Monthly Archives: May 2008

Unterwalden Map–4A1

After a long, arduous and dangerous (well, not dangerous) process, I finally have Unterwalden’s map complete. One canton down, ten to go.

unterwalden-map

5/26/08

Kenneth Burchfiel


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Canton Comparison–3D

canton-comparison2

Here’s a quick look at Albeit’s 11 cantons in terms of density, crime, length of residence and income. (See PDF for all the fun details.)

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The town that set out to be sincere

The town that set out to be sincere—2a

5/25/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

There is a popular story that Albeit’s citizens like to tell those around them. It goes something like this. In 2006, according to an observer’s blog, a man from out of town—Chicago, most people say—walked up to an Albeit resident and asked where the nearest McDonald’s was.

“McDonalds,” the man said. “Sir, I’m assuming you’re from out of town?”

“I am,” the Chicago resident said.

“You can eat McDonalds any day that you want. But you’re in Albeit now, and my advice is that you avoid McDonalds like the plague. It’s not the local thing to do.”

He then steered the man towards Kino’s, a popular theatre-and-dinner restaurant in Spengler. Rumor has it that the man enjoyed his meal so much that he moved to Albeit a few years later. At the least, he enjoyed his meal enough to put the restaurant on the map.

“The local thing” is an important part of Albeit’s terminology, right along with “the outside thing.” For most residents, shopping at malls in an outside thing; knocking on a neighbor’s door and offering to sell a potted plant is a local thing. Watching basketball or football on TV is an outside thing; kicking back with a drink to a good game of Alball or Mensch is a local thing. Joining a glass-skyscraper corporation is an outside thing; teaming up with a group of friends to sell romantic paintings in the middle of an intersection… local, to the core.

Every so often, someone criticizes an Albeitian for being elitist and “rejecting” the world that surrounds them. This is rather humorous, as most of Albeit’s residents live rather close to the poverty line and wouldn’t be caught dead at a country club—let alone an IKEA.

To be fair, there are plenty of citizens here that love the selection at McDonalds, follow the NFL as closely as they would their child and have a cubicle for a second home. But just as Bavaria is known for its lederhosen and France for its berets, so Albeit is judged by its honest critique of the mainstream.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to view Albeit as a group of anti-social, oddball inhabitants. It’s a fallacy that most of the city’s critics fall into. Albeit does not “reject” society; it seeks to become a true society, where individuals are interdependent and love one another. This society might have been created in response to the norm, but given time, it became something greater than the negative image of urban America. Those who put up with Albeit for long enough discover a sense of warmth, excitement and mutuality that melts outside allegations of elitism or indifference.

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Filed under 2--Albeit Overview

Table of Contents for The Albeit Story

This entire section is dedicated to overviews, maps and descriptions of the fictional city of Albeit. To give readers (and myself) a means for quickly accessing such information, I’ve included a rough outline of the section below–including links for each element of “The Albeit Story.”

This list, of course, doesn’t have all the links just yet. I hope to continuously update it with each new finished piece. The entire project could take up to a year at the time of this post.

The Albeit Story

~~1: Introduction~~

Making of a Fictional City

1A

Reason for a Fictional City

1B

~~2: Overview~~

The Town that Set Out to be Different

2A

The Canton System 2B

A Coordinated City 2C

Two Peculiar Sports

The Service Year

Four Quadrants, Four Stereotypes

–2F

The People of Albeit

Albeit Through the Years

Climate, Location and Demographics

The Albeit Manifesto–2J

~~3: Main Map Content~~

Master Building Directory

Master Street Directory

Master Map

3C

Canton Comparison 3D

Master Subway Map

3E

~~4: The Eleven Cantons~~

Unterwalden Map

4A1

Unterwalden Directory

4A2

Unterwalden Overview

4A3

Spengler Map

Spengler Directory

Spengler Overview

Pacfyst Map

4C1

Pacfyst Directory

4C2

Pacfyst Overview

4C3

Hauraki Map

Hauraki Directory

Hauraki Overview–4D3

Noulevac Map–4E1

Noulevac Directory–4E2

Noulevac Overview–4E3

Elam Map–4I1

Elam Directory–4I2

Elam Overview–4I3

Chiyoda Map

Chiyoda Directory

Chiyoda Overview

Em Map

Em Directory

Em Overview

Slat Map

–4I1

Slat Directory

–4I2

Slat Overview

–4I3

Graupel Map

Graupel Directory

Graupel Overview

Phoebe Map

Phoebe Directory

Phoebe Overview

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Reason for a Fictional City–1B

[This constitutes part 2 of the two-part introduction.]

Reason for a Fictional City—1a

5.23.2008

You ask an excellent question. What, in these days of instant gratification and technological nirvana, would compel a (fairly) healthy 17-year-old to spend his time planning out a fictional city? What would entice him to attempt a street-level relief of a metropolis, with descriptions and labels included?

Fleeting inspiration, perhaps. Maybe I’ll forget about this entire endeavor in a few weeks and go back to video games. Perhaps, in a spontaneous burst of reason, I’ll laugh out loud and exclaim, “I’m an idiot! There’s no point in drawing out the street and building plans for an entire city. I should scrap this plan and study my engineering notes.”

