Friday, March 30, 2012

Vulnerable Geography: Iranian Prodaganda Map of American Military Bases in the Middle East

See also Israel's Point-of-View of Vulnerable Geography 

An activist hoping to avoid war with Iran sent me a map proportioning to be of American military bases in the Middle East.  The map, below, was from anti-war, paleoconservative, racist Lew Rockwell.  A submitter noted "Could this be a reason they hate us?"

The map makes it look like Iran has a vulnerable geography surrounded by American military forces.  The impression many get from the map is how Iran is under siege.

However, this is meant to be a map of power.  First off, the map was made by Iranians to show American military installations in range of Iranian missiles (American link/original Iranian link).  Secondly, the map is a lie.  The map maker claims an American military presence where there are none or maybe just a liaison officer.  There once was a military presence in Iraq but the draw down closed most bases.  Americans left Saudi Arabia in the early 2000s.  I have no idea why but there is a claimed presence on Socotra, Yemen.  Also, Pakistani military bases are hardly American.

This map is a great example of how one map can be interpreted different ways depending on the country/politics of the viewer.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First Footage from James Cameron's Trip to the Bottom of the Sea

Part of geography is studying other places.  Places we know little about need to be explored.  Exploring, field research, getting the boots muddy, or whatever one wants to call it can be the funnest part of research.  Director and explorer James Cameron got to experience this fun by becoming the first person on a solo trip to explore the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth.

Map of the Mariana Trench with Challenger Deep's diving spot located.  From Wikipedia
 To celebrate this achievement, watch this short clip he released of the lunar like landscape he saw.  (If you want more you'll have to wait until his pricy documentary is released)

The trench is one of the biggest geographical features on Earth.  The dimension of the trench are 35,800 feet (10,910 meters) deep, 1,580 miles (2,500 kilometers) long, and 43 miles (69 kilometers) wide.

Cameron's exploration beats my by far my personal submarine diving best of a hundred or so feet off the Cayman Wall next to the Cayman Islands.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Free Geography Book Until March 31: How Maps Change Things by Ward Kaiser

ODT Maps, the owner of the Gall–Peters projection map, and Ward Kaiser have teamed up to offer Kaiser's new book, How Maps Change Things: A Conversation About the Maps We Choose, and the World We Want, for free for the rest of March 2012.  Available formats include Kindle, PDF, Apple-friendly, and Android-friendly.

Kaiser is known for his critical geography work, including a co-authoring with critical geography/pedophile Denis Wood who managed to send off on a rant last year.  His book does go political in some instance and I do not agree with some his map analysis but one can learn much about maps as arguments from Kaiser.

Anyways, this is a good free book that does make some very good points.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Light Pollution Simulator for Great Britain and Half of Ireland

Needless, a campaign to curb light pollution at night, has created a fascinating online program called Night Sky Simulator which demonstrates how light pollution blocks out the stars for Great Britain and the eastern half of the island of Ireland.  One can zoom to any point in the study area and see what is loss due to human created light.

Light pollution is not all that bad.  It is a sign of progress, compare North Korea's dark skies to South Korea's light pollution.  I would take living in South Korea any day over North Korea.  However, humanity and nature lose a certain something with the loss of the stars.  I remember thinking how sad the sky was at midnight around Washington DC after I came back from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Using Political Geography to Interpret the Primary Results of the Republican Presidential Primaries

2012 Republican presidential primary victory results as of March 26.  Orange is Mitt Romney, Green is Rick Santorum, Purple is Newt Gingrich, and Yellow is Ron Paul.  Image from Wikipedia
As of March 26 the Republican presidential primaries continues.  Most analysis focuses on former Governor Mitt Romney's ever creeping majority of delegates inching closer to the nomination.  While there are many ways to estimate the exact count the CNN estimate is

Mitt Romney:  568
Rick Santorum:  261
Newt Gingrich:  137
Ron Paul:  71

Since this is geography blog let us examine the geography of the results.  So far there have been thirty-four contests.  The win count so far is

Mitt Romney:  20
Rick Santorum:  11
Newt Gingrich:  2
Ron Paul:  1

However, when one only counts states by excluding territories and commonwealths the results are

