Showing posts with label Miscellaneous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miscellaneous. Show all posts

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Every Man Remembered: Mapping the Commonwealth's World War I Dead

The Royal British Legion has a great website that is attempting to document every British Empire/Commonwealth World War I dead.  Every Man Remembered is attempting to give every dead warrior a story and map out their final resting place.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Islamic State of Iraq and What?

The Sunni Islamist terrorist army swarming over western and northern Iraq refers to itself as الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام, which translates to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.  The term "al-Sham" is the reason the group is sometimes referred to the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" and other times as the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria".

The term al-Sham (Sham, for short) in Arabic means the land of the left hand because it was to the north of Arabia.  This refers to the person facing the rising sun in Arabia, thus leaving north on the left hand side.  Sham has long been used in classical Arab and Islamic geography to mean Syria, however, not the land of the modern Syrian Arab Republic (سورية , Syria) but the historic region of greater Syria.  For example, the Roman Syria included modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey while Ottoman Syria also included Israel, Jordan, and parts of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  Basically, the historic region of Syria is a near perfect match for the western concept of the Levant.

So, a close to literal translation has the group being "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria", however, most readers are likely to confuse greater Syria (al-Sham) with the modern state of Syria.  Because al-Sham is a near perfect fit for the concept of "Levant" and they have made clear their goals are more Leavant-oriented I recommend using the term the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The ISIL is not a fan of the small boundaries of the Syrian Arab Republic and prefer al-Sham instead. Photo via Twitter.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Most Efficient Way to Drive Through All the Contiguous United States

View Larger Map

Stephen Von Worley of Data Pointed has found the most efficient way to drive through all the forty-eight connected United States.  Needless to say it is quite creative and relies in part by quick drive through certain states.  I do not know if this would meet TDAXP's requirement of visiting states (getting out of the car and buying something) but bravo to such a neat, fascinating effort.  Interestingly thinking outside the box, the trip ends in Montana while I would probably of had the trip in California or Washington.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day 2014: Music and a Flashback to 2013's Genealogy Post

Emblem of the Ancient Order of Hibernians
Éirinn go Brách!  Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  As an American with Irish Catholic and Scot-Irish Protestant ancestors I look back on today on all the hard work all my family has done to make it in America.

To celebrate St. Patrick's Day I've decided to celebrate both the St. Patrick's mission of spreading Christianity and the Irish-American experience in music.

First, the ancient Irish hymn Ag Criost an Siol which means Christ is the Seed.

To celebrate all Irish in America I have chosen the Appalachian Scotch-Irish song Loving Hannah.  Ulster-Scots were monumental in forming the United States with a pioneering race that left its deepest lasting mark in Appalachia.

From the 2013 post

As always, I am using Saint Patrick's Day to share some genealogical tools one can use.  The Irish Times newspaper has a searchable surname mapper available.  There is also a searchable version of the below ESRI map available here.

Click for a larger version.  For full downloadable version (30+ MBs) click here.  From ESRI
For those with Scot-Irish roots via Ulster, Ancestry Ireland has a Scots in Ulster page where one can search surnames and historical information.  They also have this map of Scottish landlords in old Ireland.

Click to Enlarge.  From Ancestry Ireland

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#Sochiproblems: A Rebuttal

Most of us have seen or heard of #sochiproblems, the tweet hashtag documenting problems and weird situations journalists and athletes are encountering during the Winter Olympics.  Some of the most popular tweets involve the water quality.

From AP reporter Will Graves.
Z Geographer, however, has a bit of a rebuttal.  He sees a Western lack of understanding and a bit of being spoiled by living in the best parts of the United States as a reason this shocks people.  A key take away line is

"The World Health Organization, one of several UN organizations tracking the seventh Millennium Development Goal (halving the number of people without access to improved drinking water sources), reported in 2013 (using 2011 data) that 768 million people don’t have access to improved drinking water. And that’s just “improved” drinking water. As our vociferous news correspondents in Sochi will tell you, having an improved drinking water source isn’t necessarily a potable water source".

