In which the counties of Iowa try to get back in my good graces by amusing me


Yeah, so, that thing where I was fed up with that double-stack county in Iowa last week? That’s Kossuth County and there’s stories behind it.

Map of Iowa showing the divisions for counties, which are mostly fairly uniform and nearly rectangular counties. On the northern boundary is one county, highlighted in orange, that is double the height of all the others in its row, but the same width.
Not depicted: either Armstrong County, South Dakota, the first of which was a thing from 1873 to 1879 in what’s now southeast South Dakota and the second of which was a thing from 1883 through 1952 in the central part of South Dakota, because South Dakota has got not much to do with Iowa apart from sharing letters such as ‘a’ and ‘o’.

So Kossuth County had been the lower half of this. In 1857 it absorbed the northern county, Bancroft County, because it turned out the whole area was wetlands and it wasn’t any good for farming. That’s all fine and that’s like the first joke I would make about it. But you know what they say about never using your first joke about something? (They say don’t use your first joke about something.) Well, in 1870 they (Iowa) carved a county out of the northern part of that again. They didn’t just call it Bancroft County II: The Secret Of Curly’s Ooze, though. They named it Crocker County. And this didn’t work because it turned out Iowa’s constitution prohibited the creation of any new counties smaller than 432 square miles, and Crocker County was, so the Iowa Supreme Court voided it the next year. Anyway, 1871: bad year for the Paris Commune and north-central Iowan counties.

In which I am jolly well fed up with the counties of Iowa


OK, so I was looking at Wikipedia’s page about the counties of Iowa for the usual reason and then this bit of nonsense caught my eye.

Map of Iowa showing the divisions for counties, which are mostly fairly uniform and nearly rectangular counties. On the northern boundary is one county, highlighted in orange, that is double the height of all the others in its row, but the same width.
The map here by the way I didn’t just rip off of Wikipedia. I went to Iowa’s Geographic Information Services Department So Far As I Can Tell and got their scans based on the 7.5′ topographic quadrangle maps they have. So that’s the level of crankiness I am bringing to this. Yes, yes, I know what you’re wondering and according to the metadata, this map “encompass’ [ sic ] the Iowa-Nebraska Compact of 1943” so don’t worry.

So, look, Iowa. Either have a pattern for your counties, or don’t have a pattern. Don’t give me this nonsense of a bunch of nice little orderly rows and columns and then just toss in a double-height county like that. Furrfu. Re-work this and come back when you’ve fixed the issue.

A Quick Little Note To My Satellite Navigator Map Update Software


You … want to keep running in the background, Garmin Express application? In case I need a day-zero update on the roads? Really?

Look, I appreciate your hustle. Really. It’s just, like, you notice I’m only this week downloading a map from after 2014, right? I’m just saying, I’m pretty sure I can improvise around any problems until I specifically need you to update. Just, like, go to sleep about 2023 or so.

Today’s Update on How My Brain Is Trying To Destroy Me


Me, interacting with coworkers:

“So even if we were able to use Google Maps in the way we want this will not give us adequate aerial photography metadata. And while none of our clients have — to my knowledge — asked about this metadata that is nothing more than our good luck. When they recognize they need this, we are not going to have answers. We need to improve our geographic information services capacity now, before the storm.”

Me, in my head, in the style of the Ramones, on endless repeat:

o/` Gland gland glandgland
o/` Gland gland gland glandgland
o/` I wanna be sebaceous! o/`

Today’s Baffling Distraction In A Rankin/Bass Animation


Sorry, it’s the time of year I can’t do anything because I’m busy watching Rankin/Bass animated specials again. Today’s distraction: noticing in The Year Without A Santa Claus, and the scene where Santa talks about “by my charts and maps!” So he stands over by his charts and maps. From this I learn that Santa uses the Mercator projection for his work. Defensible given how much navigation work he has to do, certainly. Although I would have expected him to use something centered on the North Pole, you know, his entire base of operations, which is located at one of the only two points in the world that can’t be rendered on a Mercator map. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: what about a transverse Mercator projection? Nuh-uh, thank you, who here is watching the special instead of whatever it was I was supposed to be doing today? Exactly.

The Things I Learn From Looking At A Map


So it turns out there’s an 8th Avenue here in Lansing. Also an 8th Street. They don’t connect. They’re not near one another. They’re both north-south streets. And if you extended either, they’d pass less than one city block away from one another, but they wouldn’t touch. 8th Avenue is a tiny street, maybe two blocks long. 8th Street used to be named Kerr Street until, legend goes, its residents got fed up with how trolley passengers would laugh at being told they’d reached the “Cur Street” stop, and wanted to live somewhere that didn’t suggest they were mongrel dogs. So, in short: the heck?

