Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 15, 2011 - Geocoin Review: "Cache at Night"


I'd like to tell you a little about a new Geocoin that I recently acquired. What's a Geocoin, you say? Well if you've clicked the links that I provided in the word "Geocoin" or if you are a geocacher you already know. For those of you non-clicking non-caching people that are still reading, here's the short version of it:

There are these things collectively called "Trackables" that some people put inside geocaches for other people to find and move to a new cache. When you find a Trackable item you log the find using a unique tracking code that is written on the Trackable itself. A record of your activity is stored in your profile on You can embellish your log with additional details or your experience during the hunt and pictures, just like you can with the online log for the geocache itself.

Now, Trackables are divided into two main categories: Travel Bugs and Geocoins. Travel Bugs resemble a military dog-tag and generally look the same. Sometimes folks will attach things to the chain that runs through the Travel Bug dog-tag and sometimes they will attach the dog-tag itself to an item and release that, but the shape and size of the thing is usually the same as is the icon that is pictured on your profile- a bug-shaped barcode looking design that is also present on the tag itself.

Geocoins are everything Travel Bugs are but come in a near-infinite range of sizes, shapes and icons. Most are designed by other geocachers. There have been fully functional sextants, multi-piece puzzles and stained-glass pieces of art. 

The coin that I'd like to show you today is more of a more traditional design in that it is very "coin-looking" but also has some other rather cool features. 

This is the front side of the "Cache at Night" Geocoin available from As you can tell by the name of the coin and the website, the focus here is on Geocaching in the dark of night. The artwork on the "heads" side features a very Scooby-Doo-esque spooky tree complete with owl silhouette and a cresent moon hovering in the night sky above. At the base of the tree is the classic ammo can container, a favorite choice of geocachers world-wide. On the trunk of the tree is a white dot that represents a "fire tack" that is often used to guide cachers who seek special night-only geocaches with their reflective surface. The words "Grab A Light and Cache at Night" flank the two sides of the tree.

On the "tails" side of the coin is a flashlight surrounded by some cartoony eyes, again like you'd see on Scooby-Doo or around Halloween. The spot-light from the flashlight is focused on the coin's unique tracking number (which I have edited out in this picture.) At top is the required "Trackable at" that you can expect to see on every Geocoin.

Now here's the cool part. The two images below were taken after shining the light on my cellphone on them for a few seconds. I used about a 3 second shutter and the aperture open to 3.4 but I have not cranked the color up in Photoshop or anything like that. I'd say these represent well what they really look like in the dark. The shine off the "tails" side is particularly bright due to the amount of phosphorescent material. 

Of all the details on the coin, the eyes on the back look really great when they glow.

The coin has a really nice heft to it. It's about the size and weight of two silver dollars stacked on top of each other, maybe slightly heavier. You can see the webpage for my coin and the icon for it by going here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 13, 2011 - Dungeons and Dragons Nerds

Here we have a room full of nerds playing Dungeons and Dragons. Specifically, 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. 
See that Player's Handbook there on the table? Lots of memories were made with that book. Can you spot the Dungeon Master in the group? That would be my boy, standing up in front of his friends, using his imagination and his brain. Those kids- those are the socially inept home-schooled kids I keep hearing about that are stuck at home all day and never get out and never have any friends.

Notice the obvious age differences in these kids. Remind you of anything? Possibly the age differences of your workplace or adult social group...? Check out how the girls are playing with the boys (and one girl left early). 

These are Dungeons and Dragons nerds and I couldn't be more proud to know each and every one of them and call two of them my sons and one of them my daughter.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11, 2011 - Shoal Creek Canoe Run (or, A Tugboat am I)

Esther is pretty good at coming up with last minute plans. She's really good at making plans months ahead too, but that's just not how things worked out this weekend. So this Saturday the thing that she set us out to do was canoe down the Shoal Creek in Tennessee. We've been canoeing before. Most recently, Esther and I paddled around at the Chattanooga Nature Center during a visit last October. As a family, we've paddled 9 miles on Bear Creek in Alabama. This was to be a 10 mile trip for the five of us- two in a canoe and the other three in tubes. All indications were that the current would be rapid enough to keep us all moving downstream at a nice pace.

The day started out as most of the rafting/canoeing trips I've been on start- packed into a 1970-somthing era Ford or Chevy van with total strangers. I don't know where these vans come from. Most vehicles this old have simply ceased to function and it's not as if they are collector's items. They come from a time before the "mini" van and the air-bag. The air-conditioners never work, the side doors have to be slammed shut and most of the head-liner reverted to its constituent elements during the first George Bush's term in office. They are beasts of burden with FOUR bench seats in the back and if you're lucky the windows will open so that a little air not smelling of good 'ol boy can get into the cabin.

We were dropped off about 10 miles upstream of Iron City, Tennessee. Oh, I almost forgot! Zephyr, our loyal Mop-Headed Jack-Weasel, came along for the ride.

I had no idea what to expect as far as how Zephyr would deal with the whole "being on a boat" thing. Our two big dogs love riding on a pontoon, but Zephyr has pretty successfully distinguished herself from the other two dogs. I don't think they really acknowledge that she's an actual dog. I think, in their minds, that she's more like a cat that has suffered a head injury. I'm happy to report that Zeph did really well on the open seas. 

We made a handful of stops along the ride in the first four or five miles. Early on we stopped so the kids could do a little cliff diving. Or something similar to cliff diving.

Here the kids practice their best "Gar Defense Posture". The trick is to keep everything you value out of the water and hope that the gar doesn't jump up and bite you on the butt.

Check out the grass up in the tree above the kids here. This is an indication of the height of the last really good flood to come through here.

Notice the rope? I'd say that about 9 of the 10 miles we tugged the kids down the creek. According to my GPS, we were going about 1.5 mph in most places and about 3 mph in the rapids. The word "rapids" is used loosely in this case. These rapids would not cause you to, for example, spill your drink if it was balanced on your head.

Esther, one half of the tugboat engine crew, took a break and enjoyed a little float time while Jake endured my incessant orders to "paddle left!" and "paddle!" as well as "keep paddling!" and the ever popular "don't stop paddling!" These orders were usually followed by the qualifier "or I'm going to send you to public school!"

Here is little Zephyr hiding in the shade of Esther's seat. (tee-hee)

Even I had the opportunity to float behind the canoe. Chan pushed her skinny arms to the point of near-exercise in an effort to pull my carcass down the creek. Here we see her on the verge of collapse while mom continues to strain against the inertia of my massive bulk. 
...also I was standing in my tube and dragging my feet across the bottom of the creek. I was pretending to "ski" across the rocks. But don't tell them that.

Here's a picture of a flower that even Esther did not know the name of. They were growing in stands in the shallows of the creek. I learned that copperhead snakes apparently really like these flowers because on my way over to take this picture I flushed a large one out. It scared me and I said a bad word. The same bad word I always say when I see a snake.

Here's Chan looking like she's just about heard enough of whatever is coming out of Jake's mouth. I have no idea what was going on back there.

This is Esther trying to flirt with the captain of the tugboat. As if.

After a long day on the creek we wrapped things up at happiest place on the planet.

Esther even let me get a small coffee.

More pictures of our day can be seen here.