Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tax preparation blues

I’m not a supporter of John Edwards, being that he’s a Democrat doesn’t help, but I’m always willing to listen when people have a good idea.  Even if it doesn’t pan out to be a good idea when all thought out and debated, this tax preparation idea has merit.

      The process by which we Americans figure out our federal taxes is ridiculous. So many tens of millions, maybe even hundreds of millions, of hours spent struggling with those 1040 forms. Maybe a billion dollars in fees paid to tax return preparers and makers of tax software.

      And for so many taxpayers, (filling out your tax forms is) an absurd waste of time. The government already has all the information it needs -- from employers, mortgage companies, state governments, and banks -- to have the perfect picture of tens of millions of people's tax situations. Those people struggle to fill out their return forms, but in the end they don't tell the Internal Revenue Service anything that the IRS doesn' t already know.

      (John Edwards) thinks the IRS ought to prepare a draft tax return for you every year, at least if you're a person whose taxes have historically been relatively simple. If, let's say, all you ever show on your tax return is wage income, bank interest, a personal exemption for yourself, and a standard deduction, Edwards thinks the government should routinely prepare your tax return and send it to you. I would bet that in the case of 30 or 40 percent of taxpayers, the return so prepared would be completely correct. In that case, the taxpayer could just sign it, and send it back. Everyone else could throw away the IRS's version and do it themselves, the way they do now.

People spend a lot of time criticizing everything coming out of certain politician’s mouths just because of their political bent, but we should still be listening.  Not every idea out of the Bush administration is a bad one.  And not every idea coming out of the mouth of Edwards contains toxic sludge either. 

The one down side I see with this, and in this information age of automated tax preparation it’s a small one, is that the IRS will have to increase staff, i.e. increased IRS budget, in order to create the returns for everyone.  But I can’t help agreeing with BoJack that as far as income, and standard deductions that you’ve claimed on your W-2 are already a known.  Heck other information, like your mortgage, is downloadable from the bank, as TurboTax downloads it automatically for you when you’re doing taxes on-line.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Look

You might notice, if you've been here before, that I've traded in that obnoxious orange for one of Blogger's new templates. Very nice. Enjoy.

Viewing Homer from Space

People generally have this notion that satellite technology is good enough to read license plates, or mostly thanks to movies like Enemy of the State, that geosynchronous satellites run by the government can watch your every move from space. However that's just not so, as even the best and highest most accurate satellites that can just about tell you what model of car you drive (no they can't read your plate) have to be close enough to the Earth that they need to maintain a steady orbit to keep from crashing down the moment they're sent up. Truly geosynchronous satellites (mostly communications and navigational) are too far away for any camera or sensor to pick up anything significant.
And most satellite pictures must be processed before you see them. However, EarthNow is probably as close as we've ever gotten to doing something like that.
It's a java applet that feeds your browser Landsat imagery as the satellite moves along making it's orbits around the earth (250 meter resolution though, wouldn't even be able to see your house) The feeds are basically a few hours old.
Sourced from The Map Room. Go to that Map Room link and check out the funny Simpsons video that makes fun of everyone's natural fascination with zooming in on Google and VE trying to spot our house.

Follow up

Follow up from the Russian thing.  It appears that we might not be just sitting back either.

      U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Warsaw for talks with leaders on U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

OK, the article says that our official reason for this is to have a European defense for Iranian nuclear attack, but you have to look at the location for the missile sites and go, “hmmmm.”  Apparently Russia isn’t that happy about it either.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Back in the USSR

Just in case you were wondering, we’re the enemy again.

      The International Herald Tribune reported on Friday that Russian News Service, a radio broadcasting conglomerate recently taken over by state gas monopoly Gazprom, had brought in a new team of a managers and staff had been informed that America is now to be reported as the "enemy" and opposition politicians were persona non grata -- with mostly good news being reported about the nation's rulers -- just as in Soviet times.

Welcome to the new age.  And you thought we could never go back to the old one.
This as Russia works to spread discord and division in former satellite countries.
Other nefarious behavior from mother Russia.

