Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Lesser-Spotted Google Earth Street View Car

Yesterday I was driving on my rounds at work and around lunchtime I was planning a visit to a remote farmhouse down a very narrow country road. Imagine my surprise when I turned into the road to find myself behind a very odd looking car, a brand new red Opel Astra - 09 registration - with a tripod on the roof-rack topped with a weird looking object that I knew to be the Google Earth Street-view Camera.

These strange cars have been spotted like rare birds in the vicinity of Dungarvan in West Waterford in recent weeks and this is the third time I've seen them. This time I was prepared and like a true anorak I whipped out my trusty Panasonic Lumix digital camera and took a few photos.

I have been amused at the indignation that has been expressed over privacy invasion and civil liberties in the UK in recent weeks (where Street View has gone live and been given a mixed reception) by the "victims" of this cruising camera car. There have been some hilarious stories of people spotted where they shouldn't have been, or cars that weren't pixelated out (number plates and faces are supposed to be pixellated but there have been glitches) and identified by spouses as being where they weren't meant to be. Also people have been indignant that their des res isn't all it's cracked up to be on the property pages when the prospective buyers can google earth it in its original street view!

I absolutely adore Google Earth and Google Maps - I think it was made for nosey parkers like me who love to see where places are and how they look, and since discovering it some years back I visit regularly. I know where my friend in New Jersey lives, and what her street looks like, and I also know that my son's rooftop of his apartment block is visible quite clearly on it, and I am annoyed that Lismore is not given an enhanced view, and is quite blurry, unlike other cities and towns of Ireland.
Another thing I love about it is that there are plenty of photos posted by various people, and they give a totally different impression of a place. When hubby visited Reykjavik in Iceland last year I was able to see the places he was raving about, like the geysir and the blue lagoon - hot springs in February snow! In Tanzania I can go on a nostalgia trip through Dar-es-Salaam and track the roads I drove daily to and from the International School, or out to Bahari Beach and the Kunduchi guest house where we spent many happy days on visits from Iringa. I can visit Iringa and my old haunts like India Street, Lulu's, Hasty Tasty, and Gangilonga Rock.
Of course I can also see these places on the wonderful groups that have sprung up on Facebook to celebrate places we love. One of my favourite is the group "I know Iringa inside out" and I have posted a number of photos of the kids in their homeschool days there, much to their cringing embarassment!
So if you haven't already got it, get downloading Google Earth for free and enjoy more time-wasting than Facebooking or blogging combined. You can justify it by its vaguely educational geographical appeal, if you need to appease your conscience or your partner! There's even a blogger widget which might be fun to add.
The internet is a wonderful place to connect and reconnect with people, when it is used as such, and I have renewed links with old friends from years ago through this very modern medium.
So the art of letter writing might be dead but as long as it is replaced by good communication by email and blogging I think I can live with it! It's a paradigm shift as the boffins might say but I am glad to be able to join in and go with the flow, and am heartened to see so many of my generation linked up through cyberspace. It makes the world seem a much smaller and more connected place - a global village in a positive way.
To finish up, I want to share this lovely photo of the cherry blossom in full bloom on the N25 ring road in Dungarvan yesterday. It might even end up on Street View!


At Home on the Rock... said...

Oh Cool...Catherine. I've never seen this before and wasn't even aware this is how Google Earth Street View was done. Thanks for posting this.

And....what a gorgeous picture of the Cherry blossoms!

FoodFunFarmLife said...

I have been following with interest the stories in the UK media about how the whole Google earth thing is going down in your part of the world - mixed reactions, I see ! I think it's a great resource, unfortunately with our very very slow internet connection we are unable to access it, although I have had a few blog readers who've emailed me so that they can find our farm on Google earth but haven't seen it for myself yet ;)

The Cherry Tree Farm said...

Is that Lesser-Spotted Google Earth Street View Car a creature anything like the Tyrannasaurus Brick (otherwise known as Brickasaurus Rex) bones dug up by my children (with great excitement) in the front garden??

