Friday, December 1, 2017

Mesomerican Map of Mexico City

This might be of some interest to some folks out there as hung up on maps as I am. The Codex Quetzalecatzin, an extremely rare colored Mesoamerican manuscript has been digitized and put online by the Library of Congress.

The Library has scanned the illustrated document--essentially a map of Mexico City and Puebla, drawn up for both Spanish colonizers and indigenous people to lay claim to the land--in super hi-res for the public and scholars worldwide to pore over. It dates from between 1570 and 1595.

According to John Hessler of the Library’s Worlds Revealed blog, the map depicts the land owned by the de Leon family.

As is typical for an Aztec, or Nahuatl, codex of this early date, it relates the extent of land ownership and properties of a family line known as “de Leon,” most of the members of which are depicted on the manuscript. With Nahuatl stylized graphics and hieroglyphs, it illustrates the family’s genealogy and their descent from Lord-11 Quetzalecatzin, who in 1480, was the major political leader of the region. It is from him the Codex derives one of its many names.

The map is one of 450 surviving pictorial manuscripts of the Mesoamerican period, and contains natural pigments such as Maya blue and cochineal red (made from insects).

Click here to find the digitized version of the Codex Quetzalecatzin at the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mapping The Amount Of Time It Takes To Learn A Foreign Language

In most RPG's there are allowances for characters with a high enough intelligence to learn additional languages. Quite a few systems are vague on the details and allow the DM to come up with his own time frame on how long this would take. I found these real world examples quite enlightening. That and I'm a sucker for maps.

The map above  visualizes the languages of Europe (at least those deemed diplomatically important enough to be taught at the FSI), coloring them according the average time commitment they require of an English speaker. In pink, we have the English-speaking countries. The red countries speak Category I languages, those most closely related to English and thus learnable in 575 to 600 hours of study: the traditional high-school foreign languages of Spanish and French, for instance, or the less commonly taught but just about as easily learnable Portuguese and Italian. If you'd like a little more challenge, why not try your hand at German, whose 750 hours of study puts it in Category II — quite literally, a category of its own?

In total, the FSI ranks languages into six categories of difficulty, including English's Category 0. The higher up the scale you go, the less recognizable the languages might look to an English-speaking monoglot. Category III contains no European languages at all (though it does contain Indonesian, widely regarded as one of the objectively easiest languages to learn). Category IV offers a huge variety of languages from Amharic to Czech to Nepali to Tagalog, each demanding 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) of study. Then, at the very summit of the linguistic mountain, we find the switched-up grammar, highly unfamiliar scripts, and potentially mystifying cultural assumptions of Category V, "languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers."

To that most formidable group belong Arabic, Chinese both Mandarin and Cantonese, Korean, and — this with an asterisk meaning "usually more difficult than other languages in the same category" — Japanese. Now if, like me, you consider studying foreign languages one of your main pursuits, you know that possessing a genuine interest in a language — in its mechanics, in its ongoing evolution, in the cultures that created it and the cultures it in turn creates — can do wonders to get you through even the most aggravating difficulties on the long journey to commanding it. Then again, I'm also a native English speaker who chose to move to Korea, where I study not just the Category-V Korean but the Category-V* Japanese through Korean; you might want to take with a grain of salt the words, in any language, of so obvious a masochist.

You'll find the full Foreign Service Institute language difficulty ranking list below.

Category I: 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours)Languages closely related to English 
Italian Norwegian

Category II: 30 weeks (750 hours)Languages similar to English 

Category III: 36 weeks (900 hours)Languages with linguistic and/or cultural differences from English

Category IV: 44 weeks (1100 hours)Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English 
Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)

Category V: 88 weeks (2200 hours)Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers 
Cantonese (Chinese)
Mandarin (Chinese)
* Usually more difficult than other languages in the same category

Friday, November 24, 2017

Mapping Thanksgiving

Here's what your part of America eats on Thanksgiving.

Who eats what where? This Survey  about Thanksgiving traditions had 1,058 respondents.

Some things like chicken, pork and roast beef got cursory shout-outs as main Thanksgiving dishes, but turkey rules, with 82 percent of respondents saying the other, other white meat is the centerpiece of their meal. When you get past the poultry and check out the side dishes, though, the regional distinctions really come out.

Here’s the most disproportionately consumed side dish in each region:

Full Article

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Navigating the Top 100 NPR SF/Fantasy Books

As much of an avid reader that think I am, there are still several works on here I have not yet gotten to. The decision tree makes it so much easier for anyone looking for their particular flavor in reading material. Have at it all you avid readers.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Veni, Vidi, Dead: A Death Map of Roman Emperors

For more on the Roman Empire, its leaders and their deaths, check out the Totalus Rankium Twitter feed and podcast. Causes of death graph found here on Reddit.

Original Article

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Hobbit Turns 80

It was exactly 80 years ago that Bilbo went There and Back Again for the first time. Bilbo, the bravest little hobbit of them all.
And in two short months the Rank&Bass animated version will turn 40.

