Tuesday, 20 October 2015 11:04
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Sigh. Twenty-three years into service at WMU and I'd hoped to avoid it altogether. But no. I can not. The inevitable Borgification is coming. And during the Spring 2016, I shall be assimilated.

Damn, Outlook.

Western Michigan University has chosen Microsoft Office 365 to replace Webmail Plus. The migration from Webmail Plus to Office 365 will occur during the Spring 2016 semester. More information will be communicated to the University community and published here as planning progresses.
Of course, I am not thrilled with the current Webmail+, which has made a number of what should be simple tasks needlessly complicated -- or not available. I mean, the DEC VMS VAXmail we used when I first got here actually had some better functionality for certain tasks. And I know I filled out the survey WMU had and told them "No Outlook". But, as per usual, they didn't bother to listen to me. (sigh)

Mrs. Dr. Phil was absorbed by Outlook a few years ago. She still looks the same, but then pod people tend to, don't they? Or else she's really good at pretending to be One Of Them. I will never be One Of Them, even if I have to use Outlook.

Why do I hate Outlook so much?

For one thing, I really don't want my email program to have hooks into everything I do, thank you very much. And as one of the Big email products around, Outlook has always had a big Kick Me sign on it which hackers like to target. Security vulnerabilities in an email program can directly affect your writing and your spreadsheets. Grades, exams, etc.

Since forever, when I've installed Microsoft Office, I've unchecked Outlook. Or its stupider brother Outlook Express, for you oldtimers.

Will I _have_ to install Office 365 on my own machines? Will its installation screw up my installations of Office 95/97/2003/2010? Because I really hate Office 2013 on OUEST, the work laptop.

This, I am afraid, is not progress.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)
I'm living on borrowed time. I suppose, in a sense, we all are. But right now I'm referring to OUEST, the university's Dell laptop in my office. It's on its battery, and since it's an old laptop and I haven't used it on the battery much, I'm not trusting the battery gauge. It'll last as long as it lasts.

An hour ago I was sitting here minding by own business, when I heard one of the grad students next door yank a plug out of the wall socket, followed by a loud buzzing, and then the realization that my little fan was spinning down and the display on OUEST had dimmed.

Yup. Power was out.

I called out to the grad student, who said the outlet was "broken" and had pulled from the wall. Yeah, and I bet a wire got crossed, too. I sent him down to report it and also sent an email downstairs. My chair came up shortly later and verified he could see a broken wire. And though I still had the overhead lights, the hallway emergency lighting was on -- so the second floor was probably down.

In this last hour a maintenance guy came by and repaired the outlet. But we're still down.

The current situation -- sorry, bad pun not intended -- is that the maintenance people are trying to figure out where the heck the circuit breakers are for the second floor of Everett Tower. I had suggested the Mechanical Room next to the bathroom or the Telco room next to the elevator. But there's nothing in either the Mechanical Room or the Maintenance room -- and they don't have a key to the Telco room. It's not in the Bradley Commons conference room. So, the guys are on the phone trying to figure it out.

The last I heard eavesdropping on their walkie-talkie conversation is that the breakers for the six-story Everett Tower are every other floor. So presumably they have to find the box on the first or third floors.

Not sure if the power will be back on before I leave today.

Not doing anything mission critical on OUEST right now.

54% charge left. 49%...

Dr. Phil

UPDATE: They found the box, but the power was still off. I wonder if they "thought" all the breakers were set, rather than cycling it and making sure. They came back a few minutes later and when I flipped my power strip ON, my little fan started spinning up. Yay! But why are the emergency lights still on? Oh, there's a reset.

Naturally, when I shut down OUEST to go, I was on Update 1 of 8...

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dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
I've made it through my first week of teaching this semester.

Well, almost. I still have to drive home today -- and fight my way through the outskirts of Bronco Bash, the annual campus party to start the new year. And it wasn't a full week, since Labor Day -- was that only Monday? -- was not a teaching day.

I'm tired and I hurt. The tiredness comes from having to get out of the schedule I've had mostly since Christmas and the hurt comes from going up and down the lecture halls twice a day -- the single hardest thing I have to do each day. I'd say I was out of shape, but considering my goal was to keep off my foot for most of 2015, that's a little hard to avoid. (grin)

But I've taught all my classes. Got my syllabi out. Assigned to Topic 1 Science Literacy Book Report. Those are the two big two-sided copying jobs for the semester. Used my new Virtual-NT4 workflow to update the class webpages successfully from both ZEPPELIN and OUEST. Notepad doesn't quite work the same way in both Windows NT4 and Windows 7, but I can work around that as long as I know what machine I'm on.

Today I realized I had never installed MathType on OUEST -- that's the full version of the Equation Editor embedded in Microsoft Word. But I was able to find the email from Design Science with the Product Key and downloaded Version 6.9a and got it installed. Nice company, and considering I bought that version on 24 March 2013, nice that the download and codes still work two-and-a-half years later. Other software houses could emulate this. Now I can edit/display equations properly in Word 2013.

Only real workflow annoyance is that I currently don't have the full version of Adobe Acrobat on the Win7 machines, so I can't make 2-up PDFs right now. At least Word 2013 makes a passable Save As PDF file out of the box.

Gas prices are still dropping. In Allendale: Tuesday $2.33.9/gal (except $2.25.9 at Admiral). Wednesday $2.25.9/gal. Thursday $2.24.9. Friday $2.23.9. But in Kalamazoo: Tuesday $2.09.9/gal. Friday $2.05.9/gal.

Go figure.

Benchmark crude oil is around $40/bbl. "They" say that it will be driven down to $20/bbl. An industry "expert" also said on the radio this week that we were "lucky" in the aftermath of the BP Whiting IN shutdown, that gas "only" went up 60¢/gal and not the 90¢/gal it "should have". This was attributed to the snit between Marathon and BP -- and that gas prices fall back down slower than they shoot up, allowing them to "recoup their losses". Ri-ight...

