Screaming Into The Abyss

Expirimenting With AWS
By Ben Zvan
On February 05, 2017 at 16:15

AWS logoI tried out AWS's EFS (Elastic File System), which is basically a drop-in replacement for NFS. It made sense at the time as a way to allow scaling of my small (1 server) cluster of machines. Unfortunately, it took Wordpress's time-to-first-byte from 1 second to 6 seconds, which was not reasonable. As a result, I switched back to EBS (Elastic Block Storage). At some point, I might try moving to a mountes S3 bucket, but I'm not sure the software exists for easily doing that on Amazon Linux.

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Moving to AWS
By Ben Zvan
On November 28, 2016 at 01:27

For the past 16 years, I've had servers in my home office running, among other domains. After thousands of Watt-hours of power and multiple upgrades of hardware, it's finally time to shut them off and move everything to the cloud. Eventually, I'll have my one or two servers managed by Chef, but for the moment, I'm doing it the old fashioned way with Git and ssh.

Perhaps there will be a blog post in there somewhere, or perhaps there will only be this one that tests the functionality of my new AWS server.

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The Internet Countdown
By Ben Zvan
On January 30, 2015 at 12:32

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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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Thomas Dolby's "The Invisible Lighthouse"
On November 06, 2013 at 12:59

Thomas Dolby

I took some pictures of Thomas Dolby at The Cedar last night. Steph wrote a review.

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An excellent ad campaign. Check it out.

UN Women

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Atheists need to...
By Ben Zvan
On August 09, 2012 at 09:32

While getting ready for work this morning, I read this on twitter:

So I thought I'd try some autocompletes. The results were interesting.

atheists need to
atheists need to shut up
atheists need to shut
atheists need to die
atheists need to chill

christians need to
christians need to wake up
christians need to die
christians need to stand up
christians need to grow up

muslims need to die
muslims need to be exterminated
muslims need to chill
muslims need to grow up

jews need to
jews need to die
jews need to get over the holocaust
jews need to be perfected
jews need to be exterminated

Nobody seems to know anything about mormons:
mormons need to
mormons need to work to increase favor
things you need to know about mormons
everything you need to know about mormons
what you need to know about mormons

I guess buddhists and agnostics don't need anything:
buddhists need to
agnostics need to

And taoists might as well be atheists:
taoists need to
atheists need to shut up
atheists need to shut
atheists need to die
atheists need to chill

So what about "atheists are?"

atheists are
atheists are
atheists are retarded
atheists are smarter
atheists are so stupid

christians are
christians are crazy
christians are ignorant
christians are hypocrites
christians are delusional

muslims are
muslims are exempt from obamacare (wait...what?)
muslims are animals
muslims are coming
muslims are crazy

jews are
jews are a race
jews are not white
jews are not a race
jews are white

mormons are
mormons are crazy
mormons are not christians
mormons are christians
mormons are a cult

buddhists are
buddhists are atheists
buddhists are killing muslims
buddhists are vegetarians
buddhists are hypocrites

taoists are
taoists think caves are
are taoists atheists
what are taoists beliefs
are taoists vegetarians

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Curiosity Landing
By Ben Zvan
On August 06, 2012 at 09:11

So we made it to Mars again and geeks like me everywhere stayed up extra late to watch the live event. We were not dissappointed. To see the first photos come back seconds after langing, even though the dust cap was still on the camera was an amazing thing.

I stayed up. I was excited. I wasn't quite as excited as the people in the video, but I was excited.

Here's what really gets me though. When Curiosity touched down after the sky-crane manouver, I was struck by just how excited the people at JPL were about this. My first thought: "Holy crap! It's like the opening of a Microsoft store ... except they're all wearing the same color shirt."

It's been 50 years since we first put humans on the moon. In 50 years, airplanes went from a tentative unpowered glider in North Carolina to the supersonic Bell X-1; why haven't we done the same for space flight? I mean...should we be this excited by going to Mars? Shouldn't it be old hat by now?

Don't get me wrong. I'm excited. The science that's going to come out of this mission will enrich our lives for years to come and the new technology that went into creating the mission is probably just hitting our cellphones and clothing stores. I just think we're missing out on a lot of opportunty. Heck, we spent the entire budget of this mission in less than a month in Iraq...Just think what we could be doing with more balanced priorities.

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The Debunk Files
By Ben Zvan
On July 23, 2012 at 09:38

I just wanted a place to keep handy links to debunk common misconceptions.


