Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Geography of the Sequester's Impact on the Defense Industry

As of late February Americans are wondering just what does the cut in the rate of growth to the federal defense and domestic budgets exactly mean.  Some also wonder if the cuts will impact certain congressmen and push them to put party politics aside to ensure the local districts' government-reliant industries get funding  (pork to some).

Businessweek did a study which revealed that of the top twenty districts which receive federal defense industry funds, 16 are represented by Democrats and only 4 by Republicans.  What this means, however, is hard to say as just what the sequester's impact will be is highly debatable.  Either the cuts will put pressure on local Democrats to compromise, force Republicans to back down due to a national backlash, nothing will be happen, or something in between.

Click to enlarge

Pashtunwali: A Set of Fake Cultural Rules

Anyone who deploys out to, or just studies, Afghanistan will undoubtedly spend at least a day learning about Pashtunwali (or "way of the Pashtuns").  Pashtunwali is allegedly ten rules that the Pashtun ethnic group live by and will die for.  The ten rules are

  • Hospitality 
  • Asylum 
  • Justice 
  • Bravery 
  • Loyalty 
  • Righteousness 
  • Trust in God 
  • Courage 
  • Protection of Women 
  • Honor

Pasthtunwali has been featured in movies like The Beast...

 ... by amateur historians who believe the ten rules tie the Pashtun with the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel...

... and by United States military officers, State Department officers, and academics who study Afghanistan all study, write about, and interact in Afghanistan on Pashtunwali terms.

The problem with all this is Pashtunwali is made up.  The first mention of it comes from British Lieutenant J. S. Broadfoot in 1880.  The ten rules bit was based off the Western understanding of the Ten Commandments.  Most likely ten was chosen to equate the code with the Ten Commandments.  Later on, Pashtun words were given for each rule to make Pashtunwali sound more native and less British academic.

In fact, here is an 1886 summary of Pashtunwali from Broadfoot in a journal from the Royal Geographic Society

Yet today we teach our war fighters, peace makers, and academics that Pashtuns are like slavish robots to Pashtunwali.  We ignore that Pashtunwali was a rule of thumb to understand rural Pashtuns in the late 1880s.  This ignores cultural evolution, the shift from traditional Islam to introductions of foreign Salafi forms of the faith, and the fact that Pashtun culture has been deeply impacted by forty-plus years of war.  Any captured soldier who screams for asylum (nanawatai) is probably going to be found without his head.

Here is a Google Ngram study of the use of "pashtunwali" in literature.  The mention in the 1960s merely referred back to the original 1880s use of the term.  It was only during the 1970s Communist-made turmoil that the romantic notion of Pashtunwali took off.  We have been suckers for the term since.

I greatly favor teaching culture and using culture in military operations.  However, we must not make the Western orientalist mistake of believing others are complete slaves to their culture.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

United States Overlaid the Moon

Reddit user boredboarder8 created the below image overlaying the United States on the Moon.  The lower forty-eight United States would cover about twenty percent of the Moon's surface but certainly would be visible from the Earth.  (Hat tip: Flowing Data via friend Blueland)

The math works out as the forty-eight contiguous United States has a long area of 3,119,884 square miles (8,080,464 square kilometers).  Meanwhile the Moon's surface area is roughly 14,600,000 square miles (37,800,000 square kilometers).  Therefore the United States would cover roughly 40 percent of the Moon's visible surface.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Food Pyramids from Blue Zones and other Geographic Locations

Blue Zones, as created and defined by demographers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, as regions where people live measurably longer lives than surrounding areas.  Explorer and geographer Dan Buettner studied several blue zones around the world.  The common variables each region he studied shared were family-centered culture, no smoking, plant-based diet with more sea food than meat, constant moderate physical activity, active social engagement, and consumption of legumes.

Healthy food with friends and family was a common theme documented in Buettner's book.  Independently, Oldways has also reached the conclusion that traditional healthy foods enjoyed with active family and friends leads to a healthy and better life.  Oldways defines itself as "a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage."  As part of there mission they have created food pyramids from Blue Zone Mediterranean (Sardina) and Asian (Japanese) cultures as well as a healthy Latino (Middle America) and African (sub-Saharan) food pyramid.  While these stereotype whole regions to one food culture, one can learn healthy eating from these cultures.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christianity around the World: Lent 2013

Church Triumphant

The big news for global Christianity recently is Pope Benedict XVI's plan to resign the papacy.  He will become the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.  Most people are focusing on the possibility of having another non-European pope.  However, I personally believe the big news story is Benedict XVI's move to increase the papacy's involvement with the world.  The Pope knows he is fading away, dying, and is unable to interact with the world as he once could.  He knows that a Pope needs to be a shepherd not only in deep theological matters but also have the energy to take that theology to the world.  The true spirit of Vatican II triumphs as Benedict shows what a Pope needs to be capable of.

