It’s all about the starchart

At long time ago (the same time frame as star wars, but in this galaxy), I bought a star chart. A map of the heavens. (Just as well I was in this galaxy, because a map for anywhere other than the Milky Way would have been of very limited use). I bought it in Canada, in fact, so it featured the northern sky.

Ever since I bought it, I have carried the starchart on my travels, figuring that I would use it one day to make some sense of the million points of light above my head.

But I never have. Used it that is. Or made sense of the million points of light. Rough calculations suggest that, until now, I had carried the chart through at least 17 countries and for almost a year in total.

Fortunately I do not keep personal acconts in which I depreciate the purchase price of my belongings, whether on a flat line basis or some other. For if I did my purchase would clearly be costing me significantly. Well, at least relative to the price of the starchart it would be. Although it did not cost very much. And it is light and flat and virtually indestructible.

So anyway, here I am. In the Kyzylkum desert in Uzbekistan, about 150 clicks north of Navoi, which is pretty much the middle of nowhere anyway, halfway between Bukhara and Samarkand.

I am comfortably accommodated in a yurt (which, from my very limited experience, is an excellent way to be accommodated) with some Bactrian (two-humped, smaller) camels.

Not that the camels are in the yurt. I think I would hear them. They are pretty noisy and a little bit frightening I guess. Unpredictable, and so huge (those smaller than the Dromedary) that I always feel that if they did do something bad it would be really bad.

I am not entirely sure, where it comes down to it, just what I fear them doing. Spitting I guess, since that is what you always expect camels to do. At me. Although I suspect it is the uncertainty about what they might do that makes them scarier.

But how bad could it be to be spat at? I guess the worst would be to be hit full on in the face. Their diet seems to consist of grass and green plants (and the odd twig and, presumably, insect that does not move fast enough). Like horses, their mouths are filled with an icky looking grass/saliva mix and their lips are stained greenish. Not the best stuff to be wiping off your face with a hanky, I suppose.

The camels have quite large teeth and huge heads. When they are sitting down they lift up their necks to look around, and seem for all the world like snakes, dancing to a charmer’s zither. Or maybe like meercats. I think they chew their cud. If not, I am not sure why they chew all the time. I saw no gum wrappers.

There were two problems with using the starchart, I discovered. First, the orientation of the chart was difficult because it was two dimensional, of course, and the sky was its usual three dimensions. So it was sometimes hard to figure out exactly where a particular star should be, especially if it was directly overhead. A better design might be to flip east and west around (or make the chart transparent) and make it to be used while lying down and looking back up at the sky.

Second, it was too dark. So there were so many stars in the sky that it was hard to tell (even with the starchart) what was where.

It seems silly to complain about there being too many stars when the whole point was to see them. But still, I am sure that next time, being an experienced starchart user, I will have no trouble at all.

Hmmm, I seem to have written quite a lot about camels as well. Perhaps “it’s mostly about the starchart” would have been more accurate.

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