Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Geocoin Update: The Return of Free State Generic #1

Three years ago today, I reported on the progress of Free State Generic #3, but for the other five geocoins I had released, I remarked that I had "pretty much written them off".

Well, I haven't heard from Free State Generic #3 since then, but three of the others have popped up since then. Here's a quick summary.
  • Free State Generic #1: Time since last log: 8 days. Longest interval between logs: 1 year, 5 months, 15 days.
  • Free State Generic #2: Time since last log: 4 years, 6 months, 11 days. Longest interval between logs: 2 months, 3 days.
  • Free State Generic #3: Time since last log: 3 years, 1 day. Longest interval between logs: 1 month, 17 days.
  • Free State Mover #1: Time since last log: 1 month, 17 days. Longest interval between logs: 4 years, 3 months, 21 days.
  • Free State Mover #2: Time since last log: 5 years, 6 months, 1 day. Longest interval between logs: 1 month, 6 days.
  • Free State Mover #3: Time since last log: 9 months. (Because I retrieved it.) Longest interval between logs: 2 years, 5 months, 26 days.
So half my geocoins disappeared for over 2 years and 5 months before resurfacing. The other half just disappeared. Lesson: don't write them off too soon.
Free State Generic #1

So what's up with Free State Generic #1? Prior to this month, it was last logged in Alabama in 2010. But it didn't completely disappear. In 2011, someone remarked, "Picked this up a while back and decided to drop it off in Cozumel!" In 2012, someone else reported, "found in Cozumel. Taking back to AZ for some dry heat." And then, this month, they did exactly that. Below is its progress since I dropped it off in Maryland 6 years ago while waiting for my drivers license.
Sadly, Cozumel does not appear on the map, since nobody ever bothered to log it in there.

I have Free State Generic #4 and Free State Generic #5 sitting around the house somewhere (I activated them in 2010); I should really release them.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Nebula Update: The Einstein Intersection

The Einstein IntersectionThe Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this because it was the January 2014 Sword & Laser pick, and because it's one of the few Nebula Best Novel winners I hadn't read. I waited until the Sword & Laser wrap-up podcast to write this review, in case I heard anything that changed my mind. It didn't; it rather intensified my general dislike for this book.

I believe that plot and setting are important components of novels. Further, I believe that an author has an obligation to his or her readers to convey the plot and setting. Yet, the Sword & Laser podcast hosts, while attempting to summarize The Einstein Intersection, repeatedly fumbled or hedged based on their lack of understanding of what the hell was going on in this book or what the setting for it actually was.

Some people like how much this book left to the reader's imagination, or for the reader to figure out. I think the best novels are capable of layering depths of meaning over a coherent story. As an example, this book contains references to the myth of Orpheus. Nobody ever reads about Orpheus and says, "Huh, I'm not sure what happened there." It's a story.

Two stars instead of one for being well-written (in the sense of having a pleasing command of language) and because the plot wasn't completely incomprehensible. But it's not a good sign that I picked up another book (Diplomatic Immunity) in the middle of reading this (short) one because I wasn't enjoying it enough.

I now have 8 Nebula Best Novels (out of 49) left to read:
  1. 1966: Flowers for Algernon (tie)
  2. 1966: Babel-17 (tie) (also by Delaney, sigh)
  3. 1968: Rite of Passage
  4. 1976: Man Plus
  5. 1978: Dreamsnake (not available for Kindle -- boo)
  6. 1981: The Claw of the Conciliator (I started this and didn't finish; not a good sign)
  7. 1987: The Falling Woman (also not available for Kindle)
  8. 1990: Tehanu

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Geocaching Update: Minute 37

I am at a math conference in Baltimore this week. The Internet access is terrible, so I am composing this post on my phone. We'll see how it goes.

During lunch yesterday, I walked over to a virtual geocache at Camden Yards. My understanding is that it's a war memorial that was built when the old stadium, which was itself a memorial, was torn down.

This gives me my 12th minute in the 76th degree west, and my 10th "county" in Maryland. The other nearby geocaches are either also in minute 37, or are in minute 36, which I took care of in Calvert County years ago. So that wraps up my geocaching for the week.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bowie Restaurant Project: (79) Penalty Box Cafe

Penalty Box Cafe, 3330 Northview Drive
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 1/10/2014
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

The trickiest places to find a time to review have been ones that aren't open for weekday lunches, my most frequent type of kid-free meal. I gather that the Penalty Box Cafe is mostly open when school is not, although a phone call a year or two ago didn't turn up any sort of set schedule.

