Geocaching

It’s a fun treasure hunt game using a GPS.

Geocaching is:

an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world. A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and “treasure,” usually toys or trinkets of little value.

Geocaching started when selective availability of the GPS system was turned off in May 2000, increasing the accuracy of consumer GPS units by ten-fold. You can read more about its history here.

My friend Wayfarer got me into geocaching in April 2006. I became a member of the Geocaching.com and was off finding caches. My first find was one my daughter and I found together in a park that we visited often.

My best day was when Wayfarer and I found 14 geocaches together in April last year. May 2007 was my best month when I found 22 caches.

At times, geocaching has been a lot of fun. It’s especially fun to hunt for them in the wilderness. However, sometimes geocachers hide microcaches (those that are very small) in parks etc, and those can be difficult to find. In the city, some hiding places are so crowded that one arouses suspicion during the search. At times, the bomb squad is called.

The houses were evacuated, the bomb squad called to disarm the suspicious device that was found in a quiet Tustin neighborhood. A member of the bomb squad placed an explosive device to detonate the offending object and BAM!

The lid blew off the rectangular ammunition box and revealed … some notes and a few pieces of candy.

Bounty from what turned out to be nothing but a high-tech scavenger hunt.

On the other hand, some tourist destinations, like Jekyll Island or Callaway Gardens, have hidden geocaches all over the place as a way to attract visitors with another activity.

So why write about it more than two years later? Because I passed a milestone: On July 9, I finally got to 100 geocache finds.

I use the GPS receiver Garmin GPS60CSx for navigation/finding the cache and Treo 650 smartphone for storing all the info about the caches from the Geocaching website. GSAK is the software on my PC which keeps a database of caches I might be interested in and Cachemate runs on the Treo for the same purpose. I also use Garmin MapSource (I have the Topo maps, Google Earth (on the PC) and Google Maps (on the Treo) for mapping.

Pakistani Women Olympic Athletes

I have recently been focussed more on negative aspects of Pakistan recently on this blog. A long time ago, I had plans of “good news” posts about Pakistan, but that never materialized. Now, there is a weblog, Pak Positive, blogging news items of general interest about Pakistan. As the blogger mentions:

One fine evening, after browsing dozens of internet websites and news blogs, I realized that I had not read a single piece of general-interest news about Pakistan. All I read about Pakistan or any of our cities was in relation with terrorism, violence, intolerance, bomb-blasts, Al-Qaeda, extremism, etc. At that point I truly craved for some ‘ordinary’ news from Pakistan. After all, we are a living, breathing society where something ‘civilized’ must happen, or ordinary people aren’t always killing each other to rid of them from Pakistan! That’s when I decided to start this blog.

Pak Positive pointed me to the female Pakistani athletes taking part in the Olympics this year. There is Sumera Zahoor taking part in the 1500m event which will be taking place August 24. In addition, there is the first Pakistani woman in the Olympic swimming event this year, Rubab Raza.

Thirteen-year-old Rubab Raza’s day runs in multiples of five. She prays five times a day, goes to school five hours a day and swims five hours a day as she prepares to go for gold in the Olympics 50-metre freestyle in Athens in August.

Raza already wears the crown of Pakistan’s fastest swimmer; now the dark-eyed teenager is poised to become the conservative Islamic republic’s first woman to plunge into the Olympic pool.

[…]In the Frontier where life is more conservative, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government has slapped an official ban on male coaches training women athletes.

Luckily for Raza, such bans don’t exist in vibrant Lahore. Her coach is a veteran male swimmer, Munawar Luqman.

“I train daily for about two to three hours in the morning and two hours in the evening,” she said.

[…]The ninth year student at Jesus and Mary Convent School has since gone on to claim 10 national medals: three in the open category and seven in her own age group.

At the last South Asia Federation games in March she picked up a bronze and two silver medals.

Rubab is not the first Pakistani woman (girl) to compete in the Olympics, only the first swimmer.

The track is where Pakistani women made their Olympic debut. The first woman to ever represent Pakistan in an Olympic event was Shabana Akhtar, who ran the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints at Atlanta in 1996. Another female runner Shazia Hidayat competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Rubab has also taken part in championships in India and Spain.

She will be competing in the 50m freestyle heats on August 20.

Rubab is also not the first Pakistani female swimmer to compete internationally. There have been a couple of other women in recent years.

