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Fri, Oct. 24th, 2014, 12:12 am
West Michigan Wins Another Dud

Last week I was told that someone was talking about a solar eclipse Thursday locally at 5:30am. Right. That wouldn't help, especially this side of the equinox. But it turns out we really were scheduled to have a partial solar eclipse today -- starting at 5:40pm. Oh that could work.

A while back I had a list of eclipse dates, but it expired. And frankly I've had my eye on The Big One -- August 2017 total solar eclipse over a wide swath of the country. Never been inside totality.

Today's was said to be about 40% I guess.

But by last night, as usual, it wasn't a done deal. I cannot tell you how many solar and lunar eclipses I haven't been able to see in West Michigan. There was a six hour window for the clouds to roll in.

This morning was foggy. Too bad the eclipse wasn't at 8am, because the sun's disk was just visible through the haze above the Grand Valley. Almost stopped for a picture anyway.

5:20pm, after a bright sunny day, I'm loading up to come home and took a picture of the Sun just disappearing into that cloud bank coming in. 5:20...

As I approached Allendale, there was an orange stain on the horizon. And a flash of an orange ball on the horizon. 6:35... Next time I saw the horizon, it was after 6:40 -- sunset. I would've lived with a sunset eclipse picture.

Sigh.

I tell you -- August 2017 I'm going to be like a tornado chaser with the WiFi hotspot and weather.com...

Dr. Phil

Sun, Oct. 19th, 2014, 01:01 am
Adobe FlashPlayer You're On My Shitlist

Flash always wants to update. At least there's an option to ask first, though the window blocks everything until you clear it. Friday LARA got like version 16.0 for Win XP SP3. Just now SUMMER wanted to install 15.9-something on Win XP SP2.

It offers some McAffee piece-o-crap as per usual and I as per usual uncheck the box. Download the installer. Run it. It starts downloading Flash AND the McAffee piece-o-crap. Fine, I'll delete it later. THEN it started trying to install Chrome giving a message that Chrome is already installed. THEN it started downloading Adobe Lightbox! On Friday that was a separate offer.

WTF?

I killed the download. Started over. Same thing.

I gave Adobe some feedback and copied it so I could paste it here, but alas I lost it.

Suffice it to say, Adobe... either get your programmers to do the job right OR don't do it at all.

I don't need to have my time wasted because you screwed up. How many times do I have to say it? I BUY COMPUTERS TO GET MY WORK DONE - NOT YOURS. Period. End of story.

The shitlist is rapidly growing this month. Has everybody lost their minds?

Dr. Phil

Sat, Oct. 18th, 2014, 11:10 pm
Massive Crumbling Concrete

Sunday is the anniversary of getting home from the hospital last year. We are "celebrating" with a movie and a Crust 54 pizza -- 12" Chicago stuffed, sausage, mushrooms, black olives, fresh garlic, green peppers -- and tomorrow, Country Captain chicken curry. Yum.

After the movie, we had just gotten to the D&W grocery store, when I heard the siren song of a train. So after I dropped off Mrs. Dr. Phil -- I drove over to the Wesco gas station by the railroad tracks. No train coming up the cutoff. Was I hearing the horn from over by the mainline? Looked the other way -- headlights a coming. 4:40pm.

I had the Nikon F3 with the 28-200mm f3.5-5.6D AF-NIKKOR all-in-One lens. Squeezed off one frame, then set up the hero shot, crossing the grade crossing and... nuthin'.

Dammit -- I am so spoiled by digital and autofocus and built in motors. Can't do anything about the former, will have to use that focusing aid and film has to wait for developing, but dammit. I spent twenty years loving my F3's and the smoothest easiest film advance -- as much as I wanted one, I never had to spend the $400+ on a motor drive. Now? Now I need to comb eBay and get a decent $50-$80 MD-4 motor drive. Because I keep missing shots. Plus it'll balance better with the longer zoom lenses.

Lesson learned. If I'm out with a film camera cruising, I'll take the F4s, or at least the N2020. Save the F3 for less action until I motorized it, and make it a pro camera circa 1981...

