Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Satellite Data Map Shows Northern Regions are Net Carbon Dioxide Absorbers

A new map made from satellite data by Japan's National Institute for Environmental Studies revealed that northern regions such as Siberia are net carbon dioxide absorbers and that regions around the equator, including the rainforests of Africa and South America, are producing more carbon dioxide

The results contest previous beliefs and worries that natural geothermal energy releases in the north could greatly increase carbon dioxide releases and potentially affect climate change.  What is truly shocking is the data showing that equatorial regions are producing more carbon dioxide than absorbing.  Either previous models of natural absorption are wrong or the industrial growth of those regions is more polluting than previously known.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Recovering from Thanksgiving - Last Dictator Standing

I'm currently recovering from Thanksgiving and normal blogging will resume Tuesday.  Until then I understand you feel alone... like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe without Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and South Africa's P.W. Botha.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving... an American Holiday of Multiple Origins

Let us give thanks to God for all that we have.

The story that the Pilgrim Puritans held the first Thanksgiving in 1621 is a myth meant to tie American with a solid Anglo-Protestant foundation.

Doubtlessly there were plenty feasts giving thanks by American Indians during the America's prehistory.  The first recorded Thanksgiving was held by the Spanish and local Timucuan Indians in Florida in 1565.  The thanksgiving mass was followed by a feast of American and Spanish foods such as oysters, clams, garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.

The Puritans held their Thanksgiving and it was celebrated locally in Massachusetts around harvest time on no set date.  However it was not the first Protestant American Thanksgiving as English Virginia was holding a legal holiday of Thanksgiving as a religious service since 1609.  President George Washington pushed for a national day of Thanksgiving for November 26 in 1789 with no mention of any historical background.  However, each state celebrated their own Thanksgiving on their own date until President Lincoln codified the date on 1863.  President Franklin Roosevelt made the final move for Thanksgiving's date to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941.  The reason was to extend the Christmas buying season.

Even though the holiday has been commercialized let us remember the original meaning of the various Thanksgiving and give thanks for what we have.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Most Accurate Map of the Moon Released

NASA has unveiled the most accurate, highest resolution map of the Moon's elevation.  The scale of the photo is one pixel equals 328 feet (100 meters).  The data was gathered over 66,000 images and readings from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The full map can be downloaded from
Arizona State University's press release.

This map is a long time coming.  The only truly accurate readings of lunar elevation have come from satellite readings but these were never complied together to make a complete map.  In the past there have been a couple atlases claiming to have elevations marked, like the 1969 Times Atlas of the Moon, but these were guesstimates and in many cases out right lies created in part to deceive the Soviets.  Until recently, some of the most accurate lunar elevation measurements were done by an amateur astronomer using his own telescope and CCD camera.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A "Tribute" to Critical Geographers

 Now another Catholicgauze rant.  Normal geography blogging to continue on Tuesday.

A geographer friend of mine is currently suffering due to his reading papers by critical geographers for class.  These "critical" "geographers" are Marxists, feminists, and alike who tend to study issues through their own political lenses.  Most do work that most people would not recognize as geography.  These geographers are almost always academics who hate the state that pays them to work in ivy towers.  What irks personally me the most is that they completely reject the concept of truth.


Example

Currently my friend is reading the book "Rethinking the Power of Maps" by Denis Wood.  Wood's now famous argument (in academia) is that maps are not depictions of places but instead propaganda trying to argue a particular viewpoint.  Some maps certainly are arguments but Wood's claims every map is an argument... even highway road maps and city chamber of commerce maps.

Wood spends a full chapter in the book blasting the North Carolina's official road map for highlighting North Carolina at the cost of other states.  Yes, you read that right.  Wood repeatedly savages North Carolina for cartographic "sins" including the use of a legend which, in Wood's mind, highlights what only North Carolina thinks important and "rapes" the landscape of other features.  My friend stated Wood goes straight into a rant that only an "educated, highly paid conspiracy theorist could write."

So is my friend right or is Wood's an academic genius?  Is there any way to find out?  Maybe.  Knowing that Wood's was a state of North Carolina employee until he lost his job for repeatedly raping a child in his care and then threatening the kid does help one reach a judgment.

