Cold White

Saturday, 14 February 2015 11:40
dr_phil_physics: (snowflakes-4)
Valentine's Day here in Allendale and we're not seeing red -- it's white. Visibility is quite poor outside, with snow and blowing snow and high winds. We've been waiting for the weekend temperature-falling-off-a-cliff for a week. Current forecast for Saturday night is low of -10°F and wind chills down to -23°F -- which is better than the -35°F wind chills they had listed the other day, or the -22.1°F actual temp one model had.

Monday I go out to get a repeat MRI on my foot. I suppose I should have gotten gas when I was out on Thursday, a lovely day. But I figured to go out Friday afternoon so I wouldn't have to do it Monday morning. At 2pm I checked the weather and there was a winter weather advisory starting at 3pm, so out I went. Though the temperature was 21°F there was a very icy cold steady wind. I have two winter coats, one I wear for much of the winter and also as a raincoat, though it's a bit warm. The big blue parka, though, is for serious weather.

Friday was probably only the second time I had to wear the blue parka this winter. But getting it on at the gas station, well... Given the blood thinners I'm on, I feel the cold so much more these days, especially in my hands. The blue parka is a little unwieldy anyway, and one of its Velcro straps latched onto the carpeting on the open driver's door -- which explained why I couldn't hike the coat up and find the left sleeve. (grin) When I got home there were big flakes in large numbers coming down, so I took a picture with the N2020 from the garage -- often the finer snows just don't show up well on the digital cameras.

By 4pm the snow was picking up and every time I glanced out the window, visibility was getting worse. Total snow volume was low, just a lot of air with snow blowing around. By the time I went to bed around 4pm, after a very productive ~5000 word writing day, it was still 24°F.

Snow started up around 11am. Just now Weather Channel on the web says it's 9°F with winds 24mph, gusting to 35 -- wind chill running about -12°F. And then came the ruckus outside. We were getting plowed. I grabbed the Kindle Fire HD and took a quick picture:

Not sure who has a white pickup with a blade... oh wait. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

We've been very grateful to our neighbors to the west and south, who each have John Deere lawn tractors -- one with a blade and one with a snow thrower attachment. When the one neighbor's machine was broken, we did get plowed by a pickup last January by a neighbor of a neighbor (DW). But in doing my research that was a blue pickup, not a white one. And it's not the same blade. So now I don't know who our Good Samaritan was.

You could argue that it's overkill -- we're only talking about four inches or so by now. But it's good to start with a clear base and it is going to get colder, so I can appreciate getting out now and doing some plowing.

I'm not going to argue with them. (double-trouble-grin)

It's a good weekend to stay home. And one of the recipes will be my father's sweet cabbage soup. Mrs. Dr. Phil is doing something in the kitchen involving a mixer right now. I don't know what's going on, but it's too much fun to not ask. Maybe there'll be beaters to lick. (triple-double-grin)

Realistically, it's nothing like we had in the U.P. Or the beating that Boston and Maine and New England has been getting.

Meanwhile, back to the YA trilogy. I killed someone off late last night. Good old Google -- I was able to find the exact intersection in a small town in Denmark I wanted using Google Maps satellite view. Important because it happens off-stage and I need a police detective to deliver the report. Perfect for Valentine's Day. (evil-writers-grin) Echo is playing the Saturday WGVU-FM NPR lineup -- This American Life followed by The TED Radio Hour -- and I've got my headphones on with a playlist playing.

This future in 2015? It's not so bad...

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-nikon-f3-1983)
It's been a busy week and it's only half over. It started with glasses.

For a while we alternated glasses each year. And I've had some of the same titanium safety frames which I have alternated relensing, as well. Alas, my skin acids tend to eat away plating, so the gold tone on my titanium frames deteriorates -- on the other hand, cheaper glasses leave big green marks in the summer with painful galvanic reactions -- so it's still been an improvement.

Alas², neither of my titanium frames for regular or reading glasses are still made. I probably got ten years out of the old designs and the reading/computer bifocals are okay. So I found another titanium safety frame... which is also being discontinued. Had to get the frames they had in the office.

Picked them up on Monday and since I wear glasses all the time, my look is TOTALLY different. I shot two self-portraits with the D1 -- big heavy iron pro cameras don't do no "selfies".

The old glasses... and the new. Completely different look! (Click on photos for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

By Wednesday I needed to go back and get the nose and ear pieces adjusted and took some pictures.

We thought the last plowing of our driveway was done by our dueling neighbors, but from the tracks it is clear that rabbits were responsible for clearing the snow and building these snow walls. Shot at 1/25th of a second at f22 to try to show the breeze motion. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

68th Avenue at Lake Michigan Drive, finally looking like a Michigan winter in town. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Our dentists and eye doctors officers are in the same building in the Edgewater office park. There's a nearby pond. The D1 has trouble with snow highlights, but like the old 1970s Agfrachrome CT18 slide film, it does a nice job on neutral colors. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

It was this snow layered pine I saw on Monday, still there on Wednesday, that I wanted to shoot. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Am I surprised that the TruValue Hardware store has such straight sided sidewalk cuts? After a dry December and a mixed January, February started aggressively enough that West Michigan is above average for snowfall to date, though still behind last winter. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

I liked these spidery weeds in the snow out front. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Tonight we're supposed to go near- or sub-zero as we get a bit of an Arctic blast. No serious snow until maybe next week?

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (snowflakes-4)
I went to bed before 4am last night -- the snow had finally started and I could see from the front porch light that surfaces like the heat pump outside had a fine coating of white.