A quick note for hardcore fans of The Hobbit—those like me who reread and try to encourage others to read it—you should know that the excellent The Prancing Pony Podcast is about to embark on an in-depth discussion of the book, with each episode dedicated to a chapter.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The 38 States of America

Original article here.
Probably nobody reading this can remember the last time the map of the United States underwent any major change. For decades, the boundaries have remained pretty fixed. And yet the map, as we know it, shouldn't necessarily be considered set in stone.

Back in 1973, George Etzel Pearcy, a California State University geography professor, proposed re-drawing the map of the nation, reducing the number of states to 38, and giving each state a different name. In his creative reworking of things, California would be split into two states--"El Dorado" and "San Gabriel". Texas would divide into "Alamo" and also "Shawnee" (along with remnants of Oklahoma). And the Dakotas would fuse into one big "Dakota." In case you're wondering, Pearcy chose the names by polling geography students.

The logic behind the new map was explained in a 1975 edition of The People's Almanac.

Why the need for a new map? Pearcy states that many of the early surveys that drew up our boundaries were done while the areas were scarcely populated. Thus, it was convenient to determine boundaries by using the land's physical features, such as rivers and mountain ranges, or by using a simple system of latitude and longitude.... The practicality of old established State lines is questionable in light of America's ever-growing cities and the increasing mobility of its citizens. Metropolitan New York, for example, stretches into 2 adjacent States. Other city populations which cross State lines are Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City. The "straddling" of State lines causes economic and political problems. Who should pay for a rapid transit system in St. Louis? Only those citizens within the boundaries of Missouri, or all residents of St. Louis's metropolitan area, including those who reach over into the State of Illinois?...

When Pearcy realigned the U.S., he gave high priority to population density, location of cities, lines of transportation, land relief, and size and shape of individual States. Whenever possible lines are located in less populated areas. In the West, the desert, semidesert, or mountainous areas provided an easy method for division. In the East, however, where areas of scarce population are harder to determine, Pearcy drew lines "trying to avoid the thicker clusters of settlement." Each major city which fell into the "straddling" category is neatly tucked within the boundaries of a new State. Pearcy tried to place a major metropolitan area in the center of each State. St. Louis is in the center of the State of Osage, Chicago is centered in the State of Dearborn. When this method proved impossible, as with coastal Los Angeles, the city is still located so as to be easily accessible from all parts of the State...

According to Rob Lammle, writing in Mental Floss, Pearcy initially got support from "economists, geographers, and even a few politicians." But the proposal--mainly outlined in a book called A 38 State U.S.A.--eventually withered in Washington, the place where ideas, both good and bad, go to die.

Below you can watch an animation showing how the US map has changed in 200 years.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Galaxy Magazine Free Online

The ID guide for the top authors of 1952.
Along with Astounding and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy Magazine was one of the more important science fiction digests in the 20th century. Ray Bradbury wrote for it-- an early version of  Fahrenheit 451 appeared in its pages--as did Heinlein, Asimov, Pohl, Sturgeon, Cordwainer Smith, Vance, and numerous others.

Now a fairly decent collection of issues (355 in all) is available for your reading pleasure at for free. It’s not the complete run of the magazine yet, but it’s pretty close.

Just 2 of the stories you can start off with would be the Ray Bradbury story (“The Fireman”), or Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Puppet Masters.”

Friday, June 30, 2017

All the Rivers & Streams in the U.S. Shown in Rainbow Colors

A data visualization to behold

A beautifully rendered multi-color map. Created by Hungarian geographer and map-designer Robert Szucs, using open-source QGIS software, the high resolution map above shows:
all the permanent and temporary streams and rivers of the contiguous 48 states in beautiful rainbow colours, divided into catchment areas. It shows Strahler Stream Order Classification. The higher the stream order, the thicker the line.

When you look at the map, you'll see, as The Washington Post observes,
 "Every river in a color drains to the same river, which then drains into the ocean. The giant basin in the middle of the country is the Mississippi River basin. Major rivers like the Ohio and the Missouri drain into the behemoth."
Pretty cool.
Imugr gallery of originals.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Tediously Accurate Map of the Solar System

A really cool representation of how empty space is. Follow the link below, and grab your favorite drink 'cause it'll take a while to go through all the planets.

If the moon were only 1 pixel.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Blue-Green and Red Clouds on Sunday Night

NASA Rocket Launch Will Create Blue-Green and Red Clouds on Sunday

On June 11, East Coast skywatchers may be in for a lovely show Sunday night, as NASA launches a sounding rocket and brightly colored vapor clouds into the night.

The (dog-inspired?) Terrier-Improved Malemute rocket is an information-gathering craft laden with instruments to capture information about our atmosphere and ionosphere. Its path will follow a sharp U-shaped trajectory, launching from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, soaring miles into the sky, peaking, then falling back to Earth and plunging into the Atlantic Ocean.