Church Militant

The Catholic Church in Latin America has long been lax with its outreach.  Its assumption that it has a strangle hold on the parties of party and people has allowed various Protestant movements to grow and heresies like Liberation Theology to take off as church leadership did nothing.

Now, however, church leadership is taking a more active role by trying to help heal the harm caused by everyday drug violence in Latin America.  The Catholic Church took the lead in El Salvador to bring about a truce that is still working between the violent international nacro-terrorist-gangs MS-13 and Min 18 (M18).  Meanwhile, a priest of the Society of Saint Paul is releasing a mini-series movie about forgiveness during the Mexican Drug War.  According to First Things
The ten-minute segment tells the story of thirteen-year-old Miri, who, despite family members’ urging her on to vengeance, comes to forgive the drug dealers who killed her parents, even hugging one of them as he crashes her parents’ funeral.
Here is the first part

Church Suffering

Meanwhile violence against Christians is up, primarily in but not limited to the 10/40 Window.  Success is threatening government and social status quos in Asia and in response the People's Republic of China is trying to shut down independent Protestant churches while Hindu ultranationalists work with police to close down churches and arrest local pastors in India.  Meanwhile, Islamists are targeting the growing Christian population on Zanzibar.

Elsewhere the rise of Islamism is strangling dying ancient Christian populations.  Coptic Oriential Orthodox are being targeted in Egypt.  The violence is going global as two Copts were beheaded by an Islamist in New Jersey.  In Syria, elements of the Free Syrian Army video taped an old Armenian Oriental Orthodox who was clearly under duress and emotionally broken as he cried to denounce Christianity, convert to Islam, call on other Christians to convert, and declare Syria to be an Islamic state.  Things like this happen everyday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Upcoming Book Projects

Earlier I published a Kindle version of my thesis (all money from the Amazon purchase goes to charity, alternatively I will give a free PDF copy to those who contact me) entitled Portraying the Overland Other: Representations of Plains Indians along the Oregon Trail.

Now I am working on two original projects which I hope to have published within a year.

God's Houses on America's Church Street

16th Avenue Northwest in Washington, District of Columbia starts at the White House and goes north through several historic and diverse neighborhoods.  The large presence of churches along the street has caused some to call the street "America's Church Street".  

Today there are multiple Catholic, Protestant, and other forms of Christian churches along the street as well as other faith centers.  This book is meant to be a sort of coffee table book with photographs and information on each church.  A geographic analysis of the results will also be provided.

The photos and research are done and editing is currently under way.

Americans United for the Preservation of Fascism

This project is one I am really excited about.  When I was providing security to a senior-level officer engaging in counter-insurgency in Afghanistan at a town market a sergeant leaned over and asked me "How would you feel if the Chinese would go down your hometown's main street every Thursday in a massive show of force?"  This got me thinking: how would I and other people react?

During my time in war zones and the Middle East I have met Islamists, religious nationalists, secular nationalists, idealist progressives, and Quislings.  Meanwhile, many soldiers I spent time with either did not know the differences between groups and personality types ("they're all Hajis to me") or had a very poor understanding of important players ("al Qaeda is mostly Shia, right?").

So in an effort to explore insurgency and help explain what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan I am working on a short novel entitled "Americans United for the Preservation of Fascism".  The book takes place in a universe where a multinational force led by a liberal Saudi Arabia liberates Protestant-majority United States from the secular-Catholic American Fascist Party.  All seems to go well for the multinational forces until religious Protestants, Saudi-based Protestant exiles, secular Catholics, religious Catholics, and Catholic foreign fighters all clash and threaten the new America.