They talked about rain in the middle of the day for K-zoo, and in fact the sidewalks were wet as I went to my 10am and 1pm classes. But the sun just now came out (14:53 EDT), so hopefully I'll be able to pack it up, get out of here and go find out what the packet is that needs my signature at the Post Office in Allendale. My guess, is that it is the sixth Nikon 52mm LC-52 lens cap. I've needed at least six of them to update my old NIKKOR lenses with the new style center-pinch lens caps which go on and off, and stay on, much better than the old ones. They're only $5 plus free shipping on eBay from a retailer in Japan, but you can only order one at a time and wait ten days between orders. Guess this is so he's not stocking someone's store. (grin)

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (michigan-state-logo)
It was billed as the biggest football game... for Kalamazoo's Western Michigan University, at least. They stuffed 35,000 people into Waldo Stadium, many of them Spartan fans, for a game starting around 7pm Friday night.

I never saw any of it. No one was carrying the game on TV. Apparently being #5 in the nation for Michigan State didn't warrant getting covered, when it was just an early September sacrificial lamb. But you have to be careful with early games. The Michigan Wolverines on Thursday night lost to the Utah Utes 24-17, running about a touchdown behind the whole game, I gather.

But I promised to start off with the winning team's LJ icon, so here's the deal.

So the 11 o'clock news on Channel 3 WWMT had the Spartans scoring first, 7-0. On the kickoff, though, Western managed to run it back 100 yards. Tied, 7-7. I think they said the runner had a 70 yard return on his first place last season, too.

Final score:
#5 Michigan State University -- 37
Western Michigan University  -- 24
Sounded like a good game. Though Western didn't actually anticipate winning, they did want to show well, and having been 17 points behind at one point, finishing within two TDs has to be considered a good performance. Close enough.

Good job, Broncos. Off you go -- have a great season!

Dr. Phil
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Thursday, 3 September 2015 12:50
dr_phil_physics: (good-gulf)
Last week of August and the weather was practically fall-like. The highs in the 70s, except for one day where I think it only got up to 69°F. Lows were in the 50s, and even the high 40s.

It's September now and... ugh.

Yesterday was one of the top five hot days of 2015. Still didn't break 90°F in Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, although Mount Pleasant was 90°F on Tuesday and 91°F on Wednesday. Lows have been in the high 60s, low 70s. Heavy fog Tuesday morning. Lighter fog Wednesday morning. And Thursday? Murk. As in humid.

The air feels awful. And in prepping for the Fall Semester -- starts Tuesday! -- I came into Kalamazoo twice. Wednesday and now Thursday. Yesterday was pleasant. But today... ugh. The A.C. in Everett Tower is doing nothing. The air is just as thick and heavy and damp as outside, albeit a little bit cooler. As in a few degrees. Not sure how long it is practical to be here today, although I now hear a background rumbling in the building. Is the A.C. back on? We'll know in a while.

Right now, not only is my skin clammy, but my palms are sticking to the wrist wrest on OUEST. (Say that fast six times!) Thankfully, years ago I rigged up a Radio Shack 110V 5" computer cooling fan and have the air circulating in my little office.

It feels cooler if I turn the overhead lights off.

At home, I had the annual heat pump and furnace checks done on Tuesday, and the big accordion pleated air filter replaced -- not sure that got done last year. But we're in good shape. Had the batteries changed in the thermostat controller. 3xAAA and the old ones tested in the yellow on my tester, so glad I thought of that. High tech worries on a system that used to use just a simple coiled bimetallic strip and a glass bead with two wires and a drop of mercury. Progress.

Gas prices. Well, the BP refinery in Indiana is back in operation. I suppose you could say that gas prices are dropping, though they never seem to fall as fast as they rise. This all while crude oil is running under $40/bbl and in fact is so low that the dreaded fracking oil sources are shutting down exploration and calming down production because oil is too cheap to pay the bills. I'd say that the free market is doing what environmentalists were unable to do to save the planet -- except oil is not exactly a free market.

After regular topped locally at $2.99.9/gal, it dropped to $2.72.9 last week. Wednesday is was $2.52.9/gal and Thursday $2.50.9/gal. "They" are still talking about under two buck a gallon gas by Christmas -- it was supposed to before Labor Day, but then the BP in Indiana "crisis" flared up.

The big summer road projects are beginning to show signs of getting somewhere. Usually during the summer I take "the back way" to connect from M-45 Lake Michigan Drive to M-11 Wilson Avenue. It's curvy and pleasant and takes you away from the big parking lots and three sets of traffic lights at the Meijers in Standale. But... this summer they took out and replaced a bridge. Then they did roadwork on Wilson. And they are currently rebuilding the M-11 28th Street/I-196 intersection and interchange, resulting in me avoiding that area and some ugly detours. Just as well I didn't have summer classes this year.

The bridge on the back road is done and yesterday they were painting a few miles of lines on all the shiny new pavement. Yay. Similarly the new paving on Wilson is done. And all four legs of the I-196 interchange are open again, so I can use my usual routing if I so choose again.

As for Western Michigan University, one can't complain that they don't want to finish up New Student Week with a bang:
The Bronco football team opens its season with a matchup vs. Michigan State at 7 p.m. tomorrow. Sept. 4, at Waldo Stadium. Many WMU offices will close at 2:30 p.m. in anticipation of increased traffic on campus.
Western has never beaten a Big 10 opponent -- and the Spartans are highly ranked nationally. I believe only Ohio State has a better national ranking in the Big 10. Of course rankings mean nothing now and very little later when they are used to justify the networks' choices for bowl games and the mythical pseudo-playoff national champion.

