dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
The Allendale Telephone Company -- renamed several times due to mergers -- sounds like a podunk, small time operation. But it isn't. Because of GVSU in Allendale, there's always been money to keep the system high tech with excellent uptime. When DSL became available out where we were, we joined up. Kept it at the lowest guaranteed rate, but most days we get excellent throughput. Good enough to download 200MB printer drivers and do Netflix streaming, and play music and podcasts online. Oh sure, some Friday nights we can't watch a movie due to what we figure is all the kids on our subnet playing some massive online game plus a movie. (grin) But considering the quality (snort) and lack of concern about security, there is no way I'd ever hook up to a cable modem around here.

Next year we are supposed to be upgraded to fiber optics cable and we'll upgrade the phone, Internet and quite possible tell the cable TV company to take a hike.

Last night we had no DSL. We flipped off the powerstrip that has the DSL modem and the WiFi boxes a couple of times. WiFi came up. DSL modem came up and with the appropriate number of steady and blinking lights. Just no DSL Internet access.

We could've called Aventec -- the current company name -- but of course the system has been reliable so I'd have to look it up on the webpage. Oh, darn. Fortunately Mrs. Dr. Phil had the latest bill and we still get an Allendale phonebook from Aventec, so we did in fact have the numbers.

But last night we really didn't have a pressing need. We read books. Watched the Cubs beat up on the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLDS. Had some Food Network.

In the morning, still no go. So Mrs. Dr. Phil called the local office when they opened at 8 and they reset the DSL. Everything is fine.

This is the second time in the years we've had DSL that they office had to reset the connection. Other minor DSL outages resolve themselves in a few hours. And, we could've called the service numbers last night if we'd wanted to. Basically, we've been pretty pleased with our DSL service.

Before we had the DSL, we used a jack splitter and ran a 25-foot RJ-11 phone line around the corner and across the living room to either our laptops or the Micron mid-tower PC at the desk. 28.8K modem from 1996 to when we got DSL/WiFi...

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (7of9voyager)
Or... The Problem With Low Information Click Bait -- Part III

So I've posted twice about an egregious Triple-Redundant Click Bait on Tesla or something from last Monday (DW) (LJ) and Friday (DW) (LJ).

Well, Evelyn Hernandez was BACK on my Facebook with an all-new Sponsored post, but this time she listened and actually has a personal claim! Sort of... I am disappointed that the overall savings claim has dropped from "up to 75 percent" to just "slash your electric bills by 70 percent". Or maybe that tells you how realistic their new claims are -- they don't have to be outrageous and strain your credulity:


I never built anything in my entire life but this was so easy I was making my own electricity in 3 short days. If you have a couple of minutes I definitely recommend giving this video a watch.
And look at this: "Electric companies are trying to keep this technology from being exposed! This small versatile machine can power any electrical device..."

Um, still sounds like a portable generator.

And I have NO idea what the graphic is trying to show us here. We're igniting light bulbs from the inside? Will this still work with a CFL or an LED bulb? You just don't know.

My friend Eric, of course, gets in on the joke. Referring to movie The Prestige, a movie I highly recommend if you haven't seen it***, where David Bowie played Nikola Tesla...
Eric VanNewkirk If you clicked through, you'd see that the important thing about the generator is that it's the duplicate gennie that showed up in the field alongside those top hats and kittens when he "failed" to teleport it.
Hope he didn't actually click through.

And it gets better. Because while I won't click on such bait, I can look at a Facebook page. And look, Evelyn Hernandez isn't a person, she's a Community.

You have to "Ask for Evelyn Hernandez's website". Now who does that? Except scammers and people who need to hide their identity on a regular basis. And if you look for more information:

About Evelyn Hernandez
No information available for this Page.

Scrolling down, this Facebook page seems to be about skin care products and food. I don't see the Tesla thingies at all. But I'm not the only getting this crap, because:

Visitor posts...Please stop sharing this scam stuff about Tesla.



Oh yeah, I just want to rush to click on a link titled ENCRYPTED.

Personally, I think that this could be some maybe legit reposting page that has gotten hijacked by spammers? That would be the most charitable view.

But either way, I'm not clicking on ANY of those links.

The ball is back in your court Evelyn Hernandez. And what about you, Christine Bishop?

Dr. Phil

*** -- Including the always wonderful Michael Caine and a non-CGI Andy Serkis!
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
Oh look, she's back. The lady with the Sponsored Facebook post that might be about Tesla and stabbing -- or not (DW) (LJ):



Same triple threat retreaded low information click bait info repeated three times. But it's a new picture. What IS that thing? At least the last time I recognized a portable generator.

Wait, this isn't the same person. Because further down in today's Facebook feed we get a rerun of the Sponsored FB post I displayed from Evelyn Hernandez on Monday:



Oh Christine Bishop, you're a copycat. If I'd had doubts that this wasn't a clickbait scam, they're gone now. And nice touch that both these "ladies" are blonds.

Sigh. I can see I'll be getting more of these "posts" in my feed for days now, maybe weeks.

I swear we need a better class of scammer.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (darth-winslet)
Facebook is full of funny stuff. Some of it is meant to be cute and/or funny. Some is funny ironically. Or WTF or Are Your Kidding Me?

