Saturday, December 29, 2007

Slavery Map

Here's an illuminating map dating from 1861 showing the prevalance of slavery in the U.S. The enslaved percentage of the population is shown by county. The variations are striking - counties along the Mississippi could consist of more than 80% slaves, while slavery was quite rare in the Appalachians (remember the people wondering where all the black people were in Cold Mountain?) Edward Tufte would be proud of the map's design; its findings are clear even at a low resolution.
Also note Florida's population of only 140,000, barely bigger than Delaware's, and the smallest of the Confederate states by far. Arkansas was the 10th-largest of the 11 rebel states, and it had more than three times Florida's population. Florida in 1860 was more of a frontier than Missouri was. At the time, Florida's population was concentrated in the northern part of the state; most of the peninsula was barely-habitable swampland. (Hey, it still is!)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More Stale Urine Online

Thanks to Mike Benedetti, you can now find an audio recording of Stale Urine's entire True Love Church concert online. Enjoy.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

National Park Tallies

Last week's Flagstaff trip let me visit two National Monuments I hadn't been to before, and last weekend my wife and I went out to the Palm Springs area (I'm milking the last days before I start work) and visited another National Monument (Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains) and a National Park (Joshua Tree), both of which I'd been to before.

So it seemed as good a time as any to tally up the number of different U.S. National Parks, other National Park Service units, and other similar areas I've visited. When tallying up National Parks and such, I'm always careful to note which areas I've had "full" visits to versus those to which I've only had "cheesy" visits. A cheesy visit is where in the technical sense I'd been within a park's boundary, but hadn't really experienced the features that make the park what it is. For the most part, what this means is that I'd maybe made a perfunctory visit to a visitors' center or drove through on a highway and missed the points of interest. With National Parks this is usually pretty clear, but with other units it can be a little fuzzy, since a good amount of the experience may just be driving through a unique scenic landscape or taking a look at a single feature rather than the more diverse attractions of full-fledged National Parks.

On to the lists...
National Parks
There are 58 full-fledged National Parks in the U.S.; I've visited 17, including 4 cheesy visits. Asterisks indicate cheesy visits, and I've also noted which states they're in:
Bryce Canyon (UT)
Channel Islands* (CA)
Death Valley (CA/NV)
Everglades* (FL)
Grand Canyon (AZ)
Haleakala (HI)
Hawaii Volcanoes (HI)
Joshua Tree (CA)
Kings Canyon (CA)
Lassen Volcanic* (CA)
Mammoth Cave (KY)
Olympic* (WA)
Petrified Forest (AZ)
Redwood (CA)
Sequoia (CA)
Yosemite (CA)
Zion (UT)

National Monuments are a little tricky. The National Park Service has 57 National Monuments, but there are 23 other National Monuments owned and/or administered by other government agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Game Service, etc. I've visited 7 NPS Monuments (none cheesily) and 6 others, including 2 cheesy-only. That's 13/80 total.

National Monuments (National Park Service):
Cabrillo (CA)
El Malpais (NM)
Lava Beds (CA)
Montezuma Castle (AZ)
Pinnacles (CA)
Sunset Crater Volcano (AZ)
Wupatki (AZ)

National Monuments (other agencies):
California Coastal (CA)
Carrizo Plain (CA)
Giant Sequoia (CA)
Grand Staircase-Escalante* (UT)
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains (CA)
Vermilion Cliffs* (AZ)


Beyond that, it gets a little weird. National Historical Parks are self-explanatory, but if anyone can explain the difference between a National Battlefield Park, a National Military Park, a National Battlefield, and a National Battlefield Site, I'd like to hear it. Then when you get to the National Memorials, you have to wonder about things like "affiliated sites" that aren't actually owned by the Park Service and confusing things like whether the individual parks in Washington are separate units, or part of larger catch-all units like the National Mall. Here's the rundown, as best as I can figure it:

National Preserves (that aren't also parts of other parks): 2/11
Big Cypress (FL)
Mojave (CA)

National Historical Parks: 12/42 (incl. 5 cheesy visits)
Boston (MA)
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal* (MD/DC/WV)
Colonial (VA)
Harpers Ferry* (WV)
Independence (PA)
Jean Lafitte* (LA)
Lewis and Clark (WA/OR)
Lyndon B. Johnson (TX)
Minute Man (MA)
New Orleans Jazz* (LA)
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (HI)
San Francisco Maritime* (CA)


