Sunday, December 6, 2009

Games with Google Earth

The house that Norman built, 1896. Tighsolas. House of Light in Gaelic.

I am born in 1954, one hunded years after Margaret Nicholson (my husband's great grandmother, my son's, well, you know.)

So, I am the same age today, as Margaret was in 1909-1910. Hmmm. I'm sitting in my living room, a few feet from a decorative elm table that once was in Tighsolas. It's my favorite piece of furniture in the house. I am not wearing a corset, but brown sweat pants, mismatched socks, one neon orange, one white, a burgundy camisole and my husband's grey fleece jacket, all purchased at Costco.

Like so many women before me, I am wondering what to make for supper. Chicken curry, I think. (I must download a new recipe.)And just like Margaret I am wondering how my children, at university, are doing. Exam time. (Yes, I could email them, or facebook them, or text message them, or call them on their cells but I try to intrude as little as possible on their lives. Ha. Just as I write this my husband picks up the ground line and leaves a message for my oldest, Andrew. We have this ESP thing going.)

I am writing this blog on my new laptop (because the three other computers in my home were too old ) and I am struggling a bit with it, as even the keyboard is different.

My husband tells me to use the battery until its depleted, then plug the laptop in and use it, then use battery again once it is charged. Why? I ask. Well, (my son tells me) batteries, even today, are not efficient. To think that Thomas Edison was fretting about the same problem in 1910. He had a special garage in N.J. to plug in his electric cars. Electric cars were being pitched at women, as they were smaller, less powerful and cleaner. No zoom, zoom, zoom.

In an earlier blog I mentioned how scandalized Margaret was when her neighbour, Mr. Montgomery, in 1910, said he was getting rid of his horse and buying a car. (This will be an episode in my story.) Margaret does not like cars, but I suspect this is partly because the Nicholsons can't afford one and she doesn't want her husband to feel like a loser, since all his neighbours are pretty prosperous.

I guess I am also of mixed mind when it comes to the new technologies. And yet, here I am, engaged in this massive history project, in large part thanks to new technologies and Internet archives. In the past, only a university professor with specialized tools, access to world libraries, and a band of underpaid researchers could flesh out the letters the way I am doing.

My husband is dyslexic and has little use for the Internet. He does like televisions, and he bought a big screen TV last year.

Well, then he made the mistake of hooking my old laptop up to it and I found I could use it to tour the world using Youtube and Google Earth.

I know London really well now (when I visited I barely registered anything) and I also go to Paris and other French cities and I am starting on Italy. There's a delivery man in London who has a great camera, an intuitive understanding of editing, and takes people on tours of London neighbourhoods.. Scarletshaz I think is 'his handle' or whatever it's called. There's also London Landscape TV, which is another guy with a great camera. He works for Tesco.

My favorite game: to eat out at London or Paris restaurants by visiting them on street view, looking up their websites, downloading their menus and sometimes making a dish from the menu. (And, yes, I can buy all this organic yuppie food for half the price -or less- in Montreal!)

I also like looking at slideshows on Flickr. Sometimes I use Flickr slideshows to complement BBC Radio Four Broadcasts. A few weeks ago there was a discussion on Women's Hour on Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, so I entered appropriate keywords into Flickr and saw her 'writing desk' and the garden where she entertained others in her Bloomsbury Group - all while I listened to the radio program.

I still want to visit these cities, well, even more. I intend to go to Europe in the Spring or Fall.

Technology changes us in ways we can't predict. (My brother has lived in Denmark for 25 years and only last week I got skype and talked to him on a video feed. He's been bugging me for years. )

Anyway, Margaret Nicholson, like so many of her clan, liked to travel. In 1902, when the Nicholsons were wealthy, she went to Union Hill, New Jersey to see her friend Mrs. Pray and visited the really big city, New York.

Just a few minutes ago I Googled the address I had for her. It appears Union Hill is now Hoboken, but I did find the address and it was a five story greystone. (Pray describes in a letter how hard it was to get her piano into her third story apartment.)

Of course, Richmond, Quebec is not on Google Streetview and the satellite image is very obscure. Gee, I can get close enough to see the shed in my brother's farm in Denmark, but I can't see Richmond. I wonder why?