The Maze Runner [PG-13]
Holland 8 Theatre #7 2:00pm 2x$6.49

Oh great. Another YA dystopia series I need to read.

This opened the other week, but this was the first weekend we had free for a movie. The trailer looked great, but I hadn't heard any buzz and we hadn't read the series. So l bopped over to Locus Online for their review. Promising. And I was warned there are differences with the book.

You wake up in a metal cage rising up a deep subterranean elevator shaft. Shades of entering the arena in Hunger Games, except there's cargo and you have no idea where you are or what is going on. Of course what is going on is some sort of evil cross of Lord of the Flies and Hunger Games and some massive open air prison surrounded by a massive maze. The maze closes at night and no one left inside has ever come back. At night the maze changes. And you hear these mysterious monsters inside.

Oh fun.

Actually, for all the confusion, the boys have organized themselves. They are given supplies and a new boy once a month. The actors are all terrific -- and diverse. We think we've seen all these stereotypes before, but it isn't so formulaic, not so cut and dried. The boy we think is the enemy, he actually seems to be trying to hold things together... Or not?

The maze is a Thing all to itself. Imagine half a hundred graving docks smashed together, solid, concrete, towering, mobile, crumbling, rusting. This place is a multibillion dollar construction project -- but by whom and for what reason?

If that's not confusing enough, the elevator cage comes up after only a few days bearing a girl. Things are changing and no one knows why.

You know there's a connection between our hero and the girl. You know he's destined to run the maze, stay overnight, fight the monsters and make it out alive. But they have surprises for us at every turn. Things are not only not what they seem, but wildly so. The end the boys and girl are hoping for is not the one they get. On the face of it, fans of The Hunger Games might say their series is about a revolution, as is Divergent. But there's some serious roots here, and what fruit it might bear in the sequels, I cannot say. So far, well-played.

We loved the look and the sound. There are so many questions and I might speculate on some answers, but that involves details, so I might post some spoilery comments another time. But the final aerial view of the Maze raises more questions than it answers.

As we left, the young man cleaning asked what we saw. Maze Runner? Yeah, we haven't read the trilogy. Oh, there's a fourth book, actually a prequel -- read it last. Okay.

Mrs. Dr. Phil just ordered the boxed four-book trilogies for The Giver and The Maze Runner -- our Fall and Christmas reading programs are set.

We can't speak to whether the film does justice to the books. But on its own The Maze Runner is a great end-of-the-summer good looking entertainment.

Highly Recommended

Trailers: Nightcrawler has Jake Gyllenhaal becoming a rogue last night news chaser, Rene Russo works for a local affiliate and wants If It Bleeds It Leads -- what could possibly go wrong? Madagascar's The Penguins get their own movie... as super spies. If you're a fan of the silly animated series, it'll be fun. Interstellar, opening in TWO WEEKS on 7 November, has a new trailer and it looks gorgeous. Regular or IMAX? Hard to call right now. Might just see it in Holland and avoid the crowds. Right now, with my leg, the most comfortable seats in the IMAX theatre are in Row 1... Some Dreadful Horror Movie Whose Names Escapes Me means Halloween is around the corner. Exodus: Gods and Kings -- okay, with this trailer, I am officially intrigued with Ridley Scott's take on The Ten Commandments. It's been remade several times and the Cecil B. DeMille version with Charleton Heston and Yul Brenner is superb, but a little long in the tooth and heavy handed all these decades later. It looks good, much better than Noah looked, at least in terms of trailers.

UPDATE: The horror flick is Ouigi, featuring a... wait for it... Ouigi board. Luigi board sales may be up for Christmas. Or not. There was another trailer, for a high school football player blinded in an accident and his improbable recovery, including getting back on the team.

Dr. Phil

Sat, Oct. 18th, 2014, 02:26 am
OhMyGodWe'reAllGoingToDie!

So... the United States is going Ebola crazy.

Not because thousands have died in Africa. Not because tens of thousands have contracted Ebola in Africa.