We watched it snow all day. Very fine, almost dry. But it was coming out of the east and at steep angles to the vertical -- this is never a good sign.

Then came the incomplete reports that Detroit area schools were starting to close for Monday. And the snow over Chicago had stalled -- some areas up to two feet already -- and "Heather, it's still snowing." Chicago schools closed.

A message Mrs. Dr. Phil got on Facebook said that Western and Eastern were both closed. Sure enough, a check of Western Michigan University -- the university that never closes -- had pulled the plug first, sometime before 9:30pm Super Bowl Sunday night:

I had been betting that WMU might close before Grand Valley -- last night's forecast had Kalamazoo and areas along I-94 and south getting more snow than along I-96.

It's still snowing here, but is it a lot? Are the roads too slippery? Don't know. But GVSU did close the library at 6pm tonight. We'll see...

Dr. Phil
Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (snowflakes-4)
So, earlier this week, I talked about on Monday (DW) twice (DW) and Wednesday (DW) how Winter Storm Juno / Blizzard '15 actually forced an incoming storm to stall and go around West Michigan.

Pictures, or it didn't happen. This is not gloating, BTW, but merely observation.

Tuesday, as opposed to the total shutdown of air, sea, rail and highway, this was my drive down US-131 to Kalamazoo around 11:30am. There'd been clouds to the south, but they soon disappeared. BTW, this is Exit 61 coming up and the big sign on the left is to the Gun Lake Casino. The vehicle in the median isn't the state police but MDOT or Allegan County maintenance. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Pulling into my handicapped spot, I noticed that there'd be considerable melt since the previous Thursday, but they also hadn't cleared this one sidewalk connector directly in front of the Blazer, so I would have to take the sidewalk to the left and then jog to the right. This student with a dark purple jacket and blue backpack cut in front of me, so I had to wait -- sure enough she turned and provided some humanity for the shot. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Steps leading down to the front garden area. Shot through the window screen. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)
Compare to...

This was three weeks ago -- full set here.

Wider angle shot showing patches of clear in lawn and the driveway. Yup, not very threatening here. Certainly didn't stop the rabbits from scampering around. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

All current photos taken with the Nikon D1 and a 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 AF-NIKKOR. The D1 isn't ideal for snow, it's 1st gen DSLR sensor tends to blow out highlights, but it does nicely with neutral colors and I am always surprised at how well the digital war horse works.

Thursday, we had freezing rain overnight, but not much more than a tenth of an inch -- Mrs. Dr. Phil had some detail-work she could do at home. It snowed on and off, but by afternoon the open patches of ground hadn't filled in very much. Today, Friday, was mostly overcast with a little sun.

January 2015 is closing with much more snow here than December 2014, and there were snow days for schools AND universities, but still not anything like New England. February is going to start with cold and snow. How much? We shall see...

It is FAR too early to call this winter a bust in West Michigan compared to the long harsh winter last year.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (snowflakes-4)
Monday night watched MSNBC all evening to watch the pre-game coverage of Blizzard '15, aka Winter Storm Juno. Buffalo was yawning at predictions of up to 26" of snow in some places east of them. Not after eight feet in a similar timeline just some weeks ago.

So let's review:
Global Warming does NOT mean no snow or cold
Weather is NOT Climate
Weather Forecasts are NOT Prophecies
Predictions are NOT Certainties
Accuracy is NOT Precision
Weather Forecasts are NOT Weather Control
But they got it wrong, some whine. New York was not buried!


The forecasts are wrong a lot!

Okay, let's think about this. One of the reasons why forecasts are off is that we have more of them. I frequently on this blog mock storm forecasts that never materialize, but that's more mocking the We Are ALL Going to DIE coverage by the media. Storm Center 8. Severe Weather Center 3. These are just two of our Grand Rapids TV stations. And it's still Severe Weather Center 3 when the forecast is for sunny and 60°F.

I put The Weather Channel app on my Kindle Fire HD. Right now, if I were to turn it on, it'd not only give me a 10-day forecast, but for the first day or two it'd give me hour-to-hour forecasts. Now with that many forecasts, isn't it reasonable that some of them are going to be off? And predicting the exact track and production of a storm from two weeks out... the science gives you some idea, but not the same as weather on the ground when it comes.

As it should be.

And let's not forget, this morning there were still reports of 78mph winds in Nantucket. And Boston did get clobbered. And New York? Although we heard apologies from the mayor and the National Weather Service, frankly, I think it's a lot of hooey. This was the forecast, they had information from several days out and decided to clear the streets and highways and skies and rails ahead of time, so that people wouldn't get stuck or wrecked and need rescuing, either in the heart of the storm or just when the crews were needed to move this shit out of the way. NPR this afternoon pointed out that with airlines canceling so many thousands of flights, it left equipment in place, rather than diverting it or out of position, so when things start up again everything will be in the right place at the right time.

For gosh sakes they showed snowplows in one coastal town plowing a little snow -- and sea water off the streets from the storm surge. This is not an everyday or trivial event.

We don't have climate control. I don't know that we want climate control, because like the Mississippi River and other giant things we try to control, Nature will try to force things back and we won't like it. Making a nice day for a picnic here, might create a hurricane over there instead. I learned that from A Wizard of Earthsea. (grin) Systems and the interactions between systems. This is big stuff.

But the Farmer's Almanac gets it right and they just use a secret formula!

