Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Map with a World View

As a kid, and even today, it bugs me that our maps our so Anglo-centric.

Why was it necessary for my Dad to correct me so that I knew that DE on the back of the passing car DE in an abbreviation may not stand for Delaware, but Germany. It should have been intuitive. But no, not growing up with our anglicized version of the globe.

Google continues to be one of the greatest flatteners in the world today. I'm not sure when it happened, but this morning I was when updating a site I maintain and I was ecstatic to discover that Google Maps has been internationalized.
Finally, there will be a generation of Americans who will know that:

  • Deutschland = Germany
  • Osterreich = Austria
  • Polska = Poland
  • Magyarország = Hungary
  • Ελλάζ = Greece
  • Danmark is the correct spelling for Denmark

Ok, maybe we should still anglicize "G R E E C E". Otherwise, I'll be forced to call it the state formerly known as Greece. But if a nation uses our alphabet, there is no need to anglicize the spelling of their country. It's conceited, and it carries over into all manner of ethnocentrisms from the cliché ugly American tourist to the go it alone attitude that worked so well the last six years (sarcasm).

Google continues to be the most democratizing force in the world today.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kellogg and Wallace

The Girls @ Lake CDA
Shel and I took off over President's Day weekend with the intent of skiing at Schweitzer and Silver Mountain.

Friday we jetted out of town arriving at Schweitzer after midnight, where we crashed in the back of my rig (a two dog night). Had a great day skiing, despite the sticky not-exactly powder. After that though, north Idaho served up different plans.

Silver was practically closed (their two main lifts were knocked out) so we instead hung out in Wallace, Kellogg and visited with some of Shel's relatives. Good times were had by all... well at least until Desi miscalculated and sliced her paw open bombing down a cliff face along Lake Coeur d'Alene. For once it wasn't the Stupid Dingo.

View Photoset

Friday, February 09, 2007

Khoisan Clicks

I have a penchant for sound effects. In fact, I think all abbreviations should be able to be pronounced as one noise rather than requiring spelling out the letters. For instance, in my field GIS should be pronounced jiz, ESRI should be ezry, SQL has appropriately been coined sequel.

Tim was asking me a code question this morning and I started rambling off ASP.Net code, "ASP repeater a href equals chikt percent pound container dot DataItem parenthesis quote variable quote parenthesis percent chikt".

At which point Tim asked, "What's a chikt?"

I explained, "Oh, sorry I just pronounced a carrot (<)."

To which Tim replied, "I thought you were speaking a click language."

And with that we were off. We flew into a discussion of the Khoisan "Bushmen" of the Kalahari Desert, their unusual language and physical characteristics:

Physically the Khoisan, with their short frames (149-163 cm/4'9-5'4; Coon 1965), copper brown skin, tightly coiled "peppercorn" hair, high cheekbones, and epicanthic eye folds are quite distinct from the darker-skinned peoples who constitute the majority of Africa's population. They have moderately long legs with long bellies, which is a trait that sharply distinguishes them from surrounding Pygmy and Bantu populations having muscles with short bellies and long tendons (Coon 1965). Two distinguishing features of some Khoisan women are their elongated labia minora and tendency to steatopygia, features which contributed greatly to the European fascination with the so-called Hottentot Venus. However, the physical differences between Khoisan and other peoples may be diminishing due to intermarriage.
Source: Wikipedia

And if I remember correctly from my professor in World Regional Geography, "Khoisan males maintain a semi-erect state at all times. The lack of which" he emphasized, "they find both humorous and a sign of weakness."

This is a difficult thing to research while at work, but I was able to confirm at least the first part of my professor's statements in the Swaziland National Trust Commission's discussion of the Nsangwini Rock Paintings.

Nsangwini Bird Men
Photographer: Bob Forrester
Source: Swaziland National Trust Commission
The most publicized paintings at Nsangwini (which have appeared on Swaziland stamps) are two winged figures, these are part human and part bird or insect. The right-facing figure is floating as if airborne, while the other may be hovering, so light is the painter's touch. The significance of the half-completed animal on their left is not apparent, but the procession of four male figures towards a crack in the rock evokes a response similar to that of the 'body in the crack'.

