Friday, November 28, 2008

Catholicgauze makes it to Iraq

Hi everyone! I managed to get to Iraq safely. I am now exploring what little bit of the desert environment I can. The Walis, dryriverbeds in Arabic, are really neat to see. These things are dozens, if not hundreds, of miles long and can stretch to well over a milewide. Nights can get cool but not yet truly cold. Meanwhile the days are not that bad since they only get up into the 70s. I will try to write more later, but I just wanted to keep you informed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Becoming an American: identity and geography

With Thanksgiving this week, NPR has been “spending time thinking about what it means to become an American” during the "most American" of holidays. Yesterday, author Joseph O'Neill (raised in Holland, half-Irish, half-Turkish, now living in New York City) spoke about identity and geography.

O'Neill's view is that in this age of globalization, migration as we knew it (Irishmen coming to the US due to a potato famine and never returning home) has changed. It's easier to travel, speak on the phone or use electronic means.

NPR paraphrased him well saying that of Americans, people are less inclined to make judgments based on race or class – but also not particularly interested in learning about his background.

[Maybe that's perhaps another reason why Americans don't know geography.]

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Picturing the Past

Catholicgauze requests that I note this story on La Cartoteca about "HistoGrafica - Picture the Past." HistoGrafica allows users to look at photos of a place through time -- kind of like a PhotoSynth of the Ages.



For one of the more depressing contrasts, compare the Omaha's Kountze Park in 1898 with the ghetto firing range that it's become. It reminds me of the decline of Fort Totten, DC.

Classic Gauze: Official Languages of the United States

America is a diverse country that so far has managed to unite as one. There has been many pushes to have English be the official, uniting language of the United States in this era of high legal and illegal immigration. However, many states already have official languages. Most of these are English but depending on the cultural background of the state there may be others as well.

Since the publishing of this classic post New Mexico has moved even closer to bilingualism (English and Spanish) while still not having an "official" languages law.
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Published Friday May 19, 2006


The United States Senate voted recently to make English the official language of the United States then it voted to call English a common and unifying language. While the rest of the nation struggles to understand just what that means; one may be interested in knowing many states are already officially English and some states and territories are officially bilingual or even trilingual.

Twenty-six states and the Virgin Islands all have English (American version) as their official language. There has been controversy; however. Arizona once tried to make English its official language but was stopped by the state supreme court which ruled the law "too board." The law resembled Quebec’s French first law where store owners could be punished for not printing text in official language.

Some parts of the United States are bilingual.


There are outliers with these facts too. New Mexico government's uses both English and Spanish while not having any official language(s). South Dakota's state constitution was printed in multiple languages because the various immigrants groups distrusted each other. Pennsylvania recognized English and German until the 1950s. The United States census conducts surveys in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog (Philippine). Finally, various Indians reservations use English and native languages interchangeably.

If English does become the official language of the United States it would be interesting to see if the bilingual states and territories will be grandfathered in or if the law would overturn multilingual laws.

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What type of American English do you speak? Find out with Yall Tock Funny Ya Hear

Want to find out the difference between American English with that from the motherland and Australia along with Cajun versus Fromage? Find out with Figjam

Category: Languages, Maps

Friday, November 21, 2008

Genetic Map of Europe

Courtesy gnxp, this genetic map of Europe:



Read the original paper for more details, but for me the interesting thing is that the Russian race (like Russian culture, or the Russian state) is only marginally European. Of course, the Great Russian Die-Off will change the features of those Russians that remain in a generation or three.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Geography Awareness Week 2008: Is it working? A look back.

Geography Awareness Week was designated by Congress in 1988 to combat ignorance.

I stumbled on a 1992 New York Times article in honor of Geography Awareness Week titled “Redoubling the Efforts at Teaching Geography.” It cited a 1988 Survey of Geographic Literacy stating that 25% of young Americans, 18 to 24 years old, could not find the Pacific Ocean on a map. This got me thinking: what has happened since? Thankfully, NG has continued the study in both 2002 and 2006. Catholicgauze happened to comment on the 2006 survey results, too.

It's interesting to see the trends and compare results over time of young Americans. I'm trying not to bombard you with statistics, so I picked out what I believe are interesting and balanced indicators.



