2005-12-27

Hiking Blodgett Peak 12/25/2005

So Christmas day Sunday, but we don't do Christmas. And a day off Monday. No real plans until Sunday evening for Channukah. My toe finally feels well enough for a hike. Blodgett Peak has been calling to me for months - especially since I learned there was a geocache on top. So I get up a bit early - early for a day off from work - and head out for a hike. I don't know how far I'll get - but I want to at least get to the top of Blodgett Peak. I've got about 8 geocaches I can try for, depending on how I do. A couple are up in Pike National Forrest, past Blodgett Peak.

It is slower going than I expected. I spend more time than I wanted looking for the first 4 geocaches - I only found 2 of them. The trail is Icy and muddy. It is not a great trail - it is not well prepared like the trail going up Pikes Peak. It is very easy to lose the trail - subtle paths seem to go off in many directions. In many places, the trail seems to go up very steep, loose gravel. Step up, slide back 1/2 way. And then I get to a rock scramble. It reminds me a little of Mohonk. I notice a cairn. At first I think it is an oddity, but then I notice another. I suddenly realize that they mark the trail. The trail the curves around the side of the peak, and climbs very steeply up a boulder field. It is hard work, and takes me much longer than I expect. But I keep going. The peak is calling to me. I've got to make it.

After many, many hours, I make it to the top. I decide I need to rest and eat a bit before I try to find the cache on top. I've noticed that the exposed rocks in Colorado seem to make the GPS jump around a lot. But I try a few times, and finally find the cache. Interesting stuff in the cache, but nothing I want to trade for. I sign the 3rd and final log of the day, and head down. I figure there has to be a better way down than the boulder field. I head West, in the opposite direction I need to head, and find a nice trail leading down the back side of Blodgett Peak. The trail quickly curves around, and is much easier than the boulders. Even with the GPS, I managed to lose the trail when I was most of the way down, adding another half hour or so to my day.

But it was worth it - even the being really sore 2 days later - I did it! I made it up Blodgett Peak! It showed that I've lost a bunch of conditioning I had when I did Pikes Peak. But not too much. I'm amazed and glad at how far I can keep going. I hope to get some more hikes in this winter. Thanks heavens for the mild days we get during the winter here most of the time. I don't think I'll go out as long again, at least not until I try Pikes Peak again - but I'd like to keep up the level of the hike.

Heading out early in the day for Blodgett Peak:


A view up the foothill I was to climb:


Part of the way up, looking aback down:


I still had on my sweatshirt here:


Frozen Stream:


Getting up there - view down:


Imposing rock face:


The Earth certainly does not look flat from up here:


Climbing up a steep, narrow boulder field:

The cairns and pink ribbons guided me up this trail

Here I am at 9,000' and still a ways to go:


First peak of Pikes Peak - must be near the top:

It is about 4,000' higher - but it doesn't look more than a few hundred feet higher from this angle.

Where Black Forrest meets Briargate in Northern Colorado Springs:


A very different view on the quarry:


View of Pikes Peak (14,110') from Blodgett Peak (9,460')


I had a 360-degree view from Blodgett Peak:

Those rocks on the hill to the bottom right are the rocks I was looking up at in the earlier pictures.

Looking West into the Rockies - Snow capped mountains in the distance:


Heading down - view of Downtown Colorado Springs:

2005-12-22

Electirc Zoo


This weekend we went to the Light Zoo in town. It was snowing, as it had for over a day, lightly, and one of the sets of friends who was supposed to go with us wimped out.
It was cold - but we were smart enough to bring along hot chocolate, so that helped.
It was fun to go to again. It seemed like there were a few more lights, but a few less electric animals.

Harry Potter

I just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I've been reading it to my eldest son for the last month or so. A half-chapter or a whole chapter a night, a couple of times a week. We got near the end last night. So tonight I started reading a little early. Luckily, they are off school, so he was able to stay up a little later so we could finish the book.

I won't say much about it, to avoid spoiling it for anyone.

I enjoyed reading/listening to the earlier books. This is the first one I've read. I must say, I do not like the writing style for reading out loud. Almost all the cues for character and intonation come halfway through a quote, or at the end. Very hard to know how to read a line. I must imagine that the people who make the professional recordings must have to pre-read and re-read a lot to get it right.

Microwave Popcorn - Light/Mini

I like popcorn.

Microwave popcorn is fine by me, but I prefer the light popcorn. The regular is too greasy.

