Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Going to Get Married!

Normal blogging will resume on July 19. Wedding blog posts will be spread out during the lull.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Loss of Strength Gradient: Military Distance Decay

In 1963 renaissance man Kenneth Boulding created the theory of Loss Strength Gradient (LSG). LSG states the amount of a country’s military power that could be brought to bear in any part of the world depended on the distance between the said country and the front lines. By definition LSG functions like distance decay by specifically using military force and describing the force's power as decreasing by distance.

Boulding added a temporal element to LSG by stating that a military revolution occurred in the 20th century with the rise of strategic air power, air transport, and intercontinental missiles.

LSG is a good rule of thumb but it ignores a key geographic factor: terrain. The United Kingdom was able to have a worldwide empire because water was so much easier to cross than vast landmasses. The only comparative empires which ruled large landmasses, the Mongols and the Russia, did so because the steppes were so sparsely populated. France could not support operations in Moscow in 1812 while at the same time the United Kingdom was conducting successful military operations in the Americas, India, Africa, and Australia. Around this time almost completely militarized France had 42 million citizens while the United Kingdom, a non-militarized country, only had some 8 million citizens.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Increasing Number Of Americans Unable To Point Out Map

From The Onion: Hat tip Adrian

WASHINGTON—-An alarming new study released Tuesday by the Department of Education found that nearly 70 percent of Americans are incapable of pointing out a map when presented by researchers with a map. "Not only did a majority of people just stare blankly ahead, but nearly half pointed to nearby desk lamps in their attempts to guess correctly," said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who called the findings endemic of the nation's failing school system. "In fact, 14 percent of all Americans claimed they had never 'even heard of no map,' and asked if being prompted to locate one was some kind of trick question." According to Duncan, the Department of Education has suspended all further studies and will instead be spending the next six months just screaming into a pillow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Religious Geography Roundup: June 26

Coptic Pope Authority Challenge by Islamic and Civil Law Based Egyptian Court

The old joke goes something along the lines of "If the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are so similar why did Protestants not declare the Patriarch of Constantinople to be the Anti-Christ? Because the Anti-Christ has better things to do than listen to the Ottoman Sultan for 500 years." The joke is based off of the fact that after the fall of Constantinople the Orthodox Church was split apart from a new communion with the Catholic Church and further split along ethnic lines by the Muslim Turks.

The Muslim Arabs of Egypt gave the Coptic Christians of Egypt a little more leeway in freedom. However, the rise of Islamism has encouraged groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda to target Copts for oppression and violence. Now the government has formally gotten involved with the oppression with a court (Egypt's legal system is based on Islamic Law and French Civil Law) ordering the church to allow divorced members to be remarried in the church.

Unlike the Eastern Patriarchs of old the Coptic Pope is fighting against the ruling. Time will tell if the court ruling is a fluke or if Egypt's government deems the Coptic Church as subject to Islamic-Civil rule.

Conference Debates the Locations of Book Mormon Events

Earlier I blogged about the Limited Geography Model of the Book of Mormon which stated the alleged North American events of the Book of Mormon took place in Central America. Last month a conference of (Salt Lake City) Mormon geographers gathered to debate the location of the lost cities of White Indians who were descendants of Ancient Jews. The debate seems to have gotten heated between those who think the events happened in North America as opposed to South America or North America (Mormons believe the Garden of Eden was in present-day Independence, Missouri. There is a movement within the Church that most Biblical and Mormon events occurred around Independence).

The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City Mormons) has no official position on the geography in the Book of Mormon. Neither does the Community of Christ (Missouri Mormons).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rogue Waves Explained

Rogue waves a very large waves that can form in any weather. Strangely they do not form in groups. Therefore they almost stealth like in their approach. The combination of a massive, moving wall of water and the stealthy approach can lead to disaster on the sea.

