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
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dr_phil_physics: (good-gulf)
Gas prices have been wandering around in the mid two dollar range for weeks. Strangely, there was quite a stretch in the beginning of the semester when the Kalamazoo stations were running all the way down to $1.99.9/gal for regular, even while Allendale was running at $2.24.9.

I believe I remember that gas on Tuesday was $2.41.9/gal. Wednesday it was $2.38.9/gal. But I got the tank filled at the Shell in Wayland on the way home last night. And that's when I noted something odd.

For years, the differential between grades (regular-midgrade-premium) was about 10¢/gal. Then it crept up to 15¢/gal. With the freefall in gas prices to way under three bucks a gallon, they finally pushed the differential to 20¢/gal/grade.

Yesterday the Shell was selling midgrade -- what the 1996 Blazer prefers -- for $2.68.9/gal. But regular was $2.39.9/gal. That's a differential of 29¢/gal. And the differential to premium was even more. Yikes.

We'll have to see how this shakes out. For a while, even after everyone else had gone to 20¢, Shell in Wayland had still been running at 15¢/gal differential. And I see today that Allendale has jumped up regular to $2.58.9/gal this morning. So... maybe it was just the first parts of the pricejacking.

Or maybe Shell had decided to recoup some of the billions they just lost by deciding to close down their off-shore Arctic drilling in Alaska. (evil-grin)

Would be really sad to be talking about missing the "good old days" when the differential was "only" 20¢/gal. Oh how soon we forget. How soon we get used to the new normals...

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (autumn-snoopy)
So, it's the One-st of October -- and we've had a full week of autumn now.

Took a while for the weather to sort itself out. The week before the equinox, summer ended on a cool note. But for most of the first week of fall, we had maybe three days with highs in the 83° to 89°F range, then days in the 70s which were just putrid. High humidity, with air you could shovel. Everett's air conditioning has been irregular since before the semester started and it was brutally humid in the buildings. Not only was there no point in trying to do a Van de Graf generator demo in E&M, my hands were sticking to the wrist rest on OUEST, the university's Dell laptop... Ugh.

Wednesday morning the temp was about 41°F. Today it was clear and 39°F. Ah-hhh, this is better.

There are leaves down in some places, but not a lot of color yet. It was funny that on the 23rd or 24th, as I drove up to my handicapped parking space, there are these two relatively recent maples in the lawn by Everett Tower. The one on the right -- half the big leaves were green and half were sort of beige. The breeze was blowing a snowstorm of beige leaves onto the ground. It looked like something you'd see on a cartoon, or maybe the pine needles falling off all at once on Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. (grin) We're talking about knocking off all the beige leaves in minutes, not hours or days or weeks. Very odd looking.

Maybe October will bring some pleasant cool jacket weather -- and some great leaf color. We shall see.

No pictures yet.

Dr. Phil
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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
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dr_phil_physics: (7of9borg)
For the last several weeks there has been some disturbing news affecting West Michigan. One wishes that the plagues of stupidity and evil elsewhere don't light here -- but that's sadly just wishful thinking.

There's at least one sniper targeting cars on West Michigan freeways.

There have been upwards of 30 reports going back into August at least -- three have them have been confirmed to be bullets. Sad to say that Michigan roads are crappy enough with debris and broken pavement -- and Michigan truckers carry such large loads which might be falling out of or bouncing out of open top trailers -- that it takes some forensic work to determine if something striking a car or even breaking a window is actually a bullet.

3 to as many as 30.

I hate to call it good news, but... So far I don't believe any people have been hit. Certainly no one killed, that we know of. And this seems to be happening east and west of Kalamazoo on I-94 and I-69 -- and I think some other smaller roads. So far none of this has been happening on US-131 or any of the roads I'll be traveling on five days a week starting Tuesday.

But I don't take any comfort in that.

Statistically, there are far more cars than shots taken. If the police have more information, regarding patterns, times of day, types of rounds -- either it's not been reported or it didn't show up in anything I've read/heard. And I'm far more likely to get hit by drivers trying to text, merge in without warning or, as we head into fall, deer bounding across the road.

Of course, in many parts of the United States, including West Michigan, there are plenty of shooters taking shots at STOP signs, insulators on power lines, whatever. Even read how priceless petroglyphs in the Southwest are being destroyed by such wonderful plinkers. Graduating to moving cars is but a small step, I'm afraid.

Though I haven't done it in years, I do enjoy target shooting. Even went deer hunting in the U.P. a number of times, but the brush is thick up there and the deer regularly makes fools of mere humans -- you can sit against a tree for two hours and find fresh deer tracks in the snow not more than six feet behind you -- and never even got a shot off.

But I was taught how to shoot and firearm safety by a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant at Northwestern University -- and it would never occur to me to shoot at property, most especially occupied vehicles.

Either this guy(s) will quit as inexplicably as (t)he(y) started, or there will be mistakes or too many attempts and they'll get caught. Not looking forward to the nervous behavior or even panic if this escalates.

I do hope someone explains to me how "a good guy with a gun" will be able to deal with this situation In Real Life.

