Tag Archives: Google Maps

virtual vacations: now

Don’t you love it when you talk about two separate things and then something happens that forces an unexpected convergence of the two? Earlier I was doing some Google Street View sightseeing of celebrity gardens. And I’ve posted a few notes (1 2) and photos from my recent Yellowstone trip.

Thanks go to Peter, who the other day pointed out that Google now has added ten parks and recreation areas to Street View, including Yellowstone! So you want to see what the view is along Yellowstone’s Firehole Lake Drive? Just drop into Street View to find out. Of course, like all things virtual, it lacks something of the actual. How will you smell the lodgepole pines or get a whiff of the sulfur fumes rising from the springs?
Google Street View along Firehold Drive Yellowstone

While Street View is a great tool and can let you get a low-res look at places you’d never visit, it’s really just a presentation tool for canned photography. The views are updated periodically, yes, but the periods span many months. What you’re looking at today is soooo yesterday, and in some ways it feels so Web 1.0.

Web cams offer a complement to Street View and can provide an immediacy the former tool lacks. In fact, if you’re interested in the Old Faithful Geyser and Upper Geyser Basin at Yellowstone, there’s a recently installed web cam at the attraction, with images updated at intervals of less than a minute.

Old Faithful webcam

Street View does a nice job of conquering space, giving you the freedom to move around a map and see what there is to see from different locations, and web cams can conquer time by giving you almost-immediate, up-to-date views of things as they’re happening.

What’s the next killer app? What will conquer both space and time?

Will all cars have cameras and GPS installed and then have the images beamed to some central location for real-time descriptions available to anyone on the web so that you can see what things look like right now? And if that happens, who will be the central location serving up the images? Google? The Department of Homeland Security?

virtual garden tour

It’s high spring in Southern California and time for the annual garden tours. The California Native Plant Society offers one, as do a lot of neighborhoods, including my own.

Rather than ponying up the fees and filling up the gas tank this past weekend I decided to make up my own garden tour. Online.

I’m not especially smitten with Hollywood celebrities, but thought that might be an interesting starting point. I randomly pulled up one of the pile of websites with addresses of celebrities, then went to Google Maps with the address in hand. And Google Maps has that controversial feature to actually view at street level what you find on a map. The street view isn’t implemented for much of the country, but it happens to be in place for practically all of Beverly Hills. How convenient.

So…what does Madonna’s front yard look like? What might that tell me about her as a person and about celebrity in general?

madonna's yard

First off, let me say that the Google feature indicates that the addresses shown on the screen are only approximate. So this might not actually be Madonna’s front yard. But assuming that it is, I guess I felt a little let down. The yard is really green. Lots of green. Somehow I thought the garden would be a little more…exotic? Out of control shrubberies and lurid statuary maybe? But it does say she likes her privacy. No surprise there.

Then I went over to Mia Farrow’s.

mia farrow's yard

More of the privacy thing, again. But the yard seemed a little more welcoming–probably something to do with the steps leading up to the front wall. And I felt really good that she recycles.

Next was the late Charleton Heston’s pad, which didn’t look like the one in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. Either he’d down-sized or I was knocking at the neighbor’s.

charleton heston's yard

Nice, conservative landscaping. Private, but not hostile. You know that trespassers would be shot, so there’s no need for higher hedges.

And on to Jay Leno’s:

jay leno's yard

Walls again. And more hedges. These neighborhoods have abnormally high hedge counts for Southern California.

Then over to Bette Midler’s.

bette midler's yard

It’s a little hard to see the yard, but it looks like it’d be a nice place to unwind with the divine Ms. M and some martinis.

Maybe the most surprising was Harrison Ford’s.

Like, where’s the killer fence and the yard for the guard dog? And the birch trees make the house look like it’s on the wrong coast. It’s nice enough, but makes me think he’s not much of a gardener. Or maybe this one’s for sure the wrong house. Dunno. Unfortunately, online, you can’t be the obnoxious stalker fan and go knocking on the front door. I might just have to leave these people to themselves.