Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Han Solo Was Right!

I recently turned 40, so its time to reflect on life and give some sage advice, which is this:

Life is too short not to laugh.  It really helps to develop a sense of humour about yourself.  Sure, not everything is a joke, but if you look around you'll see something to laugh about. If you are not finding the humour in whatever situation you are in, you're simply not trying hard enough, and taking the world way to seriously.

Or, in other words:  Laugh it up, fuzz ball!

Holy crap... Han Solo was right!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ghostbusters: Lego Edition

A month or so ago I bought the Ghostbusters Lego set.  Tonight I gave it the ol' photographic treatment, and this is what I came up with.

You can call them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  No ghost is too big, no fee is too big. So, who ya gonna call?

I ain't afraid of no ghost.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Take Me To Your Leader 2014: First Drone Arrives!

Pictured:  Drone #1 with Radagast The Brown
I have an exciting update for the 2014 Travel Bug race.

The first travel bug has arrived in Lenoir!  The lucky first-timer is Drone #1, which was released near Ottawa Ontario Canada.

For reference, if you haven't been following my blog, in April 2014 I mailed 16 travel bugs to geocachers literally around the world.  Their mission was to travel from cache to cache, and cacher to cacher, to see who would arrive first in my home town of Lenoir North Carolina, USA.

All of the race details are here.

The rules of the race state the winner is the drone that arrives to Lenoir in the shortest period of time after being released into a geocache.  Drone #1 was one of the first drones released.  The other drones have up to 63 days to arrive in Lenoir before I can declare a winner.

Some stats for Drone #1:   It travelled a total of 3109.1 miles, and took 158 days to make the journey.  6 geocachers interacted with it along the way, and it went to 158 different geocaches.

This TB is going to be retired and placed in my personal collection.  Stay tuned to find out if it is the ultimate winner, or if another one of the drones will arrive in Lenoir.  Several are close, so this race isn't over yet!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lego Minifig, Eh?

This is, quite possibly, the most Canadian looking minifig I have ever seen.  When I saw him, I had to have him.

I stuck him in a forest scene with some Canadian symbols to celebrate this find.  Pretty good lookin' eh?

The Rant

Hey, I'm not a lumberjack, or a fur trader.
I don't live in an igloo or eat blubber, or own a dogsled,
and I don't know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada,
although I'm certain they're really really nice.

I have a Prime Minister, not a president.
I speak English and French, not American,
and I pronounce it 'about', not 'a boot'.

I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack.
I believe in peace keeping, not policing,
diversity, not assimilation,
and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal.

A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch,
and it is pronounced 'zed' not 'zee', 'zed'!

Canada is the second largest landmass,
the first nation of hockey,
and the best part of North America!

My name is Joe!
And I am Canadian!

(courtesy of Molson)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Things That Make You Go Hmm...

Spotted this little gem in Morganton North Carolina while out Geocaching.  It is a literal road to nowhere. I think its super nice how they painted the lines, installed a stop sign, and a lamp post. Bonus points for the lamp post having two lights, one shining on the road, the other on grass. Nice touch!

This is brand new, less than 6 months old.  Nice to see the world staying just a little bit surreal.

Final Approach: An Awesomsauce Geo-art Extravanza

On July 23, 2014 a new geo-art series called Final Approach was published just north of Greensboro North Carolina

As soon as I saw it I knew just the group of folks who would be perfect for this mission: Team Awesomesauce.

You may remember Team Awesomesauce from our powertrail adventure in Tennesee in early July. The team includes Yours Truly, HoosierSunshine, FailedApparatus, NCBiscuit, and the enigmatic NinjaChipmunk.

Yesterday Team Awesomesauce suited up and met in a Walmart parking lot near Greensboro North Carolina, jumped into a rented "Geovan of Destiny"-esque mobile, and set off on an epic quest to turn this series of artisnal question marks into smiley faces.

The quest led us on a series of back roads that weaved through some picturesque North Carolina countryside.
Most of the geocaches themselves were simple PnG style hides. We each took turns jumping out of the van to make the grabs.  Here NCBiscuit is doing her part.
I did the navigating, and jumped out on occasion to find a cache or two.  I tried to add some style to this one.
HoosierSunshine, despite having a sore ankle, also got into the geocaching log signing spirit.
 FailedApparatus did all of the driving (as the Geovan was rented in his name) but he still did his part to grab a few caches.
Alongside her cache retrieval duties, NinjaChipmunk took on her roll as photographer sniper. Here she is in a stunning action shot.  Note the intensity and sneakitude of taking the shot from the open van door.
There are 82 caches in the series.  We signed each long with Team AZMSCE (cause writing is hard):
6 hours later, including several pit stops, a delicious lunch, and... um... hair treatment...
... we accomplished our goal.  One airplane worth of question marks converted into happy faces.

