Ugh...

Thursday, 12 November 2015 16:28
dr_phil_physics: (sick-winslet)
I feel awful.

I haven't felt terrific fine for some time. First, it was the nasty cold that was going around, which took over three weeks to mostly go away. Then I had a flu shot on the second, a week ago Monday. This round of flu shots seems to create some mild fever and aches and pains. It happens. Then my bad leg is swelling more than usual, which it does, but that sometimes morphs into something else unexplained.

And that's where we seem to be today.

Yesterday my aches and pains had aches and pains. Checked my temp after midnight last night -- 101.0°F. Wonderful. I figured it was time to make an executive decision and send an email to my chair and tell him I was not going to be in on Thursday.

It's not just being sick, but we're in the middle of a storm system tearing up the Great Lakes, about on par with the one which swamped the Edmund Fitzgerald forty years ago just the other day. Rain, flooding, 35 mph winds with gusts to 50-60 mph. Power outages forecast, etc. Driving a Blazer on US-131 with winds like that takes concentration, and I was already spent. Plus I've got to keep my foot bandage dry.

I was able to send lecture notes for both classes, if they could find someone to take them. Then I went to bed. When I'm sick, there are several little things which drive me nuts and force me out to try sleeping in a living room chair. Usually it's nose clogging or, worse, whistling. Last night it was another of my horrors -- hearing my pulse in my ear against the pillow, also caused by congestion.

Wednesday I wanted to leave early, 3pm, so I'd get to the Campustowne lab in time to get blood drawn for the standing order of blood tests Infectious Diseases wanted. But there was a problem with my updated webpages not loading correctly. I got out by 3:36. Made it to the lab at 4:58. Locked. Sigh. So I went at 9am, picking an interval where the rain was light. Labs were going out at 10:30am, should have results at 1pm.

Of course that didn't quite work that way. Spectrum's My Health is supposed to allow you to see labs as soon as they're posted. But... nothing. The second time I logged in, there was a note that clinical data was down for maintenance Thursday and Friday. So I called Infectious Diseases -- they had the results. White blood cell count was good. The CRP marker for inflammation was high, but we knew the leg was swollen.

Fever peaked at 1pm, 101.8°F. Down lower now. I've done very little today, but I might be feeling a little better.

My 10am class got canceled -- it'll be covered tomorrow. My 1pm class had subs today and tomorrow. So, we're good as much as we can be. I don't think anyone will ever complain about me needed a sick day -- I rarely stay home.

One of the odd things about this has to do with feeling my foot. Now, this all started when I got a compressed nerve in my left leg from an arthritic hip. So all through my adventures with my foot, I've had no direct feeling -- never needed any pain meds for wound debridement. But I am aware of my foot -- there's some deep tissue feeling in places. And sometimes I experience phantom pain -- I know it's not real because when I touch the area, there's nothing. If I was going to regrow the leg nerve, it takes several years. Last night I started feeling sharp pains in my foot. Oh lord, I do NOT want to have to take painkillers -- I might have to stop driving if this got serious. But, I think it's all part of the reaction of the inflammation and not that I'm feeling the injured sites. More disconcerting than anything, and is much less than it was last night.

But I am tired and sick. I suppose I'm lucky to have typed this much on the laptop -- the autocorrect on the Kindle Fire HD has been a nightmare. (grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

October Ends

Friday, 30 October 2015 09:45
dr_phil_physics: (autumn-snoopy)
I got snowed on yesterday.

Oh, it wasn't at all serious. And it isn't all that unusual for West Michigan to see flakeage sometime in October. And there was no accumulation -- it was 41°F, after all. But I did see many small white things falling out of the sky in Kalamazoo as I finished my drive in on Thursday. And there were still flakes falling on me as I walkered from Blazer to Everett.

The month is ending with cold, wet weather. Will even rain on the little kiddies on Saturday's Halloween. November, however, is going to start with a week in the 60s, even 70s, and sunshine. Go figure.

Wednesday was Exam 2 day in both my classes. Unlike Monday and Tuesday, which started in the 30s, I realized it was 50°F at 7:30, with a high of about 55°F. Since I don't have a proper raincoat currently, I use a waterproof winter coat. I skipped the heavy sweatshirt, since I would've broiled with sweatshirt and coat in the rain -- and I can turn up the heat in the Blazer on the drive. Good call, because the heating system in Everett/Rood was caught off guard. It was hot and humid inside. In fact, the front door to Rood Hall was propped open with a rock.

As for the exams, in a fifty minute class, I'd like to see the first papers turned in between the 20-30 minute mark for PHYS-1070 and 30-40 minutes for PHYS-2070. The former clocked in at just fourteen minutes -- pretty much no one finished before time was called in PHYS-2070. Guess there'll be a curve. Just joking, there's always a curve.

Gas as $2.18.9/gal this morning in Allendale. It's been jumping around this week, sometimes with very different pricing on nearby gas stations, instead of the usual gentlemen's agreement colluding slash responding to market forces. Low of $2.14.9 and high of $2.38.9/gal. The latter, alas, was at the Shell station in Wayland, where I sometimes gas up on the way home. They also are the only station I use with a 29¢ differential, instead of 20¢/gal.

Guess gas prices this week are as uncertain as the weather.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
I've made it through my first week of teaching this semester.

