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05 July 2012

bad stuff about GPS / farewell to LORAN / always follow your GPS driving directions / The Rebel Picnic

Click photo, maybe something happens.

e-mail to my Army pal who lives below and slightly to the left of his right-hand thumb:


grrrrrr on Monday I sent you 2 e-mails, one with a Donald Evans "loop-the-loop", the other with just a YouTube url. mailer-daemon says one of them didn't make it, but I can't tell which one. Did you get the Donald Evans loop-the-loop stamp(s)?
* * *
Our tiny puny farm hilltown actually has One Big Whoop, our 4th of July celebration, which for reasons I find mildly mysterious, attracts upwards of 40,000 gawkers.
(Last year my endocrinologist was reviewing my daily blood sugars and asked me about one which had shot through the roof. I was very embarrassed -- her computer display nailed me at the Volunteer Fire Department 4th of July Pancake/Maple Syrup breakfast.)
So anyway because of The Big Whoop, all the normal roads from our house to Anywhere were blocked off or gridlocked. S.W.M.B.O. was a bit under the weather and needed This and That, so I had to creep around and get hopelessly lost on very unfamiliar back roads -- several from the Pre-Paving Era -- until I finally emerged somewhere familiar that sold stuff.

I detest S.W.M.B.O.'s GPS, but it wouldn't have helped, because GPS doesn't know it's the 4th of July and Chesterfield and environs are all blocked off.
During my last Unsupervised Bachelor Era I took this screwy backpack public-transportation trek to Labrador (alone -- it's amazing how few pretty young babes jump at the chance for a free trip on a freighter-ferry up the Labrador coast), and the jumping-off port for the Labrador freighter was St. Anthony, Newfoundland. 

I got there early and was wandering around this quaint fishing village when I passed a small undistinguished modern office building which announced itself as the North American East Coast Headquarters of LORAN, the radio navigation system the world used before the super-spiffy new-fangled GPS.
I knocked on the front glass door and a slightly startled fellow (they don't get much walk-in business) was happy to let me in and give me a tour. For them what suffers, as I do, with Geek Sickness, it was really swell, just hectares and hectares of electronic panels and flashing lights and knobs and dials and things that go beep-beep and woo-wee-woo.
Finally I worked up the nerve to ask the nice man if GPS had doomed his entire livelihood, and he said at first they just assumed LORAN would be promptly shut down. 

But in the first few years of the amazing GPS space satellite miracle, they discovered GPS had several mysterious Wrong Zones -- places where it's just unreliable. One of the Wrong Zones is the Great Lakes. LORAN still reliably keeps The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald on course, but if the skipper is using the new-fangled GPS, he can end up as an overplayed folk dirge.

So with a very wide grin, the nice LORAN man said LORAN got an unexpected reprieve of an extra 5 or 10 years. I don't know if they've unplugged it yet or fixed the GPS Wrong Zones.

Wikipedia: The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) ceased transmitting LORAN-C (and joint CHAYKA) signals in 2010.
If you want to see a real spooky movie about the nifty talking helpful GPS in your BMW, rent "The Ghost Writer."
Happy 236th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence! (The Nova Scotia phone book is filled with S.W.M.B.O.'s colonial-era cousins who picked the Losing Side and had to skeedaddle. Canadians call our Fourth "The Rebel Picnic.")


Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald
Music and lyrics © 1976 by Gordon Lightfoot

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they called "Gitche Gumee."
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
when the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty,
that good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
when the "Gales of November" came early.

The ship was the pride of the American side
coming back from some mill in Wisconsin.
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
with a crew and good captain well seasoned,

concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
when they left fully loaded for Cleveland.
And later that night when the ship's bell rang,
could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
and a wave broke over the railing.
And ev'ry man knew, as the captain did too
'twas the witch of November come stealin'.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
when the Gales of November came slashin'.
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
in the face of a hurricane west wind.

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck sayin'.
"Fellas, it's too rough t'feed ya."
At 7 p.m., it grew dark, it was then he said,
"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"

The captain wired in he had water comin' in
and the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when 'is lights went outta sight
came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does any one know where the love of God goes
when the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
if they'd put fifteen more miles behind 'er.

They might have split up or they might have capsized;
they may have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
in the rooms of her ice-water mansion.
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams;
the islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
takes in what Lake Erie can send her,
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
with the Gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed,
in the "Maritime Sailors' Cathedral."
The church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine times
for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
of the big lake they call "Gitche Gumee."
"Superior," they said, "never gives up her dead
when the gales of November come early!"

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