Though it’s not easy for women to be participating in disciplines like swimming —- with the usual outfit going well against the norm —- she is not the first Pakistani swimmer to make waves internationally. When Rubab participated in the FINA World Women’s Championship in Barcelona last year, Kiran Khan was the other Pakistani in the pool. And earlier in 2002, Sana Wahid got the honour of becoming the first Pakistani woman to take the plunge when she participated in the 50m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games.

Before 2000, however, due to social limitations it was out of the question for Pak women to do what Rubab and the rest are doing today. It was only after FINA —- the governing body for the sport —- relaxed the dress code and allowed body-suits that it became possible.

Sumaira and Rubab are nowhere close to winning a medal at the Olympics, but I hope they do well.

UPDATE: Rubab Raza finished 5th out of 8 in the 50m freestyle heats.

UPDATE II: Sumaira Zahoor finished last in the 1500m heat.

Go Yellow Jackets!

This calls for a celebration.

Surprising Georgia Tech sure is making a name for itself at this Final Four.

Will Bynum shook loose for a layup with 1.5 seconds left and sent the Yellow Jackets further than they’ve ever been in the NCAA tournament, putting them into the championship game with a 67-65 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday.

[…]Now coach Paul Hewitt and his third-seeded Jackets will play for the title Monday night against the Duke-Connecticut winner.

Here’s a good omen for them: Tech has already beaten both of those powers.

Picked to finish a lowly seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Jackets weren’t expected to do much of anything this season with a team of unknowns — hardly an All-American among them.

And surrounded by big names like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun and Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton at this Final Four, they were considered the biggest underdogs of all.

UPDATE: We meet University of Connecticut for the final on Monday.

Go Jackets!

Cricket World Cup

The super six stage has ended. Australia will now play Sri Lanka on March 18 and India will play Kenya on March 20 in the semifinals. Kenya is the surprise here. Both Kenya and Zimbabwe reached the super six stage because New Zealand and England respectively decided not to travel to their country and forfeited their matches. My picks in the semifinals are Australia and India. Since Australia have yet to lose a game and they defeated India convincingly in their group match, Australia should emerge as the champions. But you never know.

Cricket World Cup

When the World Cup started, I made some predictions, which have turned out to be very wrong. Of the six teams qualifying for the super six stage, I predicted only three. However, I should eat crow over my prediction of a South African win. They didn’t even qualify for super six. Right now, Australia and India have both qualified for the semifinals. They will be joined by two of the following: Kenya, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe (in the order of their chances to qualify for the semifinals).

Zimbabwe Cricketers Protest Mugabe

Two members of Zimbabwe’s World Cup Cricket team, Andy Flower and Henry Olonga, are protesting Mugabe’s despotic rule by wearing black arm bands during their World Cup game against Namibia. Andy Flower is a former captain of the team and Henry Olonga is their first black player. According to BBC,

Zimbabwe cricketers Henry Olonga and Andy Flower knew that they were taking a great risk by making a public protest against the government of Robert Mugabe.

Olonga has already been suspended by his club, Takashinga for wearing a black armband during the Namibia match but that is the least of their worries.

As the statement they released just before taking to the field said:

“People have been murdered, raped, beaten and had their homes destroyed because of their beliefs and… many of those responsible have not been prosecuted.”

While such high-profile people are unlikely to be physically attacked in the middle of the Cricket World Cup, Mr Mugabe and his supporters have long memories.

Certainly, their cricketing careers – in Zimbabwe at least – are in jeopardy.

The Zimbabwe Cricket Union, whose patron is cricket fan Robert Mugabe, is already considering what action to take against them for breaching its “non-political” stance.

[…]And the police have said no political slogans, songs, placards, dress or other “artefact associated with political parties” would be allowed at cricket venues.

But despite this, the cricketers’ action has brought attention back to “the death of democracy” in Zimbabwe.

And the statement is far more powerful, coming from the first black player in the national team, Henry Olonga.

Both players received loud cheers every time they bowled or batted, further adding to Mr Mugabe’s embarrassment.

The government mouthpiece, The Herald newspaper, noted that the two were “able to express themselves without any harassment or intimidation”.

But the police would have handed out instant justice to anyone making similar statements from the crowd.

