Tuesday, 5 February 2013 14:39
dr_phil_physics: (rose-airplane)

860 days ago I wrote about the possibility of Southwest Airlines coming to Grand Rapids (DW). Southwest is, of course, the biggest of the discount airlines, and the hope is having Southwest here will cause ticket prices out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport to drop.

Yesterday the airport people scheduled a big announcement for 11am and indeed, as part of the Southwest takeover of Air Tran, Southwest will officially be an airline in Grand Rapids. Also, they're going to bring in bigger aircraft than Air Tran was operating.

Years ago I flew Southwest and was amused by their positive attitude corporate culture. I'm sure today I'd be less satisfied, especially with the probability that they'd make me buy two tickets, but overall flying in and out of GRR can be rather expensive, so having Southwest here should make others happy.

One funny aspect of the announcement was that while the airport people were being coy about what the announcement actually was going to be, one of the staffers at WOOD Radio went to the Southwest website before 9am and found the newly revised map showing routes coming out of Grand Rapids. (grin) Ah, research. What a wonderful thing.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (chicago-stuffed-pizza)
You Only Live Twice

Long time readers and old Dr. Phil friends know of my love for Chicago stuffed pizza -- accept no substitutes.

The joy of finding out about Joe Chicago's Pizza in Grand Rapids. The annoyance of learning how long they'd been open And I Didn't Know! The heartbreak of seeing them going out of business.


Then There Was A Break And The Light Descended From Heaven

Sundays the Grand Rapids Press has been delivered with a copy of the Ottawa County Advance, a local news and advertising rag. Except recently they've been doing a good job of covering actual news in Allendale and environs. No doubt this is a result of of The Press cutting back to home delivery only three days a week and really sucking at doing local rural news.

Anyway, the latest Advance on Sunday had a article about a new pizza place on 28th Street in Grandville -- and it serves Chicago stuffed pizza.


Mrs. Dr. Phil did a quick check for websites and other info. Seems they started some weeks ago. And it sounds like they got the equipment and the recipe from Joe Chicago's.


Now we had a plan to get us some real pizza for the weekend.


Chicago 7 Pizzeria is at 3012 - 28th St. SW, Grandville, MI 49418 -- (616) 538-7777. Just east of Ivanrest, between the car dealer and Belle Tire. It takes 40-45 minutes to bake a real pizza, so I used the handsfree -- Speed Dial #44 (since Joe Chicago's was just off 44th Street and that Speed Dial slot was now free) -- and called from US-131 Exit 55 M-222 Martin. About where I called for Joe Chicago's. Looped around M-6 to I-196 to stay off the streets and cut down on the traffic lights, then east on 28th Street.

Pizza just boxed up when I got in.

The place isn't huge, but there was a nice couple of tables filled with families. I told them that I'd seen the article in the Advance -- the woman at the counter seemed to like that. When I asked if they had bought the equipment from Joe Chicago's, I was told they WERE Joe Chicago's, just moved. This bodes well. From the banter with the customers, it's clear some of the regulars made the move, too. This bodes even better.

Oh, and the pizza? Chicago stuffed deep dish, large 12", sausage, mushrooms, black olives and roasted red peppers. And that sauce. $22.99 -- $24.37 with tax.

Mmmmmmm. Yummmmm.

It's good to be back. Sorry, Jim, we might've had pizza for reals. And Cole? Next year in Grandville!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (pleased-to-meet-you)
The Magic of Books

Michigan writer Jim C. Hines [personal profile] jimhines launched his first DAW hardcover book, Libriomancer, this week. Since first seeing him at ConFusion years ago, I've attended quite a number of Jim's book launch/tour/events (DW) across the width of Michigan. So making a run up to Schuler's Books on Alpine in Grand Rapids at 7pm tonight was pretty much a no-brainer. Especially when you have a book about a Yooper librarian!

The basic idea is of a class of wizards who are libriomancers -- people who can reach into a book and pull out an object from the book. Of course it can't be bigger than the book in width and some books are locked by the Guild -- no One Ring To Rule Them All -- but swords and other things are fair game. And it sounds like our hero not only loves books, but loves being able to do magic with books. Who wouldn't?

A Bite To Eat and Then On With The Show

I drove up from WMU in Kalamazoo to Schuler's in a steady rain -- the temps were running in the mid- to upper 60s! -- in plenty of time to buy some books and then hit the Chapbook Cafe to get "my usual":

English Roast Beef with Aged Cheddar and Fresh Horseradish Cream, and Caesar salad. Plus the inevitable Coke. (Click on photo for larger.)

Saw Jim arrive while I was eating, later gave him a hard time because he's been busy the last couple of days updating the Amazon sales figures and watching the book fly off the shelves. Needless to say, it hasn't been a productive writing week for him. (grin)

Waiting for the clock to strike seven. (Click on photo for larger.)

Oops -- false start. The rep from Schuler's had to come in and properly introduce Jim. And remind every one that Schuler's is celebrating their 30th anniversary. Yay, Schuler's! (Click on photo for larger.)

About my new book... You don't just listen to Jim, you get to watch, too. (Click on photo for larger.)

