March 21st, 2008

quill-winslet

Fiction Friday 7

A Work in Progress

The late Arthur C. Clarke's short story "A Meeting with Medusa" was in an anthology I read and re-read for years -- I had forgotten about it until an editor commented that a story I had submitted was "Meeting with Medusa"-esque. Frankly, I was flattered, considering it hadn't been intentional.

So here's a look at the current version of my story "Atrophy", which you can read here.

Enjoy!

Dr. Phil
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    accomplished accomplished
smirking-winslet

More Quality Control Issues

Mea Culpa

Right after I'd posted my entry the other day on quality control issues and shut down the laptop for the night I realized that I had included one item I was going to rant on later and forgot another I had planned on including. So, now that I have another issue, I can at least go back and correct the latter. (grin)

The Most Useless Voicemail Message

When I got to my office this morning, the little message light on my phone was lit. I've discussed before that the campus voicemail system hates me and that I never know how old the message might be. So having a voicemail message is always an adventure. Playing the message I got a woman's voice in mid-blather about something to do with insurance and a helpful comment that if I did not want to be included in these offers anymore, I should press "9" and follow the instructions.

Okay, first of all, you idiots messed up big time with having a recorded robocall calling a voice mailbox. Worse, your system didn't stop to pause while the university's voicemail system and my greeting message were talking. And it certainly didn't bother to wait for a beep. As a result, I received absolutely no information from this message and I couldn't even begin to tell you what it was about.

Second, basic phone message etiquette suggests you repeat the name and phone number at the end. Not that I care one twit about who this call was from or what it was about anyways, since as a part-timer I have no insurance relationship with the university.

Third, pressing "9" in the middle of the playback of a voicemail message is decidedly NOT going to do anything useful. It is certainly not going to dial back the robocall machine and get back into its switchboard.

Sheesh. Inspires a lot of confidence in an insurance company when they swing and miss so badly. (triple-redundant-grin)

Extra Wide

The other day I noticed there was a half-inch wide crease running down the middle of the current toilet paper roll. Somehow the paper got folded during the manufacturing process -- a clear quality control issue. (double-folded-grin) Unfolding this pleat made the sheets of toilet paper (a) about an inch wider than usual and (b) therefore rectangular. Not sure if there's a pressing need (pun not intended) for extra-wide toilet paper, but it's strange that it looked very odd. You deal with something like t.p. every day of your life and with one little change, it takes on a new characteristic and looks "wrong."

One wonders if t.p. rolls are sold by weight or number of sheets.

Dr. Phil
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freezing-rose

The Long Slog

Spring Has Sprung, whoops!

When I arrived in Kalamazoo this morning, the snow hadn't yet arrived. Parked at 10:02am just as a fine powdery snow began to fall and turn wet on the warm windshield. By the time I'd grabbed my heavy winter coat and put it on, grabbed my stuff and started across the parking lot at 10:03am, the cold ground and pavement was all covered in the thinnest of pure white layers. When I crossed between Everett Tower and Rood Hall for my 11 o'clock class, there was a couple of inches of snow churned up by the parade of walkers on the sidewalk. The promised winter storm, advertised as worse in a line south of Allegan MI and towards the lake and the Indiana border, had arrived.

My Friday schedule has an hour in the Physics Help Room at noon, after my one class, and since no one is scheduled in the hour afterward, I sometimes stay over for a while to make sure people get their questions answered. So in theory I could've left after 1pm, but in reality I headed back up to my office around two. Did a few things, packed up and trudged out through the heavy wet snow that had built up in four hours. Some of the snow on the hood and the roof of the Blazer was 4-6" deep already. Logged out of the parking lot at 2:29pm.

2:55

Took me two hours and fifty-five minutes to get home. Sigh. The weather forecasters had been saying that there was one model which was predicting 8" of snow on Friday. The models also had the snow in Grand Rapids not starting til noon and not amounting to too much accumulation. In fact, while it was deeper in Kalamazoo, it didn't lessen all that much as I headed north.

In retrospect it was probably a good thing I didn't leave earlier. Kept driving by cars which had slid off the roads and down the embankments into the fields along the side -- and there was no longer any trace of the tire tracks either on the highway, shoulder or down the hills. My guess is that early on too many people didn't appreciate that the wet snow and the near freezing temps were creating very slippery situations. In my case, most people drove in an orderly fashion, not too fast, no one was sliding around and people respected brake lights, flashing police lights and I wasn't the only one who bothered to put on flashers when there was clearly trouble ahead. Four wheel drive and geared down seemed to be stable, I never felt any slippages.

