Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Elite New Ride

Last night I picked up my new commuting bicycle from the local bike shop +Luna Cycles.

I have been consistently commuting with my old bike for about 3 years now.  It was an entry level bike, and I put a lot of miles on it, so it has now become, according to the guys at +Luna Cycles, "used up".  I am actually kinda proud of that, as "using up" a bike doesn't seem to happen that often.

My new ride, a Specialized Source Elite is kitted out with everything a commuter needs:  rear cargo rack, dynamo hub that powers a set of lights as I ride, fenders, 27 gears, light frame, and components that are designed to take the abuse of the daily grind to and from the office.

So far I have only ridden it twice (once home from the shop, and once to the office), but it promises to be a sweet ride to get my butt to and from work for years to come.

Before I left home this morning my wifey took some action shots of me riding my new bike.   See you out on the roads!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Site Reliability Engineering

Yesterday some co-workers of mine did a question and answer session via Hangouts On Air for students that answered the question of "What is Site Reliability Engineering".  

Since this is what I do for a living, I figure my friends, family, and faithful audience of world wide readers (all three of you! hi mom!), may be interested in getting a glimpse into what I do all day.  Its not all massages and free food.  I actually do stuff.  Honest!

First off is an interview with Andrew Widdowson, the moderator for the discusstion:

And the video for the Q&A session:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Save The Date: International CITO Weekend Coming Up!

CITO events, or Cache In Trash Out, are when geocachers give back.  These events can include activities such as  picking up garbage, trail maintenance, or planting trees.  All of which cleans up and improves the world that is every geocachers playground.

The 11th annual CITO weekend is being held on April 20, 21 and 22nd, 2013.  There are hundreds of events in dozens of countries that you may wish to attend.  If you do participate in an event that weekend, you get a special souvenir from Groundspeak for your profile.

For more information, check out the CITO page on to learn more about CITO events, and to find (or host) an event in your area.  You could make a difference AND make new friends - don't miss out on that deal!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rain, Rain, Come Again.

I do my very best to never let the weather be a factor in deciding when I go geocaching.

I often see cachers mention in online posts that they didn't go out caching because of the weather. A good rain seems to keep many folks indoors.

Not me. I love caching in the rain.  It has many hidden benefits, including:

- Muggles tend to stay indoors, so they are not around to interrupt your finds.

- Almost zero chance of dehydration.

- A sense of satisfaction that you
didn't let mother nature keep you down.

Being in the rain, or snow, is like being in touch with nature when it is at its most interesting.  Water dripping off leaves,  splashes of drops hitting puddles, the rush of water as steams flow faster, and the heavy air drowning out the man made sounds of the world.  It can be down right peaceful at times.

This is especially true of snow.  If you have never been out in the woods with a heavy snowfall of large fluffy flakes, and experienced the quiet solitude, and the sight of the world turning white, you have missed out on one of the most beautiful and peaceful experiences Mother Nature has to offer.

Now I would never suggest that someone goes out in a dangerous storms, and I do take slippery and muddy conditions into account when I select the caches I do in the rain (I avoid the tricky climbs for example), but I try my hardest to go out and find some adventures anyway.

I would urge you to do the same.  You just may find that you discover a hidden gem of nature, or at least a muggle free park to cache in.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


If you have never seen the TV show called The Dukes Of Hazzard TV, you can stop reading now.

Last night I met Rosco P. Coltrane.

More specifically I met James Best, the actor who plays the bumbling Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, who chased those troublesome Duke Boys all over Hazzard County, in one of my most beloved childhood shows.

It went down like this.  I took my wife to see a community play, A Southern Exposure, at the Hickory Theatre last night.  One of the stars of the play is a crafting lady friend of my wife.  During some opening announcements it was pointed out that James Best is scheduled to do a one man show in a couple weeks, and that he was in the audience that very evening.  I looked over and sure enough he was a row up, and 10 seats over from us.  Then the house lights went down and the play started.

I enjoyed watching the play, which was well done, but in the back of my brain I kept thinking "Holy crap, Rosco is right. Over. There!".

During intermission I made it a point to go over and shake his hand.  We ended up talking for a good 5 minutes. He is a very down to earth guy, and quite personable and funny.  We swapped some stories of  him playing pranks as Rosco, and my dreams to drive around Hazzard County in a rented Dodge Charger (that were tragically dashed when I found out Hazzard County doesn't actually exist - dang it, Hollywood!).

After the second half of the play I took my wife over to a local tavern to have a drink and some appetizers with my wifes actress/crafty friend.  It turns out the entire cast, the crew, James Best and his wife, all dropped by.

So there I sat, eating chicken wings with the real life incarnation of a character from one of my favourite childhood heroes.  Awesomesauce.

I finally did the fanboy thing and got his autograph and a photo, to commemorate the occasion.

This is, hands down, the best time I've ever had at a community theatre.  Yee Haw!

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Story Of A Work Offsite Gone Awesomely Awry

It is not every day that I go to work and end up in the back of a police cruiser.