Google Maps path from 8th Avenue in Lansing, mostly south but a little bit west (after some jogs) to 8th Street in Lansing.
And a special “thank you” to the team of elite, highly-paid Google imagineers who made sure Google Maps spent so much time correcting my every reference to “8th Avenue, Lansing, MI” to “8th Street, Lansing, MI” no matter how many times I entered it, no matter how many times I centered the map on 8th Avenue, and no matter in how much I write it in all capital letters so they would know I really meant it and was quite cross. Your prize may be collected inside this pit of wolverines who’ve been informed that you want to hear EVERYTHING IT IS POSSIBLE FOR MORTAL BEINGS TO KNOW about Rick and Morty.

Statistics Saturday: An Inaccurate Map Of Singapore


A map of New Jersey's counties, each one labelled as a different world city, eg, Cairo, Yokohama, Hyberabad, or of course Perth.

Yes, that bit about “Perth” is to amuse myself and like fourteen people who remember Usenet.

Source: Two Sides of the Moon, David Scott, Alexei Leonov, Christine Toomey.

The Most Perfect Sentence I Have Ever Seen In Print This Week


So I was reading Seymour I Schwartz’s The Mismapping of America, which as you inferred from the title is all about the challenges in making an integrated-circuit design and surrounding circuit board that would be lightweight and reliable enough to serve as the Apollo Guidance Computer for the moon landings. In the last full chapter Schwartz discusses the history of mapping the Great Lakes and how we got around to having two Lake Superior islands — Isle Phelipeaux and Isle Pontchartain — which define part of the boundary between the United States and Canada despite neither actually in fact existing. Here “neither” refers to Lake Superior and to the United States, which should be a considerable relief to everyone but the mapmakers. And now consider this following sentence, about the late-1680s exploration reports by Louis, Baron de Lahontan et Hesleche, of the Fox River in what we now think of as Wisconsin.

Lahontan’s text includes an extensive, although improbable, description of domesticated beavers in the area.

And now try to tell me that sentence hasn’t caused you to pause in your day’s worries and allow a gentle, delighted smile to cross your face. You can’t do it, and for good reason. I thank whatever twists and turns of fate led Seymour I Schwartz to the point of writing such a delightful sentence. It’s rare for fourteen words to do so much for the human condition.

WaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaAAAAAaaaaiiiiiIIIIiiiiIIIIIiiiiIIIIiiiit a minute


In what way is Iowa part of the “Great Lakes Region”? Is there even a square foot of Iowa that drains into anything that touches a Great Lake? (No.) The heck, Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region? Your tales of how 1940s Iowans imagined telling Martians how great the place was and also write poetic odes to the state are fine and all that but if “touches a state that’s actually connected to a Great Lake” puts something in the Great Lakes region then Vermont is in the Great Lakes region for crying out loud. And they’re not. They have a pretty darned good Lake but no. The heck, people?

Yeah, this took me a while to work out but I never said I was on the debate team back in high school, now did I? Also I wasn’t. I was on the physics team. We didn’t have to deal with Iowa or any Great Lake.

In Which I Learn A Sad Fact About Iowa’s State Highway Map of 1947


So first of all, I discovered that the Iowa Department of Transportation has put what looks like all the Official State Highway Maps it’s ever issued up on its web site. So if you ever want to know how you might get from Des Moines to … Some … Other Moines, Iowa, using only the marked highways of 1922, there you go. By there I mean to one or the other Moines. Wait, they have a county named Grundy? How many Iowa counties do share names with Archie characters, anyway? Well, not my business.

But the sad thing. That story I had read about in Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region? About a Martian who comes to Earth looking for the best the planet has to offer and gets told to go to Iowa in a non-sarcastic manner? Overblown. The back of the 1947 map does talk about showing a Martian the best of Earth, but it’s not a story. I was so hoping for a cartoon with a lovely Prototype Gidney And/Or Cloyd looking at cornfields and zipping off in his flying saucer to tell fellow Martians about this, and yes I know Gidney and Cloyd were from the Moon thank you, but no. That they have is a story about the way this could be a story. And I want to quote it because I know I was giggling for a good while about what I like to think you were too and I should let Iowa’s enthusiasts have their chance.

We call it Iowa

Some day, when the mystery of space is no longer a mystery and voyages between planets are successfully accomplished, a neighbor from Planet Mars may visit Planet Earth. Should he do so, doubtless he will be curious to learn the way of the living creatures that are in ascendancy on Planet Earth. It is certain that in due time he will be directed to the United States of America, there to behold a land and a people filled with imperfections but, nevertheless, enjoying the greatest advances yet made upon this planet toward a comfortable and pleasurable existence.

