Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Oil States versus Fracking

The pro-fracking documentary Fracknation briefly discusses Russia's desire to prevent other nations from fracking so they will still buy Russian oil and natural gas.  I have avoided discussing this aspect of the fracking debate because of the little knowledge I have on the subject.  However, as time passes and I research more the more likely it seems that oil states are pushing anti-fracking agendas in other countries not out of an environmental motive but due to oil money motivates.

There is some evidence that Bulgaria banned fracking due to Russian pressure.  While Poland also banned fracking, also due to alleged Russian pressure, Russia itself is engaging in fracking in order to increase profits.  Elsewhere in Eastern Europe Chevron is launching a pro-fracking campaign with the message fracking can lead to energy independence from Russia's energy geopolitics which have repeatedly plagued Europe from the mid-2000s.

Recently Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal stated fracking was a threat to Saudi Arabia.  While Saudi Arabia has not been shown to be engaging in anti-fracking activities, neighboring oil state United Arab Emirates has.  Matt Damon's anti-fracking movie Promised Land was funded in part an arm of the government of Abu Dhabi.

Some environmentalists worry about big business' desire to exploit resources.  However, we should also be aware of even bigger political-economic bodies pretending to be environmentalists while only desiring profits for themselves.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Map of True Discoveries by Europeans

Radical Cartography has a fascinating map of lands unknown to humanity prior to European discovery.  Of note, the Cayman Islands have no known human presence prior to Christopher Columbus' arrival.  Turns out the Admiral of the Ocean Sea actually really did discover new lands.
Click to enlarge
The map breaks down discovery by country.  The Russian Empire and the Netherlands discovered the most new land with Spain, the conquer of the New World, having only slightly more discovered land than the United States.

Monday, July 29, 2013

North Colorado Will Never Be a State

Certain advocates in northeastern Colorado (NoCo) are pushing to have ten counties break off and establish a new state called North Colorado.  The root cause of the split is the cultural difference between the conservative rural society and the urban liberal/Californian transplant societies located in Denver and along the Rocky Mountains.

Geography and political common sense are against the North Colorado-advocates.  Eighty percent of Colorado's oil and gas revenues is from NoCo.  While some say this is a great reason to break off it is also a great reason for Denver not to let the region go.  NoCo also uses about 80 percent of the state's water due to agriculture practices.  As a state NoCo would have to obtain water access by negotiating with other states including Colorado.  This is something not likely to go well for an independent NoCo.

Even if Denver were to allow NoCo's separation, NoCo would need congressional approval as well.  There is no way congress would give its blessing because then separatist groups in California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, and elsewhere would start pushing hard for their right to break-off.

Only two states have even been spun-off existing states.  Maine gained separation from Massachusetts.  It took Maine's abandonment by Massachusetts during the War of 1812 to give pro-statehood people enough credence to even start a movement and then it took the threat of civil war and the Missouri Compromise to give Maine its freedom.  The other successor, West Virginia, needed the Civil War to break off from Virginia.

It will take civil war or the threat of civil war for North Colorado to become a state.  Until then NoCo will always be a part of Colorado so there is no need to pay any attention to this statehood debate.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Way of Saint James - El Camino de Santiago

Click to enlarge.  Map by CAS-MCD
El Camino de Santiago aka The Way of St. James aka The Way wrapped up with the Feast of Saint James on July 25th.  The most famous of the routes of The Way is over 500 miles (~800 kilometers long). Nearly 200,000 religious and secular people from around the world are estimated to have traveled on the pilgrimage for hope, faith, healing, development, and many more reasons.

The pilgrimage is centered upon Santiago de Compostela, a city in northwestern Spain where tradition holds the body of Saint James, apostle of Jesus Christ, is buried.  Saint James traveled to Spain to spread Christianity before returning to Judah where he was martyred.  His Spanish followers are said to have taken his body back to Spain.

