November 12th, 2013


Another Achievement Unlocked

A busy day here in the wild fields of Allendale. Both my OT and PT therapists overlapped today so we could work on the new steps. And then in the garage see if I could get into the driver's side of the Blazer.

The new steps -- piece of cake, both down and up. As for the Blazer, the first attempt to get my right leg up and under the steering wheel worked, but my left leg was too far out to get my butt on the seat. So reposition my feet and try again. Success. Actually, it might even be easier with the AFO brace on my left foot than before. Especially with the getting out, because I had a tendency for the left foot to catch on the hood release lever and sometimes pop the hood when I got out. No troubles today.

I got in and out twice, so yay -- proof of ability. Also tried to start the Blazer. Mrs. Dr. Phil had tried it when I got home, but the battery was too low. Yeah, we haven't charged it yet, but there are a couple of tricks to try. Which I did. And no, the Blazer didn't start -- the battery was too low. (grin)

Also came up with some new exercises to prepare for someday working on floor transfers. I can get the right knee up on the bed, but just not quite the left. But both work on the straight back chair in the bedroom. And I could bend down with the left knee extended, but we're a long way from getting the knees on the ground. The AFO, which does such a good job in allowing me to walk, doesn't bend very well -- which is reasonable since its job is to limit how far the left foot bends.

Rehab is complicated. But we are definitely moving towards driving on my own and switching to outpatient rehab.

In other news, my contract letter from WMU for the Spring (i.e. Winter) 2014 Semester arrived on Saturday. I've signed it, copied it and now just need an envelope and stamp to be able to mail it back.

Onward, ever onward on this Veteran's Day.

Dr. Phil

Weather Or Not


The sun has been out much of the day. It was 28°F overnight, and just before the sun blazed forth around 11am EST, there were a few stray flakeages wafting around. The weather in West Michigan has been awfully mild and we've missed most of the snow and rain, and even some of the summer heat that a lot of the rest of the country had.

I have no idea what that will mean, if anything, about this winter when I struggle to get back to work with a bad wheel. West Michigan weather is notoriously unpredictable.

Locked Inside

During my long hospital stay, my Year Without A Summer was strangely resistant to weather. Oh we had some stretches where the temps flirted with 100°F, and on high humidity days outside, one had to adjust the covers and the room AC a lot. But unless it was later in the summer when Mrs. Dr. Phil would wheel me out for some fresh air, the weather had very little impact on me.

Indeed, I only kept up with the morning and evening weather reports on the TV to let the aides know what it would be like after their 8 or 16 hour shifts.

Still, I had a little slice of sky to watch from my window. And like today, as I sit in my living room and can look out the front and back windows, it's nice to see the blue skies and wandering clouds.

The Philippines

Meanwhile, as life goes on somewhat uncaring in America, a supertyphoon took dead aim on The Philippines. Highest recorded winds on land. The death tolls can easier reach 10,000 or ten times that many -- we don't know yet. From Think Process:
Haiyan arrived in the Philippines on November 7, 2013, boasting 190-195 mph sustained winds — equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane — and temporary gusts of up to 235 mph. The sustained winds were stronger than all but three tropical cyclones in world history, and stronger than any other tropical cyclone that’s ever made landfall. (“Hurricane,” “typhoon” and “cyclone” are all different regional names for the same weather phenomenon.) An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, and individual storms have killed over one thousand in the past.

We don't hear a lot about typhoons over here, as they don't strike the populated and industrial U.S. coastline like the Atlantic hurricanes do. And the Pacific is so large that often the storms don't make significant landfall.

I am reminded of a story I tell my Electricity & Magnetism students. In the early 70s or so, the Air Force launched a series of Vela satellites to detect the signatures of nuclear detonations anywhere in the world. Shortly after the system went online, NORAD got a signal from one satellite of a fifty megaton thermonuclear detonation above ground. As they wound up the bombers and missiles to prepare for WW III, they checked to see what was hit.