Dr. Phil

PS- These days I occasionally hunt trains, but I use a Nikon. Bagged one last week -- have to put the pictures up Real Soon Now. But this is not the time for levity.
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dr_phil_physics: (kate-winter-coat)
While some 75+ wildfires are roaring out West -- Sasquan, the 73rd WorldCon just concluded in Spokane WA, was heavy with smoke some days, even could be smelled inside the convention center -- our weather here in West Michigan is just a wee mite different.

Last full week of August and the highs have been 69°F, 66°F, 60°F and 68°F so far today. Overnights the last two nights have been in the fifties. Gray, overcast days and rain.

The last two mornings one could have, in theory, moved the heat pump over from cooling to heating. I've been wearing my heavy black sweatshirt all week.

Ah, weather. Unpredictable in its infinite variations on a theme.

For the record, the global average temperature for July 2015 was the warmest in the database.

Interesting side note -- I saw a map of the smoke plumes from the fires out West and they almost make it to Illinois. Don't worry about global warming heat waves and drought, we'll just let it all burn and then block out the sun and create untold -illions of nucleation sites for rain to form. (snort)

Also, the BP refinery in Indiana is back up again, so everyone burn all the gasoline you want for Labor Day!

And the selling frenzy on Wall Street has cooled off a bit, too. The Dow closed at 16,285.51, up 619.07 (3.95%) today. Doesn't negate all of the slide from last week, but even so. Stay the course, good buddies...

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Wednesday ended up being a good day -- a very productive day.

It almost wasn't.

Late Tuesday night a storm rolled through while I was preparing handouts for a Wednesday meeting. Yes, I have surge protectors -- even on laptops -- but still. If things are going bad, then you just know they'll go all the way to putrid if they have a chance. Meanwhile, the forecast for Wednesday had a nasty line of thunderstorms rolling through Kalamazoo and the US-131 corridor between 11am and noon -- just when I would be expecting to arrive in K-zoo.

Why don't you leave earlier, Dr. Phil? Sure. If I had planned on leaving early, say on a school day, I would be going to bed earlier -- not working on a number of things on the computer until after 3am. I've been using mornings as nap time after getting up with Mrs. Dr. Phil and getting armored up in my foot brace. Left to myself, I'm afraid I tend to go to bed around 4am... I am not going to try to stupidly function on 2-3 hours of sleep.

What was bad about the forecast wasn't just rain, but big storm. 60mph winds. Hail. See, I work really hard to keep my bad foot dry. It was storm water getting into an open blister on my foot which probably caused the initial infection back in April 2013 -- and I'm still recovering from that. Also I still have a hole in my foot, though these days it doesn't go down to the bone. And it's one thing to get in and try to be careful when one is teaching. But for a meeting? Pfft. Alas, rescheduling was going to be complicated.

But by 7:35 in the morning, the Weather Channel app on my Kindle Fire HD was showing that the line of storms wasn't going to come in until 1pm. That was the time of the meeting, so I'd already be on campus. In fact, it never did rain -- percentages were dropping steadily during the day -- not until after dinner in the evening.

So after a nap, quick check of emails, bathroom, a hard boiled egg -- we added an egg to my diet to bring my protein levels up and promote healing, but it's easier to mess with the egg at home (grin) -- I gathered up my stuff and headed out. Time out logged in the Blazer was 10:11.

Gas has been flirting between $2.38.9 and $2.89.9/gal for the last month or so. And then it's been going down -- "$2 gas for Labor Day" said the pundits. Until last week when it shot up 30¢ one day and 30¢ the next, eventually pinging up at $2.99.9/gal for regular. Seems a BP refinery in Indiana was unexpectedly down. This after the gas mavens were already nervous about a West Coast refinery outage, even though there's no way for gasoline to easily cross the Rockies, so their shortage shouldn't have affected Midwest prices. Anyway, this morning regular was $2.87.9, making midgrade $3.07.9 -- except I had a 75¢/gal coupon from Family Failure -- which made it $2.32.9/gal. "$2 gas for Christmas" say the pundits this week.

Don't you love it when your 75¢ discount just happens to be magically eaten up by the 60¢ spike plus the 20¢ grade differential?

The drive in was mostly sunny, with some big clouds playing in between blue patches of sky. It was humid and unfortunately, the A.C. on the Blazer has been getting more and more anemic with each passing week. We'll take it in for a recharge tomorrow. But I couldn't just open the windows. I've been on doxycycline for over a year, and while I've not had much problem with it being a photoreactive antibiotic, in truth I am a little mole person who doesn't get much direct sun. And I needed the UV protection of the glass.

But I got in. My usual handicapped parking space was there. I made copies of the handout I'd written in the wee hours. No problem with making the 1pm meeting.

See I'm teaching PHYS-1070 Elementary Physics this fall -- the 29th time I've taught this course -- and we are switching to a free online Physics textbook. One that we're using for PHYS-1130/1150, the full year course. For the one-semester PHYS-1070, I've been working on chopping it down to a reasonable amount of material. The meeting was about the PHYS-1080 lab course, which is getting completely updated for the first time in a long time. To put it another way, some of the labs previously used had been typed... Making it all interesting is that the three largest group of majors taking this course are pretty different -- Aviation, Speech Pathology and Exercise Science. Good meeting. The lab people have been working hard.