Well, almost. I still have to drive home today -- and fight my way through the outskirts of Bronco Bash, the annual campus party to start the new year. And it wasn't a full week, since Labor Day -- was that only Monday? -- was not a teaching day.

I'm tired and I hurt. The tiredness comes from having to get out of the schedule I've had mostly since Christmas and the hurt comes from going up and down the lecture halls twice a day -- the single hardest thing I have to do each day. I'd say I was out of shape, but considering my goal was to keep off my foot for most of 2015, that's a little hard to avoid. (grin)

But I've taught all my classes. Got my syllabi out. Assigned to Topic 1 Science Literacy Book Report. Those are the two big two-sided copying jobs for the semester. Used my new Virtual-NT4 workflow to update the class webpages successfully from both ZEPPELIN and OUEST. Notepad doesn't quite work the same way in both Windows NT4 and Windows 7, but I can work around that as long as I know what machine I'm on.

Today I realized I had never installed MathType on OUEST -- that's the full version of the Equation Editor embedded in Microsoft Word. But I was able to find the email from Design Science with the Product Key and downloaded Version 6.9a and got it installed. Nice company, and considering I bought that version on 24 March 2013, nice that the download and codes still work two-and-a-half years later. Other software houses could emulate this. Now I can edit/display equations properly in Word 2013.

Only real workflow annoyance is that I currently don't have the full version of Adobe Acrobat on the Win7 machines, so I can't make 2-up PDFs right now. At least Word 2013 makes a passable Save As PDF file out of the box.

Gas prices are still dropping. In Allendale: Tuesday $2.33.9/gal (except $2.25.9 at Admiral). Wednesday $2.25.9/gal. Thursday $2.24.9. Friday $2.23.9. But in Kalamazoo: Tuesday $2.09.9/gal. Friday $2.05.9/gal.

Go figure.

Benchmark crude oil is around $40/bbl. "They" say that it will be driven down to $20/bbl. An industry "expert" also said on the radio this week that we were "lucky" in the aftermath of the BP Whiting IN shutdown, that gas "only" went up 60¢/gal and not the 90¢/gal it "should have". This was attributed to the snit between Marathon and BP -- and that gas prices fall back down slower than they shoot up, allowing them to "recoup their losses". Ri-ight...

They talked about rain in the middle of the day for K-zoo, and in fact the sidewalks were wet as I went to my 10am and 1pm classes. But the sun just now came out (14:53 EDT), so hopefully I'll be able to pack it up, get out of here and go find out what the packet is that needs my signature at the Post Office in Allendale. My guess, is that it is the sixth Nikon 52mm LC-52 lens cap. I've needed at least six of them to update my old NIKKOR lenses with the new style center-pinch lens caps which go on and off, and stay on, much better than the old ones. They're only $5 plus free shipping on eBay from a retailer in Japan, but you can only order one at a time and wait ten days between orders. Guess this is so he's not stocking someone's store. (grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (darth-winslet)
Been updating my class websites the last two days, including the exciting new webpage on the FREE online Physics textbook we're adopting for PHYS-1070 from PHYS-1130/1150. It's not secret. Hell, I've included the URL in case any of y'all want to take a look at or download a nice introductory Physics textbook. On the campus WiFi last week, I was able to download the High Res PDF (102MB) onto my work Kindle Fire HD is about six seconds. Nice when the WiFi is the limiting speed and not the Internet connection. (grin)

With more and more online use, I once again tried to input additional information into the Course Description system. There are boxes for Class Webpage, Syllabus, Required Materials, etc. Textbook is handled by the bookstore, though -- and it leaves a blank for the Online textbook. And the Class Webpage line? I've put in URLs before, but I'm damned if I know where it displays that. Of course, I'm not a student, so I'm not entirely sure what display they get.

So I put all the information into Required Materials field, which does display.

Naturally it doesn't handle line breaks, so it stuffs three lines of information into one long line. It's 2015 guys, can't you handle a few basic editing tasks?

As for why we got an online FREE textbook -- from Rice University, no less -- I checked out what the bookstore said for the textbook for the University Physics II course for scientists and engineers:


They should all have the textbook already, if they've bought it. But $300? Geesh.

Another task I did today, as we're closing in on First Class Day, was to download the current class rosters. They'll change by the time we get to Week 1, but they should be 80% or more correct now. And then I looked at the Requests to Join on the closed Dr. Phil's New Physics Class on Facebook. Results were just about what I expected. 1 of the 10 new requests was registered. The other nine? They're from wherever -- mainly people who join all sorts of groups. One belonged to 1697 groups. They're trolls and scammers. Of course, I wasn't expecting anyone just yet -- you have to have found the class webpage first. And since that doesn't display on the course information page...

I could open up the Dr. Phil's New Physics Class on Facebook. Mostly what gets posted is reposts of stuff, to keep the site active. But we DO discuss problems and exam questions and other stuff, and it allows Messages from students, so I really don't want to open it up to the Wild West.

Lots of little details. All of which make for a semester start. I guess.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

77 / 200

Monday, 20 April 2015 15:53
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
So Channel 3 said on Friday that West Michigan hit 77°F for the first time in two hundred days. Lovely Spring weather. Mrs. Dr. Phil kept on saying it was summer, but she'd been in a meeting where the sun was broiling the room, so she's biased. Saturday was almost as warm -- lovely day for one last meat up with Momcat and Joe at what he called "The Bug Bunny" -- Grand Coney in Allendale. Then off to a game night.

