SPAR #3: Pirates vs. Ninjas

Ninjas are better than pirates.

Throughout the history of classical piracy, it has always been the domain of males. The few female pirates that we know existed spent their careers disguised as men. By contrast, Kunoichi, the female ninja, was a recognized and equally lethal counterpart to the male ninja.
The inclusion of the female half of the population, both in historic participation and in modern storytelling makes ninjas better.

Okinawa. (2011, July 27). Kunoichi: Japan's Female Ninjas. [Online Guidebook]. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from Japan Guidebook website:
Vallar, C. (2004, March). Women and the Jolly Roger. [Website]. Retrieved January 30, 2012, from Pirates and Privateers website:

Pirates are better than ninjas.

Pirates have a varied and colorful costume. Bright colors, shirtless guys, tattoos, jewelry, stripes! Those are just a few of the pirate’s visual assets, and doesn’t even go into the broader setting: sailing ships, tropical islands, parrots, cannon fights, and so on.

On the other hand, ninjas (at least fictionally) are dressed in black, and that’s it. Historical ninjas dressed like regular Japanese citizens, probably nothing too exciting so as not to draw attention to themselves.

When comparing the appearance of ninjas to that of pirates, the pirate stands out as sexier, more interesting and visually unique.

Map Exercise: Mexico, The Caribbean and Central America


Yaque del Norte flows from the mountain Pico Duarte (3175m) in the Dominican Republic, north-east through the city Santiago de los Caballeros and then does a u-turn and flows north-west through a valley and into the Cibao Bay and the Atlantic Ocean by the town of Monte Cristi.
Rio Nazas flows from the Sierra Madre Occidental range in the Durango territory, and east into the Chihuahuan Desert where it is stopped by a dam, forming a fair sized lake, after which is dissipates into the desert sands of Coahuila territory.
Rio Grande de Santiago begins in Laguna de Chapala, which lies on the border of Jalisco and Michoacan territories. It flows north, through the city of Guadalajara, through mountain valleys and into Nayarit territory where it reaches the coastal plains and the Pacific Ocean.
Rio Guayambre begins on the Nicaragua / Honduras border near El Mogotón (2107m) and flows northeast through the mountains of Honduras until it meets Rio Guayape where they merge and become Rio Patuca which continues northeast until it reaches Punta Patuca and the Caribbean Sea.
Rio Santa María begins in the Cordillera Central Range of Panama and flows south then east to the Bahia de Parita, the Golfo de Panamá and then the Pacific Ocean.


The Maya Mountains are located along the coast of the Gulf of Honduras spanning the Guatemala and Belize borders. The main peak is Victoria Peak at 1120m in elevation.
The Sierra Madre Oriental range is the eastern arm of the extensive Sierra Madre range which runs north and south along the entire country of Mexico and into Central America all the way to Honduras. The Sierra Madre Oriental runs along the eastern coast of Mexico, spanning the territories of Coahuila (on the US/Mexico border), Nuevo León, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Hidalgo, and Puebla (and maybe others I didn’t spot). I noticed some volcanos in the range, as well as many rivers feeding into the coastal plains.
The Serranía de san Blas run along the northern coast of Panama, to the east of the Panama Canal. As the coast turns south, the range ends, and the Serranía del Darién continue.

Site and Situation

The situation of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is between the Northern countries of North America and South America. Panama, part of Central America, is the ONLY way to get a boat from the Pacific to the Atlantic (or the reverse) without either cutting through the ice of the Arctic Ocean or around the southern tip of South America through the Straits of Magellan.

The site of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean is quite varied. On the mainland, the north is dominated by a stark desert with little water and few people (although the Sierra Madre Occidental is a bit greener, it is still quite dry). Once you reach past the tropic of cancer, the climate changes for the wetter, and the desert turns to green grass, trees and tropical foliage. The area is characterized by an abundance of mountains, and the towns and cities of central Mexico are nestled in the river valleys. The land narrows (with the Yucatan Peninsula jutting up like a big fin to the north) and the climate turns distinctly tropical as we come to the Central American countries. The terrain is still mountainous, but covered in vast greenery. The landmass continues to narrow until it reaches the Isthmus of Panama which is where the Panama Canal was built. A short way farther down, central America joins up with South America and the country of Columbia.