War gaming is almost complete and writing has been underway for a few months.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch: Welsh and Relative Location Make for the Longest Place Name in Europe

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (try to pronounce it, I dare you) is a village in Wales.  The fifty-one letter name is the longest place name in the United Kingdom and all of Europe.  According to my research it is also the longest name for a settlement anywhere in the world.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

The English-language translation for the village is "Saint Mary's Church in a hollow of white hazel near the swirling whirlpool of the church of Saint Tysilio with a red cave."  This name is an example of relative location.  Relative location are directions to find a place by comparing to other locations.  Everyday examples would be "the gas station is at the intersection of Main Street and First Avenue" or "My office is located in the Maple Hill neighborhood."

The other type of location is exact location.  Exact location uses a premade coordinate system to give location.  Examples of this are "my hometown is located at 35.4 degrees north and 93.3 degrees west" or "the target house is at 46SED1838206526."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Geography-Related Books Read in 2012

Another year means more books read.  For past years check out 20112010, and select picks from 2009.


1812: The War That Forged a Nation:  An easy read overview of the War of 1812 from the American perspective.  I liked this book but I favor 1812: The War with America, which is mostly but not limited to the British perspective and ties the war with the French Revolutionary-Napoleonic Wars.

American Indian Mafia: An FBI Agent's True Story about Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement - Overly long and in need of editing but a great look at the how and why concerning the rise and fall of the terrorist American Indian Movement.

The Siege of Washington:The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union - A great read about the days after the Fall of Fort Sumter when the geography of anti-Lincoln feelings cut off Washington DC from pro-Union states.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl  - The geography and history of the sadness of the 1930s Great Plains.  An interesting look at the desperation of people in a man-made disaster.


1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus - An overall good book on the more advanced civilizations in the Americas.  Some cherry picking of data and a weird epilogue temper my enjoyment of the book, though.

For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada, the Cristero War and Mexico's Struggle for Religious Freedom - The most basic introduction to the Cristero War.  If you know anything about this war you won't learn anything new.  The book is not bad but very much meant for people who had no idea there was a Cristero War.


Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power - A good overview of the geopolitics, demographics, cultural geography, and history of the Indian Ocean area.  Sadly, geographers missed out making this book thus leaving it to people like Kaplan to fill the void.

Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang - An inside look into the late-1980s battle inside the Chinese Communist Party.  This is the sad story of reformist losing to tyrants, an all too common story.


How Maps Change Things - The good: how maps can be selected to display certain message.  The bad: goes off on political tangents.


A Heart for Europe - A nice biography of Emperor Karl I, the last ruler of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and a possible soon-to-be saint.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin - The sad, forgotten in the West geography and history of a land which saw the worst of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic--and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World - A fast read on how a cholera outbreak in London led to the birth of medical geography.  On the side, its interesting to note that the first two public health measures by the first official public health board helped cause the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people.

Imperial Twilight - The Story Of Karl And Zita Of Hungary - Compared to some other Emperor Karl biographies this has a lot more detail, while in other parts it lacks an incredible amount of important events.  The authors seem to play into the old belief that Empress Zita was the covert, knife and dagger monarch her enemies made her out to be.

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin - A good look into the rise of Vladimir Putin.  However, when concerning Chechen terrorists, Ms. Gessen betrays a radical "why don't we just negotiate with hostage takers who have already killed hostages"-bias.

Terry Jones' Medieval Lives - A fun, accurate look at our misconceptions of Medieval-era England.

History of Geography

Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus - One of the best histories I ever read.  The book focuses on the times, voyages, and man himself.  I have written elsewhere about Columbus and this book.  The man was a complex mix of genius and egotist, Catholic and cruel, excellent micro-geographer and horrible macro-geographer.


The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language - Great book on the history and origin of English and how other languages influenced it.  Great in audiobook format so one can actually hear the language throughout time.

Middle East

The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis - A deep look at philosophy's role in Islam and why it was purged from the faith.  The book does a good job at showing how the impact of this purge is affecting the Middle East today.  Written before the Arab Spring but a good introduction into how Islamists work.

The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, The West, and The Future of the Holy City - While having some Israeli bias, the book does a great job with the history showing how Judaism has always valued Jerusalem while Christianity and Islam have gone through cycles of loving, hating, and ignoring the city.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City - While having some Israeli bias, the book does a great job with the history showing how Judaism has always valued Jerusalem while Christianity and Islam have gone through cycles of loving, hating, and ignoring the city.