It went down like this.  On Friday a bunch of us fine folks from the office went on an offsite for team building and merriment making.  Our mission was to go to Cinebarre in Charlotte to enjoy the cinema.

If you have never been, Cinebarre is a  movie theatre that has table service. They have a full bar and pub food that they bring to you in your seat while you watch a movie.  It is a pretty dang awesome way to watch a movie.

The start of the journey went off without a hitch.  We all piled into the 14 passenger bus that we use as a shuttle between our two office buildings at work and headed south towards the big city.  We got to Charlotte (a 90 minute drive) on time, drank free beer, ate free chicken wings (and free popcorn, natch), and watched a free movie (Identity Thief, if you must know),  during standard work hours.  I even found a geocache in the parking lot. So far so good.

The trouble started when we started on our return journey.  We had developed a coolant leak along the way in, so we stopped to fill up just a a few miles from the theatre. Then we hit the highway.

A few minutes after that the radiator melted. Coolant sprayed everywhere. There was much concern, drama, and email sending as we took stock of the situation.

We took the next exit off the highway, pulled over on the side of a random road, and bailed from the rather steamy van.

There we stood.  Stranded 80 minutes from home, on the side of a road, with no way to get home.  Naturally we made the most of it. We had a merry old time (aka merriment mission accomplished) discussing our predicament, talking about the movie, and making hobo signs.

A few minutes later an Officer Of The Law pulled in behind the van and offered assistance.

We weighed our various options, and concluded that the best thing was to go rent a couple mini vans from the local mini van rental establishment (in our case, Hertz).  So two of us piled into the police cruiser (I got in the back), and we headed off to fetch the rescue vehicles.

20 minutes later we returned, piled everyone into the rescue vans, and drove everyone home. I walked through my front door only an hour later than I normally do.

Not the most awesome story, I will admit, but it allowed me to use the opening line, so I consider this blog worthy.

I'll leave you with some more pics, starting with our fearless site manager checking out the smoke machine that was our shuttle bus:

Well, there's your problem!

The rescue vehicles.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
                                 - Robert Frost

Monday, March 11, 2013

Diurnal Night Caching

I love doing night caching, however they normally require darkness to do them properly.  Night caches are done by following a series of reflectors, which are illuminated by flashlights.

I found myself at the start of a night cache on Saturday - at 3PM in the afternoon, on the sunniest day I've seen since October.

You will probably agree with me that this is the  exact wrong conditions in which a night cache should be attempted.

My solution:  An insanely bright (3,000 lumen) flashlight called a Firesword.   To put the word "insanely" in perspective, consider that your average flashlight is 20-50 Lumens, and tactical flashlights are 200-300 Lumens.  A firesword is a portable headlight.  It will damage your eye site if you look directly at it.  It is *bright*.  Just the thing to have with you in a day-time night cache attempt.

Why am I telling you this? No reason. I just wanted to show a picture of my geocaching partner puppy, and I needed a good story context for it. She was there when I found the cache.
This is Bailey. She likes chew toys and chasing squirrels. She loves a good walk in the woods, and is incredibly gentle with infants and toddlers. Rarely barks, and seldom drools. Sits and stays on command, and loves a good cuddle in the evenings.  I just wanted to tell you how awesome she is; and that her owner has a cool flashlight.

Specifically this one, pictured with the GPSr and ammo can at the final of the night cache in question.

So in summation, when it comes to night caching during the day, lumens are your friend,  and so is your dog. Respect them both, and take them geocaching frequently.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Parasite And The Nest

The Parasite
Today I had what could possibly be one of the most unique caching experiences I've ever had.

The cache is called The Nest (GC443QW) , and it is a two stage puzzle cache.  One has to find the coordinates to the final (aka the nest) which are written down in the first stage container. Sounds straight forward, right?

The twist is that the coordinates for the final stage are hidden on a travel bug (the parasite) which is travelling from cache to cache, and could be anywhere within a 100 mile radius of the posted coordinates.

I had tracked the current location of the parasite to a cache I had already found in Riverbend Park. Since I have been there before, and familiar with the trails, I was able to quickly make the 2.4 mile round trip to the cache and retrieve the bug without a lot of drama or suspense. I did manage to find a couple caches I had DNF'd on previous trips though (a rather nice bonus).

The Nest.
Now that I had the parasite in hand, I entered the coordinates into the GPSr and headed off 11 miles down the road to find the nest.

The nest is hidden in an unbuilt housing development.  There are roads, but no houses. Unfortunately this also means the roads are not on any maps.  As a result finding parking for GZ was a bit tough,  and involved blind driving around cul-de-sac filled suburban neighbourhood hell.

Eventually I got all parked up, and I took a short, pleasant walk along the edge of a farmers field, and into some nice woods where I found the final.

Afterwards I did some more caching, and I released the parasite back into one of those caches.  Safe and sound in a random location for the next cacher to find.