Then there are the Ridiculous Questions posts -- Did Martians Land in Hawaii and Steal Obama's Birth Certificate? Any of those links which ask a question, the answer is almost always NO.

And the Top 25 Celebrities Who Look Different Today Than As Children posts. Which when you get to the link take FOREVER to go through all 27 pages (including front and back cover pages) to try to see 25 results. Of course the pages take so long because they take so much time loading ads and links to more click bait pieces.

These are easy to ignore. And I do.

But there's a class of Low Information Click Bait which just infuriates me:



Okay, I think I get it. "See why Tesla was stabbed in the back 3 times for this endless energy device. This may cut your electricity bill by as much as 75%."

My question is -- why the hell do you have to repeat three times? The article apparently starts with those two lines. The headline is based on that. And the (Sponsored) poster took the time to cut-and-paste those two lines in a comment.

For what earthly purpose? There are three opportunities to give us information -- and at least two of them are wasted.

Now, Tesla was an interesting figure. And he was involved in many fights with other people. But was he physically stabbed in the back three times? Or is this merely metaphor? And the photograph shows a portable generator. What, are you telling me I can save on my electric bill by running my generator? Gee, thanks, Sparky. I'll get right on it.

I will never click on such a link. But whether it is some cut and clever sales pitch -- it IS a Sponsored post after all -- or some conspiracy theory or fake invention tale, why should I read the same text three times?

Use a little imagination, folks! I'd even take the old "I saved $23.18 on my electric bill the first month!" hype.

Idiots.

On a happier note -- Ms. Winslet, Photoshopped as a Sith above, is celebrating her 40th birthday today. Happy birthday!

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (gvsu-logo)
The Grand Valley State University Film Program funds a big project every year. Sometimes it's a feature length movie and sometimes it's a short. A couple of SAG actors are brought in -- just like they bring in Equity actors for major plays like the annual Shakespeare Festival -- plus a real professional director and they use real equipment. Last year they used RED cameras. We're talking light boxes, gels, shades, reflectors, sound, clapboards, A and B two-camera shots, dollies, tracking shots and pounds of equipment bolted to the camera. Usually they shoot during the summer, then do post-production through the year.

For 2015 they shot a seven-episode web series called Lucky Jay. Each episode was shot in a different time from September to December, or at least the exteriors were. Given West Michigan has real seasons, this is a really excellent touch. Locations were shot on the GVSU campus and in the Grand Rapids area. Brief adult situations. Plus Irish music.

You can read the IMBD entry for Lucky Jay here.

Lucky Jay is about what happens in the academic world. Of course Mrs. Dr. Phil and I were delighted with the subject and, though there's some humor which takes things outside the ordinary, they do a nice job of showing how academic politics work. Taking place in the film studies department, our main character is an Assistant Professor up for his tenure review. A second is up for his promotion from Associate to Full Professor. A third is a visiting professor hoping to have her position converted to full-time tenure-track. And a fourth who is an adjunct working on three different campuses. Plus the chair is considering retirement.

FYI: Mrs. Dr. Phil is a tenured Senior Librarian at GVSU. Dr. Phil has chosen not to play the research-and-tenure game, so toils on as an adjunct instructor at WMU. All departments have politics, and not having to deal with the promotion and tenure system has made me a much happier person -- and better for my students. And infinitely better for my writing. (grin)

One of the problems you see with productions like this, whether a play or film, is a tendency to be heavy handed with the story. Thankfully, they mostly didn't go there. Happily ever after? Not exactly. The characters, including the students, by and large fill their roles. Special consideration is noted from an older returning veteran student. And somebody did a great job either finding T-shirts for students or doing graphic design work to make them.

Each episode ends on something of a cliffhanger, but there are things which happen that are not just the obvious way to go. Well done.

We get to see some classrooms in action and our hero is really passionate about teaching. Think of a Jack Black who actually has academic credentials. While you don't have to be an academic to follow the story, anyone who has been to college can feel familiar here. Oh, and for the Grand Valley community, there's a little Easter Egg regarding T. Haas, the president of GVSU, who I should point out was a career officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.

It probably won't happen, but we would REALLY like to see a second season of Lucky Jay. It would be great to see the process of Jay finishing his book or going off to a big academic conference. Our lead actor is based in Lansing MI, so it might be possible. We were joking about a Kickstarter, since GVSU is likely to do a different film production next year.

NOTE: I really don't know how long this is likely to be available -- we saw all the episodes on Saturday night, with my Kindle Fire HD hooked up to our HDTV using an HDMI cable. Looked and sounded terrific.

The webpage for all 7 episodes, A Making Of... feature and the trailer for Lucky Jay can be found here. The trailer is available on YouTube:

Alternate link to the trailer.
RECOMMENDED (especially as a student production)

Know someone thinking of a film major in college? You can do worse than coming to Allendale and work to get into their student film productions.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

2nd Best

Friday, 6 March 2015 16:48
dr_phil_physics: (kate-goddess)
GVSU has Spring Break this week -- WMU has Spring Break next week. And Friday 6 March 2015 is also Spirit Day at Western, the only university I know of which shows its school spirit by declaring it an early start to Spring Break and having the students leave. (grin) Mrs. Dr. Phil took Thursday and Friday off, and naturally spent part of yesterday working on an online course for work and this morning having a committee meeting on the downtown campus.

