Friday, January 30, 2009
1. My first geographical memory is of my mother putting my fingers over our three-dimensional globe. As I felt Colombia I was told, "this is where mommy's coffee grows" and for Australia she said, "this is where the kangaroos hop." The second memory was of our National Geographic picture atlas of the world. The globe and atlas showed me the world was a vast and wonderful place. The geographer in me was born.
2. I have been an academic geographer, geographical educator, intern involved with geographical publications (National Geographic), and a professional geographer. Each have had their ups and downs. I have mostly positive impressions of each, though. The ability to use my geographical knowledge to create real world outcomes, from educating one freshman student to rebuilding Iraq, has been a huge honor.
3. I love geography because it allows me to do so many things. What other field of study can draw on economics, genealogy, geology, environmental science, history, and so many other topics in concert?
4. My favorite places are in the country side that have a view of a river. The most recent peaceful place I discovered is a bluff overlook near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
5. The last four countries I have been to are Iraq (presently), Germany, Canada and Aruba (Kingdom of the Netherlands). The next four I want to travel to are Ukraine, Kosovo, Israel, and Vatican City.
6. Geographical education in America is horrible but I think I found a way to teach it, at least with environmental geography. I threw out all the old tests which were just multiple choice questions such as, "What sort of sand dune is this?" or "What temperature is required to form this rock?" Instead I made free answer tests that required students to fully comprehend the subject. For instance, I gave my students a map of the local area and required students two list and explain two reasons why they would not build a house at grid location X. The answer usually was something along the lines of "Grid location X is in a flood plain and according to the map there are sinkholes in the area which could later form on poor soil and collapse the home." This required among many things, including: map reading, knowledge of the grid location and comprehension of hazards.
7. I greatly enjoy comments and e-mails from readers. It doesn't matter if you are sharing positive or critical thoughts or asking for help to understand something, I'm glad that I have the opportunity to share, and promote (and provoke) a response on a topic that I am so passionate about - geography.
As long as we are on the point of comments and e-mails, I am announcing an upcoming question and answer session with Catholicgauze! If you have questions about my doings in Iraq, the world, geographical education, or anything geographical just e-mail me at catholicgauze[at]gmail[dot]com and it will be featured in upcoming posts. Questions can be anonymous.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Originally published April 22, 2006
TDAXP has sent me a link to Geograph. Geograph is an open group effort to have every, and I mean, every piece of
My favorites so far are here, here, and here. Be sure to comment about your own favorites or what you contribute!
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Damian Thompsons's Holy Smoke blog has been unbelievably informative on this breaking news. His post on the backlash is illustrative of those eager to tear the Catholic communion apart.
One communion that is falling apart is the Anglican one, which itself was torn from the Catholic communion under King Henvry VIII and his successors. Searching on Google News for "Robert Duncan" provides a host of links about the Anglican Church in North America, a new Anglican province in Canada and the United States, with close ties to provinces in Africa, designed to cicumvent the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Originally published February 1, 2007
Today the prevailing winds blow west to east in the continental United States. This has not always been the case however. During the last ice age (36,000 to 14,000 years ago) winds blew from east to west.
Today's Pacific Northwest known for raining every three days was once much drier due to the previous wind direction for example. The glaciers would have created a wind and moisture barrier which would cause the boundary of the glaciers to have weather like Mount Washington.
Scientists speculate that the winds change course with significant climate change. Just goes to show how the idea of a "natural equilibrium" is flawed and how volatile our world is. (Hat tip: Very Spatial)
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Originally published June 24, 2007
http://geography.about.com/b/a/257864.htm links to the must read essay of the year entitled Bring Back Geography! The essay is long but well worth one's time. I will not summarize the essay but touch on key points and offer thoughts.
Three Main Points Catholicgauze and the Essay Agree
Geography Gets No Respect
When I was earning my degrees I was constantly asked what I was studying in school. I replied, of course, "geography." Almost every time the reply back was "What are you going to do? Teach?" Too many people think geography is just remembering countries and the three main exports. It is because of this that university close down geography departments. With little upper level education, teachers and other college students get no proper geographical education. No good teachers means geographical illiteracy becomes common in a society.
