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Thu, Dec. 18th, 2014, 02:59 pm
Well That Explains Some Things

So I am in the middle of a wild ride of doctor's appointments. And I had an appointment with my GP in amongst all the others. Or at least I thought I did.

I got there to check in for my 1 o'clock -- and they were very sorry, but I was scheduled for 11:30 and had been logged a dreaded No Show. Huh.

Now I don't know exactly what happened. As I recall, when I made the appointment I was offered before and after lunch -- and I took after. But I also made this appointment when I made yesterday's eye doctor appointment, and I had 11:30 for that. But I had to cancel the eye doctor, so we'll never quite know if I inverted the times or what. Because I'm sure one was at 11:30 and one was at 1.

Naturally, these were the only two appointments in this trough of appointments for which I didn't have printouts. Usually, they call a day or two to confirm. And maybe they tried. But I kept having troubles with sometimes getting messages here at home, and messages left at work when I'm not there. I told them several times, "Leave the message at home, not work."

Except they had the area code 269 WMU Kalamazoo office number under (Home) and the Allendale number under (Bus.)

I suppose I need to call my Western voicemail anyway...

But before I left, I remembered that one of the reasons for going to the GP when I am seeing all these specialists is that I've got seven prescriptions to renew -- and last month they only would renew for a month without a checkup. I could do that and get the appointment when I was done grading, because it was already a zoo scheduling around my 10am and 2pm classes in Kalamazoo.

Yeah, but the first of the pills run out after tomorrow morning...

Anyway, we wash, rinse and repeat today's appointment on Monday.

At 1pm.

Dr. Phil

Wed, Dec. 17th, 2014, 02:09 am
A Kingdom Divided Into Threes

Well, with grades done, I sat down late tonight to do something I have been meaning to do for a while. Make a stab at locating the breaks between the three books in my YA trilogy project.

It actually went far better than I expected. The divisions may actually even stay there, though nothing is carved in stone. And there's still the one big trilogy file, so I can work across the stories all at once.

Anyway, I've set the goals for each volume at 80,000 words, so I also reset the big trilogy counter from 200,000 words to 240,000 words.

And I am STILL having fun.

The new, new shiny counters:

The Lost Kingdom Project YA Trilogy Version 1.06

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

The Lost Kingdom Fourth Novel Version 1.03

*** Note: the numbers for Books 1-3 don’t add up, because there is text which is in a section which hasn’t been assigned to a Book and Chapter yet.

I had been lamenting that I didn't really have many words for Book 3 -- and it turns out to be an almost identical count for Book 4. Also Books 1 and 2 are close in size so far. I am nothing, if not consistent.

And yes, you'll be getting a tiny taste of my princesses for Christmas, when I publish my annual Christmas story on my LJ/DW blogs. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Wed, Dec. 17th, 2014, 01:40 am
Mexican Coke Dealers

No, wait.

It's not what you think.

Except for people who know me, in which case it may very well be what you think.

When I was a kid, there was Coca-Cola. Well, Coke and Pepsi. Also Tab. And RC and Diet-Rite. Stop confusing the issue!

Then came the New Coke debacle, the less said about this the better, except it showcased a giant successful company either being very shrewd or deciding to give their valued customer base the finger. Because something always appeals to somebody, New Coke soldiers on as Coke II. I last saw some cans in a gas station in Northern Indiana a couple of years ago. Real Coke came back to life in the form of Original Recipe Coke Classic, in which they changed the recipe from cane sugar to corn syrup.

Except not everywhere. Hence the Mexican Coke reference. There are several grocery stores here in West Michigan which carry it.

There's also Caffeine Free Coke and Diet Coke. Cherry Coke and Diet Cherry Coke. Also Coke With Lime. And I bought some Coke With Lemon in a little grocery market down the street from the hotel we stayed at in Helsinki in 2003.

It's all part of the market explosions on the shelf space. Where once there were one or two products -- Coke bottles, Coke cans, Lays potato chips -- we have an insane array of variety, including some options we not only never knew we wanted, we STILL don't want.

I blame it all on middle-management executives desperate to justify their existence.

So, besides a look back at the big bad world of dark caffeinated beverages, why this blog post? Well, over the weekend, John Scalzi apparently ran into Coke life -- apparently the capital part of the "L" is silent. Not "lite" but "life". Oh save us.

Seems to be yet another crossover diet/non-diet product. 160 Calories in 20 ounces, from a mix of raw sugar and stevia. Some people complain about a bitter taste from stevia, so I'm sure the real sugar is made to counteract that.