Given that, however, we decided finally that if she really could finish the meeting at 11am, we could race out to Celebration North for a movie, then lunch at Twisted Rooster after 2pm -- a place we've never gotten into because its lot is always jammed for lunch and dinner when we go by on Beltline.

For just an hour meeting, I figured I'd just stay in the Blazer and work from there. Besides, it gave me a chance to test whether I really could log into the eduroam WiFi (DW) on GVSU's campus using my WMU .edu e-mail account. Mmmm, not so fast. I tried several times and kept getting Authorization failure messages on my Kindle Fire HD. Okay, but I had my cellphone and I had WMU's Help Desk on speed dial -- so I called down to Kalamazoo. They determined that indeed, authorization had been granted. But after a brief Connect, we realized that the parking lot outside of Eberhard and Kennedy wasn't getting a strong signal. Between either dropping the signal in the middle of the transaction or timing out, the authorization wasn't going well. But I did get it to work.

Yay. Next time I'm in a GVSU building, I should be able to do Internet same as in my office. Cool.

As for the Twisted Rooster, we'd been to their second restaurant the Crooked Goose in Standale by Meijers once -- the latter features Campbell's tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches amongst its signature items, while the latter does macaroni and cheese. As a huge fan of mac & cheese, I've been wanting to try Twisted Rooster for a couple of years. Didn't want to go all out, so we each had a Mid West salad -- which turned out huge -- and split a regular Home Made mac & cheese, rather than splurge on the Lobster mac & cheese or one of the others. Very pleased and we will go back sometime and sample some of other goodies. Ooh, they do calamari.

Twisted Rooster is right next to an Appleby's -- I don't know why anyone bothers with the latter when TR is right there. But I suppose lots of people go for the boring name brands, and it may be that Appleby's is cheaper.

In between all this, we went to the movies...

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [PG]
Celebration North Theatre 13, 11:40am, 2×$8.50

This is a sequel to Memorial Day 2012's surprise and delightful The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful (DW) -- which itself was based on the 2004 novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach. The new movie merely says it is based on characters by Moggach. And everybody's here, except for Tom Wilkinson, of course.

A review on the formerly-known-as-Roger-Ebert website calls it dull, listless and I suppose, without heart. Look, both movies are British comedies which have to tread a narrow line between drama and comedy, and spend a lot of time making fun of everyone's age and hijinks ensue as the inevitable culture clashes and misunderstandings occur.

Rotten Tomatoes says, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is about as original as its title — but with a cast this talented and effortlessly charming, that hardly matters."

Predictable? Perhaps. But how many sequels are truly original and not predictable? The first movie made a decent $137 million and employed a whole lot of beloved actors -- Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle, Tamsin Greig, Lillete Dubey -- plus our desperate hero Dev Patel and his fiance Tena Desae, and adding in David Strathairn and Richard Gere to the mix.

Speaking of Richard Gere, he may be one actor who is getting better looking and has more sincerity as he gets older. We've thought that since we saw him as the superstar chef in Autumn in New York.

India is, of course, showcased here and gets much better showcasing than in the first movie -- these British seniors are no longer such fish out of water, so we don't have to see the gravest culture shocks. But India has a vibrant and growing economy, one which our Hero is desperate to be a part of. That these grandiose plans are thwarted at every turn, plus throwing in the full-bore Indian wedding to his fiance in the middle of all this -- I can see how some would rebel. For those people, 122 minutes of this is probably too much.

And yet... much like the first one, it is the mix of miscommunications and feelings and a bit of pathos, which still has its charm. Maybe because we aren't kids ourselves, two hours was a fair play for us. And remember, we are not your typical comedy audience. Indeed some of the scenes induce a feeling of wanting to flee in me, but that's always been the case. Oh, and the best fish-out-of-water scene in Second is in the opening, where our Hero takes Maggie Smith to America to try to secure the financing to create the titular Second hotel.

Others might have pieced things together themselves, but the way this is all resolved at the end is not anything I had seen coming, though the clues were all there. Our Hero gets his triumph and the girl AND the wonderful Bollywood wedding dance. This is not exactly spoiler material, given the heart of both movies, it could not end any other way. And we knew Dev Patel could dance with joy, having seen him in the wonderful train platform number tacked on to the end of Slumdog Millionaire.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (If you enjoyed the first movie.)

Trailers: For the West Michigan crowd, two Christian films: An Easter release from part of The Bible series done the other year. And Do You Believe?, which cynically looks like a story about a guy who gets people to carry around these small but thick crosses and hold them up, possibly in lieu of say, good works, to prove your faith and show that God loves you and not those other people. Among other trailers, were one we've seen before, Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren trying to get back Gustav Klimt's Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer -- the painting of her aunt which was stolen by the Nazis. And Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd gets a remake.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dreamwidth-lj-88)
I've mentioned before that I am double-blogging these days. Compose over here on Dreamwidth and crosspost to LiveJournal. For a long time I was using the LJ link to blog entries to crosspost to Facebook, because for some reason, LJ links would get preview pictures and DW would not.

