Friday, November 28, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Fortunately those aggravating days are now a thing of the past for both passengers and the driver. Modern necessity has provided us with GPS devices to help us on our way. GPS stands for Global Positioning System which is nothing more than a bunch of satellites in orbit around our planet that send down a signal for a GPS device to read and understand. The device usually has a map of which you can tell where you are. Then the device reads the signal from the satellites and figures out exactly where you are on the map. It can be so accurate that the difference is only a few feet. So as you move to where ever you want to go from one place to another it will show your exact position on the map.
People often ask me if someone else can “see” where they are because of the GPS and my answer is no. The majority of GPS devices are receiver only which means they get the signal from the satellites but do not transmit a signal. So big brother is not watching over you. There are however transmitters for sale that do send a signal out for just that purpose but again you have to special order it. In fact for GeoCachers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts that type of locator can be a real life saver. One of our biggest fears is to be off trail in a woods or mountain terrain and have something bad happen. How would people know where you are? So one person's big brother is anothers angel from above.
Now that we are starting to realize that having a GPS device is a pretty good thing lets dig a little deeper and ask ourselves, “What can a GPS do for me?”
Let's keep with the basics in this article. There are many different functions that are available to just about everybody but if you do not know how they can be helpful to you what good are they?
Let's look at the initial usability.
- General Location and Searches
- Geocaching/Advanced Outdoors Activities
- Driving in a Car/Boat/Plane
General Location and Searches – Now a days many phones come with GPS technology built right in and there are several FREE applications that can fill your needs without costing you a dime. What? Free? Did I mention that those satellites I talked about before have been payed by you – Joe Taxpayer? Yeppers, the US government has been using it for years but gave permission to you and me back in the early 2000s. So the cost of using those satellites is nadda, nothing, zippo. So if your GPS phone can run applications like Google Maps, Y! Maps and other freebies it costs you nothing to use the GPS functions.
Getting back to the point. Why would a phone GPS be good for you? If you are driving around town and suddenly need to find the closest gas station, fast food, or shopping center then this is the gadget for you. The device will tell you where you are and all you have to do is search for the place you want to go. It will not only give you multiple choices to decide from but how far away it is and step by step directions to get there. This is great if you need this convenience only once in a while. If you are constantly needing guidance to go from one spot to another there are better options.
Walking/Biking/Hiking – If you are the type of individual who likes to take walks in the park or do light biking or hiking on trails then you might be interested in a GPS watch. Why? I know from past experience that on many park trails they criss cross all over the place and even though you are in a relatively save environment it is sometimes easy to get turned around. There are quite a few GPS watches that track your path as you go. Then the pointer shows where you are on that route. When going back to your car or starting point you simply look down at your watch to see if you turn left, right or go straight. There are no complex maps per say but having your exact route shown in some form can be a great comfort. On the more advanced GPS devices this “tracking” ability is built right in but if you want something portable and it fills your needs this is the way to go.
Geocaching/Advanced Outdoors Activities – Without getting too technical I want to break the following GPS usability into two types. They are almost identical except for How and Where you use them. If you really like the outdoors and enjoy boating on lake, biking, hiking the woods, climbing mountain trails or into geocaching then a more rugged hand held GPS is for you. You want to use a hand held because it is just that, something you want to hold in your hand and can easily go in a pocket or backpack when not used. They are all very portable and many models out today are waterproof, durable and have a good antenna when under trees or hilly areas. Just an FYI to remember, good clear line of site to the sky gives you the best satellite receptions. Many times tree cover, tall buildings or hilly ares can give GPS interference and should be a factor when deciding what GPS is best for you. That will be another future article I promise.
Driving in a Car/Boat/Plane – As stated above the next type of GPS has many of the same functionality that you can find in the hand held models. Many come with very in depth maps and nice useful extras. These bad boys can stick to your dashboard, windshield or now a days fit right into the dashboard of your car. They are not waterproof nor drop proof but they have much larger screen displays which is great when driving. A car mounted GPS usually has large fully utilized maps and their POI or “Point Of Interest” selections are much more vast. This means you have more choices of stores, parks, cool places, addresses, etc. to choose from. The more modern GPS units now receive real time information like current traffic conditions and accident reports. Want to know which station has the cheapest gas, no problem. Need the fastest route to the hospital, can do. Mounted GPS devices are true powerhouses but should be in-car only.