This view seems to be supported by the fact that all four figures have infibulated penises, or have penis ornaments which have some unknown ritual significance. Bushmen had permanently semi-erect penises. The foreskin was perforated and a plug was inserted and worn at all times except when men were sexually active. Each figure is brandishing a branch or a handful of plants. This is similar to those being carried by two (of four) men in a much publicized painting at Sehonghong in Lesotho. This portrays a captive rain animal being led by four shamans in order to attract rain. These branches or bunches could be of aromatic or even hallucinogenic plants, which also had ritual significance. They may have been used to pacify the rain animal, which could be a hippopotamus or a look-a-like mythical animal from the river.

Ironically, this is why I love coming to work. To learn things like this.

Why just earlier this morning I was corrected by my co-worker to learn that Pelé does not mean "flying snake" like I remembered (who knows where I got that from), but instead was the result of young Pelé's mispronunciation of the name of his favorite player, Vasco da Gama goalkeeper Bilé.
Source: Wikipedia

Zero Hippopotamuses

Image Source: hippopotamuses.org
Zero is plural.

Really. Try it with me now.

(2) Two hippopotami have soiled the carpet in my den.

(1) I have a hippopotamus in my powder room.

(0) There aren't any hippopotamuses in the kitchen.

(0) On close inspection, I found zero hippopotami in the dishwasher.

When programming I have to test before composing sentences:
IF ABS(countVariable) = 1 THEN
textVariable = "hippopotamus"
textVariable = "hippopotamuses"

I know you're wondering. The preferred plural of hippopotamus is hippopotamuses, though hippopotami is accepted in the Oxford English Dictionary. Source: Wikipedia

Of course when encountering hippos in your dishwasher, I believe it would be correct to simply exclaim, "Snakes on a plane!"

Degrees of X and Y

I've made maps for a living for ten years now, and I only just realized the source of my coordinate dyslexia.

Image Source: Wikipedia
In geometry we are taught the Cartesian coordinate system. The X-axis is horizontal, the Y-axis vertical, such that (2,3) in the image is two right, three up.

In cartography most locations are plotted by latitude and longitude. Points are given as 43.45º North, 114.77º West or 43.45º,-114.77º.

Only this morning, writing X,Y in my code and watching it map off the surface of the earth that I realized the latitude and longitude are presented as Y,X. I have no idea how it took me ten years to realize why I was always getting that backward.

Here I thought it was just my numeric dyslexia.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

McCall Winter Carnival

Watching the Mardi Gras Parade
in my fuzzy hat
Shel and I headed up to McCall for the Winter Carnival with some of her friends two weekends back. We had a nice "cabin" (nicer than our two houses combined) to relax in and warm blue sky days (for McCall in January).

I finally got to see the Mardi Gras Parade, we took some nice walks in the snow on foot and snowshoe, took in the snow/ice sculptures and helped run the Monster Dawg Pull. Koot, for her part, completely embarrassed me in the Monster Dawg Pull by not only failing to successfully defend her title, but by achieving the slowest time of all 100+ dogs. To celebrate her defeat she promptly peed all over my driver's seat.

Stupid Dingo.

View Photoset

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Now that's Entertainment

Snapshot of Koot and Desi's nightly battle royale
(sorry the quality is so horrid)

Little Late for Christmas Cards

I was just changing a setting in my Yahoo Mail when I stumbled across this new feature. No idea when it appeared. Maybe it isn't new at all, but I thought I'd share it. You can print out mailing labels for any group in your address book! This could make Christmas card writing (or in my case St. Patrick Day cards) bearable.

While I'm touting Yahoo Mail, if you're not using the Beta, switch today. I've been using Oddpost, the precursor to Yahoo Mail Beta, for five years now and it's truly brilliant. It's Outlook in a web-browser, but smarter and easier to use than Outlook. Drag and drop, tabbed email browsing, right click, shortcut keys, RSS news reader and full cross browser support. For a map jockey/struggling web developer it's slap in the face reminding me what is truly possible within a browser window.

The web is truly evolving quickly from hyperlinks, to a medium that connects machines and ourselves. What am I saying exactly? Check out this video by Michael Wesch, an assistant Cultural Anthropology Professor at Kansas State University.

Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us

DISCLOSURE: I truly hate the term Web 2.0, it's a marketing catch phrase and means little, but there is evolution taking place, and it's substantial. As we separate content from style it allows information to be analyzed/reorganized by a community independent of its creator. It gives everyone ownership. The web becomes us.