But something changed in the last couple of months -- no news there, Facebook has never met a harebrained "upgrade" they didn't like and immediately implement without ever once considering whether anyone ever wanted such a feature (bug) or even curious how its users might actually be USING FB to communicate -- and I noticed that FB wasn't doing a good job of showing preview pics. Also I do my blogging on Chrome and my Facebooking on Firefox. When I clicked on a link to a blog entry on Firefox, of course I wouldn't be logged into LJ or DW, and I discovered that LiveJournal was doing these really obnoxious Sign Up NOW For LiveJournal popups Every Single Damned Time. Yet Another LJ Fail In Place.

That's not fun.

So I started using the Dreamwidth links instead. Sometimes I get a preview pic of an icon or a picture -- but of course I can no longer CHOOSE which of several pics in a post that I get to use -- and sometimes I don't at first, but one shows up later. Who the hell knows what Facebook is doing?

ANYWAYS... the point of this post is that I ran into something I should have thought of it earlier. But really it's not completely my fault! See, the problem is that 99.9% of the comments that I get on blog posts is over on LiveJournal, mostly from other LJ users. Yesterday I got a nice bit of fanmail exchange with someone who'd been to my ConFusion panels in 2013 and 2015 AND has read some of my stuff online and needed to know the title and link to "Brooding in the Dark" published at Interstellar Fiction in November 2012 -- you can find all my Publications on my web site -- which was very cool. Even cooler, when I investigated the LJ user, they had created their account that day. Wow, set up an LJ just to comment. I'm either impressed or annoyed that LJ's popup signup ploy worked.

But there's that other 0.1% of comments, which show up on Dreamwidth. On both LJ and DW, I screen Anonymous comments. So today, I just happened to click on View Recent Comments on Dreamwidth and got three Anonymous posts from a friend of mine. First was on Tuesday, followed by another that said, "I could have sworn I replied to this, dang it." and repeated the first message. The third was also from the same friend commenting on another post.

So... (1) To Anne -- Sorry I left you so long in the Moderation Queue. You can see by the graphic above how long it's been since I've had anyone comment on Dreamwidth. And I didn't even have Moderation Hell stocked with Oreos and Jack Daniels. They are so hard to squeeze through those danged wires. (2) To All -- We'll try to do better. Especially with me using the Dreamwidth link over on Facebook, where most of y'all actually access my blog these days, as near as I can tell.

And hopefully it won't be another one or two weeks before I see your comments. (contrite-grin)

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal

15

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 14:38
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Another Meme:
Fifteen authors who've influenced me, without taking too long to think about it, and in no particular order:

Okay (takes deep breath), in no particular order...

1. Ray Bradbury
2. Arthur C. Clarke
3. James Michener
4. Martin Caidin
5. Charles Dickens
6. Jules Verne
7. Jack McDevitt
8. Orson Scott Card
9. Robert Heinlein
10.Isaac Asimov
11.Marjorie M. Liu
12.Frank Herbert
13.Frederick Pohl
14.Jerry Pournelle
15.Larry Niven
(and because 14 & 15 wrote so many things together, we get another...)
16./17.Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall

The list repeated and annotated:
1. Ray Bradbury
Because, Ray Bradbury. Martian Chronicles, innumerable short stories. Smooth writing.
2. Arthur C. Clarke
2001 and 2010. And I have a copy of The Lost Worlds of 2001, which shows through multiple drafts, how a short story became a novel. And then there's Against the Fall of Night versus The City and the Stars -- two versions of the same novel.
3. James Michener
I have a tendency to write long. How does this happen? Influence! Also, James Michener drove me from writing real history. Too much work researching!
4. Martin Caidin
I read Marooned and some other Caidin books every year for a long time. Complicated, involved plots. Well researched. Currently reading the Mercury era version of Marooned -- the popular version is the Apollo/Soyuz era. Perfect for the writer who loves the interleaved historical flashback. (grin)
5. Charles Dickens
Another long writer, not afraid of harming his characters.
6. Jules Verne
Another Victorian, another long writer. The Mysterious Island is a lovely puzzle piece set amidst a tale where survivor is a daily task and not a reality show. Detail. Hard work. Good solid engineering skills.
7. Jack McDevitt
A Talent for War had a profound affect on me. Especially about writing future history -- and the omissions from self same future history.
8. Orson Scott Card
Enders Game, Songmaster... books I really enjoyed, set in complicated worlds that were not all homogeneous set pieces.
9. Robert Heinlein
The Green Hills of Earth collection, huge influence on short pieces. The Lazarus Long books -- big complicated and messy tales. (You can PUT that in a book???)
10.Isaac Asimov
The master genius, surely self-proclaimed, has his hand in everything. Foundation. Fantastic Voyage. The History of Physics.
11.Marjorie M. Liu
Hmmm, a reflective moment -- I know, I know, I'm not supposed to do this -- but there's not a lot of contemporary writers or women or people of color. So I realized that having gone to Clarion in 2004 with Marjorie, that her prose flows so perfectly, that it HAS been an influence. She goads me into making writing fun again. And to pine after writing fast -- she had her first book contract AT Clarion and just came out with her 19th novel. So we'll let Marjorie stand both on her own work and for the many current authors who are influencing me today, rather than in my "formative" years, i.e. before the beard. (grin)
12.Frank Herbert
Not just Dune or the Dune series. If I was just going to go for the megaseries, I might have put down J.R.R. Tolkien. But after Dune, which I stayed up at night during a New York City 100°F+ heatwave, I read a lot of other Herbert, including The Santaroga Barrier and Under Pressure and Helstrom's Hive. Very different books, but all three about the outsider who comes in to spy and is profoundly changed by what he saw.
13.Frederick Pohl
Gateway. And others. But Gateway made a mishmash of the traditional straight storyline and showed how to add ancillary material even better than Herbert's chapter openings.
14.Jerry Pournelle
The Mote in God's Eye, Janissaries -- read a lot of Pournelle and Pournelle & _____ .
15.Larry Niven
see also Pournelle. And also Known Space -- the Kzin, the Ringworld, the Ringworld REVISITED to correct the Physics! Yay!
(and because 14 & 15 wrote so many things together, we get another...)
16./17.Charles Nordhoff & James Norman Hall
Mutiny on the Bounty, for sure. And I had another book, Aces Over France which I was sure was a Nordhoff & Hall book as well, about an American who joins the French air corps in WW I -- I am pretty sure this was a retitled paperback of Falcons of France. I just might have to buy the Kindle version, because even the paperbacks have absurd prices!