But when I'm at work, I like a mini-packs - I don't need a full regular-sized bag.

But they don't sell light-minis. I wish they did.

So I have to eitehr get the minis or the light. Greasy, but the right amount, or the right flavor/texture, but too much for an afternoon snack.

I supposed I could just eat some of the regular-sized, light bag. But when the popcorn is there, it is hard to resist finishing it. Dangerous food!

Popcorn manufacturers: I want light, mini microwave packs!

2005-12-21

RIP Palm

Yesterday I dropped my Palm PDA into water.

It flickered on and off. The screen got this glitch that spread out from the middle. Eventually it turned off and would not turn back on.

I dried it as quickly as I could. I spent a bunch of time opening it up so I could dry out the insides. It was really hard to open, as the screws were this special hex screws. I managed to work them out with my Swiss army knife. But it seems it was too late. I could not get it to work. I am not sure it is worth having it repaired.

I looked online for a new cheap palm. But the one that was on sale a year ago, with MP3 playback ability, was sold out everywhere. It looks like I'd have to pay at least twice as much for a Palm with MP3. The one I killed didn't have MP3, but I'm determined to have MP3 in my next one. And I use my palm a lot - for tracking my hours at work at a minimum. So I'm feeling kind of lost without it. But E-Bay to the rescue! Same model as the one from last year, new in the box, and it even costs a little less (before shipping at least) than the prices last year!

So while I'm feeling really stupid for killing my palm, it looks like I'll be getting an upgrade out of it. I don't want to spend the money - but I admit I really use it, so it is a valuable tool. And with the MP3, I have a more convenient MP3 player for things like hikes. Although, I may have to invest in a bigger SD card. And I wonder about battery life. How long can I get playing MP3s on a charge - and it there any way to extend the charge? I mean will it last if I use it hiking up Pike's Peak - like I did my CD/MP3 player this past summer?

Well, even if I don't get it right away, I still hope to get out for a real hike soon - I could use the exercise!

And this is my second Palm PDA. The first was the IIIC - the first color Palm. That one died when the rechargable battery stopped recharging. I'm wondering if I can use the battery from this newly deceased Palm to bring the old one back to life. Well, the old one doesn't have an SD slot - and I really like the idea of the MP3 ability of the new one - so even if I can Frankenstein the old one back to life, I still want the new one. Hm - maybe the old one, with it's serial port instead of USB might work directly with the GPS?! That might be fun!

Geocaching - My RAID-5

Well, I've spent quite a few weeks with this idea about doing a puzzle cache. Where seekers have to solve a puzzle to find the final cache. But it was more than just a puzzle - it also teaches how some computers can store data in a safer, faster way, called RAID-5.

So I made a RAID-5 cache. I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out the best way to do it - and making charts and tables to go with it.

And today, I was rewarded by the first person to find it. He said he even learned from it! Yay!
The only problem is that the coordinates were a little off - and now I either have to put a note to that on the website, or recalculate all the clues and replaces the 4 clues! Yikes!

Outlook + Outlook Express Archiving

I just wrote up a bit about archiving emails:
Techchatter Entry

I also talk about Outlook seeming to have a memory leak when doing a bunch of Drag-and-drops.

2005-12-12

An Open Letter to Circuit City and Best Buy

Dear Circuit City,

I wanted you to understand why you lost my business the other day.

We came in for a new set of cell phones. It was our second time in. The first time we had met a woman who answered all of our questions politely. When we came back in, the man at the cell phone area seemed to dismiss whatever we had talked about before with the woman who worked there.

We still had a number of questions. Most of them had to do with cost. We wanted to make sure that the phone and services of the plan covered our needs without costing a bunch more. We were interested in the phones that cost a little more that to lowest-end, free [after rebate] model.

I looked closely at the features and costs, and tried to understand the deals. It seemed that the listed prices of the phones were not the cost, but how much the end price of the phones, if you took a 2-year plan, and after you got the rebate. The actual cost of the phone, if you did not take the 2-year plan was in much smaller print, it was nearly hidden. And of course, that did not include tax.

So we finally selected the phones and the plans. The salesman took my credit card, and started placing the order. After a minute, he then asked for my drivers license. He wanted to copy all sorts of contact information. After spending about 5 minutes putting in the information into the computer, right near the completion of the transaction, he mentions an activation fee.

An activation fee? What activation fee? There was nothing posted on the cost of the phone, or the 2 year plan about an activation fee. This was getting to be a bit much. When we said this was the first we were hearing about the activation fee, we were informed by the salesman and his manager that the fee was listed in the brochure by the phones.

