dr_phil_physics: (echo-dollhouse)
So we were watching the rerun of the pilot of the new Minority Report series on FOX.

Apparently TV cops in the future are as bad about following proper police procedures as contemporary TV cops. Go figure. But, there were some very cool visuals, much like last year's short-lived series Almost Human, but better.

I've always liked the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. I really can't remember if I've read the Philip K. Dick originating story. But the slick production had quite a vision of the future. Some of the big pieces, like the vertical highways, were a bit much. The intrusive advertising, though, was frightfully wonderful. And the end was sweet.

The series also has some impressive visuals. The disconnecting and reconnecting trains -- cool -- but there's some logistic problems with it. Probably not too surprising, since Steven Spielberg has his hands in both movie and series.

I like the concept, don't know if they can keep it up.

But... what was really intriguing was the commercials. We figure that advertisers liked the expected geek demographics of which might be expected to watch Minority Report. There was a long semi-animated Honda ad, vaguely reminiscent of Ah-Ha's Take On Me video.

And... we saw the first ever for us TV commercial for the Amazon Echo. When we bought into Echo earlier this year (DW) (LJ), it was still in Beta and by invitation request only. They've since opened it up a little. I guess that if they're advertising on TV, Echo is going bigtime.

There's an interesting rebranding going on with Echo as well. The Amazon Echo software on the Kindle Fires recently updated and it is now called Amazon Alexa. Personally, I think this is a mistake, because Alexa is one of the two available default command words. You talk about Alexa and Echo perks up and tries to parse the request. They are now advertising Alexa technology in the new Amazon Fire TV systems.

What was intriguing, because I turned my head to look at Echo, is that the blue light failed to come on every time the commercial used the word Alexa or gave Echo demonstration commands. I tried one of the questions they used in the ad and got an answer -- worded slightly different and longer than the one on TV.

I'd be curious to know whether there is anything active in the Echo ad. Whether in the coding of the word Alexa in the audio or if Amazon's servers knew exactly when the ad would be aired. If we had a working VCR or owned a DVR, I suppose we could test this.

Echo isn't quite living in the Minority Report future, but we'll take it for now. (grin)

Speaking of TV cops... there are times I wonder why we bother watching the new Hawaii Five-O. It has jumped the shark so many times that they practically have to keep a precision synchronized shark jumping team on the payroll. Well, I do know why we watch. Because like a few of the other shows we watch, NCIS I'm looking at you, we like the ensemble cast.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal


Monday, 23 February 2015 23:02
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
So I guess there's a new cop show coming on TV called Battle Creek. No surprise that WWMT-TV -- which is a CBS affiliate, and is based in Kalamazoo, covering West Michigan including Battle Creek MI -- is all over flogging this new show. They're sponsoring a premiere at a movie theatre in the next week and the show itself airs starting Sunday March 1st. I guess the producers of Battle Creek also did some TV show called Breaking Bad, which a few of you might have seen.

Tonight on the 11pm News they were showing interviews they did with with the cast out in the field, literally, as in the set was in a cornfield outdoors. Now, it's February and here in West Michigan there's snow, temps are down near zero and falling, with windchills going down to -25°F. The corn here, including the field corn, is long harvested. So either they filmed this back in the fall and have been sitting on the footage until now or, horror of horrors, maybe they aren't filming Battle Creek in Battle Creek.

Asked and answered -- the corn field is on a back lot in L.A. What a surprise. They have to be careful not to show buildings, palm trees or the myriad planes flying in and out of LAX. But they have a nice looking John Deere green tractor. I understand they came by Battle Creek with the cast and all back in the summer to look around and hang out with the Battle Creek police.

Oh gosh, is that the Allstate Mayhem guy? It is. Dean Winters. Never knew his name, but we recognized him because the interview on the set had him all beat up -- just like the Mayhem guy. We loved the Mayhem commercials.

And Kal Penn is in the series. He's been on House, the Harold & Kumar movies which we haven't seen -- and he took time out from Hollywood and served in the Obama Administration as Associate Director of Public Engagement. (At first we were trying to remember if Penn had a Michigan connection, thinking maybe he'd been in the locally done 2011 movie 30 Minutes or Less, but that was Aziz Ansari. No, not going there with the "they all look the same" crack -- we're just bad with names.)