Mitt Romney:  16
Rick Santorum:  11
Newt Gingrich:  2
Ron Paul:  0

Electability (the ability of the candidate to defeat President Barack Obama) is commonly cited as a deciding factor in voting.  Examining these contests as an election, with each candidate winning electoral votes the results are

Mitt Romney:  161
Rick Santorum:  85
Newt Gingrich:  25
Ron Paul:  0

However, some argue that electoral vote counting a primary has to factor in that not all primaries matters.  For instance, Mitt Romney easily won the Massachusetts Republican primary but he would probably lose Massachusetts in the general election thus negating the value of Massachusetts.  The following table only counts the electoral votes of states which have already voted in the primaries and voted for President George Bush in 2000 and/or 2004.

Mitt Romney:  91
Rick Santorum:  85
Newt Gingrich: 25
Ron Paul:  0

This last one can be used by those who oppose Mitt Romney because it shows non-Romney candidates having more electoral votes in states that voted Republican.  However, Romney supporters can rebut this by saying his crossover appeal can win "purple states" like Michigan.  Also note that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have only won Bush-era Red States.

Any way you count the primary results so far Mitt Romney is leading.  However, depending on what argument one wants to use the race is either all but officially declared over or neck-and-neck.  While this argument is fun, the candidates are now focusing on Rick Santorum's need to win 74% of all remaining delegates to stop Mitt Romney.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Geographical Survey of Catholicgauze

I am starting a survey of my personal geography.  Feel free to comment with your own.  Hopefully this can spread to other geography and related bloggers.

Name Origin
Irish and English

Geographical Region of Where I Grew Up

Geography of Last Meal Eaten
Meat: Sausage from United States, created in Polish-style
Vegetable: Beans grown in the United States, originally from Mesoamerica
Fruit:  Clementine from Mexico, originally grown in French Algeria
Drink: Milk from a cow in Virginia, cow's first domesticated Mesopotamia

Extremes of Travel
North:  Bemidji, Minnesota (47 28' N)
South:  Oranjestad, Aruba (12 31' N)
East:  Kabul, Afghanistan (69 05' E)
West:  San Francisco, California (122 26' W)

Interestingly Bemidji is further north than points I visited in Canada

Top Three Places Recommended for Travel
Savannah, Georgia
Guanajuato, Mexico
Black Hills, South Dakota

Three Places I Want to Visit
The Holy Land

Unique Personal Way to Count Where I Have 
Bodies of water I swam in

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Four - The Soccer Map

Many thanks to FSSP for this post

Libyan War Maps 
Syrian Arab Spring Protest Maps - Batch One
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Two - Syrian Air Defenses 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Three - Twitter and News Update Maps 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Four - The Soccer Map  
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Five - Ceasefire Violations
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Six - Houla   
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Seven - June 2012    
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Eight - Battle of Damascus 
Syria Civil War Maps: Batch Nine - September 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Ten - October 2012 
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Eleven - Propaganda Maps
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Twelve - First Quarter 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Thirteen - Chemical Weapons Attack?
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fourteen - Israel Strikes Again
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Fifteen - Second Quarter 2013
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Sixteen - The Coming Western Intervention
Syria Civil War Maps Batch Seventeen - Al Qaedastan in Iraq and Syria

Daily Mail's interpretation of the soccer map
Many thanks to the readership who pointed out that it is Barcelona and not Real Madrid.  Never again will I pay attention to the sports news while I blog!

Syria's official television channel has a new claim: the Barcelona Football Club played out a secret map of how to smuggle weapons from Lebanon into Syria for the rebels.  The opposing soccer team was apparently in on it by demonstrating where obstacles would be.  This is either one of the complexly hidden maps ever or one of the biggest cases of seeing something where there is really nothing.  The latter is the correct answer.

Why would Syria even think Barcelona is a covert tool for the rebels?  Barcelona is sponsored by the Qatar Foundation, a private/public charity partnership in Qatar.

Barcelona Football + Qatar Foundation = Cartographic Conspiracy in Syrian Math
Syria believes Qatar is using the foundation as a front to support the rebels.  This is based on Qatar's overt support to Libya's rebels and Qatar pushing the Arab League for action concerning Syria's civil war.

