Saturday, July 19, 2014

Caches and portals and Munzees, oh my!

My personal blog

Is my cup starting to runneth over? At times I think so and yet I eagerly refill it as soon as even the slightest hint of rim appears. This is no mere 3 oz. Dixie cup, either. My cup here would be more of the 52 oz. “bubba mug” variety. I’ve never been one to be satisfied with a sampler size of anything, especially when it comes to having fun. I’m referring to, of course, the way I choose to spend my “spare” time.

Hobbies….we all have ‘em, right? Some of us are content with one or two, while others, like me, aren’t satisfied unless every spare minute of every day could be taken up with something. The immediate reference that comes to my mind is Chet Morton, friend of the Hardy Boys. Life is full of irony and at times I’m astounded by how much life and art are so closely intertwined.
Chet has been described as a freckle-faced, rotund lad that loves to eat. Generally, each new Hardy Boys mystery will have Chet taking on a new hobby. I’m surprised my middle name is Charles instead of Chet. Then again, a friend of mine from my college days, John Myers, said I’d make the perfect Hobbit. I beg to differ, though, in that I can’t be the perfect hobbit. I don’t care for mushrooms nor do I smoke. Other than that, though….

As usual, I digress, but no surprise there, right?

Let’s take a look at what I’ve done in the past, and see what I’m up to now. In college, the same John who deemed me Hobbit worthy introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons. Up to that point, I had only heard about it, but never played it. I was reluctant to play, though, as I wasn’t one of “those weird, oddball types” that I heard made the vast majority of players. Hey, these were some of my friends, and they were cool! Recently I read the book Of Dice and Men, which is a history of the game. I recommend it to anyone curious about “those weird, oddball types,” as I think you’ll find that that’s really not the case, at least any more. I haven’t played since college, but I think I see a bit of rim forming on my bubba mug. Any unemployed dungeon masters out there?

What else have I spent lots of time and money doing since D&D? I’ve had fun skydiving, playing golf and managing stage productions at a local theatre. Please, don’t bother asking the standard question: “Why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” The short answer to that is “There’s no such thing as a perfectly good airplane.” Seriously. Take a look at most jump planes and you’ll probably agree. Those who saw my car when I was skydiving and playing golf regularly were often amused to see two decals on my back window….one for the US Parachute Association and one for the US Golf Association. I bet my previous blog about my “schizo” music makes much more sense now, doesn’t it? Would it surprise you to know what I’m listening to right now as I write this blog? Probably not.

Technology’s rapid advance not only creates new jobs, increases productivity and generally enhances life, it also creates new ways to have fun. Two items, the GPS receiver and the “smartphone” demonstrate what I’m referring to. Once Selective Availability was discontinued in 2000, civilian GPS units now had the ability to locate its position within a circle of about 9 feet….anywhere on the planet. This created many opportunities for entrepreneurs to take advantage of such accuracy. Enter geocaching. I first discovered geocaching while looking online for accessories for my first GPS unit, a Magellan GPS 315 (now considered obsolete). Geocaching is essentially a worldwide “treasure hunt.” I don’t know the original source of this, but my favorite description of geocaching is “utilizing billion dollar US government satellite technology to find Tupperware hidden in the woods.” I created my geocaching profile in May of 2003 with the name “Lefty Writer” (sound familiar?). Compared to many other cachers, I don’t have near the number of cache finds as they do, but both Cindy and I have fun. We’ve found caches in 14 states and 8 countries. One of the first things I do when we book a cruise is to search for caches near the cruise terminal. Admittedly, we don’t cache as much as when we first started, but we still enjoy the occasional foray into the woods, parks or urban jungle.

I don’t know that I would call cruising a hobby as much as I just call it “vacation.” It’s a good way to get us to some really awesome dive spots in the Caribbean. Now that there are scuba caches, we can combine two hobbies. My first scuba cache find was at Mammoth Lake in Clute. What a cool overlap, huh? Caching and diving. Hold that thought, though, as I think you’ll see there’s gonna be even more overlapping.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find a cell phone that isn’t a “smartphone.” Yes, there are some basic cell phones still available, but one really has to look for it. Smartphone technology has evolved by leaps and bounds in a short time. I can only imagine what will be available in 5 years. For now, though, I have everything I need with my phone, including GPS navigation. I still take my standalone GPS receiver with me when traveling or caching, though. Yes, even this device, a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx has been discontinued by the manufacturer. I now use this more to generate a track log of our trip and download it to Google Earth.

Who isn’t tired of hearing/seeing/reading: “There’s an app for that.” in our everyday lives? I’m not against useful or fun apps, not at all…..just that goofy phrase. In July of 2011, a game called Munzee was created. Munzee is very similar to geocaching, but instead of an actual container to find, one looks for a specific sticker with a QR code on it. The player then scans this code with their phone to claim the find. I created an account shortly after the game went live and to date have found exactly ONE Munzee. Yes, you read that correctly… Oftentimes a Munzee is very close to a geocache, so those who enjoy these types of games can do both at once. I don’t know why I never really got into Munzee, but my account is still active and I may start doing more of this. You’ll see why shortly.

Late last year a new smartphone based game was released called Ingress. Leave it to me to only discover this game in the last week….seven months later! Actually, my sister Victoria found out about it from her co-workers and let me know about it. This game has an extensive science fiction back story and is location based like geocaching and Munzee. Of course I had to create an account (Join the resistance!) and start playing, right? Just as with geocaching, I now look on a map to see where “portals” are as I plan a cruise or a trip to the local library or grocery store.

What I noticed when checking out the various game maps is the incredible overlap between them all. My local library has all three in close proximity. I’ve noticed several other locations where all three games have their own destination in the same place.
The only downside to the Munzee and Ingress games is that being smartphone based,  it will limit my game playing to the US. I don’t want to pay international roaming and data charges looking for Munzees or portals in Caribbean ports. I can download caches to my GPS receiver and log my finds when I get back, but can’t really do this with the other games. I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied with diving and caching then. Wow, how will I cope?

Until next time……

carpe cerevisi

No comments:

Post a Comment