Screaming Into The Abyss

How to Drive on Snow: Lesson 1
By Ben Zvan
On February 27, 2009 at 09:39
General News

Why I Walk to WorkMarch is historically the snowiest month in Minnesota and it seems like Minnesotans have forgotten, or never learned, how to drive in snow. As a public service, and to keep myself from being frustrated by other drivers and scared as I'm walking to work, I thought I'd provide some really basic information for the masses. This is what I see all the time and it's the reason for all the backups getting out of parking lots and off of side streets.It's also just as valid anywhere else where there's snow, including Florida and the entire southern hemisphere.

Spinning your tires only makes your tires spin.

The basics: If you're sitting at a stop and the road is slippery. Don't give the car enough gas to spin the tires in the snow. If the tires are spinning, let up on the gas and let them grab some snow. If your tires dig out enough snow, they'll only reach ice. Ice is slipperier than snow.

The details: The coefficient of static friction is greater than the coefficient of dynamic friction. Here's a demonstration you can try at home.

You will need:

  • A hard-cover book
  • A ruler
  • A second hard-cover book
  • A small object that won't roll, let's say a deck of cards.
  • Tape
  • A notepad
  • A pencil
  1. Tape the ruler to the spine of the first hard-cover book. Do it gently, so you can remove it later.
  2. Stand the book on end so that the ruler is sticking straight up with zero at the bottom.
  3. Set the other hard-cover book on its back, against the spine of the first so the longest shortest edge touches the ruler
  4. Place the deck of cards on the second book, touching the ruler.
  5. Lift the edge of the book touching the ruler up to make a ramp. When the deck of cards slides down the ramp, make a note of how high the book was touching the ruler.
  6. Put everything back where it was at the end of step 4.
  7. Repeat step 5, only this time keep giving the deck of cards a tiny push while you're raising the book. You may need a friend to do this part for you. Again, when the deck of cards slides down the book, make a note of how high you had raised the top of the ramp.

Congratulations! You just found the difference between the coefficient of static friction (step 5) and the coefficient of dynamic friction (step 7.) The number you wrote down in step 5, when the deck of cards was sitting still (static) should have been bigger than the number you wrote down in step 7, when the deck of cards was already sliding (dynamic.) To put it another way, if the deck of cards was already slipping the ramp didn't have to be as steep for it to keep slipping. That means that if your tires are slipping on snow, the snow doesn't have to be as slippery for them to keep slipping. Therefore, if your tires are slipping, the best way to get more traction from them is to stop them from slipping. You can do this by changing the surface you're driving on (hard) or by slowing down the tires until they stop slipping (easy.)

Get out there and practice this. Once you get good at keeping your tires from starting to slip on snow and ice, you'll be asking why this isn't a requirement for a Minnesota drivers license. I know I do. And when you get good enough, even steep, icy hills will not be a challenge for you.

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Link Mania!
By Ben Zvan
On January 29, 2009 at 15:27
General News

I don't know how I managed to avoid this for almost 30 days. I guess it's been all over the Internet. They call it Bacon Explosion, and it's basically bacon-wrapped sausage-wrapped bacon. I hear it's a modified version of a "fattie" and apparently you can "smoke" it.

Neil Gaiman has a new movie coming out based on one of his books. He says the premier was last night and that it was very well liked by the audience. He's also posted a wicked awesome trailer for it that was shot in his front room on his blog."The greatest human invention is the humble button."

A list like this could never be complete without a link to the most recent science horror show. It never would have occurred to me to put a radio control on a beetle but... to each his own I guess. Next time you see a bug flying erratically, keep in mind that it could be carrying a bug.

And finally, I feel bad about how funny this editorial cartoon is. I don't have anything against Microsoft employees really. I just think their company should be stopped. Though I hear Windows 7 doesn't suck nearly as much as Vista. And it's hardly Hitlerey at all.

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Things I've Done Lately
By Ben Zvan
On January 14, 2009 at 09:51
General News

The most notable thing I've done recently is photography. Sure, I've been to work, I've searched, I've read Gizmodo, but are those really notable? I've been trying to schedule a shoot every couple weeks or so which basically means one between each Minnesota Strobist meetup.

Close To YouLast year, I had a test shoot for a calendar page I am doing Friday. We're headding down to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina this weekend for the Science Online conference. One of the bloggers there has been asked to participate in next year's SkepChick calendar and I volunteered to be the photographer since there are financial considerations involved. Unfortunately it seems we may not end up with any models for the shoot, so there will probably be some compositing involved.