Overall there has been little to no change since the 1988 study. Moreover, young Americans lag behind their counterparts in Europe. Simply stated, Americans need more geographical knowledge. How can this be accomplished? Well, I'm sure that could be up for debate. National Geographic has wonderful online tools and resources; however, if they have been implementing programs to combat geographic ignorance since 1988, perhaps the programs they have need to be revisited (or I suggest doing a case study on effectiveness at those schools/classrooms that use the NG material vs. the classrooms that do not).

Geography is not all about locations – only 29% in 2006 stated correctly that the U.S. is the largest export of goods and services measured by dollar value (48% incorrectly stated China) – and – only 18% knew that Mandarin was the most widely spoken language in the world (74% said English).


So, who did well on the 2002 and 2006 surveys?

  • Those who had taken a geography course or completed more education.

  • Those who travel internationally, speak more than one language and/or have contact with cultures outside of the U.S.

  • Those that keep up with world events through the Internet and other media sources.

  • Those whose families (as well as themselves) were not recent immigrants.

And finally, if you can't get enough: Test your knowledge with National Geographic's quiz!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Classic Gauze: North Korea's Empty Roads

My very first blog post was written in a hotel room. I was with my dad, preparing for graduate school awaiting for the university to give me a place to stay.

The post was a Google Earth image of Pyongyang, North Korea's empty streets. Reader Scott, in the very first comment, pointed out each car plate in North Korea reflects the political class of the driver. Protestant fans of the Left Behind series pointed out that Kim Jong Il's car plate, 216, is their intrepreation of the Mark of the Beast.

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From Sunday January 8, 2006



Glorious Leader Kim Il-Sung (with his son Kim Jong-il holding the position until he comes back from death) runs a clean and glorious country without fear of AIDS, pollution, or freedom for anyone.


The capital city of Pyongyang is limited to loyal party members of the upper class. Only upper class party members can afford cars and then only a few can actually get a car. This is noticeable by looking at a Digital Globe image of a "traffic jam" on the city streets. Notice all five or so cars on the streets. By using other satellite photos or Google Earth one can see a vast network of roads in Pyongyang but no body to drive them.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What's to Come with Catholicgauze

While I am in Iraq the blog will stay active! Just not at the rate you great readers are use to. I have created a series of autoposts to be published every Monday. These Classicgauze post will look back at some of my favorite posts I have done in the past. Meanwhile, TDAXP and Catholicgauzette are encouraged to blog anything geographical they want. They will also manage comments. Plus, who knows if your favorite geographer (No, not that one. Me) might be able to drop a note in or two.

Regular Catholicgauze blogging to resume late March 2009!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Note Before I Go

Many times I have been asked by nervous friends and family whether or not I can be forced into staying Iraq longer. Usually this is quickly followed up by a comment more or less saying they are sorry I am forced to go. The expression on the questioner's face is always shock when I tell them I volunteered to go to Iraq. I tell them truthfully I hope for the short four month position but would not mind if it is extended by my choice.

I am about to leave the comfort and safety of the United States of America for the deserts, villages, and cities of the Republic of Iraq. I go because my God-given gift of a geographical mind can help improve and safe the lives of Americans and Coalition troops, NGO volunteers, and Iraqis. I pray that my labor can produce rewards that will comfort those who need to be comforted.

I know that I do not go alone. Many from all over the world; from the farthest rural corners to the largest cities have and are coming to Iraq to work with those brave patriots who put their lives on the line to restore the greatest that once resided in the green valleys of Mesopotamia.

I know that the odds of death are present but they are small. However, if I am fall far from my home know that I died so others may live. Too many good people have already met this fate. They are the true heroes. I am not worried for my physical self, my family and I like all families have known too much death, and I know that one day I myself will die. No doubt about that. My soul I pray for constantly so that God may forgive me. I am unworthy of the gifts and love he has allowed me to have. My big worry is for those who I love. I love you. You know who you are. I will always be with you whether I come back from Iraq or not.

Know I prepare to go out. My flight is soon. I will do my best to keep in touch with you. Geography has played a role in many of the happiest moments of my life. Whether it be learning it, teaching it, exploring it with my family, or blogging about with all of you. Now is the time that I can use geography to help Iraq. Now is the time for me truly to preform. Now is the time for me to leave.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The East and The West

From XKCD from Adrian

TDAXP once told me a story of how a textbook of his said that the "Far East" is called such because if one were to travel east from America that is where one would end up. The same book proclaimed Emperor Constantine I was the founder of the Holy Roman Empire.