Should all this come to pass, our neighbor from Mars is almost certain to find these United States of America very bewildering. In our great cities he will find the triumphant steel and masonry achievements of our builders within a stone’s throw of slum districts where human beings must live without hope of quiet and comfort and cleanliness, where are are no flowers or birds or grass or trees or open spaces. Is this the best this planet has to offer? In other sections of this land of ours he will travel, league upon league, through areas where living conditions are primitive and a meager and stunted existence is all that has been achieved. Is this the good life that he has come so far to see? Is there nowhere within our borders an area where our Martian neighbor may be shown a comprehensible segment of the best that Planet Earth, through the ages, has succeeded in evolving?

There is. We call it Iowa. It is located near the heart of the Nation. Its area and population are each slightly less than two percent of that Nation. Nature has favored it with a temperate climate, ample rainfall and productive soil; natural resources that attract thoughtful, industrious people who expect to work for a living and who have reason for confidence that their efforts will be rewarded. Of such fibre were our forebears, emigrants from many lands. Of such fibre are the more than two and one-half million people now dwelling within our borders.

In today’s complex social order we are all specialists. Through the centuries we have found it efficient for the individual or group to learn to do certain things well, and to exchange the resulting products of their efforts for the surplus products of other specialists. In Iowa we are primarily specialists in the production of food. The one million Iowans, for whom the farms of Iowa are home, produce the food consumed by many times their number. No other like number of people, dwelling upon a like area of the earth’s surface, are equally successful specialists in the art of food production. And nowhere on this earth is there greater opportunity for a satisfying life than on the farms of Iowa.

Sixty percent of our people dwell in our cities and towns. They too are specialists, but in many different and equally essential fields. Among these are found the usual quota in the professions and in the retail and service fields Many are engaged in processing and marketing the products of the farm; others in the manufacture and distribution of the equipment and suplies used by their farmer customers. While the major part of the industrial development of the State is closely related to its basic industry, Agriculture, the manufacturers of the State have won pre-eminence in other widely diversified lines, such as pearl buttons, road-building equipment, and washing machines. In recent years, several of the nation’s largest corporations have chosen Iowa for the location of important manufacturing branches. Here they find better living conditions and lower living costs for employees than in the crowded industrial areas. Undoubtedly these conditions are conductive to the friendly employer-employee relationship that is so essential to a successful industrial employee.

Yes, Good Neighbor from Mars, in a day’s drive over our highways or in a few hours by plane, we can show you an area that is emblematic of the best thus far developed on this Planet Earth. we expect to make it better. WE CALL IT IOWA.

So my impressions: (1) Did a different person write each paragraph? Because it seems like they lost the Martian thread along the way there. And (2) So the takeaways of what Iowa specializes in are:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Pearl buttons
  3. Road-building equipment
  4. Washing machines

So (3) I think this means my grandparents put together were Iowa? I don’t understand it, but there’s no arguing with the lovely line-art illustration of tall, barely-windowed buildings with smokestacks. It’s all right there.

My Takeaways From This Book About Mapping


So here’s what I’m going to really remember from this 350-page book about Mapping in Michigan and the Great Lakes Region,, a history of mapping Michigan and the Great Lakes region:

  • There’s a couple of square miles in the upper peninsula of Michigan that aren’t in the Great Lakes watershed, while the rest of the state of course is.
  • Iowa’s official State Highway map for 1947 included on the back a story about a Martian seeking the best that Earth has to offer and being told to visit Iowa what with how “Nature has favored it with a temperate climate, ample rainfall, and productive soil; natural resources that attract thoughtful, industrious people who expect to work for a living and who have reason for confidence that their work will be rewarded”.
  • Michigan’s 1942 state highway map mentioned in a tire-saving blurb that “many roadside parks found `just around the corner’ from every community are expected to become more popular than ever” and apparently in 1942 “just around the corner” was such slangy talk it had to be safely cordoned off from a regular old sentence about how nice a park can be.
  • Iowa’s 1949 map included a poem titled In This State Called Iowa all about the garden that God was building in it.
  • When Michigan first started issuing state highway maps, in 1919 and the 1920s, the state prepared updated maps every two weeks, which seems like a lot even if they were like doubling the number of paved roads every two weeks in that era.

Statistics Saturday: Fake Charts By Type


Chart types: Pie Charts, Line Graphs, Bar Graphs, Pictographs, Spiral Graphs, Flowcharts, and Stem-and-Leaf Plots which ARE TOO a thing for real. But barely real.
Spiral charts are the ones that are really pie charts except the radius gets bigger or smaller for some reason and I don’t know but Florence Nightingale used this to explain to Parliament that people kept dying in the Crimean War because nobody was trying “medicine” and “sanitation” on people who were shot and Parliament could understand that subtle concept better if it was pictures. We’ve come so far since then.