No. All because we've had a couple of cases in the United States. Two hands worth of fingers is more than enough. A couple we brought here to treat. One guy brought it with him on a plane. He infected a couple of hospital workers. That's the thing. To get Ebola you have to go to where it is and then directly have contact with bodily fluids from someone showing symptoms. That's it.

I've been a "fan" of the filoviruses, as if one can Like something awful, for a long time. Marburg surfaced in 1967 -- Ebola in 1976. I was in college when I first heard about these hemorrhagic diseases. The worst strains of Ebola zaire have over a 90% mortality rate, kill in like two weeks and burn through a few villages in a relatively short time.

This strain isn't as lethal and struck in higher density populations with better access to hospitals than usual. That's why the numbers are so high -- it doesn't burn out so fast.

Of course facts aren't the strong suit of many Americans these days. Like I said the other day -- these blog posts are as much for me as to put my thoughts out there. I'm unlikely to cause any tectonic shifts in American politics or science literacy -- I'm sad about the latter.

Anyway, we've had three, count 'em THREE big Ebola news scares here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. That's right. Grand. Rapids. Michigan. Not Dallas, not Atlanta. Grand Rapids.

First there was word about a patient who Spectrum put into isolation. He was in Africa! Sure, maybe a thousand miles from the outbreak and offshore on an island, but... Must be Ebola! No, actually it was another hemorrhagic fever. I know better, but the comments on that story on Mlive were frothy all over the place. Funny, not one commenter asked, "Huh? There are other hemorrhagic fevers?"

Then there was a news item that said Grand Rapids WASN'T READY FOR AN EBOLA EPIDEMIC. Huh, you think so, Sparky? I don't think any city in the United States is ready for an Ebola epidemic. We've half a dozen cases. One death.

Oh, and this one male nurse brought here to be treated has been discharged and is going back to West Africa to help out. I mean, he's already had Ebola.

But tonight... big scare at Kent County Gerald R. Ford International Airport. A flight of 44 people from Dallas was parked off to the side. There were ambulances. Ebola! From Texas! Send the plane back! Don't let them get off. Burn them! Shoot the plane down! Nuke them from orbit -- it's the only way to be sure! ***

Turns out it was a group -- family? -- of five? -- all had colds. Coughing, sneezing, feeling bad. You know, a cold. But the flight crew decided to put them on oxygen masks. That upset the passengers, because EBOLA!

Now I'll grant that Grand Rapids has a fair share of people doing missionary work, so working in the target zone isn't impossible. But I'd guess that right now in the United States there'll be over a million times more people who are going to get the flu than have Ebola. And many of these people, eager to fight Ebola in our streets, haven't and likely won't have gotten flu shots.

As for the government. Sigh. Close the borders with Mexico! Bomb and burn those parts of foreign countries with Ebola! Complain that President Obama hasn't done enough. Or has an evil secret plan. He hasn't appointed an Ebola Czar! Despite holding up the nomination of the Surgeon General, cutting the budget at CDC and spending weeks of hearings grilling CDC execs in DC, rather than let them work in Georgia. And then complain he's overreaching when he does appoint someone to look over the Ebola response. Sigh.

Ebola seems to cause dementia. From afar. Without direct exposure.

Dr. Phil

*** It amuses me no end that this line from Aliens gets used on these pages enough, that the next word in the sentence is in the offered word list on the Kindle...

Sat, Oct. 18th, 2014, 01:01 am
My Happy Place

At some point I should post my entire Happy Songs playlist from Amazon. Not all truly happy, happy songs, but they make me smile. I started this when I got home from the hospital a year ago and decided to put some things on my Kindle Fire HD.

Right now there are 44 songs -- over three hours. And I've three hours between classes, so sometimes I use it to time my office hours. Sometimes I put it on random.

Of course I didn't have to fork money over to get all these MP3s. The first songs came from some credits I got with the Kindle and a few of the paid programs -- what the kids these days call apps. And then one day I discovered I didn't have a dozen songs, but hundreds. Amazon linked up MP3s of many of the albums I'd bought over the years. Sure, Amazon may yet be an evil force in the world, but they do make life easy. (sad-evil-grin)

Tonight I decided to add the two great Miami Vice anthems from Phil Collins and Glen Frey. I'd already made a note to add The Pet Shop Boys / West End Girls, and while that was playing, 43rd on the playlist, I knew instantly what #44 had to be. One Night in Bangkok from the amazing Chess.

