Skewed Perspective

On September 24, 2014 · 10 Comments

There was a time in the early days of Twelve Mile Circle when I used to devote entire articles to differences in distances that didn’t seem plausible, although of course the actual measurements didn’t lie. For example, sticking with the Twelve theme, the twelfth article I ever posted on 12MC all the way back in November 2007 dealt with a whole list of state capitals located closer to southwestern Virginia than to its own capital in Richmond. I loved those little counterintuitive notions although I haven’t posted any in a long time probably because they’re kind-of mindless.

I recalled some of my Riverboat Adventures the other day while speaking with some friends and remarked how crazy-long it took to drive across the entire length of Tennessee. We drove through only two states on the way back, Tennessee and Virginia, and it took something like thirteen hours. That prompted me to hit the maps and resurrect the long-neglected genre.

Driving from Memphis

Mud Island
Memphis. My own photo.

The Tennessee leg of our return followed Interstate highways from Memphis to Bristol, specifically I-40 and I-81. I used one of my favorite mapping tools to create a circle around Memphis that extended to Bristol. That’s where the fun began. Memphis was closer to Oklahoma City, Dallas, New Orleans or Kansas City than it was to Bristol. It was even closer to Davenport, Iowa!

Two could play at that game so I created a similar circle around Bristol extending to Memphis. Bristol was closer to Detroit and Jacksonville than it was to Memphis, and about the same distance to Chicago or Philadelphia.

Back in Virginia

Casbah, Algiers
Casbah, Algiers by Nick Brooks, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I then drew some latitudes, returning my focus to the Commonwealth of Virginia. I noticed that there were parts of Africa farther north than parts of Virginia. I let that rattle around in by brain for awhile. Sure the overlap wasn’t much although definitely factual. Algiers and Tunis on the African continent were farther north than Danville and Suffolk in Virginia.

Dueling Portlands

Keep Portland Weird
Keep Portland Weird by Christopher Porter, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Again with the latitudes, I compared Portland, Oregon with Portland, Maine. It reminded me of a quote in a guest post that Marc Alifanz contributed to 12MC in March 2011, Geo-Oddities of Portland, Oregon:

Portland was originally founded by Asa Lovejoy from Boston, Massachusetts and Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine. Each wanted to name the new town after their place of origin. They flipped a coin, and Portland won. It’s probably a good thing it worked out that way, because two Bostons of very large size would have created more confusion than big Portland, OR and littler Portland, ME do now.

That was an interesting aside, although referring back to the latitudes, Portland in Oregon is actually farther north than Portland in Maine. That seemed odd because Maine bordered Canada and Oregon had an entire state (Washington) between it and Canada. Yet, that’s what the line revealed.

And speaking of Portland, Maine, I drew another circle and examined the results. Portland Maine was closer to Caracas, Venezuela than to Portland, Oregon.

A Canadian Example

old cayenne 6
old cayenne 6 by Nicholas Laughlin, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

All of the results seemed astonishing to me although I recognized that a lot of this had to do with my very specific geographic perspective. I doubt the measurements and observations had anywhere near the same impact for people living elsewhere. So I tried an example in Canada. St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador was closer to: Bratislava Slovakia; Murmansk, Russia; Cayenne, French Guiana; or anywhere in Western Sahara as it turned out than it was to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Similar observations could be made about the distance between Vladivostok and Moscow, Russia, I supposed. Ditto for Sydney and Perth, Australia. Have fun and let me know the most counterintuitive observation you discover.

A Prisoner to Geo-Oddities

On September 17, 2014 · 3 Comments

I noticed a reference to a prison in Alaska that turned out to be located not too distant from where I roamed around the Kenai Peninsula during my journeys a few summers ago. It was a prison with a view, in fact it was located somewhere (map) in the background of this photo I took from Seward’s Waterfront Park.

View from Seward, Alaska. My own photo.

This was the Spring Creek Correctional Center, the state’s maximum security prison for its most hardened criminals. One would never want to spend time there except perhaps as an employee, and none of us will likely ever find ourselves there as permanent guests unless county counting, state highpointing or extended road tripping suddenly become illegal. Nonetheless, from a purely geographical placement, the inmates have something pleasant to ponder through the slots of their tiny cell block windows during their lengthy incarcerations.

