Yoknapatawpha Crossing

Two Things

with 2 comments

The first is that I just recently finished reading a book called The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. It was really good. It’s about New York City and comic books and the early part of the century. Chabon is engaging like John Irving, has a command of English as vast as Conrad’s, and tells a story that is slightly fanciful but steeped in reality. Actually the reason I like it so much is that Chabon perfectly captures the spirit of the age he’s depicting. Reading Kavalier & Clay feels very similar to reading Fitzgerald, if Fitzgerald had come at his subject from a very different direction. But that’s just what I think; what the hell do I know, I’m a math major. Soon to be a math graduate. If I don’t drop out of college before the end of the semester. Anyhow.

The second thing is Google Earth. The other day I was fiddling around on Google Maps, and was very impressed by the technology they’ve got powering that. You can drag maps around smoothly, you can zoom in way far, you can not only get satellite imagery of most places, but actually overlay Google’s road map on top of that satellite image, and they’ve got all this linked with their database, so searching for things close to the spot on earth you’re looking at is easy. Very impressive. Then I found Google Earth.

Google Earth has one caveat: unlike many of Google’s technologies, it is a program you must download, install, and run, rather than load in a web browser. Should you choose to do this, however, you will lose yourself for hours in what has to be one of the most impressive displays of web integration available today.

Google Earth is a program which models the entire globe in real time 3D. It uses satellite imagery to paint the surface, so you can start by looking at the entire Earth framed in your window, and zoom in to a bird’s eye view of your house. Depending on the age of the imagery, you might see your car parked in the driveway. Of course, that’s an awful lot of satellite imagery to store on your hard drive. How does the program pull this off, exactly? In point of fact, whenever you run Google Earth, the program connects to Google’s servers, and they stream you satellite imagery to power the program. That alone is a ridiculous technical accomplishment, but on top of this unprecedented model of the world, they have added their map technology so that you can see not just roads, but businesses, parks, points of interest, and everything else on this true-to-life picture of the earth in addition to viewing flybys of any trips you might be planning; they have built three dimensional models of the metropolitan areas of major cities; and they have linked all of this to an online community that allows users to add their own markers to the globe for all to see. And they are giving all this away for free.

If the fact that this blog is running on Blogger didn’t immediately tip you off, I am a Google fanboy. It’s hard not be a fanboy for a company with Google’s philosophy, though. They look at the internet, and they find something that people are using. They say to themselves, “We are going to take this idea that works pretty well, and we are going to make it work beautifully. We are going to make it do everything that common sense says it should do. We are going to base it on cutting-edge technology, we are going to make it elegant and straightforward, we are going to make it so stultifyingly simple that anyone who knows how to click a mouse can immediately use it, and we are going to give it away for free.” It’s hard to argue with free.

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Written by Daniel Grady

November 10, 2005 at 18:07

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. “A command of the English language equal to Conrad” is pretty high praise, my friend. Even though I’m not wild about historical documentary and abhor comic books, I might have to check this book out _just_ because you said it was _that good_. ;)

    Peace out cub scout,
    Sarah

    Sarah

    December 9, 2005 at 20:16

  2. Totally, man. It’s a trip. Definitely worth reading.

    D. Grady

    December 10, 2005 at 21:27


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