Friday, May 29, 2009

Same wet spot - new and improved box

I created a special administrative page to list all of the varied responses included in the "first aid" section for letterboxes. The feature gets abused a lot, but I didn't really have an easy, systematic way to get rid of all of the fluff showing up in it. So I finally made a special page that displays to me every single box with a first aid request, and more specifically, what the request is.

I'd say of all the boxes listed, about half of them have used the first aid box incorrectly. The first aid option is meant to request help from finders of your box. Perhaps a full logbook needs to be replaced, or a cracked container needs to be replaced. Or maybe a stamp is missing and you hope someone can replace it for you.

It's a request--a call for help. It's not supposed to be used to write your clues, it's not supposed to be used to tell others that the box has moved or that the box is missing. It's not to warn that there is poison ivy in the area or that people should carry sunscreen or bug spray.

My favorite 'first aid' comment so far is the one in this title: "Same wet spot - new and improved box!" It sounds so.... well.... Taken out of context, it's really quite hilarious. But, again, if that's the kind of message you are leaving for first aid requests, it's being misused.

Here are some other examples of how NOT to use the first aid:

* bring your swimming and snorkel gear!
* Bring Binoculars -- Leave the Dogs at Home!
* May have been destroyed in a wild fire - unsure of it's status. [Note: Change the status of the box to unknown.]
* missing [Note: Change the status of the box to unavailable]
* Box has been replaced. See updated clue.
* reported possibly missing 5/2007
* construction at the zoo might have eliminated this box
* Several reports of this box trying to swim to Europe...
* the recent torrential rains may have washed this letterbox down slope--wonder if it's in the neighboring detritus? [Note: This is probably better mentioned in the clues itself.]
* Mosquito repellant
* Probably washed away in recent rains
* Currently missing from the gathering. It's not a cootie.
* Ok
* watch out for blackberry brambles.
* Gone baby gone
* theres a new clue at !
* Box found in nearby garbage can. Will replant soon.
* HELP ME!!!! [Note: Okay, technically it is asking for help, but since it fails to describe what help is needed, it's not very useful.]
* none
* Stamp and logbook replaced
* Caution-Box fills with water. Please carefully rebag
* Beginning 01/05/08- this park will be closed on Sundays
* Reported missing after first finders. I have yet to verify. [Note: That's called an unknown status]
* Boxes to be replaced soon.
* Box pulled for the winter! Come back in the spring! Thanks! [Note: Change the status of the box, or at least mark it using the new seasonal attribute.]
* may be on the ground, at the base of the tree, or fell into the woods.
* Heard that the bench might be gone! :( [Note: This kind of stuff should be in the clue!]
* I've moved from the area.... so as time goes by this box might need maintnence..... thanks
* I've been told the area around this box is under construction and may not be available at this time.....

Here are real examples of the proper use of the first aid option:

* Needs rescue from new construction in area [Note: This is slightly different than the last example of what not to do. Here, the person is asking for help to rescue their box. In the example of what not to do, the person is telling you that the box may or may not be unavailable--therefore, the status is unknown. The person doing the finding is not being asked to help in any way.]
* Needs outside of box marked. Adoption requests welcome! [Note: The first part of this is okay. Adoption requests are best left directly in the clue itself.]
* A new logbook might be nice, maybe someone could help.
* I need a sandwich sized box RIGHT AWAY!
* Logbooks Full! [Note: I'm assuming, of course, that the person is requesting to have the logbooks replaced.]
* logbook is wet, so if you can replace it with a small, dry book, it would be much appreciated. [Note: Basically the same thing, but better worded. =)]
* Clues need to be verified!
* Stamp missing - if willing to help replace it, please email me

In related news..... As I find first aid comments about "box missing" or "possibly missing," I've been changing the status of the boxes to reflect the comments, then removing the comments. It's always better to change the status so people can better sort through active boxes from missing ones.

I've now gone through all of the first aid comments on boxes marked as active, unknown, or unavailable and removed the ones that were being misused. I still need to go through the retired boxes, but that's probably not nearly as critical since most of you aren't searching for retired boxes anyhow. But I need lunch, so the retired boxes will wait until later today!