In the Q&A part, of course Jim's recent postings about the poses of women (and men) in urban fantasy covers. Here we are demonstrating the bare midriff reveal, including Jim's insulin pump. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)

Some of the crowd of about two dozen at Schuler's. Say, isn't that SF/F writer Mary Robinette Kowal in my row? (Click on photo for larger.)

Dave Klecha (center), who will be handling Programming for ConFusion in January and indeed that is Mary Robinette Kowal, who was in the area doing audio recordings. Both Jim and Mary Robinette are up for Hugos at WorldCon in Chicago in a couple of weeks. (Click on photo for larger.)

And on to the task of signing books... (Click on photo for larger.)

Congratulations, Jim! Great launch week and now we have a copy to read.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (santa-fe-pa-1)
I Did Not Know This

NMRA -- the National Model Railroad Association -- is holding its 77th National Convention here in downtown Grand Rapids MI Right Now! It's been going on all week, 29 July - 4 August 2012.

Why did I not know about this? Well, I haven't done any active model railroading in years, though I occasionally buy some N-scale Canadian Pacific and Canadian National rolling stock. Haven't been in Ryder's or other local hobby shops in years. Been a long time since I bought an issue of Model Railroader, never was a member of the NMRA and Bob Scherzer retired from the Physics Dept. at WMU, so my local connection is gone.

And then there's the damned Grand Rapids Press. Ever since they went to three days a week home delivery, they've gotten bad about keeping up with things. The article on their daily email feed about the event showed up today, with only a day and a half left.

Sigh. Not that I had time this week to go. But it would have been fun.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
First Time In The Office In A Couple Of Weeks

Been busy. It was 100°F+. I melted my catalytic converter. Went out of town. Had company. You know, what with not teaching during Summer I/II, the usual. Of course I knew that when I did make it into the office, I'd spend some time fighting with my computer because everything, no matter what settings I actually give it, ABSOLUTELY HAD TO UPDATE AND RUN MASSIVE SETUP PROGRAMS RIGHT NOW!!!!! So everybody collides and no one, especially the poor sop who owns the computer and would, silly me, actually like to get any work done on it, gets anything done in a timely fashion.

Add In The Laugh Track

So naturally, when I went into the garage to load up, back out and drive off, I was struck that the 1996 Blazer looked a bit... odd. Not tall enough. A quick inspection showed that, naturally, the left front tire was flat.

Now long time readers will note that I have this odd relationship with vehicle woes, in which I comment that sometimes these things happen at just the right time. Serendipity if you will -- big believer in it. Oh, you won't be disappointed here.

This is a two car garage and the right side tires are right up against the east wall, so that there's no way to get to them short of backing out. But it was a left side tire, and Mrs. Dr. Phil was long gone, so other than moving the recycling bin a few feet, the tire was perfectly exposed.

And the valve stem was up on the top.

And my AC powered compressor was still sitting on the side desk and easy to pick up, set it on two toolboxes sitting next to the tire, plug into a power strip sitting right there and hook it up to the valve stem.

Tire pumped up from flat pretty easily. Indeed, it wasn't completely flat, starting out around maybe 6 psi gauge pressure. I took it up to 40 psi -- recommended is 36-38 psi -- and while I could hear a slight hissing sound with the compressor off and disconnected, a hiss isn't going to drain a tire in five minutes.

So it was easy to go off to Chevy and pull it into the entry bay. There, one of the usual guys came over with a spray bottle -- he could hear the slight hiss as soon as I shut off the engine -- and spraying around, found the leak right about in the center of the tread area. Didn't even have to rotate the tire to find it.

Choice between putting on the spare and coming back for the fixed tire tonight, or just fixing it Right Now. The latter was estimated within a half an hour. Turned out to be a moment longer, but only because they took care of some corrosion on the aluminum wheels, so I won't have a bead leak on that wheel in the near future.

So now I'm running later than planned, but I'm up on I-96. I knew there was some kind of construction on US-131 through the heart of Grand Rapids, but decided to chance it anyway. One lane down from Leonard to 76th Street, which is most of G.R. But traffic was light and we moved at the appropriate 60 or 45 mph, as needed, and so really it was no bother at all.

The next-to-the-perfect parking spot was open when I got to Lot 61.

So yeah, it all could've been much, much worse. Still annoyed that I had to get any work done, but it all went swimmingly. And much, much better than if I couldn't have held the tire pressure on reinflation, had to call and wait for AAA to change the tire, take the flat into the shop and pick it up later.

And of course the computer has settled down after I left it have all its hissy fits, while I played Solitaire.


Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (the-one-ring)
A Friday Night Out

It's rather unusual for us to go out on a Friday night. Working at two different universities in two different cities, coordination becomes complicated. But one must make allowances for some things. After dropping Mrs. Dr. Phil off at GVSU's Allendale campus in the morning, we met up again at the downtown Grand Rapids campus. I picked up a pair of Jimmy John's sandwiches along the way -- the food service closes up early on a Friday -- and we had a pleasant supper sitting in the sort of indoors/outdoors street cafe commons area. Palm trees (!) and red London telephone boxes... and South Park on the telly a number of students were watching. (grin)

The light snow which had fallen might as well have been rain, as it was still 39°F. Then a long drive across the bridge and glacial progress all to go one mile to the parking structure by DeVos Auditorium. GVSU's President's Ball and the Boat Show seemed to be going on at the same time...