Maybe, we'll have to tune in.

Even though Battle Creek isn't actually filmed in Battle Creek.

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (women-of-curling)
It's Friday night. And I just discovered Curling Night in America -- 11pm to 1am -- NBCSN / NBCSports Network / Versus / OLN / Outdoor Life Network. The inaugural US Grand Prix of Curling. USA men versus New Zealand. ***

Guess the program began two weeks ago on Friday 23 January 2015. Who knew?

That is all.

Dr. Phil

*** Really Google Chrome? New Zealand isn't in your spellcheck?

Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (potus)
The West Wing just showed up on Netflix streaming.


Of course, between everybody being at home on Christmas and everyone using Netflix, no doubt, we've run into buffering issues halfway through Series 1 Episode 1: Pilot.

... and we're back on. 'Bye!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (hal-9000)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology Creep

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

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

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

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag-1776)
Weather Here

Temps still peaking in the mid-90s. We had a chance of thunderstorms and rain in the last 24 hours, but it didn't work here in Allendale. There was lightning when I went to bed at 4am -- no rain. And a big peal of thunder at 9am -- no rain. But it's "abnormally dry" right now. One stage below a drought, I gather.

Weather There

Hard to believe what's been going elsewhere in the U.S. Named storm Debby drenched Florida. But massive fires in Colorado, Utah and elsewhere. I've never had so many online friends having to pack up and evacuate or have their gear ready to go. Fire is a terrifying event and even when it's not right up on you, the smoke can be overpowering.

Then there was the derecho. Last week we were supposed to get hit by a line of thunderstorms, but they tracked south of us and only the counties by the Indiana border looked to be getting any of it. Then came the reports that an intense straight line wind storm called a derecho blasted 700 miles from Indiana to the East Coast. I've run into derechos a couple of times. Once in Medina NY as a little boy, trying to walk home into a 60mph wind. Here in West Michigan, we've gotten 60-70mph continuous winds a number of times. It's why the new roof we put on the other year has hurricane rated shingles.

So the storm hits June 29th and millions of people are without power. Most of Ohio is out of power. And they're sweltering in high heat and humidity. And... I've a number of friends who are looking at power restoration dates of the sixth or seventh. Over a week. Strange how hard it is to get knocked out of the 21st century at home -- it's why we have a 12kW automatic backup generator -- and yet I'm hearing about this because there are pockets of power and Internet.

Excitements On TV

It's the beginning of July and that means it's the Tour of France. The rerun of Stage 3's finish in on right now.

And as Le Tour de France was beginning, last weekend NBC was showing the last part of the a series of races connected with next year's America's Cup. At first I was disappointed with the new AC class boats, as they're doing catamarans again. But gosh, the technology of showing yacht racing has gotten even better than before, between the projected lines where you can actually see who is really ahead to the cameras on the boats themselves.

I'm in no physical shape to do bike racing, yacht racing or Olympic events, but I surely enjoy seeing those who can.

The Avengers 2D [PG-13]
Celebration North Theatre #15, 3:00pm

Of course I saw The Avengers in 3D (DW) back on 11 May, but Mrs. Dr. Phil was off in Nicaragua at the time.

Very enjoyable the second time around. Works well in both 2D and 3D. Cast is terrific, Joss Whedon actually wrote dialogue. This is, so far, the class act in summer adventure movies. Do stay to the very end of the credits in order to see both Dr. Phil Specials. (grin)

Highly Recommended

TRAILERS: Mostly things we've seen before. New trailers for the new Spiderman and Batman movies. I will say that this may be the first time I've seen the Frankenwienie trailer in 2D and not 3D. Though the 3D work is quite good, should you be inclined to see that movie, you might want to do it in 2D, because the artwork is dark and much more visible in 2D. Just saying. And for years it's been something of a joke about movies based on video games sucking. Well, Wreck-It Ralph about a bad guy in an old video game who is tired of being the bad guy, may finally be able to make a great video game movie actually about a video game. Think Monsters, Inc. but for the 8-bit crowd. (grin)

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

I did post good wishes on Facebook yesterday, but I was pretty busy yesterday and didn't do a blog post. So Happy! to all of you who are of the maple leaf persuasion.

