Wednesday, October 01, 2014

2015 Letterboxing Calendars are HERE!

The calendars took a bit longer to arrive than I expected, but at long last, they have arrived!!!! 

Yep, admire the calming scenery taken by Yak King blues, Crafty Lobster, frankie and benjy, Keepupwjoneses, Yiker, The Wolf Family, 55 Steps, LaBef2010, Nature Hikers and myself.

Ponder the thoughtful quotes.

Know that you'll never forget Wassa's birthday ever again.

Because this calendar has it all! =)

Check it out and order yours today!


Monday, September 01, 2014

Hike a Thoning!

Imagine your favorite hiking trail. It probably leads to a scenic viewpoint or gorgeous waterfall, right? But one thing you probably don't think about is the work that goes into maintaining them. You'll notice it when it's not maintained--the mud, those thorny bushes reaching out to scratch you, or climbing over and under logs that have fallen across the trail. You'll notice when you lose the trail completely because it's unmarked or overgrown or the bridge crossing that raging river has washed away.

And the Washington Trails Association (WTA) helps make sure you don't notice the trail so you can admire those great views and raging waterfalls. A good trail is a lot of work. It's also hard on tools, like this shovel I recently broke while trying to pry a rock out of the trail. Well, that rock is still in the trail--it never did come out--but shovels don't grow on trees. If they did, the WTA wouldn't need money to buy and fix shovels--after all, they spend a lot of time around trees and could just grow them instead.

But shovels don't grow on trees. Neither do Pulaskis. Nor cross-cut saws. Nor axes or grub-hoes--none of these essential tools for trail maintenance grows on trees. The good thing, though--these tools aren't especially expensive either. Just $10 might be enough to fix or replace an essential tool. It might not seem like much, but a tool here and a tool there--it adds up!

As I do every August, I participate in the Washington Trail Association's (WTA) Hike-a-Thon! I have to admit, this August, I was pretty pathetic. The last week of July, I did some trail work with the WTA and I intended to blog about it during August and I started the blog entry, but alas, I never finished. Seemed like more pressing matters kept getting in my way.
Now it's September and the Hike-a-Thon is "officially" over and I never once even blogged about it this year! So thanks to those who donated to the cause without any prompting AT ALL from myself! (Alisa, Steven, Barbara, Erica, and Jeffrey!) Although I suspect Amanda might have encouraged more than one of them....

However, it's not too late to donate. They're still collecting money for another week or two--those personal checks, I guess, take time to work their way through the mail system to their offices.

I use a small saw to cut out this log that's fallen across the trail.
 So, here's my offer. In less than 24 hours, I'll be heading off to the land of kilts (Scotland) to do some sightseeing and hiking, and for anyone who donates $5 or more under MY account will get a postcard from me from Scotland! And maybe I'll even email you a photo of me wearing a kilt. Maybe.... no promises on that. ;o)

So help buy a tool. Just sponsor me to make a donation, and thank you for your generosity! To make sure you get the postcard okay, it might be a good idea to email me your current address. The WTA won't provide me with it, and while I might have many of your addresses if you've ordered something from Atlas Quest over the years, I can't know if the address is out of date or not. So to make sure you get your postcard sooner rather than later, contact me directly and let me know!

Also, at this point.... please NO personal checks anymore. Amanda and I won't be home to process them until it's too late to count towards Hike-a-Thon, so at this point, all donations must be online.


After our work was done for the day, I went for a paddle around
Snoqualmie Lake in this little raft. I sooo want to buy one of these things!
(Completely off topic, though...)

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's that time of year again!

Here's a photo I took on the Long Trail last autumn that I'm thinking
about using in the calendar. But I'm willing to reconsider....
If you got some great shots, let me see them! =)
No, this isn't a back-to-school ad. It's not a summer doldrums reminder. Nope, it's that time of year when I sit down and create next year's letterboxing calendar!

If you have some photos that you think would look great in a calendar, upload them now! I'll probably sit down and create the calendar in another week or so.

Happy trails!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

F-summaries have arrived!

It occurred to me one day that sometimes, seeing the list of finds and attempts on a letterbox is just too much information. I don't really care who the last 10 finders were or when the box was last found. But there are patterns in the finds and attempts on a box that can be useful to see. If the last 5 people who looked for a box succeeded in finding it, there's probably a strong probability that the box is still there. And likewise, if the last 5 people who looked for it couldn't find the box, there's a good chance that the letterbox really is missing.

