On For Fall

Thursday, 16 July 2015 15:27
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Well, it's official now. Monday I got my contract letter for Fall 2015 and today, Thursday 16 July 2015, I signed it and turned it in. Sitting in my office, employed once again. Or I will be once things start up in another month or so.

As much as I will be delighted to be back in the classroom, it will be a bit of a shock given the months of this year's Sabbatical. Not that I haven't had time off before, especially these past three summers, but since I've been working so heavily on the YA trilogy+, I won't have all those hours to throw into writing and revising.

Of course, as I have said before, it won't take too much of a YA advance to convince me to go full-time writing, especially with the expense of driving five days a week 154 miles a day and 2½ tanks of gas a week.

I am a part-time instructor. Adjunct. And actually we're doing pretty good with having the PTO union. But at the same time, it's not that they pay me all that much.

For Fall 2015 I am teaching two four-credit classes. Part-timers can't teach more than nine credits a semester. For this I am being paid $850/credit hour, $3400/class.

$6800 for the Fall 2015 semester.

Since I, on purpose, did not teach during Spring (Winter) 2015 semester or Summer-I/II 2015 sessions, this will be my entire 2015 taxable salary.

Right now I am scheduled for one class for the Spring (Winter) 2016 semester, the PHYS-3090 Modern Physics course, which will be great fun. But of course I'll be making even less.

Fortunately Mrs. Dr. Phil is okay with this. But she'd also be happy if I didn't do so much driving, especially in the winter.

Some of this reverie is stuff I've been talking about for a long time -- it's just with the YA-trilogy+ foaming over the edge of its petri dish and starting to rise into a real thing, I've probably thought about it more often than before. And then today there was a marvelous post from my author friend Jim C. Hines announcing he's going to full-time writing, which in his case is because he's got enough success to make it work. Go, Jim, go!

Before I got sick in 2013, I had realized that I actually had a chance to do enough time to get a small pension out of the 20+ years of part-time teaching. Now, having had to take time off and not always having classes, I'm not so sure that the pension vesting is practical anymore.

We shall see...

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)
Saturday, and I'm at MSU in East Lansing for the Spring Meeting of the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Just gave my talk "The Speed of Students" at 10am.

I've been giving presentations for thirty years. Overhead projectors -- hand drawn with colored markers, then printed on LaserJets. Video displays sitting on an overhead projector, displaying DOS pages and screens from Windows 2.03 Paint. Now it's PowerPoint on Macs and PCs. Except today.

KATNISS, my conference Windows 7 Basic Asus netbook, I haven't used in a while. And when I went to update it and test it Thursday, it was having trouble conflicting with the Amazon Echo over an IP address and I didn't have time to troubleshoot. So I left it at home and had my talk on a Swiss Army Memory USB drive.

But I actually just gave the talk on my Kindle Fire HD.

Last night I emailed my PowerPoint from ZEPELLIN to Gmail to my WMU email, which then downloaded cleanly to the Kindle. From the email app, I could call up the PowerPoint application in OfficeSuite 7 Pro.

If I had to, I could use a document scanner to see the screen on the Kindle -- I've done this. But I also have a ten foot HDMI cable for the Kindle.

Turns out the room we're in doesn't have a document projector, but they did have an HDMI input. So, Kindle Fire HD to HDMI to projector. Yup, sound and video work. More importantly, the MSU Guest internet connection logged in perfectly the first time.

PowerPoint with URL links, which opened a new tab in the Silk browser, and call up the two YouTube videos, one at a time of course, swift the YouTube box to full screen. Watch movie trailers. Back arrow to browser. Back arrow back to PowerPoint presentation, already in progress.

Did this whole thing twice. And the Click reveal animation worked fine on all the bullet points.

The point is... this whole malarkey worked beautifully.

But given the steps involved, it's hard to tell if this is progress, living in the future -- or just pigheaded determination to kludge together a talk using a vast array of hardware and software steps, flying in borderline formation. (grin)

The talk, by the way, was inspired by the 2001: A Space Odyssey trailer and a 2012 film student's reimagination of 2001 as an action film. I talked about that here (DW) (LJ).

Amazeballs.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (maxwells-equations)
Numerology.

As a species, we are very good at finding patterns in things, even when they aren't really there. We take solace in patterns of numbers -- your mother's phone number, a friend's birthday, an old house number -- and recognize when we see them elsewhere. Back in the early 70s, when Wendy and I both went and applied for Social Security Numbers -- she needed one for a part-time job as a grocery store checker and I was sent along, too -- I was able to remember my number because it was associated with three Santa Fe railroad locomotive numbers. Yeah, I was always a geek.

And as a night owl I go to bed late, and I often amused by the digital clock displaying "magic times" -- 12:34, 1:23, 2:34, 3:45 -- and of course Pi Time, 3:14am. Not only are these numbers memorable in some way, but I also notice them because my schedules are such that I often actually make it to the side of the bed at the same clock times. We notice patterns and are creatures of habit.

Of course this is all because of Pi Day. And not just any Pi Day, but the most amazing Pi Day ever! Or at least to hear about it, or the makers of about ten different Pi Day t-shirts that have been showing up in my Facebook feed for months.

Okay, we get it. π = 3.14, March 14th is 3/14. And it's 2015, so π = 3.1415926, so March 14, 2015 becomes 3/14/15 9:26 am/pm. Amazing! Incredible!

Well, not really. Remember, this is in the United States, and despite the usual American narcissism towards the rest of the 95% of the world, most of the world doesn't use 3/14 for March 14th. The European model is 14.3 or 14.3.2015 for 14 March 2015. That would make Pi Day as 3.1 (3 January) or 3.1415 (3 January at 4:15) or 3.14 (3 January 2004) or 3.141 (3 January 2041). In other words, 14.3.2015 at 9:26 just isn't a big deal.

But we see patterns -- and then insist that everyone else see them, too.