All of these are very good points.  What may be "good enough" for Russian domestic tourists could seem backwards to Westerners.  When I was in Afghanistan, the only hotel in the nearby town was a seven-room house with each room having a bed and a space heater.  There was an outhouse in the yard.  Yet, all the Afghans I talked to about the hotel said it was a good place to stay if they had to spend the night.

Then again, as another friend said, the $51 billion dollars spent negates the poor infrastructure argument.

From @Sochiproblems

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sochi: The Main Resort of the Russian Riviera

Back when Sochi was announced as the primary location for the 2014 Winter Olympics, some people may have thought a) why Sochi and maybe even b) but isn't Sochi as far south as Venice and right on a warm body of water?  Sochi is indeed a warm place with an average high of 50 Fahrenheit (10 Celsius) and an average low of 37 Fahrenheit (3 Celsius) in February.  In fact, the nice coastal climate has been given the name the Russian Rivera or the Caucasian Riviera.

So why Sochi?  Two reasons, first the nearby Caucasian Mountains and second the established tourism infrastructure.

Sochi.  From SeniorCitizen.Travel

The nearby Caucasian Mountains and their foothills give enough elevation for snow hills and tracks for many winter sports.  Meanwhile, winter and summer vacation has been popular in Sochi and the Black Sea Coast region of the Russian Rivera since the 1950s.  First it was for Communist Party elites but it slowly became more open to everyone.

Sadly some of the infrastructure began to fall apart in the 1980s and 1990s due to lack of funds and government priorities elsewhere.  This has left Sochi in a bit of a bind in which middle class Russian facilities and those for the ultra-rich are fine but facilities for athletes and foreigners are in such a sorry state that #Sochiproblems became a popular Twitter hashtag.

The main loser of Sochi, besides citizens who lost their pillows to foreigners and any anti-corruption Russian, is Abkhazia.  One in the de facto independent state/separatist region of Georgia can actually see of some of the Sochi facilities from the border.  Many Abkhaz's were hoping to cash in on the Olympics by offering affordable alternatives for staying and sight seeing.  However, Russia's anti-terrorism perimeter integrates itself to the Abkhaz-Russian thus practically closing down all traffic from the de facto republic to Sochi.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Bill Nye versus Ken Ham: Simplified Thinking All Around

Note: I know good people on all sides of the evolution debate.  Some base their opinions on logic and a scientific model and others on their faith.  Some using the the logic-scientific model accept a form of creationism while others who rely on a form of faith accept evolution.  Of course, the vice versa is also true.  This post is not meant to take sides on the debate but merely point out the flaws of the debate.
On Tuesday, Bill Nye "the Science Guy" debated Ken Ham, head of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum.  Nye dominated with logic and scientific examples while Ham relied primarily on the Bible instead of more scientific explanations.

It was not a representative debate for anyone.  First, "creationism" and "evolution" were not defined.  Old Earth Creationists, Progressive Creationists, and Theistic Evolutionists were ignored by Young Earth Ham.  Meanwhile, Nye never went into the internal divides of evolutionary theory.  For example, if you consider yourself a "Darwinist" you are outside the scientific mainstream.  Darwin's gradual evolution has been replaced by most scientists in favor of punctuated equilibrium.

The debate in the end was by two people deeply convicted in their own views which they presented as the only view.  Mr. Ham dismissed every sort of God-related theory but his own and Mr. Nye completely ignored any theory of evolution that involved God and kept his argument vague enough to not disown Darwin.

For more points of view check out this Catholic and Old Earth Creationism rebuttals to the debate itself.  For more information on other forms of creationism or God driven evolution check out these sites for Old Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, and Theistic Evolution (God made life through evolution).

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Most Popular and Craziest Posts of 2013

With 2013 ending it is time to look back at the top posts of 2013.  I decided to take a look at my most viewed post and the one that caused the biggest comment flame war.

