April 13th, 2014



The forecast said 70°F for Saturday. Whether you can believe it or not, on Friday's drive home, I passed a bank that read 71°F. It rained a bit around about noon and was just starting to rain again at 6pm. The temp in Allendale was 59°F -- it did get warmer, Mrs. Dr. Phil said she saw 69°F in Allendale -- and is still around fifty at 2am.

During the week my first alarm is at 6:20am and I get up at 6:30. So why in the world was I running half an hour EARLIER on a SATURDAY?

Had to get to my office. The Spring 2014 Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers was hosted by WMU in Kalamazoo. And no, I really meant I had to get to my office. My 9:15 talk was on using Skype for lectures. So I Skyped my talk -- no doubt the first remote talk in MIAAPT history.

Of course the meeting was running a little late -- it always does. I called Chris at 9:23 and he said the speaker before me was just getting to questions. A few minutes later my Skype detected the other computer and we were in business.

Now the meeting program and abstract said I was going to talk about Skype. But they weren't expecting me to USE Skype. There was quite a round of laughter when my face appeared on the projection screen. Yesterday I had gone ahead and made a PowerPoint of my talk and downloaded it to my Kindle Fire HD, and the used OfficeSuite Pro 7.4. I could hold the Kindle up to webcam and show my title slide. I guess it was quite legible because it got another big laugh. Thus proving my point about using Skype as a free and adequate low tech way to make a presentation.

After I joined the meeting proper, I got a lot of good comments from people.

Our keynote speaker all the way from UofM talked about NASA's Solar Probe. Think the movie Sunshine, but much, much smaller and unmanned. It's designed to get into an orbit that goes from Venus to just 8½ solar radii from the surface of the Sun. Venus, because they'll do a complicated dance with Venus to get a gravitational boost to SLOW down, not speed up. At closest approach, it'll be the fastest manmade object, I think the guy said 159km/sec. To give some perspective, Low Earth Orbital speed is 8 km/sec.

Final tech review in 2015, launch in July 2018. It'll take years to get into position. Data at minimum distance isn't until 2026. The mission was first proposed fifty years ago. Cool technology. The Sun will be like a thousand times brighter than the Sun we see, and at 8½ SR, with have an angular size of 12°. Temperature on the hot side of the heat shield will be in the thousands of degrees -- at this point who the hell cares WHAT units. (grin)

Good meeting.

Dr. Phil


Storms trained across Michigan yesterday and today. The track north of us, however, has gotten noticeably more intense storms. I knew about the rain and lightning, didn't realize that the winds had gotten so bad.

Yesterday a number of communities were in the 70-75mph wind range -- EF 0 territory if it had been a tornado. Today? Rockford and other communities had winds up to 80-85mph. Lots of trees down, power out. Plenty of generators running in the afternoon.

Lots of reports today of possible tornadoes -- but National Weather Service looked at the evidence and the damage and said, no, looks like straight line winds. Don't know how long the wind blew -- we do get the sustained high wind storms called a derecho around here from time to time.

Here at 11pm, temp is still 52°F, should be 50°F in the morning. Cool down to upper thirties, chance of snow in evening. But not serious.

Mrs. Dr. Phil thought she spotted a crocus out by the forcythia bush. The bulbs were planted possibly 18 years ago when we stuck the forcythia in the ground and ignored it. After some years of just holding on, last two years the forcythia has been brilliantly yellow when it erupts in bloom -- we'll see in 2014. Daffodils are also sticking up green leaf blades, growing visibly every day. The snow lingered on so long, one wondered if we'd ever green spring growth. This past week? Fields are getting plowed.

Now if the rain doesn't go nuts like it did last year...

Gas down to $3.65.9/gal.

Ah, The Masters -- the most beautiful golf course in the world. Perfect weather, verdant green, flat water. Just lovely.

Spring Is Coming.

Dr. Phil