The Caribbean consists of a conglomeration of islands to the east of Mexico and Central America lying inside (for the most part) the Caribbean Sea. Most of the islands lay in a rough line from the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, straight east, past Florida and then finally curving south as they reach the open ocean of the Atlantic. Cuba is the largest island, and is mainly flat, with some mountains on its eastern tip. The rest of the islands are either very mountainous (those that are of any size) or made from coral reefs, and are flat and usually quite small. The climate is mild, due to the regulating influence of the Sea, but there are many tropical storms and hurricanes that the residents must deal with on a yearly basis.


Are there any countries in Central America that are considered an MDC? If yes, name the country and explain why it is considered an MDC.

The Countries in Central America and the Caribbean that are considered MDCs by the UN are: Barbados, Cuba, Bahamas, Panama, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Belize. These are the countries that score 70% or higher on the Human Development Index which takes into account life expectancy, education, and standards of living. By comparison, the United states is at 91% and Liberia which is at 33%. Mexico is also an MDC, but it’s not part of Central America ;-) This data also does not take into account foreign territories such as Puerto Rico which would otherwise qualify as an MDC.

Speaker Credibility

There are three main factors that determine the credibility of a speaker are trust, expertise, and dynamism. President Obama is a good example for all three factors of credibility. He uses eloquence, eye contact, and speaks with certainty (dynamism). He ignites trust by using his past track record, a personal connection with his audience and stated positive views on god-topics (ha ha) to imply that he cares about the American people’s welfare. President Obama amplifies his own expertise (as a senator and lawyer) with deference to experts (example is the oil spill emergency). An George W. Bush is an interesting example of trust. At first, he used his track record of his upbringing, family ties, religion and southern drawl to gain the trust of the electorate, but after being in office for a while, people began to notice his inability to speak correctly (known colloquially as Bushisms), giving the impression that he was actually not very bright and had gotten his position through knowing the right people. Obama’s stellar speaking skills seem all the brighter as a follow-up to the late president Bush’s more redneck style.

An example of an ad that uses trust are the Windows 7 ads that use “regular family people” to sell the message that you can also be successful if you use the new version of Windows. The ad I cite has a voice-over of a woman as she “creates the perfect family portrait,” demonstrating how easy it is for an average person to perform. As stated in the section on proof by testimony, the audience will react favorably to a message that is delivered by someone who is like them – i.e. they will trust the mom in this ad more than Steve Ballmer or some executive who obviously wants you to buy the product because they will earn more money that way.

An example of an ad that uses expertise is almost any toothpaste ad. The ad I cite (Sensodyne) proclaims that their toothpaste is the recommended by 9 out of 10 dentists. The ad also shows cool diagrams of teeth, and testimony by a dentist, demonstrating that they know more about the structure of teeth than the viewer is likely to, placing them well into the expert category.

An example of an ad that uses dynamism to build credibility is a Geico Ad using their lizard mascot. The Geico gecko has an Aussie accent, and is cute and green. As a plus, the animation of the Geico lizard gives a greater range of facial expressions than would even be feasible for a human actor. The ad I cite as an example actually focuses on this fact, with one of the actors stating, “With all due respect, if I were tiny and green and had a British accent, I’d have more folks paying attention to me too...”

Obama looking for 'whose ass to kick' [Television news broadcast]. (2010, June 8). CNN. Retrieved from
Kurtzman, D. (n.d.). The 50 Dumbest Bush Quotes of All Time [compilation]. Retrieved from
Microsoft. (2011, November 9). Create the perfect family photo [Video file]. Retrieved from
figjunk (poster). (2011, April 3). Sensodyne Dentist Testimonial Ad [Video file]. Retrieved from
602communications (poster). (2010, August 10). Geico: Accent [Video file]. Retrieved from

Discussion: Population

Take a look at pages 28 and 29. Just by looking at these two pages, toss out three things that you find interesting and why.

