Thursday, December 29, 2011

Iran and the Strait of Hormuz

Iran knows the value of its geography... too bad its map has the old borders of Yemen and one Sudan
Iranian Admiral Habibollah Sayyari has told Iranian press that Iran would close the choke point Strait of Hormuz in case Iran was attacked or felt truly threatened.  He further added that closing the strait would be as easy as "drinking a glass of water." Closing the strait, Sayyari claims, would be done by both conventional naval forces as well as asymmetrical tactics, implying suicide boat bombs and forms of terrorism.

The strait at the narrowest are thirty-five miles wide at the point where Iran faces Oman's exclave off the United Arab Emirates.  This narrow geography would allow a small fleet to wreck havoc on oil shipping convoys.

This threat, if acted upon, would cause a serious disruption in the world's oil supply and gasoline prices as well as being a cause of war/theater of war.  Oil from Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates go through the strait to markets in China, Europe, and North America.  Ships transport around 20% of the world's oil supply through the strait.

There are reasons to believe Iran will not do this.  The primary one is Iran needs its oil money to survive.  To close down the strait or to make them a war zone will cost them much of their budget and throw their own economy into a depression.  Also, it would turn a war against American and/or Israel into a war against many of Iran's Arab neighbors.  The United States said that it would reopen the strait by force if need be.  It would not be the first time the United States fought the Islamic Republic of Iran over its actions in hurting the oil trade: Operation Praying Mantis saw the United States sink several Iranian naval ships over Iran's mining Persian Gulf convoy routes.

Saudi Arabia has also vowed to increase oil production if the strait are closed to reduce the economic damage.  However, the shear shock of the closing of the strait would not be fully covered by more oil pumping.  If the strait were to be closed then the world's economy would suffer for some moderate period of time.

The Strait of Hormuz are a chock point and Iran's ultimate trump card in terms of geography.  While the potential of its damaging effect are well known, only time will tell if the strait are actually closed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Transnistria Votes Against Russia's Candidate, Experience Democracy

Transnistria has joined Abkhazia and South Ossetia in expressing their independence of choice against Russia.  Since the end of the independence war against Moldova which ended with Transnistria de facto independent with no country officially recognizing it, 1992 Transnistria has been ruled by the Moscow-backed Igor Smirnov, who has been described by some as an evil Sean Connery.  The country has a KGB, the official Che Guevara School of International Studies, and the hammer and sickle in its flag.  Smirnov was Moscow's tool to keep Moldova tied down in negotiations and out of NATO and the European Union.

However, 19 years of keeping a country in frozen animation has made Smirnov a bit of a corrupt politician.  An opposition party, Renewal, began to oppose Smirnov.  Renewal sought Transnistrian independence (like Smirnov), a pro-Russia stance (like Smirnov), and an open economy (unlike the "post"-Communist Smirnov).  Last year Russia, tried of a incompentant money hole which Transnistria became, switched support from Smirnov to Renewal and endorsed Renewal's canidadate in last week's election (like it did in South Ossetia).

Like in South Ossetia; however, the people of Transnistria voted against Russia's candidate and Smirnov.  Yevgeny Shevchuk, an independent who promises a true negotiation with Moldova and even talks with the European Union, won with over 70% of the vote.  For a president and Moscow's candidate to lose in Transnistria is truly something.  I am personally shocked that Shevchuk was allowed to win.

While these vows are promising, one has to remember Russia has oil money while the European Union is strapped for cash with its currency's very future in question.  Shevchuk will have to reach out to Moldova's weak pro-European Union government right away otherwise the frozen conflict between them will likely remain frozen due to Russia's control of Transnistria's budget and a Communist threat opposed to European integration in Moldova.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Earth Has Multiple Moons

Throughout history man has studied and told stories of the Moon.  The Moon is rather hard to ignore due to its size and its futures are noticeable enough for people to realize there is only one moon.  People throughout history have been wrong, though.  According to scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at any given time there are multiple Earth moons at any given time.  Various small asteroids, mostly a few yards (meters) wide, are captured by Earth's gravity and will rotate the Earth for a while and then spin off again into space.  This small moons are invisible for the naked eye.  But complex math and spacial observation can confirm their existence.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Track Santa with NORAD

The yearly tradition continues as NORAD, originally meant to track incoming Soviet nuclear missles, turns its eyes towards tracking Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


For eight nights starting on Kislev 25 the celebration of Hanukkah begins.  The holiday is commonly thought of as somesort of Jewish Christmas or even the Jewish winter solstice festival.  However, a look at the history, culture, and geography of everything related to Hanukkah reveals a rich story of humanity.

Hanukkah's Pre-History:  From Aristotle's Student to a Line in the Sand

By his death in 323 BC Alexander the Great had created, at that time, the world's largest empire.  The Macedonia Empire stretched from present-day Albania to India, from Romania down into Egypt.  With his passing the empire collapsed not back into native regimes but into feuding Greek-in-culture, Hellenistic, empires.  The two Hellenistic empires that matter to the story of Hanukkah are the Seleucid Empire, which ruled modern Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and the Ptolemaic Kingdom, which ruled modern-day Egypt.

The region of Judea, the Jewish homeland, was a piece of property which both the Seleucids and Ptolemaic Egyptians repeatedly fought over.  In 168 BC Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes launched his second invasion of Egypt over rumors the Ptolemaics were plotting to win back Judea and lower Syria.  However, this time the Ptolemaics had aligned themselves with the expanding regional power: the Roman Republic.  A Roman ambassador intercepted Antiochus on his way to war, drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus, and said if Antiochus stepped out of the circle before giving Rome an answer on its demand Antiochus end the war that Rome would declare war against the Seleucids.  Antiochus got the message and withdrew.  This was the origin of the saying "line in the sand."