The Grand Rapids Symphony in Concert
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Friday 17 February 2012, 7pm, DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids MI
Loge Left, Row D, Seats 10-11, 2×$67 (Sold Out)

The 200-some musicians, choral and youth chorus members, plus our featured soloist voices, take a well deserved bow afterwards.

It was Friday 16 October 2009 when we saw the first installment of the LOTR trilogy with live symphonic and choral accompaniment (DW). A year later for the second act. And now, the war itself and the denouement of Mister One-Ring-To-Rule-Them-All.

Of course by now we've seen all the movies, including The Return of the King (19 December 2003) many times. Alas, this is the theatrical length version and not the Extended Editions, though, really, the orchestra has over two hours of music to play over nearly four hours including the intermission, so let's not feel bad about this.

Whether it was because we were so much closer to both speakers and orchestra, it was good they had the subtitles on, because the full on score overwhelmed some of the dialogue at times -- but this is not a complaint. Howard Shore's score is lovely. In particular, the violin solo theme for Rohan, introduced in The Two Towers, whether alone or against the orchestra, was gorgeously played by the GR Symphony's concertmistress. And the flutist on the penny whistle brought her themes high above the fray as well.

One of my favorite scenes, oddly enough, is the lighting of the beacons. And I couldn't be happier with the result.

Mezzo Soprano Kaitlyn Lusk has been touring with both the concert and film/symphony versions of the LOTR since she was 14 and her singing fits the moods of the film so well. She even belts out a pretty convincing Annie Lennox during the credits.

I am so pleased that I have been able to see all three movies with full symphony and chorus. Grand Rapids is one of the few cities in the world which have been given permission to do this, bringing in the soloist and conductor who has done most of these productions. Not to say that the movie score on the DVD is in any way shabby, but this was special.


The Hobbit with or without full symphony anyone? (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (the-one-ring)
Speaking of Confusion...

This fall and winter has thrown me around parts of the southeastern United States dealing with one thing or another and so I wasn't around when single-event tickets went on sale. So when I heard a radio ad for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with the Grand Rapids Symphony, I hoped I wasn't too late.

Since I last posted about this in July 2011 (DW), they'd added the second show on Saturday 18 February 2012. But I wanted to stick with the Friday night performance, because we already have tickets on Sunday the 19th to see Anthony Bourdain and his buddy Eric Ripert at the same venue.

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert

Join Anthony Bourdain, chef, author of Medium Raw and host of The Travel’s Channel’s No Reservations and Eric Ripert, renowned chef of Le Bernardin, author, host of “Avec Eric” on PBS and regular guest on Bravo’s Top Chef as they share stories and muse on the place of food in our personal, community and global life. It's an evening of storytelling and observation providing frank and provocative insight into what really goes on behind the kitchen doors.

Anthony Bourdain has been dubbed “the bad boy of cuisine” for his rock star look and blunt observations about the world of restaurants, chefs and cooking. Bourdain, the Chef-at-large at New York’s famed bistro Les Halles, is the author of the bestselling novels, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and most recently Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. His show on The Travel Channel, No Reservations, has been nominated for an Emmy and recently concluded filming its seventh season.

Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin continues to receive universal critical acclaim for its food and service and the Zagat Guide has recognized the restaurant as the “Best Food” in New York City for the last seven consecutive years. Ripert has also served as guest judge (and “fan favorite”) on Bravo’s Top Chef for the past four seasons. This past fall, Ripert published his fourth book entitled, Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert in addition to his previous titles: On the Line and A Return to Cooking and the Le Bernardin Cookbook.

A limited number of VIP tickets are available, which includes premiere seating within the first six rows, access to an exclusive meet and greet session with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, a VIP tour laminate and a limited edition poster. Grand Rapids' acclaimed Bar Divani is pleased to be the Official Restaurant Sponsor of the evening, and will be providing an innovative selection of appetizers for VIP Reception attendees.

Copies of Bourdain’s new book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, and Ripert’s Avec Eric: A Culinary Journey with Eric Ripert along with other titles from their back catalogs will be available for purchase on site from Schuler Books and Music, the official bookseller for the event.

Tickets are on sale now and are available at the DeVos Place convention center and Van Andel Arena box offices, online at ticketmaster.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 and Ticketmaster locations.
Event Times: Sun, Feb 19, 2012 7:00 PM
$35, $40, $45, with a limited number of $127.50 VIP tickets

But I digress from the MAIN EVENT:

Friday 17 February 2012, 7pm, DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids MI
One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them.
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

The Grand Rapids Symphony is doing a live orchestra performance to the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Yes, this is the continuation of the 2009 concert of the glorious The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings and the 2010 concert of the haunting The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

The battle for Tolkien's Middle Earth ignites in this epic cinematic masterpiece and final installment of the timeless trilogy! Watch the complete film, projected in HD on a huge screen above the orchestra, as more than 200 musicians perform the lush and mystical score.