This was definitely a unique experience.  What unique caching experiences have you had?  Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Snowcaching in Boone

Let me start by saying that snow caching is some of the best caching going.

 I wasn't expecting to get out caching much this weekend. On Friday I had a nasty cold that knocked me out for the day, and Saturday was full of Dr Seuss parades, and doing my income tax returns.

Today after church I was feeling better and starting to get the itch to explore.  I checked online for some new caches, and spotted some fresh ones up the mountain in a large park in Boone NC.  So I gulped down some lunch, tossed my mountain bike in the back of the Geo-van Of Destiny, and headed up the Appalachians.

I forgot the temperature difference between my house and the mountains.  It can be as much as 20f.  The temp at my house was 42f, which meant the temp in Boone was likely below freezing (25f to be precise). Indeed not only did the temperature drop fast as I drove higher into then mountains, but it began to snow.

Snow!  Now that is a good omen for an awesome day of caching if ever there was one.

Spoiler alert:  it was, indeed, awesome.

One of the new caches was a puzzle cache that required the finding of several of the other caches in the park to get puzzles to solve for bits of the coordinates to the final (get all that? If not, read it again).  Most of these caches are new, but one I had found before, which is a tad annoying, but since I had found it, it should be easy to find again, right?

Yeah, not so much.

So I biked along the snowy pathways, and soon arrived at ground zero for the previously found cache, which was under a foot bridge, to find that, yep, its gone.  Not a trace to be found.  Not even a hint that a trace would even be expected.  Completely missing it was.

No biggie - I'll just look it up on ye olde smart phone to see if it was moved, or is marked as missing.

This would be a good time to mention that Geocaching apps are really, really good about not showing caches you had previously found, so despite having a good signal, it took a good 10 minutes to bring up the cache details.

Sure enough, the cache was moved 200ft west to higher ground. A quick trudge through the snow (yay!) and I had re-found the cache, and gained the information I needed to solve the puzzle.

I then moved on to find one of the new caches, which was down the trail a half mile or so, but elevation wise it was up a hundred feet or so, so up I trudge on a slow climb (I refer you to my status as a lazy fat man, and point out hills are evil, especially ones soggy with precipitation and getting crunchy in the cold).

One of the best things about geocaching is discovering things you'd never discover without it.  I have mentioned this many times in the past, but I repeat it now as a segway to the fact that it was at this point that I discovered something truly spectacular.

A wall of icicles.

If you live in more northern climates you may be thinking "meh, ice sucks", but keep in mind that I haven't seen enough winter weather to create an icicle around my area in years.

For a Canadian expat this sight really warmed the heart and brings one back to the winters of ones youth. Plus icicles are awesome.  A wall of them are truly one of the cooler (pun intended) and beautiful wonders of nature.

The wall of ice was very close to ground zero for the next cache.  This presented a bit of a problem as the side of the hill  I needed to climb (really it was a short cliff) was a combination of ice and very slick mud.  The bits that were not slippery were full of thorns.

I had to go down the trail a hundred feet or so to find a spot that gave me a combination of enough traction and trees to hold on to for leverage so I could make it to the top of the cliff.   Once on top I quickly found the cache, then played "dirty slip'n'slide" back down to the trail.

I then moved on down the trail to the next cache.  To avoid suspense let me say that I didn't end up finding the puzzle cache - partly due to a bug in one of the puzzles (confirmed by the CO), and partly because I can't read cache descriptions properly (also confirmed by the CO).  I did have a good time finding all the caches required to solve the puzzle, and a few more (including an cache).

Time was running short, so I headed back down the mountain where, annoyingly, there was no traces of snow... sigh.

I can, however, console myself with the fact that for one afternoon, high up in the Appalachian mountains, this Canadian boy with a sense of adventure, finally got his boots into some fresh, deep snow - and that is, as you can clearly read, good for the soul.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.

"It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how." - Dr. Seuss

 Today, March 2nd, is Dr. Seuss's birthday.  Any parent of a toddler appreciates the humour of the good doctor, so to celebrate we participated in a Dr Seuss Parade with the kids for a walk thru downtown Lenoir.

The parade started at the hospital on, what has to be the most aptly named street for such a thing, Mulberry Street.  From there 50 or so parents and adults, all dressed up in silly regalia of various cats in hats, and numbered Things.   

It turns out our costume box is sadly short of Seussian apparel  so we mad due with other fun-looking costumes,such as this Mad Hatter headware sported by Ms Abigail:

Zeke was rockin the parade (by rocking I mean trying desparately to avoid getting his picture taken) in a parrot costume, and holding a Horton, and Max (aka Grinch's dog) stuffed animals.
My wife was wearing a chipmunk hat that was given to us by her brother, all the way from South Korea. I had the only Cat Hat in the family, tho Debbie did have a grinch t-shirt under her jacket. We were chased the entire parade by a platoon of Thing Ones.
After the parade we all gathered at a local book shop for snacks, and a reading of Green Eggs and Ham, cause why not?