The similarities between the four most populous regions interested me because I like to see how all of are really looking for the same things: food, good weather, transportation and communication. It also is a good example of environmental determinism. We *can* live almost everywhere, but we gravitate towards certain areas that make life easier.

The fact that few (Europeans) have moved into the wetlands of Brazil (and other wet areas) because of the poor agriculture makes me wonder what would happen if we figure out a way to easily live without farming.

The distinct lines between highly populated and almost no population at all in parts of Asia and Africa. You can see the mountains, national borders and rivers that underlie the reason for the population levels in those areas. (examples: Nile River, Tibetan Plateau, Himalayas, and the China/Russia border)

Look at figures 2.2.1, 2.2.3, 2.3.2, 2.4.1., 2.4.2, 2.4.3, 2.4.4, and 2.4.5. Make a list of the things that surprise you on each figure and pick an item from your list to toss into this discussion.

In figure 2.4.5 (% of population under the age of 15), The United States is quite a bit darker than the other MDCs, indicating that it isn't quite as far along in the demographic transition as some other countries.

Take a look at this seven-minute video, World Population Growth. What surprised you the most about what you saw in the video?

Even though I've seen the graphs and charts, I was surprised at how little the population really changed between the 1AD and the beginning of the industrial era. I guess this shows that the way you tell a statistic can have a huge effect on how that statistic is perceived.

Regarding the demographic transition: What effect did both the industrial and medical revolutions have on the world's population? What are some of the differences between these two revolutions? What is keeping some countries now in stage 2 from moving to stage 3?

The medical and industrial revolutions cut the CDR through advances in technology and scientific understanding of where disease comes from. The industrial revolution came about through an advancement in the thinking of the current MDCs, where the medical revolution has been given to LDCs by the current MDCs. Since the LDCs have not developed their own solution to their stage one issues (epidemics, famine, etc) they have also not developed the cultural shifts necessary to take full advantage of this change in their fortunes. Only time will tell if having a low CDR will spark a mental shift moving these countries into stage 3 where the CBR declines or if they will keep their original cultural norms and continue to reproduce, elevating the world population by staying in stage 2.

Watch this seven minute video, Fighting Poverty with Education, the story of one man's passion to bring education to one of the poorest countries in South America. Consider what life must be like in an LDC. What routines do you participate in in your daily life that a person your age living in an LDC doesn't participate in?

I work hard: I go to school full time and I have a full time job. But, my working does not determine whether I live or die. My country's government has decided that it will not let its citizens die just because they can't (or wont) work. Most LDCs cannot afford to make such a promise, and people there must work hard or starve. In America we value hard work, and we have a belief that if you work hard then you will be successful, we also have a belief that if you are not successful, then you just aren't working hard enough. This is sad when we apply this ideal to LDCs whose inhabitants work a heck of a lot harder than most of us do, for greater stakes and with less certainty of success.

One (sort of) routine I participate in - I live alone. Most young people my age in a LDC would not be able to afford to live alone, and many would not even consider it. I have been reading about individualism vs collectivism in my psychology class, and I see that most LDCs are collectivist in culture. The idea that someone would even want to live alone is an individualist idea. If I were in an LDC, I would probably be married, have kids and be taking care of the house and working rather than living alone, earning a paycheck that I keep for myself and going to school.

View this short video, It Only Takes A Girl. Give an example of a country anywhere in the world that practices harmful traditions against young women and explain why the practices occur.

The easy answer is India, where they give young girls away as child brides ( ).

