Never too Old to Learn

By: H. Anne Thurston, Columnist
“Beautiful Boyne”


H. Anne Thurston, Columnist

There are side benefits which come my way to add to the enjoyment I find in writing for the Gazette – a privilege I never dreamed I would experience.  The smiles and thank you’s from friends, acquaintances and strangers are wonderful.  The other day I was filing my gas tank when a person on the opposite side of the hoses smiled my way and told me how much he looked forward to the Gazette each Wednesday and my column. Then there was the phone call that came in from Chicago and a friend who reads the Gazette on line.

He had discovered an error in a recent column and wanted to alert me to it.  The minute he spoke about my mistake I realized I had been wrong and his explanation was ‘on the money’.  When he offered to write it and send the correction to me I assured him I would appreciate sharing it with my readers.  The following are his words:

Your recent column about the survey system was quite interesting as it has been a subject I have had to work with all of my professional life as a real estate lawyer.

One aspect of real estate involves ‘legal’ descriptions, that is, precise descriptions of a single parcel. In this context, real estate, as an asset having intrinsic value can be land (in the form of farms, highways, or city lots) or air (in the form of a condominium where the ownership is that of a three dimensional space described in the survey and condominium declaration) or even water (the latter being a condominium declaration relating to a marina where the spaces are individually owned.  It is thus necessary to know exactly where the property in question is located, and even all condominiums must eventually be tied to a specific parcel.

Real Estate in Michigan and several other Midwest states is tied to the national survey system, created in the early 1800’s, which divides property into mile squares.  The squares are generally described as being in a numbered six mile square described as a township North (or South) of a known base line, and East or West of a known principal meridian.  The reason real estate descriptions were never computerized is because of the numbering system used to describe the 36 square miles in a six mile township.

Computers generally, as well as almost all mathematical graphs, relate to the x,y numbering system.  Where 0,0 is at the intersection of a horizontal line with a vertical one; a point described as 4,5 is located four units to the right and five units up from that interesting point. Townships are different.  Number one township (here meaning a square mile) is located at the upper right hand corner of the large square, number two is to its left, and so on for the first, or top row.

T7, however, is located below 6 and then squares are counted out to the right until T12, then down to T13; then back left again until eventually one arrives at T36.  It is difficult to ascribe any great amount of analytical thought to a system which created countless non-conservative numbered lists. (The squares in the column furthest right, reading from the top is 1,12,13,24,25,36.  The column furthest left, in exactly the same six mile square, reading from the top, is T6,7,18,19,30 and 31).  The other slices were no better and neither was reading them right to left or vice versa to give an intuitive sense of where a particular parcel might be.  All land records are now computerized except in the most distant areas, but the systems used do not relate to the national Survey system.

What was good enough to use to lay our political township, county and even state lines is no longer in use except by way of historical reference.

One other item.  Latitude lines are all parallel to the equator and thus to each other.  All lines of longitude however, are convergent, meeting at the poles.  I certainly have seen many broad sweeping curves on country roads, but the ones on those roads running generally North and South are the ones correcting for the curvature of the Earth.  On East-West roads, it was just some engineer trying to make your life a little easier.

One other item of useless information.  Several years ago I met a truly international lawyer.  In the course of our conversation I asked him if there was a metric system way of measuring angles, to go along with their metric measuring of distances.  His response was basically that there is a system dividing a circle into 1000 units in the diameter, but nobody uses it.  His belief was that the natural mathematics of the 360 degrees (minutes and seconds) we cut a circle into was the much more efficient method and almost universally in use.  Who would have thought?  R. G.

When you stop and think about it you discover a day rarely passes during which you fail to learn something new.  Often it is of such minute importance that we don’t realize we have added a bit of ‘know-how’ to our itinerary. Just yesterday morning I had my first taste of venison sausage.  I have eaten venison, but not in the form of sausage — it was exceptional.  And so it is with the wealth of information the above quote from my friend in Chicago shared with me.

And as a world we are witnessing firsthand the unbelievable ability of hundreds of thousands of people to stand peacefully, side-by-side in support of each other and an entire nation, to ask for governmental reform.  It is in awe we watch from the sidelines as a nation refuses to shed blood to seek radical reform.  Two weeks ago I would not have believed I would ever witness desperation generate the ultimate in courage.

As I watch and listen I am aware fifty years ago such a happening could not have developed as it would not have had a world-wide audience applauding.  Cyber space has changed our world: making what was beyond ones wildest dreams a possibility in this time and day.  Like many my age I have my son, daughters and grandchildren to thank for my use of the internet and the limited understanding of just exactly what transpires when my fingers hit various keys on my keyboard.