Of course, as a number, π is pretty amazing. Much more than just the ratio of the Circumference to the diameter. π shows up all over the place. And π is an irrational number -- the symbol π represents the number, but it cannot be written down completely, as it is a non-terminating, non-repeating number.

Much folklore holds that the digits "must" represent all the writing ever written -- sort of like the million monkeys on a million typewriters for a million years theory of randomness. There was a guy on NPR's Here and Now on Friday mentioning that in the first million digits of π, it isn't even an even frequency of the numbers 0-9. It's like the most common number is 5, with 0, 6 and 9 in shorter supplies -- or something like that.

My good friend from ISP at Northwestern, the late Steve Houdek, spent most of freshman year refining a program that could calculate thousands of digits of pi. It didn't NEED to be done, having been done before, but it provided a really great programming and research project, running from BASIC to FORTRAN to Pascal and later C, I believe.

Here's the first 41 digits of π, or 40 decimal places:
π = 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41972
This is more π than you'll ever need for doing Physics problems.

Those million or more digits of π? That's not irrelevant, but it is mathematics and not Physics. Just saying. And I, for one, am all for purely intellectual pursuits, so I'm not knocking mathematics theory.

The Significance of Numbers

Those of you who have ever taken a Dr. Phil Physics course, know that I spend a lot of time talking about Significant Figures. Because in an introductory Physics class, the equations and numbers represent real things which are either measured or calculated.

But, as I tell my students, most scientific calculators are set up to display up to 10 digits and calculate to 12. That doesn't mean you need to use all of them. In fact, whenever I see a student dumping all ten digits in an answer, I know this is an attempt to snow me with numbers, because the student clearly doesn't know what they're doing.

v = d / t = 2.31 meters / 5.34 seconds = 0.4325842697 m/s ?

Nope. Can't justify all those digits.

Most of our typical measurements have three significant figures -- 3 sig. fig. -- which is how many numbers are there, not decimal places, and not counting zeroes which are merely placeholders. So 123 and 1.23 and 0.123 and 123,000 and 0.00000123 are all 3 sig. fig. numbers. Multiply or divide 3 sig. fig. numbers together, and you can only justify 3 sig. figs. in your answer -- though I typically keep an extra "fuzzy" digit to help with the decimal representation of a fraction, or what I would call 3+1 sig. figs.

2.31 meters / 5.34 seconds = 0.433 m/s or 0.4326 m/s. That's it.

The carpenter is told to "measure twice, cut once". In class I hold up a meter stick. It is divided into 100 centimeters and each centimeter is divided into ten millimeters -- or 1 meter = 1000 mm. A millimeter is comparable to the width of a saw blade, so cutting a meter stick to a length of 31.7 cm is reasonable.

I like to point out that I don't know how to make any 10 sig. fig. measurement that costs less than a million dollars to make, so the carpenter building your house is not going to do it.

To get a 10 sig. fig. measurement, we'd need to take that one meter stick and divide it into 1010 or 10 billion pieces. 1 x 10-10 meters is an Angstrom (1 Å = 0.1 nm = 0.1 nanometers). 1 Å is about the size of a hydrogen atom. So... if you want to measure your cut to 10 sig. figs., you have to measure from the last atoms of the last molecule of lignon or cellulose poking out on either ends of the wood. AND have it not move during the course of the repeat measurements or cuts.

Uh-uh. Not going to happen.

Why does the calculator give you 10 digits and calculate to 12 if you can't use them all? Because calculators are intrinsically stupid machines and have no idea what you are doing. So it gives you what it can best do, and expects you -- the person with the brain -- to figure out how much or what part you really need. Because let's face it. Four people sharing a pizza for $18.29 plus 6% sales tax and a 1/6th tip totals $22.6186333 or $5.65465833 per person. And you can't make change from a penny for 0.465833¢.

Why do some people get it when splitting a check -- and not in a Physics problem? (evil-grin)

The universe is some 14 billion light years across. A light year is 1 LY = 9.429 x 1015 meters or 9.429 quadrillion meters. An atom is 1 Å wide, 1 x 10-10 meters. The nucleus of an atom is about 1 femtometer = 1 fm wide, 1 x 10-15 meters. If we were to divide a nucleus into a thousand parts, like we did with the meter stick, they'd be 1 attometer = 1 am wide, 1 x 10-18 meters. That's the smallest SI metric prefix I've seen used.

That makes a light year, 1 LY = 9.429 x 1030 femtometers. So to calculate the circumference of the universe, 132 billion x 1030 femtometers wide, using C = πD = 2πr, or the area, A = πr2 = πD2/4 we would need to know π to 41 digits.

Usually less. Far less. Really, far less.

Like I said, 41 decimal places of π:
π = 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41972
More π than you'll ever need for doing Physics problems.

Something to think about on this made up Pi Day...


http://mail.colonial.net/~hkaiter/aa_newest_images/happy-pi-day1.jpg

So... what kind of pie are you going to have on Pi Day? We're going to have a Key lime pie... mmm.

What? You thought I wasn't going to celebrate Pie Day with some π?

Are you crazy?

Looking for another way to "celebrate" the Once In A Lifetime Most Epic Pi Day Of All Time (or at least this century, for certain values of Once In A Lifetime and Epic)? Do a Google search on "pi day" and click on the Images tab. Scroll and scroll and scroll. There's a lot of fun out there...

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
It's Here!