Also rans, include R.F. Delderfield (more LONG writing -- you think this is a theme?) and Michael Crichton (ah, fast paced technothrillers!)

And an embarrassment. You are not supposed to think about the list as you're writing, but I was two-thirds through the fifteen and realizing how much of a White Man's List this was. Fair enough, the list is supposed to be influences and I did grow up in the 70s, amongst other decades, when we thought we were enlightened but we pretty much weren't.

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
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
xkcd and Time

Long time readers will know of my love for Randall Munroe's web comic xkcd. Not only has it moments of pure silliness, math, physics and computer jokes, but how the heck does he manage to create poignant stick figures with emotions? Then there are his amazing tour de forces, which can be massive drawings or fascinating infographs. Great stuff and you should read him every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Since the start of yesterday's (Monday 25 March 2013) post, the xkcd forum has been going nuts. The comic is called "Time" and the mouseover ALT-text reads "Wait for it." Since I was in the middle of running some backups, I couldn't wait, but figured things would be happening later. And oh, were they ever. Even though it was taking hours for anything to become clear as the comic evolved slowly, one panel at a time every half hour. One poster on the forum called in sick to follow updates. Naturally, given the coding community, there were all sorts of attempts to suss out Randall's file name hashing to try to see ahead -- very funny stuff. And before the sandcastle appeared, people worried about whether the comic would be dark or not.

As of 12:30pm EDT, the Wikipedia entry describes:
Comic no. 1190 ("Time") began publication on March 25, 2013, with the comic's image updating every 30 minutes since midnight on that date. The images appear to constitute frames of a story, with characters moving (either slightly or not) from image to image. The mouseover text reads "Wait for it.", and the scene depicts a male and female character apparently building a sandcastle complex on a beach. No purpose or explanation of this comic has been made available.

We still don't know where this is going. There has been speculation about time and tides. About April 1st next week. How long it will run. I don't know.

But I'll be checking back.

One version of the whole thing animated, updating as needed, can be found here.

UPDATE 3/28Th: A faster slower animated version is here.

Four days running and still there has been amazing changes...

Dr. Phil

LJ Fails Again

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 22:07
dr_phil_physics: (dreamwidth-lj-88)
Sigh. Snarl. Bitch.

Ten months after the debacle that was LiveJournal Release 88 -- what drove me to get a PAID Dreamwidth account, despite being an LJ Permanent Account holder -- they vomit up Release 98. Which includes a horrible beta test for a poorly redesigned Friends page that no one seems to want.

I am SO tired of people breaking software, breaking websites, failing to understand how users actually use the damned things. It's stupid and piss-poor business.

Epic fail.

Again.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
Upgrade

So back in February I mentioned that we had to get a new TV, a 32" Sony 720p HDTV (DW). As noted then, installing the TV was pretty easy.

One oddity was having hooked it up to our old DVD player, where it had only one option for viewing which spread the image full width. But the aspect ratio wasn't quite right. Close, but not perfect. Despite how good the only analog channels looked on the TV, the DVD experience was not as good. Nothing wrong with the player, only the software in how it was rendered on the new TV.

The first time I saw a movie on Blu-Ray was in one of the ballrooms at WindyCon a couple of years ago. They had a player that could do both Blu-Ray and that other system which hadn't yet lost out, and projected with one of the newfangled Texas Instruments movie mirror chips on a big screen. I think that's when I saw Eragon. The image quality was impressive.

Fast forward to 2012 and I looked up Blu-Ray DVD players on Amazon -- again going with Sony, because Bravia Sync will interlink the HDTV and Blu-Ray. Found a unit, but didn't order it. Then Mrs. Dr. Phil was playing with Hulu Plus on her Kindle Fire and I pointed out that there were models of Blu-Ray players with WiFi. Could have gotten a USB WiFi unit for $40 plus the Blu-Ray player, or pay only $20 more and get the model with WiFi built-in.

With some summer birthday money, we finally decided to order the unit and it came the other day, with an HDMI cable coming a few days later. Tonight we decided to hook the thing up. As expected, the Sonys talked to each other right away -- turn on one and the other one comes on as needed.