This sounds like bait and switch to me. First you get my credit card, then you tell me about extra costs? We made if very clear that we were very concerned about the total costs when we were asking lots of questions. But then to tell me about extra costs after you are ringing me up is not a good idea.

And the truth is, you might still have made the sale. Except for one small factor. You seemed to have forgotten who was the customer. You treated us badly when we were upset by hidden costs. Instead of being apologetic or supportive about our being upset, you were discourteous and dismissive.

The way we were told that the cost was listed - as if we were stupid for not seeing a number hidden inside a closed brochure - is what finally lost you the sale.

I do not like hidden costs. I want to know the full up-front cost in bold print at least as large as any other number on the [shelf] price-tag. I want any minimum monthly cost, and length of term also printed in at least the same size font.
The only cost I will accept as implied, and I accept it only grudgingly, is sales-tax.
If you want to list the price-after-rebate, make sure you list the price-out-of-pocket in at least the same size print - and make sure the values are clearly labeled.

If you are going to have all sort of hidden costs - it is going to look like bait-and-switch to me, and you will create an unhappy customer.

If you give me an attitude about my being upset at hidden costs, the you have changed me from an unhappy-customer, to a missed-sale.

And when I turn from being an unhappy-customer to a missed-sale, you can count on my being a lot less likely to come back. And not only will I be less likely to come back, but I will be willing to tell people about my bad experience. Such as right now on my blog - for anyone and everyone to see.

And in case you think my recommendations will have little impact on you, let me tell you about Best Buy.

Best Buy sold me a digital video camera. The salesman promised me that this video editing package rebate was part of my sale. But the rebate was not obvious when I checked out. So I went to customer service. They took a huge amount of time to say, 'I don't know', and eventually they said the rebate counted.

When I got the rebate back, rejected from the manufacturer, I realize just how much Best Buy took advantage of me.

I have not bought anything from them since.

But that is not all. I had a friend ask me about buying a new computer. They wanted my advice, because I am known for being very good with computers, and helping my friends. She told me she was interested in getting the computer from Best Buy because they had a good financing deal - no interest for a nice period of time. She seemed pretty set on getting it from Best Buy. But I remembered being lied to by the salesman at Best Buy. And I remembered the poor customer service. So I seriously suggested she look at CompUSA. She did. And she changed where she bought the computer. CompUSA had a better financing deal. I believe she wound up paying more for a much better computer, that she will get much better support, from CompUSA.

So, Best Buy, for treating me wrong, you made one sale, and have lost me as a customer and have lost other customers I influence.

So, Circuit City, for treating me wrong, you lost that sale of Cell phones, and possible future sales from me and other customers I influence.

May you can have me back as a customer some day. If I see you change your shoddy methods. But it won't be any time soon. And it won't be by my recommendation.

2005-12-07

Thanksgiving Road Trip

We went to Salt Lake City for thanksgiving. My step-mom moved there this year.

We drove up I25 and over on I80. We had 2 laptops, a DVD player and a game console. The DVD has the ability to be a TV for the game console - but the wires did not connect. So when we stopped at the halfway in Rawlins, WY - we hit a Radio Shack for an adapter. The trip over went pretty smoothly. The kids took turns watching movies - sometimes 2 movies at the same time. You would think that would be a problem - but we kept the volume down.

We stayed at my step-mother's. The only problem was my allergies to fur. You see, she has 2 dogs. But I've learned I can kept it under control with anti-histamine. The problem is that anti-histamines make me sleepy. But I've learn by taking smaller doses of liquid, I can try to balance sleepiness and beating getting sick. I managed not to get sick from allergies this visit - but I did take a few naps.

Thanksgiving was nice, but not too busy. We were the only guests. It made it a smaller than average thanksgiving, but it was nice.

Friday we drove out to the Great Salt Lake. We went out to Antelope Island. We went to the visitor's center. We had a picnic outside. It was a bit cold. But we enjoyed it anyhow. Then we went to find a geocache nearby on the island. First my youngest found a letterbox (similar to a geocache) right nearby the spot. Then I found the geocache in a cave around a rocky corner. It was my step-mother's first time. She seemed to enjoy it. I thought that was great! We grabbed the travelbug to bring back with us.