Oh, and while I was on campus, I downloaded the textbook onto my second Kindle Fire HD -- 93MB took about 15 seconds. This is what happens when the WiFi nodes are hooked up to gigabit Internet. At home the DSL is the limiting factor, not the WiFi. My students will have no excuses. (big-grin)

Lunch back at my office. Then a 3pm conference call with the care facility in North Carolina where my mother is these days. Hmm, is it still a conference call when only one person is on the other end? Anyway, things are stable. Stable is good.

Rechecked the Weather Channel app -- no rain until at least 8pm now. No particular reason I had to stay until 5pm or later, so Elvis Left The Building at 4:35. Campus is pretty empty right now. By next week things will begin hopping. So, I took this opportunity to go left, instead of right, out of Lot 61. HEY! They finally fixed the road markings! A couple of years ago they changed the left and right turn lanes onto the street into a single exit lane, to make the entrance lane bigger. Because they had created a new bus stop, taking up a chunk of the parking lot and they needed the clearance for the buses to make the turn. But they put in the new new bus stop last year -- or was it the year before -- freeing back up all the parking spaces. Unfortunately, they left only one exit lane. So normally I turn right and at 5pm I'd be stuck behind all these idiots waiting to turn left onto a traffic jam.

Anyway, the point of my turning left was to go down to Parking Services and get my '15-'16 campus parking hangtag. Yes, as part of the Part-Time Instructors union contract we finally got real parking permits. Before I had to get a temporary permit every semester, which was taped to the far side of the windshield and had to be peeled off and moved if I was driving a different vehicle.

Next week they'll be lines out the doors with grad students, part-timers and some campus apartment dwellers all getting parking. Today? No line. Two wads of people obviously together -- and three clerks. So at 4:45, I was in and out in minutes. Don't even have to sign any stupid paperwork anymore either.

Coming out there was another SUV in one of the 15 minute business parking spots past my Blazer in the Handicapped parking. A black family was standing around their tailgate. In the middle of the parking lot lane was a trio of blonds. Apparently the girls on the right had realized that the college student girl on the left with her family was in their dorm -- and they'd gone over to help the family figure out the byzantine paperwork and parking procedures. Ah... one group of students feeding the hard won arcane knowledge to the next student. Gotta love college.

Easy drive home, except for playing sun battles again. Amazing how you end up with drivers arm in both directions between morning and evening. How is this fair? (evil-grin)

We're getting closer to being operational for Fall 2015...

Dr. Phil
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Mid-August

Sunday, 16 August 2015 17:48
dr_phil_physics: (red-haven-peaches)
31 days of August.

That makes August 15½th, a few hours ago, the halfway point.

In just a little over three weeks we will have Labor Day. And the next day classes begin again at Western Michigan University. The grind begins anew.

It is a beautiful August day here in West Michigan. The sky is blue. The temperature is 89°F, once again Not Ninety. At least so far.

Under other circumstances I would be out with my cameras and long lenses, maybe over at the crowded lakeshore. Or chasing trains, except it's Sunday.

At home, though, it is August bug noise season. The last few nights when I have gone to bed after 4am, the bugs have still be going -- and loud enough that I think the bedroom window needs to be closed. But it is closed.

Every morning I check my temperature. But the new Walgreen's thermometer I got a few weeks ago beeps so quietly, I had to do a repeat to try to hear its DONE tone, because the bugs outside were so loud.

Right now I have headphones on and Mrs. Dr. Phil has Bluetoothed her Kindle Fire HDX to Echo and is playing podcasts while she cooks. And I can still hear the bugs.

Mmm...

There are reasons why we haven't mowed the yard in over ten years...

And we have peaches. Flaming Furies and Red Havens. And big local tomatoes.

Mmm...

It's lovely.

It's August.

It's summer.

Limited availability, your mileage will vary, check your newspaper for current listings, offer not valid in all fifty states...

Dr. Phil
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90? 90!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 14:32
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
The official weather temperatures are not always the same as we imagine it or what some local thermometer is saying. As I've reported earlier, we've flirted with 90°F temps in West Michigan, but neither Grand Rapids nor Kalamazoo actually officially hit 90°. Until now.

I thought we'd hit 90° on Friday 17 July 2015 (DW) (LJ), but that was just our thermometers here in Allendale and not the official GR or Kzoo reports.

Monday night's forecast, pointed out that there were 90s in Michigan on Monday. 91° in Sault Ste. Marie and Alpena, 90° in Marquette. Those are all in northern Michigan. But the forecast 90s here didn't materialize.

Tuesday, though, we finally did it. Holland reported 91°F -- they may have hit 90° earlier. And Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo both hit 90°.

For Kalamazoo, it had been 326 days since the last temps of 90° or higher -- that would be 5 September 2014.

For Grand Rapids, it was even longer. 683 days or 13 September 2013. That was way back when I was in the hospital for The Year Without A Summer. Hard to believe that Grand Rapids never hit 90° all last summer, but then both last year and this year Lake Michigan had almost frozen over -- and the cold lake water has moderated the temperatures here in West Michigan.

Remember, kids, climate and weather are not the same thing. And that climate change involves churning which will give highs and lows.

Dr. Phil
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90

Saturday, 18 July 2015 11:20
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Friday 17 July 2015 -- the temperature in West Michigan topped 90°. Hot muggy.