The original map is shown below in the Syrian news clip.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Geography and Why Eggs Stand Up: No Relationship

Today (or tomorrow depending on where you live on planet Earth) is the start of Spring.  During the spring/fall equinox people will attempt to stand eggs up claiming that the Earth's unique tilt creates the forces needed for this feat to be necessary.  As a geographer I am sometimes asked what geographical or astronomical variables make egg standing possible.  The answer is clear: no geographical/astronomical forces are at play.  Eggs can stand up any time of year as long as the bottom has bumps on them.

So where does the legend of the equinox and eggs standing up come from?  According to the excellent Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" by Philip Plait, the myth's introduction to the Western world comes from a Life magazine article entitled "The Mystery of the Upright Eggs Dissolves War Tension in China" published on March 19, 1945.

The article states that the local Chinese believe eggs can stand up an hour before and after the start of Spring.  However, traditional Asian Spring is not the same as solar/Western Spring.  Traditional Asian Spring, Lichun, occurs around February 4th or 5th.  Lichun is based on the sun's location in the sky, unlike Western spring which is based on the tilt of the Earth.

The myth remained little known until neopagan and artist/activist Donna Henes obtained media notice for her public egg balancing acts for "world peace."  The event was soon picked up by educators and the public who did not know the truth.

Monday, March 19, 2012

#Assad2012 Movie

This is what I was hoping would start because of the #KONY2012 movement.  An #Assad2012 movie based on the civil war in Syria.

Besides stopping Assad I hope to see many more dictators and warlords exposed through his mass new media campaign.

Puerto Rico in Numbers: Somewhere In Between the West Indies and the United States

What do you think?  Feel free to share your comments!

Puerto Rico and statehood is in the news again as both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum battled over what would be necessary for Puerto Rico to become a state.  My own travel to Puerto Rico and subsequent research revealed a land somewhere culturally and economically between the West Indies in the United States.  The island greatly benefits from commonwealth ties to the United States but economics and cultural issues place it further away from the rest of the United States, sometimes in its own category or with the rest of the West Indies.

Many thanks to the CIA Factbook, Department of Labor, the United States Census, and the Washington Post for the figures used below.


When it comes to GDP per capita, the market value of all final goods and services produced divided by the number of people, Puerto Rico's is only 49% is national average and 71% of the most under producing state, Mississippi.  However, Puerto Rico's GDP per capita is 122% of the Bahamas and 331% compared to the Dominican Republic's, the highest independent Hispanic country in the West Indies.

United States Average:  $47,482

(Lowest State) Mississippi: $32,967
Puerto Rico:  $23,380
(Highest West Indies Country)  Bahamas:  $19,139
(Highest Hispanic West Indies Country) Dominican Republic:  $7,055

Income and Poverty

Income and poverty is where Puerto Rico suffers compared to both the United States and the Caribbean.  Much like GDP per capita, Puerto Rico lags behind the United States in the median household income category.  However, several independent countries and dependent territories in the West Indies have lower unemployment rates than Puerto Rico.

Median Household Income
United States Average:  $50,221

(Lowest State) Mississippi:  $36,646
Puerto Rico:  $18,862

United States Average: 8.3%
Puerto Rico:  12%
(Lowest West Indies Country) Cuba; 3.8%

Population Below the Poverty Line
United States Average:  15.1%
Puerto Rico:  41%


Puerto Rico has both English and Spanish as official languages while the United States does not have an official language.  However, English and Spanish usage show a huge gulf between Puerto Rico and the United States.

United States and Language:

Able to speak English fluently: 96%
English as the primary language: 82%
Spanish as the primary language: 10.7%

Puerto Rico and Language:
Able to speak English fluently: 15%
English as the primary language: 5%
Spanish as the primary language: 96%


Puerto Rico is not some outpost like the Virgin Islands or Guam, it is a heavily populated island on par with Oklahoma or Connecticut and it would be ranked 29th in population if it were a state.  It also would have impact on the federal level by having six House of Representative members, based on the rule of one representative per 600,000 residents.

