Cyclone Road


Sunday, January 30, 2005

It might be safe to say the momentum of winter has slowed, and our average daily temperature, according to the climatology, now begins an upward migration of about one degree Fahrenheit per day. The more it looks like early spring (even when it is still, distinctly, winter), the more chasers think about chasing, and all the preparations involved.

This year my 4Runner needs new brakes and new tires. The brakes I'll do this week. The tires, however, can wait until March, as the treads on the current set have about 5000 miles left at least. Also the tires I'm considering are designed specifically for water; the Michelin Cross Terrain SUVs don't perform so well in snow, allegedly.

After the brakes and tires, the remaining tasks are typical of any new season: change the oil, secure the radios and antennae, tighten the Jotto Desk, reset the electronic compass, and take the entire setup on a good, long test run, hopefully to a place where I might actually see something interesting, like Texas or Oklahoma.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I made all sorts of data-related and telephone decisions yesterday after pondering such moves for months. First, I ordered a new phone and migrated my existing number from ATT Wireless to Cingular. Then I cancelled my landline telephone effective on the last day of the month, which means I'll be a cell-only user. That'll save me between $42 and $70 per month and it's something I should have done many months and hundreds of dollars ago. After that I put my Sprint PCS Connection card and Ositech cellular modem up for sale on Ebay since I'll use the data connection cable that comes with my new cell phone for that sort of connectivity while chasing.

Picking the new cell phone wasn't easy. At first I went with the Samsung X427, but then read lots of horror stories about dropped calls, weak signals, bad ringtones, and very quiet rings, and got nervous. So I called Cingular back and asked if I could cancel or change my internet order, which of course was a major hassle. Eventually they fixed it and now I have a Nokia 6820 on the way, a much more conventional phone (not a flip) but one with solid reviews and a layout that might prove useful while chasing. The Nokia has a fold-out QWERTY keypad for easier text messaging and email functions and I could see that proving handy.

The Nokia 6820

My friend Jeff Doty has the Samsung and has been generally happy, so who knows what sort of expectations these reviewers have for phones.

Between the more economical Cingular cell plan and the elimination of my landline, I should save as much as $100 per month. If I can make $50 total on the sale of the Sprint card and the Ositech, I'll be happy there as well. A little research shows neither product moves briskly Ebay, so we'll see.

For chasing, I intend to use a combination of wi-fi, my Nokia/Cingular, and of course, XM while in the field. That should be plenty.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

I went to the woods because I wished to...shoot stills! Heh. Nerdy lit joke there for those who are scratching their heads. I went to Hoosier National Forest today and played around with the new camera, enjoyed the bright sun and crisp air.

A few other of the images I took are on this page.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I was thinking the other day about some of the insane distances we traveled in short periods of time last year. For example, on May 19th we finished the day in west central Iowa, then drove all the way to Colorado the next day and chased until after midnight, then drove back to Nebraska on the 21st for another chase that wound up around Omaha, where we hadn't booked a room and searched for lodging until after 3:00 AM.

See my accounts page for more details.

According to rough estimate on my Street Atlas 2005, this was a 1262 mile trip that we made between 7:00 AM on May 20th and 3:30 AM on May 22 (when we stopped for a few hours sleep before the day's Big Chase).

About 44 hours, or 28 miles per hour constantly for two days. That's chasing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I've suffered some hardware-related blue screens on my laptop recently and thought it might have been related to the GPS receiver. I bought Street Atlas 2005 and the new receiver hoping to fix the problem while also making a long-overdue upgrade to my mapping software. Turns out the computer problem remains and may be related to the new RAM I purchased several months ago (hope not).

But I discovered that Street Atlas 2005, while a very workable and intuitive program, failed to identify county names at any magnification, which really sucks for chasing. After some hunting I found a the ability to upgrade the software to something called Advanced File Management which opens the file system up for draw layers and other features.

One potential for draw layers is an overlay with county names, which luckily somebody (in the biking hobby) had already done, and those files are located here. The two files allow county names displayed either in all caps or in regular capitalization and can be disabled by simply unchecking the draw layer. It would be even better if they automatically shrunk or disappeared below a certain zoom level, but that's a feature saved for Street Atlas 2005 Plus, a $99 upgrade.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I've been reading the Robert Haas poetry collection Praise and this is the opening piece, a sort of epigram of his own making I suppose, as it appears without a title and on a page marking the first section.

We asked the captain what course
of action he proposed to take toward
a beast so large, terrifying, and
unpredictable. He hesitated to
answer, and then said judiciously:
"I think I shall praise it."

This stanza strikes me as a harmonic to all the explanations for stormchasing that many have labored to produce, myself included, but with far more elegance and drama. So I put it on the front page of my website, in the masthead even (with credit of course). I don't know why I was compelled to do that, but maybe it will draw a comment or two from others.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Here's the first post of 2005.

I enjoyed a cool trip to Texas with Jeff Doty and visited as many people as time allowed, though we returned early to sneak back north while the roads were passable and the weather warm. Don't know how much chasing I'll do in 2005, probably about the same as last year. Only one goal for 2005: selling my novel.

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