Ken Jennings is a Maphead and unashamed to admit it

Bob Harris says:

Maphead I've always been fascinated with maps. They're guides to whole new worlds I'd never imagine otherwise -- real, fictional, modern, ancient, or predicted. Turns out Ken Jennings (the big Jeopardy! winner, and -- full disclosure -- a buddy of mine) is a maphead of champion intensity, and he just wrote a fun new book about the world of mapmakers, geocachers, and fellow travelers. Those familiar with Ken's blog will recognize his curiosity, humor, and eye for things that are just fun to know.

Did you know why Google Earth opens where it does? Because if you zoom in fully, you'll arrive at an apartment building in Lawrence, Kansas. It's a secret tribute to Google VP Brian McClendon, who grew up in that building.

I think life is slightly better just knowing that. This is a whole book for and about people who agree.

Maphead: Charting the Weird, Wide World of Geography Wonks


  1. I guess they didn’t feel like doing it for google maps, because starting a new tab and zooming in there centers you on a grassy field in southern Kansas.

    1. I liked the part of the interview about the book, but then they threw in the Jeopardy rundown and I felt a little bad for Ken, who is obviously trying to be more than just “Game Show Winner for $800.”

  2. I’m working on artistically rendering a 25-year-old D&D map in gimp, so I’m getting a kick out of this thread.

  3. Here in Canada it zooms into Qu’Appelle Avenue in Winnipeg :-(

    On the upside, though, I guess he just proved we ARE all map geeks! (Or, you know, just geeks. Still, maps!!!)

  4. Is it near Liberal, KS? I remember that being that geometric center of the continental US (if you precisely cut out a rigid map of the 48 states, you could balance it on a pin at that point.) Isn’t it called the centroid?

  5. “I liked the part of the interview about the book, but then they threw in the Jeopardy rundown and I felt a little bad for Ken”

    Sigh, it goes with the territory.  The great thing is that enough time has gone by now that I can start recycling all the same Jeopardy jokes I used back in 2004.

    Google says the Coffeyville, KS thing is random, but I like usuallyconfused’s answer better.

    1. Reading the first chapter of your book, I must confess I did the same thing with my atlas, although it was the 1981 National Geographic version. Probably explains why I became a cartographer.

      Your book looks pretty interesting as well!

    2. You can also talk about the Watson match now, though I got the feeling from the interview (which I sat in my driveway after I got home to finish listening to by the way) that there isn’t really much to say about that from your perspective!

      I agree that the part of the interview about the book itself was excellent, and as a fellow map geek (though not a “wonk”) – which is part of why I became a geologist – I will definitely be picking up your book.

  6. Since I have heard the Lawrence story from a relative IN Lawrence who claims to have known the guy back when it was Keyhole or whatever it was prior to Google buying it, I buy that story. 

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