Big deal, I hear you say. And on our trip South before the 4th of July, the temperatures all through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia were all in the 80s and 90s. And when we came down out of the mountains on I-77 and onto I-74 in North Carolina? By Mt. Airy it was 101°F.

But when we got back on the 2nd, I was surprised to hear the Channel 3 weather guy saying that there'd only been ten days of temps in the 80s in West Michigan so far this year. Even last week a couple of possible days above 90°F didn't get that high. And the shore report had the Lake Michigan temperature in one location coming in at 38°F. In July.

No Global Warming? Hardly. The cool summer is due to the cold winter -- for the second winter in a row, Lake Michigan almost froze over. Instabilities in the weather patterns had pushed a big blob of cold Siberian air over the Pole and striking down into Canada and the Great Lakes in the U.S. I keep saying, global warming means churning -- and sometimes you get more cold and more snow in some places, even as the average land and ocean temperatures rise.

Today is supposed to be really ugly, temperaturewise. 96°F forecast, will feel like 101-105°F with the big muggy humidity. First, though, we had to have a big nasty storm line roll through. One of the news commenters on Facebook had posted the radar picture and the forecast saying 0% chance of rain -- the storm was moving through so fast it wasn't showing up in the predictions correctly. Our house in the country got slammed, big time.

And... the power went out at 9:45am. We were lounging in bed, listening to Weekend Edition on NPR. The radio had cut out around 9:30 when the timer finished. Restart. So when it went out at 9:45, I first thought it was either the clock radio or the radio station. But Mrs. Dr. Phil said the power was out. By the time I turned my head, the clock near me was blinking 12:00 ... 12:00 ... 12:00.

The storm was hitting the west, bedroom, side of the house so hard I never heard the generator start up. And it started right up, because our power locally was only out for maybe four seconds. Storm is long gone, but the power is still out -- approaching the two hour mark.

Happy summer...

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (red-haven-peaches)
Ah, the summer produce of West Michigan...

For several weeks Mrs. Dr. Phil has been buying the asparagus grown a few miles from us. This year's crop has been extraordinary. Most of the stalks have been medium thickness, but they've been as tender as the dainty thin ones. Not a woody one in the bunch. We've had the wonderful chicken with asparagus in tarragon mustard sauce -- twice. And the new small upper oven of the new stove does a fine job of broiling/roasting asparagus. Yum.

Last Wednesday, 3 June 2015, was the start of the weekly Farmer's Market on the campus of Grand Valley State University in Allendale. Somebody is apparently using little tents to grow early tomatoes and so we had two nice ripe local tomatoes. We had BLTs and tomato bisque soup on Saturday for dinner, and the first of the traditional Dr. Phil summer tomato sandwiches (DW) (LJ) for lunch on Sunday. Oh. Yum.

But it's the beginning of June and we're awaiting strawberry season. Looking back through the years, I've seen discussion of local strawberries in this blog back in May. This year, though, well we had a long winter and a cool spring. The last few days I've occasion to head up 68th Avenue towards Coopersville -- and as I've passed through Eastmanville, I've looked for the little white signs for Cook's. Consistently for at least fifteen years, Cook's has had the best local strawberries, about a mile east on Leonard.

Today I headed north on 68th at around 10:09am -- nothing. Then south on 68th around 12:09 and BOOM. Sign. STRAWBERRIES.

There were people all around. Some driving up, some driving away, some working, some young teens out in the fields. Cars everywhere. I asked for two quarts. Did I have a preorder? No. What kind did I want? Huh. We've been going to Cook's for a long time. This time, they had two varieties ready at the same time. One called Jewel and one called Honey Something (all I can think of is Honeycrisp, the "new" apple variety that everyone has gone gaga over the last few years). Which do YOU like better? The woman working the stand -- I like the Honey whatevers. The two boys bringing back baskets of strawberries from the field and logging their loads in the book -- both are really good. Great, so why not one of each? Good choice!


Cook's lovely strawberries. The Jewels are on the left and the darker Honey Somethings on the right. Also one of the wonderful brown eggs Mrs. Dr. Phil has been getting from someone at the GVSU library. With natural light, I can get decent color shots at ISO 1600 on the Nikon D1H and the 24-120mm VR lens is very good at low shutter speeds. Pleased. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Also asked Cook's How is the crop? Well... there was some winter damage. So, shorter season? Not necessarily, but the yields per plant are expected to be lower. If you've every grown strawberries, they take a couple of years to settle in -- one of the buyers today was explaining their strawberries are in their first year, so they had to come to Cook's.

Alas, it doesn't sound like I'll get strawberry shortcake tonight. S-i-g-h... But! We'll do a taste off of strawberries and whipped cream, so that's not so bad. (evil-strawberry-grin)

Summer. Is. Here.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Earthquake.

Michigan.

West Michigan.

An earthquake in West Michigan? WTF?

Yup. A magnitude 4.2 earthquake, centered four miles south of Galesburg MI, which is east of Kalamazoo, and four miles down.

And. We. Missed. It.


Seismic data from Fermilab in Batavia IL. Timestamp along bottom is in CDT. via Facebook.
©2015 Fermilab (All Rights Reserved)

"The earthquake struck at 12:23 p.m. roughly 5 miles south of Galesburg at a depth of 3.7 miles beneath the ground, the USGS says."