Alright, enough nickel and diming for a while!

I've actually seen Chess staged. They did it at the Frauenhall Theatre in Muskegon. I contacted a friend who was obsessed with Chess and they came down for the spectacular show. One Night in Bangkok was banned in Thailand, but it is a clever and quick song. And by Jove, it pairs sweetly with West End Girls.

And that's all you need to know about the magic of playlists.

Before the Kindle, I was an album man...

Dr. Phil

Fri, Oct. 17th, 2014, 03:04 pm
In Praise Of Ancient Software

As I've commented on before, I use a certain amount of old software. Some even dating back to the DOS era, considering that until Microsoft started breaking things in the name of making money, er, progress, DOS was at the heart of Windows. Word 95, for example, is much faster to type in than more recent versions, because as computers upgraded from a paltry 166MHz (or 4.77MHz if you want to go back to Word 5.0b for DOS) to more than ten times faster, they cannot seem to catch up with a slow human who can type.

I have used HoTMetaL PRO 4 and 5 since at least 2001 to write my class webpages and the content on dr-phil-physics.com since 2008. Alas, when I set up SUMMER, my Fujitsu ultracompact PC, I don't know where I put the install disk afterwards. No doubt in some convenient and obvious place. Found the other software to set up LARA, the HP netbook I am using at work right now, but not my HTML editor.

And I want to keep HoTMetaL PRO.

Apparently I am not alone. There is a whole website dedicated to keeping HoTMetaL PRO 6 running on XP, 7 and 8, after SoftQuad sold out to Corel who sold it to someone who went out of business. For months I have been checking eBay to find a copy of HoTMetaL PRO 4 or 5 or even 6. Not one. Lots of people selling the User Manuals, but not the CD-ROM, cause you have almost no need for the manual. Perfect.

Last week there was a Buy It Now for $7.17 with shipping for a copy of HoTMetaL PRO 3. "Works the same on Windows 3.1, 95 or NT." I took a gamble and it arrived the other day. Today I brought in my portable Fujitsu USB DVD/CD-ROM drive and went to install it.

After a previously mentioned adventure on LARA and the hibernation file, I have 2.1GB free on the 16 GB solid-state drive C: . And it turns out this ancient software needed a whopping 20MB to install. I think I can spare it. My biggest worry was whether this thing was so old, that it meant Windows NT 3.51 or NT 4? The User Manual had no list of operating requirements or install directions. Presumably that was on the box, which I didn't have.

But, HoTMetaL PRO 3.0 release 3.21 runs just fine on Windows XP Home. Controls are a bit more primitive that on 5, but I can get it to work. Some things, like HTML codes for Greek characters like θ (theta) don't work right, but I can update a webpage, then fix it tonight. Unlike Wednesday when I had to update raw HTML in Notepad.

Yes, there are other HTML editors out there, but this one works. I don't do cascading style sheets, I don't have to be compatible with Microsoft's miserable attempt to mix DOC with HTML -- have you SEEN the bloat code Word writes? -- and it works better than the Composer semi-WYSIWYG editor from the old Netscape Navigator. Why must I change?

Anyway, I still have to find a version 5. But in the meantime, I am back in business. Thank goodness LARA doesn't run Windows 7, 8 or 8.1...

For $7.17.

Dr. Phil

Wed, Oct. 15th, 2014, 04:06 pm
Not A NaNoWriMo Project

So back on 9 September, just over a month ago, I started in on a novel. It's a story I've worked on before, including the last year, but I changed things.

But after I'd written some 6000 words, I realized that this was the "nice" version of the story. I needed to be meaner to my characters if this was going to work. Because otherwise, it was just... schlock.

So I set the A novel aside and started the B novel on the 12th. After about 15,000 words, I decided that I was putting back in too many "nice" features. That things weren't hard enough. Also the characters needed to be edgier.

