Saturday, May 31, 2008

ProTravller Blog

Want to know the fifteen best places to do or see something? The relatively new ProTravller blog wants you to know that they are the place! Everything from Northern Lights viewing locations to hotels with funky designs can be seen and viewed. Check it out today!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Online Journal: Military Geospatial Technology

One of the main users of geospatial technology and techniques is the United States military. Intelligence analysts go over data combing for information relating to the defense of the nation.

Military Geospatial Technology is a print journal with online features that highlights the latest in geospatial uses and theory. The main readers are military and intelligence personnel but anyone who can read ESRI’s stuff can understand MGT.

A good article explains what geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) is. The days of simple photo interpretation is gone. Nowadays officers overlay imagery on GIS and other views to gain a better understanding of the world.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pest Walls Protect Nature as Preferred by Man

Two news stories about efforts of environmental preservation have brought attention to efforts to preserve nature as preferred by man. Scotland is building a line of traps to protect the native red squirrel from invading American squirrels and a fence to protect a species of newts.

Pest exclusion fences are not new. In Australia there are fences to exclude rabbits and dingoes. Both animals, one a recent arrival from European the other came over with Aborigines 4,000 years ago, threatened agricultural activities on the continent. Fences were constructed to protect the industry and meet mostly with success. The fences allowed cultural reformation of the landscape. The reserve is true in New Zealand were fences were put up to prevent European animals and people from changing the landscape.

The term “pest” is explicitly relative. Some invasive species like wild horses in America are allowed to roam freely and efforts exist to protect their access to water and fields against the wishes of ranches. All that matters in the issue of “preservation” is keeping the environment that way humans want it; not the “original” condition.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dying Languages Link Siberia and New World Indians

One thing that has always raised eyebrows is the lack of cultural links between indigenous Siberians and New World Indians (excluding Eskimos who are not usually considered Indians because they came over much later). However, researchers have created a scientific test that links the American Na-Dene language to the Siberian Yeniseian language family. Na-Dene is centered in northwest Canada and eastern Alaska but was found in pockets in Texas.

The proposed common language goes back at least 10,000 years. This is interesting because the Bering Land Bridge was already gone 10,000 years ago. So either the common language and people are older than 10,000 years or there was still intercontinental contact after the land bridge was submerged. The latter is a realistic possibility because of short sea distances and global warming temperatures at the time.

Time is running out for some of these cultural studies. Greater integration is bettering the lives of many Indians but a side effect is the loss of these ancient ties. All those interested in American history and the rise of man should hurry in their race against time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Map of Arab Investments in the United States

Conde Nast has a flash map of big investments by Arab companies in American businesses. Not surprisingly the United Arab Emirates leads the way with Saudi Arabia close behind in big deals. Clicking on the Deals tab reveals the increase in investments by Arab companies. Industry, media, and technology sectors have experienced more deals even though banking deals get more media attention.

The map shows how globalization is works both ways. Originally U.S. or European companies invested in or created branches in less developed countries. Now with the rise of foreign markets especially with the rise of oil prices, foreign companies can invest in the first world.

This is nothing new. The 1980s saw a large anti-Japanese feeling in the United States because the rise of its economy and investments in the United States. China is going through the same thing right now in part because of its investments in the United States.

As the world becomes more globalized expect more deals like this to happen. While there are real risks that need to be monitored like terrorist infiltration, these deals should be seen as a perfectly acceptable norm within a generation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Military who have given their lives in the final sacrifice are honored on Memorial Day. They have fought and died all over the world. Catholicgauze remembers all those who have fought and died to keep me free. Thank you.

I also mark all those allies who have died along side brave Americans. Thank you to all the British, French, Koreans, Vietnamese, Georgians, Iraqis, and many others.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eurovision's Cultural Geopolitics

Russia has won the 2008 iteration of Eurovision (link to all songs). The song Believe captured the title. This will definenetly be a cultural boost for Russia following a series of sports wins.

The BBC has a wonderful site about this year's contest and the contest in general. The contest is a pop song competition which European countries compete in, kind of like American Idol meets the Olympics.

The contest is a cultural phenomenon that says alot about which countries choose to be "European" in nature. The countries involved in the process were the Central Western nations with expansion first to the west then into the former Soviet bloc. Non-European continent countries have competed including Israel, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Morocco. Sadly, Morocco and Lebanon currently are not involved because their governments favor not recognizing Israel over closer cultural ties to the West.

