Sunday, November 30, 2014

#MichelinQuest

Michelin (yes, the tire people) is holding a trackable photo contest this year, called Michelin Quest.  If you find one of their trackables in a geocache, or by requesting one from Michelin, you can take an action photo with it, and get submitted into a contest.

Through trickery and skullduggery (aka, arranging for someone to mail me one), I got my hands on a Michelin Man trackable and took a few shots.

These are my entries.

This taken at a geocache in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Read about that adventure here: A Day In Raleigh)
This was taken at an Egyptian themed geocache near Raleigh, North Carolina. (Read about that adventure here: A Day In Raleigh)
This was taken at the NCGO Fall Fling near(-ish) Greensboro, North Carolina. (Read about that adventure here: NCGO Fall Fling 2014)

 This was taken on top of Stone Mountain, Georgia (read about that adventure here: Going Caching: Stone Mountain)
 Taken at a cemetery near Rome, Georgia as part of the Going Caching Mega Event week. (Read about that here: Going Caching)

Did you get your Michelin Quest entries in?  There is still time, so if you haven't had chance yet,  locate a trackable at michelin.geocaching.com, then go out geocaching and snap some photos!

(if you have already done yours, then go out geocaching anyway - it is fun, and fun is good.)

A Great Idea From The Geocaching Association Of Great Britian

A repost of an awesome idea sent out to some podcasters in the UK from the Geocaching Association Of Great Britain:

Hi guys,

We’d be really grateful if you could give this special event a plug in your next show.

At the Geocaching Association of Great Britain, we are always looking for ways to improve the caching experience for us all. Recently a fairly typical post on our facebook group, bemoaning the standard of swaps found in large caches gave way to a discussion about how we can improve the current situation. We know that the best way of influencing other people is by the behaviour we adopt and so for the weekend of the 6th and 7th December, we are happy to announce the very first GAGB SWAG weekend. The idea is simple. Go around the house, empty the kitchen drawers and all the little cupboards of things we can put into caches and deposit them in regular and large caches locally. Post on the cache page that you have done it and that way when the kids break up for the Christmas holidays, people will know which caches have had their contents refreshed and their kids can be delighted with what they find. We really don’t want to limit this to the UK either – if your listeners from all around the world want to get involved, so much the better!

And that’s it, it’s really that simple. A very small amount of effort to enrich the caching experience for somebody else. Perhaps we can grow it into a movement of people doing a little bit for the benefit of our amazing community.

And we’d love to see photos from all over of before and after the restock!

Many thanks,

richlay

Great idea, right?  I say we North American folks talk up the challenge and restock some geocaches next weekend, and show the (admittedly awesome) geocachers in Great Britain that we can be awesome too.

Is this a new Geocaching Christmas tradition. What say ye?

You can contact the GAGB via their website: gagb.co.uk

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Geocaching With The Kids At Anderson Point Park

Yesterday while I was biking down the Neuse River Trail in Raleigh North Carolina, I rode through, and geocached in, a charming little park.

As I was doing so, I thought to myself "self, this would be a great place to bring the kids".

Since I think myself is a brilliant sort of fellow, I decided to listen to myself.

So this morning I did just that:  I took my wife, kids, and Bailey The Wonder Puppy, to Anderson Point Park, and had ourselves an adventure.

We started by walking along the same paved path I biked on yesterday.
The first cache was a couple hundred feet in the woods, so we soon took a detour and did some bushwhacking.  The woods are actually really nice, with little undergrowth - just good old fashioned deciduous trees and fallen leaves.

The kids soon located the prize: a 50 cal ammo can.
The trickiest part was actually lifting the ammo can.  The temperature was in the 40s, so to avoid complaints of cold toddler hands, the kids were wearing woolen mittens.  This made their hands slippery, and the handle hard to grab. Zeke managed to figure it out eventually.
With the logbook signed we headed off to one of the signature pieces of the park - a super deluxe pedestrian bridge.  Zeke absolutely *loves* pedestrian bridges, so it was a real treat for him to check it out. We actually visited it twice.  The first time we went half way, then came back.  He insisted we go back and walk across the whole thing. So we did.
After the bridge experience, we headed off into the woods once more to check out the Neuse River.  Zeke brought stones so he could toss them into the water.
We then sat down at this cool circular bench setup they had (perhaps 30-40ft in diameter).  Very impressive, and makes a great race track for the 5-and-under crowd.  We stopped there to snack on beef jerky and twizzlers.
Properly snacked, Zeke and I headed off to find another geocache. This one was near the edge of a swamp.  I told Zeke that this was the swamp that Shrek came from.  He declined the opportunity to believe me.