Meanwhile, as we gear up to our own Fourth of July, gasoline prices dropped from $3.53.9/gal to briefly $3.29.9. Now on Monday it's surged back up to $3.55.9/gal for regular. And the beat goes on...


We were quite surprised to see that Endeavour on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery was, in fact, an Inspector`Morse prequel. The Morse series was so fine, and the sequel Inspector Lewis has been wonderful. Could they catch the magic a third time with a young Detective Constable Morse back in the 60s? Oh yes, they did. Don't know if this was a one-off film or a pilot, but they captured so many future echoes, even down to the variation on the classic Inspector`Morse theme music, culminating in the full theme as the credits began to roll.

This is now you do episodic television. This is how you twist plots. This is how you wound your main character.

Utterly brilliant. And next week we get more Lewis and Hathaway.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (irene-adler-sherlock)
Holmes At Large

Ah, Sherlock Holmes. While in grad school, I had a one-volume complete set of all of the real Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read them all during lunch one summer. Basil Rathbone. Jeremy Brett. Robert Downey, Jr. (DW)

I love them all.

Sherlock 2.2

It's the first Sunday in May 2012 and that means that PBS' Masterpiece Mystery starts showing the second season of the marvelous Sherlock with "A Scandal in Belgravia". One of the things I love about the BBC 21st century reboot of Holmes is how they don't feel obligated to do exactly the same thing, but to re-imagine it as needed. Watson blogs. Cars and planes figure in prominently. Holmes is glued to his cellphone.

But of course some things stay the same. If you have Holmes and Watson and the older smarter brother Mycroft, why then you have to have Irene Adler. The Woman. Is this the love of his life? Or just his favorite challenge? Who knows?

This Irene Adler is, presumably among other talents, a dominatrix. Knowing that Holmes is coming to see her, she takes care to prepare herself -- and shows up naked. We can see that Holmes is stumped -- the hypertext clue system turns up just "????". He can immediately get a number of clues off of Watson, but nothing from Adler.

Watching Irene and Sherlock sparring is totally brilliant.

This may be my favorite episode to date. There are so many mysteries, large and small, which at first blush have no connection to each other, but are so expertly woven together that it almost hurts. And the very last bit in Pakistan... ah-hhh.

My mother commented that this Holmes is gorgeous, whereas Holmes is usually not. Perhaps, but it is of no interest to Holmes and he wears it to no advantage.

Mrs. Dr. Phil was annoyed to find that she would be in Nicaragua when Sherlock restarted. I did tape it. You're welcome.

They cannot do enough episodes of this show. But we'll take what few they offer. And Benedict Cumberbatch? He's Smaug in The Hobbit and Khan in the next Star Trek reboot movie, just to mention two upcoming roles. And on NPR, he revealed nothing about the latter.

Elementarially brilliant. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (galadrial-lotr)
Time To Return To Middle Earth

Not a hard decision, since there was little on TV tonight, but we decided to put on The Two Towers [Extended Edition] in order to prepare for Friday night's Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with the Grand Rapids Symphony (DW).

Nothing Is Ever Simple Anymore

A good plan, but thwarted by the installation of our new TV two weeks ago (DW). We'd moved all the cables, but hadn't had a chance to check out the DVD player. Of course, its a pre-HDTV analog player, so what would the image look like?

Good news is the image is acceptable. The TV has decided to give us only one video mode, so its full-width but I think the aspect ratio is a bit too wide. I hate off aspect ratios. But the image is large and sharp.

Except... no sound.

Great. Mrs. Dr. Phil rechecked the cables into the TV. I dug out the manual. Then I turned on the stereo -- we rigged an audio line from the DVD player long ago, especially as the DVD player also does audio CDs. No sound either.

Here's the problem -- is this one issue or two? The amplifier in the stereo is from 1981 and it intermittently has issues. Wouldn't play sound from the VCR, though the VCR is working with the TV. But that shouldn't affect the DVD-TV connection. Mrs. Dr. Phil reached back and felt all the connections -- all there. We put in an audio CD into the old CD player and the tray kept popping out again and wouldn't even try to read a disk.

Arrrrgh! Entropy! Damn thee to hell! A third component not working.

