Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Whirlwind Tour!

Wassa Jr. watches the eclipse safely with eclipse glasses.
There are eight leftovers now in the AQ marketplace!
Amanda, Wassa Jr., and I certainly have had an enjoyable last week or two traveling down to California and back for the Great Annular Eclipse of 2012! Originally, I intended to be hiking El Camino by now, but postponed the trip just because of the eclipse.

Of course, we made a few stops along the way.....

We hiked to a bigfoot trap in southern Oregon.

We stopped to visit Amanda's sister in Folsom, checking out her new home.

And we visited my mom in San Luis Obispo. As many of you know, she does hair professionally, and I decided to try something new and a bit out of my comfort zone and am now sporting blonde hair with a blue streak along one side (a racing stripe!) with an asymmetrical cut. I wasn't sure if I'd like it and I figured if I didn't, I'd shave it all off and start from scratch. =) But in the end, I found it acceptable and kept it. For now, at least. I'm not sure I exactly like it, but I do like the fact that it's so different. =)

They say blondes have more fun....
I think they're right! =)
Then we wondered up to spend the night at Princess Lea's place before heading out to the Fantasy Island event where we camped for the night on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. That was a real treat and a beautiful place to camp! Thanks for setting that up, Lost Sailor! The night boxing was particularly fun--especially when Dezert Ratty and I hid behind the bushes and scared the bejesus out of the folks behind us. ;o)

The next evening, Doublesaj and Old Blue hosted us at their place where we feasted on pizza.

And then it was the Big Day. Yeah, okay, Fantasy Island was pretty cool, but for me, the eclipse was the main event. That's the one thing that brought me down to California. This would be my fourth center-line eclipse (two total, two annular). It never gets old, and never have I had to travel so little to get to one! =)

So I planned a gathering of letterboxers at the letterboxing mecca of Northern California: Hog Heaven Plateau. Dozens of pig-themed letterboxes in honor of Funhog are hidden around the plateau. Amanda and I had found all of them in a past visit, but a dozen more had popped up since our last visit. (I stupidly thought I'd have time to find all the new boxes--turns out, I spent all my time admiring the eclipse and keeping my telescope pointed at it.)

Thunderbird took this multiple exposure shot
of the eclipse from Hog Lake Plateau. Wow!
I posted the photos I took on the AQ Facebook page--go ahead and check them out. (Special thanks to Featherhead for finishing my 2012 pinhole eclipse pattern for me!) The place was packed with letterboxers, but we were far outnumbered by all the non-letterboxers who headed out to view the eclipse--several of whom stopped by to purchase extra eclipse glasses from me and to take a look at the eclipse through my telescope. =) Speaking of which, I still have eight extra eclipse glasses. If you need some for the Venus transit on the afternoon of June 5th, I've put them up for sale in the AQ Marketplace. Details about when you can view the transit can be found on this page. Admittedly, it probably won't look very impressive through the eclipse glasses, but this will be your last opportunity to watch that black little dot transit the sun for 105 years.

Amanda and I stayed long after sunset with a few other hearty letterboxers at which point we pointed the telescope to a beautiful crescent Venus, a dull red blog named Mars, and a spectacular view of Saturn's rings. Definitely a good night for planets!

I'm on top of the concrete truck talking to the driver
while we wait for help to arrive.
The next day, Amanda and I decided to take an unplanned detour to Burney Falls--which I was familiar with from my PCT hike but Amanda had never been to. As it turned out, the most heart-stopping moment of the trip wasn't the eclipse, but a different sort of detour on our way to Barney Falls.

The concrete truck we were following lost control and crashed. Amanda stopped the car and I jumped out to help. Amanda's cell phone wasn't getting a signal, so I told her to drive off to a location where she could call for help while I tried to see what I could do for the driver the truck. I could see the driver through the windshield, squished up against the passenger side door of the overturned truck. He was moving, but was definitely banged up a bit with blood on his face and shirt. I yelled over to Amanda to make sure they sent an ambulance along with whatever other rescue crews were on their way. I was also a little concerned about the liquid I saw spilling out from the underside of the truck. Fuel? Oh, please don't let that be fuel. Please don't let that catch on fire!

Amanda had just gotten the car turned around when another vehicle arrived--a woman with a cell phone that did get a signal--so she called 911. I asked the driver if his leg was stuck and he didn't really answer--more of a grunt really--but he managed to move around and stood up in the cab. That was good, he's moving on his own and it didn't appear to be stuck. Well, he was stuck in the cab--but he had full movement within the cab. He was also a very big man. Easily over 300 pounds. How the heck would he get out of there? I didn't think he could fit through the windshield.

The girl in front called 911 while the other truck driver is
talking to the driver and using the radio in the truck to
notify their employer.
I figured out how to climb up the truck and opened the driver side door--now the top of the truck--and kept talking to the guy. I found a fire extinguisher at the base of the driver's seat--a comfort, to be sure. And I asked the man if he could climb out, but he shook his head no.

At this point, I didn't know what else to do except tell him that help was on its way. He said his back hurt, and we asked if that his back pain was normal. (No, it wasn't.) All things considered, I wasn't terribly worried about it being severe considering how much he was able to move around. He certainly wasn't paralyzed or anything. He even joked that he'd be back at work in a couple of hours. (I joked back that he should take the rest of the day off--he deserved it!)

