Geocache

The problems with paperless geocaching

Those with GPS receivers know the problems of their devices all too well.

It’s frustrating when your unit claims that you’re just a few feet from ground zero just to have the GPS suddenly jump and say you’re 20 feet away in the opposite direction… then you walk to the new coordinates to have it jump again saying your now 50 feet away in a different direction altogether.

This dance involves staring down at the GPS while blindly walking in circles that could include stepping into piles of excrement or into oncoming traffic. The problem could be blamed on signal echos or signal obstruction, both which make sense in areas with dense trees or tall buildings, but the root of the issue is too much dependence on the electronic device.

Such was my fate last weekend. It’s okay now … the gummy fecal canine deposits have been kicked, scraped and walked off … but as a result I’ve decided to review the rudimentary way I work the caches.

I know a couple of geocachers who worked almost solely off of printed maps. The maps had handwritten scribbles and notes to suppliment the printed Geocache codes and pins. We drove or walked about locating the next item on the list, but navigated solely off printed maps. This has me thinking about the printed map advantages:

  1. Better planning
    By planning what you plan to do, you’ll be better prepared. Are there caches in the woods? Bring hiking gear. Are they in the city? Wear walking shoes.
  2. Less chance of overzealous hunting
    Knowing that there are ten other caches on the map, hunters are less likely to spend an hour on one difficult to find cache.
  3. More attention to the environment and surroundings
    Instead of going strictly off of coordinates, there was more observation work going on.
  4. No accidental puzzle caches
    Some cache owners accidentally put the wrong category icon for the cache. Going off of the iPhone app, the result is spending time to get to a location then, after ten minutes of searching around, reading the details to find out it’s a puzzle cache. However, if you prepared the trip through a printed map, you don’t depend on instant information so you have to print all that information out at the time, meaning you likely noticed this snafu beforehand and either solve the puzzle before heading out, or don’t waste your time going to the original coordinates… either way makes a happier outing.

On our next outing we’ll try the other extreme and put away our GPS receivers, using a purely printed approach and report what happens. Stay tuned.

Wine App Mini-Review

I’ve been looking for an app that allows me to capture the essence of wines that I’ve tasted, display the results of others for wines I haven’t tasted, view the label, the price and the wine maker’s description in a clean interface. Data input must be easy and, because of the nature of wine, must have access to an extensive database. I would also insist on the ability to back up the data.

In the journey to find such an application, I’ve come across a good number of wine apps. Indeed, there are over 100 free wine apps in the app store, though I haven’t tested nearly half of them. I thought it might be of interest to others, as well as a brief documentation for myself, to post the brief findings of wine apps that I’ve toyed with. This post is a work in progress and has incomplete data. It will be updated as time allows. One of the most disturbing lack of features is the ability to back up your database. Without that ability it’s impossible to reach a 5 star rating. Nobody wants to spend hours scanning labels, entering their taste experiences and typing in their inventory to get it erased.

App Properties Notes My Rating
Wine Events

by Local Wine Events.com

Wine Tasting Events Calendar Shows wine and beer tasting events in cities around your area.
 
NY Wine & Food Pairings

by New York Wine and Grape Foundation

General Wine Reference Guide

Food and Wine Pairings Guide
Shows grapes, wine flavors and food pairings. General wine information.
Wine Ph.D.
General Wine Reference Guide

Wine Restaurant/Winery Search

Food and Wine Pairings Guide

Wine News

Search and Browse by Winery, Varietal, Region and Pairing

Wine Ph.D. Ratings

Lists Average Cost of Wine

Displays Wine Label Images

Displays Winemaker Notes

Allows Personal Wine Inventory Database

Stores Personal Wine Tastings
Interface is attractive, but a bit touchy. Feels like it tries to be too much, which can complicate the flow, but handles the various jobs well.
Hello Vino
Food and Wine Pairings Guide

Occasion and Wine Pairings Guide

Wine Reviews

Search by Varietal, Price, Vintage, Region, Rating, State and Stock (based on wine.com)
Browse by Pairing

Wine Ratings

Wine Prices

Shopping (wine.com)

Displays Wine Label Images

Displays Winemaker Notes

Twitter and Facebook integration
Appears to be based off of the wine.com database. Browsing is very limited. Intended to help you find a wine by pairing or find a pairing by wine.
Noble Wine
General Wine Reference Guide Strictly a reference or learning app that teaches the basics of wine and its styles, types, making, laws and composition. No images.
Tesco Wine Finder

by Tesco.com

Wine search By Scanning Label (but very limited in its findings)

Shake for Random Wine

Provides Wine Prices and shopping (tesco.com)

