[This fragment is available in an audio version.]

Recently I’ve had the joy and privilege of time spent walking in the Pacific Northwest forest, on a small island where we engage in Cottage Life.. Walking in the forest provides a fine opportunity to think, although the raw beauty of the forest pouring in through your eyes and ears will regularly interrupt. While forest-walking, I thought about pictures, modern mapping technology, strangers’ identities, and The Green Knight movie.

Forest on Keats Island

Snapping · I have a problem: It’s hard to photograph the forest. Out of sheer embarrassment I won’t share the number of times a combination of light and space and color has brought the camera to my eye. Because almost every such effort, on later consideration, ends up looking like a snapshot of some trees. I occasionally get the light and color but the special space eludes almost always.

Challenge accepted, OK? If that rainforest thinks it can hide its beauty from my camera, it’s got another think coming. With any luck I should have a couple more decades of life to work on the problem.

Forest on Keats Island

Mapping · There’s a problem walking in these woods. The trail network is a bit complicated and generally speaking, the trail forks look like the other trail forks. This makes it hard to re-create an excellent walk with a length known in advance, for example when you’re showing off the island to a first-time visitor who might not be up for a challenging two-hour scramble.

So I decided to map them. I surveyed the (many!) Android apps designed for this purpose. It seems that AllTrails is the most popular, but I found its learning curve onerous. So I installed Gaia GPS and Lauren installed Wikiloc, and we set out. They both worked pretty well. I think that if you’re signed into Gaia, this map should show my recently-marked trails. But I’m not sure I actually understand the publishing process yet.

Having created a Gaia GPS account and used the app/site briefly, I was charmed to get an email from them advertising that they were hiring and anyone interested in some combination of cartography, mobile apps, and server-side tech should get in touch. If I were younger I might.

Forest on Keats Island

Green Knight · I have a special relationship with the poem behind the recent movie.

The movie was our first such outing since Covid started. We even took a public-transit train to get there. I masked on the train but, since the film’s been out for a while and isn’t a big hit, there were only six people in the theater, widely separated, so I went bare-faced. It was frankly a thrill to go out and do adult things.

As for the movie, meh. The middle section, with Gawain wandering the wilderness seeking the Green Chapel, was very good. But I thought the ending, completely different from the one in the poem, was not an improvement.

And while the location shooting was very beautiful, the sound design was awful, with obtrusive heavy-handed Foley; for example, Gawain‘s horse plods slowly down a muddy forest path, and with each pace a huge “thud!” explodes from the theater speakers.

I think the problem is that the movie didn’t take itself seriously enough, as witness the hokey episode titles and the really dorky final line of dialogue assigned to the Green Knight.

I hope someone tries again and does it better, because the underlying poem is a fine piece of work.

Forest on Keats Island

Identity · We were walking one of those trails and my eye was captured by a flash of rectangular white in the undergrowth. It turned out to be a BC Services Card, which combines the functions of driver’s license and healthcare access. I’d sure be upset if I dropped mine on a forest trail — I’ve never had to replace one but I imagine the bureaucratic snarl is pretty awful.

Fortunately, the card displays, along with the holder’s full, name, gender, and birth-date, their mailing address. So it was easy enough to put it in an envelope and drop it in a post-box.

But I was unsatisfied, because if it was my card I’d want to know right away that it’d been found. So I went to look up the holder, a woman who had a dirt-common surname but moderately unusual first and middle names; I thought given an email address or social-media handle, I could set her mind at rest.

Google: No luck. Facebook: No luck. LinkedIn: No luck. The phone company’s “white pages” site (if you don’t know what white pages are, that’s perfectly OK): Yes, correct first-name/last-name combo in the right suburb. I called it and got a fax machine. Uh…

Anyhow, she got the card and I got an online thank-you via LinkedIn. But, first of all, I was surprised that with this much information, I was still unable to find any online evidence of this person’s existence. Weird, right?

No, maybe I’m weird. Given a random slice of a thousand or so people across the population, how many of them should one expect to be able to turn up online? How far has the Internet penetrated, really, into the fabric of society?

I don’t know, but I’d like to. I’m the last person to ask because I live online and the space of people who don’t is pretty well closed to me.

Thanks for listening · And if there’s a forest anywhere near you, count yourself fortunate and go take a walk in it. You won’t regret it.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Grahame Grieve (Aug 27 2021, at 14:00)

my name is unique (globally, I think) so anyone can find me immediately. But I have a friend who's name is "John Smith" - can't find him at all.

