Sunday, April 26, 2009

You and Your Compass: Walking the Trail of Mystery and Discovery

The woods can be a seemingly infinite grid of life. Nearly 100-million acres of the United States are designated wilderness, with no human inhabitants or establishment. With almost 3.8 million square miles (or about 2.3 billion acres), the United States has used up nearly all of it’s area. With the ever-increasing population and the electric demand, it won’t be long before even our precious wilderness has been pulverized. Most of our state parks have been blazed, the AT alone covering nearly 2,200-miles down the east coast.
Despite the many trails we’ve blazed, paths we’ve crossed and roads we’ve paved, it is a rather small comparison to the amount of ground that hasn’t been blazed, walked, or even seen. There is a wealth of wilderness and uncharted land open for exploration. One must, however, be more or less open to what Thoreau called the “wildness” in things, perhaps letting your intuitions and desires guide you to where you want to be. If you’re finding yourself in a financial frenzy, lost your job, or even just a little bored with your typical hiking patterns and procedures, this is an idea worth considering, an idea abandoned since the age of maps and GPS coordinates.
You may find yourself a bit weary at first, but the sooner you realize the freedom you have, the more curious you will become about your woods.

However, before making any quick decisions or taking your first step off of that main road, don’t forget your compass.
As most of you know, a compass uses a magnet to determine direction in relation to the Earth’s poles. The idea was developed by the Chinese and improved upon in the Middle Ages by the Europeans, who invented the first dry compass. Obviously since then, many advancements and variations have taken place.

- Baseplate Compass – A typical style, often has clear baseplate for use with maps
- Sighting Compass – Highly accurate compass with a folding mirror that allows visual of the compass capsule in addition to the target destination
- Gyrocompass – Used by boats and vessels, it uses an electric spinning-wheel, creating friction to further utilize the Earth’s rotation. It finds the “true” North of the Earth’s rotational axis, rather than the magnetic North
- Global Positioning System (GPS) – Precise, digital device displaying signals sent by satellites high above the earth, often times difficult to use

Many compasses are sold within a “multi-tool” type of arrangement, like my whistle/compass. Don’t beat yourself up over quality; as long as the thing works, you’re in business.
Figure out what it is you want from this experience. Try to be open to anything, and use your surroundings to find your way. Get to the highest ground possible for your general area. If you need to climb a tree to get the closest you can to a 360-degree view, than do so. Study your surroundings and try to pick a direction that intrigues you. Perhaps there is a distant water tower that you’d like to find out more about, or maybe there is a fine lookout ledge in the distance, requiring you to possibly scale a cliff or two. Whatever the case may be, once you decide on your direction of travel, you must consult your compass.
Keep your compass level to the ground and wait about five to seven seconds before observing your position. You should now figure out the direction of your destination. You must observe this reading carefully because if you do indeed plan on reaching this target, you will need to follow your trusty compass rigidly and deliberately.
Half the thrill and fun of this, is obeying the compass and watching it lead you through perilous and curious terrain, paths, and grades of all kind. Depending on where you are of course, very rarely will you stumble onto a designated trail or path.
Track your detour when and if you need to get around any large or dangerous obstacle. Keep track how long your detour was, and what direction you went. When the time comes to get back on track, figure out the adjacent direction of your detour (for example: if you went Northeast to avoid your obstacle, head Northwest). Follow this for the same amount of time you detoured, and then return to your initial direction. The important thing here is discipline.
There are infinite possibilities to what you may encounter, what you will discover. You may have a few brushings with wildlife, perhaps a well-hidden falcon’s nest, or a sly fox from a distance, catching his afternoon fish. You may take an old logging road and find a bald patch filled with vibrant, wild asters, overlooking the lake and open to the cool, gentle breeze of the churning waters.

That bald patch I called the “Field of Asters”, because I myself, have conquered the bohemian, no-map-no-trails experience, and look forward to many more. Regardless of how free and fun an excursion like this can be, I cannot stress the importance of your compass and your relationship with it. If you aren’t using maps, you should be using a compass. Even if you are using maps, you should be using a compass. It is your best friend, your sidekick, the one who will guide you home. Where you end up, depends almost entirely on the validity of your compass. Where you point your compass, however, depends on you.