He also did something I didn't know he could do:  walk across a fallen log without falling to his muddy demise.  I was suitably impressed.
After the find, we packed up and headed back to the car. The kids decided to "walk" the dog.
We then headed home to feast on leftover Thanksgiving food, and  Kraft Dinner (for the kids - yeah, thats it - for the kids...)

What did you fine folks do this Saturday?  If you had fun, let me know about it in the comments.

Cheers!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday On The Neuse River Trail: 2014 Edition

Today I continued the age old Black Friday tradition (that I started last year) of taking a long bike ride and doing some geocaching along the way.

Last year I started at the northern section of the Neuse River Trail in Raleigh NC. and stopped 2/3rds(ish) of the way down.  This year I did the southern 2/3rds of the trail.

I got my wife to drop me off at the beginning trailhead, and I headed off.

The morning was cool - 25f or so, and it barely rose about 40f all day.  Just like last year I headed south on my mountain bike and started grabbing caches.

Actually, first I had to go north a ways to snag the very first cache.  The cache was actually across the Neuse River, over this rather cool looking pedestrian bridge.
Having found that first cache, everything else was on a general southward trajectory.  I actually did several caches across the river, crossing over similar types of bridges.  One brought me to this awesome weir.
This was the first cache I found on the trail I didn't ride on last year.  It was up on a rocky outcrop, and gave some cracking good views of the trail, and the river.
There is a bench at the bottom of the rocks from this cache, and that is where I ate lunch.

After lunch I continued south.  Eventually I crossed over from Wade County to Johnston County.
I realized as I crossed the imaginary line on the trail that this was the first time I had rode a bicycle across county lines.  Not sure why, but it felt like something I should note.

A short while later I came across this rather pretty looking view of the river.
So I stopped to admire the view for a while, as one does.
When you get to the end of the trail, it quite literally ends.  No fan fare, no gradual transitions to city streets.  Just a berm, and a superfluous stop sign.

Actually there is a parking lot a bit father back down the trail and off to the right.  That is where my wife picked me up.

Today I rode 25.01 miles, and found 31 geocaches.  Another great Black Friday spent out on the trails.

... and I still didn't have to step inside a store.

The End Of The Road

Thanks to Google AutoAwesome, you can now see me literally hit the end of the road.

Celebrating Ron Swanson

For the past month or so I have been binge watching the fabulous comedy show Parks And Recreation.

I have developed a man crush on one of the characters, Ron Swanson (played by the wonderful Nick Offerman). If you are familiar with the show you may understand why.  If not, he's a no-nonsense sort of fellow who tells it like it is, and enjoys the outdoors, and highly values his own privacy and solitude.  He also sports really smashing 'stache.

All of these things I also value.

I have purchased a bust of Mr. Swanson that will sit proudly on my "Shelf Of Awesome Stuff", along with some of my other trophies, including: my Lego Mars Rover, a Dukes Of Hazzard General Lee replica, Signal the Frog, An original Optimus Prime, and a skull of an animal that I found while geocaching.

In honor of this addition to my Shelf Of Awesome Stuff, I figured I would share with you some of my favourite quotes from the one and only, Ron Swanson.  You can see a video of the best of Ron Swanson on this video: https://wwSwanologues - The Best of Ron Swanson the only remaining one, or read some of my favourites below.


Clear alcohols are for rich women on diets.

When I eat, it is the food that is scared.

Turkey can never beat cow.

It’s always a good idea to demonstrate to your coworkers that you are capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of pain.

Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.

Any dog under fifty pounds is a cat and cats are useless.

Fish, for sport only, not for meat. Fish meat is practically a vegetable.

Cultivating a manly musk puts opponent on notice.

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Don’t teach a man to fish and feed yourself. He’s a grown man. And fishing’s not that hard.

I’m a simple man. I like pretty, dark-haired women, and breakfast food.

Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.

Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.

Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait…wait. I worry what you just heard was: Give me a lot of bacon and eggs. What I said was: Give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Do you understand?

When people get a little too chummy with me I like to call them by the wrong name to let them know I don’t really care about them.

There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk. Which is water that’s lying about being milk.

Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.

The less I know about other people’s affairs, the happier I am. I’m not interested in caring about people. I once worked with a guy for three years and never learned his name. Best friend I ever had. We still never talk sometimes.

Great job, everyone. The reception will be held in each of our individual houses, alone.