This is not the first time this has happened to us, but we were driving to Grand Haven MI along the back roads when the earthquake "hit". Never even noticed it. Once again. We only found out when someone at Bekins mentioned the quake about an hour and a half later after we ordered a new refrigerator and stove. Of course our house shudders every now and then anyway. It's built on sand which transmits sounds and vibrations quite well and there are a few people who do Big Things moving dirt and rocks around for fun and profit. Plus people playing with explosives.

As I've mentioned before, we have a very low success rate with observing natural phenomena in West Michigan, which made the 5 April 2015 Lunar eclipse sighting so wonderful.


Capsule infographic from the United States Geological Survey via Facebook. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 USGS (All Rights Reserved)

To the people of California, Alaska and all around the Pacific Ring of Fire, I know you're laughing at a 4.2 quake. But come on, it's the second strongest earthquake recorded in Michigan ever! 4.6 in Coldwater MI on 9 August 1947 wins top honors. That was 68 years ago. 24,738 days! I'm pretty sure the 1960s earthquake that cracked the plaster along the stairs in the house I grew up in back in Medina in Western New York was stronger? Hmm, nothing listed in the Northeast above a 5 in the early 60s. Well, it was 75 year old plaster. Anyway, the point is: You can shovel snow, it's harder to shovel an earthquake or a hurricane. Why the hell do you think we live in West Michigan?

Best story on the news last night was the pastor of a small church who was giving a sermon when the quake struck -- on why it was important for them to raise money for relief in Nepal, devastated just a week ago by a powerful quake. The newspapers last week had human interest stories from the Grand Rapids immigrant and international student community about residents here concerned about finding out what happened to their families and loved ones in Nepal.


Strongest part of the quake was in a thirty mile swath. Motion of around 3cm/sec. Allendale is located at the upper left, in the middle blue LIGHT range. via MLIve.
©2015 USGS (All Rights Reserved)

A WMU Geology prof on the Channel 3 News last night reiterated that this was unusual but not common. Indeed, most Michigan earthquakes original outside of the state. A number of quakes in 1811-12 were connected to the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, which is still a ticking time bomb for the Midwest. And in the U.P., the Keweenaw had some quakes a hundred years ago that were probably collapsing copper mines below.

This particular fault lit up quite well, so it is now fairly well defined. Especially good, since this fault was unknown at noon yesterday.

But I was sure, after the recent reports from Oklahoma, that someone was going to bring up fracking.

And I was not disappointed -- less than twenty-four hours after the quake I saw the first hysterical article posted on Facebook about a possible connection to Michigan allowing high volume horizontal fracturing. Now, to be truthful -- as a scientist, I have no idea. But last I heard the fracking was only approved recently? Ah, 2010. Are any wells actually active? Or are people mistaking the old low yield salt water injection wells that have been running since like the 1930s in West Michigan? Seems there are a handful of operations since 2011-13. (Note microscopic print from the Dept. of Environmental Quality.) We'll see how this develops.


The wags got out early. The photo is stock -- the same Rebuild message was used in Melbourne and several other places. Truthfully, a few bricks fell out of a chimney near the site and we know one person in Grand Rapids who got a crack in a plaster wall. I am sure there was more damage, but we're talking small potatoes here.
©2015 Memegenerator.net (All Rights Reserved)

Despite having effectively missed the event, this is what passes for news here. Wonder if the folks arriving for Tulip Time in Holland MI were exited about all this?

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983)
Friday. May the First. Temperature hit 73°F in Kalamazoo. Saturday was similar.

These days I mostly commute with a single Nikon and one lens. For the D100 I usually use the 28-80mm f3.5-5.6G AF NIKKOR. But Friday I took a camera bag and from the start of my drive, I used the 80-200mm f4.5-5.6D AF NIKKOR. Ken Rockwell lists this as "Nikon's Lightest Telephoto Zoom", yet optically it is a worthy successor to the original 80-200mm f4.5 Zoom-NIKKOR manual focus lens.


I love furry dry weeds and grasses, especially backlit. This is the edge of the cedar swamp on 84th Avenue less than a mile from our house. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Cropped shot of a tractor plowing with a dust plume behind. I thought I'd try to stay for a shot of it coming back withe plume behind the tractor, but he was driving around in big squares, not up-and-down, so I'm glad I got this shot. Was impressed that the autofocus still locked on the tractor, despite the dust. This is also on 84th Avenue, where all the fields have been plowed now. The big corn fields east of 84th on M-45 Lake Michigan Drive haven't started yet. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Every spring this line of pink flowering trees in front of Family Fare in Allendale glows as I go to work in the mid-morning and early evening on the way home. Since I had a long lens mounted, I pulled into the gas station and shot down the line of trees. A breeze was knocking petals off in big clouds, but this shot didn't have many. Tough lighting for a D100 -- you can see the overblown highlights in the sky. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Leaving the office on Friday, there were dandelions in the grass below the raised sidewalk. I tried to shoot a clump straight down, but the 80-200mm has a minimum distance of 5 feet -- too close. So angled and got this dandelion, slightly backlit by the late afternoon sun. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Saturday I found that the 80-200mm lens on the D100 still fit in the neoprene Zing camera case, so hoping I didn't need a shorter lens, didn't even bother with the camera bag. We had half an hour to kill in Grand Haven before going to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, so we went down to Grand Haven Harbor. While waiting for Mrs. Dr. Phil to return with a couple of chili dogs, I was able to take a few shots.


