GPS

Moleskine GPS

I recently wrote a piece for moleskinerie. It has been published today. It's reproduced below.


I like gadgets. It's a weakness. If it has buttons, or even better, lights - then I'm hooked.

Travelbug on moleskine

I've wanted a GPS for some time, mostly for the geek value - it's true. So, I began to look for ways to justify the cost, and I discovered Geocaching. Geocaching started just a few years ago (when Bill Clinton switched off the 'Selective Availability' which meant that GPS systems had accuracy of a few hundred metres), and has since grown into a worldwide sport. With a good GPS signal, your location on Earth can be known to within a few metres.

In the simplest form, someone hides a geocache. Someone else finds them. The caches could be hidden out in the countryside, or hidden (discretely) in a city centre. Just the other day I went into London and found 13 caches, some in very well trafficked areas.

Caches can be more complex, in a multistage cache a series of clues need to be solved to discover the final location - and in a mystery cache research may be needed before you even walk out of the door!

Examples:

Simple Cache
GCGBGB : Last Delivery
MultiStage
GCVKR6 The Elvetham Heath Reserve
Mystery
'X' marks the spot

When a cache is found, the finder writes in the log to claim a visit, replaces the cache and moves on. As caches are often (but not always) placed in interesting spots, I\'ve found that since starting to cache I've discovered places locally that I never knew existed. Geocaching provides me with a 'purpose' to a walk - a definite target, and it helps to keep each walk unique.

Where do the moleskines come in? When I started I decided to keep a personal log. In the log I record the cache name, coordinates, and any other piece of information. This may be a hint to the location, so that I can help anyone who gets stuck that follows, it might be a note about the weather. When I get home I log my finds on the geocaching website.

Geocaching website:
Geocaching.com

Another feature of geocaching is the gift. Many caches contain 'goodies' - these are usually small items. The rule of thumb is that for everything taken out, something else goes in. One common type of item is the travelbug. A travelbug is a trackable item with a unique serial number. When at a computer, the item can be logged independently and it can be tracked in it's travels. The number should not be revealed online, as it is evidence that the bug has been found. Travelbugs should be placed in a new cache within 2 weeks, and not taken unless this can be done.

Of course, if I take anything from a cache, this is recorded in my notes. I make special care to record the ID number on a travelbug, so that I can put it into a new cache the same day if I wish. (The danger here is that someone else may find it and log it before I do - this messes up the chronology of the bug, if late in the day, I don't worry about this. If early in the day I attach a note to say I'll be logging >the find by the end of (date), and for the finder not to log themselves until after that time  )

I wanted to launch a travelbug (I now have seven out in the wilds) - and my first travelbug? A moleskine, my own 'wandering art project'.

I launched it by putting it in a newly placed local cache, after preparing it well. Inside the cover are instructions about what the travelbug is, and about it's mission.

The Silent Sentry 1 Geocache

The bug itself can be tracked here:
Track the bug

The idea is that each finder makes their own piece of art in the book, and scans it, before placing it in a new cache (hopefully well protected from moisture!)

The future? I've found 65 caches in total, and am heading for 100. I'm currently looking into paperless caching (so there is less printing out before I head off on a walk, I could take the gps and pda, and off I go). Even if I do make the leap to paperless caching, my moleskine log will stay with me to record the results of my finds.

Related links:
Link for 'Geocaching'
Geocaching in the UK

Geocaching in London

Yesterday I went into London and had a go at some geocaching. By the end of the day I must have walked some 18km (when I finished caching I turned off the GPS, but still had some walking to do). I got 13 geocaches, with a couple of 'did not finds'. That brings me up to 65 caches overall.

Caching in London is a whole new thing, a lot of the caches have to be really well hidden so they're not discovered by people not hunting for them - there are some really ingenious hiding spots (e.g. one of the main bridges near Waterloo station has a cache right in the centre of it (the centre of river, not the centre of road).

