July 10th, 2008


An Odd Day

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood...

Wednesday afternoon was lovely. About 70degF, breezy, blue skies. And less humid. Well, sort of. Though a front had gone through and the humidity went down during the day, I felt like it was getting soggy again in the evening. Sure enough, the dew point had dropped from the 60s to 58degF -- but with the temperature down at 59degF the air was getting saturated. So much for leaving the windows open. Hate the feeling of drowning as humid air comes in the windows and falls down on me. (grin)

July Is The Coldest, Cruelest Month

Thursdays are my Office Hours day on campus during the Summer II session. It was a coolish 68-70degF on my way south, except I guess it was cooler than I'd thought. The digital sign at the truck dealership on US-131 south of 84th Street clearly said the temperature was -196degF.

Ouch. That's cold, folks. (double-trouble-grin)

I would've taken a picture, except with the traffic and the big truck crowding me from behind, I didn't want to try to pull over and brake suddenly. But I thought I'd amuse Mrs. Dr. Phil and give her a call.

Except the phone was dead.

Huh. Guess I never turned the cellphone off on Monday when I had to call L.A. about some edits to a story. Fortunately I have an in-car charging cable. Backups -- one must always need backups.

Back To Office Hours

Usually office hours are boring. No one comes by, unless there's a test coming or a nasty take-home quiz. Of course class is over, but this is the first open office hours since grades were posted -- I didn't hold them last week on the Third of July. Ended up spending a good hour with two students. One who'd gotten an "A" -- yay -- and one who'd gotten a "D".

I'm sure the latter was hoping I'd take pity on them, but alas, since I don't really teach for the money, what with commuting eating up much of my part-timer's pay, I'm all about learning the Physics. And the concept that the "C" is the minimum level of competence to go on to the next Physics course or be useful for the next Engineering or Science course. The problem is when you've used up your three changes to get a "C" or better in a course.

The first step in turning around a crappy college career is coming to an office hour and talking about things. Next, you've gotta go out and seek your adviser. There forever seems to be a battle between advisers and students. Some schools do a really good job and making sure the two get together -- I've always liked the idea that you can't register without getting your adviser's signature, but that doesn't work so well in the online world. (triply-redundant-grin)

Some time ago I wrote up a couple of essays on doing Homework and Studying, which I've copied and updated on my new website, http://dr-phil-physics.com . Though they were written for my own Physics students, it's not such a bad idea to look at the approach. Most students just don't study enough, or use their study time profitably. In my case I was a terrible undergraduate student -- I never really learned to study effectively until I had grad school when I was 26. (!) Too damned smart, I hadn't needed to study in high school much. Still, I made myself get a great education at Northwestern, even if I don't have the grades to show for it. (eek!)

Now I suppose it's nearly 3pm and time to close up shop and brave that -196degF weather. Unless it's warmed up to a more balmy -125 degrees or something like that. (hee)

Dr. Phil

It Didn't Just Happen

Time Warp

After the last post about studying and such, I got to thinking about Northwestern University and the Integrated Science Program (ISP). Though of course I'd already seen them, I read backwards through over a decade's worth of annual ISP newsletters.

I was in the original ISP Entering Class of 1976 and received my B.A. in Integrated Science in 1980. Of the original thirty students, one quit the first day, which was during New Student Week -- the week before classes started, but we got someone from the waiting list immediately. Only six of us survived to actually get the degree. Everyone else fled, and for them, sensibly, to more traditional majors.

Good Times.

Global Warming Update:

From one of the ISP Newsletters:
Recent letter from Jeanne Briskin (EC '77)***

"Dear ISP: Here's a long delayed response to the August ... newsletter. After graduating from NU in '81 (BA Chemistry and Environmental Studies; alas 8 am chemistry lab won out over geophysics), I went to MIT in another obscure program called Technology and Policy, with an emphasis on environmental policy. I won a Noyes Fellowship to work at the Conservation Law Foundation. At graduation, I joined the US EPA in Washington, DC. After working on hazardous waste policy, writing regulations on lead in drinking water, conducting the first survey of pesticides in drinking water wells, my job is now to implement programs to prevent global warming -- mainly through energy conservation and profitable use of methane released from natural gas pipelines, coal mines, landfills and animal feed lots.

*** -- PEK note: EC '77 means ISP Entering Class of 1977, i.e., the second year of the program. Since ISP students could take three or four years to graduate, depending on any second majors, plus many ISP students leave the program for more traditional majors, we are easier to identify by when we started.

This was from the 1994 newsletter -- that's fourteen years ago if you're keeping score. And if you're thinking that this global warming stuff is all newfangled and uncertain and we haven't had a good handle on what, if anything, we should be doing about it, then consider that the list of topics -- mainly through energy conservation and profitable use of methane released from natural gas pipelines, coal mines, landfills and animal feed lots -- looks mighty familiar here in 2008.

Dr. Phil