That is a lot of smilies.

We found a few additional caches along the way. By the time we finished the day we had logged 94 geocaches in total.

Team Awesomesauce has now gone our separate ways, and slid back into the murky shadows of our cover identities as civilians.  However, you never know when another mission will call, and Team Awesomesauce will suit back up and ride for on another epic quest.

Stay tuned!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Collect The Whole Set

This just came in the mail today.

I now have my own trading card! 

Lifelong dream achieved. Not bad.

If you want an official debaere trading card, ask me for one if you see me at an event, especially Going Caching in Rome GA, October 18.

I Said Please!

This always struck me as a very polite "keep out" sign.   Spotted on Blue Mountain in central Ontario.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Scotland The Brave: Lego Edition

The Scottish Referendum is on Thursday, which I find kinda fascinating.  I am not sure why as I am not Scottish or English, so I don't have any skin in the game.  I think its the chance that a brand new country may be formed, and with a bit of luck, it will happen without blood shed or civil war -  a refreshing change from the Ukraine and ISIS issues elsewhere in the world.

So in honor of what will hopefully be a shining example of two civilized peoples settling their differences with peace and diplomacy - whatever the outcome - I present to you:  Lego Sean Connery playing the bagpipes.

(If you are wondering I picture him playing The Bonnie Banks O'Loch Lomond)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Guns N' Roses Appreciation Society

I listen to music a lot. I always have. Over the years I have listened to a fairly wide range of musical styles, but I tend to gravitate towards hard rock. There is just something about a hard rhythm, pounding drums, and an angry dirty sounding guitar that gets my blood pumping.

Like most people who get to middle age, I am finding the current crop of music to be sub-par, so I have been looking back at the age when music was good to get my musical fixes.  Everyone has their own definition of when music was good, but it can typically be defined as "when you were in high school", which for me was the late 80s and early 90s.

You may recognize it as the golden age of the big hair bands.  Aerosmith, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Van Halen, they all had a place in the soundtrack of my life, but none were quite so favoured as Guns N' Roses.  At the time I couldn't say exactly why.  It could have been the lead singers unique aggressive growly voice, their bad boy, "don't give a crap" attitude, or the fact that the fuzzy haired fellow in the top hat could play his guitar like nobody's business.

All I knew is that they didn't sound like anything else I've heard before or since.  And it affected me like no music has before or since.  I was hooked.  I'd listen to their Use Your Illusion albums, I & II, on constant repeat for weeks at a time.

One of the great things about long car rides by yourself is that it gives you time to think.  A few weeks ago I went on such a drive. As a lark I put on the Use Your Illusion II album, and, as is required to appreciate a good hard rock album, I cranked the stereo up to 11, put my foot down, and soaked in the music while eating up the miles.

While I motored along I remembered how much I loved this album as a teen, and, armed with the additional perspective of having an additional 20-odd years of life experience under my belt, I finally started to understand why.

I believe that music should affect you in some way.  Good music should move you.  Great music should take you on a journey.  That is exactly what G'n'R did.  They took me an epic journey, and they do it like nobody else.

Many of their songs cover deep emotional topics in a no-holds-barred sort of way.  This isn't new, but where most bands hide their deep thoughts behind cryptic lyrics and basic hard rock guitar rifts,  G'n'R wears their emotions on their sleeve - lyrically and, most importantly, musically.

As an example, The Without You trilogy (Don't Cry, November Rain, and Estranged), is the painful story of a man dealing with the suicide of his girlfriend.  Estranged especially, in my opinion their greatest work, shrugs off the 'verse chorus verse solo chorus' recipe and heads off on a 9 minute roller coaster of grief, loss, anger, angst, gut twisting pain, confusion, and finally acceptance, presented in a series of lyrical thoughts followed by amazing guitar solos.  It is almost symphonic in presentation (as much as a rock band can be).  It is highly introspective, and raw with emotion.

It is tightly woven together: lyrics, guitar, drums, bass, piano.  Every note and drum beat purposely positioned in the song to take you on a journey, as if in lock step.  It is both beautiful and brutal.

It is a journey I've never personally been on, nor wish to personally experience, but I feel it in my gut every time I hear the song.  It is intense.  It is addictive.  It is genius itself, and in my experience, utterly unique.

I can't get enough of it. Luckily the G'n'R' catalog has plenty of these sorts of songs to fill the void.

