Virtual Geocache Confirmation Page

I made some changes to the virtual cache confirmation page on my Austin Explorer site. The layout is a bit improved. Yes, I know it’s still not great, but I’m not a designer and I don’t have that much time to devote to it!

Previously, AustinExplorer.com could only verify finds of virtual caches located within the Austin area (it’s a long story). With the changes just rolled out, any virtual cache owner can make use of the tool to verify cachers’ finds without having to use manual emails to do so.

What’s a virtual? What’s a cache? On the Geocaching.com site there is a type of geocache (a hidden item found with the use of GPS receivers) that does not use a physical container. Instead, finders have to navigate to the right location and then answer a question based on some clue that was present at the virtual cache site. For some time now Geocaching.com has not allowed any new virtuals to be created, but exiting ones were grandfathered in.

An example usage of the auto-confirm page would be a cacher who goes to find my Run of the Mill Cache. Along with the coordinates to the cache location there is a question that needs to be answered to log the cache find and a link to my site to do so:

A click on the auto-confirm link brings the cacher to the relevant page. The user supplies their Geocaching.com name and the answer and gets confirmation. The cache owner gets an email so they know that user X that just logged a find on Geocaching.com actually did find it.

If you are one of the few virtual cache owners who are growing a bit weary answering emails for virtual cache finds get in touch with me and we’ll set you up to automate things.

Update (5/19/2019)

Virtual caches remain a grandfathered cache type on Geocaching.com, but there is a window of opportunity to be one of the lucky few who own and maintain one. Geocaching.com has announced a Virtual Rewards 2.0 promotion through which 4,000 new virtual caches will be authorized. There is some eligibility criteria that I can’t meet, but if you can then consider registering to get a slot and then you can use AustinExplorer.com to handle some of the maintenance requirements for your cache. The deadline to apply is June 1, 2019.

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Vine Pruning

Since moving to Sonoma, Penny and I have taken an increased interest in wine. We’re not content to merely drink the final product, though that’s fun too. We both took an interest in how and why things are done the way they are. A recent event held at Benovia Winery provided us with another opportunity to create a greater appreciation for how wine is made.

Benovia Winery

The Benovia Pruning Seminar provided instruction and hands-on experience of vine pruning. We learned a lot and the vineyard workers who assisted the group were good sports. The speed at which they make pruning decisions is impressive.

There are multiple methods of pruning a vine and we learned two techniques, cordon pruning (a.k.a spur pruning) and cane pruning. Vineyard Manager Chris Kangas said we would never look at vineyards as we drove by them the same way after the seminar. He was right. As we drive through the countryside now we compare and contrast the pruning styles of each of the blocks we pass.

For our efforts we were each rewarded with a certificate of achievement.

Benovia Pruning Seminar Certificate
Benovia Pruning Seminar Certificate

What are the other methods of pruning? We’re not sure but we’ve seen some old vine Zin vineyards in particular that do not match any logical or uniform pattern. The growers just kind of let the vines do their own thing. We’ve coined the term laissez-faire pruning for those examples.

No visit to a winery would be complete without a tasting. We were able to sample some of Benovia’s Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. A few of the wines were made with grapes from the very fields we had trampled on earlier. Smartly, the tasting took place after the participants handled sharp instruments in the vineyard!

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Index Attribute in ASP.Net Core

I was attempting to add an [Index] attribute to a field on a project I started recently that’s using ASP.Net Core 2.2. Though the number of records in the table for now is not terribly large I was just planning for the future.

Despite adding the needed using statements to get access to the attribute I could not get Intellisense to quit squawking about it.

Turns out there’s a difference between Entity Framework and Entity Framework Core in this case. Seems this feature was left out because of issues.

Leaving out the index attribute from the migration and then adding the index to the column after updating the database is easy enough to do but presents problems. If you have to back out that last migration for some reason and then reapply you’ll have to remember to perform the step to re-add the index. The same problem occurs if you try and run the code on a new installation elsewhere.

Instead, after the migration has been create and before it’s used to update the database just manually modify the migration’s Up() method to add the needed index.


protected override void Up(MigrationBuilder migrationBuilder)
{
    // Table creation code created by migration here

    migrationBuilder.CreateIndex(
        "IX_SomeRecords_Name",
        "SomeRecords",
        "Name"
    );
}

You should be able to update the database consistently now and in the future without any additional steps.

