What's on my mind.

30 July 2009

Reflection on the Field

No field work this week, the LiCor has been sent back to get fixed and recalibrated, but I had a couple of thoughts and one question on working in the field and with RA.

Question first. If it hurts RA's manly pride for me to carry heavy things or swing the machete then I'm not going to argue with him. I'll offer to do it but I'm not going to insist, it seems silly to make more work for myself and fight for it. Should I be more insistent? Am I not being feminist enough?

Most of my thoughts center on RA's apparent lousy sense of direction. When I said we needed to go a little further west for on collar and he said "I'm so turned around I have no idea where that is" I was a bit flabbergasted; west was heading towards the highway, which you could hear, also not up or down hill and we hadn't even been winding around much. He was pretty tired by then, so that was part of the problem. I'm sure he can get around with a compass; I've been with him when he was using one and I fairly sure orienteering is taught in [home country]'s army (otherwise navigating in areas without roads is much more difficult). I'm not sure if normally his sense of direction is as bad as it was out at the site or if it was a related to exhaustion, terrain, and/or not pay attention because that's what I was doing.

One of the few things I'm really good at* is visualizing in 3D. This is helpful for my job and some puzzles and I think it's why I my sense of direction isn't too bad. Drive me around for a while, stick me in the woods and I might guess north right 30% of the time (it'd be 25% of the time except when the sun is low(ish) in the sky I can get E or W, then turn 90°) but if I have a starting point, like I know the road runs generally N/S and I need to move due E to find a point (like what I was doing while placing collars) I can do it, or if I need a get back to a starting point I don't have retrace all my steps. It's like I map the route (detours around trees, thickets,... and/or from point to point) in my head, along with the lay of the land.

I used to be able to figure out what direction north (E, W, or S) most places around where I lived because most of the roads were fairly straight, for that matter I probably still can. They weren't in a grid pattern (except in DC, which was way outside my mental map anyway) but they were mostly straight. I knew which way, generally, my house faced (east) and could back track from where I was to home and figure out the cardinals. Things outside this map were connected by a much looser, cardinal-direction wise, road "network" of how you got places (like, route 7 runs through here, route 50 will take you to x and y) which could connect two destinations but not necessarily given you an idea of the distances (but possibly travel time) or which way you were going. (It never helped that sometimes to go physically south you went "north" on 495. And I only drove there for a year.)

I mostly have T-town "mapped" as a route network. Near downtown and campus the roads are regular enough that I could actually draw a map and I could include some of the more out lying roads. But when you get out of town a little ways the roads wind around so much that really keeping a clear picture of it in my head is hard, it becomes more of a general this road takes you to these roads or that place. Also there are a lot of parts of town I never drive through, no reason except I've just never needed, so those areas are completely blank in my mental map. I do have a better mental map of where different communities/places are within the county here than I did in Virginia; I think because I deal with maps of the county a lot and because of tornado warnings - I had to learn if a storm moving east near Samantha was going to threaten my house.

Do you guys have mental maps or road networks of where you drive (walk, bike,...) a lot?

*the other two primary ones being sleeping and counting to 4 (3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 12) in rhythm

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