Monday, January 31, 2005

GPS: by America, for America

I got an email from the US embassy here in Kathmandu a few weeks ago requesting all US citizens to provide GPS coordinates of their houses, if possible. The motivation given in the email is 'in case of an earthquake'. Right, and Bush is on a campaign for hearts and minds. When I think about embassies intervening in the lives of expatriots, I think of evacuation missions, but they're more helicopter on the roof in Saigon than they are about earthquake aftermaths. Before coming to Nepal, I did a lot of looking into the political situation here. The State Department has Nepal on its travel warning list. But then, this is a State Department run by neocons. The research included talking to a girl I knew who'd grown up in a number of travel-warning countries, as her parents are diplomats. She assured me that the Marines would not evacuate me if it really hits the fan. They would evacuate her - being the child of diplomats - but not any old American. The University of Texas says, historically, they do pick all of the Americans up, with the ambassador notably first. I wouldn't be on this line of thinking if the embassy hadn't asked for those coordinates.

So I'm outside with a headlight and Ewan's hand-held GPS, trying to get enough satellites. I've been thinking a lot about error in measurements recently, wondering whether the tarpul bearing fits should be N7/j6 or N7/k6. I couldn't get a reading better than nine meters. If I thought this nine-meter error would really be the difference, then I would worry. However, we live on the ground floor of a three-story building. I feel quite secure that, in the event of an enormous earthquake, we will be covered in two stories of low-grade concrete and poorly laid brickwork long before our GPS error is a problem. You should see the aggregate they use for the concrete here. I've been reading civil engineering handbooks recently for work - not a rosy read when the wall in front of you exhibit everything it says concrete shouldn't be.

Nevertheless, I abide. You know, GPS was made by the US military to guide weapons. To be as accurate as it is, the calculations take special relativity into account. Maybe it's general relativity - the one about the speed of light.

If anyone tells you that no one listens to Andrew W.K. in Nepal, then that person is a liar.


At 3:14 PM, Anonymous said...

Andrew WK is for frat boys and bed-wetters William. love Emma

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous said...

will you let us know about the recent events when you have internet access? i'm sure they won't be able to keep the people off telephone and internet for too long.

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous said...

I'm a bedwetter but no frat boy. Not Andrew W.K. either. Looks like the entire fam may be reading these updates. Awesome site. Like the shots of beer in most of the photos. - Jonathan

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous said...

Andrew WK rocks the house. And Nepal.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous said...

Did the US ask for Will's GPS location because they had a feeling something like this was going to happen?

At 5:29 AM, Anonymous said...

The US asked for Will's GPS location so they could determine how much penetration Andrew WK had in markets outside the US. Purely marketing purposes. - J


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