Best Comments of 2012

It is the last 12MC post of 2012 and a perfect time to wrap-up the year with a summary article. I decided to follow the example of Steve of Connecticut Museum Quest who featured his 2012 Top Comments. It seemed like an interesting twist, focusing on the audience rather than the articles, so in the time-honored tradition of bloggers everywhere I stole his idea blatantly and unabashedly. It’s OK. I told him I was going to lift it.

I ran into the same dilemma Steve faced. I read every comment posted during the year and that took a long time. I hadn’t necessarily realized or fully appreciated the volume and quality of the input you provided. It took hours, a classic "nice problem to have." It was also quite a remarkable body of work.

I don’t receive as many oddball comments as Steve gets on his more general-interest website. That’s good from a quality perspective, however that also means I don’t have any oddballs to highlight at the end of the year. Well, by definition those who appreciate geo-oddities are probably oddballs, however that doesn’t necessarily make any of us candidates for tinfoil hats. Comments were sane, rational and pertinent.

Articles offering little puzzles generated the most comments. That’s to be expected.

I’d also like to recognize Jon Persky before we get into the meat of the comments. He wrote a guest article as he pondered the shortest road distance between all 48 contiguous United States plus the District of Columbia. I feature about one guest article per year and this year it was Jon. I’m always thrilled to publish guest articles by the way — it doesn’t have to be once per year. Let me know if you have a burning geo-oddity idea that’s too large to fit into a tag-along comment and I’ll be happy to let you expand it into the ultimate comment, a guest article.


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It takes effort and ingenuity to motivate me to actually do something because I’m inherently lazy. Several comments managed to hit that almost impossibly high mark.

A related topic I call "reverse inspiration" probably fits here as a subcategory. That’s where 12MC inspired someone to take a specific action.

  • I started noticing a weird spike in website traffic originating from Cameroon, a place not noted for 12MC visitors. It was Lyn who was in Cameroon on business and knew I’d appreciate the pings. I did! I’d encourage anyone in the audience to do the same whenever traveling to a remote destination. I will definitely notice the surge because I check weblogs daily and obsess over tantalizing anomalies
  • Matthew has never watched the television show COPS. He nonetheless documented a visit to 132 and Bush in Portland, Oregon, and sent photographs. I got to meet Matthew later in the year in person while in Washington state so that was another 12MC highlight.


The Ultimate Solution?

I can uncover only so much information as an armchair writer. I’ve learned the wider 12MC audience almost always knows the answer when I’m stumped.

  • Craig surmised that the surname Austria was Filipino
  • Dave Carroll discovered the source of the weird Potomac River in Oregon queries.
  • Brian Casey clued me in that others already knew the most efficient paths across the United States.
  • January First-of-May; will find the ultimate solution to just about any puzzle I post, returning multiple times with increasingly elegant solutions. This also provided a source of a steady stream of 12MC visits from Russia as a happy byproduct.


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What’s the difference between and Odd Fact and the Wisdom of the Crowd? I don’t have a clue. It’s a fine line. Some of these are interesting observations that I enjoyed immensely that may not have much greater practical significance.

  • Rhodent’s wife has a UK telephone number even though she works from the US.
  • Mr. Burns noted that Easton, Kansas is in Eastern Kansas and Weston, Missouri is in Western Missouri, and they’re only about 12 miles apart.
  • Drake informed us that Lansing, Michigan was founded by a scam artist.
  • Dominique M. discovered a solution for those who fear ferries and bridges that would turn a 40 minute routine drive into a 59 hour adventure.
  • Ken once traveled through four state capital cities in a single day for a work-related trip.
  • Bill Harris referenced a portion of the Erie Canal that later became part of the Rochester, NY subway system. This one may become a future 12MC article so keep an eye on it.
  • Scott knew about perhaps the least used legal crossing between Canada and the United States, a place called Goat Haunt.
  • Steve of the previously-mentioned CTMQ told what happened when automobile accidents occurred directly atop a specific state boundary. Hint: it sometimes involved a coin toss.
  • Ian referenced a completely bizarre situation where someone would have to travel through three different counties to get home, every time.
  • Chris noted that it’s easy to cross from New York to New Jersey from every cardinal direction on dry land. The only thing required is a visit to Ellis Island.
  • I can’t add anything to Philip Sites amazing license plate geo-trivia: "it’s Montana state law to feature the state outline on any plate design."