French election

Of course we already have a map of the results. Thank you CatholicGuaze.
There will be a run off election on May 6th between the socialist party Segolene Royal and the more conservative US-friendly Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy got the most votes in the preliminary round, so it's generally thought that it's his election to lose now. However, the French left wing does not have to compromise to beat an extreme right winger like Le Pen, which is why Chirac, who is just right of center, was elected in the first place.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pope and unborn part 2

OK, I've been around this with a few people in my church who took my comments about the Pope's declaration that there's hope that unborn and unbaptized children will all get to go to heaven. I was pretty harsh, but what I was attempting to say was that the biblical basis for much of what's being discussed here is thin, and God's sovereign will needs to be examined and not church tradition.
My only attempt to cover this issue directly through scripture was by using 1 Cor 7:14, which states that an unbelieving spouse (and children) may be sanctified through the spouse. However, there is thought that this verse actually means that those unbelieving family members are simply "blessed" by having a believer in the house, and that they merely have the benefit of opportunity to witness a child of God first hand, as well as receive blessings through the person they were intended for. (However, the Catholic's seem to agree with me, see the article I link to) (P.S. that still doesn't mean I'm correct).
However, another train of thought is that while unborn children are conceived with inherent sin, brought forth by Adam, they have not yet had the opportunity to actually take action against God and sin, so they are still without sin, and so God will let them commune with him for eternity. Not a bad thought.
But in the end, we must remember that the decisions that God makes are perfect. Like I said yesterday, God is Love, and God is happiness, and furthermore the actions and decisions that God makes are good, as only God is truly good in the fullest sense of the word. Therefore whatever decision he makes to the ultimate destiny of unborn children, whether to save some or all, it will be the good and right decision.

So indeed, there is hope that unborn children will all be saved. I was wrong to immediately criticize the Pope and his merry men, and actually do honor his guts in taking on a long standing Catholic tenet.
I still haven't seen a link to the actual report that the Vatican put out explaining all this (nothing on the Vatican's site). Even this Catholic News agency doesn't have a link on the article on the subject. However, they do a more thorough job of detailing what the report is about. They also cover the verse in Corinthians I brought up.
In the end, the article, as well as the report, are quick to acknowledge that they don't have all the answers, and indeed none of us really do. I can't say for sure that I know what will become of all the babies of the world who die pre or post childbirth. It's in God's hands for sure.

Part of the angst about all this is the Church's convoluted historical belief about the importance of Baptism, which places a weird philosophical handicap on issues like this. What I mean by this is that Catholics place the saving grace almost entirely on the sacrament of baptism, and the belief propagates until we have this issue of people freaking out about what happens to those poor babies who don't get the holy water trickled over their head. I even saw this on a Catholic blog.
Sounds like nothing has changed in regards to the teaching. Christ said a person must be baptized to enter heaven, so what happens to babies who die without it? Limbo, theologians of old speculated. But since we don't know for sure, we can hope that there is a way they can go to heaven. Sounds like Benedict is stressing the hope part of it, without explicitly rejecting Limbo. Am I right?
(I'm not pressing this as an example of Church teaching, but as one of lay-catholic thought). I dealt with the ridiculousness of Limbo a bit in my last post, and I certainly hope that Benedict is putting that to rest. Many Catholics are taking it that way. But that second sentence is what's killing me. I'm going to assume that he's talking about physical baptism performed by your neighborhood priest, and not the baptism that Christ was talking about when he said, "John baptized you with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Other than that, does Jesus say what this person is claiming?

Now, while I'm wondering what the Catholic faithful are thinking on this issue, I'm not sure that the Catholic Church itself believes this at it's core. From the article I talk about above it says the report on unborn children says
In this and other situations, the need for the sacrament of baptism is not absolute and is secondary to God's desire for the salvation of every person, it said. "God can therefore give the grace of baptism without the sacrament being conferred, and this fact should particularly be recalled when the conferring of baptism would be impossible," it said.
I'm sort of with them here. It's important to note that many Catholic scholars point out that baptism is more about the induction into the church of God than it is about salvation. However once again, is God really giving the "grace of baptism" or is he giving us the grace of redemption? It's not the same thing.
Then earlier in the article we get this.
The church continues to teach that, because of original sin, baptism is the ordinary way of salvation for all people and urges parents to baptize infants, the document said.
Which, again, is misleading because it makes it seem like baptism is what saves you, not faith in Christ.
Picking the truths out of the Bible as they apply to all of life's issues isn't always an easy thing to do, but you can see how developing a rigid and dogmatic rule set that relies on the church tradition as much as (or more than) actual Biblical teaching can make explaining God's truth and getting out of tight doctrinal corners exceedingly difficult. I think the Catholics made a good move and here's hoping the good moves keep coming.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pope and the baby issue