The Results are In!

Plant-A-Letterbox Day has come and gone. For those of us out here in California, it was a beautiful cloudless day.

The official results can be seen on the Plant-a-Letterbox Day page of Atlas Quest. I waited a bit for stragglers who had planted boxes but not yet listed them or their clues had a chance to list their boxes. I figure by now, most people should have, but the numbers could still change slightly as more time passes.

As of this minute, the final results are:

Total boxes listed764
Total traditional listed684
Total non-traditional listed80

Total number of planters306
Total for traditional planters284
Total for non-traditional planters47

A detailed breakdown isn't available on Atlas Quest, so I'll mention some of the more interesting details here.

Breakdown by Type
Traditionals: 684
Hitchhikers: 21
Virtuals: 6
Postals: 10
Personal Travelers: 5
Cooties: 10
LTCs: 13
Event Boxes: 9
Others: 6

Top Ten by State
New York: 142
Washington: 56
North Carolina: 55
Michigan: 43
Oregon: 37
Ohio: 34
California: 32
Ontario: 31 (okay, not a state, but close enough!)
Georgia: 25
Pennsylvania: 24

Top Ten Planters (traditional boxes only)
Scout: 37
Milagro: 16
Water Lily: 14
FourWaters: 11
Sahlie: 11
Eiryn: 11
turtlelove: 11
Pioneer Spirit: 10
Turtle Song: 9
Gischer Gryffindors: 9

Next year, Plant-a-Letterbox Day falls on a Monday. It's Memorial Day Monday, but still, a Monday, so I figure there will likely be similar results next year. That'll likely be the last good year for most people since subsequent years will be during the work week. In 2006 and 2007, the day fell on a work day, and the number of plants exploded last year when it finally fell on a Saturday. I suspect 2011 it'll drop again accordingly. Next year, though.... next year will probably be similar to this year.

Until next year.... And you actually have 367 days (as of today) until the next Plant-A-Letterbox Day! Start preparing now! =)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Plant a Letterbox Day is Around the Corner!

Sunday, yes, tomorrow, is Plant a Letterbox Day. A mere 83,470 seconds before it begins as of this writing. Are you READY?!

I've been planning a few boxes for over a month now. Sunday itself isn't an especially convenient day for me to plant boxes--I was planning to help my mom out with some wedding shenanigans that day. Friend of the family.

So I hoofed out to Poly Canyon here in San Luis where I found a letterbox, two geocaches, and planted two boxes. (I didn't go to look for geocaches--I found them while looking for places to hide my own boxes!) I had three boxes to plant, so I'm still walking around with one. I'll see about finding a good place for that a little more into town Saturday afternoon. I'd really like to plant one out near Stenner Bridge--an impressive railroad bridge just out beyond Cal Poly and near the California Men's Colony (CMC). The stamp has a criminal holding a gun to someone's head, and I thought it would be fun to make into a story about an escaped convict on the run from the CMC. I don't really feel like hoofing it all the way out there a second time, though, so I might find a place closer in town to hide him.

But Poly Canyon is such the perfect place for it since that's where *I* was once mistaken for an escaped convict. =) The criminal mastermind had escaped the CMC while I was out hiking in Poly Canyon, and an airplane searching for the convict spotted me instead. According to the cops, the clothes I was wearing matched the description of the escaped con, so they sent a platoon of cops out trying to track me down where the airplane spotted me.

Ah, good times.... =)

I might hang onto this stamp until I can make it out to Poly Canyon again. It really needs to be in Poly Canyon. Hmm....

The particular boxes I'm planting are rather elaborate by my usual standards. (My usual standards are "quick and easy," however, so that's not saying much.) Very unique clues, cute little logbooks, and a really neat place that always gets overlooked in all the local guidebooks. I doubt there will be a whole of finders (not a whole lot of letterboxers in these parts), but those that do should certainly find it enjoyable! These are probably the best boxes I've planted in YEARS!

