Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can You Locate Damascus on a Map?

usvsth3m has a neat little online game where you try to locate Damascus on a map.  At the end you can compare your results to the last 500 people on a heat map.  While many people can get it inside Syria it seems the common consensus of the last 500 people is that Damascus is somewhere in a box between Libya-Pakistan and Greece|Sudan (which basically is the greater Middle East).  Something is better than nothing, I guess.

I was off by 12 miles(!) and was more accurate than 97% of other players.  Can you do better? (Dina, your home is probably within the map's margin of error so no fair if you do better than me)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

American and Brits Are Really Bad at Geography Because Geo-Literacy's Roots Lie Deeper than Education Policy

Earlier this week Seth Dixon's Geography Education featured this Jay Leno gem showing how bad American youth are at geography.

Then South Africa's Times Live featured an article on how ignorant Brits are with geography:
According to The Times (the one they publish in London) more than half of a sample of British tourists were mildly surprised to discover that Cyprus was not part of mainland Greece. This sample of British holidaymakers had one thing in common: they had all recently been to Cyprus. 
The same survey found that 49% of Brits thought Turkey was where mapmakers insist the Ukraine belongs, and almost a third pointed at France when asked to locate Greece on a map of Europe.
One of the reason I no longer support petitions to "get Congress to pass the X geography is important bill" is twofold: 1) education has proven impossible to dictate by federal fiat 2) because the problem of geo-literacy is a cultural problem.  Geography's professional/economic value is poorly realized and the West's heavy emphasis on on indoor-technological-individualism is causing whole generations to grow up without scouting, roaming, traditional stories, genealogies, and other experiences which teach children to understand the outdoors and other lands.  Until people (and geographers) start focusing on the outdoors, other lands, and peoples' origins we will never have geo-literacy.  So do the world a favor:  teach.  Share the joys of learning about the world.  Go camping.  Tell somehow about the constellations or what various cloud formations mean.  We are blind to our own Earth.  Change will start from the ground and work its way up, not from federal government on down.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Syria Civil War Maps Batch Sixteen - The Coming Western Intervention

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

American President Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron are making it known that they are planning to attack Syria because of Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.

An anonymous map maker made the a Google Maps mashup claiming to show chemical weapon attacks since December 2012.

View Alleged chemical weapons attacks in a larger map

The news magazine Foreign Policy made a map showing chemical weapon and air bases which the Western forces may attack.

View Syrian chemical sites and air bases in a larger map

The Times of London made a map showing American and British naval ships that may be involved in a strike against Syria as well as potential targets.

This map, allegedly from Russia's largest tabloid daily, claims to show Syrian and Russian forces in and off the coast of Syria.  It is clear the cartographer does not know what he was doing because Jordan is shown as part of Syria and it seems units were just placed randomly on the map.

Finally there is a short and easy guide to understanding the complex middle east alliances in play.  It reminds me of The Onion's article about World War I.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ten Myths (Eight Geographical) About Fracking

Pro-fracking activist, journalist, and filmmaker Phelim McAleer has created a list of the top ten myths about fracking.  Two of these myths are more about McAleer's disagreements with anti-fracking activists but the remaining eight are of an environmental-geographical nature.

Three of the myths I like to point out are

  • Fracking makes your water flammable - Flammable water in the region is due to natural causes and has been reported for over 100 years.
  • Fracking is new - Fracking has been around since 1947
  • Fracking in earthquakes - Fracking has indeed been tied to earthquakes, but less so than "green" geothermal energy and hydro-energy.

One of the biggest issues I have with the environmentalist establishment is how they always focus on the worse case scenario even when it is not warranted.  Anti-fracking environmentalists fall into this trap by using the movie Gasland to spread falsehoods that can be dismissed to the point rational people will doubt any possible problem caused by fracking.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alternative Reconstruction: Southern States Renamed After Unionists, Victors, and Victories

Z Geographer and myself got in a fun discussion with a neo-Confederate about alternative historys of Reconstruction.  One thing that we brought up was that the Union (North) could have forced a geography of conquest upon the former Confederate (South) states.  This inspired me to make a map of renamed Southern states.  I looked for major Union victors in each state and barring that either a famous Union location in the state or something equally as relevant.

