Maps – A New Perspective

Maps have always fascinated me. My first book was an atlas and, like many others I am sure, I spent hours pouring over it deciding which countries I would visit when I was old enough to subject myself to the indignities of airport security.

My atlas had three different views of each country. One showing the various industries and raw materials (including whales) available. Another showing your standard mountains and crinkly bits. And a last one illustrating the wildlife (including, once again, whales).

But it had something in common with all atlases, it focussed on the land.

Which is why I found this projection, by cartographer Jack Van Wijk so fascinating.

Van Wijk uses a process he has dubbed “Myriahedral Projection” which divides the globe’s surface into small polygons that are unfolded into a flat map, just as a cube can be unfolded into six squares.

Finding this startling new way to look at our planet earned Van Wijk the Henry Johns Award from The British Cartographic Society.

Well played Sir…

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The “War on Terror” – A Fresh Approach

Having been up to my eyeballs in work I’ve had less time than usual and have yet to finish reading the entirety of General Petraeus’ statement before the Senate Armed Forces Committee which he made on 16th March. Subtitled, The Posture of U.S. Central Command, I was principally reading it for insight on current strategy in Afghanistan and the “War on Terror” as I work on another look at the country and the nature of the conflict in the wider region.

A couple of things struck me at first, and I’ll leave the rest of the report until I have time to address it much more fully, but in his introduction Petraeus makes this observation on U.S. interests and “the Most Significant Threats to Them”

Because of the CENTCOM AOR’s (Area of Responsibility) geography, control of much of the world’s energy reserves, and propensity for instability, the United States has substantial strategic interests in, and related to, the region.  Chief among these are:

1. The security of U.S. citizens and the U.S. homeland.

2. Regional stability.

3. International access to strategic resources, critical infrastructure, and markets.

4. The promotion of human rights, the rule of law, responsible and effective governance, and broad-based economic growth and opportunity.

Strategic resources, of course, means oil but it’s rather refreshing to hear someone in charge openly talk about its strategic importance instead of mumbling about “freedom”. That’s not to say there aren’t things of concern for me in his statement. Merely as a start you could highlight at the first three of his points above and observe how those interests can negatively impact the fourth and have done for some time.

As an example, Petraeus observes in the section dealing with Afghanistan that…

The Taliban have been resilient, with their activities fueled by revenues from outside the region as well as from narcotics-trafficking… This drug money has been the  “oxygen” in the air that allows these groups to operate.  With the extension of authority granted to U.S. forces to conduct counter-narcotics operations, we are able to more closely work with the Afghan government to disrupt the illicit narcotics industry though interdiction of the narco-trafficking network.

Presumably the “authority” granted to the U.S. forces has been given by President Karzai’s administration with, perhaps, the expert advice of Karzai’s half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai who is rumoured to have accumulated his fortune and power through that self same “oxygen”. It is a complex and convoluted world.

And one which the average American citizen, informed by a media who serve news as fast food rather than nourishment, could hardly be expected to follow with any accuracy. And perhaps this is why, when given the opportunity to contribute to fighting the “War on Terror”, they have a slightly skewed expectation of what can be achieved.

The U.S. Defense Department, in their wisdom, became aware they have a vast resource unavailable to the “Enemy”. The collective power of the American People™. The Pentagon, therefore, has allowed visitors at their website to provide feedback and give suggestions. Here are my favourites…

Would there be time to construct a Noah’s Ark Biosphere in North America if there is an emerging Global War starting in the Middle East? I don’t know … I only know that I have worked on such a project for many years now… The problem is it takes a lot of resources to build a modern day Noah’s Ark … and lots of planning and development.

Who better to suggest it to, than the U.S. Defense Department? They’ve spent far more money on far sillier things before now. The Men Who Stare at Goats, anyone?

Other contributors are keener on bravely revealing the darker work going on behind the scenes…

Has anyone at the Department of Defense noticed that the Twin Towers were destroyed on 9/11, and that when you dial emergency services in the USA you dial 911? If so, is this merely a coincidence?

An interesting point, well made.

Others are less suspicious of their country’s military, however, and rather keen to find out more…

So do you have any top scret information you would to like to tell me? i am doing a project for my senior economics class, and was just wondering…email me back.

I wonder what he found out. More importantly, I wonder what happens to the world when he, and the rest of his “senior economics class”, ends up working in the world’s banks. More of the same, perhaps…

But I will leave you with my hands down favourite. A fresh approach to the “War on Terror” that could change everything. And what I particularly admire, is this keen amateur military genius does not presume success is easy.

No. He anticipates the possibility there may be some snag in his plan. He identifies that one potential flaw and suggests not one, but two, excellent solutions…

Bears have scent detection that is far superior to bloodhounds! Trained bears with GPS and day/night cameras around their necks might be able to hunt down the scent of Usama Bin Laden, even in and through any caves and tunnels!!! Overnight, Parachute some bears into areas UBL might be.

Attempt to train bears to take off parachutes after landing, or use parachutes that self-destruct.

America, Fuck yeah!

Wizard Prang…

I mentioned the other day I spent some time researching and writing a script about Keith Park and the exploits of the RAF during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Whilst writing, the classic RAF accent became stuck in my mind. I started using expressions such as “Tally Ho” and referring to my producer as “Red Leader”.

Perhaps that is why this sketch from Armstrong and Miller left me fair weeping with laughter….

Oxygenated Booze? This Dr says YES

As some of our regular readers may have noticed I have been somewhat tied up of late.

This may be the case for a while (and hopefully it is… a dream writing job has turned up and will, with any luck, keep me busy for at least six months) but I’m aiming to get back to regular posting as soon as I establish some sort of routine. I’ve always been a creature of habit and changing a regular routine for a new one often takes me a bit of time. What doesn’t change, however, is the urge to have a delicious beverage as the sun goes down.

So it was with some degree of excitement I noticed that Korean scientists have discovered a way of tweaking booze and lessening the dreaded morning after effects, without tampering with its strength.

We've all been there. On occasions I've also woken up wearing a similiar dress.

Drs Kwang-il Kwon and Hye Gwang Jeong have studied the properties of oxygenated alcohol, a popular snifter in Korea, similiar to carbonated drinks elsewhere but using oxygen instead of carbon dioxide. When you drink alcohol, your body needs to oxidize it to water and carbon dioxide in order to process it. This occurs via hepatic oxidation, but the enzymes in your liver require oxygen to process the booze. It’s thought that by storing the oxygen in the alcohol itself, the system functions more quickly and efficiently.

In short, it means fewer and less savage hangovers without sacrificing all the fun of getting off with ugly people and cravings enormous kebabs at 3am.

If you can find it in your local shops, pick yourself up a bottle of O2 Linn. I love their blurb, for “Brain, Body, Beauty” indeed!

Dirty Harry Vs Rain Man

It’s cartoons like this that make xkcd required reading for me…

What’s that youngster?

Who’s Dirty Harry?!?!?!?

Sigh… only the greatest movie cop to have ever graced the silver screen, young’un…

A letter to Pat Robertson from Satan

Wrinkled God-botherer, history buff and champion tool, Pat Robertson caused a wave of revulsion after his remarks on the earthquake in Haiti. For the few who missed them here’s a quote… Continue reading

Security Update – The Parrot Sketch

Joe Sharkey brought up the thorny question of how to frisk a parrot in a recent article in the New York Times. He was flying with his wife and his parrot Rosie to Phoenix in the wake of the fizzling underpants scare and there were concerns the parrot may be carrying some form of Continue reading