Mrs. Dr. Phil couldn't come to The Two Towers film/concert, but we will be able to complete the series together. If anyone is interested in attending with us -- let me know. We've got Loge D (Left) seats 11 & 12, which should be spectacular for watching the orchestra. You can call the GR Symphony Ticket Services directly Monday - Friday, 9 am-5 pm at 616/454-9451, Ext. 4.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-13)
Oh Yum

Needed to grab a bite to eat after picking up Mrs. Dr. Phil at work. So we bopped over to Mugshots right in Allendale for a second visit. Gotta love a place that features fried local asparagus. And look on the specials board -- last time we talked to the owner of doing a burger sampler. And there it is. Okay, let's guild the lily and try their onion rings this time.

You know how I judge an onion ring? It needs a great breading and not too much grease hanging around. But the onions themselves have to still be rings, tasty, but able to bite through. Nothing I hate more than trying to bite an onion ring and having the whole damned thing come out of the breading -- or those fake onion rings made with pulverized onions. Had no complaints with these.

Owner stopped by again. They're about to come out with their fall menu. We'll be back.

Benjamin Franklin - Leader Extraordinaire - A Constitution Day Event
Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 7pm

Historian Gleaves Whitney of the GVSU Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies gave a talk on that extraordinary British American patriot, Ben Franklin:
America was fortunate that Ben Franklin was one of its founders. Although his origins were humble, ambition and talent carried him far in both the U.S. and Europe. No other middle-class human being has risen to such an array of leadership positions. Franklin led our nation as a best-selling author, businessman, scientist, inventor, educator, philanthropist, statesman, spy, and more. In this talk, we will explore all the ways Franklin helped found our nation -- and continues to inspire us today.

Franklin was a world-famous delegate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and he helped make sure the new frame of government was ratified in the 13 states.
Franklin is such a personal hero of mine. We might have to pop in the DVD of 1776 pretty soon. (grin)

To hear the list of his successes (and failures) is pretty damned impressive. At question time, I asked something along the lines of: "As a rich British entrepreneur, Franklin clearly understood the English money system. But then he came up with the logical and rational decimal coin system for America, which inspired the French revolutionaries to invent the metric system. Could you comment." And Gleaves said that I had pretty much said it all -- which the audience loved. And then he made a few more comments, but it wasn't quite what I was hoping to get some analysis on. (grin) Talking about Franklin's role in the decimal coin system and the metric system is something I do with my introductory classes every year -- I guess I hoped to gain a new story. (double-grin)

Other than a GVSU student reporter, we were practically the youngest people there. Despite the sponsorship with GVSU, I was disappointed that we didn't see the students show up as they do at Loosemore Auditorium just a couple of blocks away. Come on, guys, if you can make it as far as the Burger King, you could go two more blocks to the Ford Museum. For them, a missed opportunity -- for us, a lovely hour.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (grand-rapids)
30 Minutes Or Less [R]
Holland 7 Theatre #3

We don't do most American comedies. It's a combination of not our cup of tea and the trailers show all the most potential jokes, which usually fall short. But... 30 Minutes Or Less is the first film shot in Grand Rapids MI that didn't go direct to DVD. Really. So we had to go on opening day last Friday.

The big question when we saw The Social Network was whether the star was really that geeky or just the perfect actor for the role. We now know it's the latter. Harold (we're not using the real characters' names here if you haven't guessed) is a geek but in a totally different way. And the opening pizza delivery run is great fun and we've driven on those Grand Rapids streets. (grin)

The central plot is very disturbing. Dumb & Dumber kidnap pizza delivery driver Harold and stuff him into bomb vest. When Harold comes to they explain he's got a deadline to steal $200,000 from a bank. This is so horrible, as real terrorists have done this and I shudder at the idea of real copycats. And given what happens at the very end, what happens to the Other Bad Guy strikes me as either racist or just an abandoned script page. Like I said, we don't watch many American comedies.

But... this is a buddy romp. Harold somehow -- and in a comedy you just have to go with it -- gets Kumar to abandon his elementary school class and help him rob the bank. They are incompetent bank robbers -- what they know about bank robbing is from movies -- and even worse at stealing a better getaway car. And thank goodness they both had NOT seen The Hurt Locker. Fortunately Harold is the luckiest sad sack in the world. Kumar's sister is the one successful person in the whole movie and she's too good for Harold. Then there's Dumb & Dumber, who want Dumb Dad's money. Thing is, Dumb thinks he's a mastermind genius, but he's just a lazy neverwasbeen. His poor abused buddy Dumber actually CAN build a working bomb vest or a flame thrower.

What we really appreciated in this movie is all the dialogue. Yeah, it's foul mouthed -- everyone uses the f-word to excess, but in a crazy way it works. The geeky people I know banter all the time.

Of course we stayed for the credits to see the Grand Rapids mentions. But we were the only ones left in the theatre to see the Dr. Phil Special at the very end. Like the DPS at the end of Super 8, it's silly and over the top, but it works stupidly well in the context of Dumb & Dumber.

Fact is, there's a lot of twists in this one and we had a good time and that's pretty weird.