In other news.... I've been playing with the street-level views on Google Maps, and I just know I can make that into a clue somehow. I haven't figured out how--not yet--but the idea intrigues me.... Apparently the Google folks drove by my mom's house last December since I can see all the Christmas decorations up on the house, including the new decorations from last year so I know it was last December and not some other December. (Actually, it could have been the first couple of weeks of Janaury. My mom isn't always fast about taking down Christmas decorations, but I did notice them on several other houses as well which makes me think December is more likely.)

Alas, I couldn't find any pictures of me walking around anywhere. Not in San Luis or in Seattle.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Few Random Photos

Amanda did some trail work for Earth Day, but she was a bit disappointed not to have any pictures of herself actually working! Naturally, it was me taking photos of her, so I had them all. =)

Next is one of the trail sections we help construct. The trail in the picture did not exist when we arrived--the original trail had collapsed into the adjacent river, so we needed to build a new segment. My job was to clear the trail by that enormous root ball on the left. There used to be another stump on the right side of the trail, but I took it out already. The trail the others are standing on is completely new.

A few days later, we headed out to see some tulips. Quite the festival they have going, and I took a few photos which I think look nice. =)

This is my 'money shot.' This first tulip photo was actually the very last one I took, and I worked really hard to get it. I had to find a place that wasn't surrounded with people and where the sun wasn't causing lots of glare. Got down with the dirt for this photo, but I think the results were with it. =)

Here's the picture everyone at the tulip farm got. It's pretty, but the picture really isn't that special.

For Amanda's birthday, we headed off to the little country known as the Netherlands, and this is Amanda's birthday cake. It might be the ugliest birthday cake I've ever seen in my life, which is why I'm sharing it with you. It amuses me. =) Apparently, ordering birthday cakes in Dutch isn't as easy as you may think.

For those of you who don't know it, I do have family! This picture is my sister, Tierra, taken on New Years Day in Boston. I had my sister go out on this dock in the Charles River to give the picture more "shape." It just felt like it needed a figure in the presence. I gotta say, though, it was freakin' cold in Boston. Freakishly cold! We were in Boston visiting our cousin for a birthday party. Good times!

This is my mom. If you've read much of my adventures or blogs, you've probably heard about her. I took this photo last year when she came for a visit in Seattle the day pirates invaded Alki. The pirate look is quite becoming, don't you think? =)

This photo was taken on New Years Eve in Boston. It's the doors on a church, which I thought looked nice. I went out as soon as it started snowing--snow is so rare where I live!--finding pictures to take in the snow when I came across these doors.

These next photos are in a decidedly warmer climate: Bermuda. A bunch of us went on a letterboxing cruise, and when I saw this bike, I had to get a picture of it. I don't see too many bikes like this anymore!

And here's a sign on a beach. I'm a sucker for signs like these. =)

And finally, one last sign. This one I found in Florida while hiking around Lake Okeechobee last Thanksgiving. There are a lot of dangers while backpacking, but this was my first time I was warned about errant golf balls.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Marjorie Taken Hostage!

I just got the following note!

Oh, I'm so worried.... What do I do?!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Plant a Letterbox Day is Around the Corner!

Yes, it's that time of year again. In less than two million seconds (!!!!), it will be Plant a Letterbox Day. Last year set a new record for most boxes planted--916. And a full 756 of them were actual, real letterboxes hidden in the woods.

This annual event started in 2006 when spring was in the air, and many people were finally venturing out after their winter of discontent. It was joked that so many boxes would be planted and listed, it could crash Atlas Quest. So May 24th was designated as the day to try to crash Atlas Quest by planting and listing as many boxes as possible.

The crash never happened, but it was still a lot of fun. New people who had never planted a box ventured out and created their first creations. Old time letterboxers who hadn't planted in some while ventured out to plan anew.

I've already started working on the boxes I want to plant this year, involving ransom notes, databases, and code. Stamps have already been carved. Clues have been started. I also started working on a long-awaited update to my Creating Great Letterboxes tutorial that I hope to finish before the big date. (Speaking of which, if you know of some particularly noteworthy boxes that deserve a mention, let me know.)

Start thinking about it now--and raise the bar higher than ever for next year's recruits!