Eventually we tried an audio CD in the DVD player -- and suddenly it worked. I don't know if we did anything or the TV finally recognized the audio line. Everything is computerized these days, so nothing is as simple as plugging it in or turning a switch. Somewhere I have a SF story where this starship is out of control because there are no manual controls anymore. We're reaching that point today and I fear it's a lesson we'll learn over and over again.(evil grin)

We're up to meeting of the hobbits Merry and Pippin with Treebeard now. It only took us an hour to get the movie started. Thankfully, though, it hasn't cost us any money today.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (football-kliban-cat)

So the Super Bowl is on. Patriots leading 10-9 at the half. I suppose Madonna is just about finishing her halftime show. But at 8 o'clock we switched over to PBS to watch a locally produced GVSU documentary Up From The Bottoms: The Search For The American Dream on the black migration from the South to Muskegon MI, here in West Michigan. GVSU's Community Read book for 2012 is The Warmth of Other Suns, which sounds like an SF novel, but is also about the black migration from the South.

But we're not watching this on channel 12. We've got it on DT35.1. Back in the beginning of January, we bought a "giant" 7" HDTV (DW) for the kitchen. Who knew that before the month was out we'd be buying another TV.

Mrs. Dr. Phil and I got our first color TV in 1985 or '86, when the cable expanded in Laurium and they announced we were going to get WGN-Chicago. In those days that meant every Cubs game -- and all the Wrigley Field games were in daylight. So we trucked off to American in Marquette, a hundred miles each way, just as everyone did in that part of the U.P. I'd always said that if I was going to buy a color TV I'd spring for the Sony Trinitron. Which we did. But not having much money, we bought the 13" TV. I think our B&W TVs were 12" and 14" at the time. We also bought a decent but cheap Sanyo VHS VCR so we could timeshift the Cubs games.

Nine Years Ago...

... just about exactly, on 11 January 2003, we had to go to Circuit City in Holland and get a new TV. The 13" still worked, when connected to the VCR, but its tuner was shot, which meant there were cable channels we couldn't get. We looked at the 14" Sony flat face WEGA Trinitron, but Mrs. Dr. Phil pointed out that our eyes weren't getting any younger, so we brought home the 20". 54 pounds and with off-center handles on the carton so it balanced beautifully for carrying.

When HDTV rolled out nationwide, we didn't have to convert because our cable continued to offer analog signals. But over the years they borrowed a couple of analog channels for digital channels. And the networks kept reducing the size of text so it wouldn't scream like a billboard on a 54" TV. Sigh. And we still weren't getting any younger.

Let's Not Burn The House Down

When we came back from North Carolina in December, we noticed that the 20" was having problems with colors from time to time, then would clear up. But last weekend it started behaving badly -- the picture would go out for a few seconds then there'd be a buzz and a click and it'd be back. So last Sunday I drove off to Best Buy after doing some research.

I wanted another Sony, so it'd work seamlessly with the pair of Sony remotes we already have, without finding the codes for another brand. A year ago we could've gotten a 22" Sony, but they've stopped selling "small" TVs. Smallest Sony we could get was a 32" 720p LCD Sony Bravia. They had one in the box in stock, as everyone else was there to buy their Super Bowl pary showpiece. Always hard to judge sizes in a TV department, but walking next to a wall of 44" and 54" HDTVs all showing the same panning golf shot is something of a vertigo inducing experience.

True to the comments I found online, it took longer to disconnect the 20" Sony and move its 54 pound bulk, than to set up the 28 lb. 32" Sony. Given that the speakers on the 20" were on the sides, the 32" isn't that much wider. And in analog mode, the picture wasn't that much bigger than the 20", though it was sharper.

But this weekend I began picking out the HDTV channels, so we get the full 32" in 720p for the local channels. Including PBS -- and that Super Bowl.

Ah, New England leading 17-15 at the end of the 3rd quarter.


Tuesday, 31 January 2012 21:16
dr_phil_physics: (darth-winslet)
Just No

Dear J.C. Penney (or as you seem to want to call yourself now, jcp),

What the hell is up with this new TV ad campaign? You know, the ones with the people wailing and screaming and crying AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS WITH SUSTAINED HORRIFIC SOUNDS WHICH GO ON AND ON AND ON...

Good lord, we have to Mute the TV every damned time this is on. You think this is going to engender sympathy and/or interest in whatever your new venture is that launches tomorrow?