Sunday still got up to 69-72°F, but by late afternoon it was all steady rain and cooling off. It's 4pm Monday and been gray and raining on and off all day. It's gotten all the way up to 46°F so far.

Definitely Spring, it's greening up. Our little bed of a couple of daffodils shows nice healthy green stands of leaves, but no hint of flowers yet. There are some daffodils about a mile from us and the peepers are still raising a ruckus at night so... Spring. The forsythia bush has one branch with bright yello flowers, hopefully the rest of it will be coming. We think that one branch gets more sun from a gap in the trees. (grin) It's gonna be a cooler week, though.

Speaking of Spring, I guess it's Finals Week at Western -- since I'm not teaching, I'm just not in touch with the calendar. But I did have an office run on Wednesday -- gorgeous day and topped out at 69-72°F.

But as I was leaving, I spotted an unusual sight -- a class being held outdoors of Everett Tower and Rood Hall. Huh. A mobile white board and a music stand as a lectern. And it was a Math class. Man, usually the outdoor classes are social sciences or literature. But no, they're dealing with polar coordinates. And mostly the students are taking notes or crap. Not even texting...


Naturally it's a young guy. Usually you can't bribe or badger the fogies to do an outdoor class. Physics is Phun enough, we don't need to go outdoors. Not unless we're pushing Suburbans around or launching water rockets. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Inset from a second frame. In the time I stooped the walker, got out the Nikon D100 and took a coupke of shots, he made a couple of jokes. Sine of zero is zero. Anything times zero is...? Come on, the zero multiplication tables are going to be on the Final...
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Took another shot from the Blazer, showing the class spread out. There's one guy leaning back on both hands. Yeah, he's taking notes. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
I'm adjunct. I don't get sabbaticals, unless I want to declare one.

So we've been talking about this for a while and today I did it. I am not going to teach for Spring (i.e. Winter) 2015. You might think it's a little late, but as per usual, adjunct contracts go out late.

You might think it's all about the weather. And that's a factor. I managed to soldier in last winter, except for the odd snow day and a vehicle failure, but that was when we thought the errant heel was healing.

So late last night I sent my boss the following in an email:
We haven't talked about 2015 courses since last summer. I think I commented at the time that we wouldn't know until December or January or so whether the bone infection in my left heel has been beaten back or not -- I am just finishing up the six months of antibiotics in the next two weeks. If they were going to have to amputate, I was happy to teach in Fall 2014 and take Spring (i.e. Winter) 2015 off.

Well, it's still too early, but we've already had a taste of a hard winter in November -- 31" in Grand Rapids or 40% of the whole 2013-14 snow season. While I soldiered in last winter, that was when we thought we had normal healing going on.

I think it's best that I "take a sabbatical" for Spring 2015 and keep off my foot as much as possible. And if they need me to have surgery, there's plenty of time for recovery and rehab. Otherwise I would still try to keep some weekly office hours, subject to weather, and whatever happens, I should be able to teach Summer I and Summer II 2015 if there are courses available ***. I really would hate to start teaching and then have my foot blow up and leave the department and my students in the lurch. Being pro-active and taking the time off is the best solution for all concerned.
Now most people would be bummed to not work and lose the money, but I'm not most people. First of all, with my long commute and its costs, it's not like I really make anything on my adjunct salary. So teaching or not is practically a wash for our budget. And I'm an optimist. Having the time at home AND not having to face the wintry roads for months will not only be nice, it's really nice for Mrs. Dr. Phil.

And I can really rest the heel. And if it goes? Well, I won't be missing anything.

So I have declared Spring 2015, my 69th semester of university work, as my Sabbatical 2.0. What shall I do with this time? The obvious thing is write. Have not done a lot of submissions in 2014, though I am writing up a storm on my YA series -- 113,000 words so far and counting -- which means I've written more this year that in the last several years combined.

But... while I was talking to my department chair today, he happened to glance at my PHYS-1070 textbook, Inquiry Into Physics / Vern J. Ostdiek and Donald J. Bord (7th Edition), and asked what I thought about it. The thing is, it's not a bad textbook for an all-of-physics-algebra-level-in-one-semester class. But Chapter One sucks. I mean, if you had a GOOD high school Physics or AP Physics class, the first chapter is a nice review. But I have to assume we are starting at ground zero and working our way up. I spend weeks bringing everyone up to speed on just the first chapter. And then I extend the material, so the students end up with the kinematic equations as we use in PHYS-1130 and the calc level PHYS-2050. This allows them to talk to other students or people working the Help Room and get help they can understand.

I once spent two hours talking to a company rep about exactly what was wrong with that chapter. Years ago. It hasn't changed.

I've taught PHYS-1070 and its earlier variants a total of 28 times now. Early on we were using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics, which is too light. And we've been using Ostdiek & Bord since about the 3rd edition, I think. Other professors have taught PHYS-1070 over the years, and no one has found a "good" textbook. There just aren't many suitable for this course.

I've even thought about writing my own textbook.

So I told my boss I was going to rewrite my syllabus over my sabbatical and that I was thinking of using the full-year algebra level textbook, especially as we are currently using a loose-leaf edition which means we can pull just the sections we are going to use. And then my boss points out that actually, PHYS-1130/1150 is switching to a new text, one available for free and published with a Creative Commons license. Huh.