The Pope and the catholic church have been grappling with the issue of whether babies go to heaven or not before they're baptized. Apparently this is in response to many catholic women who are concerned about all the aborted babies in the world. This isn't a small or unemotional issue, and I feel for all those mothers who worry about that sort of thing. Thinking about a small helpless infant suffering for eternity isn't a happy thought.
But neither is the limp-wristed response from the Vatican.
Pope Benedict XVI has reversed centuries of traditional Roman Catholic teaching on limbo, approving a Vatican report released Friday that says there were "serious" grounds to hope that children who die without being baptized can go to heaven.
The article never mentions what the "serious grounds" happen to be. I'm wondering if the Pope even said anything to back that statement up.
Let's start with the church's previous position on this matter.
Although Catholics have long believed that children who die without being baptized are with original sin and thus excluded from heaven, the Church has no formal doctrine on the matter. Theologians, however, have long taught that such children enjoy an eternal state of perfect natural happiness, a state commonly called limbo, but without being in communion with God.
For a moment leave aside the concept, unbiblical that it is, that baptism is what gets you into heaven, and focus on that completely idiotic belief that survived for centuries known as "limbo." The main problem with the Catholic church (and all my other criticism of that Christian sect flows out of this) is that they hold too much to church traditions and can't seem to bring themselves to reverse that in the face of actual Biblical truth. Go ahead, try and find some reference to anything that might be construed as "limbo" in the Bible. Anywhere.
The other thing that makes that statement inane is the idea that it's possible to exist in a state of perfect natural happiness without being in communion with God. God IS love. God IS happiness. Being without communion with God is the Biblical definition of hell. The church has long just sugar-coated this issue in an attempt to avoid dealing with the horrible state of man's soul and the truth that some good people (as the world defines good) are going to spend an eternity in a very UNhappy place.
"If there's no limbo and we're not going to revert to St. Augustine's teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell, we're left with only one option, namely, that everyone is born in the state of grace," said the Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. "Baptism does not exist to wipe away the "stain" of original sin, but to initiate one into the Church," he said in an e-mailed response.
A voice of reason within the church. Notably it's from a scholar in the United States, where people are not afraid to disagree with the Vatican. What people should get from this statement, which is basically true for protestants as well, is that baptism is not the thing that guarantees heavenly entrance and therefore has nothing to do with the state of an infant's soul. And he's also right that the Vatican's only other option is grace for all babies, which is also unbiblical.
The document traces centuries of Church views on the fate of unbaptized infants, paying particular attention to the writings of St. Augustine — the 4th century bishop who is particularly dear to Benedict. Augustine wrote that such infants do go to hell, but they suffer only the "mildest condemnation." In the document, the commission said such views are now out of date and there were "serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision." It stressed, however, that "these are reasons for prayerful hope, rather than grounds for sure knowledge." No one can know for certain what becomes of unbaptized babies since Scripture is largely silent on the matter, the report said.
Largely silent? Hardly. One needs only a cursory reading to know that faith in Jesus as our Savior is the only thing that really allows heavenly entrance. However, there is one verse that speaks to this issue very directly. 1 Corinthians 7:14.
For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
Paul is saying that your children are sanctified through you if you are a believer. I can't think that it could be any clearer, do you? Now, this does mean that children of non-believers might not be covered. Really, one has to wonder how religious "experts" at the center of one of the worlds largest religious denominations failed to bring this up. Are they actually ignorant bureaucrats or are they purposefully keeping this verse silent for some reason?
I find the Vatican response to this issue disturbing. It's as if they're truly afraid to actually voice Biblical truth in public for fear of driving people away.

Update: OK, I've talked with some friends and members of my church family who wanted me to clarify my points, as they got the impression, not without reason, that I'm saying that most babies are damned or something. I didn't mean that, but the misunderstanding is reasonable. Also, they, including my pastor, put up a significant argument for the hope of salvation for all unborn babies which I can't really ignore. I was a bit hasty in my condemnation of the Pope's position being that I'm generally skeptical of most things that emit from the Vatican. I'll try and follow this up with an additional post.