Recommendation... uh...?
Oh hell, just go see it, especially if you're from the Midwest

Trailers: Included another real Harold & Kumar movie, this one for Christmas. We've seen all the funny bits now.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (the-one-ring)
Friday 17 February 2012, 7pm, DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids MI
One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them.
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

The Grand Rapids Symphony is going to do a live orchestra performance to the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Yes, this is the continuation of the 2009 concert of the glorious The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings and the 2010 concert of the haunting The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

The battle for Tolkien's Middle Earth ignites in this epic cinematic masterpiece and final installment of the timeless trilogy! Watch the complete film, projected in HD on a huge screen above the orchestra, as more than 200 musicians perform the lush and mystical score.

While the other two movies were shown in October and with two shows, this one is one show in February. Not sure when tickets go on sale for non-series purchases, "Single tickets on sale later this summer." But I swear if the weather is bad we'll get a downtown hotel room. (grin) If anyone is interested in attending with me -- let me know.

(And I bet you thought I was going to talk about Harry Potter, didn't you?) (palantir-grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (grand-rapids)
As You May Recall

Back in October, Grand Valley State University put out a LipDub video of Styx' Come Sail Away. Now the mad genius of Grand Rapids promotions, Rob Bliss, he of last summer's giant waterslide, has done one for the city of Grand Rapids MI.

I give you, Don Maclean's American Pie:

Newsweek Calls Uncle

The best part? Newsweek had published a piece calling Grand Rapids one of America's dying cities back in January. They are now calling for a truce. (grin)
To the Grand Rapids crowd:

First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We're big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home.

But so you know what was up with the list you're responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called mainstreet.com--not by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek web site as part of a content sharing deal)--and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn't endorse and wouldn't have employed. It certainly doesn't reflect our view of Grand Rapids.

Anyway, it's not my favorite version of the song, but the LipDub is great fun -- and look at all those people with guitars!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Well, Finally, I Suppose
$100 million gift supports new WMU medical school

March 22, 2011

KALAMAZOO--A $100 million cash gift, the largest ever made to a Michigan college or university, will be used to give birth to a private medical school at a public institution--Western Michigan University.

Announced today by WMU President John M. Dunn, the anonymous gift is among the 10 largest cash gifts ever made to an American public university and the 15th largest in the history of American higher education. The gift will serve as the foundation funding for a school of medicine that WMU is developing in partnership with Kalamazoo's two major hospitals, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare.

You'd think that in this economy, this state budget crisis and this university's budget, that this would be a terrible time to start a new medical school in West Michigan. Especially since last fall Michigan State's School of Human Medicine just moved from East Lansing MI to the Medical Mile on the hill in Grand Rapids. But really, this was inevitable.

Even before we moved down to West Michigan in 1991, PBS had started airing their multi-year NOVA study on Harvard Medical School's New Pathways. Not only was it a fascinating topic in its own right, it gave me some perspective about the pre-med students that pass through my Physics classes. And somewhere in learning about the Grand Rapids area, I found out about the plethora of top flight hospitals in both Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo -- and the large numbers of med students who come through here in their rotations -- and the lack of a local medical school. Having a medical school on this end of the state has made sense for a long time. Having two, one in Grand Rapids and one in Kalamazoo, might strike some as overkill, but I can see the Kalamazoo hospitals wanting to get in on the action. Remember, a lot of med school faculty are on staff in teaching hospitals. In town is not the same as out of town. (grin)

So I know that there are a lot of faculty probably upset with this, figuring that a new med school is going to be a drain on resources. But the claim from the start has been that Western has needed to privately fund this new medical school and not try to draw on dwindling state resources. A huge $100 million gift goes a long way towards making certain that private funding. The cynical might think that having a medical school at WMU will insulate the university from any discussion by the state to put Western on the short list if they feel they have to cut one of the state universities. Of course, the discussion about a medical school predates the current state government and budget slicing. (grin)
A school of medicine in Kalamazoo has been under discussion and in the planning stage since late 2007. In 2009, WMU received an anonymous $1.8 million gift that was characterized as "seed money" to allow the University and its community partners to begin development of the school.

Early in 2010, WMU filed a letter of intent and was awarded applicant status with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada. Earlier this year, following a yearlong national search, the University announced the selection of Jenson as founding dean of the school. Committees with communitywide representation have been formed to tackle the development of curriculum, facilities, finances and communication.

The WMU School of Medicine will open in fall 2013 or fall 2014. For more information, visit wmich.edu/medicine.

So... Welcome to the WMU School of Medicine in Kalamazoo.

Save Us From P.R. Events

Of course there have been hints that this announcement was coming. Friday I got an email that had a Western email address, but was clearly not put together using any sort of standard university framework. Instead it talked about Operation:Historic Moment and Witnessing History -- and featured hyperlinks in dark blue against a black background? Spam fail?

I mean, what was I supposed to think, when one is faced with a graphic which reads WWW . OperationHistoricMoment . COM and the link looks like:

This is classic spammer behavior -- bait-and-switch websites. And of course the university's email spam system lets tons of bad emails through, so it's not like I don't know what a suspicious looking email with a university email address looks like. (evil grin)

Monday, there was an email through more normal channels. And at this point I knew the Medical School was on, because what else would be considered so historic from the administration's point of view?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (kate-winter-coat)
7am Sunday to 7am Monday... Or Not

Big winter storm warning. North of us will likely get a foot or so. But West Michigan is looking at temps hovering right around freezing, so we're expecting snow, freezing rain, ice and sleet. By morning, we could have ¾" of ice.