The launch is scheduled to occur between 9:04 and 9:19 p.m. EDT. Experts estimate that the flight will take about eight minutes from start to finish. Approximately four or five minutes after the rocket takes off, NASA will deploy 10 soda can–sized canisters full of reactive chemicals. The cans will burst 96 to 124 miles in the air, producing enormous, vibrant blooms of harmless red and blue-green clouds formed by the interaction of barium, strontium, and cupric-oxide. (These are commonly found in fireworks.) If the weather cooperates, these vapor tracers should be visible from New York to North Carolina and westward into Virginia.
Scientists will track the movement and dissipation of the clouds to understand how particles and air are flowing through the sky above us. Deploying the vapor tracers at a distance from the rocket should help provide an even fuller picture of just what’s going on up there.

You can catch it via Ustream or on the project’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Full article here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rise of Cities Across the Globe, 3700BC to 2000AD

Since I'm interested in most things regarding maps this was kinda cool. This goes along with the world population map from a while back.

Last year, a Yale-led research project produced an innovative dataset that mapped the history of urban settlements. Covering a 6,000 year period, the project traced the location and size of cities across the world, starting in 3700 BC (when the first known urban dwellings emerged in Sumer) and continuing through 2000 AD. Done by Yale’s Meredith Reba.

The Yale dataset was originally published in Scientific Data in 2016.

You can read more about the mapping of urban settlements at this Yale website.

And in this day and age what doesn't get turned into a youtube video.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars - Happy 40th

Almost forgot the date. Star Wars was first released on May 25th, 1977. Today marks it's 40th anniversary.

From a prior post;

The very first Star Wars poster by Brothers Hildebrandt, 1976, before the film was introduced;

A Treasury of Rare and Weird Star Wars Posters From Around the World
(via Posterwire)

A New Hope, Italy, 1977, by Michelangelo Papuzza

(via Space 1970)

A New Hope, Romania, 1977

(via gk)

A New Hope, Israel, 1977

(via eBay)
A New Hope, Japan, 1977

(via Star Wars Aficionado)

A New Hope, US, 1977, Drew Struzan

(via Posterwire)

A New Hope, Poland, 1978, by Jakub Erol

(via eBay)

A New Hope, Hungary, 1979, by András Felvidéki

(via Star Wars Klub)

A New Hope, Hungary, 1979, by Tibor Helényi

(via Star Wars Klub)

The Empire Strikes Back, Hong Kong, 1980

(via Retro-Futurism)

The Empire Strikes Back, France, 1980

(via Mauvais-Genres)

The Empire Strikes Back, Japan, 1980

(via Classic Star Wars)

The Empire Strikes Back, Japan, 1980, Noriyoshi Ohrai

(via Filmonpaper)

The Empire Strikes Back, Turkey, 1980

(via Sci-Fi Movie Posters)

The Empire Strikes Back, Hong Kong, 1980

(via Cinemasterpieces)

The Empire Strikes Back, Germany, 1980

(via The Star Wars Trilogy)

The Empire Strikes Back, Romania, 1981

(via gk)

The Empire Strikes Back, Hungary, 1982, by Tibor Helényi

(via Star Wars Klub)

The Empire Strikes Back, Poland, 1982, Jakub Erol

(via Polishposter)

The Empire Strikes Back, Poland, 1983, Miroslaw Lakomski

(via Polishposter)

Return of the Jedi, Hungary, 1984, by Tibor Helényi

(via Star Wars Klub)

Return of the Jedi, Turkey, 1983

(via Sci-Fi Movie Posters)

Return of the Jedi, Poland, 1984, Witold Dybowski

(via Rowsdowr)

Russia, 1990, by Yury Bokser and Alexander Chantsev

(via eBay)

Russia, 1990, by Yury Bokser and Alexander Chantsev

(via Anywhen)

Russia, 1990, by Yury Bokser and Alexander Chantsev

(via Mean Sheets)

Russia, 1990, by Yury Bokser and Alexander Chantsev

(via Heritage Auctions)

AD&D Core Books Megabundle Sale

OSR Extravaganza Sale @ DriveThruRPG.comFor those who might not have heard about it in their newsfeeds yet, there is a 8 book megabundle sale on the AD&D Core Book PDF's. Currently only $14.95 vs the usual $75.

Here are the books that you get in the bundle:

Dungeon Master's Guide [Premium Edition]

Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

Fiend Folio

Monster Manual [Premium Edition]

Monster Manual II

Oriental Adventures

Player's Handbook [Premium Edition]

Wilderness Survival Guide

FYI if you've already bought some of these titles previously, you'll get a discount for that title.

Now, for me, the Survival Guides are not Core Rules but that's just personal preference. Also the Deities and Demigods is missing from this which I do consider core rules. YMMV.
Still a great bargain if you don't have some or all of these yet. Plus there's the BECMI Known World bundle as well if that's your cup of tea. Plus a whole bunch of other things worth checking out.