Why I love geocaching

Tonight for Family Home Evening in my ward, we had several spotlights featuring the hobbies and talents of several people in the ward. I was asked to talk about geocaching, one of my unhealthy obsessions.  I made a quick video slide show of some of my favorite geocaching moments.   I figured it would make good blog fodder, but then I realized it was 7 minutes long and silent, so it probably wouldn’t go over well.  So I shortened it and added music,  which makes it infinitely cooler, right?

Here’s some of what I had to say:

When I was a kid, I loved exploring my great-grandfather’s farm. I was convinced that somewhere on the farm was a buried treasure. I hunted all over the place for a clue that would lead me to another clue that would eventually lead me to the place where all the gold was buried. It was great fun, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that farmers rarely had enough gold to bother burying it and that pirates rarely stopped in Wyoming.

When I first heard of geocaching, I was immediately intrigued. I remembered back to my treasure hunting days on the farm. Here was a real sport where people hid treasures (ok, boxes with treasure (ok, McDonalds toys) inside) all over the world, and then gave you the GPS coordinates to them and sent you off to find them. How cool was that? Grownup high-tech treasure hunting! Awesome.

I couldn’t afford a GPS when I first heard about it, but I tucked it away in the “I’ll do that later” file. By the time I graduated from grad school, I had had my first taste of geocaching with a friend’s GPS and now could afford one. I was still looking for a job, and had quite a bit of spare time on my hands. So I got my GPS and enjoyed finding and hiding caches all over Salt Lake City. 

When I moved to Michigan, geocaching helped me get to know the area and the people. It took me places I probably wouldn’t have gone to by myself. I would have never found Hines Drive or the Metroparks or Belle Isle without geocaching. I would have missed some of the most beautiful places in Michigan.

For me, it’s really about the places and the people that you encounter while geocaching.

I have geocached in three countries, seven US states, and about 1/3 of Michigan’s counties. Other places I’ve cached:

  • The Huron River from a kayak
  • The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan Mexico
  • The tops of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes 
  • Cache County Utah
  • Downtown Toronto
  • Maybury State Park (a Michigan state park that used to be a Tuberculosis Sanatorium)
  • Multiple Pioneer Cemeteries
  • Henry Ford’s house
  • The campuses of the University of Wyoming, the University of Utah, the University of Michigan, and Eastern Michigan University.
Geocaching is a lot of fun for many types of people.  One of the things that surprised me was the number of retirees that participate.  There is really something for everyone.  If you’re interested in a long hike to a beautiful waterfall, you’ve got that.  If you want to try out scuba diving, there are caches set for you.  If you want to solve a puzzle, if you’re just bored and want to explore your neighborhood, if you’re out running errands and you need to kill a few minutes, there’s a cache for you.
I’ve cached with many different people.  Among the highlights:
  • My two and four year old nephews
  • Both of my grandfathers
  • Many of the people on my blog-roll
  • A hilarious nurse from Chelsea Michigan
  • Several dates, one of which I showed off for by falling (gracefully) into the Huron River in late March.
One of the rules of geocaching is that when you find the cache, you have to sign the logbook.  Imagine how surprised I’ve been to be caching in Utah on visits to see my family, and to open a cache and see that it has been signed just before me by someone I know from Michigan. It’s happened twice!  
Another rule is that if you want to take something from the cache, you should leave something else for the next finder.  I love to trade out signature items, little cards and trinkets that identify the person.  Many times its just a laminated business card or something like that but I once found a Smiley face stamp from someone called “S5280ft.”  Geocachers are pretty clever.

I once heard a statistic that made me sad: the average American spends only 6 minutes outside per day and that is usually spent walking to or from a car.  I have no idea if that is true or not, but Geocaching is one way to get past that 6 minute barrier.  I found a sport that has lots of variety, that takes me places I’ve never been with great people.  I highly recommend it.

Here’s that video that I was telling you about:

Good financial crisis commentary from a source I never thought I’d use

Sometimes, when I see someone posting a video from The Daily Show or The Colbert Report on their Facebook page, I wonder if they realize that these aren’t really news sources. I usually watch, laugh, and go back to what I consider “reputable news.” Usually, that means NPR or Reuters for me.

However, the other day, I got sucked into Jon Stewart’s conflict with Jim Cramer. I regularly read The Consumerist, a consumer rights blog, which exposes the follies of corporate America trying to pull one over on the American public. Actually, I really read it for the daily morning deals feature, but that’s another story. On Wednesday, they posted this story about the week long running battle of wills between Cramer and Stewart. (That link has some embedded videos that are great primers for the links I’m going to post later. I recommend catching up.)

In a nutshell, Stewart ranted on one of his shows about CNBC, complaining that the financial news media station had failed in its journalistic responsibilities. Somehow Cramer decided it was an attack directed at him, and responded. The two sniped back and forth a few times, with Cramer even showing up on The Martha Stewart Show to pound out his aggressions on some pie dough. (Did he know that Pi Day is tomorrow?)

Last night, Cramer was interviewed exstensively on The Daily Show. At lunch today, I decided to watch the interview just to see how worked up Cramer could get. (I’ve seen his show a few times, and it’s kinda spastic!) As it turned out, he actually kept his calm for the most part.