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Sometimes I just had to smile. Some comments may not have added significantly to the larger body of world knowledge, however, they increased the entertainment value of 12MC!

  • James D. mentioned that the mayor of Eu, France comes dangerously close to being a French obscenity.
  • Joshua D. claimed tongue-in-cheek that the shortest Atlantic to Pacific distance was one block.
  • Peter gets a special mention for understanding my dueling high-brow / low-brow dichotomy by working Octomom into a perfectly pertinent comment.
  • Fritz Keppler amused us with the unfortunately-named Assawoman Bay.
  • Greg commented on the Metric System: "My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I likes it!"
  • David F-H wishes to design a GPS unit that I will undoubtedly purchase. It will count in units of counties.
  • Dale Sanderson thought we should be careful of people from Denver.
  • Craig called-out Leadville for ridiculous exaggeration.
  • The Basement Geographer (his website) gets either first place or last place for the groaner of the year. He felt compelled to post the comment even though he hated doing it, which feels completely rational to me.


Canadian Flag
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the public domain.

I could always count on Brent to wave the maple-leaf flag upon request.


The Twelve Mile Circle has allowed me to met many like-minded geo-geeks, generally on the Intertubes although sometimes in person. I already mentioned meeting Matthew last Summer. There were a couple of other occasions when that happened last year:

  • We held an American Meridian Happy Hour in January. I think we might have to do that again. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year.
  • Steve of CTMQ invited me along on my Craziest Geo-Oddity Adventure Ever. I continue to believe we accomplished a specific feat for the first time in human history, absent evidence to the contrary.


Several 2012 comments may lead to 2013 (or beyond) accomplishments.

  • Peter said that if I join the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut they’ll let me operate the railcards.
  • Greg let me know that "TheReal12MC" would be a great Twitter account (it was still available as of this morning).
  • Mr. Burns will save me from a faux pas when I undertake my crazy five-state adventure in March.

Thank you, everyone, for a great 2012. The Twelve Mile Circle wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without your contributions.

Strange Canadian Bedfellows

I posted an article a few months ago called Strange Bedfellows. It explored country size comparisons included within the CIA World Factbook ("Botswana is about the size of Texas"). It was a great resource, I noted, for readers from the United States because landmasses were compared to US-based equivalents. The Central Intelligence Agency is a unit of the US government so that’s to be expected. However these comparisons would be less helpful to the large preponderance of the world with different geographic references.

Imagine an alternate reality where the CIA shifted from Washington to Ottawa. Let’s ignore all of the meaningful consequences of such an action and consider only the impacts upon the World Factbook. Suddenly Botswana compares more equivalently to Saskatchewan or Manitoba. Why Canada? I have a couple of reasons. First, the Twelve Mile Circle has a surprisingly robust Canadian readership. Second, while I’m not in Canada at the moment, I almost feel like I’m there in spirit (in Wisconsin for the holidays where it has not gone above freezing the entire time I’ve been here, albeit it’s better than one of my previous wintertime trips).

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Creating Canadian comparisons became a tedious, time-consuming process. Fortunately I have nothing but time to kill during a holiday week and I could focus on it without interruption. I’ve shared the results in a public Google spreadsheet file which everyone should feel to peruse, copy or steal without any feelings of guilt. I can’t imagine there are more than a few people who would find this spreadsheet even remotely interesting and a large percentage of them are probably 12MC readers. Knock yourselves out.

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Canadian provinces and territories introduced a number of comparison challenges vis-à-vis US states. There are far fewer of them for one thing. Canada also includes an unfortunate size cluster — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba all weigh-in at around 650k sq km. Then there are huge size drop-offs between Newfoundland & Labrador and New Brunswick, and then again between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately many nations fell right within those ranges so I ended up with weird fractional comparisons like "Jamaica is about one-fifth the size of Nova Scotia" which wasn’t very helpful. I also developed a couple of proxy comparisons for micro-nations. The CIA selected Washington, DC and the National Mall to bounce against the tiniest nations so I converted them to Ottawa and Parliament Hill.