Bottom line, during my sabbatical of six months or so, I will also be taking that online text apart and figuring out the sections we need for PHYS-1070. Perhaps get the authors permissions to edit down the PDFs. And so I'm penciled in for PHYS-1070 for the 29th time in Fall 2015, where I will field trial the new text.

And we'll see how it goes. (grin)

What. Fun.

Now, just need to make it through December 16th and the noon grading deadline, followed by half a dozen doctors appointments... (evil-grin)

Dr. Phil

Whew

Sunday, 7 April 2013 22:20
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Made It Through The Week

Last week seemed really rough. Sure, it was busy, but there were a number of days when I got home and wondered if anyone had gotten the number of the truck that had driven over me. But looking around, I realized that there were a lot of students who were sick and/or missing. The class after my last class sounded like a TB ward, including the instructor the other day. And the university put back up the signs on the doors saying that if you had the flu to go home.

And Mrs. Dr. Phil was both busy and dragging. And sinuses clogged. So I worked on getting some extra sleep, and chonked down some Sudafed PE and Advils during the day. And survived.

Exam 3

Of course I had exams on Friday. And I really tried hard to get everyone ready. Didn't completely work -- one of the exams proved to be tough and a couple of students gave up early. Blank exams? Yikes.

I always bring cookies to my exams. My 10am class just isn't into cookies much, though. Maybe it's too early? The curve ball this time was the butter cookies Mrs. Dr. Phil had found at the store. I tested one -- quality control you know -- and discovered that it said MAYBE on it. A quick check and I found that others said YES and NO.

Cool! Cookies you can ask questions of! Naturally the first student who tested this asked if they'd done well. The cookie said NO. I told them that they'd asked the wrong question. (grin)

And It Never Stops

Had an email from a student on Sunday afternoon asking about a handout that they couldn't get on the class webpage. Turned out it wasn't an HTML coding error, the website was down. Hell, the whole university server was down. And the Help Desk hasn't replied to my inquiry of almost two hours ago.

Fortunately, I had planned for such things, putting a mirror site on my own website. And I was able to let my closed Facebook group for my students know. But of course the main link is on the missing webpages, and it turns out that it's hard to Google. Will have to address that this week.

Anybody who needs it, by the way, the Dr. Phil Homepage at WMU Mirror Site is here.

(And the main website is back up.) (Whew)

Dr. Phil

A Couple of Things

Wednesday, 9 January 2013 14:07
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Been Scarce With Updates

You'd think that with the holidays I'd have more time for blogging on LJ/DW, and I have a number of things I need to blog about, but this year we once again traveled down to Greensboro NC to visit my mom. That's two days of driving down and two back, plus the days spent in G'boro. Plus the day we delayed after Christmas to allow Winter Storm Euclid to slide on south of us through Indiana, Ohio and West Virginia. That was a day delay well spent -- other than a couple of flakes we saw in the last hours of the drive home, and I do mean flakes, we had decent driving weather.

The New Semester and Such

Classes began on Monday the seventh. Once again teaching two classes -- PHYS-1070 Elementary Physics (for the 26th time) and PHYS-2050 University Physics I (for the 22nd time). About a hundred in the one and seventy-five in the other. In 1110 Rood, the "regular" Physics lecture hall, which has railings along the stairs, which are a big help. (grin)

It's funny how we get into routines and rhythms. Last two semesters I taught, I had classes at noon and 1pm. This time it's 10am and 1pm. (1) I have to get up earlier -- ugh. Haven't done a 6am wakeup every day in a couple of years, it takes some getting used to, especially since my "perfect" timing has me going to bed at 4am. (evil grin) (2) The last two semesters I'd finish my two classes and have my lunch about 2pm. So... why is it that my Pavlovian response to leaving my first class at 11am is that I'm hungry? And I can barely "make it" to noon before I get out my sandwich? We are such creatures of habit.

At least I now have a handicapped parking hangtag, so I don't have to walk from across most of the Lot 61 when I get in.

Gas Prices

Gas fell down to $3.18.9/gal for regular the other day. AND we had another grocery store 50¢/gal discount coupon, which miraculously Mrs. Dr. Phil was able to use to fill the Bravada with on Monday morning -- before gas shot up to $3.38.9/gal. For once the discount coupon didn't go to make up the price jump. (supreme evil grin)

I was looking at my blog entries from early 2012 last night and I was screaming NO-OOOOOO! as the gasoline pundits were predicting $4 and $5 gas by the summer. Saying such things aloud gives them carte blanche to go ahead and do it, don't you know? So today they said that we were unlikely to have $4 gasoline through about June. Don't worry, some excuse will come along to ruin the summer vacation driving season.

A Pleasant Review

Yesterday I had a few minutes before class to kill, so Googled myself looking for reviews of my stories. Found one from November by a Hungarian blogger named Bogi (Boglárka) Takács, for my story "End Run" on Giganotosaurus. I really enjoyed her review, because she "got it" in terms of what I am trying to do with my military SF stories.
I thought this would be one of those "we are trying to emulate Golden Age SF" stories which I find deathly boring, but it wasn't. Instead of the glorious space military yadda yadda, it was surprisingly slice-of-life, and the plot revolved around an engineering mishap. I found that so refreshing! Yes, things go wrong - sometimes in really mundane ways, but still with spectacular (and horrifying) results. Space SF either tries to be blandly perfect or absurdly gritty, it's always good to see a story that manages to present a more balanced and realistic future.

