Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Geocaching

Not that I need another hobby, but… I’ve belatedly taken my friend Tracey’s suggestion to try geocaching, essentially a treasure hunt.  When I started reading about it last month, I was impressed with how many of these things there are.  Check out the map of geocaches within a few miles of home:

So many caches, so little time

So many caches, so little time

The first one I found is known as a multi-cache – the little icon that looks like a sort of yellowish file cabinet drawer opened.  With these, you have to find one or more intermediate waypoints to end up at the final, “traditional cache” (the shoebox icon) destination nearby.   It’s not the best type of cache to try at first, but in this case I lucked out.  What made finding it memorable was how much effort its creater put into the ingenious contraption.  Externally, it looked like the ubiquitous bird house found in suburbia.  When inspected closely – not that you’d ever have any reason to do so – one might notice the bottom pulled out to reveal the Cache of Geo-Joy.

Inside the “cache” is a log to record your visit, usually in a plastic baggie to keep it try.  These can be kind of fun to page through because you get a feel for the variety and number of people participating.  Sometimes, a cache will have cheap trinkets.  Etiquette is one leaves something if they take something.  Small marketing swag is great for this, but things like Matchbox cars or plastic/rubber animals also work.  Some caches will have trackable items that one can help travel to some destination.

Caches come in a variety of sizes and types.  The first one I found was a smallish container about the size of a Noxzema canister.  Larger caches are often some form of Tupperware container or, at the high end, an ammunition box (water-tight, sturdy, and large).  There are numerous smaller ones — “micros” or “nanos” — that are about the size of a 35mm film canister (for you old farts who remember “film”).  Or even smaller.   These are often tucked into a crack in a wall, divet in tree bark, or elsehwere.  They’re very hard for me to find this early in the game.

For example, last weekend while I was on Orcas Island, I tried finding a multi-cache.  The first waypoint  was a red container no larger than my pinky tucked into divot in a tree about 35′ from a footpath.  Inside the container were the coordinates to the next waypoint that would have a set of coordinates to a larger, final cache.  Despite searching for over an hour, I couldn’t find the second waypoint.

I was surfing around and found more examples of insanely challenging ones designed to totally blend in with the environment.  For example, Tracey mentioned she placed one that’s a hollowed-out bolt, painted to match its surrounding.  There are also some magnetic ones near work that I’ve yet to find. I’m obviously not up to snuff to find these things yet. I’m saving these and the puzzle caches (ones with the question mark icon) for later. There are plenty of them.

So, a month into this, here’s what I’ve observed as the benefits:

  • Geocaches are an excellent excuse to introduce people to other areas they might not frequent.  I’ve found at least two parks that I never knew existed.  For example, today I discovered a small ravine about 1/4 mile from work, wedged in between T-Mobile’s US headquarters, I-90 and another office complex.  I’ve passed this spot over 500 times without ever noticing it because the entrance is nondescript.
  • It’s livening up my bike commute.  I’ve been sprinking in a cache here and there to get me out of the “rut” inherent with a geographically constrained commute.  On Monday, this had me visiting a greenbelt in Bellevue.
  • My kids have an interest in the secret treasure aspect, though they’re not always willing to part with their swag in exchange for the new shiny.  Whereas I am more skilled at triangulation, they have much more patience and a willingness to dig around.

Sudafed

The current cold/flu like malady is vectoring itself through work and home. My voice has gone from baritone to bass, my boss is out, and I can hear the sniffles rolling around in my kids, just in time for vacation. To help the kids sleep easier, we usually give them a decongestant at bedtime, and until recently, that decongestant was children’s Sudafed. It’s worked for us, there are few side effects, and it is an over-the-counter product.

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Polar Bear Plunge Seattle

I did the Polar Bear Plunge (aka “Polar Bear Swim”) again this year. Since I had better planning going into it, I thought I’d try going to the big shindig at Matthews Beach sponsored by the Seattle Parks Department.

Writes The Stranger: (Gloating) Last year, 800 foolish hippies kicked off the New Year with this benighted pagan ritual: They jumped in the water, froze their teats off, and howled in pain. (They think the polar bear is their collective spirit animal—it’s actually the lemming.) This year, Seattle Parks and Recreation is expecting more than 1,000 participants. Bring a warm blanket and a Thermos of something hot, and chuckle at people behaving like animals. (Matthews Beach, 9300 51st Ave NE, 684-7241. Noon.)”

Well, I don’t know about teats – other parts were hurting more. And not all of us buy into the collective spirit animal aspect. Still, it’s an entertaining event, whether you’re a participant, spectator or both. The “registration” process was primarily to count how many people were attending. The wrist band was free, and there were no forms to fill out (or mailing lists to be put on) other than optionally writing your name on a blank piece of paper.

The early arrivals were mulling around the park waiting until noon. (Note to Starbucks or Tully’s: you’d make a killing selling coffee here.) I got there early enough that I went back to my car to warm up and work on some puzzle books.

At two minutes until noon, people began disrobing. Seeing a bunch of other pasty people in swimsuits made me feel right at home. Several, obviously more experienced, were jockeying for a position up front. This didn’t make sense until I followed the middle wave into the water: the folks out front can run out, dunk, and run back to dry land. With a start in the middle, you have the other teeming masses ahead of you, slowly working their way towards the deeper water, also realizing the water is bleeping cold. There’s no room to just go for it and jump in.

Once out, my body warmed up again… except my legs and feet. I wasn’t the only one trying to work out the tingly feeling in my feet by walking back to the car without shoes on. There were several stragglers coming in as I eked my way out the parking lot, heater on maximum warp.
Except for the slow-motion aspect, the experience was much like last year: everyone was friendly, there were multi-generation families, and some people even had costumes on. I’m definitely planning on doing this next January 1st.

Private or public?

There was no power at the office this morning because a transformer blew. Or, maybe, its dilithium crystals suffered a tachyon inversion. Or, whatever. As several of us gathered at the Starbucks #2 across the street to enjoy our liquid breakfasts, the subject of personal web sites (and their subjects) came up.

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Knit one

I’d been experimenting with casting on. After getting thoroughly confused by the graphical depiction in the book, I went went back to the AoK video. It took a few tries, but I was soon casting on again. I continued to lesson two, the knit stitch. The added design elements were accomplished through proactive use of creative stitching.

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Polar bear plunge

In Friday’s Seattle Times there was a brief mention of the
Polar Bears‘ annual plunge into the chilly waters around Puget Sound. Since I’m a bachelor this week, I figured why the heck not and casually mentioned this to a coworker who offered to come take pictures of the nuttiness my wife would be missing.

Had I remembered last night, I wouldn’t have stayed up so late watching the the 11:00 – 12:00 and 12:00 – 1:00 episodes of the first season of 24. Naturally, I woke up late, then futzed around making my dad’s pasta sauce recipe. (I’ll post this later, when I complete dad’s meatball recipe to complement it.) About 11:30, I realized the PBP was going on at noon. Crikey!

Expecting all of the public restrooms would be closed (they were), I put my swimsuit on, grabbed a pile of dry cothes, and drove to Clarke Beach on Mercer Island. Although it’s geographically the closest official point mentioned, snaking down East Mercer Island Way would have been just as fast on a bicycle. I arrived at 12:04 to a moderately full parking lot where some other stragglers were walking in. I parked then ran down to the beach part. Most everyone had already done it and was toweling off. Since I came that far, I might as go all the way, so I took off my shirt and shoes and walked towards the water.
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