The War Which Made Hanukkah

Meanwhile a rumor that Antiochus was killed in Egypt spread in Judea.  A coup was launched against the pro-Seleucid Temple High Priest Menelaus (who was pro-Greek culture) by Jason (who was also pro-Greek culture).  Antiochus was advised of the situation and crushed the rebellion and instituted a policy of Hellenization which outlawed Jewish religious rites and required worship of Zeus.  His thinking was that if the Jewish religion were destroyed then Jews would be easier to control and Temple politics would stop being a source of conflict.

A rebellion originally led by a priest named Mattathias broke out.  Mattahias and his family/follwers, the Maccabees, launched a war against the Seleucids and the pro-Greek Jews.  At the end of the seven year war, which the Maccabees won, the Temple was cleansed from paganism and a day's worth of oil burned for eight days.  Since then the celebration of the miracle has been a minor holiday in Judaism.

The Maccabees founded a new dynasty which ruled Judea until the Roman conquest and founded the Pharisee school of thought which later provided the basis of non-Temple, Rabbinical Judaism.

The Catholic History Which "Saved" Hanukkah

The rebellion is recorded in the Biblical books First and Second Maccabees.  These books were originally written in Hebrew and fairly quickly, and ironically, translated into Greek.  The Hebrew copies were lost so that when scholars were actually putting the Bible together it was only found in the Greek-language Bible known as the Septuagint.  The early Church recognized the books in both the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament and therefore First and Second Maccabees were declared cannon along with the other books of the Bible.

To this day the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Oriential Orthodox consider both Maccabees books as biblical (Protestants first had the Maccabees books in a separate section of their Bibles but then these and several other books were dropped during the rise of Bible societies in the 1800s to save printing costs).  However, as Christendom gained power in both the Latin and Greek world the Jewish world began to reject all Greek influence again.  Since original Hebrew versions of both the Maccabees books could not be found they were rejected.  Jews still celebrated Hanukkah but the meaning was being lost over time.  It took Christendom to restore its meaning.  Professor Jon Levenson, professor of Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School explains: (Hat Tip: Shameless Popery)

The Roman Catholic tradition honors these Jewish martyrs as saints, and the Eastern Orthodox Church still celebrates Aug. 1 as the Feast of the Holy Maccabees. By contrast, in the literature of the Rabbis of the first several centuries of the common era, the story lost its connection to the Maccabean uprising, instead becoming associated with later persecutions by the Romans, which the Rabbis experienced. If the change seems odd, recall that the compositions that first told of these events (the books of Maccabees) were not part of the scriptural canon of rabbinic Judaism. But they were canonical in the Church (and remain so in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communions).

And so we encounter another oddity of Hanukkah: Jews know the fuller history of the holiday because Christians preserved the books that the Jews themselves lost. In a further twist, Jews in the Middle Ages encountered the story of the martyred mother and her seven sons anew in Christian literature and once again placed it in the time of the Maccabees.

Hanukkah Today: American Jewish Christmas

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky writes that Hanukkah, traditionally a minor holiday, is big for two reasons 1) It is close to Christmas and allows Jews to celebrate along with everyone else while doing something different to preserve Jewish identity and 2) it is a celebration with few rules unlike other Jewish holy days.

However, there is concern that Hanukkah and its meaning is being abandoned by American Jews and those in interfaith marriages.  Israel even created an ad warning that children in the United States will forget Hanukkah and celebrate Christmas instead.

Hanukkah:  Every Judeo-Christian's Holiday?

Besides its obvious Jewish base Hanukkah's appeal various, primarily American, Protestant and Catholics are starting to pay attention to the celebration.  Some Protestants are attracted to Hanukkah due to the old Anglo-Protestant tradition of Judaizing (adopting Jewish customs).  Meanwhile some Catholic intellectuals since Vatican II see the holiday as part of the universal tradition of Abrahamic faith in God.  Even Neo-Protestant (i.e. Catholic Rejectionist) Mel Gibson is planning on making a movie about the rebellion.

Meanwhile Hanukkah continues to integrate itself into mainstream culture.  Adam Sandler has sung multiple versions of his Hanukkah song while in 1996 the first animated cartoon series in the United States marked the holiday with a special: Rugrats Hanukkah.  Now the holiday, if not its meaning, has been well known to most Americans.

Happy Hanukkah!  Remember its meaning of fighting for what is right!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

America's Most Wanted 50 Fugitives in 50 States

Catholicgauze is a huge fan of America's Most Wanted, the long running television show which serves as a giant public service announcement alerting people to fugitives.  A new feature on the show's website combines crime fighting and geography (a fun combination) which only makes the America's Most Wanted experience even more enjoyable.  50 States/50 Fugitives has a map of all American states and the District of Columbia with each state assigned a fugitive.  Each state's fugitive has a link where one can learn more about them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Michele Bachmann Does Not Understand Sunni Islamism versus Shia Islamism

During last night's Republican Presidential Primary Debate in Iowa Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann sparred over the threat posed by Iran.  During the debate Congresswoman Bachmann stated Iran's constitution calls for Jihad and the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate.

Mrs. Bachmann is correct in that the Islamic Republic of Iran sees itself as an exporter of Islamic revolution and the constitution does indeed call for Jihad.  From the constitution discussing the purpose of the military:

Accordingly, the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God's way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God's law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Koranic verse "Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of God and your enemy, and others besides them" [8:60]).

However, the Caliphate is a Sunni tradition long abandoned by the supporters of Ali (those who would become Shia).  Shia, which comprise the majority of Iran's population, believe in Imams descended from Ali.  Iran's official denomination of Shia, Twelver, believe the twelfth Imam is currently hiding and will come again.  Iran's Islamic government sees itself as a placeholder until the Imam's return.  The Caliphate, an institution which any Sunni can become leader but in practice has been restricted to feuding Arab and Turkish families, has been denounced throughout history by Shia theologians.