What surprised me the most was the passion and journalistic integrity that Stewart conducted the interview. After all, Stewart really is a comedian at heart, and his show usually pokes fun at people. However, in this interview, Stewart rarely reached into his funny sounds and faces gag bag. He held Cramer, a financial news journalist and commentator, to the fire. He asked pointed questions about how the CNBC network didn’t seem concerned about fact checking the “news” and stock recommendations they were passing out like candy. Stewart expressed the concerns of many Americans: if someone knew about what was going on (the financial media should have known, after all, as Cramer mentions, they have 17 hours of live programming a day!), why didn’t anyone say anything about it.

This is one of my favorite quotes from the interview:

It’s very easy to get on this after the fact. The measure of the network…. CNBC could act as… in some ways… look, nobody is asking them to act as a regulatory agency… but who’s side are they on here?

It feels like they have to reconcile… is their audience the Wall Street traders who are doing this for constant profit on a day to day, the short term?

These guys at these companies were on a Sherman’s March through their companies financed by our 401ks and all the incentives of their companies were for short term profit. They burned the house down with our money and walked away rich as hell and you guys knew that that was going on.

I was surprised by this interview. I didn’t think I’d be posting clips from The Daily Show on my blog. But I am. Here’s a good chunk of the interview. It’s 11 minutes long, just so you know. And Stewart may or may not be bleeped when he swears… But the video is definitely worth watching. You can find the full interview at this link.


Vacation Ideas?

I just got back from one vacation, and now I feel like planning another. That may speak to the fact that the last one was kind of rushed, but very satisfying (details soon, I hope).

I have to take the week of July 4th off again this year, for what we call “Shutdown.” Traditionally, the engineering half of Ford shuts down (hence the name) during the summer for new model change overs, delayed maintenance, and etc. I’ve already had at least three emails reminding me about it, just in case I had forgotten.

On June 27, the Saturday that kicks things off, I am planning to run the Charlevoix Half-Marathon if everything goes well. (Insert copious amounts of knocking on wood.)

I have played with the idea of hiking/backpacking for part or all of the following week, although I’m not sure if I should do serious hiking after running my first half. I’ve considered the North Country Trail as one of the options high on the list, especially portions of the trail in Northern Michigan.

I also still haven’t been to the Upper Pennisula, so the timing and my location for the race could make that a convenient destination. Anyone know of any must not miss locations up there?

I’ve played with the idea of a cruise or a resort stay, but it being the week before the 4th of July might cramp that idea due to crowds, plus I’d have to be industrious and put together a plan to get others to come with because cruising by oneself can get awfully lonely, I’m sure.

I’m not terribly interested in heading back to Wyoming or Utah this year for the shutdown. I’d like to do something that I haven’t done yet, go somewhere I haven’t seen. I love both Utah and Wyoming, don’t get me wrong, but this year, I think I need something else.

I could sum up my requirements like this, I think:
1- New and different location / activity
2- At most a short drive or a direct flight from Detroit (I don’t want any layovers!)
3- Something that friends and/or family could / would join with me
4- Interesting, relaxing, rejuvinating, non-stressful

Anyone have any ideas for something / somewhere cool? Really, this post (and its excessive use of forward slashes) is intended to fish for ideas from you, because I’m not getting anything interesting by Googling “Is there anything interesting happening the week of July 1“.

The Case for Spring

While I know that it is controversial, for me, the end of February marks the end of Winter. With March comes the beginning of spring. I don’t wait until that whole March 21 thing, or even daylight savings. I want spring, and I want it now.

I abhor February. It is my least favorite month of them all. It’s dark and dreary. This year, we had a wonderful warm snap in which I almost forgot that it was February. I even (perhaps ill-advisedly) ran outdoors several times. I even got to drive home in the sun a few times. But it was still February. I did some googling, and found this quote, which about sums up how I feel.

“February is a suitable month for dying. Everything around is dead, the trees black and frozen so that the appearance of green shoots two months hence seems preposterous, the ground hard and cold, the snow dirty, the winter hateful, hanging on too long.”
– Anna Quindlen, One True Thing

But now we’re in March. And March is Spring.

Here’s why:
1- March is warmer than February. I found this graph that proves it.

2- I fell into the Huron in March. If it were winter, #1 I wouldn’t have been able to fall in and #2, if I had, I would have been much colder than I was. You can’t see it in this picture, but my feet are bare also. Would I be walking around barefoot in the winter? No, I would not.

3- You can fly kites in March. Doing so in February is just dumb.

4- Sometimes, Easter happens in March. Bunnies wouldn’t lay eggs in winter, would they?

5- You couldn’t Spring forward for daylight savings time if it weren’t spring. (Don’t forget, March 8th this year!)

6- If you talk about spring snow storms, it feels like they might go away soon. When you talk about winter snow storms, you just get depressed.

7- According to this website, maple syrup production in Michigan starts in spring, which is clearly at least in March.

Last but possibly most important:
March isn’t February. And while every day in February feels the same, every day in March could be something completely different. One day in March, the birds will be back. One day in March, the Huron will flow again. One day in March, the flowers will bloom and the grass will green. These are not things you can say about February. They are only things you can say about March.

I know it isn’t full on Spring yet. It’s definitely not even the best part of Spring. That comes later, in April, in Michigan at least. (Not until at least the end of May in some parts of Wyoming, and then it is only iffy at best). But for me, March is like reading your favorite book. You know how it’s going to end, and you can’t wait to get there.