Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Florida in the News Again

Florida in the news tonight. Can you tell I'm a politics wonk?

In honor of the Florida Primary, I present some Florida map postcards from my collection:


For cartographic analysis of the Florida Primary: check out The Electoral Map: pre-primary analysis and post-primary results analysis.

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Maps and Puzzles at National Geographic

Marilyn at Intelligent Travel also sent some info about new fun features available from National Geographic Magazine online:

Map of the Day, offers map-related news and historical events for each day of the year pulled from the Society's archives. This one caught my eye. It is a hand drawn map of Sutter's Creek, by John Marshall, locating his discovery of gold on January 24, 1848:

For additional fun, play with a map jigsaw puzzle from their atlas:

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Google Maps Gone Bad

"Two young men take a turn down the wrong street view."

Thanks to Marilyn at Intelligent Travel blog


Sunday, January 27, 2008

South Carolina

South Carolina has experienced its 30 minutes of electoral fame for this election cycle. Fifteen for the Republican Primary last week, and fifteen more for the Democratic Primary yesterday.

Our friends at The Electoral Map have gathered some geographical analysis of the Republican Primary (and more here) as well as the Democratic Primary.

However, the map image that really caught my eye was this analysis of Barbecue Regions. Mmmm, Barbecue... (must be lunchtime...)

  • The State of South Carolina is known as the "Palmetto State".
  • The Battle of Kings Mountain marked a turning point the the Southern Theatre of the American Revolution.
  • It was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 and the American Civil War began when Confederate batteries began shelling Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
  • The state's stubborn worship of the Confederate battle flag still causes controversies and boycotts.
  • However, the official state flag is a fine design. No boring "Official Seal", although the palmetto tree may violate Josh Parson's Rule #2a of Flag Design (Do not put a picture of anything on your flag).
  • Your fearless cartographic correspondent has many ancestors from South Carolina, and still has many cousins living in the Piedmont, or Tomato Barbecue Region.
Here is a map postcard of South Carolina from my collection:

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Saturday, January 26, 2008


Guillotine: "The revolutioniary card game where you win by getting a head."

From the back of the box: "This irreverent and humorous card game takes place during the French Revolution. Players represent rival guillotine operators vying for the best collection of noble heads."

This has become one of my favorite card games. This simple game can usually be played in 30 minutes. Just the right kind of filler in between longer, more complex games. Appropriate for ages 12 and up (just don't think too much about the theme).

Players use a variety action cards to rearrange the order of the nobles as they wait their turn... Marie Antoinette and King Louis are worth 5 victory points, while governers, generals, and the Archbishop are worth 4. My only objection to this game is that the Royal Cartographer is only worth 1 point! Surely he is more important than that! Even Robespierre is worth 3 points!

An important part of the charm of this game are the humorous illustrations by Quinton Hoover and Mike Raabe.


Quastolia - The Early Years

I promised Tony, the creator of Alphistia, that I would post some maps from my "geofictional project", Quastolia:

I have loved maps for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure that the first map I drew of my neighborhood was in an attempt to chart the most efficient path for Trick-or-Treat on Halloween. I had often pretended that imaginary kingdoms existed right outside my door...

However, it wasn't until Junior High School, when I overheard my friends John and Bill discussing "Ceygolia" and "Aqua Region". I was able to pry out of them that these were the names of their "ant countries." These were countries in their back yard, and the tiny insects were their citizens. They had already begun drawing maps and developing their "ant country" economies. I wanted in. By the next time I saw them, I had already devised a name for my country, drawn my first map, and designed a flag.

The flag of what was first called "Outer Quastolia" appears to have violated Rule #2 of Josh Parson's Rules of Flag design (Do not put a picture of anything on your flag, especially weapons!). However, I have always been rather proud of it this design.

In the beginning, the Kingdom of Outer Quastolia was ruled by a usurper wizard, but King James was soon restored and Outer and Inner Quastolia were reunited. Here you see a map of Quastolia. At the time it consisted of my yard. The house was the capital. By the time this map was drawn, several of the neighbors homes had also been incorporated into the kingdom. General Tip, our black Labrador Retriever, was the Minister of Defense. Peace and glory were restored.

Bill Williams had already created the Kingdom of Ceygolia.

You can see that we were both heavily influenced the J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and played many games with spelling our friends (and enemies) names backwards to create place names in our world.

Bill and I went on to create extensive histories, flags and maps for neighboring countries were designed, and whenever Quastolia or Ceygolia needed to go to war, we just went out and stomped a few ant hills.

