To map out a course of action requires courage*

I have a confession to make. I have absolutely no sense of direction. I’ve always known this; my family has always known this. In the past I preferred that no-one else knew, but I think it’s time to ‘fess up.

This is probably the worst example so far of my utter incompetence:

Where we should have gone: Moonee Ponds to Richmond
Where we went: Moonee Ponds to Richmond, via Brunswick

I’ve also been from Kew to Hawthorn before, via Balwyn. It’s even more embarrassing when I’m the only native Melburnian in the car, and it’s actually one of my companions from New Zealand who realises we’re going the wrong way.

(‘Lost’, from Bewdlerian’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

There’s not a lot I can do about my problem. Like most faults, apparently it’s genetic and I inherited it from my grandmother. But I always make sure I plan my trips in advance. And, most importantly, I always take a map.

In the past, I used, which is wonderful because it utilises the Melways maps that most Melburnians find instantly recognisable, as well as showing detailed public transport routes. The alternative,, generates a pretty crude map, and even gets the capitalisation of my suburb wrong. However, both and require users to buy their maps to embed in a website. And why should we do that when we have Google to help us get from here to there?

Google Maps is still fine-tuning the detail on its Australian maps, but it promises a great service. Google Maps users can now use custom icons to mark important spots on their maps. Using the MyMap feature, US and Canadian users can add a ‘mapplet’ to overlay customisable weather data on their maps. Google provides prepared code for users to cut and paste to their websites; as a consequence, many commercial, educational and personal websites now incorporate Google Maps. Libraries such as the Moraine Valley Community College Library embed  maps in their websites to guide students and staff to local places of interest.

You’ll have noticed that despite the relative ease of embedding maps, there are none in this post. Unfortunately, WordPress can’t interpret the code used to display Google Maps in (Google) Blogger, and the plugins available to remedy this problem only work with hosted blogs, not blogs. Disappointing, and another strike against WordPress, but the cynical might argue that it’s another way that Google makes sure its products dominate the market.

A fellow 23 Things blogger lavishes praise on Google Maps for mobile, explaining how he could help some lost people by looking up the address they sought on his mobile phone. As for me, I have really lousy eyesight, and I’d rather not attempt to discern anything on a tiny, fingerprint-smudged screen, especially not a detailed map. I know it’s a retrograde notion, but there are some things that are just better in print.

Of course, Google is famous for recycling content (to put it as nicely as possible), and Google Maps certainly follows this mantra. While it’s useful to know that Google Maps can display Google Books, YouTube and Flickr content on maps, I would be caught very much offguard if it were my content being recycled. As an example, following my post on Technorati, I ran a quick Google search on ‘libodyssey’ to see if I’d become an overnight sensation. Of course I hadn’t, but you could have knocked me down with a feather when I found my Flickr photos in the top-ranked results, where they’re being used by a travel site to promote the Apollo Bay region! It’s important to note that there is nothing illegal afoot here; I licensed all my public photos under a Creative Commons Licence and certainly didn’t exclude commercial usage. I should in fact be flattered, but I was nonetheless surprised. Those who claim to be privacy conscious should be aware that nothing is ever simple with Google; Amazon’s Kindle reader may use Google Maps to tell you where you are, but if it can share that data with you, it can share it with other people, too.

(‘Anagram Transport Map’, from woowoowoo’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

Beware of this map; it could lead you up the garden path.

* ‘Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to the end, requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs.
Ralph Waldo Emerson.


5 Responses to To map out a course of action requires courage*

  1. Sara Jervis says:


    Hi for 2008.

    I was with my oldies friends (from my SA State Library days) in Adelaide recently and enthusiastically told them about my new young friends WHO CAN WRITE AND USE CORRECT GRAMMAR. Today I have looked at my favourite three websites and as I said, my friends can write.
    I enjoyed your new pieces.

    You have a fellow traveller as your office neighbour. Not only do I have no sense of direction – I do not know if I am going towards the city or away from it until I pass a landmark and even then I am confused until I see the city looming – or not! I have a fear of freeways and do not do them. As I say to my husband, family and friends, I can embroider 200 tiny roses on a smocked dress for a one year old but I cannot do freeways. I now can use flickr and LibraryThing and insert You tube, which no one in my ken can.

    Last week I had the most embarrassing experience. I was alone in the car so I was red faced by myself. I was travelling in Johnston St to Brunswick (as I do not do freeways) and there was a big hold up and I followed a truck to the outside lane as I thought everyone would have to veer right to avoid the obstruction in the left two lanes. I then had to turn right into Hoddle St , as I watched the cars who stuck to the left sail onwards. OK, I had checked the map during the hold up and saw that I could find my destination off Hoddle St quite easily. But I did not realise as I sallied forth that I was in the freeway lanes. I travelled on, conscious that hesitation can literally mean death in entering the freeway,entered and saw that an exit was close – 2km and put my blinker on for the whole two kms, hugged the left (almost in the service type lane) and phew, exited at Chandler HW.

    So, as I knew my way to Brunswick my way, I sailed all the way back to Kew Junction and restarted on Studley Park Rd then Johnston and this time did not veer.

    As I know no one but my colleagues read this blog I can safely tell you of my poor sense of direction, unless I have my journey planned and memorised. I even admired my sang froid (albeit a nervous one) as I travelled on the freeway and then started my journey again.

    I have so many stories to tell about my poor sense of direction and alas it does not get better as you get older.

  2. tony says:

    Thanks for the anagram map. Living as I do near the Pigpen line, I find its new name remarkably accurate.

  3. […] to go, although it does have some great features like book clip embedding and popular passages. And for once, these even work in […]

  4. libodyssey says:

    Thank you for the compliment on my writing, Sara. I hope it is as clear at 2am as it was during the day time. I think embroidery is a much more valuable skill than charting a freeway; on this basis, I’ll never be able to live too far from the city, or indeed, learn to drive. I’m disappointed that it doesn’t improve with age, however.

  5. libodyssey says:

    Tony, I’m a little past Flea Lucid, but thankfully not as far as Pee Sandal!

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