Saturday we had plans to ride a steam train outside of the city, up in the mountains a big. The report said some snow, but now snow at the train. The train was still planning to leave on schedule. So we headed up route 80 into the mountains. The snow was building up on the road - and on the signs. Then the electric sign said chains required. Not just chains required for trucks, but just chain required. As in chains for all. And quickly we found ourselves in very slow moving traffic on very snow-packed roads. After about 20 minutes we go off at the first exit. It turns out we had chains - new by my suggestion for this trip. We learned how to put on the chains. By the time the chains were on, there was no chance of making the train. So we headed back and took it easy.

We hoped the road was clearer for our trip home Sunday. We head back up the hill early in the morning. This time it was pretty clear - no chains needed. We stopped for breakfast after we got up the valley. Then we moved on. As we approached the halfway mark a little after noon - Rawlins, WY - the snow started falling and blowing. When we got to Rawlins, the signs were flashing: road closed ahead. We tuned into the advisory radio. Roads East and South were closed. We stopped in the truckstop an exit back to have lunch and try to figure out what we were going to do.

The rumors flying were not good. Roads closed. Massive accidents. Giant snow drifts. Roads closed for a day or more. We were told that if we were around after 4, we should find a room.

We finished lunch about 2:30, and we out to the car. We got online to try to find out the chance of moving on. No chance. So we start calling around for a room. Things are looking bad. After calling all the hotels in town, there was only 1 room - a single too small for the 5 of us. We are looking at spending the night in the car. Not the worst news, but not good.

I turn back on the advisory radio, hoping to hear they announce they were opening the road. No such luck. I just listen to the radio talk about the things in the area. Including bed-and-breakfasts.

Bed-and-breakfasts.

!

So I say - what about a bed-and-breakfast?

We call the only one listed.

2 rooms left. We ask for the first. We help out another 2 people from Colorado passing our car at the right time.

We head over to the bed-and-breakfast. Wow, it was a nice place! We wound up going from the bottom of the barrel to the best place in town.

The next day we got back on the road. They said the road was open overnight. But not all the way East - just an hour or town down the road. But by the time we got on the road, it was open all the way. It was very icy, snowy and the wind was really blowing. For 3 hours of driving like that. The it started clearing - but was still very windy. As we drove down we hear that I70 was closed coming into Denver. And the next day I70 was closed going East from Denver. Bad weather.

I managed to get into work for 3 hours on Monday. Overall it was a nice trip for thanksgiving. And a bit of an adventure.

Pictures from Salt Lake Trip

2005-11-22

FBI warns of e-mail scam

Users are told they have visited illegal Web sites and are instructed to open an attachment to answer questions.

Don't do it!

The FBI is investigating the scam. Recipients of these e-mails are asked to report them by visiting the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov.

2005-11-11

Cell Phone Bank Robber

"Police in the Washington, D.C., suburbs are looking for a woman who chats on her phone while robbing banks."

Four robberies.

The first thing I thought of was the movie Phone Booth (2002)

Perhpas this woman is being made to rob these banks.
Maybe not - but it was the first thing I thought of when I heard that she is on her cell phone the whole time.

Sounds like an idea for 'Phone Booth 2 - going mobile' ;)

2005-10-18

New Idea for Discovery/TLC

I had another one of my 'ideas' :)

I was thinking about the shows on Discovery/TLC, and basically missing Junkyard wars, when I thought about the formula of their shows.

There is Mythbusters (my favorite) which is basically taking ideas from common culture, and usually figuring out how to make thing blow up.

So I started thinking about what else would be entertaining enough to watch for 50 minutes to see them get around to blowing something up?

I like watching the ones where they have to build something in a limited amount of time - well I like the building thing - the time limits can sometimes get a little annoying.

Then I thought about some of the other shows - like the home improvement shows and the auto improvement and customization shows. Including the ones where they would steel somebody's ride, then trick it out.

So I thought of a merger of all the ideas. Why not have a show, where you get someone out of their house, or get their car away from them. Then the builders have to make a replica - it can be a scale model for a house - that looks just like the one the owner has. Then they blow it up in front of the person (maybe on closed circuit for houses), then say just kidding. Ok, I don't like the idea so much. It is pretty mean. But then so is making someone think their car was stolen.

Hmmm. I guess I'll have to keep thinking about a better idea for keeping people tuned in for 50 minutes of jawing to see something blown up.

:)

2005-10-14

Reflecting on Change of View

I was reflecting a couple of days ago, on a change of view.

In my case, it has to do with humor. Jokes. Specifically, internet jokes.

