Thursday, November 30, 2006

Geographical Awareness

There just are not enough maps in the world.

Ever since I was a small boy, I have been fascinated by maps. Almost as soon as I was able to read, I began to study maps. I loved the colors, especially the blue of the oceans. I loved the grids. I loved the wiggly lines that indicated rivers or boundaries. I loved the bumps that showed where the mountains were. Best of all, I loved the fun and easy way that I was accumulating knowledge that most of my peers (and far too many of my elders) would take for granted as we were growing up.

Map reading is one of the few things that did not lose its appeal when I had to seriously study it in school. (To give one example, I used to love reading fiction until I took AP English twenty-two years ago.)

When I was as young as ten, I was planning a cross-country road trip on a 1964 Rand McNally Road Atlas of the United States. (Nevermind that the book was older than I was, and almost completely devoid of ultra-modern interstate highways.) I would pop open a world atlas, pick a distant land, and use it as a base of operations to plan a conquest of neighboring countries. Occasionally, I would come across speculative maps with things like "How the USA could be reorganized as thirty-five states instead of fifty". My favorites, though, had to be historical maps. One of the best ways to learn about why things are the way they are is to find out how they used to be. (Have I ever mentioned that I am a History major?) Historical maps help you figure out the historical process that resulted in the world we have today.

If it sounds like I'm geeking out on this...well, I am. A friend sent me a link to a site called "strange maps", which doesn't really seem so strange to me, unless by "strange" it means "endlessly fascinating". Historical maps, speculative maps, humorous cartography -- they're all there.

I've managed to waste nearly two hours at the site. This is an easy addiction. Do they have rehab for map fanatics?


jipzeecab said...

I too have always been fascinated with maps...just looking at the first four on that site justifies spending many hours there.
I probably use "google earth" several times a day...its free download is well worth the effort if you don't have it on your home computer..
Have you heard that the official Russian position on the spy murder thing is that it was done by an oligarch?(defined by them as a "corporate controlling gangster"). Maybe the time has come for you to reveal your fascinating story about how you chose that name..

Nicko McDave said...

Google Earth is fantastic! Sometimes I gather my kids around the computer so we call "fall" from maximum height above the planet and see where we land. We've ended up in Madagascar, as well as on someone's roof in the midwest.

You know, I haven't been following the Russian spy story. As to my alleged involvement...ask no questions, tell no lies.