Screaming Into The Abyss

2014 MS 150
By Ben Zvan
On June 25, 2014 at 19:25

On June 7th and 8th 2014, I rode my bicycle 150 miles and raised $1035 of the $3,000,000 raised by the event for the National MS Society, Upper Midwest Chapter. Here are two videos, one for each day.

Day 1

Day 2

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Another Update to the Wayback Machine
By Ben Zvan
On March 13, 2007 at 11:34

Way back in December, I went to Mountain View, CA for some training.

Me and Fog Me @ Apple Deer and Fence M5 Industries

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More Panoramas From Duluth
By Ben Zvan
On June 28, 2006 at 22:03

When we were in Duluth, I took a couple more panoramas with my Treo 600. One was on the St. Louis river, where it goes through Carlton, MN. We spent some time fishing there, but didn�t catch anything. You can see Raster, Rick and Nick on the far bank. Nick's hard to see though, 'cause he's wearing camo.

The second one was at Split Rock Creek, just north of Split Rock State Park. We didn't catch anything there either, but we decided it wasn't SmeltFest without dipping our nets in water for half an hour. Afterward, we drove back to the campsite and drank beer and played cards. Yay!

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The Northern Expanses
By Ben Zvan
On June 10, 2006 at 11:11

I'm currently in Grand Marais, MN, but I got here by way of Hancock, MI.

My 4th iPod is still going strong. It occasionally starts to play a track, then skips to the end, then goes back to the menu though. This usually happens on podcasts, but I've had it happen on songs too. I'm hoping that this isn't some sort of incremental failure indication. It still plays music though. I've had it running nearly straight through since Tuesday night when I left home.

There's a lot of snow hereHow much Depeche Mode is a lot of Depeche Mode? I decided to find out. On Tuesday, as I entered the Duluth area, my iTrip started breaking up as expected. There's a radio station that broadcasts on or near 87.9MHz there. Rather than mess around with changing frequencies, I just listened to local radio for a while. When I left Duluth on US 2 eastbound, 87.9 cleared up again and I was free to listen to my own music again. But what to listen to? I had a brilliant idea and set the old iPod to shuffle all the Depeche Mode on it. 135 tracks. I listened from Duluth to Ashland that night, hearing some of my least favorite songs, but ending with John the Revelator from Playing the Angel. I listened on Wednesday from Ashland, WI to Hancock, MI. I listened on Thursday from Hancock to Copper Harbor and back through Hancock and Ashland almost until I met with interference in Duluth again. Wow! That's a lot of depressing music. It was fun, but unlikely to be repeated.

Way Out ThereDuluth ended up making me glad I didn't schedule more than one hotel in a day. When I do that, I plan on 2 hours per hotel plus travel time plus 30 minutes. I started three hours early there and still wound up leaving one hour late. I got a great series in the water park though, I'll have to make an animated gif and put it here later.

The hotel here in Grand Marais is nice. I get a good view of the lake from my window and it's easy walking distance out to the point or anywhere else in town really. I hear there's a cafe with microbrews here. I think I'll go look for it. And try to find an eye-glasses place at which to get my shades fixed.

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Cinco de Smeltfest
By Ben Zvan
On May 10, 2006 at 15:18

Smeltfest this year was a hoot. We actually caught a fish and grilled it. (Raster brought his propane grill.) Not that it was a big fish, or that we caught it in the Lester or the Knife, but it was a fish and we ate it, dangit. All one bite each.

When we got to Jay Cooke on Friday afternoon, I borrowed Rick's digital camera and took a hand-held panorama of the campsite. It turned out OK except for one big glitch.
Panorama goes here

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Aah, Vacation!
By Ben Zvan
On February 08, 2006 at 21:06

We've been up here on vacation for half a week now and I've really been enjoying the time off for sleeping.

I've made progress in some video games, we watched Super Bowl XL and swore at the referees' bad calls. I've even done some work-like things with a wireless router and some cat 5 cable.

One of the things I was introduced to recently was the PhotoStitch software that comes with Canon digital cameras. Since I bought a used 10D from my uncle-in-law last summer, and he's organized enough to still have the original box and documentation, I now have a Canon CD with all of the software I usually think is just junk since it's free and I have Photoshop. The PhotoStitch package is great though. Here's a sample QTVR of the place we're staying this week.

The Back Deck
The Back Deck of The Lodge. 832KB QTVR. You will need Quick Time from Apple to view this image properly

We just got out of the hot tub after watching several deer wander in across the lake to munch on the corn tossed out by the neighbor for them. I got a real appreciation for they way they'll look at you as long as you're not moving or making a sound and then run away as soon as they figure out you're not part of the terrain. Of course these particular deer ran away only as far as the pile of corn they new was their duty to eliminate from the terrain.

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Stupidest Street Sign Ever
By Ben Zvan
On October 01, 2005 at 07:25

I have received some suggestions as to the real meaning of the radar-enforced no-parking zone and I thought they needed sharing:

  1. The cop beats you over the head with his radar gun to keep you from doing it again. If your head is not availble, he beats on your car.
  2. Your car gets microwaved because of all the radars pointed at the area.

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Late Update - Clearing out the 'Log
By Ben Zvan
On September 26, 2005 at 19:31


Wow. I haven't written any notes in my Treo in a couple of days. Usually I've tossed something to write about in here every day even if it doesn't make it to the 'blog for a while. Well, let's see (holy crap, my treo just added an apostrophe to my "lets". That's creepy)...

