Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Great pumpkin carving ideas from the Coyote Blog


Thursday, October 30, 2008

C'mon, Move to Canada!

"Leaving those red state yahoos behind has never been easier!"

"So, affluent American Elites, what are you waiting for?"

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ohio Land Grants

Yesterday, I wrote about the book, How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein, and commented on the Ohio Western Reserve of Connecticut. The territory that became the State of Ohio was pieced together from lands surveyed and sold by the federal government, private individuals, and by the states of Virginia and Connecticut.

Since parts of the state were surveyed at different times, Ohio was divided into areas called survey "districts" or "land grants."

Map from the OHGenWeb Project

In addition to the Western Reserve, the "Fire Lands" were a gift from the state of Connecticut to citizens who had property destroyed by the British during the American Revolution, the "Virginia Military District" was intended to be given to Virginia's veterans, and the "Refugee Tract" was given to Canadian refugees who had helped the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. See Ohio History Central for more detail.

These details are imporant not only for historians, but also genealogists. When tracking the birth, death or property of an ancestor during the period before Ohio's statehood, it is imporant to be able to identify the territories that eventually became the different counties. Concidentally, Shawna, the Genealogy Librarian at my library shared with me some maps she drew in grade school:

I have already sent these fine maps to the Hand Drawn Map Association for inclusion in that collection.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

How the States Got Their Shapes

How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein. I read this book several months ago, and have been meaning to mention it here....

Each of the 51 chapters (it also includes the District of Columbia) discusses some history of each state, focusing primarily on the decisions that were made by kings, settlers and Congress when drawing borders around states.

This book answers some burning questions:
  • Why West Virginia has a finger creeping up the side of Pennsylvania

  • Why Michigan has an upper peninsula that isn't attached to Michigan

  • Why some Hawaiian islands are not Hawaii

  • Why Texas and California are so out sized, especially when so many Midwestern states are nearly identical in size

  • Was Delaware really necessary?
Stein tells the stories of these states with humor. My favorite is the sad story of Maryland, and how they LOST every single border dispute over history (just look at it... a very unnaturally shaped state.):

As a resident of Ohio, I was particularly interested in the story of Connecticut and their claim to lands in the West. Like many of the original thirteen colonies, they claimed land stretching all the way to the Pacific. In most cases, it wasn't that they truly expected to govern that land, but they wanted the right to sell the acreage to settlers. Eventually they were obliged to relinquish they claim to half of Pennsylvania, and much of the territory in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois as Congress organized that area as part of the Northwest Ordinance:

However, Connecticut reserved the right to sell the land in what is now northeast Ohio. It was their "Western Reserve." I had often wondered where the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland got their name.

My only criticism is the author's arrangement of the chapters. He chose to put the states in alphabetical order, which is fine if you are not reading the whole thing straight through, but want to find and refer to specific states. I would have preferred that he arranged them by regions. So many of the states have common histories of their borders (such as the 49th parallel and the Mason-Dixon Line). If arranged thematically, many of the chapters would not have needed to be so repetitive. Still, this book is a must for map and geography buffs.


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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inflating The Week

One of my favorite magazines is The Week. I enjoy it, not only because it is an informative digest of national and international news and opinions, but also because I can count on them to include maps on their covers on a regular basis!

Here we see the October 24, 2008, issue.

Other recent examples of maps on The Week can be seen here and here.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Paint the States Red or Blue

With less than two weeks until the United States general election, cartophiles cannot help but be interested in electoral maps. Everywhere you turn every news source and blog is speculating on which way each state will go... red or blue. My favorite articles also use clever map graphics to illustrate their point. had two recent articles by Walter Shapiro, with "red or blue" paint illustrations.

Why is Barack Obama now electable? "From the youth vote to Sarah Palin's outdated embrace of the rural mystique, Salon's panel of demographers and consumer trend experts talks about how America is changing."

Turning Indiana blue "Put off by the McCain-Palin ticket, suburban Republicans are backing Barack Obama -- who might score a rare Democratic win in the Hoosier State."

It is also fun to speculate on different electoral outcome scenarios, including possible ties! offers this interactive electoral map:

Other sites that let you calculate alternate electoral vote results:

270towin, Washington Post, Real Clear Politics

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mexico City

Yesterday I wrote about a new book, National Geographic Society Exploration Experience: The Heroic Exploits of the World's Greatest Explorers, that includes reproductions of historical maps inserted in pockets with nearly every article. One of the maps I enjoyed was this one, attibuted to Hernán Cortés, of Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Aztecs.

It reminded me that I have not shared all of the map postcards I brought back from my trip to Mexico last August. (The others are here, here and here.)

Below is a map postcard of the Centro Histórico. Our hotel was on Avenida Cinco de Mayo, and the rooftop restaurant had a terrific view of the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Federal Building both on the Zócalo, a large central plaza. It was a short walk to many of the other important and interesting sights.