Geographers Are Partly to Blame for the No Respect
I told a friend something important when we were helping out the state Geography Bee. I said something along the lines of "You know how we always claim geography is more than place trivia? What are we doing here?" When studies by National Geographic and others exemplify how kids do not know geography, we make it appear geography is place trivia and for kids. I hate to brag about we need more Catholicgauzes in the world (a horrible thought!). There are dozens of excellent blogs out about geotechnology but how many geography blogs are there? Geographers need to be interacting with people showing what geography is.
Geographic Illiteracy Ranges from Embarrassing to Insulting to Dangerous
The risks involved with being geographic illiteracy are numerous. You can embarrass yourself like CNN did by labeling Syria as Afghanistan, you can insult the inhabitants of the country you are visiting by making the symbol of group that murdered 70,000 of your country men chic like Cameron Diaz did, or you can greatly minimize your effectiveness as an army like General David Petraeus realizes in observation nine [PDF]. Geographers must teach the public how things operate in a globalized world. We need to tell people how an economic downturn in China will change their shopping habits or if tribes in Nigeria become angry then oil price will shoot up. We must also go beyond human geography. Geographers can take the lead in discussions on the environment but so far we remain silent.
Three Extra Fights
Fight for Our Right
Today a popular thing for universities to do is multidisciplinary programs. Geographers work well with other disciplines. However we must protect our turf at all cost. We excel by nature at area studies, environmental sciences, and GIS. Any attempt to spin these off to another department or as an independent branch must be opposed. Also, any attempt to merge geography with another department makes it a grab bag of left overs.
Fight "The Infection"
You know Catholicgauze very well if you know the first time this came up. An anti-establishment disease crossed over from European departments to American ones. Too many geographers refuse to participate with military operations (there was a debate in several geographical journals over this issue after 9/11), in mainstream studies of globalization (the best work on the subject, Commanding Heights, noticeably lacks a geographer's input), or any other study "the corporate machines of the world want us to do." That is a real quote. Geographers waste their gifts and will be replaced by others if they insists in locking themselves in their ivy-tower prisons.
Fight for Proper Use of Tools
When I was teaching Environmental Geography lab I allowed students to use my laptop's version of Google Earth. The students looked up their houses and then stopped. They saw no further use. Then I showed them various layers such as weather and earthquakes around the world. I used the displayed data to convey spatial themes behind climate zones and the Ring of Fire. The students then realized Google Earth was not a mere earth viewer but a tool to help explaining geography.
Too often geographers let tools take a life of their own. I have warned against this. When a president of a major geographical association went to Harvard to celebrate its new GIS lab, he erred. The GIS tool was taken by others at the school and geography lost its right and place at Harvard.
I could repeat the phrase "geography matters" but that would be preaching to the choir. Geographers need to reach out to the public, to school teachers, to leaders what geography is and how geographical knowledge can aid in many situations.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
The Wikipedia factor of not having verifiable reports is an obvious liability but with this level of neogeography coming into play that is to be expected. The real fault so far is the weird fact that sometimes the geolocations will move if one pans the map. I encountered this on Internet Explorer which makes the occurrence even weirder.
Monday, January 05, 2009
All studies on climate should be greeted with a bit of skepticism. No one study should be viewed as "the" study. However, the cycle system seems to suggest that climate is beyond the fixes currently proposed. Those in power should focus on making plans to adjust to changes, in both short and very long terms, and create a healthier living environment for people all over the world.
Saturday, January 03, 2009
Friday, January 02, 2009
At Midnight when Christmas Eve becomes Christmas, in a church in downtown Baghdad, Christians partake in Mass celebrating Christ's birth. They are joined by their Shia Muslim fellow Iraqis. The church has Iraqi Police protection but it is questionable if it is needed. Parts of Iraq are awakening out of the nightmare which was the civil war. The mass is beautiful and has been kept by Assyrian Catholics since their beginning (with a few slight changes). Meanwhile I was in a heavily guarded chapel room where the security was not needed. The priest/chaplin had his own version of the missal including his own interpretation of the Lord's Prayer set to the tone of Jingle Bells. Babylon.
Tonight (the period of darkness between 25 and 26 December) I am in the ruins of an old Iraqi base. We have a little shop set up here and officially are doing our jobs but it is all quiet. The old buildings still have Arabic writing left by bored Iraqi soldiers and air men. It is almost like you can here their ghosts speaking. Whisperings of the old days.
I miss you all and cannot wait to be home back in the United States.