Saturday, March 29, 2008

What does "Cache our way to Illinois" mean to you?

To my family, it means "find one cache at a rest stop in Wisconsin". Really, I shouldn't expect my family to turn a 7 hour trip into a 12 hour trip so that they can sit in the car while I roam the 0.5 miles surrounding the interstate. And, the trip wasn't that bad -- I got my one Wisconsin cache and got out a couple times in the Chicago area. I'm here to report that Chicago caches are... not that different from Twin Cities Caches. Especially since we got 8 inches of snow a week ago Friday. It felt just like home.

  • I'm in love with the Palm Centro, but I realized one bad thing about CacheMate -- right now, the cache information does not include the size of the container or the cache owner. It turns out that this is a MacCaching issue; when it converts the .gpx file into the .prc file for the Palm to read, it leaves out this info. The author of MacCaching promised in his forum that he would fix this.
  • I'm enjoying TheDazzlerD's two puzzles about the tube down around Savage [edit: the puzzles are in Savage, not the tube. I mean the London Underground. No subway in Savage as far as I know.]. I'm thinking of honoring them with a sort of parody cache of my own about the Detroit mass transit train -- one loop with 12 stops. Pathetic for a metro area of that size.
  • Enjoyed Weeknight caching on Wednesday in Burnsville. Pre-cached with Bus&Betty and the topgears. At the park near the Burnsville mall, we then met up with ThCollector, cstjohn, X51hz, speedysk1, casinoman, and brokentooth. After finding four caches and avoiding dog poop, we moved on to Chili's, where there was a great flurry of travel bug and geocoin trading and discovering. B&B took three TBs from me on their trip to MI, and I grabbed my own Alvin's Phone Line coin from TheCollector, because, although I'm glad I've released all the coins I have purchased (almost), I miss them sometimes.
  • Congratulations to MN_Cavepeople on the birth of a mini-Caveman!
  • On a less important note, congratulations to pfalstad and FSU*Noles on being FTF on GW's Crimson clupea harengus puzzle cache, which was unfound for a long time. No sour grapes here, but I'm finding that unless a puzzle catches my fancy like those tube caches, it starts to feel a lot like homework. Good thing that Millah is on my case all the time...
  • As if you care, some Arsenal news: after a complete disaster at Chelsea in the league (two goals to Didier Drogba in the last 20 minutes after going up 0-1), we can kiss the league goodbye and start thinking about the Champions League -- the first leg of the quarterfinal is Wednesday against Liverpool. In fact, we play Liverpool three times in six days. Can't beat 'em three times in a row, but hope we can do enough to move on in Europe.
  • How about Davidson? I hadn't really cared about any of the basketball, but I caught just a little of Stephen Curry's dismantling of Wisconsin last night, and now I'm a fan! I grew up in the early 80s, when NC State (1983) and Villanova (1985) were making March Madness what it is today. Davidson for the Final Four! Even though my wife's ex-boyfriend went there!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Okay, CacheMate, you can come back in the house. Good boy.

Last time I mentioned CacheMate, I chained it to a stake in the backyard, because my Palm IIIx (made out of wood) was taking a HALF-HOUR to load a pocket query through a USB-serial adapter.

The other day I realized that I am not in fact under contract to Nextel, and so my wife and I switched to Sprint, and I got a Palm Centro. Put CacheMate on it, uploaded a pocket query, and the entire HotSync took less than 20 seconds. No more loading notes on to an iPod.

Thus, CacheMate is back in the fold. So is MacCaching, though I'm not totally happy with that interface (for example, it doesn't automatically choose the .gpx file that you have just loaded), because it'll load my GPSr and at the same time create the .prc file to HotSync to the Centro. All just in time to process my PQ "along a route" to Chicago later today.

My only concern is that I may have to quit geocaching just to learn all the cool things you can do with the smartphone. It definitely feels home-y, because I've had that Palm III since 1999.

One other thing -- I picked up the iGo car adapter, and that is really cool. With a splitter, I can power the 60CSx through a mini-USB connection and the phone or the wife's phone or an iPod through the other connection.

Here's hoping my wife and the mini-double-bass are still on board with stopping for Wisconsin and Illinois rest stop caches!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Attention: all caches are on Wheelock Pkwy.