I was one step ahead when Tom brought me my very first computer – a Kaypro which he had assembled for me back in the early 1980s.  I had learned to type while in high school in the ‘30s.  My fingers knew where to find even the seldom used j and z. on my Royal typewriter.  What they have had to learn is what in the world all the ‘F’ keys can bring about as well as the great delete, home, insert and end keys.  Then there are the mysterious keys which have symbols depicted on their surfaces.

I still manage to get myself in all sorts of strange places on my computer with no idea how to find my way out.  Ed never involved himself with the new gadget, declaring his hands too large to be able to successfully hit the key he might choose.  I believe his rejection of the computer had more to do with his entry into Alzheimer’s than the size of his hands. He had spent a life time with them and accomplished some pretty fantastic things.

The fact President Mubarak interrupted the use of the internet at the outset of the protest in Cairo spoke to that ruler’s awareness of its potential source of communications by those who questioned his rule. What he could not control was the use of the cell phones and all their extended ways of communication.  Even photographs of the revolt could be shared. Those of us living thousands of miles away can be ‘on the scene’ instantly.  Secret happenings in today’s world are fast becoming impossible.

A year ago I embarked on a research project involving the internet and its affect on lives today.  Because of my own circumstances as a widow of a few months and my age, in the eighties, I zeroed in on senior on-line dating services.  Warned by friends and family to back off and find something else to do I only felt more determined to surge ahead.  I was told to always carry a cell phone with me (which I did not own) and a gun (which I would never own) to protect myself from untold dangers.

I now admit I had no idea of the world I was about to enter, nor the men I would meet. I believe that unknowingly I had also succumbed to our world of tragic headlines.  Although I was not as suspect of wickedness as others seemed to be, I was totally unprepared for the life standards and honesty I met. Topping this was the depth of need and loneliness that abounds among those of my generation as they face life without their beloved spouses.  There was a freedom of sharing memories and interests which obliterated completely the picture of risk that others had presented to me. Above all I found the morals of my generation which supported marriages still exist among those seniors on line.  And with this the respect for women that all too often has evaporated today.

Because of the security of being in their own home, comfortably seated at their familiar computer the men relax and openly speak of themselves; hopes, desires and plans for whatever life remains for them.  Many were survivors of major illnesses (including cancer, arthritis, heart and nerve damage), who routinely exercised, prepared healthy meals for themselves and kept their house tidy whether through occasional hired help or their own.  Most were in the home in which they had retired.  They gardened, traveled and ate out.  They engaged in some sport; often golf, swimming, boating, fishing or tennis.  I discovered a few skiers.  They all wanted someone to share these times with as well as to have to hug and cuddle.  Most were cautious about commitment but hung out the possibility. Companionship and friendship were sought the most frequently. Distance makes anything else all but impossible as friendships can’t develop into something more intense with all that mileage to be considered!

They were all aware that marriage in the eighties no longer carries the moral necessity that childbearing ages do.  This change is a first time situation for the many men who have experienced marriages that lasted fifty, sixty and more years.  For those who have wives in care centers and who no longer recognize their husbands because of dementia there is the dilemma that religious beliefs and legal matters present.  The men struggle with their loneliness and the restrictions society covers them with – that they not ‘cheat’ on their still living spouse.

However, corresponding with a virtual stranger who may live over a thousand miles away offers the comfort of an understanding friend and confident that has never been available for most older people as they face the ending years of their lives alone.  My own mother became reclusive upon the death of Dad.  Her only desire was to die to join him. It took four years and broke my heart.  There was no internet friend with whom mother could have spent those years.  Yet, I know such a man was somewhere within our country’s borders and that he too was equally lonely.  What a waste!!

As the computer world has invaded the world of business as well as the world of services and leisure for us living today it has become more and more rare to find a person who is not in some way involved.  Often that lack of involvement is due to the cost of the equipment.  But that too has its solution here in Boyne City as well in other towns.  Our great library has sixteen computers available by the hour at no cost to those who have library cards.  Visitors can use a computer by requesting a ‘guest card’. Printing is available for ten cents a sheet.  Three additional computers are available for children in the children’s room on the lower floor. Every Friday afternoon at 1 pm computer lessons are available for anyone needing help, whether a beginner or not. The library’s official name is ‘Boyne District Library’ and is available on the web or at 1-231-582-7861.   If you are unfamiliar with our library visit it soon; the staff is helpful and hoping to serve you.

Anne Thurston is a weekly columnist for The Boyne City Gazette.  Thurston lives in Boyne City, and her published works include “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.” More information on her work can be found at

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