Of course it doesn't hurt that the band had musical talent coming out of their ears. Axl Rose is widely considered one of the best vocalists in rock, and Slash's dominance of the guitar, and his unique sound, earns him a place on most lists of rock gods.  The rest of the band are not exactly musical slouches either.

 There are few lists of top rock songs that don't include at least one G'n'R epic, often several.

Its clear that the band had its issues.  They were famous for it, and it eventually tore the band apart prematurely. However those issues came out in their music in a very honest and palpable way.  They generated pure unfettered, brutally honest rock n'roll,  and let it all come out on the albums.

Its this raw talent mixed with the authenticity of their music that really speaks to me, and grabbed me as that high school kid.  Talent and honesty are things I value now in almost anything I tend to appreciate in life, and with influences like G'n'R, its no wonder.

So this is why I consider the Use Your Illusions II album specifically, and Guns N' Roses in general, as some of the best musical experiences in the world.  At least from where I sit.

Your opinions will likely vary, and I suspect by quite a bit. Music is, after all, a very personal thing. All I know is that when I finally shrug off this mortal coil, and St. Peter opens wide those pearly gates, the song I  really hope the choir of angels will be singing is "Paradise City."

Oh, won't you please take me home.

John's River Kids Cache

This weekend, while my wife was away at a Quilt Guild retreat in the mountains, I played the part of "Single Dad".

Last week a new cache was published about 10 miles away that was designed for kids.

So after church I strapped the kids into their car seats in the Geovan of Destiny, and drove over to the cache.  Note that this involved strategic dressing for both church and the trails.

Zeke has been anxious to go geocaching again for awhile now, so he was excited to get out of the car.  Abigail... wasn't.  So I ended up carrying her the 500ft to GZ.

They say the first step is the hardest.  This was true today as the first steps were up a steep hill
Once at GZ Zeke made the find quickly.  Abigail started getting into the swing of things when she started looking into the contents of the cache.
Abigail walked all the way back to the Geovan of Destiny all on her own (with a small assist by daddy over the fallen log).  She really embraced the idea of being brave like her big brother.

It was on the way back that I realized that dressing my daughter in a pattern naturally selected to be good camouflage may not have been a brilliant idea.
When we got back to the big hill both kids were in the adventuring spirit, and it became a play ground for a few minutes.
So with smileys all around, we packed up and headed off to grab some lunch. Another fun geocaching adventure in the books.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The GeoTrails Of Spartanburg South Carolina

Spartanburg South Carolina is home to several geotrails.  I figure it was about time I experienced some of them. Luckily I had a free day thanks to Labour Day.

So with this mission in mind, on Labour Day I left the house at the crack of dark and drove the 2 hours over to Spartanburg SC to see if I could put a dent into some of the geotrails in the area.

If you are not aware, a geotrail is basically a series of caches that revolve around a theme - normally features of an area - and as one finds caches one gathers information and records it into a passport.  When completed, the passport can be traded in for a geocoin.

I started my day doing the Hub City Spartanburg Geotrail.  This is a series of caches that takes one to various parks, walking trails, and cultural centers (art councils and community theaters), all clustered fairly closely around the city.  There are 25 caches on this geotrail, and one needs to complete at least 20 of them to qualify for a geocoin.  I ended up attempting all 25, however I DNFd one.

For this trail one had to collect a code hidden in the geocache and record it in the passport (which is, basically, just a paper with a grid of geocache listings on it).

Some of the geocaches were basic magnetic key holders, bison tubes, and lock'n'lock containers. However a couple were really cool containers like this one:
The majority of the caches along the Hub City Geotrail were in parks of some sort or another. Several were in a large green space in the middle of a city, which featured a series of trails running through some woodland, and along this really pretty lake.
The park also featured some sports fields, including this baseball park for Spartanburg High School (Go Vikings!)

Another cache was near an American Legion, which featured a really nicely done, and nicely placed, civil war monument.
At one of the artsy place (an artists maker space sort of thing I believe, tho don't quote me), a geocache was displayed along with the other sculptures.  So from now on, if anyone gives you grief about geocaching being a silly sport for geeks, you can show em this picture and respond with "It is not just geolocation of tupperware - it is an art unto itself!  You're welcome.
I finished the Hub City Geotrail around lunch time.  After lunch I started work on the Heritage Geotrail. This trail involved a lot more driving around. However it features a lot of places of historical significance to the local county, including this rather rustic looking cabin in the woods.
The Heritage Geotrail took me to a lot of historical signs (some easy to spot, some not so much).  I took some awesome shots of them, however they often contain information needed to complete the trail, so they are not shown to avoid spoilers.