Yes, yes I know what you are thinking. In my day people could go from sea to shining sea without all these new fangled gadgets. Couldn't agree with you more and we still can. We don't necessarily need to have mobile phones, computers, and GPS devices to get from point A to B, but let me ask you this. Doesn't the piece of mind of having the ability to know exactly where you are and how to get to any other destination bring you a sense of better security? I know for me I am no longer limited to my own reservations of driving somewhere. I now have a new freedom of saying “Lets go!”, no matter where I am and I no longer have to ask strangers for directions. That makes it worth it in my book.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Yes the latest and greatest in the HooHaa TB Race Cartoon Series.
This episode puts Gunny's Electric Bug and HeadHardHat's Just a Nut in an ammo box waiting to actually start the Race. Nerves are really starting to twitch now that Easy Flyer is on it's way.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
(Mutant Mantis TB Sighting)
I had such a good time yesterday shooting and editing my latest GeoSnippits episode about Mystery and Puzzle caches. One of the first realizations while putting it together was the amount of information available to create it. When you start out thinking "wow, how am I going to fill out five minutes on this?"and end up with "wow, how can I do this in only ten minutes?"
I started out by doing some research and asking information from the people who know, geocachers. One of the first things I wanted to know was how much geocachers liked or disliked mystery caches. The results were rather interesting:
- 28% Felt that they would go out of their way to find a mystery/puzzle cache
- 10% Like mystery/puzzle caches as much as traditional caches
- 55% Thought that they would do a few mystery/puzzle caches a year
- 07% Completely ignore mystery/puzzle caches as too much effort
This meant that over half of the geocachers polled would go for a mystery/puzzle cache but only a few times a year. This would explain why the amount of traffic for that type of cache is reduced when you check out the logs. In fact on both forums a rather heated debate ensued.
On one side are the geocachers that love mystery/puzzle caches. They live to unpuzzle the puzzles and will put in whatever time and effort to do so. Quite a few posts told of how they use these type caches on rainy days to fill the time and as the number of resolutions pile up enough they will then go out and well, resolve them.
The other side of the coin was actually the most vocal but according to the above statistics is the smaller percentile, go figure. One post after another describes how mystery/puzzle caches are not even part of the equation. They are ignored as if plagued and to be avoided at all cost. Many have stated the amount of time and effort is too much for a smiley. Who wants to spend the wasted time figuring out math problems, solving letter sequences or heaven forbid decode a double super secret handshake message. Nay they say.... Nay!
If the coin somehow landed on it side it would represent the geocacher who sits on the fence when it comes to mystery caches. To peak their interest into actually going out and resolving a cache requires a special balance. The puzzle cannot be too difficult to resolve and yet have enough of a challenge to make it interesting. Too complicated - forget it, takes too long - nope, down right evil - there's plenty of traditionals out there to find. Though if you can manage a good combination of interest, placement and a feeling of "a game in the game" geocachers will beat down the door to figure it out.
It really is a shame that I ran out of time so quick but the show must go on. I am glad to be able to put out this footnote. I personally want to thank all the people who contributed to either the forum discussions and the poll (NCGO and Geocaching.com). It is greatly appreciated.
You can see my GeoSnippits episodes by going to YouTube and putting GeoSnippits or Headhardhat in the search field.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
The latest in the GeoSnippits Series is on YouTube. This episode of GeoSnippits hosted by HeadHardHat gives you four caches in one. We take a road trip to find out about Mystery and Puzzle geocaches. Our first adventure takes you to two traditional caches which give you the complete coordinates to the secret mystery cache. Then on to an unusual puzzle cache indeed. Follow HeadHardHat as he gives useful information to all about the game, hobby, obsession of geocaching.
If you would like to see more about Geocaching and all the GeoSnippits episodes, please go here: YouTube GeoSnippits Channel
Saturday, November 15, 2008
One of her joys while caching is to photograph our outdoor adventures. Sometimes it is to document an event we attended and others to take good photos for my blogs. Over time I have noticed that photography has really become a hobby for her and she has asked for a camera of her own when Christmas comes around. Personally, I couldn’t think of a better way of encouraging her new love for the lens.
