Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Looking Forward....

What ideas are floating through my head regarding AQ next year? Actually, I don't really have many. Oh, there's a long list of things I want to do, but I don't really know which features I'll work on next usually until I actually decide to start working on them. The photo gallery really needs a complete re-do from the ground up. That would be a major undertaking, and I'd want to make sure I have at least several months available before I start to tackle that beast. There are some tutorials I'd like to create. I'm always creating new themes, but I couldn't tell you which ones I'm most likely to do. (Well, the state themes I've already committed to, but beyond that, I have ideas... but no idea which ones I'll actually use.)

I also want to start creating more LTCs. Those LTCs many of you send in for the Majorie's Potpourri are quite inspirational, and I want to do stuff like that! Maybe 2012 will be the year I get down and start being more creative. =)

I also have it in my head that I want to develop http://www.atlasquest.mobi into a mobile-specific website. I've played around with it a little on my develop machine already, but largely abandoned my efforts when Aiphid created Box Radar. Suddenly, I'm getting no requests at all for mobile apps anymore. =) But I find the idea an intellectual challenge and an intriguing one at that, so I find myself still wanting to pursue it. Additionally, I like the idea of limiting myself to the public AQ API that those Android and iPhone apps use. I kind of feel like I neglect that API too much because I don't actually use it myself. My motivation increases dramatically when I use a feature myself! =) It would be an excellent way to test my own API and get a user's point of view for it. So perhaps I'll run with that feature in 2012.

Or perhaps not? Like I said, I don't really know. I tend to work on whatever hits me as most interesting, or best use of my time, or whatever floats my boat. I'll finish a major upgrade, then I scroll through old, bookmarked posts with suggestions and work on those for awhile. They're usually relatively quick and easy changes--and after a couple of weeks of this, I'll settle on the next "big thing" I want to work on and start working.

And perhaps I'll wind up building a feature I haven't even thought of us. Or I'll finally figure out a solution to a problem that prevents me from implementing a feature I really want. (That whole custom location feature I've wanted for years but couldn't figure out how to pull off until this year!)

One thing I know will happen--the number of regression tests for Atlas Quest will increase substantially! But that's not something you'll see directly. =)

One other thing I know: I'll be in Northern California on May 20th, from 6:26 PM through 6:31 PM. Which is actually something of a surprise to me--when I woke up this morning, I assumed I'd be somewhere in Northern Spain during that time. =) Yep, for those five minutes, I'll do just about everything in my power to be there in Northern California.

In an annular eclipse, the moon doesn't quite cover the
entire surface of the sun so you wind up with a
"ring of fire."
I learned just this afternoon that there's an annular eclipse that runs directly through Northern California, which is a relatively easy place for me to travel to (as long as I'm not in Northern Spain!). Annular eclipses are pretty darned awesome and an extremely rare astronomical event, and they follow a very narrow path only a few hundred miles wide. Check out the entire eclipse path at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2012May20Agoogle.html. Most of you in Nevada will also be able to watch it, along with a large portion of Utah and New Mexico. I've already listed an event for anyone who wants to join me for this amazing astronomical spectacle. I'm still trying to work out an exact viewing location, but I'll likely be within an hour's drive of Redding, CA. =)

But what's an annular eclipse? It's a lot like a total solar eclipse.... except that the moon isn't quite big enough to completely cover the sun. Due to the slightly elliptical orbits of the moon around the earth and the earth around the sun, their apparent sizes change slightly. Sometimes the moon can completely cover the surface of the sun--a total solar eclipse--but when it doesn't, it's an annular eclipse and you'll see a ring of fire completely encircling the moon. Amanda and I saw one in Panama several years ago and it was absolutely spectacular! Well worth a view if you live anywhere near the eclipse path! *nodding* The next annular eclipse in the United States doesn't happen until 2023 so if you miss this one, you'll have quite a wait to see the next one. (Full disclosure: There actually is a total solar eclipse that cuts through the US from coast to coast in 2017, but your next opportunity to see a "ring of fire" around the moon won't be until 2023.)

If you want to watch a transit of Venus,
do it on June 5th. Your next opportunity to
measure the size of the solar system
doesn't come until 2117!
There's another rare astronomical event happening on June 5th--Venus transits across the sun for the last time in over a hundred years. If you miss this transit, you'll never see another one in your lifetime. The Venus transit across the sun actually has some historical significance--measuring the time it took Venus to cross the sun's surface was the first time scientists were able to calculate the size of our solar system. For many years they knew the relative ratios of the distance from the earth to each of the planets--but they didn't know the absolute distances. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how measuring the time that Venus transits the sun can be used to calculate the size of the solar system, but I still think it's pretty darned cool! On a side note, if you want to tell your friends that you helped measure the size of the ENTIRE SOLAR SYSTEM, they're apparently making an app to do that. =)

So you can be pretty certain I'll be looking at the sun during this time, but where I view it from is a lot more flexible than the annular eclipse. In fact, I'll probably just walk out on our deck to watch it. =) To view the entire transit, though, I might make an effort to go up to Alaska. (It's either that or fly to China, Japan, Australia, or New Zealand, but those are more difficult and expensive for me to travel to!)

I want to see these two astronomical events so bad that I decided to postpone my Camino de Santiago thru-hike until the autumn instead of doing it in the spring like I originally intended. =) Neither of these events would be visible from Spain! I plan to take two or three months hiking through France, Spain, and (maybe) Portugal, undoubtedly an epic adventure that you'll be reading all about on Another Long Walk. =) Which really has absolutely nothing to due with Atlas Quest, but fortunately all of the lodging and churches along the way each of their own stamps so I'll still be doing plenty of stamping along the way. =) And probably plant a few boxes as well....

Speaking of the camino, a.k.a. The Way of St. James, there's a movie out in theaters now called The Way starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Martin Sheen hikes the camino, carrying the ashes of his son (played by Emilio Estevez before he becomes ashes!). It was filmed on location on the very trail I intend to hike--and it's a very entertaining film to boot. I'm not saying that just because I intend to hike the trail! =) This film didn't give me the idea to hike the trail--I first got the idea to hike the trail from reading The Journey in Between by Keith Foskett, a hiker I met while thru-hiking the PCT. (I'm still waiting to get the PCT book he's in the process of writing!)

So those are some of the things I'm looking forward to in 2012. More features and improvements to AQ--even though I don't know which features I'll actually implement as of yet. And two rare astronomical events, and a thru-hike in Europe. Yep, 2012 is looking good!

Share your plans for 2012 in the comments! =)


Anonymous said...

I saw the movie "The Way" and I loved it. Maybe you will get some interesting hiking buddies like those who walked with Martin Sheen. -Rose

Rabid Quilter from California said...

We saw "The Way" just so we'd know what your next trek was. Looks like a wonderful idea!

BTW, what about Hog Heaven for the eclipse event site?

Ryan said...

Hog Heaven is a distinct possibility that has crossed my mind. But I still want to figure out what all the astronomy folks are doing. It's nice to hang out with a bunch of people who have all sorts of telescopes and equipment during such an event. ;o)

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

I didn't know about "The Way" looks very cool... Hiking and spiritual stuff.. right up my ally! Gonna have to go see it..