February 1st, 2014


Pay Attention!

But I Worked Five Days

Long strange week. Monday was a snow day. Tuesday was half a snow day -- GVSU closed but WMU didn't. I guess that makes Monday three-quarters of a snow day, since WMU closed and GVSU closed at 2pm. Anyway, on Tuesday I declared it a Too Dangerous To Drive day. Lest you think that this made it a three day work week for us, Mrs. Dr. Phil busied herself by reviewing for a journal and other stuff for classes. I worked and even Skyped in my lecture on Tuesday.

Then there was Wednesday. Took me nearly three hours to get to Kalamazoo, so I was twenty minutes late to my 10am class. Lots of slow going and cars at odd angles and locations not including the pavement. Obviously the critical component to the treacherous driving conditions, after days of heavy snow, bitter wind chills and icy roads -- the brilliant hot sunshine. I did what I was supposed to. Called in at 9:40 and said to make sure the lecture hall was open and tell the students I was coming.

Naturally, as I wheeled my walker into Rood Hall, all my students were milling around in the hallway. We're shortstaffed in the office and the person I talked to forgot to go at 10 and alert everyone. Adding to the confusion was the contingent of students who bailed, citing the 15-minute rule for waiting for a no-show prof. This despite the fact that they know I'm a gimp right now and have a long commute. The syllabus even talks about me making great effort to get in during the winter.

So now the quiz due Tuesday, which I moved to Wednesday became effectively due on Thursday. Sigh. Thankfully I had already decided to move the first exam from January 31st to February 7th.

Phone It In II?

My boss told me that it was perfectly okay if I wanted to Skype my lecture on Thursday. A nice thought, but given the temperature and the sunlight on Wednesday, it was going to be warm enough to allow salt to start dealing with the ice.

And I ended up getting in early on Thursday and had a pleasant sit in my office before class.

Of course the next round began on the drive home. Heavy snow just as I got off the freeway, so I got to my 4:30 PT appointment at 4:38pm. Near white out conditions on the way home, slow going. But the smooth and even half an inch or so in the driveway made for a beautiful quiet bump-free ride for 240 feet from the road to garage. (smile)

Iceberg! Right Ahead!

Then there was Friday.

The same places that had black ice before, featured glare ice now. So the main highways were either clear or just looked clear. Still, I made good time and safe driving. Until leaving West Main M-43 to get to campus. The right turn lane was not clear of slush and slog, so as I slowed I dropped down to 2nd gear and hit the 4WD button. No problem slowing or making the turn. Solon Street was a mess, but I drove at a reasonable pace.

They rebuilt Solon/Howard/Kendall a few years ago with a pair of roundabouts and in doing so, Solon goes from two-lanes and one-way, to one-lane one-way. In the former left lane at the curve and downhill, flashing lights slowed the traffic down. Police car with two cars, one of them pointing the wrong way. Bent and broken body panels.

As I continued around the curve and down the hill, I slowed at the first roundabout, and braked harder as I could just make out the roof of a car beyond the high snow banks.

The concept of YIELD apparently alluded the guy behind me, who was determined to make up the gap between the accident slowdown he'd inched through and me. Some people cannot stand to think that someone has pulled away from them. That gaps are meant to be eliminated. And they have a totally misguided sense of how much they've been delayed by one lousy slowdown.


Unfortunately for him, he realized I was slowing to let a car with the right of way to go around the circle in front of me, and on slushy snow with a glazed white layer beneath, he stomped on the brakes. Even with my low speed, I'd felt the ABS system engage. Don't know if he had anti-lock brakes, but he started shimmying towards me, then I saw his car go sideways. Followed by a very satisfying CRUMP as the nose ran into the curb.


As this all happened way behind me and I did not cause the accident, I continued on to get to my class on time. The other car, however, I think was stuck between two curbs. I don't think he could turn to get out of there.

You'd think after all the coverage of Atlanta and Birmingham that drivers in Michigan would be more careful. But, as stated, this would require thinking.

Let's be careful out there -- and don't be an idiot.

Dr. Phil


So I hunkered down to get an entry in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest. I always mean to enter that, but most years I either forget or don't have the time. Since the theme in near-term near-space, I don't have a lot of NASA-era or post-NASA in my Invenstory.

So Thursday in the office, actually in the new third floor Physics Help Room, I came up with an idea at 12:10pm, started a file on the Kindle Fire HD at 12:32 and had 142 words, even as I helped several students. Plus more sketched out in my head. Last night we had Sandra Bullock in the 1995 hacker movie The Net on WGN and I wrote for an hour in the Kindle, then Gmailed the file over to SUMMER, where even though it was saved in Word 97-2003 format by OfficeSuite 7 Pro, Word 95 was able to open it.

By 11:30 I had my story. As is typical of Version 1.01 stories, I am sure it's not long enough. Probably needs to be 10,000 words, but given that's over the contest limit, just as well. And when it gets rejected, I have all the skeleton structure for a big rewrite. And if I should place, well that's just gravy.

Anyway, I got my story converted to the anonymous RTF file and sent by 11:56pm. Go me. Between Clarion and the WOTF workshop, I know I can write a story in a short time. And having a deadline is a great motivator.

And then, of course, in the light of day, I see the deadline is February 1st. Saturday 1 February 2014 23:59:59.

Ah well, I didn't want to spend my Saturday rushing to finish a story -- have other tasks to perform today. (grin)

The good news is that if you are reading it just as I post, you have nine hours. (double-grin)

It's February 1st. Maybe the new Locus magazine is in the mailbox by the road.

Dr. Phil