We had no snow or precip at 7am, 8am, 10am or 11am. Sometime after noon heavy snow globe type snow began. And within ten minutes the ground was covered in white after being brown yesterday.

The worst part of this is not knowing what the commute will be like. Not that This Is Teh Worst Storm Evah.

The Warm And The Cold Of It

Our warm-up peaked last week at around 56°F. Yesterday was upper 30s but sunshine all day. Pretty much got rid of most of the snow. Interesting last weekend to look at the reports of the record lows from 1899. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, the lows that year were -33°F, -29°F and -22°F. What makes this somewhat remarkable is that the Weather Channel is currently giving us the stats from Grand Haven MI, which is on Lake Michigan. The lake usually moderates the temps, so I would imagine that this must've been an arctic blast coming down out of the north or northeast, instead of across the lake.

Of course, don't imagine that record -33°F lows in 1899 and +56°F highs in 2011 on the same few days are indicative of anything in particular about global warming. One set of cherry picked data points is about weather, not climate.

One does have remind people about this from time to time, in either direction. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (miss-michigan-usa)
No Apologies Here

As I mentioned the other day, one of the most impressive Super Bowl ads was the two-minute Chrysler 200 ad "Imported From Detroit". It didn't pull punches and it didn't apologize for being from Detroit. If anything, it suggested that being forged in Detroit is a positive, not a negative.

The more I think about it, the more I like this ad. Except for five years in White Plains NY outside New York City and three years of high school in Greensboro NC, I've spent my whole life along the Great Lakes. And at this point, over half my life has been spent in Michigan. Up and down economies, progress and Rust Belt. And a lot of people, including a lot of movers and shakers from the East and Left Coasts, are ready to write off Detroit and Michigan. Hell, Newsweek declared Grand Rapids to be a dying city -- Number 10 on their list of ten. This was a shock to West Michigan, which has sort of basked in the knowledge that things are much brighter over here than in Detroit. GR Mayor Heartwell responded with a letter to Newsweek saying that they didn't know what they were talking about.

And the Chrysler 200 ad did about the same thing.

How Does One Roll With The Punches?

Monday night FOX-TV premiered their next big new cop show, The Chicago Code. The hook is that it is about a war between a bright new police superintendent and a corrupt alderman. What? A Chicago show about crime, murder, corruption and rigged city bids? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you. I'm sure Chicagoans might feel the same way that Detroiters do about Detroit 1-8-7. On the one hand, the latter surely reinforces stereotypes about Detroit as the Murder Capital and a decaying city. On the other hand, there's Hamtramck! And you can see the love some of the characters have for the old city. After all, New York has survived all the countless murders of several incarnations of Law & Order plus CSI: New York, Philadelphia has survived Cold Case and, perhaps even more germane, Baltimore survived the stellar Homicide: Life on the Streets.

In other words, a little publicity is good, especially if they spell your name right.

And in that spirit, Chrysler certainly poked America on Sunday and said, "Detroit. Deal with it."

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (kate-winter-coat)
Yeah, Yeah, I Know

I've not been blogging much lately. Will explain further soon. Meant to, but between having a bunch of deadlines to meet and having an infected thumb -- you'd be amazed not only how much that thumb gets in the way, even when you're using your index finger for the space bar, but that the bandage keeps rubbing on the touchpad of the laptop and moving the cursor on me. Curses! (grin)

And So It Begins

The snow, that is. We had a few flakeages in November -- nothing like last year as many comments on the radio have mentioned -- but it was relatively clear sailing. Balmy at times. Very un-November in Michigan-like. However December dawned with a bit of the snow. Not much, mind you. Maybe 2" overnight, and maybe a total of 4" for the day -- though I haven't looked outside in some time. But it had rained yesterday and with the temperatures just below freezing and the ground being warm, the real problem this morning was the ice.

No, scratch that. The real problem was the drivers. Michigan drivers who've forgotten totally how to drive on this stuff. First you get the geniuses who do not want to drive at anything slower than usual. So you get a lot of passing and weaving in and out of traffic and trying to do that pop-out drafting NASCAR kind of pass.

Saw a number of vehicles whipping around the Michigan Left Turn loops and then fishtailing as they tried to merge on M-45. Remind me how those things are safer? But mostly everyone was driving slower.

The Big Crash on I-196 was in the other direction -- originally listed as six vehicles including a semi, by 9am it had been updated to nine vehicles blocking all lanes eastbound -- they had the five mile backup clog.

In K-zoo the streets were quite icy. Howard Street on the way almost to campus was sheet ice. I had no problems and kept my winter intervals, but saw two cars miss whipping around the turns, one at each of the two new traffic circles (technically roundabouts). The second car didn't plow into the sign at the divider between two directions because the sign was already bent over. Remind me again how traffic circles are safer?

Well, people will either wreck or learn to drive in winter again. Hopefully that won't include myself in the mix.