A new study has discovered the probable cause of rogue waves. According to ScienceShot:

In a new paper to be published in Physical Review Letters, researchers use a computer model to simulate a rogue wave's birth and propagation. Two or more small waves, driven forward by strong currents, and at the same time resisted by powerful headwinds, suddenly combine and amplify their height into a single, giant wave. Once formed, the wave structure stabilizes itself and concentrates its energy in one direction. That enables it to travel many kilometers before breaking up, typically when either the driving currents or headwinds subside. Along the way, anyone unfortunate enough to be sitting in the wave's path is bound to remember the experience.
Research into rogue waves may help one day predict where these real life monsters of the sea can strike next. With prediction knowledge disasters like the March 2010 cruse ship strike may be avoided in the future.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Skills and Job Options that a Geography Degree Gives - United Kingdom Version

Most people are interested in geography in some way, shape, or form. Geography is a hobby for the majority of the its fans. Some people use geographic knowledge to analyze global or regional issues to better understand the world. Others use geographic knowledge to aid them their professions while a few are full time professional geographers. A major problem for geography as a field-of-study is that alot of people do not realize that studying geography (whether in college or self-study) can help them get jobs in a variety of fields.

The Guardian and Prospects have nice guides on what a geography degree can get a person. I know those going into college will be interested in the jobs options and careers, the skills that geographical study can give one are great as well. From Prospects:

[D]uring your multidisciplinary course you develop other personal and intellectual skills which are required by all employers, whether they are employing graduates in careers related to, or unrelated to, geography. These skills can be developed through your experience at university as a whole but also through your degree programme, as geography is very diverse and includes lots of hands-on, practical application work. Skills you develop include analysing and problem-solving, decision-making, critically interpreting data and text, developing a reasoned argument, numerical skills - interpreting and presenting relevant numerical information, teamworking, planning skills, presenting oral and written arguments and information, communication and technology skills (ICT) - including word processing, databases, internet communications, information retrieval and online searches.
The job options mentioned deserve a good look as well. Jobs listed include
  • Surveyor: Comes in combination with engineering study
  • GIS Technician: Growing industry where one can study everything from environmental disasters to urban planning to marketing
  • Teacher
  • Environmental consultant: Geography helps one understand the system
  • And many more
Those currently in college should consider related geography courses to complement their course of study. Real estate legal students may be interested in taking a environmental geography course to better understand the environmental factors which impact property values. Medical students may want to take a geographical research class since spatial reasoning discovered the cause of cholera. Finally, a world regional geography class can explain many of the world's current hot body issues.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Maps of Prepaid Cell Phone Coverage in the United States

I was buying a prepaid cell phone for a foreign friend who will be visiting me soon when I read the phone's box stating "97% of the population of the United States is in [the phone's] coverage zone."

This made me wonder: where are the gaps in coverage? Are there any differences between the leading phone companies prepaid cell phones?

Here are the coverage maps of the leading brands. The images are hyperlinked to interactive coverage maps by the company.


Cricket Wireless

Verizon Prepaid

AT&T GoPhone

Boost Mobile Prepaid

Virgin Mobile Prepaid

The Eastern half of the United States is pretty well covered though there are gaps in the remote regions of the Appalachian Mountain range. The Interior West is the consistent loser with desert, some Indian reservations, and rural lands not being covered. Alaska is a big loser. Only in the southern populated part the only section of the state covered. The majority of the biggest state is not covered.

The Extras
are the true losers, though. Many of the prepaid cell phone maps do not even have Alaska, Hawaii, or even Puerto Rico. Good luck knowing if your prepaid cell phone will work if you live in the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or any of the other Extras.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Visit Florida Beach Conditions Map

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill is not only hurting wildlife, the environment, and the economy in general but also tourism. Florida's beaches are hurting as many tourist bath in the sun elsewhere away from the soon to be menacing oil.

Florida is fighting to assure potential tourists that the beaches are still usable. Visit Florida has a webpage that features a Google Maps mashup overlayed with options to view beach advisories, beaches Twitter feed on any oil threats, local webcams, and Florida Live TV videos.