If Bachmann wanted to warn about Shia Islamism she has solid ground in the Jihad passage of Iran's constitution.  Her argument though is greatly weakened by her warnings of Shia supporting the Caliphate.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Advent Geography: The Geography of the Historical Figures Before Christmas

The Season of Advent is about preparing oneself for the Christmas, for the coming of Jesus.  As many people prepare themselves for this season, one can remember that the various players who made Christmas were getting ready with their own goals.


Mary was a girl who lived in the village of Nazereth in Galilee.  Being a Galilean could have been a handicap, Galilee was considered a backwater of the Jewish world, but a woman in a village would most likely expect never to travel too far from home.

View Larger Map

Mary's response to the Angel Gabriel in the Book of Luke pondering how she could ever be pregnant implies she could have taken a vow of perpetual virginity.


Joseph was a carpenter who was a descendant of King David.  David's lineage was vast however so having royal blood did not translate into a comfortable life.  Being of the House of David his family home was the town of Bethlehem near Jerusalem.  While not rich his geographic heritage gave him a full Jewish identity.

View Larger Map

Joseph was betrothed to Mary.

Caesar Augustus

Caesar Augustus, adopted son of Julius Caesar, was the first Roman Emperor.  Augustus had a special tie to the Jews: King Herod had backed Augustus against Marc Anthony during the Roman Civil War.  In return Augustus granted the Jews a religious exemption excluding them from required worship of the Imperial Cult (the Jews were the only religion to not be required worship of the Imperial Cult).

View Larger Map

Towards the birth of Jesus Caesar was planning a decree to require a census throughout the Empire.  At the time this would be the largest census attempted in the world.

King Herod

King Herod "the Great" was reigning in Jerusalem with the backing of the Roman Empire.  Most of his time was divided between restoring the Jewish Temple and other massive building projects, managing his fratricidal family, and balancing the Pharisees, Sadducee, and Zealots against each other.

View Larger Map

Herod's constant obsession was being paranoid about any potential threats to his rule.

The Magi

The word "Magi" comes from Avestan Iranian word magauno, meaning a priest in the Zoroastrian religion.  Zoroastrianism is a Persian religion which teaches that there is one God who is good and the good God is opposed by an equally powerful creature who seeks the ruin of mankind (when Muslims conquered Iran they judged that Zoroastrians worshiped the same God as Muslims, Jews, and Christians).  Zoroastrianism was the religion of Persian speaking people including the Parthians, Greeco-Iranians who ruled lands from modern-day throughout western Asia from about 200 BC to AD 200.  The Parthians' lands match the description in the Book of Mathew which states that the Magi came from "the East."

Zoroastrian priests were known for their studies of the stars looking for signs from God.  The three that would later travel west spent their time looking for a star they thought would guide them to a great king.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

New Blog: Spatial Law and Policy

Spatial Law and Policy is a blog dedicated to providing news links and analysis concerning the wide open frontier of legal matters and geospatial technology such as GPS geotracking, social networks that monitor the locations of your usage, businesses interested in your pattern of life data from smartphones, and of course government.  While not geography in and of itself, the grey world of geospatial technology law will impact the geography tools most businesses, governments, and people use everyday.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Crowd Sourced Map Becomes the Symbol of Russia's Democratic Decline

The run up to the Russian parliamentary election was full of news stories saying Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party would lose ground to Kremlin-approved alternative parties.  Another widespread story was how the election was more or less rigged due to United Russia's control of the voting booth and Nashi and other ilk's vote fraud techniques.

United Russia denied the claims of voter fraud and laughed off anyone who challenged them.  The GOLOS Association tried a new technique to show/prevent fraud.  On their website they created a map which allows users to place and document voting irregularities.  The Kremlin responded with arresting the leader GOLOS and shutting down their vote monitor teams.

I would like to show you the map on GOLOS' website but that website is currently under cyber attack and is inaccessible and for all practical purposes destroyed due to the data loss.  The map itself was merely a documentation of voting problems, but its destruction has made it a symbol of Russia's democratic decline.

The Growing Canary Islands

The eruption's disruption of the Atlantic Ocean is visible from space.  The new land could become a new island or an extension of El Hierro (From the BBC)
Off the cost of El Hierro Island, part of Spain's Canary Islands, a submarine volcano is erupting.  Currently the eruption is approximately 200 feet (60 meters) below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.  The closeness of the eruption is causing scientists to wonder if a new Canary Island could surface soon.  No one knows for sure though because the volcano could stop erupting anytime.  One should not bet on visiting the new island too as the creation of new islands can take time: for over thirty years some people have been predicting the Loihi Seamount will become a new Hawaiian island yet the world is still waiting.

Friday, December 02, 2011

South Ossetia's Struggle For Independence... From Russia

In 2008 Georgian forces were pushed out of South Ossetia by Ossetian militia and the Russian army.  Since then only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and a few small Pacific islands have recognized the independence of South Ossetia and the other breakaway republic, Abkhazia.  One of the primary reasons for the lack of international recognition is the thought that these two states are merely Russian satellite-puppet states.  In reality, Abkhazia has been struggling to maintain its own identity while South Ossetia has been viewed as merely awaiting formal annexation into Russia.

However, earlier this week the people of South Ossetia demonstrated their desire for their own course not necessarily matching that of Russia's.  A presidential runoff election was held in which the  former Education Secretary Alla Dzhioyeva dominated with fifty-nine percent of the vote compared to the "Emergencies Minister" Anatoliy Bibilov's vote of slightly less than forty percent. This is despite the fact Bibilov was publicly endorsed by Russian Primer Vladimir Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev, and the ruling United Russia party.  Dzhioyeva, who still supports closer ties to Russia, won primarily because she campaigned against the corruption of the current Russian-backed regime in South Ossetia.  The people of South Ossetia demonstrated that while they value Russia as an ally they will not be dictated to by Moscow if Moscow's interests collide with that of the people.

