Finding your way around Geoguessr

geoguessrThe illustration at the right isn’t what I have a hard time with on Geoguessr.

I can pretty much figure out where I am within a couple of meters as long as the road signs are in Roman letter.

But I seem to spend a good percentage of my time stuck somewhere in Russia and China bombarded with signs that I can’t translate.

Here’s what I do. I land. I do a 360 degree turn. I look for clues: street address, road markers, phone numbers on trucks and buses, business signs.

Eventually, I’ll find something that’s helpful. Then, do a little Internet cross checking, pull up Google maps, figure out how close you can get to the place in the photo using the street view and mark your location on Geoguessr. I can do this almost everywhere in the world.

Except for Russia and China.

Really. I can find my way around a tiny remote island without a problem. The Marshall Islands, the Canary Islands. Anything that has streets off the African coast. Every country seems to include Roman letters in their signage. Even Japan uses various forms of spelling: characters, its own alphabet and Roman letters. It takes a while longer to figure out where you are, but eventually, you can hit the mark.

And, I guess knowing any Romance language will help. If you can read signs in French, you can figure out signs in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. But it’s not essential. I don’t know any Nordic language, but I still can mark where I am.

At least with the Greeks, the letters are close enough that you can work out in your head what the corresponding Roman letter is.

But the Russians and the Chinese rarely provide those clues. Maybe twice, when I’ve found my way to a Russian highway, I see a sign with Roman letters, and then, even when it’s an odd spelling, I’ll figure it out. But that’s rare.

Minutes before I saw the above cartoon, I was on a roll. I zipped through a town in Iowa, a Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco and not far from Stockholm, and got more than 6,000 points on each.

Then I hit Russia. Twice. Game over.

Here the link: Give it a shot and see where you end up.


Pearl Harbor Day

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor happened 71 years ago today.

When it was over, the death toll was 2,402 American soldiers and sailors and 57 civilians. It was a tactical victory for Japan, but it put America in World War II. And that would lead to the end of Nazi Germany and its Axis allies.

Life in a Day

I had a movie preview for “Life in a Day” saved on my computer for some reason, so I checked out the movie listings today to see if it was playing locally. Nope.

I figured I could go to a place that sells DVDs and buy it. Nope.

Now I see it’s on YouTube, free of charge.

This is a look at the world on July 24, 2010. Just a normal day on the planet.

Failed states

Foreign Policy magazine put up a fascinating listing last month ranking failed states, or nations on the brink of collapse. There are a number of stories on why states are failing (Somalia clocks in at No. 1) and details on the nations in decline.

Here’s a chart based on data from on the states in critical condition and practically destined to fail compared with the United States (click to enlarge):

The scary part of this is that the U.S. isn’t even the most stable nation in the world. We come in at No. 159. According to the Foreign Policy ranking, the most stable nation on the planet is Finland. Its rank is 177.

The entire Foreign Policy package is worth reading. But be prepared. There are many graphic details on how bad things really are. Some people really do live in Hell.

Border patrols

Here’s a map of what are supposed to be U.S. interventions around the world since the end of World War II.

Seriously? We haven’t done anything in Canada or Mexico? In Mexico’s case, doesn’t the War on Drugs count? It’s right there in the title. We’re at war. Mexico supplies drugs.

Anybody have any idea what we could have been doing in Australia? Everywhere else seems to make sense, but what secrets could koalas and kangaroos have been hiding?

(A little research, and it looks like it had something to do with influencing an election during Nixon’s term in retaliation for the Aussie PM’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Learn something new every day.)

Via Informed Comment.

The Fukushima 50

No matter where you stand on the subject of nuclear energy, you have to keep in mind that when something goes seriously wrong, there are extremely brave people who are aware that as they take action to stop a disaster, they are exposing themselves to lethal doses of radiation.

It happened at Chernobyl (it’s hard to believe that happened 25 years ago next month). And it’s happening today at Fukushima in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami caused nuclear disaster.

The U.K.’s Daily Mail had a story last week on the Fukushima 50: a group of workers who stayed behind to get control of the situation. There are more people involved now, but many of these people will die because they put the lives of others before their own.

The Fukushima Fifty – an anonymous band of lower and mid-level managers – have battled around the clock to cool overheating reactors and spent fuel rods since the disaster on March 11.

Five are believed to have already died and 15 are injured while others have said they know the radiation will kill them.

The original 50 brave souls were later joined by 150 colleagues and rotated in teams to limit their exposure to the radiation spewing from over-heating spent fuel rods after a series of explosions at the site. They were today joined by scores more workers.

Japan has rallied behind the workers with relatives telling of heart-breaking messages sent at the height of the crisis.

A woman said her husband continued to work while fully aware he was being bombarded with radiation. In a heartbreaking email, he told his wife: ‘Please continue to live well, I cannot be home for a while.’

One girl tweeted in a message translated by ABC: ‘My dad went to the nuclear plant, I’ve never seen my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you. Please dad come back alive.’

The nuclear options

Color photograph of the Three Mile Island nucl...

Three Mile Island (Image via Wikipedia)

A couple of notes concerning nuclear power as the Japanese continue to deal with their earthquake/tsunami related catastrophe.

This linked Web site, the MIT NSE Nuclear Information hub, is maintained by the students of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, and gives news, explanations and details of what’s currently happening at the Fukushima Nuclear plants.

Now if you’ve been following the details of the disaster, you’ve noticed that the news media have been making comparisons to the Fukushima situation and the 1979 nuclear nightmare at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

I’ve actually had some experience with TMI. I moved to Harrisburg in August 1979, several months after the March emergency, and worked in government as a spokesman. Part of the job involved keeping track of what was going on during the monitoring and cleanup of radiation on the island, which wasn’t that far from the state capital. I actually was at the nuclear plant in the early 1980s on the day they officially started venting radiation. The plant personnel gave visitors, who included the governor of Pennsylvania, plastic yellow hard hats and radiation badges. At one point in the tour, our guide pointed up to a metal cylinder, kind of like a smoke stack, and said they were venting through the thing we were standing under. At the end of the tour, they took the hats and the badges. Some time later, I received a notice that said I wasn’t exposed to radiation.

This is a roundabout way of saying that a comparison of Fukushima to TMI is unfair to Fukushima. In Japan, the plant withstood one of the strongest earthquakes in recorded history, then was hit by a tsunami that battered it with waves of up to 30 feet (almost twice as high as what the plant was built to withstand, and it managed to keep things together for a couple of days before things started to fall apart. But they’re putting up a fascinating and innovative disaster prevention effort. At Three Mile Island, incompetent technicians couldn’t read their dials and thought safety measures they had screwed up were working fine. Then, they got tired of listening to alarm bells going off (they thought it was a short circuit, and didn’t understand that a valve needed to cool the reactor was shut), so they turned off the alarms and let things fall apart for a few hours.

The Japanese are dealing with a natural disaster that no one could have imagined and no one could have prepared for … and they are getting things under control. The Americans had incompetent people in charge of something potentially deadly that they couldn’t understand and created a disaster that never should have happened.

Meanwhile, if reading the above MIT blog is too complicated, here’s a cartoon that explains things pretty well:

‘The human toll’

Here’s how CNBC‘s Larry Kudlow reserved himself a room in Dante’s fourth circle of Hell (from Vanity Fair):

After the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan failed to induce a market nosedive, CNBC’s Larry Kudlow expressed his relief in terms that seemed to appall even his fellow cheerleaders for capitalism: “The human toll here,” he declared, “looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.”

Click this link to see the words coming out of his mouth.