I'll be at ConFusion this weekend -- Friday-Sunday 20-22 January 2012 at the Troy Marriott in Troy MI. I'm on two panels in the Literary track and a panel and a presentation in the Science track. Plus I'll share a reading with another ConFusion regular, Ferrett Steinmetz. Plus I get another panel with Doselle Young. This is Epic Win for me -- and Epic ConFusion for everyone who comes.
Saturday 21 January 2012
1:00 PM
Dennison I/II
The Physics of Digital vs. Film Photography
Taking pictures in 2011 versus 1981. Just a matter of putting a sensor where film used to go? Not exactly. And can't you just fix everything in PhotoShop? Not exactly. If you understand how cameras have changed in the last thirty years, you'll take better pictures. (Dr. Phil Kaldon)

2:00 PM
Salon F
Reading with Dr. Phil Kaldon and Ferrett Steinmetz
Join a Writers of the Future winner and a Clarion writer as they read from forthcoming works.*** (Dr. Phil Kaldon, Ferrett Steinmetz)

3:00 PM
Salon E
The Writing Process
How do authors go about the actual process of writing, does it change over time or across projects, and is there any general advice, or is it all individual? (Elizabeth Bear [M], Dr. Phil Kaldon, DJ DeSmyter, Sarah Zettel, Anne Harris)

5:00 PM
Salon E
MASS AUTHOR AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Sunday 22 January 2012
10:00 AM
Salon G
Novels to the Small Screen
True Blood and The Song of Ice and Fire saga have made the jump to television, and Gaiman's American Gods and King's Dark Tower saga are headed there in the near future. Is television uniquely suited to the adaptation of the novel, or is this a short-lived trend featuring a handful of works with crossover appeal? (Doselle Young [M], DJ DeSmyter, Ferrett Steinmetz, Dr. Phil Kaldon)

12:00 PM
Salon E
Science and Society Panel
A free flowing discussion of the impact of science on society and of society on science. (Dr. Harley Thronson, Dr. Phil Kaldon, Ben Best, Dr. Henri Gooren)
*** - Technically that would be a WOTF Published Finalist and two Clarion writers? (grin)

I Say This Every Year

ConFusion is one of the best run cons I've attended. The Troy Marriott has done a great job for years. Guest of Honor is Patrick Rothfuss, a great wild man I met at the WOTF XXIV workshop, Toastmaster is most excellent goblin & kick-ass princess author Jim C. Hines -- and author Jay Lake is making his way East as well.

West Michigan is in single digit temps tonight, but most of the icy roads are less so today. Hopefully heading east Friday afternoon (and west on Sunday) will be uneventful.

See you there?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
It's Coming Up To That Time of Year

I'll be at ConFusion in just two weeks -- Friday-Sunday 20-22 January 2012 at the Troy Marriott in Troy MI. I'm on two panels in the Literary track and a panel and a presentation in the Science track. Plus I'll share a reading with another ConFusion regular, Ferrett Steinmetz. Plus I get another panel with Doselle Young. This is Epic Win for me -- and Epic ConFusion for everyone who comes.
Saturday 21 January 2012
1:00 PM
Dennison I/II
The Physics of Digital vs. Film Photography
Taking pictures in 2011 versus 1981. Just a matter of putting a sensor where film used to go? Not exactly. And can't you just fix everything in PhotoShop? Not exactly. If you understand how cameras have changed in the last thirty years, you'll take better pictures. (Dr. Phil Kaldon)

2:00 PM
Salon F
Reading with Dr. Phil Kaldon and Ferrett Steinmetz
Join a Writers of the Future winner and a Clarion writer as they read from forthcoming works.*** (Dr. Phil Kaldon, Ferrett Steinmetz)

3:00 PM
Salon E
The Writing Process
How do authors go about the actual process of writing, does it change over time or across projects, and is there any general advice, or is it all individual? (Elizabeth Bear [M], Dr. Phil Kaldon, DJ DeSmyter, Sarah Zettel, Anne Harris)

5:00 PM
Salon E
MASS AUTHOR AUTOGRAPH SESSION

Sunday 22 January 2012
10:00 AM
Salon G
Novels to the Small Screen
True Blood and The Song of Ice and Fire saga have made the jump to television, and Gaiman's American Gods and King's Dark Tower saga are headed there in the near future. Is television uniquely suited to the adaptation of the novel, or is this a short-lived trend featuring a handful of works with crossover appeal? (Doselle Young [M], DJ DeSmyter, Ferrett Steinmetz, Dr. Phil Kaldon)

12:00 PM
Salon E
Science and Society Panel
A free flowing discussion of the impact of science on society and of society on science. (Dr. Harley Thronson, Dr. Phil Kaldon, Ben Best, Dr. Henri Gooren)
*** - Technically that would be a WOTF Published Finalist and two Clarion writers? (grin)

I Say This Every Year

ConFusion is one of the best run cons I've attended. The Troy Marriott has done a great job for years. Guest of Honor is Patrick Rothfuss, a great wild man I met at the WOTF XXIV workshop, Toastmaster is most excellent goblin & kick-ass princess author Jim C. Hines -- and author Jay Lake is making his way East as well.

We're about to have a winter storm to finish this week -- maybe we'll have clear driving for ConFusion? If not, well, we've wintered over at the hotel during an icy blizzard before. It is Michigan in the wintertime. (grin)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
Gray and Damp

At 12:30 the radio was saying we were having freezing rain turning to snow, accumulation about an inch, as part of a winter storm advisory until 1pm. Maybe for Grand Rapids, but halfway to Lake Michigan not only was there no rain, freezing or thawed, or snow, but for a brief moment full sun burst out of the overcast skies. One thing about living by a Great Lake, weather is wildly local.

Next snow possibility is New Year's Eve Eve, i.e. tomorrow evening -- we'll see.

Year End Bills

One of the last things I do each year is renew my professional memberships -- American Physical Society, American Chemical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers -- as well as renew subscriptions to The Chronicle of Higher Education and PC World, and donate to Northwestern and Michigan Tech. Doing most of these online has become relatively easy. I didn't even have to open the society statements.

Why wait to batch these all at the end of the year? Because I can write them on the same page in my check register so they'll be all together when I do my taxes. Yeah, have to think about taxes again. Plus I get to do Wendy's and will have to wade through the Georgia forms, too. Or at least the screens in TurboTax.

Time Sinks

Still taking time to make phone calls and otherwise deal with Wendy's finances. While online billpaying may be convenient when you're alive, I don't have access to her email statements, so have to wait for paper bills to get generated and forwarded. Oh the electric bill isn't a bill but a check for a buck-and-a-half refund on her final bill? Oh that's amusing. And unexpectedly different.