For a while, maybe 6 months or a year, I ran a humor mailing list. It did not have a very big distribution, but it had a high rate of publication. I had one going out 5 days a week, and another once a week. So that meant at least 6 humor-oriented pieces a week.

I subscribed to a number of humor-based lists, and scoured additional source for humor, to make sure I was always sending something new.

My father was big into telling jokes, and I always seemed to have trouble remembering whole jokes to tell like he did. But I supposed that was a basis for my like of humor, and wanting to do more with it. I also enjoyed sending along jokes and getting jokes. Of course, this was before people got harassment-crazy.

But I noticed after a while, it got harder and harder to find new material for my list. There was always some topical humor, like Letterman's top 5 and other topic commentary. But most of the email humor was the same, over and over. Sometimes there would be a repackaging, but it usually had the same punch lines.

But as to the change of view...
I took something I loved, and made a job of it. I liked the job, but the side effect was that I knew almost all the punch lines.
And I still do.
It is amazing how many jokes I've heard from friends, I already know the punch-lines. It must be a little frustrating to my friends to so rarely be able to tell me a new joke. I know I'm saddened that something that gave me such joy, now is usually old-hat. I still enjoy hearing the jokes, but it isn't as much fun when almost all of them are old.

I have one friend who sends me all sorts of internet humor. He sends a lot. And almost all of it is old hat. Usually the only new stuff is poking fun at our president, about a current event.

I have to laugh to myself how many times I catch a public speaker using an internet joke, or even catch one in the funny papers.

I don't exactly regret having the mailing list, and knowing almost all the jokes. But I am a little sad from it. I guess it make me a little wary about getting so deeply involved in something.

Does that lead to a new saying? Ultimate knowledge leads to ultimate boredom.

2005-10-09

Geocaching Disease

Seems I'm building up to stage 1 :)
---
A NEW DISEASE

We have identified a new disease, probably caused by a virus among
geocaching people. It apparently has been in existence for a
considerable time, but only recently has anyone identified this
disease, and begun to study it. We call it the Acquired Cache
Obsessive Syndrome (ACOS).

At first, ACOS was originally considered to be psychological in
nature, but after two young researchers here suddenly decided to
become geocachers, we realized that we were dealing with an
infectious agent.

Epidemiologists here have identified three stages of this disease
and typical symptoms, and they are:


A. You have early symptoms (Stage I) if:

1. You think that any cache within 300 miles is near by.
2. You begin to enjoy getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning to drive
300 miles to go look in tick and mosquito infested woods to be
a "FTF" for other people's caches.
3. It is fun to spend several hours a day on Saturdays and
throughout
the week crashing through underbrush, poison ivy and muck to find
the cache.
4. You think you're being frugal if you spend less than $3,000
dollars a year on radios, equipment, Cache containers, Fillers, GPS
equipment, etc.
5. You can't remember what it was like to have just one find.


B. You definitely have the disease (Stage II) if:


1. Your most important factor when buying a car is how close it will
get you to a cache.
2. When you look for a house, the first thing you think of is how
many caches are in the area ( or how many more you can place ).
3. You spend as much on bug bite prevention and relief as on doctors.
4. You have no money because of your "hobby".
5. You have to buy more than one vehicle a year, because you keep
burning out the 7-year or 70,000-mile warranty going to find caches
and attending events.
6. Your have more pictures of the caches than of your family or
almost every picture of your family has them knelt down in from of a
cache.
7. Your idea of a fun vacation is to go to a " Camoflaugeing 101"
class or take a " Your GPS and You " course.
8. Most of your conversations revolve around The Find. The others
revolve around containers, cache bags, and where to buy the
cheapest Must Have Geocaching accessories.
10. You noticed that I skipped #9 and know that has to be a clue in
this puzzle cache.
11. You keep a dead snake in your fridge so that you can show others
what a copperhead looks like.
12. After a surgery, or an injury you sustain, You turn to drive up
virtuals and locationless caches to get your " Fix "


C. You are a terminal case (Stage III) if:

1. You wake up in the morning and find out that you put the kids in
the cache and the TBs in the beds last night.
2. You know each cache's name, location, and owner, but can't figure
out who that stranger in the house is; it turns out to be your
husband (wife).
3. Your friends keep insisting that those kids running around
bothering the cache are yours.
4. You keep telling the kids to "get into the car so we can go
somewhere fun" and they go put on long pants. You can't understand
why they don't understand that cleaning their room is a 2/3 and
taking out the trash is a 1/1.
5. You cash in the kid's college trust fund to get that new GPS.
6. You've been on the road looking for caches so long that you can't
remember where you live. But you do have that location in your GPS,
so you follow the arrow.
7. Your family tells you "It's either the caching or us;" you choose
to go get that " gallon of milk " they need..


