Sunday, April 24, 2005

Odds and Ends

Chester is back with a new post about the dramatic repulse of an attack on a Marine outpost in Qusabayah, which is on the Syrian border. He asks why the media doesn't give Marines credit for victories and suggests that asymmetric coverage is the result of high expectations from the USMC. In the same way that only 'dog bites man' is news; he argues that only a Marine defeat will merit front page coverage.

BTW, I subscribed to the Keyhole mapping service for $30 a year. It has very uneven coverage of the world. There's almost no detail for large parts of the world, such as for example, Latin America and extremely good detail for certain others. Maybe that will improve with time. You can zoom in on the Out of Town News kiosk in Harvard Square but can't see any detail of San Jose in Costa Rica.  Fortunately, it has fair coverage of Iraq and other areas in the Middle East. For example, the image below is of Qusabayah, the scene of Chester's post. The yellow line is the Syrian border, the blue line is a GIS overlay of the road. One of the nice things you can do with it is 'tilt' the image and boost up the contour contrast so that terrain features stand out more, as you can see below. Because Keyhole hasn't got a place-name database search engine and takes a long time to build up an image, even with with broadband, it isn't very good for wide geographical surveys. So I normally pair it up with Microsoft Encarta, which allows placename search and gives the lat/long coordinates under the cursor. After finding the lat/long in Encarta, you can use instruct Keyhole to 'fly to' the point. But what you get when there is Keyhole data is extremely useful. You can see the actual road to the northeast of the town, which is not exactly coincident with the GIS road.

Also, there's an interesting site up on Chinese affairs in general run by Bruce Chang called Naruwan Formosa. His latest post is about France, China and Taiwan. Speaking of Taiwan, there's very little Keyhole data for the island and its environs!