Monday, November 20, 2006

Letterboxing Stats

I've already posted to the Announcement board about the Statistics Label Creator, but it just occurred to me that some of you might like to see it in action to get a better idea of its purpose. So, I'm using it on this blog. =) Just below that little picture of me is my stats label. Currently it reads "P199 F1167 X328", but as I list more plants, finds, and exchanges, the numbers will update automatically it.

To read all the nitty gritty details about the feature, check out my original post at Atlas Quest.

Friday, November 17, 2006

We explored.... and conquered!

Last week, I attended the Explore and Conquer event at Fort DeSoto SP, just outside of Tampa in the alligator infested swamps known as Florida. I'm a bit late for this report, mostly because I was in Florida and not hooked up with my usual computer comforts such as that annoying little cable I need to transfer photos from my digital camera to the computer and, well, time. I spent several days thru-hiking the Pinellas Trail, a 34-mile long foot and bike path through Pinellas County. Not including the 2.5 mile (one way) spur over a causeway as well, so that took up some time.

But I digress.... I'm just making excuses. =) Truth is, I didn't pull out my camera until after the event was over, and that was just to take a picture of a sunset along the way. Like it? I'm submitting it for consideration to next year's Project X. I think it's good, but based on last year's winners, it's pretty intimidating. I hope the judges like it! =) I also saw a dolphin swimming around nearby, but alas, no photos of that little guy.

When Amanda and I arrived at the event, we were SHOCKED to learn that nobody had carved an event stamp! I was pushed into it, and whipped together a stamp. Perhaps not my best work, but it turned out acceptable, I think. Just ask anyone who was there.

Marjorie made herself comfortable in the sun a bit too long. Might be awhile before her feathers grow back. Anyone out there get a picture of Marjorie tanning herself in the sun? I missed my chance, but I have to keep a good working relationship with Marjorie since she is the AQ mascot. She wouldn't have liked me taking pictures of her in such a sensitive predicament.

Papa Bear and family drove all the way out from Tallahassee for the gathering, but we suspect that's because they ran out of boxes in their part of the state to find based on their performance at the event. They were off looking for boxes before they even had a chance to catch their breath! Papa Bear also talked his brother, Super Frog, into attending. Super Frog found his first letterboxes at the event, and works for the parks department in Clearwater or something to that effect. And--get this--he thinks letterboxing would be a terrific thing for their parks and wants to encourage it there. I suspect a lot more boxes in Clearwater might be showing up before too long.....

Papa Bear also brought water from the famed Fountain of Youth, purchased from a guy who was 150 years old. Tastes terrible, but there's always a dark lining on every silver cloud, right? =)

This gathering was especially interesting since it was made up mostly entirely of new letterboxers who'd never attended an event before! Papa Bear and family hadn't been letterboxing very long to begin with, and Super Frog didn't find his first box until the gathering. But also in attendance and very new letterboxers included the Six P's and the Yaker Family. The only other long-time letterboxers in attendance outside of Amanda and myself was Kilroy.

Near the end of the day, Amanda's dad, George, also came out for a spin on his new wheelchair. He lives just a few miles away and this was his first letterboxing gathering as well. If he suspected we were all crazy before, we've certainly confirmed his suspicions now! =)

We came. We explored. And we conquered. And it wasn't until near sunset we parted ways and headed back from whence we came. I finished hiking the length of the Pinellas Trail, then headed back to Seattle to learn that after just half the month, Seattle had already broken the record for most rain in November EVER! Yes, indeed, it was a good time to be in Florida. =)

I took this picture of Seattle just before leaving for Florida. Alas, all those fall colors are now laying in the gutter, soggy and wet from all the rain.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Bleeding Edge of Technology....

I recommend you skip this post. Really. Do something more valuable with your limited time.

Usually, when it comes to technology, I'm opposed to it. Yes, you heard me right. I'm a techno-phobe. I've never had a cell phone, nor do I ever want one. In case of emergency, I'll be the guy at the phone pay wondering why it doesn't work when I try to call 911. Assuming, of course, I can find a pay phone. Last time I needed to use one, I found three that didn't work before I succeeded with one that did. Took me an hour to make the phone call.