I'm going to go with a tougher point though and use our own country as an example. Through the use of advertising, entertainment, and social norms enforced at schools, young women are taught

  • to value being beautiful over being smart (I saw a billboard promoting reading, and it had a guy holding a book on math, history and geology and a girl (blond, in a pink dress) holding one book on beauty - this is just one example),
  • to value getting a guy over pretty much anything else ( The Bechdel test is a fun place to start, it's a test that few blockbuster movies pass: are there two named females in the movie who talk about something other than a man? ),
  • that females aren't that great at math / science ( ) even though there is no biological basis to that "fact" (,
  • through toys and video games that are simplistic and teach girls to be mothers, caregivers or fashion models rather than engineers, soldiers, adventurers / explorers, builders or other active "male" roles, and so on. This might not physically harm the young girls in question, and the United States is not the greatest offender, but it is the closest to home. It's easy to point our finger at LDCs and say how horrible they are, but we forget to look at ourselves and realize that we are still holding onto ideals that are harming our society as a whole. Making sure everyone WANTS an education is just as important as making sure everyone has the opportunity.


The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are beneficial to American Society.

According to Hillel Parness, a practicing attorney in New York and a member of the Intellectual Property faculty at Columbia University School of Law, the statutes on which SOPA and PIPA expand are already in effect inside of the United States. The only major change these acts make is to expand those laws to cover domains that reside outside of the country as well as within our borders. “If there was a risk of abuse, that risk has always been there.”

If you accept that copyright law is beneficial to American society, protecting the creations of our citizens, then it follows that SOPA/PIPA, an international extension of these laws, would benefit our society as well.

Fullton, S. M., III. (2011, November 23). Legal Analysis of SOPA / PROTECT-IP: No, It's Not Censorship [Web log post]. Retrieved from Read Write Enterprise:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are not beneficial to American Society.

SOPA and PIPA would mildly benefit (see evidence on next page) the multi-billion dollar industries in question. This would come at the cost of smaller Internet-based companies being harried for allowing their users to post a link to an offending site, to offer search results that point to an offending site or to upload anything that anyone with a lawyer deems worthy of suing over. The only protection that comes between a site accused of infringing a copyright and being wiped off the face of the Internet is a five day grace period where they can write a letter to the court which issued the order explaining how the judge misidentified the site as supporting piracy. This type of law flies in the face of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ a pillar of US law. The accused is denied a trial, and is convicted of a crime without being made aware of the proceedings until the sentence has already been passed.

Stop Online Piracy, H.R. 3261, Sec. 102, 112th Cong. (2011),

Debate Club!

“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” -Joseph Joubert

This quotation was the first thing that greeted me after walking into debate club this afternoon. To me, this really defines the purpose of debate, that of understanding the full spectrum of a topic before declaring the matter settled. Throughout the meeting, we were presented with a variety of topics, some of them were “hot topics” that people tend to take a strong emotional stance about (communism vs democracy). I noticed that the arguments for something that the speaker was strongly against became much more vague, and less defined. This would indicate that the speaker has a strong bias, but has not spent the time to think about or research the opposing view.

Outside the classroom, there was a small debate about the purpose of debate club. One student voiced their opinion that they only wanted to participate in debates about topics that interested them. The regular members of the debate club were speechless for a moment, and someone gracefully acquiesced the question by allowing that this was opinion. It is my opinion that the purpose of debate club is to refine our skills in debate (as well as enjoying the thrill of the mental challenge it provides), and this is done by arguing for things that we strongly disagree with.

Discussion Question #2

The thematic dimension of language describes the way in which words feel when they are spoken or read. We remember things better when they are in a poetic form (not just rhyme, but meter and texture as well) and advertisers use this to their advantage when composing an ad’s copy. Which would you remember better: ‘Eat Kit-Kat Bars because your friends will want to have a bite as well.’ OR ‘Gimme a break, gimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit-Kat Bar!’ If you’ve watched TV at all in the last twenty plus years, you might have caught yourself singing along to that last example. Music, repetition, and simplicity all work together to help you remember the product being advertised.

Another aspect of the thematic dimension of language is using words that sound similar to another word that you want the listener to associate with your message. I think one the common ways to use this form of the thematic dimension of language is in the use of product names. Dr. Pepper and Pepsi both share the word pep as part of their name, reminding the listener that drinking their soda will pep you right up and make you feel better. Did you know that Pepsi’s original name was ‘Brad’s Drink’? I don’t think it would be as popular today if they hadn’t changed it!