And the two days I spent coming aboard Dreamwidth as LiveJournal rolled over everyone with their misguided Release 88 rollout was time and expense that I hadn't planned for, dammit.

But "I'm not complaining."™

Really?

Haven't written about gas prices much this fall. Guess not having to buy gas every two days pushed it a bit off the radar -- and on long road trips you just pay whatever it is. Gas on Tuesday was $3.27.9/gal for regular -- today just two days later it was $3.48.9/gal. 21¢ in 48 hours? Okay, I suppose the jabbering about the Strait of Hormuz makes oil speculators nervous. But there was also a report that the U.S. is a net exporter of refined gasoline -- refineries are struggling against a drop in U.S. demand. So much for all the commuting done by all the jobs created by the rich people after years of the Bush tax cuts... (cynical grin)

Writing

Too early to close out the year or even the sabbatical, but travels and holidays are hell on the writing. But in the last two days I've shipped four stories. Saturday I hope to get a new story written for WOTF while watching Northwestern and other Big Ten teams play bowl games -- or punt and send an older story if I don't finish by 10-11pm. (calculating grin)

Holidays

It's Thursday? Huh. Every day seems like Saturday. Have to keep up with the day of the week, though, in order to not run out of 2011 for tax purposes or miss getting our last couple of weeks of garbage out to the road. At least I'm caught up with the newspapers.

Getting a certain amount of reading done. TV has been an inconsistent mess. And the news channels started in on the Year in Review stuff before Christmas and now it's all Iowa Caucuses All The Time.

How are your holiday leftovers?

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

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

The End is Nigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Double-Edged Sword of New Stories

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

We'll see.

Classes Looming

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

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

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (massive-stars-carina-nebula)
The History of the World in Two Hours
History Channel, Thursday 6 October 2011, 9-11pm EDT

An ambitious project, given all of history in two hours, especially when you start at the Big Bang and spend the first 14 minutes or so doing cosmology and the creation of the world. But part of the logic is that the makeup of the universe in part controls what elements and materials are available and in what scarcity. Copper is three elements past Iron in the Periodic Table. That means that like everything past Iron it cannot be built up in the cores of stars by fusion alone -- it can only be created in the fury of supernova explosions. So advancing from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age not only made stronger materials, but more common ones.

So what is civilization? What does civilization move around the globe from peoples to peoples? Apparently it's dark magenta smoke. (grin) At least they used smoke trails snaking through the Silk Road and crossing the Atlantic, billowing from the sacks on camels, pouring out of smoke stacks, etc. But... all kidding aside, the metaphor is a good one.

I suppose one could criticize the animations of representations of morphing and construction and development, which might give some people the wrong idea. They get shown repeatedly in recapitulations to remind the viewer of their point, probably because they really are trying to create a coherent and complicated weaving together of facts and influences. Images get inlaid and expanded in things like the representation of the Big Bang and expansion -- again, a metaphor rather than literal. And for my tastes the space program and modern communications and computers get short shrift. But given that they don't get to the 20th century until 14 minutes left, there's only so much you can include.

After all 14 minutes was enough to cover the first 10 billion years of history. (double-grin)

So Who's This Good Looking Guy?



This is our friend Craig Benjamin. Transplanted Aussie, professor at Grand Valley State University and the most energetic True Renaissance Man that I know. He teaches, among other things, a History course which covers this whole scope of the Universe sort of thing. And he's one of the talking heads used in this show.

We knew he'd worked on this project, but Mrs. Dr. Phil found out during a noontime water aerobics session today when Craig was in the pool that it was on tonight -- which is why I didn't get a chance to post advance warnings out there. But I think it'll be run again on the History Channel.

It's a cool show. And it's so very cool to know somebody who's in it! Thanks, Craig! I wish we could spend more time talking... about everything.

Dr. Phil

A Busy September

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

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

Sabbatical 1.33 Report -- September 2011

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

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

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

Spring 2012

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

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

Dr. Phil

Sabbatical 1.3

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

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

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

The Third Time's The Charm?

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

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

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

So, What's Next?

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

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

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

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (reading-bennett-2)
As Grade-a-Thon Continues...

I find myself about two-thirds through the Topic 1 Science Literacy Book Report papers. I was struck by the reason one student gave for reading Frankenstein. As an older title, it was available as a free e-book.

A lot of students choose their books based on which titles are left to check out from the WMU Waldo Library, again for free. A few bum the books off of friends and family. Sometimes there's a book sitting on their shelves which they've "been meaning to read" for a number of years.

And while I wouldn't advocate theft, free books are good.

But what struck me is this is the first definite example of someone reading an e-book, as opposed to hardcover, trade, paperback or audio book. Frankly I've been expecting people to say they've read them electronically, on iPod, iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Nook, Sony, laptop or what have you. But this is the first one.

And then they didn't mention the platform. (grin)

Perhaps next semester I'll do a survey about where they got their books.

On The Other Hand...

Disappointed with many of the Topic 2 Worksheets whereupon the students use their car to take real world data and then analyze it. I'd warned them once that Physics pedagogy research shows that many Physics students believe one thing in the classroom and then forget it outside. And the lousy use of calculations, significant figures and just wrong application of Physics equations and variables afflicted maybe half the class.

And yet as a class they did outstanding work on their Final Exam, taken the day after they turned in their worksheets. I guess it is true -- Physics doesn't apply to the real world. (NOT)

Sigh.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (maxwells-equations)
Griffiths, Introduction to Electrodynamics, 3rd edition (1999)

In my advanced E&M course, PHYS-4400, we've run into one of the great walls of Physics teaching. The textbook which had been ordered for the course before I was assigned to teach it, is really more of a graduate level book. Which is a shame, since Brau tries to incorporate relativity into E&M, which I very much approve of. So we've sort of punted back down to Griffiths, which had been the previous textbook.