However... I expect Western to give it a good start. And I'll post the results Friday night with the appropriate school LJ icon for the winner. Full disclosure -- I work at Western and indeed worked for a while on a second Ph.D. in Science Education here AND I like Michigan State and have something like two Continuing Education credits from them for taking the six week 2004 Clarion workshop when it was still held in East Lansing.

Tuesday will be a parking zoo on campus. Fortunately, I have the handicapped hangtag, which means I don't have to compete for parking spaces. See, they don't actually ticket students for parking in faculty spots for the first two weeks or so -- and the students know this.

Ugh, indeed.

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (darth-winslet)
Been updating my class websites the last two days, including the exciting new webpage on the FREE online Physics textbook we're adopting for PHYS-1070 from PHYS-1130/1150. It's not secret. Hell, I've included the URL in case any of y'all want to take a look at or download a nice introductory Physics textbook. On the campus WiFi last week, I was able to download the High Res PDF (102MB) onto my work Kindle Fire HD is about six seconds. Nice when the WiFi is the limiting speed and not the Internet connection. (grin)

With more and more online use, I once again tried to input additional information into the Course Description system. There are boxes for Class Webpage, Syllabus, Required Materials, etc. Textbook is handled by the bookstore, though -- and it leaves a blank for the Online textbook. And the Class Webpage line? I've put in URLs before, but I'm damned if I know where it displays that. Of course, I'm not a student, so I'm not entirely sure what display they get.

So I put all the information into Required Materials field, which does display.

Naturally it doesn't handle line breaks, so it stuffs three lines of information into one long line. It's 2015 guys, can't you handle a few basic editing tasks?

As for why we got an online FREE textbook -- from Rice University, no less -- I checked out what the bookstore said for the textbook for the University Physics II course for scientists and engineers:

They should all have the textbook already, if they've bought it. But $300? Geesh.

Another task I did today, as we're closing in on First Class Day, was to download the current class rosters. They'll change by the time we get to Week 1, but they should be 80% or more correct now. And then I looked at the Requests to Join on the closed Dr. Phil's New Physics Class on Facebook. Results were just about what I expected. 1 of the 10 new requests was registered. The other nine? They're from wherever -- mainly people who join all sorts of groups. One belonged to 1697 groups. They're trolls and scammers. Of course, I wasn't expecting anyone just yet -- you have to have found the class webpage first. And since that doesn't display on the course information page...

I could open up the Dr. Phil's New Physics Class on Facebook. Mostly what gets posted is reposts of stuff, to keep the site active. But we DO discuss problems and exam questions and other stuff, and it allows Messages from students, so I really don't want to open it up to the Wild West.

Lots of little details. All of which make for a semester start. I guess.

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

It almost wasn't.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Phil
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On For Fall

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

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

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

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

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

$6800 for the Fall 2015 semester.

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see...

Dr. Phil
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77 / 200

Monday, 20 April 2015 15:53
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
So Channel 3 said on Friday that West Michigan hit 77°F for the first time in two hundred days. Lovely Spring weather. Mrs. Dr. Phil kept on saying it was summer, but she'd been in a meeting where the sun was broiling the room, so she's biased. Saturday was almost as warm -- lovely day for one last meat up with Momcat and Joe at what he called "The Bug Bunny" -- Grand Coney in Allendale. Then off to a game night.

Sunday still got up to 69-72°F, but by late afternoon it was all steady rain and cooling off. It's 4pm Monday and been gray and raining on and off all day. It's gotten all the way up to 46°F so far.

Definitely Spring, it's greening up. Our little bed of a couple of daffodils shows nice healthy green stands of leaves, but no hint of flowers yet. There are some daffodils about a mile from us and the peepers are still raising a ruckus at night so... Spring. The forsythia bush has one branch with bright yello flowers, hopefully the rest of it will be coming. We think that one branch gets more sun from a gap in the trees. (grin) It's gonna be a cooler week, though.

Speaking of Spring, I guess it's Finals Week at Western -- since I'm not teaching, I'm just not in touch with the calendar. But I did have an office run on Wednesday -- gorgeous day and topped out at 69-72°F.

But as I was leaving, I spotted an unusual sight -- a class being held outdoors of Everett Tower and Rood Hall. Huh. A mobile white board and a music stand as a lectern. And it was a Math class. Man, usually the outdoor classes are social sciences or literature. But no, they're dealing with polar coordinates. And mostly the students are taking notes or crap. Not even texting...

Naturally it's a young guy. Usually you can't bribe or badger the fogies to do an outdoor class. Physics is Phun enough, we don't need to go outdoors. Not unless we're pushing Suburbans around or launching water rockets. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Inset from a second frame. In the time I stooped the walker, got out the Nikon D100 and took a coupke of shots, he made a couple of jokes. Sine of zero is zero. Anything times zero is...? Come on, the zero multiplication tables are going to be on the Final...
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Took another shot from the Blazer, showing the class spread out. There's one guy leaning back on both hands. Yeah, he's taking notes. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2015 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Dr. Phil
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dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Oh my, what a glorious day it was today. And I don't even mean that in some ironical or April Fools way. Wednesday was just one fine damn day.

Sunday we had some snow. Actually, as predicted, it snowed quite hard, with the temp dropping from the mid-40s down to around freezing. We'd had a good spring warm up, with temps into the 50s and all the snow on our yard had gone, except for some bits in the shadows of the trees. But by Sunday afternoon the driveway and then the weeds and the back deck and finally the concrete pad in front of the garage were all white. And then it rained and it all washed away. Without even creating more than just some water in the drainage ditch by the road.

Wednesday, though. Well, Wednesday was blue sky and sun all day long. Supposed to get up into the 60s.