Raid on the Sun: Inside Israel's Secret Campaign that Denied Saddam the Bomb - A very readable and enjoyable account of the intelligence preparation and actual raid by Israel on Iraq's nuclear power reactor.

Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People Is Greater Than the People in Power: A Memoir - Great but not for the reasons Wael wanted it to be.  This shows how the "liberal" youth of Egypt had their sympathies with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Listening to Wael confusion why Muslims would be blamed for 9/11 and his frequent references to the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood reveal the civilization/cultural gap between the Islamic Core and the West.

The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West - A decent overview of Iran but not likely to inform anyone something they already did not know.  Also, little is actually dedicated to the nuclear program; it is more an overview of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations - I am really torn by this book.  Some parts it is hard to go along with while other parts seem really enlightened.  Either way, a very good read and an unique view into the Arab mind.

The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Asad and the Ba'th Party - Surprised it is still in print as the "updated" editions have nothing of use after 1982.  Good historical background but not something to read if you want a greater understanding of what is going on today in Syria.

Rise of Man

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors - An interesting history of pre-history but still a bit tedious, I do not understand the finer points of genetics, in some parts.

War on Terrorism/Military Geography

The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda - The pre-9/11 information is a good, detailed read of what is already out in the public domain.  The after 9/11 parts are [blank] with some [blank] which led me to think [blank] so I must say [redacted passages].  A good read if you are interested in a personal account of intelligence interrogations.  If you want actual War on Terrorism knowledge there is not much to offer in this book.

Cultural Intelligence for Winning the Peace - Overall a good book on the use of cultural intelligence not only for winning conflicts but also peace building.  However, the disagreements with Huntington go too far and off base (one critique is even put in verse).

The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 - A good overall look at why the Surge was created and how it work, and where some of its gaps were/are.

In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan - A decent book on the events of war in Afghanistan.  Too much time is spent on the previous, pre-American, conflicts, however.

The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan - A great travelogue about a reporter's one week journey with General McChrystal's crew.  A good mini-biography of some people under McChrystal.  The book falls apart when the author tries to analyze counter-insurgency and the Iraq war with weak claims linking Francoism and counter-insurgency's birth in 1950s Algeria.  Hastings is also a ignorant of the course events in Algeria's independence war.

Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan - Sometimes the book has great details on developments in Pakistan.  Other times the book diverts into Afghanistan issues.  Other times the book contradicts itself ("the U.S. needs to work more with Pakistan" while the next paragraph is "Pakistan is to corrupt and there is no leadership so every effort the U.S. has done was wasted").

The Secret War with Iran: The 30-Year Clandestine Struggle Against the World's Most Dangerous Terrorist Power - A pretty good detail look at Iranian's activity in the more covert fields.

Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude - The parts where he talks about US-Saudi relations are fascinating.  However, way too often does Baer want you to think he is James Bond with his off topic personal stories.


The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest - Eating right, stress control, forms of isolation of the hectic world, and family support all combine to form life styles several cultures have used to live longer.  A good geography of why people in certain cultures live longer.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order - A very good book that is misunderstood by those who have not read it.  The portions on Islamic culture have been proven dead right and even include predicting the Arab Spring.

How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) - Eye opening when discussing foreign country trends concerning collapsing birth rates.  I think the book falls apart a little bit in the American section though.

Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide -  A look at the history and mechanics of peace keeping and how it is helping, in part, to reduce the numbers of wars around the world.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Maps of Meteorite Impacts

Last Friday I blogged about Near Earth Objects (NEOs), space debris which come dangerously close to the Earth.  I mentioned how most objects are currently unknown.  Lo and behold, that day south-central Russia experienced an air burst which wounded over a thousand people.

I began to wonder if there is any online database of other meteorite impacts, making a cartography of where Earth and Space literally met with violent results.  The best two sites I can find are

Meteorite Size: Every Meteorite Fall on Earth Mapped
The Meteoritical Society's website which has a database of impacts.  The database is viewable in Google Earth.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Map of Near Earth Objects

Update 15 Feb 2013: METEORITE FALLS IN WESTERN URALS. “A meteor flew across the sky above Russia’s Ural Mountains Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and injuring more than 400 people, many of them hurt by broken glass. . . . Interior Ministry spokesman Vadim Kolesnikov said more than 400 people had sought medical treatment after the blasts, and at least three were hospitalized in serious condition. Many of the injuries were from glass that was broken by the explosions.”

