November 23rd, 2013


My Summer Dance Card Is Filling

Biennial Conference on Chemical Education
23rd BCCE, Grand Valley State University, Allendale MI, August 3-7, 2014

My Michigan Tech grad school officemate, Dr. Dave Woon now at the Chemistry Dept. at U of I, told me today that GVSU is hosting BCCE 2014. Cool. I have already decided to not teach during Summer II 2014, July-August, so there'd be no problem attending Detcon 1 in Detroit come July. So I'm free to go play at a Chemical Education conference. And though there's plenty of time before registration begins -- or even abstracts due -- at the very least I can visit with my friend, so that's very cool.

But, Dr. Phil, you're a physics professor, not a chemistry prof. What gives?

Hey, my work in grad school was in that gray area of chemical physics / physical chemistry. As a result, besides being a member of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers, I've also been a card carrying member of the American Chemical Society, coming up on twenty-five years. And I've attended and given papers at a number of national ACS meetings and Central Regional Meetings.

So Summer 2014 is shaping up to be a LOT more fun than Summer 2013. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Media Overload

Right now I've got Whadya Know? With Michael Feldman from NPR on the radio (technically from PRI not NPR, but I'll let the bean counters worry about that crap) and I was just cruising for Saturday football games starting at noon. Managed to stumble on the Michigan State versus Northwestern in a sunny, but cold Evanston IL on ESPN at the first play from scrimmage. Cool! When I was in the hospital, the Big Ten Network showed a number of NU games, and then the Wildcats were in the Top 25 for a while, but lately... we don't get the Big Ten Network anymore and not much coverage elsewhere.

But when I turned the TV on at noon, it was still set on Food Network and they were just starting their Thanksgiving Live call-in show. But what amused me was that Bobby Flay and Giada Di Laurentiis were both wearing glasses. Alton Brown doesn't count, as he's a known four-eyes. (grin) Guess it was rather early to stab your eyes with contacts on a bright television set -- and as a live show it would be less controlled than a regular episode taping. And it's a Saturday. Still, I thought it was amusing.

Poll question: To brine or not to brine the turkey? Wet brine 58%, dry brine 17%, No brine 25%. We did a wet brine of Turkey thighs and wings -- both of us being dark meat aficionados -- and it worked so well last year, we plan on it again this year. Also video of Bobby Flay trying to deal with a turkey blazing bright with flames in the oven -- it doesn't always go right even for the pros. (double-turkey-grin)

Oh, and some caller on Skype said to Bobby, keep the glasses on, they look great. So I'm not the only nut in America who noticed. Through my glasses.

End of 1st quarter -- MSU-0 NU-3 -- and now not only has Northwestern been marching down the field again, they get to have the bitter wind at their backs for the 2nd quarter. And now losing 7-3.

Dr. Phil


So on Thursday I posted the following observation on Facebook:
4pm news lead stories: CNBC -- DJIA closes above 16,000 for first time. MSNBC -- the nuclear option in the Senate. FOX News -- McDonald's drops McRib from nation menu, many protest, is Michelle Obama to blame? Well, you can't say all the news is the same... Dr. Phil
A little over four years ago I noted when "the stock market", i.e. the Dow Jones Industrial Average, broke 10,000+ (DW) for the first time in the recession. At the time I wrote:
Wednesday (14 October 2009) the NYSE surged above 10,000 again and stayed there. Happy days are here again. The Recession's back has been broken. We are on the path to recovery.

Well, aren't we?
To some extent, I think the same sarcasm is due.

I know, I know. The Republicans want to blame Obama. The Dems want to blame the Republicans, some still kvetching about Bush 43. And everybody wants to blame Congress. But I'm looking at the boardrooms, and all those people Who We Must Pay Millions Or We'll Lose Them Even If They're The Ones Who Just Drove The Company Into The Ground. And I'm going to completely sidestep the whole ACA in this rant.

On Friday's NPR's Morning Edition there was a piece about a referendum in Switzerland to limit CEO and top executive pay.
DAVID GREENE, HOST: … On Sunday, Switzerland holds a referendum proposing to limit the salaries of corporate big-wigs. It would cap their pay at 12 times what a company's lowest-paid workers makes. In other words, an executive could not make more in a month than a worker makes in a year.

Opponents say that it would drive away companies and jobs. But as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, there is a growing support in Europe for leveling pay scale.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Switzerland may be known for watches, wealth, and well, Swiss bank accounts, but increasingly many people feel that not everyone is reaping their share of the country's economic well-being.

David Roth is head of the youth wing of the Social Democrat Party. The group collected the 100,000 signatures necessary to turn the fair pay measure, known as the 1:12 initiative, into a national referendum. Roth says 25 years ago, Swiss CEOs made six times more than the average worker. Today they earn more than 40 times as much. Rote says in a country of eight million, 400,000 workers don't make enough to live on.
Now I'm not saying that excessive executive pay is the reason for this dichotomy between doing well and an economy in stagnation. But it's one factor in a string of failures wherein Wall Street economic logic has abandoned reason to live in an unsustainable fantasy world of short term profits and lack of long term vision.

And who can blame them? Seeing Moore's Law playing out for real in the tech marketplace, massive amounts of processor power with little more than flash and games to show for it, a fire hose torrent of information unfiltered so the best you can do is listen to political echo chambers and watch cat videos... While deep in the bowels of R&D there may be long term research going on, in the front office I'm not seeing it.

Take all those new smart phone models. The cellular industry doesn't know how to market them. Most of the ads fall into two camps -- (1) the I Wanna New Phone Now Oh Please without really offering a reason WHY one might not be happy with last year's smartphones or (2) promoting Totally Lame uses or Absolutely Shallow people using them. Or a new version of Microsoft Windows. I mean, just remember how poorly MS has advertised. The Windows Vista campaign included Windows Mojave, which was just impressing random people with showy computer screens that weren't actually doing any work. Windows 7, which featured Yet Another Windows Naming Scheme (1.04 286 386 95 98 98SE Me NT3.51 NT4 2000 XP Vista 7...) and a lame campaign using a kid and the same blurbs over and over (DW). To now Windows 8, which can't seem to separate smartphone, tablet and "real" computing users and uses -- and still the fail on talking about computers which Do Work.

Consumerism for the sake of consuming. Upgrades just because... Wasn't this the economic model in Brave New World? There's no direction. And no recognition that a widening gap in incomes and a growing class of workers getting downgraded salaries can't sustain that middle class spending.

So, yeah, it's kind of neat for the Dow to close above 16,000 in an era where inflation alone isn't responsible for the rise. But disturbing in that bubble-ish fashion of no connection to anything real.

Ultimately, color me unimpressed.

Dr. Phil