It makes me desire for your new venture to fall flat on its face and be consumed by the hellish heat from a thousand burning suns going supernova simultaneously.

For a start.

So please, fire that ad agency. Maybe they will never work in television again.

Thank you.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Kitchen Convenience

When we moved to the U.P. in January 1984, we hooked up our old B&W TV to cable. Turns out Calumet-Laurium had a very early CATV (Community Antenna Television) system -- in 1984 we got 12 channels. The next year the cable expanded and one of the new stations was going to be WGN out of Chicago.

Cubs! WGN was still showing every Cubs game, so this meant a trip to American on Marquette to get a Sony 13" color TV and a VCR. (grin)

That was fine for the living room, but our funny little old ex-mining company rental house had an oddly shaped kitchen -- completely out of sight of the living room. So at K-Mart, one day, we found a tiny cube of a 4.5" B&W TV, which I was able to hook up to the cable with a splitter, so Mrs. Dr. Phil could have the TV on in the kitchen, too. And Cubs!

We probably got about ten years out of that TV, until the weight of the cable, F-connector, transformer to pigtails, pigtails to supplied mini-jack just couldn't make the antenna connection any more. We replaced that with a somewhat larger color unit, which proved unreliable and it eventually died.

Then we got a Phillips Magnavox TV, larger still, which "just" fit under the cabinet and on top of the old microwave.

Something broke internally, so that it couldn't use the remote, but we still used it slaved to the VCR's channel selector from the living room, so that wasn't too bad. Then last year the microswitch controlling the power relay got squirrely -- Mrs. Dr. Phil nursed it along by rapidly cycling the switch til it deigned to come on. But sometime in 2011 even that didn't work.

Shopping Expedition

Saturday we went to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, then hit Schuler's on Alpine to buy some discounted 2012 calendars. Nearby, in what had been a Linens and Things, there was a brand new ABC Warehouse discount appliance store and Mrs. Dr. Phil suggested we see if they had a tiny TV.

So I asked if they had something like a 9" TV that could still take an analog signal -- some of the small TVs we'd seen online could only do HDTV. What they had included a GPX 7" LCD HDTV DVD Portable player -- the same discount brand as our first 4.5" B&W -- which as you can see, fits quite nicely. Hell, it came with a car DC power adapter and has both an SD card slot and a USB socket so you can use it as a digital picture frame, too. (grin) Which we are unlikely to disconnect it from its perch. (double-grin)

Like it's always been there.

Last time I was in an ABC Warehouse, probably ten years ago, it was a dark depressing warehouse piled up with boxes. And they didn't have what I was looking for. But years of competing with the big box stores, and this new store was brightly lit, well stocked and had a number of helpful staff. And the $86 price ended up cheaper than any of the online prices, so we did well.

Mrs. Dr. Phil is happy now. And I'll be able to check school closings come the bad weather. Of course, now when we mute the TV in the living room, we once again discover that the sound is still on in the kitchen. (grin)

Dr. Phil

N vs N

Sunday, 6 November 2011 21:40
dr_phil_physics: (nu-logo)
NORTHWESTERN 28 Nebraska 25

Two things. Thing the First -- If it wasn't for our cable getting the Big Ten Network, I'd probably never get to see NU play football. Thing the Second -- Most of the time getting to see My Teams is a losing proposition. They can be winning and the moment I tune in, it all derails. Not that the Wildcats can't win a game. But we're the smallest school in the Big Ten and a tough private school to boot, so it ain't easy.

Then there's whole Twelve Teams in the Big Ten conference. This year we welcomed the University of Nebraska. Back in the 60s and 70s, when all the important bowl games were crowded on New Year's Day -- as is proper -- I have many memories of watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the middle of the afternoon. Of course the danger of letting Nebraska in is they could run the table over the traditional Big Ten teams.

So when I saw that at 3:30 on Saturday that BTN was going to show Northwestern at Nebraska, I knew I had to watch the game. And prepared to be pummeled.

But that's not what happened. Northwestern scored first and managed to hang on for the 28-25 win. Nebraska tried the ol' onside kick after their last score. The problem with the onside kick is that it's a trick play that everyone knows it's coming. To mix things up, they tried kicking to the wrong side, but NU smothered the ball, took a knee and headed off with the win.

A nice afternoon when nursing a cold.

Go you Northwestern...