Most Viewed Post

Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.  The Map of Non-European Popes was a huge hit and became an even bigger hit when a South American was elected pope.

View Map of Non-European Popes in a larger map

Most Commented Post/Biggest Flame War

The Native American Nations Map is Beautiful But Invents a Fake Geography of American Indians was destined to be a talked about post, I never knew just how much.  The map is beautiful but, as I and then readers pointed out, there are numerous errors.  It turns out the errors are not mistakes but political favoritism for some nations over others.  By his own comments, cartographer Aaron Carapella showed himself to prefer myth over history, belief that race matters in science, and he even threatened me.  All over a map.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Map of Christmas Present Giving Entities in Europe and Western Asia

The map of "Who Brings Gift to Europe" is making news on the internet (and I have been unable to track down the source).  However, there are some interesting geographical trends.

Click to enlarge
Scandinavian countries tend to have a pagan or supernatural gift giver vice the Christmas Saint Nicholas-derivative.

Slavic countries tend to have Grandfather Frost.

The map does not mention the Dutch Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) from which the Dutch in New Holland gave the future United States Santa Claus.

Saint Basil beats out Saint Nicholas in Greece(!).

Some form of Father Christmas wins out in Western Europe.

Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, southern Germanic realm (Bavaria, Switzerland, Austria, norther Italy), and Hungary have explicitly historical people give out gifts.

Jesus is the gift giver only in the southern Germanic realm and Hungary.

The original Christmas gift givers (the magi) are "still" giving gifts only in Spain (where they give on Three Kings Day and not Christmas).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cape Verde becomes Cabo Verde as Cross-Language Name Nationalism Continues

East Timor, Ivory Coast, and now Cape Verde are considered incorrect by their governments.  They instead prefer that everyone calls the country by its name in the respective local language.

In late October, Cape Verde alerted the United Nations that its name can no longer be translated and always must be referred to as "Cabo Verde".  National Geographic has already recognized the language change and the United States' Board of Geographic Names will most likely follow suit.

Right now there is very little opposition to these minor countries' desire that their native language name be universal.  However, I am wondering if this sort of cross-language name nationalism will hit some more major state.  Would everyone follow the demands of Germany if it demanded everyone refer to it as "Deutschland" in all languages?  Would it be deemed neo-imperialist if the United States told Latin America that "Estados Unidos" can no longer be used?

Personally, I foresee more countries demanding their name be used cross-language as the United States, in particular, and the English language, in general, slowly lose their competitive advantage over other cultures in the globalized world.

Note: Much like South Sudan's independence, Google Maps and Bing Maps are lagging behind OpenStreetMap in recognizing the name change.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit's Middle Earth on a Google Earth-like Map

I am no fan of the new Hobbit movies.  They seem to miss the whole point of the Christian pilgrimage the story is meant to be, plus, it makes up way too much not in the book.  However, part of the promotion of the new movie is an interactive map.

One can zoom in and out by double clicking on the map.  Each location (a ring) can be interacted with.  While I still dislike the movies, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the music and map convey the beauty of Middle Earth.

Monday, November 25, 2013

America's Military Intelligence Agency Realizes Geography Matters

Groups like the Defense Intelligence Agency, the pinnacle of military intelligence in the United States, are best known for analyzing opposing military forces.  The "bean counting" of other military can be world changing, such as Winston Churchill's investigations into Nazi Germany's military buildup.

However, the Defense Intelligence Agency realizes that greater geographic factors drive the foundations of cultures and can be a great advanced warning for future threats.  Watch the first half of this promotional video and see what the Defense Intelligence Agency thinks the main things to look out for are.

