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Karen Allendoerfer

Listen to the Music

October 16, 2010 at 5:30 PM

This blog is not about the Doobie Brothers.  It is about a combination of hobbies that my husband and I did.  But for it to make any sense at all, requires some background.

Almost exactly 4 years ago, a few months after our daughter started to play the violin, I decided to start playing mine again too.  I had quit for over 7 years, during the time our two children were babies and toddlers.  Playing again myself started out as an idea for me to be able help my daughter, but it soon grew into something else.  Now it includes not just one violin but several, and also an occasional string quartet, the farmers' market,  an orchestra, a blog, and oh yeah, a  viola.  I'm pretty sure my husband did not know what he was getting into.

Similarly, I did not know what I was getting into about 2 years later, when a coworker of my husband's took our family geocaching for the first time.  Geocaching is described in a number of different ways, including as a "high-tech treasure hunt," and "using multi-million dollar satellite technology to find tupperware in the woods."  Similar to letterboxing, which predated it by several years, geocachers go to a website (linked above, and here) to find coordinates for caches of "treasure."  Once the box is found, you sign the log book and maybe leave a trinket, or take a trinket.  You also log your visit online, as a find or a DNF (did not find).  

Our first geocaching experiences led us to new parks and recreation areas around town, neat places that we might not have gone to if we hadn't found out about them through geocaching.  The kids found, and exchanged little Happy Meal-ish toys.  We found, and placed a cache with my daughter's girl scout troop. (Both Boy and Girl Scouts are enthusiastic about the activity).  This was enough for me, but, sooner or later serious geocachers get into the "puzzle caches."  These can be extremely elaborate on- and off-line puzzles with many steps and stages to be solved in order to obtain the cache coordinates.  At that point the cache itself becomes almost an afterthought, the thrill is, apparently, in the search.

Weekends in our household would sometimes get a bit contentious, with the dueling hobbies:  I wanted to practice my instrument, he wanted to find another geocache.  I had a concert, he wanted to find another 10 geocaches.  So we decided that rather than arguing about it, we would make a music puzzle cache together, combining our interests, called Listen to the Music.

 The first stage of the puzzle involves a series of questions about a well-known classical composer, which lead in a very complicated and non-intuitive way, to this YouTube video:

The YouTube video then gives the last 5 numbers each of the N and W cache coordinates.

The puzzle in fact has several stages, none of them particularly easy.  And, we ended up submitting it to the geocaching site with the highest difficulty rating possible, 5/5.  The admin for our area of Massachusetts then wanted to know just exactly what was so hard about this cache. In my opinion, it's the quiz and the subsequent finding of the YouTube video based on the answers (the part of the puzzle my husband made).  In his opinion, the hardest part is getting the numbers from the video (the part of the puzzle that I made).  

The cache has only been found twice so far, and both finders had significant help, either from us or from a musically-knowledgeable friend, or both.

But I still think that pretty much anyone on this site would find obtaining the numbers from the video to be pretty easy.  Am I wrong?

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 18, 2010 at 12:59 PM

How interesting.  What a neat idea for taking advantage of the younger generation's tech savvy.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 18, 2010 at 3:32 PM

 Actually, many geocachers I have met are older . . . it seems to be a fun thing to do in retirement.  Or just if you're out hiking somewhere.  We took some visiting friends of mine from graduate school this past weekend while we were hiking in the Blue Hills reservation.

This particular puzzle is meant as a kind of "name that tune."  People seem to be able to get 5 and 9 okay, but otherwise the overlap between people who complete the first stage of the puzzle and people who easily recognize these (1st violin) parts seems to be limited.  

If anyone finds this blog as part of doing the puzzle, contact me and I can give you more hints if you would like ;-)

From sharelle taylor
Posted on October 18, 2010 at 8:18 PM

 That is just so cool. As an orienteering tragic (and i meant that, got lost every time I did it), and Professor Leighton puzzle doer, this is very appealing. Off to investigate.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 18, 2010 at 9:18 PM

 Oops, I realized that I didn't say explicitly that you have to have a GPS to make use of the coordinates.  And you have to be able to remove it from your car ;-)

But Sharelle, that means that even if you are tragic at orienteering, you should be able to find geocacaches if you can follow a GPS.  I don't have a very good natural sense of direction myself, but I think geocaching has helped me improve mine.  It's interesting to see how, even when you think you are going straight by dead-reckoning, you may not be.  Or how you can get turned around in the woods without realizing it.  

My husband has now found so many that he appears to have an instinct for it.  But I know he didn't always have this instinct--he developed it over a couple of years.  

In a weird way, it's a little like learning to find your way around the fingerboard . . . 

From Lisa Ferguson
Posted on October 19, 2010 at 10:47 PM

I love the idea...I'm a geocacher as well!  I just wish I was closer to MA so I could try to find it!

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 20, 2010 at 1:34 AM

 Lisa, if you ever do get up this way, look it up!  That's another fun thing to do when traveling, finding geocaches in different states and/or countries.

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