Map Exercise: Canada


Peace River: The headwaters are in the Omineca Mountains of British Columbia, formed by the meeting of the Finlay and Parsnip rivers. From there, it flows into Williston Lake, a reservoir filling the river basin. Peace River continues east to the British Columbia border and into Alberta. In the middle of Alberta, it hits the Slave River and ends, by name. Interestingly, the Finlay River (the main source of Peace River) is considered the ultimate beginning of the Mackenzie River, the 12th longest river in the world.)
Assiniboine River: The headwaters are in the southeastern area of Saskatchewan province. From there it flows south to Lake of the Prairies, which straddles the Saskatchewan / Manitoba border. From there, it flows south, takes a 90 degree turn and flows east to Winnipeg and into the Red River, which almost immediately flows into Lake Winnipeg, a huge lake that covers almost 9,500 square miles (or since we're in Canada, 24,500 square kilometers).
St. Lawrence River: This river begins at the edge of Lake Ontario, and follows the border of Ontario, Canada and New York, United States until the town of Cornwall, where it follows the Ontario / Quebec border for a short way until it moves into Quebec proper, and then flows through the cities of Montreal and Quebec, and then finally out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean.
Back River (original name was 'Great Fish River'): The headwaters are in the Northwest Territories, where it flows north and into Nunavit. From there it flows into Lake Garry, and then on north until it reaches the Arctic Ocean.
Fraser River: The headwaters lie in the Columbia Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains) in British Columbia. The river flows north, then turns around and flows south, almost to the British Columbia, Canada / Washington, United States border and then through Vancouver and out into the Strait of Georgia and the Pacific Ocean.


Mackenzie Mountains: This mountain range runs north to south in the Northwest Territories along the border between the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
Monts Notre-Dame: This mountain range runs along the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec Province.
Torngat Mountains: This mountain range occupies the northern most peninsula of Newfoundland, bordering Quebec Province and the Labrador Sea.

Site and Situation

Almost the entire country of Canada lies above the 45th parallel, and a majority of it extends to the 70th parallel (with smaller portions reaching past the 80th). Canada is the northernmost country of the continent of North America, and the northern edge is surrounded by the Arctic Ocean. To the east is the Atlantic Ocean, with the country (yay!) of Greenland not too far away. The southern border is entirely shared with the United States. A short (aprox 800 km) stretch of the southwestern border reaches the Pacific Ocean. The rest of the western border is shared with the United States.
The first thing to know about Canada is that it is a very cold country. The northern half of Canada is covered in vast tracts of uninhabited forests and tundra. The western portion of the country is dominated by the Rocky Mountain range, and is covered by dense forest. The northern portion of the county is comprised of many islands, all covered in tundra and ice. Following the northern coastline of the mainland, an enormous bay is reached which is frozen over for about half the year. The remaining portion of the country is bordered on the east by the Atlantic, and the south by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The southern portion of this region is the most densely populated area of the country, and is covered by hardwood forests, good farmland, and access to the trade through the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes.


Where, in Canada, are the most densely populated areas? Explain why this/these areas are most densely populated.
Generally, Canada is most highly populated in the southern portions of the country. The Arctic circle can be a harsh environment, and so it makes sense that the farther you go from the dark and freezing temperatures, the more people will be living there. More specifically, there are also more people living along the coast, due to the milder climate as well as the access the ocean brings. There is also a higher population density in the central plains. I imagine that it is easier to raise cattle and build roads in the areas where it is flat rather than the mountainous regions surrounding it.

Discussion: Thinking Geographically

Think about global events that have occurred in the past several years. Global events are any events that make an impact worldwide. Describe one such event and in what ways did geography play a role in its importance?

Last year, there was a large earthquake off the coast of Japan. The resulting tsunami was catastrophic for those living in Japan. The waves even reached the coast of Oregon and California where one man was killed as he was trying to photograph the oncoming waves. Beyond the first physical ripple across the Pacific, there was a cultural response as countries from all over the world offered their support. Every part of the world is connected, and an event in one area affects all of the others eventually. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a giant floating island of trash. The tsunami has broken off a chunk of this island and sent it careening away to crash into the coast of California. Another global effect, is one of awareness. The Japanese nuclear power plant that was affected became a warning to other countries in earthquake-prone areas.