Do you have this dreaded disease? Well, there is hope. In the course
of our research, we have found that most cases seem to stop at Stage
II, and remain chronic.

We, with great difficulty, managed to acquire several Stage III ACOS
patients. They are currently in our isolation wards, where we are
studying them to gain a better understanding of this disease. It is
a sad sight, seeing these formerly vibrant people as they shuffle
around their rooms in endless L-patterns or Z-patterns, searching
every nook and cranny, and figuring out where they will place their
next one. Merely saying "FTF" can send them into an uncontrollable
frenzy.

Unfortunately, there isn't much hope for these cases, but with time
and research to further understand this disease, we hope to come up
with a cure. We are now attempting to isolate the causative agent,
and may be able to develop a vaccine in the future.

An interesting sidelight of this disease seems to be that exposure
at an early age has an immunizing effect. Several people afflicted
with ACOS at Stage II and Stage III have close family members
(children, husbands, wives) who have absolutely no disease. But in
others it just adds on to the effects.

It is thought by some of our researchers that this may be due to
environmental effects, to an age-related immune function, or to the
fact that those at these stages of the disease tend not to associate
with their close family members possibly due to the memory deficit
induced by the disease - that is, in that they don't remember that
they have close family members! Unless they all cache together, then
they consider themselves a " Team " and go by a single name that
they introduce themselves as.

What can you do to prevent this disease? Until a cure is found,
prevention is the measure. Avoid anyone with a GPS in their
possesion, since it may be that their gps's are carriers of the
disease. Leave town on those days that the local newspapers inform
you of a cache event or geocaching presentation in the area.


If you inadvertently come into contact with an ACOS-afflicted
person, leave as soon as possible (before they ask you to come try
it), and thoroughly shower, preferably with germicidal soap ( make
sure you check for ticks ). If you are living with an ACOS-afflicted
person, take comfort that, if you haven't succumbed yet, you are
probably safe.

2005-10-03

Vodka on the Rocks - Icebar in London

A bar made entirely of ice? Talk about a cold drink!

The oddest thing I read was the 'partial human figures along the walls'

Add yeast to the list of items not allowed in jails

Yeast found in toothpaste tube in items shipped from a jail supplier to a jain in Colorado. The concern is that the yeast could be used to make 'hooch'.

2005-10-02

Busy Saturday


In the morning we went about an hour drive South along the front range to go apple picking. We picked a basket and a small bag's worth - and added another bag's worth of a pre-picked variety.

Then we tried to find some honey in town, and ran into an 'Apple Day Parade'.

Then I went up to Highlands Ranch (Southern Denver) for the monthly robot club meeting. I managed to finish putting on all the sensors for the common club robot that will do a ping-pong ball competition.

On the way home, I decided to try for a couple of geocaches in the Highlands Ranch area.

View from first cache

This rabbit was in the street right near where I parked. It did not move when a car came by. It did not move until I got pretty close. Then it went to the other side of the street. So moved towards it again to get it out of the street.

View at the second cache

2005-09-23

Blogger Now Has Pictures

Hey - blogger has added a way to upload a picture - without using Picasa/Hello/Bloggerbot! Cool!

A picture I took while geocaching last weekend:

Astronaut has one-way ride to station

Due to a sanction the US government has against our space partner Russia, over concerns that Russia was providing space and missle technology to enemies, NASA is forbidden to buy lauches from Russia. Russia's contract to fly missions to the Space Station is completed with the next launch. Because of the grounding of the Space Shuttle, and the delay of repairs due to the hurricanes, that will mean the astronaut going up, will not have a defined ride home for the end of his 6 month scheduled stay.

He has stated that he is willing to stay up as long as he has to.

The US is hoping Russia will continue to fly mission out of good will.

While Russia has been a very good partner in the space program, it is well known that they are financially strapped. While I would hope that they would help out if there was an emergency, I don't think we can really count on them to do much out of good will.

So, that means our government needs to make an emergency exception. Add it to some of the Katrina emergency funding. But it doesn't look like they will rush into it.

Hmm - any Reagan era Contra fund money left around that can be slipped to them under the table?