I had planned on doing my weekly run to the office on Wednesday, because the forecast was so nice. When I started planning I really had just one agenda item. When I last was there two weeks ago, I noticed that the 8GB microSD card I was using to have removable storage on OUEST, the university laptop, was down to about 400 MB free. Well, guess I had order some more tunnel.

Oh wait. I already had coming a 32GB SanDisk Ultra microSD card (with SD adapter) because the silly thing was only $12.99 with free Prime shipping and I figured I need it someday. Guess someday was now. Note that I had bought a 16GB SanDisk Extreme microSD card with adapter for $14.99 to use on ZEPPELIN at home. And I'd bought a couple of 8GB Sandisk MicroSD cards with SD adapters for $6.95 each -- one which went into OUEST last fall and was now full, and one each for our new LG phones back in January. At some point SanDisk and Amazon are going to be paying me to take their larger and larger GB storage units in smaller and smaller form factors. (Compared to the hundreds of dollars I paid for a 512MB IBM MicroDrive Type II CF card -- with a two-platter ¾" hard drive with read/write heads and everything!)

All I had to do was get a card reader for the office, so I could easily transfer from the 8GB card to the 32GB, without dumping files onto the laptop's hard drive ***. And it would be nice to have a Compact Flash reader as well. Alas, the current versions of the bulletproof Sony multi-card readers are very expensive, and the cheap ones had reviews which said they worked great with SD cards but the pins bent and broke on the CF slots. Finally I found a Kingston USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader for $17.43 with reviews saying the CF card slot guides were long enough for the card to go in straight every time.

Whew. So that was my plan.

But... I had a student who needed a new letter of recommendation for medical school applications. We made an appointment for noon. And since I was going to be in, I contacted another student who I'd been helping and we set up an appointment for 10:30. While I was at work I wrote another email to check on a third student -- and also got an email from a fourth student suffering from writer's block and wanted some help getting unstuck with their multiple papers due in mere weeks. That's more students in one day of office hours than I usually get other than just before an exam -- and I'm not even teaching anything this semester! Also did a few story notes. And started in on my PowerPoint for the MIAAPT Spring Meeting at MSU in two weeks.

I didn't get around to opening the 32GB card and card reader packaging and starting the file transfers until 4:05pm. (grin)

It was a good day. Very productive.

And when I got home just after 7pm, the temperature in Allendale was still 63°F. Hey, I could open windows and turn a little fan on in the bedroom. Put my leg up and napped for an hour. And when I got up, the neighbor's power tool bonanza was over.


Ah, the peepers were peeping out in the swampy drainage ditches. A True Sign of Spring and the first time for 2015.

Tomorrow is a writing day -- rain, rain, rain. (grin)

Dr. Phil

*** -- BTW, in case you wondering why I was going to all this trouble with microSD card storage, instead of just using the hard disks, it's pretty simple. On ZEPPELIN at home, I use the 16GB card as easily removed backup. On OUEST at work, I can pull the microSD card and lock it up. The university keeps worrying about security of grades and other materials, so I'd taken to locking up removable cards last year. Not that I want the laptop stolen. After all, before OUEST, the laptops in my office were my own machines.

Remember, nothing is truly backed up unless it's on two different media and in two locations. (better-safe-than-sorry-grin) And a Master padlock trumps a silly little desk key.

Posted on Dreamwidth
Crossposted on LiveJournal
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl? Really?

Oh... it used to be the Humanitarian Bowl... Right...

Boise, Idaho? Isn't that Boise State? Home of the Blue Field?
Albertsons Stadium is best known for its distinctive blue playing surface, which was the only non-green football playing surface among Division I FBS programs from Boise State's entry into what is now FBS in 1996 until Eastern Michigan installed a gray surface at Rynearson Stadium in 2014.

Chris Berman of ESPN has also called Boise's turf "The Blue Plastic Tundra," a joking reference to "the frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field. Another nickname for the surface is "Smurf Turf." Players refer to it simply as "The Blue."
So... the point of this blog post is that Western Michigan University, where I teach, gets a bowl game this year -- after a truly disastrous year before. Amongst previous bowl games for the Broncos, was at the inaugural 2007 International Bowl in Toronto -- the only NCAA bowl game since the Bacardi Bowl in 1937 to be outside the United States -- which Western lost to Cincinnati 27-24.
Information on WMU's bowl destination.

Date: Dec. 20, 5:45 p.m.
Location: Boise, Idaho
Stadium: Albertsons Stadium (Boise State University)
Tie-ins: Mid-American Conferences vs. Mountain West

BOISE, Idaho -- The Western Michigan football team has accepted a bowl bid to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 20 against Mountain West opponent Air Force at 5:45 p.m. ET at Bronco Stadium on the campus of Boise State University.

"Western Michigan University is extremely excited and grateful to share our celebratory season with the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and the city of Boise," said head coach P.J. Fleck. "The 18-year existence of this bowl shows the elite commitment and work ethic of all that are involved in this historic bowl. Boise, it is time to ROW THE BOAT!"

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl will be broadcast live on ESPN. The Broncos are bowl eligible after the completing the best turnaround in program history and Mid-American Conference history, going 8-4 this season after 1-11 last season. WMU has the top scoring offense in the MAC, the MAC Coach of the Year in Coach Fleck, the MAC Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in Jarvion Franklin and 11 All-MAC selections.

"We are extremely honored to receive the invitation to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl," said Director of Athletics Kathy Beauregard. "It is a great honor for our football program that has earned this opportunity after the incredible turnaround we have had this season. We are excited to represent the Mid-American Conference in this bowl and in a city with such a long bowl history."

Air Force is bowl eligible after finishing the regular season 9-3 (5-3 MWC) and fourth in the Mountain West Conference Mountain Division. The Falcons boast the eighth-best rushing attack in the nation, averaging 272 yards per game. Jacobi Owens is the top rusher on the team with 1,054 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Kale Pearson has passed for 1,513 yards and 14 touchdowns but has also rushed for 646 yards and six touchdowns.

