Ken Jennings is famous for winning a television game show based on trivia. According to Wikipedia: “His total earnings on Jeopardy! are $3,172,700, consisting of $2,520,700 over his 74 wins, a $2,000 second-place prize in his 75th appearance, a $500,000 second-place prize in the Jeopardy! Ultimate Tournament of Champions, as well as half of a $300,000 prize in the IBM Challenge.”
That’s a lot of money based on trivia! But I’ll bet you didn’t know he was a maphead. Well, maphead is a word he defines in his book, “Maphead”, so maybe that is not useful information. Anyway, by his definition, I am also a maphead. I love, love, love looking at maps. Maps of all sorts!
You may remember this one from my recent trip around the world.
I really enjoyed Jennings’ book on maps, and I read it during my travels, which made it perfect. I think he and I have a similar sense of humour…so, if you don’t enjoy my sense of humour, don’t read his book!
Here are some of my favourite quotes so you can decide for yourself.
Falling in love with places is just like falling in love with people: it can happen more than once, but never quite like your first time.
But nowhere, as far as I know, does God tell the children of Israel, “Verily I say unto you that life is a highway. Yea, thou shalt ride it, even the night long.”
Or maybe, “We are all spatial-needs children!”
“We have the original military maps from the Battle of Chapultepec and charts from the Barbary Coast War,” boasts Hebert, “so I can honestly say we have the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli.”
The Belgian town of Baarle-Hertog is even more intriguing: it’s made up of no fewer than twenty-six separate pieces of Belgium sitting, thanks to a complicated series of medieval treaties between two warring dukes, in the middle of the Netherlands. Some of these little bits of Belgium have little bits of the Netherlands inside them, leading to an impossibly intricate border that divides some village homes in half between the two nations. Your nationality depends on where your front door is, and residents have been known to “emigrate” by moving their door every time the tax laws change. When bars and restaurants in the Netherlands close, landlords just move their tables onto the Belgian side of their establishment and keep on serving.
I plan my vacations around places like Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales (“St. Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool of Llantysilio of the red cave,” as any trivia fan should know)…
The history of the world is just as much a history of places as it is of people–cities and nations that were born in obscurity if not bastardy but later grew into greatness.
The British borrowed a Hindi word meaning “learned one” to describe these native scouts, and from this we derived a modern word for any self-proclaimed expert. They were called “pundits.”
We think of trail-blazing as a tough, brawny pursuit, but there’s something solitary and nerdish at the heart of it. What is exploration if not the urge to go somewhere where there’s no one else around–where no one, in fact, has ever been?
The Swedish crown jewels, however, are the only ones that include an orb with actual continents enameled on it, perhaps a signal of Sweden’s secret desire for world domination.
I wonder if Veley will ever get the chance to visit the island of Ferdinandea, a submerged volcano that occasionally rises out of the Mediterranean south of Sicily only to subside or erode again. The last time it emerged, in 1831, it led to a wave of tourism, as well as diplomatic arguments over who owned the territory. Ferdinandea last made news when the United States bombed it in 1986, mistaking it for a Libyan submarine, but scientists predict that recent volcanic activity could lead to a reappearance sometime soon.
At midnight on May 1, 2000, some unnamed hero at U.S. Air Force Space Command, located on the high plains just east of Colorado Springs, pressed a button, and it affected millions of people all over the world. Most of the things the government can do at the push of a button don’t immediately improve our quality of life, but this action, ordered by the president himself, made life ten times better for map nerds everywhere. Just like magic, the Global Positioning System–an array of twenty-four satellites in medium Earth orbit–could now tell you where you were standing, anywhere on the surface of the planet, to within just a few meters of accuracy.