A Mod CaseLast week, I had a shoot with one of my new favorite models, Rachel Grubb. She's making a name for herself in the horror genre and wants to bring back mod styling to replace the current resurgence of pin-ups. I supported that plan and we produced a good body of work from an afternoon in my studio. It was a good shake-down for the space I'm using on my third floor since it was the first time I had to accomodate a makeup artist. I need a tall chair and some sort of counter that won't interfere with the placement of my paper backdrop. Hana from UnVeiled did the makeup in a respectible 2.5 hours.

HapinessLast weekend was the Minnesota Stobists January 2009 meetup at Landmark Center in St. Paul. I have to give a big recommendation for using them for photography. We called ahead of time to make sure we wouldn't be stepping on anyone's toes by showing up with 30 photographers, 10 models and 2 makeup artists. They were absolutely fine with it. There were a couple rooms on the fourth floor that were booked for part of the day and there was a boy's choir that used the building as their greenroom prior to a show across the street but otherwise, we had the entire building to ourselves.

We met early at the Dunn Bros coffee shop on Wabasha. They were just as accomodating as Landmark. Probbly 15 of the photographers showed up there with 6 models and 2.5 makeup artists and pretty much took over half the store to do makeup. Most of us bought coffee or sandwiches or both, so they at least got something in exchange for putting up with us.

In other news. The Java blog engine is coming along slowly. Security is a problem, but not one that can't be conquered. I'm probably re-inventing the wheel, but there's always the possibility that I'll use rubber instead of stone. (Which makes a better wheel...) I still can't log in, but at least I can change my password.

If you want to have your mind blown, take a look at Manil Suri's explanation of infinity on YouTube. It got my mind going on breaking down arguments, but he was very kind to me when he told me I was wrong, not only explaning why, but letting me know that my questions would be put to good use in his next class.

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Random Stuff
By Ben Zvan
On January 05, 2009 at 13:38
General News

Not the best way to deliver packages: A UPS driver caught on camera performing the 30-yard package toss. Training for the 2012 Olympics perhaps? This honestly doesn't surprise me. I waited on a loading dock for 15 minutes once watching a driver throw monitors into his truck.

Fisher-Price, now with more virus: One of the many problems with quality control, not to mention a lack of attention to employee morale is spreading viruses. Not the germy kind, the computer kind.

Powered by Sun and Open Source magic: Need to run a Windows application on your Mac? Got a pirated copy of XP? (not recommended) Virtual box may be the free solution for you. It's not as advanced as Parallels or VMWare but that $0 price tag makes up a lot.

Finally: I saw a clip from Penn and Teller's show Bullshit over the weekend. I had to wind it back several times to try to figure out how the heck Teller was doing his slight of hand routine. I eventually got the idea, but there's no way I could pull off even something that simple as well as he can. Here's a clip with something even more impressive.

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Summertime, And The Living Is Easy
By Ben Zvan
On December 29, 2008 at 09:56
General News

One site that I like to read in large batches is Inexed. Like Engrish, it builds up and becomes funnier in larger chunks. I think this one is funny enough to share but, if it's not, go read more of them, then come back.


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Happy SolsiChrismaKwanzUkahYear!
By Ben Zvan
On December 24, 2008 at 11:06
General News

Bike to work day?Some people celebrate Christmas because they believe that it is the night that Jesus was born 2000+ years ago. Some people celebrate Christmas because it's what their family has always done.

Some people celebrate Winter Solstice because it is a holy day with that marks the return of the sun. Some people celebrate Winter Solstice because it is not Christmas.

I celebrate Christmas because I have the time off from work and it's an opportunity to spend time with people I don't often see. I celebrate on Christmas Eve with my step-mother's family and enjoy the company and relaxation. I celebrate on Christmas Day with my mother-in-law's family and enjoy the shared interests and, often, politics.

I celebrate Winter Solstice because it is the beginning of the deepest part of a Minnesota winter. I have had opportunities to move to warmer climates, but I like Minnesota. I like the cold; I like bundling up and taking on the weather. Sure, I look like I'm exploring Antarctica on my way into work in the morning, but that's something I would do if I had the resources. It bugs me a little when people complain about the cold yet continue to live in Minnesota; If you can't stand the cold, get out of the freezer.

On the other hand. I'm looking forward to biking again this spring.