View Camino de Santiago - The Way of St. James in a larger map

The Emilio Estevez/Martin Sheen movie The Way is probably the best introduction to the pilgrimage.  However, there are plenty of books and movies, both secular and religious, which document the pilgrimage itself day by day and the over all experience.

One of the most common threads shared about The Way is the social experience.  Many people meet up and form bonds which help define the trip.  The below movie does a good job of showing the progression of The Way while also keeping the important human element in a central place.

There is also a documentary on one person's spiritual journey, spiritual development being another major theme of The Way travel media, while doing the walk.

To be fair, however, travel writer Francis Tapon warns that much of the pilgrimage is on paved surface and near traffic. [Note: bad language and historic inaccuracy in the article]

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sangeeta Deogawanka Interview on GIS in West Bengal

Sangeeta Deogawanka, the co-partner of the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Award winner project, was interviewed in Directions Magazine, the geospatial industry trade journal, on the status and uses of GIS in West Bengal.  Congratulations Sangeeta!

What the Sky Would Look Like if Planets Replaced the Moon

The Moon is a center piece of a summer's night sky.  I have spent hours in the past just watching the Moon move across the night sky pondering its origin, its likely existence as the Earth's eighth continent, and humanities' desires to voyage to it.

I never wondered about what the sky would look like if other planets replaced the Moon, however.  But Ron Miller, former art director of NASA, did and he made to scale illustrations of what the sky would look like if the Moon was swapped.  The results are beautiful.  Thankfully we can enjoy them as art without worrying about the nightmare world the swap would cause with tides and other alterations to the Earth's delicate system.

I am pretty sure that the changes to Earth's gravity field and orbit would kill us all.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Foreign Service Institute Language Classes Available for Free

The language education site has multiple Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the State Department agency in charge of training diplomats in foreign cultures and affairs, language courses for free.  Users can download the course work and audio tracks for

  • Bulgarian 
  • Cambodian 
  • Cantonese Chinese 
  • Czech 
  • Finnish 
  • French 
  • German
  • Greek 
  • Hebrew 
  • Hungarian 
  • Italian
  • Korean 
  • Lao 
  • Lingala
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Norwegian 
  • Portuguese 
  • Russian 
  • Shona
  • Spanish 
  • Swahili
  • Swedish 
  • Thai 
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese 
  • Yoruba

The website also has other teaching aids for additional languages such as Basque and Tagalog.  There are also language-appropriate keyboard layouts, word of the day, links to newspapers, and useful phrases.  Learning languages can be hard but fortunately there is alot of information available for free.  Many thanks to Z Geographer for showing this website to me.

Additionally, FSI Language Courses has even more languages available   Some like Serbo-Croatian and Arabic have both text and audio available.  Other languages like Igbo only have the text book for download, however.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Latest Uses of the Geospatial Revolution Helps Track and Predict Citizens' Movements, Poses Temptation for Police State

Geographers used pattern-of-life analysis and socio-cultural analysis to help kill/capture insurgents in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.  Now the same tools and techniques are used by the Department of Homeland Security, local police, and other agencies to track American citizens without a warrant.  Whether it is merely logging via cameras where your car drives or using the FarOut software to predict your future movement years in advance, the geospatial revolution has given man tools to amass and analyze great amounts of data.  We can use these tools to save lies or implement a police state.  The choice is up to us.  However, the desire for knowledge and the fallen nature of man is the oldest story in history.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. - (Genesis 2:16-17, King James Bible)

Abortion Wars Show Shifting Ground

The news has been full of efforts to expand or restrict abortions around the world.

In Ireland a supposedly "pro-life" bill was passed that changes Ireland's complete ban on abortion to a ban except when a) the mother's life is in danger or b) the mother threatens suicide.  Pro-life activists claim that this is a de facto legalization as anyone can claim they would choose suicide.  Pro-life activists further claim that the genesis of this change, a woman who reportedly died because she did not have access to abortion, is based either on a lie or gross muddling of events.

