Monday, February 10, 2014

G.O.D. knew best!

Expecting a sermon? No – notice I said ‘G.O.D.’ – not ‘GOD’ – though had I said the latter, that should bring no argument either. I refer to the ‘Grand Old Duke’ (of York).

The Grand Old Duke of York
He had 10,000 men
He marched up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down,
But when they were only half-way up
They were neither up nor down!

No matter what we may think of his (G.O.D.’s) regimental calisthenics, we do owe it to him that he was ‘prepositionally’ precise – all without the aid of ‘Sat-Nav’!

You see, this is all about conventions and whether one should say (of their journeys) that they ‘went up’ – or ‘went down’ to a certain place. Leaving aside the double-entendre associated with that randy pair – Christopher Robin (and Alice) and their Buckingham Palace escapade we can move on to the purely geographic, or cardinal points (sorry for the pun) of this discussion. 

My ‘directional references’ seem habitually at odds with those of my wife. She, living in (more or less) the center of Ireland, would say that she would go DOWN to Belfast, and UP to Cork. Now, I could understand that if her selections were out of disdain for the former and reverence for the latter – but, no; they seemed be founded in no such ‘logic’!  Mine, on the other hand, are totally ‘Spockian’ – and given her starting point, would be the opposite of hers. In fact, neither of those locations offers very many starting points from which HER directions could possible be correct. Let me expand the geographic setting for better comprehension of this.

I think almost everyone (I dare not poll my wife on this) would, if they lived in the Northern Hemisphere, say they would go DOWN to Australia – or to ANY place in the Southern Hemisphere. Crocodile Dundee would just as likely, if sitting under a billabong tree, say he would be going UP to London to see the Queen (if invited, of course). While that all seems quite, well ‘OBVIOUS’, consider that our Aussie friend’s ‘matey’ in Glasgow would likely pack his best trews and sporran to go DOWN to London for the Royal meeting.

You see, it becomes a matter of the cardinal points – North and South. Well, how about those other two – East and West? Ah!  More difficult now – no longer a concept of going UP (for going Northward) and DOWN (for going Southward)  – but a sideways element to add to the confusion!  Have no fear: cartographers and those who dabble in such have a convention. Not one of those ‘conventions’ where people go on the pretext of doing or learning something, but instead just focus on revelry and debauchery; I mean they have that orderliness of thought; that kind of ‘convention’. Such a convention in the minds of these map-makers (‘cartographers’ are not people prone to hauling hay in a contraption drawn by a donkey) envisages that the ‘big-bang’, the Genesis, the Darwinism, the beginning (or origin) of directional science is at some place on the bottom left corner of page. In maps, that is the extreme south-west corner. That is why, when looking at co-ordinates on (most) maps, one sees ‘Eastings’ increasing in numerical value (and so, ‘UP' toward the east); similarly with ‘Northings’; the further north one goes, the greater (and so ‘UP’) the ‘Northing’. Back to the Irish dilemma for a moment: the ‘origin’ there would be someplace near Dingle Bay on the coast of Kerry and so almost everywhere in Ireland has to be ‘UP’ from that point – whether expressed in terms of going UP to the East, or going UP to the North.

The US has such a convention for its Interstate Highways. Those traversing (generally) north-south are odd numbered, and those primarily aligned east-west bear even numbers. Each increases in numeric value toward the north-east. For example Interstate 5 runs up the west coast of the US and Interstate 95 runs up the east coast. Interstate 10 lies near the Gulf of Mexico while Interstate 90 traverses the country almost in sight of Canada!  If you happen to be lost in the US, look out the window – if you see the junction of Interstates 44 and 55 – you are in St Louis; call me and stop by for a cuppa!  Clearly (see the ‘proviso’ below), if your Interstate number is increasing, you are going east and so ‘UP’, or north, and so ‘UP’ - to your destination. Of course, the corollary exist; as ‘your number’ decreases, you are going west – and ‘DOWN’; or going south – and ‘DOWN’.  

For example, start at Times Square in New York - and if you can get out of there un-mugged or assailed by a New York cabbie - head west towards Arizona; you will be going DOWN to it. I was there in the early ‘70s, and yes, was ‘standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.  OK – now the ‘proviso’: not everyone STARTS their journey at the SAME south-west corner. Even if you stood (as I did) on that corner in Winslow, Arizona – there are places that are further south and west of there; Yuma is one! You could even be lucky enough to meet up there with someone driving eastward in a flat-bed Ford UP from Yuma! You see, there are places that are south and west of YOUR point of origin. So, you have to view yourself (at YOUR point of origin, not in the bottom left corner of the page – but at the center (are we all a little ego-centric anyway?) of your page (your universe).

Conventions are not always straight forward (no pun intended – not directly, anyway!  LOL) because the world, from your point of origin, is not one of hemispheres that that lie simply on either side of north-south and east-west axes. Would it were that simple! Take the apparent conundrum of (well, me for instance): here I am in the center of my world (my point of origin) in St Louis. I plan to go (orange line) to, say, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Let’s, for folk in the UK, say you are in London – going (orange line) to Manchester.

Now clearly Minneapolis (and Manchester) is north of our point of origin, so we should be going ‘UP’ to that our destination. But wait! Minneapolis (and Manchester) is also westward of our point of origin – so shouldn’t that make the case (‘a la’ the westward trip from New York to Winslow) of going ‘DOWN’ to that place? Oh my! The solution is that the hemispheres we envisage are NOT about the north-south and the east-west axes stated above (and shown in black on the maps), but are on either side of an axis (green on the maps and aligned north-west to south-east) that bisect the ‘conundrum quadrants’ – the north-west and the south-east quadrants. So, in this case, Minneapolis (and Manchester) being in the 'dominant part' of that divided (here, the north-west) quadrant, dictates a journey (that orange line) that is ‘UP’.

The REAL conundrum is in cases where the destination is precisely on that (green) axis – as may be if I were to travel to Des Moines, Iowa – or you to travel from your home in London, to Birmingham. Why would either of us be so daft?  In such cases, the direction of your journey is as much a ‘coin flip’ as G.O.D.’s mid-point stand-off – ‘. . . neither up nor down!’

To this point, we been talking in a two-dimensional arena and there are, or course – or there should be - some intuitive exceptions. Who could rightly assert that Mr. Haikiti of Tokyo would leave his sushi bar, with Nikon in hand, to go DOWN to Mt Everest to photograph its majesty – even thought that mount is clearly in a westerly ‘downstream’ direction, as well as (albeit marginally) ‘downstream’ in its relative latitude - from his point of origin. Damn; these Orientals are so much smarter than we and being in the east, clearly have the upper hand!   



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