Imagine my surprise when Jim C. Hines mentioned Bogi Takács' blog in his updated Hugo Best Fan Writer nominations musings. And the World-SF blog also wrote today about looking beyond North American borders for the Hugo Best Fan Writer noms. I've added Takács to my Blogger reader.

It's a small world out there. Big, and small.

Dr. Phil

New Year Week 2

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 21:37
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Busy

Back to classes. Back to work. Survived the week one parking free-for-all where they don't ticket students in the faculty lot. And before you think it's just whining, remember my current difficulty in walking -- I just can't go to a distant lot and then walk up hill to my office like I used to.

Using i>Clickers in my two classes -- the first time for me -- now that the university has settled on the third clicker brand in five years and most of my students have used them in other classes. Not using them for grading this semester, but the stats are interesting so far. As long as the answers are A B C D or E. (grin) Physics Dept. wanted the clickers that had numeric keypads, dammit. (double-entry grin)

Huh -- for $10 you can buy an app to run i>Clicker without using a clicker. And was amused to see a student raid the batteries from his calculator to run his clicker. I think he needs to buy some new batteries.

Decided I needed a clean new Windows 7 machine for the i>Clicker base station to plug into. Went by Best Buy a couple weeks ago and picked up an Asus Eee PC 1025C notebook for $199. $199! Dual core Intel Atom processor, 1.6GHz clock, 1GB memory, 320GB HDD. Weighs like two pounds. Named the machine KATNISS since I bought a Blu-Ray copy of The Hunger Games at the same time. (grin) This is the machine I did Iron Chef Flash Fiction (DW) at WorldCon with, as well as gave my PowerPoint which I'll report on Real Soon Now.

Of course if parking eased in week 2, commuting has gotten worse in week 2. One of the construction sites is creating a four mile twenty minute backup on the way home. Grrrr. Mostly avoided the worst of the construction summer woes, even on my trips to Atlanta and Greensboro.

Huh?

Gas is running around $4.09.9/gal for regular, though my local gas station has upped its grade differential from 11¢/gal to 15¢/gal -- and as I usually get mid-grade for the 1996 Blazer, this is relevant. The last two tanks I've filled on the way home in Wayland and though regular is the same price, the Shell's differential is only 10¢/gal. Whoo-hoo.

Except the last couple of days I've seen two people reporting that gas is running around $1.85.9/gal in Cincinnati. WTF? That's 45% of the price here! I mean, you might be able to get a tanker truck of gas at retail Cincy prices, truck it up here and make money AND lower gas prices. It's like 380 miles!

I. Do. Not. Get. It.

Dr. Phil

PS -- Lots more WorldCon coverage coming!

Go Crazy Time

Saturday, 28 April 2012 17:06
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
It's Grade-a-Thon Spring 2012 Edition

All finals and make-up exams given. Wading through a couple hundred science literacy book reports. So this will be short.

Busy, which is why I haven't posted much.

Gas dropped to $3.75.9/gal midweek, jumped back up another fourteen cents by weekend.

Temp varying -- did we escape our chance of a snow flurry today yet? In the mid 70s once May starts.

Speaking of May, my May 2012 issue of Locus came today. No fair! It's early -- it usually comes on the first -- and I don't have time to look at it until after noon on Tuesday when grades are all done!

Emails from students have jumped tenfold this semester and a lot of the requests are, to put it bluntly, unreasonable and/or unrealistic. Eeek.

And I'm missing Penguicon.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
The Weather Breaks

After a week of temps that got into the 80s and nearly 90°F, the weather over the next week or so will have highs in the 60s and low 70s. Ah-hhh. And today we're to have some rain. That actually isn't bad. Last night driving home the traffic reports included several grass fires around Sparta. And the rain had another benefit -- the no-so-cold winter meant that my windshield was covered in bug glop. Now it's clean again. (grin)

But Then...

When I got to work, I discovered a sign between the two elevators saying that they were both out of order. In a six-story office building. Fortunately, my office is on the second floor. Unfortunately, this leg nerve makes stairs a pain. So since I had my rolling cart from the parking lot, I rolled back across the way into Rood Hall and to the back where Rood's huge but slow service elevator lurked. One of our middle-aged custodians was in the elevator -- she looked beat. She'd already hiked up and back to the 6th floor of Everett once already. Unfortunately, Rood is only three stories above ground, so the Rood service elevator can only get you up to Three.

And I made a nice little discovery for future reference. There's a Unisex bathroom on the first floor of Rood, so I was able to do that and have my little cart with me inside, instead of having to wait until I made it all the way back to Everett.

Eventually when I went to class, I found the big lecture hall to be hot and humid and no airflow. I figured the system realized that it was cooler out and figured we didn't need no stinkin' air conditioning.

At two, after my second class, I was in a bathroom on the first floor of Everett before tackling the stairs, when the lights went out. From a conversation I heard from the hallway, they'd cut out the lighting circuits to reduce the load. And the AC had been shut off all day. An electrical connection between Rood and Everett had been the original problem which took out the elevators and now they were shutting off systems and putting Everett on an emergency backup generator. Hence still being able to type and get an Internet connection.