And while I saw lots of police vehicles from various jurisdictions, starting just outside the university, and quite a number of tow trucks and flatbed tows, I didn't see a single snow plow during the three hours.

3:30

An hour into the trip, WLAV-FM got their afternoon traffic person in to start letting people know early what the roads were like -- they had a two-page list of problems. A couple of semi trucks on some of the freeways found themselves unable to drive up icy ramps at exits. A while back when this happened during this exceptionally icy winter, I heard a news report where the state police explained that truckers are NOT supposed to try to back down icy ramps if they get stuck, so blocking the exit is the only thing that can be done until they get the truck tow vehicles there. Fortunately, that was past where I would turn off US-131 and I think going the other way.

An Interesting Moment

Wilson Avenue, from 28th Street & I-196 to Lake Michigan Drive M-45, was very slow going in both directions. There's a large curving hill coming up from the Grand River crossing and it soon became clear that some of the cars were having trouble. I saw this one front wheel drive compact car move from left to right lane and then keep sliding forward towards the curb and they'd have to stop and try to back up a bit and straighten out. Fortunately no one seemed to hit anybody, at least then. There were later radio reports of crashed on Wilson in that area.

But as we slowed down to a crawl, especially when the two northbound lanes merged into one, I rolled down my window at one point, listening to the cars in the other direction crunching over the lumpy ice on the road. In fact, it looked pretty thick -- perhaps between 1/2" and 1" thick -- and had that milky white look you see on hockey rinks.

What was really interesting, however, was the loud cracking sound as cars rolled by. I couldn't see any cracks, but I was immediately struck by how much this reminded me of the cable show Ice Road Truckers this past year. The good news was that there wasn't several hundred feet of water underneath that cracking ice. (grin)

Home At Last

Eventually I got home. The last I looked outside, the winds had picked up and the snow was still raging. It is supposed to last until sometime after midnight. We'll see how the rest of the weekend develops, but this is a spring winter storm. I imagine it will get pretty sloppy, but it shan't last.

I did what I could, warning my students yesterday that, although I don't advocate cutting classes, if they had far to travel for the Easter weekend, they might want to leave well before Friday afternoon. Looks to me like it was good advice. Unfortunately, I had teaching obligations, so couldn't avail of it myself. (double-edged-grin)

Dr. Phil
  • Current Music
    The Time Tunnel on DVD
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The Miracle That Is The Web

The Time Tunnel DVD

Currently our Netflix subscription is sending us the DVDs of Irwin Allen's 1960 SF series The Time Tunnel. Boy I remember this from when it was first run and I was a kid -- I particularly remember that the pilot episode featured the R.M.S. Titanic. (grin) I didn't even know there was a DVD of the show until I saw a review on Locus Online, I think it was. The reviewer was impressed with both the quality of the transfer and that the show help up pretty well. So I added it to my Netflix list and a while ago we began to get the disks. I'll do a proper review later.

Tonight the first episode on Disk 4 involved our intrepid lost time travelers at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Mrs. Dr. Phil was amused by this very jaunty song that played as Custer went riding off. I pointed out that this is very famous and historically accurate, but that I couldn't remember the name of the song. It wasn't mentioned in the encyclopedia on my computer, so I Googled Wikipedia, but the article on George Armstrong Custer didn't mention it.

But the third hit on the Google search was the Finnish Wikipedia page. I went to take a look, amused as usual as how Finnish just doesn't offer many linguistic cues that I can follow. However, two-thirds of the way down was the following section:

Custer fiktiossa

Ohjaaja Raoul Walsh teki vuonna 1941 Custerista elokuvan They died with their boots on [1]; Custerina esiintyi itse Errol Flynn ja Elizabeth Baconia esitti Olivia de Havilland.

Elokuvassa ei ole oikeastaan mitään muuta totta kuin nimet, perhesuhteet ja osa historiallisesta kaavasta. Tarina on pitkälti romantisoitu ja totuuden sivuuttava - mutta kerrottu tavalla joka tekee siitä omalla tavallaan kiintoisan näkemyksen Amerikan historian kuuluisimmasta vaiheesta.

Tähän elokuvaan sävelletty marssi "Garry Owen" muodostui kuitenkin elävässä elämässä Yhdysvaltain ratsuväen lempisävelmäksi ja kohosi erityiseen asemaan. Syynä saattoi olla se, että elokuva tehtiin keskellä toisen maailmansodan kolkointa vaihetta; Pearl Harborin hirvittävä tuho tapahtui pian ensi-illan jälkeen ja se vertautui väkisinkin Custerin ja hänen miestensä kaatumiseen toivottomassa taistelussa. Kuitenkin toivo jäi elämään - ja johti lopulliseen voittoon.