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
dr_phil_physics: (chicago-stuffed-pizza)
Mmm... Pizza

As regular readers and friends of Dr. Phil know, I am a huge fan of Chicago stuffed pizza. This is lovely stuff and a whole meal and food group unto itself. This is not to say that there are not other kinds of lovely pizza out there. In particular, we spent five years in White Plains NY, just north of New York City, so I know what real New York pizza is.

And how to eat it.

While using a fork may be required for Chicago stuffed, there is a proper technique for eating a lava hot New York slice. And here Jon Stewart manages to expertly show it. While, as he is wont to do, skewering some people involved in politics.

Ah. Wish I had a slice of New York pizza on a piece of waxed paper right now.

Dr. Phil

I Get Calls

Friday, 20 May 2011 13:35
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-in-person)
Oh Yes, It's Time Again...

... to discuss the voicemails I get for The Dr. Phil Show. And no, that's not my ego crowing about my mix of storytelling, performance art and science in my Physics classes. It's people trying to get that Other Dr. Phil. You know, friend of Oprah. Has a big TV show. Is going bald.

Take today. Google "dr. phil" and I show up on hits 9 and 10 of the first page. Try "dr. phil show" and a site for fanmail for the Dr. Phil Show shows up as hit 67 and I don't show up until, well, I didn't show up at all in the first 300 hits. Try "dr. phil address" and ding-ding-ding!, I'm #5! Of course this web page says:
I am NOT the "other" Dr. Phil -- Dr. Phil McGraw -- who has the TV show. Please do NOT mail or call me with your problems!
I teach Physics courses to science and engineering students at Western Michigan University. Sorry. You might want to try clicking on THIS link to the Dr. Phil Show for help.

For Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon...

I then did a search on my university office phone number and hit #10 was this:

Yikes! Red flag alert! Look at the URL -- would you go to a place like that? And what the hell does an Oster food grinder have to do with the Dr. Phil Show? (evil grin)

I'm sure this isn't the only "sewer" site out there -- this is how people get my phone number. It's an aggregater site, with text run together from a whole lot of websites about Dr. Phil, so that it'll show up in Google. I got that from Google's cached copy -- the original page tries to go somewhere else and Norton Anti-Virus announces that someone is trying to attack your computer. Nice.

Though I will admit that the full text of my "I am not the Dr. Phil on TV" is in their page. Just not on their Google search snippet. Not that you'd want to go to a nasty piece of work like that to begin with.

So I Get Messages

Today there were three messages. The first was a hangup. Second told me in no uncertain terms that my outgoing message couldn't be understood and that I need to rerecord it -- repeated three times -- and that they are trying to get in touch with the Dr. Phil Show and would I call them back. And then they didn't leave their number. The third was from late last night, a very troubled sounding person desperate to talk to Dr. Phil from Washington state. Sigh.

I can't help these people. They don't believe me anyway, they are sure they HAVE found the second phone number for Dr. Phil and won't take No for an answer.

As for my outgoing message, I called it from my office on my cellphone. Surrounded by computers and such, I don't have the best reception here anyway. Plus cellphone fidelity combined with the Voice Over Internet phone system they switched to, isn't perfect. But the real problem with my message is that it explains that I teach Physics at Western Michigan University, and if you are a student of mine, to say which course you are in during your message. See, the problem is the message isn't understandable because the words aren't what these people want to hear.


To delete this message, press 7. To hear other options... 7... Message erased. Next message...

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (kaylee-shiny)
... About TV Commercials

You know those commercials for the Off clip-on thingie for repelling insects? They came out last year or so, at least up here. But I don't know anybody who has actually used one. So I don't know if they work or whether they're so powerful or aromatic that they're worse than just slathering yourself in Cutters or DEET or whatever.


The commercials make it look like those belt mounted personal shield generators they use in Dune. You know, project a hemisphere of shield protection. My problem with this? What if the mosquitoes are armed with knives and move in very slowly, so they can penetrate the shield? What good are those shields gonna do now?

See, this is why you need to be up on your genre literature. Because if you don't understand these SF/F references, why then you might make some terrible consumer choices. Unleash forces you don't want unleashed.

I'm just sayin'.

