Maps are Difference. So is Everything Else.

Maps are amazing because of their inherent qualities. For one thing, there’s hardly a difference between a graph and a map. It’s purely about representative distances that display information. With a map, that distance is directly tied to physical distances. A map is just a miniature sketch of the landscape. But it’s so much more than that. You can put any information on a map. You can contrast any information. Even better, the true concept actually goes beyond maps. Recall: lines representing distance, right, that’s just another way of saying difference by proportion. So, that same thing that makes the lines of a map stand out (difference) is also all music ever. Notes are intervals, difference by proportion. At it’s heart, it’s all numbers plotted on a grid. Maps are representations of information quantified.

Like, I can say, the United States is south of Canada and North of Mexico, east of the Pacific Ocean and west of the Atlantic. That gives you an idea of it, but you don’t have the proper perspective. A map of the United States can display ever border, state, city, and capital in one neat picture. But without the information encoded (knowing that it’s a map and what everything means), it’s just a mess of lines and color. 

I would also contend the same principal governs writing, too. It’s the difference, the contrasts, that make writing interesting. The very format of writing (in English) is Noun VERB noun (aaaaand more!). Writing: “He walked to the store. He bought groceries. He went home.” That’s correct, yet super dull. There’s not enough contrast. You need more difference, you need to represent the information is a more varied way. Much the same way, playing the same note is boring. Drawing only straight lines is dull.

In photography, there’s this old principal called the Rule of Thirds, which is that a picture should roughly break up like that. There’s also the golden ration, which is different. Interesting stuff has rhythmic/periodic difference.

Maps are difference. So is everything else.


A Lesson on Partisanship from the English Civil Wars

The English Civil Wars are a little piece of history that I never learned about in history class. They were fascinating. Think French Revolution but earlier and more warring. Before we go too far, I suppose I should give you a little background. The king, Charles Stuart, needed cash. That meant, of course, he had to raise taxes, but every time he called Parliament, they just bitched at him and wouldn’t grant him taxes, so he kept disbanding them. Then shit started to get real. Like, war real. The Parliamentarians raised armies and they had themselves a proper civil war (the first of three).

In the midst of the wars between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists, the king siphoned away his backers in Parliament, which made the body even more extreme.  Then, near the end of the turmoil (but really not at all the end), the Parliamentarian army wasn’t paid and they were ordered by Parliament to disband. Obviously, that’s idiotic. More the most part, the army did not disband. At least not the radicals. Mostly, the Presbyterians did follow the command and they retired from the New Model Army. The army then promoted from within, further radicalizing the body. Then the New Model Army took over England. Weird, right? Never saw that coming.

You see the theme there? It’s not just the English Civil Wars. Leaving only makes conflict inevitable. When the moderates leave, it leaves all the power with the radicals. So, next time you hear about some political party boycotting elections, remember this. We need the moderates to prevent a breakdown of government. We have to have a counterbalance, even if it’s in a rigged or corrupt system. Their voices still matter.

My Enemy, the Monolith

Diplomatic relations between US and Russia in 1993 were shaky. Things were getting bad in Russia. Unsustainable. And in this moment of capitalist triumph, the very people who should’ve been happy were distressed. The US government needed an enemy. They needed an evil empire. So what did they do? They tried to prop up a dying empire.

Now we have new enemies. We have Islamic extremists, enemy to all empires, progress, and generally everything. Now we have crazy ol’ Russia with Vlad at the helm. Now we have everything we had before, but went unnoticed because we were too busy trying to outsmart the USSR that we imagined was monolithic. That’s just as deluded as thinking the US is a monolith now. The world is a tapestry of history that’s far too much to consider in the simplistic way the media likes to portray.

The Betrayal of Sykes-Picot?

Hey you remember that time some guys drew up a map of the Middle East based on colonial interests and it fucked millions of people about a century so far?

Musings on Maps

The announcement of the formation of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the areas that its forces occupy in Iraq and Syria as “The Islamic State,” and successor of the Ottoman Empire, parallels the disintegration of Syria as a nation, notwithstanding the continued tenacity of local strongman Bashar al-Assad.  Despite repeated mapping in the news, Syria seems to have been rendered a failed national state.  With any prospects for a peaceful resolution more distant, subverted by regional violence across Iraq, the needs of refugees and people have been obfuscated.  And the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, once relegated to the history books, has begun to haunt the endgame of Syria’s civil war more prominently than it ever had with the now-inevitable dismantling, after a century, of boundaries drawn by Europeans at the historical Sykes-Picot Accord of 1916. Increasingly, we must ask what sort of map we want to make and…

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Religion v. Humanity: How religion is used to screw working class women

This Hobby Lobby ruling is a very disappointing step back. Thankfully, we’ve got Ruth Bader GInsburg on the court and she wrote this: “commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

And the rest of the court was forced to narrow the decision, although there’s a bunch of debate on how narrow that is.

One more note, taken from Slate:

Early in her dissent, Ginsburg, quoting an earlier case, says, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” So she sets up Hobby Lobby as a clash between women’s rights and religious rights. It’s not an entirely fair characterization of this case, since regulators tried to balance these rights by granting an exemption to nonprofits, and in that light the court’s holding—extending the exemption to religious for-profits—seems incremental rather than radical.* But if the lower courts take the strict scrutiny test at face value, then Hobby Lobby will indeed be a victory for conservative interests.


Let’s just go back for a moment: “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” Meaning that, without access to a base level of birth control, a woman may be unable to work because, unsurprisingly, children take a lot of time and effort to raise.

An Egyptian Winter: Where a revolution goes to die

At what point does a popular uprising turn into a dictatorship? In Egypt, I gather that time came around after the first free elections post-Mubarak. When Morsi took office, he did a lot of stuff. One of those things was declaring the Egyptian Parliament immune from “any possible court decisions to dissolve it” and gave himself a bunch of extra powers. Of course, at that time, Parliament was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Next up, the military performed a quick coup and suddenly Egypt plunged into the abyss of having no constitution. Now there’s a new Parliament and constitution. What comes next, you may ask? The new Egyptian government cracks down on protesters, the Muslim Brotherhood, and anything and everything that allowed the Arab Spring to free Egypt from Mubarak.

Here we are in 2014. It’s winter in Egypt.