2005-09-19

Geocaching Update

Thursday evening, my eldest son decided he wanted to make a Geocache of our own. We had been working up to it for a little while now. We had small notebooks for logbooks. I had saved a couple of 3 pound plastic picnic salad containers. We had some pirate themed accessories to go with our geocache nickname of 'WitzAbout Pirates'. My eldest son was really enthused about making the geocache that evening. He collected up a whole bunch of toys - older, but in good condition. So I printed out the geocache introduction sheet and gathered up the pieces needed. We headed down to a park about a mile away from our house. We parked in the lot, near the playground, and looked around for places to hide the cache. From my point of view, there were not a lot of choices. It was a pretty busy area, with a playground, 2 different ball fields - softball and soccer - and at the intersection of two pretty busy streets. I did not see any place near the playground that seemed good for the cache - short of the rocks in the middle of the parking lot. All the trees near the parking lot had branches that were high, and mown grass up to the trunks. I had spied some bushes and trees a the corner of the park when we were driving in. That seemed like our best bet. I found a spot to hide the cache - ironically right near where both roads meet. It seemed like a pretty high traffic area. I felt bad that I would be making fellow cachers look a bit suspicion when going after this cache. But my son really wanted to place it in the park. I wanted it someplace that would not likely be spotted and picked apart by non-cachers. So we placed it is a shallow hole hidden in the bushes/trees area (you don't want me to give away all the secrets, in case a cacher reads my blog for hints! ;-) )
We went home, and registered the cache online. My son helped me fill out the form and write up the description. He was so excited, he decided he would check the cache each week. He put a note up on the calendar for each Saturday. He was willing to walk the mile each way to check this cache. It was looking like geocaching might just get him out more often, beside dragging him to find geocaches.
Friday morning I checked my email. It turns out the cache didn't qualify because it was burred. I was tempted to debate the issue, but instead, I decided to change it. I went back down on my way to work. I got some rocks to build up a little hiding place for the cache. I think it came out pretty well. It should look pretty obvious to a cacher, but should hopefully be well hidden from causal observation. The cache was also not far from a high school too, so I knew it couldn't be too noticeable. So I updated the notes on the geocache site. Checked Saturday, no update. Then I noticed in a different color that I needed to send a special message to the admin so they knew to recheck the listing. Doh!
The admin listed it at 1:15am. Sunday morning I saw it was approved! A little later we noticed the first find! Wow! They said they were going to put in a travelbug, but could not fit it. I guess we filled it a bit too well! :)
By the end of the day, we had 4 visitors - cool!
We decided we wanted to hide another cache. I didn't think we had enough good stuff to fill another cache, so we went to the dollar store and stocked up on stuff for both creating a cache and for trading at caches in general.
After shopping, we tried to find a new, 2-stage cache. The first piece was a micro-cache that leads to the main cache. We spent about a half hour or so looking and looking for the micro. We have had very bad luck finding micro-caches. Maybe there is some secret that we are missing. I know that with regular caches, I'm starting to have a good eye for seeing manually placed items that indicate a cache. I'm wondering if I just have to work my way up to being able to see the same kind of clues for micro caches.
We went off to hide the new cache in a different part of town. This time along a hiking trail. Against a pretty busy place, so I hope the cachers will forgive us for making it a bit out in the open.
This time I had taken along my laptop. I had pre-loaded the data needed to continue geocaching without needing to be online. So we drove a bit down the road to another cache I'd been wanting to find for a while. It was next to a small lake. The lake was a bit hidden and a bit higher than you might expect. It was a cute lake, a nice place for a geocache. One of the great side-effects of geocaching is finding all sorts of places I didn't really know about before.

View our profile2005-09-19 1:00pm - just checked the geocache site again - our second cache was approved!

Geeky News - IBM Behind 2 of 3

Reading a new article on CNN, about the new Xbox 360, I learned something interesting about IBM. It seems they are not limiting themselves to Business machines these days.
While Apple is jumping ship to Intel from the Power-PC chip, not one, but 2 new games systems are jumping over to IBM.
Microsoft and IBM co-designed the chip for Xbox 360, based on the Power PC chip.
But IBM also co-designed the chip for the next Playstation, PS3, with Sony and Toshiba, also includes a Power PC processor.
Not a bad deal position for IBM - involved in the chips for the two big game consoles. I wonder if they can get an inside to the next Nintendo game console too? :)
The original Xbox was built with PC-based components, including Intel processors. By going to Power-PC based chips, that means that supporting the older games will have to be done in an emulation mode or they will have to include an intel-based instruction set in the new console. The good news is that they have said the new system will support the old games. The question becomes if the old games will play OK.
And Playstation will also have to answer if they will support old games. I give them a lot of credit for supporting first generation Playstation when they built the PS2. I hope they continue the support into the PS3.