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For Those of You As Yet Unafected
By Ben Zvan
On December 11, 2008 at 15:30
General News

When I hear about the auto industry bail-out requests my gut instinct is "you made your bed..." Then I think about the retirees who will lose their pensions because their employer was too shortsighted to realize that people wouldn't keep buying SUVs forever. And I think about the employees who will lose their jobs Because auto executives took the penny-wise route, staying the course and letting the Japanese manufacturers make the cars "nobody will buy."

Here's one.

There has to be a way to make sure those people are taken care of but the executives reap the consequences of their actions.

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We Needed Eggs
By Ben Zvan
On November 25, 2008 at 21:27
General News

Farm Fresh EggsWe just got back from the grocery store. It seems that we weren't the only ones doing some early last-minute shopping for Thanksgiving. Some of the items on the list were limes (for this weekend's margaritas), garlic, cranberries, eggs, and frozen orange juice. While checking my eggs for cracks, a little black boy squeezed past me to retrieve his family's eggs from the cooler. Right behind him, his sister was telling him, "Don't get any of those nasty brown ones!"

I decided we probably had enough milk to get through Thursday and continued on to the frozen juice section....

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If You Have Facebook, You Can Skip This
By Ben Zvan
On October 14, 2008 at 20:32
General News

I tried an experiment and tweeted on my facebook. Read from the bottom for chronological order beginning Friday, October 10, 2008.