Sadly though for those who want democratic rule in South Ossetia, the whole government-bureaucratic complex in the country was established and still is controlled by Russia.  The supreme court annulled the results due to "election tampering" and the parliament has stated there will be a new election in which Dzhioyeva will be banned from running.  The South Ossetians are not happy with these pro-Moscow moves however.  Dzhioyeva has declared herself the winner and her supporters are calling on parliament's complete resignation.

This is not the first time a power struggle has erupted over South Ossetia and control from Moscow.  The Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia, a pro-Georgia government in exile, is led by a former prime minister of the breakaway republic, Dmitry Sanakoyev, who left due to conflicts with the current government of South Ossetia.

The next few months could be critical for South Ossetia.  If Moscow has its way then many people will become disgruntled with the way their republic is heading and may start to look for alternatives with their opposite, Georgia.  If Dzhioyeva's victory is recognized then a cleaning house of the pro-Russian corrupt government apprartus will begin while Dzhioyeva purses a friendly yet cautiously aware relationship with Moscow.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

December 2011 Travel Photo: The Basilica of The National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima

Outside of Buffalo, New York, close to the small town of Lewiston is the Basilica of The National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.  The shrine and campus occupy sixteen acres and is a very popular pilgrimage site.

The shrine is notable on a purely secular geography-lover note as the dome where the Virgin Mary stands upon is a globe with the Earth's landmasses.  One can climb to the top of the dome and stand next to Mary of in order to feel the cool lake breeze come off Lake Erie.

Every year the shrine and its campus is lighted up at night from November until the end of the Christmas season in early January.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Satellite Data Map Shows Northern Regions are Net Carbon Dioxide Absorbers

A new map made from satellite data by Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies revealed that northern regions such as Siberia are net carbon dioxide absorbers and that regions around the equator, including the rainforests of Africa and South America, are producing more carbon dioxide

The results contest previous beliefs and worries that natural geothermal energy releases in the north could greatly increase carbon dioxide releases and potentially affect climate change.  What is truly shocking is the data showing that equatorial regions are producing more carbon dioxide than absorbing.  Either previous models of natural absorption are wrong or the industrial growth of those regions is more polluting than previously known.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recovering from Thanksgiving - Last Dictator Standing

I'm currently recovering from Thanksgiving and normal blogging will resume Tuesday.  Until then I understand you feel alone... like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe without Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and South Africa's P.W. Botha.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving... an American Holiday of Multiple Origins

Let us give thanks to God for all that we have.

The story that the Pilgrim Puritans held the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is a myth meant to tie American with a solid Anglo-Protestant foundation.

Doubtlessly there were plenty feasts giving thanks by American Indians during the America's prehistory.  The first recorded Thanksgiving was held by the Spanish and local Timucuan Indians in Florida in 1565.  The thanksgiving mass was followed by a feast of American and Spanish foods such as oysters, clams, garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.

The Puritans held their Thanksgiving and it was celebrated locally in Massachusetts around harvest time on no set date.  However it was not the first Protestant American Thanksgiving as English Virginia was holding a legal holiday of Thanksgiving as a religious service since 1609.  President George Washington pushed for a national day of Thanksgiving for November 26 in 1789 with no mention of any historical background.  However, each state celebrated their own Thanksgiving on their own date until President Lincoln codified the date on 1863.  President Franklin Roosevelt made the final move for Thanksgiving's date to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941.  The reason was to extend the Christmas buying season.

Even though the holiday has been commercialized let us remember the original meaning of the various Thanksgiving and give thanks for what we have.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Most Accurate Map of the Moon Released

NASA has unveiled the most accurate, highest resolution map of the Moon's elevation.  The scale of the photo is one pixel equals 328 feet (100 meters).  The data was gathered over 66,000 images and readings from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The full map can be downloaded from
Arizona State University's press release.

This map is a long time coming.  The only truly accurate readings of lunar elevation have come from satellite readings but these were never complied together to make a complete map.  In the past there have been a couple atlases claiming to have elevations marked, like the 1969 Times Atlas of the Moon, but these were guesstimates and in many cases out right lies created in part to deceive the Soviets.  Until recently, some of the most accurate lunar elevation measurements were done by an amateur astronomer using his own telescope and CCD camera.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A "Tribute" to Critical Geographers

 Now another Catholicgauze rant.  Normal geography blogging to continue on Tuesday.

A geographer friend of mine is currently suffering due to his reading papers by critical geographers for class.  These "critical" "geographers" are Marxists, feminists, and alike who tend to study issues through their own political lenses.  Most do work that most people would not recognize as geography.  These geographers are almost always academics who hate the state that pays them to work in ivy towers.  What irks personally me the most is that they completely reject the concept of truth.


Currently my friend is reading the book "Rethinking the Power of Maps" by Denis Wood.  Wood's now famous argument (in academia) is that maps are not depictions of places but instead propaganda trying to argue a particular viewpoint.  Some maps certainly are arguments but Wood's claims every map is an argument... even highway road maps and city chamber of commerce maps.

Wood spends a full chapter in the book blasting the North Carolina's official road map for highlighting North Carolina at the cost of other states.  Yes, you read that right.  Wood repeatedly savages North Carolina for cartographic "sins" including the use of a legend which, in Wood's mind, highlights what only North Carolina thinks important and "rapes" the landscape of other features.  My friend stated Wood goes straight into a rant that only an "educated, highly paid conspiracy theorist could write."

So is my friend right or is Wood's an academic genius?  Is there any way to find out?  Maybe.  Knowing that Wood's was a state of North Carolina employee until he lost his job for repeatedly raping a child in his care and then threatening the kid does help one reach a judgment.


Are all critical geographers rapists, no of course not.  However, they tend to spout out ideas that either have little relevance to geography or fail to advance the science in any meaningful way (check out what the the Socialist & Critical Geography specialty group's presentations or Antipode for examples).  So much academic time and resources have been spent on trying to figure out if maps are really depictions or arguments rather than focusing geography on exploration of other planets, cultural studies for military and foreign policy, or even figuring out how to improve geographic literacy without just throwing money at the problem.  Give me a good National Geographic, book, or a blog post on the Catholicgauze Reads list anyday for real geography.