I find it pretty funny everytime I hear the name of the new Xbox console. Calling it Xbox 360 is a very odd choice. The 360 series of computers was a line of mainframes from IBM back in the 60s. It was the previous architecture to the 370/390 series of mainframes out now (390 is a superset of 370, but the 370 is not based on the 360). So calling it an Xbox 360 makes me think of the old mainframes from before my time. And with IBM in on the project, it makes me wonder if the Xbox 360 has the hidden ability to run old 360 mainframe code? :) The Xbox 360 probably has more processing power than the 360 series computers, so in theory I'd guess it is a possibility. Will the Xbox that comes out after this one be able to run today's mainframe applications? :)

2005-09-13

Weekend Stuff

I went geocaching over the weekend. I was spurred by the fact that I had a travelbug* from the previous weekend to put back in circulation. So I headed out to an area in town I hadn't geocached in before - leading to the Pulpit Rock area. I'd hiked it once from the West 5 years ago, during the first few weeks I had moved to Colorado. I could not get anyone else interested in going, so I was heading out on my own. Having looked at the area with Google Earth, I decided to try using my bike. Coming from Academy, it made for a pretty easy trip. I wound up having to abandon my bike a few hundred feet from the caches. Well, it was easier on the bike at first. But I didn't realize that the last cache I wanted to hit was up from the first 2. Quite a bit up. Very far up the back of Pulpit Rock. I wound up pushing my bike slowly up, taking probably close to an hour. But I knew there was a dirt trail that lead to streets from having hiked it 5 years ago. It turns out the last cache was along the dirt road, so that wasn't bad. I thought I would have to work my way out to the main streets, taking quite a few miles to get back to where I parked. But I was very, very pleasantly surprised to find the street I was on curved around to where I parked in about a mile - taking less than 10 minutes. It nearly made up for all the extra time pushing my bike took. But the worst thing was that I forgot the travelbug, and hadn't realized it until I was at the first cache - and I didn't want to go back then. I had figured I could pop it into another cache afterwards. But I didn't have enough time.

*travelbug - a special item that has 'dog tags' with a special tracking number - that is designed to be moved from geocache-to-geocache - sometime with a specific task such as making it from coast-to-coast.

Sunday, my wife had her grand opening of her new Massage Office. It went ok. It was find as a party to introduce the office to colleagues and a few friends. It was not as successful as a marketing event, to draw new clients. But overall it went well.

Later in the evening, I wanted to go geocaching again, to try to get rid of the travelbug. It was a spiderman figure, that my middle boy wanted very much to keep. So I really wanted to get it planted before he made it disappear. I didn't take all the papers with me. Just the coordinates of a new, smaller cache near home, and the coordinates of another in the same basic area that would work if I couldn't find the new one. I managed to get the coordinates reversed, and wound up heading for the known cache. It was at that point that I realized that again I had left the travel bug in the car. It was getting towards dusk. If I'd had the bug, I would have just placed it in the known cache. But since I didn't I turned around and went back to the car. The first thing I did when I got in the car was to put the travelbug in my pocket.

I drove to the coordinates of the newer cache. On the way, a dog decided to cross without looking. Luckily I had plenty of room. I stopped, and saw a girl looking for the dog. She was calling for an adult to come help her. She said she was okay and told me I could go. I was willing to wait for her to cross. But she was waiting for the adult, so I drove carefully on. The dog stayed to the sidewalk as I passed. After a short drive through back streets, I found I was very close where a trail crossed a street. I parked, and saw there were 2 trees right near the coordinates, and nothing else really nearby. But it still took me a while. After about the 6th pass around the trees, I finally found it. I squeezed the spiderman travelbug into the container, signed the log, and placed it back. It was getting a bit dark by this point. The sun had been behind the mountains for at least 20 minutes. But I was pretty satisfied. I had found 4 more caches for the weekend.

I went on the geocaching site yesterday, and saw a person had trouble with the 2 trees cache - so I gave them some hints. I read about a brand new one not too far from my house, and I think I got my eldest interested in finding it. But he did not have a good day at school - so it will not happen today.