Greenland is not a Country

Editor’s Note: This post was written by hejman, a Sporcle moderator who occasionally graces us with amazing blog posts.

BREAKING NEWS: The citizens of Greenland are valiantly hanging on in their fight to remain dependent.1

The best way to get an error fixed on a Sporcle quiz is to use the ‘Report Game’ feature in the informational box at the bottom of the quiz. Those reports go directly to Sprorcle’s World Headquarters in Seattle, Washington where they are reviewed, around the clock, by a team of geographers, historians, underpaid interns, Pulitzer Prize winning writers, sleep-deprived volunteers and military trained dolphins armed with atomic weaponry2.

As a ‘moderator’ for the site, I get to see, and occasionally act upon, the reports that errors exist on quizzes. For the most part, the reports are made by well-intentioned quiz takers who see a genuine issue. Some, however, are made by those who are, shall we say, less well informed. Others appear to have been made by a well-trained parrot or, perhaps, a kitten walking across a keyboard3.

Nowhere is this clearer than on Sporcle’s flagship quiz- Countries of the World. The kind folks at Sporcle HQ prepared a spreadsheet of all the reports filed on the quiz between the end of June 2010 and the middle of March 2013. A great many of the reports relate to the Countries of the World version of the ‘Axis of Evil’- Kosovo, Taiwan and Palestine4.

Between the U.N. vote on November 29th, 2012 and Sporcle’s announcement on January 14th, 2013 that it was adding Palestine to the quiz, there were no fewer than 18 reports requesting that Palestine be added. In the two months following, there have been 14 more complaining about its addition5. Taiwan gets reported frequently enough that I’m becoming convinced that the Communist Party of China has hired someone solely to serve that function6.

The vast majority of reports are in relation to countries that simply aren’t and the largest number of those reports- more than Palestine before its addition, more than the constituent “countries” of the United Kingdom7, more even than any overseas territory is the heavily populated super-power of Greenland8.

In the last two months of 2012 alone, reports that Greenland was “missing” from the quiz came in at a rate of nearly one every nine days. During the entire reporting period, Greenland received three times as many reports as Scotland and five times as many reports as England and Wales. Maybe it’s because Greenland is so big9. Maybe it’s because it is so sparsely populated10. Maybe, it is because Greenland has had home rule since 1979 and self-government since 2009. But the island is not independent and does not handle its own foreign affairs, national defense or monetary policy.

In that way, Greenland is substantially similar to the situation of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Indeed the second and third most frequent reports come in relation to Scotland and England, with Wales and Northern Ireland just further down the list. The confusion in understandable and is, frankly, more semantic than substantial. When we Americans say “country” we mean a fully independent entity that is in charge of all aspects of its own governance and self defense. We seem to have some opposition to the concept of a Kingdom.11Several other frequently reported areas (many of them islands) are also overseas territories, states, constituent countries or otherwise part of a larger nation including places like St. Maarten, Curacao, Catalonia and French Guiana.

Other reports are somewhat more difficult to comprehend. Puerto Rico is a frequent reportee. The Falkland Islands have been reported as ‘missing’ as well12. Sarah Palin appears to have been taking Sporcle quizzes as Alaska has been reported as missing- multiple times13. Disputed states, like Western Sahara and North Cyprus are also reported from time to time.

Every few weeks someone will complain about a country that clearly is a country. I’m never sure whether they’re kidding or not. In September of 2010 there was the report, “Germany isn’t a real country14.” Then there was the December 2010 report, “Georgia is an American state, like Hawaii15.” People also sometimes miss countries that are actually there. The map gets pretty full by the end, so this is understandable when the countries are small, like Costa Rica, Belize and Monaco16 How a user missed Afghanistan17 is beyond my comprehension.

The best reports come from users who knew that a country was there, but just didn’t know how to spell it. You know, like Libia18. Or maybe Bosnia & Herzagovina19. Mama New Guinea was really upset that Papa New Ginuea20 wasn’t accepted. Togo and Tonga got together and had a baby- Tongo21. But when the name of the continent is in the name of the country it’s hard to fathom how the error occurs. But there it was, February 9, 2011- “It wouldn’t accept South Afica.”

I should hope not.

Footnotes:
  1. Actual Breaking News may be broken. []
  2. Reviewers may vary by geographic district. []
  3. I’m serious about the last one.  Sometimes the reports are just random letters: “sdfkjsdfjkrtuiy” []
  4. They’re not evil, but ‘Axis of Countries of Disputed International Status that Give Sporcle a Headache and Cause Lots of Quiz Reports’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it. []
  5. Two written in all upper-case letters- closed captioned for the hearing impaired. []
  6. Deputy Undersecretary of the Central Commission for Trolling. []
  7. Constituent countries of the United Kingdom are subject to change without notice of Scottish voting []
  8. Note: Population of Greenland may settle during shipping. []
  9. If it was a country, Greenland would be the 12th largest nation in the world. []
  10. Greenland is 1,828 times larger than the Ohio county I live in, but my county has more than three times the population and we’re considered “rural.” []
  11. See, generally, Independence, Declaration of, T. Jefferson, 1776. []
  12. What, you don’t remember the 1982 headlines in which the bold citizens of the Falkland Islands, armed only with fishing poles and rabid sheep repelled the combined oppressive forces of the Argentine military junta and the Iron Lady in order to maintain their self-governing independence?  Me neither. []
  13. I kid. For tonight’s performance, the role of Sarah Palin will be played by a grizzly bear with a Big Gulp. []
  14. Erich Honecker playing from the grave? []
  15. To my knowledge no has ever complained that “Turkey is a bird and a food, not a country.” []
  16. Reports from August 2012, October 2012 and January 2013, respectively. []
  17. Report from June 2012. []
  18. Hey, there are 31 ways to spell Gadaffi.  Quiz report September 2010.  There was also a report on Lybia in January of 2013. []
  19. June 2012. []
  20. June 2011. []
  21. June 2012. []

The Story of Duncan Mitcheltree

Editor’s Note: David Hejmanowski is the editor of Sporcle’s miscellaneous section. A father of two, he is a Magistrate and Court Administrator of the Delaware County, Ohio Juvenile Court.

