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November 15, 2005

Flight of the Navigator

One of my favourite DVD's for when I want to just switch off and slide along in neutral while my batteries recharge, is the 1980's film of the same title as my heading. It features a twelve year old boy who is abducted by an automated exploration ship from a distant planet, who is returned to his home eight years late. The ship would normally return its abductees to the same moment it took them, but discovered, after the abduction and examination on it's home planet, that humans don't travel well through time. Hence the late return.

From there the story takes an amusing turn as first the boy, terrified by the fact that he returns to find his home occupied by strangers and his younger brother now approaching his twenties, eventually is "abducted" by scientists who just happen to have found the spaceship and to have it in a NASA hangar. How did they catch the spaceship? It wiped out it's star cahrts bumping into a High Tension power line. Oops! Needless to say, boy and spaceship get together and the rest, as they say, is pretty hilarious - especially when the spaceship develops the mindset of a twelve year old boy after it scans him to get the star chart information!

What made me think of this?

Well, for years - and especially having grown up in the Southern Hemisphere - my internal compass has been 180 degrees out! Thus, navigating my way around the UK has been fraught with interesting deviations and diversions as I get directions wrong (usually reversed!) and then I have a problem with the basic geography of the place. After all, I grew up were there weren't four River Avons, where the spaces between towns and cities were pretty huge and where they don't tend to be one amorphous mass! In short, this was one manually navigated and operated missle looking for a navigator!

Well, I got one. Thanks to a very dear and now departed friend I have a GPS device which sits on my dashboard and tells me politely to turn left or right, to take the motorway or the exit as appropriate. Suddenly I can find places and I even know how far I have to go and how long it will take. Add a visual display of the road ahead and the turns and distances to way-stations and suddenly I don't have to worry whether I am going the right way - it even tells me when I take a wrong turn and tries to get me back onto the route it has chosen.

There is only one problem. The idiot who inputs the destination data! Enter the placename gremlin. Have you any idea how many places there are in the UK with the same damned name? Unless you know which one you want you can end up travelling in the wrong direction and ending up in Cornwall (Kernow if you are Cornish!) instead of somewhere in Northumbria! Ah well, it adds a bit of interest to the journey when you throw in a route through the scenic parts instead of the direct one.

And before you all start suffering from laughter induced head injury - no, I haven't yet achieved that feat, I do have some geographic sense, unlike the hero of my opening story who winds up in Tokyo looking for Miami from Cape Canaveral.

Posted by The Gray Monk at November 15, 2005 09:45 PM

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