Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gramlingville from Space!

Today I finally got around to downloading Google Earth and spent half of the day zooming around and exploring the entire world... in consequence, I never got around to finishing another blog entry that I started, so this will be it. I'll save the other for a rainy day ;-)

The picture above is Gramlingville as seen from space... or rather, as has been rendered by Google Earth's satellite view, whenever the picture was taken. "Gramlingville" is a term that was coined by my college roommate, and refers to the house and farm we lived at in Basehor, Kansas, up until about 1988. The house can be clearly seen, along with the meandering Wolf Creek, the road, and surrounding fields and woods. Last year, Rick and I hiked around the 80 acres we grew up on and witnessed the extent of the changes which, at the time were just beginning (the pictures of our visit can be seen here). The front field had been completely filled in, and the building that once housed a series of family businesses had been apparently buried. The entire area was zoned industrial/residential, and was already earmarked for earthmovers. That was in February of last year... when I drove by there again in December with the kids, sadly the house was gone. Clearly Google Earth's satellite pictures are not extremely recent, although they are not that old either, since heavy equipment can clearly be seen in the front field. You can find this view on Google Maps here.

I'm usually hesitant to download and install internet apps on my computer ... I drag my feet until the software seems consecrated. Examples are the various Messengers (Yahoo, MSN, AIM) , Skype (which I resisted as long as possible before becoming a True Believer) and most all peer-to-peer applications (music downloaders). I don't like not knowing what the software is doing ... what kind of spyware or adware it's installing along with it. But I've been hearing so much about Google Earth... along with Gustavo's insistance... that I could no longer resist. The thing about Google Earth is that, if you really want to get technical, it is itself a kind of adware (or soon will be) : but like Google's search or the Yellow Pages, the ads themselves will add value by being shown in context. I know that mapping software has been around for awhile, but Google Earth maps the world and more; and before long will probably be the de facto directory of everything on Earth (At least, everything that's physical location is relevant) Yes... that's my prediction. Google is already the internet standard search engine, and with Google Earth and Maps, they may very well redefine the internet. In fact, since they have opened their API, lots of other people and company are using the Google server for mapping apps. (For some creative examples, check this out).

Therefore, if you have a broadband connection and haven't seen Google Earth ... get it! If you haven't, you can have a little fun with Google Maps, but there's really no comparison. Google Earth is simply incredible. You can drag the globe and zoom in on any spot on earth... see topography, cities, buildings, roads, landmarks, elevations, lodging, restaurants ....

I zoomed in on our house here in Rio, and could see the rooftops, trees and swimming pool ... but that's nothing. Try flying to New York; enable the buildings checkbox, adjust the tilt, and you can literally fly along the streets of Manhattan. Want to find somewhere to eat? Click on "Dining" and be prepared to be overwhelmed: so many restaurants will appear that you can barely see the map. Want to find the nearest Starbucks? Click on the Local Search tab and it will point them all out. Obviously the tool is new, so very few cities are mapped in as much detail as New York; still, it is surprising how many are. Even downtown Kansas City has its buildings mapped and quite a few restaurants.

No big deal? Type "Nepal" in the "Fly To" search field, adjust the tilt, and you can zoom through the valleys of the Himalayas, and climb the slopes of Annapurna (Mt. Everest). It's just ... really cool! It's kind of like Flight Simulator, but it's real.

It already has overlays for dining, lodging, banks, grocery stores, parks, bars, landmarks, gas stations, schools, hospitals and numerous other types of locations. I can imagine so many future possibilities... besides being the definitive tourist guide, how about interfacing it with a news server: you just click on a region and see what's going on. Or click on a headline and it will take you straight to the location of whatever event. How about historical events? Overlay Google Earth with a timeline and drill down to anywhere in the world, any time in history. As an educational tool, its value could be tremendous.

I've just been flying around the Lake of the Ozarks ... down Lake Road "P" and Morgan Hill's Road... I can cleary see Page's Boat Yard (if that's what it's still called).

It seems like the world just keeps getting smaller and smaller ....


A few last minute updates... I've been taking a little bit of flack for my failure to filter pictures posted to the gallery. So, if your picture appears in the gallery and you feel like you've been the victim of unflattering photography, feel free to email with references the specific offending images and I'll be glad to consider removing them.

If you're not already on the update list and you would like me to email you every time I update the blog or gallery, just drop me an email or post a message and I will add you to the list.

Also ... Tomorrow is Sandy's birthday, so, since I haven't got around to calling yet ... Happy Birthday Sandy!

According to, it's also Lea-Ann's birthday ... so Happy Birthday to Lea-Ann as well!


At July 14, 2005 12:09 AM, Kim said...

Actually, Jim, Sandy's birthday is the 14th so you still have time to call tomorrow!! Don't forget your newphew (on Saturday) and your brother (next Thursday) have birthdays coming up.

I know Steve is going to spend way too much time on Google Earth now, but that's okay because it sounds really cool! Lookin' forward to "flying" soon!

At July 14, 2005 9:00 AM, Jim said...

Really??? The 14th? Damn! My birthday advisor is really dropping the ball!

I'll be editing my post before anyone else sees it!


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