My son minibass and I like to go out "treasure hunting" together, and it's usually on Friday evening, when the early evening batch of newly published caches comes out. The first time we went out on a Friday night, it was to try for a first to find on Grey Wolf's puzzle cache Poker Night, and we spent some of the trip there on Wheelock Parkway in Saint Paul.

minibass has a frightening ability to recall much of the Saint Paul street grid and was fascinated that he had never been on Wheelock before. Ever since, every time we go out, he asks if we're going to Wheelock and gets upset if I tell him that, no, we are not going to Wheelock. I got tired of dealing with that, so I just started saying, Yes, minibass, we are going to Wheelock. We're taking Ayd Mill Road, to 35E, to 494 west, to route 169 south, and now here we are at Wheelock.

Well, I don't want to lie to the boy and (maybe moreso) don't want to screw with his sense of direction. So on Thursday, the nicest day of the year so far, minibass and I went up to Lake Como to grab Grey Wolf's puzzle cache WMCAG. I'm following Garmin auto-routing blindly, and minibass is asking Are we going to Wheelock? Are we going to Wheelock? No, we are not going to Wheelock! Meanwhile, instead of sending me left off Como Blvd onto Como Lake Dr., Garmin sends me north on Victoria, east on Ivy, south on Avon, and wouldn't you know it, west on Wheelock Pkwy, whereupon minibass yells,



Wednesday night, I went to WeekNIGHT caching in Bloomington, organized by TheCollector. I met up with seamusbleu and speedysk1 beforehand for pre-caching (one cache, as it turns out). Big crowd to grab three new two_of_hearts caches in the Moir picnic grounds, so many that I didn't cross paths with everyone there -- besides seamusbleu and speedy, I did cross paths with sir_zman, cstjohn (happy that she traded her Super Secret pathtag to me... oops), minnesotabrad, oneied_cooky, MN_Cavepeople, casinoman, and MDarkarrow. After the first two caches, seamusbleu, MN_Cavepeople, and I walked to the third, while the others drove around to it, and then we moved on to two more. We found the first and DNF'ed the second, a multi, but I did find a dead fox. Meanwhile, the others chose Bennigan's over Applebee's, and we caught up to them. We were seated next to an equally large group of spelunkers. I thought we should have challenged them to a game of darts or Red Rover or something. They looked an awful lot like geocachers.


Saturday I took the mini-DOUBLE-bass to TheCollector's Luck of the Irish event in Burnsville. Besides many of the people I saw Wednesday, it was nice seeing knowschad again and meeting Good-Boy, Good-Girl, Sandtracker and Arcticabn for the first time. We did not run into Wheelock in Burnsville.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

"My childhood was a nightmare, and that's why I love geocaching"

Part of the fun of WeekNIGHT caching on Wednesday was trying out some attention-grabbing blog post headlines like this one. That's why there are quotes around it. My childhood was not a nightmare, and I like geocaching for several reasons, but this is not one of them.

On the way to the WeekNIGHT I called the Pre-Caching Hotline. Bus of Bus&Betty answered, and he directed me to meet them and topgear at COMPANION CACHE, another top quality Mutsley&Crew cache. The three of them were kind enough to wait for me at the side of the road while I went to look for the cache on my own. On to a couple other caches before meeting the other Weeknighters at Potawatom Park in Oakdale for a couple Bobcam caches.

The highlight of the evening was free food! sir "enemy of mathematics" zman had a coupon for 50 free wings and some drinks at BW3. (I jest -- zman is no enemy of mathematics; he actually has been involved with a math camp for girls. But he does like to give me a hard time about my math-themed signature items.)

Besides headlines, I was trying out a theory that my wife, a media professor, and I have been working out. It is commonly believed that most, if not all, social networks on the internet -- Facebook, myspace, games like World of Warcraft -- in fact isolate people instead of bringing them closer.

Geocaching may be a unique counterexample to this commonly held belief. First of all, even though geocaching is an outdoor activity, it is indeed an internet social networking site. Even if you are only entering logs or reading the logs of others, you are socializing with others on the internet. But geocaching may be unique in that it encourages actual human contact, whether it's an event cache or a chance meeting at a traditional.