Scalzi is so identified with Coke Zero the last few years that he has a unit named after him -- 1 Scalzi is the amount of Coke Zero equal to the mass of John Scalzi. In February of 2011 this was 8½ 24-can cases of 12 ounce Coke Zeroes. And in case you're keeping score, the mass and therefore the mass-to-volume ratio (what people not in Dr. Phil's Physics classes call density) of different types of Coke cans are not the same.

As far as taste goes, the new Coke life never had a chance.

But who exactly is this product targeted at? John referred to it as the anti-Coke, since Coke comes in red cans and Coke life comes in green. Coke Zero's black can was invested partly to get away from the pink Tab and white candy-striped Diet Coke cans and make a product targeted at manly men. Remember kids, if you want to market to guys use Dr. Phil's Three Rules of Marketing to Guys, to wit: (1) make it of titanium, (2) paint it black and (3) put the word TURBO in gold letters on it. Instant millions. Coke Zero only gets two out of three, which is why is hasn't quite taken over the universe.

Sure, Coke life has fewer calories than Coke Classic. It also has a whopping lot more than Diet Coke and Coke Zero. They've also tried this before, with something called C2, which I vaguely remembering mocking to someone as being derivative of Coke II, which itself was the failed New Coke. Sort of like Ford coming out with an E2, in reference to an Edsel II.

My take? I don't care about Coke life and I think it will fail spectacularly.

And I don't drink Coke much anymore.

Just before I got sick in May 2013, we looked at my weight and said This Is Not Good, so when I first had to visit the doctor, I started to switch to one of the diet Coke products. Nasty stuff. And when I was in the hospital for 5½ months, I stopped drinking Coke and ginger ale, which they were serving all the time. Oh sure, I get a drink at the movie theatres and when out for dinner, but shit, most of them serve Pepsi, not Coca-Cola products. Mostly not even one a week. I'm not sure when I had a real Coke last.

If they just hadn't messed with these things in the first place, and let us enjoy our Coca-Cola without corn syrup and in small containers and not Mega Big Gulps, we wouldn't be here.

Coming Real Soon Now, Dr. Phil's take on What The Hell Is Wrong With McDonald's?

Dr. Phil

Mon, Dec. 15th, 2014, 12:25 pm
Go Figure

In my office, just did most of the Topic 2 Worksheets for PHYS-1150 -- those for PHYS-1070 were done on Friday. And just got the last two quizzes and the Final Exam grades for PHYS-1150, so we're swimming along here.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, it's been foggy with some drizzle on Sunday. Temperatures have been flirting with 50°F all those days, too. It was 47°F when we went to bed last night and still 46°F when we got up this morning. Originally, Monday was supposed to be heavy rain. Great. But the forecast last night was for 40% chance of light occasional showers during the day. Fog and overcast. Heavier rains overnight and into Tuesday -- but Tuesday morning I finish grades at home, so I don't care.

Naturally, here at noon-thirty on Monday... the sun is shining in Kalamazoo.


Okay, so it's not quite full bright sun. I expect it's hazy outside and so we have wan sunlight. But still, I was not expecting to see sunshine outside my office window at all for the rest of 2014. Go figure.

You can just start hearing the nervous tics in the voices of the WOOD-AM morning news crew, as they are waiting for the proverbial other shoe to fall. "We're going to pay for this warm weather in December! Just you wait!"

And given Michigan, it'll probably be true. Along with everything else.

Oh, and gas? It's down to $2.36.9/gallon for regular in Allendale. Greenville was reported to be at $2.16.9/gal on the weekend and down to $2.12.9/gal today. Naturally, this weekend Family Failure is giving $1.99/gal gas coupons -- ho-hum. (grin) They're getting off easy, I suspect, as it's cheaper than a 50¢/gal coupon, their usual Big Coupon Events.

Dr. Phil

Sun, Dec. 14th, 2014, 02:51 am
Somehow I Managed To Write This Week

Finals Monday and Tuesday. Three doctors appointments Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A cold? Flu? Some other kind of infection dammit? Sure. A ton of grading papers -- absolutely.

Always some last minute excitements with late papers... and grading. Have (most of the) Topic 1 papers and Topic 2 worksheets and the Final Exam graded for PHYS-1070. After several days of being a no-show, my grader for the PHYS-1150 Final Exam finally showed up and hopefully there will be no surprise on Monday. Grades are due Tuesday at noon... Question from student: Is there a way to use the grade fix we do to one of the hour exams on the paper? Uh, no. The paper that was assigned in early September and then due in November? The one that's worth the same as an exam? The one you didn't turn in? The "Bad Test Day Rule" is designed to make up for, well, a "bad test day". It does not give you free points for a hard zero, in any event. Never mess around with a professor's pet project and my science literacy book report has been molded and worked on for nearly 23 years.