This is the first trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, formerly the Humanitarian Bowl, for the Broncos. WMU has appeared in five bowls in program history with its last trip in 2011 to the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl.

History of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
1997 - Cincinnati 35, Utah State 19
1998 - Idaho 42, Southern Miss 35
1999 - Boise State 34, Louisville 31
2000 - Boise State 38, UTEP 23
2001 - Clemson 49, Louisiana Tech 24
2002 - Boise State 34, Iowa State 16
2004 - Georgia Tech 52, Tulsa 10
2004 - Fresno State 37, Virginia 34
2005 - Boston College 27, Boise State 21
2006 - Miami 21, Nevada 20
2007 - Fresno State 37, Virginia 34
2008 - Maryland 42, Nevada 35
2009 - Idaho 43, Bowling Green 42
2010 - Northern Illinois 40, Fresno State 17
2011 - Ohio 24, Utah Sate 23
2012 - Utah State 41, Toledo 15
2013 - San Diego State 49, Buffalo 24

As for the Humanitarian bowl, I was thinking that this was the game sponsored by Micron, which made both the midsize tower Windows 95/98SE/NT4 computers I used for years and the memory SIMMs and DIMMs that I tended to buy for them. According to Wikipedia, right about that, too.
The game was sponsored by Micron Technology, an Idaho-based manufacturer, from 1999 to 2002 under the name, which sold computer memory upgrades from Micron. The bowl game then briefly had no sponsor for the January 2004 game. In December 2004, the name was changed to the MPC Computers Bowl. MPC Computers, which is also based in Idaho, was formerly MicronPC, the computer manufacturing division of Micron, but was later split off as a separate company. In April 2007, it was announced that the bowl will again be called the Humanitarian Bowl.[5] In May 2007, Boise-based Roady's Truck Stops was announced as the new sponsor, thus renaming the game the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.[6] On May 25, 2010, mobile business application, uDrove became the sponsor of the Humanitarian Bowl, signing a four-year agreement to replace Roady's.[7] On August 3, 2011 The Idaho Potato Commission signed six-year naming rights deal to sponsor the bowl, renaming it the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.[8]

With fifteen games played through 2011, it is the longest running cold weather bowl game currently in operation. The payout is $750,000, but teams are required to provide a corporate sponsor, purchase a minimum number of tickets, and stay at a selected hotel for a minimum stay. Because of this, 7–4 UCLA declined an invitation to the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl.
You can mock all you want about this being a minor bowl -- hell, it isn't even between Christmas and New Year's -- but for the MAC conference, you aren't going to get the Big Bowls, and it's pretty exciting for the teams and the alumni and the university.

So good on them. Go Broncos.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
I'm adjunct. I don't get sabbaticals, unless I want to declare one.

So we've been talking about this for a while and today I did it. I am not going to teach for Spring (i.e. Winter) 2015. You might think it's a little late, but as per usual, adjunct contracts go out late.

You might think it's all about the weather. And that's a factor. I managed to soldier in last winter, except for the odd snow day and a vehicle failure, but that was when we thought the errant heel was healing.

So late last night I sent my boss the following in an email:
We haven't talked about 2015 courses since last summer. I think I commented at the time that we wouldn't know until December or January or so whether the bone infection in my left heel has been beaten back or not -- I am just finishing up the six months of antibiotics in the next two weeks. If they were going to have to amputate, I was happy to teach in Fall 2014 and take Spring (i.e. Winter) 2015 off.

Well, it's still too early, but we've already had a taste of a hard winter in November -- 31" in Grand Rapids or 40% of the whole 2013-14 snow season. While I soldiered in last winter, that was when we thought we had normal healing going on.

I think it's best that I "take a sabbatical" for Spring 2015 and keep off my foot as much as possible. And if they need me to have surgery, there's plenty of time for recovery and rehab. Otherwise I would still try to keep some weekly office hours, subject to weather, and whatever happens, I should be able to teach Summer I and Summer II 2015 if there are courses available ***. I really would hate to start teaching and then have my foot blow up and leave the department and my students in the lurch. Being pro-active and taking the time off is the best solution for all concerned.
Now most people would be bummed to not work and lose the money, but I'm not most people. First of all, with my long commute and its costs, it's not like I really make anything on my adjunct salary. So teaching or not is practically a wash for our budget. And I'm an optimist. Having the time at home AND not having to face the wintry roads for months will not only be nice, it's really nice for Mrs. Dr. Phil.

And I can really rest the heel. And if it goes? Well, I won't be missing anything.

So I have declared Spring 2015, my 69th semester of university work, as my Sabbatical 2.0. What shall I do with this time? The obvious thing is write. Have not done a lot of submissions in 2014, though I am writing up a storm on my YA series -- 113,000 words so far and counting -- which means I've written more this year that in the last several years combined.

But... while I was talking to my department chair today, he happened to glance at my PHYS-1070 textbook, Inquiry Into Physics / Vern J. Ostdiek and Donald J. Bord (7th Edition), and asked what I thought about it. The thing is, it's not a bad textbook for an all-of-physics-algebra-level-in-one-semester class. But Chapter One sucks. I mean, if you had a GOOD high school Physics or AP Physics class, the first chapter is a nice review. But I have to assume we are starting at ground zero and working our way up. I spend weeks bringing everyone up to speed on just the first chapter. And then I extend the material, so the students end up with the kinematic equations as we use in PHYS-1130 and the calc level PHYS-2050. This allows them to talk to other students or people working the Help Room and get help they can understand.

I once spent two hours talking to a company rep about exactly what was wrong with that chapter. Years ago. It hasn't changed.