Now I know of Griffiths reputation as a textbook. And from my work with it the last few weeks, I am pretty pleased with quite a number of the ways he does things, as well as the sometimes grumpy commentaries and footnotes. (grin) Of course when I took this level of course at Northwestern back in the late 70s, we used Lorrain & Corson, I believe, and at Michigan Tech in the mid-80s, they used Ruth, Milford & Christy. Everyone, it seems, uses Jackson at the graduate level -- one of the great textbooks of all times, despite the ridiculously hard problems and the sometimes obscure and dense writing.

The problems, as you can imagine in this Internet world, of having "industry standard" textbooks used by many, many institutions, is that problems, solutions, hints and even the publisher's solution manuals for Griffiths and Jackson have leaked onto the web. Now you or I know that just copying over someone else's answers to a problem is wrought with dangers -- if you don't know what you're doing then you rarely write things / copy them over exactly as they were sitting before you and/or you miss crucial steps which, if called upon, you will be totally unable to explain. Plus you're not helping your studying for exams. And you're cheating. And it's unfair to those who've slogged through a solution to be competing with cheaters. Etc., etc., etc.

The Single Source Problem

But it's kind of worse than that. Recently we were talking about the bar electret, an interesting sort of polarized material with a permanent charge of ±q on the ends -- essentially the electric equivalent of a bar magnet. Barium titanate, BaTiO3, was listed as one such material. I thought I'd look up on this to find out what sort of uses one has for a bar electret.¹ But if you try to look up "bar electret" in Wikipedia, one of the articles you'll get is about the Electric Displacement vector, D, where you find that the citation is Griffiths, Intro to Electrodynamics, 3rd edition. (grin)

Then a student came to me today and said that they had to show me this web page, because it'd left them uncomfortable. To work a problem sketching the electric field of a bar electret, they'd gone searching on the web -- and found someone's online lecture notes. Except that instead of talking about bar electrets, they just gave the solution to that particular problem in Griffiths.

If I wasn't already aware of the problem, I'd be upset. As it is, I just sigh. And regret that, at least in terms of high rankings in Google searches, no one else besides Griffiths is talking about bar electrets. Eventually you can get into a circular argument sort of situation, if you aren't careful, in which any confirmation you try to find on a subject ends up being cited back to the original source. And that's not good.

This is why we have to have more than one textbook. This is why we need faculty to write more textbooks, even though there are ones which "everyone uses". Because you shouldn't have just a single source on intellectual information. You need to have other references. You need to see how other people work the same material and types of problems differently. You need to have more than one source for preparing lecture materials.

Even if few people end up using these others texts in their courses, because after all, Griffiths at the advanced undergraduate level and Jackson at the grad level are the industry standard textbooks, and "everyone" is using them.

Dr. Phil

¹ The best use I can come up with, and I don't even know if it'd work, since I don't know anything about the strength of this charges, would be to electrically ruffle the fur of my cat without touching them. (grin)

This Weekend!

Thursday, 20 January 2011 22:24
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
A Reminder About ConFusion

As noted before, I'll be at ConFusion this weekend -- Friday-Sunday 21-23 January 2011 at the Troy Marriott in Troy MI.
Saturday 22 January 2011
11:00 AM
Dennison I/II
Scale and Space: Seeing Neil Armstrong's Footprints
What can we see from space? Popular TV shows suggest we can infinitely enlarge any image without any loss, but the real world is both much more complicated and much more interesting. We know Neil Armstrong's footprints are still on the Moon - but can we see them? And from how far away? And what else can we see? The Internet is full of fascinating images. (Dr. Philip Kaldon)

12 Noon
Salon G
Education, Science Fiction and Fantasy
Can SF and Fantasy be effective tools in the classroom? If so, how and what are some books that would be good to teach specific concepts? (Lisa Garrison Ragsdale (M), Dr. Philip Kaldon, Stephen Leigh, Steven Harper Piziks, Paul Melko.)

2:30 PM
Boardroom
Author Reading
Dr. Philip Kaldon reads a police procedural with civilized zombies. (Think "Alien Nation with flesheaters")

3:00 PM
Salon H
Science and Society.
Our (almost) all PhD panel discusses the impact of science on society, society on science, past, present, and future. (Doselle Young (M), Dr. Philip Kaldon, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Don Kleinsek, Dr. Christine Purcell.)

5:00 PM
Salon E
MASS AUTHOR AUTOGRAPH SESSION
ConFusion's authors will be lined up to sign your books. Authors planning to be here include: Paolo Bacigalupi, Peter V. Brett, Cherie Priest, Mike Resnick, John Scalzi, Sarah Zettel (aka C.L. Anderson), Anne Harris (aka Pearl North and Jessica Freely), Lois Gresh, Stephen Leigh (aka S.L. Farrell), Steven Harper Piziks, Tobias Buckell, Paul Melko, Jim C. Hines, Merrie Fuller, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Suzanne Church, Steve Buchheit, Christian Klaver, William Jones, Dr. Christine Purcell, Stewart Sternberg, Charles Zaglanis, Ferrett Steinmetz (aka "The Ferrett"), Doselle Young, Catherine Shaffer, and Jim Frenkel (Tor Editor).

9:00 PM
Dennison I/II
Political Correctness
Are we politically correct, should we be politically correct, and can we have fun having a non- politically correct discussion about it? Where is the line? When do we as writers 'cross the line'? What happens when we do cross it? (Paolo Bacigalupi (M), Jim Hines, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Steve Buchheit.)


Sunday 23 January 2011
10:00 AM
Dennison I/II
Popular science books
We will engage in an interactive discussion of popular science books such as Freakanomics and others. (Richard Herrell, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Dr. Arie Bodek)

11:00 AM
Salon E
Brown is the New Black
What are the reasons for the blooming popularity of Steampunk as an aesthetic life style choice? (Cherie Priest (M), Suzanne Church, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Cindy Spencer Pape.)