I am still enjoying the photography gig. I had a chance to walk down to the breakwater at the Duluth lift bridge and take some pictures of my own this afternoon and I'm sitting in the Pizza Luce right now drinking a Stella and waiting for my pizza. It's a little odd to be the only table of one in the place but last time I was here It was me and my fellow fisherman at a table for two. It wouldn't be any different in the bar and It's smokey in there so...

My waitress gave her name as PK and reminds me a little of Lojo Russo. I suppose PK could stand for something like "Patricia Konig", but I prefer "Player Killer".

It's ironic, I think, that the night I don't have Internet access to tie up my laptop is the night I won't watch a DVD because House is on.

09/26/05: Final notes from this wisconsin trip.

On the subject of Canada: What he said. I brought back two 12-packs of beer and four 12-packs of Coke (with sugar) from the Great White North. I'll have more info on the two beers later and I hope to do a blind taste test of the Coca-Cola as well.

Canadian television is different. The Food Network has many more shows from Canada so the schedule is completely different. They show The Surreal Gourmet far more frequently there than here and The Thirsty Traveler is on Food TV in Canada when it's on Fine Living here. I did get to see a show called Christine Cushing Live which is aparently a Canadian exclusive programme. The episode that I saw was The Brewery where they got Kevin Brauch of The Thirsty Traveler to help Christine host a party with a whole tonne of Beer Brewers from throughout Canada. One of the beers they highlighted on the show was Mill Street Coffee Porter which sounded yummy, but I had already bought two cases of beer and wasn't about to go out and try to find some. I just hope that they export the stuff.

Why yes, now that you mention it, there were a couple of odd signs. The first one was just a road sign for a road named "15th Side Road" which didn't seem to be at the side of anything. It was even perpendicular to the highway. The other one gets its own paragraph and even a photo.

While driving around Thunder Bay, I saw several signs for no parking zones, but this one takes the cake. I could have understood "Radar Patrolled" but "Radar Enforced?" I can just see the cop getting a bead on the car sitting at the side of the road and carefuly clocking it at 0 Kph just to make sure that it's really parked and not just being driven by an old person.

Anyway, now that I'm back for a little while, What he said again.

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The Second Trip continues
By Ben Zvan
On September 17, 2005 at 21:46

All of the king beds in all of the hotels I've stayed in have had three pillows as if they're secretly expecting three "users". To me, a king bed seems kind of lonely for one person, especially if it's set up for three. But, just for variety, I used all three pillows.

I have officially moved north enough to be solidly in the start of fall colors. The ferns are all dead, the leaves are drying up. Anyway, it's kind of nice. On my way here, I drove through the town of Hazelhurst "Quiet Side of the North Woods". I laughed out loud because there's a huge motorcycle ride in the area here. Lots of Harleys, not so much with the quiet.

This morning I saw a guy mowing the lawn. Not so weird really until you see that he's only got one leg: One hand for the mower, one hand for the crutch and one leg for the ground. Push ... crutch ... hop ... push ... crutch ... hop ...

As per usual, this post is full of things I saw today because I can't make interesting things up from scratch. Here are a couple more signs I saw.

Beware Dust over Road: The road was clean and dry, no dust in sight. But then a huge cloud of dust descended over the road, darkening the sky. It settled down on the car in front of me and stripped the paint right off the metal, found a slightly lowered window and seeped into the passenger compartment, scouring it clean. Truly: Beware Dust over Road

That one was closely followed by WARNING! Watch for Low Flying Planes: OK fine...I don't see any...can I go back to watching the road now? What would I do if I saw a low flying plane anyway? Duck? Swerve? There aren't any airports around so if there's a low flying plane it's below the legal minimum altitude (by definition). I would think that the more maneuverable craft should be the one to look out: Watch for High Flying Cars.

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By Ben Zvan
On September 16, 2005 at 21:11

My new MiPod has been working fine, I charge it every night and it sits and grows warm next to my laptop. Today I listened to some more Talk of the Nation Science Friday. The same place I heard about the most insane laser physics experiment ever.

I saw a Pizza Hut today. Not just any ordinary Pizza Hut, but a "Pizza Hut Italian Bistro". What's that about? By no stretch of the imagination has any Pizza Hut I've been in or near counted as a Bistro of any sort, Italian or otherwise. I think what it means is that not only are they a Pizza Hut, but they're a Pizza Hut with awnings.

I passed 30,000 clicks on our Nikon CoolpiX 5400 a couple of days ago. I think that's more pictures than most people will take in a lifetime. I'm well on my way to 40,000 clicks and should easily reach that pitiful number by the end of my current trip. So far the camera has been working fine for me. I'd echo the reviews I've read that say that it has trouble focusing in low light conditions. I don't know if it's just low light or not, but low contrast surfaces like, say, the blank wall of a hotel room when taking a photo at f/4 and 1/4s for proper exposure are definitely things that it has some trouble with sometimes. I've thought of bringing along a laser pointer to give the surface some contrast, but it seems to be sufficient just to tip the tripod to give the camera a good view of the wall / floor interface. The only real complaint I have is the speed at which it accesses the CF card. The write speed seems to be somewhere around 500KB/s for writing (including file compression) which sounds like a lot until you start taking full resolution 5Mpx .tiff pictures and have to wait 25 - 30 seconds to write one to the card. Even the 300k .jpg files take a couple of seconds to compress and write. A full 1GB CF card takes around 20 minutes to copy, compared to 4 minutes using a FireWire card reader. That's under 1MB/s for the camera and 4MB/s for the reader (Though the camera is limited to the speed of its 10Mb/s USB interface and the reader to its 400Mb/s FireWire interface). Oh well, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II N and 1Ds Mark II are both a smidge out of my price range at the moment so the CoolpiX and the EOS-10D will have to do for now.

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