But while giving exams and makeup exams and grading, I managed to put some more words into the YA trilogy. New research topics include the history of candles and electric lights on Christmas trees. Märklin wind-up toy trains in early 1900s. Modern model train sizes: O-scale (1:48), HO-scale (1:87.1), N-scale (1:160), Z-scale (1:220), I knew about. Even smaller are ZZ-scale (1:300) and T-scale (1:450)! The latter has the Code 40 rails only 3mm apart and uses steel rails and magnets to keep the equipment on the track. Fjordling or Fjord horses. "I Am The Sword" Motörhead, 1993. Genghis Khan versus Conan The Barbarian and Khan! Lesbian and gay bars in Copenhagen -- Vela and Masken. Mikkeller Crunchy Frog and Grape Fruit Dead beers. And given my researches on Der Google, was it any surprise that Facebook pops up with an ad for $750 Gucci holiday pumps -- in three heel sizes. (grin) Thank goodness this series isn't about serial killers. (double-plus-grin)

The shiny counters are up to:

The Lost Kingdom Project YA Trilogy Version 1.05

The Lost Kingdom Fourth Novel Version 1.03

Dr. Phil

Thu, Dec. 11th, 2014, 12:50 pm
Hey There Laker

Mrs. Dr. Phil sent this to me the other day, and while eating lunch, I finally got around to watching it. It's cute. Apparently there are a bunch of these short, instructional videos from the Promotions Office Video Team -- this one is about taking care of the new library that opened on the Allendale campus last summer and where Mrs. Dr. Phil labors. I think they had a good time set dressing some of these bits. (grin)

At the end, YouTube does its usual tiling of other videos, which also come from the same team.

This one was a riff on Seinfeld to promote five different campus activities. It's cute, too. And this one takes a turn as .007, which looks like it might be a recurring theme, also to promote five different campus activities. Hey, these are pretty well produced.

Man, we didn't have stuff like this when I was in college... In the dark ages... With stone knives and bearskins... And chiseling notes on the black boards made of stone... And solid abacuses with no moving parts (having not invented numbers yet)... Yeah, we had it rough.

Dr. Phil

Tue, Dec. 9th, 2014, 02:53 pm
Western Goes West... To Idaho

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

Sun, Dec. 7th, 2014, 11:42 am

This is too good to pass up.

Y'all know where I stand on the UofM / MSU divide. And how that gets set aside for Big Ten support at tournament times. But let's just consider the vaunted University of Michigan's early basketball game on Saturday, shall we?

-- Home game at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor.

-- Wolverines ranked #17.

-- Playing the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
---- The only Division I basketball team without a conference.
---- Only been in Division I since 2006.
---- Not so long ago had a 50-odd game losing street.
---- Never played a Top 25 opponent before.
---- Never played a post-season tournament.

-- Michigan favored by 20½ points.

-- This snoozefest wasn't sold out. The paper described the arena as half-full.

-- NJIT coach had already penciled this in for a loss.

Yeah, you can see this coming.

NJIT-72 #17 Michigan-70

Oh how delicious. I laughed.

See, I love underdogs. Comes from my having a long list of schools which were not champions when I was there. Plus I hate smug overconfidence.

At some point you have to play the game.

I'll be curious to see if New Jersey can keep this up. I'd love to see NJIT in the NCAA tournament com March. And playing Michigan in the real second round...

Gotta love it.

Dr. Phil

Sat, Dec. 6th, 2014, 01:28 am
Production Delays -- Regularly Scheduled

Here's hoping the Plot Bunnies stay quiet for the next ten days. I really don't want to such brilliant inspirations that I feel compelled to write or make tons of notes -- not when I'm supposed to be writing exams, grading papers, etc. as a part of Final Exams and Grade-a-thon. Bad enough that schedules compel me to schedule three doctor's appointments during Finals Week.

Maybe the Plot Bunnies will cut loose in two weeks in time for some Christmas short stories here on the blog. Maybe I'll stick something from my super secret writing project in that queue. NO! Not now. I don't have time to start thinking Christmas SF! Nah-nah-nah... I can't hear you Plot Bunnies.