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: (wmu-logo)
Go Pack Go

It's Monday after the Super Bowl. And I'm wearing a Green Bay Packers World Champions hat that I bought at a Citgo gas station in Crystal Falls MI in the U.P. many years ago when the Packers had also won. Michigan's Upper Peninsula, despite being Michigan, is also physically attached to Wisconsin. So the local loyalties up there tend to favor the Tigers for baseball, but the Packers for football.

The Commercials

Yeah, I know. It's supposed to be about the game. But who knows if the game is even going to be good? For the last two years the economy has hurt the Super Bowl commercials. Better than usual lot this year. But still far too many stupid, juvenile and embarrassingly sexist ads -- also per usual. (sigh) Didn't see all the commercials, especially as I missed the pre-game show. Was there even a Clydesdales commercial? And did FOX mention that the game was on FOX? Which has a bunch of shows they want you to watch?

Everyone, it seemed, was talking about the VW Passat ad with the mini Darth Vader kid. Cute. I actually liked the beetle in the New 21st Century Beetle ad. The Chevy Silverado pickup truck in the Lassie role was pretty amusing. "I didn't even know this town had a volcano."

A lot of movie trailer ads this year. A lot. And why all the animated movies being advertised after 9:30pm in the 4th quarter? Who's the demographic? Half the trailers were ones I'd seen before, either in theatres or on TV. However, was intrigued by the Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams Super 8 trailer, as well as finally getting to see the Cowboys and Aliens trailer. (grin)

The surprise class act in commercials for the night, though, was the two-minute Chrysler 200 ad -- a love letter for Detroit narrated by Eminem. The tagline at the end, "Imported from Detroit", was a nice touch.

One Bright Spot

I timed my afternoon nap to end around kick-off. I was thankfully absent for Christina Aguilera's butchering of the national anthem. You know, I don't want to get maudlin about it, but I think the Cubs do it right -- many of their home games are sung a cappella by Wrigley Field announcer Wayne Messmer and sometimes with his wife Kathleen. Simple, basic, powerful, respectful.

Tron Takes Over At Halftime

Once again they spend millions to have a lavish halftime show, one without marching bands I might add, and then fail to get the mikes to work properly or balance the sound.

So Why The WMU Logo?

In case you were wondering why this particular LJ icon selection, it is in honor of Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings -- a former Kalamazoo Central High School and Western Michigan University graduate -- who scored two touchdowns in the Super Bowl. Go Broncos?

Oh, The Game?

31-25, Packers defeat the Steelers.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (xmas-kate)
Nothing Says Christmas Like Murder

Perusing the TV listings, we seem to have marathons and multiple re-runs of Criminal Minds (on TWO cable channels simultaneously last night), Bones, and various Law & Orders, CSI.

We love these shows, but it seems pretty creepy to celebrate Christmas like this.

The Oddball

Comedy Central is spending the afternoon with Harold & Kumar and Bill & Ted. MTV starts off with three episodes of 16 and Pregnant, the Teen Mom 2 -- are they trying to channel Mary? -- then a marathon of That 70s Show. The so-called SyFy Channel is doing all their awful CGI monster flicks -- Sea Snakes, Frankenfish, The Eye of the Beast, Lake Placid 2, Malibu Shark Attack and Shark Swarm.

More Traditional Marathon Fare

TBS seemed to start it a couple of years ago by doing 24 hours of A Christmas Story, the oh-so-excellent Jean Shepherd view of Christmas through the eyes of children. And they could give nearly the entire staff the day off from 8pm Christmas Eve to 8pm Christmas. To this marathon, add AMC doing Scrooged all day.

Turner Classic Movies is going for a spectacular afternoon with Ben-Hur and King of Kings. Then they go for family fun with The Lion in Winter. FX spends the daytime repeating Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who.

Spike is running the REAL Star Wars trilogy, now re-designated Episodes IV, V and VI. TNT will do all three of Noah Wylie's Librarian movies. USA tonight will run Elf for the 783rd and 784th time since Thanksgiving.

Why Worry About What's On TV?

Hopefully you've got lovely friends and family to do Christmas with, if you do Christmas. But for something to have on for background, we've got the Mythbusters marathon from Discovery channel. Nothing is more Christmasy than watching mayhem -- including igniting Christmas trees with thousands of lights, etc. (grin)

Hope you have a merry and happy day doing whatever.

Dr. Phil


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