Lava is Nifty, but Magellan Sucks

A dead Magellan brand handheld GPS unitHere’s a “fun” situation: take a Magellan-brand handheld GPS unit with a fresh set of batteries on a 10.2 mile hike over very rough terrain, having it record a track so that all the nifty pictures along the hike can be geolocated and the course of the hike can be mapped later. After a gruelling 8 hour trek, tell the unit to save the track. Watch in annoyance as it starts to save to the SD card but then complains “EXTREME LOW BATTERY – SHUTTING DOWN”. Just annoyance though – previously when it has done this, it merely loses the last few minutes of track, and you can replace the batteries and re-do the save when it comes back up. Except this time, when instead of actually shutting down it seems to restart itself, complain of “Low Battery”. Then throw a fit when I try to get the fool thing to actually shut down, watching in horror as it restarts itself a few times for no good reason before finally fading out. Then replacing the batteries and screaming with rage when the unit comes up with the same messages it did the very first time it was turned on…despite somehow keeping a copy of the “Points of Interest” I’d put in before, it has eaten not only all of my settings but also the entire friggin’ 10.2 mile track that I was trying to save!

Moral of the story: Magellan=BAD. Between bad hardware and the newer participant-hostile “consume-only” business model they’ve gone to with the new “Triton” line, I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone (unless I secretly hated them.)

So, I decided to cool off by hacking into NASA’s feed to one of the Mars Rovers to have it take a picture for me:

You don’t believe that I really hacked NASA, do you…well, read on:

Continue reading Lava is Nifty, but Magellan Sucks

The lake was exceptionally naughty…

Once again, I found myself with some time to give the nearby lake a good paddling. It’s said that in order to get real physical development you have to work out to exhaustion…so I did. Five hours of giving the lake a paddling, and over 15 miles of travel in the process. My goal is to get to the point where I can set out and get comfortably to and from anywhere on the lake that I might want to go during a single paddling session, at least if I leave early enough.

The Minister of the Front End of the Kayak is out of town, so I struck out bravely all alone in my explorations. It’s just as well – the Minister of the Front End doesn’t like going to the civilized side of the lake. She’d much rather head into areas of the northern side of the lake to poke around the tree-lined inlets. I, on the other hand, find the populated side of the lake much more interesting. It’s not that I dislike the more wilderness-themed areas, but to me one “beautiful expanse of tree-lined lake shore” (alligators and random fishing boats aside) looks pretty much like any other. There are all kinds of odd things to find hidden in the populated side of the lake, however. I’m mentally kicking myself for forgetting to get a picture of the “Southern Empres”[sic – looked like they’d lost a letter] Paddlewheel boat as I paddled by. Not all of the interesting things are even human-derived – the bird-covered island was kind of a surprise.

Interactive map with track and pictures (which will hopefully display correctly now) may be found below (RSS feed readers, you may need to click through to the actual blog post to see it; or, download the .kml file of this weekend’s Lake Conroe paddling trip [width=540;height=540] and take a look at it in Google Earth…)

I’m going to have to paddle back out to “Zach’s Bar-B-Q Barge” for lunch one of these days and see how they are. Checking out the publically-accessible and potentially paddle-friendly establishments on the lake is one of my excuses for getting out into the Big Room for exercise.

Full-scale and fully geolocated versions of several photos from this trip may be found at the Panoramio page. I’m also still thinking about getting a recorder and incorporating some audio into these things. Hopefully Firefox 3.5 will actually be released one of these days…

Now, back to bed. I have to get up to start the work-week in about 8 hours…Good night everyone, and let me know how the map works and how the pictures look…

What I did on my summerMemorial Day Vacation

Disgusted with my out-of-shape state, lately I’ve been trying to spend time in the Big Room more often. I hate exercise-for-the-sake-of-exercise, but I do enjoy getting out and exploring, so muscle-powered travel around the Big Room is a convenient fitness-improving activity. As we have a spiffy wooden kayak I’ve named “The Ascospore“, and live near a decent-sized body of water that I’ve not sufficiently explored, getting out and doing some lake-spanking was a Moral Imperative.

(If you’re reading this entry via RSS, you probably don’t see the map and the associated photographs below, so please follow the link to view this post directly…)

Also, here’s a direct link to the KML file if you want to pull it into a full Google Earth session for browsing…

Only 9¼ miles, but that’s not too bad. The Memorial-Day motorboaters were making a lot of waves, which were kind of fun but made the paddling somewhat slower and more strenuous than it would otherwise have been.

