First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Landing number 2217; A Landing A Day blog post number 645.
Dan: This is going to be a highly unusual post. As you are well aware, Dan – having been cc:d on the email from my son Jordan (discussed below) – this is going to be a major mea culpa post. So, dear reader, bear with me while I explain (or you might rather simply skip the mea culpa and scroll down to my regional landing map). But first, this tidbit for you non-Latin speakers out there. “Mea Culpa” simply means “my fault.” Anyway, here goes:
For all 2215 landings, I have had my computer (using Excel) calculate my random latitude and longitude for each landing. I programmed Excel so that it simply takes the difference in latitude from Canada to Key West, and multiplies it by a random number that is between zero and one. That gives me a random latitude between the two extremes. Similarly, it then takes the difference in longitude from Maine to Washington and multiplies that by another random number to generate a random longitude. In this way, I get a specific random location in the lower 48.
But you know, I’ve always been troubled by the peculiar distribution of oversubscribed (OS) states (i.e., those states where I land more than I should, based on area) and undersubscribed (US) states (those states where I land less than I should, based on area). And really! Why is Texas soooo US? And why is there a block of OSers across the northern states? Why is there a block of USers stretching from NM across to VA?
My answer has always been: The Landing God makes it so. Well, my son Jordan (an avid follower of my landings) has also been troubled by the skewed distribution of OSers and USers, and he didn’t buy my Landing God hypothesis (especially after 2200 landings). So he actually thought deeply about it, and sent me this email:
Your lat longs are random, which is of course a fair way to do it, but there might be a flaw with it. Latitude is fine, as the distance between parallel lines is always the same. However the distance between lines of longitude varies based on latitude and the lines are not parallel. Take this map for example:
Look at your most OS state, Montana and compare it with your most US state, Texas. The distance between W 100 and W 110 is significantly less near Montana than it is near Texas, meaning that your landings are bound to be more dense up north and less dense down south.
Ouch. He had more to say, but when I read this, I knew he was on to something big. The most important statement is the one I highlighted – and it is absolutely true. I emailed Jordan back:
This is really sinking in. In a way, I’m devastated! What do I do now? Do I attempt to do a mathematical adjustment on the whole OSer / USer calculation? Do I try to amend the whole random lat/long generation process? But now, after 2200 landings? And what about my Score? There’s no way it’s inevitably heading towards zero . . .
The typical first paragraph of every post is crumbling before my eyes . . .
So I took the map that Jordan sent me, and added OS (for over-subscribed), US (for under-subscribed) and PS (for perfectly subscribed):
As you can see (as I was discussing earlier), Jordan’s general point holds true: there are more OS states up north and more US states down south. In particular, look at the block of OSers stretching from Oregon & Washington east to Michigan (and over to NY if you’d like). The one exception (thanks to the Landing God) is Idaho.
Down south, it’s a little more of a mixed bag, but look at CA through VA (following the border and coast). With the exception of AZ, LA and MS, it’s a block of solid USers.
So, I took a deep breath and went online. Amazingly, I found a site – GeoMidPoint.com – where you can enter a “rectangle” based on latitude and longitude, and it picks out a random location from inside the rectangle! And, as the website says:
All flat maps distort the size and/or shape of the continents and other features to a certain degree. On a Mercator projection map, for example, Greenland appears to be the same size as South America although it is actually eight times smaller.
The Random Point Generator solves this distortion problem because the calculation it uses is based on the spherical earth, and therefore when the calculator throws a virtual dart, all points on the earth’s surface have an equal probability of being chosen.
So, beginning with this landing, I’m using the Geo Midpoint program to get my random locations. I guess I’ll simply carry on, but maybe I’ll de-emphasize the whole USer / OSer thing a little . . .