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Emergency Lessons – Get To Know Your Neighbors

This article is one of a series of posts that emerged due to the 2017 wildfires that ravaged California wine country near our home.

Communities usually come together when an emergency hits. There’s safety in numbers and assisting one another increases the ability of all to survive a hardship.

The time to build a community is not when disaster is knocking on your door. The time to do that is now! Getting to know your neighbors builds a bond of trust with people you may rely on in the future when an emergency occurs.

Who in your neighborhood needs extra assistance to evacuate? Who is that person loading up a car with your neighbors belongings? Who nearby has a specialty tool you need to make an emergency repair? These sorts of questions can only be answered by getting to know the folks in your neighborhood.

When we moved to Sonoma my wife and I looked around for a neighborhood group that organized happy hours or other events. There was none, so we started our own. We spread some flyers around the neighborhood that said we’d be in our front driveway with a snack and some wine and anyone else was willing to join us. This low level of effort led to monthly events with sometimes 50 people showing up. We continue to host them to this day.

Getting to know the neighbors

An online neighborhood email and contact list was developed to help organize things. How does this tie into emergencies? When the Sonoma wildfires were raging and threatening the city many neighbors evacuated. They used to contact list to keep in touch to ensure those who remained were safe and that our neighborhood was still there. Thankfully, we all were.

Personal emergencies could be a factor as well. Two neighbors left early one morning for a flight to Europe. At the airport they had a sinking suspicion that they had failed to close their garage door when they left. They contacted my wife who walked a short distance to their house to confirm they had indeed left it open and quickly closed it for them. Personal emergency avoided, they were able to enjoy their vacation.

So reach out to your neighbors, get to know them, organize a contact list and perhaps bring more of them on board with some common sense emergency preparedness steps.

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A Fungus Among Us

Typically, the Bay Area gets a lot of rain showers throughout the winter. The near constant moisture in the air and soil has caused an explosion of mushroom growth in our yard.

Two of the larger examples to be found.
They’re everywhere! They’re Everywhere!

Are any of these edible? The only safe answer is no! Let’s just go with that.

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Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas to one and all from the Barron household. Curry, in particular, would like to share a word or two.

Have a Merry Christmas, or else!
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The Best Christmas Songs

Many popular Christmas songs have been re-recorded numerous times. Do an Amazon MP3 search for some of the more popular ones and you might find more than one thousand listed.

But there can only be one best rendition.  Here is my list of some popular Christmas tunes that I think have been done as well as or better than any other effort over the years.

Song Artist
Baby, It’s Cold Outside Dean Martin
Blue Christmas Elvis Presley
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) Nat King Cole
Deck The Hall Nat King Cole
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing Nat King Cole
A Holly Jolly Christmas Burl Ives
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Frank Sinatra
I’ll Be Home For Christmas Bing Crosby
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Dean Martin
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Andy Williams
Jingle Bell Rock Bobby Helms
O Come All Ye Faithful Nat King Cole
O Holy Night Nat King Cole
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree Brenda Lee
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town Frank Sinatra
Silent Night Bing Crosby
Sleigh Ride Johnny Mathis
Silver And Gold Burl Ives
White Christmas Bing Crosby

I know there are a few that are missing here but there’s a solid play list for your Christmas parties this year.

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Emergency Lessons – Leave The Lights On. And a TV

This article is one of a series of posts that emerged due to the 2017 wildfires that ravaged California wine country near our home.

This is is a fairly simple idea.  When forced to evacuate your home lock up and try to make your home looked as occupied as possible.

As if natural disasters were not devastating enough on their own, there is a small minority of people whose selfish acts compound the damage done to peoples’ lives when they loot areas under emergency conditions.  Still, it’s foolish to risk one’s life for possessions that can the replaced.  Get out of harm’s way when an emergency strikes.

So how can the odds be improved to avoid being a victim of both a disaster and human cruelty?  Tilt the balance ever so slightly in your favor.

Looters are often opportunists and realize they may not have a lot of time in a given area before they have to move on.  A dark, obviously unoccupied home is an obvious target.

What’s not a target is a well lit home with noise coming out of it.  Leave some lights on, both inside and outside the house.  And leave the TV or radio running to provide some noise.