Culture is a sensitive issue in Eurovision. Proud France freaked out when they found out their entry had English in it. Austria did not enter this year in part because of diplomatic issues with host Serbia. And imagine if Kosovo wants to have an entry! Countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Iraq are eligible to compete because they are in the European Broadcasting Area but choose not to be part of the European cultural sphere.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ten Surprising Ways to be Ecologically Friendly

Wired has an interesting feature about surprising ways to be "green" or more environmentally friendly. The article will get one thinking starting with the categories being called "10 Green Heresies." Will not perfect the article will give one peace of mind as they read while in their nuke-powered, air conditioned room.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People

Catholicgauze Exigencia<<¡Una Cuba Libre, Hoy!>>

May 21st was the Day of Solidarity with the Cuban People sponsored by the United States government and signed by President Bush.

Human rights in Cuba
are limited with press, labor leaders, and political activists in jail. Religious freedom is also limited with questionable freedoms finally being given to Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish groups.

Currently Cuba is on the United Nations Human Rights Council and involved in public relation campaigns like freeing their spies from American jails. The council is a joke with countries like Saudi Arabia, the People's Republic of China, and Egypt. Of course with countries like these the Cuban people's plight is ignored while the council focuses its hate on Israel and the United States.

For those interested in supporting the Cuban people there is a petition for political prisoners' freedom.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Maps of Disaster Prone Areas

Catholicgauze is traveling so blogging will continue, just at odd times

Foreign Policy features maps high risk disaster areas and maps of disasters that cause economic loss. As the maps show economic loss does not overlap necessarily with economical loss. There needs to be a good economy for any size disaster to cause loss.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Portugal Speaks Brazilian in a Globalized World

The government of Portugal has voted to adopt Brazilian Portuguese as the official language of Portugal. The South American language does not have the silent consonants that the European one does and has three extra letters. The reform is part of an agreement designed to standardize the language. Democracy rules the day as the reforms impose the language spoken/written by the most people.

Some countries have official language governing bodies like Brazil’s Academia Brasileira de Letras or France’s Académie française (English, and especially the mixed dialect used in the United States, does not). There are even international linguistic organizations such as the Community of Portuguese Language Countries and the Francophonie. While these groups help with some standardization, problems arise when two users of the same language cannot effectively communicate. The rise of globalization has made streamlining languages an important deal. While no one should expect the return of Esperanto, expect to see other countries, including the English speaking states, agree on official spellings (if only for scientific purposes).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Saint Brendan the Geographer

While I was getting my "how not to die in Iraq" training I missed the feast day of Saint Brendan the Navigator. St. Brendan was an Irish monk who is known for his journey. What can be agreed upon is that in the early 500s he went on a sailing trip and came back; after that everything is a bit up in the air. His story is written in mystical tones involving sea monster islands, meeting dead saints, food parties of hell, and much more.

Some historical geographers believe St. Brendan may have traveled to Iceland and wrote about its volcanoes. The sea monsters who did not threaten the boats may have been whales. There are even theories that the saint may have reached the Americas. When St. Brendan returned some other monks and adventures went on their own journeys, some known some lost to the sea or time. Regardless, stories of Vikings meeting Indians who called themselves "Father" in a church sense (see second link), Indian stories of white men with facial hair, and other tales lead one to think of the possibility of pre-Columbian, Irish-New World contact.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

New Astronomy Program: Microsoft's WorldWide Telescope

Microsoft has released the beta of its new astronomy program WorldWide Telescope. While still in beta it does show promise.

The program has three modes. First, Sky, allows one to view almost every known thing in space via multitude wavelengths of data. Second, Planets, allows the viewer to pan across 3D models of our solar system. Earth is like Microsoft's answer to Google Earth but lacks cool KML-like add-ons. Finally, Panoramas has HDviews of things like Mars Rover images.

A neat feature is the ability to create presentations with the tool. Hopefully astronomy teachers and buffs will make many projects and release them to the public.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Snake Eatergauze: Days 4-5

Day 4
Mission: Qualify on the M9 and M11

Driving deep into the heart of Appalachia we went to an outdoor shooting range that nobody could find even with they knew where they were going. Shooting drills were done with the M9 Beretta and the M11 SIG P229. I qualified with ease and advanced to moving drills. Having large hands I enjoyed the M9 over the M11 (the M11 also lacks a safety) while everyone else preferred the M11.

Day 5
Mission: Instinctive Driving Course

Before lunch were fun drills with driving around cones at high speed. Nothing could beat what happened next. My instructor was in the driver's seat, two classmates in back, and myself at shotgun. In the simulated downtown Baghdad all was calm. All the sudden two cars drive up next to us at full speed and fire paintballs at us. The instructor plays dead and slams on the gas. I then have to undo my seatbelt, push the teacher against his door, and drive from the middle with my left foot working the pedals. Meanwhile, the two cars chase use and try to box use into corners. We escaped but I simulated vegetable stands went flying.