To get to other parts of the city, we did not hesitate to take the city's underground metro system. It was less expensive, sometimes quicker, and generally more safe, than taking a taxi.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Campaign Ad Spending

Where are the candidates spending their money on advertising?

The New York Times has an interactive map that allows you to see just how much the Obama and McCain campaigns are spending in each market.

Obama appears to have given up on Utah and Idaho... and why is McCain spending any money in markets he has locked, or cannot be expected to win?

Via The Electoral Map, one of my favorite sources for electoral mapping and analysis.

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National Geographic Exploration Experience

The good folks at National Geographic sent me a book that is both interesting and fun: National Geographic Society Exploration Experience: The Heroic Exploits of the World's Greatest Explorers, by Beau Riffenburgh.

At first I thought it would simply be a rehash of all the famous explorers I learned about in school (Columbus, Magellan, Coronado and Champlain) and they are here, but also included are explorers of Australia, Siberia, Africa, Antarctica and the Arctic. But wait! There's more! When I opened this book, I became very excited, like a kid with his first pop-up book.

Not only does each page offer historical and biographical information on each explorer, and the obligatory red, blue and black lines on maps tracing their routes of exploration, but nearly every page also includes an insert. Neatly devised pockets contain reproductions and facsimiles of maps, letters, drawings, treaties, journals and news articles:

Here is an example of the traditional exploration map found in the book. Different colored solid and dotted lines. Exploration of Australia! Now that's a chapter I missed in high school geography class:

Here are two examples of the inserts.

A sketch map drawn by Alexander von Humboldt, of part of the Orinoco River, in what is now Venezuela:

A map of the route taken by the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition through central Africa, redrawn for Henry Stanley after his return:

In addition to rich narrative, beautiful illustrations and intriguing inserts, this book also included a bonus CD-ROM with an additional 35 rare historical maps from the archives of the Royal Geographic Society.

Henry Stanley's 1875 hand drawn pencil sketch of Lake Victoria Nyanza:

A Tibetan picture map of the Mount Everest Range, from 1898, by Laurence Austine Waddell:

I love this book and I haven't even finished reading about all of the explorers... Highly recommended as a holiday gift for that history buff or map lover in your family.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What? There's another election going on in North America?

Last night, Steven Harper, and his Conservative Party, won a larger minority in the Canadian House of Commons. I don't pretend to know a lot about Canadian politics. When I lived in Michigan, and could listen to CBC Radio out of Windsor, I enjoyed following the ebb and flow of this multi-party democracy. In fact I envy the fact that Canadians actually have more than two real choices. I'd love to see a viable third-party in this country, but our system is rigged against it. (But that's for another discussion.)

Anyway... The CBC posted this excellent interactive map. It allows you to zoom in on the provinces and on specific Ridings to see how the vote came out in each individual MP race.

Even though Harper's party earned more seats in Parliament than last time, they still do not have a majority and must forge a new coalition with another party or parties. This may not be an easy coalition to hold together. We may see yet another Canadian election before the required four years...

Via The Map Room

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We call it Maze

If it is autumn, it must be time for a corn maze! can help you find a corn maze near you. Here are two of the more interesting looking ones:

It's got a globe!

However, my favorite will always be Tom's Maze near Germantown, Ohio:

Tom Eby doesn't just cut a maze-path through his cornfield, he actually plans it all winter and then plants it that way in the Spring. His mazes aren't just an excuse to make a pretty picture for the airplanes, they are actually a challenging puzzle. Find your way in, find the clues in each of twelve sections of the maze, and find your way out. Bring a friend.


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where Does Santa Get All Those Toys?

Let the kiddies know where all those Christmas toys are really coming from...

Available from Threadless T-shirts.

Via Boing Boing

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oregon Inflated

New York, Texas, California and Alabama are not the only states with an inflated view of themselves... in this illustration from The Oregonian, the state of Oregon barely leaves room for the rest of the United States...

The Oregonian: Look out, Oregon, for a global warming land rush
The prediction caused a collective grimace among the mayors, city councilors, engineers and planners in the audience. By 2060, a Metro economist said, the seven-county Portland area could grow to 3.85 million people -- nearly double the number here now.

Thanks Katie

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Magazine Roundup

Time for another sampling of maps on magazine covers:

The Week
September 19, 2008

Sarah Palin is having an impact on the election and nation... or is she tearing it apart?
New Scientist
September 6, 2008

Talk about your global warming...
July August 2008

What? Do you think new worlds grow on trees?

New Yorker
October 6, 2008

Revisiting the classic "View of the World from Ninth Avenue" cover, a "View of Russia from Gov. Palin's Office."
For a larger version of this map, see: Strange Maps.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Frowny Michigan

Princess Sparkle Pony responds to the recent announcement that the McCain campaign has "pulled out of Michigan":

I like it because is uses the mittenmorphic shape of Michigan in a new way. Eyes and eyebrows! I love it!

Warning: Princess Sparkle Pony is a political humor blog that my Republican friends will not likely find amusing.


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