I've taught PHYS-1070 and its earlier variants a total of 28 times now. Early on we were using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics, which is too light. And we've been using Ostdiek & Bord since about the 3rd edition, I think. Other professors have taught PHYS-1070 over the years, and no one has found a "good" textbook. There just aren't many suitable for this course.

I've even thought about writing my own textbook.

So I told my boss I was going to rewrite my syllabus over my sabbatical and that I was thinking of using the full-year algebra level textbook, especially as we are currently using a loose-leaf edition which means we can pull just the sections we are going to use. And then my boss points out that actually, PHYS-1130/1150 is switching to a new text, one available for free and published with a Creative Commons license. Huh.

Bottom line, during my sabbatical of six months or so, I will also be taking that online text apart and figuring out the sections we need for PHYS-1070. Perhaps get the authors permissions to edit down the PDFs. And so I'm penciled in for PHYS-1070 for the 29th time in Fall 2015, where I will field trial the new text.

And we'll see how it goes. (grin)

What. Fun.

Now, just need to make it through December 16th and the noon grading deadline, followed by half a dozen doctors appointments... (evil-grin)

Dr. Phil


Sunday, 7 April 2013 22:20
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Made It Through The Week

Last week seemed really rough. Sure, it was busy, but there were a number of days when I got home and wondered if anyone had gotten the number of the truck that had driven over me. But looking around, I realized that there were a lot of students who were sick and/or missing. The class after my last class sounded like a TB ward, including the instructor the other day. And the university put back up the signs on the doors saying that if you had the flu to go home.

And Mrs. Dr. Phil was both busy and dragging. And sinuses clogged. So I worked on getting some extra sleep, and chonked down some Sudafed PE and Advils during the day. And survived.

Exam 3

Of course I had exams on Friday. And I really tried hard to get everyone ready. Didn't completely work -- one of the exams proved to be tough and a couple of students gave up early. Blank exams? Yikes.

I always bring cookies to my exams. My 10am class just isn't into cookies much, though. Maybe it's too early? The curve ball this time was the butter cookies Mrs. Dr. Phil had found at the store. I tested one -- quality control you know -- and discovered that it said MAYBE on it. A quick check and I found that others said YES and NO.

Cool! Cookies you can ask questions of! Naturally the first student who tested this asked if they'd done well. The cookie said NO. I told them that they'd asked the wrong question. (grin)

And It Never Stops

Had an email from a student on Sunday afternoon asking about a handout that they couldn't get on the class webpage. Turned out it wasn't an HTML coding error, the website was down. Hell, the whole university server was down. And the Help Desk hasn't replied to my inquiry of almost two hours ago.

Fortunately, I had planned for such things, putting a mirror site on my own website. And I was able to let my closed Facebook group for my students know. But of course the main link is on the missing webpages, and it turns out that it's hard to Google. Will have to address that this week.

Anybody who needs it, by the way, the Dr. Phil Homepage at WMU Mirror Site is here.

(And the main website is back up.) (Whew)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (delete-hal)

The university's e-newsletter included the following note yesterday:
Thursday, 04 April, 2013

The OpenVMS computing environment (, also known by service names Winnie, Kanga and Pooh) will be removed from general service April 30.

Once there were VMS computer domains on campus named Winnie, Kanga, Roo, Piglet and Pooh. I ended up using Piglet until it was retired, then Kanga after that, until they migrated the university e-mail over to other servers. In the early 90s, I still had FORTRAN programs that I ran on the VMS computers, and I seem to recall that one of the VMS machines ran a Gopher server I used in one of my grad classes when I was working on a 2nd Ph.D. in Science Education for a time.

Before that, of course, we were using Digital Equipment Corporation DEC VAX-11/750 hardware at the Center for Experimental Communication at Michigan Tech. VAX-A was the main machine for Physics when I started there in the Fall of 1984 and had a Floating Point Systems FPS-164MAX array processor attached for doing calculations. The VAX-11/750 was a very nice box, looking like a washer/dryer pair with one of hard drive boxes next to it. I was amused to learn that a couple of CS students bought VAX-B and VAX-C from the university when they were retired for a couple of hundred bucks and had all this network hardware installed in the living room of the house they were renting in Calumet Township. (grin)

Learning VMS in the mid-80s was very handy for when we finally bought our first IBM Personal Computer around 1986, because some of the command structure that PC-DOS/MS-DOS used was derived from VMS. And ten years later when I started doing serious work on Pentium-class PCs, Windows NT4 was developed by some of the same people who made VMS so stable.

In my Northwestern days in the late 70s, there were lots of DEC machines around the EE and CS departments. The CS network lab was a loose assemblage of DEC PDP-8s and PDP/LSI-11s. And around 1979, I think it was, Vogelback Computer Center, which housed the big iron Control Data CDC-6400 and CDC-6600 machines I worked with, decided to buy a pair of those newfangled VAX-11/750s and set them up in a spare room and let anyone who wanted to play with them do whatever they wanted. After all, the VAXen were so much cheaper to buy and operate than the CDC and Cyber machines, that they considered it "free" computing.

My dear friend from ISP days, the late Steve Houdek, adored the VAX and the VMS operating system. He learned all he could at VCC's two pet VAXes and then later worked for a VAX data center.

VMS eventually became OpenVMS. There was once a move to port VMS to the PC architecture, but PC-VMS never even made it to beta level, as far as I ever heard. I would've built a PC-based research computer and run VMS on it, if I could have.

I'm sure I have friends from all those eras who get chills and break out in hives thinking about having to work with VMS, much as when I contemplate working with IBM MVS or IBM VSE with JCL. (shudder) But I found the VAX/VMS combination to be very dependable and a good system to really cut my teeth on serious computing. A few years later, when we started using the Berkeley version of UNIX, I had a much better idea of what I was doing.