Eventually, we broadened the scope of our "ant countries".

Story continued:
Quastolia - The Middle Years

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Pizza Nation

Adam Kuban, on Slice: America's Favorite Pizza Weblog, discusses Regional Pizza Styles. I have experienced several of these regional styles, and don't necessarily find any of them "the best" in the country. They're all different; all good.

If anything, I'm assuming that regional style pizza is a dying art. The vast majority of pizza in this country is purchased from the national chains: Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Little Caesar's, etc.

The map illustration, however, makes me hungry.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

See the World

This image accompanies the article, "What Would You Risk For A Better Life?" from PickTheBrain, "a website dedicated to self improvement with a focus on personal productivity, motivation, positive psychology, and self education."

The article itself is very interesting, discussing the risks of LASIK Eye Surgery, and the bigger questions about risks we take to possibly improve our lives. Of course, from a cartophiliac's perspective, the most interesting part of the article is the illustration. No risk there! A sweet use of maps as an element of design.

Thanks to Hunter for the heads up on this one.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Rubicon of a Diplomacy Player

One of the greatest boardgames ever invented, that uses a map, is the game of Diplomacy. Created by Allan B. Calhamer in 1954 and released commercially in 1959, Diplomacy is a strategic board game set in Europe just before the beginning of World War I. The game is best played with seven players, each controlling the armed forces of a major European power (England, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey and Austria-Hungary).

The game employs relatively simple rules whereby each player aims to move their units - and defeat those of others - to win possession of a majority of strategic cities and provinces marked as "supply centers" on the map; these supply centers allow players who control them to produce more units. The unique part of the game is that no one player can win the game alone. In order to advance, you must make alliances with other players. However to ultimately win, it is likely that you will have to break that alliance, or "stab your ally in the back."

The game requires that participants are "good sports" and know that hard negotiations, and sometimes lying, is part of the game.

Diplomacy is also the first commercially published game to be regularly played by mail, and eventually by e-mail. At one time there were hundreds of postal Diplomacy newsletters, or "zines". The game is well suited to PBM or PBEM play, because a face-to-face game can sometimes take 5-8 hours to complete. I used to be very active in the Diplomacy Hobby. Recently Doug Kent, the publisher of Diplomacy World, the hobby flagship zine, asked me to write an article about my experiences for the 100th issue. I'll share that article with you here:

The Rubicon of a Diplomacy Player

Doug has been bugging me for months to write up something for his Diplomacy World 100th issue. For some reason, he thinks my hobby-life story would be interesting, even though I am no longer an active Diplomacy player. I also suspect I was one of the few hobby old-farts that he could track down that didn’t turn him down outright...

Like many of us, I started out playing Risk. I saw it in a Sears catalog and asked for it for Christmas. I must have been nine-years-old. This game soon became a staple for my Dad and brothers, as well as my buddies in the neighborhood. I loved every chance I had to play it, as much as I cringe at the thought of playing it today. But then sometime around age 14 (1974, and I still have a vivid memory of this) I walked into John Richter’s basement and saw a Diplomacy board with all its colorful pieces set. I was immediately intrigued. John told me that his older brother, Mark, played this game by mail. What a concept! I soon bought a copy and Diplomacy became my favorite game. Whenever we could get four to seven guys together (not easy when none of us drove) we’d spend an afternoon sticking knives in each other’s back. Risk was soon put aside as a boring kid’s game.

It wasn’t long before I was introduced to the postal hobby. My first Dip zine was Pelucidar, published by Burt LaBelle. I also recall a zine called Totenkopf and played Dip and Nuclear Destruction through Flying Buffalo, Inc. I didn’t get very far in any of my games. In fact I cannot recall ever actually finishing a game. I probably NMR’d myself out, and I went on to other interests (drama club, girls) and mostly forgot about this hobby. While attending university I dabbled a bit with an occasional Dip game, but also spent many years playing Dungeons & Dragons. It was pretty cool for college guys to play (and girls played too!) but I started losing interest when high school, and then junior high aged kids, started showing up? It wasn’t so cool anymore.

Fast-forward to the early 1990’s, married with children. I’m not sure how it got started, but at some point I got together with John (with whom I also attended college), Richard, Don, Gary and some other old college buddies. We would get together for an occasional Saturday afternoon game of Diplomacy, when the wives would let us. Also, right around this time I rediscovered the postal hobby. I don’t remember how, but I vaguely recall responding to an ad in Avalon Hill’s The General. I mailed a few dollars to the publisher of Zine Register, and received a large envelope full of Dip zine samples.