The map tool will be real useful when more oil starts washing up on shore. It is such a shame it is buried within the Visit Florida website.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Interactive Population Movement Maps Are the Geography of the Day

Forbes has created an online, interactive map of U.S. migration patterns based on IRS data. The map is interesting enough in comparing what counties have very mobile populations (i.e. the urban centers) and which have almost completely sedentary populations (check out the Indian reservations in southwestern South Dakota).

What is truly fascinating is how this map/tool is how its being applied. ZDNet explores how the depicted population movements reflect support for former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and President Barack Obama. Meanwhile the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute used the tool to compare the push-pull of Texas' conservative-minded development to California's liberal-minded development (Hat tip: Goethe Girl).

It is great to see that easily accessible geographic data is encouraging people to explore the geography and meaning of American migration. A Google search shows the map tool is very popular. If you can find another useful/neat/odd application of Forbes' map post the link in the comment section!

Friday, June 18, 2010

China versus the United States in Popularlity

The United States of America is still popular in key countries compared to the People's Republic of China according to a Pew poll featured in The Economist. While America has some passionate despisers, China's human rights abuses keep the economic powerhouse's support at more moderate levels.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Portion of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge An Ungoverned Space Since 2006

Update: The Fox News Report is wrong in the sense that the closure was in 2006. From the refuge's website: Click to read more. Hatip: Pfly

This means the closure was done under President Bush's administration. I have removed the Fox News video because it was very misleading.

Fox News is reporting that an eighty mile strip of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona has been closed to Americans because the United States cannot control it. The portion runs along the United States-Mexican border. Apparently, neither United States Fish and Wildlife Service nor the Border Control feel it can control the area as the presence of Mexican narco-militias combined with armed border runners has made the closed area to dangerous to police.

Map of the Ungoverned Space

The closure of a portion of the refuge makes it an ungoverned space which the United States claims but has more or less given up on controlling for the time being. Many commentators have blasted Pakistan for being unable to control Waziristan. Some other observers have gone so far to mock Mexico for losing much of its populated northern cities to drug gangs. If these narco-militias use the closed area of the wildlife refuge to either launch raids against the Mexican military or even use it as a base for conducting inter-gang warfare in Arizona, will the United States have any credibility to criticize any other country for not controlling its own lawless groups and territory?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stalin's Harvests: The Conflicts Made By One Man's Geographic Changes

Ethnic Kyrgyz supporters of the ousted ex-president of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, are targeting ethnic Uzbeks, supporters of the new government. The riots are in the southern half of the control and have spun out of control. Some have even called the riots acts of "genocide" with up to 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks fleeing into Uzbekistan. The riots have several causes; among them are the change in government, demographic movements of ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the fertile Fergana Valley, and traditional rivalry between settled Uzbeks and nomadic Kyrgyz. There is a key, historical cause though. The Economist calls it Stalin's Harvest. The "harvest" refers to Stalin's drawing of borders to suit his own, divide and conquer needs. And this is not the first bloody border harvest of his.

Stalin, and other members of the People's Commissariat of Nationalities. drew and redrew national boundaries in the 1920s and 1930s in an effort to reward, punish, and playoff subjects in the Caucasus.  Later on as head of the Soviet Union Stalin engaged in population transfers of various ethnic Muslim groups in both the northern and southern Caucasus. During his reign there were many harvests of ethnic blood through expulsions and mass killings. His death saw a curbing of ethnic killings; however, the collapse of the Soviet Union saw the incubated seeds of Stalin's ethnic violence emerge once more.


Before the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia was comprised of Georgia-proper, the ethnic autonomous republic of Abkhaiza (for Abkhaz) and the autonomous oblast of South Ossetia (for Ossetians). The last Georgian Soviet leader and first Preisdent of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, demanded a "Georgia for the Georgians" while pushing laws to strip ethnic minorities of their special regions. War broke out between Georgians against the Ossetians and Abkhaz who received military support from Russia. The conflict is currently frozen, the last spat was the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, which ended in another Georgian defeat and limited international recognition of de facto independent South Ossetia and Abkhazia.


