This just in:
International terrorists, no longer content with blowing up buildings, are now targeting parking lot lights in home center stores. This is a dangerous new development. Obviously Al Qaeda is jealous of our well lit parking lots and feel they can bring America to her knees by darkening our shopping experience one lamp post at a time.
If you glanced at the linked article you will see that some people freaked out over something called a geocache. Geocaching is a slightly strange hobby that is not accurately described in the article. (The article even managed to get the store location wrong.) Geocaching is a hobby where people hide containers that have a small log (sometimes just a strip of paper) and then post the latitude and longitude where it was hidden. Given the limitations of current GPS technology the actual container is not always so easy to find. When you find one, you sign the paper log, leaving a brief story if you like (and room permitting in a logbook), then re-log the find on the Geocaching website.
There are several variations in how you can hide the container, including creating a string of locations required to find the final, or having to solve a puzzle to get the actual coordinates. There are even virtual caches which may require that you post a picture or provide other information from a location to prove you were there.
There are no computer chips inside geocaches. The “geotag” is just the ID number of the cache. The hobby is often described as looking for Tupperware in the forest preserve. Caches are often hidden in old tree trunks. There are also many “urban caches” hidden in well traveled areas. You can see the details on this particular cache.
I used to geocache myself. Yes, I’m a geek. Maybe even a nerd. This cache is what is known as a Lamp Post Skirt (LPS) cache. Many people may not realize that the small “skirt” on the bottom of many lamp posts are not secured and simply lift up. They are in place to prevent the bolts from rusting and to give the lamp post a cleaner appearance. Hardcore geocachers hate them since they are too obvious and easy. New cachers love them since it’s kind of cool to find a cache in the middle of a busy place. A friend of mine enjoyed urban caches since he would hunt them while walking his baby in a stroller.
So what we had was a cacher who found an LPS cache (probably an old 35mm film canister), signed the log, replaced the cache and drove away. Supposedly a clerk asked what the cacher was doing. Geocachers, being typical nerds, love explaining the hobby. My guess is that the clerk didn’t understand a word and naturally assumed that a terrorist was trying to blow up the lamp post. With something the size of a film canister. At a Menards floor covering facility. 250 foot away from the store, near a retention pond. Nowhere near where any other cars can park.
Of course this is just a lowly store clerk. The store manager, I’m sure, wouldn’t freak out and call the police. Well, maybe he would. But the police, who are notified by area geocachers about the hobby periodically would think first, check the geocaching website and not freak out. Well, maybe they would. But once on the scene surely they wouldn’t freak out and evacuate the store calling in the bomb squad. Well…
Is there anyone with enough experience with explosives out there who could tell me just how much damage can be caused by stuffing gunpowder (or even TNT) into a film canister and placing it under a lamp post skirt? My impression (from my vast experience watching the Discover Channel) is that beyond blowing the skirt apart at the seams, you would be hard pressed to dent the lamp post.
Listen up people. When you see someone with a camera and a logbook taking pictures of a train, that is not a terrorist. When you see someone peeking up the skirt of a lamp post while holding a GPSr, that is not a terrorist. These people are called nerds or geeks. Their unforgivable post-911 sin is that they don’t act normal. Many of them don’t even look normal. That didn’t used to be a crime.