It's been years since I had to actually log into a VMS system at WMU -- when I was logging into piglet or kanga, I was using DEC VT-100 or VT-240 terminal emulation in MS-Kermit to do command line processing.

But you know? The VMS-Mail system worked pretty damned well for its day. And I had a lot easier time of managing thousands of old emails that way than the current stupid system. Really.

Enjoy your retirement, OpenVMS. At least for the five or six machine cycles before the power is cut and you're lobotomized forever. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil


Friday, 22 March 2013 22:57
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Something's Afoot

Monday (or maybe Tuesday) morning, as I walked in from the parking lot on campus through the light fluffy snow, I noticed a couple of pile of poops on the sidewalk. It was large and greenish. Was someone walking a hay eating Great Dane? Giant Killer Rabbits? I wasn't sure.

That afternoon as I came out, I saw a Canadian goose walking around on the sidewalk and the little grassy strips between Everett Tower and Lot 61. Mystery solved.

This morning, Friday, as I pulled into a handicapped spot, I noticed a pair of geese next to the sidewalk. You can't quite tell with the shadows from the tall buildings, but it was a bright and sunny day. For a change. Still below freezing, and the geese kept on getting up and wandering around.

They were gone this afternoon.

Didn't want to disturb them, so I used the little Sony from the driver's seat of the Blazer before I went to work this morning. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Hope they don't try to nest by the building. The suckers are BIG and can be quite aggressive if challenged. Like walking near them. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (kate-winter-coat)
But Maybe It's Fixed

For perhaps as long as ten years, my office has been subject to The Incredible Screaming Ceiling. Not often, mind you, but it seems to coincide with winter days with the sun shining and the temp outside in the 40s. Not today, by the way.

It's always been hard to locate the noise when it does happen. It sounds something like a mechanical vibration or rotation. It is not connected to the lights. It doesn't seem to be IN my office, but either on the third floor or in the grad student office next door.

The first time it happened, it scared me. It's loud and really annoying. Someone once came up to "look" for it, but the noise wasn't happening that day and well, it just wasn't worth it to keep crying WOLF! and having people find nothing when they actually got there.

Eventually, I just chose to ignore it. It only lasts for five to ten minutes anyway, once around noon and then usually in the later afternoon. (evil grin) I've always assumed it had something to do with the heating pipes on the offices above me.

But... the other week the dept. chair was holding a meeting in the conference room across the hall and when I came back from class and opened my door, the din got louder to them, and he came over and asked, "What the hell is that?!"

Thing about our current chair is that he is pretty proactive and gets things done. He checked my office, then went next door. Next thing I saw as I went down the hallway was him standing on the desk, having pushed a ceiling panel out of the way and saying he'd found it.

Some sort of hot water control valve with an electrical control wire coming out of it. He said he'd get it fixed.

Fast Forward To Now

The last couple of days? When I come into my office it is quite warm. 81°F on Monday and 85°F today. It cools off quickly after I open the door and it's a pleasant 77°F right now. As opposed to the 69°F and dropping that I usually get. Lower if the wind is howling and there's a draft from the window frames where they "fixed" that some years ago.

I think maybe the control valve got fixed and maybe my heat is actually working Better Than Life right now. Got to say, I don't mind it so much... (toasty grin)

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

Checked the TV to find that the expected freezing rain was causing some issues this morning. Just about every Ottawa County school was closed today due to icy roads, including Allendale. Alas, our NPR station, WGVU, had a computer network failure and couldn't give us SkyView Traffic updates. WTF? Haven't you guys heard of phones? Turning on the TV? Listening to the radio, like WOOD-AM, which also uses SkyView Traffic?

Epic fail on a sliding driving morning.

Worse, because of yesterday's rains, the radio in the 1986 Blazer decided it wasn't going to work -- it's a grounding problem and usually not a problem in the winter.

So I had to go off to the south without knowing what the roads were like. The roads were glazed, which wasn't so much of a problem as the gusting winds coming and going. 4WD needed to keep the front end tracking against the sideways gusts. Like Thursday, not too much new slop until I hit Standale -- Wilson and M-45.


Had to drive to Holland on Sunday, so filled the tank. $3.79.9/gal for regular, 15¢ higher for midgrade, minus the 15¢/gal gas coupon. (grin) Monday night, gas had jumped to $3.88.9/gal, which meant midgrade and higher would be above the four bucks a gallon level. Just in time for the State of the Union.

I've been re-reading my entries from four years ago. Gas was half the price it is today. The economy IS feeling somewhat better, so the oil companies are back to gouging.

Meanwhile, On Campus

Though it doesn't directly affect me, now that I have a handicapped hangtag, our dept. chair has been on a campaign to get more faculty parking spots in Lot 61. Naturally, being a physicist, he backed up his letters with data. Last week the Parking Office said, Huh, guess you are shortchanged. And today, the north row of spaces changed from student "W" to faculty/staff "R".


Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
No, Prudent

While the rest of the nation is watching the northeast as two storms merge to form Snurricane Nemo and New York to Boston is supposed to "get it", the northern part of Nemo came through Michigan last night.

The irony is that yesterday, Thursday, was the first morning commute in some three weeks that I was able to drive at full posted speeds the entire way. Roads clear. It was sunny in Kalamazoo. In Grand Rapids, though, the afternoon was already picking up half a foot or more of wet heavy snow. This wasn't the dry lake effect snows we've been getting. It was near freezing and there was a lot of water content, making for slushy, slidey road conditions, plus bands of freezing rain.

K-zoo was in the 3-5" snowfall range. Our house was just south of the one-foot plus range. Our neighbor plowed our driveway twice by 10pm -- probably a good move on his part since the heavy wet snow would be tough for his little plow to work on in large scale.

