“God created war so Americans would learn geography”

I heard this quote on the Tim Ferris show with Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding. During the show, Potts mentions this quote (attributed to Mark Twain):

God created war so Americans would learn geography.

Being a human geography teacher, I know this to be true. Many of my students don’t remember 9/11, they were toddlers or smaller. They don’t remember our 2nd go-round in Iraq, much less the first in 1990-91.
So when Obama gives a speech about ISIL, they wonder several things:

  • What is he talking about?
  • Where in the world are the places he’s talking about?

Vox (in their 14 maps that explain ISIS) has done a great job of showing this critical geography to us.  Here’s one of the maps that shows ISIS control.

isis control vox mapIn our Theory of Knowledge class this past week, we assigned groups of students to represent each of the players involved:

  • Turkey
  • ISIS
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Kurds
  • Israel

What’s amazing is how fast my students could get up to speed on the complexity and dynamics of the region.  Secondly, when each group presented what their country wanted, you get a sense of the challenge involved.  Every country wants something different in this part of the world and there’s very little commonality.

Regardless of what you (or I) think should happen in this part of the world, or what American involvement should be, we should take Twain’s advice and learn the geography – if for no other reason than it’s a gift (divine or otherwise).


Mid-terms are not Presidential elections but they could be close

One of my AP US History students asked me if this was the most that a party had controlled the House of Representatives. I didn’t know so we looked it up.
Here’s what we found:
Combined--Control of the U.S. House of Representatives - Control of the U.S. Senate.png
Combined–Control of the U.S. House of Representatives – Control of the U.S. Senate” by ChrisnHoustonFile:Control of the U.S. Senate.PNG
File:Control of the U.S. House of Representatives.PNG. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Look at the second box (that’s the House).

Turns out in the 1940’s the Democrats controlled almost 80% of the House. Republicans have 244 out of 435, so they’re getting there (56%). To reach those 1940’s #’s the GOP would have to win almost 90 more seats.

Then my student asked a different question:

Does a whooping in the House mean the GOP will win the 2016 presidency?

Not so fast. Why? Because the geographic map (top-right) is misleading. We have to pay attention to where the populations are located. As Obama showed in 2008 & 2012, winning the cities by enough to offset the rural areas was a winning gig.
Here’s a population proportional map of the House.

Where the voters are still matters. It’s not real estate, it’s voters. We’ll see in 2016.

1st Step to a Better Meeting? Admit the 1 you just ran sucked

H/T to Fast Company for this.
I try to stay out of meetings as much as possible. I find them brutal and these ‘types’ in this video are immediately recognizable.

If a meeting is inevitable, I propose these three things:

  1. Follow Jason Fried’s advice and don’t have the meeting in the first place.
  2. Follow Seth Godin’s advice and do not ask this question
  3. If you must have a meeting, plan, plan, plan it well. As the great John Wooden once said:

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Catalonia, Presidents and Flags

Will Catalonia secede from Spain? This Nation article seems to think so.

    Here’s a key quote:

“For Spain, the secession of Catalonia—and the Basque Country, which wouldn’t take long to follow—would mean the departure of two of its wealthiest regions and would therefore be a significant loss.”

But Colm dismissed my argument:

“But this loss would bring about greater political stability. It would be advantageous for everybody.”

As Juan Enriquez says, “People assume stability where there isn’t any.”

Juan Enriquez – PopTech 2006 from PopTech on Vimeo.

In his book, The Untied States of America, he shows how

No U.S. President has ever been buried under the same flag he was born under.

Catalonia and Spain are in a similar space.

Why the Blazers are Smoking the NW

We’re only 5 – 7 games into the new NBA season, but I like this early look at why the Portland Trailblazers are so much better than the rest of the Northwest Division.

I compared a team’s offensive and defensive efficiencies with the current NBA average. Obviously, you want positive numbers (above the league average). The Blazers are solid on both fronts, the Jazz only on one. What they get on one end of the floor, they give away at the other end.

The Thunder are obviously missing their two stars and the Timberwolves are missing K-Love.

How will your country look in 20 years?

Tyler Cowen always finds interesting ways to look at things.  As he posts here, population in Europe will continue to age and the young will increasingly come from Africa and Asia to work.

Here’s Tyler’s Upshot article and it’s not complicated – if you’re a rich country, you need immigrants.  Just trying to have more babies isn’t really a strategy.

Tom Barnett puts it this way,

The core countries have the money and the jobs, but not the people.  Outside the core, they have the people, but not the jobs.  We’re gonna need someone to turn us over in our hospital beds.

 Here’s Barnett talking about the flow of people (around 6:30 mark is where he talks about the job flow from the gap to the core).


japan pop pyramidLast but not least is the populationpyramid.net site.  Here you can play with any country you like from now to 2100.  The key to population pyramids is their shape.  Japan’s in serious trouble.  They’re not replacing their dying and they won’t follow Cowen’s advice to allow immigration.