Tällainen keinotekoinen "traaginen sankaruus" oli juuri sitä, mitä Yhdysvaltain tavallinen kansa tarvitsi eli tehokkainta mahdollista rohkaisua.


I have no idea what most of this section says -- it isn't the same as in the U.S. Wikipedia entry -- but I do remember that "Garry Owen" was the song in question.

Sometimes I marvel at how one can get info on the net. (grin)

Dr. Phil
  • Current Music
    Devil's Island and The Time Tunnel
smirking-winslet

The Miracle That Is The Web

The Time Tunnel DVD

Currently our Netflix subscription is sending us the DVDs of Irwin Allen's 1960 SF series The Time Tunnel. Boy I remember this from when it was first run and I was a kid -- I particularly remember that the pilot episode featured the R.M.S. Titanic. (grin) I didn't even know there was a DVD of the show until I saw a review on Locus Online, I think it was. The reviewer was impressed with both the quality of the transfer and that the show help up pretty well. So I added it to my Netflix list and a while ago we began to get the disks. I'll do a proper review later.

Tonight the first episode on Disk 4 involved our intrepid lost time travelers at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Mrs. Dr. Phil was amused by this very jaunty song that played as Custer went riding off. I pointed out that this is very famous and historically accurate, but that I couldn't remember the name of the song. It wasn't mentioned in the encyclopedia on my computer, so I Googled Wikipedia, but the article on George Armstrong Custer didn't mention it.

But the third hit on the Google search was the Finnish Wikipedia page. I went to take a look, amused as usual as how Finnish just doesn't offer many linguistic cues that I can follow. However, two-thirds of the way down was the following section:

Custer fiktiossa

Ohjaaja Raoul Walsh teki vuonna 1941 Custerista elokuvan They died with their boots on [1]; Custerina esiintyi itse Errol Flynn ja Elizabeth Baconia esitti Olivia de Havilland.

Elokuvassa ei ole oikeastaan mitään muuta totta kuin nimet, perhesuhteet ja osa historiallisesta kaavasta. Tarina on pitkälti romantisoitu ja totuuden sivuuttava - mutta kerrottu tavalla joka tekee siitä omalla tavallaan kiintoisan näkemyksen Amerikan historian kuuluisimmasta vaiheesta.

Tähän elokuvaan sävelletty marssi "Garry Owen" muodostui kuitenkin elävässä elämässä Yhdysvaltain ratsuväen lempisävelmäksi ja kohosi erityiseen asemaan. Syynä saattoi olla se, että elokuva tehtiin keskellä toisen maailmansodan kolkointa vaihetta; Pearl Harborin hirvittävä tuho tapahtui pian ensi-illan jälkeen ja se vertautui väkisinkin Custerin ja hänen miestensä kaatumiseen toivottomassa taistelussa. Kuitenkin toivo jäi elämään - ja johti lopulliseen voittoon.

Tällainen keinotekoinen "traaginen sankaruus" oli juuri sitä, mitä Yhdysvaltain tavallinen kansa tarvitsi eli tehokkainta mahdollista rohkaisua.


I have no idea what most of this section says -- it isn't the same as in the U.S. Wikipedia entry -- but I do remember that "Garry Owen" was the song in question.

Sometimes I marvel at how one can get info on the net. (grin)

Dr. Phil

UPDATE 11-28-2013 Thu: in the years since this was posted, Google Translate has gotten better at Finnish-to-English. Not perfect, but better.
Custer fiction

Directed by Raoul Walsh made ​​a film in 1941, Custer They Died With Their boots are [1] ; Custer appeared self Errol Flynn and Elizabeth Baconian Olivia de Havilland made ​​.

The film is not really nothing more true than in the names of family relationships and the historical part of the equation. The story has been romanticized and largely ignore the truth - but told in a way that makes it his own way an interesting view of the history of America 's most famous stage .

This march composed for the film " Garry Owen " was, however, in real life, the U.S. cavalry lempisävelmäksi and rose to a specific position. The reason could be that the film was made in the middle of the Second World War kolkointa stage , the terrible devastation of Pearl Harbor took place shortly after the premiere , and it is bound to vertautui Custer and his men to fall over in a hopeless battle. However, the hope still lives on - and led to the final victory.

This kind of artificial "tragic hero " was exactly what the United States for the common people needed , or the most effective encouragement.
Dr. Phil
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    Devil's Island and The Time Tunnel