Sure, if they did a bit of snooping they could probably determine in short order no one was really around.  But if there are scores of dark houses around that present tempting targets then any moment spent researching your home would be time wasted.

Now, there is a potential downside to this strategy.  For areas with mandatory evacuations police may sweep the area looking to clear people out of harm’s way.  What will they do with a locked house with lights and a running TV?  Will they break a door down?  That’s a good question and one for which I do not have an answer.

Ultimately, this is a choice you’ll have to make on your own.

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Emergency Lessons – Photograph and Video Everything in Your House

This article is one of a series of posts that emerged due to the 2017 wildfires that ravaged California wine country near our home.

Whatever level of preparedness you apply before a disaster, there is a chance that much of the contents of your home could be lost.  Somethings are irreplaceable (see the post on preserving family photos), but many are not.  If you have homeowners insurance (and you should) then replacing those replaceables becomes an exercise in documentation.

Writing down the entire list of everything in your house is obviously a dull task.  A nice shortcut is to photograph or video everything in your house.  This works better than a written manifest anyway since it can be provided as documentation in case the insurance company has doubts whether you possessed certain items at all.

Video has some advantages over individual photos because it provides a continuous flow of images that provides context.  A photo of a large LED TV on an anonymous wall, somewhere, may not provide enough context to prove that was your TV on your wall.

There’s no need for a complicated camcorder.  Any modern smartphone will do.

Once you’ve gathered up your photos and video there’s an important step to take.  Store that data somewhere other than in your house!  This should go without saying given a previous post on the topic of storing computer data outside of the house but I thought it worth mentioning again.

Some articles on the subject have recommended storing the data on a thumb drive that’s included in your go bag.  Not a bad idea, but also not ideal if you are forced to flee before you can grab your go bag.  Always have a copy stored somewhere far from home that you can access from anywhere.  If your computer is backed up to the cloud then storing a copy of the video on it will ensure it’s uploaded somewhere far afield, and presumably safe.

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Emergency Lessons – Make a List, Check it Twice

This article is one of a series of posts that emerged due to the 2017 wildfires that ravaged California wine country near our home.

The community of Glen Ellen, north of Sonoma, was hard hit by the 2017 fires.  Jack London State Historic Park was in the path of the rapidly spreading fire when the curators took quick and decisive action.  They loaded up irreplaceable artifacts from the site and shipped them to Sacramento for safe keeping.  How did they know what to do so quickly?  They made a list beforehand.

In a matter of two hours that first Monday morning, parks staff went room by room and cleared out items of importance indicated on a pre-made list, one created in the unlikely event of just such an emergency.

Jack London’s Study

That’s effective prior planning.  Can you imagine the confusion and bad decisions that would have been made had they been forced to evaluate and prioritize in the chaotic moments when the fire was closing in on the site?

The contents of our houses are not as historically important as those from Jack London’s house but they are certainly important to us.  So why shouldn’t we plan ahead with our own belongings?

A recent bestselling book, The Checklist Manifesto, proposed the simple checklist as a solution to many complex problems we face in everyday life.  Airplane pilots and even surgeons have benefited from being able to follow well documented, complex steps in the form of a checklist.

Though throwing things in a car to vacate a disaster area doesn’t require a medical degree or pilot’s license, it does represent a challenging and stressful situation.  What’s most important?  One must think fast, but the proper decisions to be made require a slower, more methodical thinking (Thinking Fast and Slow).  A checklist prepared beforehand provides the best of both worlds.

What should the checklist include?  It’s a simple to-do list of things to collect in the event of an emergency in priority order.  Construct this list and order it such that the most important things are listed first.  If you have a list of 15 items but only have time to collect 5 be sure that in the end you will be certain that the decisions made where clearly the right ones.

Do not shy away from having a long, detailed list.  Don’t think that you’ll obviously remember when the time comes.  You’ll likely remember your dogs or cats.  But what about some of their food?  Write it all down.

Online task managers, such as Remember The Milk, allow for the creation of lists in which items can be arranged in an arbitrary order.  This is handy because your ordering of items on the list is likely to change the more thought you put into things.  Once finalized, the list can then be printed out.  Place a couple of copies around the house to ensure that one can be found at a moments notice.

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