I thought I heard maintenance people in the hallway about half an hour ago discussing elevators, so maybe by the time I need to get out of here, I won't have to do things the complicated way. (emergency-backup-detoured-grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag)
Primary Day In Michigan

There are bluish skies overhead and sun. No appreciable reason for Michigan voters not to go to the polls today. Obviously, there's a lot of national interest in the Michigan Republican Presidential Primary, especially as Mitt Romney claims to be a native son. But actually, there's a Democratic Presidential Primary as well. There are news stories that some Democratic nitwit is trying to organize Democrats into voting in the Republican primary, to influence the opposition, but like herding cats, there are different arguments as to who they should support. Mostly there are attempts to throw it for Santorum, given how close the polls have been and to embarrass Romney. Give it a rest, folks. Don't mess with other people's primaries. There's enough election shenanigans as it is, and stooping to crapping on your neighbor's lawn isn't very becoming.

I noticed that at Allendale's polling place, there was a Free Coffee station set up by the YES For Allendale people -- the only issue on the ballot that wasn't the primary. Yes, the YES people were more than 100 feet away from any of the church's doors. They looked to be having a good time standing around in the coolish sun and serving coffee to a couple of folks. Should've taken a picture, but I wanted to make it in to the office as soon as I could.

My political forecast of the day? I think Barack Obama will take the Democratic primary. (grin) All other bets are off. (double-think-grin)

Exam 2 Part One

There's a fine line during the morning hours between being able to get a parking spot in WMU Lot 61 and finding nothing. Today there was nothing. When I finally got a spot, it was at the far end of the lot -- the longest I've had to walk since I injured my leg nerve. Sigh.

My PHYS-1070 Elementary Physics class had their second exam today. I'd sent PDFs on to the department secretary late last night, so the copies were already waiting for me. I have to say, that though I am worried about a number of people, I was also pleased with the questions that some students brought to me and the fact that they can do this stuff, even if they don't think they can. Results should be interesting.

Even better, I think I had nearly everyone here, so there won't be too many makeups.

Exam 2 Part Two

My PHYS-1000 How Things Work class is supposed to have their second exam tomorrow at noon. There will be an exam written. The PDF will be sent to the department. Whether it gets copied, or whether I get in, or whether anyone will be there to proctor the exam, or anyone gets in to take it -- I can't say at this point. We've a major ice storm coming in, starting sometime after 10pm tonight and running all day Wednesday. The commute will either just be wet, a wet mess, a wet and slippery mess, or an OMG WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE sort of road conditions.

Expect all the schools to be closed. Whether it's bad in Kalamazoo and Western "We Claim We Never Close Even Though We Do" Michigan University closes, I can't say. If Western does close, then we won't have the second exam before Spring Break -- which means it won't be a part of the Mid-Term grading. Oh well. And if the exam IS given, I don't know how many people will need makeups.

For all that today went well, tomorrow could be really stupid.

Sigh.

Speaking Of Stupid

Gas prices shot up 25 cents a gallon or so last week and another twenty cents yesterday. Up to $3.85.9/gal for regular this morning. Current rise is still being attributed to fear and no real changes in the marketplace. More or less. Still people talking about five dollar gas this summer -- and four dollars by Easter.

Reminds me that I should get gas in Wayland on the way home, so that I don't have to take time to get it in the morning...

Sigh.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Sigh -- Should've Seen This Coming

Why oh why would I post that I seemed to be getting better? (DW) Oh don't get me wrong, I am feeling better. And I have soldiered on all week making all my classes Monday-Thursday. But Friday?

First it was the snow. Two days ago the story was that the winter storm warnings would last until 7am Friday. Then last night it was til noon Friday. Again -- not so much with the snow, perhaps 8-10". But the weather was coming with the temps right around freezing, so icy, slushy conditions? I figured I'd give people a heads up, so I posted this on my class web pages:


This morning? Kalamazoo, which along with Battle Creek was getting the snow last night, was pulled from the winter storm. But now everybody else was going to 5pm, not noon.

Mrs. Dr. Phil originally going to drive to Lansing today, but they punted that to a conference call from 10-noon, so she was going to work from home today. As I sat and ate my cereal, I really didn't feel like having to tackle sliding roads both ways. As the traffic reports kept building, I contemplated the poor sleep I'd had and the dull stuffed concrete headache.

And I decided at 7:20am that I didn't have to go in today.


I spent an hour updating web pages, sending an email to the department chair, etc. And then, after I returned to my cereal and discovering that Oat Squares can get soggy from an hour's immersion in boysenberry yogurt, I fed the cat, shot him full of insulin and took another round of Sudafed PE and Robitussin DM for myself, then settled back into the recliner under a pile of blankets.

Proof I Was Sick

Around 11:30 or so, I roused myself because I realized that whenever I've cancelled before, I've copied the secretaries and followed up with a phone call. Good thing I called. The chair wasn't in. Hopefully the students were told class was cancelled -- the noon group might even have gotten their handouts.

And then, of course, there's proof of the heroic hyped nonsense of the weather crews. Okay, roads were bad this morning. And it was nearly whiteout conditions when I cracked open an eye around 10am. But here in Allendale, we really didn't get more, even unto 5pm. Hell, at 4pm the sun came out.


The massive snowfall of February 24th by 4:41pm EST. (Click on photo for larger.)

So the pseudo-snow day really was the final straw that motivated a very rare Dr. Phil sick day -- and one that was apparently really needed.

Dr. Phil

Strange Day

Friday, 10 February 2012 22:48
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
Today Was One Of Those Odd Days

I had a ton of things to do before my classes and managed to do most of it. Handed back Exam 1 to both groups. Had to sort some papers and get some backlogged quizzes to my grader, who probably left early anyway, but I got it done. (grin) A rather productive day, in a weird way.