My big PowerPoint presentation at 11am on Saturday is pretty much ready to roll -- the file has lots of pictures and ended up about 100MB in size. It will be entertaining AND science-y. (grin)

Maybe I'll see you there?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
It's Alive!

The ConFusion 2011 Panels & Events Schedule, that is. No changes from what I posted the other day for my part, so I'll just repost:

ConFusion 2011 -- 21-23 January 2011, Troy Marriott, Troy MI

As I said last month, I'll definitely be at ConFusion again this year. ConFusion was not only the first SF con I went to, but it is also one of the best run regional cons. The ConFusion 2011 Guest of Honor lineup runs as:

* Pro: Paolo Bacigalupi
* Pro: Cherie Priest
* Science: Aubrey de Grey
* Fan: Lisa Garrison-Ragsdale
* Special: Peter V. Brett
* Featured: Tom Smith

Dr. Phil in the Land of ConFusion:

Very proud of my first presentation -- an expansion of a professional talk I've given to the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the national AAPT meetings. Plus I'll be reading another new short story.
Saturday 22 January 2011
11:00 AM
Dennison I/II
Scale and Space: Seeing Neil Armstrong's Footprints
What can we see from space? Popular TV shows suggest we can infinitely enlarge any image without any loss, but the real world is both much more complicated and much more interesting. We know Neil Armstrong's footprints are still on the Moon - but can we see them? And from how far away? And what else can we see? The Internet is full of fascinating images. (Dr. Philip Kaldon)

12 Noon
Salon G
Education, Science Fiction and Fantasy
Can SF and Fantasy be effective tools in the classroom? If so, how and what are some books that would be good to teach specific concepts? (Lisa Garrison Ragsdale (M), Dr. Philip Kaldon, Stephen Leigh, Steven Harper Piziks, Paul Melko.)

2:30 PM
Boardroom
Author Reading
Dr. Philip Kaldon reads a police procedural with civilized zombies. (Think "Alien Nation with flesheaters")

3:00 PM
Salon H
Science and Society.
Our (almost) all PhD panel discusses the impact of science on society, society on science, past, present, and future. (Doselle Young (M), Dr. Philip Kaldon, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Don Kleinsek, Dr. Christine Purcell.)

5:00 PM
Salon E
MASS AUTHOR AUTOGRAPH SESSION
ConFusion's authors will be lined up to sign your books. Authors planning to be here include: Paolo Bacigalupi, Peter V. Brett, Cherie Priest, Mike Resnick, John Scalzi, Sarah Zettel (aka C.L. Anderson), Anne Harris (aka Pearl North and Jessica Freely), Lois Gresh, Stephen Leigh (aka S.L. Farrell), Steven Harper Piziks, Tobias Buckell, Paul Melko, Jim C. Hines, Merrie Fuller, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Suzanne Church, Steve Buchheit, Christian Klaver, William Jones, Dr. Christine Purcell, Stewart Sternberg, Charles Zaglanis, Ferrett Steinmetz (aka "The Ferrett"), Doselle Young, Catherine Shaffer, and Jim Frenkel (Tor Editor).

9:00 PM
Dennison I/II
Political Correctness
Are we politically correct, should we be politically correct, and can we have fun having a non- politically correct discussion about it? Where is the line? When do we as writers 'cross the line'? What happens when we do cross it? (Paolo Bacigalupi (M), Jim Hines, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Steve Buchheit.)


Sunday 23 January 2011
10:00 AM
Dennison I/II
Popular science books
We will engage in an interactive discussion of popular science books such as Freakanomics and others. (Richard Herrell, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Dr. Arie Bodek)

11:00 AM
Salon E
Brown is the New Black
What are the reasons for the blooming popularity of Steampunk as an aesthetic life style choice? (Cherie Priest (M), Suzanne Church, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Cindy Spencer Pape.)

The current long range forecast is actually quiet for Friday and Saturday, at least in West Michigan. While that might not last, it is hopeful. Maybe I'll give a quiz at my 1pm class on Friday and let them go early so I can get on the road. (grin) It's not really cheating -- twice weekly quizzes are due/handed out on Tuesdays and Fridays. They're usually take-home quizzes, but don't have to be. (double-jeopardy-grin)

Dr. Phil

ConFusion Coming!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011 14:21
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-confusion-2009)
ConFusion 2011 -- 21-23 January 2011, Troy Marriott, Troy MI

As I said last month, I'll definitely be at ConFusion (link fixed) again this year. ConFusion was not only the first SF con I went to, but it is also one of the best run regional cons. The ConFusion 2011 Guest of Honor lineup runs as:

* Pro: Paolo Bacigalupi
* Pro: Cherie Priest
* Science: Aubrey de Grey
* Fan: Lisa Garrison-Ragsdale
* Special: Peter V. Brett
* Featured: Tom Smith

Subject To Change...

We've gotten schedules for our panels and such, but they haven't posted it on the website. I'm of course champing at the bit to publicize the panels I'm on, perhaps enticing you to come to Troy in January ten days from now, but they're not up yet.

So I'm going to jump the gun here and give you my "preliminary schedule". Very proud of my first presentation -- an expansion of a professional talk I've given to the Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the national AAPT meetings. Plus I'll be reading another new short story.
Saturday 22 January 2011
11:00 AM
Dennison I/II
Scale and Space: Seeing Neil Armstrong's Footprints
What can we see from space? Popular TV shows suggest we can infinitely enlarge any image without any loss, but the real world is both much more complicated and much more interesting. We know Neil Armstrong's footprints are still on the Moon - but can we see them? And from how far away? And what else can we see? The Internet is full of fascinating images. (Dr. Philip Kaldon)

12 Noon
Salon G
Education, Science Fiction and Fantasy
Can SF and Fantasy be effective tools in the classroom? If so, how and what are some books that would be good to teach specific concepts? (Lisa Garrison Ragsdale (M), Dr. Philip Kaldon, Stephen Leigh, Steven Harper Piziks, Paul Melko.)