Update: Follow up post now available.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech

The shooting that took place at Virginia Tech earlier this week has certainly worked all of us up into a frenzy.  I’ve been watching with sorrow in my heart for those who’s life will be affected by this and for those who lost their lives.  But more-so I will be sorry for those who lost their lives without fully knowing God before hand.   You can’t say enough that the end of your life might come well before you are ready, and why put off preparing yourself.  Friends, why put off talking to your friends about Jesus Christ and what the next life holds.  Because I guarantee it that many of those young people are not moving on to a better place.  You might say that I’m being callous, but I have to speak truth here.

It remains, and will always remain, that man is sinful.  It’s not wrong to ask what happened, and what can we do to try and prevent this in the future.  But if you think that you’re going to solve this problem, that you can prevent all future school shootings just by changing some policy here and there, well, you’re going to be disappointed.

I’ve been reading around, and I’m not surprised that it got so politicized so fast.  I’m basically in the camp, and this is preexisting this incident, that gun control, for the most part, does not work the way that people intend it to work.  Virginia Tech had the strictest law you can enact: no guns allowed.  Period.  And they still had a shooting.

But the numbers for gun-happy America aren’t really all that bad compared with the rest of the world, and in some cases are quite a bit better.

It’s also pretty evident that gun laws typically prevent law abiding and licensed gun owners from carrying their guns around, but the crimes and murders are committed by law-BREAKERS.  I have no problem allowing law abiding citizens to carry their guns around.  Heck, let them on high school campuses too. 

For the most part, the people who have been political about this have been conservatives.  It’s not that I don’t agree with them, it’s that the left has been pretty cold on this issue.  The national temperature is moving away from gun control and the left has been sensing that for the last 8 years.

      Had Gore won his home state of Tennessee, Clinton’s home state of Arkansas or the Democratic state of West Virginia, he would not have needed to win Florida in order to gain the presidency. But he lost them all. And guns had a lot to do with it

Democrats don't want to talk about it, desperately.  Republican candidates who were sympathetic to gun control have been changing their tune (just listen to Giuliani, who was very gun-control while mayor of NYC, and Mit Romney joined the NRA just last August).  We keep seeing these tragedies, but most people are noting that as restrictions grow, the incidents keep happening anyway.  Such is the foul state of men's souls.  It really is true:  guns don't kill people…

But I disagree with anyone who says that removing gun control laws will protect anyone.  There was a big editorial from a student who has a gun license, but still can't bring his gun on campus, and in his words:

      Upon exiting the classroom, we were met at the doors leading outside by two armor-clad policemen with fully automatic weapons, plus their side arms. Once outside, there were several more officers with either fully automatic rifles and pump shotguns, and policemen running down the street, pistols drawn.

      It was at this time that I realized that I had no viable means of protecting myself.

It was at the moment you were safe behind legions of heavily armed police that you felt the most helpless?  More:

    I had entrusted my safety, and the safety of others to the police. In light of this, there are a few things I wish to point out.

    First, I never want to have my safety fully in the hands of anyone else, including the police.

    Second, I considered bringing my gun with me to campus, but did not due to the obvious risk of losing my graduate career, which is ridiculous because had I been shot and killed, there would have been no graduate career for me anyway.

I hate this argument.  I think its stupid to make decisions, especially when they mean breaking the regulations, on whether or not you get caught in that one in a million situation where you might actually make some use of it.  Interesting to note:  this individual was ushered out of the building from another classroom and was well behind police lines before he even knew what was going on.  Never saw the gunman.  And this guy's licensed gun would have solved what exactly?

He goes on to argue that law abiding citizens who are trained and licensed to carry guns should be able to use them and are a threat to no one.  I would agree with that.  Look at all the incidents where some loony pulled a gun in a public place and you'll probably find that he wasn't licensed to use it.  The kids at Columbine certainly weren't. 

But I wonder if anyone can recall the last time someone pulled a gun out in a public place and started shooting, and was cut down by a citizen with a licensed and concealed handgun.  Anyone?  This also brings up a hornet's nest about citizen vigilantism.  I wouldn't mind someone bringing out a gun in this circumstance, but when should you not bring one out?  Would even a trained citizen know when to bring it out and when to keep it tucked away?

Overall, I think that the school ordinances were dumb.  Obviously they're ineffective.  You keep the law abiding gun owner's guns away, but not the whackos.  They could have at least armed the security guards.

Needless to say, the numbers on both sides have apparently been dubious.