The weather was supposed to turn today. Not so much snow as cold and wind. I thought I'd try to leave at 4pm. But as I started to pack up at 3:55, I picked up my lunch bag... and it was heavy. Huh. I never got around to eat it. So I sat and took a minute.

By the time I got out and cleaned some slush off the Blazer, logged in and drove off in low gear, it was around 4:30pm.

I got home over two hours later.

The traffic guy on WLAV-FM said it was the worst number of wrecks and slide offs he's ever tracked. Over sixty in Kent and Ottawa County.

Actually it wasn't too bad for the first half-hour/forty-five minutes on US-131. Slow but not unreasonable. But driving under the overpass at Exit 64 Wayland, it was driving into Mordor. It got dark. And everyone slowed. The new style beam style wipers kept shedding big chunks of ice, when then rattled up and over the roof in the wind.

Even slower on the M-6. Radio reporting that the Kent-Ottawa County border was bad -- I'd be crossing it three times. Curving onto I-196, things rolled slower and slower -- down to 1st gear 4WD and 5 mph. Trooper blocking the middle of the highway -- had to cross the rumble strip and half off the pavement to get around. Wilson was slow, M-45 less traffic but the road was squirrely. The temp had dropped from 35°F to 18°F in less than an hour.

I'll post pictures. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Sabbatical 1.36 Report -- December 2011

In the last month since I reported on my sabbatical progress (DW), I managed just 10 submissions. All told I made 112 submissions since the 29th of July. 1 sale (DW) to the Rocket Science anthology. Plus an Honorable Mention and a Silver Honorable Mention (DW) from Writers of the Future.

I had five new stories to add to my Invenstory in 2011 -- three of them during my sabbatical. Though that's not a record for new stories, but it is a huge record for total new submissions. I even added fourteen new markets to the mix.

Did I accomplish my goals for not quite half a year? We-elllll, no. Not really. But there were a lot of extenuating circumstances -- things that I could take the time to deal with without leaving either students or job in the lurch. I came up with a new workflow for getting stories out. I'm going to call this a win.

And you know? I may be teaching two classes this winter, but I manage to find time to write. And I have a lot of notes for new stories and I have that new novel to work on.

It's 2012 and I already have three new submissions. And no new rejections. Not bad considering how many editors and slush readers were working over the holidays. (grin) Can't sell if don't submit. (double-grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Sabbatical 1.35 Report -- November 2011

In the last month since I reported on my sabbatical progress, I've made only 19 submissions -- 102 since I officially started Sabbatical 1.3 -- including ONE SALE! I have to say, that given the unexpected death of my sister and a long trip to Atlanta, I got more done on the writing front that I'd thought. Currently, a week into December, I still have 27 stories out to market. And I'm getting more rejections with positive comments, instead of just "No".

The End is Nigh

Can't believe it's December already. In a month my classes will be starting up. Haven't done nearly as much groundwork on the new class as I thought a month ago. While the sabbatical as a whole hasn't gone as planned, what six month plan ever goes as planned? (grin) Currently fighting an infection -- feeling better but I knew I was in trouble Monday evening when my teeth were chattering and my temp was 102.0°F. Dammit, in the past year I've had too many things that required a course of antibiotics. We'll get over this, too.

Hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving... and on to the Big Name Holidays.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
Sabbatical 1.34 Report -- October 2011

In the last month since I reported on my sabbatical progress, I've made 27 submissions -- 83 since I officially started Sabbatical 1.3. Currently, two days into November, I have a staggering 30 stories out to market -- a new personal record -- including 1 new story. If editors aren't reading it, they can't buy it.

Working on some new writing, of course, but though the conceptualizing phase is going great on all these things, I wish I had more words written. Still, I know of at least two or three stories under consideration. And actually, I've been getting more rejections with comments, even from markets which haven't sent comments before. So this massive sending of stories is certainly not a wasted effort, even though nothing's sold. Yet. (grin)

Next weekend is WindyCon 38 in Chicago (Lombard IL) -- 11-13 November 2011. As of right now, I'm on one panel:
How Not To Get Published
Sunday, 11:00 am–Noon, Lilac D
Mike Resnick, Bill Fawcett, Phil Kaldon, Jim Hines, Steven Silver

This should be a great panel, and if you're a new writer, or have thought about writing, you need to come to this one. Mike Resnick is a powerhouse and tells excellent stories and knows the publishing business. Jim C. Hines is a wise, wise man, who is also a terrific writer.

The Double-Edged Sword of New Stories

I mentioned above that I churned out one new story in October. I wanted to get in one more submission to an anthology which closed in the U.K. on Monday, but I needed another near-term SF story. The good news is that between Clarion and the WOTF workshop's 24-hour story challenge, writing 4600 words in a little over a day is quite doable. The downside is that it was pretty much one writing and one editing session. The danger in shipping a Version 1.00 of a story, is that I always feel like it's 80% there. That is all the major components are there, but surely it would benefit from a rewrite or two, pumping up the conflict, etc. On the other hand I've sold first versions of stories, so what do I know? Mrs. Dr. Phil is just now reading it, so it didn't get the benefit of my first reader/copy editor. (grin)

We'll see.

Classes Looming

I've picked up a second class starting in January -- so I'll have PHYS-1000 for the 1st time and PHYS-1070 for the 24th time. Something old and something new.