The key to burning an ex-wife effigy is to dip it in paraffin wax and then toss the flaming bottle of isopropyl alcohol from a safe distance. Do not stand too close when you light an ex-wife effigy.

Shorts over six inches are capri pants, shorts under six inches are European.

Friends: one to three is sufficient.

Honor: if you need it defined, you don’t have it.

One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.

Strippers do nothing for me…but I will take a free breakfast buffet anytime, anyplace.

I like saying ‘No,’ it lowers their enthusiasm.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I haven't actually ranked all of the holidays, but Thanksgiving, for me, ranks high among them. Mainly because it is a simple holiday.

It is celebrated simply by sitting down with your friends and/or family,  consuming a ridiculous amount of turkey and stuffing, and feeling thankful for all the good things in your life (which often includes the friends and family you're eating the food with).

Thats it.

There are no religious, or nationalistic overtones, and no one feels the need or social pressure to buy gifts, beg for candy, or send "greeting cards".  Its just pure unadulterated thanksgiving. Even folks that do not have a tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving can easily get behind the idea.

If I was a sentimental man, the beauty in it's simplicity would bring tears to my eyes.  Since I am not such a sentimentalist, I choose to celebrate with this Ron Swanson meme:

It sometimes surprises my American friends that Canada also has Thanksgiving, and its celebrated pretty much exactly the same way as in the United States:  Friends, family, and a  ridiculous amount of food.  The only difference is it tend to include less football afterwards, and it happens in October. Otherwise, pretty much the same deal.

Since we now live in the United States, my family and I celebrate Thanksgiving with them (it is only polite, and lets face it, southerners can cook up a fantastically delicious turkey).

So for all my friends out there in blog land, regardless of your faith*, nationality, traditional backgrounds, or hockey fan status, I wish each and every one of you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Now, please pass the stuffing.


* Unless you are a Nihilist, in which case the most appropriate thing I can say is "meh"

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Final Update From The Winners Circle


So last night I did a marathon sprint, wrote 3,800 words, and finished my novel.  All in time for Turkey Day. This officially makes me a NaNoWriMo Winner (which in their parlance means finishing writing 50K words in the month, not that I actually *win* anything but bragging rights.)

So I have successfully completed writing the first draft of a novel in a month - actually in 23 days. Not to shabby.  I am actually (mostly) happy with most of the novel, which is a bonus.  Feels pretty good to have completed it.

So whats next?  Well, going into this challenge I had a story I wanted to tell.  I managed to write that story, tho it took only 20K words.  I added a lot of back story to make the 50K, but I think the original story would be a better read without the back fluff.  I am seriously tempted to take the time and polish off the original story, and perhaps publish it as a free eBook (I can't for the life of me see anyone wanting to pay money for a work written by a first time author that hasn't been professionally edited, but perhaps some charitable soul would be willing to read it on the cheap).

If I do, I will announce it on my blog, so stay tuned.  However I am going to wait until December before I even begin to consider going down that road.  For now I am going to enjoy Thanksgiving Weekend, and bask in the glory that is being a NaNoWriMo winner:


Sunday, November 23, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Third Week Update

Three weeks into my first attempt to write the first draft of a >50K word novel, and things are coming along nicely.  I was worried that this week would end up being unproductive due to this week being my on-call shift at work - if the pager is busy it can suck my energy to do other things.  Fortunately the pager was quiet, and I only have 18 hours left in my shift, so it ended up not being much of a factor for my writing progress.

Actually I have had a great weekend. I've written over 6K words this weekend (with a couple hours of prime time writing left tonight) which as brought me from being 2 days behind when I started this challenge to being 2 days ahead of schedule. Not to shabby.

Part of my speed up is having a decent outline to follow.  Part is getting used to slipping into my universe quickly, and staying there longer.

Being at 42K words is a good feeling.  I definitely have enough story to get over 50K. I am writing the climax now so the writing is exciting.  So I am going to end this and get back to writing.

Stay tuned for my final report next week!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Phraseology Pt 2

A while ago I suggested a new phrase for the term used for your non-geocaching significant other.  On Tuesday I was asked what phrase you should use for the opposite situation.  This is my suggestion.

Cuddle Cacher noun \ˈkə dl  kaSH-er\  A term for a geocaching spouse, or "significant other", of a geocacher.

Update:  Tricia Groeneveld, over on Facebook, suggested Geo-Mate, which I like a lot more.  Especially since that means the kids can be Geo-Mate Jr.

Monday, November 17, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Second Week Update

So this is a slightly delayed second week update on my first attempt at participating in the National Novel Writing Month.