Using your atlas or a map found on the Internet, find the city of Montreal, Canada. How would you describe the site of Montreal and also the city's situation? Be very specific and thorough and refer to page 12 and 13 in your text for complete definitions of these two terms. It is imperative that you thoroughly understand these two basic Geographic concepts. Remember that when describing an area's situation, it also includes what makes the area significant.

Montreal spans the Saint Lawrence River, with the main portion of the river flowing to the southeast. Because of this, the land is quite flat and the streets correspondingly regular (inside of the irregular framework of larger roads that follow the contours of the river). Near the center of the main island, there is a bit of a hill which is largely covered by a park. Besides the main channel, there are a few smaller pieces of the Saint Lawrence River that cut through the city, and which are spanned by bridges.
The situation of the city of Montreal is that of southeastern Canada near the Canada / United States border. The major river of the region cuts through the city, and I imagine it was an early source of trade (both informational and economical).

Now let's try something a little closer to home. Using any source you wish, find your city's latitude and longitude. How would you describe your city's site and situation. Again, be very thorough in your explanation of site and situation.

Roseburg, Oregon: 43.23°N 123.35°W

Site: Roseburg is defined by the Umpqua River and the hills that surround it. The city is divided into two by I-5, which runs north and south. On the right side of the freeway, the oldest part of town is in the south, and is comprised of older homes and businesses. To the north is a small neighborhood which used to be the *really nice* neighborhood many years ago, the streets are wide with greenways between them. To the east are hills and a few businesses that line the highway heading towards Crater Lake. The rest of the town on the right side of the freeway is fairly flat, nestled between the hills to the east. To the left of the freeway is a long arm that reaches out to the west and the area known as Garden Valley. This area is comprised of newer homes and businesses.

Situation: Roseburg is in one of the larger river valleys of the area. The surrounding areas are covered in mountains or hills, and unfit for farming. When people ask me where Roseburg is, I tell them: one hundred miles from everything. 100 miles to the west is the coast with the coastal range in between, 100 miles to the east is Crater Lake after travelling through the Umpqua National Forest. 100 miles to the north is the first major city of the Willamette Valley, Eugene. And, 100 miles to the south is the city of Medford, the first major town to the south (almost on the Oregon / California border).

Now to add another dimension to perspective: Please view this very short video, The Sacred Balance. Before going into space, astronauts take extensive geography lessons to learn their Earth from a different perspective. How would you describe the city in which you live from an astronaut's perspective?

If I were an astronaut, looking down at the earth, I don't think I would care that much about looking at my city, it's such a small spot on the globe, and there are so many other places that I could focus on. I've looked at my town on a satellite image though, and it makes me sad, it is a grey blemish on a green backdrop. There, that dead spot, that's what we have created.

Lastly, chapter one discusses several historical theorists and their contribution to geography. Give an example (not discussed in your text) of environmental determinism and possibilism.

An example of these concepts can be seen in our clothing. (Practically) Every culture has a history and traditions surrounding clothing .. everyone wears something. Possibilism describes the adaptations each culture has adopted in their clothing choices. Even though it can be very hot in the Amazon Basin, native tribe members still wear tiny loin cloths in order to preserve modesty. The same thing can be seen on the beaches of our own county. Environmental determinism, on the other hand, describes the ways in which geography (site and situation!) modify the ways in which each culture adapts to their location. I belong to the same culture as those living in Southern California, but I do not wear the same clothes, as I would probably get sick if I went out in the rain wearing shorts, a bikini top and sandals.

SPAR #1: Using Notes

The use of a note card on quizzes would adversely affect learning in our class.