I've been printing out worksheets of my sabbatical progress about once a week. Just printed out the 13th set. Hard to believe that there's just two months left.

Dr. Phil

A Busy September

Saturday, 1 October 2011 22:43
dr_phil_physics: (writing-winslet-2)
October Already?

September ended cold and rainy and gusty. October dawned with blue skies and sunshine and cold. Sweater and jacket weather.

Sabbatical 1.33 Report -- September 2011

In the last month since I reported on my sabbatical progress, I've made 22 submissions -- 56 since I officially started Sabbatical 1.3. Currently I have 25 stories out to market. For a brief time I had an insane 28 -- a new record of sorts. One new story shipped. At least two stories are in the second round.

My plan is to spend a bunch of October-November working on a new novel. I've had several projects lying around, both new ideas and taking some novellas to novels. Well, Monday I attended a nice colloquium on the Crab Nebula -- funny how most semesters I'm teaching or have to leave at colloquium time -- and now I have started my new novel. And it's definitely a novel, because the complexity doesn't easily lend itself to pull an episode out for a short story or write it in 20,000 words. Ex-cellent.

And future planning for Chicago. Registered for WindyCon in November. And caught next year's Chicago WorldCon attending registration before it went up. Should be a couple of really great events.

Spring 2012

Also this week I received my contract letter for next semester. And a new course for me: PHYS-1000 How Things Work. Yay.

This was also the first time I made it down to my office since August. I'd planned on missing the first week of class, because the students always count on not getting ticketed for filling up the faculty spaces for the first week. Then we had the flu, then I had an allergy to an antibiotic... Thank goodness I wasn't teaching! (grin)

Dr. Phil

Sabbatical 1.3

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 17:45
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Semester 59 - Fall 2011

One of the adventures of teaching part-time is that I never know what's next, particularly at the end of the school year. Am I teaching in the Fall? It doesn't help that the fiscal year ends and begins in the middle of the two summer sessions, so that departments can't make immediate decisions early. Or that for the last decade we've had uncertain budgets and adventures in state funding and university priorities, so that departments don't always even know how much money they're going to get. I've been doing this for nearly twenty years and, like enduring rejections from market after market, all you can do is go with the flow.

Alas, Tuesday I learned that I didn't have an assignment for Fall 2011, though I should have a class for January 2012 -- I don't count anything until I get a signed contract letter AND enrollment passes the threshold.

The Third Time's The Charm?

Rather than be upset or depressed about this, I am taking advantage of finishing 2011 free and clear -- though the free part is annoying (grin) -- and declaring this to be Sabbatical 1.3.

As some of you may recall, Mrs. Dr. Phil had a six-month sabbatical in the first half of 2009, and when it looked like I wasn't teaching from July to December that year, I declared that I'd get a six-month sabbatical to do writing. But a funny thing happened, and I ended up teaching a class in Fall 2009 anyway. So lather, rinse, repeat and in 2010, a similar situation developed and I did two months off for Sabbatical 1.21 in May-June, taught a course and scheduled Sabbatical 1.22 for September-December. Once again, however, a course showed up for Fall 2010.

So this is my third attempt at having a half-year -- five months effectively at this point -- sabbatical and switch into full-time writing mode for a while. I need to hit the start of this hard, because there is always the possibility that something will happen in the next four weeks and I'll find myself back in the classroom anyway after Labor Day. (whistling-in-the-dark-grin)

So, What's Next?

During Sabbatical 1.1 in 2009, one of my projects was finishing a novel and sending it off. So I have several other novel projects that I just need to spend Time In Chair on. I have a rewrite to work on and a number of other shorter projects. With novels ready to go, I shall start working on getting an agent as well.

Nearly a year ago I did something which ended up compressing a nerve in my leg and that's caused all sorts of problems. Including limiting the amount of Time In Chair I could stand (or sit if you want to be precise), so it's just as well that Sabbatical 1.22 in Fall 2010 was canceled and I was back in the classroom. I also skipped WindyCon -- that is not going to happen this year.

Also this summer I've already made one trip to my mother's house in Greensboro NC. And I was planning to do an August trip. But... given the opening up of my schedule and the heat which had gripped the South for so long, it makes sense to defer that trip to the fall. Maybe I'll have to take pictures of the fall colors in the West Virginia mountains. (grin) Though I can see it now -- as soon as I work through the time that I would've used for my August trip, I'll get a class for Fall, you wait and see.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (canada-flag)
Happy Canada Day!

It's July 1st and that begins a whole month of national holidays.

As For June... And May...

Oh yeah, I've been teaching. (grin) Teaching in the summer is like driving a race car instead of a suburban commute. All the material, half the time, half the weekends, all the quizzes -- every day in fact -- and it's a whirlwind.

So as for why I've been scarcer on LJ than I'd like, well, now you know. Of course this is now officially Grading Weekend. Because Tuesday was the Final Exam and yesterday, Thursday, I got the finals back from the grader. So we're down to grading two-and-a-half quizzes, the Topic 1 Science Literacy Book Reports and the Topic 2 Real World Driving Data Worksheets. Good news? Only 37 in the class.

But I Am Behind

Had composed a number of LJ posts in my head while driving to/fro K-zoo, but of course that doesn't count. Not until we get John Scalzi's BrainPals installed.

So... later.

Dr. Phil

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