SOLAR POWER: Did it really take this long?

"I'd put my money on solar energy," said Thomas Edison. This was over one hundred years ago. Thomas Edison was a smart man; he was the first true inventor, one who not only was smart enough to figure out new ideas, but devised and created ideas that sold to millions and made many people a lot of money. Back in those days, he couldn't conceive ever constructing something that could harness energy from the sun. He was smart enough to know, however, how powerful the sun is, and that it can do a bit more than bring May flowers.

We've dilly-dallyed, we've dabbled, we've even had success. There is probably a surprisingly small amount of people who actually run all of their electricty from solar power, and even in this "green" age, it's just now beginning to catch on.

Is it not a no-brainer that it is MUCH cheaper to install solar panels than to go extending the electrical grid? had an interesting statistic: Within 15 years, renewable energy could generate enough electricity to power 40 million homes and offset 70 days of oil imports.

No one is even thinking about this. I'm under the opinion that many folks will overlook this amazing alternative for many, many more years. With their home and land bought and paid for, and their home itself running off of solar electricity, one could breeze by, year after year, paying nothing but property taxes and food and water bills, thereby boosting the economy in more commercial areas and giving unambitious folks more jobs that they've been wanting for so long now.

How much more coal can we burn? What's so good about natural gas? There's certainly nothing good about it. I wonder how dumb we look to our own atmosphere.

Although humans are the smartest species, our history shows a steady climb to excellence; Rome wasn't built in a day, and that's fine. The sun, however, rises every morning with a heap of heat and an amount of ultraviolet light that prohibits us from actually looking at it, and if there are other unknown planets in close residence to the sun, I wouldn't be surprised to see them taking advantage of it electrically. Every day you watch it come up, and then you watch it go down. You know that it's a light that never goes out, and you know it grows your crops.

The sun is the original God. The first man saw the sun and saw everlasting life, and worshipped it. There were no iPods, computers, day jobs, wives, children, money, insurance policies, or diseases to distract him. There was only the sun, and everything he knew was under it. Omniprescent and rich, it was hard for him to disregard it as being The Creator, or All-That-Creates.

For a little investment, a PV Solar system, equipped with panels, charge controllers, batteries and inverters can run anyone's home. In this age of technology, it would take a significant amount of wattage to accomodate the average American's electrical needs. Chargers, computers plugged in all day, luminant lights; they all need their share.

If we all learn to SIMPLIFY SIMPLIFY SIMPLIFY, then our solar systems will be a lot cheaper. The point is, that the government has had everyone by the balls for far too long. There is so much freedom still in this country. It may look shadowy and far too controlled, but one must realize effective alternatives, and just rise above it. The question will eventually be: "Shall I contribute to world pollution and overall ecological negligence by signing with the power company to send their concentrated electricity to us through those ugly wires? OR, shall I save up a little money and purchase a perfectly adequate solar system that coexists with the sun that rises, takes it's hand-outs all the live long day, and then harnesses it after it sets?"

American Idols Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai (LA Times) just may be what it will take to get the electrical message across to so many television-drenched Americans.

Regarding the Recent Swine Flu in Mexico

I read an article today about the recent swine flu illness spreading across Mexico. Apparently 20 cases have been reported in the U.S., according to to Donald McNeil's recent NY Times article.

1300 breathing problems and 81 deaths in Mexico? That's a fairly hefty amount and considering the close proximity, America may be hoping their flu shots are a little more juiced-up this season.

The question here is not how powerful America's vaccines will be, but rather, are Mexicans taking care of themselves? This is a virus derived intially from contact with pigs carrying the virus, and is then spread from human to human. It could just be a matter of people not cleaning up after themselves, and worse, not cleaning themselves.

The people of Mexico maintain a fairly primitive routine considering the continent they're on, full of commerce and production. They are a dedicated people, suited for a simple life of hard work and appreciation. But as any visitor will tell you, Mexico is just not a clean place. The water is forbidden, which can't possibly help even if you're trying to wash yourself.

What strikes me also are conclusions based on numbers. Because not too many have died (80), officials probably don't even consider it a threat yet. In reality, many Mexicans are suffering from breathing problems and irregularly prolonged flu spells.