Dead Reckoning

I still carry this old (30-years plus) glove-box atlas in my rig. I have navigated between destinations using it and it alone until I got to my destination. I then used my smartphone to find a place to stay or eat and only then used GPS to navigate.

A few days ago a new (to me) book arrived, Dead Reckoning by Ron Doerfler. The book is yet to be read (other than a quick scan), but the title reminded me of the method of navigation by the same name.

Dead Reckoning navigation is the art of estimating one’s position based on the last known position, elapsed time and velocity (or estimated distance) and heading. In other words, given a known position and an estimate of bearing and distance, the current position coordinates can be estimated (or calculated).

In the context of the book, Dead Reckoning refers to methods of calculation (or estimation) of mathematical problems without the use of calculating tools other than one’s brain. It is going to be a fine read and something that will add to my personal toolkit.

But the term reminded me of my wanderings a couple of years ago. As I traveled around the country, I had only a general idea of where I was going. Given that there was no specific destination and no specific schedule, I would stop along the way, retrieve my ancient glovebox atlas, and estimate my location on the very small maps. Using that information I would set a course and make a decision about where I might stay for a night or a few days.

Once near that location, I would open Google maps on my iPhone and look for a place to stay. After identifying a few possible candidates, the reviews would inform whether the place was acceptable. I would then either just drive in or phone ahead for a reservation.

I thought of this as an automotive form of dead reckoning. Given I had no specific destination, I had little need for the precision of GPS and the inherent maps. I just needed a general direction and an estimate of distance so I could decide where to stay for a night or a week.

I was also reminded of how we navigated when I was a young man. There was no GPS system. There were paper maps of various scales. I loved those maps and still have quite a few of them. I would plan a trip with a map and a notepad and I was able to estimate travel times and ETAs without a lot of effort. Sometimes navigation needed a telephone call (from a pay phone) to get to the destination. Often there were signs that provided directions once one was sufficiently close to the target.

There is something deeply satisfying about just using a simple map and about not having a specific itinerary to deal with. There is something satisfying about just going and then being there in that place for a bit.

I think this experience is coming for me again. There is a need in me to just wander for a bit and enjoy the journey. With journal, pen, and camera I can be very happy enjoying the world I live in.

The Tombs of Atuan

I finished the second book of the Earthsea Cycle, The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin. It was another excellent story.

The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2)The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Earthsea cycle. Instead of looking at Sparrowhawk’s development, this story is a look into the birth and growth of the First Priestess, Arha — the Eaten One. Her truename is Tenar and she was taken from her family at the age of five-years old. She was trained to be the priestess and the priestess life is all she’s ever known.

As guardian over the Tombs, her life exists of ritual and rote. Nothing ever happens… until during one wander in the Tombs she see light — where there is to be no light.

And thus begins a new phase of Tehar’s life as she interacts with Sparrowhawk and is forced to look deep within herself.

This is another great read from LeGuin, who is was a master of her craft when she wrote this story.

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A Wizard of Earthsea

Cover: Wizard of EarthseaMany years ago, I read a book — A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. LeGuin. It was partly for fun, for I enjoyed the best works of fantasy and science fiction, and partly a class assignment. For my university literature elective I sat the Science Fiction and Fantasy as Literature class under Eugene Warren. Although the class was for credit, it was for fun that I sat it. In the process, Mr. Warren taught me a few things about literature.

I met Eugene Warren and his wife, Rose, sometime in the early 1970s. I think they were involved with the Intervarsity Fellowship group on the University of Missouri — Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) campus. But, I cannot recall.

What I do recall is that they were different than anyone else in my experience. On looking back, I think they might have been part of the Hippie Movement from the 1960s. That is what I think, but I am not sure. That they were very different than me was clear. But, they believed God and trusted Jesus and that was all I needed to know.

My interaction with them was episodic, but always pleasant. When I learned that Warren would teach the literature class, I was intrigued. I am so glad that I sat that class. I was introduced to LeGuin and other great authors and still appreciate it.

So, it was a little surprising to me that I noticed an old copy of A Wizard of Earthsea on Daughter’s bookshelf. I had been thinking about the book because Older Son and I watched a Hayao Miyazaki rendition of Tales of Earthsea while I was in Denver a few weeks ago. I pulled the old paperback from the shelf and opened it.

My name was lettered inside the front cover. I had forgotten that these were my books, given to Daughter during one of my recent purges of things. I set the book aside to read it.

Yesterday afternoon I spent some time with Older Grandson. I asked if he had read the book.

“No,” he responded.

“You should.”

“What’s it about?”

“It is the tale of a young wizard learning to be a man. It is a good story and you will like it.”

I began rereading the book, now after nearly 40 years, last night. I woke early this morning, agitated and restless from my dreams and picked it up again. I didn’t want to turn on a light, so I bought a copy for my Kindle. I listened to music and read for a bit.

Then I set it aside and rolled over to return to sleep for a few hours. I remembered Warren and the class I sat so long ago. I decided that the story was worth telling — and the book well worth rereading.