With that being said, I sat down and considered what would the best camera be for her. There were several key factors I would like to share so let’s start with the basics.
Budget - My budget is the first consideration. I would love to say that I could drop $500 into a child’s hands and say “here go for it”, ummm, not happening. I would say something closer to $100 for a good camera would be more my speed and if I can get it on sale, all the better. Let’s face it with the economy the way it is I can use all the help I can get.
Next, Usability – No gizmo of any kind is worth the amount of wasted time it takes for the user to figure out how use it. In other words if you are getting frustrated just trying to turn the dang thing on you may have purchased something that will most likely be going back to the store or collecting dust in a corner somewhere. It’s for a twelve year old girl that wouldn’t know an F-Stop if it came up and said “hi”. So Point and Shoot is the way to go which means everything is as automatic as possible. Now the worse she is going to have to worry about is getting the camera strap caught in the shot.
Finally, Durability – When you Geocache you are outside. As in outdoors where there are ponds, lakes, streams, mud and rain. My daughter tries her best to not bang around the equipment but I have caught her many times unknowingly swinging the camera by the strap. Electronics and sudden jolts do not go well together and come to think of it, neither does moisture. So whatever I decide on has to be resistant to wetness and some attempt at surviving a drop or six.
As for the rest of the considerations like extra features of the camera itself; they are pretty much secondary. With a lower end camera the best you are going to get is a modest megapixel strength which is the overall clarity of the picture itself, a fair flash and a standard battery. Drop in a 2 gig memory card and the battery is going to run out before you run out of memory. The average would be about 160 photos which should be more than enough for a day’s worth of geocaching.
I can also see a big benefit for getting a digital camera is there is no film. So Geoness can make all the not-so-good shots she wants. It doesn’t cost anything like the old 35mm days when you bought 24 exposures per roll and you get what you get. Now all you do is hook up the USB cable to the computer, download them and you’re done. It’s that easy.
So even though I have not figured out exactly which camera I am going to get, I think this will be the best game plan to my final conclusion. After considering my budget, camera usability, durability and I am sure the color will have something to do with it. It should be a pretty quick decision and she will be out in the woods taking photos for our next computer background or blog article in no time.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Night Caching? I have hunted in the dark before and quite frankly I have a lot to learn. First if it is an urban cache I really feel uncomfortable using a flashlight. That whole burglar thing just doesn't feel right. Sure I have my geocaching speech for the boys in blue but why put myself in that position? There is always hunting in the woods but again, you never know who or what you can run into after dark. What do you think?
Now with winter approaching the weather is becoming a factor. Sure in the Piedmont of North Carolina I do not need my parka and knee high boots but we do get ice storms. It may not be blizzard weather here but it is a factor. All in all it looks like for the next few months I will be doing the majority of my caching on the holidays and weekends.
If you have suggestions for winter and night time caches, send them in. We will post for all to see.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I was able to spend several hours with my daughter geocaching and we were able to take some pretty nice photos during our adventures.
We started out with a preplanned CacheRaid of about thirty caches to try and find. With the majority of them in the Cary, NC area I figured they would most likely be micros and skirt hides. Not exactly what I would consider a day full of fun but maybe we could go for a personal best in total finds for the day. Boy was I in for a treat. What Daughter Geoness and I ended up doing is a lot of walks in the woods and on some down right scenic greenways. All in all, we hiked through three different parks, around several lakes and on some of the above stated greenways. The sun was out and temps in the mid 60s. You could not ask for better weather with the smells of Fall and sound of the leaves under your feet was quite invigorating. As we went we must have put at least five or six miles under our belt today. During one of our strolls off trail I found it quite humorous when we came up to a large log and I stopped both of us. Looking over at my daughter I asked, "What do we do now?" There would be this heavy sign, "I know dad, bang your stick on the log. Step on the log. Look around, THEN walk over." We are in snake country and it was important to me for Geoness to know the rules of the woods. We have not seen many snakes yet but I don't want to take chances with safety. A geocaching friend of ours was bitten by a copperhead this year and I do not want us to duplicate his accident. So I do what my dad did with me and teach the ways of the woods.