When the Soviet Union was collapsing the first region to revolt against Stalin's map was the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.  As written about before in the Other Occupations piece, ethnic Armenians and Azeris went to war over an ethnic Armenian autonomous region in Azeribaijan.  Today the exclave is de facto independent and owns some previously ethnic Azeri lands

Republic of North Ossetia and Republic of Ingushetia, Russia

Muslim Ingush were forced into exile by Stalin because he believed they supported the Nazis during World War II. The Ingush, like many punished ethnic groups, were forced to relocate to Central Asia and Siberia in the mid-1940s. As the Soviet Union was collapsing many Ingush returned to their homeland and noticed it was smaller because much of the land was given to Christian Ossetians (who rival Belarusians in being the most Russian non-ethnic Russians). A conflict broke out in which Ossetians cleansed North Ossetia of many Ingush. Many Ingush from North Ossetia still live in refugee camps in Ingushetia today. The hatred of this loss has feed into the instablity in Ingushetia today.


The ethnic riots of 2010 are not the first mass ethnic killings in Kyrgyzstan. In 1990 in the city of Osh, one of the places where the 2010 ethnic riots is currently on-going, ethnic Uzbeks started to demand local cultural rights and autonomy. Ethnic Kyrgyz responded with riots that targetted Uzbek homes. Some Uzbeks from Soviet Uzbekistan in turn went to Osh to melee against the Kyrgyz rioters. Soviet Army troops were needed to quell the rioting and keep the peace.

Besides the four cases of mass ethnic killings above, there has been low level violence in Ukraine's Crimea where Crimean Tatars squatters are fighting ethnic Russian land owners over lands the Tatars lost because of one of Stalin's many ethnic exiles.

Stalin not only harvested ethnic violence during his reign but also laid the seeds for further violence with his expulsions and African-style border drawing. With Azeri-Armenian, Georgian-Ossetian-Abkhaz, and Krygyz-Uzbek tensions running high, expect Stalin's harvest to occur every so often.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Map of Mars When There Was an Ocean

Dr. Brian Hynek of the University of Colorado and fellow geologists have mapped out the once great northern Martian ocean. The great northern ocean (no official name yet) was around 3.5 billion years ago! (For reference: the rocky planets are estimated being about 4.5 billion years old).

Another study by the group revealed the existence of 40,000 river valleys on Mars. The mapping of river valleys and deltas is useful in the exploration of whether or not there was life on Mars. Dr. Gaetano Di Achille stated that knowing where deltas were was useful because "[o]n Earth, deltas and lakes are excellent collectors and preservers of signs of past life. If life ever arose on Mars, deltas may be the key to unlocking Mars' biological past."

Good for these geologists to be applying their skills on the other planets. It is such a shame no physical geographers lent their skills to this or other related projects. We geographers are still stuck on the Earth.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Maps of the New FAA No-Flight Zone over the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The FAA has established a new no flight zone over the coastal Gulf of Mexico region. The official map of the ban is below.

Airplanes are not allowed to fly over the oil spill

However, the real story is what the ban is shielding. Using information from by the FAA and Google's Crisis Support webpage we were able to map the no flight zone and show that it is covering up the vast majority of the BP oil spill. One can view our map below, in Google Maps proper, or download it for Google Earth in KMZ.

View Larger Map

High flying planes have no threat to recovery efforts on and below the water. Such a large event demands government and corporate transparency. BP has been rightfully slammed for its delaying efforts in getting news and webcamera footage released, the government should not try to hide the spill from plane passengers and the public.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Very Catholicgauze Wedding Plus a Call for Guest Posts

This July Fourth weekend Catholicgauze and Catholicgauzette are getting married! We will be working on a post explaining various things about our wedding and reception from a cultural geography perspective.

