Google Maps as a game of Pac-Man


Your neighborhood just got a lot more interesting. Google has released a new feature for Maps that lets you turn any location into a game of Pac-Man — all you have to do is click the new Pac-Man button that resides in the lower left corner of the screen. When you do, whatever section of the world you’re looking at will transform into the pixelated arcade classic, complete with four colorful ghosts and the iconic music.

Tagsgoogle, fun, mapping.


The steep costs of living so far apart from each other

In strictly economic terms, sprawl is inefficient. Spread people out, and it takes them longer to drive where they need to go, and it costs them more in gas money to get there. Disperse a few people over a lot of land, and that land is used inefficiently, too. Then give those people roads and sewers — you’d need a lot more of both to serve 20 households living over a square mile than 20 on the same block. And that’s to say nothing of the costs of fire and police service when people live far apart.

These costs add up, in both private budgets and public ones. It’s a messy thought exercise to contemplate tallying them, akin to trying to calculate the productivity America wastes by sitting in traffic every year. How do you measure, for instance, the saved health care costs in a community where many people walk for transportation every day? How do you quantify the pleasure gained from a big yard that offsets any of these costs?

Tags: planning, sprawl, scale.


Unkind Architecture: Designing Against the Homeless

“Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations…”


Geography explores more than just what countries control a certain territory and what landforms are there.  Geography explores the spatial manifestations of power and how place is crafted to fit a particular vision.  Homeless people are essentially always ‘out of place.’  These articles from the Society Pagesthe Atlantic and this one from the Guardian share similar things: that urban planners actively design places that will discourage loitering which is undesirable to local businesses.  This gallery shows various defensive architectural tactics to make certain people feel ‘out of place.’  Just to show that not all urban designs are anti-homeless, this bench is one that is designed to help the homeless (and here is an ingenious plan to curb public urination).       

Tags: urbanplanning, architecture, landscape, place, poverty.

The Daily Show–Spot the Africa

Between rampant racial inequality and Ebola outbreaks, South African comedian Trevor Noah admits he hesitated to visit a country as underdeveloped as America.


Since social media is buzzing with the news that Trevor Noah is replacing Jon Stewart as the host of the Daily Show, I wanted to show a geographically themed clip from one of Trevor’s previous correspondence pieces on the show.  This clip was filmed during the height of the Ebola hysteria and Ferguson protests; the main topic is misconceptions in the United States about Africa.  His life itself is a portal into mixed South African geographies.  Below you will find his other geographically-themed Daily Show clips.

Tags: Ebola, Africa, regions, perspective.


Political Polarization in the American Public

Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in recent history. And these trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life.

A decade ago, the public was less ideologically consistent than it is today. In 2004, only about one-in-ten Americans were uniformly liberal or conservative across most values. Today, the share who are ideologically consistent has doubled: 21% express either consistently liberal or conservative opinions across a range of issues – the size and scope of government, the environment, foreign policy and many others.

Tags: political, statistics, regions, USA.


Creative Destruction

It’s much worse than people realize.


The relatively recent decline of music industry, as well as the newspaper industry, are good examples to teach the concept of creative destruction.  As jobs are created through new emerging technologies, older jobs will be rendered obsolete and be ‘destroyed.’  While many bemoan the loss of particular jobs as regrettable, it is a part of globalization of economic geography that as jobs are created with new technologies, other jobs disappear.  Indoor plumbing meant the death of the water-carrying guilds (while I might be sad they lost their jobs, I’m keeping my plumbing).  The trick is to make these transitions smooth and to prepare the labor force to have skills that the new economy will demand so that individual families and workers aren’t casualties of this ‘creative destruction’ process.     

Tagseconomic, laborglobalization, unit 6 industry.


“How well do you know your Saskatchewan slang? At Insightrix in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, we’ve got the prairies down flat!”


Here’s an entertaining clip on different regionalized vocabularies and a hint of accent confusion thrown in there.  The portrayal is over the top, but it’s all local vocabulary that life-long residents certainly understand.  Here’s 320 more Canadian slang terms for you (scroll to the bottom).    

TagsCanada, language, fun.

Bang Kachao: Bangkok’s Green Lung

“In the heart of Thailand’s most populous city, an oasis stands out from the urban landscape like a great “green lung.” That’s the nickname given to Bang Kachao—a lush protected area that has escaped the dense development seen elsewhere in Bangkok.  The city is built on the alluvial plain of the Chao Phraya River. Toward the southern end, near the Gulf of Thailand, is an old meander that never quite formed an oxbow lake. That meander traces the boundary of Bang Kachao, which TIME magazine once called the ‘best urban oasis’ in Asia.  According to a travel story in The New York Times, Bang Kachao is gaining popularity among tourists lured by bike tours, a floating farmers’ market, and the relaxed atmosphere.”

Tags: physical, fluvialremote sensing, land use, Thailand, Southeast Asia, urban ecology.


Road from Europe to U.S.? Russia proposes superhighway

London to New York City by car? It could happen if the head of Russian Railways has his way.


As Asya Pereltsvaig, the author of Languages of the World, wrote: “That’s what happens when Russia’s main problems, fools and roads (дураки и дороги), are combined…”  It’s the opposite idea of the summer road trip that is designed to hit all the major tourist sites.


Questions to Ponder: What are the pros and cons of this project?  What would it take to actually happen?  This map is a Mercator Projection–would a different map change your perspective on the feasibility of the project? 

TagsRussia, map projections, transportation, tourism.