A hard to find letterbox might have a lot of attempts interspersed with the finds, and a box that has been replaced after it went missing might have a long series of attempts followed by a long series of finds.

There's a lot of information you can glean from patterns, but the finds page is overloaded with too much information! Wouldn't it be nice just to see the pattern of finds and attempts? So that's what the F-summary does. The finds page is still there if you'd like to take a closer look at the who and when of the finds and attempts, but just by looking at the pattern, you might decide you don't even need that information. Or maybe you'll see something in the pattern that makes you want to check out the finds and attempts in more detail.

An example of F-summaries on my Los Osos Oaks series.
Now, a little about how the F-summary works.... Most of the time, you'll see a series of characters such as FFFFFFFFxxxFFxx. The green F's, not surprisingly, represent finds. The red x's represent attempts. (Using capital A's seemed like it blended in too much with the F's, so I went with lowercase x's.) It will only display the last 15 attempts and finds--patterns before then probably don't mean much. They're read from left to right, so the oldest find and attempts will be on the left and the most recent activity will be on the right. The last successful find will have a small circle around it--the last find date will be pointing to that. (I couldn't make the circle in this blog so just imagine that last F has one!)

F-summaries when attempts on the box are hidden show a hit-ratio instead.

For those of you who've hidden attempts on your boxes, AQ will still respect that and not display the list of finds and attempts. Instead, it'll display a less useful summary and include a hit-ratio instead--the number of successful finds compared to the total number of attempts and finds. So if our previous example had finds hidden, you wouldn't see all of those F's and x's. You'd see "10/15 (67%)" instead. Ten out of the last fifteen people, about 67%, were successful in finding the box. All else being equal, the higher the success ratio, the better chances you'll have of finding a box.

When both finds and attempts are hidden, no F-summaries are displayed.

And for those who have chosen to hide both finds and attempts on a box... no F-summary will be displayed at all.


Saturday, April 05, 2014

More Server Downtime....

As many of you have noticed, AQ has been running poorly ever since the server migration and I'm still working on getting things fixed up and running normally again. As a result, I expect to take AQ down for several hours Sunday morning/afternoon. If things go really well, it could be down for less than an hour, but I expect it'll take several hours. If things go really bad, it could be down all day. But I'm shooting for just a few hours.

I really am sorry for the inconvenience! If it's any consolation at all, though, it's probably an even bigger inconvenience for me than it is for you! =)

You might think I'm just saying that, but I was supposed to be starting my Arizona Trail thru-hike today after already postponing it nearly two weeks, but--for the second time--I'm delaying the start of my hike for this stupid server migration problem!

I'd rather be hiking right now.... but AQ needs me. *nodding*

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

April Fools!

Yeah, so the upside down themes of yesterday were the 2014 April Fools Day prank for Atlas Quest. All the other problems the site has been having--the downtime, broken features, and so on--were not. I know more than one of you thought the whole server migration was a joke, but it was very much real and truly dreadful timing.

I'm still having some minor problems with the new server which I'm working out. Queries are running slower than they should be. I'll have to restart the server occasionally and unexpectedly, although at this point, I don't expect anymore prolonged downtimes. *knock on wood*

If you missed the upside-down and skewed themes or want to revisit them again, they are available as AQ themes. You probably won't want to leave him enabled for very long, though! =)

My favorite of the bunch is the heavily skewed ones, like the Skew Left theme. They don't even look like real websites! Looks like something digitally manipulated in PhotoShop or something

If you want to thank the person who thought of the upside-down theme, that would be our very own Amanda from Seattle. =) She suggested it as an idea years ago, but at the time, I didn't have a clue how to make it work. There were some very new CSS3 properties that could do the trick, but no browsers supported them at the time.

I revisited the idea this year, though, when I learned that all major browsers now support the necessary properties in some form or another. The most common browser that doesn't support the properties are old versions of Internet Explorer--usually a handicap, although the irony in this case is that the people using them were probably left scratching their heads wondering what the heck everyone else was talking about. =)

So I created the original April Fools Flip theme, which took all of about 10 minutes to do. I used this theme for about 5 seconds before I realized that the site was all but impossible to use. I couldn't leave it like that for an entire day! Which is when I started playing with other variations.