We also hope to have a feature which will describe wedding customs from around the world. This is where you, the readers, come in. Catholicgauzette and I cannot possibly hope to cover the world's vast array of wedding cultures as we reach the final weeks before the wedding. We need readers to write about weddings in their country/culture/sub-culture. The post do not have to be long (even a paragraph or two would do). This is a great opportunity to get cross-blog readership if you are a blogger as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Other Occupations

The Free Gaza Movement (FGM), the blockade of Gaza, and the deadly Israeli-FGM battle have focused attention on occupation and how it relates to Israel. However, with all the focus on the Israeli-Palestinian cycle of violence it is easy to forget that there are other occupations currently on going. Some of these occupations have been more violent and oppressive than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

*Note: I recognize occupation is a loaded word. History is full of invasions and occupations that turn into permanent changes which are now considered normal. The Saxons occupied the Briton's lands only to be occupied by Normans. The American continent has seen thousands of years of American Indians taking each other lands only to be replaced by rival European colonies who in turn became independent and launched campaigns of conquest against each other. I am not making judgments for or against these occupations.

Golan Heights

The Golan Heights are a full part ofIsrael (if one asks the Israeli government in Jerusalem) or an illegally occupied part of Syria (if one asks the Syrian government in Damascus). The Golan are frequently either confused as part of the greater Israeli-Palestinian struggle or just forgotten altogether.

The Golan Heights were conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and retained after the Syrian invasion of the Yom Kippur War. The main reason that Israel has held onto the heights is geographical. The heights tower above the Israeli population centers around the Sea of Galilee. The Syrians used this advantage to place effective artillery fire on Israel before the Six Day War. Presently the tables are turned with Damascus being visible to the naked eye from some parts of the Israeli-administered Golan Heights.

Israel ruled their part of the Golan Heights by martial law until the Golan Heights Law of 1981 went into effect. The bill extended the rule of law to the Golan and thus made it legally indistinguishable from the rest of the State of Israel. Currently there are some 17,000 Israeli Jews who live in the Golan. The Alawities (a non-Orthodox, kind-of-like Shia Muslim group) accepted Israeli citizenship in the 1980s. The big thorn in the Israeli side (and therefore hope for the Syrians) are the Druze (Druze are to Muslims as Mormons are to Christians; Druze believe in reincarnation and a priesthood). Over 20,000 Druze live on the Israeli side and the Druze a fiercely Syrian nationalists. They refuse to accept Israeli citizenship and frequently rally in support of Syria and use civil disobedience to show their disapproval of being separated from Syria.

On the plus side, unlike the split Palestinian Authority/Israeli-controlled West Bank or the Hamas-occupied Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights are relatively peaceful.


Do you support Tibetan independence from the People's Republic of China? If you do then you are more radical than the Central Tibetan Administration which is also known as the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. Tibet has long been a part of "China" but rule from the various emperors, presidents, and warlords historically fluctuated between weak and non-existent. Tibet only proclaimed independence in 1921 when warlords were ripping apart the newly formed Republic of China. The Communist Chinese invaded Tibet in 1951 and then crushed a rebellion in the late 1950s which forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.

Currently the Dalai Lama is advocating more autonomy for Tibet instead of independence. After being a supporter for independence it seems he has switched to supporting the traditional relationship between China-proper and Tibet. The People's Republic of China (PRC) meanwhile is not interested in local autonomy. The Beijing government has sponsored efforts to make Tibet more Chinese by supporting Han Chinese who move to Tibet. While the PRC claim that Tibet is over 90% Tibetan (warning: PRC government link) while pro-Tibetan independence sources state the number is much higher (I have heard up to fifty percent).

The PRC has been very patient with its occupation. It is hoping that time is on its side as demographics begin to shift while the military crushes any opposition before it can gain strength.


Kashmir has it all. Its dispute is as long as the Israeli-Arab conflict, it has two nuclear powers going head to head (the Middle East still has only one nuclear power), global jihad, and a much higher death rate. Since the latest eruption of violence in 1989, somewhere between 50,000 and 125,000 people have been killed (The first and second intifadas killed about 8,000 people while the latest Gaza fighting has claimed about than 2,000 lives).