2:30 PM
Boardroom
Author Reading
Dr. Philip Kaldon reads a police procedural with civilized zombies. (Think "Alien Nation with flesheaters")

3:00 PM
Salon H
Science and Society.
Our (almost) all PhD panel discusses the impact of science on society, society on science, past, present, and future. (Doselle Young (M), Dr. Philip Kaldon, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Don Kleinsek, Dr. Christine Purcell.)

5:00 PM
Salon E
MASS AUTHOR AUTOGRAPH SESSION
ConFusion's authors will be lined up to sign your books. Authors planning to be here include: Paolo Bacigalupi, Peter V. Brett, Cherie Priest, Mike Resnick, John Scalzi, Sarah Zettel (aka C.L. Anderson), Anne Harris (aka Pearl North and Jessica Freely), Lois Gresh, Stephen Leigh (aka S.L. Farrell), Steven Harper Piziks, Tobias Buckell, Paul Melko, Jim C. Hines, Merrie Fuller, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Suzanne Church, Steve Buchheit, Christian Klaver, William Jones, Dr. Christine Purcell, Stewart Sternberg, Charles Zaglanis, Ferrett Steinmetz (aka "The Ferrett"), Doselle Young, Catherine Shaffer, and Jim Frenkel (Tor Editor).

9:00 PM
Dennison I/II
Political Correctness
Are we politically correct, should we be politically correct, and can we have fun having a non- politically correct discussion about it? Where is the line? When do we as writers 'cross the line'? What happens when we do cross it? (Paolo Bacigalupi (M), Jim Hines, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Steve Buchheit.)


Sunday 23 January 2011
10:00 AM
Dennison I/II
Popular science books
We will engage in an interactive discussion of popular science books such as Freakanomics and others. (Richard Herrell, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Dr. Arie Bodek)

11:00 AM
Salon E
Brown is the New Black
What are the reasons for the blooming popularity of Steampunk as an aesthetic life style choice? (Cherie Priest (M), Suzanne Church, Dr. Philip Kaldon, Cindy Spencer Pape.)

How can you miss this? (grin) If the weather turns bad, my plan is to cancel my Friday classes and leave either Thursday afternoon or early Friday. So I expect to be there! Will you?

Dr. Phil

The End

Tuesday, 21 December 2010 23:03
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
Monday

Drove into the office on Monday of Grading Week. Though the university will close between Christmas and New Year's and they are threatening very cold temps in the buildings with the new thermostat controls in place, it was surprisingly warm in my office. Yay. I've had years when I was waiting for the grader and it was too cold to think, write or type.

Actually, before I got to the office I stopped at the WMU Parking Office to get a new parking sticker. Yeah, as a part-timer I have to get one of these every semester. Except... the clerk was having trouble getting the right menu item and so snagged a passing uniformed Public Safety officer. Turns out as part of the new part-time instructors union, I get to have a regular parking hang tag. Yay! Actually, it's a GH grad student tag -- the contract was accepted too late for Public Safety to make part-timer hang tags for 2010-2011. But this will be really handy, especially on days when I have to drive a different vehicle.

Meanwhile, my erstwhile grader managed to get the final exams and quizzes 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 into my mailbox. Triple-Yay! Nothing like having the papers back and not gnawing the insides of my cheeks waiting for the grader to show, and also inputting the scores and not having to drag papers home. And have them cluttering the house until January.

Monday Night

I had one old pesky quiz to grade, then curve the final, massage the grades. And found myself ready to input the final grades at 11pm. Usually on a school night we'd be tucking in the kitties downstairs, but with vacations looming, I started right in. Later in the night I posted the grade breakdowns on the class webpage. By the time I went to bed I was totally done for my Fall 2010 class. And it wasn't even 11:58am on Tuesday!!! (grin)

Tuesday

Play! I'm off now. Mrs. Dr. Phil is on vacation this week. So we headed off to Celebration Cinema North to see Tron Legacy in IMAX 3D and Harry Potter 7.1. Reviews coming, but it was a fun afternoon.

Now... writing to do.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Grading Continues

My exam grader has informed me via email that the Finals and the last quizzes are now graded -- I'll get them Monday. Yay! That's one nagging worry I can forget about for a while. Sometimes I don't hear from graders for a lo-ong time and it makes me very, very nervous. The hard deadline is Noon on Tuesday -- that's when they shut down the online grading system to start processing Fall semester grading.

And On To Spring 2011 Semester News

Back during the summer, my boss told me he didn't have any classes for me for the fall, but I'd have two sections of the first semester Physics for scientists and engineers, PHYS-2050, for Spring. That was going to be my Sabbatical 1.22. But in fact I did end up with a Fall PHYS-2050 section, so four months of writing didn't happen. (grin)

For the regular semester it's best, given the economics of my long commute, to teach two classes. I agreed to one for the Fall because (a) it kept some money coming in, (b) it gave me a class to teach (!) and a reason to come down to the office (!!) and (c) I was expecting to teach two courses in the Spring. Alas, when contract letters came for Spring, there was only one section. At least it was the 1pm and not the 9am, as I currently have. While a nine o'clock is much better than an unholy eight o'clock, especially in the wintertime, it still has me leaving the house just about the time that Mrs. Dr. Phil is getting up -- and we do like to see each other on a regular basis.

Tuesday my boss said some things were changing and was I up for adding back the 9am section as well. I said sure, though it would be nicer to get a 10 or 11am class. I figured it wouldn't hurt to mention that. Well, there's that adage about the squeaky wheel...

An Upper Division Class

So then it was mentioned that if I was interested I could take the 10am PHYS-4400 Electromagnetism class. Oh well now there's an interesting thought.

Pretty much since I began teaching, I've been doing the introductory Physics courses, including the "third semester of the first year" Modern Physics course, at both Hope College and WMU. Twice I've taught upper division classes -- half of a math physics course at GVSU and a special Solid State Physics course for two zoomer seniors at Hope, using Kittel as a textbook. That last was in 1997. So (a) it's been a while since I taught an upper division class, (b) yes I was interested and (c) it isn't the graduate level course out of Jackson. (evil grin) That last point would be lost on most of you, but suffice to say that while I could probably teach the lectures for a Jackson-based class, there is no way I could do the exams, homework or grading. It's been too long, the materials are really tough and it's too short a notice.