That got me to wonder what other prisons might be advantageous should, you know, one suddenly fall into an alternate universe where the laws are completely different. What correctional institutions would a criminal geo-geek mastermind appreciate?

Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, USA

Offenders Artwork at Angola Prison Rodeo
Offenders Artwork at Angola Prison Rodeo by crawford orthodontics, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

One the surface, the Louisiana State Penitentiary might seem to have a lot to offer with its annual Angola Rodeo and art show. Seriously, the prison started a rodeo in 1965 and spectators flocked to the site in droves each year ever since.

That would be a nice diversion from toiling in the fields although a true geo-geek would crave more. Knowing that Turnbull Island (map) — a disconnected piece of West Feliciana Parish separated from the rest of the parish by Concordia Parish — was visible on the other side of the Mississippi River, well that would be priceless.

Alexander Maconochie Centre, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Alexander Maconochie Centre

Geographically savvy Australian prisoners might appreciate being being locked-up at the Alexander Maconochie Centre assuming anyone could truly appreciate such a loss of freedom (map). It was constructed within the borders of the diminutive Australian Capital Territory.

Why would this tiny dot upon the Australian continent require its own prison? Primarily for a single reason: "prisoners were transferred into the New South Wales prison system and the ACT reimbursed NSW for the cost of holding those prisoners." ACT believed it would be cheaper to handle its own prison population instead of paying NSW. Also prisoners would be closer to their families for visitation purposes.

I couldn’t find any photos of the Alexander Maconochie Centre with the proper licenses to share. The centre was new, accepting prisoners only since 2009, so there wasn’t much available. The Canberra Times offered a a representative slideshow though.

San Marino

San Marino
San Marino by fdecomite, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

On the subject of small, I imagined geo-criminals might commit felonies in various microscopic nations simply for the novelty. San Marino appeared to be a decent possibility (map). The European press seemed enamored of San Marino’s prison population, too. The Telegraph featured The ‘world’s most pampered – and bored – prisoner’ in 2011.

The 30-year-old man has his meals brought to him from a local restaurant because it is not economical to lay on a canteen service for him alone. He enjoys the exclusive use of a gym, library and television room and occupies one of six cells which make up San Marino’s only jail, which is tucked into a wing of a former Capuchin monastery… But his lonely penance is about to come to an end – a second inmate is expected to be incarcerated in the next few days.

Der Spiegel followed up in 2014 with "San Marino: Tiny State, Big Baggage." It focused on inmate Piero Berti, a former national head of state who’s holiday meal "consisted of risotto with parmesan, followed by roasted turkey with seasonal vegetables, and fruit for dessert. It was accompanied by wine."

Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York, USA

Sing Sing Correctional Facility

On the other hand, Sing Sing was a much more notorious place in spite of it’s charming Hudson River views and its 4-star rating on Yelp. This was a dismal place designed for hardened criminals since the 1820’s, with several hundred people executed onsite using the legendary electric chair Old Sparky.

Sing Sing didn’t make the list because of its accommodations. I added it because the Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line commuter train ran directly through the facility! Walkways crossed above the tracks connecting both sides of the prison (for guards I’d suppose, not prisoners). Imagine hanging out in the prison yard and watching the trains pass through all day long. Better yet, imagine commuters riding through a prison, hearing a thunk and wondering if an inmate had jumped onto the roof of the car in an escape attempt like in the movies.

Surely there must be better geo-oddity prisons. How about the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland? It’s surrounded by West Virginia on three side. Are there other candidates?

More Geo-BREWities

On August 7, 2014 · 3 Comments

My geography and brewery interests collided a few months ago. The happy result produced Geo-Brewities. Google says I own that term now, a pseudo-portmanteau of geography + brewery + oddities. I don’t expect it to become part of the popular lexicon. It’s not that catchy.

I took a different approach on the second and possibly final round of this series. The renewed effort began as I noticed a lot of breweries and brewpubs with numbers incorporated into their names. Once again I started with the Brewers Association directory of breweries. It included 5,309 listings for the United States alone. That’s why this might be the last time. If I check again will be more — a lot more — and I’m not sure I can withstand that level of tedium one more time.

From that nearly overwhelming universe, I distilled a couple of hundred breweries that matched my numerical criteria. I’ve documented them in a spreadsheet and shared it with the 12MC audience. The usual caveats applied: omissions and spelling errors were unintentional; the file is only as good as the source and it only applies now (August 2014). It will be out of date if you happen to read this article in the distant future.