My friend created "The World According to Critical Geographers" as a rebuttal to critical geographers...

The World According to Critical Geographers.  Click to enlarge

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: A Very Special Last Word

I was originally planning on writing a post on how one can explore a place through a really detailed map.  However, while writing that post I got to thinking.

My love for geography started out with my mom taking my fingers over a 3D globe and telling me things like "this is where mommy's coffee grows" (Colombia), "this is where Santa lives" (North Pole), and "this is where the kangaroos hop" (Australia).  It was this event, which was repeated several times, which started my interest in the wider world.

I love that incident not just because of the geography though.  Knowing about the world makes one really good at trivia and maybe a related career.  What truly mattered is the love and interest my mother showed for me.  So, for geography in the community, show love for others by teaching them the world but not to teach them trivia, but to spend time with them and show you care.  That is what truly is important in the community and in the world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: Geocaching

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

Geocaching is basically treasure hunting with a GPS.  The goal of the game is to get locations of caches from places like and upload the latitude and longitude to a GPS.  Then one actually has to go to the caches location and find it (it may be hidden).  Inside the cache are usually trinkets that can be swapped and a log of those who have found it.

Geocaching is fun on multiple levels.  First there is the fun of discovery.  It truly is like "X marks the spot" treasure hunt.  This fun can be increased by doing it with family or friends.  Then there is the fun of actually new exploring places.  When I first went geocaching I visited nearby places that I never paid attention to and even found a nice corner grocery store.

Watch out though.  Some people may mistake you for really lost, weird tourists.  Every geocacher has a story of being mistaken for lost, a creep, terrorist, or something similar.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Geography Awareness Week: Clouds and Weather Prediction

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

Meterology can be viewed as a subset of geography.  Yet the most common meteorological phenomenon, clouds, are sadly not understood by many geographers and want-to-be geographers (besides low, dark clouds equals rain).

Fortunately NASA and NOAA have a nice two page chart (PDF) on the various types clouds.  Once you get the types of clouds down Quiet Journey has a quick guide on how to predict the weather by reading the clouds.  Try reading the clouds for a few days and see how good you can be with weather predictions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: Making and Using an Astrolabe

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

An astrolabe is an ancient Greek tool for measuring star positions.  It was so effective that it was used by mariners even past the time of Columbus and into the 1700s.

First off you need to create an astrolabe.  Fortunately, the University of California Berkley has a cut out design with steps on how to put together the finishing touches (or you can use a protractor).  Then one needs to know how to read the astrolabe.  The next page of the guide offers insight.  Long story short: use straw/tube to look at object, where the string crosses the scale is the height of angle in degrees.

Now that you have a working astrolabe let us do some geography and astronomy.

Finding Latitude (For Northern Hemisphere)

First off find the big dipper in the sky at night.  Make a line connect the far two stars of the cup.  Continue that line until you see a medium bright star.  That is Polaris, the north star.  Polaris is currently hovering around the north pole (not exactly but close enough) to be used as a reference for ancient scientists, mariners, and you.  Here's a helpful image to show what you are looking for.

Now that you know where Polaris is use the astrolabe to determine the degrees in height it is.  The answer you get is your latitude .  This is the number of degrees you are from the equator.  Take 90 and subtract your number and this is the number of degrees you are from the North Pole.

Charting the Stars

Pick out a star, preferably one in a constellation you can quickly find.  Determine the height in degrees with the astrolabe.  Do more measurements 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes later.  See how the movement is like clockwork?  That it is because the stars are not moving but the Earth is at a steady pace.  Try estimating where the stars will be in 30 minutes.  Remember, the horizon is 180 degrees and the Earth rotates 360 degrees.  Try estimating where the stars will be tomorrow at a certain time and check your results.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: Mental Mapping

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography in the Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

Today's post is a challenge to do mental mapping.  A mental map is one's personal view of how they envision their surroundings.  A mental map is not necessarily geographically correct but instead reflects what the thinker considers important and where the thinker envisions various locations to be at.

Either by yourself or with a group of friends map out your hometown.  If done with a group of friends be sure to do your own individual maps first.  Now examine your own map.  Consider what is the focus of the map, what's in the center, what is labelled, what elements are big and what barely appear, and even what may be missing.  Do the same with your friends' maps.  Now obtain a map of your hometown (try Google Maps) and compare the mental maps to the real map.  Consider how your (and your friends') understanding of the local geography differs from reality.  Discuss why this is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Thank you for all those have and are serving their country.

For all those who are safe in their homes right now be sure to pray for peace.  Blessed Karl, the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary and now a candidate for sainthood, is favored by some as a champion for peace even during the worst times of war.

God our Father, through the gift of Blessed Emperor Karl You have given us an example to follow. In extremely difficult times he performed his burdensome tasks without ever losing his faith. He always followed Your Son, the true King.

He led a humble life, sincerely loving the poor and giving himself heart and soul to the search for peace. Even when his life was in danger he trusted in You, putting his life in Your hands. Almighty and Merciful God, by the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl, we pray that You may give us his unconditional faith to support us in our most difficult situations, and the courage to always follow the example of Your only Son.

Open our hearts to the poor, and strengthen our commitment for peace within our families and among all peoples.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Weird Geography of Jeopardy

So last night I relaxed after work by watching Jeopardy.  I was thrilled by the fact one of the categories was European Geography.  However, when the contestants began to pick geography questions the weirdness began.

First, apparently "the United Kingdom" is not a specific enough answer for a country in Europe.

See on why Scotland is not a country (sure it is a "country within the United Kingdom" but it is not a country as most people understand the term: a sovereign, independent state).

Then things got really odd when Jeopardy brought out the map. 