The Kashmir struggle begins with the births of independent India and Pakistan. The Princely states, monarchies within India that were ruled by nominally sovereign princes within British India, were given the choice of joining Pakistan or India or becoming independent. India used force to prevent the Muslim-ruled but Hindu-majority Junagadh and Hyderabad states from joining Pakistan. However, when Hindu-ruled but Muslim-majority Kashmir was being torn apart India made sure to rush troops into Kashmir to ensure it going India. Kashmir has been the subject of three of the four wars between India and Pakistan. The 1947 war ended in dividing Kashmir along the Line of Control. In 1965 Pakistan attempted to start an insurgency but was defeated when the guerrilla war turned into a conventional war. Similar events transpired when another war broke out in 1999.

The insurgency tactic has been the cause of the trouble in Kashmir. Pakistan embraced independent insurgents by promoting Islamist jihad to take Indian Kashmir. The camps used to train Kashmiri insurgents have also been used by Pakistani militants and Islamist jihadist for conflict in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Bosnia, and elsewhere.

The trouble has been centered in Indian Kashmir, known as Jammu and Kashmir. Successful counter-insurgency tactics combined with integrating Jammu and Kashmir into the rest of India has greatly reduced the violence in the last decade as Kashmiris consider themselves Indians more and more as time progresses. However, Pakistan has realized that supporting Islamist insurgents in Kashmir is the only practical tool they can use kinetically against India. Expect violence to continue in Indian Kashmir for years to come.

Western Azerbaijan

The Nagorno-Karabakh War began in 1988 when both Armenia and Azerbaijan were republics in the Soviet Union. It ended in 1994 after ethnic cleansing, foreign fighters, the creation of a de facto independent republic, and the occupation of western Azerbaijan. The American equivalent of this war would be something like Wisconsin fighting Michigan for the Northern Peninsula with Wisconsin using volunteers from Duluth, Minnesota to destroy the elite New York National Guard. The war would end with Northern Lower Michigan being ethnically cleansed of Michiganders.

Western Azerbaijan needs to be differenate from Nagorno-Karabkah (NK). NK was an automous region within Azerbaijan that was populated by Armenians. In between NK and the Soviet Armenian republic was the western part of Azerbaijan-proper. Towards the end of the 1980s the Azeris began removing special language and cultural rights for Armenians in the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Ethnic violence reached fever pitch in 1988 with the Azeri-led Sumgait Pogrom against ethnic Armenians. War broke out and lasted six years. The war reached epic pitch when it ended in 1994: Afghan warlord (now allied with the Taliban) Gulbuddin Hekmatyar sent soldiers to fight for the Azeris; however, these troops were defeated by ethnic Armenian militiamen from Lebanon.

With the end of the war NK was not only under ethnic Armenian control but so was western Azerbaijan-proper. The Armenians ethnically cleansed this area yet surprisingly have not resettled ethnic Armenians there. Cities like Fuzuli and Agdam are ghost towns which mirror the destruction in Darfur. To this day what the Armenian plan for occupied western Azerbaijan remains a mystery.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Every Country, Culture, Media Environment, and National Foods

While searching for good sources on world cultures I found a gold mine of information. Several gold mines to be exact.

Encyclopedia of the Nations
has a broad survey of the countries of the world with subjects ranging from flora and fauna to religions, transportation, labor, and much more.

Countries and their Cultures
is a surprisingly detailed website that might as well be the CIA World Factbook of cultures. Just check out the page for Moldova! If Moldova is this detailed then the website creators must be very dedicated to their mission.

Press Reference
is like Countries and their Cultures but focuses on press, government-press relationships, and media access. From the website I learned that Togo's press has yet to divorce itself from the government but the people do have access to other French-language media.

