Month: July 2012


How To Make a 6-month Duration Pinhole Camera

Like I need another hobby…  Found one of these the other day while Geocaching and, thinking it was the cache, tried to open it.  I was unsuccessful opening it because I could feel the can crushing under the tape.  I posted my result on Geocaching.com and the owner of the camera (also a geocacher) explained to me what I found.  He did not realize a cache had been placed near his camera (5-feet away, what are the odds?).  I’ve seen pinhole cameras before but never imagined setting one up to record the sun crossing the sky for 6-months!

Although the images are not typical of what you expect to see from a camera I think they are really interesting.

Hide & Seek for the Digital Age

Remember the old-fashioned Scavenger Hunt? That party game that had the tendency to bring groups together via teamwork as well as cause some trouble as your team did “whatever it took” to win…

A newer, and in my opinion much more fun, version of that game is called Geocaching. If you have a GPS unit (or just about any kind of Smartphone) you too can play the Geocaching “game”.

Geocaching History from Wikipedia:

Geocaching is similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 2, 2000, because the improved accuracy[6] of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.[7] The location was posted on the Usenetnewsgroup[8][9] as 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once (by Mike Teague of Vancouver, Washington). According to Dave Ulmer’s message, the original stash was a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground and contained software, videos, books, food, money, and a slingshot.[9]

I’m glad I read the Wikipedia piece because I totally forgot about Selective Availability that used to keep GPS units from being very accurate.  The day the US Govt. turned it off is the day GPS became a usable tool for the everyday person.

To get started with geocaching all you need to do is go to geocaching.com and search for caches around your area.  I’ll bet there are a few within 1-2 miles of your location (if not right down the street from you).  Here’s a search of the Indianapolis area:

Every one of those little squares represents a geocache.  As of today there are 1,817,076 active geocaches and over 5 million geocachers worldwide.  This is a popular hobby & one that uses online technology to be successful.

As with any “game” there are rules and variations on the game.  The rules for geocaching are pretty simple and it’s very easy to get started.  This 2-minute video explains the basics:

So what does a geocache look like?  Here’s an example of one my son & I found near the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple:

The coordinates got us to this spot and the compass indicated the geocache was about 50′ in front of us.

We followed the path into the woods and something caught our attention right away…

As we got a little closer we saw it. Do you see it?

This is the cache that was in the plastic tube under the tree. What’s inside?

Success! We found a cache with a lot of little goodies inside (they are not all like this). After signing the log book we took an item and left an item we had brought along with us.

As you can imagine this is a lot of fun for kids (young and old).  It’s a great way to spend the afternoon outdoors and in a lot of cases you get to take part in a bit of nature along the way.  Geocaching can be done on foot, with bicycles, or by car.  We prefer to drive to a general location and set out on foot or on the bikes.

As I found out today it pays to become a paid member of the Geocaching.com website.  You get access to “member only” caches that make the game even more exciting.  You also get email alerts and better search tools to find caches that meet your preferred criteria.

If you’re looking for a great family activity that everyone can get involved in check out geocaching.  It’s popular for a reason and once you find a few you’ll understand why!

Open Letter to Jack (in-the-Box)

OK Jack, we need to talk…

Having heard about you years ago (1993 to be exact) and becoming impressed with your ability to turn a disaster into an opportunity I was excited to hear you would be expanding your operation setting up shop in the Indianapolis area.

Immediately after expressing my excitement on a popular social networking site (Facebook, have you heard of it and seen how news travels on it?), that excitement was quickly tainted by friends and acquaintances who have befriended you in the past.

“Not good” they said.  “Nothing special” I was told.  Seriously?  How could this be?  A fast food chain who avoided collapse and is currently in the midst of a Midwest expansion must have something good going for it.  If it’s not the food than what is it?  Do you just have the best marketing department in the business?

When your first Indianapolis area location opened there were reports of huge lines.  I took this as a good sign.  People usually like change and having a new fast food option in the stagnated Indianapolis market was surely welcomed.  Then I heard you would be opening up a store in my hometown.  The location was perfect (not to mention a prime piece of real estate that’s been vacant for years) and would surely draw the crowds like your other new locations…

Then you finally opened.  I drove by a few times, not in the mood to eat at the time, and was surprised at the lack of business.  Maybe it was just the off-peak times I was in the area.

One day last week I woke up and was in the mood for something a little more substantial than a bowl of cereal.  I thought to myself “time to give breakfast a try at Jack-in-the-Box!”  I thought it because saying it out loud would have been weird…

I drove across town and hit the drive thru.  Again, no real line of cars like I was expecting…  I was greeted by a friendly voice behind the speaker grill who asked if I would like to try a loaded-something-or-other.  I declined her offer and requested a simple Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit.

Then, I sat behind 2 cars for what felt like an hour…  I love the “open kitchen” concept where I can see the employees making my food while I wait to pull forward, that’s a nice touch.  Once again I was greeted by a friendly member of your staff & was handed my food.  I drove the 5 minutes back to the house & that’s when this story turns ugly…

Have you ever stopped at a gas station and been tempted to buy one of those breakfast sandwiches in the warmer next to the cash register?  They’re usually on “sale” for 2/$2.22 or something like that.  Well I’ve bought one (a few times actually) and they’re not half bad, especially for the price.  They’re always a lot hotter than you expect and you have to wait a few minutes to eat them or risk a 2nd degree burn (not a good thing at 8am).

Well Jack, your Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit was cold.  I’m not talking a few minutes in a bag in a car on the way home cold.  I’m talking about a partially frozen biscuit bottom.  Not only was it cold but I think you ran across the street the day before, bought the remaining breakfast sandwiches from the gas station, and froze them as a backup in case you ran out of product during the “morning rush”.  I think you were frantically microwaving said sandwich during my ridiculously long wait in the drive thru line.

In a blind taste test I don’t think I (or a veteran road warrior) could tell the difference between the Sausage Egg and Cheese Biscuit from the gas station and one from your store.  Oh, wait I know how to tell… yours is cold and costs twice as much!

I’m disappointed in you Jack.  I’m disappointed that I was holding out for a new fast food option.  I’m disappointed that your friendly staff could not feel the block of ice in their hand as they put the product in the bag.  And finally Jack, I’m disappointed that my first experience with your food has me wishing another chain took over that vacant space.

I really hope you read this and take it to heart.  If you continue to suffer this kind of quality control your expansion in this market is going to suffer.  Sure I could have called and complained.  I could have driven back and asked for a refund.  That would not have fixed the problem.  The problem was the blown first impression.

I hear you have good (cheap) taco’s but I’m not sure I want to risk it again.  Besides it’s probably just a reheated version of the place down the street…

Jack in the Box on Urbanspoon

Indianapolis Museum of Art

It was an oppressively hot July 4th this year and after 10am I decided any activity I’d be participating in today would be indoors.  Having briefly visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) a few weeks earlier for a photography lecture I knew I wanted to return and really check the place out.

Upon arrival (on the first visit), one thing that immediately struck me was the size of the museum.  It’s a lot larger than I imagined and it sits on approximately 150 acres in the middle of Indianapolis.  Together the IMA and nearby Crown Hill Cemetery are bigger than a lot of towns in rural Indiana.

I like a good bargain, especially when it comes to entertainment.  You can’t beat the price of the IMA which is FREE for the general exhibits (95% of the facility).  Currently the IMA is hosting a photography exhibit ($12) that I want to check out before it leaves town.

The IMA is a 4-story structure with meeting, lecture, and administrative space occupying the first floor (along with a gift shop and café).  Immediately upon stepping off the escalator on the 2nd floor you’re greeted with a “check-in” desk where they have tickets for special exhibits available for purchase.  They also ask for demographic data (specifically your zip code).  After accepting a museum map I headed through the huge automatic glass doors into the first exhibit space.

There were a fair amount of people visiting the IMA today and, for the most part, they did what most people do… walk around quietly admiring the artwork.  There were a couple of small groups that obnoxiously talked loudly the whole time (they probably are the same ones who talk in movie theaters too).  I changed the direction of my tour and only ran into them once again during my visit.

Speaking of direction, it’s easy to get turned around in the IMA.  I can’t help but think I might have missed a few rooms with the way things are laid out.  It’s not as intuitive as the Cincinnati Museum of Art which I visited this past spring (the IMA is better).  There are various rooms throughout the facility that house paintings from the classic Picasso, Monet, etc.  One thing that surprised me were the two “fashion” rooms (for lack of a better term) that highlighted clothing from Blass, Halston & a couple of others.  I saw several outfits form the late 80’s that I somewhat recognized from the time period.  I really enjoyed the “Pointillism” (painting with dots) area.

I spent the better part of 3 hours walking around the IMA and just started on the 4th floor when I was told they would be closing in 15 minutes.  I’m starting on the 4th floor next time and working my way down.  There were a lot more staff members stationed around the facility than I expected and the ones I talked to were very friendly and helpful.

With the heat the way it was the only time outside the main building checking out the grounds was during the walk from the parking lot.  You can pay for parking ($5) or if you are up to a short (1/4 mile) walk you can park for free near the NE entrance.  From what I see on the website there’s actually a lot to see outdoors too.  That’s going to have to wait until the sun backs off the earth a few hundred-thousand miles and the temps get mach in the 80’s.

Keep Calm & Blog On

I’ve had several people contact me asking what’s going on with the blog. It’s still here but I’ve just had a case of “life getting in the way”. I have too many draft posts to admit & a lot of them just need some editing and pictures.

By the time my day slows down I’m just not in the mood to “blog”. So much for the 1-post-a-day challenge I was trying to complete. It’s harder than you might think!

I’ve played with some mobile solutions and I’m thinking about starting to post shorter items in an attempt to increase site activity. I see a lot of things throughout my day & I can share most of them online.

Stay tuned, I hope to have some neat things on here soon…