A few times I thought 'If anyone sees me, I'm going to get reported as a KGB agent!' - as to find a cache involved retrieving a hidden item, writing something in it, and then rehiding the item. This is something like a 'dead letter drop'.

On my rounds, I popped into the Novello theatre to get tickets to see 'Footloose', and also the Royal Opera House - we're off to see the Bolshoi ballet. Add to this Avenue Q, which I'm really excited about, Stomp and Guilfest - it'll be a packed summer.

When I finished caching, I met up with Monica at the British Museum, I'm a friend of the museum and so it didn't cost us anything extra to get into the Michelangelo exhibition, the exhibition will remain until the 25th June.

Before I sign off, here are some Avenue Q links, the music used in these links is a song from the show. The Avenue Q soundtrack, and other goodies, are available in the UK from Amazon.

My 20th Geocache

Last night I got my 19th and 20th geocache. The 19th was in a small nature reserve (which I didn't know was there) next to a local supermarket. Not particularly exciting, but it was the nearest cache I hadn't yet found so I had to get it for completeness sake. It was replaced at the weekend after an absence, and I was the first to find after it made it's return.

The 20th was in MOD land, the cache was hidden in the root system of a tree in a camoflaged bag. I found this one at dusk, which wasn't easy given the camoflage!

My 20th cache. Good going given that my first cache was less than a month ago, on the 2nd April.

Geocache - Lucky 13

The Lakeside View Geocache After work last night I got my 13th Cache. I wanted to go for a short walk, and the better half would not be home for some time. I got rained upon.

The cache I was seeking was the Lakeside Park Cache.

I had been to this Cache before, but had searched in the wrong place as I made a transcription error in one of the clues. I corrected the error and searched again, only to make a new error. For whatever reason the waypoint had been entered in Degrees, Minutes and Seconds rather than Degrees and Minutes.decimal. This meant that I was searching in the wrong place by about 100m.

Fortunately I caught the error whilst on site, and made the correction, the cache itself was easy to find once past my stupidity!

Travelhog Travelbug

I picked up the Travelhog Travelbug. I don't quite know yet where this will be dropped off.

Geocaching, now up to 10 caches

Animal Damage? I do like this Geocaching malarkey, it gives a reason to go and explore new places.

Yesterday, I got four caches, bringing my total to 10 found, with 2 'did not find'.

I finally got the 'Roundabout Ramble' cache in Farnham. It wasn't an easy find, it took be three visits, but I got there in the end (the photograph 'spoiler' helped!) - someone from the US found the cache on the same day.

That one had been driving me insane, as I knew I was so close (the GPS signal was very good).

The JAG005 Cache

I then went around the corner to JAG005. This was very close to a garden centre, and part of the deal is 'not being spotted' by the laypeople - goodness knows what they'd think if they saw someone walk to a random spot, retrieve a box, pull something out, put something in and leave. It was a pretty easy find which made the recovery job that much easier - once I had the cache it looks just like a packed lunch!

The next cache was over in Wanborough, for a 'Slice of Christmas Pie'. This cache is so called as it's near places like Christmas Pie Farm.

The 'Rude Alf' Travelbug

I recovered a 'Travelbug at this cache, the travelbug is called 'Rude Alf'. A travelbug is a tagged item which one can track in its journey across the world.

I then went back toward Farnborough, there was a cache called 'Abbey View'. This was a multistage cache, and involves getting a number from a phone box. One then does some simple sums based upon the digits in the phone number, and this gives the location of the final cache.

The Rude Alf Travelbug, about to go into his new home.

The final cache was about half a kilometre away. It was well hidden, but easy to find if you were looking for it. I dropped off the travelbug and then made my way home.

A pretty successful trip - four out of four, and quite a short trip too. I was pretty pleased at getting the 'Roundabout Ramble' done!

More Geocaching

Wellington's Booty GeocacheStatue of Wellington in AldershotI went out at about 4:30pm today to do a little more geocaching.