Dr. Phil

PS - Yeah, it is winter now. It's 2:30pm EST and my office is freezing. Makes it really hard to do work. But I have to stay another 30 minutes, because I've got someone making up an exam. (sigh)
dr_phil_physics: (grand-rapids)
Been Remiss In Telling This Tale

The last few weeks have been quite abuzz in Grand Rapids, with the second annual ArtPrize competition. What is ArtPrize you say? Well, it's Rick DeVos' contribution to the Grand Rapids community -- a very public art show and contest with a very substantial set of prizes totaling over $450,000 voted on by the public. It is said to be the largest public art prize anywhere, which of course is the big draw for the artists. The 2009 ArtPrize took everyone by surprise, what with the interest and the numbers of people who both viewed and voted. ArtPrize 2010 turned out to be even bigger and more successful, with art and artists pulled in from all over.

No, I didn't go downtown and no I didn't vote. I've been nursing a bad back/leg and so tons of walking wasn't for me. And they've got the voting set up so that you have to register onsite, so you have to actually BE there at least once to vote. This is not American Idol where you can vote 10 times a day nonsense.

And The Winner Is...

Grand Rapids artist Chris LaPorte's 28-foot-wide pencil drawing "Cavalry, American Officers, 1921" won the ArtPrize 2010's $250,000 top prize on Thursday.

You may think you've seen this picture before -- just a black & white photograph of some Army officers. But while this began from a faded photo bought in an antique store, this huge life size pencil drawing had such detail and such work, that it brought tears to many of the viewers.

This year there was also a juried award, for those who felt that a strict popularity contest by the public might not pick the truly worthy pieces of art. I believe their top 10 only included two of the public top 10, and the jury's selections also enriched the whole conversation -- so good on them for including this in ArtPrize 2010.

And indeed, there are complaints that the top 10 nominees from the first week by the public were all large works, in the main center of downtown, and seemed to reward sentimentality and hard work over artistic creation. *** So be it. The fact is there WERE over 1700 pieces of art and there WERE over 400,000 votes cast, and for over two weeks the news was dominated by ART.

Still, I have to say that the weather has cooperated mightily, and after the surprise of the first year, the many downtown restaurants and coffee shops managed to sustain the crowds. And there have been some good suggestions about how to modify the voting to give much more visibility to all the works -- one would add a third weekend to the contest and have an initial nomination list of 100 works before the top 10 are voted on, another would break the downtown into several regions and have nominees from each area. There is no question in my mind that there will be an ArtPrize 2011 and it will be amazing, too.


I definitely feel bad about not ever getting around to posting about ArtPrize 2009 -- what with a giant table and chairs erected atop the Blue Bridge downtown and a giant foam sculpture of Nessie in the Grand River (and now to be displayed at the John Ball Park Zoo). And this posting is too late to do any good attracting anyone to the art or the voting this year. But I shall endeavor to do better. And with two successful years under its belt, ArtPrize is not going to be a one-hit wonder.

Art. In Grand Rapids, Michigan. With thousands of entries and hundreds of thousands of viewers. Who'd've thunk it?

Dr. Phil

*** - This would sort of preclude a friend of ours, who created a metal tree sculpture on display outside of the Grand Rapids Public Library, from having any kind of "real chance" at winning ArtPrize 2010. If I were running things, I'd have some additional prize pools for some of the smaller collections away from the big central venues and large works.
dr_phil_physics: (rose-airplane)

For over 10 years the people at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) in Grand Rapids MI have been trying to get powerhouse discount airline Southwest to come here. Grand Rapidians would be well suited to both the low fares and Southwest's successful quirky operations. Alas, Southwest wouldn't budge, and one has to travel to either Detroit or Midway in Chicago to fly Southwest. For a number of years, GRR had no discount airlines and the fares charged by Northwest, United, American, Continental, Delta, etc. showed. Since Air Tran and Allegiant (and Frontier) have come to GRR in the last year or so, fares have gotten more competitive. The jury is out as to whether the Delta-Northwest merger helped or hurt.

But... yesterday it was announced that Southwest was going to acquire Air Tran in a $1.4 billion deal. A look at the two airlines' maps shows that though there is some overlap, Air Tran would add a lot of eastern cities to Southwest -- including Grand Rapids and Flint MI, Charlotte NC and Atlanta GA. Yay! Southwest is coming to Grand Rapids!

Don't know the dates, but this should be interesting. Stay tuned.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (miss-michigan-usa)
A Beautiful Weekend For Sliding Down The Streets

After yesterdays post about Day 1 of the 500 foot waterslide down Lyon Street in downtown Grand Rapids, the news reports on Monday talk of 30,000 people showed up with about 10,000 making the slide. And of course there's video, with the obligatory opening commercial and a long interview with a girl in a bikini (snort):

500 waterslide opens

Although the event was free, there was stuff for sale, including tickets to "skip the line".
Fire hoses along Lyon Street NW gushed about 20,000 gallons of water per hour, ACP Entertainment General Manager Ryan Strayhorn said, although all of the water was recycled, thanks to Dykema Excavators.

(Rob) Bliss said he sold about 470 of his 500 T-shirts, priced at $10 each, as well as numerous $30 skip-the-line tickets, although he was unsure of the exact amount.


Bliss said that while most of the day Saturday included starting, stopping and fixing glitches, Sunday was practically seamless.

"Today was how it was supposed to be all weekend. Sunday was what I had been envisioning since I started on this project. (Saturday early afternoon) was very scary, very painful, very difficult. I thought there was the possibility that we'd have to cancel the event," Bliss said.