Interestingly, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, promoted cultural geography in understanding and defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. (Hat tip: Z-Geographer)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Geographical Facts about Cocaine

I recently acquired the latest copy of "Cocaine Smuggling" (2011) by the Office of National Drug Control Policy from my local library.  According to ONDCP, cocaine's scourge is primarily fueled by users in the United States.  The United States has the most users of the drug with Europe and the rest of the Americas splitting the rest.  The top five users are:

United States: 5.33 million users
Mexico: 1.7 million
United Kingdom 1.04 million
Brazil: 954,338
Italy: 884,827
Spain 823,515

The data on how cocaine gets to the United States was surprising.  The old stereotype of airplanes and speedboats going to Florida swamps is dead.  Ninety-five percent of all the cocaine headed towards to the United States goes through Mexico/Central America.  Only five percent goes through Hispaniola and other Caribbean islands.

The Central American route is complex but Honduras is the linchpin of the cartels operations.  132 metric tons reach Honduras overland while an additional 150 metric tons reach the country from the Caribbean.  Only 117 metric tons bypass Honduras by going directly from South America to Mexico, Belize, or El Salvador.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Syria is Not Assyria

Some people have been discussing the events in Syria in apocalyptic terms.  Some have gone so far to pick Old Testament references to Assyria as being prophecies about the civil war in Syria.  I have one answer to those who ask if Assyria=Syria: No.

First off, Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, is located inside the modern city of Mosul, Iraq.

Now granted modern Syria and Iraq are artificial creations so one must look beyond simple borders.  Looking at the people it is clear Assyria does not equal Syria.  Assyrians exist today.  Most are either Chaldean Catholic or Nestorian Church of the East.  While there are some Assyrians in Syria (500,000 out of 22,500,000), most Syrians are Arab.

Finally, Assyria ceased to be as an independent power in 605 BC.  Syria became in 1946.

The land, people, and time do not match.  Assyria is not Syria.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Great" Britain Strikes Back against Russian Insult

During an emotional high over the Syria crisis, a Russian official described the Great Britain/United Kingdom as a small island that no one pays attention to.  The British have apparently taken that insult personally.  The government-funded British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has a full article about just how impressive Great Britain is.

Claims to fame are
1) Ninth biggest island in the world!
2) One of the most populous islands in the world!
3) One of the few islands of significant size that officially calls itself 'great'!
4) One of a series of islands which governed massive empires!

My main family line comes from Great Britain (from what I can tell well established and probably pre-Norman Dane) so please do not believe I am mocking British with this post.  I am amused by the BBC's need to justify Britannia. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Government to Finally Consider Allowing Naturally Restored Landscapes to Remain after Disasters

CNS is reporting that the government is considering changes to environmental sensitivity index maps to factor in naturally restored, post-disaster landscapes to remain.  In the past, the government has allowed homes to rebuilt on modified sandbars after hurricanes.  However, Hurricane Sandy's impact has shown that nature's having more natural landscapes could ease the effects of disasters (think sandbars or the Louisiana swamps lessening the strength of hurricanes).

While some may decry government rules allowing insurance companies to deny rebuilding funds for some waterfront homes, the restoration of the environment's impact on powerful storms may save more money, families' homes, and lives in the long run.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Irish Emigration Shows History is Not Dead, Emigration and Immigration Still Can Change Demography

It has rebounded a bit but the lower base is disturbing.  Without jobs this small base will seek employment elsewhere.
One person emigrates from Ireland every six minutes.  The main driver of emigration is unemployment which is especially high (33%) among young adults.  Meanwhile, Ireland's labor market is full of jobs which European Union open border policies allow for Eastern Europeans to be employed at much lower wages.  Ireland's poor economy, general demographic decline to decreasing birthrates, and outflow of ethnic natives with inflow of foreigners is changing the country.  It is no longer the stereotypical Catholic republic of seventy-five years ago.

The same changes hold true for Belgium where up to a quarter of the country is non-native, a London where ethnic English are the minority, and Persian Gulf countries where Christians make the largest religious group.  Those who think previous demographic profiles will continue in the future are fools.  History is not dead.  Migration does impact demographics.  Just as borders change, so do countries makeup.

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.

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.