If you accept the premise that the goal of this class is to gain knowledge and skills that we, as students, will be able to utilize for the rest of our lives, it becomes important to look at the long term effect note-taking has on memory recall. Humans have developed a technique for memory management called ‘transactive memory.’ If we realize that a friend of ours knows something, we are less likely to remember it ourselves. This also applies to the ability to look something up online or where we have it written down. In an experiment created by Columbia University, participants were given random trivia to memorize. All of the participants typed the trivia into a computer, but half of them were told that their work would be erased. Recall of the typed material was 40% better in the group who believed that they could not rely on their typed notes to remember the information. Humans are very good at utilizing the knowledge repositories that they have created, whether it is a friend, a search engine, an encyclopedia or notes carefully crammed onto a 5x7 card. But, when it comes down to it, in the real world no one is going to wait while we flip through our notebook looking for the information that we can’t quite remember.

Keim, Brandon. “Search Engines Change How Memory Works.” Wired 14 Jul. 2011. Wired Science. Web. 15 Jan. 2012.

The use of a note card on quizzes would positively affect learning in our class.

Learning is a complex process, and we cannot just press a button to memorize all of our course material. Each of us learn in a slightly different way. For some students, repetition is needed, for others hands on is the only way to go. If note-taking helps a good number of students to remember and retain the lessons in this course, then denying them that opportunity would be detrimental to their learning experience. To test this question, a group of students were presented with a lecture on psychology. Half of these students were allowed to take notes, and the other half were not. After quizzing the students, it was discovered that each group remembered about 40% of the information that was covered. However, when the quality (rather than quantity) of the answers were examined, it was discovered that the students who had taken notes recalled pertinent points, where the non note-taking half recalled information seemingly at random. By taking notes, the students were able to point their brains at the correct information to remember. In this class we are given Power Point slides containing the lectures. Without the incentive to write notes for the quiz, many students will skip taking their own notes for studying, thereby reducing their chances of actually learning the material in this class.

Wax, Dustin. “Writing and Remembering: Why We Remember What We Write.” Lifehack 28 Sep. 2011. Lifehack. Web. 15 Jan. 2012.

Map Excersice: The United States


Columbia River: Headwaters are in Canada (BC), then flows through Washington and then along the border between Oregon and Washington and finally into the Pacific Ocean.
South Platte River: Headwaters are in the Colorado Rockies. It flows through north-eastern Colorado, merging with the North Platte in Nebraska and continues until it hits the Missouri River in Omaha Nebraska.
Potomac River: Headwaters are in Virginia and West Virginia (South and North Branches, respectively). The river itself starts where these two branches meet in West Virginia and then form the border between Maryland and West Virginia as well as Virginia. It then flows through Washington D. C. and into the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Rio Grande: The Headwaters are in southern Colorado, after which it flows south into New Mexico. The river neatly divides the state in half until it hits the New Mexico/Texas/Mexico border. At this point, it follows the Texas/Mexico border (the other way around, really, of course :-) ) until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.


Ouachita Mountains: situated across the border between Oklahoma and Arkansas. The Eastern edge is at about Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sacramento Mountains: situated in south-central New Mexico, they lie north to south between the Pecos River and the Rio Grande.
Brooks Range: This range lies east to west across the north edge of Alaska, and includes many smaller mountain ranges (De Long, Endicott, and Baird).

Site and Situation

The situation of the USA: The majority of the country is contiguous, but also includes a small chain of tropical islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean as well as a northern state which partially lies in the arctic circle. Canada lies to the north, and Mexico to the south, otherwise the country is bordered by ocean. On a global scale, the country is partially isolated from other powerful nations because of the oceans lying between it and the rest of the world. It has also acted as a barrier between the East and West, and have also taken advantage of this arrangement through trade.

The site of the United States is varied in its topology, climate and other characteristics. It consists of almost 4 million square miles in area. The eastern side of the country (bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean) consists of hardwood forests as well as high population density. In the north, the climate is humid and cold, to the south, humid and hot. There is a mountain range (the Appalachians) that runs from the north to the south parallel to the coastline. On the other side of these mountains lies forests and farmland, gradually merging with the Great Plains, an extensive, high altitude prairie that covers the entirety of the central area of the country north and south. These plains eventually reach the Rocky Mountains which extend from the northern to the southern border. On the western side of the Rockies lies various desert areas until another set of mountains are reached (the Sierra Nevada Range and the Cascade Range). These mountains parallel the western coast, and the land between the coast and the mountains are again covered in forests and greenery. To the north lies a separated portion of the country, which consists of mountainous areas of ice and cold. Far out in the ocean lies another portion of the county in the form of a small volcanic chain of tropical islands. The continental divide lies in the Rocky mountains, and many important rivers stem from these mountains.