By the time we were finished only two caches were micros and the majority were of the regular size. Which meant a lot of tupperware, lock 'n lock and our personal favorite ammo boxes. We traded items in many of them where Geoness would get a trinket or bauble and I gave some of my signature first aid kits. I never seem to get any goodies anymore which is no big deal but the look on my daughter's eyes as she plunges into a cache is priceless.
The totals for today were a respectable eleven finds and two DNFs (Did Not Find). One of said DNFs I read later was because the previous cacher dropped said cache down a large hole... Ahhh well, them's the breaks. To sum up we made many a memory and laughed all afternoon. You really can't beat that type of family fun and we can't wait for next weekend to do it again.
Below are some of the more nature like photos we took today. I hope you enjoy them and come back real soon for more of our tales of geocaching.
Visit This Photo Album Here:
Another phone post from my Blackberry.
Having fun walking the nature trails in Crabtree Park, Cary, NC. Found this cache in a gnome hole at the base of an old oak tree. Nice half mile walk. The real funny part was the initial choice of direction when we started. Geoness said left and I said go right and off we went.. Sure enough our half mile hike in the woods would have only been about 15o feet if we went left first. We both laughed when we realized it but then agreed that the hike was so very nice.
Sending in this post from my blackberry.
Having a great Fall day geocaching with daughter Geoness. Three for three so far. Did a lot more walking in wooded areas than I originally thought. Wonder if that will continue all day.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Plenty of smackdown to come for the next year. Check out all the HooHaa TB Race stats in the bottom right of my blog.
To get all the juicy blow by blow coverage be sure to RSS subscribe to this "Obsessed" blog or get our posts via email! Either way we have you covered.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
I took Daughter Geoness with me on one of the prettiest fall days I have seen so far. The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky. The temps were in the low to mid 70s and if we were not at peak when it came to the Autumn leaves we were darn close. I was really looking forward to this time with my daughter. Some times it really is not about the numbers. If we found five or fifty caches the time together talking and walking down wooded paths is priceless to me. She isn't going to stay 12 forever and before she runs off with some gooey eyed or is that doughy eyed dude I am getting my quality time in... There I go digressing again.. Mission, focus on mission...
The forty-five minute drive to Durham was very scenic and before we knew it the game was a foot. We started out of the gate in pretty good shape and was able to find our first three caches in great condition. On number four we searched for about ten minutes and by prereading the logs I already knew that the cache was most likely gone. This one was a micro and I found a devious spot to put the replacement. The coords were the same so this one was an easy fix. Moving on to the next cache I was amazed by the size and condition of the container. It was huge and in great shape from what I could see. Geoness was so proud to find it and gleefully signed the log first which is the rule we have between us. The one who find it gets bragging and signing rights and we both love a little competition when it comes to caching.
The day continued and we ended up replacing three more caches but had an absolute riot finding and logging the rest. Once the main objective was complete it was time to do some cache raids. As usual we started out with the goal of cleaning out Durham but once we started walking the trails we just gabbed and took our time. There was one park which was full of color and falling leaves. That and a rather large dinosaur. Yup a bronto from what I figured. Standing right there watching people as they walked by. I thought it quite curious as Geoness and I walked and there coming out of the trees was Big B. Without missing a beat I tell my daughter oh look a dinosaur and she goes, "yeah Dad, saw it about half a mile back." I have to get my glasses checked cuz it startled the beejeepers out of me.
Well as with many Autumn days this one went way too quickly and the sun was making a hasty retreat which made it time to head home. During the ride back we recollected the places and things we had seen during the day and it brought a smile to my face. Daughter Geoness must have seen me grinning and asked why I was smiling. "Just enjoying the company", I said, but I digress.
Here are some of our fall color photos of the day. Most Daughter Geoness took.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
It will no doubt be the star of this weeks latest cartoon for the series. Keep looking at the bottom right of HHH's blog when it becomes available.
I just wonder how soon this TB is going to get snowbound till the thaw. Say, June next year....
Editor Notes - Due to the space / time continuum and an incorrect date in the logs the total amount of distance is only 388.8mi. Sorry GeoCats....