Oh, yeah, and I discovered that digiKam not only has a set of geolocation functions, but even has a plugin that will generate a KML file out of the track and photos, which I used for this map – I just had to edit the descriptions and picture titles and such to add whatever else I wanted. Very nice. On the other hand now I’m reminded that I need a better digital camera…

Of course, nerd that I am, I spent a good portion of the trip looking at the greenish water and cursing once again my lack of a decent microscope. There must be a huge variety of tiny little things in there. It also occurs to me that I know very little about diatoms, for example. But now my mind is obviously wandering due to sleep deprivation and it’s time for bed. Hopefully the embedded map works right. Let me know if not.

Lake-spanking map and pictures

Lake Conroe has been persistently naughty. Since nobody else seemed to be taking responsibility for its misbehavior, we took matters into our own hands yesterday and gave it a good spanking. I paddled it until I got blisters.

I think this will need to be done much more often, since I don’t think the lake has learned its lesson yet. On the other hand, I learned a few – interactive photo-map and details below…

Continue reading Lake-spanking map and pictures

Another “Open Thread”/quick followup

Time to take the special-needs kitty to the vet for boarding and gas up Flagella (yes, I named my car Flagella) and hit the road. By popular (i.e. more than zero people) demand, here’s my route (again, RSS readers will need to come to the website to see the map). Wish me (good) luck.

ID to TX [height=480;width=560]

Another cheatin’ “Open Thread” and random stuff

No single topics to dominate a post today. I’m in a hurry (as usual lately) and have very little time. Tomorrow morning I’m back on the 1600-mile route back to Southeast Texas, hopefully to sign the closing paperwork on the house we’re trying to buy.

My Mountain Dew Wine appears to be still sitting there after several hours. Either the benzoic acid is still inhibiting the fermentation (in which case it’ll go REALLY slowly) or the yeast is just in shock or something. We’ll see how it looks in the morning. I’ll leave it for a week or so anyway to see how it does. Meanwhile I’ll refrigerate the other batch of yeast culture until I get back. If I have to develop my own strain of “Mountain Dew Yeast” I will, dagnabbit!

I did get a chance to go for a quick walk in the Big Room on the way back from some errands yesterday, so it gives me an excuse to play with the wordpress map plugin again (RSS feed readers: the map doesn’t get inserted there. Please check out the interactive map at the blog’s website here.) Comments on the map (or anything else, really – I DID say “Open Thread” after all) are encouraged – what do you think? I’d like to do some audio content for points on a map at some point, too. Maybe some video.

Lava Rock Walk [height=560;width=560]

If anyone’s bored enough to want to see how I get from Southeast Idaho to Southeast Texas, I can post a map of that tomorrow, too…

I finally got to Bristol Brewing Company…

Signage in front of the Bristol Brewing CompanyAfter spotting the company’s mention in Jeff Sparrow’s “Wildbrews“, I’ve been wanting to visit Bristol Brewing Company, particularly since they may be the only such brewery using local yeasts and bacteria that they isolated themselves from their local environment.

Since we’re moving from Southeastern Idaho to Southeastern Texas, I’ve been going back and forth between the two location. It just so happens that along with New Belgium Brewing Company, Bristol Brewing is actually right along a convenient route between the two locations. (Let’s see if I can figure out how to work the Google Maps plugin):

How’s that look? How does it work? (Those of you reading this on the RSS feed: The interactive map only appears on the website, it would seem. Please check it out here.) I made the KML file myself…

Bristol Brewing is a cozy little brewpub, and the people there are encouragingly helpful. They were in the middle of bottling, so there were no tours. Also, there were not currently any of the skull-‘n-bones beers available. However, I did get an educational series of tastes of their current brews on tap (thank you to the employee I spent most of the time talking to whose name I’ve embarrassingly forgotten, but who I believe was Tad Davis judging from the photos on the web site). I also lucked out and their microbiologist, Ken Andrews, happened to be there. I asked about their native Colorado brewing flora. Turns out Bristol Brewing isn’t quite as bold as I originally thought. They’re still doing their primary fermentation with “normal” brewing yeasts. What they’ve done is inoculated some wine barrels with the locally-isolated yeasts and bacteria, and they use the barrels for a secondary fermentation and aging instead. Much safer if you have to worry about having a drinkable product at the end, and of course it makes me feel like more of a crazed rebel for wanting to isolate my own local bugs for the main fermentation. So, a great visit overall.

Incidentally, it seems they’ll be tapping a new Skull-‘n-Bones brew in a couple of weeks, at 5pm on Tuesday, May 27th (2008). It sounds like they’ll probably have some available for a few days before it all disappears, so I’m hoping my return to Texas can be timed such that I can swing by and at least get a taste.