- Lessons from the first year of
- Russia is big.
Canada is also big, but most of its area is unpopulated and pictures are
few and far between.
By contrast, Siberia actually has a fair number of people sprinkled across
it and is surprisingly well photographed.
(Also, by land area, Canada is actually #4 in the world, not #2.)
- China is big.
Also, as you might expect from the most populous country on Earth, pretty
much every time the algorithm landed in China, there was a settlement
It was similarly a given that any time it landed in India there would be
a settlement nearby, but India is much smaller than China.
It may be the 7th-largest country in the world, but there is a huge
gap between #6 and #7: #6, Australia, is more than 2½ times
- China is as polluted as you think.
Even to someone who grew up in Southern California, it was alarming
to look at random pictures of China and see how the subjects were almost
invariably swallowed up in
thick pinkish-gray murk.
- Brazil is big.
It's larger than the contiguous U.S.
However, a fair amount of it is covered with very poorly photographed
Sadly, this may not be an issue for too much longer, as most of the time
the algorithm landed in the Amazon rainforest, deep branching scars
ran through the frame.
- The Sahara is big.
It is also better photographed than sub-Saharan Africa.
The South American jungle is exhaustively documented compared to its
- Australia is even emptier than the statistics suggest.
Its population is concentrated in the state and national capitals;
outside those, its population density is almost exactly one person per
square kilometer — one third the population density of
Siberia, and less than that of Siberia even with all Siberian cities
When you randomly pick a spot in Australia, it's pretty much guaranteed
to be a barren stretch of outback.
- If Antarctica really did look like geotagged pictures make it look,
it would be a very interesting place!
Lush forests, rolling grasslands, sunny beaches, and of course gorgeous
coastal cityscapes all over the place, right down to the South Pole.
Maybe after global warming really kicks in.
For now, the lesson is that a lot of people don't know how to geotag.
- There's a whole lot of ocean out there.
The queue for 2014 is nearly full already — I keep about a forty-week buffer — and it's been interesting to see how things have incrementally changed since the beginning of the year. More pictures are getting geotagged these days, so while it's still mostly scenery and landmarks, there are a few oddities in store.
Among the odder places the algorithm picked in 2013:
A resort in Namibia where Angelina Jolie apparently stayed before
heading up the road to give birth
A chaotic cemetery in the middle of the Chilean desert
A monument in Kazakhstan to a type of long-necked sheep
A geothermal plant south of Mexicali
An art installation in the middle of the Sahara!
A somewhat kitschier piece of art playing on the name of its location:
The tallest chimney ever built! (It's in Kazakhstan and dates to the
- Also from the Soviet era, and by far the most popular item of the year,
a monument to the 24th Tank Corps
Industrial dystopia in Saudi Arabia.
I was also struck by
this… quarry?… in Nigeria
- I think the biggest metro area the algorithm pulled up was Montevideo,
Uruguay; it landed in
- At Antarctica's Pole of Inaccessibility is
an abandoned Soviet research station that is now just a bust of
Vladimir Lenin sticking out of the snow at the bottom of the world
- I was really looking forward to seeing how people would react the day
the algorithm managed to pull up
a dinosaur. (From a dinosaur theme park in Poland)
- Did you know that there's a place in Tajikistan called
"The Districts of Republican Subordination"?
A Uyghur knife factory
A temple in India devoted to rats, and home to thousands of them; I
saw some pictures of the inside and came close to retching
- Possibly the most memorable picture of the year was what appears to be
a Nigerian slum built around an open sewer. A reminder that even the
very poor in the U.S. are, by global standards, quite rich
- You know that when the location tag includes phrases like "Free Zone"
and "buffer strip"
the picture is likely to be something
- It's always fun when the thing lands on
a tiny little island — click through to the map and see how
unlikely that was
- Without the human figure, I would have no idea what the hell was going on in this picture from Severny Island. Meltwater running through a glacier, I think?
- Russia is big. Canada is also big, but most of its area is unpopulated and pictures are few and far between. By contrast, Siberia actually has a fair number of people sprinkled across it and is surprisingly well photographed. (Also, by land area, Canada is actually #4 in the world, not #2.)
- Google auto-completes for the phrase "humans with":
- shark teeth
- cat eyes
- two heads
- Phoenixy writes: "I like the expression of Benjamin Franklin on the
hundred dollar bill. He looks like he's about to admonish you. 'You
shouldn't spend this on whores. I mean, that's what I would spend it on,
but you really shouldn't.'"
- I was looking for something in my closet and happened to pick up the
"ultra-light" computer I bought back in 2004.
Even though I'd already taken the hard drive out, it was startlingly
I tried to pick it up one-handed, thinking that it would weigh about what
my 2010 netbook weighs, and I almost pulled something.
- I was down in San Diego and dialed up the modern rock station,
91X's call letters are XETRA-FM, and like XTRA-AM, the "Mighty 690"
that I listened to as a kid, it's based in Tijuana.
I was surprised to find that the commercial breaks on 91X were full
of public service announcements, in English, delivered by people with
American accents, on behalf of "the Government of the Republic" —
the "Republic" in question being Mexico.
They touched on topics like the importance of saving up for school fees
and explained how to report government officials for trying to buy your
99% of the discussion of these on the Internet seems to consist of
xenophobes complaining about them, but I liked them!
They were like transmissions from a parallel universe where Mexico hosted
a vast community of American immigrants who'd been granted citizenship but
who hadn't assimilated enough to speak Spanish.
(I guess that actually is a pretty good description of Texas circa 1835.)
- Rest assured that 2010 Lyttle Lytton Found Division "winner" Rick
Reilly remains as hacktacular as ever: "Judging stars from afar isn't as
much fun as getting to know them."
I'll just get right on that then, Rick!
- I was watching some Rifftrax shorts and one popped up called "Seat
Belts: The Lifesaving Habit," copyright 1986.
Not only did it feature the
we had at the time, but also our
- Speaking of really old technology: why did animated GIFs suddenly
become so popular?
They've been around since 1989!
They only allow 256 colors and consequently often look terrible!
Animated PNGs are a thing — I'm looking at one right now.
Why didn't they take over the world?
Seriously, wasn't GIF stone cold dead as a format from like 2000 to
Are VHS tapes going to make a comeback in a few years?
- Hey, let me know what sorts of topics you'd like to see these Calendar
articles cover in 2014.
Fill this out: