April 30, 2004

Sight for sore eyes

In this heavy pollen season, my bloodshot, itchy eyes have reminded me again of a product that seems to work wonders for me. Visine makes an eyedrop solution called Visine A that brings almost instant relief to my allergy-irritated eyes. That's Visine A--as in Allergy. Other Visine eye drops don't do it.

So between Visine A and Claritin/Zyrtec/etc., I can get through Spring okay.

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April 28, 2004

Solar energy's how old?

A headline caught my eye today. It's a good example of a poorly-constructed headline.

Solar Energy Celebrates 50th Anniversary

The Associated Press story focuses on the anniversary of turning sunlight into electricity. But it seems to me that solar energy (the subject of the headline) has been around for...oh...about 8,000 years. Granted, solar-powered electricity may have been around only 50 years, but the sun's a little older.

Usually, the media adds too many years to the age of the universe. This time, they came up short. Big time.

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California joins the war effort

The Associated Press reports that two ski resorts in California--Mammoth Mountain (which I've skied) and Alpine Meadows--have been told the Army needs them to return five howitzers for use in the war on terrorism.

Ski areas use howitzers to knock snow buildup off of avalanche-prone slopes. Just so happens that these particular five howitzers are the Army's latest model.

Lots of interesting aspects to this story, which you can read here. Short article, good info. There's even a photo.

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April 26, 2004

Stained glass windshield

That's what I got last night: a stained glass windshield. We went to Front Royal (about 30 miles away) to see the BJ drama team. (Which was not as good as the Fall team, BTW...)

On the way back, we drove through swarms of bugs so thick that it sounded like rain hitting the windshield. If it weren't for wiper fluid and windshield wipers, I truly do not know how I would have seen out the front of the truck. (I certainly wasn't rolling down the window to stick my head out!)

I'd never seen anything like it.

I would have taken a picture of the trophy windshield, but I didn't have a camera in the truck. When I reached town, my first stop was a gas station to clean it off.

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April 24, 2004

'Passion' star's next role

I did a doubletake when I opened my April 24 issue of World magazine to see an ad for Jim Caviezel's first role since playing Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. It struck me funny/ironic that Caviezel's now starring as Bobby Jones in Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius.

Of course, I quickly realized that the new movie is about the golfer, not the evangelist as I thought at first. After all, religious-themed movies are bringing in the bucks these days!

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April 22, 2004

PhotoShop guru

I've done it. I've learned EVERYTHING there is to know about PhotoShop. OK, so I haven't.

Today, though, I spent 8 hours learning PhotoShop from photojournalist Wayne Scarberry. He gave a seminar to benefit all the papers in our family-owned chain.

Now I know how the Associated Press tones its images. So I learned a lot right there. The goal was to improve the look of our final product. What Scarberry taught us is completely different from how we had been toning.

While PhotoShop offers four different ways to skin a cat, today's theory makes more sense than what we had been doing.

We'll see how next week's photos print!

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April 21, 2004

How I maintain my Jetta

I do a pretty good job of keeping up with oil changes in my '96 Jetta GL--I even change the oil and filter myself! (It's in a pretty easy-to-reach spot.)

But the other main item of vehicular maintenance that I'm pretty faithful on is this: re-glueing the door trim.

If you've been around Jettas from the mid-90s (before the current body style), you know that the factory glue just doesn't hold. So I've done a pretty conscientious--liberal, even--job of glueing them back on with Goop.

Today, my front passenger door trim started coming off. So, for the umpteenth time, I have to glue it back in place--which means I'll drive around for a few days with goofy looking tape holding it while the glue cures.

Guess going from 40-degree days last week to 80- to 90-degree days this week might do it.

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April 19, 2004

Treasure hunt gone global

I wrote an article for my Outdoors page last week on geocaching, a great new "sport" that appeals to people from all walks of life.

We spent all of a Saturday getting this story. We hiked about 6 miles, with some bushwacking. The only other people we encountered were at trailheads--we didn't meet anyone on the trails.

See my extended entry (below) to read the article.

All content appeared in the Thursday, April 15, 2004 issue of Page News and Courier. Rights to photos and text in the article belong to Page News and Courier.

Treasure hunt gone global

GPS, the Internet and the outdoors combine to create a new 'sport'

View image. The Bouldin family examines the loot from a cache.

By John Collins
Staff writer

We left our cars more than an hour earlier. Our destination was only eight-tenths of a mile away. But we still hadn’t reached our goal.

“We’re getting close,” said Steve Bouldin, who was leading our group. “There’s buzzards circling up there.”

Finally, after enduring a rocky trail and hordes of deer flies, we arrived at our destination. It took us an hour and a half, but finally we stood on the rock ledge, soaking in the view of the Massanutten Mountain.

The view was a great reward for our trip, but it wasn’t what brought us to that spot. We were on a modern-day treasure hunt.

Our global positioning satellite receivers (GPS) guided us to that overlook. Under the rock ledge, behind some wood and rocks, was a tin can stuffed with goodies. That was why we were there.

We were taking part in a new game called geocaching (say “cash”), in which participants from around the globe use the Internet and GPS units to hide and seek stores of goodies, called caches.

How it works
Geocachers start at the geocaching Web site (www.geocaching.com) to find things hidden near a specified area. The Web site provides geocachers with the coordinates of geocaches, as well as clues to help find them.

Armed with coordinates – now loaded into the GPS units – as well as topographical maps, the geocachers can head out in search of treasures others have left.

GPS units try to find signal from any four of 24 satellites orbiting the earth. With those signals, the GPS units figure out the location. It can be as accurate as a few feet.

But geocachers don’t really need to know how to compute the complicated math behind the global positioning concept. All they need to know about GPS is how to enter coordinates — called waypoints — into their unit and then how to use the waypoints to key the search.

Because most of the caches are in out of the way, sometimes rugged places, orienteering and map-reading skills are useful, too.

When they locate a cache, geocachers sign a log book. They might take something from the cache, but they should leave something in return.

The fun is the hunt. The treasures aren’t usually expensive or rare — typically trinkets, toys and odds and ends.

Global sport hits home
More than 92,000 caches have been hidden and are being sought around the world.

Almost 1,500 caches can be found within 100 miles of Luray. Turns out the Shenandoah Valley is prime geocaching territory. Geocaching is in our backyard.

While Shenandoah National Park frowns on geocaching, the George Washington National Forest is peppered with caches.

For an introduction to geocaching, the Bouldin family of Rileyville – or Beastmasters, as they are known on geocaching.com – served as guides. The whole family came on the trek, including parents Steve and Ingrid and daughters Courtney and Devon and sons Zachary and Jacob. Also tagging along was Devon’s boyfriend, Jordan Price.

The Bouldins have been geocaching for almost a year. They were introduced to the new activity by a feature that aired on the Travel Channel.

The geocaching sport bills itself as a family activity, encouraging family-friendly caches. On our trek the kids ranged from 12 years old to 20. They carried official geocaching.com merchandise that Courtney gave her father for Christmas.

Steve was the master of the GPS, but Zachary – a Page County High School senior and member of the cross country team – and 12-year-old Jacob made up the advance team.

They ranged ahead of the group, reporting on the trail and expending more energy than the rest combined.

This time, the Bouldin parents actually found the cache under the rock ledge, although usually the younger family members find the cache.

Earlier in the day, the group hiked the Indian Grave Trail to hide — instead of find — a cache with the Bouldins. At Indian Grave, the Bouldins left a disposable camera so they can see who visits the site. They also left a variety of treasures, including a compass zipper pull, a lightstick, a set of earrings, a carabiner key clip, a few toys and some cologne.

At the cache that we found, we took a glitter pen, a miniature water pistol, a cassette tape and a bungee cord. In exchange, we left a dollar bill, a tennis ball, a Matchbox car and a poncho.

New sport
Geocachers can find geocaches in all 50 states, as well as in more than 200 countries. With such an expansive reach, you’d think geocaching has been around for a long time. You’d be wrong.

In fact, the evolving sport has really only existed since May of 2000, when the U.S. government tweaked the global positioning signal, giving it the accuracy needed for treasure hunting.

The signal was changed on May 1, 2000. On May 3 someone placed a container near Portland, Oregon. By May 6, two people had visited the site. Geocaching was born. Since then the geocaching Web site was created and the activity — which bills itself as “the sport where you are the search engine” — mushroomed.

Geocachers have even developed their own lingo, which saturates the Web.

Participants revel in the use of technology, the thrill of the hunt, plus time spent outdoors. While the GPS technology is impressive, it’s not too expensive. Some units cost less than $100.

Some of the hardest caches involve days in the backcountry. Others require rock climbing equipment, and some even require scuba gear.

But geocaching appeals to a large base. While some caches are remote, others are in developed areas. The caches in developed areas are hard because geocachers don’t want to reveal the location or arouse suspicions in today’s terrorism-wary society.

The sport’s rating system even includes a rating that bills itself as “wheelchair accessible.”

Any geocacher can hide a cache, provided they follow guidelines and get approval from the geocaching organization. Geocachers can be creative.

That creativity has created a dynamic sport that’s evolving as new ideas surface. The rewards of geocaching are many. Finding a cache brings satisfaction, and geocachers celebrate milestones like 100 finds. Sometimes the reward is a spectacular vista. There are even stories of $100 dollar bills and plane tickets in caches.

Normally, though, caches carry more mundane treasures such as toy cars, small tools, key chains, coins, flashlights and so on.

For the Bouldins, geocaching is showing them parts of Page County that they didn’t know existed.

“A lot of trails have overlooks and nobody knows about them,” Ingrid said.

“We’ve been hiking since high school,” Ingrid said as we placed the Indian Grave Ridge cache. “And this combines hiking with a purpose — and treasure hunting.”

As we head down from finding the other cache, Steve sums up why we trekked up the rocky trail and endured the flies.

“It’s safe to say that without geocaching, we wouldn’t have been out here on these trails today.”

View image. Jacob Bouldin prepares to hide the Indian Grave Ridge cache.


One week after we placed the Indian Grave Ridge cache, Xtremefun became the first to find the cache.

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April 14, 2004

Bensfriends and college blogging

Our friend Bet at Dappled Things has an interesting entry on blogging in the college scene. She gave Bensfriends a nod in the entry.

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April 10, 2004

New hobby?

We went geocaching today for the first time. It combines several of my interests.

I'd heard about geocaching before, but was reminded of it recently. Went out and did it today so that I can write an article for my Outdoors page in the paper.

Had a great time, but am exhausted.

More later.

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April 08, 2004

Does the camera lie?

I got to see part of Condoleeza Rice's testimony this morning in the 9/11 witch hunt. I, for one, am glad she's in the Bush administration. She reconfirmed how much of class act she is.

Not that you'll be able to tell by media coverage. How come the media seems to use only the angry, scowl photos of Rice? In the short part of her testimony that I saw today, she was usually smiling a pretty smile.

It all points to another double standard by the media. If conservatives portrayed a liberal in the same light (taking an image--made in a split-second-- out of context to define her improperly), there'd be an outcry.

In photojournalism, there a lot of ways to skew viewers' perception. I think this is one example.

Posted by JRC at 09:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

Snow day?!

Have had a cold, rainy week down in the valley here. That means no sports happened to cover, so I go to plan be for the sports section next week. Thankfully, that's not a big deal this week.

But cold and rainy in the valley meant cold and snowy on the mountains around us today. So I went up a 2000 feet max in elevation and enjoyed taking some photos of snow falling on April 2!

Made me happy.


(Sorry, but I'm too lazy to show photos. Mebbe later.)

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April 01, 2004

Out of this world job

Google's been making a lot of noise lately (finally adding Froogle to the front page, advertising other services more, announcing the amazing new Google e-mail, etc.).

Now they've got an out-of-this-world job advertised online. Study it carefully, and read all the pages...

...and don't forget what today is!

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