I am starting to get into the writing process.  I am starting to be able to sit down and get down to the act of writing more quickly and easily.  This has allowed me to catch up from missing 4 days of writing, and catch up to the daily writing goals.  To complete the 50K one has to write an average of 1,666 words per day. At the exact middle of the month, I was at 25K words, putting me write on schedule - I've written more since then.

One issue I have is that I completely used up my entire outline at around 20K words.  So I have begun writing more back story.  The story I am writing is set in modern times, but has references back to events in the 1800s.  I was originally going to simply make subtle references to the past, however in the interest of adding content, I decided to write the entire back story.  I started with a fresh outline, and am now filling in the details.  This is actually proving to be a good idea in that I have been able to refine the original story with some better, flushed out details.  I may cut a lot of the backstory if I ever decide to polish and publish my novel, but the act of writing it is making the core of the story better.   I am starting to see now why Tolkien wrote so many back stories for Lord Of The Rings.  It helps.

Speaking of Lord Of The Rings, I have discovered that I write best while listening to an instrumental score.  I have been using the complete Lord Of The Rings soundtrack on constant repeat.  Combined they are 3 hours and 40(-ish) minutes long, and I've listened to it almost nine times now, so that should give you an idea how much time I've put into this so far.  Pro Tip:  I sometimes put rainymood.com (basically thunderstorm sounds) in the background and play music over it  The combination of the two layers of sound is really effective at blocking out ambient noise. It is great for isolating oneself from this reality and immersing into the stories universe.

On the advice of another NaNoWriMo participant, I have started keeping a story bible (http://en.battlestarwiki.org/wiki/Series_bible), in which I keep the details of my story for easy reference.  It has made keeping track of details much easier.

So I am two weeks(-ish) in, and I am at 26.5K words.  I am over the half-way mark! If all goes well, I should finish during Thanksgiving break.

Lets hope all goes well.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Geocaching Milestone: Geocalendar Filled

It is universally true (sometimes) that if you give a geek a statistic with empty spaces, and he will do his best to fill those spaces in.  In this case that empty box was a stat on geocaching.com that lists every day of the year that I have found a cache.  Today, while attending an event in Charlotte,  I finally filled in all those boxes.  My geocalendar now looks like this:


I have been consciously working on this for a while now.  Two years ago I had 165 days without cache finds.  I knew I had no chance of completing in in a year - my schedule simply would not allow it, but I planned my geocaching trips to hit as many as I could.

In January of this year I looked at my progress and noticed I had knocked the empty days down to 41. So I marked those on my personal calendar, and resolved to find caches on each of those days.  Many of them fell on days I would have cached anyways, like during Geowoodstock, Going Caching, and Canadian trips. However many involved waking up really early in the morning to drive out and grab local caches (local being a misnomer as most where 10-20 miles away) that I had saved especially for that purpose.

I am now done and I can now swear off all "find a cache on this day" challenges (my least favourite kind of challenge), and get on with the business of exploring the world on my own schedule.

Have you completed your calendar? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Geocaching Adventures; Reedy Park

Last Saturday we had no plans.  None at all, and it was going to be glorious.

Then my wife suggested Ikea, and it was no longer gloriously plan free.

However Ikea is not a store that makes me want to instantaneously slit my wrists by spending a couple hours shopping in - and it has edible food - so I agreed.

To be fair, I had a good time.  But still, I am a man, and real men don't shop, unless its a hardware store.  We purchase things, but we don't shop.

So after we escaped the commercialize hell that is the semi-enjoyable Ikea shopping experience, I needed a place to unwind and clear my aching head and delicate sensibilities.

This is all to say I ended up finding a pretty cool little park in the middle of Charlotte North Carolina, called Reedy Park.    This is the story of our time spent geocaching in Reedy Park.

It started with a family photo at the sign of a bird.  Note that Zeke isn't screaming.  He is simply posing for a photo with his mouth wide open because... he's five.
The first cache was located in a humming bird feeder (hummingbirds not included).  The kids traded for some swag (a ring with a fake jewel in it, and a baby Shrek figure). We also grabbed a couple travel bugs, which is (vaguely) interesting for reasons I will get into later, at the appropriate time.
Basking from the success of our first geocache find, we headed off to the next one, a mere 528ft away.  However, we also immediately took the wrong trail (for reasons I can only describe as "Ikea Fatigue"), so that 528ft hike ended up being well over a mile.

