Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Gear: Defeating Technology, Now With Maps!

I'm starting to believe that the ability to combine my Kindle Fire with PDFs is either the best thing ever, or pure dagnasty evil. A few days ago, I found myself killing time at Starbucks, and within a mere fifteen minutes, I'd downloaded tons of PDF maps. I have to say, when I use a Kindle with PDF maps, I feel like I'm Jack Bauer.

The whole thing started when I found a map of Orkney - this map of Orkney, and this thing about places to stay in Scotland in 2012 and 2013. Since I was hoping to take some time later that day to plan a trip to Oman, that's what I looked for next, and I found this, this, this, and this. That last one isn't particularly good, but the other three are solid gold. I also plan to go to Shetland at some point soon, which led me to this map of Shetland.

Now, that last one is interesting, because when I went back to look at it in the course of writing this blog post, I discovered that the website where I got it has maps of pretty much every individual geographic/political area of Scotland. I mean, just look at this page - I'm pretty sure that it's a straight up moral imperative that all of those Orkney maps wind up on my Kindle, even if I don't actually plan on visiting most of those areas. I also wanted to get a couple of maps of Scotland itself, so the fact that the website in question has an overall map of Scotland is super awesome, and will make a good addition to the Scotrail routes map. Oh, and I'll probably grab the Britrail map for good measure, too - heck, it's a pretty good map of the United Kingdom in general, regardless of whether it's focused on transport or not.

I also figured I'd download a map of Wyoming, my adopted hope state, and I got my actual home state as well. There's another place, one of my old work locations, that's great for maps, but there don't appear to be any PDF maps of it, so I may work on making one of those myself using Wikimapia and PowerPoint.

I've written before on the JTS, Ltd. blog about learning to navigate. On prior road trips, particularly my 2007 and 2010 cross-country road trips, I've used a 2007 MapQuest road atlas (which I loaned to my buddy Laud for nearly three years at one point). I still have that thing, and it may still be sitting in my vehicle back in the States. I'm really critical of reliance on dashboard GPS, and I'm a pretty staunch advocate of people learning how to navigate with an actual map, and perhaps even with a *gasp* compass (or even a handheld GPS). I realize that my mobile phones have the equivalent of foot mobile GPS, and I've used it a couple of times, so I'm not a zealot about the topic or anything - but I still think people ought to be able to navigate on their own, even if they sometimes defer to some of the technological options. I got that MapQuest road atlas in 2007, before tablets took off, so I guess all of this is to say that I find the options that I have from combining traditional maps with technology. Honestly, it sort of makes me feel like I'm pretty much carrying around the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (Having the World Factbook app merely underscores that feeling.)

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