Puerto Rico: 3,706,690

Ranking in Population Size as a State: 29
Probable House of Representative Members as a State: 6

However, Puerto Rico would be the smallest Hispanic West Indies country while still being larger than the English-speaking West Indies.

Cuba: 11,241,894

Dominica Republic:  9,378,818
Puerto Rico: 3,706,690
(Largest English-speaking West Indies) Jamaica:  2,847,232

Population and Diaspora

A major rebuttal Puerto Rico statehood supporters use is to state that all these fears of a cultural clash between the United States and Puerto Rico are unfounded because Puerto Rico "is already here."  There is some credibility to this as most Puerto Rican nations live in the United States and not Puerto Rico

Self-declared Puerto Ricans in the United States: 4,623,716

People living in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico:  3,706,690

Last Notes

Now if Puerto Rico were to become an independent country a decrease in standard of living could be possible due to the loss of ties with American businesses and the free flow of money with the United States, just look at the Philippines for an example of this occurring.  However, continued or modified commonwealth status could grant more political freedoms while keeping the money ties in place.  Statehood risks increases in taxation, loss of economic handicaps like minimum wage law modifications, and loss of tax law loopholes.  Finally, while both the Popular Democratic Party and New Progressive Party state they support statehood, just how this is done remains unknown.  This causes a situation where most Puerto Ricans voice support for statehood while voting to keep the commonwealth.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St Patrick's Day Greetings, Notes on the Man, and the Church's Problems in Ireland

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  Remember the lessons of Bishop Patrick: chase the snakes and your vices with God's love.

Hero for all

St. Patrick is more than a Roman Brit, who's ancestors became Welsh as modern English are descended from Saxon, who brought Christianity to Ireland.  He is also an advocate for true Christian practice (he argued against Christian kings who acted unchristian-like to the Irish) and he stood up to corrupt members of the Church.  Read St. Patrick's Confession to see his writings justifying his outreach against those who accused him of rocking the boat of the establishment.

Problems in Ireland

Sadly now is not a good time for the British Patrick's beloved Ireland and the Church of Rome.  Ireland's church is suffering from establishmentitis. 
  • The Church was rocked by a massive sex scandal involving sex abuse much more than in the United States as well as sexual activity between clerics.  
  • There are approximately 6 million Catholics on the island of Ireland which have twenty-six dioceses.  That makes for huge overhead for a huge bureaucracy.  In comparison of Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 4.6 million.

Due to the Church's fall from grace because of the sex scandal the ruling, formerly Christian Democratic, Fine Gael party has turned on the Church by closing their embassy with the Vatican.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Geography and Family Bonds in Place Names

The legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy has a very interesting thread concerning the family bonds of nearby place names.  While starting off as a guessing game, the comments show how many nearby geographic features' place names have strong family bonds.

Examples include:

Charlotte, North Carolina is apparently named after the wife of King George III, and the neighboring state of Georgia is named after her grandfather-in-law, King George II.

Bolivia (Simon de Bolivar) and its capital Sucre named after Antonio de Sucre, reportedly one of Bolivar's "closest friends".

Virginia (named for the "Virgin Queen," Elizabeth I - her dad was Henry VIII).  The colony Jamestown (named for James I/VI - great grandmother was Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII).

Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic is slightly larger than Great Britain. Victoria was named after Queen Victoria. One feature of Victoria Island is the Prince Albert Peninsula, which was named after Queen Victoria's consort.

The Australian state of Victoria named for Queen Victoria and Alexandra, a town in Victoria, Australia, originally named Red Gate but renamed Alexandra, possibly after Queen Victoria's daughter-in-law, Alexandra of Denmark, who married the future Edward VII in 1863.

"Saudi" Arabia and King Khalid Military CIty.

The historic town of Elizabeth City, VA now Hampton, VA named for Eliz. I who was also namesake of the state of VA. The historic town of Henricus, VA named for James I's son Prince Henry, great nephew of Eliz. I.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Geographical Themes in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary

The Republican Presidential Primary is still undecided but certain geographic trends can be seen.