From what I can tell, I jumped back in at the tale-end of the “Golden Age” of Diplomacy zines. This was just before the Internet took over, and there were dozens of zines being published from all over the world. Soon I was subscribing to, and playing in, the likes of Doug Kent’s Maniac’s Paradise, Pete Gaughan’s Perelandra, Brad Wilson’s Vertigo, Andrew York’s Rambling Way, and of course, Diplomacy World. It wasn’t long before I got the itch to try my hand at publishing. I started out as a subzine of Maniac’s Paradise. Plausible Paraphernalia offered word games and featured PBM Scrabble.

In 1995 I moved from Michigan to Dayton, Ohio, and it was at this time that I became aware of the Hoosier Archives and the plans to save them from destruction. Walt Buchanan, one of the founding fathers of the Postal Diplomacy Hobby, had eight file cabinets full of zines from the earliest days to the mid 1980s. No longer active in the hobby, these cabinets had to go. Pete Gaughan began a campaign to raise funds to have all the zines shipped to him in California. This was expected to cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, I offered to drive a rental truck to nearby Indianapolis and store the Archives in my basement. This adventure was documented in an article that appeared in Diplomacy World #78, "The Pulp is Past, or How I Came to Be the Custodian of the Hoosier Archives and What I Found There." You can find it here or here. Apparently this is the most famous thing I have ever done, because if you “Google” me today, this article is usually at or near the number one hit. Eventually, the archives found a permanent home at the Bowling Green State University’s Popular Culture Library, in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Jamie Wins “Mr. Congeniality” (David Hood on the right)
It was also shortly after the move to Ohio that I finally decided to take the plunge and publish my own postal diplomacy zine, Crossing the Rubicon. CTR included standard Diplomacy, gunboat, and Colonial Dip, along with Scrabble and other word games. I also had subzines from Dave Partridge, Pitt Crandlemire, Scott Morris, Phil Reynolds, Andy York, and Tim Lurz. I worked hard to make it an attractive looking zine, and for that reason, Jim Burgess predicted it would be short lived, and he was right. CTR only lived for 16 issues. It was great fun, and I made many friends, but it just was a bad time.

During the two years I published my marriage ended and my job went to hell. During this time I also attended three DipCons, twice in Chapel Hill and once in Columbus. At least one of the Chapel Hill events was also a World Dip Con. It was at this event that I won “Mr. Congeniality”. David Hood called it the “Player’s Choice” Award, but it was an honor nonetheless. When David informally polled players throughout the weekend, one after another mentioned that they enjoyed playing with me. I also started my involvement with the Internet Diplomacy Hobby. I spent some time as the editor of the Postal section of the Diplomatic Pouch, and was introduced to email Dip using the Judge system.

Colonial Diplomacy at an Early Rubicon Games (clockwise from left: Jamie, Mike Gonsalves, John Richter, Joe Carle, and Ward Nahri).

The best offshoot of Crossing the Rubicon was that I started my own housecon, Rubicon Games. The first event was in October, 1996, and the attendance was very small. Four showed up on Saturday and another four on Sunday. We never played any Diplomacy that first year, but it was a start. I played my one and only game of Avalon Hill’s Advanced Civilization. However, by Rubicon Games II, I had a full house for the whole weekend. Several of my CTR subscribers made the trip to Dayton, from Louisville, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. There were FTF games of Diplomacy and Colonial Diplomacy as well as other board and card games.

Rubicon Games survived the CTR fold, and grew and evolved over the years, however by RG IV & V, it became clear that this event could not be sustained as a Diplomacy event. Since I was no longer an active Dip zine publisher, I had fewer Diplomacy players attending, and the gamers in the Dayton area have little interest in Dip. This was the time of the Euro games explosion. Every year, a new game would become THE game of the year; Settlers of Catan, History of the World, and Puerto Rico have remained Rubicon Games favorites. The annual event followed me as I moved to four different houses, and it has outgrown my space. So, this year I tried something different for Rubicon Games XII. For the Saturday portion of the event, I rented a large conference room on the University of Dayton campus. We had nearly 30 attendees and more than enough room for all kinds of games, including for the first time in many years and game of Diplomacy! In the coming years, Rubicon Games will continue to grow from a “housecon” to what I hope will be large regional board gaming event.