The legalization of some abortions in Ireland will probably help end the myth that Ireland is still a Catholic culture country.  The 1990s secularization fueled by an economic boom (which went bust in a big way) and the priestly homosexual abuse of post-pubescents scandal have taken their toll on Church-State-Culture relations.  The only way for pro-life forces to fight back and win is for the Catholic-friendly Fianna Fáil to recover from its election obliteration and defeat the coalition government of the once-more Catholic Church-friendly/now anti-Catholic Church Fine Gail and the Socialist International Labour Party.  A recent poll had Fianna Fail leading Fine Gail by one point though the next election could be as late as 2016.

Chile, a country with a complete abortion ban, recently defeated abortion advocates in the battle over whether or not an eleven year old named "Belen" should be allowed to abort a child conceived during rape.  Belene reportedly wants to give birth to the child, which Chilean President Sebastian Piñera supports, while Amnesty International wants the girl to have a legal exception to abort.

Earlier in the spring pro-abortion forces tried to get El Salvador to end its abortion ban in order for a women, "Beatiz", with severe medical issues to have an abortion.  The Supreme Court rejected the push and the woman had an emergency C-section, after which the ill baby died after a few hours.

The battles in Latin America reflect a growing battle between pan-Hispano leftist movements and foreign-funded organizations against the local conservative culture and traditional liberal parties which typically have not contested abortion.

Finally Texas passed a law to prevent abortions 20 weeks after conception.  The bill was strongly opposed by pro-abortion forces who managed to disrupt the legislature long enough to foil the first effort to pass the bill.  The bill's popularity has reinforced the conservative position in Texas and may prevent liberal Democrats from gaining a stronghold within Texas, something they hoped to do after the 2012 election.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Geography is Regional Science Meme

I have been working on creating a series of memes to show the diverse use of geography.  If you have your own geography meme feel free to submit it to catholicgauze at gmail dot com and we will post it!

like travel literature
The first regional geography texts were world descriptions for ancient rulers.  Today this style of regional geography has a popular manifestation in travel literature.  These easy to read books are often more educational (and accessible) than many text books.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Geography is Environmental Science Meme

I have been working on creating a series of memes to show the diverse use of geography.  If you have your own geography meme feel free to submit it to catholicgauze at gmail dot com and we will post it!

like water pollution research
Human caused water pollution ruins drinking water, negatively impacts agriculture, and kills wildlife.  Geographers study the cause and effect as well as proper response to help protect our environmental resources.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide: Working Today as in the Past

"Proving, once again, that genocide is a viable solution to any problem..."
-Fallout 2

"The damage was done when you let them around you.  When you are forced out into the desert to die so will the terrorists."
-Marine Staff Sargent to Catholicgauze while wargaming Shia v. Sunni militia fighting outside of Baghdad

Former Salafi Islamist and now Sufi Democratic Islamist Ed Husain tweeted today in remembrance of the 8,000 Bosniak Muslims killed by Serbs in the majority Muslim, supposed United Nations-safe zone of Srebrenica.
Today marks the 18h anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, where over 8,000 Bosniaks lost their lives. Lesson not learned by Syria.
I have to disagree.  The Syrian regime seems to have learned an important lesson: ethnic cleansing and genocide works and one can easily get away with it.

July 11th marks not only the anniversary of Srebrenica but also the high point in the genocide against Poles by the anti-Nazi/anti-Soviet Ukrainian Insurgent Army.  Today, the sites of the UIA's violence are inside Ukraine and not Poland while Srebrenica is well inside the ethnically "pure" Republika Srpska and has an ethnically Serb local government.  Ethno-sectarian violence works elsewhere today as part of military-political realignment.  Islamist rebels have hijacked the rebellion in the Central African Republic against the majority Catholic south while the Myanmar government gains ground against Muslim rebels by forcing Muslim civilians off their farms and into the jungle to die of starvation.