It's been a thing for a few friends of mine recently, naming their babies: is it good or bad to give them a unique name?


From: Gordon Haff (Aug 27 2021, at 14:39)

As to your question about web presence, I looked up a couple people who don't have a large web presence that I know of.

They are both on LinkedIn but, other than that, I'm not sure I could have tracked them down with any certainty, if at all. Those of us filled with a few pages of front/second/third page results that are all us and include photos are probably not the norm.

I don't have a Wikipedia article though :-)


From: Paul Clapham (Aug 27 2021, at 14:47)

Several years ago my father produced a good map of the trails of Keats Island. He hiked there a lot and we scattered my mother's ashes at Bridgeman's Bluff. But he never wanted to publish it and anyway it's 20th century paper technology.

Usually OpenStreetMap is good for hiking trails, and then it's possible to use Maps.me for navigation. But I just had a look and I see it's lacking a lot of Keats trails. Are any of the sites you mentioned set up to work with OpenStreetMap?


From: Rodney Topor (Aug 27 2021, at 15:52)

Re forest photography, suggest you watch some of Simon Baxter’s videos on YouTube for suggestions and inspiration.


From: Doug K (Aug 27 2021, at 17:12)

I've used Strava, MapMyRun, GaiaGPS, Caltopo, and OnX (hunt/offroad maps) to plan and track routes through the woods/mountains/plains. OnX is the easiest to use IMO. Caltopo gets better all the time and it's not yet owned by a GiantCorp. Its app used to lag a bit but I hear from woodsmen I trust, that is is much improved from the last time I looked.

In the bad old days I had a Garmin GPS handheld device which worked well in the field. Unfortunately its UI both on the device and the desktop tools was horrendous. I abandoned it for a phone app with glee and relief.

My wife refers to my many many indistinguishable forest photos, as 'dentists waiting room pictures'..

My gmail is <initial>kretzmann. For some reason there are a lot of kretzmanns who have similar gmails, but flub entering them onto contact forms etc. I get all sorts of odd emails from churches, schools, etc etc for some other kretzmann. Now you'd think this name would be relatively easy to find, but no. Only one success so far, in finding the person who should have received the email: four or five such persons who have nothing but a dead FB page, old Linkedin entry, or a mention or two in a news story or so. Like you I was puzzled by this, guess I'm more of an online creature than most.


From: Janne (Aug 27 2021, at 20:12)

Forest pictures often lack a subject, a point of focus where the eye can start exploring the image.

One photographer gave the advice that for nature scenes, find or create a "fake" subject in the foreground - find a distinct rock or tree stump; place a brightly colored backpack against a tree, or perhaps a small child or fellow hiker somewhere (humans make excellent subjects for other humans to look at). The real subject is still the nature scene, the "fake" subject is just there to tie the scene together.


From: Rob (Aug 28 2021, at 06:22)

Speaking from experience, generally tracking the lumpenproletariat is a great deal more difficult than tracking the eloi. Anybody recreationally hiking on a BC island is far more likely to be a member of the later group however.

And you are objectively wrong about The Green Knight.


From: John Cowan (Aug 28 2021, at 11:22)

I decided to google my wife Gale Cowan to see what I could find out about her online. By adding [nyc] and [-judge] as search terms (there is a New York judge of that name), I was able to find out a small amount, including her age, birthdate, and our home address excluding our apartment number. It wouldn't be a stretch to suppose that I live in the same apartment, since I live in the same building.

Beyond that, she is a CCNY alumna, she taught at Seward Park High School in the 80s, she participated in a study of the effects of psilocybin on anxious and depressed patients with cancer, one of her adult literacy students got a piece published in *Literacy Review*, and that's it. In particular, she has no online-only presence at all; googling for her email address produces zilch.

I told her all this, and her reply was: "Good. They have no need to know."


From: Tim (but not THE Tim) (Aug 31 2021, at 23:58)

Someone stated that you are 'objectively wrong' about The Green Knight and I feel compelled to point out that the only way to be objectively wrong about the movie would be if you stated facts about it that were wrong - such as wrong names for cast members or you mentioned the length of the film and that value was wrong.

For opinions, one would think *subjectively* wrong - but that's not correct either because it's an opinion, and everyone's is different.


From: Dave Pawson (Nov 26 2021, at 23:54)

Interesting piece Tim. I've always loved the tranquility of trees.

I think Annes comment below has it re a picture, though I may add, try the macro level for a change?

The UK has its own mapping service, and my phone app shows my sat nav position, which is helpful. More accurately, what3words may be of use?


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