Transnistria (yellow oval in location where it would be on the map) does not get Jeopardy's recognition like Kosovo, Abkahzia, South Ossetia, and the now defunct Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
Widely but not universally recognized Kosovo was shown on the map.  As were partially recognized by a handful countries Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  So was the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast... which was disbanded in 1991.  Jeopardy most likely wanted to show the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which has different borders and is recognized by no other state.  I can understand showing de facto states if one is consistent.  However, Jeopardy did not show Transnistria on the map.

One who wants to see the "real" de facto borders of Europe should look past Jeopardy and use Geographic Travels' Atlas of True Borders

View Larger Map

Tutorials for Map Mashups and GIS

Ever wanted to make a Google Map or another map mashup?  Ever wanted to use GIS to explore data and make simple maps?  Found the standard tutorials too hard?  Well forunately there is hope: tutorials made by non-geographers. 

The Knight Digitial Media Foundation at the University of California Berkley's Graduate School of Journalism has a series of easy to read, understand, and use tutorials on how to make your own maps or use QGIS, a free GIS program.

Those who already know how to use QGIS or make a mashup will learn nothing new.  However, students and a curious public will indeed get the skills they need to indulge their inner cartographer.  (Hat Tip: Der Hunter)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

5 Minute Time Lapse United States Travel Video

Videographer Brian DeFrees drove across the United States and made a really fascinating time lapse video of his journey.  It is a wonder to see America flash by.

Below is a map Brian made of his two month journey.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

European Economy Joke and a Memory

From the National Review

Q: An Irishman, a Portuguese, and a Greek go into a bar and have a round of drinks.  Who pays?
A:  The German.

Meanwhile I am still recovering from flashbacks of a scene from the 2000 game Deus Ex, which takes place in a dystopian 2052, when a character remarks that we [the United States] could really use another Chinese loan. I remember thinking what a crazy world that was in which China would be the capital/credit supplier of the world. Sigh...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Genographic Project Indicates Humans Left Africa via a Land Bridge to Arabia

The Human DNA geography project Genographic, which I used and blogged about the proto-Catholicgauzes before, has DNA evidence which seems to confirm a new thought in human migration out of Africa: that Humans left Africa via a land bridge between Arabia and Africa and not the Sinai

The Out of Africa migration to Arabia is estimated to have happened "only" 70,000 years ago.

The study indicates that the Saharan Desert, despite having periods of greening, was truly a natural boundary preventing sub-Saharan Africans from moving north.  The Genographic-backed history has North Africans being the descendants of ancient people who lived in Greater Arabia before moving back into Africa.

If true, this story makes one grateful for the periods of low sea levels which aided the populating of not only the Americas around ~15,000 years ago but also the escape from Africa.

This evidence also has a modern day impact.  Hopefully it will be another nail in the coffin of pseudohistoric theories such as Afrocentrism in terms of Ancient Egyptians being Black, a theory embraced by some academics and even religions.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Map of Violence at Various Occupy Events

The Occupy Wall Street aka Occupy Movement aka #OWS movement has spread across the country, though its occurrence is still greatly biased towards the West Coast.  The movement has attracted not only people who are upset at corporate culture but also counter culturalists, drug addicts, violent anarchists, and various other hangers on to political Left movements.  While the various Occupy camps are not "rape, kill, murder" zones, violence has repeatedly occurred at said places unlike the peaceful Tea Party movement.

The pro-free market MacIver Institute has an active, updating Google Maps mashup of violence at various Occupy Movements.  The map is also embeded below. (Hat tip: the conservative Big Government blog)

View Mapping the #Occupy Hate and Violence in a larger map

Flyovers of Jerusalem From Biblical Times

The Gospel Coalition has gathered a collection of flyovers of Jerusalem.  One of them shows how the holy city grew from the City of David to the capital Jesus knew.

The second film is a flyover of Jerusalem at the time of King David.

The third film is of the Second Temple at the time of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Bikini Atoll's Flag: A Geography of Sadness

The flag of Bikini Atoll features main signs of a geography of sadness.  Image from Wikipedia.
In 1954 the United States tested a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb, at the time it was by far the largest nuclear device ever detonated, on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The fallout forced the United States to prevent islanders from returning to their homes.

View Larger Map

In 1987, islanders and the descendants of islanders adopted the above flag to represent their home.  The flag includes several key geographic elements representing their sadness over the loss of home.
  • The flag purposefully models itself after the flag of the United States.  The islanders link themselves to the United States due to their belief that the United States owes them a significant debt.
  • The twenty three stars represent the twenty three islands of the atoll.
  • The three black stars at the top right represent the three islands which were physically altered by the bomb blast.
  • The two black at the bottom right separate from the other stars represent Kili Island and Majuro Atoll, the two locations the islanders were resettled on.

The text, MEN OTEMJEJ REJ ILO BEIN ANIJ, translates to "Everything is in the hands of God."  It is the response Juda, leader of the Binkini islanders, said to Admiral Ben Wyatt when he asked the islanders to allow the United States to use the island for the "betterment of mankind."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

November 2011 Travel Photo: The Second Oldest War Memorial in the United States

In September 1777 the Revolutionary War was not going well for the American Rebels.  Philadelphia was under threat and the rebel army was in no one position which would be able to stop the British march towards the capital.  General Washington, in an effort to keep his rag tag army in fighting condition, ordered his troops to secure vital lines of communication and supply around Philadelphia.  Outside of Paoli tavern General Anthony Wayne made camp with his 2,500 men secure with the knowledge that the British were over ten miles away and the on coming rain storm would slow any British movement.


1,200 British forces under Major General Charles Grey moved late on 20 September and managed to get the jump on the rebels.  Bayonets made quick work of over 50 rebels and around seventy Americans were taken prisoner. 

