2/15/2005

so here are some interesting geography-related news bits I've found recently.

I wrote about Google Maps a little while ago. Right on cue, Microsoft came out with their own competing product, called Mappoint. However, Mappoint has some problems. You'd think that if the directions "take the Channel Tunnel to England" pop up in directions for Norway, Microsoft people might be concerned.

And in other news, it looks like some Alaskans are thinking of moving their capital from Juneau to somewhere more centrally located. I guess this makes some sense, since Juneau is really remote and is inaccessible by car, as a lot people learned in school. Interestingly, the capital of Alaska was already moved once, from Sitka to Juneau in 1906 because the whale trade in Sitka was drying up (according to Wikipedia). Today, Juneau is very far from the main population concentrations in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Some people like this isolation, though, because it at least symbolically separates the government from big business interests in the large cities. Lots of other states have their capitals located outside the main cities, like Missouri, New York, and Illinois, where their capitals aren't in St. Louis, New York City, or Chicago. However, those state capitals (Jefferson City, Albany, and Springfield) are a lot more centrally located than Juneau is. So I guess it's hit or miss. I think the idea of moving the legislature to somewhere more accesible but keeping the rest in Juneau is interesting. Like in Bolivia!

And a few days ago, DCist wrote a piece on the "American Meridian." Back in the 1800s, instead of using the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England (where 0 degrees longitude is), the U.S. made their own meridian 24th St NW in DC. Thus, DC was at 0 degrees longitude. The DCist piece talks about a plaque that the George Washington University put at 24th and H to memorialize the meridian. I used to walk past that plaque a lot because my dorm was on the same corner. And in a weird little related factoid, Xi'an, an ancient capital of China, is exactly halfway around the world (180 degrees longitude) from DC, and at the exact same latitude (north-south location) as DC. Kooky.

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