Overall, Bliss said that it was "absolutely" a successful weekend.

"I think that may be have been the coolest thing I've ever done," he said.

Kind of fun to have something silly like this happen in the dog days of August on a beautiful summer weekend. (grin) And it's probably better than the sliders slid at a modest 10 mph or so, instead of the 40-60 mph which had been predicted. (duh)

Dr. Phil

Updated numbers: 8-26-2010 Th
dr_phil_physics: (rose-after-rescue)
A Madman At Loose In Grand Rapids

So this college student Rob Bliss has managed to stage some giant events just for fun in downtown Grand Rapids. A giant pillow fight. Thousands of paper airplanes thrown from downtown tall buildings. Etc. But he may have outdone himself this time.

The Lyon Street Waterslide

Imagine a 500-foot long inflatable waterslide running down a steep hill in downtown G.R. In August. Yup, it's brilliant. Even made The New York Times.

Did we go? Of course not. I'm in the middle of Grade-a-thon. (grin) And the wait in line was 3-4 hours, though those who slid said it was worth the wait, though maybe you should bring goggles. (grin)

Rob says the vinyl inflatable waterslide, which I believe was made locally in West Michigan, is durable and he hopes to put it out for a weekend every summer -- it might last 20 years.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (construction-zone-speed-limit)
The Usual Apology

It's that time of the semester -- Grade-a-thon -- as we finish up the rushed 7½ weeks of the Summer-II Session here at Western Michigan University. My PHYS-2070 University Physics II class, Electricity & Magnetism, is now done. The Final Exam was Friday. We are so ahead of the usual curve here. Admittedly, I have just 41 students instead of twice that many, but except for one double-quiz and the Final which are being done by my grader, and the Science Literacy book reports which I am doing now, I've got all the other grades, re-grades, corrections and turned in late scatter-gather quizzes, graded and recorded in the spreadsheet. That has got to be a record for me. (grin)

I've even done 17 of 40 papers. Time for a nap, before my eyes close for me.

Driving Hazards

But that's not what this post is about. Instead, I think it was Tuesday's drive in, about 9:52am EDT, as I was heading south out of Grand Rapids on US-131, heading up the hill past the exit for 84th Street, I saw something slithering across both lanes of the highway. Minivan ahead of me half drove onto the paved right shoulder, but I was going to have to move over a bit further -- and of course I was on the brakes -- to avoid running over...?

A spinning ladder. A two-section aluminum extendable ladder, which had spun on the pavement and now came to rest across all of the left-hand southbound lane and most of the right-hand. Just about perfectly perpendicular to the flow of traffic. There was plenty of time, relatively speaking to dump a lot of my speed before hitting the rubble strips on the right shoulder. I had no intention of running over an aluminum ladder at 70 mph and I also didn't want to hit the shoulder, paved though it might be, at 70 mph given that it was likely to have stones and other trash.

So no problem. Hazard avoided. Though there was plenty of southbound traffic behind me, and ladders don't sprout legs and walk themselves out of the way, so I hoped that those behind me could see that two vehicles had just dove onto the shoulder to avoid something.

Ah, But The Idiots

Of course as I'm passing the ladder on the right at 40-50 mph, there's some import SUV crossover clattering over the ladder in the left hand lane at 70+ mph. Nailed it good, so it just made a lot of noise, but didn't spin out to whack me or anything. Near as I can tell, no attempt to slow down or move to the right or left. Hmm, pay attention to one's driving much? I don't know if the driver was actually on the phone or whether that's just wishful/evil thinking from several days out on my part. (grin)

In that driver's defense, though, I did notice that further up the hill on the left-hand shoulder was a blue pickup truck -- and it was starting to back up. One would suspect that he's the one who lost the ladder. And he is the one I wish to vent my ire on.

See -- I didn't see any sign on the ladder that it had a red flag tied to either end. Or at least not a big one or a very visible one, a very common complaint of mine. And this pickup truck had no ladder rack, just the usual 8-foot bed. And given that this ladder, unextended, was nearly two full lanes wide, that tells me that the damned thing was too long for that pickup truck bed, which means it was probably just tossed in the back and sticking out over the tailgate, unsecured. Which means this was an accident just waiting to happen. No doubt the guy was accelerating up the hill when friction failed to keep the ladder in the back -- who could ever conceive of such a thing happening? (ironic grin)

I've seen a lot of this lately. Various construction and service vehicles with open backs and gear just lying around. One of my favorites was a truck carrying concrete construction forms which had these racks holding these foot-long or so spikes -- looked like multiple rocket launchers on the back. One had a slight angle on it, but one was completely level. How would you like to be behind this guy when he guns it and those spikes slide out of their slots and into your lane? Look, I understand Physics, so I'm not asking that things be hermetically sealed at all times. But Michigan roads are not smooth surfaces, and bouncing can move things. And I don't want to have to dodge your tools and I don't have time to rebuild my vehicles. 'Kay?

Likewise, I don't drive behind trucks holding trash bins or asphalt -- seen too many stones, clumps of stuff and trash fly out behind these trucks.

I tell you, folks, it's a jungle out there. Doesn't anyone ever write tickets?

Dr. Phil


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