The meaning of each state's renaming is as follows

Virginia is renamed Grant.  Ulysses Grant commanded the various Union armies which defeated Confederate General Robert E Lee's forces defending Richmond.

North Carolina is renamed Burnside.  Ambrose Burnside captured the North Carolina coast in the early part of the war.  Although he disgraced himself as commander of the Army of the Potomac, Burnside was a political survivor and repaired his reputation with major political leaders.

South Carolina is renamed Lincoln.  "South Carolina must be punished" drove much of the Union's thinking during the war.  What better way to punish South Carolina than rename it after the leader of the Union?

Georgia is renamed Sherman.  William Sherman commanded the Union army in its march of destruction from Atlanta to Savannah.

Florida is renamed Pickens.  Fort Pickens was one of the only forts on the southern mainland to never fall into rebel hands.

Alabama is renamed Farragut.  Admiral David Farragut was a key player in seizing the Mississippi River.  He is also well known for yelling "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" during the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Mississippi is renamed Knight.  Newton Knight led the anti-Confederacy Jones County rebellion in Mississippi.

Tennessee is renamed Johnson.  Andrew Johnson was the only senator from a Confederate state to stay loyal to the Union.

Arkansas is renamed Steele.  General Frederick Steele captured much of Arkansas including its capital of Little Rock.

Louisiana is renamed Butler.  Benjamin Butler was the military commander of occupied New Orleans and much hated by the upper class of Confederate citizens.

Texas is renamed Houston.  Governor Sam Houston was forced out of office by Confederates because he refused to denounce his pro-Union beliefs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Slightly Misleading NASA Map of Asteroid Hazards

The only safe spots seem to be places so close to the Sun that the Earth would likely fall into the star if we were located there.
NASA published a map showing the paths of 1,400 Earth-threatening hazard asteroids.  As I have mentioned before, the Earth is floating among some serious threats we are barely aware of.  However, the map has a problem.  The map is only in two-dimensions while three dimensions are needed to truly understand orbits in space.  Almost certainly these asteroids are not on the same plane as the Earth so where they actually cross the Earth's path is something to consider.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where Country Code/Area Code Confusion Can Lead to NSA Spying on Americans

According to an internal review, the National Security Agency admitted that it spied on phones in Washington, DC (area code 202) because of an error which confused Washington's area code with Egypt's country code (20).  Foreign Policy's Passport blog researched other possible country code/area code confusions.  There results put some surprising areas on notice that they may be accidentally spied upon.  These regions are

  • China (86) : Northwest South Caroline (864)
  • Iran (98) : the wetlands of Louisiana (985)
  • Pakistan (92) : Green Bay, Wisconsin (920)
  • Venezuela (58) : rural Oklahoma (580)
  • North Korea (850) : Gulf Coast Northwest Florida (850) 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The (Almost) Island of Korea

Friend #1:  Korea is perfectly defendable.  It's the definition of an island, surrounded by water on three sides!

Friend #2:  No, that is the definition of a peninsula.

View Larger Map

The above conversation got me wondering just how much of Korea is surrounded by water.  I knew that to the west was the Yellow Sea, to the east was the Sea of Japan, and to the south was the East China Sea.  I also knew that the Yalu River covered much of the North Korean-Chinese border but I did not know how much.

So I started to investigate.  I learned the Yalu ends in the Korea Bay (part of the Yellow Sea).  Its origin is about two-thirds of way east along the border at Baekdu Mountain.

View Larger Map

A map of the mountain showed the Yalu starting to the south of the mountain and its flow west to Korea Bay.  But looking at a map I also noticed something started to the east of Baekdu Mountain and flowing all the way east to the Sea of Japan.