16 Mile Brewing Company Bottle
This episode brought to you by the number 16; from 12MC’s private collection

That left me with a big list of breweries that incorporated numbers in their names. What should I do with it? Examine it and look for patterns that might align with 12MC’s geography themes, of course. It encompassed every cardinal number from 1 through 16. A prospective brewer wishing to be original would have to start with 17. The smallest number was fractional (several breweries with half of this-or-that) and the largest was 5050 (FiftyFifty Brewing of Truckee, California). I ignored zero and infinity although they both existed in Vermont for some odd reason.

Patterns revealed themselves.

Area Codes

312 Urban Wheat
312 Urban Wheat by david mcchesney, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The first time I recall a telephone area code associated with brewing was Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat. I’m not sure when it first hit store shelves although Beer Advocate reviews extended back as far as 2004. Since then, 312 Urban Wheat won a slew of awards at the Great American Beer Festival and became one of Goose Island’s flagship brews. Those three simple digits associated strongly with a specific geography, downtown Chicago, and resonated with a customer demographic that the brewery hoped to reach. It worked. A similar premise served as inspiration for an episode of Seinfeld that aired in 1998, focusing on the 212 area code of New York City. Clearly an area code could serve as a strong brand identifier and a marketing mechanism.

Regardless of the original inspiration, a solid association between area codes and the craft brewing industry spread nationwide.

  • 303 Brewing; Denver, CO (planned)
  • (405) Brewing Co; Norman, OK (planned)
  • 406 Brewing; Bozeman, MT
  • (512) Brewing; Austin, TX
  • 515 Brewing; Clive, IA
  • 603 Brewery; Londonderry, NH
  • 612Brew; Minneapolis, MN
  • 903 Brewers; Sherman, TX

Area code 903 covered Sherman, Texas and yet the telephone phone number for 903 Brewers listed a 214 area code (Dallas and its eastern metropolitan area). I’ve yet to figure out that paradox.

Admission to the Union

US Naval Jack.svg
US Naval Jack“. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Twelve Mile Circle discusses individual US states all the time so it was nice to see a set of brewers who paid attention and took lots of notes during their mandatory state history classes back in junior high school. They incorporated the correct order that their respective states joined the Union.

  • 12th State Brewing; Greensboro, NC (planned)
  • 14th Star Brewing; St. Albans, VT
  • 38 State Brewing; Littleton, CO
  • 49th State Brewery; Healy, AK
  • 1912 Brewing; Tucson, AZ (planned)

Arizona joined the Union in 1912 in case anyone wondered about that last one. Extra credit went to 1st Republic Brewing. It was named for a government that existed briefly (1777-1791) prior to Vermont becoming a US state. Before anyone mentions Bear Republic Brewing in California, let’s recognize that it didn’t have a number in its name so it fell outside of the rules for this article.

Let’s also recognize breweries that referenced the United States Constitution since we’re already on an historical theme: 21st Amendment Brewery (ended prohibition on alcohol); 1933 Brewing (year that prohibition ended); and my favorite, 8th Amendment Brewing (prohibits cruel and unusual punishment).


Highway 101

There were numerous instances of breweries named for minor streets, plus others named for street addresses, mile markers and highway exits. I wanted those associated with larger highways, a frequent 12MC topic. Like area codes, highway identifiers correlated strongly to geography and thus could target specific customers.

  • A1A Ale Works; St. Augustine, FL
  • Highway 1 Brewing; Pescadero, CA
  • Pike 51 Brewing; Hudsonville, MI
  • 101 North; Petaluma, CA
  • 101 Brewery; Quilcene, WA

Two breweries named for US Highway 101? That warranted further discussion.

Highway 101 was one of the original highways designated in 1926, running from San Ysidro, California to Olympia, Washington, nearly the entire length of the west coast of the United States from México to Canada. It invokes feelings of identity and nostalgia for many people, maybe not as great as the legendary Route 66 although certainly at a respectable level. Its endpoints changed over time in a rather confusing fashion in recent years, as noted in detail at However, that wouldn’t change its usefulness as a marketing tool.

Somewhat Related

I have beer on my mind because I’ll be at my favorite beer festival on Saturday (Aug. 9, 2014), the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin. Send me a note if you plan to be there and I’ll try to find you. I might even do some live tweeting. That should be amusing.


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