But on Friday, I got an email from my boss wondering if I'd be in the office on Friday or Monday, as he had a revised contract letter for me, and I said I'm here now. And a few minutes later he came upstairs and dropped off the letter.

So... I DO get to teach two courses in the Spring and I DO get to teach a fun new course. (As opposed to teaching PHYS-2050 for the 21st time.) Ten registered so far, a typical load, about 1/3 of the names I recognize from first year courses without even doing a search of previous classlists -- all juniors and seniors. Already arranged to get a desk copy of the textbook shipped to the P.O. Box, rather than languishing in the university's mail room over break. (crafty grin)

All in all, a very pleasant way to end Fall semester's finals week. Now, back to grading papers...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
That Smell? It's Finals Fear

It's Finals Week here at Western Michigan University. Finals are two hours long and close packed together with a whole fifteen minutes between sessions. The very first time slot was Monday 8-10am. And guess what? That was the scheduled time for my PHYS-2050 MTWRF 9am class.

Now this is good news, because statistically students do better when the Final falls in their normal class time, which this does. Bad news, because who the hell wants to have a Final at 8am in the bloody morning? For me, I had decided long ago that it would be easier if I would just drive down to K-zoo on Sunday afternoon and stay overnight in a motel, rather than trying to get up at 4am and then driving down in the dark. This plan looked to be real genius as the big Midwest winter storm rolled through.

Not The Walloping That Minneapolis or Syracuse Got

But during the weekend it rained. Sunday morning the roads were wet and the temp still just above freezing. By 2pm, the temps were 25°F and dropping, and it was starting to snow lightly -- and the winds were picking up. Overnight a couple of inches was forecast, along with gusting over 40mph and zero-ish wind chills. Temps were going to be in the teens, below the effective temperature for the road salt chemicals. Peachy. When I left, the roads were already shiny -- you could get up to speed, but stopping was clearly an adventure, as were poorly advised high speed turns onto the highway from the side streets that I kept seeing. The anti-lock brakes chattered every time I had to slow for a stop light. Gear it down, 4WD, no driving like an idiot -- and it worked pretty well.

The communities right along the lakeshore have been repeatedly clobbered by lake effect snows. But some ten miles inland in Allendale, mostly all we've gotten is to see this wall of snow clouds off to the west.

Made It, Now What?

Eventually made it to Kalamazoo, mostly 10-15 mph below the posted speed limits -- only saw one accident on the side of the road. Before I'd left home I'd printed out the Kalamazoo 10 movie schedule, as that multiplex is just across the road from the Super 8 I was going to stay at. I'd hoped that maybe RED was still playing, as Mrs. Dr. Phil had seen it with her mom a while ago and I hadn't. But no. However, I checked into my room at 4:15pm and had plenty of time to make a 4:45pm showing of Tangled, the new Disney Rapunzel movie -- very cute. Came out of the theatre and had to brush off about two inches of very, very fine diamond dust snow off one side of the vehicle.

I'd gone ahead and made a reservation -- it was $49.44 at the Super 8 Motel site with AAA... and $50 at Motels.com -- but there may have been only one other guest staying there, based on the cars parked. (grin) Super 8 isn't a posh chain, but it's adequate. The Panasonic TV had a Zenith remote, probably with the wrong code number, as the volume controls worked but not the change channel. The room had one of those window A.C. units with a space heater in it -- the TV needed the volume up to 13 when the fan was on, 4-6 when it was off. Luckily, I did have the remote volume control. (double-jeopardy-grin) Watched some football, saw the finale of The Amazing Race and a new Series III Inspector Lewis on PBS.

There were a couple of tables and chairs in the lobby for the advertised continental breakfast. If you liked dehydrated blueberries, you had your choice of blueberry bagels or blueberry muffins. They had one of those close-and-flip circular waffle makers, but no batter and no one around. The cereal choices looked to be no-name Fruity-Ohs and nondescript corn flakages. I had a bagel with Philadelphia cream cheese. The guy in the white pickup I thought was the other guest pulled up to the door, came in and piled four muffins in a foam cereal bowl, and left. It was something. If I was desperate for a "real" breakfast, I could've driven five buildings down to the 24-hour Steak-n-Shake, which would've done fine real pancakes, but I passed. Besides, I bring cookies to my exams -- and name brand cookies for Finals.

A Clear Windy Dawn

I was prepared to dig the Blazer out in the morning, but not a lot of snow actually fell overnight. And the winds pretty much kept the windows clear. I thought the window washer jets were frozen, but later found that I was just out of blue fluid. Overhead was sparkling clear. Despite the bitter cold, the actual main streets were clear and wet. Side streets were slippery. I'd worried about what time they'd open the buildings up. But I got in around 7:20am and found both the classroom and the offices buildings unlocked, so didn't have to play ID card roulette and find out if my ID card was or was not currently programmed to open the doors after hours. (As a part-timer, they are always deleting us after one semester, but sometimes after they've added us for the new semester.)

And my finals were copied and left in the lock-up as expected. And amazingly, 52 students were there at 8am, out of 56 who'd taken Exam 3. 1 showed up at 8:10, and I knew 1 student was stuck in the U.P. with a breakdown and no mechanics open on the weekend. Of course I told everyone the storm was coming and that they shouldn't go out of town for the weekend, but they never listen to Dr. Phil. That errant student is taking his final as I type -- he's got about 17 minutes to go.

By the time I was heading back to Allendale at 2:30pm, it was blue skies, bright sunshine and dry main roads. Still a ground hugging vision of snow clouds off at the Lake Michigan shore, but we weren't getting the snow on Monday.

Now it's all over except for the grading. (triple-word-score-grin)

Dr. Phil

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