Cropped shot of a red bench along the boardwalk. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Kids, a dog, parents -- all happy on a warm spring day. Love the pose on the kid in the middle, and the smile on the dog. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Cropped shot of our hearty little stand of daffodils next to our driveway. Looks very happy coming up the drive. Evening light to the left backlighting here. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Pretty pleased with these. Going backlit with a Gen 1.5 DSLR is pretty tough. The only thing I might've changed would have been to take a 70-300mm instead of the 80-200mm. But that would've taken the Zing Pro camera case. Funny thing about zooms -- one tends to use the extremes a lot.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983)
As long as I had to get out the Nikon D1H and the 24-120mm VR lens to shoot the lunar eclipse this morning (DW) (LJ), AND Saturday was destined to be the only mostly blue sky sunny day for most of the next week, I decided to go out in the Blazer and see what was up.

Driving east on Warner, I started passing fields which had just been disced. Ready for planting Real Soon Now. And so as the post title above suggests, the air was rich with the smell of newly turned earth, the dirt smelling like early spring.


There's this cool farm on a hill coming south on 68th Avenue into Allendale -- and there was a neat mix of unplowed and plowed fields. Looks like carpeting from the road. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Wandered up the back streets of the Edgewater Industrial Park in Allendale, and shot some of the fields. One had already been cleared and leveled. But I like this one with the overwintered corn stubble. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Nice backlit old fence post no longer actually holding up any fence. 84th Avenue north of M-45, Allendale. I think they plowed this field last fall, so there's already some greenish stuff. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I tried to get one more shot after this one, but alas, the battery state was zero and the D1H wouldn't fire. The D1 Series NiMH batteries are heavy and notoriously short on life. Plus most of mine are maybe ten years old. The battery in the D1H this morning was below zero, though the clock was still running on the rechargeable backup battery, and I swapped with another in that camera bag. It lasted for what, four eclipse shots and maybe ten shots in the afternoon. Of course, I don't know if that's one of the old batteries or whether it had been a rundown battery to begin with. I see a charging session coming up -- and I may break down and use the reconditioning button and shock the buggers into holding onto a little charge. I usually keep 1 or 2 spares with me with the D1/D1X/D1H, which is what the pros used to do during the first gen era, but I only took the camera this afternoon, not the camera bag. (grin)

I need to go ahead and order the Nikon D1 E Focusing Screens, with horizontal and vertical grid lines, for the D1H and the D1X. Shooting from the driver's seat (or even leaning on canes/walker/doorways) right now it's too easy to get the horizon line off. I already installed one in the D1, the N2020 and the F4s. And the D100 and Kodak SLR/n are both based on the Nikon F80 camera, which has built-in grid lines you can turn on. The Nikon F3 just got an R screen, which has both the grid and a split-image rangefinder optimized for f3.5-5.6 lenses. Yes, Virginia, we used to have to focus our cameras by hand. Even on automatic exposure cameras from the 1980s.

Dr. Phil
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We Made It...

Monday, 9 March 2015 12:15
dr_phil_physics: (cinderella-fabletown)
... across another rift in the space-time continuum (DW) on Sunday. We think we're all right, but by the evening it was clear that the sun had moved and was higher in the sky than it was on Saturday.

Weird.

One thing about not teaching this semester, I don't have to deal with the vernal equinox. Or more specifically, the east-west sunrise/sunsets. Despite my working part-time, given nearly three hours of commuting, there are many semesters where I get to deal with heading east on roads dead into the rising sun. And some schedules I have had to also deal with heading west on roads dead into the setting sun. Oh, I have a clever system to defeat the sun from searing my eyeballs, using an old library catalog card stuck under the lid to the vanity mirror on the driver's sunshade to hang down as an extra shield, but there's a week or two of low sun to deal with in both the Spring and Fall semesters.

It always amazes me that (a) people still drive at full speed directly into the sun and (b) there aren't more terrible accidents.

But... there is sun today. In fact, we're in the middle of a week or more of sunny days. And over the weekend the highs hit 42°F. This week the highs will be from 45°F all the way up to 52°F -- actual temperatures will likely vary from forecasts. (grin) Realize that the low Thursday morning was 0°F and Friday was 8°F. We're likely to have lows than don't get below freezing Real Soon Now.

All this means that there is a great deal of melting going on. I haven't checked the snow totals between last winter and this, but the big difference between 2014 and 2015 was when the extreme cold and snow hit. This year it has been more February than January. So the snow totals have snuck up us. Same with the Great Lakes ice coverage. Subzero weather in February, especially a few nights below zero with little wind, has just sucked the heat out of the lakes. The percentage of ice coverage had jumped from 50% to over 80% in 2½ weeks. "The entire Great Lakes is at 88.8 percent ice coverage, with the highest totals coming from Lake Huron and Lake Erie at about 96 percent ice coverage, according to NOAA. Mar 1, 2015"

That was a week ago.