So I set the B novel aside and started the C novel on the 24th. After about... oh yeah, you can see this coming... after about 3000 words, I felt that while the characters were edgier -- and to some extent fun -- they were TOO cocky. These people needed to have suffered. And still living with it. No fairy tale endings. No Prince in shining armor or worsted wool.

So... since I hadn't gotten too far, I set the C novel aside and started the D novel on 27 September 2014. I think maybe I've got the mix right. Still haven't decided if this is YA or not. Technically it is neither SF or Fantasy -- call it alternative history -- and quite unlike anything I've ever written before, yet parallel to some of the stuff in my 29th century SF. Go figure.

I'm just about one-third of the way to my initial target length, so I might as well pull out the word meters and officially put this super-secret novel project on notice to the world.

The Lost Kingdom Project D Novel


Whether this thing will ever see the light of day, who knows? But I am having fun with it, from figuring out the business class seating of an Airbus A330-300 (and I loathe Airbus -- grin) to discovering that of all the Scandinavian countries -- Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland -- the only one on the euro is Finland. The rest use the kroner, only it's not the same kroner, and at least one of them is pegged to the euro and one of them has ditched the less-than-one krona coins, much like Finland ditched the 1- and 2-eurocent coins, except for collectors, so all prices are to the nearest €0.05. We knew that last fact, because we were in Helsinki and Tampere in 2003... Also had to research which countries in Europe had left-side-drive/right-side-steering at one time.

Anyway, I will probably make reference to this in the future. And I thought I'd get this out there before November dawns and all those 50,000 word NaNoWriMo novel counters start showing up.

For those who care about technical details, given the current mix of computers, I am NOT writing this novel in Word 95 like almost all my other writing, but in Word 97 / 2003 / 2010, because they allow one to use the mouse wheel for scrolling around. Word 97 has almost the same icon toolbars as Word 95. Word 2003... I have to beat it around some. And Word 2010? Gah... ribbons. What a waste of screen real estate and unnecessary having to farble around between tabs. On the other hand, Wendy's old laptop that I call ZEPPELIN has a big screen, which makes for easier editing, so Word 2010 it is.

Dr. Phil

Wed, Oct. 15th, 2014, 03:33 pm
Progress Report #713596

A year ago I was counting down the days til being released from the Fuller Street facility and the 5th Floor rehabilitation unit. It has been an interesting and busy year.

Currently, the number one main wound on my heel is looking pretty good. Not much in the way of drainage, the foot surgeon trimmed off some hypergranulated tissue so it doesn't interfere with the nice granular tissue filling in underneath. It's satellite, which opened up connected to a previously known tunnel, is also healing -- after the second-to-disappear/first-to-emerge wayward piece of hydroferra blue got free. The outside edge heel wound, from which appeared the first-to-disappear/second-to-emerge wayward piece of hydroferra blue after several months and some 4" of travel inside my heel, is also looking pretty nice.

Of course, we always have excitement here. The NEW new site is on the inside edge of the heel. There was some callous tissue which had gotten very hard and we'd been treating it with a urea cream to soften it. Well, it softened enough that -- and this is my speculation -- that with the extra bandaging on the outside, it must have been irritated in the AFO foot brace, so that it blistered and formed a blood blister underneath.

Last night the blood let loose, which I had been expecting. So the bandage was bloody -- on the outside edge, cause it followed the bandaging around, since I sleep on my left side and gravity works DOWN.

As for the infected heel bone, no information. Still have another almost two months of oral antibiotics to go, and then go off those. In December we'll evaluate once again with everyone, and they'll figure out when I should get a repeat MRI. Probably some more bloodwork. See if I have any infection.

Can't make a real decision as to whether we keep the left foot, but so far no news ain't bad news. Infectious Diseases figures one can have an infected heel bone for a long time and manage. So no rush? Fine by me.

Last night got on the cellphone and reordered almost all of my prescriptions -- #'s 2, 7, 9, 11, 20.2 and 12, plus 6 -- everything but #8 since that comes in 90 day supplies and not 30. What, you think I'm gonna call all these things by their trade names?