Conclusion

Are all critical geographers rapists, no of course not.  However, they tend to spout out ideas that either have little relevance to geography or fail to advance the science in any meaningful way (check out what the the Socialist & Critical Geography specialty group's presentations or Antipode for examples).  So much academic time and resources have been spent on trying to figure out if maps are really depictions or arguments rather than focusing geography on exploration of other planets, cultural studies for military and foreign policy, or even figuring out how to improve geographic literacy without just throwing money at the problem.  Give me a good National Geographic, book, or a blog post on the Catholicgauze Reads list anyday for real geography.

Post-Script

My friend created "The World According to Critical Geographers" as a rebuttal to critical geographers...

The World According to Critical Geographers.  Click to enlarge

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: A Very Special Last Word

I was originally planning on writing a post on how one can explore a place through a really detailed map.  However, while writing that post I got to thinking.

My love for geography started out with my mom taking my fingers over a 3D globe and telling me things like "this is where mommy's coffee grows" (Colombia), "this is where Santa lives" (North Pole), and "this is where the kangaroos hop" (Australia).  It was this event, which was repeated several times, which started my interest in the wider world.

I love that incident not just because of the geography though.  Knowing about the world makes one really good at trivia and maybe a related career.  What truly mattered is the love and interest my mother showed for me.  So, for geography in the community, show love for others by teaching them the world but not to teach them trivia, but to spend time with them and show you care.  That is what truly is important in the community and in the world.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: Geocaching

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

Geocaching is basically treasure hunting with a GPS.  The goal of the game is to get locations of caches from places like Geocaching.com and upload the latitude and longitude to a GPS.  Then one actually has to go to the caches location and find it (it may be hidden).  Inside the cache are usually trinkets that can be swapped and a log of those who have found it.



Geocaching is fun on multiple levels.  First there is the fun of discovery.  It truly is like "X marks the spot" treasure hunt.  This fun can be increased by doing it with family or friends.  Then there is the fun of actually new exploring places.  When I first went geocaching I visited nearby places that I never paid attention to and even found a nice corner grocery store.

Watch out though.  Some people may mistake you for really lost, weird tourists.  Every geocacher has a story of being mistaken for lost, a creep, terrorist, or something similar.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Geography Awareness Week: Clouds and Weather Prediction

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!


Meterology can be viewed as a subset of geography.  Yet the most common meteorological phenomenon, clouds, are sadly not understood by many geographers and want-to-be geographers (besides low, dark clouds equals rain).

Fortunately NASA and NOAA have a nice two page chart (PDF) on the various types clouds.  Once you get the types of clouds down Quiet Journey has a quick guide on how to predict the weather by reading the clouds.  Try reading the clouds for a few days and see how good you can be with weather predictions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: Making and Using an Astrolabe

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography: The Adventure in Your Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

An astrolabe is an ancient Greek tool for measuring star positions.  It was so effective that it was used by mariners even past the time of Columbus and into the 1700s.

First off you need to create an astrolabe.  Fortunately, the University of California Berkley has a cut out design with steps on how to put together the finishing touches (or you can use a protractor).  Then one needs to know how to read the astrolabe.  The next page of the guide offers insight.  Long story short: use straw/tube to look at object, where the string crosses the scale is the height of angle in degrees.

Now that you have a working astrolabe let us do some geography and astronomy.

Finding Latitude (For Northern Hemisphere)

First off find the big dipper in the sky at night.  Make a line connect the far two stars of the cup.  Continue that line until you see a medium bright star.  That is Polaris, the north star.  Polaris is currently hovering around the north pole (not exactly but close enough) to be used as a reference for ancient scientists, mariners, and you.  Here's a helpful image to show what you are looking for.



Now that you know where Polaris is use the astrolabe to determine the degrees in height it is.  The answer you get is your latitude .  This is the number of degrees you are from the equator.  Take 90 and subtract your number and this is the number of degrees you are from the North Pole.

Charting the Stars

Pick out a star, preferably one in a constellation you can quickly find.  Determine the height in degrees with the astrolabe.  Do more measurements 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 90 minutes later.  See how the movement is like clockwork?  That it is because the stars are not moving but the Earth is at a steady pace.  Try estimating where the stars will be in 30 minutes.  Remember, the horizon is 180 degrees and the Earth rotates 360 degrees.  Try estimating where the stars will be tomorrow at a certain time and check your results.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Geography Awareness Week 2011: Mental Mapping

This week is Geography Awareness Week!  The powers that be have declared this year's theme to be Geography in the Community.  In this spirit, I will be blogging about various geographical exercises one can do by themselves, with family, with friends, or with the community!

