Archive for the ‘Geography’ Category

Holiday specials 2021

January 17, 2022

In the Economist‘s holiday double issue (December 18th – 31st 2021), “an exuberance of articles about Middle Eastern railways, India’s touring cinemas, quadratic voting and much more”. A set of 18 special reports: long feature stories on cultural, political, and economic topics — some familiar subjects of interest (schemes for tallying votes, vegetarianism, cryptocurrencies, the history of restaurants), others more out of the way. It had never occurred to me to wonder about the history and cultural significance of corrugated iron, or what happened to the rural villages of Singapore (well, obviously, they were razed and replaced by skyscrapers, but how was that done?), or how Bollywood movies became so wildly popular all over India.

So: from these 18 I’ve picked 8 that especially fascinated me. These are my personal choices, clearly slanted towards sociocultural topics — note that my personal history includes fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Stanford Humanities Center — and others would make other picks (how could I possibly disregard “Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia cannot tolerate a free Ukraine”?).


A double desert cartoon

November 13, 2021

It arrived this week, just published: Send Help! A Collection of Marooned Cartoons, edited by Jon Adams and Ellis Rosen: a compendium of Desert Island (DI) cartoons that has given me much pleasure. More on the book and its contents to come below, but here I note cartoons that combine the DI cartoon meme with another cartoon meme: in the book, DI + Psychiatrist and DI + Grim Reaper. And then, stunningly, Desert Island + Desert Crawl.

A Desert Crawl cartoon has a man (or, more generally, people) crawling, parched and hallucinatory, across a seemingly endless desert — without escape, something the DC meme shares with DI. (The most recent DC cartoon on this blog is by David Sipress in my 11/10/21 posting “Four cartoons on familiar themes”.) The wonderful DC + DI combo in Send Help! is by Mort Gerberg. A terrible scan of it, but the best I could do:

(#1) The original is a bit bigger than this, and even wispier, almost ethereal, like an indistinct vision; as a result, it takes a bit of time for you to realize the deep absurdity of the scene



July 28, 2020

My morning name for 7/26: the name of a species of penguin:

(#1) From NOAD: noun gentoo (also gentoo penguin): a tall penguin with a white triangular patch above the eye, breeding on subantarctic islands. Pygoscelis papua, family Spheniscidae.

But the name, the name: where does it come from? It sounds a bit like gentile, but then seat-of-the-pants etymologizing is almost always way off the mark, however entertaining the stories might be. But this one might possiby be so, although that’s far from a sure thing; NOAD‘s note:

ORIGIN mid 19th century: perhaps from Anglo-Indian Gentoo ‘a Hindu’, from Portuguese gentio ‘gentile’.

The connection between Portuguese gentio ‘gentile’ (< Latin gentilis ‘of a family or nation, of the same clan’) and Anglo-Indian Gentoo ‘a Hindu’ is firm, however remarkable it might seem to you. What is still unclear is how to get from Hindus to penguins, so other sources for gentoo have been proposed, but, apparently, none with solid evidence.


A morning in the home counties

November 29, 2018

That morning was November 11th, when the morning name was home counties.

A first stab, from Wikipedia:

(#1) The former administrative counties (1889—1965) surrounding London (names of those bordering London in boldface): 1. Buckinghamshire 2. Hertfordshire 3. Essex 4. Berkshire 5. Middlesex (now entirely absorbed within London) 6. Surrey 7. Kent 8. Sussex.

The home counties are the counties of England that surround London (although several of them do not border it). The counties generally included in the list are Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey, and Sussex. Other counties more distant from London — such as Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire — are also sometimes regarded as home counties due to their proximity to London and their connection to the London regional economy.


Pride Time #5: on Barceloneta beach

March 30, 2018

(From June 2017. Underwear men, Catalonia, gay life, Barcelona beaches, art and architecture, and, eventually, food. First, underwear with my captions.)

The saints of Catalunya
Pretty in purple and pink


Sant Jordi the savory in heat
Stretched out on rocks
Homage to Barceloneta
Between sail and fish


Sant Joan the sweet
Celebrant of gay pride
Summer solstice confection
Of fruit and nuts

It’s all about Barcelona, the beach, and swim briefs.


Who views what

December 3, 2017

About the readership of this blog, examined through the very imperfect lens of WordPress statistics. Back in May 2016 AZBlog had accumulated 5 million spam comments (since late December 2008), and WP said I was getting about 1000 views a day. Then reported spam comments dropped to about 100,000 a year and reported views to 750-800 a day, leading me to wonder if I was doing something wrong, but friends convinced me that WP’s monitoring was simply screwed up.

And then, about two months ago, the views per day went back up to 1000-1200, reliably, so I stopped fretting. (Spam comments stayed down at the ca. 100,000/yr level, which I view as a blessing.)

More interesting is which postings get the most hits, and from which countries. Some of this is easily explicable — there’s a big market for sex — but some is bizarre; Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky tells me it’s probably bots ruling the netverse, and not much to do with me specifically.


Rat and Pig in Santa Rosa

October 20, 2017

Yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine:

(#1) 10/19/17

My comment on Facebook: “A double doleful “Awww”. One for panel 3, one for panel 4.” Pig cries out for help in the third panel, Rat sympathetically stands with his friend in the fourth.

Then discussion took us to Lucy and Charlie Brown in Peanuts (and incidentally to Calvin and Hobbes in their eponymous strip), and so to Peanuts artist Charles Schulz, and so to Santa Rosa CA, where Schulz lived and worked from 1969 until his death in 2000, and so to the geographical and cultural regions of northern California (the North Coast / Redwood Empire, the Wine Country, and the North (San Francisco) Bay), in all of which Santa Rosa is by far the biggest town.

Santa Rosa is in the news because of the devastation there in the current spate of wildfires in northern California. The Charles Schulz Museum there was spared, but the family house (with all of its memorabilia) was completely incinerated. The cartoon in #1 is pretty clearly Pearls artist Stephan Pastis’s homage to Schulz in these terrible times.


King Copper

June 22, 2015

Today’s Zippy, skipping well ahead in the saga of Lazlo (the actor who plays Zippy) and, now, Connie (the actor who plays Zerbina), who are fleeing on the road:


They are in Copper Harbor MI, in the U.P. (the Upper Peninsula). Complicated geography.