So, using my new technique, I landed in a long time OSer (no surprise, eh?) . . . MI. I’m going to forgo the string of numbers I always put here, because . . . well . . . they just don’t mean the same thing anymore. (Boy – I guess I did de-emphasize the whole USer / OSer thing!) Here’s my regional landing map:
And my very local landing map, showing quite the urban setting:
Here’s an expanded local map, showing my proximity to Grand Rapids:
You can see from the above maps that I’ve already started my watershed analysis, as I landed right next to Buck Creek, which flows into the Grand River (10th hit). As you see here, the Grand makes its way to Lake Michigan (36th hit):
And, of course, we’re on to the St. Lawrence (102nd hit).
Time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight in to the great Grand Rapids area:
It looks like I landed in a park or, more likely, a cemetery. Let me look a little closer:
Yup. No doubt about it. I landed in a cemetery, Grandville Cemetery to be more precise. I hope I ddin’t disturb anyone when the big yellow push-pin came down.
Here’s a GE shot showing Street View coverage:
And here’s what a visitor to the cemetery sees just as he’s turning in (OK, minus the big yellow arrow):
I didn’t bother with a Street View shot of Buck Creek, but I have a nice GE Panaramio shot near my landing of a bridge over the creek at the end of the post.
Besides landing in the Grandville Cemetery, I have nothing else to say about Grandville. After all, it’s just a suburb of Grand Rapids. . .
So first, just a little about the name “Grand Rapids.” Obviously, the “Grand” isn’t about the magnitude of the rapids, it’s simply the name of the river. And the “Rapids” part has been eliminated, primarily by the 6th Street Dam in downtown Grand Rapids.
Here’s a picture of some fishermen at the dam (courtesy of Betts Guide Service):
The dam gets a lot of press for being dangerous to fisherman and kayakers. Want to see why it’s dangerous to kayak over the dam? Check out this You Tube video (it’s a shorty):
He really had to struggle to get away from the dam, eh?
But anyway, as far as I’m concerned, the real hook in Grand Rapids is the fact that this is the hometown of one Gerald Ford. President Ford is kind of an “afterthought” president (sometimes lumped with Jimmy Carter as such), but he was a fascinating man who presided over and was involved with some remarkable history. Taking excerpts from Wiki:
. . . Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother was Dorothy Gardner, and his father was Leslie King. Dorothy separated from King just sixteen days after her son’s birth . . .
. . . Dorothy moved to the home of her parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dorothy and King divorced in December 1913; she gained full custody of her son . . .
. . . in 1916, Dorothy married Gerald Rudolff Ford, a salesman in a family-owned paint and varnish company. They then called her son Gerald Rudolff Ford Jr. The future president was never formally adopted, however, and he did not legally change his name until December 3, 1935 (at age 22). . .
. . . Ford attended Grand Rapids South High School and was a star athlete and captain of his football team. He attracted the attention of college recruiters, and attended the University of Michigan . . .
. . . Ford played center, linebacker and long snapper for the school’s football team and helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933 . . .
. . . during Ford’s senior year a controversy developed when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets refused to play a scheduled game if a black player named Willis Ward took the field. Even after protests from students, players and alumni, university officials opted to keep Ward out of the game. Ford was Ward’s best friend on the team and they roomed together while on road trips. Ford threatened to quit the team in response to the university’s decision, but eventually agreed to play against Georgia Tech when Ward personally asked him to play. . .
. . . Ford was in the Navy during WWII, and served on the aircraft carrier Monterey. He saw extended combat in the South Pacific . . .
. . . the Monterey was damaged by a fire during a Pacific typhoon in 1944, which was started by several of the ship’s aircraft tearing loose from their cables and colliding on the hangar deck. During the storm, Ford narrowly avoided becoming a casualty himself. As he was going to his battle station on the bridge of the ship, the ship rolled twenty-five degrees, which caused Ford to lose his footing and slide toward the edge of the deck. The two-inch steel ridge around the edge of the carrier slowed him enough so he could roll, and he twisted into the catwalk below the deck. As he later stated, “I was lucky; I could have easily gone overboard.”