To be quite frank, my interest in the game of Diplomacy has waned. Over the years I would dabble in an occasional postal game, or more likely an email game. I am a member of the Vermont Group, played in several gunboat tournaments and GM’d many games for Newbies. However, I finally came to the conclusion that as a player, I’m just not very good at Diplomacy. In addition, when I have time for gaming, I’d much rather play three or four other board games in the time that I can play one game of Diplomacy.

In Dayton, I have been the coordinator for Game-Day: the Dayton Area Boardgaming Society. We meet 4-5 times per month at several locations in the Dayton area and play every sort of board game: Euros, Mayfair rail games, war games, and card games. This group, and Rubicon Games, will continue to be my Hobby focus. Yet I will always treasure my experiences in the Diplomacy Hobby, the good times and the good friends I made. Congratulations to Diplomacy World and it’s 100th issue.

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Mount Tamalpais State Park - Trail Map Bandana

From my map ephemera collection: This is a trail map from Mount Tamalpais State Park in California, just north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. The park offers "6,300 acres of redwood groves, oak woodlands, grassland slopes, chaparral and rocky ridges. Offering spectacular views of the nearby Pacific and the surrounding San Francisco Bay Area, from its ridges, slopes and the 2,571-foot high, East Peak."

The trail map is printed on a cotton bandana. The value is that even if it rains, your map will still be readable! Unfortunately, I have never been there. This map was given to me by a friend.

Coincidentally, just as I was preparing to post this image, I saw this post from our friends at Contours: the National Geographic Maps blog.

Nat Geo Maps to Launch National Trails Database

"TOPO!® Explorer, launching in May, will present users with detailed topographic maps, aerial photography, a hybrid map made from the two, and an extensive, freely browsable, online database of trail descriptions, recommendations and unique points of interest."

A handy tool for hikers and backpackers.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Turtle World

From Something Awful:

I love this image. The first thing it made me think of was Terry Pratchett's Discworld...

Thanks to TIV for the head's up.


Monday, January 21, 2008


Several weeks ago, I wrote about the Lonely Planet Micronations book and promised to write more about other micronations, sometimes referred to as cybernations, fantasy countries, model countries, and new country or geofictional projects.

Our first stop on this journey is Project Alphistia. Alphistia was founded in 1967 by Tony. It began as a "backyard nation" on Putnam street, then grew into a virtual world.

Alphistia today has grown in detail to include a complex geography, history, goverment, economy and language all its own. Above is a map of the nation, below is its capital, Enteve.

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World Shirt

I spent some time yesterday photographing and scanning a variety of items from my map memorabilia and ephemera. In my collection I have several T-shirts with maps on them. I'll start with antique maps of the world.

If only Columbus, Magellan and de Gama had shirt like these... Exploration would be a piece of cake.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Only two left in the United Countries of Football

The New England Patriots and the New York Football Giants have vanquished all comers in the civil war among the United Countries of Football.

The two armies will now converge on Tempe, Arizona, in two weeks for the final battle. The Super Bowl. Only one more of these silly maps...

While sorting through some of my map postcards this evening, during the game, I discovered this one. I had forgotten that I had it.

It's a bit out-of-date... the Rams are still in Los Angeles, the Oilers are still in Houston, and there are no Ravens, Jaguars, or Panthers...

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Here I Stand - Antike

I recently played two different boardgames that make use of a map of Europe:

Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation 1517-1555 covers the political and religious conflicts of early 16th Century Europe. While I have been generally reluctant to play some of the more "heavy duty" wargames that are published by GMT, I appreciated that this one is card driven, and not only about conquest. It integrates religion, politics, economics and diplomacy. In this game, I played France, and spent most of the game embroiled in conflict with The Pope over control of Northern Italy. My mistake was making peace with Great Britain. Without the French as a constant pain in their side, they were able to make the necessary political, military and religious advances that gave them the game.

This is one I will like to try again.

Also played Antike, one of my favorites. This civilization building game focuses on the ancient peoples surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (however, if you flip the game board, you get a whole new map focusing on the ancient Middle East!). To win, civilizations must not only gain territory on the map, but also develop new technologies such as road building and navigation as well as trade and monument building. Another unique feature of this game is the use of the "roundel" instead of rolling dice. See Antike on BoardGameGeek for more details of the game and its mechanic.