Ben is home. 8:41pm
Ben hit the 1000 mile mark. 7:35pm
Ben marches on. 7:19pm
Ben has to get pictures! 6:59pm
Ben is where they call the Mississippi a lake. 6:55pm
Ben (tune for ibn khaldun part 1, about to happen, town w/o pitty). 6:54pm
Ben (the deprogrammer, the house is haunted, sgt pepper (reprise), what do I dave to do, under ice, househusband's lament, die young stay pretty...) 6:41pm
Ben 's iPod is throwing down an awesome, creepy mix. 6:33pm
Ben wants a study corolating views on religion and abortion. 6:25pm
Ben caught up on Science Friday. 6:15pm
Ben has fruit and cake. 6:06pm
Ben is in Minnesota. 5:34pm
Ben guesses the SW corner of Wisconsin does't need GSM data. 4:58pm
Ben accidentally tuned his soda bottle to a note in this song. 4:56pm
Ben expected Dickeyville to be a theme park. 3:16pm
Ben finds similarities betwixt black cherry soda and Robitussin. 3:11pm
Ben can see Illinois and Iowa from here, resists border-crossing temptations. 3:08pm
Ben got ice cream and soda instead. 3:04pm
Ben thought about buying rum and porn at a gas station but they didn't have porn. 3:03pm
Ben wonders about the reasoning behind painting parking spots on a gravel lot, and heads home. 2:49pm
Ben hasn't forgotten about you, there's just nothing interesting here. 1:02pm
Ben was nonplussed by his sandwich but chuffed by his shrimp doodles. 12:28pm
Ben waves to New Glarus. 12:17pm
Ben used a lot of battery. 12:13pm
Ben could go for sushi; could find a sandwitch. Filled the tank. 12:08pm
Ben will miss Devil's Lake. 11:58am
Ben didn't know Madison had so much petrolium storage. 11:55am
Ben will have to see The House on The Rock sometime. 11:52am
Ben drove 666 miles so far this weekend. 11:51am
Ben can't pronounce most of Wisconsin. 11:04am
Ben waves to Penzey's. 10:40am
Ben departs Milwaukee toward Madison. 10:22am
Ben crosses Teutonia Ave. Can't decide between musical or religious joke. 9:18am
Ben cranks NIN. 9:13am
Ben could hit those geese from here. 9:06am
Ben ceremonially dips his fingers in Lake Michigan, realizing that he never actually touched the Pacific ocean when he was in San Francisco. 8:51am
Ben will be late but got to Lake Michigan. 8:46am
Ben finally has yesterday's espresso. 8:36am
Ben avoids the word "is" due to issues of repetition and clarity. 8:34am
Ben stopped to take a picture. 8:19am
Ben gets to see what he drove through last night. 8:13am
Ben is on a Mission. 8:11am
Ben is "impressed" by the continental breakfast. 8:06am
Ben needs a photo pass for The Crystal Method at Epic December 19. 7:54am
Ben shouldn't need to be awake. 7:29am
Ben reads about the pictorialism movement. 6:27am
Ben is less than two hours from the museum of science and industry in Chicago. 10:26pm
Ben should have gotten a hotel on the lake. 9:13pm
Ben booked a hotel in da 'hood. 8:29pm
Ben is freaking extatic to see a Caribou. 8:05pm
Ben sits on the cusp of a foggy night. 7:31pm
Ben deems dinner "an experience." leaves Sheboygan for Milwaukee. May find beer. 7:11pm
Ben totally needs a charcoal grill in his kitchen. 6:56pm
Ben is at the Charcoal Inn, should have brought an art history book in from the car. 6:53pm
Ben is not surprised he missed Alabama Ave. 6:44pm
Ben goes "wheee!" again. 6:21pm
Ben smells...burning cows? 6:06pm
Ben is in awe of the patience of the doctor talking about vaccines on Science Friday. (Paul Offett (sp)). 5:56pm
Ben ditches the shades. 5:40pm
Ben goes "wheee!" through the roundabout. 5:23pm
Ben head east. If get lost: find lake, turn right. 5:18pm
Ben isn't sure what that is. 5:11pm
Ben won't go to Oshgosh, by gum! 5:07pm
Ben would prefer a different New London; an old London even. 3:53pm
Ben sees acres of cabbage. 3:46pm
Ben thought he was stuck for a while but the train was really short. 3:29pm
Ben doubts that "latex scented condom" was quite what they meant. 2:53pm
Ben remembers when 3.129 was high for gas. Buys 13 gallons. 2:46pm
Ben got a free Sierra Mist. 2:39pm
Ben went the wrong way. 1:49pm
Ben should have packed camo and a shotgun. 1:37pm
Ben is in Green Bay. 1:26pm
Ben found out commercial citric acid is a fungal product. 1:21pm
Ben is already tired of 25MPH. 1:01pm
Ben turned the A/C on. 12:53pm
Ben almost stopped for pit BBQ too. 12:51pm
Ben found the coffee shop he stopped at a year or two ago is closed. 12:32pm
Ben is in Wisconsin. 12:30pm
Ben is in Michigan with a newly purchased 1/2 pound pastie. 12:27pm
Ben has taken some pictures and is going to Michigan for some pasties. 12:14pm
Ben is very early. 10:44am
Ben likes to say Peshtigo. 10:29am
Ben stopped for a flag man. 10:09am
Ben thinks he just saw his first Piggly Wiggly. 9:58am
Ben went the right way. 9:55am
Ben hopes he went the right way. 9:48am
Ben is disturbed by lawn sheep. 9:34am
Ben thinks Wisconsin state highways need more rest stops. 9:21am
Ben is impressed that Hubble's batteries lasted 18 years. 9:00am
Ben crossed Embarrass River. 8:45am
Ben doesn't have time to stop for the scenery. 8:27am
Ben is in Wausau. 8:16am
Ben wonders what the commonality is between chai and bubblegum. 8:05am
Ben is glad "cool ranch" didn't mean"Dorito flavoured.". 7:59am
Ben should have gotten two donuts. 7:53am
Ben isn't sure about breakfast. 9.00 for chai from a machine, oj, a donut & cool ranch cheese curds. 7:42am
Ben smells cows. 7:30am
Ben switched to sunglasses. 7:20am
Ben passed Chubby's North. 7:09am
Ben passed a tank and a helecopter. 6:57am
Ben has entered the middle of nowhere, a little concerned about espresso supply. 6:28am
Ben sees evidence of the sun. 6:15am
Ben is annoyed that Caribou won't be open in time. 6:13am
Ben is gassing up in Menomonie and will do his best not to wake L & K. 6:06am
Ben is learning about lager yeast. 5:53am
Ben just passed The Drop Zone. 5:38am
Ben is in Wisconsin. 5:20am
Ben wonders what Punjabiyan Di Shaan means. 5:09am
Ben thinks 94 looks creepy that empty. 4:58am
Ben just remembered that I94 is closed this weekend. 4:54am
Ben has tripple checked and is 95% certain everything is packed. 4:46am
Ben got up a little early. 3:43am
Ben is not looking forward to getting up at 4:00 AM. 7:42pm
Ben is going to get his favorite lens from the shop. 1:40pm

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For the first entry, we have Sinfest with a bit of commentary on the current financial situation:


Next up is Gizmodo, with some enlightening information about voters who want deeper broadband penetration.

McCain Slows Broadband

And finally, for now, is BBC News with a horrifying article about the current wave of mass extinction. -via Greg Laden

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