The Old Farmer's Almanac tells you they get it right. And I seem to recall some studies that suggest they do okay. But see, their specialties are broad regions and broad time periods. The upper Midwest will see dry conditions early in the fall but expect big storms by November -- or something. They might very well be right or mostly right, based on their secret sauce formula that uses past performance to predict broad future behaviors. But it ain't telling you what Friday's weather in Grand Rapids MI AND Bangor ME will be, and certainly not the 11am and 2pm forecasts on those days.

The old joke about weather forecasting is that the "best" forecast is predicting the same thing for today as yesterday -- it'll be right about half the time. Since many weather patterns persist for a few days, you can see how this works. And it's self-correcting, if you update each day. But predicting the same weather every day for a week, a month, a season, a year -- why you'd end up with a forecast that says rain and 57°F every afternoon. And by gum, you'd be right sometimes. But more likely in October or May, than July or February.

If you think weather forecasting is complicated and requires massive supercomputer models, just imagine what weather control would take.

You want to know what weather control looks like? It's clouds rolling in at 11:55am on Friday, light rain at 2:02pm, followed by heavy rain from 3:17pm to 4:42pm. Why? So workers won't want to cut out early on a Friday. THAT's what you'd get for paying for weather control in the real world.

I'll stick with looking at the computer models, hoping for the best -- and trying to not have to drive in impossible conditions. 4WD and modern roads are not invincible combinations.

Dr. Phil
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Crossposted on LiveJournal

The Three Seasons

Thursday, 21 March 2013 15:00
dr_phil_physics: (rose-after-rescue)
In Which Our Hero Falls To His Fate

I hate falling down. Nobody outside of professional stuntmen and some athletes probably do, but being a klutz I'm no good at it. Also, with my size I worry about falling and doing some serious damage to myself. Hasn't helped that balance and good footing with my bad left leg nerve leaves staying upright a tenuous balancing act. (grin)

In truth, though, I don't fall down all that much, thankfully. Before this year, I think it was probably ten years ago that I slipped on some ice on campus and had to pick myself up. Now, you must understand that I sleep on a futon on the floor. And I have exercises twice a day and sit on the floor to change my socks. But there's a ready chair nearby for me to use to help me get up. Standing up in the middle of nothing, that's not easy for me.

Earlier this winter I fell in the middle of the night heading to the bathroom. Hadn't realized that my left foot had gotten wrapped in a blanket, so Down Goes Frazier. Sort of a slow motion fall, on carpet. I almost laughed, except that I didn't want to wake up Mrs. Dr. Phil -- of course she woke up when I went THUD, so there's that. But other than being a little sore, no real damage.

However, Tuesday as I was heading out the front door of Everett Tower to cross the windy gap over to Rood Hall and my 1pm Physics class, I opened the door and went to plant my cane and... underneath the fluffy white snow was very slippery wet ice. Cane slid and in midstep onto the slight slope outside the door my feet slipped and down I went. Funny thing is that I was carrying a wedge seat cushion for the hard metal chair in the lecture hall, and that might've been involved.

Actually my immediate reaction was that I was damned cold. Wet and cold. My hands, which slid on the wet ice under the snow were so damned cold. Of course that same coating of ice meant that there was not sand, salt or the rough surface of concrete exposed to tear up either my clothes or the palms of my hands. So... this is good? And while I could get on my hands and knees, I knew I couldn't even trust the cane to prop myself up with and get up. I assumed that I had to slide back to the windbreak outside the doorway and lever myself up.

But rescue came. Prof. Kamber came out of Everett and one of my students stopped by to help -- after he skidded to a stop and got off his bicycle!!! Really? Riding a bike on sheets of wet ice? Didn't we cover static and kinetic friction and its effects in class?

Once I had my left foot planted, I just hoped that the two gentlemen could hold on and support my unfortunate bulk. They held, and I managed to get up.

As I headed to class, I suggested that Kamber tell the secretary to call for salt. And indeed, coming out fifty minutes later after class, the ice was completely melted. When I left to come home, the sidewalks were wet and sloppy and the parking lot was something of a mess, but that was just on campus. All the roads were wet but clear. I didn't have to struggle with a long commute on a skating rink.

I don't think I really damaged anything. Though in the middle of the day on Wednesday, I realized that I'd forgotten I'd slipped on the ice the day before and that perhaps that's why I had odd aches and pains, so took some Advils.

But I hate falling.

Winter Blows In Again and Again

And of course the insult to injury is that "spring" was coming. When we lived in the U.P., we always seemed to get a major storm right about St. Patrick's Day, just like the last of our giant front yard snow pile up there used to melt on Mother's Day. Here in West Michigan, the St. Patrick's Day storm isn't as consistent. Mrs. Dr. Phil wondered if the weather we had at the end of last week was this year's version. Maybe not.

Meanwhile people to the north of us in the U.P. were getting serious snow -- 16" to 24" by reports -- and there are snow tracks from the Plains states through the Midwest south of us, and on into WV, PA and NY. So I'm not really complaining, as others have repeatedly gotten clobbered worse than us, and even the weather forecasts of areas around here getting clobbered haven't done so much of that, either.

Vernal Equinox

Supposedly it happened on Wednesday morning at 7:02 EDT. You couldn't tell that by either the color of the lawn (white) or the overnight temperatures -- about 14°F this morning, with wind chills about -4°F. Mrs. Dr. Phil was grousing about it being a cruel month of January this March. (grin)

At least I hadn't heard a lot of reports about either flowers coming up or lots of buds or blooms on the fruit trees due to unseasonably warm February and March conditions like last year.