Displays Wine Labels

Displays Winemaker Notes
Although you can search by scanning the label, it’s very limited in its findings. There’s a selector that allows you to pick characteristics of wine, then it searches for a random wine in its database that matches that criteria. It’s an interesting idea, but without a huge google-esque database of wine labels and without a faster image recognition algorithm, it’s pretty destined to fail. I.E. it’s a novelty app, but not very useful.
Corkbin

by Inmite

Requires an account

Food and Wine Pairings Guide

Wine Reviews and Ratings by other Corkbin Users

Browse Wine by Friend or Vicinity

Displays Wine Labels

Stores Personal Wine Tastings

Integrates with Twitter, Facebook and Blogs
This app is intended to make wine tasting into a social network product of its own. You taste wine, take a picture of the label and share your experience in a short sentence. People follow each other like twitter.
iWine Journal
Personal Wine Inventory DB

Stores Personal Wine Tastings
Very basic app that stores your typed in values for wines you have tasted.
Grape-It
Personal Wine Inventory DB

Stores Personal Wine Tastings
Like iWine Journal, this is a very basic app that stores your typed in values for wines you have tasted.
Wine Notes

by William Lindmeier

Searches and Browses wines you’ve entered

Personal Wine Inventory DB

Stores Personal Wine Tastings
Comprehensive Wine Inventory app. You can’t search the internet for a wine and copy it into your inventory, but it has some fantastic properties. For example, you can move sliders until the color on the screen mimics that of your wine. You also have some keen sliders in the profie. You also have nearly 60 flavors to build a combination from. I would almost call this one of the best wine inventory apps out there, but I have yet to try some of the competition.
Geocache

What A Day Out Geocaching Is Like

Most people who would have interest in reading this blogpost are already geocachers. Some might be new to the activity, from which they’ll peer into it like a voyeur or a student. This is just a description of what a day out geocaching is like for me and my family.

First we prepare. It usually starts when I get up and my wife asks what I want to do today. I answer “Geocache” almost as instantly as a teen girl from the 80’s would say “Go to the Mall”. Then the scrambling begins.

Children and adults get dressed and help others get dressed, then eat breakfast.

I usually grab a flashlight, pocket knife, iPhone and wallet. Then we get our swag box. It’s a child’s toy fishing tackle box filled with trinkets we swap for those we like in caches we find. I usually stuff a few trinkets in my pockets because we inevitably come across a tough terrain where nobody wants to carry around a tackle box.

Usually without much planning we decide on an area of town to try as we gather in the family minivan. There are no printed maps. There are no goals other than finding a few caches with trinkets for the kids to trade and having fun. So the iPhone is pulled out since it’s our only GPS and we travel around to an area and start hunting for caches.

My ratio of finds, with or without my family, is about four out of five. When we hit those 80%, the kids are excited and having fun. Usually my wife or I find them first and we encourage the kids to look for signs… “do you see something that doesn’t look like it belongs?” we usually say. Then when the kids find it they’re cheering and shouting even if it’s a microcache. My wife and I feed off the energy and can’t help but smile. Some caches are cleverly hidden and disguised, but most are not. We then sign the log and leave talking about it, peaked enough by the excitement to motivate us to the next cache no matter how tired and hungry we are.

When we hit upon that 20% that is usually not found, I search it out hard. If I’m with others (namely children), they find their patience pushed to the limit while I stumble through juniper bushes (I hate juniper bushes – nasty bushessessess), wade through mud and get my face poked by tree branches. If someone posted a note or comment that the cache was easy to find that only adds to everyone’s frustration and my deliberation of dragging them through the junipers (nasty busshessessess), mud and trees with me.

It’s usually at this point that I realize it’s past noon, the family is tired, hungry and irritated and I reluctantly herd them home, leaving the DNF behind.

We log our finds and non-finds (DNFs) along the way. Sometimes if the network is sketchy we keep them in queue and sync up our logs when we get into a location with WiFi. On that note, we’re pretty good about logging DNFs. It’s embarrassing at times, but on that same 80/20 rule, 20% of our DNFs occur because the cache was removed (taken/destroyed/muggled/etc) and our part in logging the DNF helps the cache owner make that determination.

Only once were we the first to find a cache and it was our youngest, the four-year-old, who pointed out where it was. Finding a cache for the first time is like exploring through virgin territory. You don’t know what you’ll find there but you know it will be great. Nicer swag, bragging rights, but more importantly, an unadulterated theme that the cache owner wanted to present. Some caches are filled with theme based swag. Over time that personality becomes erased with the homogenization of cachers’ individual interests as they trade swag.

Eventually only the happier memories remain. I spent time with my kids. They learned something new. My wife and I had some bonding time. But late at night … in the buzzing stillness that sometimes tickles the mind and keeps me awake … that DNF in the junipers continues to haunt me back to restless sleep.