Garmen GPS Waypoints and Tracks Directly to GIS Shapefiles

Last week I was preparing for field work when I encountered a technical issue. ArcGIS would not synch up with my GPS unit. After trying and failing to get ArcGIS to synch I decided to use Garmin' MapSource program to download the waypoints and tracks and then upload them to ArcGIS. However, MapSource would not allow me to save my data in shapefile (.SHP) format. (To make matters worse my field laptop cannot handle Google Earth so I feared I was doomed).

Fortunately; however, I managed to find the Minnesotan Department of Natural Resource's Garmin Application. The program allow gives "users the ability to directly transfer data between Garmin GPS handheld receivers and various GIS software packages. Using this program a user can use point features (graphics or shapefile) and upload them to the GPS as Waypoints. Line and Polygon Graphics or shapes can be uploaded to the GPS as Track Logs or Routes. Conversely, Waypoints, Track Logs, and Routes collected using the GPS can be transferred directly to ArcView/ArcMap/Google Earth/Landview and saved as Graphics or Shapefiles."

So this program allows for easy back and forth data sharing between GIS and GPS. While many GIS programs now allow for easy data sharing this program can be of use to geographers and others who for some reason or another lack that ability.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Note on the Baja California Earthquake

The 2010 Haiti Earthquake was 7.0 on the Richter Scale. The 2010 Chile Earthquake was 8.8. The 2010 Baja California earthquake was 7.2.

Since the Richter Scale is logarithmic, the Baja California was about twice as powerful as the Haitian Earthquake but about two-hundred fifty times smaller than the Chilean earthquake. 230,000 were killed in Haiti but there have been only 432 confirmed dead in Chile. The clear lesson is that building engineering quality is the key factor in casualties from an earthquake.

Easter 2010

He is Risen!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rep. Hank Johnson: Guam Could Tip Over

Representative Hank Johnson (Democrat-Georgia) is a sick man. He has been battling Hepatitis C and press reports indicate that his medicine has taken him off his A-game. Apparently, the medicine has also harmed his ability to comprehend physical geography. During a discussion with Admiral Robert Willard, commander of the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet, Johnson declared his fear that an extra 8,000 service members stationed on Guam would cause the island to flip over.

This fear of course, is complete unfounded. Since Guam is an island and not a floating pile of dirt it is connected to the Earth's crust. Guam is more or less the top of a mountain whose base is underwater. It cannot capsize.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Easter Geography: Stations of the Cross 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 01, 2010

April Fools Day: Bloggers Uncover Lebanon War Fraud

A favorite of mine which I had no part in making from The Spoof

Bloggers Uncover Lebanon War Fraud

Written by Douglas Salguod
ALTOONA, Penn. -- In the wake of the United Nation's Security Council resolution to end the war in Lebanon, some fear the root cause of the war may be lost. The war was the result of geographical fraud, according to a report produced by a virtual convocation of internet bloggers. The report documents compelling evidence from hundreds of digitally enhanced eye-witnesses that every map the describing the Middle East conflict, every single one in print, broadcast or on the internet, is uncontestably inaccurate.

The discovery of the fraud began innocently enough as an Israeli teenager crept up to the border with Lebanon late last Thursday night to meet the Lebanese girl he had hooked up with through MySpace. He used a MacBook® with a Geosensory® USB-interface version Gobal Postitioning System receiver module. She had a Garmin® eTrex®, a stand-alone handheld unit that literally fit in the palm of her hand, and cost only 165,851 Lebanese pounds.

They knew that it could be fatal if either of them crossed the border -- but in the dim and shimmering moonlight they met exactly at the rendezvous coordinates -- and there they were together, alone -- and there was no border, none at all. They kissed in a way that, according to their precisely cailibrated GPS-enabled devices, neither of their lips crossed the suppposed border, then ran home to get on the internet tell the world about what they had discovered. Love would have to wait.

Hundreds of bloggers, posters and blog readers from Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, all equipped with GPS-enabled smartphones, handhelds and other information appliances walked to the points on their maps indicating the international border. Regardless of whether their devices were voice-centric or data-centric, and whether they ran Symbian, Palm OS, Windows Mobile or Linux, the results were the exactly the same: there was no border, none at all. Walls, ditches and fences appeared at some points, the eye-witnesses report, but never the lines, solid or dashed, that showed on every map or mapping device.

Academic geographers, when presented with the information provided at this conference, were astounded. "It's irrefutable; completely, entirely, undeniably irrefutable," said Brent R. Skeeter, Chair and Professor of the Salisbury State University's Department of Geography and Geosciences. "Nothing I've taught for 40 years has been anything but a fraud, a hoax, a sham, a deck of duplicious dupery. It's too late for me to do anything, but maybe the next generation of geographers will take their students on field trips and not just rely on pull-down maps."

Because of Photoshop, which was used to create many of these maps, no photo can be trusted any longer, experts in photo manipulation agree. So, the bloggers will lead an expedition to the Middle East with top journalists from around the world to show them the actual "border" between Israel and Lebanon.

"After they've been there they will understand the deception that has been perpetrated not just on the government of Israel, government of Lebanon and the leadership of Hezbollah but on the whole world," said Catholicgauze, the meisterblogger of Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze!

Local journalists and photographers not esteemed enough to be included in the Middle East tour can simulate its impact by going to their own county's county-line with any neighboring county. "What you will see, invariably, is a change in pavement, but no actual line. And where the line extends into the grass on each side of the road, nothing. There's no line, dotted or otherwise," said David Rayner, co-founder of the Give Geography its Place Campaign.

"The people behind this, and I don't want to sound paranoid but there are people behind this, they are trying to divide us. And they've done quite a good job of it, whoever they are," said Simon Beevers, a geography teacher from the United Kingdom.

IN OTHER NEWS, members of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a voluntary, non-governmental border patrol organization, report that their standard-issue Magellan GPS 2000 devices, which were assembled in Mexico, are indicating that the U.S. border is north of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Until further notice, the Minutemen say they will protect Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah and Nevada from illegal aliens coming from the states south of there.

Copyright 2006, Douglas Salguod