The terms "West" and "East" are based on interpretations of the development of civilization. The West has its foundation in Ancient Greece while the East at first was Asia, meaning usually Persia. The West saw itself based on logic and limited government while the East believed in their god-kings supremacy. As time progressed Europe and European-based cultures inherited the term the West. The term "Far East" originated out of the desire to differentiate classical Asia from China and Japan, which Europeans were late in learning about.

Something Pulling the Universe?

A recent study says that something may be pulling the universe farther apart. If this is true then there is probably something beyond this universe.

Previously, the increase in distance between objects in the universe, red shift, was explained as the big bang explosion still having force. But this study suggests that something is aiding the process. What this something is cannot be explained with current science. But it does suggest that our universe not only is not infant but only part of something bigger.

What exactly this bigger thing is is also unknown. Whether it be another completely different universe full of craziness or "nothingness" is completely guessable. One can state that it is heaven and have as much reasonableness as the guy saying it is a dark matter reserve-universe. The math that astronomers are going to have to use just to have educational guesses at what these pullers are will be beyond most computers' comprehension. Best of luck guys!

Some says that geography has no more blank spots in the map to fill. However, those who truly love exploration of the unknown merely have to look up into space for the next, but not final, frontier.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ninty Years since the End of the War to End All Wars

For World War I maps see the 2006 post. For Catholicgauze's salute to veterans see the 2007 post.

At 11:11 am the Great War ended. Twenty million had died since 1914. It was suppose to be the War to End all Wars: never again, if you will.

This day is set aside to honor those who died in the war and all veterans in general. Let us remember them always in our souls and our heads.

Coming Anarchy links to a BBC interactive map containing videos about some of the larger battles.

Those who fought in the Great War ended the Classical Age of Europe and started the Modern era. Their struggle help make what Europe what it is today. Their sacrifice, along with those who fought against fascists, campaigned against the Communists, and supported human rights world wide are our heroes. Below are their depressingly wonderful works on the face of Europe.


Monday, November 10, 2008

President-elect Obama's World

Last Tuesday Barack Obama managed to win the popular vote and secure well over the required 270 electoral votes to become president-elect. Obama managed to secure victory by locking the Black vote along with the progressive and youth votes. Surprisingly, despite all that was said about record turnouts, turnout was only slightly larger than 2004.

Despite a few editorials out of Ukraine, Iraq, and Georgia, the world has been enthusiastic about Obama's victory. Everyone from the French, Germans, Japanese, and all the way to Tonga have been celebrating. However, Obama must now live to very high hopes. Uganda thinks it is Obama's priority while the militant Islamic Army of Iraq (not al Qaeda-related) expects Obama to live up to the hype and Zimbabwe is hoping Obama will not pressure an African nation to reform. America is riding high on the Obama wave but chances are high for disappointment. This should be one of President Obama's main fears.

With Russia moving missiles, Iran and Israel daring each other, and low level monsters all throughout the world: this is not a time for screw ups. Let us hope President Obama is up for it and makes the right calls.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New Zealand Elects Center-Right Government

New Zealand has voted out the longstanding Labour Party government and in turn elected a coalition of the center-right. The center-right National Party will create a coalition of itself with the libertarian ACT New Zealand and the economically conservative United Future parties.

Many attribute Prime Minister-elect John Key's success to his centering of the center-right's agenda. Key will keep the nuclear ban and will focus more on reforming the welfare system than the the standard right line of ending it or curbing it. Meanwhile there is hope on the right that Key will restore military alliances with America, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Meanwhile the center-left is hurting. The formerly ruling Labour Party lost seven seats and the small Progressive Party failed to gain any seats or votes. The left Greens; on the otherhand, gained two seats to get up to eight total.

The Maori Party, solely oriented for the native Maori people, managed to gain one seat to get up to five. The party seeks to extend Maori property rights into the sea and have special laws having Maori as in retirement age. The party hoped to play kingmaker for the ruling coalition but the center-right coalition, which platform seeks a colorblind approach to law, managed to win a majority outright.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Anthrax Causes Blogging Delay

Anthrax is a particularly nasty disease found in the Bible (Exodus 9: 9-11); all throughout the world, and in my left arm. The nasty buggers are the last part of the vaccination process before I ship out for Iraq. Besides swelling into a four-inch blight, the vaccine's side effects are generating heat on the wound and making me sleepy. However, I dare not sleep because of bad fever dreams.