But even while the sun was shining in my office yesterday afternoon, I advised my department chair that it was possible I wouldn't be driving in today. I was expecting a very long commute and on Fridays we just do a quiz in class. So I arranged to have people cover the quizzes and emailed PDFs of the quizzes to the office last night.

I was right, of course. Traffic cameras showed slow driving. I've already pushed past 2½ hours on the drive in just this week due to icy conditions. Why drive in, risking life-limb-vehicle, just to be late to a quiz and give another?

Of course the sun came out this morning and it looked all white and pretty. But I know I made the right choice.

Pictures Or It Didn't Happen

The back deck was completely clear before Thursday afternoon. And because it was warm enough, I was able to open the sliding screen door and shoot. It may not look so bad now, but the roads early this morning were coated with a thick slurry of shit. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

This morning, the snow cap on top of the heat pump was at least a foot high. With the temps in the upper 20s and bright sunshine, it had been whittled down to 6-9" by 1pm. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Rather impressed myself with getting the Nikon D1 to deal with the overblown snow highlights, even while shooting through a window screen. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Icicles forming quickly from the roof melt. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (kate-winter-coat)
Saturday Afternoon

Snow day on Thursday for WMU, then lake effect snow bands all the way through Saturday afternoon in places. The sudden cool off and then frigid freeze after Wednesday night plus snow put down a nice layer of ice on the roads. Friday's commute in the morning was slow and cold at 11°F in Allendale. At times speeds on the highways was down to 25-30mph and 40mph on the freeways. This wasn't helped by the fact that there was bright sun south of Grand Rapids and many people thought they should be able to drive faster.

Coming home on Friday, my gauge is to check the reflection of headlights off the road surface in my rearview mirror -- quite glazed, actually. So I probably annoyed some people with my caution. (grin) By Lake Michigan Drive, the lake effect was creating vast clouds of airborne snow with every passing cars. Maintaining sight of the edges of the roads was not easy.

By 3:30pm Saturday, though, there was brilliant blue sky to the north, so I threw my cheap old 12mm f8 Sigma Fisheye on the D1, set it to f11 and took a quick shot through the sliding glass door. Followed by a couple of pictures with the 35-70mm lens at 35mm. I can tell that I am getting comfortable working with the Nikon digital SLRs, because I've regained my form of holding a camera and getting interesting shots without benefit of looking through the finder (double-grin) -- the part of the sliding door without the screen is behind a table and with the snows and cold, there's a good chance the sliding screen door wouldn't open if I tried it.

Boosted the contrast and darkened the shot to show the deep blue of the sky. The old fisheye isn't very sharp, so brightening it for detail didn't seem worth the trouble. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

View north out the deck showing the thick frosting on the trees. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Second shot looking northeast. I liked the look of the fluffy ridge of snow that hadn't yet blown off the railing. And even without using the finder, that ridge fits perfectly in the curve of the trees. Sometimes I amaze myself. (Click on photo for larger.)
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Meanwhile The Inevitable Rises

Beginning of last week gas was $3.38.9/gal for regular. I had a 50¢ and a 10¢/gal coupon for the Family Fare grocery gas station, so even with buying midgrade I was able to get gas under three bucks for once. Too often when I've had big coupons the price jumped so I end up paying what I would've before the increase. By afternoon the price had jumped 20¢/gal. And by Friday, it was up another dime to $3.68.9/gal, then $3.75.9/gal by the time I got home.

With the higher prices and the biting cold wind, I really resent standing there waiting for gas pumps to ask questions and think about the reply. Enter your ZIP code. Do you want a Car Wash? Do you want a receipt? Come on, it's not like you've never asked those questions before, you silly computers, and have to decide what to do with the NO and YES inputs.

The Neighbor

The guy across the road from us got a new toy -- a four-wheel ATV with a blade. He saw Mrs. Dr. Phil working the snow scoop during the first snow storm last week and he knows I'm walking with a cane these days. So when he runs up and down his longer driveway, he's been zipping up and down our 250 foot driveway and clearing off the daily accumulation. It's really nice of him. We got a $25 gas station gift car for him last weekend, since he didn't want anything for it. Right now I think he's really enjoying his new toy.

On Wednesday when I was hooking up the recycling bin with the garbage can inside to tow it back from the road, I noticed that there was several pieces of slag from the driveway in the square opening of the Blazer's Class III receiver hitch. That was odd until I realized that when I backed out in the morning I'd crunched up against the snow bank from the plowing -- presumably there were driveway stones picked up in the plowing. (four-wheel-drive-grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
A Welcome Relief

These last two weeks have been one wild adventure in commuting after another. Snow. Ice. Torrential rains. Flooding. Dense fog. Tuesday the temps approached 60°F, whereas last Wednesday started at 0°F and got all the way up to 19°F. Yesterday it was still above 50°F at midnight, in the mid-40s by morning and snowing by evening.

The big concern for today, the last day of January 2013, was the layer of ice under the sideways blowing snow. Naturally I had scheduled Friday as Exam 1 Day. The new wrinkle this year? Instructors are no longer allowed to cancel classes. That decision has to be made at higher pay grades.

But at 6:10am I turned on the TV and Channel 3 was doing the Kalamazoo County school closings. Kalamazoo Valley Community College was closed for the second time this week -- they are just outside of town in a really exposed, isolated site. But above that line was Just In: Western Michigan University CLOSED. So I booted the computer and started updating webpages.

I probably could've gotten to K-zoo okay -- MDOT seems to have done a bang up job, so to speak, in drying off the freeways by morning. But I'm assuming that the regular streets and roads down south were all bad. It's not great here, but I think it was worse last week.

Adventures in driving indeed. Snow Day. Western never closes. (grin)

Dr. Phil


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