So on any given day there's low grade excitement, otherwise we admire the absolutely gorgeous bandaging jobs that Mrs. Dr. Phil does. Better than the nurses and assistants do. Seriously.

I'm improving my stair climbing times, especially in the big lecture hall, 1104 Rood, which has the big shallow steps. Will probably soon try the basement steps in the house. After all, it's fall. And we talked about getting a new trio of kittens this fall to replace the last set we wore out. (mew!)

Dr. Phil

Wed, Oct. 15th, 2014, 03:07 pm
Huh? Now Explain THIS, Genius!

So... Tuesday I got gas in Allendale. Regular was $2.85.9/gallon, midgrade was $3.00.9/gal, and I didn't even have a coupon. That was at 7:40am.

Coming home around 6pm -- and gas everywhere was $3.25.9/gal.

That's a 40¢/gallon rise just during the work day.

(*blinks*)

14%.

What caused this? I turned on my radio, to catch either NPR news or MarketPlace on NPR. Alas, it's been raining lately and I have a ground problem with my radio, similar to the 1985 Blazer, and so the radio isn't working right now.

So later on after I was home, there were two news stories that "might" be connected, but as per usual, who the hell knows?

One -- the stock market, aka the Dow Jones Industrial Average of an indexed basket of reasonable stocks which changes over time, dropped 450 points. I haven't had a working radio for a couple of weeks, with the weather, but I'm pretty sure that last I heard the DJ was around 17,000 still. But whether 16,000 or 17,000, a drop of 450 is under 3% -- not 14%.

Unless you're sure that this volatility presages the sudden and utter collapse of the U.S. economic system, in which case $3.25.9/gal is way too low.

Two -- a Federal court said that yeah, Texas can implement their Not My Kind Of Right Thinking Voter Suppression Law, on the basis that it's too close to the election to consider allowing a free and fair election. In which case, perhaps the oil companies -- big in Texas -- decided that maybe they didn't have to sweeten the price of gasoline to discourage voters from voting in pols who might be antithetical to Big Business after all. Which had been my own personal crackpot theory of gas prices the last couple of election cycles.

There are gasoline price pundits out there, of course, but what fun would that be to hear what they had to say?

These gasoline blog entries are as much place markers for me as anything, so I can look back at October 2014 and remember.

I'm sure these posts and political side comments are just sterling stuff that my two or three readers can't wait to get their electrons wrapped around another edition.

And they say blogging in general and LiveJournal in particular are dead.

Dr. Phil

Sun, Oct. 12th, 2014, 12:01 am
Firefox -- You're On Notice, Too

Ten frustrating minutes.

Five minutes trying to close a tab. Three minutes trying to select a file for an attachment. Two more minutes waiting to retry it when it failed.

All because Firefox was... busy. No doubt updating itself. No doubt because the last time I updated it, it decided to turn automatic updates back on.

Because these bastard fucking programmers think like that and don't give a flying fuck for the users.

Why, oh why do I have to keep explaining this to all the pea brain companies? This is MY computer. I use it to do MY work.

I did not buy a computer to be left sitting twiddling my fingers -- or more precisely screaming at the screen -- why you do things on YOUR schedule.

Yes, I know all too well there are rabid, stupid, evil people in the world. But the computer was not bought just to update Windows, run NAV LiveUpdate, have Firefox AND Chrome fight each for updating resources.

And Adobe... why is it you're so bad at programming that Flash has to update every week? And why do you insist you're the only program in the world so that you have to, (a) update first, (b) when everybody else thinks they want to update and (c) have a window that insists on being on top and can't be minimized -- even covering over important notifications?

And then after Flash is updated the Finish window defaults to I Want Adobe Flash To Be Even Ruder And Update Automatically Without Asking -- and I have to check the Request Update radio button. Because, you know, there are days when I boot and have really important work to do Right Now.

Because, you know, I have a computer to do work.

Sigh.

Oh yeah, I'll have to boot another computer and try to do my attachment email there, because I shut down SUMMER to stop its pissy Firefox behavior.

Geesh.

Dr. Phil

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