Trying to input the WiFi password using the remote is a pain. But... the unit has a USB port and it does connect to a standard 101-key keyboard. I've got things jiggered up in a typical Dr. Phil way, so the easy connect method didn't connect. But doing it the manual option got us connected. The unit has a web browser. As you can imagine, it's pretty limited. But it works. The photos from yesterday's blog entry look pretty good. (grin)

Put a DVD in and it looked good. Next test will involve streaming something from the Internet and seeing if the DSL can hold up. Will have to buy an actual Blu-Ray disk to check out that function. I hear that Hunger Games is coming out this weekend and I have a B&N gift card for just about that much, so...

Technology Creep

We're too cheap to be early adopters of new television technology and have been. We didn't get our first color TV until 1985 or '86, when the cable expanded in Laurium and they announced we were going to get WGN-Chicago. And that's when we bought our first VCR, to timeshift Cubs day games all summer long. Put off CD and DVD players for a long time. In fact our DVD player itself works fine, it's only because we have an HDTV that I was at all interested in getting a Blu-Ray player -- and we're not going to duplicate all our old movies. VCR works, too.

It's funny, because a SF writer I know recently dumped his VCR and all his VHS tapes -- and a Pioneer Laser Disc player and laser discs. Ah laser discs. I actually own a couple, because Physics educators were using laser disc players a lot and there were a couple of movies I wanted to show clips in class.

There's a part of me worried about the changeover in technology and the ability to eventually find players for many types of media. And I suppose eventually we'll run into the problem of too many things connecting to the WiFi all at once. Then there'll be another upgrade.(grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
I Worry About The Quality Of Our Spammers

I mean, they aren't trying very hard. Why would I respond to, let alone read, an email that:

-- has my email as the sender
-- starts off with RE: in the subject line for which there is no 1st message
-- says my AT&T bill is ready... from support@irs.gov
-- says FedEx can't diliver my package
-- asks about my airline reservation from USAirways, American or United (since my leg injury, I haven't flown anywhere in two years)
-- any email with NO SUBJECT line
-- any email about drugs or pills
-- says it's about an invoice from some place I've never heard of

Sorry. How stupid do you think I am?

Still, all might not be well in the spam business. I go through the spam folder on my work account about once a month. Usually there are some 40 to 75 pages of entries -- today there was only 17.

Almost makes you feel sorry for them.

Nope. Gotcha. Don't feel anything but pissed off that these idiots waste my time and prey on people. Kill them -- kill them all. No Internet privileges for you. No cookie.

Have a nice day.

Dr. Phil

Pulp Novel Covers

Thursday, 21 June 2012 14:10
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Oh My Gosh -- Go See These Immediately

Someone has done a series of fake old pulp paperback novel covers for some classic SF movies -- Alien, The Matrix and (really excellent) Blade Runner.

Someone mentioned this on Facebook, but I got the link from Jay Lake: Go Here.
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
Just Jump Off The Bridge With Us!

Blogger is getting a new look in April. Upgrade Now.

Switch to the new look.
Gmail's old look is going away. You may want to switch to the new look now.

Facebook is converting to Timeline. You might want to do it now. Now, dammit. We're Facebook. We're telling you TO SWITCH NOW!!! What's WRONG with you?

NO

No. The answer is no. Just because you're redesigning your system, does not make me want to upgrade early. Especially as 90% of what I'm hearing is gripes and complaints. And Gmail and Facebook have been dragging on this conversion for months. Which suggests to me that you know that it has problems, so just leave me alone.

Clumping

Lately both Facebook and the university's email have taken to clumping posts together -- like clumping cat litter. Anything that looks like it might be related -- put it together.

Why in the world would you MIX up my email conversations with TWO different students, just because they have the same subject line? I have to be very careful about who I am replying to. It's a mess.

IMHO

Frankly, I just don't think some of the programmers actually USE their systems, because some of these "improvements" make zero sense. I mean, by their logic, when we integrate all video and photos and postings, then Facebook will group together all the status updates by people wearing blue shirts today into one clump, and the green shirts in another.

Color me Still Unappy That You're Making Your Problems My Problems.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
In The Time Honored Traditions Of April The Oncest

We give you the April Fool's Collection for 2012:

LocusOnline had two stories:

"Dirtiest Nebula Campaign since 2015," says SFWA President
-- Sunday 1 April 2012 @ 11:20 am PDT by Paoli du Flippi -- DATELINE: Hollywood, March 1, 2018 -- This year's campaigning for the coveted Nebula Award given by the Super Fantastika Writers of America has been marked by "lies, disinformation, nasty tricks, vicious personal slurs, impossible promises, bribes and actual physical assaults," says SFWA President Jennifer Lawrence, in a recent interview conducted during a bit of downtime on the Tinseltown set where she is finishing the filming of The Hunger Games VI: Daughter of Katniss versus the Borg: The Mashup Reboot, based on the polymath star's own novel that earned her admission to SFWA and its presidency in the first place...

Margaret Atwood Launches New SF Magazine
-- Sunday 1 April 2012 @ 11:09 am PDT by L. Ron Creepweans -- Toronto: Today Booker Prize-winning novelist Margaret Atwood announced that she was launching a new science fiction magazine, Loquacious Cephalopod...

And Tor.com had two as well:
Mary Robinette Kowal pens an exhaustive essay
-- Sword and Sensibility: Conan Creator Robert E. Howard's Lesser Known Collaboration...

Covers Revealed for John Scalzi’s Manga Fantasy Trilogy
-- The Shadow War of the Night Dragon series by John Scalzi...
(Truly inspired artwork -- John rhapsodizes here.)