So we'll let the March storms get it all out of their system and wait for a real spring day to show up. Eventually. They always do.

Dr. Phil

Made It!

Sunday, 3 March 2013 22:27
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Spring Break

Every year I mention that when WMU load balanced the days off between the Fall and "Spring", i.e. Winter, Semesters, they moved Spirit Day from the Friday before Homecoming to the Friday before Spring Break. Thus we celebrate our university's school spirit by... leaving.

This semester I've been giving exams and quizzes on Fridays, but with Spirit Day on Friday, Exam 2 was given in both classes on Thursday. To my great relief, the weather held off on Thursday, so nearly everyone got to the exam. And with a beautiful day on Friday, people were able to start their Spring Break without dire weather, too.

GVSU is also on Spring Break this week, so Mrs. Dr. Phil is filling in some vacation days so we can goof off together.

Another Swing and a Miss

Two Sundays ago I shot this little hut in the snow (DW), but only after I did my errands and I lost the sharp shadows of the sun and the blue sky. Last Sunday I had to run out again -- and didn't take a camera. Durn it! Not only was the blue sky and sharp shadows there, but if I'd been in position with the 70-300mm mounted, I might have caught two snowmobiles carving out the path around the hut. Missed it.

To add insult to injury, I did take a camera with me on Saturday, but a week of rain, freezing rain, snow, temps in the 40s, lots of rain and then sun had the snowmobile tracks just a faint shadow of their former neat lines in the snow. I did take a couple of pictures, but they're on "film" from the Nikon F4s and being developed.

Meanwhile, I used the little Sony a couple of times and managed to get a few pics this last week:

Winter Storm Rocky arrives just north of Allendale on my way home Tuesday. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

These next shots on Wilson Avenue Wednesday are reminiscent of the shots from Friday the 13th 2012 (DW).

Our driveway was heavy thick mush, and I had a helluva time getting in and out of the turnaround just to be able to GO down the driveway. By the time I cleared Ottawa County on Wednesday morning, it was pretty much full speed on the highways. But the flocking on the trees along Wilson Avenue was certainly pretty. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

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

Monday is supposed to be lovely, but Tuesday the next storm looks to clip up with 6" of wet heavy snow. We're going to be working at home on Tuesday, methinks. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
Nearly Fifty

By the time I left work on Monday, I took my coat off as I loaded up the Blazer and it was pleasant. 47°F. I'll try to remember in August if it is 47°F in the morning that I called it pleasant. (grin) Left early enough to drive up to Chevy for a much overdue oil change. Had to wait for a while, as the vehicles ahead of me were taking advantage of a tire rotation special. Just before I pulled in, the first rain drops appeared.

Rained all night. We knew the temp was going to drop and the snows come and it would be icy in the morning. But the driveway was almost clear by midnight.

Drop By Twenty

Checked the weather and road reports at 6:10am, not great but not too terrible. Twenty minutes later, though, and everything had deteriorated. Freezing conditions, Allendale was down to 26°F and the snows had just started. By 7am they've given up reporting all the accidents, "slideoffs too numerous to give". It's a combination of ice and the gusting winds up to 45mph. The '96 Blazer may have 4WD, but it has a high enough profile that it is subject to getting blown around. I can't cancel classes on my own anymore, but the department found people to cover and hopefully do some useful problems for my students.

In previous years, I used to take pride in the fact that if I canceled classes, the university -- which never closes -- eventually closed, too. Twice I got to work to find the place had closed, once at WMU and once at Hope College. This year, the ice over such a long commute has made me cautious, though I have driven through a lot of terrible stuff this semester. If I'm not comfortable starting out, you know it sucks big time. reported from this morning: "Came in to GR from Holland. Freezing rain and high winds. A normal 42 minute drive to work took an hour and a half this morning. Average speed this morning = 21 mph." Doesn't sound too bad until you consider my commute runs over seventy miles each way and goes through a series of choke points that are traditional skating rinks and accident magnets. When it gets up to 2½ to 3 hours AND you have to worry about every other driver and truck sliding into you, blown sideways by the wind, you have to rethink this driving thing.

Here in Allendale it's been snowing horizontally all day.

Naturally at 1pm when I broke out the D1 and the 70-300mm the snow lightened -- with enhancement you can almost see the distant tree line. Not now. We're just short of a white out at 2pm. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Speaking of places that "never close"...
Michigan Tech Closed at Noon

Michigan Technological University is closed at noon today, Tuesday, February 19, due to severe weather. Classes will not be held. Only personnel responsible for essential safety, building, grounds, and residential operations should report for work. The Career Fair in the Student Development Complex will remain open until 6 o'clock this evening.
Dr. Phil

UPDATE: That is Michigan on the right... all of it.

Satellite view. (Click on photo for larger.)

UPDATE2: And another country heard from:
All GVSU classes and activities cancelled at 4 p.m.
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Pretty Much A Miss

If it seems that all I am blogging about is the weather, it is because my long commute dominates my weekday life. Friday afternoon and all day Saturday we were in a Winter Weather Advisory and in the middle of the lake effect snow patterns -- up to a foot. By the time I got home on Friday, the snow falling outside the garage looked to be in layers -- each layer at a different distance was falling slowly at a different angle. Neat. While there were times we were in heavy horizontal snow on Saturday, the sun came out and the snows stopped. The persistent lake effect snow bands were just south of us. The region got anywhere from 0.4" to 16" of snow -- we only got a couple of inches of light very dry snow.