Nothing. A big fat empty part of the Pacific. With one humongous thunderstorm.

The Pacific is so large that thunderstorms can build up much larger than over land. And they can produce superbolt lighting -- far brighter than regular lighting, it looks like the flash from a hydrogen bomb to the Vela's video cameras. Interestingly enough, while regular lightning actually travels from ground to sky, opposite to the way we think it happens, superbolt storms are oppositely charged and superbolt lighting goes from sky to ground.

Why didn't we know about these storms before? Because these storms are so severe that no ship captain or airplane pilot would ever venture into them. And they didn't seem to go over inhabited islands at full strength.

Like the supertyphoons, there are still things we can learn about the weather. Even things so vast and powerful that they should be "obvious" to the casual observer.

And so we wait to find out the true level of devastation that this supertyphoon has wrought. Meanwhile, one of the local relief agencies is already shipping containers of supplies donated by area businesses. These won't actually make it on site immediately -- they are intended to keep the pipeline filled for when the initial relief supplies are used up. Before any of the aid moneys now being collected can be spent.

It's good to know that there are people who have their heads screwed on straight about logistics.

Dr. Phil

Speaking of the Weather

It's the 12th of November, and the much threatened last week upgrade to the Weather Channel is upon us. I'd say I was underwhelmed, except I am more pissed with them.

I knew it was going to be trouble. Hyping the change every night last week? Talking about how it was going to appeal to younger viewers? Get Off My Lawn!

Because what does it mean "to appeal to younger viewers"? Partly it means simplifying displays, making it look more like a mobile version. And yet, here's the thing. Who is it that tends to watch the weather? I'm afraid it's the older demographics. So let's turn off your current viewers, so you can chase viewers you don't have and probably won't gain for X numbers of years.

I've another rant brewing, but this simplifying for the younger and mobile generation is how we get idiocy like Windows 8.

Specific Issues

We're talking about the Local on the Eights forecast here. I haven't spent any time watching their impressive, so they say, new Weather Center set.

-- A minor note is the Big new clock showing the Weather on the Eights... at 7:57pm EST.

-- And we get a clock. And a colored line rim around the temperature. So it might resemble a circular thermometer?

-- Wipe-ins from the right. I don't need animated screens. I turn them off when I can. On my own machines they just waste machine cycles. Which in turn cuts down on the time I have with information, while delaying its display. Hence why I don't like such unnecessary things on my TV screens. I'm interested in the weather info, not cute.

-- The local maps now have a white background instead of dark. Black or gray lines for roads and borders and not particularly differentiating between the two. Plus the font for route numbers is hard to read -- this on a 32" HDTV from a distance of about twelve feet. The maps are too bright and too hard to read. Way to go. Let's make this difficult.

-- Indeed, everything is too white. A restful blue used to be the default background color. Provided good contrast with the important data. And blue is a good color for small LCD screens, too.

-- In addition, watching the radar images crossing said white map is difficult. Previously, rain was green, ice was pink and snow was white. Snow is now... the new black? What the hell are you obfuscating, Weather Channel?

-- And the graphic icons for the weather, they're simplified. You know, you simplify things too much and you get those unreadable pictographs on car controls or menu buttons that are sans text so they are equally unintelligible in any language.

Bottom Line

They spent money on this?

I swear we need to be saved from consultants and middle management types who have to justify their existence and end up with New Coke. Or Windows 8. Or the new Weather Channel.

The local TV stations have been upgrading their weather displays this summer. I am particularly peeved with the one that decided to put day and date below the weather glyph and hi & lo temps. Which actually makes it harder to read -- I want Monday's weather is cloudy, high of 78° and low of 45°. Who would want high of 78°, low of 45°, cloudy weather which will be on Monday? Apparently the geniuses who are so proud that their graphical display is different than anyone else.

Sure, I'll still watch the Weather Channel for the weather. And I might even like the continuous local weather ribbon on the screen, for those times when you check the weather on the Nines. (grin)

But I shall still be annoyed.

Dr. Phil