Friday, November 20, 2015

Signs of the Times

 I was listening to Science Friday on the radio this morning.  Interesting discussion by two map-making experts who are involved in re-designing maps of urban transit systems.  It turns out the new mobile-device-wielding traveler likes to be told, step by step, how to get from point A to Point B, but is not so concerned about knowing where he is at any given moment along the route.  In a sense, these new maps are not really maps.  They are diagrams that simply identify key points along a route, and perhaps estimated times.  I had bits of this program rattling around in my brain when I got out of my car to look at a Forest Service map (above) that informed me where I was.  No surprise.  I was here!  And I knew that.  It would have been impossible for me to be anywhere else, particularly there.  I'm always here; never there.  So, if a person on the London, or New York, or San Francisco subway asked a fellow passenger "Do you know where we are?" it would always be appropriate to say, "Yes.  We are here."  So, the above Forest Service sign didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.
 This experience obviously put me in a mischievous mood.  So, when I looked at another part of the map, a part representing Feather River College, I thought "it has never looked better!"  No gopher holes, no litter, no dog poop and no outdoor ash trays.  Just topography and a nice, meandering creek.  I wish we could start over and preserve the natural watercourse and some of the wetlands.  No lawns.  However, I must admit, I see more wildlife on campus than I do anywhere else around town.  I especially enjoy the Ravens.
This last bit was posted right next to the above-mentioned map.  It's not often that one sees a sign favoring older ways rather than the new.  Here horses have the right-of-way over bicycles and humans, although there are usually humans with the horses.  I'm somewhat partial to humans, so I'm ambivalent about this hierarchy.  I don't like hiking through horse poop.  And I definitely don't like to be forced to dodge out-of-control, downhill bicyclists, and that is happening with increasing frequency.  I really appreciate the concept of "trail courtesy" and I still experience a lot of it around Quincy, despite my mild grumbling about some trail users.  It's probably all a function of population density.  That's why I hope Plumas County doesn't grow in population.  To most economists, that's backward thinking.  But I'm with the late Ed Abbey when he said "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

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