Like, what if everything was upside-down, except the main content window that is the most important part of the page? So I flipped the headers, footers and menubars, which is still awkward to use, but at least it was easy to read the content. The menubars were awkward, but because those are always the same and most people are pretty familiar with them, I could get by with them. Annoying, but not a deal breaker.....

The code to do these upside-down themes basically just say, "turn a specific element 180 degrees" to flip a page, but I can turn it any number of degrees. Why just use 180? Why not 90 degrees? Or 45 degrees?

So I tried those, but they didn't work out so well. The pages turned, but if it was a long page, it would go off on the right side of the page and there wouldn't even be a scroll bar to see what was missing. I wound up tilting the page 1 degree and most of the page stayed within the side bounds of the browser window, so I kept that variation. Almost like a drunken theme....

I also realized that I could rotate elements that had already been rotated! That's how the disorder theme was created. I rotated the entire page 180 degrees, then rotated just the header, content, menubars and footer in place 180 degrees, so the entire page actually ends rightside-up... but each of the elements are completely in the wrong order. Which I actually found surprisingly disorienting even though I could still work through it. That was a keeper.

And then I wanted to create a theme that was wrong, but at first glace, it seemed okay. Which is when I created the menubar flip. Only the menubars were upside-down and at a glance, that's not at all obvious. Not until you try to hover a mouse cursor over it and the dropdown menu goes up. I probably clicked the "Home" button more often using that theme than any other day in the history of AQ thinking it was the "My Page" button. =)

Anyhow, I hope you all enjoyed the shenanigans! And if you didn't.... well, blame Amanda. ;o)


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Smartphone-friendly changes!

As many of you know, I've working to update AQ to be more smart-phone friendly, and I recently uploaded some CSS changes to help in that direction.

Obviously, mobile devices can be turned in all sorts of directions--up, down, sideways--and it's even possible that different people can look at the same device from different directions, so I added some code that automatically detects from which direction people are viewing the page and orients that page to face them.

Apparently, there have a been a few glitches, which I think I've straightened out now, but due to caching issues, you might have to "refresh" your page a couple of times to get them to take effect.

Sorry about that!


Friday, March 28, 2014

AQ downtime starting Sunday!

Just a heads up here! On Sunday, March 30th, I intend to move Atlas Quest from a server in California to a server in Virginia. This will require some downtown for the website. If all goes well, it won't be down for more than a few hours.

HOWEVER--this change means that Atlas Quest will get a new IP address and bad things can happen when I change IP addresses. It converts the domain name atlasquest.com into a numeric address that your browser can find, and your browser won't be able to find the new server until the IP address is updated. In theory, though shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. In practice, some people have reported having to wait days or even a WEEK before the address updates when I've changed IP addresses in the past.

Consequently, if you plan to do any letterboxing in the next week or so, I'd start hustling to download and saving clues that you'll need right now. Hopefully it will all just be an unnecessary precaution, but starting Sunday morning/afternoon, AQ may appear to be down for a considerable period of time for some people.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parchment Paper Transfer

It's been awhile since I've added or updated any of the tutorials on Atlas Quest, and one I've wanted to add for quite some time now is how to transfer an image to a carving block with parchment paper.

And.... it's been done! If you aren't familiar with this technique, all you need is parchment paper, a little tape and an ink jet printer. Very quick and easy. *nodding* Enjoy! =)

How to transfer image to a carving block with parchment paper

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

There's a New Widget in Town....

Most of you know about Wassa--he's not quiet or shy. =) But there's another webmaster on AQ you might not know about named Admin 42, and he/she doesn't post much so you might not even know of their existence.

However! He/she does read the message boards, and there was a request some time ago to create a calendar widget that could display when trackers, events and such that you've signed up for start. I liked the idea and bookmarked it to implement later, but Admin 42 didn't want to wait and took it upon themselves to create such a widget.

And it's now available. He/she still says the widget is a work in progress, but it currently does include listings for trackers you've signed up for and any entries you've added to the Countdown Widget. (For those of you not familiar with the Countdown Widget, it's a premium member only widget.) Event signups are still a work in progress, but I suspect those will be supported soon enough as  well!

The Calendar Widget will also be just for premium members--at least for now while Admin 42 is still actively working on it. I haven't decided if I'll open it up for everyone when the widget is "done," but for now, premium members who want to kick the tires, go the Add Widgets page and add the Calendar Widget! It's pretty awesome! =)