The PBC is located inside the Bowie Ice Arena, so the main audience for the restaurant is skaters and their families. Bowie Ice Arena is itself located in Allen Pond Park, so it's also an option for parkgoers. Be warned that the seating is limited, and on our family visit (as parkgoers, not skaters) seemed mostly occupied by people who weren't eating.

There are three "combos" available, and I believe those are the main dining options: pizza, chicken tenders and a hot dog. The pizza was awful. I can't recommend ordering it. The chicken tenders were actually very tasty; I nabbed some from the kids. They were out of hot dog buns on the first visit, so I saved that for the return trip. The guy warned me that the hot dog was microwaved, which I thought might be OK. But it's a jumbo hot dog, which meant it heated unevenly. Not great.

You get the sort of service you might expect at a snack bar. Youth who clearly have no experience with or interest in the restaurant industry prepare and serve your food. They were uniformly super-nice, especially when my kids spilled most of the table of food. But you'd run into a bottleneck where it would take 10 minutes to get a soda refill.

The fries were good on both visits, but they were completely different styles.

Honestly, if this weren't a snack bar, it would vie for the lowest ratings I have offered. But it's what you should expect out of a snack bar, so that gets it a pass. Also, having a place to eat for patrons of both the Ice Arena and Allen Pond Park serves the city well, so two stars. (After sitting on this review for several days, I realized that the hot dog had left the roof of my mouth burned for several days, so I deducted a further half-star.)

Bowie Restaurant News

Five restaurants to go! Two fall into the "no weekday lunch" category, one is too nice to take the kids (or co-workers!) to, there's another snack bar I haven't figured out the hours on, and a newer restaurant that I'm waiting for a third visit to. The end is in sight!

It looks like Freestyle Fish 'n' Chicken. is done for. At least when I've been near there recently, they haven't been open, and it's been normal restaurant hours.

Other news...No progress since October on Anthony's Pizza. Little Caesar's is coming to Bowie Plaza. I doubt they'll have a dine-in option, which means I won't have to review it here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Geocaching: Minute by Minute

I recently became aware of a nearby geocache which you're only allowed to log if you've found caches in all 60 minutes of the 76th degree west of longitude. Since I live in that degree, I thought I'd have a shot at having a substantial number of these minutes. I've only found 86 caches total, and many of those were not in the Eastern U.S., so I knew I wouldn't be close to 60, but it might be interesting.

CAM 2006 (minute 55)
My previous "goal" was to find caches in all of Maryland's 24 counties. I stalled out at nine a few years ago, mostly because a lot of travel would be required to add to the list. But the minutes are by definition, potentially close to home.

As it turns out I have 11 of the 60 minutes. Here they are. (When I found a minute multiple times, I used the earliest representative.
  1. 27 A Stroll Around Solomons Island (blog post)
  2. 31 Beachwood Park Travel Bug Hotel
  3. 36 Hutchins Hideaway (blog post)
  4. 40 Crofton Travel Bug Tavern
  5. 50 Manta's Mystery Cache (blog post)
  6. 54 Forest Heaven
  7. 55 CAM 2006 - Inside the Beltway (blog post)
  8. 56 Maryland Marathon (blog post)
  9. 57 National Treasures (blog post)
  10. 58 Birds Don't Have Pockets (blog post)
  11. Maryland Marathon (minute 56)
  12. 59 Grab A Seat (blog post)
It's possible that I found a few other minutes, but since I am no longer a "premium member," I can't retrieve the coordinates. At this point, I don't think it's worth it to re-join.

Birds Don't Have Pockets (minute 58)
Grab A Seat (minute 59)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Android's Dungeon 2013 Blogging Productivity Report

I'm running out of graph styles to use on these annual reports. (The x-axis is not much to my liking here.)

For the second straight year, the number of blog posts dropped, although I'm still at twice my 2010 low. I labeled every post last year, so I could see where my posting activity came from. The top category was my Bowie Restaurant Project, with 17 posts. "Books" produced 10 posts, and "Hugo" produced 7 (mostly the same as the books posts due to the fact that some posts were multi-labeled.)

Given that I only have 6 restaurants left to review in Bowie, I don't think I'm going to get 17 posts out of that in 2014. More than 6 hopefully, with new restaurants opening, and some summary posts I have planned.

I have moved many of my books posts over to Goodreads, though I can plan to post my more substantive reviews here as well. If I become a Hugo voter this year, I also get the right to vote on the 1939 "retro-Hugos", so I should have a lot more material to cover.

If I'm going to beat (or even reach) 40 posts this year, I will have to rely on some of the recently-neglected categories. I didn't do much travel in 2013 (none without the family), but there's potential there. I have a geocaching post coming up this weekend; maybe I can do more of those. And biking would be a nice thing to blog about.