View Larger Map

This river is the Turmen River.  The Turmen and Yalu share the same source: the water underneath the mountain.  They are connecting with each other by this water, some which flows off the mountain with snow melt and some that seeps out of the crater lake, Heaven Lake.  It is a stretch to say Korea is an island, but the water from the greater "Baekdu river" does flow all along Korea's northern border (though some of it is underground)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt Unrest Map Batch 1: Attacks Against Coptic Christians

I am still working on collecting maps of the unrest throughout Egypt in general but I was able to find the below map that shows the destruction of Coptic Churches and institutions.

Attacks against Copts.  Click to enlarge.  From AnAmericanCopt
The Coptic Orthodox Church, the Coptic Catholic Church, and Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria are all descended from the unified Church of Alexandria founded by Saint Mark.  The overwhelming percentage of Coptic Christians are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church which is the founded member of the Oriental Orthodox Communion (which should not be confused with Eastern Orthodox churches such as the well known Greek and Russian churches).

The Copts are no stranger to oppression.  The Coptic Calendar is set not to the birth of Christ but AD 284, the year Diocletian became Emperor of Rome and started the worst persecution against Christianity in the ancient world.

The Copts are being targeted by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters because of the Coptic Pope's established relationship with the military and the military-backed government which overthrew the growing tyrannical yet democratically-elected government of President Mohammad Morsi.  The press are calling these attacks "reprisal" but the Copts themselves are not the one's attacking the Brotherhood.  Those responsible for killing the Brotherhood protesters are the nearly all-Muslim police and military.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Heavy Water Consumption in Lower Ogallala Aquifer Heaviest in Dust Bowl Area

I love the Interior Plains of the United States.  I feel at home in the wide open land where the tall grass blows in the wind.  The way of life, the unique mix of cultures overlooked by those whose multiculturalism ends at the urban Ethiopian restaurant, and most of all the people make the area exceptionally rich.  Because of this love I have vehemently defended the region from those who view it as "backwards" or little more than flyover country.

However, the people in the southern Interior Plains nearly destroyed it by employing foreign (i.e. non-local) farming practices which resulted in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The Dust Bowl ended because 1) many farmers who were doing harmful agricultural practices left the region which allowed 2) the grassland to grow back and 3) the use of the Ogallala Aquifer to support agriculture.

The third point has allowed agriculture, both family and industrial, to expand in the southern Interior Plains.  However, the overuse of the aquifer risks another agricultural failure which when combined with a drought poses the risk of another Dust Bowl.  Take a look at the map of where the Dust Bowl was and where the worst depletion of the aquifer is.  This is a cause for worry in the long term.

Map from Dust Bowl Odyssey.
This Stratfor map (click to enlarge) shows the greatest depletion in the worst place possible.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

40 Maps that Explain the World

The Washington Post has a very nice mix of maps entitled "40 maps that explain the world."  The maps cover environmental, religious, cultural, agricultural, economic, and more.  This effort by the Washington Post represents presenting geography in a format all in enjoy and understand.  These maps greatly help one see spatial trends and even better understand why some countries and people do what they do.

Below are Post authors Max Fisher, Simon Denyer, and William Wan discusing the forty maps.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Shenandoah: The Valley of Sadness - Progressive Bigoted Removal

This month's travel photo is of the Shenandoah Valley from Hawksbill Mountain. While beautiful the valley and mountain range have been the sights of sadness. This is the second part of the series.  The first part dealt with the 1864 Valley Campaign.

The Removal

In the 1920s there was a major push to make a western-style national park (big spaces with plenty of land much like Yellowstone National Park) in the eastern United States.  Geography made the Shenandoah region an excellent fit.  The area was close to the population centers of Washington, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.  

President Herbert Hoover vacationed in the mountains and thus brought national fame to the region.  Local boosters began buying up property.  The park plan was approved.