Countries which voted for Rick Santorum in Green, Mitt Romney in Orange, Newt Gingrich in Purple, and Ron Paul in Yellow.  Click to enlarge.  Current as of 14 March 2012 From Wikipedia.
Strongest:  Rick Santorum is the candidate of interior American conservatives.

Former Senator Rick Santorum has managed to win conservatives in the interior United States.  The western Midwest of the Dakotas down into Oklahoma form the majority of the Red Wall which usually vote Republican, thus dividing the Blue states (states that vote for the Democrat presidential candidate).  The Red Wall will likely become Santorum's wall as he is leading in the polls for Texas.  For Santorum to pull off a victory he needs to unite his wall with his holdings in Michigan and Ohio by taking Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.  Taking Kentucky would continue this Interior Block with his southern holdings giving the Republican's geographic base to Santorum.

Strong:  Newt Gingrich is the candidate of Greater Georgia

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is the candidate of Greater Georgia, and nothing more.  Georgia is Gingrich's home and he easily swept it along with neighboring South Carolina.  For a while he threatened Mitt Romney in Florida but in the end Gingrich was able to seize the area around Georgia but not the more mixed and New South southern Florida.  Southern Alabama next to Georgia voted for Gingrich and so did the southern portion of Mississippi.  But Gingrich failed to become the candidate of the south due to his support base switching to Santorum (while Mitt Romney seems stuck below thirty percent in the south).

From the Weekly Standard
Strong:  Mitt Romney is the candidate of Deseret - Moderately Strong But Still In Formation:  Mitt Romney is the candidate of the Rim

Much has been made of Former Governor Mitt Romney's religion of Mormonism - Latter Day Saint.  Frequently this is done in terms of both Evangelicals and Liberals' reluctance to vote for a person of that faith.  However, in the region of what would have been Deseret, Romney's Mormonism has certainly helped.  According to official Latter Day Saint figures, Mormons comprise 72% of Utah, 27% of Idaho, 11% of Wyoming, 7.1% of Nevada, and 6% of Arizona.  While one cannot just claim Mormons have solely carried Romney in these states, it certainly does not hurt.  Especially when one considers Mormons tend to be Republican and would form an eager, primary-voting base.  (Mormonism probably was a helping factor with Romney's victory in American Samoa, which is 24.1% Mormon).

Not as strong as Romney's Deseret geopolitical base is his ability to win the Rim of the United States.  Alaska, Hawaii, southern Florida, coastal Virginia, and New England have sung into Romney's camp as well as the parts of Michigan whose industrial base connects it with Canada and the Great Lakes.  Rural, interior looking Michigan voted for Santorum.  A Western Rim is forming with coastal Washington voting for Romney.

Moderate:  Ron Paul is the Geographical Fringe Candidate

Congressman Ron Paul is the fringe candidate in the geographical sense when one excludes Iowa.  Remote counties near the Canadian border and those that are more isolated away from interstates vice connected Santorum-voting interior counties have a somewhat tendency to vote for Ron Paul.  Ron Paul was also able to win the popular vote of the Republican-sparse, lightly participated Virgin Island's caucus.  A Republican is truly on the fringe there.

Where is comes down to: Seizing the Rim and Interior

If Santorum and Romney wish to avoid a contested convention they need to win both the Rim and Interior.  Santorum must be able to pull in enough rural and Buffalo-Niagara-Rochester-Pittsburgh New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians to stop Romney from blocking off these two Eastern states from his Interior Core.  A new interior core of conservative eastern Oregon and interior California need to be made as well.  Meanwhile Romney needs to make inroads to win Interior voters while holding the Eastern Rim and win the rest Western Rim.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

British Middle and High School Geography Lesson Plans

The Canadian Council for Geographic Education has tweeted a link to the British TES website which has tons of geography lesson plans for ages 11 to 18.  Topics include biodiversity, climate, development, globalization, hazards, landscape, people, resources and more.  Various plans are broken by age group.

