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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Schmucks on a Plane

I don’t spend a lot of time here doing the ‘traditional’ sort of blogging thing, commenting on current events or linking to interesting web sites or handicapping the potential winners in the latest round of ‘So You Think You Can Juggle Flaming Chainsaws?

Sometimes, there are exceptions.

(No, I have no idea who’s going to win the flaming chainsaw show. My guess would be the guy with the Kevlar gloves and the fire-retardant toupee. But what do I know?)

Yesterday, I found a site called Goggles, and I wanted to share it. Partly because it’s really cool. Partly because I don’t have anything else to write about, just at the moment. But mostly because it provides an excellent example of the breathtaking depths of my nerdiness. And who wouldn’t advertise that, eh?

First, a word about Goggles itself. In essence, it’s a flight simulator using Google Maps as a backdrop. There are dead-simple controls mapped to keyboard arrow keys to allow your animated biplane to dive, climb, and circle left and right. Also, you can press the space bar to fire.

(Fire at what, exactly? I’m not terribly sure. Maybe if you putter around in the Himalayas, the terrain rises to flight level, and you can blast through a few mountains on your trip. I didn’t check it out, but feel free to zip over to virtual Nepal at a mile a minute or so, if that’s your sort of thing. I don’t have nearly enough frequent Google miles to make that work.)

“Did I pop off to Washington, D.C., to turn donuts around famous national monuments? Did I zip off to Paris, to buzz the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées? Or take advantage of the Martian or lunar landscape maps to look for little green men, up close and personal, with my cartoon Red Baron in tow?”

One of the supported metropolises on the Goggles page is my current hometown, Boston. I took a quick fly around downtown, and it was pretty amazing to wander around an aerial view of Beantown, without all the zooming and clicking and recentering that Google Maps usually entails. There were a few out-of-date construction areas — with the Big Dig and other projects, downtown driving is completely different every two weeks or so — but otherwise, it felt like being a little biplane bird flapping around my own stomping grounds.

The nerdy part’s coming up. I can hear you clamoring for it already.

So there I was with a new toy, roundly impressed by the capabilities of this little gadget. What do you think I did next, then? Did I pop off to Washington, D.C., to turn donuts around famous national monuments? Did I zip off to Paris, to buzz the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées? Or take advantage of the Martian or lunar landscape maps to look for little green men, up close and personal, with my cartoon Red Baron in tow?

No, no, and sadly, no.

Instead, I stayed in Boston, navigated my way over to my office building, and followed my daily commute to my house.

That’s right. With the entire world at my fingertips, with natural and manmade wonders from a dozen countries and three planets open to me, what did I do? I traced the path that I follow every freaking day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year. I didn’t even search for shortcuts, or where the cops might be hanging out to set up speed traps. Jesus, I’m a dork.

In my defense, I did do something a little cooler, once I found my house. There’s this guy down the block who never mows his grass, and keeps a bunch of junk on his front lawn. So, I shot up his house a little with the plane. Technically, they all seemed to be ‘warning shots’, since nothing seemed to happen to his house — a visual inspection on foot this morning confirms that his crappy house, tall grass and lawn junk are still there — but I felt better nonetheless.

About the neighbor, that is. Not about my own nerdiness. I fear I’ll never live that down, no matter how many hours I spend in the cockpit.

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One Response to “Schmucks on a Plane”

  1. #Debi says:

    This would be a great stress relief for when the boss pisses you off–do you know where he lives? You could just hover over his house and wait for him to come out–oh.

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