National Historic Sites: 7/79 NPS units, incl. 1 cheesy, plus 1/10 affiliated sites
Ford's Theatre (DC)
Fort Point (CA)
Golden Spike (UT)
Jamestown (VA) (affiliated)
Manzanar* (CA)
Pennsylvania Avenue (DC)
San Juan (PR)


National Battlefield Parks: 0/3
National Battlefields: 0/11
National Battlefield Site: 0/1

National Military Parks: 1/9
Vicksburg (MS)

National Memorials: 7/29 NPS units, plus 1/15 affiliated sites
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (DC)
George Mason (DC) (affiliated)
Korean War Veterans (DC)
Lincoln (DC)
Lincoln Boyhood (IN)
Thomas Jefferson (DC)
Vietnam Veterans (DC)

World War II (DC)


National Recreation Areas: 4/20 (incl. 1 cheesy)
Golden Gate (CA)
Lake Mead (NV/AZ)
Santa Monica Mountains (CA)
Whiskeytown* (CA)


National Seashores: 2/10
Gulf Islands (FL/MS)
Point Reyes (CA)


National Lakeshores: 0/4
National Rivers: 0/15
National Reserves: 0/3
National Scenic Trails: 0/3 that are actually units of the NPS system. 2/5 cheesy visits to non-NPS-unit routes (i.e., brief walks along tiny portions of the trails):
Pacific Crest* (in CA)
Continental Divide* (in NM)


National Historic Trails: None of these are actually NPS units, and a lot of them basically just follow major highways for much of their length. I'll count anything I've driven or walked along, but I'll count as cheesy anything where I didn't do any activity or see any sight specifically associated with the trail in question. I've been on 9/17, although 6 of those were cheesy.
Ala Kahakai (HI)
California* (CA/NV)
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro* (NM)
Juan Bautista de Anza (CA/AZ)
Lewis and Clark (in WA/OR)
Mormon Pioneer* (in UT/WY)
Old Spanish* (in CA)
Oregon* (in OR)
Pony Express* (in CA/NV/UT/WY)


National Parkways: 2/5 NPS, plus 2/4 affiliated
Baltimore-Washington (DC/MD) (affiliated)
Colonial (VA) (part of Colonial NHP)
George Washington Memorial (VA/MD/DC)
Rock Creek and Potomac (DC) (affiliated, part of Rock Creek Park)

Other Units: 4/7, incl. 1 cheesy
National Mall (DC)
National Capital Parks (DC)
Rock Creek Park (DC)
President's Park* (DC)


Total National Park Service official units visited: 62 out of 391, including 12 cheesy visits. For this count, I'm using this list of "official units," which has its own idiosyncrasies, and doesn't include any affiliated areas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Fat Cat Watching TV

This was on Yahoo! Video. I probably look like this sometimes. The tail sticking straight out is extra comedy.


UPDATE: This kitty is being so bad!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nice Roadgeek Page

Cameron Kaiser's "Floodgap Roadgap" is a nice page of roadgeekery, which I've just added to the links on the right. His new addition is this travelogue/photo essay of US-95 from Las Vegas down to Blythe, which also includes some detours, such as these shots of and info about the big bridge they're building to bypass Hoover Dam.(The photo is from the construction project's official webpage.)

Another nice feature on Cameron's site is his big glossary of roadgeek terms.

Container Shipping Company Logos

Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has the cutest logo:

I like how Zim's logo is in both Roman and Hebrew writing:
Lastly, I've long enjoyed the odd juxtaposition of the two Os at the beginning of OOCL. I don't know why that name always sounds funny to me... maybe it makes me think of an OOBE.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Best and Worst California Downtowns

Paul Shigley at the California Planning and Development Report has a good article from back in September listing and explaining his choices for the best and worst mid-sized city downtowns. I think his choices are excellent and his reasoning sound. Here's his best-five list:
  1. Pasadena
  2. Santa Barbara
  3. Chico
  4. Berkeley
  5. Santa Rosa
I don't have much to say about Chico or Santa Rosa, but I would like to put in a good word for Visalia, which made his honorable-mention list. Not only is it a handsome place that looks like how a canonical American small town should, but it succeeds while surrounded by a number of places that are downright lousy, like Fresno (bigger) and Porterville (smaller).

I should also note that some friends of mine who moved here to California from Michigan a couple years ago said that they found Santa Barbara to be kind of phony. I can't really argue with that (the Mission-style architecture was a conscious effort at retro historicism after the 1925 quake), but for a phony, overpriced place, it's very nice.