Food in Every Country
not only has information about the food culture of countries but also recipes from each country! Make your own South African dish for the World Cup.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tribute to Dr. Charles "Fritz" Gritzner

Dr. Charles "Fritz" Gritzner, Distinguished Professor of Geography, has officially retired. He was and continues to be an inspiration to both his students and those who were fortunate enough to meet him. Fritz had expertise in both cultural geography and geographic education. His career spanned across the country while focusing on college instruction at East Carolina University, Louisiana State University, University of Montana, University of Houston and South Dakota State University. However, one of his favorite things to do was to visit schools and tell children about geography and geographic adventures with his stuffed animal friend Bov.

It was at a high school talk, sans Bov, that I met Dr. Gritzner. Dr. Gritzner opened my eyes (I flunked his geography trick pop quiz) to the wide range of subjects that could be studied geographically. I learned from him that it is possible not only to major in geography but, more importantly, I could have a career in the field. He also directed my love of geography into the subfield of Cultural Geography (the old school study of different cultures ala anthropology, not the modern sociology-like subfield).

Dr. Gritzner dedicated his career to expanding geography to the masses. Two of his best works are call to actions that better explain just what geography is. They are "Why Geography?" and "What is Where? Why There? and Why Care?". These are must reads for any geographic educator. Other works of his include world regional and human geography textbooks as well as studying the geography of the paranormal.

This blog is in part inspired by Dr. Gritzner's work of making geography accessible, fun, and entertaining to all. I can only hope to reach as many people as Fritz has done.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hilarious Google Maps Demotivational Posters and Fail Shots

Neogeography can be humorous. I have searched the internet for family friendly Google Maps Demotivational Posters and Fail Images. It was harder than I thought to find non-obscene ones but here is something to lighten up one's day.

And then there are more mature funny ones. For adults and mature teens: (do not worry, nothing sexual) watch out for Google Maps markers and the next New York City terrorist attack.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Map-Driven Population Estimater

Columbia University's Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC) has made a Google Maps mashup that estimates population. The Population Estimation Service is graphically driven and the first online tool that can do population estimation. It is fairly easy to use but there is a slight learning curve as one click does not only pan (like normally in Google Maps) but also starts creating the polygon to mark an area for a population estimation. (Hat Tip: Catholicgauzette)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

D-Day 2010: The Boys of Du Hoc

American Army Rangers stormed Pointe Du Houc as part of Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. The Rangers suffered over fifty percent casualties in their successful effort to disable a strongpoint where the Germans could have inflicted even more major damage upon the landing troops (and possibly changed the outcome of the invasion). The Rangers were great heroes taking part of the Great Crusade to liberate Europe from the Nazis.

A formerly top secret map of the German installations is available via Britannica Online while Google Earth provides a decent overview of the high cliffs that the Rangers had to run up and attack.
Then President Ronald Regan gave a great speech in 1984 describing the sacrifice of the "Boys of Du Hoc."

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Likely to Spread into the Atlantic Ocean

Video prediction of how the oil will spread into the Atlantic Ocean

The National Center for Atmospheric Research has released animation depicting how wide the oil spill may spread if the loop current in the Gulf of Mexico flows normally during the spring and summer seasons.

The science behind the animation predicts that the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak will enter the Atlantic Ocean around day eighty (around July 1). The environmental sensitive southern Florida coast as well as northern Cuba and the barrier islands of North and South Carolina are most threatened. Meanwhile the southern American fisheries are also at risk.

The disaster could get even larger if the leak continues on for years if efforts to stop the leak fail. Oil in the Gulf Stream could take the toxic pollution all the way to the coast of Europe.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Training Geography Greatly Handicaps the United States' World Cup Team

The 2010 World Cup is about to begin and much of humanity is excited about watching their national soccer (football) team try to become world champions.

Every four years there are news stories about how "this is America's year" and "this year the United States could go all the way." Sadly though, America's choice in picking a place to train has already severely handicapped America's attempt to win the World Cup.