Postscript
Mission: Enjoy dinner with former National Geographic interns

After a hell ride back to Washington, DC I got to a gathering of former intern friends about five minutes late (no time to change). My Iraq trip was a main topic because I was still wearing my training DCU. It was fun to catch up with everyone.

Going back to the Pentagon City metro someone yelled at me in an aggressive voice, "Hey! What's the deal with the uniform?!?" Clearly the man had issues with the symbolism the uniform carries. So, with my friends, I had several choices 1) confront him 2) try to persuade him to my point of view or 3) say "Exactly, what is the deal?" pop a stick of gum in my mouth, and walk away. I picked three. My friends were upset with the guy but I received praise from people saying how well I handled the situation.

I am going to Iraq to help out those who are oppressed, to improve the lives of Iraqis, and protect the liberties all people are entitled to. That includes the right to be a jerk.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Earthquake Lights



Video on Earthquake Lights in Brazil


Throughout history there has been recorded events right before earthquakes that seem to give warning of upcoming doom. Events like animals behaving strangely are well known; but lesser known are that some reported seeing flashes of light. These lights, earthquake lights, were once regarded as nothing but myths but since the mid-1960s they have been documented and scientifically accepted.

There are a multitude of theories that try to explain the odd phenomenon and no ball lighting-like solution yet. But the promise of answers one day in an unexplained field give geographers an oppurtunity to study something fascinating.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Snake Eatergauze: Days 1-3 and Iraq News

While the first two days were full of PowerPoint there was some fun in training.

Day 1
Mission: Scope out hotel without being located by patrols.

Everyone scattered around the hotel. Some hide in plain site on benches right by the front door while others milled across the street in a restaurant and gas station. All of them were caught. Everyone but your's truly. I ran nearly half a mile to the top of hill in a Byzantine Catholic nunnery campus. People avoided this spot because the hill was hard to see because of a line of trees. However, the hill gave me an excellent hidden spot to watch the patrols pick off the team one by one.

Day 2
Mission: Drive around the hills and mountains spotting "hostile" followers

Some were good. Some were bad. But if there is one thing that can defeat a well planned stragegy it is incompetence. The last quater of the 90 minute journey we managed to lose all our tails because we got lost. Another team had fun messing with some of the less experienced tails but forcing them into "Do Not Enters" and following the followers. The organizers of the training did not appreciate that.

Day 3
Mission: Learn Krav Maga - The IDF Martial Art

A bloody hand and aching muscles did not help Catholicgauze defeat the ex-Navy Seal instructor but they are the price I paid for a oh-so-brief training lesson on self-defense. So in the event when I am in Iraq and away from help and away from a gun (a disaster which probably would not end well) I stand a chance at still winning.

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Iraq News
When I am in Iraq blogging will be less frequent and subject to "review" by others. However, while anything I create due to my experience over there has to be reviewed as well, expect a book about the how geography helps out in the War on Terrorism! The book will be finished after my time in Iraq is over.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Immigrants Vary by Nationality When It Comes to Assimilation

A study by the Manhattan Institute reveals immigrants vary by nationality when it comes to assimilation.

Practically American Canadians, pro-democracy Cubans, and Filipinos with some historical ties to the United States lead the way in the race towards the giant melting pot. These groups vary among native language but all ethnicities are known for a hard work ethic and popular strains in support for democracy.

The two main groups of immigrants not assimilating are Indians and Mexicans. The reasons for this are varied. Many Indians come here thinking they will only stay a short time, some resist because of their old age, while others have a similar to Western life style already. Mexicans resist because of geography and demographics. Mexico is so close and the Mexican community in America is so large that the need to assimilate is much lower.

The good news is that the various communities are still becoming Americans. Diversity is a strength but unity is a must. As the motto on the Great Seal of the United States goes E pluribus unum!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Map of Roads in the Contiguous United States


From the featured website

According to cartographer Ben Fry the above is a map of twenty-six million road segments without any other features. It is something how a map of roads reveals so much about physical boundaries like mountains and rivers, not to mention cities and rural areas. The map with higher details of certain section can be viewed here. (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lebanon Now in Low Level Civil War

After taking western Beirut, Hezbollah is now seizing pro-government Druze (sort of the Muslim equivalent to Mormonism) villages forcing them to submit to Shia nominal neutral army units. Meanwhile Sunnis in the northern part of the country are attacking Hezbollah offices and members.