But... even though every time I mention the weather someone else is really getting clobbered, the real problem around here has been the ice. And here my classes are getting a real lesson in coefficients of friction.

Saturday the temps were in the upper 20s, but dropped overnight. By midnight is was down to 9°F. 1°F at 2am. 0°F by 3am until at least 7am. Then the warm up. 16°F at 10am and 26°F Sunday afternoon. The winds and the sun dried the roads in Allendale. Pale blue skies and pale clouds that looks airbrushed with no hard edges up until about 4pm.

This shed is in the middle of the asparagus fields near 68th Avenue. When I saw it at 3:50pm, there was blue sky and you could really see the two snowmobile tracks splitting around the shed. Alas, I should ALWAYS listen to my inner artistic demon and turned around right then and there. After I did my errands at Walgreens, I came out to gray skies which ruined the look. The lack of sun cut the edges of the tracks and the darkening skies dropped the shutter speeds. Though I did shut off the engine to shoot this shot, at 300mm (450mm effective focal length in DX), the shutter speed wasn't high enough to kill the motion shake as I wanted. Still... a nice composition. But it could've been much cooler. (grin) (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Even with the above kvetching, I am consistently amazed at what I can pull out of that first generation pro sensor in the Nikon D1.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (miss-michigan-usa)
Another Miss

Even by Tuesday evening, it was becoming clear that the ice storm forecast (DW) was tracking north of I-96 and Grand Rapids. In the Northern Lower Peninsula they had snow/ice days. And whatever was going on in the U.P., it was whiteout conditions -- even Michigan Tech canceled classes!

As for the Michigan primary election... I am assuming Obama won the Democratic primary and the Allendale zoning issue was defeated. On the GOP side of the ballot, Romney won the popular vote over Santorum, but I was surprised last night that they weren't breaking it down. After all, Michigan has 30 delegates -- 28 for the Congressional districts and 2 for the winner of the popular vote. So why weren't we getting the delegate estimates? Because once again, the Republicans end up with a murky result. At last report, it looked like Santorum might get 17 delegates and Romney 13 -- and given two of those would be for the popular vote, Romney only took 11 districts. So much for the big win for the home boy.

Back To The Weather

By the time I got to campus this morning, the rain had stopped. And the temps, which had started at freezing, were up in the 40s. The real shocker was coming out at 4:30pm and dealing with blue skies, sun and warm breezes near 50°F.

A few puffy white clouds on the horizon and a lovely afternoon. (Click on photo for larger.)

The huge WMU flag at the west end of campus was in full bloom.

By the time I got to US-131, only a few minutes away, overhead was solid black clouds. Snow forecast tonight.

Gotta love that Michigan weather.
dr_phil_physics: (us-flag)
Primary Day In Michigan

There are bluish skies overhead and sun. No appreciable reason for Michigan voters not to go to the polls today. Obviously, there's a lot of national interest in the Michigan Republican Presidential Primary, especially as Mitt Romney claims to be a native son. But actually, there's a Democratic Presidential Primary as well. There are news stories that some Democratic nitwit is trying to organize Democrats into voting in the Republican primary, to influence the opposition, but like herding cats, there are different arguments as to who they should support. Mostly there are attempts to throw it for Santorum, given how close the polls have been and to embarrass Romney. Give it a rest, folks. Don't mess with other people's primaries. There's enough election shenanigans as it is, and stooping to crapping on your neighbor's lawn isn't very becoming.

I noticed that at Allendale's polling place, there was a Free Coffee station set up by the YES For Allendale people -- the only issue on the ballot that wasn't the primary. Yes, the YES people were more than 100 feet away from any of the church's doors. They looked to be having a good time standing around in the coolish sun and serving coffee to a couple of folks. Should've taken a picture, but I wanted to make it in to the office as soon as I could.

My political forecast of the day? I think Barack Obama will take the Democratic primary. (grin) All other bets are off. (double-think-grin)

Exam 2 Part One

There's a fine line during the morning hours between being able to get a parking spot in WMU Lot 61 and finding nothing. Today there was nothing. When I finally got a spot, it was at the far end of the lot -- the longest I've had to walk since I injured my leg nerve. Sigh.

My PHYS-1070 Elementary Physics class had their second exam today. I'd sent PDFs on to the department secretary late last night, so the copies were already waiting for me. I have to say, that though I am worried about a number of people, I was also pleased with the questions that some students brought to me and the fact that they can do this stuff, even if they don't think they can. Results should be interesting.

Even better, I think I had nearly everyone here, so there won't be too many makeups.

Exam 2 Part Two

My PHYS-1000 How Things Work class is supposed to have their second exam tomorrow at noon. There will be an exam written. The PDF will be sent to the department. Whether it gets copied, or whether I get in, or whether anyone will be there to proctor the exam, or anyone gets in to take it -- I can't say at this point. We've a major ice storm coming in, starting sometime after 10pm tonight and running all day Wednesday. The commute will either just be wet, a wet mess, a wet and slippery mess, or an OMG WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE sort of road conditions.

Expect all the schools to be closed. Whether it's bad in Kalamazoo and Western "We Claim We Never Close Even Though We Do" Michigan University closes, I can't say. If Western does close, then we won't have the second exam before Spring Break -- which means it won't be a part of the Mid-Term grading. Oh well. And if the exam IS given, I don't know how many people will need makeups.

For all that today went well, tomorrow could be really stupid.