And props to Shigley for calling out Santa Monica as most overrated.

Here's his most-disappointing list:
  1. San Bernardino
  2. Redding
  3. Antioch
  4. Costa Mesa
  5. Richmond
I like the offbeat suggestion of throwing in the towel on downtown San Berdoo and replacing it with lakes and canals. I'm assuming from this list that he basically excluded places like Fontana or Irvine that have no discernible downtowns.

Previously, Shigley made a smaller list of the best and worst big city downtowns. Here it is:

1.(TIE) San Francisco
1.(TIE) San Diego
3.Long Beach
4.Los Angeles

And at the bottom
  1. Fresno
The tie at the top not only screws up my formatting, but is kind of lame on its own merits --- San Francisco should really be #1, and San Diego should be happy for its well-deserved #2 slot. Other than that, I think these are the same rankings I would make. Fresno earns its bottom spot; Chukchansi Park is nice and the mounted statue of David Sassoon is awesome, but other than that, it's pretty much the pits. Even Bakersfield's downtown is better - the city as a whole is pretty blah but downtown is actually kind of cute by comparison. He should have made room on the bad list for Anaheim, whose downtown (no, it's not Downtown Disney) gets completely forgotten, and deservedly so, compared to the city's other attractions.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quickie Flagstaff Trip

Wednesday I was going to go out for an overnight trip to the Mojave, but my wife had something she needed delivered to a professor at Northern Arizona University, so on the spur of the moment I decided to drive it all the way out there instead. The whole trip ended up being about 1100 miles round trip, and I only spent the one night there in Flagstaff. So it was tiring, but it was also kinda fun to go on such a long trip on the spur of the moment.

Flagstaff is a nice town, and it had been blanketed with a few days of snowfall when I arrived.The San Francisco Peaks, including the highest point in Arizona, are just a few miles north of town.Thursday afternoon I headed up to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where you can see a young cinder cone and some lava fields.Nearby is Wupatki National Monument, home of the well-preserved ruins of an 12th-century pueblo.You can walk right up to the ruins, which even include a ball court.You can see the whole photoset here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

To Live and Work in L.A.

Since I don't really share many personal details on this blog, those of you who only know me online probably don't know that I've actually been unemployed since being laid off in May. But now I'm happy to say that I am employed once again! I'll be working in the City of Los Angeles Planning Department, working in Subdivisions and/or Environmental Review. It took me longer to find work than I expected (public agencies work veerrrryyy slllooowwwwlllyyy), but it really wasn't so bad; I did some traveling, got to relax, and we were OK with the money. But I am definitely looking forward to contributing to society with more than just my scintillating personality. It'll be exciting to work in City Hall, the center of the action. I start in two weeks.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

R.I.P., Karlheinz Stockhausen

Visionary composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has died at the age of 79. Stockhausen was one of my musical heroes; I discovered him as an undergrad in Millikan Library's 4th-floor collection of LPs, and I approached his music working backward to discover the origins of electronic music. In works like Mikrophonie and Gesang der J√ľnglinge, Stockhausen seemed to be operating completely outside of the norms of music, whether classical or popular, but at the same time, his music had an extraordinary power, like it was coming from an alien society. Read more about him here.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Philip Glass on Sesame Street

Apparently these shorts, a series called "Geometry of Circles," date from about 1979, but I don't recall seeing them on the show myself. The music is characteristic of Glass's late-70s work like North Star and Einstein on the Beach. (Hm... the Muppet Wiki uses the same two points of reference for the music as I did.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Train/Market in Bangkok

Whoa... the ease at which this place transitions from being a railway to being a market is nothing short of remarkable. Apparently it's in Bangkok, but I don't know anything else about how this place works... I wonder what the accident rate is.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Name dispersal

So, last night I was thinking about the relative frequency of different last names. The frequency at which one sees names in the United States is a function of both how many people have come to America from the country of the name's origin, and the frequency at which the name appears in its home country. Obviously there are complications to this, through intermarriage, the legacy of slavery, and Anglicizations or simplifications of immigrants' names, and that's not even accounting for the differences in ethnic distribution around this country or the vagaries of people with certain names immigrating (or reproducing) more than others.

So, anyway, some countries have a handful of names that are very common, and others have a lot more variety in their surnames. Nguyen, for example, is extremely common in Vietnam. Korea is dominated by just a few surnames; I remember attending a World Baseball Classic game in which the South Korean team fielded a lineup with five Lees. One could easily produce a list of common Chinese or Spanish surnames, and we can produce a list of common English names, even with the island of Great Britain being a nexus of Celtic, Nordic, and Norman influence.