Meanwhile United Nations peacekeepers have done nothing. United Nations has done nothing. Finally and most sadly, natural allies like the European Union, the United States, and Israel are too busy with their own affairs to come to the rescue.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Snake Eatergauze: Prologue

Previously on Catholicgauze's Iraq Training

Doctor: Now let me give you shots to make you immune to every disease ever. Pleasant dreams...
That night in the hotel room
Catholicgauze: NIGHTMARES!!!
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Trainer: Now its time to train you for interrogations. And by train I mean beat the living bejebus out of you.
Catholicgauze: Wha... *whack* my nose!!!
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Field Range Contractor: The last shot at 300 meters was a miss.
Catholicgauze: No it wasn't. I hit him in the right ear.
FRC: That doesn't count.
CG: What do you mean that doesn't count? If I had my ear blown off I would be too busy screaming and hold what ever is left to fight!

Catholicgauze Goes Snake Eater

Catholicgauze will be getting some seriously good and fun training for my Iraq assignment. Blogging should continue and this time I will also blog about my experience too! So stay tuned this week for stories and maybe a hint or two of what is to come!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Beirut on Edge as Hezbollah Advances


A child is caught in Hezbollah's fire

It started out simple. The head of Beirut's airport was deemed to be conduct activities supporting Hezbollah while on the job (that is illegal in Lebanon). Unrelated, the government declared Hezbollah's fiber optic network to be illegal because its role in actions against Israel and exploitation by Syria. The problem is that this was conducted while Lebanon is in a crisis. So all hell has broken loose.

Shia Hezbollah and its allies like Shia Amal and Christian Free Patriotic Movement declared this to be a declaration of war. Labor protests started, roads were blockaded, and fighting began. From what I can tell from press reports, pro-West Sunni Future Movement supporters grabbed guns and started taking shots at Hezbollah. Hezbollah, with training from Iran, has easily brushed aside Future Movements and has announced occupation of Sunni and Shia neighborhoods and taking prisoners.

Both sides do not want all out war but tensions are high. Right now Hezbollah is winning but wants to reach an agreement where status quo ante bellium with extras can be obtained. The pro-West March 14 government is trying to save face while radicals push for war. However, the March 14 government is watching in shock as Lebanon's army refuses to take sides. The only side in fact vowing to openly fight Hezbollah is al Qaeda, hardly the best ally for March 14.

Lebanon is one of the few true democracies of the Middle East. Now thuggish gangs of pro-Iran and pro-Syrian forces threaten to bring it down. Such a shame the world does not seem to care.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Geography in Songs: Dust Bowl and Dust Storms


My brother once remarked how depressing the song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” was. The song described one hobo’s view of the utopia he was searching for. Looking past the lyrics we were able to understand that simple comforts were not available in the 1930s for many. People were forced to leave their homes in search of livable conditions.

Those who lived in the Great Plains and other interior areas had their own reason to long for paradise: The Dust Bowl. Huge massive storms of dust caused by bad farming practices, drought, and made worse by depression. These dust storms continue today but fortunately not in the same frequency or strength.

The storms have left their mark on the geographic region known as the Interior Plains of the United States. One of these marks is on the music of the region. The single podcast “The Dust Bowl’s Musical Legacy” provides a musical journey into understanding the phenomenon’s impact on people and music. To download the podcast go to Texas Tech’s iTunes website, click on "Texas Tech on iTunes", then "Performing Arts."

During the time of the storms songs focused on despair, God’s wrath, and thoughts of moving away in search of a better life. After The Dust Bowl, some songs become lighter in spirit while others focus on those who stayed. The new song writers take pride in staying and battling out the elements; all the while remembering how powerless people are compared to the storms. One interesting thing is that the songs are almost always told from the perspective of farmers or ranchers. The rural culture is alive in well in the music of the region.

Listen to the podcast and enjoy forty minutes of musical geography!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

First Map of a Planet Outside Our Solar System


The above map comes from World Science and it is the first map of a planet outside our solar system. HD 189733b is slightly larger than Jupiter and about sixty-three light years away. The map was taken with infrared technology that allowed for it to be mapped even though it is neigh-on impoosible to see because of its proximity to its star.

The map shows a giant hot spot not directly under the star's focus. Researchers believe the spot is the hottest location because of the intense winds on the planet.

With mapping of distant planets (gas giants now, hopefully rocky planets later) now is an excellent time for physical geographers to apply their environmental and geological knowledge in aid of astronomical studies. Remember, it is just geography on another planet.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cyclone Nargis Pummels Burma

The worst natural disaster since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is now Cyclone Nargis with anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 lives lost.