Earth is an island.  When people say or think this they usually think of the Earth as a sensitive but contained system.  One has to remember, however, that islands are repeatedly battered by waves and sometimes a massive storm can change the whole ecosystem.

Case in point is this map from Earth Sky which shows the current (February 13, 2013) meteor, asteroid, comet  giant space rock, whatever traffic Earth has to navigate.  And this is just the space debris we know of.

Click to enlarge.
2012 DA14 will miss the Earth by 15 minutes today.  Remember, it is not alone.  Sleep well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Map of Non-European Popes

Update: March 13, 2013

Geography Post on Pope Francis' Election as Pope

Updated map including Pope Francis

View Map of Non-European Popes in a larger map


Pope Benedict XVI's decision to resign has taken both the Catholic and non-Catholic worlds by immense shock.  Some have begun to play the game of "who will be the next Pope?"  This game usually ends in a surprise no one saw coming but this does not stop people from trying over and over again.  Some have speculated , as they did in 2005 right after the death of Pope John Paul II's death, that there will be an African or Latin American Pope.  Some even go as far to say there could be the "first black Pope in 1,500 years."

I decided to study and map out popes born outside of Europe.  There were some surprises among the results.

View Map of Non-European Popes in a larger map

Of the 265 officially recognized Popes, 217 have been Italian while 17 were French and 13 were Greek (though this includes ethnic and cultural Greeks who were from Greek Italy and Greek Asia).  So to solve problems like this I declared a non-European pope to be one who was born outside the modern understanding of what is Europe, regardless of ethnicity or culture.

Three Popes were born in Roman Africa, which today is part of Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya.  These African popes were Pope Victor I (189-199), Pope Miltiades (311 to 314), and Pope Gelasius I (492 to 496).  These Popes are sometimes described as Black in today's press because of their African origin.  However, the elite in these provinces were descendants of Italian Romans while the population in rural areas were Berbers, who are an olive hue.  There is no comparably or historic evidence that the African popes were Black.

Two popes, both ethnically Greek, were born in modern day Turkey.  Pope John V (685-686) was from Antioch and Pope John VI was from Ephesus (701-705).  John V is sometimes considered "Syrian" due to Antioch's location in Byzantine Syria.

Four popes were born in "Syria", modern-day Syria and maybe Lebanon.  These are Popes Anicetus (150 to 167), Sisinnius (708), Constantine (708-715), and Gregory III (731-741).  Anicetus was born in modern day Homs, site of heavy fighting in the on-going civil war, while the other three were born in newly Muslim conquered Syria.  This shows that Christian intellectual thought and leadership were not crushed right away by the new Muslim rulers as pointed out in The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died.

Two popes were born in modern day Israel, depending on who one asks.  Saint Peter, the first Pope, was born in the village of Bethsaida along the Sea of Galilee while Pope Theodore I (642-649) was an ethnic Greek from Jerusalem.  However, Bethsaida is east of the Jordan River in the Golan Heights region.  This is Israel or Syria on depending one's perspective.  Meanwhile, the historic part of Jerusalem where Pope Theodore I was from is mostly likely in the part of the city east of the 1949 cease fire line and therefore either Israel or the West Bank.

So of the eleven popes born outside Europe, at least two were of ethnically non-European origin: Peter (Jewish) and Constantine (Assyrian).  Up to three more, the Africans, may have been Berber.  So between 0.75% to 1.88% of all Popes were of non-European ethnicity.

Some of these Popes played major roles while pontiff.  Pope Theodore I worked hard and proved Roman supremacy over the Emperor and Patriarch in Constantinople.  Meanwhile Pope Victor I was the pope who changed the language of the Roman Church from Greek to Latin.  Without his change traditionalist Catholics would be lamenting the loss of Greek in today's liturgies.

Soon the Vatican will announce there is a new Pope.  No one yet knows who that person will be and where they will be from.  However, now you have a better understanding of the history of non-European popes.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stalingrad is Back, at Times, as Re-Sovietization Continues across the Land

Stalingrad.  The city which stopped the Nazi advance into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  It was the battle here from summer 1942 into early 1943 which international communism turned the tide against national socialism.

