Seeing Under Water

If you’re in Australia I’m sure you’re aware that there are large parts of the country in serious flood at the moment. If you’re overseas you may have heard about it but not been aware of the degree of devastation.  It’s shocking and quite unbelievable. The flooding is enormously extensive (covering an area larger in size than France and Germany combined!) and has decimated many rural towns, crops, property and lives. Many people in the flood affected areas have lost everything. It makes me so sad to see it.

I got sent an email today with this mobile phone footage shot from a building yesterday as the floodwaters raced through the town of Toowoomba, just outside Brisbane.  The devastation and destruction is mind boggling (although I think a few of those cars could have been saved if the guy filming was a little more concerned with notifying people of the obviously impending disaster rather than just capturing it all on video!) It is interesting to see just how much “citizen journalism” is being used to report on the floods.

If you’d like to make a donation to the relief efforts, the address is

Placing our first Geocache

A while back, I went geocaching with my daughter Kate.  We spent quite a while hunting for an elusive cache not far from where we live but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being outdoors in the sunshine, using GPS technology to have a bit of real world fun. In fact we enjoyed it so much that after we signed the cache’s logbook and returned to the car to drive home, Kate asked if we could place our own cache some time for other people to find.

What a great idea.  I’ve been wanting to place a cache of my own for a while, but Katie was the impetus I needed to actually do it.  So, no time like the present, we took a detour on the way home and went via the local Dollar Store, picked out a suitable plastic container, a handful of inexpensive trinkets to include inside it, and a small notebook to use as the logbook… all this for less that $20 (and it could have been much less if we weren’t being extravagant with the trinkets)

We went home, printed out the official geocaching note to include in the cache, and packed it all into the box.  Now it was just a matter of finding a good place to stash it.

I had an inclination to stash the cache in a nearby park, somewhere I could keep an eye on it, but a few walks through the park didn’t turn up any really good hiding places.  Consequently, the cache sat on my shelf at home for several months while I got distracted by other things.

However, today was such a nice day that we decided to finally go hide the cache. After a last minute spray with some green paint (didn’t want to make it too easy to find!) we went to a lovely little park near our old house, in fact the same park where I used to play as a kid.  Sure enough, with a bit of hunting we found a perfect spot to hide it… not so obvious that it would be found by passers by, but not so impossible that a keen geocacher couldn’t find it.  We called our cache “Childhood Memories”… if you’re ever in the area, see if you can find it!

There is a real sense of fun and adventure when you go geocaching.  Making our own caused us to think hard about the placement of the box, where would be a good spot, how to find the right balance between making it too hard and too easy, not to mention the physical act of actually getting to the place where we hid it.  It was good fun…  here is a short video I shot on my phone just after we placed it.

I’m really pleased that Katie has taken on the role of being my geocaching buddy.  On the way home we had to drive past another cache, so we decided to stop and have a quick look for it.  Although I had my regular GPS with me (a Garmin GPS V) I thought I’d try finding this cache using only my new Nokia 95 phone’s built-in GPS.  I was a little doubtful that the GPS in a phone would be good enough for this sort of thing, but I was running Geocache Navigator and wanted to try it out.  As it turns out, it was spot on, and I mean exactly spot on.  A very impressive mobile app, and super easy to use.

If you haven’t tried geocaching yet, give it a go.  I can see it being a great activity for kids, as evidenced by Kate’s enthusiasm for it.  It manages to combine a bit of technology use, some outdoor adventure, resourcefulness and higher order thinking skills, physical fitness and just generally having some fun.

Having my own daughter as a geocaching buddy makes it even more special.

The Hour of (no) Power

One of the new year’s resolutions that Linda and I made for 2008 is to try and be a little kinder to the planet; whether that be to walk and cycle more instead of driving, to buy products that are more environmentally friendly, or to make an effort to generate less waste… even small changes may help the planet. If we can encourage a few others to do the same, it may help even more.

There are plenty of great stories about the Power of One… the effect that one person can have if the ripples from their actions spread far enough to influence others. One of the great Power of One stories is that of Earth Hour.

Earth Day started in Sydney last year with an idea that if we simply turned our lights off for one hour the overall effects could be substantial. Of course, it was a symbolic gesture more than anything else, but on 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. During this single hour, the collective effort of turning off the lights reduced Sydney’s energy consumption by 10.2%, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road. What started as a grassroots community idea quickly took hold among the corporate and government sectors, proving that a simple idea like turning the power off for an hour can gather enough momentum to make a noticable difference and raise awareness of the problems our planet faces.

In 2008, Sydney wants to spread the Earth Hour concept to the rest of the world, turning a symbolic event into a global movement. In 2008, other cities around the world will join Sydney – Copenhagen, Toronto, Christchurch, Tel Aviv, Chicago, and many others – and at 8pm on March 29 will turn off the lights for an hour.

Although I live here in Sydney, I don’t watch a lot of news so I never heard about Earth Hour last year until it was over. However, if it was being talked about in the blogosphere I probably would have known about it… so this year I want to put it out there, and ask you to pass it on. If you think it sounds like a good idea, tell others about it. Blog about it. Get your own city to do it. Do it yourself. But especially, tell your students about it.

This is a wonderful, simple idea to share with your students. It can make them feel part of a global movement, but more importantly it demonstrates that individuals CAN come up with simple, sharable ideas that make a difference.

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