This week, you can really see how this warmup has affected Lake Michigan:
                  3/8/2015  3/8/2014
Great Lakes        78.5%     90.8%
Lake Superior      89.3%     91.8%
Lake Michigan      48.6% **  92.9%
Lake Huron         91.9%     94.7%
Lake Erie          93.3%     95.3%
Lake Ontario       44.9%     52.1%

** Two weeks ago they were talking about Lake Michigan 
freezing over completely.

Data: The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
It's too early to declare this Spring, for sure. And a few days of 40s and 50s do not mean we've seen the last of the weather. But compared to the incessant drubbing that places like Boston have gotten this winter -- or Buffalo when it was still called "autumn" -- West Michigan doesn't have the same level to complain about.

Certainly not the worst in Michigan. The Northern Lower Peninsula has seen lots of sub-zero temperatures. And MLive is circulating a story from the Lansing State Journal marveling about Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie:
You're the president of Lake Superior State University in the U.P., home of the mascot Fog Horn the Sailor. The thermometer outside your ivy tower office reads minus 40. Not wind chill. An actual number of 40 below zero.

Well, a normal person would send out an email blast to the 2,500 hearty souls on campus: Stay Home. No school today.

Not Tom Pleger, who is the president up there in Sault Ste. Marie. He kept the doors wide open open and he reports, with a smile, that students survived. In fact he attests that many of those students come there for the U.P. outdoor experience.

But 40 below? Are they that desperate for that kind of experience?

"Students safely made it to class. Business continued, and we're in the U.P. and we are tough." And that, he indicates, applies to students and faculty alike, including the president.

"I walk to work," the native of Wisconsin reveals, and after telling everyone to wear mittens and bundle up, he crossed the windblown campus and encountered a "student in shorts." Pleger figures it was an athlete just leaving the university gym.

...

In fact one of those students confided to the president that when he came home from spring break, the temp swing was 130 degrees.
Yeah. Almost forgot. It's Spring Break week for Western Michigan University. (grin)

Oh, and kids? Remember you don't have to specify the temperature scale at -40°. Same for Fahrenheit and Centigrade -- can't happen in the absolute scales of Kelvin and Rankine.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (Default)
It Ain't Over Yet

But the flooding through the floor is reduced. ServPro came at 9am this morning and proceeded to remove some thirty years of my life -- or at least vast chunks of it -- from the office and storage room. And then they removed the sodden carpets from the kitty room and the office. Frankly, the bill at this stage isn't bad. I think from the lead guy's comments that most people balk at the charges, especially at the weekend emergency rates. But with Finals Week here, doing this on a Sunday when I could glance at the materials coming out and pull the few things and treasures before the rest was discarded, $650 for 3½ hours of work by crew of two -- cheap. Because we couldn't have physically done it, nor had the capacity to dispose of it. Really.

On the other hand...

What was once a couple of nice cozy rooms downstairs is now a mixture of barren yuck. We don't know yet what can be done to minimize a repeat of this disaster -- we both know that it can never be totally eliminated. Not with this house on this ground.

Tons of soggy trash pulled out, in piles, bags and boxes, included years of clip files -- newspaper and magazine articles that I was always going to go back to. Of course, in 2013, if I get a notion about any of these ideas I can use Der Google and often find what I was looking for without any kind of massive search.

And I found right off the bat a couple of things that I was looking for, so good for that.

But, I've lost:

-- Much of my Collection of archaic and ancient software boxes.

-- Years and years of beautiful National Geographics. Also some Byte and PC Magazines that would have interest only for comparative LookAtThat! value.

-- An old box that had my original boxes for much of my 1980s era Nikon cameras -- The Nikon F3 (times two), lenses, Speedlights, etc.

-- My college era collection of inappropriate magazines. Ah, misspent youth and research.

-- Bunches of waterlogged electronic parts for old projects, like putting a IBM PS/2 motherboard in an original IBM PC case, big external 5.25" floppy drives (both IBM and Zenith), a couple of spare monitors, tubes of 64KB and 2556KB memory chips.

-- Boxes of 5.25" and 3.5" floppy disks, and bunches of microcasettes from conferences and classes in the 80s and early 90s. Most of the data is available on other media. Hopefully.

-- Lecture notes from Hope College, GVSU and my early years at WMU. Some class notes from college and grad school. Presentations given on overhead transparencies, both LaserJet and colored markers on the old infrared sheets. A number of books.

We are living in half a house. Permeated with the odd scent of a hospital grade disinfectant to discourage bacterial growth from all that groundwater. There's stuff on the floors upstairs that never should be up here, stuffing the place to the gills. Several bookcases left downstairs whose contents are still on their shelves -- we may lose many more books to come, but there's no place to store them, even in boxes. So many boxes disposed of in haste by necessity.

Yes, We're Grateful, Dammit!

Just in West Michigan, let alone the Midwest, there are people who are REALLY flooded. Wiped out. Cars left floating in the middle of the street. We know this is minor, that things can be replaced -- or forgotten about again because we were never really going to go back to them. That we can make the downstairs nice enough again.

We're glad that we hadn't succumbed to getting a new fleet of kittens already, because all this chaos downstairs and overcrowding upstairs would be SO difficult with little brainless stupid silly ACTIVE kittens. (sad sly grin)

But the upstairs is nice and dry, and should the flood waters reach inside our first floor, then West Michigan will all be underwater.

