Three Maps: Metro Update, Flag Rankings, and "the USA in the Other Direction"

I wanted to write one last blogpost before I take the plunge into an enormous mass of final paper writing - and preferably write one that's interesting. As you may know, I very much enjoy making maps, many of which I have posted on the blog here. (See my geography/cartography label.) I've also finished several maps, however, that have yet to be seen by anyone else, so I thought I might publish a few of them now. The first tracks my ongoing travels in DC, the second handles state flags - a topic I've addressed before - and the third is a whimsical proposition of what names in the U.S. might have been.

(click to enlarge)
At the beginning of this semester, I decided I would make a map similar to the one I'd made in Strasbourg that would track where I went on the D.C. Metro system during my senior year. This is the post where I proposed the plan, but since then I have had yet to post an updated version. As you can see, the map has now changed significantly from the original, including a few aesthetic modifications. More importantly, I've now gone as far as the Capitol along the main blue/orange thoroughfare, for my trips to the Library of Congress; I've gone for three stops west of Rosslyn on the orange line, mostly by walking; I went down to Alexandria with my mother when she visited - my first time going to that city; and most recently, (Saturday), I went all the way from Shady Grove to Columbia Heights: I had been dropped off at Shady Grove after spending Thanksgiving with my cousin's family in northern Maryland, and then I decided to go to the Target right next to the Columbia Heights station for some groceries.

The green dots show other journeys I've made as well: seeing the Pentagon after observing at a high school in Arlington, going to the National Archives a few times, and walking from Farragut West to Farragut North for a free transfer (the first time I've done that as well). Yes, there are many stations marked "unvisited" that I actually have visited before, but I decided that this would only track my senior year because there's no way I could have remember all my past trips entirely accurately. Regardless, I really enjoy making a record of my activities in such a simple, cartographic fashion.

This second map presents information from the 2001 state/provincial flag survey by the North American Vexillological Association. The survey had about 400 participants who ranked 72 flags according to common standards of design quality. The map I made takes the results for the fifty states and ranks them accordingly in groups of five - dark blue for the five highest-quality flags, and dark red for the five lowest. Admittedly, part of the reason I did it this way was to place Alaska's flag as equal with the best, being that it was ranked fourth. As I stated before, I love the Maryland and New Mexico flags, but I think the only reason the Texas flag won second place was the large number of Texans participating in the survey. In my opinion, the Texas flag is little more than a simple-minded interpretation of the American flag, and in any case its design was predated by 28 years by the very similar flag of Chile.

I had hoped that in making this map I might find some clear regional patterns of states failing in flag design. For some reason, I thought very wrongly that the South might end up having a lot of poorly-rated flags, but Georgia (rated last, but changed in 2003) and Virginia (a poor flag I see all too often) are really outliers: The other southern flags, like South Carolina and Tennessee, do quite well by NAVA standards. New England ranked poorly, with only the white-background flags of Rhode Island and Massachusetts above average, but if any one region has the worst state flags, it's definitely the Great Plains. Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana all rank in the bottom five with Georgia, and since Georgia changed its flag, they might now be the worst four flags in the country. All four of the flags follow the "seal on a blue background" pattern, as seen in other flags from states founded in the second half of the 19th century. If someone wanted to go all authoritarian on flags, their first act would definitely be to make "seal on a blue background" illegal right away.

This last map is the simplest and the silliest. It has no historical reason to it; it only attempts to show the directional prejudice of regional names in the U.S., and throws in a few other jokes for good measure. For all I know, I may be the only person who would find this amusing, but I do think it's worth pointing out that American geographic terminology still betrays a ridiculous east-to-west bias, perhaps most stupidly and egregiously in the name "the Midwest," here labelled "the Mideast." I refuse to use that term in serious parlance, favoring instead "the Great Lakes states" or "the Great Plains" and so on. Note that Lake Tahoe, the national capital, was selected because it sits on the border between two states - one very important to the early history of the west-east U.S.A., the other not so much - and it is located near the latitudinal center of the "five original colonies." This includes New England and Virginia, so called because, being the first colonies Europeans founded in their creation of the U.S.A. from west to east, they never would have been given indigenous names.