The first attempt was Wellington's Booty, in Aldershot. The waypoints for the clues were a bit off, but the clues were so obvious it did not matter.

The final cache was pretty easy to find. This was my fifth cache, and my first multistage cache.

Then I tried for the Roundabout Ramble in Farnham. This is a frustrating one, it's a small cache and so hard to spot. I must have been inches from it! It's a fairly simple one to revisit though - one can park directly on the roundabout (it has houses and a pub on it) and get to the cache location via an underpass.

'Army Manoeuvres' Geocache

Finally, I went up to have a go at Army Manoeuvres. I found this one without problem - though the hint was useful!

All in all, I was out for a few hours - and got 2 of 3 caches. The one I missed was a second attempt. I'll watch the geocaching website, and when someone else logs a find (so that I know it is there) I shall have another go.

Two more Geocaches

''The Puttenham Pouncer I've been out Geocaching again this morning. This time I walked out onto Puttenham Common in Surrey, finding two caches.

The first was called 'The Lost Treasure of Captain Stranding' and was in a nice spot (and one that oddly enough seemed familiar, despite it being off the beaten path). The cache was well hidden, but in a pretty obvious spot once you thought like the hider.

I left the 'Bookworm' travelbug and claimed the 3+ or bust travelbug.

I then went to 'The Puttenham Pouncer', which was quite a tough find for some reason - but I spotted it in the end. I left the 3+ or bust travelbug and claimed the 'goofy' travelbug.

My First Geocache

My First TravelBug I have found my first geocache. Okay, so it was a fairly easy one, and it took me two attempts, but I'm quite pleased nonetheless.

The cache was an ammo box, discretly hidden. it contained a 'travel bug', which is now with me.

As I've got the travelbug, named 'Bookworm' I am honour bound to find somewhere else to put it. A travelbug is a small token that moves from cache to cache.

I hope that I'll be able to get it to mainland europe, most likely, it'll be released locally.

GPS and Michelangelo

Yesterday I acquired a GPS from Amazon, and I decided to go into London. I wanted to see the Michelangelo exhibition, and test the GPS at the same time. I walked around home a bit to check all was well, and then I headed off for the train. Unfortunately there is no way to get the GPS signals in the train, and so as soon as I left Waterloo station I switched the thing on and found my satellites.

I started to walk.

It's rather magical really, a moving display of where you are. My GPS is quite a basic unit (I don't want, or need, the full screen maps as I'm moving - it's a supplement, not a replacement - and besides, that would have made it much more expensive!). On the resulting tracklog there are a few places where the signal was lost and so when plotting the software made approximations, so there is the odd corner cut off and so forth (I was walking in London, remember - tall buildings everywhere, it's amazing, I think, that the log is so good!)

First GPS trial map

I walked up to the London Eye, and then to Trafalgar square, and on up Charing Cross Road to the British Museum.

I tend to go to the British Museum a few times each year, and so I decided today to become a friend of the museum, and I joined them.

I got a Michelangelo exhibition for just before 5pm.

During the day I went around the museum and did some sketching - some reasonable, some not - none what one might see as 'good' on an objective scale, but I enjoy it. I drew Parvati, the consort of Shiva, a drew one of the Parthenon sculptures, 'a blind contour' drawing of a Cypriot chappy, and a 'straight' drawing of him. These should appear on flickr when I get a round tuit. I also did a bit of peoplewatching - I'm not as happy with the sketches that resulted as I was last time I did this, everybody kept moving - it was a conspiracy!

The Michelangelo exhibition was pretty good - some of the drawings are incredible, they're so detailed and he makes them look so effortless. I found that even close up, when you can see the individual pencil marks, each one was just right. The place was absolutely packed though - the British museum do a timed entry system to minimise the crowding, but it's still quite busy. I'd guess a very early ticket would be best.

On the way back, I walked down Shaftesbury avenue, Haymarket and across Westminster Bridge.

This data was put onto a map using OziExplorer, which also outputs data in a Google Earth friendly manner.