However, people lived in the region and had little desire to leave.  If people did not leave the area then the park could not be established as planned.  So a journalistic-government-academic union was formed to justify the removal.  A journalist, an academic from the University of Chicago, and a Virginia educator teamed up to "research" and then publish the book "Hollow Folk."  The book claimed residents of the future park were illiterate, lived in barbaric conditions, had no real form of government, and no organized religion.  This was the era of progressive eugenics so this bigoted, agenda-driven sociology was not uncommon.

The book helped justify the government's decision to continue to establish the park by forcing the removal of citizens.  The government used eminent domain to seize people's land.  Some families resisted and had to be moved by both federal and state marshals.

Today the park is beautiful and provides many from the urban eastern United States a nice getaway.  Many people do not know, however, that the beauty is only enjoyable because of the bigotry of the past which stole families' homes and lifestyles.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Shenandoah: The Valley of Sadness - The Burrning

This month's travel photo is of the Shenandoah Valley from Hawksbill Mountain.  While beautiful the valley and mountain range have been the sights of sadness.  This is the first part of the series.

1864: Total War Reaches the Civilians of Virginia

In 1862 the valley was the scene of Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson's victory against three larger Union armies.  After that short campaign the valley was peaceful as the war left the area as quickly as it came.  The valley became one of the key agricultural areas for the South due to northern Virginia's farm fields becoming a constant battleground between the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia.  

The war was different when it returned to the valley in 1864.  Union leaders realized that total war against the civilian infrastructure was needed in order to force the Confederate forces to surrender.  Union cavalry General Phillip Sheridan conducted "The Burning", a campaign of targeted destruction against civilian property and local infrastructure.  Shenandoah at War describes it as
The campaign of destruction, misunderstood from the very beginning, continues to be little understood today. It is often referred to as a “raid,” although it was well planned and involved 5,000 cavalrymen and a brigade of infantry doing the actual destruction, while thousands of additional soldiers in blue were called upon to drive off or kill livestock. To an individual farm family watching hogs slaughtered in the pens and barn and other outbuildings going up in smoke, it must have seemed a random orgy of destruction. In reality, Sheridan had given specific orders: barns and mills containing grain or forage were to be reduced to ashes; but, the properties of widows, single women, and orphans were not to be molested and private homes were not to be harmed. Evidence shows that most of the soldiers followed orders, though there were a number of instances of looting. 
The order did not preclude the Anabaptist Mennonites and Brethren; members of pacifist sects who opposed the killing of other human beings and rebellion against established authority as a part of their religious beliefs. They were also some of the finest farmers in the Shenandoah Valley. While Sheridan sympathized with their plight he told their representatives that they would all have to suffer a bit longer if the war was to end.
Collective punishment resulted in burned homes and large refugee outflow from the valley.  However, after the end of the war most residents returned and by 1870 the valley was back to full agricultural production.  People in the Blue Ridge Mountains and in the valley close to the mountains thought the worst was over.  However, progressivism and the effort to bring the enjoyment of nature to the people would result in another terrible era of sadness to those in the valley.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

What is Your Favorite Geography Song?

Is it the National Geographic Theme?

The original National Geographic March?

The theme song to Where in the World is Carmen Santiago?

I've Been Everywhere (Australia)

I've Been Everywhere (USA)

I've Been Everywhere (New Zealand)

I've Been Everywhere (United Kingdom Version)

Or is something else?

Monday, August 05, 2013

August 2013 Travel Photo: Shenandoah Valley from Hawksbill Mountain

The valley is past the clouds.  Click to enlarge.
This month's travel photo is the Shenandoah Valley viewed from Hawksbill Mountain right along Skyline Drive.  While the Blueridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley below are beautiful but have been witness to two tragedies, one of war and the other due to bigoted federal government greed.  I will expound of these two themes as well as the valley itself in upcoming posts.