Most of 2010 World Cup games will be played at a high altitude affair. Six of the ten stadiums are above 4,000 feet (~1,200 metres). The stadiums and their altitudes are
  • Johannesburg's Soccer City and Ellis Park Stadium at 5,751 feet (1,753 metres).
  • Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium at about sea level
  • Cape Town's Cape Town Stadium at about sea level
  • Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium at 4,170 feet (1,271 metres)
  • Port Elizabeth's Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at about sea level
  • Bloemfontein's Free State Stadium at 4,577 feet (1,395 metres)
  • Polokwane's (Pietersburg) Peter Mokaba Stadium at 4,076 feet (1,242 metres)
  • Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium at 4,921 feet (1,500 metres)
  • Mbombela's (Nelspruit) Mbombela Stadium at 2,800 feet (853 metres)
To prepare for high altitude games many teams are practicing at similar altitudes to adjust players to the thinner air. Algeria is practicing in mountainous Switzerland at about 4,900 feet (1,500 metres), France is training in their Alps, and so is Italy. Even the long shot "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (North Korea) is training in the highlands of Zimbabwe.

The United States will play all three of the first round games at high altitude. America's opponents have done their early, pre-South Africa training in mountainous Austria (the English team), Switzerland (Algeria's team), and the Alpine region of Tyrol, Italy (Slovenia's team). So where does the United States train? Perhaps at Denver, Colorado where the altitude 5,280 feet (1,610 metres)? No. Instead the United States team trained in New Jersey at about 215 feet above sea level (65 metres). The United States has a vast range of geographical landscapes and has the facilities to train at higher altitudes than the World Cup venues. America's team could have thought that the air was thicker in South Africa than in Denver and thus played at a higher level. Instead they will be thinking "We're not in New Jersey anymore."

The United States probably is not going to win anyways, no matter where the team trains. Soccer is just not that popular of a sport in the United States and the pickings are slim for good American players. Only two-thirds of Americans knew the World Cup was a soccer event and only eight percent were following news stories about the World Cup closely. Do not expect these stats to change much in four years.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

South Pacific Coral Islands Growing

A study of twenty-seven islands in the Pacific Ocean has shown that twenty-three of the islands have grown in size or stayed the same in the last sixty years. This is despite sea levels rising nearly five (4.7) inches (120 millimeters).

The key part of the study is below:

[Arthur] Webb [of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission in Fiji] says the trend is explained by the islands' composition. Unlike the sandbars of the eastern US coast, low-lying Pacific islands are made of coral debris. This is eroded from the reefs that typically circle the islands and pushed up onto the islands by winds, waves and currents. Because the corals are alive, they provide a continuous supply of material. "Atolls are composed of once-living material," says Webb, "so you have a continual growth." Causeways and other structures linking islands can boost growth by trapping sediment that would otherwise get lost to the ocean.

All this means the islands respond to changing weather and climate. For instance, when hurricane Bebe hit Tuvalu in 1972 it deposited 140 hectares of sedimentary debris onto the eastern reef, increasing the area of the main island by 10 per cent.

The study was done by looking at areal imagery of the islands from the past sixty years. The study shows that at least some Pacific islands have an active growth cycle which can protect them from sea level rise. However, not all the islands have this mechanism. So threat of submersion for other, non-coral Pacific islands still exists.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Militant and Provincial Map of Afghanistan and Pakistan

The BBC has a great map from December 2009 describing the major militant groups along with the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan where much of the current fighting is. This website is a good starting point for those who do not know much about the war but there is nothing new for those who have followed the conflict.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Map Overlay Relocates Gulf Oil Spill to Any Location

Update: Other maps of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill available here

As the Deep Horizon Gulf Oil Spill continues to get worse both in oil leaked and damages down to the coastline, it is hard to truly understand how big the disaster actually is.. Fortunately, there is an online Google Maps mashup, In Perspective: Visualizing the BP Oil Disaster, which overlays the spill to any chosen location. Locating at the spill centered over places like New York City, Washington D.C., Brussels, Los Angeles, Toronto, or London allowed me to fully comprehend just how big it is.

PBS Oil Leak Webcam with Oil Leak Estimate