Speaking Of Stupid

Gas prices shot up 25 cents a gallon or so last week and another twenty cents yesterday. Up to $3.85.9/gal for regular this morning. Current rise is still being attributed to fear and no real changes in the marketplace. More or less. Still people talking about five dollar gas this summer -- and four dollars by Easter.

Reminds me that I should get gas in Wayland on the way home, so that I don't have to take time to get it in the morning...


Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Sigh -- Should've Seen This Coming

Why oh why would I post that I seemed to be getting better? (DW) Oh don't get me wrong, I am feeling better. And I have soldiered on all week making all my classes Monday-Thursday. But Friday?

First it was the snow. Two days ago the story was that the winter storm warnings would last until 7am Friday. Then last night it was til noon Friday. Again -- not so much with the snow, perhaps 8-10". But the weather was coming with the temps right around freezing, so icy, slushy conditions? I figured I'd give people a heads up, so I posted this on my class web pages:

This morning? Kalamazoo, which along with Battle Creek was getting the snow last night, was pulled from the winter storm. But now everybody else was going to 5pm, not noon.

Mrs. Dr. Phil originally going to drive to Lansing today, but they punted that to a conference call from 10-noon, so she was going to work from home today. As I sat and ate my cereal, I really didn't feel like having to tackle sliding roads both ways. As the traffic reports kept building, I contemplated the poor sleep I'd had and the dull stuffed concrete headache.

And I decided at 7:20am that I didn't have to go in today.

I spent an hour updating web pages, sending an email to the department chair, etc. And then, after I returned to my cereal and discovering that Oat Squares can get soggy from an hour's immersion in boysenberry yogurt, I fed the cat, shot him full of insulin and took another round of Sudafed PE and Robitussin DM for myself, then settled back into the recliner under a pile of blankets.

Proof I Was Sick

Around 11:30 or so, I roused myself because I realized that whenever I've cancelled before, I've copied the secretaries and followed up with a phone call. Good thing I called. The chair wasn't in. Hopefully the students were told class was cancelled -- the noon group might even have gotten their handouts.

And then, of course, there's proof of the heroic hyped nonsense of the weather crews. Okay, roads were bad this morning. And it was nearly whiteout conditions when I cracked open an eye around 10am. But here in Allendale, we really didn't get more, even unto 5pm. Hell, at 4pm the sun came out.

The massive snowfall of February 24th by 4:41pm EST. (Click on photo for larger.)

So the pseudo-snow day really was the final straw that motivated a very rare Dr. Phil sick day -- and one that was apparently really needed.

Dr. Phil


Thursday, 23 February 2012 21:46
dr_phil_physics: (sick-winslet)
Under The Weather

By Thursday or Friday last week, my nose started blocking up and my throat was sore. I knew I was coming down with something. But what? All my Internet friends and columnists have had all sorts of things, including violent flus and weeks of sinuses. Do. Not. Want.

So I've not been posting much. Have managed my driving and my classes, but not much else. But I may survive this. We went out to dinner on Sunday -- more later -- and thankfully I could still taste. Started unblocking the nose yesterday and today -- dinner leftovers were yummy and flavorful tonight. Yay!

Of course when my head gets stuffed I can no longer sleep lying down, so I've been getting good sleep in Mrs. Dr. Phil's recliner. But I want real sleep. By this weekend?

Under The Boot Of The Weather

So... after weeks of mild weather -- we had another long soaking rain last evening -- the weather people are going nuts with a winter storm to warn us about. Problem is, the models are confused and I really don't know of we're talking snow, or deathly icy driving, or SNOW DAY!

I could use a snow day.

Dr. Phil


Saturday, 18 February 2012 16:29
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Mixed Seasons

Wednesday there was word that Ottawa and several other counties were starting their spring breakup season trucking load restrictions. Seems early, but then it's been an odd winter. Wednesday night we had a long soaking rain all night and there's mud. It's looking and starting to smell like that damp, dead grass pre-spring.

It's not as if we haven't been staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. Even back on 27 January it was reported that Lakes Michigan and Superior were essentially ice free. Any storms crossing the lake would have potential to pick up moisture and dump massive lake effect snows. We saw a bit of that last weekend (DW), but with the winds running down the length and not breadth of Lake Michigan, it affected only a narrow band south of us. So halfway through February and no massive storms or great ice formation. Go figure.

End of January 2012 (Click on photo for larger.)

Oddly there is some ice on some of the ponds and small lakes, despite the last several days of temps in the 40s. Last weekend's weather had overnights as low as 9°F -- coupled with the 40mph winds and I suspect a blast chiller effect.

The Gas Report

NPR has run stories of speculation on the refined gasoline market, though whether caused by worries about Greece and the Eurozone or the Iranian threats of blockade are unclear. Yet locally gas prices dropped to $3.24.9/gal. Not sure if the speculators are bunkering current gasoline or future. Not only is the summer blend different and using winter gas in the summer will give you vaporlock, but I thought I heard that there are new gasoline regs for the summer. Be amusing for the greedy to lose their shirts by stocking up on the wrong liquids.

But if I can't explain this week's price drop, I also can't guess about Saturday's 25¢ price jump. I swear they're making this all up as they go. (grin)

Dr. Phil

PS -- And of course the Beatles' tribute band Rain had a big concert last Sunday. (grin)

UPDATE -- Just to clarify, it's wan blue skies after an overcast morning, not raining here today.
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
As Promised -- Or Threatened If You Prefer...