American propagandists created stories about the British not taking prisoner and called the battle a massacre.  The cry of "Remember Paoli!" became one of the main rally war cries of the Revolution.  Forty years after the battle (1817) veterans and locals gathered together to mark the battle and dedicate a memorial to the dead.  The memorial is the second oldest American war memorial, the oldest American war memorial is at Lexington, Massachusetts and was dedicated in 1799.  The myth of a massacre was made permnament on the landscape with multiple interpreative signs around the memorial discussing British brutality and quoted sources making statements such as

"I with my own Eyes, see them, cut & hack some of our poor Men to pieces after they had fallen in their hands and scarcely shew the least Mercy to any..."


The Annals of the Age Cannot Produce such another Scene of Butchery...

The memorial itself is on top of a mass grave of American dead and in a park open to the public.

View Larger Map

Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Billion Humans on Earth

Twelve years ago, 1999, an advertisement for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six computer game featured the phrase "Play as if 5.7 billion lives depended on it."  How the earth population has grown.  Today, October 31st, the United Nations is guestimating that the world's population reaches seven billion (7,000,000,000). 

Granted the margin of error of this guestimation, not all countries have censuses and even many that do are not high quality, is plus or minus six months so who knows when and where the seventh billion human alive was born.

While this growth seems fast most population estimates have the world's growth slowing down.  According to most demographers, the world's population will reach 9 billion around 2050 and stabilize.

To celebrate seven billion humans the BBC has made a web application that allows one to see where they are in the world's population count based on birthday.  Comparing the my ranking to that of my parents and grandparents current showed the quick rise in the world's population.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Blog: Exciting Cartography

Reader Michael G has started a new blog called Exciting Cartography.  The blog only has a few posts but so far I can tell its subject matter will focus on interesting maps, the stories behind said interesting maps, and other cartographic matters.  I wish Michael the best of luck and look forward to seeing some new beautiful maps described on his blog!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lord's Resistance Army Crisis Map

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) claims to be the movement for the implementation of the Ten Commandments.  In reality it is a murder cult that combines African mysticism (spirit mediums), Christianity (soldiers pray the Rosary), and even little bits of Islam (some LRA prayer practices require bowing to Mecca).  The war cult is well known for its massacres and brainwashing kidnapped children to become soldiers forced to kill their parents.

Originally the LRA was confined to Uganda but the Ugandan military forced the LRA out in the early 2000s.  The LRA then attempted to turn its effort to capture control of Uganda into a central African regional war.  In 2008 the Ugandans, Southern Sudanese military, and Democratic Republic of the Congo forces chased the LRA out of their sanctuary in northwest Congo.

Sadly the war against the LRA goes on.  The excellent World Geography Blog has linked to the LRA Crisis Tracker which maps out the latest news of LRA battles and crimes.  With American special forces advisers being deployed to combat the LRA this map might heat up soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brief History of Egypt in Maps: 1500 to 1800

There is a nice short video of the evolution of Egypt in maps from about 1500 to 1800.  While one is unlikely to learn anything new cartographically, it is interesting to see the old maps of Egypt and how the land was displayed.  Hat tip:  Sky to Earth

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Globe and Mail Notice What "Geographers" Do Today

American-born Canadian journalist Margaret Wente loves her adopted homeland.  So in loves that she once wrote of a story of how she tried to live out Pierre Berton's saying that "a Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe" and she humorously wondered if present-day immigrants would try to live that out as well.

Sadly for her the present-day elites of geography accused her of racism.  One of those elites is the current head of the Association of American Geographers, the Canadian Audrey Kobayashi.  These geographers-elites wrote such words as "Against a backdrop of imagined wilderness, it [the love-in-a-canoe comment] privileges the universality of Canadian canoe culture, marginalizes dark-skinned bodies as peripheral to national origins, and positions white heterosexual procreation in a canoe as the highest achievement of national identity."

This so surprised and confused Wente that she looked into the present state of academic geography and wrote the article They hijacked the humanities, then my canoe.  While I wish I could defend geography here I have to agree with Wente that many academic geographers, more in the human subfield vice the physical subfield, are no longer doing geography.  She provides a few good examples of how academic geography has been hijacked by the same wave of Marxists, femistists, and even "queer" "geographies." Instead of actual geography much of what is discussed is radical theory with no real purpose or possible implementation.

This infiltration has been mirrored in lower education as documented in Global Perspectives in the Geography Curriculum: Reviewing the Moral Case for Geography.  In the meantime, those who want real geography can read National Geographic or some of the fantastic geography blogs that I follow as well as this one!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Home is Where the Heart is for Some Fleeing Dictators

Muammar al-Qaddafi has been killed right outside his hometown of Sirte, Libya.  His choice of a last stand around his hometown puts him in a line of dictators who decided to flee towards home during their downfall.  Here is a list another geographer (who realized this "home is where the dictator is" relationship) could put together of other post-World War II dictators who went home.

Saddam Hussein - Republic of Iraq:  Saddam was captured in 2003 outside his hometown of Tikrit.

Nicolae Ceausescu - People's Republic of Romania:  In 1989 Ceausescu was the last Communist dictator to fall in the year that brought down multiple regimes.  After being chased out of the capital Bucharest Ceausescu and his wife fled into his native south.  It was in the south where the police captured them and eventually turned them over to the rebellious army.

Benito Mussolini - Italian Social Republic: Il Duce of Italy, Benito Mussolini, was forced out of his position in the Kingdom of Italy and placed under arrest in 1943.  However, he was quickly sprung by the Nazi SS and spent the last year and a half of his life leading the Italian Social Republic in his native northern Italy.

While not all post-World War II dictators fled towards for home it makes sense that some would as home is usually a support base where well rewarded relatives, friends, and follow travelers live but it is also where the heart is.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cartoon Map of Middle Eastern Countries' Feelings for Each Other

The Economist has a hilarious but accurate map showing the feelings various Middle Eastern countries, and the United States, have for each other.  The map reminds me of The Onion's map of World War I's complex alliances.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Geography of the Occupy Protests: It is a West Coast Thing

The New York Times political blog 538 has a geography of the Occupy movement in the United States post.  After examining the various protests and assigning them into census bureau regions (PDF) the blog has discovered the Western Census Bureau Region by far has the most protesters.  Over half the protesters despite only having twenty-three percent of the countries population. 