A couple of nights this week I got no writing done -- not even a blog post -- and I felt guilty about even trying to catch up on Facebook or even reading the funnies in the Tuesday-Thursday newspapers. Still, I managed more writing than I thought. I've broken the 120,000 word barrier on the trilogy -- and somehow managed to almost double the word count on the fourth book of the trilogy, just shy of 10,000 words there.

So, this is good. I guess. I've never sat down and planned out a trilogy before. (Technically, though. There is the British side of my 29th century universe, where I wrote about 1½ million words of story and long notes across an eleven-book cycle back in 1998.) (It's a very raw state past the first two or three books, except for Book Six. Some Day, I shall sit down and start seeing what I can do with all that stuff. I can either distill it down to a couple of books, or go for the massive oeuvre. I mean, I should prove if I can attract real audiences, before I get the idea of making people invest in a decology.) (evil-grin)

Let's see, more straight writing than a lot of research -- and some of the research I did is either on subjects already covered or done without recording them. But researches this week were on: Diaper smuggling in Norway. The Nostrand Avenue stop along the A-train line in Brooklyn. Dunkin' Donuts franchises in Manhattan -- a bust because one was closed because of rats being filmed in the place AND they're not o the streets I want. The .303 caliber British Vickers machine gun. The Eurocopter AS350 helicopter -- a sort of a European version of the Bell Jet Ranger. "Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning." Modern neighborhoods in the East End of London after the Olympics. Also Greenwich. Pending research on Canon EOS supertelephoto lenses.

I was talking to a student today about his paper on The Hunger Games and the attraction of dystopian fiction -- his favorite book in this sub-genre is 1984, though he confessed he'd never read Brave New World. I mentioned that the pitch I'm working on for The Lost Kingdom Project is an ancient secret kingdom on hard times in the modern world, where it is our world that is the dystopia. Then I mentioned having fun messing with my three readers about what the story is about by listing my various research topics here on LJ/DW. His feeling was that just by those odd combinations, he'd read it.

So maybe I'll have a reader. (single-data-point-grin)

The shiny counters have bumped up to:

The Lost Kingdom Project YA Trilogy Version 1.05

The Lost Kingdom Fourth Novel Version 1.03

It is hilarious that the big event in the fourth book isn't even a chapter heading yet.

Dr. Phil

Sat, Dec. 6th, 2014, 12:17 am
November Slides Into December

I've been a little scarce this week. Grading and exam writing is in full swing. Today was the last day of class. It's all over except for the Final Exams... and the screaming.

Ten days til final grading day -- Tuesday 16 December 2014 at Noon -- ZERO HOUR.

Our early Fall snowstorms are but memories. Except for a few big piles near the grocery store parking lot, any trace of snow you might see is from a light dusting the other morning. This is not going to be a snow-free winter, to be sure, but that November shock... Not only did we get a snow day at both GVSU and WMU, but Grand Rapids recorded 31" of snow in November 2014, which is 42% of the 2013-14 winter total. And the Winter Solstice is still weeks away. Kalamazoo had less snow in this storm and more snow last winter, so their percentages are lower, but still.

For several months I have been reporting that gas prices have kept going down, with a kneejerk jump up for no apparent reason, followed by continuing decline. This happened just before Thanksgiving, too, but the drops got us under three bucks for regular in time for one of the better Thanksgiving travel seasons in a few years, or so they said. Thing is, gas has continued free falling, especially now that it is an open secret on the news that oil prices are still falling and OPEC has failed to bump them up again.

This morning regular gasoline was $2.63.9/gallon for regular. And for some odd reason, the Citgo at D Ave on the way into Kalamazoo was running down to $2.47.9/gal -- K-zoo prices were all over the place. Allendale this evening was pretty much the same as Allendale in the morning.

But... the pundits are openly talking about gas around or under two bucks, if not for Christmas, then in January. Great -- and this right after I've decided to do Sabbatical for Spring (Winter) Semester. (grin)

The Actors Studio in Grand Rapids is doing the rock opera/musical Chess at the Spectrum Theatre, I think. Thursday-Friday-Saturday this weekend and the next two weekends. Closing is on the 20th -- this is after my big rounds of large and small doctor's appointments and grades. Would like to go see it. I guess the Broadway version had a cast of some 31 -- with a much smaller stage I think they have 17 in this production. As I've mentioned before, we saw a wonderful touring company production of Chess with a portable chessboard floor that lit up at the Frauenthal Theatre in Muskegon -- balcony was perfect.

"One Night in Bangkok" is on my Amazon "Happy Songs" playlist, following The Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" -- it really works, you should try it. (grin)

Dr. Phil

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