Here are some of the photos I shot during the long ice drive home yesterday (DW). All taken with the Nikon D1 and the 35-70mm AF Nikkor.

Coming north out of Kalamazoo on US-131, the road at first seemed wet, but between the small amounts of new snow being blown onto the road and the rapidly dropping temps, there was a lot of spray being kicked up and the road was already slippery. (Click on photo for larger.)

North of here I tried calling Joe Chicago's Pizza to bring home a Chicago stuffed pizza. But they didn't answer the phone. (And yes, this was done with the Bluetooth Borg implant and handsfree.) Finally gave up and called Mrs. Dr. Phil at home and said it was a good day for Campbell's Tomato Bisque soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. (grin)

North of the wall into Mordor -- milepost 70 or so between Wayland MI and the Kent County line south of Grand Rapids. There is getting to be a layer of slippery mess to drive through and speeds have dropped from 65mph at K-zoo to 45-50mph here. Amazingly only passed one wreck on US-131. (Click on photo for larger.)

The early snow was creating more white flocking on the trees. When I left WMU, it was very pretty on the hill curve down to the next stop sign. But I didn't get the camera out at the time, because I was driving down the hill curve to the next stop sign in 2nd gear and 4WD. There's a tendency for cars to zoom down the hill and then slide into the intersection. Though I don't do that. (in-control-grin)

The radio indicated that things were bad on the M-6 into I-196 at the Kent/Ottawa county line. But everyone seemed to be driving at reasonable speeds. You can see the 30-40mph winds sliding some snow across the road -- it's always trouble when the snows come out of due north. (Click on photo for larger.)

Even before I finished the curving ramp onto I-196 I could see traffic was slowing. First off, was this slide-off just past the end of the merge lane. (Click on photo for larger.)

And then we slowed down to a crawl at the 44th Street/Rivertown Parkway exit. Note to other drivers -- that space between me and the next car is called a cushion and not an invitation for you to put your bumper right in front of mine. And you behind me? We're slowed down to under 5mph and we're all sliding slightly as well because the road conditions strongly suggest you BACK THE FUCK OFF OF MY BUMPER. (Click on photo for larger.)

This was the cause of the delay. You can't see the damage to the rear of the car, but thankfully the state trooper had blocked the lane. You can see the tire tracks going over the rumble strips on the left, my left tires slipped off the edge of the pavement, but I got back on with no problem. (Click on photo for larger.)

Haven't called them yet, but Joe Chicago's website was still up. I am assuming that maybe the road conditions along 44th Street meant that they were either giving up on a Friday night or hadn't gotten staff in to do the evening business. And not that they'd gone out of business again. (hopeful-grin)

Last night I saw moonlight flooding in at 3am and spotted two bright stars out the window. Clear and sunny for a while this morning, it's been gray and on-and-off snow all the rest of the day. Weather Channel shows a thin band of lake effect running straight down the Lake Michigan coastline. Not a lot of snow and with the roads scraped, there seems to be no problem with people racing along Warner Street at highway speeds. The problem with a warm winter isn't the snow, it's the ice.

Dr. Phil

UPDATE: I'd thought Holland would take the hit from the thin band of lake snow, but it drew further south inland. Guess Kalamazoo was a mess all day. And Berrien County, south and west of Kalamazoo, got more than 15" of snow.

Temps down to 10°F last night -- going to 9°F tonight.

Strange Day

Friday, 10 February 2012 22:48
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
Today Was One Of Those Odd Days

I had a ton of things to do before my classes and managed to do most of it. Handed back Exam 1 to both groups. Had to sort some papers and get some backlogged quizzes to my grader, who probably left early anyway, but I got it done. (grin) A rather productive day, in a weird way.

The weather was supposed to turn today. Not so much snow as cold and wind. I thought I'd try to leave at 4pm. But as I started to pack up at 3:55, I picked up my lunch bag... and it was heavy. Huh. I never got around to eat it. So I sat and took a minute.

By the time I got out and cleaned some slush off the Blazer, logged in and drove off in low gear, it was around 4:30pm.

I got home over two hours later.

The traffic guy on WLAV-FM said it was the worst number of wrecks and slide offs he's ever tracked. Over sixty in Kent and Ottawa County.

Actually it wasn't too bad for the first half-hour/forty-five minutes on US-131. Slow but not unreasonable. But driving under the overpass at Exit 64 Wayland, it was driving into Mordor. It got dark. And everyone slowed. The new style beam style wipers kept shedding big chunks of ice, when then rattled up and over the roof in the wind.

Even slower on the M-6. Radio reporting that the Kent-Ottawa County border was bad -- I'd be crossing it three times. Curving onto I-196, things rolled slower and slower -- down to 1st gear 4WD and 5 mph. Trooper blocking the middle of the highway -- had to cross the rumble strip and half off the pavement to get around. Wilson was slow, M-45 less traffic but the road was squirrely. The temp had dropped from 35°F to 18°F in less than an hour.

I'll post pictures. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Out Of Control

Wednesday, 18 January 2012 00:26
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
I Hate Ice

I love winter and I love the challenges of Great Lakes winters, but it is too warm down here too often and we get too much ice. Seven-and-a-half years in the U.P. and we really didn't need 4WD -- just good snow tires.

Tuesday we went from temps near 40°F which melted all the icicles to 29°F by the time I was coming home. Supposed to be 15°F overnight. All told today we had rain, fog, freezing rain, graupel, snow, ice and heavy winds to polish the roads.