Further examination shows that most of the Western Census Bureau Region protests are along the West Coast, which is jokingly called the "Left Coast" by conservatives.  The West Coast still has a large plurality of protesters even when one excludes non-coastal Western cities like Denver and Las Vegas.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Income gaps and Comparison of the Poor and Rich Around the World

A recent book by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, The Haves and the Have-Nots, reminds one that the United States is very fortunate, especially those less well off in the country.  The New York Times economics blog features the below graph showing income disparity and comparisons to the world for the populations of the United States, Brazil, India, and the People's Republic of China.

From The Haves and Have-Nots

The chart takes a little explaning to understand but it does indeed show a lot.  The flatter the line the closer the highest and lowest incomes in a particular country are in comparison to the rest of the world. 

The height of the lines for Brazil and China show that those countries have some of the richest and poorest people on the planet.  The United States' line begins at about 68%.  This shows that the poorest Americans are better off (in comparison of goods, government provided care, and income) than 68% of all other humans.  The initial step from the very poor to poor shows a steep difference that begins to level off in the "regular" low, working, middle, upper-middle, and upper classes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seven Seas: Sailing the Seas of Your Imagination

The term "sailing the seven seas" is engrained in many people's minds.  One can imagine long voyages to new lands across vast spaces of water.  But what exactly are the Seven Seas?  The beautiful thing is that the Seven Seas are whatever you want them to be.  Imagination can make the Seven Seas your travel plans or the vast, single connected world ocean.

After extensive literary review and online research including reader friendly sites such as the Library of Congress and has shown that the idea of seven seas seems universal.  Sumerians praised their gods for the seven seas as far back as 2300 BC.  The Romans called the salt marshes around present-day Venice, a great place for training ship captains, as the seven seas and believed one should know how to sail in and out of the marshes before becoming sea going.  The early Muslims wrote of the Seven Seas between Arabia and present-day Indonesia (a very popular trade route).  And now today geographers and others will create unique categories of oceans and seas to create their own Seven Seas.

Perhaps it is the old belief that seven is a perfect/God's number.  No one can say for sure but when various cultures consider the vastness of water Seven Seas is agreed upon as the great openness out there to be explored.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

94 Years of Fatima

Pray for Peace

Wisconsin Cheese Tourist Map

Wisconsin is known for its cheese.  Many of Wisconsin's promotions are tied in with cheese in one way shape or form.  Now travelers and tourists in Wisconsin have means of finding locations to sample Wisconsin's wide range of cheesy delights.  A Traveler's Guide to America's Dairyland is made by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.  The map shows locations of member cheese farms and stores where one can buy Wisconsin's pride products.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Online Geography Dictionary

ITS Tutorial School, an English-language tutoring service for Hong Kong students, has a growing online dictionary of geography terms.  The dictionary is lacking in GIS terms for the most part but is rich in human and physical geography terms as well as those from related sciences such as geology and biology.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day 2011

Happy Columbus Day!

Map of Columbus' 1492 voyage. Image from Wikipedia
Christopher Columbus was a bad geographer.  His theory on the rounded Earth's circumfrance was dead wrong (it was way too short).  The first country he approached, Portugal, told him never to contact them again because the Portugese geographers correctly knew that the distance between Europe and East Asia was far larger than Columbus' claims.

However, by his mistake and Spanish support, Columbus opened the New World.  Besides proving St. Augustine's geography wrong he also helped give Nicolaus Copernicus the idea to rethink the universe.  His opening of the age of exploration also added greatly to the geographic knowledge of the world.  He also saved the world

First, he saved Europe.  A few years ago I wrote in 1491 that Europe was slightly ahead of the Islamic world.  Wrong.  The authors of Nuremberg Chronicle thought the world was going to end soon because things were going so poorly.  Italian Franciscan monks switched sides and became Islamic pirates, thousands upon thousands of people were captured into slavery in raids all along the Mediterranean by Islamic pirates, and the great Roman Empire fell in 1453 to the Ottomans.

 The great book Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life of Christopher Columbus by Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison describes the situation pre and post-Columbus in Europe as so

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .
Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”
Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

Most importantly he ensured Western European ideals, specifically and ironically English-ideals, survived.  Ideals of a separation between religion and State (the Catholic states had this compared to Islamic Caliphate and Sultanates where secular and religious offices were one in the same), the rights of individuals apart from being property of the state, and check-and-balances in governments were threatened by the Ottoman horde.  Fortuantely, New World gold supplied the Hapsburg Empire with enough money to build an army and navy which could stop the Ottomans.  Trade of New World goods destroyed the Ottoman's economy which was based on controlling the old trade routes.  The stopping of the Ottomans and appeal of New World resources encouraged France, the English, and others to colonize.  These colonies brought ideas of freedom to the New World.

Columbus' drive led to the opening of the New World.  Western ideals of limited government and personal freedoms grew in the New World.  While New World governments have not been perfect, sometimes failing miserably, in putting these ideals into practice, there is a constant drive to make a more perfect system.  The New World also led the charge for the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Meanwhile, the former Ottoman world suffers somewhere between troubled democracy and dictatorship.

Columbus was not perfect.  Spanish and other colonial rules had horrible defects.  However, history has shown how the New World made the whole world better.

Friday, October 07, 2011

20 Cool Facts About the New Madrid Seismic Zone

I grew up learning about the New Madrid Seismic Zone and the major earthquakes of 1811 and 1812.  The earthquakes led to mass migrations outside the area, modified the borders of Missouri, caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards, and was felt as far away as Boston.

Click to Enlarge

The USGS has made a neat poster of twenty "cool" facts about the zone.  One can view the PDF version online or click on the graphic above to read it.  For those interested in historical and physical geography this is an interesting read!