Friday, March 09, 2012

#KONY2012: Brief Thoughts

Uganda in the 1980's was experiencing the worst combination of stereotypes found in Third World wars.  The presidency of Tito Okello, an Acholi, was being challenged in a civil war which had major tribal undertones.  When Okello lost, a long brewing power struggle erupted in the Acholi between the Anglican and Catholic Churches on one hand and pentecostal, independent religious-tribal leaders (sort of like the religious-fueled violence in Central America).  One of the leaders to emerge from this power struggle was Joseph Kony, an Acholi who sought to purify his tribe through his own unique interpretation of the Ten Commandments.  From the mid-1980s up to today Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has engaged in murder, genocide, slavery, kidnapping, child solidery, drug smuggling, and cannibalism.

Recently, Invisible Children started the #Kony2012 campaign in an effort to raise awareness of Kony and the LRA.  Let me say mission success, congratulations.

There are some other notes I would like to make about the effort.

First off, Kony is no longer in Uganda.  This is because the various central African militiaries are running his group into the ground and have made the LRA a shadow of its former self.  The United States has even become overtly involved with President Obama sending in official military advisers to aid in operations against the LRA starting in late 2011.  Examining the LRA Crisis Tracker, first featured on the blog last October, shows the group is now active in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Central African Republic.  Uganda is now mostly at peace because of the great efforts being done against Kony.  You may have never of heard of Kony, but all the right people have.

You may have to click to zoom in to see but notice how there are no 2012 reports of LRA activity in Uganda

For all his crimes Kony will most probably die, so do not believe the claims that supporting anti-Kony operations will bring him to trial.  I have met several self-declared ex-military advisers, contractors, and even "offensive private military contractors" (i.e. mercenaries) who have told me that since the mid-2000s the United States and United Nations have been aiding Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and what became South Sudan in their effort to destroy the LRA with Kony being killed on the battlefield.  They all have assured me that he will never allow himself to be taken alive and the various African militaries want to kill him.

Finally, there has been some criticism of Invisible Children as a charity.  I wish to point out that it is an advocacy group first and after that a charity.  It has a fairly good rating from Charity Navigator to boot.

Much of the reasonable criticism of the campaign focus on how the movie gives the feeling that the LRA is still a massive threat, that nothing is being done to stop them, and there are even worse threats out there that being ignored for the most part.  This is true: the Taliban are on the rise, Kashmir remains a killing ground, and Boko Haram is unleashing a new Jihad on Nigeria's Christians.  However, #Kony2012 has done a great job at promoting public awareness, on that end it should be praised.  Now let us expand the effort and stop these other groups as well.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Current and Upcoming Solar Flares More Annoying than Troublesome

CBS has a short video which describes the current solar flare and its impact on energy, travel, and geospatial infrastructure.  Unlike some doomsayers CBS does a great job showing how this and upcoming solar flares will challenge the information systems which help keep the world connected but there are steps which prevent major impact.

For reference, check out the size of a solar flare compared to the Earth.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

AAG: Not Interested in Media Outreach

So after the success of the Virtual Geography Convention, I took a look and realized that the Association of American Geographers had almost zero public presence during its 2012 convention.  In fact, as I noted in an earlier post:

I only wish the Association of American Geographers was more active in its outreach to the public during their convention.  The conference was the perfect time to reach out to the public and show exactly what geography is and what it can do for the public, businesses, governments, and the world.  However, the outreach done by the AAG was very minimal.  A Google News search for "Association of American Geographers" for the last week only gives four results, three of them published before the meeting and the remaining one did not deal with this year's meeting.  The AAG's own press room released its last statement nine days before the conference.  On Twitter the AAG was silent during the conference except for a tweet concerning the Minnesota reception (party).

So I contacted in hopes of rectifying this horrible situation by asking what steps the AAG was taking to have better public outreach and to see if there was an active plan for social media besides a Facebook group, LinkedIn forum, and Twitter account.  The AAG constantly bemoans the lack of geographic literacy in the world so I was sure I could engage in a constructive dialogue.  This is the response I received.

Dear [Catholicgauze],
Thank you very much for your message. You raise some legitimate concerns. We are always working to improve communication, and there is more to be done. 
The AAG social networking capacity is very recent, and much of it is member-driven. I think the next year or so will see increasing usage.
We have plans in motion to make much more extensive use of electronic media for all of our news communication, so I hope that your concerns will indeed be addressed before long.
With best wishes

[High ranking AAG Official]

I have been blogging about geography in 2006 and I am relatively behind the curve so I know social media is not new.  I also wish to point out that one should not not expect great public outreach out of it if you rely on members (just ask any blogger who pleads for quality guest posts).

