1472: Geography

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The place I'd least like to live is the farm in the background of those diagrams showing how tornadoes form.
Title text: The place I'd least like to live is the farm in the background of those diagrams showing how tornadoes form.


The comic is a map showing examples of geographical features as they would be presented in a geography textbook. May be based on the first page of the book You Choose which displays a map of locations similar in style to the one used in the comic and asks the reader "If you could go anywhere, where would you go?".

Randall notes that he would like to live in the middle of this region. These maps include an unusual density of different land forms, leading to an interesting environment in which to live. In the real world, these geographical features might take up far more space, and the geologic forces that shape them might create far different patterns than those shown. This kind of Neverland of geographical feature would offer a range of outdoor activities and landscapes that would make it a very nice place to live, as long as the volcano does not erupt.

Some of the geographic features do have a (very) loose similarity to the area around Boston, where Randall lives. Also near Boston is one geographical feature that Randall has included in this map but has refrained from labeling, the isthmus between the peninsula and the forest.

On the other hand, the map actually looks quite a bit like the area around southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon, with the reader facing south so the high desert is on the upper left. The volcano could be Rainier or St. Helens. Real-world outdoor enthusiasts do indeed appreciate the Neverlandish landscape. Having little Spanish influence, locals would refer to a "mesa" as a butte.

The title text discusses a different type of diagram usually found in geography textbooks, the one showing the mechanism of tornado formation. Randall notes that he would least like to live in the farm typically depicted in the background of such diagrams. This is likely because the farm is depicted as being on a vast, featureless stretch of flat prairie, the opposite of the rich landscape in the comic. The monotonous landscape would reflect that of Tornado Alley, an area of the central United States where a large number of tornadoes form, and which makes up a large portion of the Great Plains. His dislike for this type of area may also simply be due to the damage created when a tornado hits. That said, chances of a direct tornado hit on any given house are slim compared to simply the risk of property damage. Living near an active volcano may be much more dangerous than living in Tornado Alley. Tornadoes are a recurring subject on xkcd.

Here is an alphabetical list of the different land forms with wiki links:
Bay, Desert, Forest, Glacier, Hills, Island, Lagoon, Lake, Mesa, Mountains, Peninsula, Plain, Delta, River, Sea, Strait and Volcano.


[A colorful map shows various possible land forms which are labeled (and the last one with a spelling mistake included here). In general reading order the labels are:]
[In the middle of these land forms, under the river and between the lake and the lagoon there is a black dot on the green bank of the lagoon with an arrow pointing it out. The arrow starts above the lake to the left of the glacier and is labeled:]
My house
[Below the panel there is a caption:]
If I could live anywhere, I would choose the example map from geography books that explains what everything is called.


  • Randall has misspelled peninsula with an extra "n" as penninsula.

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Anybody notice that he drew an isthmus but didn't label it? 05:49, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

Does Randall play Dwarf Fortress? Because the perfect map to build your fort on looks about like this. Volcano near the sea is especially neat luxury. -- 06:57, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

1223: Dwarf Fortress suggests he does. --Pudder (talk) 09:00, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

Would be nice if there could be an example of the sort of map that Randall is referring to from a textbook for people who've never seen them or don't remember. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Yeah, shame that there isn't one in the comic itself... 12:58, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

I'd be interested to hear where in the world people claim matches this best. Boston...? I ain't buying that one. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Southern California. We don't have glaciers. But we do have alpine permafrost. We also have no active volcanoes. Otherwise this is essentially my house on the map. 20:00, 13 January 2015 (UTC) BLuDgeons

Examples like Randall was talking about that I found on Google images. 1 2 These appear to be two pages of the same picture: 3 4 I'm not sure if they're good enough quality to add to the main article, but if someone thinks they are, feel free. For someone who's never seen them before, they're fairly common in elementary school social studies or geography textbooks; I remember seeing them multiple times in mine. Tomari7 (talk) 11:10, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

I like the second one, if only for the iceberg sitting at the bottom. Okofish (talk) 09:30, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

Also, no Valley or Fjord. Damn insensitve tropical geography. 11:21, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

The Region around Vancouver has a lot of the items in the picture. (Sandy) deserts and Mesas are the only missing. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Anyone else noticing the distinct lack of any buildings? I'd call that a reason not to live there... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

...well, there's My House.;) 13:55, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

Or maybe a good reason TO live there! mwburden (talk) 14:02, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

Please delete these useless musings

Some people, when seeing paintings or pictures of landscapes, tend to dream away thinking ‘Imagine I lived there…’ This may happen even (or perhaps especially) to school children looking at schematic depictions with educational purposes, as in this case one that summarizes as many as possible geographic features on a limited area. 16:27, 12 January 2015 (UTC)


Since I can hardly imagine Randall doesn't know how it's written, the n too much may be a subtle gag. (Just think of what happens in the opposite case ;-) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think it's a misspelling. However, the Penninsula would certainly be in Pennsylvania. 14:41, 12 January 2015 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure the extra 'n' in Penninsula is a reference to the english version of the Legend of Zelda, specifically the phrase, "EASTMOST PENNINSULA IS THE SECRET". Considering The Legend of Zelda games usually also take place in the type of world shown here, I'd say it's a good guess. 21:01, 14 January 2015 (UTC)

"Randall notes that he would least like to live in the farm typically depicted in the background of such diagrams [how tornadoes form]. This is likely because the farm is depicted as being on a vast, featureless stretch of flat prairie, the opposite of the rich landscape in the comic."

Well, perhaps.... Or perhaps it's because tornadoes keep forming there!! --Ab78 (talk) 08:57, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

I think the point is that in the book the farm is very close to the actual Tornado that is there right now and about to hit said farm, quick get into the basement!, not that he objects to the type of area where tornadoes might form. Garemoko (talk) 22:58, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

If the explanation of why he'd like to live in the picture is that it's interesting because it has a lot of different features, it makes sense that he wouldn't want to live on the farm because it hardly has any features. He doesn't seem to have a problem with dangerous forces of nature, since he wants to live next to (what appears to be) an active volcano. However, both the danger and the boredom explanations are included for the sake of completeness. 00:17, 15 January 2015 (UTC)

No one has yet mentioned how conveniently named everything in this locality is. The forest is named "Forest" and so on. Someone moving there would have no difficulty when asking for directions! Jim E (talk) 17:23, 13 January 2015 (UTC)

"My House" is actually reasonably well sheltered from a volcanic eruption, assuming the mountain is not a supervolcano like Yellowstone. There are hills blocking the direct route. The lake will buffer mudslides, and "My House"'s location closer to the lagoon than the lake or river - and the likely continuity of the midstage hills and backstage mountains means there would be some low hills in that area, so even a significantly increased outflow from the lake would most likely not reach the house. That leaves ashfall, which is one of the lesser-impact (albeit wider-impact) issues in most cases - and in the Mount Saint Helens eruption, nearly all the major ashfall went away from the ocean. 18:06, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

I live on the Big Island of Hawaii. We have all those features and more within a hundred miles of my house. 04:10, 1 February 2015 (UTC)