Another long running battle, this one dealing with geographic place names, is continuing in Russia and recently reignited in the city.  First a little bit of background: the city was originally named Tsaritsyn, loosely translated Tsar (Russian king) town.  In the 1920s Soviet leader Joseph Stalin renamed the city after himself.  He was the local Communist Red Army leader during the Russian Civil War and was personally attached to the city.  However, the city was renamed Volograd (Volga town) in 1961 as part of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev destalinization efforts.

The name Volograd stayed throughout the rest of the Soviet Union and into the Russian Federation because of recognition of Stalin's evils, he killed more people than Hitler, and, later, a desire to break Russia away from its Communist past.  However, the local city government last month declared that the city will be renamed Stalingrad for several days each year.  These days will be the anniversaries of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, the fall of Berlin to the Red Army, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Victory against Japan Day, and the beginning of the Soviet counter attack at Stalingrad.

The official reason for the name change is to mark history.  Some geographers like Z-Geographer do not mind this change.  I, however, see this as yet another bad choice.  Russian nationalism is embracing Sovietness across the landscape.  I wrote earlier about Kirov and Leningori, especially Leningori, having name changes in order to reinforce the message of a totalitarian Russian state meant to dominant domestically and internationally.  Dreams for a liberal, or at least constitutional  order inside Russia died with Putin.  The landscape name changes are sadly just the fruits of change to root.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Earth Snapshot: Daily Views of the Planet

The European remote sensing public-private partnership company Chelys runs the website Earth Snapshot.  On the surface the website is a "pretty satellite photo of the day" blog.  However, like all of geography, examination and study opens up the whole wide world.  Take for example the photo of a Libyan dust storm crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Greece.

Image from Earth Snapshot
First off this image shows how close Greece and Libya are physically.  My mental map had Greece further to the east.  Secondly, Greece and Libya have been in separate cultural realms, civilizations apart, ever since the Islamic conquest in AD 647, if not earlier with the Vandal conquests in the 400s.  Libya, Greece, Roman Italy, and the Holy Land were part of one Mediterranean Realm but no longer.  However, while Greece and Libya may be civilizations apart.  However, al Bayda, Libya to Gytheio, Greece is only 280 miles (450 kilometers).  My mental map has been altered with cause-effect and environmental relationship links newly established.  How I love geography.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Geography of Pizza Thesis Blog

Graduate student Mark Turgeon of Cal State University contacted me about his on-going thesis, the Geography of Pizza.  His goal is to study and map the current geography of pizza preferences in the United States.

Turgeon states his thesis "has a duel hypothesis. The first hypothesis revolves around pizza-style preference, identity, common regional styles and the idea of home. The second hypothesis deals with (VGI) Volunteered Geographic Information and the uses of social media and crowd-sourced data to acquire information for web-based mapping."

The VGI information is displayed on map.  Turgeon's website is just getting started but there is not a lot up right now, however, but as time goes on he is sure to add more.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Geography Meme: John Snow and the Cholera Map

Frank at Very Spatial had some fun creating memes of John Snow.  This inspired me to make my own educational John Snow meme.

John Snow was a medical doctor who mapped out an outbreak of cholera in 1854 London.  His map helped him figure out the cause of cholera was water based (the point of origin of the outbreak was a water pump's well) rather than the "bad air" of urban living which was the accepted scientific cause at the time.

Snow's use of geographical thinking started the field of medical geography.  Countless lives have been saved by his research and spin-offs from it.

John Snow and Geography: Knew It, Mapped It, and Still Stops Epidemics Around the World.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Four - Final French Drive to Victory and Cartoon Propaganda Maps

French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch One - The French Counterattack
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Two - Geography as a Barrier to the Islamists
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Three - French Advancing in the International War
French-Islamist Mali War Maps Batch Four - Final French Drive to Victory and Cartoon Propaganda Maps

Disclaimer:  The staff of Geographic Travels supports France in its war against militant Islamists in Mali and elsewhere.  We remain uncertain and personally torn by the issue of Tuareg independence via an Azawad.

The French-Malian-International forces have captured the core of northern Mali (Azawad) with only a few small outposts in the far north left in rebel hands.  Ansar al Dine, other Islamists, and even non-fighting National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) forces have been swept aside and their cities have fallen to the French-led drive.  France will likely capture the last few outposts by the end of the week.

France24 map from 30 January
Secular Tuareg inability to keep Islamists out and the French decision to back the Malian government in an effort to reclaim the north has killed any dream for a separate and independent Azawad.