According to this medical map anthrax has receded from the first world but still manages to run wild throughout the third world. The reason is because the disease is commonly spread through livestock. First world farmers can afford vaccines that stop the disease. However, lack of money and general dirty living in the third world allows for anthrax to thrive.

Another main reason I had to get the shot was because of weaponization. The spores that cause anthrax can live hundreds of years and are easily available if one knows where to look. It is a messy process that can easily effect the maker but a crude anthrax weapon can be made from household equipment. And a black market somewhere might have the weaponized version for sale for the right price.

Scary little tidbit, the island where the Soviet Union had their anthrax stockpile was in the Aral Sea and now is a peninsula. Fortunately American scientists managed to destroy the stockpile remains... after it was abandoned for a decade!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

GPS in Underwear Cause Uproar but is Nothing New

It is being marketed as a 21st century chastity belt. It has caused some feminist and libertarians to act like it is the abolition of the constitution. What is it? GPS-fitted underwear.

The techno-underwear is being marketed as a lover's tracker and even a personal safety device. Feminists are upset because it can act as a tether on wives, lovers, and girlfriends. Libertarians are mad because it can track people and possibly be abused. Those who like safety see it as a connect to the outside world when something bad like kidnapping occurs.

Two problems exists that should have prevented this from becoming news. First off, by the picture in the story it is clear that the thing is not really that subtle. It is not like one can simply slip it in boxers or anything unnoticed. Secondly, this is nothing new. Other pieces of clothing like GPS shoes exist. With the gear embedded inside, devices like these would be a more logical tracking device/chastity belt.

Oh well. For now Catholicgauze takes great joy in the fact that his shirts, ties, shoes, and boxers are not constantly in conversation via high frequency waves with satellites in space. Never know if one could get cancer in all the wrong places.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day 2008 Weather

Weather.com has candidate travel weather and then weather reports for the battleground states. Catholicgauze reminds all the American-based readers to vote (I did over a month ago, no lines for me)!

Political geography analysis to come on Thursday!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Australia Wants to Censor the Internet

The Commonwealth of Australia may join the People's Republic of China and other countries with mandatory censoring of the internet. The government has declared no one can opt out of the censorship. Originally the plan was thought-up by social conservatives who wanted to block pornography but the ruling center-left Labour Party expanded the censorship to "controversial subjects." As such, the Labour Party is realizing that sometimes progressivism and classical liberalism (freedom of speech) do not go hand and hand.

Today is a information era driven by the free access of information. Sure, a civil society needs horizontal controls and times of war call for information wars but this style of censorship is a slippery slope. One never knows when a "controversial subject" will be one that hurts the government's political image.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Taxi Fare Google Maps Mash-Up

Whenever visiting a big city a concern of mine involve taxis. I try to avoid them like the plague but sometimes one just needs to get one. Then the next worry is money. How much money will I need to have on hand?

Taxi Fare Finder is a Google Maps Mash-Up designed to help solve the problem. The program takes taxi pricing information from many American cities along with Toronto and Vancouver, Canada and London, United Kingdom. It calculates initial fare, metered rate, surcharge, and tip to give an estimate of the cost.

Not perfect but a good tool for those on the go!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Nashi, the Putin Youth, Go off the Deep End

Nashi, the main Russian government funded youth group, wants to wish you a happy Halloween and tell you that it hates America, big time. The group channels their inner-crazy Ron Paul and Cynthia McKinney in a movie title the American Show. The movie claims the United States was behind World War I, World War II, the War on Terrorism, Rock and Roll, and the Mark of the Best from the Bible.

It appears that this video is being shown in conjunction with an upcoming Nashi-lead protest in front of the United States Embassy - Moscow on November 2. If so this mark a big turning point. Before Nashi propaganda has taken on NATO allies and Ukraine while only lightly attacking the United States. Now, it directly blames the United States for the above and more. This had to be approved by the top in Moscow. Whether this means Prime Minister Putin thinks he has a freer hand to attack the United States or President Dmitry Medvedev, once thought as weak, is really hard core is yet to be seen. Either way, Russia is upping its propaganda and chest beating.