On one hand I am sadden by the AAG's acceptance of separation of them, their geographic knowledge, and the public.  On the otherhand I realize the separation keeps the public, who generally love the idea of "geography" a la National Geographic, and the sort of geography the upper leaders of the AAG prefer...

As Marine said to me, try to make the first ten minutes a drinking game where you take a shot after every Leftist saying

Map of Human's Radio Outreach in the Milky Way

Radio signals have been broadcast by humans in one form or another since the early 1800s. The first audio radio broadcast was only in 1895.  One may wonder why we have not heard back from anybody listening out there through programs like SETI (and why I have only seen one weird spike with SETI@Home on my brother's computer way back in the day).  The answer lies in the fact that human-made radio waves have not traveled that far across the solar system in relative terms.  The Daily Mail provided a map of the solar system with a 200 light year diameter, 100 light years in radius, representing the range of audio radio waves from Earth.

Man's radio reach in the stars is just a drop in the bucket compared to the solar system

The map gives one a better understanding of just how vast the universe is.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Performing Place: Geo-Social Networking and Digital Performances of Personal Geography

An additional post!

Long time reader and good friend Dr. Andrew Shears of University of Wisconsin–Fox Valley has post his AAG 2012 presentation online.  The talk is entitled Performing Place: Geo-Social Networking and Digital Performances of Personal Geography.  In the talk he discusses on geography and spatialness has integrated itself into social networking sites.

Also, be sure to check out the rest of Dr. Shears site for interesting geography notes and opinions.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Iran's Geopolitical Position has Greatly Improved since 2003

Back in 2003 I was discussing the geopolitical chess game in the Middle East with regards to Iran and the so-called Shia Crescent which linked Iran, a Shia-majority Iraq, Shia-like Alawaite Syria, and the Shia plurality in Lebanon.  The professor shot back saying that instead of a crescent, Iran was surrounded by hostile powers and the U.S. military.  Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, and Israel took hostile diplomatic lines against Iran while the American military was located in Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Afghanistan.  Israel helped by being a military opponent of the Iranian allies Hamas and Hezbollah.

A few days ago I remembered this conversation and realized much has changed.

The U.S. still has military in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar but at a much smaller level.  Troops in Afghanistan meanwhile are held in place by the resurrected Taliban.  Yemen's leadership has changed with the Sevener Shia rebel Huthis holding northern Yemen.  Iraq has an Iranian-friendly government with many Iranian proxies in place.  Egypt's new military/Muslim Brotherhood government in formation has taken a much softer line towards Iran.  Hezbollah is unchallenged in Lebanon after a series of military victories against both Israel and other Lebanese militias.  Meanwhile, Turkey's government has become noticeably much more friendly to Iran while both Russia and the People's Republic of China are vocal diplomatic allies of Iran.  A major shift is Pakistan being much more diplomatically engaging with Iran due to Pakistan's frustrations with American activities in Afghanistan.  Finally, Syria is split in civil war and Saudi Arabia remains hostile towards Iran but without a significant American military presence

Just because Turkey and Egypt have taken a friend line towards Iran, this does not make them military allies ready to stand up for the Islamic Republic in case of war.  However, the military and political shifts has clearly made Iran's geopolitical position much more favorable to it compared to the country's situation in 2003.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Humor: I Miss the Old History Channel

I miss the old History Channel and History International.  Now I only have the Military History channel, what if the History Channel kept evolving as the "Hitler Channel", as "History" and "H2" have horrible programing.  Sadly I feel the humorous chart below is accurate.

Heck, even History International's Naked Archeologist was fun despite its many flaws.  But H2's "Hairy  Bikers"?  Come on!

March 2012 Travel Photo: Snow in the Afghan Mountains

Photo by Catholicgauze
After a quick rest I was able to look out past the base walls and see snow on the nearby mountains which served as the barrier between the lowland Pashtuns and the highland Hazaras.  A city lies in between the base and the mountains.