And then there's the British Library:
Unicorn Cookbook Found at the British Library
-- 01 April 2012 A long-lost medieval cookbook, containing recipes for hedgehogs, blackbirds and even unicorns, has been discovered at the British Library. Professor Brian Trump of the British Medieval Cookbook Project described the find as near-miraculous. "We've been hunting for this book for years. The moment I first set my eyes on it was spine-tingling." ...

And other assorted writerly personnel:

My favorite Roman comic artist has an Exciting new project in the works
-- 1st-Apr-2012 01:40 pm Your humble artist fell off the thrice-weekly schedule, and even the sketch-of-the-day updates, because of intense work on a new Great Big Project. All those pages and character designs from Big Project have to be put to some sort of use, and it's such an easy step from the genteel plantations of the south to the humid jungles of South America-just add more water and alligators and/or crocodiles. So those pages are being recycled into a completely genteel story about a young lady explorer of the alternate-steampunk 19th century travelling through monster-infested swampland who encounters a hidden tribe of love-starved octopus-men, as one does. True romance ensues...

Jay Lake goes for A change of direction
-- 2012-04-01 07:46 I'm redirecting my efforts toward something that better reflects the current circumstances of my life, and offers me a greater shot at economic success. From now on, I'm going to be writing nurse romances...

Mary Robinette Kowal is a pen name
-- Sun 1 Apr '12 My actual name is Stephen Harrison. I teach history at Vanderbilt and am getting my PhD, and yes, I am a man. The woman that you have met at some conventions is my sister. I hired her to be "Mary the writer." ...

Diana Rowland is "utterly thrilled to announce that my agent has sold stage rights to Andrew Lloyd Webber for my White Trash Zombie series!"
-- Facebook Yesterday at 6:20am My Life as a White Trash Zombie: The Musical! will be produced and directed by Webber, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, of Wicked fame. Current casting includes Kristin Chenoweth as Angel, Hugh Jackman as Marcus Ivanov, and Tom Wopat as Angel’s dad...

And the March 32nd Review would not be complete without some newfangled can't-live-without-it invention
-- Apr. 1st, 2012 at 11:07 AM As readers of this blog know, I'm a great believer in technological innovation. So great is my belief, in fact, that I dabble in inventions for the betterment of mankind. And now I've found it. The ultimate tool for authors with writer's cramp! Bow down in awe as I introduce: The self-signing book...

And, of course, Google had their piece on the Google Autonomous Driving NASCAR racing car. (snert!)

I'm sure there are others, and I'll update when I run across them. But these have been archived by Yours Truly so that the guilty cannot claim innocence later -- and these are certainly enough to entertain you for now. (grin)

Oh, And Dammit:

My posting on 1 April 2012 is totally legitimate (DW)! There really is a new and proper military SF story up on GigaNotoSaurus for you to read.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dreamwidth-lj-88)
So There I Was, Minding My Own Business

When LiveJournal decided to hork up Release 88 and annoy a whole lotta users -- and spent most of this week ignoring 20,000 comments.

This drove me to finally take a gander at Dreamwidth.

Import Successful

Apparently a lot of other LJ users thought so, too. Dreamwidth responded by putting new servers online to handle the load and post updates regarding the queue of LJ imports. Still, it took but 14 hours or so to get my place in the queue and so I have a duplicate of all my posts, comments and icons on my shiny new DW Paid Premium account.

Go me.

Is This The End?

I surely hope not.

And I'm stubborn enough to stick with LJ for the moment. I'll investigate crossposting,*** etc., but dammit, it's Christmas and I have a bunch of end of the year stuff that needs to be done and I resent LJ picking now to fuck up customer relations.

But I will be checking in here, so if you're on DW and need to friend, go right ahead.

Dr. Phil

*** - Well, the Crosspost This Entry checkbox is right there, might as well try this.
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Warily Looking Around To See If The Buzzards Are Circling Yet

Dreamwidth is bringing new servers online.

To handle the load of setting up new accounts.

And it pisses me off that LiveJournal doesn't seem to understand the damage they've done.

The thing about blogs, communities and social media is that they become personal. It's how we access friends. News. Business.

Dr. Phil

PS- Dreamwidth has been letting users know about progress and delays with traffic and importing LJ sites. Typical comment: "You're awesome, DW staff! ".

Now go to LJ's latest news and look at those comments.

Do the night.
dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
Dear LiveJournal,

Release 88, in a word, sucks. And you're hearing about it. The Release 88 post has over 8000 comments (120+ pages), and very few of them are saying "Good job!" And there are nearly a thousand comments in the Release 88, Paid time extension post.

Usability has been lost, some of the new "features" are distracting or even migraine inducing (!) and the readability of comments has been significantly degraded. Release 88 needs to be rolled back and Never Spoken Of Again.

I've never posted a comment in the LJ release postings before tonight. Or put in a complaint ticket. Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

And in case you're wondering, yes I have a paid Permanent Account. And Paid time extensions to compensate for service problems don't do me a bit of good.

But It's Not Just LJ

Google Gmail desperately wants me to switch to the New Look -- I've been getting a little box suggesting I Switch To The New Look before they even told me what the New Look was. And when they've gone ahead and switched me, I've so far been able to Temporarily Revert To Old Look. The fact that you even have such a feature suggests that you know there are problems.