The population of Burma is centered around the low-land, marshy coast. That coast received the brunt of the category four storm. Maps and space images from the Foreign Policy blog show the coastline before and after the storm and compare the flooding to population centers. Needless to say it is bad.

The isolationist junta that rules Burma has actually requested international aid though it is suspect if United States aid will be allowed to enter or if aid groups will be allowed to help out those “unpatriotic elements” who do not support the regime.

On May 10 the new proposed constitution was scheduled to be put to a vote. The document would put a democratic face on the regime and was opposed by pro-democracy groups. It is unlikely if the document will be voted on now if ever. Maybe Nargis will be like Bhola Cyclone and be the cause for freedom. Or maybe the government will crush any uprising and the world will not care, again.

Regardless, keep Burma in your prayers.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Happy Chunnel Day


Congratulations to the Channel Tunnel aka the Chunnel. Today the Chunnel turns fourteen years old!

The Chunnel allows for easy transportation between England and France via rail, freight, and car shuttle on rail. The shuttle allows easy trips and has been remaking Franco-British cultural exchanges including younger English crossing over to obtain cheaper liquor.

The Chunnel has a long history. The close proximity between Great Britain and France has long lead to calls for some sort of easy access. However, the English Channel served as an excellent defensive barrier and the “moat” has allowed British identity to remain separate from a collective European identity.

The rise of the European Community (now European Union) slowly but surely brought the United Kingdom closer to Europe. Opposition eroded and the Chunnel was completed on May 6, 1994. England is now physically “dry linked” to Europe.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Conservative Party Slaughters Labour in England, Labour loses in Wales

The ruling Labour Party has suffered a catastrophic loss in the local elections of England and Wales. Labour lost 331 seats total while the Conservative Party came in first and the more leftward Liberal Democratic Party (once strangely the moderate in between party) archived second. The ultimate salt in the wound though is the American-born, Conservative candidate winning the mayorship of London.

For the ruiling party to reach third place in a two-and-a-half party system is a damning sign of British disfavor of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Some dislike Brown because he is too similar to former Prime Minister Blair's centrist "New Labour" mold, others oppose him because he is different and snubs Americans and the War on Terror. Needless to say not too many people like him.

American readers should understand one thing about the Conservative Party. This is not the strong neo-liberal Thatcher Conservative Party nor is it the "party in power" Major Conservative Party. David Cameron's Conservative Party describes itself as compassionate conservative. This means more welfare state just with reforms, a European outlook as equal to cross-Atlantic outlook, and big on the environment. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger.

While this election does not change the overall British leadership, look for Labour to fight for its life against a swell of calls for an election that would favor the Conservative Party.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Next Decade to Be Even Cooler?

1934 was the hottest year recorded (though the precision can easily be called into doubt) and 1998 was the hottest year of the recent warming cycle. Since 1998 the temperature has been hovering near the cycle high until recently when a cool snap was observed. Now some scientists are stating the next ten years may expierence a noticble period of global cooling.

Climate is once again proving neigh-on impossible to predict.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Follow Up to Mecca Time: "Proof" and Rebuttal

A recent comment on my Mecca time post sent me a link to an article entitled “Makka is the center of the earth” by Dr. Salih Muhammad Awadh of the Geology Department in Baghdad University. The article proves once and for all that Catholicgauze’s reasoning skills are well above some Ph.Ds.

The article starts off with a plate tectonics lesson mixed in with Koranic verses. Even here there are problems. Selective counting and grouping of interior layers of the Earth are used to justify a passage that states god created seven earths. Other religious-side issues exist but those are besides the point.

The justification of Mecca is the center of the world can be boiled down to: both the Indian and Arabian plates moved counter-clockwise in their location but the Arabian plate moved less therefore the Arabian plate is the center of the earth. The logic is further obliterated by just claiming Mecca is the center of Arabia because god said so. Not even pseudoscience is involved.

The “Arabian plate is the center” theme can be destroyed in seconds. Both North and South America broke away from the super continent and moved westwards. Does this mean the very western hemisphere is an infidel? Plus, if the Arabian Peninsula moves then it is not located on the pivot point and therefore not he center.

Ugh. There is nothing wrong to see religion in geography. The problem begins when geography is bent and twisted to fit existing biases. The world is a great puzzle with answers that can be found through natural revelation, bending facts only distorts the answers we may find.

Side note: The linked piece was made by a Ph.D. If true then Catholicgauze deserves an honorary Ph.D for producing much more reasonable work and making it available to the populace. Let the blog campaign begin!