As Phoenicia, I probably should not have won this one. I made several poor choices but was still able to stay even or one step ahead of the Germanic horde. Greece, stuck in the middle of the board, built too many of his temples too close to me. I was able to destroy two of them for some quick end-of-game victory points. (Note the Ohio Quilt in the background...)

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Maps on Flags

Josh Parsons is not happy with the poor design of some of the world's nation flags. "Some are good, some are bad. Some countries have clearly taken care in the choice of colours, layout, and design. Others have been lazy, stolen the flags of their neighbours, or just designed flags that are clearly supposed to cause pain to those who look at them." Rather than stew in silence, he did something about it. He ranked all of the flags of the world and gave them a score based on their overall aesthetic value.

In his Flags of the World Given Letter Grades he give high marks for simple design with a pleasant choice of colors. Ugly flags, with garish colors are sent to the corner with a dunce cap.

What does any of this have to do with maps? Parson's Rule 2: Do not put a map of your country on your flag. "When someone is travelling around your country, where do you think they will look if they need a map? Bzzt! No, they won't look at the flag." The worst offender is Cyprus. "Quite apart from the total uselessness of having a map on your flag, it really shows that a country hasn't gone to any effort if that's the best they can think of." While Cyprus has a distinctive shape, so do many other countries... but they can do better. Flags should be iconic, not literal. Grade D

He gives kudos to the nation of Gambia. "Great design and colour choice. Also represents the geography of the country (without being a map)." Grade A+

Gambia is a tiny nation hugging either side of the Gambia River, but surrouned by the nation of Senegal. The map design suggests this, without being too obvious. Clever map design.

Thanks to Gadling for bringing this to my attention, here and here. In addition, they pointed me to this interesting flag related site, Flags by Colours.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ohio Quilt

One of my local boardgaming groups meets several times per month at Sew-In-Style, a Sewing School for adults and kids. They have a nice room in the back with big tables. I cannot help but appreciate one of the room's decorative quilt wall hangings.

Artist: Cheryl Richards

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Divisional Upsets in the United Countries of Football

Suprising upset victories in the civil war among the United Countries of Football. San Diego was able to defeat Indianapolis in the last game to be played in the RCA dome, and the New York Giants stomped the Dallas Cowboys out of the playoffs.

The mose embarassing defeat was my Super Bowl prediction... both the Seahawks and the Colts are out. Oh well.

Go Packers!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The First State

MM 1317 L-1131-FDelaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, and is therefore styled "The First State." If it weren't for Rhode Island, it would also be the smallest state (in area), and is also the 45th state in population. Yet, it is the seventh most densely populated state in the union.

MM 1318 L-1132-FWhat it lacks in size, it makes up for in the shoreline. The Delaware Shore is a popular vacation destination, particularly for residents of eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

We visited there as part of a vacation swing that included West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. From Rehoboth Beach we took a Whale Watching excursion, but only saw dolphins.

MM0011 L-1132-F large size cutout MM 0063 L-1363-F large size cutout

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New Hampshire, New England, New Presidential Candidates

In honor of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary today, I wanted to post a New Hampshire map postcard. Unfortunately, the closest thing I have is this New England map postcard (and these postcards from neighboring Massachusetts). In fact my map postcard collection is sorely lacking in the rest of New England (Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) not to mention Iowa! Remember, I trade map postcards.

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The Ohio State University - Cannot beat the SEC in a bowl game

The Ohio State University is now 0-9 vs. the SEC in bowl games. For the second year in a row, OSU has lost in the BCS College Football National Championship game.

LSU 38
OSU 24

However, I have a fine map postcard from Columbus:

"The statue of William Oxley Thompson, former president of The Ohio State University, stands in front of the Main Library and looks over the Oval, the academic hub of the campus."

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Mapping the Imagination - Exhibit

Mapping the Imagination, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum
3 October 2007 - 27 April 2008
Maps are simplified schematic diagrams that employ a universal visual language through which we codify and comprehend our world. We all use maps in our daily lives as sources of information about places, routes, networks and boundaries. They offer us the means of describing and understanding the intangible too - everything from air routes and constellations to states of mind.

Although mapping is a method of gathering, ordering and recording knowledge, all maps are to some extent the products of imagination. No map is ever the truly objective description of a place that it purports to be. Every map is shaped - and coloured - by political, cultural and social conditions, and by the personal experience or imaginative projections of its maker.

This display includes maps made to inform or to entertain, maps enhanced by imaginative embellishments, maps that show imaginary places, and works in which artists have adapted map iconography to express their ideas and experiences of place.