December 23, 2008

GPS of all trades

I WAS WONDERING what my boat might like for Christmas when my eye fell upon an advertisement for a Garmin Rino 530HCx. The Garmin company is famous for GPS navigation instruments, of course, but the Rino seems to be a departure from the norm.

For a start, it can’t spell its name. It should be Rhino, not Rino. It has two antennas that look vaguely like the horns of a rhinoceros. In Africa, game poachers often saw off a rhino’s horns and sell them to customers in the Far East, who grind them down into a powder that reputedly has aphrodisiacal powers.

Frankly, I’ve never understood how that works. You swallow some powder and suddenly women look attractive to you? What? Who needs rhino powder? Didn’t they always look attractive to you? But wait … I’m getting carried away here. Sorry. Back to the Rino: It probably isn’t a good idea to saw off the Rino’s antennas, no matter how much of a boost your testosterone needs. I suspect something won’t work if you do that. Something on the Rino, that is.

The interesting new direction this hand-held GPS is taking is evident from its attributes, as listed in the advertisement. Besides a color screen that shows where you are on a chart, there are two built-in radios. One is a Family Service Radio, a glorified walkie-talkie. The other is a General Mobile Radio Service radio, a rather more sophisticated mobile transceiver for which you need an $85 license.

In addition to GPS and two radios, the Rino has a barometric altimeter. This tells you how high you are getting, which is very useful in this season of multiple Christmas parties. There is also an electronic compass so you can find your way home if you are too high to read the GPS screen. In addition, there is a built-in weather radio that informs you what kind of storm you just got stuck in on the way home.

There’s more, but I’m sure you can see which way the new generation of electronic gadgets is headed. One GPS does it all. I can’t wait to see what they add to the next generation of GPSs, but just in case any Garmin people read this column, I’d like to suggest some additions to the new “omnibus” Rino GPS.

It would be real nice, guys, if you could add a night telescope so I can find my slip after dark. And how about a few rocket flares to help the search-and-rescue people find me? A small bar would be very welcome, just a little one, perhaps with miniature French maids dispensing cocktails etc., to the shivering bodies in the cockpit on the midnight watch.

I suppose it would be too much to expect a modest galley with a European chef skilled in confiture and baguettes. No matter. I’m not greedy. I’d settle for a GPS with a fish-and-chips dispenser.

Today’s Thought
I find the sea-life an acquired taste, like that for tomatoes and olives. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Season’s greetings
I wish you all a merry Christmas, a happy Hannukah, and best wishes for whatever celebration you choose to observe at this time of year. I wish you peace and tranquility to calm your soul; I wish you fortitude to face difficult times in the New Year; and I wish you the patience to await the brighter times that surely lie ahead.

“Good grief, what happened to your face?”
“I coughed.”
“But you don’t get your teeth knocked out if you cough.”
“You do if you cough in your friend’s wife’s wardrobe.”

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