Not included: maps where someone made the hilarious political joke of showing the last election’s results exactly match the results of where supervillain Lord Destrostecles rampaged through with his Stupid Ray last year. But we appreciate their contributions to things that aren’t really comedy or satire or commentary or anything besides an argument on social media.

Statistics Saturday: The Size of Rhode Island in terms of Football Fields


“Length” is here taken to be longitudinal, east-west, distance; “Width” that to be latitudinal, north-south, distance. “Height” is that normal thing.

The dimensions of Rhode Island as measured by an (American) football field, with the long dimension (120 yards) running east-to-west:

Dimension Football Fields
Length 1772
Width 888
Height 4940

The dimensions of Rhode Island as measured by an (American) football field, with the long dimension (120 yards) running north-to-south:

Dimension Football Fields
Length 788
Width 1999
Height 4940
A map of Rhode Island, with a grid spaced to roughly the proportions of a football field superimposed on it.
Rhode Island (yellow) against a grid of football fields (not to scale).

  1. Yes, I’m including Block Island.
  2. I’m including the end zones.
  3. Football field artificial grass is apparently 5 cm tall, so I’m supposing that to be the standard height of the grass on the field.
  4. Only land points of Rhode Island are being included, thus, the westernmost extent is at Napatree Point.
  5. If there’s any part of Rhode Island that’s below sea level I don’t know it.

Another View Of The United States


Based on the graphics I see passed around the friends of my Twitter feed, it’s really popular to make maps that equate states of the United States (America) to nations of the world, in terms of population, or gross domestic product, or area, or what have you. And since lists of statistics are unmistakably the most popular thing I write around here, let me get in on the action. For your convenience, here’s a list of the fifty certified United States matched up with one of the world’s nations that has just as many letters in the name.

United State Matches Nation
Alabama Uruguay
Alaska Belize
Arizona Burundi
Arkansas Kiribati
California Kyrgyzstan
Colorado Malaysia
Connecticut Cook Islands
Delaware Dominica
Florida Lebanon
Georgia Georgia
Hawaii Latvia
Idaho Japan
Illinois Mongolia
Indiana Romania
Iowa Peru
Kansas Mexico
Kentucky Portugal
Louisiana Nicaragua
Maine Qatar
Maryland Slovenia
Massachusetts Cayman Islands
Michigan Paraguay
Minnesota Venezuela
Mississippi Philippines
Missouri Slovakia
Montana Tunisia
Nebraska Barbados
Nevada Greece
New Hampshire Turkmenistan
New Jersey Singapore
New Mexico Argentina
New York Estonia
North Carolina United Kingdom
North Dakota Sierra Leone
Ohio Mali
Oklahoma Honduras
Oregon Jordan
Pennsylvania United States
Rhode Island Saint Helena
South Carolina Virgin Islands
South Dakota Switzerland
Tennessee Macedonia
Texas Haiti
Utah Oman
Vermont Nigeria
Virginia Djibouti
Washington Bangladesh
West Virginia Guinea-Bissau
Wisconsin Lithuania
Wyoming Jamaica

I just hope that someone finds this list and discovers how very much time it saves having it on hand.

Oh, I should have made this a picture, shouldn’t I? Too bad.

From My Visit To Dream Canada


Somewhere along the border, the long latitudinal part anyway, there’s this remarkably charming monument to the spot where, apparently, my brain thinks in that some enormously long-running story which in the X-Men backstory started just after World War II, got started. It’s even labelled as the point where some kind of WorldPlot began, whatever that is. It’s also got a nice map showing all the nations of the world which came together — Canada, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Australia, China, really, a whole lot of the world and 44 of the 48 United States (as I remember, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon prominently refused to participate) — for whatever this purpose was. Made for an inspiring map of countries and states outlined in a pleasant blue.

Mind you, the historical marker maps are just offensively overpriced. I don’t know what WorldPlot is, exactly, but the park isn’t that big and there’s no way that it’s worth C$45.99 to have a pamphlet that explains it all. Maybe the park is just a big fundraising scam for whatever the WorldPlot is, I don’t know, but you’d think after nearly seventy years they’d be done with it already. Anyway, there’s lots of other things nice about Dream Canada, probably, but I had to get up.

In Response To A Horrifying Link On Wunderground.com


No, I will not check your Interactive Tornado Map, and what is wrong with you that you think the words “Interactive Tornado Map” could ever be a soothing combination in a sentence? I want tornadoes in the non-interactive form pioneered by Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton wherein they appear only in movies that I still haven’t seen. And I say that as if not seeing Twister were some kind of point of pride, instead of the second-most minor of my life accomplishments, after only “not having eaten at Taco Bell”.