There are two problems with that hypothesis. First, I don’t know a thing about engineering. Second—and I type this with a straight face—there are reasons for a relief this extensive, this detailed. What follows is my attempt to elaborate on them.

Believe it or not, but I have a number of reasons behind Albeit—a number greater than zero. I may as well start with the simplest. Albeit teaches me how to concentrate, how to design, how to commit, how to persevere and how to finish. This reason stands regardless of what happens to the city; I could throw the entire map in a dumpster, and the benefits would remain.

That, of course, wouldn’t justify the city alone. I could still get those benefits out of something easier, not to mention simpler. What drives me to work on the city lies outside the practical and touches on the very reasons I write in the first place.

Without the city, my stories are simply stories: no greater than the sum of their characters. Albeit changes this. Albeit collects all the scraps, all the clippings, all the paragraphs I write about the city and turns them into one collective tale. Each word I write on Albeit accomplishes two things: it tells the plot on the surface, but also helps build a deeper story that threads through all of the works.

If I were planning only a few stories about Albeit, it might have been better to forgo the map and just make things up as I go along. That isn’t the case. If I’m going to be serious about establishing a consistent setting, there needs to be a serious reference for me to use. I’ll need to know major roads, sporting areas, subway stations, shopping malls, churches, airports—the list, as you yourself will see, goes on. Only with a detailed map can I plunge into the details on Albeit. Memory and on-the-job notes don’t do enough.

All writers, I think, aim for a sense of permanence in their writing. It’s not enough for a story to get recognition, then fade away into literary twilight. None of what I’ve written could be considered a “classic,” but if it’s part of Albeit, that gives it longer legs on which to stand. Suddenly, the story becomes important beyond its own literary value; regardless of its narrative success, it remains a descriptive chunk of the city.

Albeit is not just a preservative or link for my writing, however; it’s a repository. Internet aside, it’s never easy to put an idea into action or make use of some new thought. The city acts as an outlet for my right brain, in the sense that any off-the-wall thing I dream up can become part of its very foundation.

Take “Alball,” for example. My friends and I play a game on the street with tennis racquets in which we try to hit the ball over one another and into a goal. What can I make of this idea? Simple. I drop it into the framework of the city, and “Alball” becomes its hometown sport. The same result goes for my ideas about architecture, my all-city subway, my dream university, ideas about geographic planning and even thoughts on society. All of it finds purpose in the city.

Perhaps I haven’t been convincing enough. That’s quite all right. What matters is that I’ve convinced myself. Albeit is not just a side project or something to include with a college education; it’s a connector, a drop box and a preserver for my writing. It lets my stories reach out and touch one another. It lets one character walk off a subway car to find another from an earlier story.

More than anything else, Albeit—map, description and all—lets me write in a new way. That’s more than I could ask from a city built of ether.

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Master map of Albeit

Master Map

[See link for the map. This one only provides an overview; fuller detail is yet to come in a set of individual “Canton Maps.”]

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The “Time Slider:” A new idea for Google Earth

[Fun as it is to toy with Google Earth, it’s even “funner” to dream up ways to improve it. Here’s one idea I had for improving an already amazing program.]

The time slider

5.21.08

Kenneth Burchfiel

The current software for Google Earth lets us view in three directions: North/West, South/East and towards the center/away from the center. Aren’t we missing a fourth?

Don’t take me the wrong way. I’m not asking that we use live cameras for the Google Earth feature, nor do I devise a way to take users back to the days of Moses or the dinosaurs. Rather, I have a pretty simple idea for giving users a sense of how our Earth—natural and man-made aspects alike—have changed.

We all know that the satellite photography in Google Earth is updated quite rapidly in some areas. At the moment, it seems that the new imagery simply overwrites the old, giving users an updated, yet static relief of a given area. Is there not wasted potential in those less recent pictures?

This is where my idea for a time machine—a “time slider,” really—comes in.

Say that you’re looking over a certain part of New York. All the familiar controls are at your fingertips, with one addition: a slider connected to a bar depicting five or so calendar years. Move the slider to 2003, and you’ll see the 2003 Google Earth photo of that area. Shoot it ahead to 2006, and you’ll see new buildings appear, new roads paved—or, perhaps, a new shot of your car pulling out of the driveway. In short, the time slider would allow one to view past Google Earth images for a given area by means of a tab that slides between certain years of aerial photography. This would allow them to see, firsthand, how places have changed over time.

Things get even more interesting when we consider the possibility of historic aerial pictures. Let’s move eastward to Berlin. Placing your cursor on the time slider, you go from 2008 to 1947—discovering a black-and-white scene of desolation. You then slide the tab to 1973, and—what’s this? The Berlin wall is up! One more shift, this time to 1993, and a bird’s-eye view of the reunited capital shows yet another change in the city’s makeup.

The time slider might also be an ally in the fight against global warming. Let’s travel south to Antarctica. The wall of ice on our screen looks imposing enough, but—what’s this? If we move the time slider back to a 2006 Google Earth photo, we can see just how big that ice shelf used to be. Darfur activists could move the time slider back to 2003, then advance it slowly to watch the Janjaweed’s swath of destruction.

However one uses the time slider, they’re sure to begin seeing this Earth in a new dimension.

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