Voice over IP - 911 challenges

You might be aware that today’s technology allows 911 emergency services to locate you based on information that your phone is sending back.  Traditional land lines have been able to do this for a while, based on the telephone record of where that phone number resides, and cellular technology is mandated by law to include GPS transmitters that will send your location to the 911 service.

But that doesn’t include VoIP telephone lines, like Vonage, where your internet service is your telephone line.  Congress is struggling right now to keep up with all the different communication technologies involved with emergency services.

      Today, in addition to many more ways of communicating-by voice, e-mail, instant messaging, etc.-we also have a large variety of sensors that could provide additional information to emergency dispatchers-such as digital photos and videos from cell phones, data from automatic crash notification systems, alerts from medical devices, and bio-chemical information from sensors in subways. The current 9-1-1 infrastructure, however, is not able to handle such inputs.

Not only that, but since they’ve mandated that cellular makers install capabilities to pass information to emergency operators.  Some people might be wary about this, considering that it’s discomforting to know that when using your phone some clandestine government organization might be able to track your every move, but that’s not as concerning to me as it is the government automatically thinking that mandating anything is comfortably within it’s power.

Anyway, that’s just a small bit about what Congress is trying to work out.  Mostly it’s about how 911 services get funded, since in the past it’s been a surcharge on phone service or wireless services within a given service area.  How will VoIP be charged?  Will other forms of information, like pictures taken with your phone and other types of information, be adequately funded within the existing surcharging framework?

Also, what are the challenges and legalities that need to be addressed concerning access to 911 networks?

      "Some 9-1-1 authorities are reluctant, or even refuse, to complete VoIP emergency calls," O'Leary said, "because they lack the legal safeguards that protect them from liability," which exist today for wireline and wireless emergency calls. She called for extending these protections to VoIP, as did Meer.

      Access to E9-1-1 infrastructure. "Nomadic VoIP providers, like Vonage, need access to parts of the telephone network to complete a 9-1-1 call," O'Leary said. "Unfortunately, there are areas in the country where Vonage cannot gain access to these vital network elements. By including access provisions in the legislation, you ensure that the 9-1-1 system remains a public trust, not a tool to block competition." Barbour said that NENA supports a provision in Senate bill 428 that requires owners of the E9-1-1 infrastructure to provide access to VoIP providers who require it to provide E9-1-1 service.

And you thought 911 was just another number you can dial up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Zimbabwe tries to shut down NGOs

Interesting article from Reuters about Zimbabwe starting to take down all the NGOs there.  NGOs include all those organizations who selfishly provide aid and food to people who are starving due to Robert Mugabe’s campaign against everyone in his country.

      Mugabe, sole ruler since independence in 1980, has accused NGOs and aid groups of supporting the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and imposed tight restrictions on food aid distribution in the country.

Say it isn’t so!  Relief organizations supporting groups trying to overthrow the government?  Perhaps it’s part of their plan to help the people.  Mugabe’s government is certainly the root cause of all the suffering over there.

      Mugabe, widely accused of running Zimbabwe's once-prosperous economy into the ground through policies such as the seizure of white-owned farms, blames the economic problems on sabotage by Western powers who are keen to topple him.

      Britain, the United States and other Western nations deny that they have waged economic war against Mugabe and insist that they are merely trying to restore democracy in Zimbabwe.

Yeah, your problems are because we’re trying to topple your government.  Denial and paranoia continue to work their magic on third world governments throughout the world. 

But I think that Mugabe is right about our countries opposing him and trying to overthrow his government.  Because if we’re trying to restore democracy, we’re certainly working against his government.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Google Earth domination

After reading this article on how Google is doing a great job giving average people the geographic context of any given event on the earth, in this case the situation in Darfur...
Google Earth has added a Global Awareness layer to its maps program that lets you learn about the crisis in Darfur. By selecting the Global Awareness layer (in the lower left-hand corner of Google Earth) you can fly over enhanced satellite images of the war-torn region. Sprinkled over the map are icons that link to photographs, data, videos, and narratives of eyewitnesses to the genocide.
I also noted that people are still discussing the dominance of Google in the area, despite the presence of a great competing product by the evil empire. Why has the normally ubiquitous marketing department of Microsoft's not been able to push their viewer?