Discussion: Question #1

What current example of public persuasion might illustrate the tension between freedom of communication and ethical responsibility? How?

The international organization, WikiLeaks, publishes “submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers” to the public through their website (Wikipedia). WikiLeaks is attempting to persuade the public that they really ought to pay more attention to the goals (and the methods used to achieve those goals) that their governments and other institutions actually support. WikiLeaks was partially responsible for the recent uprisings in Tunisia through the publication of US Diplomatic cables (The Daily Mail). Freedom of speech demands that WikiLeaks be allowed to share what they are given, but there are times when the information given out can be dangerous (such as a list of our undercover spies). Although the media has moved on to other stories, WikiLeaks continues to publish the information that they receive, choosing the dissemination of information over keeping potentially explosive revelations under wraps.

I was personally interested in the response that commentators in the media gave to these publications as well as their editor-in-chief, Julian Assange. Many called for Assange to be executed or assassinated, while some suggested that he be given the Nobel Peace Prize (Siddique). Even under the guise of patriotism, it was clear that those with the most to lose were also the most vocal about their ethical condemnation of the tactics used by the WikiLeaks staff.

The Daily Mail. “'First Wikileaks Revolution': Tunisia descends into anarchy as president flees after cables reveal country's corruption.” The Daily Mail 12 Jan. 2011. Mail Online. Web. 12 Jan. 2012.
Siddique, Haroon, and Mathew Weaver. “US embassy cables culprit should be executed, says Mike Huckabee.” The Guardian 1 Dec. 2010. The Guardian. Web. 12 Jan. 2012.
Wikipedia. “WikiLeaks.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 11 Jan. 2011. Web. 12 Jan. 2012.

Discussion: Geographical Mental Mapping

Thinking like a Geographer means that you are aware of your environment. Geographers often participate in an exercise called "mental mapping" which helps a person describe their surroundings. What is your mental map of your neighborhood and the immediate area you refer to as home? Please describe it with enough detail that we can form our own mental images of it.

I just moved to a new apartment, so my mental map of my neighborhood is still sketchy. To the south are the main two roads through downtown (logging trucks use this road). Each of these roads are one-way, so the businesses in between form a sort of super strip of commerce that the rest of my neighborhood sits next to. To the north a couple blocks is the train yard, the river and an almost mountain which forms a very real barrier to the rest of the town. There is only one bridge (to the east) to get around this natural barrier. If you go west, you get to the edge of town and then to the fairgrounds, and no way to get back to the north side of the river.

In the business section of my neighborhood, we have a number of thrift stores, a strip club, a few bars and a sushi joint (that serves arm sized sushi rolls). between the strip of houses and apartments that I live in and the train tracks is a number of warehouses, auction yards and the dairy distribution center.

I usually think of my neighborhood as a group of layers starting from the river and covering the town until they hit the hills on the other side of downtown. The streets are set up to facilitate this idea, as well as the economic and social layers (I live on the poor side of downtown, and there are nice houses on the other side).

I want you to find a current event and explain how the topic of your current event relates to geography.

Airships touted as supply vessels for remote northern communities.

Because of the warming climate, it has become difficult to build the ice roads that are used to deliver supplies to isolated northern Canadian communities. This article discusses an interesting alternative: airships. These ships would carry about 20 tons of supplies and would be more economical than using planes or helicopters. They will be testing models this coming spring, and hopefully have a solution before next winter hits. This news article has to do with geography in a couple different ways. One is the spacial interaction between these remote areas and the more developed areas of Canada. Another is the question of global warming. And still another is the diffusion of ideas and airship solutions described in the article (the conference in Seattle, for example).