ROTter

I think some of you might know that I quite enjoy geocaching.

Sometimes when you get to the co-ordinates for a cache, you’re surrounded by about twenty million hiding places. Or you might think that you’ve found where the cache should be and it isn’t there. Or it could just be that you’ve arrived at the co-ordinates given and you’ve got no idea where the cache might be. Whichever of these it is, it’s a bit annoying, especially if you’re a long way from home and you won’t be coming this way again.

For this reason most cache sheets have a clue on them to help your search: Sometimes the “clue” is no help at all – “Look at the base of a tree”, when you’re in the middle of a wood, really isn’t much use. My policy, for the caches I place, is that the clue must be a dead giveaway once you’re in more or less the right place – although sometimes I give a cryptic clue as well, for people who just want a nudge in the right direction.

Obviously most people don’t want to know what the clue is straight away, and it would spoil the game a bit, so clues are encrypted using a code called ROT13: This means that each letter in a word moves forward or back 13 places, so for example “the” becomes “gur”, “tree” is “gerr”, “cache” is “vnvur” and so on. A key for decrypting the clues is given on the cache page, although most geocaching software for PDAs has a decrypt function built in.

One of the signs that you’re geocaching too much is that you can decrypt ROT13 in your head, and that’s started happening to me. The other day I did a geocache where the clue was “Ybbx haqre gur frng”. I didn’t mean to read the clue – I just glanced at it and decrypted it before I could stop myself. It doesn’t help that each word in that phrase is one that often appears in cache clues, so you get used to seeing them.

Even more amazing is that there’s a website dedicated to decoding ROT13.

And more exciting than that – my fabbo new online shop has gone live! T-shirts and mouse mats only, at the moment – other products will follow as soon as I’ve beaten the graphics into submission. And Lord Simon of G assures me that there’s a chance that if you order today, you might have your high-quality products in time to use them on the day after the election.

Or you might not.

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