Electronics, Exploration & Electrocution

As a side effect of increasingly integrating myself into local culture, I have somehow come into possession of a little cell phone – mobile, colloquially. And much as it saddens me to admit it, for my cold steely hate of all things cellularly telephonic has been long-fostered and passionate…
It’s really spiff.

Mobile usage and the closely connected craze of text messaging (which has only recently begun to gain popularity back in Canada) has been alive and well in the UK for a number of years, and has integrated itself not only into the daily lives of individual users, but also into the practices of businesses and media outlets. Nearly all television shows have a “text” number – and some of them (reality TV shows in particular) will even run a banner across the bottom of the screen during their episodes to display some of the wittier comments received from their viewership. Other companies such as cinemas and theatres will offer discounts to mobile users who “text” them with a certain catchphrase – as an example, our local cinema, in partnership with our mobile provider, gives weekly 2-for-1 passes to all who text the phrase “movie” to a certain number.

And yes, over here, text is a verb.

Downtown Cambridge is a very bike/pedestrian centric locale, and with only a few exceptions motor vehicles are not permitted entry to the downtown core. Cars are regarded very much as a necessary evil by those required to commute a fair distance into town for work, while bicycles are widely accepted as the transportation method of choice if one lives nearby. Cyclists of all ages, shapes and sizes can be continually observed zipping in and out of traffic, or meandering along the roadways and pedestrians sidewalks, or looping around busy roundabouts – all while balancing front and rear baskets crammed with the day’s shopping.

So, wanting to experience this aspect of daily life firsthand, Ally and I procured ourselves a pair of cheap bikes (complete with baskets) for use downtown. I can already report to have tested out a number of the manoeuvres reported above – for example, just the other day I went screaming around a packed roundabout without hesitation or regard for personal safety. Some might call such behaviour irresponsible (especially in consideration of the fact that we, like nearly all of the cycling population here, do not currently own helmets) but in my defense, my attentions were more focused on balancing the two bottles of wine sitting in my front basket. Priorities, people.

All in all, I have a wrinkle-free cycling record (except for that one tiny incident of running into the telephone repairman, but that’s a tale for another day).

In addition to our rampant consumerism, we continued to explore our new surroundings this past weekend. As always, our method of exploration revolved around a wildly addictive past-time known as Geocaching.

For those not acquainted with the sport, Geocaching is a global “treasure hunting” game that makes use of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and essentially works like this:

  • Person A hides a small container filled with goodies (dollar store trinkets, etc.), and then publishes the coordinates of the hide location to the geocaching website.
  • Person B reads the post online, pulls out his or her GPS receiver, and sets out to find the hidden container (“cache”). Upon finding it, Person B signs a log book contained inside the cache, and may also choose to exchange one of the items in the cache for something they brought with them.

I could go on with this explanation (there are many variations – different types of caches, group-related activities, etc.), but I’ll leave at saying that Geocaching is a fantastic way to get outside, see parts of your city you never knew existed, …and find treasure! Just try it – go onto the website, punch in your postal code, and be amazed at the number of caches that are less than 1 km from you.

We first stopped at the American military cemetery and memorial, located just east of Cambridge on 30.5 acres of land that were donated to the United States by the University of Cambridge. There are nearly 4,000 people buried at this site, and the memorial serves as both a touching tribute to those lost as well as a place for quiet reflection. The cemetery expands out radially from a centre flagpole, which is quite striking when seen from above – each of those white dots you can see upon zooming in is a gravestone. It packs a different kind of a punch when standing at the base of the flagpole and looking out, though.

That afternoon, we proceeded further eastward to the Hardwick Millenium Footpath, an 8 mile circular walk created by the people of Hardwick to celebrate the millennium. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, taking walkers through the open grassy fields and meadows of the parishes of Hardwick and Coldecote. Another interesting tidbit: between the two parishes, you get to cross the Greenwich Meridian.

That last photograph, though unremarkable, has been included here in consideration of its high cost of acquisition. The two rams refused to come anywhere near me for their close up – though in retrospect, I believe it wasn’t me they were staying away from. Wanting to frame up the perfect shot, I leaned over the enclosure fence to take the shot……and in a lovely interactive exercise of Natural Selection, the sheep in the center of the pen chewed away happily while the idiot leaning over the electric fence was very shortly taught an important lesson on the topic of respecting private property.

I’m pleased to report that Ohm’s law still holds as of the 21st of January. Sigh.

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