A couple of minutes later, another driver of a concrete truck driving in the other direction came along the accident scene who pulled over to help--and he was an enormous relief to have around. He knew the driver, used the radio in the truck to contact their employer, and pulled out paperwork about what the truck was carrying for the emergency crews--none of which I thought to do. He went into the truck and kicked out the windshield to help get more air for the driver.

Another passing vehicle soon stopped to help. He had those orange cones in his car along with safety vests and a stop sign and started directing traffic around the wreck. Holy cow! Who carries that sort of stuff with them in the car?!

Well, my job here is done.....
It probably took at least 15 minutes for the first policeman to arrive, and within minutes many more police officers and firemen arrived. The policeman crawled in through the bashed out windshield to ask the driver a few questions and assess the situation, then a couple of paramedics arrived to take over. I watched from above, standing above the driver-side door. They got a neck brace around him and cut off his shirt. A fireman told the driver to cover his eyes as he bashed out the rest of the windshield with an axe and smashed the center metal part between the two windshields off and managed to squeeze the man through that hole. I was watching, slightly horrified, because I was sure that man was going to get stuck there. They got him out though, at which point I felt a little stupid standing on the truck where I was. Definitely nothing left for me to do anymore, so I jumped off and asked the policeman if there was anything he needed from us.

When he found out we actually witnessed the accident, he asked us a few questions about what happened which we answered, then he took down my contact information and said that was all he needed, and off we continued our journey to Burney Falls--after losing an hour at the wreck. As we were about to leave, a helicopter arrived--I guess they decided something faster than an ambulance was necessary and they sent a helicopter to evacuate the driver

Later, we learned that other letterboxers that morning at Hog Lake Plateau had seen all of the rescue vehicles headed to the wreck--unbeknownst to them where we were already at Ground Zero.

Love Burney Falls! You can even see the
water pouring directly out as a sheet
from the rock cliff face!
As for Burney Falls--a beautiful waterfall indeed--as pictures will attest! I've seen bigger waterfalls, and taller waterfalls, but Burney Falls is something special--where 100 million gallons of water per day pour out of the ground and crash over the cliff. During the summer months, 100% of the water going over those falls comes out of the ground in the mile leading up to the waterfall. You can even see the water coming directly out of the side of the cliff--the only waterfall I've ever seen this strange effect.

The rest of the trip home was, thankfully, uneventful. All-in-all, we had a fantastic time! I hope someone puts together another Angel Island campout because there are a lot more letterboxes left I haven't gotten. Another eclipse event might not be in the cards for quite some time (the next centerline eclipse to hit the United States is in 2017), but I'm already looking forward to doing something for that as well! Perhaps somewhere near Kentucky where the eclipse lasts the longest....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stupid Hackers

Yep, we've been punked as it were. So here's the scoop....

The hacker did manage to log into the server using the root account so basically, the entire server had been compromised. Anything on the server can have been downloaded or save by the hacker including e-mail addresses, AQ mail, and even the passwords files. Passwords are encrypted using a one-way encryption algorithm so there's no way the hacker would have gotten your plain-text password, but for those of you familiar with the Cracking Passwords page (premium members only), imagine having the power to run this page and see exactly which accounts the passwords match. In theory, the hacker could do this. Since AQ doesn't have any sensitive information like social security numbers or credit card numbers, I'm not going to require anyone to change their passwords--but it wouldn't hurt. And as far as I can tell, the hacker did not access the database, but I can't be 100% certain of that either.

I restored the database from backups that ran at about 3:00 this morning (Pacific time)--if you sent an AQ mail, listed finds, listed plants, or anything after that time but before the hacker struck, they've been lost. Assume they didn't go through.

A couple of database tables didn't get saved last night--one being the locations table. I had to use backups from Sunday for that table, so it's a bit more out of date than the other tables. Three events and 188 boxes had references to locations that weren't in the backups, and they're currently all pointing to "no location specified." If you've recently edited the location of a box or added a custom location for a box since last Sunday, you'll want to check if it's still in place. Most should still be place--only locations "new to AQ" weren't saved. For instance, if you added a box to "Seattle, WA" (which AQ has known about for years), it's pointing to a location AQ had already stored years ago. It's locations like parks, addresses, and such that have never been used by anyone until you added it that would have been lost. Sorry about that. I've fixed it so the locations are properly stored nightly, but there's not much I can do to retroactively fix that.

The other tables that didn't get saved last night relate to the listings for the trip planner. If you added or modified a listing since last Sunday, those have been lost. Sorry about that, but I don't think it'll affect very many of you since not many people play with that page on a day-to-day basis.

And finally, images don't get saved on a nightly basis, and I forgot to backup any new images uploaded before I restored the server to a pre-hacked version. If you've uploaded images since Sunday, you'll need to do that again. 

I've taken a few precautions on the server to (hopefully!) avoid this kind of attack again, but honestly, there are no guarantees. There's no such thing as a 100% secure server and as sad as it is, eventually, someday, this kind of thing is likely to happen again. You'd be surprised at the number of "attacks" that happen on AQ every day. I use the term "attack" hesitantly--most of them are pretty weak and harmless--but there are dozens of "suspicious" activities that AQ detects every single day from all over the world. And to be perfectly honest, while I know a little about security for a server, it's not my specialty or my strength. I can just do my best. And I do know how to learn and improve with age and experience. =)

Sorry for all the trouble this caused!