Fri, 04 Aug 2023
North Dakota is not a place I think about much, but it crossed paths with me twice in July.
Last month I suddenly developed a burning need to know: if we were to rank the U.S. states by height of highest waterfall, which state would rank last? Thanks to the Wonders of the Internet I was able to satisfy this craving in short order. Delaware is the ⸢winner⸣, being both very small and very flat.
In looking into this, I also encountered the highest waterfall in North Dakota, Mineral Springs Waterfall. (North Dakota is also noted for being rather flat. It is in the Great Plains region of North America.)
The thing I want you to know, though, is that they include this ridiculous picture on the web site:
Wow, pathetic. As Lorrie said, “it looks like a pipe burst.”
I am not sure I trust the WWD. It seems to have been abandoned. I wrote to all their advertised contact addresses to try to get them to add Wadhams Falls, but received no response.
Doug Burgum is some rich asshole, also the current governor of North Dakota, who wants to be the Republican candidate for president in the upcoming election.
To qualify for the TV debate next month, one of the bars he had to clear was to have received donations from 40,000 individuals, including at least 200 from each of 20 states. But how to get people to donate? Who outside of North Dakota has heard of Doug Burgum? Certainly I had not.
If you're a rich asshole, the solution is obvious: just buy them. For a while (and possibly still) Burgum was promising new donors to his campaign a $20 debit card in return for a donation of any size.
Upside: Get lots of free media coverage, some from channels like NPR that would normally ignore you. Fifty thousand new people on your mailing list. Get onstage in the debate. And it costs only a million dollars. Money well spent!
Downside: Reimbursing people for campaign donations is illegal, normally because it would allow a single donor to evade the limits on individual political contributions. Which is what this is, although not for that reason; here it is the campaign itself reimbursing the contributions.
Anyway, I was happy to take Doug Burgum's money. (A middle-class lesson I tried to instill into the kids: when someone offers you free money, say yes.) I donated $1, received the promised gift card timely, and immediately transferred the money to my transit card.
I was not able to think of a convincing argument against this:
Taking Doug Burgum's $19 was time well-spent, I would do it again.
Addendum: North Dakota tourism
Out of curiosity about the attractions of North Dakota tourism, I spent a little while browsing the North Dakota tourism web site, wondering if the rest of it was as pitiful and apologetic as the waterfall page.
No! They did a great job of selling me on North Dakota tourism. The top three items on the “Things to Do” page are plausible and attractive:
Good stuff. I had hoped to visit anyway, and the web site has gotten me excited to do it.
Wed, 24 Jun 2020
Reddit today had this delightful map, drawn by Peter Klumpenhower, of “the largest city in each 10-by-10 degree area of latitude-longitude in the world”:
Almost every square is a kind of puzzle! Perhaps it is surprising that Philadelphia is there? Clearly New York dominates its square, but Philadelphia is just barely across the border in the next square south: the 40th parallel runs right through North Philadelphia. (See map at right.) Philadelphia City Hall (the black dot on the map) is at 39.9524 north latitude.
This reminds me of the time I was visiting Tom Christiansen in Boulder, Colorado. We were driving on Baseline Road and he remarked that it was so named because it runs exactly along the 40th parallel. Then he said “that's rather farther south than where you live”. And I said no, the 40th parallel also runs through Philadelphia! Other noteworthy cities at this latitude include Madrid, Ankara, Yerevan, and Beijing.
Anyway speaking of Boulder, the appearance of Fort Collins was the first puzzle I noticed. If you look at the U.S. cities that appear on the map, you see most of the Usual Suspects: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, Houston. And then you have Fort Collins.
“Fort Collins?” I said. “Why not Denver? Or even Boulder?”
Boulder, it turns out, is smaller than Fort Collins. (I did not know this.) And Denver, being on the other side of Baseline Road, doesn't compete with Fort Collins. Everything south of Baseline Road, including Denver, is shut out by Ciudad Juárez, México (population 1.5 million).
There is a Chinese version of this. The Chinese cities on the map include the big Chinese cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Chengdu. Shenyang. A couple of cities in Inner Mongolia, analogous to the appearance of Boise on the U.S. map. And…
Wenchang. What the heck is Wenchang?
It's the county seat of Wenchang County, in Hainan, not even as important as Fort Collins. China has 352 cities with populations over 125,000. Wenchang isn't one of them. According to the list I found, Wenchang is the 379th-largest city in China. (Fort Collins, by the way, is 159th-largest in the United States. For the 379th, think of Sugar Land, Texas or Cicero, Illinois.)
Since we're in China, please notice how close Beijing is to the 40th parallel. Ten kilometers farther north and it would have displaced Boise — sorry, I meant Hohhot — and ceded its box to Tianjin (pop. 15.6 million). Similarly (but in reverse), had Philadelphia been a bit farther north, it would have disappeared into New York's box, and yielded its own box to Baltimore or Washington or some other hamlet.
But what the heck happened to Nairobi? (Nairobi is the ninth-largest city in Africa. Dar Es Salaam is the sixth-largest and is in the same box.)
What the heck happened to St. Petersburg? (at 59.938N, 30.309E, it is just barely inside the same box as Moscow. The map is quite distorted in this region.)
What the heck happened to Tashkent? (It's right where it should be. I just missed it somehow.)
[ Addendum: Reddit discussion has pointed out that Clifden (pop. 1,597) , in western Ireland, is not the largest settlement in its box. There are two slivers of Ireland in that box, and Dingle, four hours away in County Kerry, has a population of 2,050. The Reddit discussion has a few other corrections. The most important is probably that Caracas should beat out Santo Domingo. M. Klumpenhower says that they will send me a revised version of the map. ]
[ Thanks to Hacker News user oefrha for pointing out that Hohhot and Baotou are in China, not Mongolia as I originally said. ]
[ Addendum 20200627: M. Klumpenhower has sent me a revised map, which now appears in place of the old one. It corrects the errors mentioned above. Here's a graphic that shows the differences. But Walt Mankowski pointed out another possible error: The box with Kochi (southern India) should probably be owned by Colombo. ]