Aug 102014

MapheadI have a new literary hero!

Ken Jennings, the man who ran rings around Jeopardy! for months turned out to be a witty, informative and interesting author.

The subject matter, maps and geography, of his Maphead could have been a lethally boring detailed dive into a single niche or a shallow overview of the subject. Fortunately, it is neither.

The author covers the subject from multiple perspectives and injects enough personal experiences (and occasional verbal zingers) into the tales to keep the book consistently interesting.

The book begins with the maps and the state of geography as a school subject, but is soon routed to geocaching, countryspotters and other quite expected geography-related hobbies. A chapter devoted to imaginary countries around the midpoint is an unexpected detour.

Unlike Map Addict, an earlier foray into the heads of map enthusiasts, Maphead refrains from being snarky, is not opposed to electronic mapping aids and is overall a much more pleasant book to read.

Best non-fiction book in a long time, and a good reason to seek out Jennings’ other books, too.

Jan 022014

Map Addict coverMike Parker’s Map Addict proves that there’s such a fine line between an interesting hobby and an OCD.

And the author clearly at least borders on the latter, his relationship with the ordnance survey maps started with shoplifting and has evolved into a career.

The selfbiographical bits start off decent, but turn into way too tedious and revealing towards the end. And the history of maps is well-researched, though some large topics get glossed over (like projections) and some minor ones get pages upon pages. But railing against GPS-navigators as borderline evil just shows that the author hasn’t got to grips with reality, the devices are not going away any time soon. And the patronizing “some women can read maps”-chapter was both surprising and annoying.

Towards the end this turned out to be more an ordeal than an enjoyable read. But the more scientific/historical bits make this book worthwhile (learned new words as a bonus: enclave/exclave are not exactly part of everyday vocabulary but nice to know nonetheless).

Feb 152011

Central Park mapCentral Park Nature effectively maps the huge park, but there’s no online version at all. And lugging the five foot long physical copy around in the park to hunt for the different species of trees is on the impractical side.

The map would make a nice keepsake from a hike through the park, but at least the website doesn’t indicate it being available anywhere else but the webstore.

Aug 032010

Earth with no axial spinInstead of spinning on its axis, that is.

Witold Fraczek’s article explains the consequences.

Due to the disappearance of centrifugal force, the oceans would be completely realigned. As gravity would be the only meaningful force, the ellipsoidic “bump” would disappear and the water recede towards the poles.

Finland would be submerged completely, and a globe-spanning mega-continent would connect the existing landmasses around the equator.