Peter Laudati thinks it’s because it’s gone through so many name changes, from Virtual Earth to Windows Live Local to whatever they’re calling it now — he counts at least eight web addresses that resolve to the service. (Dare Obasanjo: “This product has now officially gone through more names than I’ve had ex-girlfriends. … It’s sad that we are intent on screwing one of the coolest products we are shipping these days in this way.”)

Scoble thinks it comes down to ease of use: Google’s typically simple, uncluttered, non-redundant user interface.

Me, I suspect that cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility might play a factor: a lot of the people who write the stories that generate the buzz use Macs. (Live Maps doesn’t work at all on Safari, and it’s apparently not feature-complete on Firefox.)

Plus, I think Microsoft simply doesn’t have much goodwill left: if you say that Microsoft has produced something truly amazing, many of us will simply conclude that you’re a shill on their payroll.

I've seen the same thing in other areas as well. There was an article in Linux Magazine this month about the comparisons between modern releases of Linux and Microsoft's new Vista platform, and the author had to concede that Vista was superior to Linux in many ways (while repeating many times that he wasn't an MS shill).
Also, I've heard many independent reports that refer to the .NET development platform that Microsoft has invested the next couple of decades supporting as being just as good, or in some cases better, than Java for web development. Obviously there are some caveats there (like the dependence on the MS operating systems and servers when using .NET) but so many people are devoted to having all-MS shops that this probably won't be a serious drawback for most of us.
Needless to say, yes MS has gone a long way to improving their platforms and putting out some very good software, so the reputation they have in the industry of resting on their gigantic market share and not innovating at the same time appears to be erroneous.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

History of modern geographic thought

A short guide to the modern history of geographic thought, by Catholicgauze.  If any of you are interested, this sums up the last 150 years of geography as a discipline and academic field, which is not quite where it is today.  I recall some of this, but most of it happened prior to my birth, so when I say I recall it, it has more to do with my college days while capturing a BS in Geography.

(After reading the summary by CG, you might note that my degree was a Bachelors of Science, not arts.  Considering the battle for geography to be classified as a science in the 1950s and it’s divisions since then how, do you ask, did I get a BS and not a BA.  That has more to do with my background and the course of study I took (Engineering) before I burnt out and change my major.   I had so much science at that point that almost all my electives were science related.)

But it goes further than that.  If I may extend CG’s train of thought.   Geography is continuing to suffer as a discipline, but it’s because of it’s own successful child, GIS.   Geographic Information Systems has it’s origin in the 60s, with the first successful computer models of geographic phenomenon at Harvard, but the true origins probably lie earlier than that as geographers attempted to quantify mathematically what had only been analyzed qualitatively prior.

There are some who worry that geography is getting lost in favor of GIS.  Some universities have curtailed their geography departments in favor of geographic information science, which is much more marketable and closer to science.

However, it’s not really science.  Geomatics (of which GIS is a part) is not so much a field of study in and of itself, but a tool.  You don’t measure geography for it’s own sake, you measure and quantify the spatial aspect of almost every other type of subject on the planet.  Sociology, geology, politics, cosmology, weather, transportation, biology all have spatial aspects to them.  So if GIS is a tool, what happens to geography?

      What will become of geography? The future right now points to more technology like remote sensing and especially GIS. But the geography has been known to switch directions quickly before. Maybe the globalized world at war will led to the rise of regional geography with elements of cultural studies. Maybe the potential of climate change will cause physical/environmental geography to become more popular. What is known; however, is that multidisciplinary studies are becoming more frequent in academia. The big struggle hear is for geography to remain unique and not be absorbed into things like "environmental studies" or "international studies."

I note that nothing is said about cartography, the study of map creation, in this context.  What happens to cartography, and will universities abandon it or will it break out into it’s own?  GIS practitioners will say that it’s alive and well inside the technical arena of geographic information science.  Most GIS systems have fairly sophisticated rendering software to make almost any map you might desire in short order.   The combination of GIS systems and image software suites can produce some stunning maps. 

However, the existence of fine tools is not enough to produce good quality maps, as much as they make the process far less painful.  Maps are designed to communicate something to the reader.  The objective is to tell the reader a story, or enlighten the user to the relationships between subjects.  Whether it’s a thematic map about the election results or a road map designed to get you from A to B, without map making skills your map may not be able to communicate what the price of tea in China is.  There are many principles that cartographers use to make a good map.   And I’ve seen some pretty bad maps in my day.