Today's post is a challenge to do mental mapping.  A mental map is one's personal view of how they envision their surroundings.  A mental map is not necessarily geographically correct but instead reflects what the thinker considers important and where the thinker envisions various locations to be at.

Either by yourself or with a group of friends map out your hometown.  If done with a group of friends be sure to do your own individual maps first.  Now examine your own map.  Consider what is the focus of the map, what's in the center, what is labelled, what elements are big and what barely appear, and even what may be missing.  Do the same with your friends' maps.  Now obtain a map of your hometown (try Google Maps) and compare the mental maps to the real map.  Consider how your (and your friends') understanding of the local geography differs from reality.  Discuss why this is.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

Thank you for all those have and are serving their country.

For all those who are safe in their homes right now be sure to pray for peace.  Blessed Karl, the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary and now a candidate for sainthood, is favored by some as a champion for peace even during the worst times of war.

God our Father, through the gift of Blessed Emperor Karl You have given us an example to follow. In extremely difficult times he performed his burdensome tasks without ever losing his faith. He always followed Your Son, the true King.

He led a humble life, sincerely loving the poor and giving himself heart and soul to the search for peace. Even when his life was in danger he trusted in You, putting his life in Your hands. Almighty and Merciful God, by the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl, we pray that You may give us his unconditional faith to support us in our most difficult situations, and the courage to always follow the example of Your only Son.

Open our hearts to the poor, and strengthen our commitment for peace within our families and among all peoples.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Weird Geography of Jeopardy

So last night I relaxed after work by watching Jeopardy.  I was thrilled by the fact one of the categories was European Geography.  However, when the contestants began to pick geography questions the weirdness began.

First, apparently "the United Kingdom" is not a specific enough answer for a country in Europe.



See Geography@About.com on why Scotland is not a country (sure it is a "country within the United Kingdom" but it is not a country as most people understand the term: a sovereign, independent state).

Then things got really odd when Jeopardy brought out the map. 

Transnistria (yellow oval in location where it would be on the map) does not get Jeopardy's recognition like Kosovo, Abkahzia, South Ossetia, and the now defunct Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
Widely but not universally recognized Kosovo was shown on the map.  As were partially recognized by a handful countries Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  So was the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast... which was disbanded in 1991.  Jeopardy most likely wanted to show the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which has different borders and is recognized by no other state.  I can understand showing de facto states if one is consistent.  However, Jeopardy did not show Transnistria on the map.

One who wants to see the "real" de facto borders of Europe should look past Jeopardy and use Geographic Travels' Atlas of True Borders


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Tutorials for Map Mashups and GIS

Ever wanted to make a Google Map or another map mashup?  Ever wanted to use GIS to explore data and make simple maps?  Found the standard tutorials too hard?  Well forunately there is hope: tutorials made by non-geographers. 

The Knight Digitial Media Foundation at the University of California Berkley's Graduate School of Journalism has a series of easy to read, understand, and use tutorials on how to make your own maps or use QGIS, a free GIS program.

Those who already know how to use QGIS or make a mashup will learn nothing new.  However, students and a curious public will indeed get the skills they need to indulge their inner cartographer.  (Hat Tip: Der Hunter)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

5 Minute Time Lapse United States Travel Video

Videographer Brian DeFrees drove across the United States and made a really fascinating time lapse video of his journey.  It is a wonder to see America flash by.



Below is a map Brian made of his two month journey.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

European Economy Joke and a Memory

From the National Review

Q: An Irishman, a Portuguese, and a Greek go into a bar and have a round of drinks.  Who pays?
A:  The German.

Meanwhile I am still recovering from flashbacks of a scene from the 2000 game Deus Ex, which takes place in a dystopian 2052, when a character remarks that we [the United States] could really use another Chinese loan. I remember thinking what a crazy world that was in which China would be the capital/credit supplier of the world. Sigh...


Monday, November 07, 2011

Genographic Project Indicates Humans Left Africa via a Land Bridge to Arabia

The Human DNA geography project Genographic, which I used and blogged about the proto-Catholicgauzes before, has DNA evidence which seems to confirm a new thought in human migration out of Africa: that Humans left Africa via a land bridge between Arabia and Africa and not the Sinai

The Out of Africa migration to Arabia is estimated to have happened "only" 70,000 years ago.