Changing buttons from DELETE to icons -- shouldn't that be my choice?

And in case you're wondering, yes I'd probably pay for Gmail service at this point, if they offered me control.

For Free, Expect Less

The latest versions of ZoneAlarm seem to have gotten rid of the little meter that showed when data was inbound/outbound over the net. This was very useful for diagnosing problems and attacks.

And in case you're wondering, yes I use the Free version, because the paid versions offer duplication of services I already have or things that I do not want.

Even The Innocuous Can Be Bad

Facebook is soon supposed to be rolling out Timeline. Being able to read through all most posts and actually find things and links that I made? What's not to love? Except I read today that it may be that ads will be inserted in between your comments, rather than on the sides.

That strikes me as tacky and distracting, but worse, it makes it look like I'm endorsing whatever ads happen to be showing up. And I object to that. Somehow that doesn't seem to be social interacting.

I Don't Want To, But...

Because of the Release 88 debacle, Dreamwidth is apparently offering new accounts without invite codes. I really don't want to have to mess with crossposting or multiple semi-incompatible blogging systems -- just as I don't want to waste the time to roll my own or switch to WordPress -- but when I glanced over there I remembered why I hadn't done Dreamwidth in the past. Trying to figure out which paid points system would convert over my current LJ blog. Sigh.

Inheriting Windows 7

I brought home Wendy's laptop and desktop, which are both Windows 7 machines. Office 2010, or whatever it is, is incompatible with my files from Office 95 Professional. And to install Office 95 Professional, I have to create the Windows XP Penalty Box, either using Microsoft or other tools. And Windows 8 won't even have that option, as I understand.

Folks, it's 2011 and almost 2012. I shouldn't have to keep converting my file formats every couple of years and I surely shouldn't have to upgrade my word processor to add non-useful functions at the whim of MS or anyone else.

Upgrades Can Be A Force For Good

There are times when versions have to change, especially when the technology is young. Windows 1.04 anyone? (evil grin) But after a while, you get to a point where you can use something... for years. Change for change's sake. Arrogant upgrades to support someone else's contrary design ethic doesn't fall in the category of good customer relations.

What all these people seem to forget is that I use my computers. Me. I do not buy computers solely so that Anti-Virus can take over my machine at will to update. Or to switch from software which works to software which is either buggy or looks bad on the screen.

Software and service providers need to start consider that they have to be nice to me. Or I'll take my ball and go home.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (norman-rockwell-thanksgiving)
Thanksgiving Weekend

As previously reported, we had Brunswick Stew on Thanksgiving itself and we did a Saturday movie. For years, when we are home for Thanksgiving, we haven't done the big meal on Thanksgiving itself, but on Friday or sometimes even Saturday.

So on Friday I was able to make a perfectly ordinary grocery store run -- which in Allendale doesn't involve getting anywhere near the insanity of the so-called Black Friday shopping nonsense. It was a pretty blue sky day and I threw a camera bag in the back of the Blazer.

Made it all the way back up our driveway before shooting this stand of exploded milkweed pods -- next year's Monarch butterflies. (Click to enlarge)

We had company scheduled to come for Thanksgiving, but they had to cancel. I was just getting back from Atlanta and Mrs. Dr. Phil was treating her sinuses, so we settled on little chickens -- Cornish hens -- which are so easy to cook versus turkey.

A whole little chicken, sage stuffing, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, gravy and fresh cranberry relish.


Ah, the aftermath. We eat one side of the little chickens on one day and the other the next -- and the remaining bits get used another day. Note that the one Corning Ware has both chickens. (grin)

New Toys

Mrs. Dr. Phil has been debating getting some sort of tablet or smart phone, mainly because the university library is expanding its online and borrowable e-book holdings, and she wanted to be better equipped to deal with both students and technology. Apple has refurbished iPads on sale at educational discount, and there's the iPhone and Android variants. But while I was away she decided to give the Amazon Kindle Fire a try. It certainly made being at home with her sinus cold more bearable, especially with the spiffy red case she found. (e-grin)

Here's Mrs. Dr. Phil using her Fire in the Alt-Mode to do the Sunday Sudoku from the newspaper.

She hoped it was okay to spend the money on a new toy. Okay? After I'd picked up some bargains on eBay and acquired a backup digital SLR for home -- a Nikon D1X -- and another for the office -- a Nikon D1H -- how could it not be okay?

The D1X is a 6MP camera with an extended 27 frame buffer and 3 frames per second speed, the same resolution as the medium setting on the full-frame Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n I bought last year. The D1H is a 2.7MP camera, can shoot at 5 frames per second, has a 40 frame buffer and has a more sensitive sensor up to 6400 ISO, with almost no noise at 1600 ISO, which I intend to mainly use in B&W mode.

I'd inherited from my sister Wendy an extra auto-focus lens, a simple 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 AF Nikkor, and a compact Nikon Speedlight SB-22 electronic flash, which I tested in the Kindle Fire shot above. I'll add them to the office Nikon D1H setup.

Tonight we had a spicy Szechuan eggplant -- Mrs. Dr. Phil feeling we'd had enough chicken the last couple of days. All in all, a lovely weekend. (Even if Northwestern didn't win against Michigan State.)

Dr. Phil

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