#SochiProblems = #HumanProblems

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

Source: Twitter user @JoannaRieke
As I did in 2008, when the Olympic Games took place in Beijing, this year I have decided not to watch the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. However small my political voice or economic purchasing power may be, I do not want to be registered as one of the millions consuming commercials from sponsors of an Olympic Games in Russia, whose government is solely responsible for the misery that exists within its own borders—including the rightly decried new law persecuting homosexuals—and is also largely to blame for the ongoing bloodshed and destruction in Syria. Putin is a thug, and I refuse to support him or his ilk, however indirectly.

Nonetheless—or perhaps for those very same reasons—I, like many, have been pleased to hear how the Sochi Olympics have stumbled out of the gate.

And stumble they have. While quite a bit of it is exaggerated, for the last week the internet has nonetheless been awash with images and stories of Russia's failure to ready itself to host this event, all wryly documented under the banner #SochiProblems.

Most prominent was the failed light display in the opening ceremony (a debacle that, though

January 2014 Reading List: All over the Map Edition

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Earth from above: near Vieques, Puerto Rico. (No relation to this month's reading list.)
So many great stories from around the world this month. I found it hard to pare down this list.

There's No Place Like Home (Garrison Keillor, National Geographic)
A perfect meditation on home from one of America's greatest storytellers. Beautiful.

40 More Maps That Explain the World (Max Fisher, Washington Post)
A sequel to his previous piece in the same vein. Fascinating and worth perusing.

Traveling While Black (Farai Chideya, New York Times)
I probably learned more from this piece than any others this month. A fascinating look at the (vastly different) dynamics that black Americans face when traveling inside and outside our country.

The White Ghetto (Kevin D. Williamson, The National Review)
The National Review isn't a source I'd usually recommend—or even read, for that matter—but this article on Appalachia that a friend suggested to me is well done, if you can look past the occasional right-wing social commentary and focus on the tragic saga of this much-neglected region. (Admittedly, I was much more easily hooked after watching Justified.)

It's Enough to Make You Cancel Your Reservation (BlogDramedy)
[Facepalm.] I'm a few months late to this one but OH MY GOD the things people complain about when traveling. "The beach was too sandy"... "No one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared." ... "I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes." It gets worse from there. And then there's #19... you have to read it to believe it.

A Sunday Stroll Around the World (Paul Salopek, New York Times)
Dispatch from journalist circumnavigating the globe by foot, with insights on how our modern reliance on cars has reshaped our views of our world.

Jeffrey Wright's Gold Mine (Daniel Bergner, New York Times)
An actor's struggles to strike it rich—and bring local communities along with him—in Sierra Leone. Evidently it's easier to call yourself a "son of the soil" than to be one.

Should the West have governed South Sudan? (Chris Blattman)
Patronizing? Yes. Imperialistic? Probably. But there is historical precedent, and given the recent violence in South Sudan, more and more people are wondering if the world's newest country can stand on its own.

A Speck in the Sea (Paul Tough, New York Times)
Smart survival by a lobsterman off the Montauk coast.

The Looming Narco-State in Afghanistan (DB Grady, The Atlantic)
If you thought for a second that the 13-year-and-counting NATO presence in Afghanistan had made the slightest dent, read this and be disabused of your foolishness. Depressing.

Inking Myanmar's Identity (Hereward Holland, Al Jazeera)
"Taboo no more, tattoos are making a comeback in the fast-changing southeast Asian country."

Shopgirls: The Art of Selling Lingerie (Katherine Zoepf, New Yorker)
How little dignity are women in Saudi Arabia afforded? Buying lingerie from women vendors is practically revolutionary. But that slow revolution marches on.

Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers (Robert J. Nemiroff, Teresa Wilson, Popular Physics)
What would a travel blog's reading list be without an article on time travel, in particular a genuine scientific attempt to identify time travelers? Sadly, the authors of this study came up empty... this time.

Retracing Mao Zedong's Long March—by Motorcycle (Adam Century, The Atlantic)
Confucius Comes Home (Evan Osnos, New Yorker)
China sets aside one Great Man at the same time it re-appropriates and repackages another.

Egypt's Revolution That Was (Hammonda)
The Revolution in Winter (Steve Negus, The Arabist)
Just how far Egypt has fallen is finally sinking in.

The Sun Offers No Wisdom (Erik Gauger, Notes from the Road)
Dusklands (Robin Yassin Kassab, Pulse Media)
A pair of wise travel reflections from Morocco. Also be sure to see my "12 Essential Questions for First-Time Visitors" from this month.