We will survive.

Round Two begins once the place stops flooding and we can begin the process of drying it up. Later this week?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Flood Report

We've been in a steadily losing battle for some days now. For a basement that's never had a serious leak before, water has come in from all over. Some water came in under the back door. And the water table had to have come up to the level of the house because the little cracks in foundation were leaking.

The office carpet was saturated early on -- it connects to a low point with the furnace room floor, so as that flooded, under the wall the water went. Or maybe there was a source there. Many, many boxes and bags of stored papers and things are now awaiting disposal.

The "kitty room" has never had water. A little leaked in from the wall with the furnace room. But then a big wet spot appeared in the middle of the floor -- another under floor leak? And now both carpeted rooms are supersaturated.

Thursday I went out and got a second wet vac. TruValue of Allendale said they had just one, an 18 gallon ShopVac, but then called me right back and said they had one 5 gallon unit as well. I told them to hold the latter for me, but when I got there I looked at the big unit. So much better construction -- with wheels set with a "wide stance" so it can't fall over like the old 5 gallon unit can. AND it has a front drain so it squat over the sump pump and pee into it. No brainer to get it, an outdoor extension cord if we needed it, and a second pair of ear muffs for Mrs. Dr. Phil to use -- My shooting muffs have always been good for lawn mowers and using shopvacs indoors.

The deepest part of the water anywhere was maybe an inch. No more than ¼" anywhere else. And several places never got wet. But something was filling the sump pump and Thursday and Friday it was going off every 15-20 minutes. Our estimate is that it triggers at 10 gallons. So we're still talking about a prodigious amount of water in a place where we silly humans don't think we'll ever see it.

But we weren't winning. Not even holding our own. Worried about the big accordion fold paper air filter on the furnace, which is on the bottom.

Still... one source of smell in the basement was an old cardboard set of drawers that my parents must have bought in the 50s. It got soaked and once it was put outside, things got a lot better.

Friday didn't add too much to the rain totals, but never have I had a day with 6 or 7 rounds of heavy graupel -- my favorite kind of snow. (grin) Graupel is fun -- it bounces -- and just doesn't add much water. Called into ServPro -- finally -- and left a message.

Left a 2nd message 22 hours later here on Saturday morning and got an almost immediate callback. AND they have a crew freed up for tomorrow morning at 9. To be able to clean out the junk and to get a decision to dry or pull the carpet by tomorrow is a huge relief.

More anon.

Dr. Phil

Basement Flooding

Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:13
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Never Been This Bad

Basement flooding is worst ever by orders of magnitude. The office carpet is saturated. Used shop vac to vacuum standing water -- 50-55 gallons so far. We'll have to hire professionals when the rains finally abate.

Didn't Go To Work Today

We didn't even know about the basement yet. But US-131 southbound was closed at Dorr early on due to a wreck and water over the highway. All my possible detours are on roads more prone to flood.

And compared to many parts of the region, let alone the country, this isn't even "bad" here.

Sigh.

Have I mentioned that tomorrow is the last day of class and finals are next week?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983)
Flowing Onward

On Saturday, when I took some of the pictures in the previous post (DW), I'd been told by Mrs. Dr. Phil to vacate the house for an hour, or better an hour-and-a-half, while the decks were swabbed. That's why I had the Nikon D1, and with some time to wander and adequate, but not great light, decided to check on the flooding Grand River.


This is from LaMont on the Bluff, looking down on Grand River (distant) and its flood plain (foreground). (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Closer to the water, this is where the Old M-45 river crossing used to be, before the new bridges and the Allendale boulevard construction. These properties always flooded in the past. There's a house and driveway in there somewhere. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Another view -- you can see the other end of Old M-45 on the other bank. It now has a parking area which I believe is used by the GVSU crew team. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


When I got home, I was surprised to realize that the daffodils were seriously emerging. Not sure if any of the crocuses by the forsythia across the front yard are still there. Or whether we'll see any sign of the stunted tulip plants in this same patch. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Also, as of Tuesday, it's officially Spring as the peepers are making merry in the high waters of their swampy drain ditches and swamps.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
All Last Week

Heavy rains. I feel like I may squish through the carpeting and have mushrooms pop up between my toes -- though today (Tuesday) it was dry and mostly sunny during the day. By Friday, it was reported that Lake Michigan rose two inches. The whole lake.


Showing area of 5"+ of rain -- centered on Allendale. Okay, so it wasn't our imagination.


We were surprised to see not just dampness along the edge of the basement, but actually puddles. Worst "flooding" in fifteen years. Towels and a fan blowing for several days now. Despite the nice day today, the soaking rains last night plus the saturation levels have kept up the damp. Dammit, it was almost dry this morning! (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Thursday, the lake is forming in the neighbor's front yard. While we have some water standing amongst our pines, they pulled their trees and tried to make a lawn without raising the ground. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


The lake on Saturday. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


Another view. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)


While driving around on Saturday, I missed photographing the dad and his two boys further down the road -- the boys were young, but had knee high rubber boots and were stomping and wading through their lake. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

More to come.

Dr. Phil

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