However I also ran across this rather small, but old looking, post office.

I ran out of time before I could complete the Heritage Geotrail, but I got most of it done.  I'll just have to head back to Spartanburg someday to complete it, and tackle some more of the trails in the area.

The geotrails are really well done. I saw a lot of cool things, and learned some great history along the way.  It was a really fun and educational day of geocaching, and isn't that really what its all about?

If you are every in the Spartanburg area, and want to do some geocaching, you can't go wrong by doing one of these geotrails.

Have you completed a Geotrail in your area? Tell me about it in the comments below.

National Bike Challenge Success

This year I have been participating in the National Bike Challenge.  It is an effort to promote and increase cycling, and runs from May 1st to September 30th.  

My goals for this year were to get Platinum level (2500 points), and to log 1,000 miles. I hit Platinum last month, and today on my commute to work  I logged my 1,000th mile.

Mission accomplished.

I even have 2 weeks to spare.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Guardians Of The Cache

You know its going to be an interesting experience when you walk up to ground zero, spot the bison tube, and as you reach for it, you also spot the guardians:

You can see the cable tie holding the ring of the bison tube in the shot. I got what I needed and left as quickly as possible. Creep out factor: +10.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, September 08, 2014

Heavy Metal Tolkien: Lego Edition

To anyone who has read or watched The Hobbit or Lord Of The Rings, it is obvious that J R R Tolkiens works Are full of song and verse.  Most people picture them as folk tunes, or old time ballads.  However, given the harsh realities of metal and flame that the orcs and Sauron represent, that also feature heavily in Tolkiens works, what if we got it wrong and they are more Mordor than Shire?

Imagine if you will, just for fun, that those songs were actually metal songs, and they were performed by Lego minifigs.

I present to you  my vision of heavy metal album art from a band of characters from Middle Earth: Lego Edition.

UPDATE: I didn't like the old title, so I updated it so something more acceptable (Lego art is such a fickle business).

Lead Guitar: Gandalf The Wizard
Bag Pipes: Shagrat The Orc
Drums: Meriadoc Brandybuck
Vocals: Bilbo Baggins
Bass Guitar: Beorn

Original image with old text:

Sunday, September 07, 2014

My Lil'Quadcopter

I have been wanting to play with quadcopters for a long time (before they were cool - almost like I was chanelling my inner hipster).   A month or so ago it was reccomended that I start small, so I bought a $75 Hubsan X4 H107C.

The quadcopter is small, about the size of my hand, and fairly rugged, so it makes a good starter kit.  It also comes with a 2MP HD video camera, which takes decent movies.

I have about an hours worth of flight time in at this point, and I've managed to fly it for several minutes before crashing it to the ground like some sort of disaster film.

One issue I am having is that when the quadcopter turns, it seems to also gain altitude, so I have to adjust the throttle, which sometimes causes it to plummet to the ground, so bouncing it off the lawn has become sort of a past time with me.

I have a video of some of my first attempts at flight, followed by some action shots.  Very exciting.

Note at the end I was able to land the drone in my hand.  Not bad for an hours practice, eh?

I have found launching from my hand works best, as well.  

Don't let the small size fool you - this thing can move.  It doesn't take long for it to whisk its way across my back yard, and get lost in the grass. At times the kids have functioned as a search and rescue crew (handy, that).
It also takes a disturbingly short period of time to get really high up.  Being so small, I have lost it a couple times in the sun.  I've also bounced it off the roof. Fortunately it landed on the driveway at the front of the house. (Disturbingly I was in the backyard at the time).
This is promising to become a lot of fun.  

It doesn't have a name yet tho.  I am thinking of calling it 'Mosquito', cause its small, and makes a whiny drone when the blades are spinning.  What do you think?  Suggestions welcome.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Lenoir Sculpture Festival 2014 (Part 2)

More pics from the Lenoir Sculpture Festival we attended today. (Click here for part one).

This wire bird is 6ft high.
President Barack Obama giving his stump speech to some Democratic Blue Dogs. (get it?)
 This is almost my favourite sculpture of the festival. It reminds me of something from Tolkein - except the hand and foot in the middle.  This was called something like the creation of man... sometimes artists are a little too obvious with their symbology.

This looks like fun! I want a turn next.
This wired fellow is life sized.

I really want to go geocaching here.
This is definitely a highlight of the festival, and really needs to be placed outside a library somewhere.
The Dude abides.
This sculpture is supped to be about sadness, grief and loss.
 I really liked the colours in this one.  Sculptures tend to be very monochromatic. This one is vibrant with colours.

Thats all from the festival.  Do you have a favourite?  Let me know in the comments below!