The leaders of Syria and other dictators both in the present and future have well learned the lessons of Srebrenica and elsewhere.  Genocide works and foreign intervention and punishment is more likely than not unlikely.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Geography is Place Science Meme

I have been working on creating a series of memes to show the diverse use of geography.  If you have your own geography meme feel free to submit it to catholicgauze at gmail dot com and we will post it!

Geography is PLACE SCIENCE
like real estate
When buying a home people consider the local geography: condition of the land the property is built upon, nearby property values, the local economy, school quality, crime indexes, demographics, and climate.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Geography is Spatial Science Meme

I have been working on creating a series of memes to show the diverse use of geography.  If you have your own geography meme feel free to submit it to catholicgauze at gmail dot com and we will post it!

Click to enlarge
like customer research 
Businesses need to know where their customers live.  Using this data and combining it with demographic and habit research businesses can improve where advertising is placed and better market their products and services to make additional profit.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Geography is Location Science Meme

I have been working on creating a series of memes to show the diverse use of geography.  If you have your own geography meme feel free to submit it to catholicgauze at gmail dot com and we will post it!

 Click to enlarge.  Photo from Oxford Land Surveying
like surveying 
Knowing the layout and exact boundaries of the land are critical for engineering, resource exploration and exploitation, and property ownership.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Map of NFL Team Loyalities

The above map comes from the unofficial Twitter account @NFL_Stats.  It reportedly shows fan loyalties to National Football League teams throughout the contiguous 48-states.  It is neat comparing this map to the map of Major League Baseball team loyalties.

  • The Minnesota, western Missouri, and Colorado teams battle for the most wide open space, the Interior West, in both football and baseball.
  • The South has more teams so the Georgia, eastern Missouri, Florida divide in southern baseball fan loyalties is not repeated in American football.
  • And the Oakland Raiders is the only team in professional baseball or American football to still have a hold on their historical home (Los Angeles, which the Raiders left in 1994).

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Excellent Animated Battle of Gettysburg Map and Documentary

Check out the Civil War Trust's excellent animated Battle of Gettysburg map and documentary.  It does a great job explaining the battle's events and pays good attention to its geography.  I especially recommend it to my foreign readers.  The video also talks about the Valley of Death in which one of my ancestors died.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Battle of Gettysburg Map with Ground Perspectives

A new map by geographers and cartographers from Middlebury College have made an interactive map of the Battle of Gettysburg for the Smithsonian's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle.  The map is getting some buzz because the perspective view helps one see how the geography of the battlefield lead to confusion on how to get from point A to point B and how the terrain made identifying enemy positions difficult.

When I took my wife to the battlefield last year I stressed the importance of the geography in terms of how the battle was fought.  While the map does not have the same effect, it does give a nice overview troop movements and what was viewable 150 years ago.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Attention Google Reader Users

Be sure to add Geographic Travels to a new reader program such as Feedly, the Old Reader, or Digg Reader.  Google Reader expires at the end of July 1.

July 2013 Travel Photo: Looking at the Confederate Line from the Union Position on top of Cemetery Ridge Gettysburg

On July 3, 1863 some 12,500 Confederate soldiers lined up in the tree line in the photo below.  These men marched one mile (~1.6 kilometers) under cannon, rifle, and musket fire.  The Confederate's goal was the Union line up on Cemetery Ridge.  The assault failed and was known as Pickett's Charge, the hightide of the Confederacy.

The march cost the Union 1,500 men while the Confederates suffered 50 percent causalities.
The white monument in the distance is the main memorial to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who commanded Southern forces in the battle.  During the charge Lee was actually further north (to the right) but his monument was placed in its current location so it can look directly at the monument dedicated to General George Meade, commander of Northern forces in the battle. 

Mead's monument triumphantly looks over the battlefield knowing he held the ridge.

General George Meade.  He took command of the army three days before the battle and was the first Union general to completely defeat Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.