. . . Ford was a member of the House of Representatives for 25 years, culminating in his being named Vice President under Richard Nixon in 1973, after the elected Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigned in disgrace for accepting $29,500 in bribes while Governor of Maryland . . .
. . . following Ford’s appointment, the Watergate investigation continued until Chief of Staff Alexander Haig contacted Ford on August 1, 1974, and told him that “smoking gun” evidence had been found. The evidence left little doubt that President Nixon had been a part of the Watergate cover-up. . .
. . . at the time, Ford and his wife, Betty, were living in suburban Virginia, waiting for their expected move into the newly designated vice president’s residence in Washington, D.C. However, Al Haig warned Ford that he might well be president soon. Ford said to his wife: “Betty, I don’t think we’re ever going to live in the vice president’s house” . . .
. . . when Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Ford assumed the presidency, making him the only person to assume the presidency without having been previously voted into either the presidential or vice presidential office . . .
. . . Immediately after taking the oath of office, he said to the nation: “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers” . . .
. . . only a month later, Ford gave Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while President. In a televised broadcast to the nation, Ford explained that he felt the pardon was in the best interests of the country, and that the Nixon family’s situation “is a tragedy in which we all have played a part. It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must” . . .
. . . the Nixon pardon was highly controversial, and many historians believe the controversy was one of the major reasons Ford lost the election in 1976 . . .
. . . in 2001, Ford was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his pardon of Nixon. . .
. . . shortly after he announced the Nixon pardon, Ford introduced an amnesty program for Vietnam War draft dodgers who had fled to countries such as Canada as well as for military deserters. The conditions of the amnesty required that those involved reaffirm their allegiance to the United States and serve two years working in a public service job . . .
. . . one of Ford’s greatest challenges was dealing with the continued Vietnam War. In December 1974, just a few months after Ford took office, North Vietnamese forces invaded the province of Phuoc Long, not far north of Saigon. The North Vietnamese army advanced south towards Saigon . . .
. . . in April, Saigon fell. Thousands of U.S. citizens and South Vietnamese nationals were evacuated in a disorganized helicopter airlift retreat from Saigon just preceding the fall of Saigon. . .
Here’s a famous “fall of Saigon” photo:
Back to Wiki:
. . . Ford faced two assassination attempts during his presidency, occurring within three weeks of each other and in the same state; while in Sacramento, California, on September 5, 1975, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of Charles Manson, pointed a Colt .45-caliber handgun at Ford. As Fromme pulled the trigger, Larry Buendorf, a Secret Service agent, grabbed the gun and Fromme was taken into custody . . .
. . .as Ford left the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore, standing in a crowd of onlookers across the street, pointed her .38-caliber revolver at him, and fired a single round that missed. Just before she fired a second round, retired Marine Oliver Sipple grabbed at the gun and deflected her shot; the bullet struck a wall about six inches above and to the right of Ford’s head . . .
. . . Ford reluctantly agreed to run for office in 1976. In addition to the pardon dispute and lingering anti-Republican sentiment, Ford had to counter a plethora of negative media imagery. Chevy Chase often did pratfalls on Saturday Night Live, imitating Ford, who had been seen stumbling on two occasions during his term. As Chase commented, “He even mentioned in his own autobiography it had an effect over a period of time that affected the election to some degree.” In the end, Carter won the election although it was close . . .
. . . Ford died on December 26, 2006, at the age of 93 years and 165 days, making Ford the longest-lived U.S. President . . .
All in all, I’d say that Gerald Ford has quite the legacy for an “afterthought” president.
I’ll close with a couple of GE Panoramio shots in a park along Buck Creek just southwest of my landing. Both are by Fotero78 (although both photos say Chris Vanderlip). First one of a footbridge over the creek:
And then a pretty scene in the park:
That’ll do it . . .
© 2015 A Landing A Day