You could really see the shine on the road from reflected headlights. 4WD and geared down to D(3) or 2 on the 4-speed automatic transmission. Most people took the freeways at 50-60 mph. Those wind gusts -- I think if I'd been in 2WD I might have lost stability.

Once off the freeway, I could slow down further, but heading towards the lake, it was definitely getting slippier. West of Allendale, M-45 traffic drops off a lot, which doesn't help keep the road clear. At 35-50mph I suddenly felt the Blazer spin to the left and slide right across the other lane and off the road.

The couple of times I've started sliding on icy roads I've usually gotten the wheel turned and straightened it out into a recovery. I managed to get the front wheels lined up the way I was sliding, but the angle was too great and I was off the road. No one around me when it happened. Where I slid off wasn't quite at the corn fields -- which is a good thing. Instead it was a long slide towards a berm, which spun me around as I came to a stop.

But... I quickly realized this wasn't so bad. I hadn't hit anything -- a quick looksee seemed to reveal no damage. So despite the soft ground and snow, I put it into low gear and eased it forward. Yay! Forward progress. Of course, I had to stop before the road and then couldn't move. Dammit. Got my shovel and cleared around the tires. No joy.

Then a pickup truck stopped with strobe light hazard flashers and a gentleman was able to use a tow strap to pull me the eight feet to the shoulder. Freedom. Kept it slow the rest of the way. You know that bit about most accidents happening within seven miles of home? Yeah. Under 3 miles.

Mrs. Dr. Phil had hauled the garbage out to the road, so I towed the recycling bin. Normally I'd back up the driveway afterwards. But I thought it would be better to cross the road and turn around. Except I hit a ridge of ice and felt the Blazer slew to the left. That noise? I was up against the fire sign. And about to fall down into the drainage ditch. Could not get any traction.

So I called home, 250 feet away. Mrs. Dr. Phil came down, but couldn't get any footing to push. So we trudged up the driveway. Best to deal with it in daylight. But a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and Brian from next door had seen the Blazer and offered to haul me out. Success!

So, I've posted the following to my classes -- NOW the weather people are warning about black ice. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
A Little Holly For The Season

Was intrigued with this holly bush with relatively sparse, dew dripping berries. (Click on photo for larger)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (undercon)
Not A Record

Though the media made a big deal of the huge/awesome/horrible blizzard on Groundhog's Day, the 16.0" in 24 hours recorded officially in Grand Rapids is just less than the 16.1" for the 1978 blizzard. So... it's not a record. Cue the disappointment musics.

Frankly it all makes us seem like wimps. Many of the other areas of the country which got clobbered either got a LOT more snow and ice than we did OR were getting snow and ice which they don't normally get. Hell, Dallas is dealing with unexpected winter on the eve of the Super Bowl -- guess that blows the theory that northern wintry cities can't host the Super Bowl because the elite spending thousands of dollars can't be allowed to walk on snow and ice.

On A Smaller Note

Of course, when Mrs. Dr. Phil went out to the road on Wednesday, there was neither mail or newspaper -- we didn't think anything of it. But when I got home Thursday, I noted that (a) the newspaper was in a red plastic bag lying on the snowbank next to the newspaper box and (b) there was no mail. What we hadn't considered on Wednesday, in our joy on getting dug out was that the plows had plowed the road, but not the shoulders. There was about a foot-and-a-half of snow between the end of the plowing and the boxes on the side of the road. As I drove up the driveway, I realized that though the driveway was cleared, it wasn't as if the mail could've been put on our porch -- a drift ridge had ended up blocking the sidewalk and the front porch wasn't cleared.

Friday and Saturday's papers were also dumped on the snow bank -- along with x-roxed fliers saying that snow was bad. Amazingly, the mail got in the box on Friday. I wasn't going out to the road in the dark to dig it out, so it didn't get done until Saturday morning. The cold dry snow by then had been through a couple of days of sun and warm, so our Yooper Scooper managed to lever up enormous slabs of snow. Most of the snow over the range I had to clear was taken up in four large slabs and a couple of smaller ones. Then I drove back and forth over the snow in 4WD to make sure the remaining snow was good and flat and drivable. Job done.

Storm of the century? Not really. Not when everything's pretty back to normal in a day or two.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
As We Waited...

It occurred to me that John might not have the house phone number, that I'd pulled his cell number on my cellphone, and that I normally turn my cellphone off when I am not using it -- I'm sure that's a horror story right there for most people younger than us. (grin) So I turned my phone back on and an hour later, John called. He wasn't going to be able to come and do my driveway, after all, but he'd called Sikkema & Sons and they'd do the job with a backhoe for the same price. Understandable that he had to cancel, he'd been working at plowing out at the airport. But nice of him to arrange for a replacement!

Called Terry Sikkema and he said sure, but he was going to eat dinner first. Fine, no problem -- no one had to drive out until around 7:50am anyway. Gave him our landline number. A few minutes later, phone rang. Apparently Mrs. Sikkema figured he should do the job while the waning light was still there and said she'd slow down dinner. (double-grin)

And A Short Time Later...

Here comes the backhoe!

Don't worry about the snapping of those dry branches -- they're scrub trees anyway and we have to keep hacking the branches back from the driveway anyway. Used to having branches break from trucks and gear heavier than a Blazer or a Bravada. (triple-snap-grin)

There is nothing like having the right tool for the job, and an artist who can wield said tool with precision.

And as the sun sets...

... we are freed from our icy prison. If we so wish. Fifty dollars well spent.

Dr. Phil


dr_phil_physics: (Default)

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