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Murch: So many places to see but so little time

March 23, 2012
Steve Murch - Managing Editor , The Alpena News

I like geography, demographics, etc. I want to know about places, how big or small they are, and a little of their history. If there is something interesting going on in the U.S., I'll pull out my atlas and see where the place is. If something big happens in the world, I'll run an Internet search and see what I can find out about it.

I think some of this is just filling my head with meaningless fun, but some of it serves a purpose - to know more about the world we live in and how it relates to and affects me. There are times I will use the fluffier aspects of it to challenge the staff; nothing big, just things like "What five cities in Europe would you most want to spend a month in?" or things along those lines. While it gives me a little insight into who they are and what interests them, the tougher ones force them to think a little and I can see how they process topics.

So with that in mind, let's see if I can get 50 city names into here while touching on why I ask and where people want to go. I'm limited to 700 words, and I've now used 210.

Usually when I ask that question London (1), Paris (2) and Rome (3) are quickly mentioned. There is some hemming and hawing and a few more places pop up, namely Dublin (4), Barcelona (5) and Athens (6). Unfortunately, I also find out more about them than I bargained for when they start naming countries as cities.

Some will ask for a list of European cities, so I intentionally list places like Zagreb (7), Riga (8), Porto (9) and Bucharest (10) to see if they bite. They don't, but some will give a thought to one of them. When I get to Oslo (11), Helsinki (12), Berlin (13), Edinburgh (14) and Glasgow (15), some will jump on those cities. Once in a while someone will jump on Moscow (16), but Venice (17) seems to be universal once it is mentioned.

If I expand it to the rest of the world, excluding Europe, there are a few named instantly: Sydney (18), Toronto (19), Vancouver (20) and Beijing (21).

I'll occasionally do quizzes just to see if they know where some places are. Many times they have no clue, even though they are communities they should at least know the name. In the past, Islamabad (22), Pyongyang (23), Damascus (24), Riyadh (25) and Amman (26) have drawn complete blanks. And that's a little scary given their locations and political climate. At least they know Kabul (27), Baghdad (28) and Tehran (29).

It doesn't bother me that they don't know some of these places, I just find it puzzling that they wouldn't have a better grasp of where places like Algiers (30), Tripoli (31), Lagos (32), Kinshasa (33) and Nairobi (34) are.

I think part of it is that it doesn't interest them, and I'm sure they have quizzes they could give me that would cause them to scratch their heads. I haven't done it with the current crew in the newsroom, but I'm sensing I should come up with some sort of quiz.

The funny thing is when we do the quiz, it usually takes an extra day before they ask me where I would want to go. I get them caught up in their own thoughts. I'm a bit different than the run of the mill chooser. For me the five in Europe would be Florence (35) because it's the home of Leonardo da Vinci (though he was born in a nearby town); Copenhagen (36), Stockholm (37), Salzburg (38), birthplace of Mozart; Prague (39). That doesn't mean to take anything away from St. Petersburg (40), Budapest (41), Tallinn (42), Reykjavik (43), Madrid (44) or Amsterdam (45). Worldwide add Tokyo (46), Quito (47), Buenos Aires (48) and Cape Town (49) without a blink of the eye.

Everyone has their preferences, but I like to challenge people to see how they think. The truth is none of us will see every place, we just have to know they're there.

And don't forget Ulaanbaatar (50).



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