Here is a picture of my wife and daughter to distract you from the previous illogical sounding statement.
Now you may be asking yourself why it took a mile to correct my oversight.  I will tell you, but first I will distract you with a photo of my children climbing rocks along the trail, having a grand old time.
So the trail was a large loop, and we planned on doing several caches along one side of that loop (the other side being annoyingly geocache free), so we simply walked the loop, and tackled the short series of geocaches from the far side.
I hope you are as satisfied with that explanation as my daughter was by sitting on this rock.  Sitting on rocks is fun, especially when you are two years old, and the rock is gigantic in comparison, because you are the size of a two year old.
Along the way I learned something new.  There exists an animal called the worm snake.  Which is exactly as it sounds: a snake that looks like a gigantic earth worm.  The one we found was dead, but we looked at it anyway, because nature is awesome.
At the last geocache we ran across two cachers at ground zero, who were also hunting for the cache. We joined in, and Zeke actually made the find.

So remember those two travel bugs we found at the first cache?  It turns out that the cachers we met at this cache dropped the travel bugs in the first cache.  So it was kinda like completing a circle, literally and figuratively (I wasn't kidding when I said 'vaguely', eh?)
So that is my post-Ikea-pocalypse escapades with the family to a cool park in Charlotte.  The staff of Only Googlebot Reads This Blog appreciates your reading this post. We know you have a choice in the blogs you read, and we thank you for choosing ours.

There will now not be a test to verify you were paying attention.

There are many more trails, and many more geocaches, in the park, so the odds of us returning are high.  If we do, you will read all about it here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lest We Forget

On this Remembrance Day, I join all Canadians, in fact most of the western world, in pausing in remembrance of all the sacrifices made in the horrors of war to keep the true north strong and free.

If you served in the Canadian Armed Forces, or in the armed forces of any of her allies, I pause in remembrance of your service, and your sacrifice.

Thank you.


Sunday, November 09, 2014

NaNoWriMo: First Week Update









I am one week in to the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge.  The challenge is to write the first draft of a novel in November, where a novel is defined as 50,000 words.

This is my first year attempting this challenge. Despite having started 2 days late, I am well on my way.  I have a rough outline, and today I passed 10,000 words.  Also today, during the sermon (sorry, reverend!), I flushed out the climax of the book.  Now I just have to write it down on paper, and flush in the details.

I also have the cover art done - it served as a good distraction while waiting for my muse to kick in.

I have already learned a few things about myself, and my writing style (tho maybe not a surprise to frequent readers to my blog).  First is that I am inconsistent with tenses, often mixing them in the same sentence.  It was is quite confusing to read back.

The second is that writing a novel length work is a lot harder than the blog posts I am used to.  I have become accustomed to terseness,  but novels require a lot more detail to keep the story flowing.

Third, it can be quite annoying to keep all the minor details in my head, so I keep referencing back to the things I wrote. This process gets longer with every word I write.  The major details are easy, but the bits that are important to keep consistent, but rather arbitrary (street and city names, for example), can be quite tricky.  Keeping good notes is becoming vital!

This is definitely turning into a learning process.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Indiana Jones And The Cache Of Antiquity

The age at which something is described as "ancient" means different thing to different people.

For example, an archeologist may define "ancient" as anything older than 1000 years.  For my kids, its grandma (sorry mom!).

For geocachers, a cache hidden in 2001 can safely be counted among the ancients.

This is why, when I attempted to find such a cache last weekend, I brought along the perfect combination of adventurer and archeologist:  Indiana Jones.

Indy start his adventure by hiking down a long dirt pathway.  It had rained the night before, so it was a muddy and wet journey.

Eventually he found himself facing an enormous rock wall. 
Despite this overwhelming obstacle, he started to climb.
Half way up, almost 18 inches off the ground, he faced a sheer cliff face.  Unable to continue his climb straight up, he was forced to walk along a narrow rock ledge until he found a place where he could get a hand hold to continue the climb.
The climb was treacherous.  Towering almost 3ft above the land below, the peril was intense and one mistake would spell the doom of our plucky hero.

As luck would have it, he didn't make any mistakes, and he soon arrived at the top of the cliff.  His time to celebrate was short lived as the top of the cliff is guarded by a knight!
Following the Jones Family motto  "Why fight, when you can run away like a little girl", Indy raced off across the top of the cliff.
It turns out wearing a suit of armor slows you down considerably, so Indy soon outran the knight, and left him in his dust.  He settled down to a solid walking speed and hiked his way to ground zero.
At ground zero he scaled a tree, and soon located the cache.  
Having signed the log, Indy took a moment to savour his success.  Then he looked off into the sunset with the intense, stoic gaze of a hero, and then headed off down the trail...
... in search of his next adventure.