(OPE-L) Re: nautical digression

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Mon Apr 19 2004 - 10:09:25 EDT

So you want to have a gam, Michael W?

> [Michael Williams] Well, VFS tries at least to indicate where be dragons
hostile inhabitants, and where water is potable, in order to improve the
chances of a safe journey <

That be a noble and practical purpose.  Judging by his recent comments,
former crew member, Jurriaan Bendien,  might not recognize this very
practical goal of the VFS endeavor.

>  As for
> celestial navigation:  while a knowledgeable sailor using an accurate
> sextant and chronometer and nautical almanac (including 'reduction
> tables' -- aye -- thar's a 'reduction problem' that we haven't yarned
> about) and chart can determine her or his position (conditions
> permitting) with reasonable accuracy any place on the ocean, the
> entire system is built on a fallacy: i.e. celestial navigation assumes
> that
> the sun, the other planets, and the stars revolve around the Earth!
> It thus begins with a false premise yet nonetheless can be used to arrive
> at accurate results.  I wonder if that's like beginning with
> transcendental
> idealism ....
[Michael Williams] That's just rude! Surely we are all working towards
reliable, cheap and portable GPS's so that everyone can find out where they
are as a prelude to realising they want to be somewhere else? <

The intention was not to be rude, matey.  A GPS -- if its signal is not
degraded by the US military -- can give us a 'fix' in the sense that it
can tell us our precise latitude and longitude.  A 'running fix' might
be more useful for the purpose you suggest since it also tells us where
we came from and our dynamic trajectory.  In other words, perhaps
what we require are accurate chart plotters which include relevant
historical datum.  I'm afraid, though, that there are no chart plotters
which can accurately forecast all of the dangers on our voyage.
To know where else we want to be -- and where we don't want to be
-- a reading of the historical experiences and journeys of others
can be very helpful.  We also learn by doing and I'm afraid that
the dangers and delights of our journey have to be experienced
first-hand  and can not be accurately predicted or learned from texts

"We" are not all working towards reliable, cheap and portable GPSs.
As with any technology, how it is designed and by whom and for what
purpose determines, to a great extent, its use.  Thus, GPS can be used
not only as a consumer and navigational good to help us determine our
location but it can also be used by the state and capital to keep track
of us.  As someone who enjoys the isolation of singlehanded sailing,
and as a radical who is a political activist, I don't relish the idea that
this new technology -- combined with implantation perhaps -- can now
be able to keep a precise track of my comings and goings.  Combined
with satellite imagery and listening devices, it is also possible for the
state to know who I am with, what I am saying, and to keep a video
and audio log which can be attached to my digital file with the Department
of Homeland Security.   That is a prospect  that makes this (50-year-) old
salt shiver.

Fair winds, Jerry

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