But I digress..... Do I use a PDA? No. I like the old fashioned pen and paper better. I have a PDA, thoughtfully donated to me by Speedsquare to develop features for all you PDA people out there, but I tried to find a box once with clues from the PDA. And I didn't like it. So it mostly collects dust now. I still keep it around for testing purposes, though, when I need to update or change the PDA code on Atlas Quest.

Even when it comes to programming, I prefer the "tried and true" than the bleeding edge of technology. There's a reason it's called "bleeding edge." When I first learned of Google allowing little people like myself to display their maps on my own website for free, I was THRILLED! How cool would THAT be?!

And what did I do about it? Absolutely nothing. Why not? It was bleeding edge technology. If you read the documentation, they warned that it was new. The API (basically the "language" used to talk with a given application from a programmer's point of view) could change with little or no warning breaking the application. Bugs had yet to be found, and work-arounds developed.

So I did nothing. Choi did include the maps, briefly, on LbNA, and well--it learned why it's called the "bleeding" edge. =) Don't get me wrong--Choi's a great guy and this isn't meant to embarrass or diss him. Had I gone jumping into the Google Maps myself, I'd probably have had the same problems he ran into. In fact, I learned from his troubles. You can call it a failure if you'd like, but I'd call it research and educational. Have you ever noticed that you can't go to ? Try it. It bounces you back to every time. Choi doesn't know it (though since he's probably reading this, he does now!), but it was his experiences with Google Maps that made me implement this change.

Frankly, I like better than since it's shorter and quicker to type. But that www is so ingrained into the web culture, I went with the flow. Guess that makes me a dolphin. ;o)

Anyhow, Google Maps is up to version 2.x, and I figured by now, it's a heck of a lot more stable than it would have been when they first introduced it. At the very least, it has cool new features that version 1.x didn't have like that little overview map in the lower-right corner of the map.

But I digress..... Why am I talking about bleeding edge technology?

Because I accidentally just stumbled into it. I was checking my blogs and they had a link for the "new blogger"--just click a button and they'll convert your existing blogs to Beta Blogger.

I clicked. It was an automatic impulse. It says "click here", and without even thinking about the consequences, I clicked.

I regretted the action almost immediately. I tried posting a new blog entry, and I got an error message. Tried posting it again. Another error. Next thing I know, I had three copies of that post listed in the management section of the blog, but none of them showed up IN the blog. I deleted all but one of the postings--or tried to. Got more errors when I tried to delete the extra posts, so I wasn't really sure if it deleted anything or not. Not that it mattered since my post wasn't showing up in the blog in the first place.

Another thing happened. AQ started complaining about the atom feed it pulls to generate the "Letterboxing News" on My Page. One of those little pieces of information AQ picks up is when the post was created. The old feed had a label called "created" that I used to display and sort blog entries by the date and time they were created. The new feed didn't have that. I had to look through the XML to learn they changed it to "published".

So I had to update AQ to first look for "created," and if that's not found, check for "pushlished."

And I thought--thank goodness I discovered this problem on my own blog when none of them needed to be displayed in Letterboxing News. Had Mark and Sue Pepe, for instance, converted their blog to use Blogger Beta, their posts would have stopped showing on Letterboxing News. Who knows how long it would have taken us to realize something was wrong. How long would it have taken us to figure out there was a change in the XML format with Blogger Beta?

When I logged in today, I saw that post I made which never made it onto my blog suddenly showing up on the blog. And those posts I deleted are no longer there. Seems to be working now.

Of course, the ultimate test to know if everything is working correctly is this post. Yes, you fool, you read this long, rambling post to finally get to the point of why I wrote it.

This is a test. This is only a test.

You'll know it passed if it shows up in Letterboxing News within the next hour. =) If it doesn't--well, you probably didn't read this post anyhow and you'll still think I'm a genius and can do anything with technology. ;o)

Learn from me: It always pays to let someone else use bleeding edge technology first. *nodding*

-- Ryan