But what of Italian names? Quick, try to think of a "typical Italian name." It's easy to think of famous Italian-Americans, but how common are their last names? Sinatra, Scorsese, and Cuomo are famous people, but I don't know of anybody else not related to them sharing their names. (ADDENDUM: How could I forget Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo?) I even did a little thought experiment to try to think of unrelated famous people sharing the same Italian name, and the only two sets I could think of were:

(1) Enrico Caruso (who wasn't American), actor David Caruso, and developer Rick Caruso (stretching the definition of famous), and
(2) the winemaking Gallo brothers and actor/director Vincent Gallo.

Can you come up with any others?

Checking the Census Bureau, Italian ancestry is the 4th-most-commonly reported European ancestry in the U.S., behind German, Irish, and English. About 13,000,000 Americans report Italian ancestry. Asian, Islander, Native American, and Hispanic ancestry is counted separately. But if we check this list of the most common surnames in the U.S., you'll have to scroll a long way down before you reach your first unambiguously Italian name. How far? All the way down to the 753rd-most-common surname, Russo. The next Italian names to appear are Bruno (#1314), Marino (#1410), and Romano (#1579).

Most of the top names on the list are of English, Irish, or other British origin. Spanish names are also quite common. German names are uncommon but do appear higher than any Italian ones, with Wagner at #171, Weber at #323, Schneider at #329, etc. French names are also a bit sparse, as there's some ambiguity for names like Lambert (#292) and Richard (#506), but an unambiguously French name like LeBlanc shows up at #683, and Cajun ones like Landry start showing up at #695. Cohen (Jewish) is at #363, and Scandinavian names like Christiansen (#435) and Olsen (#583) are fairly high, especially considering that the Census Bureau doesn't consolidate alternate spellings (Olson is at #175).

What about non-European names? For reference, here is the Census's ranking of selected Asian groups. There are only about 1.1 million Vietnamese Americans, yet Nguyen ranks at #229 on the name list. There are slightly fewer Koreans, and Kim, a common Korean name, is #233. Chinese are the most common Asian group, but the most common unambiguously Chinese names are Wong (#459), Chang (#687), and Chen (#720). The name Lee (#24) is something of a special case, because not only is it a common name in both China and Korea, but it's also a common Scottish name.

Scrolling through the list, I came across some other interesting placements. The highest Indian name is Patel at #591, and Singh is next at #1306. The highest-ranking names from the Muslim world are Khan (#1728) and Ali, virtually tied at #1733. I noticed two common Navajo names, Yazzie (#1855) and Begay (#1897), just below those. I may have missed one higher up, but the highest unambiguously Portuguese name I noticed was Ferreira at #1591 and the highest unambiguously Dutch name I could find was Van Dyke, way down at #2487. I didn't notice any Slavic names on the list before my eyes glazed over, and the highest Hungarian name I found was Nagy at #3322.

I was scanning the list for a while before I realized I hadn't seen any Japanese names. Despite there being slightly fewer Japanese in this country than there are Koreans or Vietnamese, no Japanese name placed higher than #3565, Tanaka.

Well, I don't have any big conclusions to make; I mostly just looked this stuff up to satisfy curiosity and nothing else. In order to really study any of this, we'd have to get into the history of when and how people began to adopt surnames in different countries. Wikipedia says, for example, that Japanese commoners only adopted surnames under the Meiji restoration and had a good amount of leeway in what names they chose, which explains the name diversity. I suppose one could hypothesize that Italians don't have any dominating names because the country was divided politically until the 19th century. But the same could be said about the Germans, and they placed a lot of names higher than Russo.

DISCLAIMER: I got this information from scanning a very long list, and I can't be sure I didn't miss anything. Also, it's not like I have perfect knowledge of the national origins of all the names on the list, either. I only found out last year (after watching The Departed) that Costello (#1297), which totally sounds Italian, is actually Irish.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Football Quickie

Considering that I wrote about a college football bracket a few days ago, I should probably note that the rankings are in disarray yet again, as #1 Missouri and #2 West Virginia were both beaten today. It's the 4th time this season that the #1 team has been beaten, and the 7th time the #2 team has fallen. That's a lot of upsets!

Meanwhile, my high school, Long Beach Poly, managed to win its section semifinal game on Friday by the improbable (for football) score of 2-0. The only score of the game was on a safety.