Olonga says he is ready to pay the price of his action and accepted that he and Flower may now be in physical danger.

“We’ll have to deal with whatever repercussions come along our way as best we can but we believe in the greater good,” he told the BBC.

Here is their statement:

It is a great honour for us to take the field today to play for Zimbabwe in the World Cup.

We feel privileged and proud to have been able to represent our country.

We are, however, deeply distressed about what is taking place in Zimbabwe in the midst of the World Cup and do not feel that we can take the field without indicating our feelings in a dignified manner and in keeping with the spirit of cricket.

We cannot in good conscience take to the field and ignore the fact that millions of our compatriots are starving, unemployed and oppressed.

We are aware that hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans may even die in the coming months through a combination of starvation, poverty and Aids.

We are aware that many people have been unjustly imprisoned and tortured simply for expressing their opinions about what is happening in the country.

We have heard a torrent of racist hate speech directed at minority groups.

We are aware that thousands of Zimbabweans are routinely denied their right to freedom of expression.

We are aware that people have been murdered, raped, beaten and had their homes destroyed because of their beliefs and that many of those responsible have not been prosecuted.

We are also aware that many patriotic Zimbabweans oppose us even playing in the World Cup because of what is happening.

It is impossible to ignore what is happening in Zimbabwe. Although we are just professional cricketers, we do have a conscience and feelings.

We believe that if we remain silent that will be taken as a sign that either we do not care or we condone what is happening in Zimbabwe.

We believe that it is important to stand up for what is right.

We have struggled to think of an action that would be appropriate and that would not demean the game we love so much.

We have decided that we should act alone without other members of the team being involved because our decision is deeply personal and we did not want to use our senior status to unfairly influence more junior members of the squad.

We would like to stress that we greatly respect the ICC and are grateful for all the hard work it has done in bringing the World Cup to Zimbabwe.

In all the circumstances, we have decided that we will each wear a black armband for the duration of the World Cup.

In doing so we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe.

In doing so we are making a silent plea to those responsible to stop the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe.

In doing so we pray that our small action may help to restore sanity and dignity to our nation.

It is great to hear such words from two very good cricketers. They have risked a lot by this protest and the international community and ICC (International Cricket Conference, cricket’s governing body) should make sure they are not punished.

Courtesy of commenter Amy Phillips.

Warne Scandal Bigger Than Iraq in Australia

Shane Warne

According to Yahoo! Sports:

Cricketer Shane Warne’s dramatic exit from the World Cup knocked the looming war with Iraq off the front pages in Australia as the sports-mad nation reacted with bewildered anger to the latest scandal engulfing its spin king.

“Devastated” ran the page one headline on Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, with The Australian newspaper concentrating on Warne’s declaration “I’m no drug cheat.”

The Australian labelled Warne the “stupid spinner,” after he was sent home from the tournament in South Africa Tuesday following revelations he had tested positive for a banned diuretic drug in Sydney last month.

Prime Minister John Howard took time out from a series of international crisis meetings on Iraq to express his sympathy for Warne and urge cricket authorities to deal with him fairly.

“He is a great Australian cricketer. My hope is he’ll be back playing for Australia before long,” Howard said in New York.

Warne’s family in Melbourne also spoke of their distress, with a source close to the family telling the Australian Associated Press the bowler had taken a pill given to him by his mother in circumstances that were “totally innocent”.

But there was little sympathy for Warne among newspaper commentators and radio talkback callers following the latest in a string of scandals that have tarnished the reputation of the man hailed as the greatest spin bowler of all time.

Critics cited Warne’s dealings with illegal bookmakers, a sex scandal in Britain where he was accused of bombarding a young nurse with suggestive phone messages and a general air of arrogance as evidence the bowler had “more flaws than the Empire State Building”.

They said Warne had let down his teammates and his conduct was naive, at the very least.

“When he dislocated his shoulder, Shane Warne must have damaged brain cells as well. What else will explain the numbingly dumb decision by one of the greatest cricketers in history to pop a diuretic?” Peter Jenkins asked in the Daily Telegraph.

However, there was some support for the beleaguered leggie. Respected Sydney Morning Herald commentator and former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck concluded: “It does sound like a minor matter, an oversight.”

Shane Warne is considered one of the best spin bowlers in cricket. However, his absence was not felt by the Australian team yesterday as they easily defeated Pakistan.