Global Warming

Volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans

Turns out the USGS has an artice on that one here.

Gas studies at volcanoes worldwide have helped volcanologists tally up a global volcanic CO2 budget in the same way that nations around the globe have cooperated to determine how much CO2 is released by human activity through the burning of fossil fuels. Our studies show that globally, volcanoes on land and under the sea release a total of about 200 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

This seems like a huge amount of CO2, but a visit to the U.S. Department of Energy's Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) website ( helps anyone armed with a handheld calculator and a high school chemistry text put the volcanic CO2 tally into perspective. Because while 200 million tonnes of CO2 is large, the global fossil fuel CO2 emissions for 2003 tipped the scales at 26.8 billion tonnes. Thus, not only does volcanic CO2 not dwarf that of human activity, it actually comprises less than 1 percent of that value.



Human Embrionic Stem Cells

Adult stem cell therapy exists, embrionic stem cell therapy does not

Turns out there's some promise in human embrionic stem cells. You can even start new lines without destroying the fetus (which was probably going to be destroyed anyway.) RPE therapy.

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Uncharted 3: Consumer's Deception
By Ben Zvan
On December 07, 2011 at 08:48

Uncharted 3So...I finally finished Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception last night. Overall, I'd have to say it's a worthwhile game, but it has some severe issues.

Story: B+
The storyline of Uncharted 3 follows a wandering path across the globe to discover secrets of imense wealth and power hidden a long, long time ago. This is a familiar story for anyone who has played Tomb Raider or the other Uncharted games. It works, it's fun, and it doesn't have to be too closely interwoven with the gameplay, so it's easy to implement. In this case, it tied in well enough with the puzzles that you could almost believe the storyline and gameplay were developed with some collaboration.

Nearly every chapter had me wondering what crazy plot point would come out next and I mostly cared about the characters and what happened to them. Unfortunately, the plot is often driven by stupidity. It's not as bad as Tomb Raider's Angel of Darkness episode which could have been entirely avoided in the first minutes of the game, but I couldn't help thinking a few times during the game that 'that was a dumb thing to do.'

Art: A+
Creatively, this is a beautiful game. The color palates are well-conceived and appropriate, often bold. The environments are immersive and give a real sense of being there. The architecture is as detailed as any I've seen in a game this year, interrupted only by bright yellow 'hang or climb on this' objects. The character modeling is impeccable and just in the right spot to avoid too much of the Uncanny Valley.

There's one environment (you'll know it when you see it...lots of water) that just blew me away when it was revealed. I've seen other game levels with similar concepts, but this one was just amazing. I felt like I should be able to find it on Google Earth.

Gameplay: C-
The actual game is where this title falls on it's face. The climbing puzzles are great. The environmental puzzles are great. The ability to shoot a gun while hanging from the side of a building is quite handy. The fight animations are nearly on par with Batman: Arkham City in their creativity and satisfying takedowns. The problem comes with the controls.

Drake has a clumsy walk, as he pretty much always has, which surprises me for a motion-captured animation. Was their actor hit by a truck before they did that one? His tendency to touch walls and pillars as he passes them is endearing at first but then made me think he was drunk, and by the end of the game I thought he was Adrian Monk's long lost twin. I can't count the number of times I died because I dive-rolled off a ledge instead of hanging from it (same button). Or dive-rolled past a wall instead of taking cover behind it (same button). Or hung off a ledge instead of taking cover behind a wall (get the picture yet?)

You like those fight animations? Like smashing your opponent into a wall and taking his gun? Get ready for timed button mashing with little blinking triangle, circle, and square icons on the screen. I hated this mechanism when it was introduced and I hate it still today. Sometimes it's done well, but it's still annoying no matter how well it's done.

And on top of all that, there was the overarching problem that once I broke my cover, I was stuck in an epic gunfight with no way to go back and try being stealthy again. The stealth kills were great, but I almost never got to use them because I'd slip up at some point and hundreds of gun-wielding thugs would run into the room. Not to mention that for a thief and explorer, Nathan Drake has an epic body count.

Verdict: Buy it, but don't rush. Used is soon enough.

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New Pictures 8: Sarah Jones
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
04/18/2013—02/02/2014 - Free

31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
11/02/2013—08/31/2014 - Free

New Pictures 9: Rinko Kawauchi
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
02/20/2014—08/10/2014 - Free

Finland: Designed Environments
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
05/10/2014—08/17/2014 - Free


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
at State Theatre
06/21/2014 \ Doors 8:00pm
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