It makes me wonder how my childhood (oh, such a nightmare) would have been different, if the internet had been widespread in the late 70s or early 80s. The internet allows people to form groups based on interests rather than geography alone, and, perils of the internet aside, it may allow young people to find their niche sooner. I know it took me a while.

Who else was at the WeekNIGHT? Besides those I mentioned earlier, MN_Cavepeople, minnesotabrad, TheCollector, Oneied Cooky, two_of_hearts, XZQ&Dad, and broken tooth. minnesotabrad told me about the improving firmware on the Garmin Colorado, and Bus told me about his foray into programming a Whereigo game. Twin Cities cachers on the cutting edge.

Speaking of which. In other news: King Boreas' century cache Challenge of a Century: Geocoins has been archived, apparently from the central office. Don't know what I think about this. My first reaction was that all caches should be archived then, because they require the purchase of a GPSr (I know, it's not necessary, etc., etc.). I have nowhere near 100 active, purchased geocoins, and I really didn't mind that I was not able to log this cache. I would be interested to hear arguments in favor of this decision. I'm sure I could go find them on the Groundspeak forums. KB pushes the cache hiding envelope in certain ways, and it's only natural that his caches are litmus tests for Groundspeak's evolving regulations.

Headed to Cannon Falls/Northfield with Bunganator and Millah this morning to grab some puzzle caches by dgauss. Not the real Gauss, who is too busy being dead to be a geocacher, but a Carleton Gauss, whose puzzles and hides I really like. (How could I not?) Plus, he has the whole countryside at his disposal, and at least for the few that we found, he makes very good use of it.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Are puzzle caches worth the hassle? Um... yes.

I almost swore off hiding puzzle caches this week. I aimed to publish my puzzle Anchors Aweigh!, about Navy ships and the calendar algorithm, on Leap Day, February 29. I wanted to place it in South St. Paul and pay a little tribute to Bobcam and knowschad, two area hiders whose caches I like and whose styles are very different. But I wasn't able to get out that way Thursday, so I compromised and started looking for a hiding spot near the U of M campus. pfalstad had an infamous cache called The Fun Side of the River down by the river, west of the stairs that are south of Harvard St. Finding it involved walking into a storm drain. I endangered my life trying to find that one, not realizing that it had been archived two weeks earlier. There's a big gap there now on the geogoogle map, and so I went down to that area, past the sign saying "stairs closed", slipped on ice, fell on my back, broke a tree branch that cut my nose on the way down, and eventually placed the cache in what I thought was a clever place. Done.

Here's the problem: I placed it within 200 feet of the final location of another cache. A CACHE I HAVE FOUND. Our local cache reviewer patiently explained that sometimes exceptions are made to the proximity rule if the caches are at drastically different altitudes, but not in this case because they were so close. Ugh. No Leap Day publication.

On Saturday, March 1, I was able to retrieve the cache (which got iced into what I thought was a clever location) and take it several miles away to a very peaceful, relatively muggle-free, favorite location of mine. The puzzle re-work was relatively painless.

Speaking of which, foundinthewild called me today to ask about Plato's Five Gems: Octahedron, and he mentioned that rickrich includes a coordinate offset into some/all of his puzzles, presumably so that if he has to update the coordinates, he can do so without reworking the puzzle. I'll have to consider that, because this very thing has gotten me into trouble once or twice.

In other news:

  • I mailed out 50 pathtags early this week. One of them went to Kacky in Maine. That is the only trade I have initiated myself so far, because I was so impressed with and moved by the story of her pathtag: the design is in honor of her son, who is autistic and builds birdhouses from recycled materials with other autistic adult men.

    Kacky wrote on the pathtags forum that she mentioned the signature card that I included with my pathtag on the podcast Cachers of the Round Table, one of my favorite podcasts. Jeez, two podcast mentions in three weeks! Time for another related rates problem involving the radius of my head?

  • I used the "I have to run out to the store" ruse to grab an FTF on shoestorm's first hide, a puzzle cache with an incredibly muggly final location. A well-crafted and well-thought-out hide. I hope it survives.