Geo Dive Blogging 101

My recent posts and dive log entries about my trip to the Socorro Islands have gotten a lot of people asking about how I create the map with post excerpts on this website. I’ve been slow about writing it up because quite frankly the process has been changing over the past week or so. I started doing this as a way of logging my dives, which I have not done since I was a teenager. When people ask how many dives I have, I honestly have to answer that I don’t know because I stopped logging just after dive number 200. Since dive log book had no real value to me, I found no reason to continue using them. Lately, however, I began asking myself how I might log my dives in a way that could be valuable to both me, and others as well.

I had a few requirements.

  • First, I wanted to use this blog as my dive log book.
  • Secondly, I wanted to record and display the GPS coordinates of the dive site. I also wanted to leverage the Google Maps API to display these sites on a map.
  • Finally, I wanted to record and display the information that I believe is important about the dive. For instance, I don’t care to record the water temperature and whether or not I wore a hood, but I did want to record and display information about gas choice, max depth and bottom time. I also wanted to record and present information about deco schedule.

The first phase, and the only one that I have completed thus far is to record and present GPS information about the dive site. When I first implemented this, a total of three WordPress plugins were required. “Geo Mashup” was used to create the map page with the post excerpts, “Geo” was used to enter the GPS coordinates into the “wp_postmeta” table, and “bsuite-geocode” was used to search the post text for links to Google Maps, strip out the GPS coordinates and enter them into “wp_postmets” if they exist. It also created a “Location” link to the post excerpt on the map page.

This was all before the final release of Geo Mashup 1.0, however. This is now the ONLY plugin that is required to create the map with post excerpts. In fact, running either “Geo” or “bsuite-geocode” will prevent “Geo Mashup” from working correctly after version 1.0.

Version 1.0.1 of the Geo Mashup plugin creates a nice little Google Map in your “Edit Post” or “Write Post” window that can easily be used to enter GPS data about the post. The only downside is that there is no way to display a link to the map from your post without adding the following code to the loop in your theme:

< ?php GeoMashup::show_on_map_link('link_text') ?>

Sadly, the “bsuite” plugin I use to create the “Tags” and “Related” stories section at the end of my posts takes over the bottom of the post entirely, meaning that map link would need to go below that. Since I think the “Related” section ends the post nicely, I have not incorporated this code into my theme yet. I have brought this up with Casey, who says he will allow the user to control where the bsuite functions display in the next version, which is soon to come out.

Clearly I still have some work to do with respect to displaying dive information and deco graphs, but that should be coming soon. Hopefully I will be able to release a DiveLog WordPress plugin once I get it all hammered out. Stay tuned.

Casey Goes Into Boat Sales

Again, the blogging community stands in wait for The Bison to post something new on his blog. “Casey is usually a rock” says drinking buddy Zach. “But he’s not posted any updates in several days, and frankly I’m starting to wonder what has happened to him.”

Last time The Bison went missing and failed to post updates to his blog, friends and well wishers began to worry that he had been involved in some kind of disaster or car acciden.

This time, however, we have evidence indicating that he has given up entirely on blogging and gone into boat sales. “We’ve seen him selling boats, and we are baffled” says fanboy Matt Batchelder. “While his content is far from compelling, we take comfort in reading his silly antics every morning… It’s just not the same when he’s trying to sell you a boat.”

Here at SpiralBound, we wish Casey all the best in his new endevours, but we must say that he will be missed as a fixture of the blogging community.

Why I Chose the Olympus C7000

For the past year or so, I have been using a Pentax Optio “S” series digital camera. For the most part, I have been quite happy with it, and while 4 megapixel is considered a bit on the low side by modern standards, I really had no intention of upgrading it because I liked it’s small size, and the photos were generally quite good.

That is, until I had the chance to play with an Olympus C7000. While my complaints about the Optio were few, I had always wished that it did a better job of focusing in macro mode. I had tested other cameras for close focus, and had found none that would do a better job than mine, so I just assumed it was a limitation of the electronics, and accepted it. When I tested the C7000, however, I was amazed at how well it pulled focus in macro mode. Indeed, given decent lighting, it could focus nearly right on the glass, and the focus was amazingly fast.

The other thing about the C7000 that had me running to check my ATM balance was just how little shutter lag it had. Having gotten used to a fairly long delay with the Optio, the Olympus had me feeling like I was shooting film again. My arguments with Casey about how my Pentax was “just fine” were quickly falling apart. I loved the Olympus. I wanted it, but I could not swing the $500 bucks, so I just kept on wanting it but shooting with my Pentax.

That is, however, until Casey bought one. He was with me when I tested it, and apparently he was pretty impressed with it as well. He was not impressed enough though, and in short order offered me a great deal on it, so he could turn around and buy an Olympus C8080. I handed him the cash and never looked back.

It is great in most light situations, and I continue to be impressed with the minimal shutter lag and amazing close focus. I’m not really sure that I need all seven megapixels though. I rarely need to do much cropping, but I’m sure I’ll be glad to have them when I do. The only thing I’m wishing for now is a bigger XD card.

Mountain Goats Show

For a long time I have been a huge fan of the Mountain Goats, a sometimes one-man band headed up by poet, singer and guitarist John Darnielle. Last Friday I finally had the opportunity to see them when the played at the Fuel Rocket Club at Dartmouth College along with Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers.

Casey, Will, Karen and I all gathered in Hanover, NH, where we drank margaritas, gin & tonics and whisky until the show started at 9:00. A sign outside the venue said it all with the words “Free Everything”, and they meant it. Free admission, free beer, and free water. I guess that since they’re Dartmouth they can offer that. The entire show ROCKED, and Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers even joined the Goats for a number of songs, resulting in a much more “rocking” goats sound than I’ve ever heard from them before.

While his tenor tone is hard on the ears of some non-fans, I think it adds wonderfully to dark, outlaw message in many of his songs. I must not be alone in thinking this, as Darnielle has managed to build an impressive international following, as well as a successful online zine called Last Plane to Jakarta. A number of fan sites also exist, the most notable of which being themountaingoats.net which offers guitar tabs, MP3’s, set lists and a lot more.

Jim Fisher over at blogs salon has written an article about The Mountain Goats where he talks about one of the shows he attended, and pretty much sums up the spirit of the band when he quotes Darnielle as saying “I play an acoustic guitar, but I am not one of those guys with an acoustic guitar.”

It seems like I have a new favorite Goats song every day, but my current favorite is commandante (comandante.mp3). This rendition was was recorded at the Cat’s Cradle at Chapel Hill on 01.27.1999.

Also, check out the video for the song “This Year”, off the Mountain Goat’s newest album “The Sunset Tree”.