Who doesn’t love kissing a baby?  They’re cute, they’re cuddly, they make fun noises and, as long as they’re not spitting up on you, they remind you of the amazing wonder of life.

It’s a presidential election year in the U.S. and so it’s hard to turn on the television or look on the internet without seeing images of presidential candidates on the campaign trail, shaking hands and making speeches.  So it was, a few weeks ago, that I set out to make an image quiz of presidential candidates kissing babies.

The search produced the expected results- lots of shots of candidates laughing, smiling and making funny faces and lots of images of sometimes smiling, sometimes crying, sometimes confused babies and toddlers.  The quiz was published on February 3rd and I was delighted when a brand new user named Seed2tree made the following comment on the quiz;

Indeed, the photo of McCain showed him at a 2008 rally at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.  In the photo the Arizona Senator is smooching an adorable little boy in a red shirt.

It wasn’t clear from the comment who the commenter was or whether he or she was being honest about being the parent of that incredibly cute kid.  Derek Pharr, Sporcle’s VP of Products, wondered about it too and so he contacted the user who left the comment.  What followed is a story that will make you marvel at the connectivity of the modern world, but more importantly, a story that will touch your heart.

The user turned out to Phillipsburg, New Jersey’s Andrea Mitcheltree the mother of three children, including little Duncan Mitcheltree, who was 15 months old when this photo was taken at Lehigh in 2008.  The story of how the picture came to be is somewhat pedestrian, but the story of what happened after it, is remarkable.

Duncan and his folks went to the McCain/Palin rally with little Duncan dressed in an elephant costume (a ‘wee-publican’, as his mother says).  The rally was crowded and hot and Duncan overheated, so he was de-pachydermed prior to meeting the Senator and having this picture taken.  The photo appeared in some local newspapers and some other media outlets and then sat dormant for four years until it happened to show up on my Sporcle quiz.

In fact, it happened to show up on a Sporcle quiz that was played by a college friend of Mrs. Mitcheltree.  That friend recognized the boy as Duncan and emailed a link to the quiz to Mrs. Mitcheltree who created a Sporcle account and left the comment.  She also was kind enough to respond to Derek when he emailed her, and that takes us to Duncan’s magnificent story.

You see, not long after Duncan Mitcheltree met Senator John McCain, Duncan faced a battle much greater than McCain had faced against Barack Obama.  Too young to vote, too young to read, too young to know what the men and women in the white lab coats were saying or why his parents, Andrea and Eric were so upset, Duncan Mitcheltree- that adorable, cherubic, blond boy in the Sporcle quiz- faced a fight for his life.

Shortly before Christmas in 2009 he just couldn’t shake a fever and sore throat.  His mom took him to the doctor hoping that he wouldn’t be sick over Christmas.  She later told a local newspaper reporter, “I thought we’d go to the pediatrician and worst case scenario he’d diagnose him with strep throat and start an antibiotic.”  Instead, the doctor sent them for an ultrasound and the ultrasound found a mass in Duncan’s abdomen.  Two year-old Duncan Mitcheltree had cancer.  “They told us to pack a bag and go directly to the hospital,” his mother said.  “What do you pack when you think your child is going to die?”

The tumor was the size of a sports bottle and resulted from a form of kidney cancer that frequently strikes children.  Surgery successfully removed the tumor and one of Duncan’s kidneys, but his battle wasn’t over yet.  Following the surgery Duncan faced months of radiation and chemotherapy.  Even then, though, Duncan was on the mend.  “Every day after that has been a positive step forward,” his father said.

Since his diagnosis, Duncan has had many heroes in his life, including his parents and his big sister.  Indeed, they have worked tirelessly to raise pediatric cancer awareness and to help raise money for other families that find themselves facing an unexpected battle.  In particular, the Mitcheltrees cite The Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley and its ‘Chemo Circus.’  Twice a month the Foundation gathers clowns, artists, massage therapists (for the parents!) and other volunteers who go into the chemotherapy clinics to make the experience more livable for pediatric cancer patients and their families.  The circus is just one of the ways that the Foundation provides support.

We urge you to visit the website of the Foundation at pcflv.org.  The Sporcle team has made a donation to the Foundation and you can donate to them through their website using Paypal.

Duncan is now four and a half years old.  He is finished with radiation and chemotherapy and the great news is that his form of cancer has a 90% cure rate if it is caught early, removed and appropriately treated.  He has a new baby sister and, when he hits five years without any recurrence of his cancer (a date that will come in 2015) his doctors will officially declare him cancer free.

The Republican primary in Pennsylvania isn’t until April 24th.  Perhaps this year we’ll get a new picture of Duncan’s baby sister getting a smooch from a candidate, a healthy, happy Duncan at her side.

“Everyone just needs to stop and appreciate everything they have because you never know when your life will be turned upside down.”
– Andrea Mitcheltree