Cartoon/Propaganda Maps

I find cartoon and propaganda maps made during conflicts fascinating    The fact that a powerful message can be sent using a mixture of the cartographic and politics with few written words causes me to still ponder about the power of maps.  I have been collecting war cartoon propaganda maps from the 2008 Russia-Georgian War, the 2011 Libyan War, Japan's point-of-view during World War II, and sometimes guest blogger even managed to secure some Syrian Civil War cartoon propaganda maps.

In the case of Mali there are three categories: pro-French intervention, anti-intervention but not anti-France, and anti-France.  The pro-French intervention category can be broken down into three sub-categories: pro-Mali/pro-France, anti-Islamist, and anti-European inaction.

Pro-French Intervention

La Jeune Politique, an English-language French news website, has a rare pro-Mali map.  The leader of the military and the military installed-government smile.  Nowhere does one get the impression that the civilian government, admittedly a failure, was overthrown by the military.  Note the rebels only get a flag but no textual mention on the map.  Azawad is labelled "disputed area."

Heroic France stops terrorists from expanding into Niger's uranium fields.  While Ansar Dine was not going east, they were advancing south, Islamists in the past have expressed their desire to take over Niger.  Image from Facebook

Islamists take Africa hostage.  Cartoon by Imad Hajjaj

Cartoons for Peace shows the Islamist terrorist octopus having tentacles all over the region.  The long reaching, multi-tasking/threat octopus has been a propaganda tool for over 125 years.

France is alone while European help is just a mirage.  The Mirage is a pun as France's top jet is known as the Mirage.  Image by Chappatte

France at war while Europe plays. Image by Tom Janssen

Anti-Intervention but not anti-France

Another major theme of Malian war propaganda maps is showing the war as a mistake.  While these maps are against France's war, they are not anti-France.  The common theme is France does not known what it is getting itself into.  This mirrors the semi-famous May 5, 2003 The American Conservative magazine cover cartoon map showing that the United States was going to get stuck in an Iraqi quagmire after quickly winning the Iraq invasion.

France is shown as suck in the quicksand quagmire of Mali while hampered by its weak economy.  From the Kuwait Times

Cartoonharry draws France disrupting and getting stung by the wasps nest that is African civil wars

France is shown making the same mistake the United States did.  From the Korea Times


The final theme shows France in a negative light.  I have not been able to find any Islamist propaganda maps (what a unique field of political cartography, if its exists) but elements of the Muslim world are using the oppurtunity to make anti-France propaganda maps even if they do not openly support the Islamists.

Imad Hajjaj, who made the Islamist's take Africa hostage cartoon map, shows France as a tool of the United States against hapless Malians.  This is a great example of the constant flipping of sides in Arab street politics.

Iranian press agency FARS shows France feeding on the blood of Mali.  Iran is an enemy of al Qaeda but has supported the group on the side in efforts to hurt the West.

This will likely be the last Mali war map update.  However, if things greatly change on the ground we will resume this map series.

Friday, February 01, 2013

February 2013 Monthly Travel Photo: Abraham's Oasis

The above photo is by Pep Photo of Abraham's Oasis on Al Asad (The Lion) Airbase, Al Anbar Province, Iraq.  I picked this photo since my Iraq photos are sadly lost.

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In the past I wrote about the Oasis and it's religious geography history

"First, a little geography. The oasis is about six miles (ten kilometers) away from the Euphrates River. At this point on, the more northwest one goes along the river the deeper it sinks into cliff sides, making side stops difficult. The whole western portion of Iraq is desert making any access to a rest area with water extremely valuable. Finally, the oasis is last oasis of any importance until well after the Syrian border.

All these factors lead locals to claim Abraham visited the Oasis during his divinely inspired mission to the Holy Land. Despite the fact neither the Bible or Qu'ran mention any stops, if the oasis was in existence at the time Abraham would have most likely stopped there."

While the base was under United States control the oasis was clean and access was restricted to those with a chaplain guide.  My visit to the oasis required me to attend a cultural awareness briefing about respecting the Iraqi traditions around the oasis.  However, several blog readers claim that the oasis is now trashed as the base is under Iraqi control.  Sadly, this matches the oasis' condition before American occupation.  While the United States treated this place as a holy site, local Iraqis, even those who believed the story, treated it like a garbage dump.