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I compared every land unit referenced by the World Factbook to Canada as a whole, to every province and territory, and to the two proxies. That was easy, just copying a formula down each column on a spreadsheet. It created some interesting facts that you should feel free to mention at your next friendly get-together. You can be smug in knowing that few others realize that Russia is about 114 million times the size of Parliament Hill.

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Then I developed what I considered the most appropriate comparative size descriptions. That was the time-consuming step and admittedly rather subjective. Some sample comps included:

  • Nunavut: DR Congo; Greenland; Saudi Arabia.
  • Québec: Iran; Mongolia.
  • Northwest Territories: Perú; Chad.
  • Ontario: Ethiopia; Bolivia; Mauritania.
  • British Columbia: Tanzania; Nigeria, Venezuela.
  • Alberta, Saskatchewan & Manitoba: Burma; Afghanistan; South Sudan; France; Somalia; Central African Republic
  • Yukon Territory: Spain; Turkmenistan; Cameroon; Papua New Guinea
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Paraguay.
  • New Brunswick: Panama; Sierra Leone; Ireland; Georgia
  • Nova Scotia: Togo; Croatia
  • Prince Edward Island: West Bank; Brunei
  • Ottawa: Samoa
  • Parliament Hill: Holy See (Vatican City) is about three times the size of Parliament Hill.

A special mention goes to reader "Rhodent" who noted the Yukon-Spain comparison in a comment on the previous article.

I’ll consider developing comparisons for other nations if I perceive sufficient interest. Likewise readers can always develop something on their own and link a spreadsheet to a comment.

Totally Unrelated

It took me only two years to finally summon sufficient motivation to convert the 12MC Complete Index from v2 to v3 of the Google Maps API. The map should load a lot faster now.

Christmas Fluff

Who reads 12MC on Christmas Day? Right. It’s just you and me today. Throw another log on the fire and don’t expect anything requiring research.

This leaves me in a bit of a conundrum. I usually post an article on Tuesday. I suppose I could take the day off which would be a sane and rational approach, or find something to throw together and keep the streak alive. I’m in a nice writing pattern so let’s see if I can warm up some leftovers for you and publish something mildly useful anyway.

Findery recently released an embedding capability. I think I’ll link a few items from my account there and call it a day. Much of what I post there happens to be truncated and recycled material from 12MC. Other times it’s completely new ramblings and that’s what I’ll embed. I don’t believe I have much cross-readership between the two sites so this will seem new-to-you even if it’s old. That’s the theory, anyway.

I’m still figuring out various ways to reach the Twelve Mile Circle audience. I’m always willing to experiment, then incorporate the good while discarding the bad. I’m hoping to interact with people in the best manner that interests them, on a broad spectrum between long-winded and brevity.

The domain (this site) provides information in long form. It’s my obvious favorite.

My Google+ account fills my micro-blogging niche. I’m still mulling over whether to add Twitter although I think it would probably just mirror what I put on Google+. Is there any overwhelming audience interest in Twitter? Fair warning, I post mostly useless stuff like my continuing amusement with random internet search queries (e.g., my most recent Google+ update: "I sense that someone is getting a little frustrated judging by this latest genuine 12MC search query: ‘are they only plowing the interstates and highways in des moine and to hell with town roads?‘"). In other words it would be just like every other Twitter feed. You’d only need to follow through Twitter or Google+, not both, if I do decide to add Twitter.

Findery fills a middle niche, not quite blogging and more than micro, so maybe it’s mini-blogging or Blogging Lite? I’m not getting much traction there, though. I love the concept and its firm grounding in geography. Now I need to figure out where I want to take that one in the new year.

12MC also continues to remain completely Facebook free for possibly irrational reasons described previously.

Frankly I’m getting a little concerned that I’m beginning to split too much time and creative energy between various social media sites. Quantity could begin to impact quality if I’m not careful. There are only so many hours in the day and all of these tools need to be fed continuously to grow.

Anyway, enjoy some fluff.