I blush to admit that I've never even LOOKED at Google Earth! But now I can't wait to do so. Maybe you can even look ME up (do you think they have my teeny-tiny town on there? We're in the middle of blooming nowhere). And your cherry trees have inspired me -- I'm going to post a picture of our cherry orchard, which is also currently blooming.

Your comment about letter writing vs. blogging/email interested me. I was, in fact, bothered by letter writing giving way to phone conversations, but I feel less that way about blogging/email. I think the real benefits of writing (says the writing teacher) are that a) your reader spends some quiet time considering and re-reading -- and can read again and again some precious thing if he/she wishes; b) you as the writer have to give some consideration to what is being written -- and have the luxury of taking back words if, two seconds later, you realize: I shouldn't have said that! and c) the printed or written words are savable/printable. The spoken word is gone forever. It's enormously important, of course, but it's such a joy for future generations to be able to read what their predecessor thought and felt.


Rachel Cotterill said...

I saw one in Derbyshire a few weeks back, apparently the car that had done Sheffield. I think they're great fun :)

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine I have used Google earth from time to time but was not aware they sent around a car!Full marks for spotting. I visit Dungarvan about every 6 weeks and this cherry blossom is always stunning in Spring I am glad you took photos of them.

Catherine said...

Thanks for all the feedback on the Google Earth car! We will all be looking forward to seeing the results next year when they go live, right now I enjoy looking at the street views of places I have never visited and think it will be fun to see familiar places.

AT HOME ON THE ROCK - you live in such a lovely place, Newfoundland, I had already google-earthed it ages ago, I was curious about it as there are strong Waterford historical links, as I told you before. Also The Shipping News was set there and its scenery was very wild and I loved the book/film. Glad you enjoyed this perspective on the street view camera!

Catherine said...

LYNDA - yes the reaction in the UK has been extraodinary, I would never have thought about the privacy issues, though there are always those who do! I guess these are often the same people who lay the most intimate details of their lives open on Facebook and other social networking sites! What irony! Anyway, I might do just what others have done and email you for details to find your farm. If I was good at orienteering I should probably be able to find it from all the photos and clues therein on your blog... mountains, towns, villages etc! sorry it took so long to get back to respond to the comments but I haven't had much time this week and then I went and posted another yarn instead of replying to this post's comments - priority and blog-etiquette is getting a hammering!

Catherine said...

KRISTIN - indeed I would love to look your place up on google earth - just email me the town/street or area if you want to, and I hope you have found your way round it by now.
Agree about the writing/emailing. It is a different medium but as long as there is a body of work that reflects the culture of the time then it hardly matters if it's electronic or paper. More eco-friendly certainly! I do agree that all writing should be considerate and considered, even though I rarely handwrite now which is probably a lost art as I type as fast as I think and certainly faster than I handwrite. also a good maxim is to never hit the send button if in doubt or angry mood - and be sure to send everything to the intended recipient!
(I responded to your last student howlers post by the way).

Catherine said...

RACHEL - I must look up some of the street views in the UK cities, and see what all the fuss was about, subterfuge must be alive and well in some parts if people were afraid of being identified on the shots! It is up and running in the UK but Ireland will take till end of year or next to go live I think.
Thanks for commenting - I must go visit your blog soon.

Catherine said...

PEGGY - we should have coffee next time you pass through Dungarvan! Yes the cherry is lovely at this time, there are so many lovely gardens in my work area, lifts me up to see such beauty in nature and helps me forget about the recession and the government!
(I already had my rant in my long reply to your comment on my bull post!)
It's going to be next year before the Irish Street views will be on GOogle Earth I believe. So we will wait patiently, and I have seen more cars with tripod cameras since I wrote that post. Talk again, have to visit your blog tomorrow/today later. Burning the midnight oil again, TGIF and I can sleep in Saturday!