The study indicates that the Saharan Desert, despite having periods of greening, was truly a natural boundary preventing sub-Saharan Africans from moving north.  The Genographic-backed history has North Africans being the descendants of ancient people who lived in Greater Arabia before moving back into Africa.

If true, this story makes one grateful for the periods of low sea levels which aided the populating of not only the Americas around ~15,000 years ago but also the escape from Africa.

This evidence also has a modern day impact.  Hopefully it will be another nail in the coffin of pseudohistoric theories such as Afrocentrism in terms of Ancient Egyptians being Black, a theory embraced by some academics and even religions.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Map of Violence at Various Occupy Events

The Occupy Wall Street aka Occupy Movement aka #OWS movement has spread across the country, though its occurrence is still greatly biased towards the West Coast.  The movement has attracted not only people who are upset at corporate culture but also counter culturalists, drug addicts, violent anarchists, and various other hangers on to political Left movements.  While the various Occupy camps are not "rape, kill, murder" zones, violence has repeatedly occurred at said places unlike the peaceful Tea Party movement.

The pro-free market MacIver Institute has an active, updating Google Maps mashup of violence at various Occupy Movements.  The map is also embeded below. (Hat tip: the conservative Big Government blog)


View Mapping the #Occupy Hate and Violence in a larger map

Flyovers of Jerusalem From Biblical Times

The Gospel Coalition has gathered a collection of flyovers of Jerusalem.  One of them shows how the holy city grew from the City of David to the capital Jesus knew.



The second film is a flyover of Jerusalem at the time of King David.



The third film is of the Second Temple at the time of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Bikini Atoll's Flag: A Geography of Sadness

The flag of Bikini Atoll features main signs of a geography of sadness.  Image from Wikipedia.
In 1954 the United States tested a 15 megaton hydrogen bomb, at the time it was by far the largest nuclear device ever detonated, on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The fallout forced the United States to prevent islanders from returning to their homes.


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In 1987, islanders and the descendants of islanders adopted the above flag to represent their home.  The flag includes several key geographic elements representing their sadness over the loss of home.
  • The flag purposefully models itself after the flag of the United States.  The islanders link themselves to the United States due to their belief that the United States owes them a significant debt.
  • The twenty three stars represent the twenty three islands of the atoll.
  • The three black stars at the top right represent the three islands which were physically altered by the bomb blast.
  • The two black at the bottom right separate from the other stars represent Kili Island and Majuro Atoll, the two locations the islanders were resettled on.

The text, MEN OTEMJEJ REJ ILO BEIN ANIJ, translates to "Everything is in the hands of God."  It is the response Juda, leader of the Binkini islanders, said to Admiral Ben Wyatt when he asked the islanders to allow the United States to use the island for the "betterment of mankind."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

November 2011 Travel Photo: The Second Oldest War Memorial in the United States


In September 1777 the Revolutionary War was not going well for the American Rebels.  Philadelphia was under threat and the rebel army was in no one position which would be able to stop the British march towards the capital.  General Washington, in an effort to keep his rag tag army in fighting condition, ordered his troops to secure vital lines of communication and supply around Philadelphia.  Outside of Paoli tavern General Anthony Wayne made camp with his 2,500 men secure with the knowledge that the British were over ten miles away and the on coming rain storm would slow any British movement.

Wrong.

1,200 British forces under Major General Charles Grey moved late on 20 September and managed to get the jump on the rebels.  Bayonets made quick work of over 50 rebels and around seventy Americans were taken prisoner. 

American propagandists created stories about the British not taking prisoner and called the battle a massacre.  The cry of "Remember Paoli!" became one of the main rally war cries of the Revolution.  Forty years after the battle (1817) veterans and locals gathered together to mark the battle and dedicate a memorial to the dead.  The memorial is the second oldest American war memorial, the oldest American war memorial is at Lexington, Massachusetts and was dedicated in 1799.  The myth of a massacre was made permnament on the landscape with multiple interpreative signs around the memorial discussing British brutality and quoted sources making statements such as

"I with my own Eyes, see them, cut & hack some of our poor Men to pieces after they had fallen in their hands and scarcely shew the least Mercy to any..."

and

The Annals of the Age Cannot Produce such another Scene of Butchery...

The memorial itself is on top of a mass grave of American dead and in a park open to the public.


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